Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 1956 All Black Dress

I live in the middle of Rugby World Cup mania, so what else do you expect me to call my new black dress!

I've had this vintage pattern for a while now, but couldn't decide what to make it in.  However during a clean-out-under-the-bed I discovered a long forgotten roll of black polyester knit that ticked all the boxes!  I normally avoid polyester but this is actually quite nice - it is matt, firm like a double knit, and sews and presses well. So you can see I'm not a total polyester snob, particularly when it involves using up old fabric. Although I bet this dress will be relegated to the back of the wardrobe as soon as the humidity arrives!

The pattern is Simplicity 1714 from 1956 - I liked the clean lines of the sheath, the raised neckline with a front notch, and the quirky pocket placement.  This must have been the height of the sloping shoulder era, as I don't think I have seen illustrations this exaggerated before!  Here's the description:

"Two silhouettes, the sheath and the graceful flare, highlight this simple town-going basic with 3/4 kimono sleeves.  High neckline may be opened at centre or stitched.  Welts detail the bodice at right and the skirt at left sides."

I've decided I want to stay true to the original design when sewing vintage patterns, so nothing was altered except the size - I'm afraid I am no longer a 33" bust! The pattern is a Junior Misses', I'm not sure what the difference is to a Misses' but it fits me well straight out of the packet.

One of the suggested seam finishes was pinking - and this fabric was perfect for that so I pinked wherever I could:

The sleeves have triple darts at the elbow - a nice detail don't you think?

The instructions call for fake welt pockets, which suited me in this fabric.  I made the welts from a piece of silk satin that happened to be lying in the right place at the right time:

The raised neckline is darted and has a rather cute split at the CF (which is more visible when it is worn), along with a CB neck zip:

The pattern instructions said to finish the facing, then attach the zip, turning under the zip tape at the edge like this...

I always think this looks a bit huckery, so I inserted an invisible zip and faced it using my usual method.  I inserted an invisible zip in the side seam too.

The pattern called for bias seam binding to edge the neck facing - I didn't have any of that, but I did have some stretch organza foldover binding which did the job nicely.  I also used it to bind the hem edges of the sleeve and skirt, although the sleeve hem really needed bias binding.

Some electric blue grosgrain discovered in my trims was used to fix the waistline. I enjoy surprise touches like this - they make me smile every time I put the garment on, plus it uses up all those strange colours in your stash!

What else?  You can see the reinforcing stitching at the underarm point:

Another thing I did is fusetape the endpoint of the skirt CB seam at the vent.  On the L side I continued this down the inside fold of the pleat so it would press to a crisp fold:

Overall I'm really happy with this dress, it's very flattering and I think I'll wear it lots.  I may taper the skirt (after I've lost a couple of my winter kilos!), as it is actually quite straight and not tapered as the illustration indicates.
I'm even thinking about making the "graceful flare" version just for fun - what do you think?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bound Buttonholes - Some Refinements

I've already posted a tutorial on bound buttonholes, but I've made a few refinements to my technique while sewing the buttonholes on my cape so I'll share them with you here.  There is a small amount of hand sewing involved, but it does reduce a layer of bulk around the buttonhole edges so it is worth it!

This time I machine tacked the buttonhole positioning - I tacked a horizontal line through the centre of each buttonhole, and vertical lines marking either end:

This gives an accurate guideline where to start and stop stitching.  It is especially helpful when doing a line of buttonholes - it helps to keep that line straight, and to achieve parallel buttonholes of equal length at an equal distance from the front edge - I won't skip this step next time!

Next cut a square for the buttonhole welts - I have decided it is better to cut a slight rectangle, or mark the top edge or something, to avoid this!  I like to cut mine on the same grain as the front, so the buttonhole is most inconspicuous.  You can cut them across the grain so they contrast a little more, or cut them on the bias which is nice if you have stripes, or whatever - just cut them all the same way!

Cut length of welt = button width + button thickness + 2cm
Cut width of welt = (finished width of welt + 1cm) x 4
My buttons are 28mm wide and 4mm thick, so I need to cut my welt square at least 52mm long
I want my finished welts to be 3mm wide, so I need to cut my welt square at least 52mm wide

I am working on the collar stand, which I have blockfused.  This helps prevent a) a frayed disaster, and b) frayed nerves!  I fused the welt too, but you don't have to.

With right sides together and the square centred over the soon-to-be-buttonhole, tack it into position along the horizontal guideline:

Shorten your stitch length and stitch the top and bottom edges of the buttonhole.  Start with the needle exactly on the vertical line, 3mm (1/8") above the horizontal line (this is half a foot width for me):

Stitch parallel to the horizontal line, finishing with the needle exactly on the opposite vertical line:

I avoided backtacking and and left long threads to weave in, however next time I will sew a few reverse stitches instead - threading in the ends by hand is too labour intensive with negligible benefit:

Stitch again on the other side of the horizontal line:

Now you should have two perfectly parallel lines 6mm apart, that start and finish at the vertical guidelines (which happen to be horizontal in this picture, just to confuse...)

You can remove the horizontal lines of tacking now as they are no longer needed, keep the vertical ones though:

When weaving in the thread ends, but be sure to weave the ends away from the soon-to-be-clipped area or you will cut them, and your buttonhole will start falling apart!

I usually do all my buttonholes to this stage, then check they are all the same size/shape/parallel/etc before the cutting stage.

Cut through the width of the buttonhole welt between the stitching lines:

I found it beneficial to press the welts (but not the ends) toward the buttonhole at this stage:

Now cut the buttonhole opening - cut to within 6mm of the ends:

...then clip into the corners.  I found this is where those vertical guidelines are of real benefit as they mark the exact point to clip to!

Turn the welts through to the wrong side, taking care not to strain the corners:

Fold the welts around the edges you have just cut, so they 'bind' those raw edges:

The reverse will look like this:

It is tempting to press at this stage, but don't!  Instead stitch in the ditch to position the welt evenly 3mm all the way across:

I used a hand backstitch so my stitching was invisible, manipulating the layers between my fingers as I stitched to form a firm and even 3mm wide welt:

You could probably machine this part if you think your thread will be well disguised, like in a tweedy fabric for instance.  Here is the reverse after stitching in the ditch by hand:

Now close the ends, by folding back the front edge, and stitching across the clipped triangle.  Give the triangle a slight tug to square the corners:

Here the advantage of cutting your welts in one piece is revealed - make sure the cut ends of your welt line up for a really square end, like the picture above and not the picture below!   I like to stitch across the triangle once just to check everything is square, then backtack across it to secure more fully - having to unpick backtacking at this point is no fun!

See how the seam allowances at the ends (the green bits) unfold to become a single layer - this reduces bulk at the ends so they are flatter.  The finished buttonhole should be square at the corners:

I hand overcast the welts together for pressing.  Sometimes the welts can look slightly wider in the centre than at the corners, and you can draw them in a teeny bit with hand overcasting to correct this before pressing - this improved the squareness of mine:

Alternatively you can trim 1mm off the inner raw edges before binding - this might be necessary for thicker cloths.

I gave mine a good press, then trimmed the reverse like so - you could pink the long edge if you like:

That's it!

Well, almost - you will need to make holes in the facing to make the buttonhole operational.  I made windows using an organza patch and slipstitched them to the inside - this method is demonstrated in this tutorial (scroll down to 'Facing the Buttonhole' near the end):

This is my favourite bound buttonhole method because it has produced my best results to date!  It is a 'true' bound method where the raw edges really are bound, rather than turned out.  I particularly like how flat the finished appearance is - both the buttonhole welts and the area around the buttonhole have a similar finished thickness.  This equalising of bulk helps to reduce pressing impressions, and makes this method suitable for heavier weight fabrics.

Hope this helps for happier sewing!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Last Gasp of Winter Cape!

I've plucked this title from Tanit-Isis's post on her Last Gasp of Summer Dress, except of course we live in opposite hemispheres so I've made a Last Gasp of Winter Cape!  My sewing queue just gets more and more delayed during each season until sometimes it is almost too late, and I'm glad I'm not the only one, hehe!

I was prompted to "whip it up" about three weeks ago before the anticipated polar blast, but decided it was worthy of bound buttonholes, and therefore thought I should really wait until the buttons arrived so the buttonholes would be the right size.  Three weeks later...

The pattern is from a Burda magazine that I got out of the library - it is #101 from August 2008, and I chose to make the long version A:

I may shorten it (the B version is 15cm shorter), but it feels quite elegant this length.  Plus I wanted to avoid the 'shorter than wide' look, as well as the 'fingertips sticking out the bottom' look.  And then there is the 'chop me in half' look and the 'hey look, my thighs are widest right here' look to watch out for - as you can see many Gemini-like indications and contraindications were tortuously considered to come to this non-decision..... as usual second opinions are welcome :)

Here's the back - there is an optional half belt in the pattern which I intended to add, but it meant sewing another two bound buttonholes, funny how it suddenly seemed unimportant!

And some all-important detail shots:

I do love the generous collar, but the collar stand doesn't really need the extension.  If I was making it again, I'd leave the extension off, as it doesn't look as great with the top buttons undone trenchcoat style. That would be handy in our warm temperate winters - I'd chop it off now if there wasn't a buttonhole in the middle!

And on the inside I pickstitched the lining/facing seam, because I'm just loving this hand-touched look at the moment! The seam is actually machined and the stitching is purely decorative.

I've only made one other cape in my life, and the first thing that comes to mind when you slip one on is: "what do I do with my hands?!".  It takes a little getting used to!

I did get into a bit of a kerfuffle with my handbag and gloves and arm openings when I boarded a bus and hurriedly tried to find some bus money - lucky it was just me and the bus driver!  But I do hope to eventually be able to make it through a Cape Day with elegance!

Do you own a cape, or plan to make one soon? How do you find the movement factor - can you manoeuvre your arms OK, or are they outmanoeuvred by the cape?!