December 19, 2014

The Dior belt

I hope you're going to like this. My earlier post about this outfit didn't inspire any enthusiasm but on the other hand, tutorials tend to be popular...

Just imagine this: The year is 1957, the month February. Of course, you've seen the new designer fashion in magazines since the start of winter and of course, there was a new line by Christian Dior (which would be his second to last because he died in October of that year, but there was no way to know that in February). And then as now, such reports in ladies' magazines are purely 'aspirational'. There's just no way a normal woman could afford such exquisite garments. But it's nice to see the direction in which fashion is going (the influence of Paris on everyday fashion was much stronger back then) and maybe to take some inspiration for your own sewing.
By February, it will be clear which elements of designer fashion have crossed over to a larger audience and the 'Dior belt' is a clear winner.

It's a wide gathered belt most often seen worn over full pleated or gathered skirts (the belt in this picture is actually not a Dior belt, it's a regular smooth one). But, contrasting or matching, it can be paired with other clothing as well.

The trend has been eagerly taken up by the RTW industry and everyone, who can pull off the look, seems to be getting in on it. And now, thanks to your friendly weekly, so can you. And now in December 2014, thanks to this vintage-loving blogger, so can you.

In fact, this description (my how-to here is based on the one in the magazine but that one is so vague I've changed it quite a bit to allow you to actually follow it. Which is also why I don't feel like I'm breaking their copyright) is the earliest designer rip off pattern I've ever seen. Some magazines occasionally bought couture designs and offered those to their readers as patterns but this is different. This didn't come down that official route.

For the belt, you need about 90 by 90 cm of fabric, 3 or 4 pieces of boning of 8 cm long (the poly stuff is fine for this, in fact, better than something you can't stitch through. Just don't forget to meld the ends they can't unravel or prick through the fabric) and 4 hooks and and eyes.

Fold your fabric diagonally. You have to draw the belt along the fold, so it will be on the bias. For the width, measure 27 cm from the fold, the length should be the same as your waist length (do not add seam allowance to these measurements. Fabric stretches on the bias and this belt needs to be a bit snug to look good).

Cut out the rectangle and sew it together along the open sides using a small stitch (so the stitching won't break when the fabric stretches out). Leave a small hole to turn the whole thing. I made mine at one of the sides so the stability of the belt edge is not compromised by hand stitching. Turn the belt right side out and press.
Now, you have to decide whether you want your belt to close at the side or at the back (the closure on a Dior belt should be hidden so it is never at the front). Mine is at the side and I think it is easier to open and close that way. 

For a side closure you will need to gather and insert boning at three places: Both ends and the middle. At each of these places, machine baste two vertical lines, far enough apart to accommodate your boning. At the bottom of each of those lines, unpick a few stitches of the seam you made before. Insert the pieces of boning and gather the fabric on them. Fix in place by sewing over the gathers and the piece of boning. To stabilize everything and close the little holes, I then stitched around the pieces of boning, over the lines of basting and the top and bottom of the boning channel. 
Then, sew the hooks and eyes to the ends of the belt.

The belt is supposed to be worn from the waist up and because of that, I prefer to wear it with the seam on the bottom because that edge will stretch less.

I hope can follow this and I'll show you my version this weekend, when I've had a chance to take pictures.

December 17, 2014

Just in case it applies to you

This is just something I came across yesterday. I thought I would mention it here on the off chance that it is of interest to some US based reader of this blog:

Fashion business platform FashionUnited is looking for Fashion Editors in New York and Los Angeles. You need to have two years experience writing for a news provider, an interest in fashion and its business and to live in the city in question. 

Just click on the cities to go to the job ad in question. It sounds like it could make a pretty cool job for somebody.

December 16, 2014

Another change of plan

At the moment, dark dreary rainy days and bright and cold ones seem to alternate. Unfortunately, that fact kind of conspired with our social obligations last weekend so I didn't get the chance to take pictures of my new 1918/1922 blouse. It is finished and I like it but I may need to make a different style of skirt to go with it. My high-waisted skirts are all just a bit too eh... 1950's. 

In the mean time, I have been busy and I am getting close to completing my Vintage Pattern Pledge target but I still haven't been working on a Lutterloh project. I'm now officially postponing that till spring (I hope there will be another Vintage Pattern Pledge for next year...). 

You see, although I keep saying I don't need more fabric, it's impossible not buy when it's good stuff at bargain price. Especially at the market. If it's there and it's both good and cheap, there's a good chance it won't be there anymore next week. And the usual reason for good fabric to be sold cheaply is that it is a leftover from somewhere (a production atelier, a fabric store going out of business, you name it) which means there won't be any more once it's gone.

With the excuses out of the way, I can tell you that I found deep red wide wale corduroy at 1 euro a meter. Corduroy can be tricky to sew with and it's fabric which easily looks dated but I liked this stuff. And I immediately remembered a pleated skirt tutorial in one of my 1950's Libelle magazines (and magazine tutorials were also one of the vintage pattern media I wanted to try out this year). So, I bought two meters.

After some searching, I found the tutorial in question. It's actually for the whole outfit: Short jacket and pleated skirt. I'm not making the jacket now. 
The whole tutorial is for size 40 which, according to the Libelle sizing table is one size too big for me but for the skirt, that should not be such a problem. The skirt is quite simple: just a rectangle pleated into a waistband. What is nice about this version is that it alternates deep double pleats with little ones. Eight of each. With that many pleats, it's easy to pinch out 4 cm more. 

With the skirt almost done, I found out that the tutorial also includes instructions on how to make a belt which was rather popular in the winter of 1956/57.
It's not visible in the pictures which go with the tutorial but it is something like this:

This outfit shows a mailorder pattern which was offered in the next issue of the magazine. Pleated skirt, belt and a classic 1950's blouse. In colours close to that of my skirt and of some other fabrics in my stash....

So, now I've decided to try and copy this very look. Of course, it looks like it is made from silk and I'll be using cotton fabrics so it won't be as fancy. Still, it seemed like a nice idea.

I spent some time yesterday evening looking through my 1950's patterns for a blouse which would work for the purpose. Which wasn't that easy. There were many more dresses than separates in any 1950's sewing publication.
And of course, they only printed each pattern in one size, so I had to get lucky with that as well.

I finally found this one, the blouse on the right, in Marion magazine from October 1955. I'll have to change the collar but other than that, it's pretty much spot on. And in my size.

I've just traced the pattern (and I repeat what I've said before: If you complain about modern Burda pattern sheets, don't try these vintage ones). I like the cut of the sleeves: They are kimono sleeves with underarm gussets at the front and set-in sleeves at the back. 
I've measured the pattern pieces for possible issues with back length but that seems to be fine. So, I've decided to just go ahead and cut it out in some blue cotton from my stash. 

So hopefully, I'll have a picture perfect mid-1950's outfit ready for its moment in front of the camera this weekend.

December 12, 2014

Said pretty things...

Yesterday's post was already getting a bit long and adding these would have been a a bit 'off topic'. So the pretty things which distracted me from my Luttorloh plans get a post all of their own.

The blouse I am working on is from a pattern from March 1922 but the shape was already popular in 1918. How I know that? Not just because it is the exact same shape as the one worn by lady Mary (from Downton Abbey) in the picture in yesterday's post. I've got real, period proof.

This is the cover of Gracieuse magazine of July 1918.

Doesn't this dress look like something Lavinia Swire would wear? (sorry, Downton geeky-ness is showing badly). More importantly: Look at the bodice. It's the exact same shape as the one I'm making. The only difference is in the waistline. Which I won't use in my blouse anyway.

In fact, I think I've found a whole new appreciation for the fashion of the late 1910's and early 1920's. 

All these images come from the same magazine.


Yes, they don't look like something you would wear just like that nowadays but they are really nice...


In some ways, the natural height waistlines makes these seem more wearable than many 1920's fashions.

I really should try and make a dress like this...

December 11, 2014

How I got sidetracked by history, TV and pretty things...

Let me start by thanking everyone for the advice on the buttonhole issue I mentioned in the previous post. Thankfully, I've got lots of scraps to try different methods on so I will try everything you suggested and hope for the best (because my grandmother specifically wanted those functional buttons. I tried suggesting snap/poppers).

In the meantime I seem to have allowed myself to get thoroughly sidetracked. I can name reasonable excuses, like I started to read a bit more history again (extensive overview of the Ottoman Empire, at the moment) and I started following some history blogs, which led to me finding lots of history blogs (I've started weeding through them but with blogs, you often have to follow for a bit to know whether or not a specific one is for you). However, neither of those things should really keep me from going on with sewing projects I'm already kind of committed to...
And then, about two months ago, we bought a new television (the old one was pre flatscreen era...). A 'smart tv'. So, we also decided to try out Netflix... Which is how I finally got to watch season five of Mad Men.
And now, I'm really enjoying watching all of Downton Abbey. I've seen most of season two and about half of season three when they were broadcast by Nederland 2 but I really enjoy seeing how it all fits together.
I'm at the end of season two now and it has taken this long for the look to really get to me. 
Last week, when I tried to make a decision about which Luttorloh pattern to try, my mind kept wandering to how nice the daytime blouses at Downton are...



Mostly the ones worn by the daughters of the house, especially Mary (I like her look best anyway. She may not always be the nicest person but the lady has got style. And I'm an oldest sister myself so I guess I'm prejudiced). 
Something like this is very pretty and I even think it could work in a sort-of-modern wardrobe. In mine at least. I've got enough high waisted trousers and skirts to tuck such a top in to.

All of that made me have another look at my picks from the 1920's Gracieuse magazines.

The very first design I picked back then, the dress here in the middle, actually looks a lot like many of the blouses I had been admiring. 
So, why not use the bodice of this loose dress as blouse? It could even count it towards my goal in the Vintage Pattern Pledge...

So that's what I'm working on now. I'm not being hugely original because I'm using the fabric leftover from my 1929 dress but there will be some trim, which is really unusual for me. 

The pattern is quite interesting:

For the blouse, I'm only tracing the over bodice (which is in three pieces on the tracing sheet), the center front bit and the collar. But I thought it was really interesting to see that the dress has a more fitted, and clearly intended as structural, lining and a belt which has to be made to specific measurements. The skirt is only given as scale drawing because that's just a rectangle. 
I really should make a dress like this at some point. But there are nicer ones and right now, I want a blouse.

Despite the fact that the bodice looks quite long in the drawing, I checked the back measurement (when in doubt, always measure!) and I'm glad I did. The center back was only 37 cm long. This would put it well above my waist (I have the now normal back length of 40 cm). I'm not sure what's going on there. It may have something to do with the fact that this pattern is intended for teenage girls (who, in modern patterns, are supposed to be at least as tall as women with the same bust measurement but I have noticed a different notion in more recent, 1950's, vintage patterns as well). Or maybe the drawing is just more fashion-forward than the pattern. In the early 1920's waistlines were getting gradually lower and this is a dress for official and solemn occasions so I think it's a reasonable working theory.
Anyway, I lengthened my bodice pieces by a whopping 17 cm so I would have something to tuck in. 
Hopefully, I'll manage to get some nice pictures of it this weekend. 

December 9, 2014

Selfless sewing?

The sewing I do in my own time is mostly for myself. I think I have that in common with a lot of sewing bloggers. Sure, I also make a lot for the man in my life but usually, that's it. Apart from the occasional alteration for a family member. Or a baby gift. Or an unusual clothing need (trousers for my mother when she was waiting for her second hip operation). I've stopped doing assignments for friends (who did pay for it) after three customers because it took so much time...

Put like that, it sounds like I actually do a lot of selfless sewing but it's all about proportions. I really don't.
I'm working on something right now though. And to be honest, I'm not enjoying it.

A little over a year ago, I made a fairly fancy long sleeved t-shirt for my maternal grandmother (the same grandmother who is knitting for the whole family). She showed me a picture of the kind of style she wanted, we went to the fabric store together to buy the fabric and I made the top using Burdastyle's Lydia (a plain long sleeve t-shirt which I can't find anymore on the site now) as a base. 
Back then, I made a muslin first and had a fitting session with that. I was glad I did. My grandmother in her 80's and at that age one's body shape has really changed. Thanks to our care in fitting though, the shirt I made for her fits well and looks pretty good. She wears it a lot.

I noticed and started thinking about making another one. I just didn't know what colour she would like. When I discussed this with her, she told me she would like a top with a front closure because that is easier to get in and out of. 
This time, she bought the fabric herself and she had some different pictures of what she wanted.

And made this sketch (which is a crumpled because it has been in my bag for a while).
So far, so good. Of course, I am willing to make a garment which suits her wishes and requirements. However, the fabric, a nice double-face jersey which is burnt orange on one side and black on the other, is rather soft and drape-y (but has no vertical stretch, which is good in this case). Not at all what I would want for a tailored look like this.
To make my job easier, she wanted the front pockets to be fake. So, those are just little flaps which I will sew down later. It's just that I really don't like fake version of functional details...
Which is also why I didn't like doing princess seams in this case. 
The collar is fairly simple, just really annoying to make in this fabric. Especially if you have to unpick and re-do it. I hardly ever need to do things like that anymore but I did now. When I started on this shirt, I made a cut-on straight fabric (I had thought about making the center front double, for a clean finish but decided against that because it would cause bulk at the 'pockets' and make the front so much heavier than the back that the whole thing was likely to sag forward). It wasn't until the collar was almost finished that I realized how bad that facing would look if the collar would be worn half open. So, off it came. I made a new facing which, at its top, extends to the shoulder seam and put the collar back on. 

That's when I thought I was almost there. Just the cuffs to go on. And the hem. And buttons and buttonholes. 
It took me a while to find the right buttons (which I did before starting on this). Gran wanted mother-of-pearl but not the small ones you get on shirts. I finally found the right medium sized mother-of-pearl buttons when I was picking up my sewing machine from its repair.
And now, I tried to make a buttonhole. I started with the easiest piece to do that on: a cuff which was still separate. And of course I had stabilized it with some thin fusible interfacing for stretch fabrics. And it didn't work. Whether I tried the official 'stretch fabrics' buttonhole or a normal one, my sewing machine would not make a buttonhole in this fabric. I tried everything and when I tested it on a scrap of other fabric, it stitched those buttonholes without a hitch.
I've given up for now. I'll see my grandmother on Christmas Day, so the shirt should be finished before then. I could try layering the fabric with tracing paper under it. Or even with one of those fancy special materials they have for that purpose.... I don't know.

December 7, 2014

A new sweater

Last week, when my sewing machine had its little problem, I decided to try and knit something. On the knitting machine, of course.
I looked at some of my vintage machine knitting patterns but I always struggle to match patterns to the gauge I can knit to with the yarns I have. In the end, I decided to try and make a pattern myself for a very simple little sweater.
I used two of the really thin yarns knitted together: a red one and an olive/beige one with slightly irregular thickness and a bit of shine.

I'm pretty pleased with the result. I made a couple of swatches to decide on the perfect settings for this combination of yarn and the result is light and soft but not too loose. I used the right swatch for my calculations for the pattern. I tried that before, last year, but I guess that time I had over-blocked the swatch. The striped sweater ended up a bit more snug than intended and a bit shorter too.
I did very little blocking on the swatches this time and the resulting sweater is very close to the measurements I wanted (2 cm shorter, to be honest. The width is spot on).  


The design is quite simple: straight body pieces with the flat double edges which are easy to make on a single bed knitting machine. A dropped shoulder and a straight neckline which mean the pattern doesn't require any reduction of stitches except at the shoulders. And tapered, three quarter length sleeves.
The cable-like detail which decorates the front is actually made using re-hung stitches. It's easier than making real cables and you don't need rows of purl stitching along them but because it is made by pulling the material in, that piece of the knit-work becomes a lot less stretchy.   
I'll try to make an illustration about how this works next time I use it.

In the mean time, I still haven't decided on a Lutterloh pattern and I'm working on a top for my grandmother. It should be a fairly simple jersey blouse using a block I made for her last year. However, the design and fabric she picked don't really work that well together and I'll have to unpick the collar because I made the top of the facing too narrow. I'll show it later.