pattern review

1980s McCalls into 1920s Garden Party

Ah the 1920s! Jazz Age Glamour! The Black Bottom! The Great Gatsby!

Fashions that look terrible on people with tits and ass.

Le Sigh.

In keeping with the 100 year rule (people get excited and nostalgic when things are about 100 years old), the decadent Jazz Age is back in style. I’m sure the impending doom that it seems like our county is hurtling towards is helping that Weimar Cabaret feeling. But for whatever reason, the 1920s and associated events are everywhere these days.

The 1920s is a decade I have never been super enthusiastic about costuming. The boyish flapper figure is really far from what I have. I’m much more about that hourglass. A couple of years ago I tried to make the One Hour Dress and that was a fugtastic fail. Despite my dislike of the era I was joining a bunch of friends at Dardenella’s Atlanta Gatsby Garden Party. I had to figure it out so I’d have something to wear.

This photo of my grandma with her grandma was my inspiration. This photo is probably from the later part of the 20s.

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As cute as my grandma was, and as cute as I bet that dress was, there’s sure something wonky going on with the fit. It’s not my grandma, it’s the style of the 20s.

Check her out just a few years later in the 30s:

Photo Mar 23, 1 08 00 AMAdorable! What a difference!

See what I was up against?

Looking at other photos from the 1920s, curvy and bigger people just looked frumpy. You needed to have tiny ankles and no discernable bust like these gals. Photo Apr 17, 12 01 55 AM

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But then again, Queen Latifah looked damn fabulous in the Bessie Smith biopic so being curvy and looking good in 1920s fashions could be done.

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I was doing my usual troll of eBay and Etsy for vintage half-sized patterns when this 1985 relic came up in my search.

Photo May 14, 12 32 16 AMMinus the hair and the shoulder pads, McCalls 2276 seemed pretty close to a 1920s dress.

The line art makes the 20s potential even clearer. The shoulder treatment is very similar to Decades of Style Isabella dress and the collar options also had potential. I decided to go with a short sleeved version of view C with a hip sash.

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My cotton fabrics were pretty cheap to begin with and then I bought them in a Joann’s mega sale at 50% off. Because of this (and because I ran myself out of time) I decided not to make a test and just sew on the fly. I wasn’t super invested in the the fabric or honestly the final dress so I wasn’t afraid of a fail. I dug around in my closet for an acceptable backup outfit just in case, so I was set either way.

With no darts and hardly any shaping I didn’t see any point of putting in the zipper. Since that left the back wider than the collar I probably should have made an adjustment but I didn’t. I took very small seam allowances on the facings to make up the difference. I took a smaller seam allowance from waist to hip on the side seam but otherwise did not adjust the sizing.

I had planned on doing the pleated skirt but since I was at the 11th hour I was feeling lazy so I got out my ruffler foot. I ruffled the three skirt panels and just figured I’d attach it and hope that it fit. When I tried the dress on I realized that the dropped waist was too low even for the 1920s and the overly full skirt was super 80s. I raised the waistline between three and four inches (I did it by eye), took out most of the 3rd skirt panel, and took about another 3 inches off the hem. I hand tacked the sash and added two vintage pink buttons as a detail.

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I tried the dress on with my other accessories but no shapewear. A distinct lack of fug was detected. 1920s success!

With my parasol mended, bust flattening shapewear on and picnic packed we were off to the event. It was held on the grounds of The Wren’s Nest, the home of Joel Chandler Harris. We were able to take an interesting short tour of the house which was a real treat!

I didn’t take a ton of photos but I here are a few.

Photo May 13, 1 04 52 PMSunglasses – $16 Amazon Prime!

Photo May 13, 1 08 48 PMMy husband, left, is wearing a bowtie I made for him. Don’t you love his oyster belt buckle?

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Megan made the Decades of Style Isabella for the occasion and I just love Rob’s swami getup!

One of our party, Rebecca (Swami Rob’s wife), was named best dressed at the party. She won a gift certificate for any dress from the new opened Trashy Diva boutique. This pretty much made the event for me!

Photo May 13, 1 03 01 PMThe win was foretold!

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As is prone to happen in Atlanta, a much feared for thunderstorm popped up halfway through the afternoon causing a scramble and a soaking. That pretty much ended the event as they had no rain plan (poor planning in my opinion). We never got a group photo and I was soaked through before I got my own photos.

Photo May 13, 4 22 58 PMMy coordinating bracelet and brooch, possibly by Neiger, are of the era.

Photo May 13, 4 23 23 PM My faces are of the era too. Pure silent film overacting.

All’s Well That End’s Well?

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Bow Tie Bonanza

815r7ax5JnL._SY550_I’ve been playing around with another 70s patterns. This time it’s Kwik Sew 352, Tie Variations. I’ve been been making bow ties. I wanted to make my husband a bow tie or two, specifically for him to wear to an upcoming Gatsby picnic. Due to the vintage of this pattern I was wondering what the finished look of the bow tie would be. Would it be like a 70s prom tie or something a bit more timeless?

IMG_4063My initial tie was a bit too wide so I’ve taken a greater seam allowance. Opting to top stitch was really a mistake. I was also kind of stumped on what stiffener to use. On the first attempt I used sew-in interfacing that ended up being too heavy and stiff. My second with no interfacing and starch was not stiff enough. I did a little googling around and found this helpful blog post which suggested lining with muslin. That seemed too do the trick! The third time was the charm.

Despite having sewn a bow tie, I didn’t know how to tie one. I looked around at several tutorials but they all seemed kind of confusing. I found one that after an extensive step by step how to rounded out the tutorial by declaring that if anything was confusing just to remember that the most common knot used for bow ties is the same as the one you use to tie a shoe. Really? So I went through all of that when all I needed to know was “tie in bow”? Fucking hell people. No wonder the clip on ones became popular.

18235921_10154532898787337_567025972_oWhen I posted my first attempt photo on Facebook, a friend from my Chicago days declared that he would be proud to wear said tie. So I sent him my 3rd, perfecting attempt. Looking dapper, Alan!

Last Sew, First Sew

While it’s kind of hard for me to believe, we’re almost done with the first month of 2017. I’ve already completed a couple of simple projects so here they are.

My last sew of 2016 was another Simplicity 2154. I cut this out before Christmas but didn’t manage to get it sewn. I finished it and also wore it on New Year’s Eve. The fabric is a cute cotton lawn type from Joann.

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In 2017, I’m continuing my work on understanding knits. I decided to take a private lesson with Mary Abreu of Confessions of a Craft Addict. Mary came over and together we worked on the Montlake Tee from Straight Stitch Designs.

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Here’s my first attempt. It looks kind of frumpy and that is not helped by the fact that I am braless in this photo. I can’t say I was super excited abut how this pattern fits. That was supposed to be an elbow length sleeve for example. But I learned a lot of things! For example, Mary taught me about reinforcing the shoulder seams with fusible interfacing or clear elastic. This keeps your shoulder seams from pulling and drooping as you wear the shirt.

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We also talked about neckline finishes. This one got a little wonky but it still looks pretty decent.

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Finally we talked and sewed with the magic double needle. Double needle topstitching is just the best thing. It works very easily on my Bernina 710 and gives a great finish. I just need to be sure that I have two spools of whatever color thread I want to use. My machine can also accommodate triple needle stitching and using the multiple needles for decorative stitches. I want to experiment more with these sometime.

Later that evening, I decided to go ahead and knock out another Montlake tee while the new techniques were fresh in my mind. I used a small knit remnant that I had. Since my piece of fabric was small, it dictated the length of the shirt. I also went down a size in the shoulders and bust.

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I managed to improve my neckline finish on the 2nd go.

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This version has a cleaner look although I’m still not sure the fit is where I’d ideally want it. I made both shirts from knits that were heavier than what I would normally prefer if I bought a tee shirt. I prefer my knits quite thin. This could have an effect on my perceptions also.

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I wore the tee the next day with my dress slacks from Talbots and my new flats from B.A.I.T.

In addition to these tee shirts, I made my Uncle’s Christmas present, another “Hawaiian” shirt from Simplicity 3852. This is my 3rd time making him this shirt. It’s kind of a tradition now.

img_2154img_2155The fabric is a premium quilting cotton from Joann. It reminds me of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel. img_2156

I also finished a flannel robe from vintage Simplicity 8510 but I don’t have a photo of it. I really like that robe pattern. I am thinking of doing a version in Liberty lawn for the summertime.

 

 

2016 Sewing Roundup, Part 1: Vintage Pledge

It’s New Years Day. Some of my decorations are down. I’ve spent my day relatively hangover free in my pajamas. Soon I will be eating cornbread, black eyed peas and collards, the traditional southern New Year’s meal. Tomorrow it’s back to reality but today is for relaxing, prepping and taking stock.

I’m pretty shocked how much sewing I actually accomplished for the Vintage Pledge! My 2016 goals were are follows:

  • Sew five different vintage (not repro) patterns
  • Make one item from vintage fabric
  • Sew my vintage UFOs from 2015

And here are my final tallies:

  • Sewed eight different vintage (not repro) patterns / one repro pattern
  • Made two garments from vintage fabric
  • Sewed two of my vintage UFOs from 2015 (I think there is only one left!)

In the end, I made 13 dresses, 3 blouses, 1 kid’s jacket and 2 hats. That is only what applied to the Vintage Pledge! I also made a couple of other garments and historical gear that I will cover in Part 2.

So what were all these things?

Kid’s Jacket for a little girl named George from vintage 70s George Washington fabric and a modern Burda pattern.george coatSimplicity Dress from 197370s heart dress on formBoth views of Simplicity 3010 from 1959IMG_9953IMG_9977Simplicity 4777 from 1963IMG_0587Simplicity 9562 from 1981IMG_0390Simplicity 5940 from 1965img_1249A Star Wars Patio Dress based off of Simplicity 594014522035_10210701382035386_897108728_oA vintage Princess Daisy Cosplay from based on Simplicity 3442img_1064A vintage Pokeman trainer / Aqua Scout Uniform from Patt-O-Rama 8311 and an 80s garrison cap tutorial. I’m here with my whole troop.68004821-mechanicalmasquerade2016-83McCalls 3053 from 1953, a 2015 UFO which was also a fail dress.img_1305Simplicity 6243 from 1965, a 2015 UFO made from a vintage sheetimg_1612A formal version of Simplicity 6243img_1506Mod Christmas dress from Simplicity 8844 from 1970img_1893Hat from McCall’s 8452 from 1966img_1900Three blouses from Simplicity Retro 2154IMG_9875IMG_0105christmas-blouse-pussy-bow

I’m surprised at my totals. I was really prolific in 2016. I had no idea!

High Point Gown

I recently travelled to High Point, NC to attend my father in law’s, Robert B. Currey, induction into the American Home Furnishings Hall of Fame. I asked my husband what the dress code for the event would be. I was told that my father in law was required to wear a tux but that my husband would be wearing his green tweed suit. With that, I pretty much had no information but I figured the event would be more formal than the majority of my closet. I’d already worn one of my only appropriate dresses the last time I attended an award ceremony for Robert. Not that he would have minded, but yeah, new dress time.

Previously, I had attempted to sew Simplicity 6243 from 1965 as a dress for New Year’s Eve.

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I’d been having great luck with half sized patterns so I’d made the assumption that I’d have a fast, easy sew. I still did a mockup and it’s good that I did because I had definite fit problems. The problems were so frustrating that I put the mockup away and wore something else. It rankled me though.

img_1611I’d used a groovy jungle sheet for my mockup so I was doubly annoyed that it hadn’t gone well. I vowed to figure it out — later.

Later turned into now and I was in a bit of a crunch. I had to make fast decision whether I was going to go shopping or get to sewing. I kept pressing for more info about what kind of dress was really needed. I go to these events to accessorize my husband, his family and the business so I really like to make sure that I turn out well. I finally got the info that floor length would be a good choice but not required. I went through my patterns to see what I could find. I didn’t have much but of the patterns I showed my husband he liked Simplicity  6243 the best. The fact that I had already mocked it up, even unsuccessfully, sealed the deal.

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A dress with similar lines as Simplicity 6243, Pedro Rodriguez Dress – c. 1965, FIDM

6243 is super iconic of the 60s and Jackie Kennedy in particular. Because of that I really wanted to “go there” in terms of fabric. The hubs was all for it so I was pretty excited.

First I had to make that mockup fit. The shoulders were too big and the neckline gaped a bit. I’d already figured that fix. I had drag lines across the hip. I tried a ton of things to fix this: minimizing the waist darts, increasing the waist darts, making the darts longer, making them shorter, taking different seam allowances over the hip, shortening the waist to raise the skirt. I even considered figuring out how to do a swayback adjustment and making a second mockup but that was more work than I was willing to do.

One of the reasons I was having trouble with the fit on this dress is the slightly dropped waist. I feel like that is one of the things that is very emblematic of the mid and late 60s so I didn’t want to lose it. I decided to put all the seams and darts below the waist back to where they were supposed to be per the pattern. Then I did what I should have done all along. Starting under the bust dart I graded my side seam out to just a 1/4 inch allowance. That basically did the trick. I just needed to add 1/2 inch to my side seams. The fix was actually really easy. I’d just way over thought it. With that figured out I just needed some fabric.

I was hoping to find some sort of metallic brocade that I could mix with a solid. Nothing I was finding had the 60s feel I wanted however.

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I came across this frankly kind of weird fabric. It wasn’t anything like what I had in my head. I had been avoiding black. I walked away from it but it stuck with me. I was running out of time and this was my 2nd fabric shop and nothing else was presenting itself. I went back to the tulips. The weight was right, it was satiny and the price was $5.99 a yard. It felt more 80s (probably because those tulips remind me of gold flecked mirror panels and the video for Careless Memories) than 60s but that still worked for me too.

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So here I am in the finished dress at the Gala. It worked great, was very striking versus what most others were wearing and it was very comfortable. Less comfortable was the cringe inducing performance by Donny Osmond.

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I accessorized with my gold BAIT Heels that I got for Princess Daisy, a gold vintage lion bracelet, a crazy huge cocktail ring and some very 80s feeling earrings that I bought specifically for this dress. I later pointed out to my husband that my earrings were more expensive than my dress. They were $45.

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Me and the Mister

And I did finally make the original dress wearable. Yesterday.

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UFO Fail: McCalls 3053

As part of this year’s Vintage Pledge I said I would finish all my vintage UFOs. I don’t tend to have that many UFOs unless they are things I start in the 2nd half of the year. Often I get sidelined by all the holidays and also the need to sew seasonal outfits and gifts.

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This UFO was for a halloween dress. I had some spoopy house fabric that I liked but didn’t love so I figured it could be a good sacrifice to McCalls 3053 from 1953. It went pretty well though and the dress was turning out to be worth finishing until Halloween passed and it didn’t get done.

I pulled it out this year expecting to have the new Halloween dress that I was denied last year. I needed to put in the zipper, finish the side seams and armholes and do the hem. Since I’ve been sewing so much vintage I’ve mostly gotten over my fear of zippers. What was left was easy peasy.

Then I got to the ironing board. I was looking at my skirts and the houses were completely on the bias. That wasn’t right. Then I discovered that I had somehow constructed the skirt completely incorrectly. I had managed to flip my rights and left or backs and fronts or perhaps even both. It was a weird and frankly rookie error. But, it can happen, especially when you are distracted or trying to work to fast.

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I’m pretty bummed. The top of the dress looks pretty great but the bottom is completely wrong. The waist ended up a little tight but wearable with a belt. I don’t know if putting the skirts on incorrectly had an effect on that. As this is a straight size versus a half size pattern the bodice back didn’t fit as nicely as it does on my half size patterns. But again, the whole dress is kind of off. The print is too busy for the pattern details also.

I’m torn about trying to fix it. I don’t have any more fabric and I’m just not invested enough in it at the moment. At the same time, I know what needs to be done so it could be saved. Good thing I wasn’t super in love with this fabric as it did indeed end up as a kind of sacrifice to the sewing gods. It happens sometimes. So annoying.

All Vintage DragonCon – Part 2 Aqua Scouts

Continuing this year’s all vintage DragonCon was my big topical group costume, Aqua Scouts. All of us have been pretty obsessed and excited about the release of Pokemon Go. I’ve willingly gone out in the hot humid Georgia air to walk my dog and hunt the pocket monsters.

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Realizing that the time was “now”, we decided to be a squad of vintage, water based Pokemon trainers, aka Aqua Scouts. We took our inspiration from old scouting and military uniforms, fan art, military and sailor lolita and the Pokemons themselves. (The mood board is here). We chose the Vaporeon as our symbol and mascot. We based our color scheme on the Vaporeon as well.

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Sketch by Megan Maude

Based on my ideas Megan did an awesome design sketch that we could share with our other scouts to give them their own design ideas. We agreed that whatever we made should have color blocked elements and some sort of contrast stripe. We purchased 17 yards total of two coordinating blue twills. Each person was free to choose which blue they wanted to use as the main color and which for the accent color. I opted to use the aqua as my main and the cadet blue for my accent.

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I chose Patt-O-Rama 8311. I am not sure when this pattern was released. It is very similar to Patt-O-Rama 1115 which dates from the late 40s or early 50s. This was my first time using an unprinted pattern. Using a perforated pattern was not hard exactly but it was rather fussy having to go back and front between the instruction sheet and the pattern pieces to make sure I knew what was going on. I also had a much harder time lining up the grain to three holes versus a nice black arrow. This pattern was also a little on the big side as I’m usually a 43 bust / 22 1/2. Another thing I found to be really strange about this pattern is how insanely long it was. I think I took six inches off the hem. I found this odd as half sized patterns are generally sized for someone who is no taller than 5’3″ — like me. I had to fuss with the fit some since it was too large in the bust and shoulders. I remember it being kind of a pain but obviously since it is figured now, it would be easier going if I made this pattern again.

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The other issue I had was that this particular pattern, although previously unused, was quite delicate. It could not stand much handling. I know some people swear by tracing their vintage patterns first but that’s not me. I think these patterns are just more cheaply made. It did add an extra layer of fuss to the project.

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We made the garrison caps using an old magazine tutorial that I stumbled upon. Garrison caps seem like they should be a really fast. They trick you because they have a lot more detail than you perceive at first. This was one of the better versions I’ve come across. The hats turned out really cute. Our Vaporeon cap pins and Vaporeon ear collar “points” (along with a ton of other awesome Pokemon badges) were made by Lauren of Stingray Cosplay

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The Aqua Scouts – L to R: Me, Austin, Megan, Lauren.

Here’s the whole group at DragonCon. Megan made her skirt and a shorter version for Lauren from an Advance pattern. She also made Lauren’s beret and Austin’s cap. Austin’s vest and knickers were made by Nick and Jason of The Gin Rebellion. I made all the kerchiefs. My blouse and shoes were goodwill finds. I just love Austin’s look especially his argyle socks.

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We all had matching backpacks from Amazon. You can see all of the cool pins that Lauren made. We had our team affliation on our backpacks. Being Aqua Scouts, we are obviously Team Blue (Mystic).

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I think we all look great. When people understood what we were, everyone thought we were really clever. But at a fast glance wandering around a giant con I don’t think most people got it. I admit, the idea was maybe a little bit “high concept” but sometimes you have to go with it. And I mean really, we all are adorable!

all group photos by Michael Blitch