Vintage Vogue 2915 // Orange is the new black

I am totally obsessed with orange right now. Instead of filtering by fabric type in my online shopping, I’ve been filtering by colour.

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The fabric I used for this trench is an Italian stretch wool suiting that goes by the colour, “pumpkin”. It couldn’t be more appropriate for Fall. Originally, I had my mind set on sewing a trench coat in a heavy silk satin, but economics had me looking at poly satin instead (which I just couldn’t find the love for, or perhaps it wasn’t the perfect shade of orange). In the end, I was sensible and landed on some wool fabric and I’m very glad I did. Anything other than wool just wouldn’t get any wear here in the Midwest.

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The fabric is a beautifully, weighted wool twill, with a significant amount of stretch in both directions. It’s not a knit, but its lycra content meant that I had to treat it like knit. Stabilising the shoulder seams and neckline was essential. I toyed with lining this coat (as per the original pattern), but I really wanted something casual, that I could throw on and go. And lining deinitely wasn’t necessary with this fabric. The wool is perfectly opaque and the underside is as respectable as the right side. In fact, the wrong side is smoother, which makes it suitable for resting against the skin. Lastly, I pretreated the fabric in the machine and dryer before sewing, so I can wash and dry it easily at home.

I used vintage Vogue 2915 with a few small modifications. I sewed a size 12 but adjusted the shoulder seams for a broader back. In retrospect, I possibly could have gotten away without this fit adjustment because of the fabric’s generous stretch. And in fact, a tighter fit through the shoulders (in a stretchy fabric like this) would have resulted in a more consistently nice shape in the sleeve cap when worn because the sleeve cap would stretch over the shoulders. In some of my photos (above and below), the sleeve seam has slipped off my shoulder and the sleeve cap doesn’t look great (because there is no sleeve head to support it). But in the two photos below that, the shoulder seams sit in the correct postion and the sleeve looks perfect. I guess this is also the thing with an unstructured, cardigan-style coat. Technically, the fit is good though, and at least I know that this pattern will fit me well when I’m ready to use it again and make it up in a stable woven.

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Other changes I made to the pattern:

  • I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch.
  • I ditched the collar and front yoke flaps as I felt they wouldn’t suit the casual drape of the front.
  • The front coat pieces have been made wider at the centre front (by about 4-5 inches), to create the front drape.
  • I skipped all front fastenings and the belt. The original pattern was double breasted.
  • I ditched the lining.
  • I drafted a wide facing for the neckline. I used a pretty silk CDC for this. Since I knew the facing would be visible at times, I turned it into a feature point. I used the same silk to line the pockets, sleeve bands, and epaulets.

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This was one of those makes that just seemed to grow more involved as I got into it. I set out to whip together a quick trench coat without all the detailing. But once I got started, anything less than a bound buttonhole (amongst other things) just seemed unacceptable. And whilst on the topic of unacceptable, I can’t, for the life of me, remember if I pressed that hem or not… I think Netflix turned my brain to smush while I was blind-stitching it…so it’s back to the ironing board with this trench before I wear it!

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Vintage Vogue 2265 // The Coat

Have you ever had a project that turned out exactly as you’d hoped for, perhaps even a little better. This coat was that for me. I felt like it took forever to sew, but that was mainly because I put it on hold over the holidays to prioritise the Christmas sewing that I hadn’t really intended on doing in the first place.

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I used a vintage Vogue pattern and the main modifications I made were to do with fit. I lengthened the bodice, skirt and arms. I also made a SBA and graded the waist and bodice side seams in quite a bit. My shoulders and waist differ by about two standard sizes, which makes buying garments like this near impossible. And then my height and arm length usually throws things off further. But I’m so happy to report that I nailed the fit! It’s probably my first classically cut coat or jacket that fits my shoulders, bust, arms, and waist as it should, and all at the same time.

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I employed traditional tailoring methods to make this coat, helped out by my trusty Singer book on Tailoring. I block fused everything bar the sleeves with a fusible interfacing. This step took the place of the underlining that was called for in the vintage pattern.

I then hand stitched  most of the remaining hair canvas and twill tape down. I also stitched the lining in by hand. I know it’s possible to bag a coat out using the machine, but I’m terribly biased when it comes to hand-stitching linings for coats and jackets, or any other very special project for that matter. I figure that for the time it takes to pad stitch collars and lapels (which I prefer over machine stitching) it’s worth the little extra effort to attach the lining by hand too.

As a side note, I also feel like I need to mention shoulder pads here. They weren’t called for in the pattern, but in any coat, jacket, or blazer they are an absolute necessity. Mine are slim/medium sized ones that don’t add any bulk to my coat. But they do add structure to the shoulders and give the garment a professional finish. Never skip the shoulder pads (and this is coming from somebody with broad shoulders, an asset I always look to disguise rather than exaggerate in clothes).

The outer fabric is a wool coating. The off white portion is finely woven wool with a smooth texture and very subtle shimmer. Black wool tufts are woven through it in a rustic herringbone pattern. It was way more beautiful than I expected when it arrived on my doorstep so I may have ordered a little more to stash away for the future. The black twill weave lining is acetate. It has the most glorious oily black gloss to it in real life but was a horror to cut in the dry, static winter air of our house right now. I had to literally peel it off the cutting mat.

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Because of the texture of the wool coating, I felt that bound buttonholes would be unsuitable. I would have liked to do the buttonholes by hand but my skill level needs to improve a bit on that front first. I tested the fabric with some machine buttonholes and my Pfaff pulled through very nicely. The buttonholes are lost in the busy fabric, so I’m not too worried that they weren’t couture. I covered buttons to use for the front and the sleeve vents. I also positioned small buttons on the front coat facing to stitch through when I attached the outer buttons. I’ve seen this a lot in RTW coats. It makes the inside of the coat look pretty, and it reduces the strain on the coat fabric.

And if you’re wondering where my inspiration came from for this coat, it was none other than Anna Wintour herself. I considered making a belt to go with my coat too, and may still do so oneday. But right now, I’m perfectly happy with it as it is.

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Vintage Kwik Sew 1034 // scrapbust sweaters

I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas! We had a great day, but not a white Christmas in Kansas. However, I believe we are expecting snow any day now, so it could be a special white birthday for Miss Five tomorrow.

Santa was very generous this year. The big guy bought a joint present for all my girls, in the form of a very basic, but well reviewed, Brother XL-2610 sewing machine. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a learning machine for my kids (and I wasn’t about to share my Pfaff), but I did want them to have a machine that would be simple to use and reasonably sturdy. So far the machine is working well and the girls are finding it easy to develop confidence on. And because it’s not my precious machine, I’m happy to let them play on it alone without too much anxiety.

At the moment, we’re still working on threading the machine and sewing straight lines at a precise distance from the fabric edge, but I’m happy to report that Miss Five has proclaimed it the best present from Santa this year.

And while we’re talking about Christmas, I thought I’d share a few little sweaters I made for my girls using an old Kwik Sew pattern in my stash. I modified it slightly to block in a few different fabrics and lengthen the bodice, but otherwise I left it pretty unchanged.

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Miss Seven’s sweater was made up in a size 8. It’s pretty roomy on her, but my big girls grow like weeds so I always err on the larger size with them. The bodice length is extremely short in the pattern so I also lengthened it by 2 inches before adding the bottom band. The black portion of the sweater is from a new merino jersey sweater of mine (that was too small). The ivory ruffles and tiger fabric were both small remnants in my scrap basket and specifically chosen by the recipients.

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Miss Five’s sweater is mostly tiger fabric, with a little merino trim. I made this one as a tunic to incorporate the ivory trim better. I also made a standard version of this pattern for her in rainbow French terry. It’s a very simple and practical raglan pattern.

 

Vintage McCall’s 6497 // A shirt for Miss Seven

My original plan was to make Miss Seven a pair of pink cigarette pants to go with her new coat. However, I fell in love with every view on the front of this pattern cover and I thought I’d try out the shirt first.

I used more of my vintage sheet set to make this shirt. The print looks so lovely in a shirt that I’m planning to make myself one now too.

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The pattern went together beautifully. My only complaint was to do with the sleeve cap ease, but I find excessive sleeve cap ease a fairly common feature of old patterns. Next time I’ll shave some height of the sleeve cap so it can be set in a lot easier.

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I made this pattern up in a size 8, which corresponded quite well with Miss Seven and a half’s chest measurement. I expected it to be a little bigger on her than it is though. However, it would stand to reason that she has lovely broad shoulders like her mother. The torso fit is lovely and it looks comfortable. I suspect the pants and skirt in the pattern will swim on her tiny hips so I may have to grade them down first.

And before I sign off on this post, I just want to share a quick peek of the best leotard ever. It’s a birthday present for Miss Five. My beautiful, gentle Miss Seven is modelling it. The tiger poses will come later with the fierce Miss Five. I even added tiger eyes to the back of the suit so she could terrorise people behind her too. The pattern is Jalie 3136, which I’ve now made more times than I can remember.

I made the fabric myself on Spoonflower. I used the sport lycra, which is a nice weight and completely opaque.  In fact, this fabric generated so much interest that I ended up purchasing the license for the photo so the design could be made available to others. It will only be available on Spoonflower for a limited time though.

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Simplicity 5047: Anna Sui herringbone chambray man-shirt

I’d originally intended to sew this shirt up as an Archer. I even purchased the pattern (the PDF version because that’s all there was TWO weeks ago). The problem is that we don’t have a printer at home. Like a land-line phone, it’s one of those things we haven’t really felt an urgency to purchase since setting up from scratch over here.

Hubby was going to get it printed for me, but then he balked at the 60 pages and promptly left for a week long business trip. Honestly, it wasn’t me! I had my gloriously soft Anna Sui chambray on standby and it was giving me the eye so I was forced to come up with some alternate arrangements.


Introducing Simplicity 5047, a vintage men’s shirt pattern that I picked up for a 25c steal at a recent garage sale. The pattern is for a 36″ chest. My bust measurement is 35″, but without much bust to speak of. I also have quite broad shoulders, so my logic told me that perhaps a small men’s shirt pattern would be more likely to fit, where other’s have failed before.

Anna Sui button up and my leather circle skirt

I was right! I am so happy with the fit. The shoulders are wide enough. No broad back adjustment was necessary. I wasn’t aiming for a slim fit, but I didn’t want it to be too boxy or roomy through the torso either. It feels just right. I didn’t have to add fish eye darts in the back like I thought I would. The arm length works, but next time I will lengthen them a smidgen. I figured the arms would be longer than usual to cater for long, man arms. As it turns out, my alien arms are a little longer than that of mankind. The only change I made to the pattern was to flick one side of the cuff placket around so that I could have French cuffs instead of regular.



 



 
I like the look of chambray paired with my leather circle skirt. But when I was looking at the photos, I realised for the first time that a little peep had been drawing on my leg. Leg is clearly a far more creative medium than paper. I like that she matched my skirt though.
 
  

The best thing about this pattern is the collar. In fact, if I’m perfectly honest, it was the collar that swayed me more towards getting started on the vintage pattern instead of waiting for my Archer. But unfortunately it is another one of those all in one collar band and collars. It works well enough, but I just feel that it isn’t the proper way of doing things.The neck width feels great though. I love it done up to the top button. But it also works well undone and paired with my favourite maxi skirt.

I love the fit of this shirt, but there are a few construction details that I will change next time I sew this pattern. There is no proper front button placket. It’s more of a self-facing that is folded inwards, but not stitched down. Next time I will add a proper front placket as well as a collar band for a more professional finish. I will also shave a bit off the sleeve cap. There was a ridiculous amount of unnecessary ease in those sleeve caps.

It’s so nice to sew a shirt that fits well right off the bat. I’ve always had trouble finding RTW shirts that fit, due to my long arms and broad shoulders (comparatively speaking to other females). Perhaps I should have been looking in the menswear section instead!

 




Smocked frock

Miss very-nearly-Four had a moment of despair when no dresses could be found in her wardrobe, so we delved into one of my treasure chests for a bit of distraction. And just look at what we found!

 
 

No, I didn’t make this beautiful little dress. It is a wonderful old hand-smocked frock given to me by my mother-in-law a little while back. Just look at all the hard work that has gone into the smocking and French seams throughout. As you can see there was a little existing damage I will need to repair, but I only noticed this once I was dressing Harper, and at that point, I was unable to back out…

 

 It’s probably more than 30 years old but it looks like this little frock is going to clothe another generation. My little girl was immediately smitten with it. Needless to say, she also got a lot of attention whilst out on our walk to the shops yesterday.

Marc Jacobs playsuit vintage Style

It all started with an impulse purchase of some Marc Jacobs cotton knit, which was both gloriously soft and lightweight. I planned to make the playsuit in this vintage Style pattern.

 


I actually love everything about this playsuit, so the only modification I planned was to size it down a little and possibly lengthen the legs to keep them in proportion for my 5″10 frame.

The project didn’t get off to the best of starts. I prewash most of my fabrics, and thought it would be a good idea to do so this time too. Now, I am not sure if my memory fails me, but I am pretty sure I took home fabric that had a sharp white background covered in black, purple and blue flowers. In any case, I got a bit of a shock when I hung it up, as the background was now grey. I just didn’t love it anymore, not at all!

So my excitement dipped a bit as I commenced the cutting. For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cut my fabric late at night. I somehow managed to lay out my pattern pieces in such a manner that would leave me short of half a leg…genius! I could have slapped myself! So now I was not only short of fabric for my playsuit but I would inevitably be left with a significant remnant I no longer really liked, nor trusted to wash with my whites.

Problem solving mode kicked in and I shortened both legs to make a shortie style playsuit instead. It wasn’t exactly what I was after, but I figured at the very least, it would make some lovely pyjamas! Because although I wasn’t too fond of my grey-scale fabric, it still has the most delightfully soft hand.

I also decided to ditch the pockets because who needs pockets in their pyjamas anyway?! I regret skipping the pockets now because it didn’t turn out too bad after all. I am pretty sure I will use this pattern again, but I will aim to make the long leg version next time, and I would also put a thin band of elastic in the top of the back bodice piece instead of the button.

This dress was made for twirls!

 

I’m actually very comfortable with how I look now. I can’t change who I am and I love myself exactly as I am (although this wasn’t always the case!). Some people would say I am incredibly lucky. I am blessed with those tall, lean genes that we see in so many magazines, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t dreamt of being smaller or curvier, or bustier in the past. As a dietitian and mother, I spend a disproportionate amount of time trying to convince girls and women that they can’t all look the same and to love the body they were given. Make it healthier, yes! But to love and embrace themselves for the way they were born. 

Having babies, in particular girl babies, played a massive role in making me reassess the way I judged and treated my own body. I realised that if I couldn’t speak aloud about the things I loved about myself, to accept my flaws, as well as compliments with aplomb, then how was I ever going to teach my daughters to do the same. Every time my daughters call me a princess or tell me I am pretty, I make sure I say thank you and agree with them wholeheartedly. Over time, you start to believe what you say. But what makes me the happiest of all is to hear my daughters talk about themselves and their bodies with such love and confidence. I know they are young yet, but I am hopeful we are getting off to a good start for a body-loving future.

Now, the point of this post is not to analyse the intricacies of body image, but rather, to introduce you to my latest creation…the product of my fabric splurge! How I got off track in the first place was because this dress is just made for curves, of which I clearly have none. It is a significant departure from my usual style of relatively fitted clothes. But it is also a style of dress that I have secretly always wanted to own. Slinky, trapeze dress, thank you for finally finding me. I think we are going to have lots of fun together. Especially since I have discovered that I can solve the problem of my missing curves by swishing and twirling and never allowing this wonderful dress to sit still. So if you see me twirling down the street, you will know why. This dress is made for curves or failing that, big twirls!


 


On the sewing side of things, I was a wee bit nervous about getting stuck into this project, not only because of the decadent fabric I was using, but because the type of dress I was making was outside my comfort zone. Most things in my wardrobe are quite fitted. I also wasn’t entirely convinced that my fabric choice was going to be able to sufficiently ‘modernise’ the vintage pattern I had chosen to use. View B by the way! But with a lowered front slit opening instead. I am still thinking of adding a little seed bead cord/tie to fasten or loosely tie the front edges. I love the sleeves at the moment but I can convert the dress back to a sleeveless option if I want. It has fabulous big pockets and I love that it is tea length. Although after seeing my photos, I realise I should have made mine a smidgen longer. 


Making the dress was a great experience. I learnt a few valuable lessons. Viscose is tricky! At least, long lengths cut on the bias are tricky, but not unmanageable. I needed to take my time, pin carefully and baste often. I also learnt about the power of patterns. NEVER, ever disregard the pattern. Now I knew this gorgeous fabric had a pattern, but I thought it was random enough to skip matching the circles. I also didn’t think I would have enough fabric to match them. But now I look at my completed dress, and the mismatched pattern is a little bit of a disappointment to me. At the very least, I should have thought to reposition the blues and greens at the centre front instead of the sides, since they are my favourite colours. You can see my mismatch below.


But on a positive, I also learnt how to fit sleeves into the armscye better, specifically fitting them for my own body shape. Sleeves have always been a great source of frustration to me. No matter how carefully I attach them, they still never quite fit me properly. So I referred back to a great little book I had read in the past. Apparently, with forward pointing shoulders like mine, I need to rotate the sleeve cap forward a bit and redistribute the ease accordingly. Amazing! This was one of those lightbulb moments that make all the frustrations of sewing worthwhile. Now, I finally GET it and will look forward to lots of perfectly fitted sleeves in the future! 

 
 

The back to front switcharoo

So my last fabric dyeing session wasn’t a great success. I decided to have a go at creating some floral designs on a light cotton/silk voile. Somehow, my hand decided to draw monster flowers, rather than the delicate buds in my minds eye. I also realised later that I hadn’t mixed the dye thoroughly enough and you can see grainy ‘dots’ of dye all through my flowers. You can only just see this dotty effect in the photo, but in real life it is quite an obvious flaw in the semi sheer fabric.

I can’t bear to throw away fabric, so I decided to make a summer nightie for my daughter using the pattern below. I chose to make the sleeveless nightie in View D, albeit a little shorter.

This is probably the oldest pattern I have ever attempted. The instructions were very clear and the tissue pieces were so delicate with several parts missing. I must also admit that I rushed through this project and didn’t take the time to transfer the markings from the paper correctly (well those that hadn’t been lost in time). I also skipped the ribbon seam binding because I didn’t have it at hand. The dress may have looked a little better with the ribbon, but I still don’t think it could have salvaged the nightie. But hang on…what happens if we turn the nightie around?! It’s just fabulous Mummy, all problems solved, and I especially love the big flower at centre front!