Thursday, February 21, 2019

Final Sewalong Post: Attaching the Bodice, Inserting the Zipper and Hemming the Dress

A massive thank you to Rachael from @ms.carnivale for co-hosting (e.g. leading) the's the LAST post!
Ok we are onto the home stretch now!

Let’s get this bodice attached to the skirt: now the 1940s way to do this is via a lapped seamed, which I will explain below. If you don’t want to do it thus, you can do a normal right sides together seam for ease. But I’ll behave and follow the pattern instructions.

1) Fold the skirt part along the 1/2” seam allowance and baste.

2) Overlap the skirt on top of the bodice and match key points such as the open edges where the zip will go and the notches. Make sure to match the raw edges. Pin.

3) Topstitch (sew neatly coz you’re gonna see it!) along the edge.

4) Press and finish the edge as you’ve done before (I used pinking shears on mine)

Before you can complete the hem, you should really allow the dress to hang for around 24 hours. This is so the skirt will lie evenly and is really important if your fabric is loose weave or on the bias as this will mean it ‘drops’ differently and you don’t want a wavy hem!

This pattern called for a ‘slide fastening’ aka a zip. There are various ways you can insert these, and most vintage patterns just write ‘refer to zip manufacturer’s guidance’. Yeah thanks for that 🙄

Generally though, your zip should zip up to under the arm, not the other way! And it’s usually on the left side of the body when worn, so hopefully you haven’t sewn up this seam (don’t laugh, it’s incredibly easy to forget about this!)

I’m going to describe my preferred method which is a hand picked zip done away from the machine. Honestly I find this this easiest (and I can do it whilst watching the telly so win) but if you want to use your machine, a quick google will give you a million zip tutorials. Just make sure to use a zip foot on your machine and do a lapped zip (unless you want to do an invisible zip but they are the work of the devil). Personally I like using vintage metal teethed zips and doing a lapped zip.

1) I start by folding over and pressing the seam allowance in so I have a nice clean edge to work with.

2) Ensure the zip is flat and straight by giving it a quick iron too.

3) Test the zip works! But keep it closed for now.

4) Working on the right side of the fabric, fold over the top fabric edge of the right side of the zip so it sits out of the way between the zip and the fabric. Pin.

5) Start on the right of the zip and pin the fabric against it near the teeth, continue down the side, using vertical pins.

6) At the bottom, use a pin horizontally to lock it in place at the bottom.

7) At the stage I spin the garment around to work on the other side.

8 Open the zip.

9) For this side, we want the fabric to cover the teeth, so pin it so there’s enough to cover the teeth but ensure the seam allowance won’t come loose.

10) Continue using vertical pins up and I close the zip as I go.

11) You need to ensure that whilst pinning the zip in place, that the bodice seam line will be matched on either side of the zip. Otherwise it’ll look stupid and won’t lie nicely. Adjust until it behaves.

12) Continue to the top and remember to fold the zip tab as you did before.

13) As long as it zips up and down fine, you are ready to sew.

14) Thread your hand needle and knot it so you’re working with double threads for strength.

15) I start on the underside on the easier right side of the zip (where it sits against the teeth) and start on the further side of the tab to ensure it is stitched down nicely.

16) Insert your needle to the right side and then immediately back inside, with only the tiniest dot of stitch on the front. Take a normal small stitch on the inside back to the front. Repeat tiniest dots on the outside and small stitches on the inside all around the zip.

17) Basically you should barely see stitches from the outside.

Not the fastest method but I find it never goes wrong which is nice.

For the hem, pop the dress on and check where it’s sitting versus where you want it to sit. There’s always a hem guide in the pattern, but as a shortie, I usually have to do more than this. A 2” hem for example is super easy.

Fold and press 2” under for example.

Then fold your hem in to the fold line and pin.

Slip stitch by hand inside so that no stitches are seen from the outside.

Press and DONE!!!

Well done folks, enjoy your new dress!!

Monday, February 11, 2019

McCall 3888: The Town and Country Cape

This is one of my favourite me-made ensembles ever. The cape, jacket and dress are all made using 1940 McCall patterns and the hat is from a 1941 McCall pattern.

I made the cape using McCall 3888 and opted for Version B which is the longer version.  It features an awesome coat lapel, two buttons and amazing square shoulders.

I made the cape using the same fabric as my Town and Country suit dress jacket--an amazing wool that I got in Birmingham.  I bought tons of this wool not really know what I was going to make but because I loved the colours!

And I'm super chuffed to use the same dress fabric as the lining fabric for my cape!

Here's a reminder of what the hat pattern looks like!

I'm feeling very Scottish in this ensemble--which ironically we took these photos on Robert Burn's Birthday! So perfect!

This is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh called Dean Village. It's a small hidden enclove of really cool old mill houses and a gorgeous river (the Water of Leith) running through it.

This is the suit dress pattern (blogged about here):

For me, the cape really completes the look and makes it feel like a proper 1940s ensemble.  I just love looking at old fashion photos of the time period with a suit that has a big matching coat or cape.  I want to make more matching outwear for my outfits now :)

Overall, super pleased with the ensemble. A coat would have probably been more wearable but there's something really special about a cape!

I might even have enough fabric to make a matching skirt! That would be awesome!!  And reminds me to always buy lots of wool fabric when I get a chance (not that I need any help buying fabric! hahaha)

MUAH: Vanity Thrills
Photos: Darja Bilyk  
Shoes: Bait Footwear

Saturday, February 9, 2019

The Marlene Waistcoat

So delighted to add another piece to my Marlene suit--this awesome waistcoat made from a 1941 McCall pattern.

I just adore this pattern--McCall 4091 from 1941.  It features a very neat waistcoat design that has a split at the waist in the bodice front--which actually works great with high-waisted trousers.

I made view B but without the faux pockets. I like the streamlined front better and maybe I was also being lazy and just wanted to fit the waistcoat! haha.

The back is straight with a little belt and buckle. I probably should have taken some of the length out of the back but overall, I love the fit. Though waistcoats don't leave much room for holiday eating! hahaha.

The idea to make this waistcoat came from finding more of this fabric in my fabric stash.  I still have more too--so maybe I should also make a matching skirt!!

I made the jacket from a 1939 McCall pattern and the trousers from a reproduction 1941 pattern (both are blogged here and here) about seven years ago, so this entire outfit is from my favourite years of 1939-1941.

The fabric is an amazing lightweight wool with a great design. I ended up picking up maybe 6-7 metres of this on a half off sale and then decided it would turn into the perfect suit!

I just love the menswear 1940s looks--popularised by Katherine Hepburn and actresses like Marlene Dietrich (who I named this suit after!)

I just love the whole look and the waistcoat makes such a great difference! I now want to make waistcoats out of all my fabrics!!

We took these photos at a grand house just on the outskirts of Edinburgh and I love how well all the colours match.

I'm sold on making more 1940s suits and they are so wearable too!

What about you? Vintage suits, yes or no?

MUAH: Vanity thrills Photos: Darja Bilyk 

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!
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