Category Archives: The next project

Mood board: teal and navy shirtdress

Good, ol’ shirtdresses are making a comeback at the pattern companies, so one of them will be my next project.


Next up is View B, the version with short sleeves and the shorter skirt. 

Butterick 5846 is rather new. Online and in the catalog, the photo of the actual sample garment is shown with vintage styling. Accessories can take it either way. I plan to do a matching belt with a vintage slide buckle.

Of course, the advantage of a dress pattern with a wide skirt is I don’t have to fit anything below the waist. The finished garment measurements on the pattern indicate there is plenty of ease at the bust, but I’ll still need to make changes: lower the bust point, add length to the front, subtract length at the side with a dart. I’m getting better at full bust adjustments, but I still intend to muslin the bodice.

The fabric is a cotton lawn from JoAnn’s. Isn’t it pretty? JoAnn’s seems to have a better selection of apparel fabric these days. I can’t go in for a notion without finding something I want to get a few yards of. Recent scores have included a coral patterned cotton lawn, a blue and pink madras plaid, and a couple of linen/cotton blends.

Consequently, my stash is growing nicely. I have enough to make five or six dresses and have already matched up each fabric with a pattern.

I had been planning to do a series of vintage separates, but I am loving the idea of dresses right now. They are versatile during Northern California’s spring, summer and fall, when we have warm to hot days with cooler nights. With a natural-fiber dress, you just need a cardigan to have all your bases covered.

I washed several lengths of fabric on Sunday and traced off my pattern in Swedish tracing paper. So this project is under way. Next up is the pattern alteration and the muslin.


Sewing a vintage wardrobe: Separates

In my last post, I bemoaned the state of my wardrobe. There are some very obvious holes that, when filled, would make everything work together — and enable me to wear the blouse I just finished. Which got me thinking: It’s time to put a wardrobe plan together.

The delightful Sarah took the time to comment on my post and said her wardrobe plan consists of dresses because they don’t have to go with anything. Right she is, which made me wonder: Why do I favor separates? I realized that it’s ready to wear’s fault.

I am different sizes on top and bottom, which by default sends me to separates. I’m also larger than the B-cup for which ready to wear is designed. Thus, I have a lot of sweaters and knits. What was I thinking, then, when I decided I ought to buy a new dress for my daughter’s upcoming eighth-grade promotion? The dresses I bought online HAD to be returned (shudder), and the search for one in the store was fruitless. Off to the sweaters, where I found a nice linen-colored number with a slightly 1920s feel that looks good with the two skirts I most recently made. Immediate problem solved.

But what about the rest of my wardrobe?

I decided that I need to sew some separates in 2012. And not just randomly. I need a plan!

I’ve posted before on the following book:

Better Homes and Gardens Sewing Book, 1970 edition

I LOVE this sewing book! This is the 1970 edition. It’s in three-ring binder form.

The pages on wardrobe planning have always fascinated me. I showed some pages on accessorizing in an earlier post.

But I’m going to use the page on overall wardrobe planning to drive my sewing plan for 2012.

Better Homes and Garden Sewing Book, page from 1970 edition

It all seems so simple doesn’t it?

I’m not going to follow these suggestions slavishly because I’m a girl who likes pants. And here is my main pattern:

Simplicity 3688

Simplicity 3688. I’ve already made this skirt successfully.

So here’s the plan:

  • Perfect an A-line skirt pattern and make it in navy. I’ve made the Simplicity 3688 skirt twice: once as is and once with a contour waistband that I drafted. Contour waistbands aren’t vintage, but they work better on me. The version I did is 1 inch too big in the waist, and I may want it a little longer. I’ll be doing a wearable muslin of McCall’s 6438 next:
McCall's 6438

I like the longer length on this one and the four-gore structure, which will make it easy to change from a side to a back zipper because I want side pockets.

  • Perfect a wide-leg pants pattern and make it in navy. Wide-leg pants are flattering on me, and I like them cuffed. I also want a contour waistband and pockets, so there will probably be some drafting going on.
  • Perfect one basic blouse pattern and make it in cream. For this, I have no clue what I’ll do, but it won’t be Simplicity 3688. Jewel necklines are heinous on those with a full bust. One of Simplicity’s Amazing Fit blouse patterns (which have different pattern pieces for different cup sizes) may be involved.
  • Perfect one jacket pattern and make it in a navy pattern. The jacket pattern for Simplicity 3688 is a perfect 1940s platform for all sorts of embellishments. I’ve been saving pictures of 1940s jackets to one of my boards on Pinterest for inspiration. This will be the last project because it scares me silly! The pattern doesn’t call for tailoring techniques, but I want to try some. It will be the first time.

This will no doubt be a fairly lengthy process of wearable muslins, trial-and-error alterations, and new-to-me techniques. Now that I think of it, it’s mid-May. The remainder of 2012 may not be enough time!

Polka dot postmortem and new project preview

Now that the polka dot outfit has made its public debut (on Halloween, no less), it’s time to talk about what it was like to wear it.

It was conceived as a 1940s-era outfit. The skirt is from Simplicity 3688, a reproduction 1940s pattern, but altered for a contour waistband. The top is from Simplicity 4047 (out of print), a reproduction 1950s pattern. I have worn it out once, for our Mad Men Halloween at work.

The skirt is easy to wear. It’s probably just a smidge too big in the waist, but not so much that I gave it even one thought during the day. I’ve thought about stretching some elastic inside the waistband to make it flexible  (my waistline can vary about an inch within a single DAY, particularly when salty pizza is involved for lunch), but I’m not sure I want to mess up how tidy the whole thing is.

The top is surprisingly comfortable despite how fitted it is. I knew it was a little tight across the upper back, but this was not at all noticeable during a day spent sitting at a desk and occasionally walking to a copy machine. Even with the belt on, I was completely at ease. I guess if those fitted styles are fitted correctly, they can be worn with total comfort.

Also, I love-love-love the neckline! I plan to steal it for a dress some day.

1960s style was required for our Mad Men Halloween. I can’t do a credible job with 1960s hair, so here is a redo, a little more 1940s style.

Polka dot top and skirt, 1940s styling

Ah, this is how I intended to wear this outfit! I really like that $7 plastic rattan purse. Look closely. Can you see the polka dot trim on my shoes? No? Too bad — That was the inspiration for the whole outfit!

At a certain point on Halloween in my 1960s garb, I had to walk a few blocks through Downtown Sacramento. The only thing that made me at all self-conscious was the pair of white gloves tucked into my belt.

Now that I’ve seen it properly styled, I look forward to wearing this outfit again — but probably not until spring! I learned a LOT on this project, so this is overall a winner. Even though this “summer” outfit took me well into October to make!

Next up, a wearable muslin of Colette Patterns’ Sencha top.

Here is my mood board of the fun cotton I found.

Brown and aqua Sencha mood board

If you can’t tell, those crazy space-age shapes are aqua on a brown background. The buttons are aqua, too. I have a long brown A-line skirt I’ll wear this with.

I decided to do a wearable muslin because I don’t anticipate needing to alter this pattern all that much. According to the Colette Patterns’ site, the sizes are based on a C-cup; and actual bust measurement should be used when selecting a pattern. With tucks at the waistline, rather than darts to the bust, the construction should be unfitted enough in all the right places not to require much in the way of alterations. I’ll check the bodice for overall length — and see just where those tucks will release on me — but other than that, I may be good to go. Also, I note that the pattern does not call for interfacing in the button and buttonhole areas, which I find curious. I’ll be interfacing them anyway.

The Magic 8 Ball says “All signs point to yes” on this wearable muslin idea.

The “real” version will be in a navy silk with a gray floral design. I’m still pondering my way through the seam finishes on that one. The sleeve construction makes French seams impossible on the sides, so overcast may have to do, although I have crazy ideas about getting out my notes on couture and doing hand overcast seams. Insane, no? But maybe this silk doesn’t lend itself to that. I think pinking and stitching could be very pretty. And underlining in cotton batiste is still a possibility. Basically, the Sencha top in silk is one big silppery experiment that I am hoping results in a wearable garment. Time will tell  …

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