Category Archives: Sewing

Sewing Project: Simplicity 2208

It’s been a while since I did a post on what I’ve been sewing. That doesn’t mean I’ve not been sewing, only that I forget to make photos during the process. Lately I’ve been turning a stack of lightweight cottons into lightweight cotton tops for the hot weather. Not too exciting, but quickness of the makes and the wearability of the garments have been rewarding.

This jacket was an earlier spring project. I found the pattern above at the Goodwill Outlet some time ago. I seems like all the sewing patterns go directly into the bins, as I’ve never seen any in the regular retail stores. My guess is that they do require a special customer, like me. When I run across them in the bins, I pretty much buy any that I might possibly want to make.

The fabric is a two-sided cotton that I bought at Mood in New York City about three years ago. My plan for it was always a jacket. When I saw view C of the pattern, I put it in my sewing queue. It was not until I started to cut the fabric that I noticed there were no pockets. That’s not such a big deal, as pockets are easy to add, but who designs a jacket without pockets? Neither of the two coats have pockets either. Puzzling!

The texture and weight of the fabric is really perfect for a spring jacket. My plan was to make use of both sides of the fabric.

I made the binding from a linen that I had that was a good match. All the seams were sewn with wrong sides together, and then the binding applied over the exposed seams.

The pattern called for a separating zipper, but I did not have one that would work. so I decided instead to go with hook and eyes. I had a bunch of these larger brass-finished ones that worked nicely.

I thought a long time about how I wanted to do the pockets. At first I considered doing in-seam side pockets, but settled on interior pockets instead. They are quite deep, as I like to carry too much stuff. One even has snaps to make my stuff more secure.

And here is the finished jacket. Sorry about the floor shot but it really is the best way for you to see how it all came together. I took it with me to the Midwest, and wore it quite a bit as it helped to break up all the black I tend to wear while traveling.

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Sewing Brochures from 1961 and 1962

I recently received a group of early 1960s pattern company brochures from friend Rebecca.  How did she know I’d want these?  Am I that transparent?  I certainly hope so.

They all date from June, 1961 to January of 1962, and are from Simplicity, Vogue, McCall’s, and Advance.  As much as I love a great vintage Vogue or Bazaar magazine, these little newsprint treasures reveal much more about what the “average” American woman was wearing.

When I started sewing for myself in the late 1960s, I could not wait until the latest editions of the pattern brochures arrived at the pattern counter.  I would spend hours carefully planning my next sewing project.  Maybe it’s partly due to that fond memory that I have such a weakness for these.

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Here are the play options from Simplicity for June, 1961.  The bathing suit in the middle is what was considered a bikini in 1961.  The playsuit of the right with the skirt cover up is also described as a bathing suit.

Pointed hem top patterns for all the women in the family.  Actually, I’ve seen this hem on men’s things as well.  And it makes me want to sew some chevroned stripes.  McCall’s, June 1961.

A note about that hat: I have several examples of this bucket-shaped hat in my collection, but none are nearly as exaggerated as these.

From the same McCall’s brochure is a grouping of swimwear, including a bathing/play suit very similar to the Simplicity one, right down to the skirt.  This bathing suit with matching skirt really was a great idea.  It also shows how swimwear can often be dated by imagining a skirt over the trunks.  Fashion does extend to swimwear.

The January 1962 issue of McCall’s Fashion Digest shows several examples of that most marvelous early Sixties wardrobe staple – the dress and jacket ensemble.  The beige example with the fantastic neckline was from designer Hannah Troy.  And note how similar the pink print dress is to the bathing suit and skirt in the previous picture.

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The more high fashion home sewer also had the choice of a designer look from Europe.  These dress and jacket ensembles were designed by Guy Laroche, Ronald Paterson, Jacques Griffe, and Gres.  These were more than just a little more complicated that the designs in McCall’s and Simplicity.

The Vogue Young Fashionables line was quite fashion forward.  January, 1962.

These designs from Advance are labeled “Sew Easy”, but I can see several techniques that might give even an intermediate sewer fits.

And finally, could there be any other looks that sum up 1962 better than these four?  On the left we have three streamlined dresses and suits that have the Jackie Kennedy look bared down to the essentials.  And on the right, the ever popular shirtwaist, though with a slightly less full skirt than just a year or two before.

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Project: Cashmere Hoodie with Patches

I haven’t showed off a project recently, partly because I have been working on this one for almost two months.  Yes, I am slow.

All the materials came from my local Goodwill bins – cashmere hoodie, embroidery thread, background fabric, and even the embroidery hoop.  Everything except the needle.  The hoodie was missing the label, but there is no doubt that it is cashmere, and good quality at that.  So, why was it in the bins?  There were four holes.

Holes in cashmere don’t bother me, especially if it is a product this hefty.  Repairing it is quite easy, and I’ve repaired enough cashmere to be able to do a neat and almost undetectable mend.  That is what I’d planned, but the holes were pretty large, so I started thinking about alternatives.

I came up with embroidered patches, and because I was anxious about recent world events, I pictured a scream.  Actually, I pictured The Scream, by Edvard Munch.  I can tell you that embroidering this detail from the work was therapeutic.

I began by finding details of four paintings that I love.  I had the great product above, which is a fabric with a paper backing to run through a printer.  I isolated the sections I wanted to embroider and printed them onto the fabric.

I used a combination of wool thread and cotton embroidery floss, depending on the type of texture I wanted.  I pretty much stuck to a plain straight stitch throughout.  Sometimes I mixed two different color strands on the needle.

Van Gogh’s Wheatfields with Crows

Monet’s Water Lilies

And this one is a bit harder to recognize because I pulled the detail from the background.  Any art lovers want to attempt a guess?

My poor camera just does not capture the richness of the color and texture of this sweater.  It’s soft and warm and reminds me of beautiful things.

Over the past few years I’ve really cut retail shopping, and this year I hope to buy nothing new to wear.  I have so much fabric, and the Goodwill is such a great source of raw material, that I’m hoping I can make anything I need to fill in gaps in my wardrobe.

Every week it seems there is another article warning of the unsustainability of the shopping habits of people in developed countries.  Besides the human cost, the clothing and textiles industries are two of the most polluting on earth.  I think is is time (past it actually) that we all reevaluate the way we shop for clothing and other textile products.  When it gets to the point that people  don’t have access to clean water because of the dyes and other pollutants used in the manufacturing process, it’s time to take action.

Stepping off the soapbox now…

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Vintage Project – Blanket Jacket

I haven’t posted a sewing project lately, not because I haven’t been sewing, but because I’ve been catching up on projects.  You know, all those things that sound like a quick and simple idea but then become quite labor and time intensive.  No pattern required, a few quick seams, and voila – a new garment!  Or so one thinks.

One thing I see so much of at my local Goodwill Dig are vintage wool blankets.  They are often a bit holey, but overall, the structure is sound.  I hate to think about what happens to most of them.  I actually have a whole stack of ones I’ve rescued, with labels ranging from Pendleton to some of the local factories in the upper midwest that I’ve never before encountered.  So I’ve gotten picky about picking up new ones.

But the minute I spied this one I knew it had a whole new life ahead of it.  Id been thinking about making a blanket jacket for several years, but had not run across the correct size and color combination.  But this little blanket ticked both boxes.

To make the jacket, I folded the blanket in half lengthwise.  This blanket is only 60 inches long, so I was able to use the fringed ends as the hem.  After folding I cut through the center front to a little over half the length, and then I shaped the V-neck and curved back edge.  I had a little help with the pattern, as I used the neck and sides from a Bonnie Cashin design featured years ago in Threads magazine.

October/November 1990, Threads

This feature on Cashin included the pattern for the coat, which I adapted for my jacket.  I decided against the leather edges, and decided instead to use a blanket stitch to secure them.

I have to have things a bit fitted, otherwise I get the feeling of swimming in cloth.  To ease in the fullness I went with a drawstring.  Both the brass eyelets and the green leather belt were sourced from the Goodwill bins.

I love finding sewing notions in thrift stores.  I usually buy sewing things whether or not I need them at the time, because one never knows when a brass eyelet is just the right thing for a design.

When I found the package of eyelets years ago, I also found the little tool for setting them properly.  All you need is a hammer and a fairly steady hand.  This one was made by Dritz and worked like a top.

I had never before encountered the Horner label, but it was around for a long time; according to the label since 1836.  Like many businesses, Horner Woolen Mills went through several owners and name changes, but by 1880 the mill belonged to Samuel Horner.  As far as I can tell, blankets and textiles were produced there until the mid 1950s.  The good news about this business is that some of the records were saved, and are now housed at the Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.  The mill building complex still stands, with part of it being remodeled into residences, and the rest looking for a new purpose.

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Miss America’s New Fashion Collection, 1961

For those of you too young to remember Toni, it was a hair care line with the premier product being the Toni Home Permanent.  For years the company had an ad campaign in which identical twins tried to fool you as you guessed, “Which twin had the Toni?”

This 1961 booklet from Toni doesn’t feature twins, but it does have the reining Miss America, Nancy Anne Fleming.  In the early 1960s, the Miss America contest was a very big deal, so it must have been an advertising coup for Toni to have her represent their products.  But it’s not just Toni.  As you can see, McCall’s Patterns and Everglaze Fabrics teamed up for this interesting campaign.

The pattern and sewing machine companies must have been really excited about Fleming being chosen Miss America.  In one of the most original talent presentations ever, Fleming took a rack of clothes she had sewn herself onto the stage, and did a little fashion presentation.   It was like a commercial for home sewing.

And the promotion of sewing by Fleming didn’t stop after she won the coveted crown.  In this booklet, she not only talks about sewing, but also models a collection of eight designs that McCall’s called the Miss America Collection.  Each design was made of Everglaze fabrics, and a new hairdo was designed for each outfit, complete with roller setting instructions.

Some of the outfits and the hair styles are too old for a nineteen-year-old, but others, like the two above show just how youthful early 60s fashion could be.

Do they still refer to Miss America as a “queen” or has that fallen by the wayside?

It’s possible that this booklet was included in specially marked packages of Toni.  In the back there is a coupon for a free pattern from the collection, along with a reminder that “Everglaze fabrics are among America’s favorite cottons.”

After her reign was over and she crowned the 1962 Miss America, Maria Fletcher of Asheville, Fleming used her scholarship to attend Michigan State, where she graduated in 1965.  She was married, had two kids and a career in broadcasting.  She was on an episode of the Love Boat in the 1980s, and married for a second time to Jim Lange, the longtime host of The Dating Game.  Today she lives in California.  I wonder if she still sews.

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Vintage Sewing: Simplicity 6250

It seems like it has been forever since I did a sewing post.  Part of it is that I’m not much of a summer sewer.  I like a cold, snowy day with no other agenda in order to really get serious about sewing.  Nevertheless, I have managed to make a few things in the past warm months.

High on my list was a swimsuit cover-up, which I made from  Butterick’s Two-Way Wrap Dress pattern, number 4699.  I made it from the silly Scotty dog print you can see there, a print I’d bought to make pajamas.  But I decided I needed a cover-up more than the pjs, so there you are.  I don’t have a photo of the finished article, but it looks just like the pattern illustration, except that I made it a bit shorter.  It’s not terribly flattering, but it does allow one to get from hotel room to hotel pool without feeling over exposed.  So mission accomplished.

I had a bit of the print left over and on a whim decided to made a matching hat.  I had several hat patterns from which to choose, but I went with one I’d never used, Simplicity 6250.  I like a basic bucket shape, and this was the closest pattern I had.  I used a tiny waffle pique for the outside, and the Scotty print was to be the lining.  Actually the pattern does not call for a lining, so I used the print for the underside of the brim, attached the brim to the crown, and then put the crown lining in by hand.

I realize that I made a cutting mistake, which was partially caused by the fact that my print fabric had to be pieced to form the brim.  Because of that my Scotties are standing on their heads when the brim is flipped back!

The pattern is super easy, with the only hard part being the construction of the crown.  You have to mark it carefully to make sure it all comes to a nice, crisp, six-way point.

This turned out to be a great little beach hat.  It is light enough that I could roll it up and stick it in my pocket, and then pull it out when it was needed.  I’m pretty sure I’ll be using up more scraps left over from prior projects with this pattern.

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Make It Yourself

When I was eleven years old, or somewhere in that preteen time, I realized that by sewing my own clothes I could have more than if we bought them ready made.  My grandmother had always made my clothes, but she was beginning to suffer from arthritis, and so was having to cut back on her own sewing.  The solution was for her to teach me.

Today, people don’t sew in order to save money, unless they are in the custom of buying it all at Bergdorf Goodman.  Clothes have gotten so cheap that in most cases it is cheaper just to buy a garment and be done with it.  But there are plenty of people who sew not because it is cheap, but because they like being able to create their own clothes.   The fit can be better, and you get to choose your own fabrics and colors.

But it is a mistake that by sewing (and knitting…) you are eliminating all social and environmental problems from your wardrobe.  The growing and manufacture of cotton and other textiles is costly in terms of water, dye, and chemical usage.  Slave labor is associated with cotton farms in Asia, and textile factories in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are big polluters.

There is still textile production in the US, though it can be hard to source.  Organic cottons are also available, which at least helps with the problem of pesticides.  If you like wool, made in the USA Pendleton is hard to beat.

If money is not a concern, there are still factories in France and Italy that make stunning silks and woolens.  The UK produces Harris Tweed and other woolens, and the superb Liberty cottons are printed in the UK.  (I could not find where the cloth was actually manufactured, though the cotton is grown in Egypt.)

But the best solution is to try to source fabric secondhand.  Most serious sewers have a fabric stash.  You can see an old photo of mine above.  Most of the pieces I can pick out in the photo were ones I found at my Goodwill Outlet Center.  I have a really hard time leaving behind great fabric, and so I have quite a collection.  To be honest, I could be kept busy for several years sewing up what I already have.  When at the Goodwill bins I also look for garments made of great fabric that I can adapt to something new.  There is also lots of great vintage fabric on ebay and etsy.

As with ready made clothing, you need more than just fabric to make a garment.  There are still thread manufacturers in the US, but most of them produce in bulk for industrial use.  When I bought my new sewing machine (nine years ago!) the consultant advised me to only use a high quality European made thread, like Gütermann, as they are tightly spun and do not produce as much lint.  If you have ever used a cheap thread, you might have noticed how it actually looks furry.

I also buy good vintage thread when I find it.  The sheen of a roll of old Coats & Clark mercerized is hard to beat.  But always do a stress test on any old threads, as if stored in high heat, they can become dry rotted and will be too weak with which to sew.

I love it when I run across the remains of a seamstress’s sewing box at the Goodwill bins.  I always stock up on elastic, snaps, hook and eyes, zippers, and buttons when I find them.  And look at the bottom shelf in my photo to see a bin filled with vintage bias binding and rick-rack.

One thing I would really love to do is learn to knit past a simple knit and purl.  Knitting has become so popular that it has helped sustain many small fiber farms which produce wool from sheep and other animals.  There is an alpaca farm just a few miles from me, and their yarn is in very high demand.  I’m afraid to get anywhere near the front door of a yarn shop, as I know I’d be sucked in.  But it is great that this resource is available to knitters.

Making your own clothing can be one way to  improve your closet, but as with buying ready made clothing, you have to do a little work and research to ensure you are making wise environmental choices.

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