March 29, 2015


And here is my new robe! 
It's a very rainy and cloudy day, so conditions for pictures were far from perfect but at least today, I could ask E to help me with them.

This is my second project for this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. As a 1950's design, it doesn't exactly meet my intention to explore new periods of vintage fashion but it was made using a new-to-me pattern system. Lutterloh. I already showed you the pattern and the special ruler in an earlier post, and described how to use it. 

It wasn't difficult to use but of course, I didn't really have a clue about the size and fit the resulting pattern would give me. Luckily, this design only has one piece which has to be fitted close to the body, the upper bodice and skirt and loose shapes with gathers at the joining seams. 

The fabric I used is a cotton jersey/sweatshirt fabric with a bit of stretch horizontally. I would have liked to give you some clue about how much fabric you need for this design, but I'm afraid my experience won't be of much use: I had four meters of this fabric which was enough, I even had a triangular piece left over. However, this was a tube knit which helped with the lay-out because I could cut pieces on the fold on either side and, most importantly, it was extra wide, about 190 cm wide.
In the picture, there is a frill along the neckline which I didn't make. I'm not a big fan of frills. Instead, I cut a separate facing to finish that neckline. For the closure, I used jersey snaps instead of buttons because they suit this material better. And I only put them in the waist piece, like in the drawing. On the pattern, there are four button positions marked on the waist piece and four on the skirt. I think this looks better and I don't really need a closure on such a full skirt of a garment which is only meant for indoor wear. 

To fit the robe, I constructed upper bodice, waist piece and skirt separately, made the gathered bits and pinned the whole thing together. In the pattern, there are darts sort of sketched on the waist pieces (sketched because there are not points or numbers with them). I had marked those on my pattern but because my fabric has stretch, I thought I might get away with fitting the waist pieces at the side seams (which looks more like the illustration anyway...). I took in about 4 cm at each side but I don't really blame the pattern for that. After all, it prescribed darts and it was meant for a non-stretch fabric. I could have fitted closer but I wanted the end result to be comfortable and not too pull at the front closure. And with wide kimono sleeves like this, fitting their bottom edge closely to the body and limit your range of movement. 

Those sleeves were the only other thing I changed: I wondered about the 'bulge' shape on the upper arm seam but that is a design feature so I kept it. However, the sleeves (maybe, again, partly due to my fabric choice) were a bit wide at the wrists so I took them in 3 cm on the under arm seam (tapering to nothing at the curve of that seam).

I used fusible interfacing for knit fabrics on all facings and made a simple machine hem. I had cut the skirt pieces with 5 cm extra for the hem (just to be on the safe side) but I ended up cutting off a little more than that and I still have a 5 cm hem. So, as far as I can tell, I have no reason to worry about Lutterloh patterns being too short for me because I'm a bit smaller than their 'standard' size (94 cm bust). Which is a little bit of a surprise to me because the Dutch 1950's patterns I've used where usually intended for slightly shorter ladies (I'm 1.67 which is very average now).

All in all, this is an interesting garment. That huge sweeping skirt gives it a bit of drama even in such a casual fabric. 10-year-old me would have loved something like this to play princess in, although I guess she would have wanted it in pink.
(by the way, they back skirt is pictured without a seam and that is how I cut it. However, it's 160 cm at its widest point so you couldn't cut it like that on the straight grain in a normal fabric. And the front skirt pieces are a lot wider that half of the back so you would even need at least 140 cm wide fabric to cut those on grain)
It's comfortable, oddly elegant and ideal for snuggling up with a good book.  

March 27, 2015

Chanel 1958

Today, I'd like to share a find from one of my vintage magazines. These pictures belong to a short article (it's really more about the pictures) in the French magazine Elle from 27 February 1958.
As you may know, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel returned to the world of French high fashion during the 1950's. After returning from her self-imposed exile in Switzerland in 1953, she returned to rebuilt the fashion house she had closed down at the beginning of the occupation. 
By her own testimony (which is never really to be trusted because Mademoiselle was a notoriously skilled self-promotor) she had to come back because the fashion of the time was so horrible....

In this article, Elle visits Chanel for the presentation of pieces from the new collection for the spring of 1958, presented by Mademoiselle's new "It"-girl Marie-Helene.

This was Chanel's 50th collection and, according to Elle, it looks young and 'now' on the pretty film actress. I find the boots both ladies are wearing really peculiar. I wouldn't really consider those flattering, although they must have been easier to wear than the pointy, spike-heeled pumps fashionable at the time.

These looks are rather nice. They look loose and easy to wear and yet chic. They don't really look 1950's, more 60's (although there was a trend for loose fitting, more straight lined dresses and suits in French high fashion in 1958). I guess that's what makes them 'fashion-forward'. 

And on this last page, we get some quintessential Chanel looks: Tweed at upper left, jersey and pockets in the main picture and in both the contrasting edges and costume jewelry. 

March 25, 2015

Sewing Lutterloh

Today, I've finally started on my first Lutterloh project. I already wanted to sew from these books for last year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge but didn't get round to it. 
I know I said that I wanted to sew from my late 1940's book (as part of the Pledge, because I mostly sew 1950's stuff) and I even had a nice, basic, dress picked out but... Well... Some things just want to be made more than others.

I'm making this (on the right):

It's from the 1954 book and in the text, Lutterloh describes it as "a decorative robe for the spoiled taste"... I don't think my version will be that spoiled. I'm making it from a bright mid-blue cotton jersey/sweatshirt fabric (with very little stretch).
I just really like the notion of a robe with a massive skirt.

There is actually a real need for this. I made a robe in coral red toweling last year. It's very nice and I've worn it a lot but I always knew the fabric wasn't of particularly good quality. By now, the seat is pretty worn. So much that it's see-through... So, I obviously need to replace this very nice thing.
I bought this blue fabric with that purpose in mind although at the time, I planned on re-using the pattern I had made for the coral red robe. 
Last week, I suddenly remembered this Lutterloh pattern and decided on that instead.

It is my first time working with this system. Lutterloh is a fairly well-know enlarge-to-size system which started in the 1930's (as far as I know) and is still being made. 

You get a book with pictures of the designs and at the back of the book are the patterns in miniature, looking like this.

To enlarge them to your own size, you tie a special ruler, which comes with the book, to the end of a tape measure (overlapping the first 8 centimeters). Then, you put the miniature pattern (which I scanned from the book and printed) on a big sheet of paper and tape it down. You prick a pin through the number of your bust measurement (or hip measurement for skirts) on the special ruler and than through the cross in each pattern piece. From there, you can turn it around and match every little line at the edge of the pattern. There's a number at each of them which tells you how many centimeters to add to place a point for your pattern. All you have to do is carefully lay out your tape measure in a straight line and make a dot at that number. Once you've transferred all the points, you can take away the tape measure and the miniature pattern and connect the dots. It wasn't difficult to do but I don't really believe this will magically generate a perfectly fitting pattern for each size and every shape, which is sort of suggested in the introduction. 

I was initially worried about waist length (and, in this case, overall length) because I'm at the small end of normal ladies' sizes according to these companies. Frohne was pretty clear about which waist lengths came with which bust sizes and how and where to add or subtract length if you needed to. 
However, when I measured myself and the top pattern pieces and held them up against my body, I thought it was going to be OK. 
Because of that, I decided not make a muslin. After all, this was also a sale fabric, I know the piece won't be too short and only those waist pieces are closely fitted and those are small and could easily be re-cut if they don't turn out right. 
I've cut my fabric and hope I can start sewing later tonight.

March 23, 2015

That skirt with the stick-out pockets

In the comments to yesterday's post, a couple of people asked for a picture of the pattern pieces of the skirt of my orange dress. I decided to go one step further and tried to draw it out (again being reminded of what a frustrating program Illustrator is...). 
Please bear in mind that this is not a full-on tutorial. I have included an order of construction but I didn't take any pictures of the sewing. It's not really a difficult thing to make but it includes some tricky bits. Not for beginners, I would say

All the pattern pieces in these pictures are without seam allowance. It's important to remember that.

As mentioned, the skirt has no side seams, that seemed with nicest option because it was clear from the picture that those pockets curved around the wearer's side. So, you start by placing the front and back of your skirt block with their sides together. And because this skirt closes with buttons down the front, add 2 cm along center front.

Then, you draw in the design. I've used red for the alterations on the skirt itself and blue for the other pieces. 

I took 1.5 cm from the back dart at converted that to shaping of the center back seam. I knew from my recent re-drafting of my skirt sloper that this suits my figure really well, you don't have to do this. If you don't, simply follow the next steps using the full back dart. If your sloper has two back darts (and you really need them because the combined width is more than 5 cm) I would recommend keeping one in the back skirt.
Draw in the top of the pocket. Mine is 5 cm below the waistline, starts at the front dart position and extends into the back for a bit less of that width. The pocket edges follow the angle of the darts.
Draw in the back of the pocket (the blue line). These are two pieces, with their top edges following the other side of each dart.
The pocket lining follows the bottom line of the backs but its top copies the top of the pocket on the skirt. It looks a bit odd in this drawing but those two lines at the top should get seam allowance added to them to either side and they are essential when sewing this pocket.
And finally, you make the front pleat by adding width (about 14 cm in total) at 4 cm from the front edge (which is 2 cm from center front).

I didn't draw out the pocket flap but that's simply a semi-circular piece with its top as long as the top edge of the pocket.

When sewing the pockets, start by making the flaps. 
Then, stay-stitch the corners of the skirt pockets at the stitching line. Place the flaps (wrong side of flap to right side of skirt) so that they reach exactly from corner to corner (on those stitching lines) and sandwich the pocket lining (right side to right side of skirt) over the pocket flap. It is best to sew with the skirt on top, so you can follow the stay-stitching lines. 
After sewing, clip the seam allowances on skirt and pocket lining to the corners and turn the lining to the inside. Press and understitch (don't topstitch).
Sew the seam on the pocket back. Pin and sew pocket back to pocket lining. In those vertical-ish bits at the top (right down to the corner), this new line of stitching should be exactly on top of the line of stitching which attached the pocket lining to the skirt. 
And that's your stick-out pocket!

March 22, 2015

Orange bliss

OK, to make a long story short: I love this dress!
Even when I was trying it on half-way through construction, it never failed to cheer me up. I think it has a lot to do with the colour, a super-bright kind of burnt orange. The fabric, a soft mid-weight fine wale corduroy is also rather nice  to wear. And of course, I love the design.

I loved it on the inspiration picture. This was the kind of thing I started using Pinterest for: So I could remember the great finds in the thick tomes of my vintage magazines. It was already described as a practical-yet-elegant dress, made in brightly coloured in corduroy there and in this case, I saw no reason to try and re-invent the wheel. This dress just looked right for me. And when I found this fabric on the sale table at a market stall a few months ago, I knew it was meant to be. 
This was the dress I kept thinking about while I was working on my 1930's dress...

With just the picture to go on, I drafted what I thought the pattern might look like, with a change of collar, because I like mine better (at least, I thought I did. Half-way I started to doubt, as members of We Sew Retro Sew & Tell may know. But I ended up sticking with my go-to large-ish collar and I'm really happy with it).
The bodice and sleeve are the ones I drafted for my flounce dress. They are comfortable and pretty in that dress and rather look like the inspiration dress: a fitted shirtdress with set-in sleeves.

The skirt was based on my new pencil skirt block. It has no side seams except in the hip-pieces under the pocket and width of the darts is in the short seams which attach the pockets. The pocket flaps were cut separately and I applied fusible cotton to the inside halves, to help them stand out proudly. And of course, pleats were added at two centimeters from center front.

I hit a bit of a snag on Friday, when I thought I could finish the dress and found out that the two kinds of orange buttons in my stash were really no match for this fabric. Luckily, I found two good options at the market on Saturday morning. And yesterday, with the dress itself done, I decided that this was the time to use the one 'cover-a-buckle' kit I've been hoarding for years now. These things are not easy to come by here in the Netherlands. I bought this one at a haberdashery stall at the market. The were going out of business and sold all kinds of odds and ends from their warehouse in the last couple of months. They only had three of these kits, in two sizes and I, stupidly, just bought one. I think it was rather old, the design of the package looked 1970's to me...

And this was definitely the right project for it. The dress didn't look right with my usual belts and I love the look with this matching one.
Now, I just think I should look out for more buckle-kits...

P.S. E thought it would be fun to take pictures with the inspiration casually lying around in the foreground. I thought it would be fun to try and copy the picture. We did both but unfortunately all against the light. 

March 19, 2015

Those hips!

I decided to squeeze in one more dress before I start with real spring sewing. 

This dress. 
Don't you think it's just my kind of dress? Regular readers of this blog will know that I'm a devoted fan of stick out pockets. And of hip-enhancing design features in general. I've made regular pockets with flaps on the hip, several kinds of stick-out pockets, in skirts, a coat and dresses and even the occasional design with crazy wide draped shapes in that area...
I love wearing all those things I don't think it would be a bit much to add one more. After all, this one will be entirely different again.

And that made me think... 
As a teenager, when I was starting to get interested in fashion, I quickly learned that the family pear shape (yes, it's a family thing. I have a sister, a mother, two aunts and the pictures of my grandmother in her younger years to prove it) was a bit of an obstacle. No dress ever fitted properly and I was lucky that the rise on trousers and skirts was getting lower just then.
When I started sewing for myself on a regular basis, that helped. But still, fit was an important reason to sign up for pattern making lessons. Pattern making combined with an increasing interest in vintage fashion settled it: I love my hips.

Over the past few years, I had the opportunity to find out how a random selection of other women in this country feel about this subject.
A twenty-year-old who was doing work experience with designer-friend M while I was helping to get the collection finished that she preferred "a bit of a belly" over "a fat ass"... I did point out that, if nothing else, there are medical reasons to disagree with that.
She was hardly alone with that opinion though. When working in bridal stores, I often had to change the way I held a dress around a shopping bride-to-be. I would usually make a point of drawing in the dresses at the waist, to get as ideal a shape as possible from them. At least, I would until the customer started complaining the dress made her hips look fat. 
It was hard to believe for me, but many a modern woman prefers her torso to look like an as-thin-as-possible rectangle...

It kind of makes sense to blame fashion. After all, ever since the mid-1990's the ideal body has been "thin". Every once in a while, fashion glossies will mention that "curves are back" but usually that just means some designers have used corset-like details and a model with a B cup has been spotted on the runways. 
You don't have to be a fashion history geek to know that fashionable "ideal" silhouettes changed a lot more over the decades before that. 
Clothing technology, global manufacturing, branding and the way we shop has changed enormously over that time but the ideal body shape... Not so much.
And what's more: Bodies have changed. It's tempting to think that individual body shape is a given but that's only partly true. What you wear can influence your shape too. Especially if you wear it while growing up. How many women under 30 do you know who don't have a 'hip dent' at the point where the waistband of low-rise jeans hits? And how many over 35 who do? 

Whether it's for fashion, out of convenience or simply because there doesn't seem to be another option many of us are messing up our hips. 
It's not as bad as squeezing in your ribcage which was also fashionable for a long time but still... 
I guess what I'm curious about is this: It's that obvious someone like me, a seamstress who loves 1950's looks would be willing to embrace a body shape that isn't in tune with 'normal' fashion but how about you? 

March 16, 2015


And now my 1937 dress is finished! 

It may not look very different from its picture in my previous post but it is: The zipper has been sewn down in its entirety, the back neck/ front panel/ scarf-thing has been finished properly, everything has been hemmed. It's a finished dress!
As you can probably tell, I didn't change the fit of the sleeves or the hem length. The sleeves are quite comfortable like this and I don't think they look over-the-top. It doesn't look 'normal' by 21h century standards but it doesn't have to, after all, it is a design from 1937. Which is also why I kept the hem length prescribed in the pattern. 
By now, I'm feeling almost embarrassed about my earlier complaining... After all, all I really had to change was the size. The proportions of the dress were fine. (I'm glad I traced the pattern, rather than cutting it out)

I'm still a bit undecided about the look. The dress is comfortable, there are details I like but I'm not sure. And I still think it photographs better than it looks, which is unusual. 

In this picture, you can see the design lines a bit better. 

I think I will make this dress again later in the year, in a very soft cotton, with short sleeves and a long scarf in the same fabric. That should match the style better. 
Because after all, this is an interesting dress: Curved panels, narrow A-line skirt with some extra flare at center front, center front/scarf, darted sleeve heads. 

I didn't follow all the instructions (which are clear and well illustrated). You were supposed to fold back the seam allowances on some panels and topstitch those on. I know that's a normal method of construction in 1930's and 1940's patterns but I didn't like the idea. Pressing seam allowances which are both curved and partially on the bias is an almost certain way to stretch them out of size and shape. So, instead I stitched the seams normally and topstitched afterwards. 
I also didn't make the front closure with fabric loops and covered buttons. It's a nice feature but fiddly to make and it could weigh down the delicate fabric quite a bit. Because this dress was going to be kind of a wearable muslin, I decided not to bother.
I'm sure I'll wear the dress at home (in fact, I'm wearing it right now) and I am interested in trying out more 1930's and 1940's looks. I am still getting used to it though. 
And of course, this is my first creation for the 2015 Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge...