Hello! I have no new sewing content to share, since my recent output consists of dutifully made t-shirts from patterns I’ve already written about. So I figured it’s a good time for a bit of an eye candy post.
Here are some ’70s patterns I picked up from various sources — and mostly for a steal. With one exception (scroll down to the bottom of the post), they’re all waiting to be made. I guess, in a way, it’s a post about my laziness as much as about ’70s eye candy.
First up: a pattern for jeans with an envelope illustration I love. I wish I were as cool as these ladies (and could reliably wear white shirts…).
I think the size marked on it actually makes sense when you consult the back of the envelope as it has no relationship to contemporary Vogue Patterns sizing (I think…). It hasn’t mattered yet because I’m too scared to make jeans.
Next: Glamorous dress reminiscent of the recent Vogue Patterns hit (this one). I both love it and am consumed by worry that it’s too boob-tastic for me to actually wear.
The illustration style on the envelope for this shirt pattern looks ’70s tilting into the ’80s to me. Maybe it’s the perm on the lady in the middle? I like views A and B (I’d like them more if I knew how to figure out a broad back adjustment for raglan sleeves). View C is the stuff of clown nightmares for me. Get away from me, oh bloodthirsty one!
Now, this is a real thrifting score — it came in a ziplock bag of mostly ’80s patterns for $1. I like the lapels. There’s a softness to this blazer that really appeals to me.
Another one from the same bag — this one is from 1980 so, depending on whether you’re a glass half-full or half-empty person, either the last year of the 1970s or a launch into the ’80s. I like the simplicity of this design, but I’m not sure what would be “extra-sure” about it. A jacket for your clairvoyant needs.
Finally, one I made, though with some changes. Would make again.
Any tips for me as far as making the leap from admiring to sewing goes? You may have noticed, the sizing on these is all over the place, which gives me yet another reason to procrastinate.
I’m that person who posted about not really joining sewing/knitting/photo challenges, right? Just confirming. I am indeed that person. But I’m also currently participating in the Burda Challenge and now… I want to Sew the Seventies. I guess, eventually, the challenges find you 😉
I discovered Sewing the Seventies last year — too late to join, but not too late to enjoy the Steely Seamstress’ posts (scroll through for last year’s posts). Seventies’ fashion reminds of my dad’s craziest clothes, which I only know from photos and his stories. It was also the time my dad learned to sew — taught by his friend’s dad. For him this new skill set meant inventions such as secret pockets for ciggies on a pant leg and refashioning regular pants to make them flared when flares were hard to buy but everyone else seemed to have a pair…
For me, dad’s sewing meant awesome doll clothes during my — very intense — Barbie phase. Later, life got too busy and dad stopped sewing. Much later, I learned to sew myself, thanks to Craftsy and YouTube, and blogs, and books…
My aim with this challenge is to time-travel a little.
While I’ve scored a few authentic 1970’s patterns along the way, I find myself drawn to one particular dress that I found in a Burda Vintage special issue I got as a gift.
The more I looked at the dress, the more I realized how much it looked like a crazy dress my grandma (dad’s mom) owned when I was little. By that point, the dress had been retired to the depths of her closet and I would dig it up for dress-up parties with the neighbors’ kids. My grandma would have worn it to parties in the mid-70s.
The cut was, to tiny me, the height of sleek sophistication, paired with a fabric that today’s me would honestly call bonkers. When you’re about five, nothing beats a combination like that. The dress was green, printed with a pattern of majestic white storks with red beaks and red legs. It was everything. Even if it was — and it surely was — polyester.
If I could find a similar fabric, I’d sew a replica of that dress. (Maybe that’s a fabric designing and printing challenge for the future, come to think of it?)
For now, I think, I’ll make it in a more subdued navy poly print that’s been sitting in my stash for a while.
Without further ado, here’s the pattern:
What puzzles me about the dress is that the sample is sewn up in a sequined jersey but the recommended fabric is embroidered silk?… If I’m reading between the lines correctly, it’s more likely drafted for a woven than a knit fabric. There is a zipper in the back and neck darts.
I think the simplest answer right now is make a muslin.
Hi there. I posted a photo of this shirt on Instagram a couple (a few? time flies) weeks ago. Funnily enough, I was on the fence about this fabric until I wore the shirt. But the comments expressed so much love for these polka dots, I began to wonder…
The fabric is pretty stiff: the dots add texture to a pretty densely woven cotton. It is wonderful to sew with — doesn’t budge and shapes pretty easily with steam. But, unlike Jess from New Girl, I don’t usually rock too many polka dots and am never sure if they’re not too twee on me. Also, I’d prefer not to sew darts in it. That’s based on my previous experience with this fabric, where I ended up converting darts into gathers (dress from Day 29 of this Me-Made May roundup).
All fabric doubts dispelled upon first wear. I love this shirt. I think this is one of the best things I’ve made. And it made for a glorious conclusion to what was a summer of shopping the stash. I didn’t announce it as a challenge or anything but just found myself consistently choosing projects based on what fabrics I already had.
So I went sleeveless here not just because it was hot when I made the shirt but because that was what the amount of fabric allowed.
Here are some not-so-great photos of the shirt when worn:
The pattern is Burda 7136. I’m glad I took the photo below because I’d never be able to remember that number, and I do recommend giving this pattern a try even though I have yet to try it in its proper incarnation.
Siobhan made a great version of this pattern with a really neat print here — the bonus is that she offers some criticisms that should give you an idea whether this pattern might fit your body type. I’m shorter than Siobhan and, I guess, short-waisted, so the fit felt all right to me on this first and wild, untested, drive. I obviously have yet to try out the sleeves, so more detailed points will have to come at a later date.
Because I’m definitely going to reach for this pattern again. The only criticism I have right now is the length. I don’t want to be like the guy from those annoying UntuckIt commercials, but I was slightly unhappy with how long the shirt was. Now, I’m not going to start a company and make like I’ve invented slightly shortening clothes, but I chopped 1.5″ off the hem and I think it’s still a decently long shirt. You can tuck it in if you wish, but you can also wear it untucked with low-waisted pants (that ’90s hangover that remains the bane of my existence because, well, it tells you something about my wardrobe and the age of some of its components).
OK, one more criticism: the collar stand is pretty tall, and I double-checked that I was sewing it with the right seam allowance. I was. I think I might reduce it by 1/4″. Maybe with a collar attached it works better. Here, with a pretty stiff fabric it stands tall and proud and so I skipped that collar stand button so as to soften the look of it a bit.
Apart from that, Burda pattern drafting is strong with this one: my usual forward-shoulder adjustment would be in order to get the eam to land where it should. And I think I’d raise the armscye by 1 cm next time.
I hear that many sewists out there despise the word “hack” for pattern changes. I hope no one breaks out in hives reading this. I kind of like it, since it spans changes from breaking and complete remolding to ill-conceived “life-hacks” that don’t really make our lives easier at all. It’s your call where my changes to this pattern land on that spectrum.
So, in the interest of honesty: the idea for this shirt partly came from limitations of fabric amount and my desire to avoid pressing out dart points in this stiff cotton.
And then came something unusual for me.
While I enjoy looking at makes inspired by movie costumes, I’m often not so sure about the appeal of the garment at the heart of the craze. Case in point: that cardigan worn by Keira Knightley in The Imitation Game. I don’t really get what the fuss was about with that one, since there are so many gorgeous fair-isle patterns out there, and with more compelling color combinations. I’m really not sold on the pairing of beige and green.
Whoa, tangent. Stop.
But then I found myself watching another movie about World War II. Miasto 44, a Polish movie about the Warsaw Uprising. And I got stuck on one particular garment worn by Zofia Wichłacz. And that was it. Coup de foudre, my friends. I fell in love. Not even the dust, bomb blasts, and destruction of the city could distract me from studying the details of that one. (By the way, please don’t think I’m taking the subject of the film lightly.)
Still, I didn’t want to go full-on re-enactor here. Don’t ask me how historically accurate this garment is because I haven’t looked into that. I loved the gathering over the bust and the collar stand. And I wanted to make something with those details.
I’d love to try this on a shirt dress, though that is going to take more work. But if I do, then probably not in a grayish blue because things might get too somber (even for me). I’m also not a fan of the vertical buttonholes. But, you know, this is something worn by a young soldier of the Home Army, so, again, unless you’re taking part in a re-enactment, it’s probably better to steer things in a slightly different direction.
Feel free to criticize my lack of love for polka dots or that sweater from The Imitation Game. Tell me what film-inspired garments you have sewn. I could use some vicarious sewing pleasure right now because I don’t have much time for sewing.
The impossible happened: I found an image on Pinterest that captures all I want from my work wardrobe. Just like that, it expresses exactly the look I’m after. Here it is, folks, the essence of my wardrobe goals:
Before finding this gem I was very skeptical of Pinterest as a helpful tool for me where style is concerned. The site still in fact keeps suggesting images of waifish Olsen twin lookalikes carrying enormous cups of Starbucks coffee while sporting sack dresses with knit cowls the size of millstones draped around their long, slender necks.
Don’t get me wrong: it’s more than fine to be waifish. Hey, it’s okay to be an Olsen twin or an aficionado of the sisters. It’s not fun to be constantly flashed the message that that’s the way to be though. It gets exhausting. Oh algorithms, oh the shortcomings of our culture, oh my poor little head.
Brace yourselves because I have yet deeper thoughts about why that image above speaks to me. It’s not just my non-waifishness and aversion to the pairing of thick woolens over summer dresses (throw in some boots and you get a popular combination that is completely unwearable to me). It’s a combination of — as one musician said about touring (and life and the universe at the same time) — good shit and bad shit. Pardon my language.
I like to be comfortable at work. I often have to stand in front of people and talk, which has gotten easier over the years but is still challenging on some level because I don’t really enjoy being looked at all that much. Overall, I feel must comfortable at work when my wardrobe tilts into a somewhat androgynous, menswear-inspired zone.
The way it makes me feel is good. And many of you, I think, will agree there can be something very stylish and appealing about that.
Bear with me here because we might disagree on what I say next. Part of the reason why clothes like those make me feel so good is positive, maybe even wholesome you could say. Hurrah for flat shoes, hurrah for pants that let you move around, and shirts with neat details.
But here’s the dark side. These clothes make me feel comfortable because they make me feel safe. More feminine clothes make me feel unsafe and bared to judgment. It sucks.
I’m not invested in ideas of modesty — that’s after a lot of thinking about the subject, and after being brought up to be modest and dress modestly, and after a lifetime of listening to women being described in terms that implied that their dress conveyed something about their morals and, sadly, value as fellow people.
I hate all that with a passion. But as much as I examine my own thinking about other women, when it comes to getting dressed, the “good shit” still mixes together with the “bad shit.” Plainly: I’m both enthused about those lovely menswear-inspired outfits and kind of scared of dressing “too feminine.” Here’s where that leads me sometimes: I will look at a coworker wearing a dress and think that she’s really brave. Yeah, that sounds weird, doesn’t it? But it’s true.
I’m just going to leave this up here and close with some images from my “work” Pinterest board, including some slightly more feminine ones (how brave of me, after what I confessed above — Please note the sarcasm).
What’s your mix of good and bad when you figure out how you want to dress?
All images can be found on Pinterest. You can also take a look at my “work, work” board where I collect wardrobe ideas and then get this kind of deep thoughts.
I promised better photos of this dress but this is all I got. Would you believe that one was taken on a sunnier day? The clearest thing I can give you is that title and an overexposed flat shot of the bodice:
Those cuff and neckline bands: I naively hoped the instructions would guide me through the construction but all they offered was one sentence simply telling me to sew them on the outside and topstitch.
Let’s do this in a telegraphic style and with more blurry photographs.
I’ve written about them in the first post about this dress. In short, the Burda bodice doesn’t fit me. Can’t breathe freely, can’t move my arms. So I swapped it out for the bodice from Butterick 6086, which I had to modify further. I slashed the sleeve to get more width on the biceps and I lowered the sleeve cap; I also made a 3/4″ broad back adjustment (while keeping the shoulders narrow, so lots of fun); plus the usual Big Four navigation between sensible ease at the bust and a realistic width at the waist.
It took ages and three muslins but even these photos tell me it was worth the work. I can flap my arms like a crazy bird and the dress still retains a decent shape.
what passes for arm flapping among existentialists
Lightweight black polyester crepe from Fabric.com and leftovers of a more stable polyester crepe from this dress for the neckline and cuff finish.
This project marks the beginning of my love affair with spray starch. I could not have done it without the stuff. It helped me cut the black crepe without losing my mind and kept it decently stable for sewing.
Bust darts and seam finish: Those were some big darts, since all the intake went into the lone horizontal bust darts. I trimmed them, pressed them upwards as both the Burda pattern and my sewing guru Sheryll advise, and bound them with Hug Snug. I Hug-Snugged all the seams, possibly because I wanted to risk the sanity I had saved thanks to the spray starch. It was not quick, to put it mildly, but turned out okay.
a dramatization of okay, with modest means
Zipper: invisible, sewn under the neckline finish, with a hook and eye on top. I sewed the zipper before sewing the side seams, thus completely putting the order of construction on its head.
That neckline and cuff finish you might be wondering about: I drafted these pieces from the sleeve and bodice pieces (it’s also what I always do with facings because I never sew anything without alterations). I stitched a line between the piece and seam allowance, trimmed the seam allowance to about 3-4 mm, and pressed the seam allowance under the pattern piece carefully. I’d say that’s a better strategy than notching the curves — it makes the curves smoother. And then I edge-stitched very, very slowly.
Pleats on the skirt:I stitched down the first inch of the pleats and on the back I converted the darts into pleats and aligned them with the vertical back darts.
what kind of dance is this even?
Hem: double-turned and hand-stitched.
And that would be all about this dress if not for a special issue of Burda I got as a gift when I started sewing this.
It was an issue devoted to simple sewing projects that make good wardrobe builders. It left me thinking intensively about my own sewing planning, which often gets overambitious in terms of both difficulty of the projects and their potential for getting worn on a daily basis.
Francesca at Atelier Vicolo N. 6can give you a better insight into that issue with her two gorgeous dresses from it — they do not defy the camera while devouring light.
To cut a long story short, since first leafing through that issue my plan has been, well, not to make all of those Burda patterns but to simplify my sewing plans.
My first steps toward that coming to the blog soon. Flap, flap.
Long story short, I made the Colette Rooibos dress for the third time. I had a sizeable remnant of stretch denim and a desire to make a pinafore dress, and also a hope that the idea would work for me.
I had a pinafore dress once. I remember liking it a lot but I think I was twelve then, so you can understand why I had my doubts. That, and pinafore dress patterns that I’d been finding were, for the most part, very apron-like. There was a risk, too, that the lovely dark denim would give it all a decidedly early-shift-at-the-factory feel. Some can pull off that look successfully, give it a little edge, but I just end up looking very unhappy.
Those midriff pieces and bust shaping should introduce some curves and softness, I thought, and cut into the denim remnant. And then I sewed. This is the result:
Obviously, (a) you can’t see my smile in the photo above, and (b) you might disagree with me (and that’s fine, one half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other, as we learn from Austen’s Emma), but I’ve been wearing this dress almost every day since finishing it. Love, unabashed.
The pattern is Rooibos from Colette Patterns with a modified neckline, which I went with on both of my previousversions.
A further modification this time was replacing the facing with a narrow bias facing on the neckline and armholes. I also used a regular zipper this time in lieu of the recommended invisible zipper.
The fabric came from my stash: a dark blue stretch denim leftover from my Beignet skirt. I bought it about a year at a Craftsy sale. I believe it’s a Robert Kaufman fabric.
It’s probably time to sew something other than another Rooibos. Or not? Can you believe that the first time I made this pattern I thought it would most likely end up a one-off?
Do you like pinafore dresses or do leave them in the closet of memory, with your twelve-year-old self?
PS: That’s a Plantain/Tonic mashup tee underneath the dress — need to make more of those.
Confession time: I haven’t yet sewn with wax print cotton myself. When the right pattern comes calling my name, I will, for sure. So far I’m admiring what other sewists do with these cool, bold fabrics.
The history of wax print fabric is a complicated one, it spans at least three continents in its web of connections. In the popular imagination, these fabrics invoke images of Africa (depending on your experience, either a generalized idea of the continent or memories of specific places and their fashions). I found this article helpful in understanding a little bit more about these fabrics history and significance.
When I discovered the Vlisco Stories website I ended up spending a lot of time watching the videos (you can find them under the blog tab) and, obviously, clicking through the patterns.
I just had to add a photo of Chinelo Bally to the collage above. I couldn’t take my eyes off her bold print creations in the second edition of The Great British Sewing Bee. The tops she wore in the sewing room really brought it home to me how big the gap is between our expectations formed on the basis of RTW clothes and what you can achieve with your own sewing if you use your imagination. Those tops were fitted incredibly well and at the same time looked comfortable, and… of course… those mesmerizing patterns.
So here are a few other great sewists and their stunning wax print creations:
another gorgeous wax print Emery, by Roisin from Dolly Clackett. This fabric is calling my name, but I have no clue where I could buy it so the love remains platonic.
the Emery strikes again! The Machineless Sewist’s dress is probably the Emery I’d be most likely to steal, which should make her really appreciate the great geographic distance between us. I also love this wax print Hazel dress of hers.
Do you sew with wax prints? Are there wax print patterns or garments you swoon over? Please share!
As a side note, something I learned while writing this post: you might not want to look for #waxprint on Instagram. There’s lots of people out there who are really proud of their aestheticians’ skill at handling wax. I have no clue what print has to do with that, but I also don’t want to ask. And hereby I hashtag myself #ImAVictorianItTurnsOut
Hello, and pardon the unsophisticated pun, which, I’m afraid, might be here to stay. As you may guess said “awesome sews” are beautiful clothes made by other sewists that I like so much I want to spread the word about them.
My own sewing newly revived by the miraculous repair of the machine* is nowhere near that Holy Grail standard but very much in the category of repeat offence. I celebrated Mr. Zippy’s** return to the land of the living by immediately sewing up another Scout tee and Laurel tee. No photos, no proof, no worries, though.
There is hope that I might expand my simple top repertoire thanks to the Hayden top from the new Seamwork.
Hayden from Seamwork Magazine, illustrating my topic.
Who knows when that might happen, though, as even with the machine back and running I would be like the tortoise to the Machineless Sewist’s olympic gold medalist hare — and she’s machineless (which, given her sewing speed, should be machine-free).Here is her Hayden, whipped up what seems like minutes after the pattern release. It’s beautiful and I’m really sorry that it doesn’t fit.
That’s the first garment I would like to share with you. The other examples of perfection in their simplicity are mostly dresses. Here they are:
Liza Mae’s take on this ’60s shift pattern. The piecing on the front yoke gives it a certain je ne sais quoi — because I have no clue how to define it but it made that dress so much cooler for me than the envelope art would have me believe was possible (and I love me some wacky pattern illustrations!)
This terracotta rayon dress. I’m always in awe of Carolyn’s sewing and her sense of style. In this case what she’s done with the pattern is really magical — if you click on the tiny pattern envelope at the bottom of her post you will see that she really went beyond what it advertised.
This black dress worn — and, I’m guessing, made — by Natalie Purschwitz during her Makeshift Project. Sadly, the blog post doesn’t offer any details about the pattern. It reminds me of the Pattern Magic books, but I’m not sure that that’s where it’s from.
Once again, a dress by Liza Mae — she’s made my dream of the ’90s here. Well, it’s not my dream if you just showed me the pattern envelope. That would make it merely a memory of the ’90s.
Embroidery has had some really bad press, to put it mildly. Time and again I’ve encountered it mentioned in literature as the quintessential boring pastime — what girls and women who lack courage and imagination settle on in place of adventures.
The precision and patience that embroidery demands must have been the source of many a writer’s frustration but the rest is a case of echoing a cliché. I don’t think embroidery was that province of well-behaved girls that dismissive novelists imagine. Peasant blouses show defiance: a scrap of plain fabric became a garden conjured by thread. Where often severe constraints limited what was available to the maker, ingenuity still came out on top.
There are many kinds of embroidery, historically tied to different social strata as well as to different places and traditions. Peasant blouses are just one example, and one kind of story that embroidery can tell.
And one I find really intriguing. In the past months I’ve seen quite a few interesting peasant blouses pop up online. Seamwork had a feature on 1930’s peasant blouses in the May 2015 issue and By Hand London released a peasant blouse hack for their Zeena dress pattern later that summer. There’s also a new pattern from Kate & Rose in the most recent Sew News magazine.
If, like me, you’re interested in ways you could bring embroidery into a modern wardrobe, Kate & Rose patterns is an excellent source of inspiration. Kati’s designs offer a unique combination of modern silhouettes and embroidery inspired by Hungarian folklore. The photos at the top of the post are two of her embroidery designs.
First of all, a big THANK YOU to everyone I’ve met through this blog so far! Thanks for the conversations here and on your blogs (as well as Kollabora).
… And now let me bare my sewing woes to you. The topic today is shirts and why they are scary.
My shy ambition for this year is to sew myself a shirt. If you know Tove Jansson’s fantastic children’s books about the Moomintroll family, you will understand what I mean when I say that the shirt has become my Groke.
To put it plainly, I believe my imagination is making the shirt a more daunting project than it perhaps needs to be. The combined challenges of fitting and of careful construction could potentially make it really tough but maybe there’s a way to simplify things and make them appear friendlier?
Here are some shirts that have caught my eye as potential first projects:
Image sources, clockwise from top left:  and  — Burda Style Wardrobe Essentials,  — Tilly Walnes, Love at First Stitch, ,  and
 and  are two views of the Melilot blouse, a new release from Deer and Doe
I am smitten with the Melilot. I really wish Deer and Doe offered a PDF option for their patterns because buying a paper pattern and having it shipped to the US from France seems a bit extravagant to me (and no, I’m not judging anyone here; it’s purely a question of how I make sense of my own spending).
The Melilot seems to have just the right kind of simplicity. Camille’s just blogged version is absolutely stunning, and the two views both look excellent to me.
Not on my list are two notable patterns: Grainline Studio’s Archer (I don’t know why, other than the other shirts seemed simpler) and the By Hand London Sarah. The original pattern photos of the Sarah shirt didn’t appeal to me too much but the design has been growing on me thanks to the simplified versions — especially this one. (Machineless Sewist, the link to your version is inescapable here, that’s how great I find that shirt!)
Now, I also happen to own two McCall’s unisex shirt patterns, M6932 and M6613. (The pattern photos look a little bit like they’ve time-traveled from the ’90s to 2015.) Both were purchased at one of those big sales at Joann Fabrics ($1 each). Even with the Palmer/Pletsch tissue-fitting instructions I have no clue how to conquer the fit… So I’m mentioning them just because I own them.
Do you have any tips? Advice? Words of caution (maybe I should be scared of the shirt)? Stories to share? Feel free to link to your shirt sewing successes!