Tag Archive | vintage sewing patterns

Dreams vs. Reality

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Sometimes things would go better if I paid more attention. One of my vintage patterns is a blouse that looks to be from the 1950s. I really like this pattern and have wanted to make it for a long time. I even bought linen for it last year and then never got around to it.

Why is green blouse lady flipping me off?

Part of the reason that I hadn’t done it is because this particular pattern is for a size 36″ bust and I needed to grade it down to 34″. I’ve only ever done this once before and, now that I think about, it didn’t go so well that time, either. I used the tutorial found on Sense & Sensibility Patterns. It’s a good tutorial; it makes sense; it’s easy enough to do. It’s still a time consuming process, though, so it took me most of an afternoon to complete the resizing.

Tracing the original pattern

In addition to grading down the bust size, I also had to lengthen the torso, which is a pretty standard alteration for me. I’m only 5’3″ and would rather have that extra length in my legs, but whattya gonna do? Once I had my new tissue paper patterns redrafted, I pinned them together and tried them on. This is the poor man’s lazy man’s version of a muslin. Everything seemed to work. The darts looked like they were going to hit in the right place, the arm hole wasn’t binding, the length was good. Good enough for me! Let’s get to the linen!

This is the view I'm making. Imagine white linen with black soutache braid. Slick!

The linen is slightly sheer, so I was being really careful with my seam finishes. I had sewn the front pieces to the back, but had not yet put in the facing (which becomes the lapel) or collar when I decided to try it on. Well… in my pattern grading fervor, I had neglected to take into account the waist measurement. Normally not a big deal on a blouse, but, as you can see from the pattern art, it’s most definitely a big deal for this blouse. Or a small deal, to put it more accurately. When I tried on what I had completed of the blouse, it was great until I tried to lap the fronts enough to see how it would look buttoned. No amount of sucking in was going to give the fabric enough slack to overlap comfortably. I’d be bursting buttons all over the place.

Of course, I was kicking myself for not considering the waist measurement (according to the pattern measurements, a 34″ bust is paired with a 28″ waist. My next project may need to be a corset) and for always being too impatient to make a muslin. Lesson learned!! Rana suggested that I just wear it as a vest. It’s a fair suggestion, but I really have no need/desire for a vest. I do, however, need blouses to wear (quick survey of my closet turns up… two: one that’s too short and one that I bought just after giving birth to my second baby). I think I have hit upon a solution, though. I have just enough — just the littlest bit of fabric left with which I can make gores for the sides of the blouse. I think it will end up giving it more of a peplum effect, but I can live with that. And then, should the planets ever align and my waist shrinks down to 28 inches (don’t laugh; just let me dream), I can remove the gores and sew the side seams back up.

So, with all that in mind, I hereby swear that, before my next sewing project, I will meekly go to the thrift store and buy a sheet for muslin-making.

Tissue paper time machines

I grew up in the 80s and, while I did partake of poofy bangs, pegged jeans, and neon colors, I’m not your typical “child of the 80s.” Musically, I grew up in a time warp — from the time I got my first radio, I always listened to the Oldies station. My dad and I used to play a game in the car to see who could name the band first: Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Three Dog Night, CCR. And those are the easy ones! In high school, I even discovered an AM station that played 30s and 40s music and I loved it! I lived blissfully ignorant of the crime that is 80s music until I married Mr. Gren, who has made it his mission to educate me; I would still lose on the “name the band” game.

Like my musical tastes, my sartorial aesthetic definitely veers towards older styles, specifically the 40s and 50s (well, and pretty much everything between 1200 and 1830, too, but it’s harder to get away with that in modern life). I like a lot of the tailored looks and hairstyles from the early 40s and I drool over the full skirts of the late 40s/early 50s, but, up until just a few years ago, it never occurred to me that I could actually make these styles. Somehow, I stumbled upon the great blog A Dress a Day. Not only is it about dresses, it’s about vintage dresses and vintage sewing patterns. I didn’t even know these existed! This was an epiphany, an awakening, the beginning of an addiction (don’t worry; I can stop any time). There are sellers of vintage sewing patterns all over the Innermet! Another revelation! I don’t often buy, but I do love scrolling through listings of all these great patterns. To date, I’ve made 8 dresses from vintage patterns from the 40s and 50s. A lot of times, they make more sense than the modern patterns.

I’ve got two to show you today. The first is the Very First Ever dress I made from a vintage pattern. There was some minor panic when I first opened the envelope to discover that, Hey! The really old ones aren’t printed! Probably other people knew that, but remember, this was all new to me. Well, it turned out that this pattern went together like a dream. Never before nor since have I had a dress come together without a hitch like this one. I had no way of knowing it would work so nicely, so I made my first dress out of a king-size sheet. One day, I will make this one again in a fabric I’m actually excited about, but for now, this does alright.

What the heck am I doing? Hugging an invisible child? Preparing to salute?

Look at those humongous pockets! I need more dresses like that, then I wouldn’t have to carry a purse. This dress has princess seams and a flared skirt. The side pieces of the dress form the cap sleeves, so no setting in sleeves, gathering, easing and all that rigmarole.

My most recent vintage project was actually started last summer. But then our weather turned icky and I had no occasion to wear a sleeveless dress, so I abandoned it, just a zipper and hem shy of completion. This spring, I finally got tired of it laying around my sewing room, so I buckled down one day and finished it. Hurray! Here is the pattern I used:

I liked View 2 with the collar, pleats and narrow keyhole (which is hard to see in the picture). I thought the other style made her shoulders look wide. I used a great black cotton with a big cherry print to make this one. Cherries belong on a 1950s dress. The one thing that disappointed me when I was done is that the collar is too small to fasten at my neck without choking me. I don’t get that cute keyhole effect, but oh well. It looks pretty good and no one’s the wiser. Except you, because now you read this. But you’re going to agree with me that it looks fine. Right? Of course, right.

A friend of mine took some lovely photos of me wearing my awesome black cherry dress this past weekend. See what you think!

I am wearing a crinoline (that I made) under this; it makes a huge difference in the look.

If I can ever satisfy Rana’s appetite for new dresses, I will make something for myself again. I’ve already got lots of fabric paired with some more of my vintage patterns. I’ve got 5 yds of white cotton with big navy polka dots that would make a fantastic dress for summertime. I’d better get on it soon, though, otherwise you’ll be reading about it this time next year.