A 1950’s Housecoat

I became obsessed recently with making a 50’s style housecoat with a very full skirt, like this one:

From Good Housekeeping magazine 1955

And this one, which I got from EBay:

I love this but then fabric is thin and sheer.

I really wanted to make one with quilted cotton like the first inspiration picture, and for a while I thought I would quilt my own cotton which sounded like a big pain in the you-know-what. Then, on a random Joann fabric run, I came across their quilted cotton section and found this amazingness!

It’s double sided!!

I had also thought About using my various vintage patterns to draft my own pattern, but then I found this one on Etsy at a not too bad price. Worth it to have it all laid out for me!

And it’s EXACTLY what I want in every way!

So, with the perfect pattern and perfect fabric in hand, I set out to create my dream housecoat! I knew that since it was double-sided I would not have to mess with cutting interfacings – so that was nice. It did require me to wing it with the collar, but I think I did ok.

The collar and bound edges.

Because The fabric is quilted and has a layer of batting in between each side, it was just as much of a pain to work with as doing a regular quilt. Especially because the housecoat’s skirt itself is so big!

I treated it as I would a quilt while sewing; rolling the big edges under my machine to work with all the bulk.

At first I was also going to make a tie instead of messing with Buttons, but the instructions had me leaving spaces open in the waist line for buttonholes. This was super easy, so I went with it. I did have to run back to the fabric store to get the buttons I wanted, as I didn’t have any in my vintage button stash.

The perfect buttons

All that work was worth it! The inside looks beautiful and it’s a gorgeous house coat to swan around the house in!

The beautiful inner details.
My daughter wanted her picture on the blog. 🙂
The finished product! Beautiful and warm.

A Tablecloth dress with vintage style

I have had this project in my back pocket for OVER A YEAR. I’m sure most sewists are familiar with that idea. Usually when I keep an idea at bay for that long, it changes over time and becomes something else. But I always knew I wanted to use this tablecloth to make a dress like to Betty’s below; the fabrics seemed so similar.

I pulled a few vintage patterns, but finally decided on Simplicity 3035.

I wish I’d had enough to do the little jacket, too!

The first issue I had was a biggie: The tablecloth was quite damaged, and I hadn’t noticed it before! Luckily I had plenty of room to play around with placement of the pattern pieces; it still took me over an hour to place them in the spots with the least damage. The large skirt pieces were especially challenging.

Once I got everything cut out, I still noticed some holes as I sewed. I just had to patch them up and hope for the best! My biggest concern was the front skirt piece and of course there was a giant hole that I hadn’t noticed. I used a scrap to make an applique and used Wonder Under to put it on top of the damaged flower. It’s not noticeable to anyone except me (I hope).

This was a very quick and easy make! I definitely needed to add that trim under the bust:

…and done! A perfect dress for spring!

Had to strike a pose!
The dog was not excited.

Next make: a quilted vintage housecoat!

Tiered Skirt Refashion

My mother in law gave me a bunch of her old clothes to either sell, get rid of, or keep. Included in the pile was this tiered maxi skirt with a super cute western print.

Love the cowboys and the color!

I don’t ever wear maxi skirts, so at first I thought I would cut it and just have a shorter skirt, but after I cut the bottom tier off I realize there was enough to make a top with! These tiered skirts are so fully gathered that once you cut and iron the layers, you have way more than you thought you would. 

Look at all that fabric that was in the bottom layer!

I decided on a Rita blouse from Gertie’s Charm patterns line. It’s a fitted peasant blouse with a side zip and it’s so so easy to whip up!

Mine is signed by Gertie herself!

It took about three days with the limited time I have available, and voila! A cute outfit to wear to my boys’ western themed dance tonight!

I’m so pleased with how it turned out!

Sewing a vintage shirt dress!

I have been meaning to write about this dress since I re-started the blog! But life and stuff got in the way, as it does. This is one of my favorite shirt dress patterns – mostly because it only has one button and my machine hates it when I try to do buttonholes. So I try to avoid them. But I do love the look and practicality of a good shirt dress!

Butterick 9299

I decided to omit the waistline tabs; they’re unnecessary (and it meant more buttonholes), and I had to take in the waistline as it’s a vintage pattern and only has the one size included. I just eliminated the seam allowance on the waist to take it in and hoped for the best! Luckily it ended up fitting perfectly.

There are some differences in the way vintage patterns gave instructions, and we now know that there are easier and less confusing methods to use.

Getting the skirt pleats correct took forever since I had taken in the side seams of the bodice. Look at all that pinning!

That was all the hard part; the rest was fairly straightforward. To get an authentic vintage look, I used seam tape for the hem.

Lastly, I really wanted to do an authentic vintage belt. I have all these old belt making kits, but I was missing the stick-on part for the size I wanted. I tried to improvise, but it didn’t work out. I just ended up doing an extra long tie-on belt.

Despite the issues, the fit is great and I love the end result! The fabric is a vintage plaid lightweight cotton I picked up at a garage sale. I think the dress is pretty true vintage and something that would’ve been made by a home seamstress in the 1950’s!


Next week: a Betty Draper replica dress made from a tablecloth!

100 year old sewing patterns- the oldest ones I own

My mom recently came to visit, and she’d been hanging onto these patterns for me for a while; she found them while cleaning out a relatives belongings and knew she had to save them from the trash. I hate to think about how much of our sewing history gets thrown out because people don’t know these patterns might be valuable to some or they think no one wants them!

Now that I had my hands on them, I could start doing some research on the dates and details of these lovely “frocks for Women and Misses”.

“New Butterick Pattern including New Deltor” states the cover. We know that Butterick patterns are still around, and they were first created by Ebenezer Butterick in 1863. “New Deltor” simply means that written instructions were included. There’s more to the name and story behind it but a Google search can give you more information.

Explanation of “New Deltor” in image, which also states that the New Deltor was patented in 1921.

I was very curious of the actual dates these patterns came out. About a year ago, when my mom sent me pictures of the cover, I had asked my “Vintage Sewing Pattern Nerds” facebook group, and they had guessed late 1920’s/ early 1930’s. Luckily when I (very gingerly) opened the patterns, there were some dates inside, and they dated the patterns even earlier than we thought!

“patented in the United States August 19, 1919, January 23, 1923”. I’m sure an expert pattern/sewing historian could tell me why there are 2 dates listed. Both patterns had these dates, and I am only assuming these are the dates these dresses are from.

Looking at the details of the pattern provided some other interesting differences in the way patterns were labeled:

Back of one of the envelopes. I guess the capelet on 2988 was called a “Bertha” .

The instructions were numbered with Roman numerals. These details are just fascinating to me.

Aside from the actual origin and details of Butterick patterns, the history of how the pattern actually made it into my mother’s hands is quite interesting. There was a store in St. Mary, MO (about an hour outside of St. Louis, and where my mother is from) called Rozier’s Mercantile.

And we know if came from there because we have the actual mailing envelope!! How cool is that?! “Messrs. Jules Rozier & Sons Mdse. Co.”
A picture my mom sent me of Rozier’s Mercantile, St. Mary MO

There is still a Roziers store in Perryville, MO, about a 20 minute drive from the original store, but the location this pattern came from is no longer there.

We can’t seem to figure out who in our family owned the patterns – the cousin who had them, neither her nor her mother sewed, and there aren’t any indications that I can see that they were ever used. I guess it was just fate that they ended up in my appreciative hands!!

All in all, it’s been a fun and fascinating trip through the history of these patterns and the trip they made to me! I never thought I would own patterns this old and they are in amazing shape for being 100 years old!

The inside illustrations are just beautiful.

Colette Macaron Dress

Well for weeks I’ve been talking about making vintage dresses and posting my progress on this blog. But- sewing, like life, doesn’t care about your plans!

Quiltcon is a big quilting (obviously) convention coming up here in Austin at the end of the month. I’m helping my friend with her booth (she sells the cutest Japanese fabric so go check it out- https://www.etsy.com/shop/fabricsupply ) and also offered to help make samples. She wanted a dress (or two) to wear during the weekend, so I thought that could be my “sample”. And it turned out so cute!

Colette Patterns is an independent pattern company, and I’ve used their patterns plenty of times before. The Macaron was one I’d never seen!

It’s a cute design and looked fairly easy, but I did run into some issues. First, the midriff pieces are curved, and the illustrations don’t make it clear which way you’re supposed to place them.

In the end I ignored the directions and made both front and back midriff pieces curve upward. It would’ve been easier if they were both straight pieces. I noticed this was a common complaint in reviews of this pattern.

I didn’t do facing on the neckline, instead opting to create a bias strip and using that. But then I had the worry of – since this is a side zip dress, is the neckline going to fit over her head? The neckline seems awfully small for there to be no opening. I stretched as I sewed and ended up being able to squeeze my head into it, so hopefully my friend will be able to as well!

Hmmmmm….

I should add at this point that, as mentioned above, another friend of mine had made this dress previously so I was using her muslin pieces. And that dress did fit our mutual friend, so I have to have confidence that this will too!

I also didn’t use the skirt pattern provided- I just did a simple square cut gathered skirt to make best use of the border.

Last issue for me was just a user issue- putting in an invisible side zipper! I’ve done countless invisible zippers, but never a side one, so this was just trial and error. If I do it again, I’ll insert the zip before I sew the top side seam together- I had to rip it out before sewing the zipper.

But it turned out pretty good, if I say so myself! (and that’s another thing about this pattern- the pieces just don’t match at the top- another complaint I’ve heard from others, but unnoticeable)

This being an early version of the pattern, it’s possible that some of these issues have been resolved in reprintings. Even with the challenges, this dress turned out very cute! I’m quite pleased with it!

Ta-daaaa!!!

Vintage waist alteration

A pause in my regularly scheduled programming.

I’ve recently come into a LOT of great vintage, with some pieces coming to me from my husband’s grandmother, and some from a friend of mine who loves to thrift and passes along what doesn’t work out for her. I’ve put my current project on hold in order to alter some of these pieces in the hopes of selling some of them soon! I’m also working on some other things for a friend for the upcoming QuiltCon, which will be taking place here in Austin at the end of February. So although I’d planned to write about my vintage pattern project this week, other things are taking precedence!

When my friend passed this gorgeous handmade wiggle dress along to me, it was obvious that it was going to be way too small, so I thought “hey, this won’t take long to fix!” Well, you know what happens when you say something isn’t going to take long.. I became OBSESSED with making this work.

I mean, wouldn’t you be obsessed? LOOK AT IT.

The most obvious thing to do would be take out the back darts- easy and there are darts in the skirt and the bodice so everything should line up. I thought that would give me plenty of room. NOPE. (Usually I don’t like to take darts out for fit because I worry about seeing the holes in back from ripping, but this fabric is so black you can’t tell. AND I learned a magic trick for really pressing the fabric flat so you can’t even tell there was a dart in it! You dampen the fabric, wait a bit and rub it, then iron, pressing the fabric with your fingers as you go- works better than vinegar!)

So my next step was to check the hem. There was plenty to take out and expand at the zipper area (Oh I didn’t mention the zipper was destroyed on this dress when I got it, so I would’ve had to replace it anyway). Using the hem fabric is a natural choice as it would match. But since this is a border fabric it wouldn’t match exactly. BUT I REALLY WANTED TO WEAR THIS DRESS. I didn’t get pictures, but I had about an inch and a half to work with.

The hem after I cut off length and serged; I had plenty of excess to work with and still have the dress be the length I wanted.

I cut the hem strip evenly and sewed it to each side of the back center. It was bulky but did I mention I really wanted to wear this dress?

The strip sewed onto the back center

The part that was a real pain was doing a lapped zipper with all that bulk of the extra seams I had sewed on. After some seam ripping, I got it!

I think it was worth it! And I’m not thrilled by how the fabric doesn’t match the back completely, but I hope that people would think it’s done on purpose. And also, I don’t care. Now I can wear this colorful vintage dress!

The back!
Ta-da! Posing in my backyard like a goof.

Next week maybe I’ll get back to my regularly scheduled project, but who knows? So many fun vintage alterations projects coming up to show off!

Using what I have – a Plan for the year!

It seems I am constantly rotating my vintage wardrobe: buying new things, feeling guilty about buying new things, going through my closet and thinking “what do I REALLY need?” (hint: I don’t “need” any of it ha!), and finally selling some things to make room. Recently I was looking at a vintage dress for sale and thought “I have a vintage pattern that would work for that! Why do I need to buy it”? Well, I’m going to dust off my vintage patterns and fabrics and get to work! What’s the point of having all these fabulous items if I’m not going to use them?

I’m determined to work through what I have with the fantastic library of vintage patterns I already have (of course I wouldn’t pass up a good opportunity to buy more! In fact, I just bought some of the above fabrics yesterday. Oops. ) Below I’ll go through some projects I have in mind for the year plus the inspirations behind them. No surprise, some of those inspirations come from Mad Men. The clothing on that show is SO GOOD. This will also be something I can come back and reference if I’m feeling uninspired or don’t know what my next project will be. So, here goes!

I got this amazing cotton pique floral border print from a Facebook seller. It was too unique to pass up! I thought it would look good as a Butterick 6453 dress with a white top, a la Megan Draper’s “Maria Von Trapp” outfit from the Tomorrowland episode.
Here’s this one again!! Since this has been in the pile the longest, it is definitely going to be my next project when I finish the shirtdress I’m currently working on (which will be the subject of my next post!)

I’d really like to use my smaller fabric pieces to make more of these vintage Butterick tops, which I noticed Betty wearing similar on the “Long Weekend” episode.

Now for some non-Mad Men inspiration! I LOVE blue florals, and I have quite a collection of vintage and modern- way too many for them to be hiding in a drawer. While perusing Vixen by Micheline Pitt’s website, this one caught my eye! I don’t have many fitted dresses, so it would be a nice addition to my closet.
I wear aprons just about every day, and would love to make one with multiple pockets!! Also good for small yardages.
Probably easiest are simple shift dresses with these groovy 60’s fabrics! The orange is a polyester knit, which isn’t my comfort zone, but with a simple pattern it shouldn’t be too bad.
And lastly, a high necked, darted bodice, back zip dress. It looks simple BUT I’ll have to grade this one up because vintage patterns were not multi-sized like the one’s we have today. This one is a 30″ bust. Uh, no.

I think I definitely have a start on my plan for the year! It sure beats spending two hours trying to think of my next project, which is my usual plan. I enjoyed having a challenge with the Liz dress, and I’m excited about these projects because working with mostly vintage patterns is more of a challenge than working with modern patterns. The pattern companies expected that every woman knew how to sew therefore there weren’t extremely detailed instructions, some of the techniques they used are different (in my next post I’ll show some of those differences and how I completely disregard them and do things my own way), and as I pointed out above, the patterns came in one size only and sometimes need to be graded up or down.

If you’ve read this far, thanks! I’m pleased that so far I’ve kept the blogging going 2 weeks in a row, and stuck to my Sunday morning blogging pledge. Maybe I’ve given you some inspiration for your next project! I’m excited to dive back into those buckets of vintage patterns that have been hiding under my sewing table.

New Resolutions and the Liz Dress!

Making 2020 a year of fabric stash busting and sewing through my vintage patterns.

Here I go again! I’ve tweaked my 2019 New Year resolution (which I wrote about what- 3 blog posts ago? I have been terrible about keeping up this blog.) There are so many cute vintage dresses I see on Etsy, on Instagram, etc and would love to buy, but I have a hard time justifying that when I have a very full stash of vintage fabrics and patterns. So this year I am resolved to use some of those items that are collecting dust and challenge myself with some of these harder vintage patterns! I’ll do a post soon with some projects I have in mind, but for now I’ve been meaning to share my Charm Patterns Liz dress and all the work that went into it!

The finished dress in all it’s glory. Look at that super full skirt!

This dress was definitely out of my comfort zone but I was getting tired of doing the same old darted bodice. I knew it would be a challenge, but with it being a Christmas dress I figured if I messed it up I would only wear it once a year anyway! And I wanted to really take my time on a project. In the pattern insert Gertie mentions that it definitely is something you want to take your time on and quotes Liz Taylor: “It’s not the having, it’s the getting!” Going in with the attitude that it would be slow sewing definitely helped. Here’s a bit of the process:

I spent about an hour in the fabric shop picking out my contrasting fabrics- I didn’t want any drastic differences in the fabrics. Settled on these 2 RJR Fabrics, and Moda Grunge fabric for the lining.

Here are all the pieces cut out! Dress, Lining AND underlining! And facing as needed. It doesn’t look like much, but it took a while!! One fabric is for the bust and tie, the poinsettias are the skirt, midriff, and strap.

Of course with a pattern this complicated, you must make a muslin, and I made TWO! I was really expecting that I’d have to make about 4, so I consider myself lucky. The only change from before to after was that I had to go down a cup size. Such a difference!

There was a LOT of this going on- clipping. And notching. And basting. Those cups are curved so much that you have to clip and notch to get the pieces to match up.

This lapped zipper had to be sewn onto a few layers of fabric- considering that, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! The shoulder strap is all one piece that comes around the front under the bust- a bit challenging, but I just took it one step at a time. Gertie’s instructions are very thorough!
The inside of the bodice- I chose not to line the skirt, although that was an option.
I’m very pleased with the finished dress and feel so glamorous when I wear it! Now I need to make one that’s not Christmas-y so I can wear it more often!

Feels so good to get this blog going again. I’m going to set a goal to post once a week, probably on Sunday mornings (when I’m normally reading the paper, but it would probably help my mental health to do this instead)!

I have an idea for the direction I want to take this blog and I hope some folks will follow along with me on this sewing journey. Happy 2020!

“Jane” Dress

Gertie is one of my favorite seamstresses/sewing instructors – I’ve been following her for years and have all her books and most of her patterns (Simplicity/Butterick, and her own line, Charm Patterns). Her most recent is the Jane Set pattern- which features this lovely bodice paired with capris or shorts. I’m not quite ready to dive into the capris but I LOVE that bodice so I set out to pair it with a pleated skirt!

adorableness.

I first made a muslin, which ended up being 2 muslins to get the right fit:

Thank you, old bedsheet, for giving me muslin material.

Once I got the fit correct, I went about “fussy cutting” this beautiful fabric (also Gertie’s – she has a gorgeous vintage inspired fabric line) to make best use of the borders and different sized flowers:

The instructions were straightforward and I only had one hiccup: I forgot to add my pockets and had to seam rip the side seams of the skirt to put them in. I debated doing this but decided I HAD to have pockets!

Oops- there are my pockets calling my name! “You must put me in this dress”…

I love the interior details of this dress! The inside is just as pretty as the outside:

Isn’t that lovely? It has an interior bra; the instructions call for boning but I skipped that. The fabric has a nice structure and I felt it didn’t need it.
Lapped zipper- so satisfying to see those waistline seams lined up!

And… ta-da! Now that I have this bodice down, I’m going to use my Hawaiian fabrics and attach sarong skirts for some Summer vacation dresses!