Friday, January 11, 2019

McCall 3824: The Teal Birthday Dress

This is the quintessential 1940 McCall dress in my opinion. It has all my favourite early 40's features: gathers, flattering waistline, flowy skirt, gathered sleeves, etc.

This dress is from View A. The bodice yoke is in one piece and the skirt and bodice top gathered into it. Quite an ingenious design.

Here's a close-up of the style, I just adore it:

How about a cheeky pin-up photo :)

I made the dress from a teal wool crepe fabric that I got at Edinburgh Fabrics and it's the perfect weight (though not exactly washing machine friendly).  And hey, I match the furniture :)

I want to make this pattern a thousand times over in other fabrics and prints!  Maybe I'll try and make a hat to go with it!

Photography: Tigz Rice
Shoes: Baitfootwear


Monday, January 7, 2019

Sewalong Week 7: Constructing the Sleeves

Time for our next sewalong blog post, a guest post from Rachael and today is her birthday! woohooo! Thanks dear!


I swear Debi asked me to write the hardest bits of the sewalong right?!  So in this section, we are going to make the sleeves and then sew them onto the bodice.
1.     First off, let’s start easy. With right sides together, match up the notches on the raw long edge of each sleeve (individually, we’re not sewing the sleeves to each other! ) Pin in place.

2.     Using a 1/2” seam allowance, stitch a nice straight, easy line down the long edge, backstitching at each end.

3.     Press your long edge flat first of all, finish your seam with pinking shears (or however you are finishing your seams), and then press the seam open.

Next the pattern instructs us to finish the cuff. This isn’t always the order of sewing, but we’ll just behave and follow the pattern this time. There are a couple of different ways to finish this cuff/edge, depending on the sleeve length you’ve gone for and what you most fancy. I of course needed to do it the hard way, given I wanted a bit of volume at the bottom. Honestly, I am unable of making my life easy. So I’ll explain that way in a minute, but first off, I’ll start with the most basic/common way.

Cuff Type One

1.     Put the sleeve on and decide where you want it to end. There’s also a line indicated on the pattern. You don’t have to follow this. You can rebel if you want!

2.     Fold the raw edge over to the wrong side where you want the sleeve to end and press to make a nice clear line.

3.     Then on the inside, fold the raw edge in to your nice clear fold line, so that it will be hidden. Press flat.

4.     Pin and then slip stitch by hand the edge. Again we do this so there is no visible stitching on the outside, unlike modern clothes. It’s simply a much cleaner finish.

Cuff Type Two

So idiot I am, I wanted volume at the bottom of my sleeve. And then idiot I am measured wrong and didn’t get as much as I had intended. Oops! Anyway, personally I wasn’t bothered enough to change it, soooo not a perfectionist, but if you wish, your sleeve can have more volume.
Fundamentally this sleeve is quite roomy, but it doesn’t have any elbow pleats/darts, so depending on your fabric choice, you need this volume to be able to move your elbow! But leaving it very loose at the cuff, well it’s just not as elegant as 40s clothing so often is; this trick will add another design feature to your dress, whist keeping that elegant 40s style.
1.     First off, we are back to our friend gathering stitches yay! Because we haven’t done enough of that on this pattern already. Using the largest stitch on your machine (4 in my case), run a line of stitches about 3/4” away from the raw edge, crucially this is within your 1/2” seam allowance, and then run another row of stitches about 1/4” away from the first row. Don’t backstitch down anything, and keep nice long tails of thread too.

2.     On the bobbin thread side (whatever side you had facing down on your machine), take the two tails and tie them together at each end. (I did my ends either side of the seam line for ease).

3.     Then tie together one end of the top threads. Supposedly gathering is easier when the bobbin threads are tied, I don’t really know but this always works for me.

4.     Measure the sleeve width flat and then try the sleeve on to get an idea of how tight you want it to sit on your arm. Remember you want to be able to get your hand in and to allow blood circulation!

5.     Mine was 7” flat and I had intended to gather 1 1/2” smaller, but I seemed to lose the ability to count and only went to 6” when gathered, not 5 1/2” as I had intended. Rachael doofus!!

6.     Grabbing the free tails of the gathering thread, pull gently, GENTLY! Snapped gathering thread is really irritating. And pull along the thread to gather the sleeve in to your desired width.

7.     Measure and once there, tie off the threads to lock down that width. Then ensure your gathers are nice and equal.
Oh look, bias binding again yay! (Yes there is a fair bit of sarcasm in my instructions). We are going to do exactly what we did for the neckline.
8.     Unfold the narrower edge and line this up against the cut edge of the fabric on the right side of the fabric, so that the fold is upwards.

9.     Pin it on first, and then you are going to sew using a normal stitch, just a spot away from the fold line towards the outer edge. This allows the bias binding to fold on the fold line easily. I usually remove the tray from my sewing machine so I can more easily get the fabric in the right place to sew.

10.  Press flat and the. Fold the bias binding over to the inside. Press again.

11.  Pin and then slip stitch on the inside.
You’ll see that the outcome of this is a tighter band hidden on the inside, which allows a lovely ballooning of fabric at the bottom, like the shorter green dress on the pattern cover. Nice!
 This is Jumper supporting the sewalong process with Rachael--dear little Jumps passed away right before Christmas...her adorable spirit is missed greatly but this photo is such a beautiful reminder of her!!

Stiffening (oo er missus!)

This is a step if you are using sheer fabric.
I made my dress in a semi-sheer 40s rayon, so I followed the instructions to add stiffening in the form of organdy, which is used to provide body for the typical pronounced 40s shoulder shape. Otherwise my fabric is so floppy, the volume in the shoulder would just fall and be lost. My organdy seemed to provide a lot more volume than I was intending though!
Now all of you clever people will have of course realised the pattern indicated what shape to make the organdy - I of course did not pay attention to this and created my own shape, which thankfully was exactly the same as what I was supposed to be doing. See, genius level me. Ahem.
The pattern says to use a double layer of organdy, which is what I did, however I really do feel this is very pronounced, you may wish to use a single layer.

1.     First off, baste (large stitch) your organdy to the inside of your sleeve - being of course careful to transfer all pattern markings so you can see them later. Ahem. Baste within your seam allowance too.

2.     And we're back to gathering stitches - see you're expert level at this now. Run two lines of stitches within your seam allowance (I did them either side of the stitching keeping the organdy on) in a large stitch and don't back stitch the ends. The pattern indicates where you run these lines, between the marked crosses.

3.     Tie together the thread tails at each end, on the bobbin thread underneath (whatever way up you sewed them doesn't matter).

4.     Tie together one side of the upper thread tails. And use the remaining thread tails to gently pull the thread to gather the sleeve. It does work ok with the organdy but it is stiffer. No I didn't trust it either, but it does works I promise.

5.     At this stage, I leave my tails un-knotted so that I can adjust them finally once we pin the sleeve to the bodice.

6.     Do all this for both sleeves.

Pinning the Sleeve to the Bodice

Right, serious time now, look at us go!
1.     Look at your sleeves and look at the bodice arm pits - both have notches/marks to tell you where to line these up. There's a double notch marked on the pattern as 16, and a single notch marked as 17. Then there's the circle at the top of the sleeve which matches to the seam line on your bodice. And the seam line at the bottom of your sleeve matches with the seam line at the bottom of the arm pit. It doesn't matter where you start, but with right sides together, start matching and pinning on corresponding notch to its counterpart.

2.     Work your way all around, and now is the time to finalise your gathers so that they perfectly match the armhole. Tie down your gathering thread tails at this point.

3.     Now you have about 50 million pins keeping everything in place, it's time to head over to the sewing machine and lock this down! Ahem, sew. Keeping our 1/2" seam allowance, sew a nice even line around. I usually remove the tray from my sewing machine to make it easier for me to get the fabric in the right place to sew. Backstitch the ends.

4.     Press the stitches; you may benefit from a tailor's ham which makes pressing easier. I don't have one, so I just make do. Press the seam inwards towards the bodice.

5.     Do all of this for the other sleeve. Woop woop we now have a dress with sleeves!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

McCall 3863: The White Christmas Dress

White Christmas is one of my favourite movies. I just love the iconic red velvet dresses with white fur trim--so I decided to make my own 1940 McCall version!

Enter McCall pattern 3863 (you can purchase a reproduction pattern from Lady Marlowe on Etsy graded to various sizes):
Rachael from Carnival Vintage shop in Edinburgh and I have been running a sewalong for this pattern for the past several months! You can catch up with the sewalong posts here.

I was really happy to find velvet silk fabric in red at my local fabric store, Edinburgh Fabrics. I also found some white fur trim. In fact, I had already had the red silk velvet in my stash as I was planning it for another evening gown but when I saw the white fur trim on their shelves, I knew I had to make a 'White Christmas' movie inspired dress!

I'm very happy with how the dress turned out though sewing with silk velvet is quite a test.  I had to very carefully cut out the pieces and when sewing, it's very easy to mark the fabric--so care is required. Velvet is also a pain to iron--I just used steam (so my iron stand up and then passing the fabric carefully over the plate).

I literally wore this dress non-stop in December. I loved wearing it and listening to Christmas music while decorating the tree. And we even got some good photos of my lovely little kitty, Echo:

 I ended up attaching the faux white fur just on the sleeves and on the bodice bow area (but left the bow itself in the red velvet).

This pattern has quite a lot of give or ease in the back bodice. When I read my 1940 McCall source booklets, they talk about the pattern having a 'bloused' effect.  This is even more pronounced since the bodice front has six sets of gathers (two at the shoulder line leading into the bow front, two under the bow front and two on each side at the waistline).

Awwww...this is my favourite picture's so hard to get good photos of my kitty--so this is our little Christmas photo! YAY!

What about you? Did you make any holiday clothes this year?

Photography: Emerald Photography
Fabric: Edinburgh Fabrics
Shoes: Bait Footwear

Friday, December 21, 2018

Sewalong Week 6: Constructing the Neckline

Another fabulous guest post from Rachael from Carnivale Vintage (@ms.carnivale)--thank you!

So in the original 1940s pattern, in typical vintage brevity style, it states, "Finish neckedge with bias underfacing, mitering underfacing at corners." And that's it. Well there's a box about making bias underfacing but REALLY! This I'm afraid is typical of vintage patterns, which assume a much greater depth of sewing knowledge than most folks have these days. But never fear, I've messed it all up in advance so I can hopefully help you through it!
Fundamentally bias binding (bias underfacing) provides stability to the neckline so it doesn’t get pulled or stretched out of shape. It also allows you to finish the neckline neatly without any visible stitching on the outer fabric - a common tactic used in vintage garments. Bias binding is a fairly narrow strip of fabric, cut, unsurprisingly, on the bias, so it doesn’t fray. I used 1” tape, in a colour which worked with my fashion fabric.
1.     Unfold the narrower edge of the tape (bias binding) and line this up against the cut edge of the fabric on the right (pretty) side of the fabric, so that the fold of the tape is upwards.

2.     Pin it on first, and then you are going to sew using a normal stitch, just a spot away from the fold line towards the outer edge. This allows the bias binding to fold on the fold line easily.

3.     Now the slight complication with the neckline is that is has right angles rather than being curved. Never fear though! All you need to do is what is called ‘mitre the corners’; this effectively means fold the bias binding at right angles, so that you can get a nice sharp corner.


4.     I pinned as normal until I was 1/2” away from the corner; I folded the tape at a 90 degree angle and used my fingers to press it into shape. I pinned this and then continued on pinning as normal along the raw edge.

5.     When you come to sew it in, you sew just slightly away from the fold line, and when you get to the corner, ensure your needle is in the fabric, and lift the presser foot to pivot 90 degrees. You can now continue sewing along the next edge. Do this all the way around until you meet the start of your tape. Overlap the tape a little and then cut the excess off. Backstitch to lock in your stitches.


6.     Use your iron to press your sewing. Use a small, sharp scissors to cut regular snips from the raw edges to just before your stitch line, and diagonally in at each corner to the stitch line. This basically allows the fabric to fold really nicely so you get a sharp, clean line.

7.      Then using the fold line, fold it over so that all the tape is on the inside and none can be seen from the outside. Use your iron to press everything neatly. Pin in place.

8.     Now you are going to hand sew the bias binding in place using slip stitches to catch a tiny bit of the outer fabric and some of the tape to sew the tape down in place. We do all this so there is no visible stitching on the outside of the neckline. Neat huh? Press again for luck/perfection.
9.     For the bow at the neckline, it's really fairly easy. Fold the fabric strip right sides together, and sew along the seam allowance, leaving a small spot large enough you can turn it through the right way. You'll close this by hand later. Press.

10.  Cut off the excess seam allowance about 1/4" away from your stitching and cut off the corners near your stitching.

11.  Now the infuriating bit! You need to turn it the right way out. I hate this. I used a pen and a lot of swear words. Be careful not to poke anything through your stitches. Press.

12.  Hand slipstitch closed the space you left unsewn for turning.

13.  Pop it into the space you left free on the bodice band (or create one if you forget to leave a space!)

14.  Tie in a pretty bow and voila!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Week 5: Constructing the Bodice Part 1

We are moving on in the sewalong to tackling the bodice of our 1940 McCall dress.

The instructions show a pictorial illustration of the construction. The numbers on the diagram not only correspond to the order in which you should construct the seams but these numbers are also on the pattern pieces, making it easier to match up pattern pieces (particularly being able to tell top from bottom!)

There are two key skills that we will cover in this sewalong post: 1) gathering and 2) sewing a lapped seam.

First the gathering. There are six areas of targeted gathering on the bodice and they are represented on the pattern pieces by either 'gather between the crosses'--which is usually at the top of a given pattern piece OR 'gather along the lines'.

The key to gathering is to set a longer stitch length. I usually set it at 4.5 on an electronic machine or go in the medium stitch length on some of the vintage machines:

I mark the area that I want to gather with pins. I then do the first line of gathering about 1/2 inch from the edge. I have a very light weight fabric and it starts to bunch up a bit with the longer stitch length. So I just try to straighten it out as best as I can.  You then want to sew another row of a long stitch close to (but not crossing) your first line. This will ensure that your thread doesn't break when you are pulling up the gathers (more useful for medium and heavier weight fabrics):

So you will now have two rows of long stitches close to each other. The important thing is to NOT backstitch at the beginning or end and to leave longer strands of thread at both ends.  You can then pull the two threads on one side/end to start gathering :

Here's some more resources on gathering:

1) a step-by-step guide to gathering

2) a youtube video on gathering

For this pattern, we gather two sections on the bottom of the upper waist front and then two sections each on the top and bottom of the lower waist front.

Once we have our gathers in place, we then need to attach the upper waist front to the front band and also attach the front band to the lower waist front to create our bodice front.  The method of attaching the seams is a classic 1940 method (this is used throughout for bodices in all my 1940 patterns!) called a lapped seam:

The first thing I do is iron under about 1/4 inch on both sides of the front band:

I then line up and situate this front band over the bottom edge of the upper waist front and the bottom part of the front band over the upper part of the lower waist.  The pattern calls for basting these sections together (by hand or machine, to learn about basting, check out this post).  I don't really like basting as I inevitably sew over my basting threads and then I find it really hard to get them out. So I do the same thing with pins. The point is to try and hold your fabric in place so that you can sew it!

You can see that I've put two pins in vertical on my fabric. This is just a note to myself that I don't want to sew this small area on the bottom of the front band because our little bow will slip through for the time being we leave it open but continue sewing the front band after this space.

Here's a visual representation of why we keep that small area in the middle unstitched for the time being, as we will slip our bow tie into that space:

Now that I've secured everything, I can go to my sewing machine. We will then topstich on the front band (which as you remember each end has a bit folded under--so it's basically laying on top of the bottom of the waist front pieces).  The key is to move your sewing machine needle so that you are sewing close to the edge:

As we get to the gathers, I tend to go slow:

Here's a short video of me doing the lapped seam between the front band and the top of the lower waist front:

Of course you can always sew these seams in the 'plain seams' way if the thought of top stitching is not something you want to do! Here's a guide on sewing different kinds of seams and plain seam would also work for this.

We have two more steps for the bodice which will come in different posts--one on the neckline and one on attaching the bodice fronts and backs and attaching to the skirt!

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