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!


Thursday, December 6, 2018

The 'Intramuros Dress'

By far my best sunny location traveling dress! Check out my crafty new make...

This dress is a copy of an existing store bought dress (from a boutique in Florence--see photo below for the inspiration dress), that is actually quite a straight forward design.

The dress includes a sleeveless bodice and v-shaped neckline with vertical darts in the bustline.  I basically laid the original dress out and copied the shape (adding some extra space for the bust darts) onto tracing paper and then played around with it until it fit correctly.

The dress closes with a side zip from the underarm to just near the hipline.

For the skirt, I pulled out some existing pleated patterns I already had--specifically Tilly's 'Lilou' dress pattern from her first book, Love at First Stitch.  Here's that dress that I had made previously and you can see the pleats in this dress:

So I basically made the pleat area larger but used the pattern to help me figure out how much fabric I needed!

We took these photos on my recent trip to the Philippines where I got to visit the 'Intramuros' or the walled city. It was really fabulous and the entire neighbourhood is of old buildings and churches!

One of my favourite things about this dress is the fabric. I simply adore this fabric from Gertie's line. It's a lightweight cotton--so absolutely perfect for traveling to warmer climates and I love the colour scheme and tropical look of the flowers:

So excited to have this a basic and quick pattern I can turn to for warm weather dresses (also good for layering!)  I've got another couple in the works as we speak :)

What about you? Do you have a go-to pattern for summer dresses?

Photographer: @jerf.k 
MUAH: @sunkissedbonita


Sunday, December 2, 2018

The 'Classic Pussybow' Blouse

I'm adding a staple to my me-made wardrobe that has been two years in the making! The classic pussybow blouse in a great cream colour.

I used McCall's 4609, which looks like it's from the 1970s. I sewed up version A.  I had actually cut out this pattern for two blouses-- a cream one and a purple one--about two years ago. And then the poor pattern just sat in my projects pile. Recently, I fished out the two pre-cut fabrics and got to work! The pattern is fairly easy as the lines are very straight. I finished both blouses around the same time (I quite like sewing multiple versions of the same pattern at the same time).  For the purple one, I ran out of fabric for the long sleeves so ended up using another pattern for a short 'flutter' sleeve (see blog post here for that blouse):

I do like the long sleeved version more and it's just so versatile in this colour.  The blouse front has buttons and a long bow at the collar. The sleeves are very straight and have a wrist placket.  I could have probably made the wrists smaller but it's super comfortable as it is.

And here's a cheeky stocking flash photo! haha.

I don't wear a lot of separates --but of those that I do wear, these types of blouses are the easiest to coordinate! I just love the look!

Photography: Veronika Marx and Darja Bilyk (for purple blouse)

Sunday, November 25, 2018

1940s Sewalong Week 4: Cutting Out and Sewing the Skirt

So happy to have Rachael, or Ms.Carnivale on Instagram, doing a guest post on Cutting Out and Sewing the Skirt for the Sewalong!  Thanks Rach!
Right shall we get stuck in? So by now you've cut out your paper pattern, washed your fabric, and ironed both ready to start.
You've also bought, or are planning to buy thread, a zip/snaps, and relevant shoulder padding. (A quick note on shoulder padding - if you are using sheer fabric, the pattern tells you to buy organdy which is light and stiff; if you aren't using sheer fabric, buy wadding which you can either use single thickness or doubled up to create the shoulder pads).

Cutting Out

Now you need a large-ish flat space to put your fabric down and pattern pieces on top of it. Using the floor works, but ideally for your back, use a large dining table (or even better, a higher raised table).
There are diagrams for the most efficient use of cutting the fabric in the pattern instructions, but for now we'll be rebels and go our own way (I never have enough space to cut everything out per the instructions). What you need to do now before cutting anything though, is ensure you definitely have enough fabric! Have a look at the size of your pieces and your fabric, place some out roughly, check, check, and check again!
These instructions are the same for both making a muslin to assess fit, and for your final fashion fabric.
1.     Fold your fabric so the selvedges are together and the cut edges are at the top and bottom. Place this on a nice flat surface.
2.     I put my fabric face up so I can see any pattern, and I generally put the pattern pieces face up too. It just helps to see everything. Just be aware that if you are singly cutting one of "cut 2" pieces, that for the second one, the pattern piece needs to be a mirror of the first, so put it face down.

3.     You also want at this point to have a wee look at the length of the pieces and compare them to you - is that skirt gonna be super long? You'll save fabric and make the result better if you shorten the pattern piece now, as indicated in the middle, rather than just lopping a bit off the bottom later (Full disclosure, I usually just lop a bit off the bottom later #badsewist but for the ballgown length one here, I took 2" off before cutting out)
4.     Starting with your biggest/most important patterns pieces (I suggest the skirt front) place on the fold of fabric.
5.     Use pins or weights to lock this first piece in place.
6.     Remove cat/dog/animal from fabric. Oh wait, that's probably just me.
7.     If your fabric has a pattern, you're gonna want to pay special attention to where everything is sitting - we've all seen the leggings with unfortunate pattern placement on the crotch... don't go there!
8.     If you don't have an up/down to your fabric, then you can follow the guide where it says to put the skirt front side piece upside down next to the skirt front.
9.     Generally it's fastest and easiest to cut out two of the "cut two" pieces at the same time. It means they are perfect mirrors of each other and it's faster. That's often why you have your fabric folded over, as well as the pieces you need to do on the fold. But if you don't have the space/have very narrow fabric, you can absolutely cut one piece out at a time.
10.  You want to cut out the following (and I prioritise them in roughly this order, if you run out of fabric, tie belts can be different fabric, and shoulder pads can be offcuts, but the skirt won't work if you run out of fabric!):
a.     Skirt front on the fold
b.     Skirt side front cut two at once
c.     Skirt back on the fold
d.     Skirt side back cut two
e.     Waist lower front on the fold
f.      Waist upper front cut two
g.     Front band on the fold
h.     Bodice back on the fold
i.      Sleeve cut two
j.      Front tie cut one
k.     Tie belt (remember to either cut on the fold or cut one side and then flip the pattern over to cut the other side so it's one long length - otherwise you'll have a seam in the middle, which is totally ok too!)
l.      Shoulder pads cut 4 in your fashion fabric (we'll worry about interfacing and padding later)
11.  When everything is still with the pattern piece, make ALL the markings, or you will hate yourself later. Trust me. Use whatever you want (chalk, pencils, pins, tailor's tacks, cut notches), as long as it won't wreck your fabric. Personally I like fabric chalk pencils. Mark:
a.     Notches with a single/double/triple line as indicated.
b.     Where to gather fabric between e.g. use dots.
c.     A circle or dot to mark where the zip will go.
d.     What the piece is! I use F for front etc. Sometimes it's obvious, sometimes you may want help.
12.  Usually I take away the pattern pieces at this time, but keep them handy to refer to.
Beautiful, now we are ready to start sewing!

Sewing the Skirt

Although the pattern jumps in straight at the bodice, since we designed this sewalong for absolute beginners, I suggested to Debi that we actually start with the skirt, because it's nice long straight stitches. So let's start with the SKIRT FRONT and pick one of the SKIRT SIDE FRONTS to attach to it.

These instructions will be for fabric which we will leave a pinked/overlocked/zig zagged edge, rather than a French seam, although I'll talk about working with sheer fabrics on another occasion.
1.     With the right side up of the SKIRT FRONT, put the right side of the SKIRT SIDE FRONT, down so we have right sides together and find the relevant notch (match a single notch with single, double with double, triple with triple), also known as 6 on this pattern. Pin the raw edge where the notches match.
2.     Go up to the top of the pieces, do those edges match up nicely? If so, pin them together, working down to the notch. If they don't, move them around until they match up nicely. Check the other end, is one piece further up than it should be? Is your marking of the notch off etc etc. Just check it all out and pin that raw edge so it matches all the way down.
3.     Incidentally, I pin at right angles to my fabric, as this is supposed to keep everything in place better. You do whatever feels right to you. But when you sew, you don't want to have the pin heads going into the needle before the sharp end - it makes them much harder to remove as you sew!
4.     Once this edge is nicely pinned, it's to the machine we go! Note, you need to have thread (of the right colour!!) in the machine and in the bobbin - you'd be surprised at how many times this isn't the case for me...
5.     Check your stitch is at the right length (2 for me) and that the machine is straight stitch rather than zig zag. Place your fabric under the presser foot and at the correct seam allowance - for this pattern that's 1/2"
6.     Sew a few stitches forward, then a couple backwards to lock them in, and then sew nice and even and straight all the way down the raw edge. Repeat the locking in of the stitches at the bottom.
7.     Cut the thread tails.
8.     Iron the seam flat.
9.     Pink the seam.
10.  Iron the seam open (it makes all the difference to press as you go, no arguments!)
11.  Next! Get the other SKIRT SIDE FRONT and attach it to the SKIRT FRONT and repeat the above. Boom we have the front of the skirt!

12.  Let's do the back - get the SKIRT BACK and with right sides together, attach a SKIRT SIDE BACK - matching the notch which is 7 on this pattern. Repeat the above sewing and pressing steps.
13.  Do the same for the other SKIRT SIDE BACK. Boom we have the back of a skirt.
14.  With right sides together, line up the FRONT and BACK of the skirt. On what will be the RIGHT side of the body - pin the whole edge, matching notches, which are 8 on this pattern. Sew and press as above.
15.  One more edge and then we have a completed skirt!! Match the one remaining side, using notch 8. BUT this time, you will only sew to the circle marked on the side - because you need to put in a zip above that later. Sew and press as before.
16.  Well done, you have a skirt now! The hem will be done much later, once we have allowed the dress to hang, as sometimes, particularly with fabric cut on the bias, the length will alter.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

McCall 3560: The 'Minnie Dress'

 Was super excited to get to visit Disneyland this month and to showcase my 'Minnie Dress'--inspired by the famous mouse herself :)

This is one of the first times that I've sewn with proper jersey--I tend to only sew with viscose and two-way as opposed to four-way stretch materials.  This pattern, McCall 3560--from my 1940 McCall Project, is perfect for such fabric.

I've actually sewn this pattern before (with viscose) and made the long-sleeve view A tabbed collar version.

For this version, I went with View B and sewed up the short sleeved, circle neck version.  Both versions feature the best pleated sleeve caps. 

I wasn't quite sure how to handle making a belt in jersey fabric--so I did a bit of online research and came up with the perfect solution.  I sewed the belt from the same fabric (no stiffening included) and sewed the front into the side seams before the zip and the back into the side seams after the zip. So the belt is part of the dress. It works perfect with this fabric--I'm so happy with this approach!

The pattern also features a multi-paneled skirt which hangs really nicely in the jersey fabric.  And I was able to get the BEST matching shoes from my favourite shoe company, Bait Footwear. Gah! I love being matchy-matchy! hahaha

The dress pattern is really quite lovely and the jersey fabric makes this dress one of my go-to travel dresses as it doesn't wrinkle!!

Alas, I didn't actually get to see Minnie Mouse on my trip to Disneyland but I did find the perfect vintage inspired Minnie ears complete with mini top hat and face veil! hahaha. I love it!!

What about you? Are you a Disney fan?

Photos: Philip Stanley Dickson
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