Category Archives: Vintage Sewing

Vintage Sewing: 1940s Fabric Meets 1950s Pattern

I’m always interested in reading how other people approach sewing projects.  Most of the sewing blogs I read have an element of the past to them.  Some people sew perfect reproductions of an era which interests them.  Others use modern fabrics with vintage patterns or vintage fabrics with modern patterns.

My sewing is a bit more eclectic.  I have no problem taking a fabric from one era and pairing it with a pattern from another.  I pretty much know what I like, and which fabrics and styles fit in with my casual lifestyle.  I live in the South so my summer clothes have to be cool and preferably, loose without being sloppy.

I’ve finally found a use for Facebook.  I “belong” to a group called Novelty and Border Print B/S/T (buy/sale/trade).  Most of the active members are 1950s border print fanatics, and so there is always a “new” print to be seen there.  They also post pages from vintage magazines which show border print skirts and fabrics.  If someone spots an interesting novelty print for sale on the web, she will post the link to the sales page. It is really useful the way that group operates.

And that is how I found this great print.  It is from the late 1940s, and it is made of a textured but cool rayon.  The beachy scenes and the two shades of blue were an added attraction.  Quite remarkably, this fabric was for sale on eBay for a $3 buy-it-now.

The downsides were that there were age spots scattered about and that there was barely one yard of it.  Even though I rarely buy fabric over the internet, I could not resist, and so a few clicks later it was mine.  The spots washed out, the dyes did not run, and the fabric did not shrink.  I mention these things because one never knows when using a fabric that is seventy years old.

I know that many sewers buy their fabric with a project in mind.   I seldom have that sort of advanced planning in place.  I see a fabric I like and later I worry about what should be made from it, especially if it is a vintage fabric with the amount of yardage available already determined for me.

Because there was so little fabric, I was limited in what I could do with it.  I decided that I really wanted a casual top, but there was not enough fabric for sleeves.  The solution was to pick a pattern in which the sleeves are cut with the bodice.  I came up with McCall’s 4093, a pattern from 1957 which I had used several years ago.

Several changes were in order.  I did not want the drawstring at the waist, and the fabric was just too busy for details like the tab under the v-neck and the sleeve cuffs.   One solution would have been to make them from a solid, but I decided to just eliminate them.  I also changed the cut of the sleeve somewhat.  The illustration is misleading about how the sleeve cuffs lie.  They look as if they are cut straight across the arm, but in fact they are cut on a diagonal.  I lowered the top of the sleeve cuff to straighten it a bit.

I lengthened the bodice as much as possible, but my skimpy little piece did not allow for much of that, so I put as small a hem as possible, using bias tape to bind the edge.  I left just a peek of it showing on the outside, just because I could.

I used the scraps of a former project to make the collar and facing.  I always save my scraps, as I never know when I’ll find a use for them.  I made shorts from the blue cotton several years ago.  And yes, I do love my bias tape bindings.

The result is nothing fancy, but I’ll wear this a lot.

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Vintage/Modern Mash-up Ski Pajamas

I’ve always got big plans for things to sew, but when it comes right down to it I’m very practical in my choices.  I recently found myself in need of a new pair of warm pajamas, so I went to my storehouse of fabrics to see what was suitable.  I’ve shown the pink and white ski print here before in an attempt to know for sure whether the fabric is new or is vintage.  Unfortunately, I’ve never gotten a definite answer, because some people say “vintage” and other insist it is “modern.”

I had only about half a yard of the fabric, but I decided that all I needed to do was pair it with some modern flannel in similar colors and theme.  That was easier thought than done because as we all know, good fabrics are getting harder and harder to find, and I simply cannot bring myself to buy fabrics online.

After searching for most of the winter, I came across the black with snowflakes design you see here.  I had almost given up the search when I found it stuck in a corner at a local quilting fabric shop.  They had a small selection of cotton flannels, and so I could not believe my luck.  It was exactly what I needed.

I make a lot of pajama pants for myself and my husband, so I planned to use my trusty New Look 6838.  (In case you don’t remember, this is the pattern where I located a marijuana cigarette stuck in the bottom of the envelope.)  I usually pair my pants with a soft cotton knit top for sleeping, but I also wanted to make a jacket from the two fabrics.  I did not have a pattern for what I was picturing, but it occurred to me that the plain bodice of a dress would work.  I took the bodice from a 1960s shirt dress, Simplicity 6435, and cut it a bit longer.  There were darts but I did not stitch them.  The sleeve is the one with the pattern, but cut longer.

All the edges I finished with contrasting bias.  Because this set will be getting a lot of wear and washing, all the seams and edges are completely enclosed.

Not a pretty shot, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Because there is so little difference in the front and the back of the pants, I stitched a little X the show the center back.

I’ve been wearing these for over a month now, and whether or not the ski print is vintage or not, there is a very big difference in the way the two fabric feel.  The ski print is very soft  but the snowflake is still quite stiff even after multiple washings.  Maybe that is due to the black dye, but it just seems that the ski print fabric is so much nicer.

I’ll not be treating you to a photo of me wearing my night clothes, but you can get an idea of how they look here on the fake half girl.

 

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Vintage Sewing – Scottie Tee Shirt

I ran across this cute 1970s knit back in the early days of Etsy when everything there was a tremendous bargain.  I think I paid about $5 for a piece that was large enough for a tee shirt, but I was amused when I received the fabric and the seller had neglected to remove the Salvation Army tag showing she had paid 99 cents for it.

This type knit was popular in the 1970s, and I can clearly remember using a piece to sew up a “hot pants” jumpsuit that had a front zipper.  Amazingly, we were not allowed to wear pants to school, but culottes were permitted, and I somehow got away with wearing it.  But I remember the project so well because of the trouble I had getting the stripes to match across the zippered front.  It was a real ordeal, and I finally gave up and put the zipper in by hand.

The memory of that sewing adventure was brought to mind by my latest project.  It was just a simple tee shirt with raglan sleeves, but no way could I get the stripes to match across the sleeve.  According to the illustration on the pattern envelope to should have worked, as a striped version was shown, but after trying all the tricks in my sewing arsenal, I just gave up and cut it so that the bottom of the sleeve matched the bodice.

To make the mis-matching less jarring, I covered the raglan seams with a strip of ribbon.  I’m telling myself that makes it all better.

I used Simplicity 7499, a vintage pattern from the 1970s that I‘ve sewn quite a bit.  I should have realized the stripes would not match, as I couldn’t get them aligned in my last effort either.

Now, only one question remains: Can a soon-to-be 60 year old woman get away with wearing a tee shirt with a Scottie dog design?

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Sewing Project – Simplicity 1464

Regular readers know that most of my sewing projects involve either a vintage pattern or vintage fabric, or both.  This skirt is a rare project in which I used new fabric and a current pattern.  I don’t, for the most part, look at new patterns, but if I happen to be near one of the big fabric store chains and they are advertising patterns for $1 each, that is pretty hard to resist.

That’s how I ended up with this pattern.  I bought it because I liked the loose pleats, and let me honest, because it was $1.  The fabric came a little later, a purchase I made while traveling home from Charlotte.  I love that Mary Jo’s is right off I-85.

So I finally got around to a bit of sewing, and this pattern was at the top of my list.  Because of the plaid, I had to do a bit of matching.  This was an easy plaid to match because the variegated color yarn allowed me to match only the colored yarn without any stressing about pattern.  I also decided to do the waistband yoke cut on the bias just so I’d not have to worry about how the yarns would match.

Matching side seams make me happy.

I was really happy with how the pleats worked out.  The blocks were just the right size for the pleats.

I also decided to line the skirt, mainly because the fabric, though wool, is a bit thin.  I was also concerned with itching.

I used an off-white embossed China silk to line the skirt.  For the lining I eliminated the pleats, as I did not want that extra bulk.  The silk is vintage, a long-time resident of my lining fabric bin.

I finished the skirt last week, and already I’ve worn it several times.  Can you tell how cute it is in this really bad mirror photo?

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Vintage Sewing – Vogue 6572 from the 1960s

I’ve seen thousands of vintage patterns in my time of collecting and sewing them, but sometimes I run across one that makes me stop and dream of being the woman in the illustration.  The cutting table I recently bought came with several hundred patterns, most of them not of interest.  But while flipping through them, I stopped at this one and pulled it out for the “make” pile.

The last thing I need is another dress.  I have enough to cover the occasions in life where I’ll need to wear one.  But I just loved this design so much and began to dream of fabrics.

After days of thinking about this pattern I began to realize that it was not the dress I loved, it was the neckline and upper bodice.  In the 1960s designers must have gotten tired of trying to redesign the plain sheath dress, and so they got busy cutting the bodice into pieces and reassembling them.  Look carefully at mid-1960s sewing patterns and you will see what I mean.

Or just look at this one great example.  From the princess seams that shape the bust, to the sleeve and upper bodice yoke, it’s the seaming that makes this otherwise plain design interesting.  Add a tie neckline and a keyhole and you have plenty of interest in the design.

Still, I did not need a dress.

But I can always use another white knit top.  While looking through my accumulated fabrics, I ran across a white cotton knit that I’d been meaning to use to make a tee shirt.  Instead I decided to up my knit shirt game a bit by making the bodice of my new favorite design.

The pattern was not designed for knits, especially not one this thick and stretchy, so the slash keyhole is a bit rounded.  I also decided not to press the binding of the neckline flat, as I liked it rounded, especially with the tubular ties.

This is the sleeve.  Just a tiny curve makes it lie flatter, and gives another interesting element to the design.

The back of the dress takes a zipper, but I knew I’d not need one with my knit.  I love how the yoke meets the bodice in a point.

And here is the full view of the back.

I’m sorry about the dressform photos.  I promised myself sometime ago that all sewing projects would be modeled by me.  But after battling a cold for over a week, I think the dressform looks a little less scary.

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Vintage Sewing – New Look 6838 and Vintage DVF Fabric

For most of my sewing projects I use vintage patterns, but I found this modern pattern, New Look 6838 when I was looking for one with which to make pajama pants.  I also loved the style of the top, which is designed for knits only, and I put cotton jersey on my fabric shopping list.

I knew that I did not need stripes, as I already have quite a few in this style.  Besides, though the drawing of the matching at the sleeves looks nice and tidy in the illustration, I know that would be easier drawn than sewn. So I started thinking about dots.  But then I got distracted cleaning and sorting my existing fabrics.  And in the middle of my “reds” bin, I pulled out this vintage fabric from designer Diane von Furstenberg.

I found the fabric in an antique store in one of the many little towns in the piedmont of North Carolina that for years survived off the making of cotton textiles.  These towns were a source of the best fabrics for a home sewer as well, as the factories often sent remnants and “seconds” to their factory outlet for sale to the public.  I suspect that is what happened with this fabric, as there was a small wrinkle in it that caused a bare spot in the print.

In 1976 Vogue Patterns magazine did a feature on Diane and her printed dresses.  As you can see, the patterns were by Vogue, and the fabrics were made by Cohama.

I never did finish my sorting job because I laid out the fabric piece and realized I had just enough of it to make the boat-necked top. I spent the rest of the afternoon sewing, and before long my new top was finished.  As the pattern envelope promises, it was easy.  There were only three pieces, the front, the back and the sleeves.  The back has a center seam, which I like because it makes for a smoother fit.

The neck was to be finished simply by turning under the seam allowance and topstitching, but I made a little facing using the selvage of the fabric.  I just could not see “wasting” that Diane von Furstenberg signature.

And here is the finished product.  It is perfect for the early fall weather we are having.

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1960s Chanel-Inspired Davidow Jacket, Part II

Earlier in the summer I posted about a great find I made, an early 1960s Davidow jacket that was clearly Chanel-inspired.  Unfortunately, there was no matching skirt, so instead of buying this jacket for my collection, I bought it to actually wear.

On the negative side was the condition of the lining.  As you can see, there were major issues in the underarm area.  I decided that the best thing to do was to send the piece off to the dry cleaners and then replace the lining.  The problem then became one of finding a nice silk fabric that would go with the tweed.  It’s times like this that I really miss Waechter’s.  I did try the remaining fabric store in the area that carries luxury fabrics, House of Fabrics, but they did not have a suitable match.

The tweed is so wonderful.  It really looks a lot like the tweeds that Bonnie Cashin used in her beautiful coats. But the two shades of blue were proving to be a color challenge.  Then while sorting through some damaged scarves, I happened on a nice old Vera polka dot.   It was not large enough for the entire job, but I also had an oblong scarf in ombre blues that could be used for the sleeves.

This is the point where I make the cutting up old stuff disclaimer.  If you are a vintage clothing shopper then you are well aware that much of what is on the market is not in its original form.  If someone were to run across my bell bottoms from 1973 they would wonder why would anyone mutilate a pair of pants like that.  Well, I cut them off because I am very short.  I also chopped off my skirts and dresses.  My cutting was part of the history of the garments, but it would tend to make them less attractive to a collector today.

Unfortunately there are sellers who are still cutting old clothing up in order to make it marketable to a certain market.  I’m not saying that it is always a bad idea to cut up old clothing; I’m saying it needs to be done thoughtfully, keeping in mind several factors.  You would like to think that anyone would know not to cut into a Charles James, but not everyone who loves old stuff is concerned with designer names.  My big fear in condoning “up-cycling” is that important pieces are being lost. Condition also plays a role, but even a very damaged Charles James is a valuable treasure.

The truth is that most clothing does not end its life as it began it.  I can be very much against remodeling vintage clothes, but then I do have to fact the fact that the mere act of wearing a garment shortens its life.  It is possible to love a garment to death, as you probably know from experience.

So what if you have a common item that is damaged, like my Vera scarf?  I feel I can cut into it with a clear conscience.  (Be aware that while Vera scarves were made by the thousands, some designs are quite rare and valuable.  Research before cutting.)  The jacket, while lovely and very wearable, is less collectible minus the skirt.  I’ll be wearing it, hopefully for a very long time.  It is quite possible that I will love it to death.

I carefully removed the old lining and removed the seams so I could use the pieces as a pattern.  The sleeve is made from two pieces, and I had just enough silk to make the pieces.  I attached them by hand, using the fringe of the scarf at the cuff.

When that was finished I cut out the bodice, using the border of the Vera scarf as part of the design. Here you can see that there was no underlining in the jacket.  The seams were in good condition.  I attached each piece to the jacket separately.

Because there was a pattern to the dotted design, I cut the back from the very middle of the scarf so that the density design would be retained.  The last pieces that I attached were the sides of the bodice.

When doing something like this, lots of basting is essential.  The silk is slippery, and the more control you have, the better.

The last step, one that I’m still working on, is the quilting.  I decided to let the dots determine the quilting design.  I’m not going to quilt every dot.  I’m already seeing spots in front of my eyes from working with it.

I’ll be changing the buttons as well.  I thought I’d found the perfect buttons, some that I’d salvaged from a destroyed sweater, but they are not the quality I was wanting, so they will probably be temporary until I can locate exactly what I need.

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