Tag Archives: project

Latest Sewing Project – Stephen Burrows Dress

I’ve had this 1974 pattern by designer Stephen Burrows hanging on my idea board for some time, and last week I finally got around to making it.  Burrows was one of the bright young designers who designed clothes that were perfectly in step with the late 1960s and into the 70s.  I’ll be writing more about him this week, as I feel like he is not as well known as he should be.

I fell in love with this pattern the minute I spotted it.  I did have concerns about the collar, as I usually don’t like anything quite that big.  But it didn’t *scream* 1970s, so I made the decision not to alter it.  I’m glad I did, because it is just right with a scarf tied beneath.

And that, dear friends, is why Burrows is a designer and I am not.  Just because one wears clothes does not mean one can design them.  (Are you listening, celebrity-designer-wannabes?)

I made this from a wonderful double knit cotton jersey I had stashed away.  Don’t hear double knit and think , “Yuck!”   This fabric is a very far cry from the double knit polys of the 1970s, though I’d bet that most incarnations of this pattern were actually made in poly double knit.  Double knit merely means that the fabric is knit with a double stitch that makes the knit the same on both sides.  There honestly is not a wrong side to this fabric.  It was knit as a tube, and is probably the nicest cotton knit I’ve ever sewn.

Note that the pattern cover features this dress in bright colors and in white.  1974 was not a big year for the little black dress, and Stephen Burrows was known for his use of exciting color.

The pattern, McCall’s 4089, was simple to make, and went together in just a few hours time.  I really recommend it if you are in the market for a simple, but not plain, knit dress.


Filed under Sewing

The 1960s Surfer Shirt

In the mid 1960s we called this the surfer shirt, and it was all the rage in my little town. No matter that we were six hours from the nearest ocean, and none of us had ever been anywhere near a surf board.  We were under the influence of the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movies of the day, and the Beach Boys were as strong as ever.    I think my older brother had these shirts in every color and in several madras plaids, and I had a couple of plaid ones myself.

I found this pattern and thought how much fun it would be to just run one up for old times sake.  I already had some vintage cotton chambray and red bias binding, thanks to my proclivity toward fabric hoarding, so I was in business.  The shirt was just as easy to make as it looks, with only four pieces.  It did take some time, as I put the bias on by hand, and did the buttonholes by hand, and did flat-felled seams so there are no raw edges.

In looking for images for this post, I tried looking on-line, but all the photos for surfer shirt came up as either Hawaiian shirts or tee shirts with a surfer dude printed on the front.  So I went to my stack of vintage catalogs.  In a 1964 Montgomery Ward, I did find one of these referred to as “surfer style” but most were called “regatta shirts.”  The same was true in a 1966 JC Penney big book.  I’m very sure we never used the term “regatta” to refer to these shirt or anything else for that matter!  And in one listing it was called a “henley” which I always think of as being made of jersey.

So I’ll stick with surfer shirt, though I do not surf, and won’t see an ocean until October.  It’s still a cool, casual shirt, just right for the hot days ahead.

I used to see these all the time in thrift stores, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t run across one in several years.  Surely not all the Baby Boomers have cleaned out all the closets at the parents’ homes already!

A few catalog examples:

Madras  regatta shirts with appropriate slacks and sweaters, 1966 JC Penney

“Henley collar” shirt, 1965 Montgomery Wards

“Surfer style” 1965 Montgomery Wards

“Racy Regatta Styles” 1966 JC Penney

I’m sure you are are clamoring for a look at the finished product.  So here I am, in the back yard, standing on the beginnings of a new rock patio.  Funny how the photo in which I’m not paying attention to the photographer ends up being the best of the lot.  A model, I am not!


Filed under Sewing, Sportswear, Vintage Clothing

Admitting Defeat

I’m the kind of person who hates to admit that I’m ever wrong.  Just ask my brothers and sister about that one; they can tell some tales.  But I’m going to say straight out that I was wrong to make this dress.

I got the pattern several weeks ago and was immediately attracted to it because of the little cap sleeve-like flaps.  In my on-going search to find a short sleeve that provides a little coverage for my desperately-needing-toning arms without looking like my grandmother’s housedress sleeve, I thought this was going to be a perfect compromise.

I was so convinced this would work that I did not bother to make a toile.  The problems with this surfaced almost immediately.  Although the pattern is an exact match for my measurements, the bodice seemed to just overpower my small frame.  I have very narrow shoulders, and it seemed that the sleeves came half way to my elbow.  So I adjusted the pattern and re-cut the bodice.

The bodice then fit, and so I proceeded with the sewing.   Then I got carried away, making contrasting bound buttonholes, and even constructing the buttons.  All the while I had this nagging little feeling that I just did not like the way the dress was progressing.  I had myself convinced that what was throwing it off was the length, and that after it was hemmed, all would be well.

Today I finally admitted to myself that I’m never going to wear this dress.  The pattern just does not suit me.  I am not designed to wear dresses from the late 1940s.  After throwing in the towel, I went to my pattern boxes to look at my other post-war patterns to see if I ought to just get rid of them, and to my surprise, I had no other patterns from the late 1940s.  I must have known instinctively that the over-hanging shoulders, the fitted waist with a flaring skirt look was just not for me.  I was just temporarily blinded by those flapping sleevelets.

I’ve got to get this dress and pattern out of my house. It is now going to a girl who loves and wears the 40s styles!

I am not a professional sewer, so please know the dress is not perfect.  I’m still working on my bound buttonholes, and though the stripes at the front and the back match, they do not match on the sides.

It is 95% finished.  It just needs to be hemmed, and there should be a snap or two added at the waist to help secure the closing.   Also keep in mind that I am short – 5′ 2″, and I have it cut so that it would be after hemming, knee length on me ( from bottom of waistband to bottom edge is 21 3/4″).  Also, this is a vintage size 14, with a 36″ bust and a 28″ waist.

I don’t resent the time spent on the dress because it did give me a chance to improve my buttonholes.  More importantly it forced me to think a little harder about my sewing choices.  I think it will be back to the early 60s for my next project, that is unless I cave in and tackle one of the lovely, but completely not “me”, 1930 frock patterns I recently found!  The color is most similar to that of the button close-up.

Update:  This dress has found a new home!


Filed under Sewing

Liberty Style Jacket from a Scarf

As I suspected, this jacket was constructed from one 37″ scarf.  I’ve drawn a few quick diagrams so you can see how it goes together.  I think this would be pretty easy to reproduce.  Keep in mind the size of the scarf, as this 37″ one fits about a 34″ bust, if tied with the two halves meeting.

I’m going to give simple directions, but I’m assuming you know the fundamentals of sewing – basics like right sides together to stitch seams, and things like that.

First, the cutting diagram:

Note that it is symmetrical.  Here are the measurements for a 37″ scarf.  You could adjust these depending on the size of your scarf.  And because the diagram is symmetrical, I only labeled one half of it.

Cut out the 5 pieces.  For the body, make two slits, 8″ as shown.  These will be the arm holes.

Take the two sleeve pieces.  As you see them on the diagram, they are up-side down, with the sides being between the ties and the extra piece.  Stitch the sides together to form each sleeve.  .

My jacket is hemmed along the front opening and along the bottom.  If you want to hem yours, do it now.

To make the shoulder seams, you will need to put 2 or 3 pleats in the front like this:

Then fold the front shoulder to the back shoulder and stitch on the wrong side.  Then stitch the sleeves into the armholes, placing the point on each piece at the shoulder .

Make the ties by stitching them on the long ends and turning them inside out.  Attach to front.  Slip-stitch the neckline to finish it.

And that should be it.   If anyone tries this, let me know how it goes.  I’m now on the prowl for the perfect scarf myself!


Filed under Sewing

What’s a Vintage Lace Tablecloth Worth?

That’s my tablecloth in the photo, and it is not very valuable.  It was given to me in 1977 by my future mother-in-law, for me to use on my wedding cake table.  It dates from the mid 1940s, because she bought it for her own wedding table.  I imagine there are millions of these floating around, as people tend to save things associated with weddings.

I’ve noticed that more and more of these are ending up at my favorite vintage shopping spot, the Goodwill Clearance Center.  I’ve also noticed that very few of them are being purchased.  In fact, that clearance center is a great place if you need a cheap source of lacy things:  tablecloths, curtains, and even lengths of fabric.  There seems to be little or no competition for it.

So why the sudden interest in lace tablecloths?  Well, it’s because it came to my attention last week that there’s money to be made in them.  A quick ebay search yielded over a dozen dresses and wraps and poncho-like garments, all made from vintage tablecloths, all being sold as vintage clothing, and some going as high as $400.

Before I get any further into this, let me say that it is entirely possible that at least some of these garments are vintage – that they were constructed in the 1960s or 1970s.  In 1967 designer Linda Gravenites made a tunic and pants ensemble from old tablecloths for Janis Joplin that is featured in a famous photo by Baron Wolman. And Diana Funaro’s book, The Yestermorrow Clothes Book – a 1976 bible for remodeling old clothes – had a short section of reusing lace tableclothes.

That said, it is also entirely possible that some of these garments are newly made using old tablecloths.  I have absolutely no objection to this practice as I can see how many of these tablecloths are ending up in the trash.  A cute lace dress beats a rotting vintage textile in the dump any day.

What bothers me is that there is absolutely no indication by the sellers that the items are newly made.  They are listed in the vintage clothing category, and most have a date of 1970s in the title.

I realize that many of today’s vintage buyers just do not care that their “vintage” finds were made yesterday.  They care about the “look” of an item.  Nothing wrong with that, but this is just a little too Emperor’s New Clothes to suit me.  I mean, are the wearer’s friends not going to tell her she just blew $400 on an old tablecloth?

So, how does one keep from being taken?  First, take a very good look at the seller’s other listings.  Do you notice a pattern of things looking shorter than they should?  Could be this seller is being creative in more ways than just with tablecloths.  Those too-short minis with the boho vive might just have started out life as maxi dresses.  This is an indication that the seller is a touch scissors-happy.

Be honest with yourself.  Is it the garment you are in love with or is it the image portrayed by the seller’s model?  Yes, even vintage clothing sellers are “branded” with an image that they use to sell.  Beware of it.

Finally, educate yourself.  Learn to know an old tablecloth when you see one.

Now, if you just must have your own tablecloth coat or dress, you are in luck.  I’ve made up a pattern for both, just so you can see how easy it is. All you need is a tablecloth, a pair of scissors and a needle and thread.

The first pattern is for a coat.  You will need a rectangular lace tablecloth.  Fold as shown, cut the hole for your neck, and cut a long slit straight up the middle to the hole (on one side only!)  Then refold and stitch along the stitching lines to form the angel sleeves.  You are done!

This dress requires a circular tablecloth.  Fold in the middle, and following the pattern, cut the neck (make sure it is big enough to slip over your head!) and then cut out those big triangles to form the angel sleeves and the body.  Then stitch along the stitching lines.  And that is it!

Make one of these and save yourself around $399.  Sorry, but I have no idea how to explain to your friends why you are wearing a tablecloth.


Filed under Viewpoint

Latest Sewing Project

When I bought this great camping print several weeks ago, I had no idea of what I was going to do with it.  A little bit of a novelty print goes a long way on anyone over the age of eight, so I decided to cut the cuteness factor by mixing it with a Black Watch plaid.  The result is what I’m calling the picnic skirt, because even though it’s a camping themed fabric, the skirt is just perfect for picnics off the Blue Ridge Parkway, sitting at a scenic overlook with lunch spread across a cheery tablecloth.

Can you tell I’m ready for summer?

Continue reading


Filed under Sewing

Latest Vintage Sewing Project – Vogue 9084

I’ve had this super red and grey wool plaid fabric for several years, and I’ve had plans to make a jacket.  But then a red plaid Pendleton 49er came into my life, and I realized I just didn’t need another red plaid jacket.  So I put the fabric on the back burner.  When I found this pattern from the 70s, I knew exactly what the new plan was.

Except for sweaters and jackets, I really don’t wear vintage clothing.  But all my sewing is done with vintage patterns.  I’ve noticed that I’m attracted to two different eras:  the very early 1960s and the mid to late 1970s.  I’ve never been a ruffles and frills type of girl, and so I’m attracted to clean lines and interesting – but minimal – detailing.   This top is exactly the kind of thing I wore in college in the 70s.  I’m not saying my style hasn’t changed in 35 years, but I have come to appreciate what was good about the mid 70s.

I made a lot of my clothes back in the 70s, but I never used Vogue patterns, not when they cost $2.50 each and Simplicity ones were only $1.  It’s just as well, because even today I find that the instructions are often difficult to follow.  The method they used for putting in the front placket and collar were like nothing I’d ever encountered.  I had to finally say, “Forget that,”  and used my own method.  It reminded me of my grandmother, who taught me how to sew.  One day we were working on a project when she told me to do a certain thing that was not what the instruction sheet said to do.  When I told her she wasn’t following the instructions, she replied, “The instructions are for people who don’t know what they are doing.”

For photos of the completed project…


Filed under Sewing