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

Friday, November 9, 2018

Sewalong Week 3: A Beginner's Guide

Super happy to have Rachael from the Carnivale Vintage Shop in Edinburgh and co-host of the Sewalong doing a guest post today on the beginner's guide to sewing.  Thanks Rachael!

So whereas Debi will be taking you through the actual sewalong, I've been drafted in to start us from the very, very basics. I first learnt to sew around four years ago, also as part of a sewalong, and quite frankly, it's the best thing I ever learnt to do. I have always been clothes obsessed - clothing not fashion - but sewing allowed me a creative outlet to make garments exactly how I wanted them, both in terms of style but also fit. Being a short, fat person, the High Street doesn't exactly love me, and even vintage is more challenging to find in a larger size. So with vintage sewing patterns (which very much DO come in larger sizes) I was set! I wanted to encourage the sewalong because the ability to sew has been one of the greatest gifts ever given to me, and I want to encourage others in its joys. Best of all, there's no annoying Home Ec teacher screaming at me that I use the sewing machine like a machine gun!

So there are ten things I think it's worth covering as absolute basics:
1.    Pre-wash your fabric
2.    Sewing is like building, getting one stage right makes the rest easier
3.    Knowing what size to use
4.    Preparing the pattern and your fabric
5.    Crosswise and lengthwise grain
6.    On the fold
7.    Placing pins
8.    Cutting out and marking up
9.    Pressing really matters
10. Seam finishes

1.    Fabric and Pre-wash

The pattern will indicate what fabrics are best to use. I strongly recommend cotton as a great start point for beginners as it's easy. The pattern will also tell you how much fabric you need. I usually buy more just in case, unless it is particularly expensive.
Pre-washing fabric and trims is a good idea, particularly if they are likely to bleed colour. No point ruining your dress after one wear!

2.      Building Blocks

I've found that as much as I want to rush onto the next step - seriously, that's my entire personality right there - that mastering each step is worth more and is faster in the long run. One wonky bit of sewing that you kinda fudged because you weren't sure at that point, WILL come back to haunt you I'm sorry, it sucks. This is where this group and google are your friends - I swear a quick search for clarification makes all the difference. Don't get scared off, dive right in, but don't be afraid to ask for help.

3.      Sizing

Quite frankly there is no such thing as standard sizing, so let's just ignore all that and concentrate on our measurements. To start with, measure:
·     Largest part of your bust
·     Where your waist goes in the most - this will be above your belly button and where you naturally crease when bending to the side
·     Fullest part of your hips - will depend on whether your bum or thighs are biggest

Record these, memorise them and check on them regularly (they will change!). Then find the pattern size which best corresponds with those measurements. You won't necessarily fit one pattern entirely - pick the one that's the closest fit and you will finesse fit later. Think about how you want the garment to fit - I want it to be flowing over the bust because pancake boob flatters no-one, and I like a tight fit on the waist, but I need things loose on my oversize hips. I take that into account when choosing the size. Patterns will have 'ease' to allow for movement so will likely be a bit bigger than your actual measurements, you can choose how much ease you want when you fit your toile.

It would also be a good idea to take your torso length and length for the skirt as well at this point. I kinda know by now that as a short-arse, I need to take at least an inch off the bodice of most patterns, so factor this in now too.

4.      Preparing the Pattern and Fabric

Patterns come in a variety of guises - modern multi-size versus single-size, printed versus unprinted etc - follow the instructions on the pattern to work out what you need to do, e.g. cut out your size on a multi-size pattern. At this stage you can also measure the flat pieces to get an idea of the amount of ease the pattern makers have allowed, and how this will influence the sizing you want.

You may want to make the odd adjustment to your pattern at this stage, or you can wait and make a toile/muslin in cheap fabric to test the fit first. For example, I usually try and remember to shorten if I need to at this stage, just by holding the pattern pieces to my body (coz I'm kinda lazy and don't often do toiles).

One of the many things I've learnt from vintage sewing patterns, is that a mangled up pattern won't make cutting it out easier, and if you cut it out duff, the whole project will be duff. Take two seconds with an iron on low to iron your pieces flat.
Also at this point note if there is already a seam allowance added to your pattern pieces, or if you need to add one! Seam allowances can differ, often it's 5/8 of an inch, but it does vary!
Iron your fabric too!

5.      Crosswise and lengthwise grain

So most fabric we will be working with is woven - some threads go horizontally and some go vertically, this is called crosswise grain and lengthwise grain. Fabric is cut from bolts, so you have the raw edge where it's been cut off the bolt, and the two side edges which are finished and called the selvedge edge. We don't need to worry about this hugely, but it does affect how your garment will drape and how pattern placement for printed fabrics work. Once you know the rules of grainlines, you can choose to break them for effect, but for now, let's just make it so our finished garment looks good!

When we are placing our pattern pieces, we want to make sure our fabric is square and that the grain of the fabric hasn't become messed up. This is pretty easy with cotton, but on more complicated fabrics, it becomes a bigger deal. Our pattern pieces indicate how to cut out our fabric and where it should be in relation to the grain, via grain lines marked on the pieces. Your grain line should run parallel to the selvedge edges, so each dot should be the same distance from the selvedge edge so we know it's straight.

Lengthwise fold:

Crosswise fold:
Now every pattern comes with a guide to cut out making the most economical use of your fabric. Which is great if you have the space for this. I live in a tiny, crowded one bed flat and do not have the space! So I generally cut out only a few pattern pieces at the same time, which means I have to be very careful that I have enough fabric. I generally buy more than I need because of this.

6.             On the Fold and Not

Some pieces will be marked out to cut on the fold - this means that you fold the fabric selvedge to selvedge and place the pattern piece on the fold, so it cuts out one double piece. This is done to avoid a seam line where we don't want one, for example on the bodice. Grain line is not marked on such pieces, because the act of folding the selvedges together and cutting on the fold, should ensure it is straight!
Pieces not on the fold can still be cut out at the same time, but are placed away from the fold of the fabric. Fabric pieces are sometimes mirrors of each other - for example you may have two back pieces for the bodice, you can fold you fabric over to cut both of these at the same time using the one pattern piece which saves time and ensures they match. You fold the fabric selvedge edge to selvedge edge, ensure the grain of your fabric lines up with the grain line, and cut out both pieces together.

7.             Placing Pins

There are various different ways of holding down fabric to cut it out - you will find what you like best, be that pattern weights or pins. Personally I like pins due to lack of space, and I place these at a right angle to the fabric edge because I find this the most stable means of holding the fabric and pattern together (it moves less).

8.                Cutting Out and Marking Up

Use the whole length of your scissors and cut out smoothly. You will want to mark out all those funny V and VV shapes at this stage. These are for matching up pattern pieces to sew together later and are totally important! Otherwise you will kick yourself later that they are missing! Again you can decide how you want to do these - some make a wee V out of the fabric you are cutting, but personally I make a wee V into the seam allowance as I find that easier for me. You choose what works best for you.

For all the other marks, well let's go through what some of these are:
·         Triangle shaped marks are darts for shaping;
·         Straight marks often indicate where pleats are to be made;
·         Other marks are for placement of items such as buttons, buttonholes, gathers or a point to sew until.

These will be explained in the pattern instructions. You need to mark these with whatever way you feel most comfortable. Traditionally it was done with tailor's tacks (loops of thread), or chalk, but personally I prefer to use pencils specifically designed for the purpose which I find don't rub off too easily. I even use them to draw lines for darts to make it easier to sew. Whatever you use, you need to ensure it will wash off and not damage your finished garment.

9.             Pressing

I don't know why sewing is so-called, because I swear it's more about ironing than sewing! Pressing after each step is essential for the crisp and professional look of your finished piece. I will take a lot of short cuts in life, but pressing isn't one of them! And I urge you that it's a good practice sewing habit to fully adopt.

10.          Seam Finishes

There are various types of seam finishes, and knowing a few helps you decide what's best for the garment you are making and the fabric used. 

There is where the edge is left without a seam finish:
Modern commercially made items are usually overlocked/serged which is where there is little seam allowance left and the edge is heavily bound over with thread, which doesn't fray as a result. 

Most of us don't have access to an overlocker and one of the benefits of home sewing, is deliberately using a large seam allowance to change fit with time. A lot of vintage items have large seam allowances so the original owner could let them out if she changed size!

One of the easiest seam finishes for cotton is simple pinking shears which give the fabric a zig zag which does not fray easily and is also period correct for vintage sewing.

Another of my favourites is French seams where the fabric is first sewn wrong sides together for 1/4" of the 5/8" seam allowance, and then turned in with right sides together and the remaining 3/8" of the seam allowance sewn, therefore encasing the raw edge entirely, is useful for sheer or delicate fabrics where a clean edge is required. Obviously it can be adapted for any amount of seam allowance given, but is most useful to be kept narrow.
Zig zag stitching can be used to finish off the raw edge or even just the raw edge folded over and stitched with a straight stitch, are often seam finishes found in home-made vintage garments. You can decide what works best for you but bear in mind the effect of the fabric you are using.

I hope that gives the absolute beginner's a starting point and I hope you are as excited as I am to start the sewalong!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Review: What Katie Did 1940s Map Lingerie

Super happy to see more 1940s inspired sets coming out from one of my favourite independent vintage lingerie companies--What Katie Did.

This amazing set is based on the 'escape and evade' maps issued to Allied troops in World War II.  These maps were printed on parachute silk which made them really easy to fold up and conceal.  After the war, this leftover silk was used by seamstresses for a variety of garments from blouses to dresses and even lingerie! 

I just adore this set. It has the perfect 1940s silhouette--the bra is slightly less 'pointy' than the 1950s bullet bras but still gives a very vintage shape under clothes.  The bra is also very comfortable.  The garter belt is a little confusing at first (just note that the little bow is at the front) the hooks are not located on the side or back but instead on the centre side front. Also note that this has no give and only one row of hooks--so make sure to have your exact waist measurement!

Here is how the bra looks under a 1950s dress:

And under a 1940s dress:

 I'm really quite pleased that it works under both 1940s and 1950s silhouettes (sometimes the bullet bras don't work so well under 1940s clothing).

This set also has a great pair of tap pants...which are very comfortable. They feature a small amount of elastic at the back and then a straight front with a little button hook on the side. They can be worn with or without the garter underneath:

The garter is a 6 strap belt--which unlike some of the 1950s silhouettes has the front garter straps more towards the inside of the legs and the side straps are very much on the side. This is very different placement from the 1950's belts (where at least in most of my vintage garters the first strap is either straight down the front or a little bit forward of the side).  I haven't noticed much difference between the two in terms of keeping stocking straight but I do find that it is more comfortable for long periods of sitting as this set doesn't have any straps directly at the back!

So happy to be seeing more 1940s lingerie sets coming out and as a huge vintage lingerie fan--it's great to see the construction of these sets as compared to the other more 1950s/1960s sets that What Katie Did is famous for!  It also helps when sewing to have the correct underpinnings (I find it's most notable with 1950s patterns where the bust darts are actually designed for 1950s bras!)
What do you think? Vintage lingerie--yea or nay?

Photos: Kinda Kurdi
Lingerie and stockings: What Katie Did
Shoes: Bait Footwear

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