Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Vintage for Children

Vintage patterns and styles have caught my eye lately.  The big 4 pattern companies have a number of vintage reissues but so far I have not tried one.  Recently I found a vintage child’s dress pattern at a rummage sale which I bought it for 25 cents.  
Scrutinizing the pattern instructions I found the copyright date which is 1945.  
Here is a photo of the pattern envelope. 
Child's vintage pattern envelope
See Jane run!   
This is my first vintage pattern and I was not expecting the pattern pieces to be blank.  That threw me for a loop initially, but once I pulled out all the pieces and pressed them flat plus some actual reading of the instruction page the notations became clear.
2 large circles  = straight grain line
3 large circles = place on fold
notches = match same as current patterns
medium and small circles = dots, mark and match same as current patterns
vintage childs pattern instr
For some reason the way the pattern pieces are noted by a letter made via small pinholes  made me laugh.  Here is an example for the front bodice “B”
Vintage Child's pattern pieces
vintage child's pattern piece
On the first part of the instruction page there is a short paragraph advertising the “Simplicity Sewing Book”  for 15 cents, which is the same as the price of this pattern.
The pattern is a child’s size 4, and as far as I can tell, it is about the same as a modern child’s size 4.  I used some turquoise cotton I had on the shelf, and the white section is a substantial cotton pique that I think I have had for over 10 years.   There is enough to make a dress or two and I am not sure what I am saving it for.  
Vintage Childs Dress front
Finished dress.   The scalloped front is so cute - I think I will use that detail on some other dresses this summer.  It could be adapted around a neckline or hem.  I have done that in the past by making a template on some stiff paper - try using a kitchen glass or something like that to get the perfect scallops in a snap.  Then the template can be put across the bottom of a dress pattern to make both the hem and facing.
For my first vintage pattern, a child’s dress was fun.  The grown up vintage styles take a lot of fabric!  Think Mad Men or I Love Lucy.   Vintage Dress pattern Vogue 1043 is on my desk and hopefully fabric inspiration will strike.  Now all I need is an occasion to wear it.

Vintage Childs Dress back Vintage Childs Dresss close up front

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Vogue 1037 Badgley Mischka suit for Cathy

January settled in gloomy and rainy here in Northern California. OK, not like other parts of the country - but it wasn’t sunny. Perfect weather for some serious sewing, however I really didn’t have any projects on deck. Until my good friend and neighbor Cathy said she needed something to wear to a meeting. She was being inaugurated as this year’s president of the San Francisco Professional Food Society. Cathy has her own company which manufactures kits for making gourmet chocolate truffles and other goodies at home. www.thetrufflekit.com
She wanted a business look, something she can wear again on other occasions and also as separates. We had the idea of a suit in mind, but nothing specific. We shopped for fabric and inspiration at my favorite fabric store, Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley CA, which is filled with fantastic silks, wools, cottons and so many other interesting choices that I have to be very disciplined when I step in the door.
We checked out all the wools and found a plum colored wool crepe. She chose Vogue 1037, a Badgley Mischka suit with pretty portrait collar and three-quarter sleeves.
She needed the suit for the meeting on Wednesday - so time was short.
I couldn’t start until Sunday - and then I went into speed mode. Making a tailored suit in about 3 days is definitely fast, but a nice challenge for a rainy week.

The pattern was one of their designer series - but not as difficult as some of their advanced patterns. I did a flat pattern measurement and cut out a size 16 jacket (which probably compares to a size 10 or 12 in a department store - more on this topic in a future post). The princess seams made it simple to make adjustments on the body after the jacket was basted together. The instructions called for lining all the jacket body pieces with fusible knit interfacing, which I did. I am not sure it was entirely necessary, in most wool jackets I use armo-weft fusible interfacing on the jacket and undercollar, and then fusible knit on the jacket front facings and upper collar. However since this was a different style - more like a 2 piece dress than a tailored jacket, I went with their instructions.

I have noticed that some fusible knit interfacing behaves better than others, perhaps it is the brand and I will be doing a test on some of the yardage I have on my shelf. I had to press and steam much more than I expected to get it to fuse properly. If you miss a little spot it can leave a slight bubble impression on the right side of the wool, which has to be repressed. I did get it all fused up and just about gave myself a steam facial in the process. The benefit of the fusible interfacing is that it gives the wool crepe a great weight and body, so that the jacket holds its shape nicely and doesn’t wrinkle at all.

Next I did the welt pockets with flap. For any welt pocket I never look at the pattern instructions, nor use their ridiculous little pattern pieces. I learned to make a welt pocket from Sandra Betzina at The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco some years ago and have used this method more times than I can count.

Next time I do one I will take photos and post. Suffice it to say that almost the LAST step is slicing open the pocket. I have seen a lot of instructions that call for cutting the pocket slit before applying the welt pieces, and that sounds dangerous and could lead to needing a new jacket front piece if it didn’t go well. Or at least a larger pocket than one planned to have. Possibly eliminating the need for a handbag but that is another story.

Once the welt pockets are done on any jacket I feel that I am home free. So the rest was just sew - sew - sew as fast as my little fingers could move. I made the lining from the jacket pieces instead of using the lining pieces in the pattern envelope as I was too lazy to pull them out and the jacket pieces were still at hand. Then I sewed the lining together, turned the jacket inside out on the dress form, and applied the lining, trimming as I pinned to give it the correct shape. Then hand sewed the lining in, and did the buttonholes with my handy-dandy Singer buttonhole attachment. Noisy little bugger but whew it makes great buttonholes. Maybe I could become a sewing hoarder as I bought 2 more of these gizmos last year at a garage sale for a couple of bucks which was a deal as I had seen them on Ebay for upwards of $ 20.

Next I sewed up the skirt. For this I used Simplicity 2564 which has no darts and a shaped waistband. This style is a lot smoother, falls over the waist and hips very nicely. The skirt included with the Vogue 1037 is a very traditional (shall I say old-fashioned) skirt, with front and back darts. So on a whim I used the different skirt pattern and Cathy was really happy with it.

Suit finished by Wednesday morning, with not that many minutes to spare.
She looked great and now has a nice suit that is ready for a lot of occasions.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The machine and me

Singer 404 Machine

Is it wrong to love a machine?
Reliable. Strong. Powerful. A little bit worn, a few dings and scratches.
But a few drops of oil and like the tin man it feels so much better.
My constant friend. I have been sewing on this machine since age 9 when my Aunt Jo starting teaching me to sew. It was there in the beginning, when the seams were crooked and the facings lumpy. Through the awkward teenage years of bad fabric choices and hideous style selections. Formals and first job wardrobe. Party dresses and apartment curtains. French tailoring. Silk dresses. A suede skirt. Every season
a new challenge, irresistible fabric to play with, a new technique to take on.
I have heard a hundred variations on the query, “You must have a very fancy sewing machine.” And I always pause, and reflect, and picture my trusty coffee and cream colored hunk of sturdy metal, and think . . . Thank you, Mr. Singer.
Singer Model 404, Straight Stitch, Slant Needle, Drop-in Bobbin
Originally manufactured in the late 1950's.