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)
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