Un-Selfish Sewing: Pet Deer Dress and Pajamas

This is the latest collaboration between Lila, Me, and the Ice Cream Social Dress.  It’s all her own doing, I just stitched it.   I told her she could pick her own fabric for a dress several months ago.  Lila spotted this “Pet Deer” fabric last time we dropped by Voodoo Rabbit. (They also have an online store stocked with distinctive prints, but I LOVE dropping in on their shop. So does Lila.)  Like the Panda Dress, I had my misgivings about her fabric choice but in the end she’s so delighted with her new little frock I’m glad I made it.

She helped me through the sewing process, sitting on my lap and putting her hands on the fabric under mine.  You can read the full write up (how the dress pattern grows with her, the sushi train, and the guy who called her a hipster) on Sew Weekly. 

Speaking of Sew Weekly, the next challenge is the 1940’s.  I love the 40’s- the quirk, the scroogy cutting layouts, and over all “utilitarian-chic” flavor.  My first thought was to whip together my Advance 2997 Make Do and Mend Blazer Re-Fashion, but I want to savor that project and carefully document the process, not sew in a few hours of manic stitching.  Besides, I can’t find the damn pattern.  It’s around here somewhere- I probably stuck it in a sewing reference book and then put it back on the shelf.

Instead, I’m making some 1940’s pajamas for my husband.  I promised him pajamas three winters ago and have yet to make good on my word.  Until now!

Vogue patterns are very difficult to date- I spent quite some time digging around the internets for clues, but it seems with Vogue you should trust your instinct based on the style of the pattern.  To me, this looks like the 40’s.

The instruction sheet looks like the 40’s and besides it has that “scent” about it.  Old paper.  I love that smell.  The instructions themselves look like the early 40’s to me, especially the facings and cuffs. Do you have any ideas?

The pattern pieces are unprinted.  When did Vogue start printing on the pattern pieces?  I couldn’t find any information on that in my searches.

Just look at how perforated the front piece is.   It’s all the buttonhole and pocket and stitching markings which are perfectly ordinary once you sort them out, but it does look a little scary doesn’t it?  I wrote about working with unprinted patterns a little while ago, take a look if you’re working with one for the first time for this challenge.

A long sleeved pair of winter pajamas takes a lot of fabric- 4.5m! He wasn’t interested in something fun like skulls or tiger stripes or green army men, so instead I bought 1.5m of plain navy cotton flannelette quilt backing (double the normal width).  It’s sturdy and washes well, I used it last winter to make my 30’s housecoat.  1.5m was enough to cut the top only!  I’ll go back tomorrow and get a little more of the same for the trousers. I cut the upper collar, the pocket bands and the sleeve cuffs from a fat quarter of manly check I had lying around.  I feel like I spent most of this week behind the computer so I’m really looking forward to a few hours of quiet stitching, turning seams, pressing, etc.

Do you make things for other people?

Tomorrow: I feel some design inspiration for deliciously SELFISH sewing coming on…

Remember to tell me about your favorite dress to enter the Frock Out Giveaway!

Anatomy of a Jacket: Plain and Sturdy Fijian Tailoring

Some time ago, I got my hands on Advance 2997- a WW2 era pattern.  I love patterns from this time because they tend to use fabric in a very scroogy way, and the severely utilitarian lines delight my inner Puritan.  This pattern features in a “Make Do and Mend” type leaflet I found online called “You’ve Got the Goods on Him,” which I have assembled for you into an easy to print pdf file.  It’s pretty good.

The cool thing about re-working an existing jacket is I can re-use most of the original tailoring- front edges and lapels, the pockets, etc.  I have to be careful with my cutting, but it’s almost like an “instant jacket.”  At least it is in my head.  I’m thinking about the social conditions such a leaflet sprang from- women holding down the homefront, men gone.

The reasoning goes something like this: “It’s ok to cut up his suit jacket- you need one anyway for your new job and by the time he gets back he won’t mind.  Here’s a handy leaflet to tell you how- and since you’re such a busy woman it’s a bonus you don’t have to do much of your own tailoring.   Just reuse the existing pockets, lapels and collar!”  I can almost hear it.

Here I am modeling the $5 Fijian Suit.  It’s- uhm- not my size, though curiously, the pants seem to fit quite decently.  It’s a very tough cotton-poly twill, navy with a white pinstripe.  It’s quality enough that I’d wear it once I’m finished (if the experiment turns out well!) but on the other hand it cost $5 and it’s not like it’s made of yak fur and angel’s eyelashes so if it’s a bust I won’t beat myself up about it.

The weather changed here to “cool” and while I have a neato cotton-cord 1940’s Army style jacket that will easily stand up to another “winter” in Brisbane, I have long wanted a “blazer” type jacket, preferably pinstriped.  Viola!

Here’s a few snaps I took during the autopsy- nothing outre, just a plainly well-tailored jacket.

Summer Wardrobe 2011- Phase 1

(Tops to the left, bottoms to the right.)

I assembled the fabrics for my summer wardrobe today.  Some came from my stash.  Earlier this year I decided to quit buying fabric and sew down what I had.  Like any sewist, I had many odd pieces of “What was I thinking?” fabric, as well as basics.  Most of that is gone now.   I did buy some fabric while going through this “de-stash” but it was always for a particular purpose.  That taught me to buy fabric with a precise plan for its use.  That meant I said “no” to more fabrics than I care to count.  I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me.

Some of my fabrics were generously cut, so I can use the extras to make “free” simple pants and sun-tops for Lila, though she and I have very different coloring so we can share few fabrics.

That’s a large amount of recalcitrant hemp to the left, from stash.  It’s actually a bright optic white.  I like hemp, both the ethics and the wearing, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with this fabric.  It’s a medium weight, rather stiff though I know it will soften over time.

This is the skirt from Vogue 1172.  It’s basically a 4-gore skirt with the CB and CF seams eliminated, and 1/4 circle gores placed at each side front and back area.  I’m working with a client on a dress made from this pattern, and it seems to me the structural cut of the skirt calls for the hemp.  It will require a serious waistband.  I’d like this to be long-ish and I would wear it without a petticoat.  (I think…)  I may also start the gores at my hipline (just above?  just below?) rather than at my waist.

The red fabric above is linen, intended for another pair of Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing trousers.  I’ve been dying to make a red version of them for about a year.  When an idea won’t leave me alone, I know I should acquiesce and be done with it.

The guipure above with some flocked cheesecloth will make a blouse much like the white blouse on the pattern envelope, sans bow.   I’m working out the engineering to cut the yoke all in one piece.  If I cut the guipure carefully, I’ll have a lovely scalloped edge with no loose threads or hemming.   I’m excited to be playing with such a fine piece of lace, which I picked up for a song at a sale.  If you ever see guipure at 1/4 the original price, snap it up.  This is one of the prettiest fabrics I’ve ever handled.

100% cotton seersucker, perfect for steamy summers.  This will be a version of one of my favorite patterns, though I want to alter it to button up the back.

I may also draft a slightly more daring keyhole at the neck.  I own this pattern but lazily borrowed the image from vintage pattern wiki.  Doesn’t the model look like she has a mustache?

The top is a fine batik cotton, don’t you love the print?  The middle is a cotton shirting with woven stripes,  previously intended for a pleated shirt until I changed my mind.   The third is a micro-houndstooth pink and red from the Sophie range. (I bought the last of it.)  I have enough extra to make a sun shirt for my girlie.  I don’t yet have precise plans for these three.  Sleeveless shells most likely (great under my newest sun jacket), taking inspiration from elements of these lovely patterns:

I want to keep them simple, no more than a few hours’ sewing.  Once I sew the “must” pieces, I’ll know better what should be done with these simple tops.  Most likely a lot of back-buttons, and I’d like to have some sort of backwards collar like the third from the left on the bottom.  At the same time, I want the print of the fabrics to do all the talking, rather than fussy details.  We’ll see.

The aqua is a lightweight cotton voile.  I think it will be a simple floaty skirt, perhaps with a scallop hem.  I saw a girl wearing a similar skirt the other day, middie length.  It was both simple and fetching.  The dark blue is a yet-to-be-blogged corduroy pencil skirt with architectural lines that I’m hoping I can still wear over the summer.

What about that Umpire fabric?  It’s a cotton interlock.  The other white woven fabric is a tencel/linen blend.  Together they will (probably) make this, one of my favorite outfits from Casablanca:

I want to use a half-circle skirt for the bottom, though I think hers is a slim 40’s gored skirt.  I’m toying with the idea of making the top button into the waistband of the skirt, so I have the options of pinafore/jumper and skirt.  I think the red shells especially will look well with this.

That’s more white than I usually wear.  Last summer, I made a few white blouses and discovered I like wearing white.  It POPS in the bright summer sun, and it’s relatively easy to care for.  The sun bleaches my whites to dazzling purity without chemicals (or effort).

This type of planning helps my sewing progress, as I know that my pieces (should) all look well together.  If I have a season of sewing this-n-that like I did this past winter, I don’t sew.

I’m a little iffy on the black and white knit, but I figure it will look ok with the bottoms, or at least look interesting.  I’m happy with the red(dish) tops and the red linen pants, and I’m really digging blues and reds together lately.  I’m aiming for clean simplicity while avoiding both boredom and fussiness.  Something like that.

Deadlines are helpful, so let’s shoot for Thanksgiving.

I’d be pleased to hear any thoughts or advice, from those who are facing the beginning of summer (and what to wear) and from those who are just finishing their own hot time of year.

Wins and Fails in Winter Sewing

(Favorite combination of palazzo cords, husband sweater, and trilobite cabled beanie)
I had some plans for this winter.  I was testing a few new-to-me styles and fabrics, figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.  All in the name of science…
What worked for me for winter?
Win- Flanelette 1930’s House Coat:
This is by far my favorite.  It has precisely served its purpose.  The long flannel skirt made it snuggly, but I didn’t feel completely sloppy around the house.  I want to make a similar one in a fine batik cotton for summer, maybe a different style.Fail- Just because the pattern envelope suggests jersey doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

I intended to make the top in the left corner from a medium weight New Zealand merino.  Wisely, I tried it first in a soft, cheap rayon:
The wool would only have been slightly heavier than the rayon, so it might be firmer but I wasn’t willing to risk it for a house shirt.  I do like this shirt, and wear it though I never finished it more than a quick muslin.

Fail- Those pants were another incomplete failure.  They are too short with shoes.  Because I -ahem- measured the hem while barefoot.  I like them anyway and wore them all winter.

Win- Persephone Weskit

I really, really like this semi-tailored weskit.  I reached for it on rushed mornings to pull two pieces together.  Many of my work basics are black and white, and the weskit (I hope) camouflages a less than perfectly ironed blouse.  The fabric proved both sturdy and hard to wrinkle.

It’s getting to be the bright time of year, every picture from this morning’s Self-Stitched-September shoot captures an awkward face.  Time to dust off the sun-jacket.

I’m looking at a few favorites from last summer, to help guide this year’s sewing.  I’m thinking a palette of crisp white, clear blue-red, baby blue, and aqua.   I’ll post more this weekend, plenty of free time.

 (Wholesome Dress, an unexpected winter favorite)

Also, I just saw a post on Dress a Day… I’m so excited, Erin’s blog has informed how I think about clothing and sewing, especially Dressing for Joy.  It’s what turned me to sewing for myself, in a style I enjoy.  Thank you, Erin.

The Germans Wore Gray, You Wore Blue

Rick said that to Ilsa, remembering the way she dressed on the day the Germans invaded Paris.  I have a free day today, I think I should clean the house but instead I’ll throw myself into a Dress in a Day project.  I haven’t pushed myself to do one for a while.  This dress has played in my mind for several years- it was one of my first pattern buys when I got into vintage patterns.   It’s French, from just before the invasion.  I made the skirt a few times before.

Can you believe the fabric match?  I’ve had this almost as long as the pattern.  It’s a quilting weight cotton.  My mind is full of recent current events from the last week, you know I’m a news junkie.  A project will help me focus and think.  So I’m brewing some coffee, ignoring the messy house for once and watching Casablanca while I make a dress.

Finished Object: Delft Blouse

I actually finished and wore this blouse earlier this week; my photographer could fit me in today so I’m wearing it again.  I’m so in the habit of writing about what I sew that a project doesn’t feel complete until I blog it.  Check out the gray bias around the neckline.  No facing.

I know some find them impractical, but I like buttons up the back.  I do seek assistance when I’m lazy or tired, but it’s not usually an issue.

The fabric and sleeves fall a little outside my comfort zone, but it’s fun to push my limits sometimes.  This blouse is soooo comfortable.  I wore it “sloppy” with gray corduroy K.Heps today; it looks smart tucked into my Minerve skirt.

Here’s the underbust darts: Two pairs of double-tipped darts.  I pressed them towards each other and top-stitched.  It’s not as interesting as I thought it would be, but the shaping is acceptable.  (That blurb’s for you, RooBeeDoo)

I don’t know if it’s the fit or the big sleeves or what, but this blouse allows a freer range of motion than I usually enjoy in a woven.  I have some blouses and dresses I put on *last* after preparing for the day.  They’re pretty but restrict movement ever so slightly.  Restricted movement doesn’t matter too much for work, but it’s nice to be able to reach and twist.

I inserted flat gray piping between the upper and lower sleeve.  The opening is bound with the same tape and sits snugly just above my elbow.

Sunglasses in mid-winter are de rigueur around here.  It was so bright today I almost stayed home.

However, the pull of vastly reduced guipure meterage drew me out despite the brilliant sun.   The pen is for scale.  I’ll use this for a summer version of the 40’s Noir blouse– that is, once I work out the drafting problems.  The blouse fabric above is a remnant too small for an entire blouse, but will work well with the lace, methinks.

And Yet Another Blouse in the Works: Shadow-Striped 40’s Noir

I like the bows, but I think mine will be less a bow and more a scarf treatment/cravat.  I especially like the striped version with sleeves and yoke in one- I want to try my hand at drafting it.  Should I put the buttons on the front or the back?  I’m in a bit of a back-buttoning mood lately.

I like the lace yoke version, though I’d probably opt for a plain neckline with the lace and make it in white.  For summer.  A local place has absolutely exquisite guipure cotton lace fabric on sale- $24.95/m.  I’ve seen it there before for over $100/m and always took time to admire it.

As I read that my brain said “Why wait for summer?  Why white?”  What if I used black sale guipure?  Where’s the line between “classy” and “racy” with black lace?  Where’s the line between “pretty” and “saccharine” with white?

I have some black shadow-stripe cotton ready to go… I know I said no black clothes this year, but my go-to black blouse died.

Or… That lace could become some Emma Watson-inspired shorts / k.heps / culottes / 7/8 pants.  Some ideas come back to roost.

(I went shopping today.   It was weird.  Luckily I had a guide.  What’s the opposite of Make Do and Mend?  Shopping, that’s what.  Can I show you my new stockings next time?)

Blouses, Blouses Everywhere

Here’s a taste of my sewing lately, they’re all in various stages of completion.  I know I don’t blog about it much, but these are for the Wardrobe Club I facilitate at work.  This month is button-up blouses.  Since I started the club, I find I binge on that garment for the month leading up to the club meeting.  Remember all my knit tops earlier this year?  Club binge.

For my second blouse this month, I used the sleeves from the yellow shirt, and slapped them on a back-buttoning blouse drafted from my block.   I’m not sure about the sleeves, they could be charming or weird.

The blouse I drafted also features exterior darts, like this beauty I found at Roobeedoo’s.  I also decided to use a shoulder dart like the McCall’s pattern.  Several slim darts create a smoother shape than a two or four chunky ones.

The cigar shaped under bust dart on my sloper.  I laid my new pattern on top and divided the dart in two.  That’s the lines with the dots.

Line through the fat side dart to the bust apex, and from the shoulder to the apex.

Snip snip.

Two pieces of the bodice.

When I completely close the side dart, it makes an ENORMOUS shoulder dart.  Fat darts = messy.

Two shoulder darts?

Compromise- slimmish side dart, ordinary-sized shoulder dart.

Mmmmm.. blue and white and gray..

Man’s Jacket from a Woman’s Jacket Based on a Man’s Jacket

Does that make it androgynous or just weird?

It’s almost finished!  If I could find the other pleated pocket and flap, we’d be in business.  How does that happen?  I make a garment in a reasonable amount of time, carefully keeping my pattern pieces together.  Every piece of fabric passes through my hands repeatedly, becoming more a jacket each time yet I manage to lose a single pocket.  I searched, now I’m leaving it up to the sewing gods.  These things turn up, but progress is stalled.

I started drafting without realizing what I’d taken on.  I used the original pattern’s pocket details and eventually sort of Franken-patterned a collar.   I started cutting one night after putting my daughter to bed, telling myself I’d only cut the main parts of the jacket.  I looked up at 1am and registered horror at the lateness of the hour.  I hurriedly slapped the last pieces down on the fabric, cut it out, and put everything together to sew later.  I only realized I cut both pocket and flap upside down after about two hours of painstaking favoring and trimming the lined pockets.  I was pissed.  Don’t cut napped fabrics when you need a nap!

I discovered that linen works well for a favored facing like a pocket flap.  It readily melded to the outside fabric as I stitched, and snapped back into shape when I steamed it flat.  Very nice indeed.

I didn’t get a picture, but the original back yoke was about 3″ longer than this.  Horrible, completely out of proportion.  I only realized after I sewed it together.  I cut off the extra length and used the mid back piece to cut my new bellows pockets- this time with the nap running the right way.  I had to buy a little more fabric for the new mid-back piece.  As mistakes go, it wasn’t so bad and easily fixed.  At least I didn’t light it on fire or something.

Then more pocket problems- this isn’t my fault!  I used the pattern’s pockets, but for some reason the flaps come out nearly an inch wider than the pockets.  That’s a head-scratcher, I’ll just sew the flaps a little narrower.  See?  I had two of those pockets once.  The other one will turn up, I know it will.

(This photo is truest color)

The buttons came in today, I couldn’t resist sewing a few to see how they look.  They smell and taste like pennies, they’re even about the same size.  Yep, I tasted them.  I couldn’t help myself.  I suppose they must be mostly copper.  I figure I’ll use five on the front and nix the belt, the jackets of the time go both ways.  Luckily, the jacket fits him ok without any changes.

This time I used Sherry’s collar tutorial without messing it up, though I did add in the step where I stitch along the roll line at the back.  It helps create a nice crease along the collar stand.

I steamed it like an old-school tailor, I like the shape it builds into the collar and couldn’t help myself.  Other than that, I stuck to the instructions.  They were fantastic instructions, and his jacket feels much less bulky at the collar than mine.

Speaking of my jacket, I entered it in the PR lined jacket contest.  The contest ends very soon, please vote if you haven’t already.

Things I’d Do For Love

When my husband asked me for a boy version of my WW2 Jacket, I immediately said “Of course, no problem, anything you want.”  That’s a way I show love.  Through hard work and bluster.  I’m not always good at the affection stuff, but I’ll work my ass off to show I care when given the chance.

Well.  Turns out drafting a block for his body was a little trickier than anticipated, because Maria Martin’s template is calibrated to accommodate female geometry (boobs).  For added fun, I decided to put his block together the morning before he left to go on a ten-day ecological field excursion up north.

On the whole, I considered it good enough to work with for a semi-fitted casual jacket.  My hurried sewing caused the funny business at the front sleeve.  The drafter worked perfectly on his hard to fit back.  I used a well-loved shirt pattern to get an idea for the front.  It’s enough to work with, though the lack of a front dart does bother me slightly.

Then I thought I’d tweak the front pieces a little, make a new sleeve and get started.

Not so fast….

I took the “muslin” apart, traced the edges, and squared off the bottom edge at the length we decided on.  Then I marked things like the waistline, etc.

Here’s the back, with the exterior and lining seamlines sketched out.  The back was easy.  I traced off each pre-marked section, added pleats where desired, and drew in the seamlines.

I pinned the new back pattern pieces and compared them to each other and to the “block.”  No problems.

Lila was unusually tolerant of my drafting activities, content to scribble on a copy of the pattern pieces I printed so I could write notes and keep track of the 47-odd pieces that make up the jacket.

The sleeve was similarly straight-forward.  I threw my own sleeve pattern on top to get an idea of dart placement.  I know this isn’t the best way to make it, but I think it should work fine.

The front gave me a little grief.  His chest is flatter than mine, with a less defined waist and taller shoulders.  Men have such simpler geometry.  I wasn’t sure if I marked the front lapel nicely, but the more I played with the CF, the overlap, the roll line and the lapel, the more confident I felt.  My “muslin” had no waist seam, and I very nearly made it straight.  Then I remembered the Parthenon- it appears to have straight lines though it’s made of curves.  So I curved the front waistline much like this diagram:

Then I lost the plot while trying to create a new collar.  I knew my collar won’t work on his jacket for two reasons- 1) Bigger neckline and 2) The lapels are proportionately larger on his jacket than mine.  Just a bit, but they are and if I just lengthened the original collar piece, it would look goofy.

Dear me.  I’ll sleep on it, often problems resolve themselves while I sleep.  Sometimes that’s from my own brain, and often it’s because a pattern junkie has read my post and replied to it while I’m snoozing.  Let me know if you can see what I’m doing wrong.  I dug around and found plenty of confusing websites devoted to collar drafting, and followed my Harriet Pepin.  I used the collar page.

I’ll use the same pocket and flap pieces from my jacket pattern, but that’s it.  I ended up re-drawing everything else.

I used Sherry’s instructions for prepping the shell, the facings and lining.  Her instructions for the pattern are amazing, I figure doing them twice in succession will help cement it in my mind.  I’d like to have the exterior, the lining, and the pockets assembled by the time he gets home.  I dare not go further.  Placement for the breast pockets will be a shot in the dark at best without him, and the body may need tweaking.

Now I beg for your expert opinions.  I like the camo lining; it’s not really on display in the finished jacket.  I think husband found it a little flashy and kitsch and longingly asked if I could use a plain.  I could, and use the camo for piping and pocket lining.  Of course it’s kitsch.  I don’t dispute that.  It’s also kind of funny, but it’s his jacket after all.  Should I use a plain lining?

Do you like the buttons?  They’re brass, shanked, and pretty cool.  The only slight problem is they’re 3/4″ and I preferred 1″.  Beggars can’t be choosers, but do you think that’s too small?  What if I used another button or two on the front closure?

I promise no more jacket posts for a few days at least.

Finally, what ridiculously nutty things have you done to impress a boy you like?