Get ready for spring with these cute crochet earrings, now half price in my Etsy shop for 1 week only - slashed from $7.
Last week I posted about the first version of my latest sewing project, which was a dress from a 1941 pattern intended for a small costume party with friends. The trial version was done in gray cotton.
After studying Version One, I realized that the tucks in the front were not going to show up nearly so well on the blue and white printed fabric that I wanted to use for Version Two as they do on the solid color, yet I really wanted to use that printed fabric. What to do?
My next thought was of incorporating a solid color just for the front bodice, which just might happen to make a color block 1940s dress - another project on my to-make-someday list. And I happened to have on my re-imagine stash a large jacket thrifted for its buttons and shoulder pads which was the right color of cobalt.
I just so barely, after picking part the side seams and flattening them out, was able to squeeze the front bodice pattern piece into the back of the jacket, which thankfully had no darts or other seams.
Then I cut out the facing above the pocket. Now there was not much left of the original jacket, but to reuse is good, right?
The rest of the dress I cut out from the blue and white cotton blend. Taking away the two pieces I had cut out of the jacket meant I had plenty of fabric left. Maybe not enough for another dress, but enough for a significant part of another dress, or a skirt or blouse at least. That made me happy. It's great to stretch yardage to more than one outfit and makes the fabric more budget friendly too. I hope to pair it with red buttons!
But after consideration I decided to do something different with the sleeves. On my gray dress I had tried shirring for the first time, but I decided to try something else with the blue and white dress. Yet I didn't want to have just a plain short sleeves, so I decided to invert the pointed detail of the tucks and make shaped sleeves.
To do this I first cut out the short sleeve pattern piece, then laid it across a piece of fabric on the bias.
I marked the center as high up as I thought the point should be, which was 3 in....
...and the same distance from that mark to the edge on each side, which turned out to be 4 in. This is where the curve will start.
Next I eye-balled it and cut it up to the center mark. I then folded all 4 layers in half to make the curves even.
So now the bottom layer (facing) and top layer (sleeve) are exactly the same.
The facing part next got trimmed down a little, evened out, and then cut a few inches wide.
It's a perfect match, see?
To do the sleeve, all I have to do is stitch the facing to the sleeve, clip it, sew the sleeve/facing seam, turn the facing in, and tack it down like any other sleeve facing.
After a very little bit of sewing, I can begin to see how the dress will look. What do you think of the color block inspiration? It did mean some switching out colors of threads on the sewing machine until the bodice was done, but that's a minor detail.
Because in my trial dress I found that this pattern is about 2 in. too large at the waist, on this version I deepened the 2 back tucks, and made the corresponding skirt seams 5/8" instead of 1/2", which meant I could French seam them and save myself some work. They ended up corresponding perfectly at the waist seam, and the waist fits much better with that small alteration.
But I am glad I decided to use a solid color for the fancy detail part since you can hardly see even the skirt gores in the printed fabric much less the tucks and top stitching!
Of course since the neck extension is part of the front bodice, that means there is a little of the solid blue showing on the back as well, which helped me to solve my next problem, which is what sort of a belt to pair it with.
I didn't want to cover up the front tucks at all, especially since I had gotten them even with the center front seam this time! Besides, it it looked nice without a belt. But more importantly, since I was dumb enough to forget to lengthen the waist a little when cutting it out, the dress is a tad short waisted which looks flattering, but doesn't work with a belt. Yet there was always something at the waist in the 1940s! I didn't want a sash, but after some thought decided to squeeze a short back belt out of the blue jacket fabric, which will tie in the blue on the back and make it look nice and trim, take care of the extra give of the slightly too large waist, as well as leave the front undisturbed.
So I cut and made bands from the one piece of the jacket that was still long enough, to overlap and button in the back, and basted them into the side seams before stitching.
It's another reason to keep even the pieces you don't think you'll use until a project is finished. I'm so glad I didn't throw away the rest of the jacket when I was done cutting!
Now only the sleeves, side seam and zipper, and hem remain. And tacking down the facings and shoulder pads.
I think the vintage metal zipper I used for the back makes it look more authentic! And this time *ahem* I got the extension edges even!
After all the handwork and a good pressing, here is the finished product!
These buttons were the only ones that came close to working. I realized later they actually tie in the swirls on the fabric, so I'm happy with them and very pleased I decided on the belt since that ties in the blue and gives it a trim appearance, as well as dealing with the little bit of slack still remaining at the waist, yet without covering up my nice V in the front.
The sleeves worked out perfectly, I'm happy to say! At first I thought the point might be too high, but when worn it looks great. My first compliment when trying on the dress was, "Wow, Kristen!" and then "I like your sleeves!"
It looks very 1940s, in my opinion; which is just what I wanted.
As often happens, though it's different than my original idea, I like it even better the way it turned out! It's my current favorite thing I made (until the next project)!
And just right to wear to a small swing dance with friends.
Time for a little shopping update! Here are a few of the newest items for sale in my Etsy shop.
Need some sewing inspiration? Here are some recently listed vintage patterns:
To keep you warm, here are a pair of cozy and vibrantly colored Berry Spiral Fingerless Gloves...
If you feel like sewing and want all the hard work done, I recently listed a sewing kit with the fabric and interfacing already cut and marked for the pattern which is also included, along with a zipper!
And as the winter drags on, who doesn't like a good book by the fire?
We decided to have a little informal party with some friends. I had about 1 1/2 weeks' notice, and since it is to be a swing dance and we all love to dress in costume, I decided this was a perfect opportunity to make a 1940s dress.
I have done a lot of sewing from vintage patterns the last few months, but I seem to gravitate toward the late 1940s/early 1950s styles many times, and have few WWII period correct garments yet. And since I had just finished up my pile of Unfinished Objects (not to be confused with Objects that Need Mended or Altered), my conscience was clear to start another project. I had intended to make a reversible 1940s coat first thing after taking care of my UFO pile, but because of the party, a dress jumped into first place in my queue. Queues are versatile, like that.
First I wanted to choose my fabric (from the stash!) and since I wanted something light colored with a print, I quickly settled on this lovely quality cotton blend with a smooth hand and flow bought at a steal from Fabric.com during one of their pre Christmas sales.
But I wanted to make the dress first in a less-liked fabric, so I pulled out a few yards of gray quilting cotton I had gotten and then didn't like very much. I decided to use this as my trial dress fabric since it would be no great loss if it didn't turn out. I tend to make entire trial dresses rather than muslins, since there is only a little more finishing involved and I can get all the kinks worked out of the pattern. Often it's the little finishing touches only done to a complete dress that I need the most practice on.
So with both fabrics decided upon, I needed to find a pattern. I looked through my "Late '30s, Early '40s" and "Classic 1940s" vintage pattern sections to find something I liked. I wanted a one-piece dress, fairly simple, with few details because of the print fabric, yet classic in outline and fancy enough for a dance.
I soon decided on this one from Du Barry. Notice the figure-flattering detail yet the overall simple lines. I also liked the fact that the skirt has more flow or width to it than many styles from that era - probably because this pattern is from 1941, so the fabric rationing rules were not in place yet.
One of the fabric suggestions is velvet! I would love to make it in velvet for a 1940s cocktail dress.
But since it was to be a dance dress, I decided to go with something a little fancier for the sleeve than the plain short sleeve shown on the Du Barry pattern. I decided this short sleeve would be a good option:
So I cut out the pattern using the gray cotton. I shortened it in the torso, which I always do automatically, and lengthened the skirt by a few inches, but that was all the changes I made. I did use tailor's tacks for the first time and loved it, despite the extra moments it took! See how precise my tucks turned out? And I always need help with preciseness.
I highly recommend using them if you haven't tried it yet. You can see the thread marks from both sides of each piece of fabric, and they don't mark the fabric like a writing utensil does. No transferring marks from one side of the piece to the other! And they stay put until you're done, when you just pull them out.
I actually liked the inside of the front tucks too, and think they would make a cute bodice if reversed.
After a half hour of stitching - this bodice was put together unusually but was quite easy for me to follow - I could see what it would look like.
It closes with a short zipper in the back, and one in the side. As you can see, I still have trouble with the little details and haven't mastered straight-seams-and-zippers yet.
The skirt was a simple gored one. Since it called for 1/2 in. seams most places I didn't French seam the skirt, which meant a lot of seam finishing afterwards. But the best part was when I held it up against the bodice and everything matched! All the notches, seams, everything lined up. (Keeping them lined up during the stitching process was a different matter!) Real seamstresses may find my delight amusing, but anyone who knows me will appreciate how surprised I was that I can make something precise and it actually works!
I left it on the mannequin when I wasn't working on it, and loved seeing it every time I walked through the room. I starting calling it my "V for Victory dress" because of the V the tucks make.
The sleeves were next, and believe it or not, I spent a good hour on the internet trying to find a tutorial or instructions for how to shirr the old fashioned way. Everybody uses elastic bobbin thread! And while I have no doubt this makes it easier, I wanted instructions to help clarify the pattern's instructions. But after vainly searching, I decided to do the best I could with the pattern instructions.
I did make the mistake of using French seams on the sleeves, which made it too stiff for shirring as tightly as the pattern called for, so my sleeves ended up being just below the elbow, which I didn't mind since that makes the dress more versatile for the seasons and is flattering anyway.
The shirring turned out just fine, by the way, and I'm happy to add that little how-to to my list of accomplishments, and liked the detail it added to the dress.
I did have some trouble with the sleeve fitting the arm hole - hardly unexpected since the pieces were from different patterns. I did love the darted sleeve, as opposed to a straight one or gathered, or even pleated. Fitting them in was the only trouble I had with the dress, but they eventually turned out close enough to suit me since (as I'm sure you've heard before) I am not a perfectionist.
Soon the finishing work was done and the dress was complete! I was very happy with it, and enjoyed making it enough to look forward to Version Two - check back next week to see that one!
All done except for the pressing!
The fun part afterward was experimenting with different looks. The benefit of a simple, classic style in a solid color like gray is all the different things you can do with it.
You can go for a playful look with red accessories...
...or dress it up with a white frill, belt, and lavender/silver brooch.
Blue goes with gray, too!
And of course the simplicity of white is always a good match.
All these options, worn with coordinating shoes and hats and gloves, could make the same dress suitable for different seasons and occasions, which is perfect.
I did learn several things from my trial version. The waist of this pattern is a few inches too large; put the back zipper in one side at a time and get the back neck extension seams even; combining patterns, even patterns of the same size, will mean extra work to make the pieces fit; I made it a trifle short-waisted so lengthen my folds on the bodice pattern pieces; take the time to use tailor's tacks!
My sister-in-law had told me to buy this pattern because she thought it would suit me. It does! I was very happy with it.
And there's my trial swing dance dress! I'll be posting Part Two about the final version next week.
I enjoy recycling once-loved items and preserving the past. So when I found my interest this winter drawn to furs like my Lilli Ann coat, I was soon browsing Pinterest for pictures and inspiration for types of furs, both faux and real (minus heads and feet!), and how to wear them.
Boas were generally narrower and longer than stoles, usually with fur on all sides although sometimes the underside would be lined with velvet or satin. Sometimes they were formed by two tails linked together. The photo above is an extra long boa formed with pelts.
While I like the glamour of fur stoles, I found I don't like their bulk and weight. And fur to me is an outdoor wrap, rather than worn with evening gowns. I like collars and fur trim on gloves and accessories and since I am not picky I don't care if it's considered cheap or expensive as long as I like the feel of it - rabbit for instance. But I do like the look of fur boas, often seen draped over ladies' coat or jacket shoulders in old photos and movies from the 1930s through the 1950s.
But I also quickly discovered that fur boas are more expensive and harder to find than fur stoles. So when I bought a generously sized vintage rectangular blonde mink stole on Ebay, the fact that the lining was tattered was not a problem because it was perfect to turn from a stole to a boa.
Stoles are often shaped, with the pelts running lengthwise. Sometimes they have pockets or collars, and can be very elaborate. But if you can find a plain rectangular one, it can easily be turned into a dramatic boa for your winter costumes.
Mine looked almost identical to this one:
a rectangle fur stole
sharp needle with a small eye
sturdy sewing thread (quilting thread is good)
a clean sheet to cover your work surface
This stole was not in good condition...The silk lining was rotten and was easy to tear off in shreds, but the pelts were also somewhat fragile so I had to be careful and even mend a few places along the edge. Buying fur off the internet is always risky, so I recommend looking for it at local antique stores first where you can feel it and examine it in person.
Then there was a padded interlining tacked down at intervals. These threads had to be cut and the interlining lifted.
Now we're down to the actual pelts. This was my first experience working with fur, genuine or otherwise, so I'm sure I have a lot to learn.
Once all the lining is cleared away, it's time to start sewing. Just fold it in half lengthwise, right side out. This will make it half the width of the former stole and put fur on all sides.
I didn't have quilting thread even close to the right color, so I used a doubled strand of regular sewing thread. Make sure you tie a good knot, then take a stitch in the edge of the pelt at the fold.
As you can see, the edges were still "serged", which was helpful, but I made sure to insert my needle a little beyond the edge to help distribute the stress. The edges might want to curl in, but keep them lined up flat.
The idea of sewing is to do an invisible seam, so that means take a stitch first on one side, then the other. This will make a zig-zag seam which you can pull tight after a few inches. Here's how it looks after a few stitches...
...and now pull tight and watch it disappear. You want it as tight as possible but without breaking the thread or tearing out from the edge of the fur. Don't stress out - the seam won't be that noticeable when you wear it.
Always insert your needle from the inside out. You don't want to catch the fur under the stitch or it will be hard to hide and look bunchy.
If you do try sewing a stole with lining, make sure you catch a little of the fur pelt along with the lining edge so the lining doesn't carry all the stress.
It's easy but tedious...listen to music or watch something while you work. I felt like throwing a party once I got to the halfway mark! But finally the last stitch was taken and it was done.
Now with its diminished size, it's ready to be thrown over a shoulder and worn with elegance.
So don't throw away your vintage heirlooms. If nothing else, pick apart the pelts and use them for cuffs or smaller projects. I have a 1930s wool coat high up in the queue that I have an intact lined fur collar waiting to be whipstitched to the neck edge. I like to think these items, once treasures, enjoy being reimagined.
And that's the little how-to for February. Enjoy!
~Kristen - Verity Vintage Studio
Look for my new tutorials posted sometime during the first full week of every month. Hairstyles, crafts, repurposing, etc.
This lacy dark green crocheted cuff bracelet scattered with unique vintage buttons is Item of the Week, half price in my Etsy shop for one week only - slashed from $10.