vintage starting point

For $2 this dream in an envelope was mine.

butterick4727-envelope2

I wanted it all: the unforced coolness, the espadrilles, the white shirt. I even pondered the minimalist turban action on the lady on the right.

What I definitely didn’t have was “waist size 24.”

But it really didn’t matter in the case of this wonderfully easy pattern. I was able to improvise based on what my fabric allowed and got a perfectly wearable skirt out of it.

Unfortunately, there was no copyright date on the envelope, so I’m left guesstimating the publication as 1970-something? It’s a single-size pattern that uses the waist circumference (in inches, obvs) as the pattern size. The stitching lines are marked on the pattern, which is kind of nice… but given that it’s easier to mark within 5/8″ all around your pattern than to figure out other sizes from a single size, I’d still say my preference would be for multi-size patterns.

I approached the single-size pattern scientifically, that is, with a ruler and tape measure. The waist and hips were roomy enough, and I was able to finagle an additional inch on each pattern piece so as not to deflate the gathering (plus, plenty more inches on the waistband…).

You might be able to see in the drawings that the skirt panels have a somewhat unusual shape. They have a pronounced extension for the pockets and the pocket pieces are very small. While serging those panels was a bit challenging, I have to say that this design really hides your pockets well. It’s a good design idea that I might use in other patterns.

I gave you a preview in the post about the Burda top, but here’s the skirt again.

I resisted the call of the turban and made Skirt B in a poly-crepe remnant from my stash.

I decided to leave off the ties and, trying the skirt on with the waistband in progress, I also decided to shave some height off there.

Details:
Pattern:
undated Butterick 4727.
Fabric: poly crepe remnant left over from this dress.
Notions: thread, 7″ zipper, button for the waistband.
Construction details: topstitching on the waistband, serged seams, lapped zipper, hand-stitched invisible hem.
Fun fact: the pocket design is really clever!

butterick4727-backdetail
Back waistband in close-up

Pattern verdict: Worth hunting down if you’re into pretty pattern envelopes and easy sewing.

Do you have any tips for sewing with vintage patterns? Or any vintage patterns you’re looking to hunt down?

 

 

 

Me-Made May 2017: Days 15-21 and new makes

Another week, another roundup. Again, there were repeats. But there were also two new garments, which I sewed frantically, stabbing my fingers and going slightly insane with all the tubes of fabric that needed to be turned out (belt loops are not my friends).

 

May 15 was one of those days that forced a costume change. I spent the first half of the day working from home. So first I tried the nightwear-as-daywear trend, donning an Almada robe over a Scout tee sewed in the same fabric (a really lovely rayon from Joann fabrics, which I bought a lot of last year).

Later on I changed into my beloved wannabe ’70s pants and I added a cardigan I knitted a couple of years ago (wool/silk, so pretty warm weather friendly).

May 16-18: a repeat vortex. I wore that Laurel dress on May 16 and again on the 18th, which was a Thursday, so I decided I’d say I did it as a throwback to Tuesday — ha! I have no excuses for the 17th when I wore the Scout tee yet again, but this time with the Beignet skirt.

… And that skirt reminded me of the Beignet skirt I vowed to make right after I finished the first one. I ended up cutting the second one out bit by bit over several months — first the lining, then, eventually, the shell. I had project resistance, which I couldn’t quite explain until I dove into actually making the skirt. It’s not the easiest skirt.

This time I chose to add a lining (thrifted poly print). The belt and shell fabric is a black cotton twill, the pockets are from some sort of a wool/poly remnant.

Excuse the water stain visible in the photo below… and the black on black. Not all photo shoots are inspired, what can I say. I was trying to clean a persistent chalk pencil mark that just didn’t want to go away. I thought it had dried by the time I took the photos but, clearly, it had not.

I still like this pattern a lot. I find it flattering, I love that it has pockets. What I dislike are the belt loops which still this second time around feel like they’re drafted slightly too short and too narrow, like it’s a matter of 2-3 milimeters, but these feel pretty critical.

Another gripe is the belt because, in contrast, it seems too wide. After turning it out I turned it back inside out (ouch, my hands!) to shave off about 1/4″. That’s it for the gripes, it still deserves a thumbs up.

I’m not sure you can spot it in these photos (unlike the highly visible water stain) that my buttonhole luck left me on this one. The fabric wasn’t that bulky, but it was a bit tricky for my sewing machine, whose one-step buttonhole is usually a smooth job. There was some thread bunching on at least two of the buttonholes, which led me to wrangle the fabric from under the foot and push the fabric along. One buttonhole got placed wrong for reasons that escape me. It took some unpicking and creative work with satin stitch to rescue it. It helps that the fabric is black.

Back to the roundup:

On May 19 I wore the new Beignet skirt with finally a different Scout tee (in a lovely Cotton and Steel rayon). And on May 20 I finished McCall’s 6885 and put it on as soon as it was done and pressed. It was sewn concurrently with the skirt — something I do very rarely.

This dress is my second #sewtogetherforsummer project and an ode to shopping the stash. I had a big remnant of that cotton sateen print left since having to buy extra for the first dress I made from it. The gray fabric was a remnant left from this dress.

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It would have been a perfect combination if I hadn’t underestimated the stiffness of that tightly woven linen. The dirty secret of this dress is that I can’t button the collar stand: it’s too stiff and the buttonhole doesn’t have enough flexibility. I think I’ll live with that but I’d prefer to avoid it in the future…

This pattern has received some love online. And it’s pretty good but do I have some reservations. Some of them fall into the category “I don’t know if it’s me or the pattern.”

First in that category: the button placket. The overlap is way longer than the underlap and I don’t know what other purpose it served beyond annoying me. Maybe I’m misunderstanding the instructions but I guess you’re supposed to just attach that bottom floppy part to the front of the dress with a mere two horizontal seams and just let it flop about?… Hell no. I just stitched it down around the arrow part… which came out uneven! (Insert your favorite swear word here.) Maybe it’s me, I don’t know…

So I guess it’s just the placket that’s in that category, but that’s not the end of my dislikes.

At the top of my list is the damn tall and narrow sleeve cap.

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I couldn’t help myself. I hate that slim sleeve cap so much.

Whenever I see this sleeve cap shape I want to run screaming. I don’t know who is able to wear these comfortably. I definitely can’t: they turn things into the opposite of secret pajamas. A secret straightjacket.

Rather than spend time altering the sleeve cap I just Frankenpatterned the modified sleeve cap from the dress that taught me so much. It went in woderfully, with minimal easing.

m6885-cuff
Here’s a detail I like: the buttoned tab that keeps the rolled sleeves in place.

Apart from that: No pockets, so I added some at the side seams. The collar was really big so I shaved off a centimeter. I moved the waist ties up about an inch — they fell too low according to the pattern, at least on me. I added my usual 3/4″ to the bottom of the armhole on the back piece and did my usual forward-shoulder adjustment and square shoulder adjustment. Not sure how I feel about the shirt-tail hem. I think I’d opt for a straight hem next time.

On the upside: I didn’t need an FBA. The fit in the bust is fine. The fit in the hips is okay, too, though if I make this again I might grade up to the next size.

Last day of my roundup: May 21 and some ’90s inspiration with an Adelaide dress over a black tee (RTW, this one).

MMMay21

So moving on to the last full week of Me-Made May. This one may be my last blog roundup because I’m traveling at the end of the month and will be offline in early June. I plan on wearing me-made clothes but I know I will be away from the blog and IG for a while, so most likely won’t document any of that. And apologies in advance for the silence.

How is Me-Made May going for you? Are you in the no-repeats camp or, like me, going with whatever calls to you?

a monochromatic mini-wardrobe

A few stray rays of sunlight have broken through the cloud layer, so I bring you another post from the frozen planet Hoth. It’s snowplows and snow shovels outside. Here, inside the house, it’s been cat hair and frantic photo-taking, before the sun leaves us to more gray and darkness.

I maybe easily influenced by all this because my most recent sewing has been strictly in a black-white-gray color scheme. Winter camouflage. And, I hope, a solid core for a professional wardrobe to slowly take over for the RTW pieces that have dominated it so far.

Here’s what I made:

Burda deep pleat skirt (here’s my first attempt at this pattern), paired with my third version of the Astoria sweater from Seamwork

The deep pleat skirt with (from left) a black Plantain/Tonic tee mashup (made last winter, worn a lot), white Plantain/Tonic tee, and Astoria

The tops

In terms of the sewing process, I definitely prefer working with wovens. I can’t deny, though, that I get a lot of wear out of me-made knit tops. Overall, they fit me better and have better necklines than most of what I’d hunted down in the stores.

That said, while these two are tried-and-true patterns for me at this point, I keep refining the fit.

On the white Plantain/Tonic tee I stuck with my usual: the neckline, sleeves, and bust from Plantain blending to the more fitted shape from the Tonic tee under the bust. But I finally resolved the minor issue of wrinkles at the armhole by raising the armhole by 1 cm. I’ll keep that alteration for all my new versions.

I had already made that alteration pre-emptively to my very first Astoria (more details on my alterations to the pattern here). It was a good call and I’m definitely sticking with it if I make more. This one I also lengthened by 1.5″ so I can wear it with pants. I opted for the full-length sleeves this time, which I had to shorten by 4″ to get the desired bracelet length (more like “watch length” in my case).

Fabrics: both found at Joann — white mid-weight interlock knit (a synthetic blend) and a rather plasticky off-black mid-weight knit for the Astoria. The former is pleasantly soft on the body and breathes a bit, and I’m okay with the “rather plasticky” quality of the latter because I layer it over tops.

The Burda skirt

front and back

I really like how simple and clever this pattern is. I repeated most of my alterations from the first version, opting for a narrower waistband and not adding side pockets. I know it’s a controversial position, but I’ve discovered that I like pockets a lot but can often live without them.

Skipping the pockets allowed me to squeeze out one more skirt than planned from the 2 yards I bought of this houndstooth rayon-blend suiting (another Joann fabric, the tiniest houndstooth in their current collection).

Here it is, my bonus piece:

A-line mini based on the pencil skirt from Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing

the skirt with the Thread Theory Camas blouse, which needs a post of its own

I really like the double darts in this pattern. I’ve worn my first version a lot and have been meaning to make another. I only had enough fabric for a mini, and that only provided I cut the waistband on the cross-grain, so I widened the side seams to an A-line and hemmed the skirt with Hug-Snug to preserve as much length as possible.

Both skirts are lined (with regular ol’ polyester lining fabric); the linings have been attached with my first attempt at French tacks. The seams are bound with Hug Snug. It took me a while to get there but I am now a convert to sewing zippers in before sewing the side seams. The zippers I’ve inserted by reversing the sewing order in this way have been the neatest and most stress-free for me. It’s all thanks to Sheryll and her brilliant sewing tips.

I’m saving the last piece for another time — more on the Camas blouse soon.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about your go-to colors and patterns. Do you like to sew mix-and-match sets? How do you plan your sewing? What inspires or influences you?

Astoria, twice

The time came for some easy sewing and I finally made the pullover everyone and their uncle already made a while ago: the Astoria from Seamwork.

astoria1-collage
First Astoria: in mid-weight ponte, pretty tight-fitting but fine for layering, thank the sewing gods. Curious about the skirt? Read on.

I downloaded the PDF in January according to the timestamp on the printout. I taped it and cut out my size some two months later. And that’s where I left it till now.

Why? Because I wanted to pre-emptively troubleshoot any armhole fitting problems and I don’t typically muslin with knits because I don’t keep any “throwaway” knit fabric. And while I like and wear my Mesa dress (another Seamwork pattern), if I could time travel, I would go back and raise the armhole.

So that’s what I did: I raised the armhole by around 2 cm and added my usual forward shoulder adjustment. That’s right: on the pattern everyone seems to use as is, mostly happy with that “straight out of the package” result, I felt I needed adjustments and I was right. That’s my pattern review in a nutshell.

My first version, made up in a charcoal ponte from Joann, came out pretty snug but luckily still allows for layering. In the photos above, I’m wearing it over a short-sleeve tee.

This weekend I made another one.

astoria2-twophotos

This one I made up in jersey that was an impulse purchase during a sale on Craftsy. I had the impression that the tie-dye was less stripey but the pattern is stripes printed, sadly, slightly off grain. For a moment I was toying with the idea of a dress but I think the stripes would have looked too intense and, ultimately, overwhelming.

I really like the length of this pullover. Finally something I can comfortably wear with high-waisted skirts! That was definitely a wardrobe gap. Most of my sweaters work with lower-waisted RTW pants but not skirts.

twoastorias

I made these two skirts about a year ago. I wore them a lot but I don’t think they ever made it onto the blog.

The red plaid skirt is the Delphine skirt from Tilly Walnes’ Love at First Stitch with added slash pockets. The fabric is a soft flannel from that year’s plaid flannel collection at Joann.

The tan skirt was made from a corduroy remnant — one of my lucky thrift-shopping finds. The pattern is a de-scalloped Meringue skirt from The Colette Sewing Handbook. Both skirts are lined.

Final throughts: I need more lined skirts for the cold months; my armhole depth obsession has its advantages.

What have you been sewing?

why I like a uniform

I made a skirt. This skirt. I broke out of the tracing procrastination loop and boldly cut a lining and waistband. And by “boldly” I mean “finally” because, dear readers, I’m patting myself on the back here for getting something finally done.

In these photos I’m wearing the skirt with a RTW shirt because “Operation: Shirt” is stuck at the muslin stage. While I like the one pictured here (because it’s rayon, the fiber of the minor gods), it’s not ideal. It’s two sizes too big and swamps my shoulders but gives my broad, broad back enough room to move. Trade-offs.

But back to the skirt. The stiff fabric hasn’t magically relaxed, which you can see very clearly in that second photo where the side-seam pocket is standing up awkwardly on my hip. Maybe there’s a reason why the original pattern didn’t include side-seam pockets?… Well, with winter coming I need a place to jam some emergency tissues, even if it’s not as discreet as I’d hoped…

I have a bad tendency to decide on pocket placement without referring to patterns that include side-seam pockets. Once again the result is pockets that are placed about an inch too low. Don’t do as I do. I also shouldn’t because I clearly don’t have good instincts in this respect.

But there are things I’m genuinely proud of. I followed Sheryll’s advice (can’t find the post right now but I encourage you to browse her ingenious blog) and liberated myself from the order of construction. I put in the zipper before sewing up the side seams and that gave me my neatest lapped zipper yet. (I did give myself a slightly larger seam allowance there. And, oh, the original pattern had a side-seam zipper and just one pattern piece for the back, so I changed that.)

I added a waistband. The pattern just tells you to line the skirt and it doesn’t even include facings, which, in my opinion, is a bad idea. If you don’t stabilize the waist somehow, it’s bound to stretch out. I prefer a waistband to a faced waist finish, so I drafted one. A wider one would need to be shaped so as not to gap at the top, so I decided to make mine fairly narrow.

I also disagreed with the pattern when it came to the lining. The instructions tell you to simply eliminate the pleat on the front when cutting out the lining but I added about 5/8″/1.5 cm of “pleat remnant wiggle room” there.  Carolyn has a great post about how to add a lining to a skirt in which she spells out what sewing patterns typically don’t tell you when they say to use the same pattern pieces: convert darts to tucks and sew the seams with a smaller seam allowance to give yourself room for movement. So that’s what I did here. I also cut the lining about 1.5″ shorter than the skirt. The lining fabric is a colorful polyester I bought second-hand.

This skirt is part of my effort to come up with a work uniform. More precisely: I’d like to arrive at a small wardrobe of clothes for work that will act as elements of a work uniform. Anything to combat decision fatigue. So, not going as far as this brilliant lady but close to Barack Obama’s tightly curated closet. (Note: no presidential ambitions here.)

I also like a bit of a uniform outside of work but without any “productivity plan.” Recently I’m all about pinafore dresses. I sewed the denim version of the Colette Rooibos dress with the intention of layering it over long-sleeve tees. It took me a while to realize I could also do that with my first Rooibos. So this is what I’ve been wearing most of the time after work:

It makes me pretty happy that these are all fully me-made outfits (well, minus the shoes, dear shoemakers).

Do you have a uniform? Do you love the idea or loathe it? Please share.

Thanks for reading.

‘there will be bulk’

That’s my alternative version of There Will Be Blood, in which Daniel Day-Lewis faces the harsh realities of sewing thick fabric. It could start with what he already knows: making shoes, striving to avoid unsightly heft and to maximize the comfort of the wearer. It would end with jeans and some heartfelt hammering of seams.

1070Somewhere in the middle I’d have DDL make the skirt from Simplicity 1070. I’d say, “Daniel, only I and a reviewer for Threads* have sewn the skirt from the pattern. Everyone else has opted for the jacket and the tops, so please consider what’s kind of insane about the skirt.” And I’d point to the ostensible pointlessness of inserting a zipper into a knit and fiddling about with interfaced facings and darts. But then I’d have him soldier on, much like I did, worrying mostly about the dreaded BULK at the waist.

He would do a great job, leaving everyone nonetheless in a state of puzzlement about the pattern’s mismatch between the recommended fabric (KNITS ONLY!) and a construction process that is really geared toward wovens.

I’m still in that state, even though I do like the finished skirt. The pattern was one of my mad sale purchases (it cost maybe $1.99?). Accidentally, a little out of my size range, because where my bottom departs from my top in the crazy, inexplicable Big Four sizing seems to be also their preferred splitting point between the smaller and larger sizes. Still no clue how to cut and fit the Big Four tops, but at least I know what I wear from the waist down.

Which was almost no help here because that was the size I didn’t have. So I embiggened the seam allowances, figuring that a pencil skirt best be baste-fitted before the final sewing anyway. As a result, I don’t know how what I cut relates to the sizing at all. The important thing is that it worked, and yes, I am able to sit in the skirt. I hadn’t thought to create photographic evidence of that, sorry. The closest are these shots of me holding up the living-room wall:

Steady there, wall.

I also chopped off some length, as you can see. I’m not convinced by the arguments in favor of mid-calf pencil skirts as being somehow the “correct” length. I enjoy not looking stumpy.

The fabric is a windowpane-patterned ponte from Jo-ann Fabrics. It caught my eye instantly, and that doesn’t often happen to me at Jo-ann. It’s a nice fabric, though a little on the thick side. Yes, things were getting bulky when it got to attaching the facings, because apart from the facings, there were also four darts and the zipper to contend with.

You can locate the front darts more or less in the photos above. And I invite you to spot the zipper and one of the back darts in the shot below:

s1070-5

My strategy for making things less bulky was the triad of grading seams, pressing, and praying that it all works out in the end.

The project came with some tough questions that neither the sparse pattern instructions nor googling answered for me. The crucial among them was: what needle do I use to attach the zipper? Do I hand-pick the zipper?

Well, YOLO, or Carpe diem! if, like me, you grew up in the olden days and watched Dead Poets Society unironically. I went for the universal needle and survived. And so did the ponte and the zipper. I didn’t much appreciate all the fiddling with the walking foot, then the two zipper feet, then back to the walking foot…

I was toying with the idea of a blind hem but in the end I decided to hem it even more invisibly, by hand.

Here’s what the inside of the skirt looks like… in a photo that looked less blurry when I checked before:

s1070-10

Another thing I spent precious time puzzling over was the chances of the waist stretching out immediately into an unwearable mess. The facings were interfaced with knit interfacing, but still… So before I tacked down the facings, I attached a strip of stay tape below the waist seam. Maybe that’s the real YOLO moment of this skirt?… Well, it’s snug but wearable now, though I wouldn’t wear it to a dinner probably.

s1070-staytape.jpg
Brainwave or mistake… brainwave or mistake?…

Serene hanger shots:

Verdict: don’t know yet. Time and fabric recovery will tell if it works. It looks good right now.

*Threads pattern reviews… They’re not really reviews, are they? They basically tell you how many pattern pieces there are and maybe also to be careful at certain points. But there is no criticism or even a hint of opinion in them, which is what I don’t really get. Still, thank you for making the skirt, Threads reviewer, you helped me decide to give it a go.