Sunday 18 April 2021

The 1940s Shamrock Dress

It's been a while since I posted something here on my blog. My family life kept me busy, and then the pandemic swept all over the world, things happened that we never ever would have imagined. Still, we have our own small lives, our troubles, our joys. I made some stuff, but I lost a bit my sewing motivation and was glad to discover knitting again. Health issues made me gain some weight, however I'm convinced I will get back to normal, just as life as such.

To say I was a bit late with my sewing for my son's First Communion would be a huge understatement. I was hoping too long the event would be postponed due to the pandemic. Then, as usual, I had to hurry. A lot. Two weeks for two outfits was a bit tight... Especially when you have two kids and a challenging teenage dog! Picking a project for myself usually is not a problem. Tons of patterns, tons of fabrics. But as my daughter is a little miss now, she needed something nice to wear too. But as she is not a small girl anymore and not yet a proper miss, it's not easy to find the right thing. Luckily she is growing a lot, also character-wise. (She's half a head shorter than me, and she's 12.) 

So this time no pink, no dress. Instead she was very excited when I showed  her the 1930s Wearing History Beach Pajama pattern - a pattern I adore myself as well! She picked a viscose (rayon) javanaise, and then it was a rather short knock-off. I have done a lot of shirring on baby and toddler clothing, no issue there, I only had to down-size the pattern. She also loves the Gertie wrap tops I made in various versions from Butterick 6285 for myself, and this too was a quick job after the down-grading was done. I usually don't double the top, but make it from a single layer only, which makes it less bulky for the summery versions and saves a considerable amount of fabric. Even though the both patterns represent two different eras, I think they make a lovely combination for a young girl not (yet) into vintage properly, but certainly outside the average frame. And I had one very happy girl. 

Having a soft spot for all things Irish (my son's name is Irish), I have been looking a long time for a lovely clover or  shamrock themed fabric that is not too childish. Shortly after Christmas until St Patrick's Day in March you find a lot of rather cheap, colourful or clumsy shamrock prints, but I wanted something more decent and "grown-up". A couple of weeks ago I found an online seller in my country I had not heard of before. Browsing through their site I came a cross this extraordinary viscose fabric with a clover print, Swiss made, and significantly reduced. It was just meant to be! (So far to my decision to reduce my stash.) I originally bought it with another project in mind, but when I had to chose the material for my dress, my husband suggested this would be perfect.

First I thought I would make the 1942 two-piece dress from Eva Dress Patterns, originally Du Barry 5510. But I know all too well that I probably would never wear the skirt separately with a different top, so I rather spontaneously turned the wrap blouse into the bodice of a wrap dress, combining it with the skirt part of Simplicity 1710 from 1946. I have gained a lot of weight during the last couple of months, due to the pandemic and the hormones, and wrap dresses are so forgiving and comfortable. No matter what size or shape you are! I always wanted to make this pattern, but I don't like bust darts that start at the waist line. I also took the fluttery sleeves from the Simplicity dress and changed the gathered skirt inset into a pleated one to match thew pleats on the shoulders. I will probably have to add a pressure stud on the skirt, as I almost had a Marilyn moment. In front of the church certainly not funny.

The fabric, as any other viscose javanaise or challis, was very challenging, certainly not for beginners, a nightmare to cut and sew, but is a dream to wear. And to my utter surprise, it doesn't wrinkle half as much as all my other viscose or rayon fabrics do! Yay to a domestic product in an outstanding quality at an unbeatable price! It has the soft and almost peachy touch of certain silks and a wonderful drape. Sadly the weather wasn't improving as I had hoped - this is probably the coldest April I can remember. Obviously I needed something to cover my bare arms. I looked at many of my patterns, and this Du Barry 5908 from 1944 was the most simple 40s jacket I could find. (Size 12 only - anybody else hates upgrading vintage patterns?) I wished I had a green fabric at hand, but the only matching material was a beige and rather bland noil silk* I had bought about 20 years ago in a fabric shop in Zurich that has closed down long ago. I think it was a colour I love back then. And I realised once again how much of a fabric hoarder I am. 

This unlined little number came together easily, but I should have shortened it by about one inch to end just at the waist line. Maybe later. The entire project had a lot of hand stitching (and some night-sifts) involved, all the hems on both garments are done manually. Luckily my husband was very helpful, and he knows now very well how to handle our laundry-machine. Instead of wrapping bands I added presser studs to the bodice, and I made a belt with a perfectly matching vintage bakelite belt buckle. The buckle was still on its original card, and it matches the focal bead on the bakelite necklace I was wearing, even though the other beads look bit darker. I'm happy I made some shoulder pads for the dress. I have rather square shoulders, and most garments fit quite nicely without them, but the the pads just add that tiny bit for a better fit.

The mid-century shamrock brooch is probably a bit too much, but I so wanted to wear it on that special day, honouring my son on this occasion. 

* Silk noil (sometimes also called bourette silk) is a fabric made from scraps and short threads left from the silk cocoon that are too short and uneven to be used on finer silk fabric. As it contains still a certain amount of the cocoon glue, it has sometimes a specific smell to it that doesn't wash out easily. Due to it's anti-inflammatory properties it was used for diapers and nursing pads for a long time only, considered to be too "crude" for the garment industry. It has a feel like cotton or linen, with a slightly nubby texture, but is extremely lovely to wear. Often it is mistakenly called "wild silk". A couple of years ago, it became available also in western countries, even though in India sarges have been made from this material for ages.

Beach Pajamas pattern: Wearing History
Fabric: Viscose javanaise from Buttinette
Wrap Top pattern: Butterick B 6285 by Gertie
Fabric: Viscose knit

Shamrock Dress pattern: Eva Dress 1942 Two Piece Dress (wrap blouse), Simplicity 1710, © 1946 (skirt, sleeves)
Dress fabric: Viscose fabric from Stoffwald
Jacket pattern: Du Barry 5908 © 1944
Jacket fabric: Silk noil from my stash, about 20 years old...
Bakelite belt buckle: Etsy
Bakelite necklace: Facebook
Shamrock Brooch: Facebook

Saturday 19 October 2019

My Flashy Pendleton 49er Style Jacket

It has been an extremely busy year so far. Some things were rather unpleasant and demoralizing, I feel a bit worn down (and think I also look like it), but at least I tried to find enough time to make lots of things to wear. Sewing mends the soul they say. A denim skirt, trousers, breezy feedsack blouses for the hot summer and stuff for the kids, and a dress for my daughter for her First Communion... I'm quite pleased with what I achieved. (I will try to catch up with some posts!) And I deeply hope our family life will slow down in autumn and winter, and of course there are many more sewing projects.

Only a few remaing scraps...

Talking of autumn, in late August the unusual hot weather ended suddenly and I became well aware (read: I was panicking) that I have too little casual stuff to wear for the cold season.

I love boxy plaid jackets. I know, many people don't like paids, as they're bold, eye-catching, often a bit too colorful, but I have a soft spot for them. Nothing for the faint-hearted. Some of you may remember the winter plaid jacket I made 3 years ago. Now I needed something less heavy for the transitional season.

Ever since I have been drooling over vintage pictures of ladies in Pendelton style plaid jackets. Paired with wide-legged trousers they are the epitome of vintage casual style for me. Not very flattering, but so comfortable! So I looked for a pattern, and found the McCall's pattern 3242 that seems to be pretty much like the Pendleton 49er jacket. The 49er was, as its name suggests, launched in 1949, and it was - and still is - a huge success. They still produce a modernised version, and vintage ones are quite sought after.
Women surely had worn they're husbands' or brothers' jackets and shirts before, especially for work during WW2, but it was after the war that women's leisure wear included more and more sporty garments like trousers and comfortable jackets. The pattern is from 1955, and it has it all - shoulder pleat, cuffed sleeves, back yoke with gathers, notched collar and - big patch pockets!

 I admit, I couldn't keep my resolution and got weak during our summer holidays, when I found several wool fabrics in a fabulously crammed fabric shop in Northern Italy. The plaid fabric I bought was lightweight and seemed to be perfect, and I fell in love with the green and teal the moment I saw it. The weave was not very dense, and I had to be careful not to stretch the material too much. I was glad for decades of experience with plaid matching. The pattern placement was challenging, as I had a bit too little material. But I was able to cut all the pieces and the pockets even on the bias (which requires more fabric).

The remaining scraps...

My pattern is a vintage size M (14-16), and as usual I didn't bother to make a muslin. The finished jacket is a tad lose because I added some width to be on the safe side (which was not necessary), but I like it that way. I had a bigger scrap of chartreuse green silk I used for the yoke lining and for the shoulder pads I made. I have very square shoulders and ready-made pads often are too massive and stiff. The shoulder pleats caused some trouble and I didn't like the first "true to the pattern" version. That's why it took several weeks to finish the jacket, I got a but frustrated before I decided to change the darts slightly.
I will definitely make another one. As I said, I bought more fabric down in Italy, and there's even more in my stash, but maybe I will add half an inch to the sleeve length and the cuff width. Otherwise I will skip the additional width.

Choosing buttons is always part of the fun when sewing. The original 49er jacket had mother-of-pearl buttons, but I wanted something less striking. These Spanish vintage buttons were sold as bakelite, but they're galalith (a similar material based on milk, mainly produced in France and other European countries). They're not exactly the same chartreuse color, but they blend in well, and they're big and heavy, just as I like them.
The best feature are the pockets. They' re essential for me, they carry my phone, keys, bus tickets, my son's cars and stones, and other stuff.

I can wear all kind of stuff underneath it. Like blouses, thin sweaters or cool, funny t-shirts. The one pictured was created by the lovely Susi of "The Pink Bungaloo" –  this one it "Willy the Weener" quoting one of Hank Willaims' songs! She has an Etsy shop, so if you want this special t-shirt too, please buy from her and support an independent small business. (But hurry, some designs are available for a limited time only.) And no, I don't receive a commission nor do I get paid to mention her – I just love her creations.

This jacket is really a useful and fun garment, perfect for the cold season, great to combine with various colours from the plaid. Hello autumn!

Fabric: pure lightweight wool plaid fabric from Italy
Pattern: McCall's 3242, size M
Buttons: vintage galalith buttons bought in France
Trousers: self-made after a heavily modified Eva Dress Pattern (1940 Wide Leg/Simplicity 3322), I added the front pockets, because I need pockets
T-Shirt: "Willy the Weener" by The Pink Bungaloo
Glasses: no idea...
Poppy Felt Brooch: self-made
Earrings: vintage bakelite hoops

Friday 2 November 2018

Dia de los Muertos Halloween Costumes

Halloween is not a traditional holiday in my country, however, I love it for various reasons. The roots are Celtic, and the Celts lived in my native country before the Romans came. Also, I am fascinated how a pagan holiday blended in Christian religion, resulting in folkloristic traditions that probably most people around the world don't know anymore, because today's Halloween has become quite a commercialized event with not much left in common with the ancient believes. Plus, my kids love to dress up, and I love to make costumes, and it's a good opportunity for all of us to shorten the time until Christmas and put some colour and excitement in the dark evenings of autumn.

 When my husband came up with the idea for new costumes I was hooked. He knows my love for Mexican culture, and the Day of the Dead is certainly something that fascinates people all over the world. This holiday developed from the catholic holiday that is celebrated on the day after All Saints' Day (or Allhallows in older English, therefore Halloween, for Allhallows' evening), on November 2nd. Because of the beautifully spooky costumes and the painted skull decorations that are distinctive for those celebrations and because of the proximity of this holiday to Halloween, the Mexican costumes and specific facial paintings have become popular even in Europe. No wonder I was excited to make some costumes for my kids inspired by the Dia de los Muertos.

As a sewer and a huge admirer of authentic folkloristic crafts, one of the most beautiful things I have ever come across are the various and extraordinarily beautiful traditional costumes of the regions of Mexico. The rich and colourful embroidery is thrilling, and I could spend hours rolling over pictures of those garments that have their origins in Azetc traditions that were mixed with Spanish motives. Of course it would be convenient to have an embroidery machine, but still, trying to produce garments that would look authentic would still be a huge challenge and very time-consuming.

To keep it simple, I made a Charro style jacket for my son from a pattern for a short collarless jacket I found in my 1950s Lutterloh book. It was by the way the first time I made a two-piece sleeve. It didn't turn out too well because the fabric was a rather cheap synthetic material, but it was certainly a good experience. I also made a red scarf and sash. Luckily I found a cheap felt sombrero from an online shop, and some black trousers completed the outfit. (He first refused to wear it as he wanted to be a ghost or a spider or a transformer. I insisted, as he should match his big sister and it's probably the last time mommy can put him into a costume like that...)

My daughter's costume was far more time-consuming. The skirt should recreate the look of embroideries on a bottom ruffle. I spent much time studying pictures of amazing traditional Mexican garments. I sketched some flowers and leaves and made my own stencils, and in some of my many sleepless nights I printed them on the fabric. The material is a rather slinky viscose (rayon) javanaise, similar to a challis, but with a hint of a shine. Maybe not the best choice, but I had it in my stash, and plenty of it, and the skirt would certainly be very flowing a good for twirling. Hand printing viscose was a new experience for me, and I was happy I made some tests before starting with the pieces I planned to use for the ruffle. It's quite different from cotton! There are various flowers, and I used as many colours as possible.

I certainly don't claim this IS a Mexican skirt, but I tried to be as close to the embroidered costumes as possible. And even though my printed version doesn't justice to the beauty of the originals, it's certainly a garment that shows my deep admiration for the traditional outfits.

When it came to making the floral crown, I took to it like a duck to water. I love Frida Kahlo's look and especially her hairstyles, and my daughter does too. There was no doubt it would be the template to follow by for the updo. Felt is a wonderful material for making flowers.

As an avid gardener I absolutely wanted to make flowers that had something to do with Mexico, so I made some researches. To my utter surprise, many of our annual garden flowers originally are native to Mexico, as marigold, cosmea, zinnia and dahlia. I added lilies, calla lilies and some roses, as these are popular in Mexican culture like Mexican folk songs, embroideries etc. Finding a way how to fix and arrange all the flowers on a headband was rather tricky. I couldn't find a tutorial that would meet my needs, as my flowers are a bit heavier than ready-made synthetic faux ones. So I had to find my own solution. But I think it was totally worth all the hours I spent on it, and also stitching almost all the flowers to the headband by hand instead of using the glue gun.

My daughter's costume is completed by a true Mexcian embroidered blouse I found incredibly cheap for a couple of bucks on Ebay, plus a pashmina shawl from my wardrobe. I must admit I am no very skilled at painting my kids' faces on such occasions, but I was quite pleased with the result, keeping it rather simple.

Even if I didn't have as much time as I would have liked, and despite working mainly in the night (oh black fabric really IS a pain in the back in poor light!), everything looked much better than I had hoped. I am well aware that most people are happy with off-the-rack costumes that are available for little money and that can be thrown away after some wear. Yes, I am a bit crazy for all the effort I put in the kids' costumes.

At least a carved ghost for my son's pumpkin...

...and a Mexican skull on my daughter's. I might need some practice.

This gap-toothed little señor completely stole my heart...

Charro costume:
Jacket: self-made after Lutterloh "Der Goldene Schnitt" (The Golden Rule), book edition 6-1949, mod. 139, p. 80
Felt Sombrero: costume online shop on Ebay
Sash: handwoven from Mexico

Frida costume:
Skirt: hand-printed and self-made dirndl skirt with hand-printed ruffle (no pattern required)
Blouse: true Mexican embroidered blouse, Ebay
Flower crown: self-made felt flowers on head band

Monday 27 August 2018

A 1940s Hawaiian Wrap Dress For My Wedding Anniversary

When I found this stunning heliconia flower viscose (or rayon) fabric in a Hawaiian shop I didn't know yet what I was going to make. I just had to have it, and - it was on sale! I loved it even more in person, even though I usually try to avoid white and natural backgrounds for large scale prints. (I think the make me look bigger.) I could imagine also some beach pajamas. But, despite global warming and the hottest and driest summer I have ever seen in my life so far, we have no beach, and we don't throw that many parties with occasions for dressing up. So a dress it should be, a flowing, light garment for hot days.

Looking through my pattern collection, I was torn between a true wrap dress pattern (quite rare back then it seems) and a robe, both made before. However, I remembered that piecing elaborated designs with several seams in combination with slippery challis viscose fabric was a nightmare, even though that said dress turned out well and is still a favourite of mine. But I wanted to be reasonable, also, I didn't want to cut the fabulous large scale print unnecessarily, so I picked the much simpler British housedress pattern Style 4673, also because of the circle skirt bottom. I own a viscose circle skirt, it wrinkles terribly, but is fabulous for high temperatures.
This should be an easy project, as I said, last year I made a cozy long-sleeved version with a ponte de roma fabric and knew more or less what I had to adjust back then.

The dress pieces went together easily, however, I realized I couldn't make the tiny rows of gathers with this kind of material. I cut the fron bodice pieces on the bias for a better drape and I just was not able to make those gathered rows, that were not on the grain, in addition with the slinkiness of the fabric, look decent enough. So I changed them to release tucks, which was a good idea as I think it goes well with the draping fabric type. However, I think that cutting on the bias probably was not necessary.

The only trouble was the collar extension in the back neck, the fabric kept shifting and wrinkling and drove me almost insane. I also changed the sleeves and took the slightly butterfly-y ones from Simplicity 1778 which promised to be more breezy than the original short sleeve. And it turned out to be a good decision.

My dress closes with pressing buttons, but I added a belt with an exchangeable buckle instead of a sash. Depending on my accessories, I can switch between different colours. I only ned to find a butterscotch-eggyolk coloured buckle in the right size - there wasn't any in my entire (huge) collection of buckles!

We celebrated our 10th anniversary this week! I sometimes cannot believe how fast the years went by. But I was very happy I finished the dress on time for this special occasion. I wore it to a British car meeting, so the cars in the pictures unfortunately are not mine. I wish they were! It was a sunny, but very windy day, and my dress was so comfortable, but a bit tricky, as it kept ballooning, and I once almost had that "Marilyn moment". But it will be a great staple for hot days!

Pattern: Style 4673, 1940s, probably WW2 (war restriction disclaimer on envelope), sleeves from Simplicity 1778
Fabric: heliconia flower viscose (rayon) from Aloha Outlet, Honolulu
Earrings: Vintage bakelite clip-on screws from FB
Necklace: Vintage bakelite from FB
Bangles: Vintage bakelite from various sources
Buckles: Vintage early plastic ones from various sources
Shoes: Moheda Toffeln from Sweden
Bag: Vintage bamboo from FB
Lipstick:  Kiko Cosmetics

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...