Category Archives: Vintage Sewing

Sewing with Cotton Bags, 1937

Who better to tell a housewife how to sew with cotton bags than a group representing the makers of them, the Textile Bag Manufacturers Association?  This booklet dates from 1937, but I’ve seen similar ones from as recent as the late 1950s, just as paper bags were replacing the cloth sacks.  Generically known today as feedsacks, these bags are a hot commodity, selling for at least $10 each, and the best ones selling for $50 and even more.  Wouldn’t those thrifty homemakers from the 1930s be shocked to learn that what they got free with a purchase of flour or sugar are going for such prices!

Sewing with Cotton Bags is thirty-two pages of ideas of what to do with all those bags.  It was revised in 1937, but some of the styles are several years older, left over from an earlier edition.  The drawing above shows a woman who is more likely from 1932 than 1937.

The pleated sleeve shown above left was a common sports sleeve, and I’ve seen it as early as 1932.  I love how the booklet declares them to be “stylish” which is much better word in this case than “fashionable”!

The “Simple Sports Ensemble” on the left was a standard of any active woman’s wardrobe from the early 1930s through the 1940s.  This one is probably from 1935 or so, due to the long skirt and the sleeves that are not gathered.  The tennis dress appears to be from around the same time.

Wide legged pajamas were a 1930s standard.  That set on the left was designed for sleeping, but many women took them to the beach as cover ups.

Cotton sacks were not just for clothes.  You could also use them to make your summer cottage more charming.

They also worked well as a table cover.  I can imagine all the great junk that was stored out of sight, behind the feedsacks.

The patterns shown in the booklet could be ordered for ten cents each, or three for twenty-five cents.  Most are for aprons and clothes for small children, but some, like the blouses, were really quite nice, and yes, even stylish.

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The Great British Sewing Bee on Youtube

I’m a little bit slow to this game, as I had been told that seasons 2 and 3 of The Great British Sewing Bee were now available online to all viewers on youtube. Thanks to an email this afternoon from Del, I had my memory jarred and I’ve now watched the first episode of season 2. Who knew that watching other people sew could be so much fun?

Due to a bit of minor hand surgery I’ve got some downtime coming up this week, so instead of posting here, I’ll be catching up on these episodes.  I couldn’t be away that long without giving you an alternative to my posts.  Enjoy!

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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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