I was lucky enough to be given a box of original vintage dress pattern, spanning from the 50s to 80s by a colleague of my sister. The thing about vintage patterns is the original owner would have cut them to their size, and only kept the bits they want. So while originally patterns come with variations and size options, these won’t be included in most second-hand packets. I am lucky to be short, and thus naturally petite, so this wasn’t such an issue, but it’s something to be aware of.
I made the above 1950 top for work out of one of these patterns using a quilting fabric. While they can seem stiff in the store, after a wash they soften up, and certainly even more so after it is worn and washed several times. They work well for older patterns which are tailored and structured, but probably not good for flowing, or very tight outfits, as they have no give.
I make a lot of clothes out of pretty quilting fabric
I have issues with side zips, and getting them to merge into the shape of the piece. This top I wear with a waist-hight skirt so it’s not such an issue. I like using buttons to break up necklines, as you would have seen on my Delftware dress.
Another vintage pattern
I have to say, I used to be one of those people who would throw out the bits of pattern I don’t use, rather than try and fit them back into the packet. However, since becoming an owner and user of second hand patterns, I have tried not to do this. You never know who might have a use for them down the track. I would like to make this 1954 pattern to the right next, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to see if it’s all in there!
I have a giant echidna in my living room. That is to say, my couch tends to function as a giant pin cushion. Now, I don’t stick pins in it while I’m sewing, but I do stick them in it as I find them in the weeks following.
I did warn the boy, before we agreed to cohabit, that this was an assumed risk of living with me. Though, I blame the magnetism of my room-mates and family, afterall, I have never stepped on a pin.
Unfortunately, I loose the argument. Echidnas do not belong in Brisbane, and pins do not belong in couches. Get a pin cushion, you say? I am too clumsy to have the type that attached to the wrist, and to unsteady to have one sitting beside me, where I would have to stop guiding the fabric for a second. Ingeniously, I attached my pin cushion (hand-made) to my sewing machine. It seemed like a good solution, but I have to say, I still only manage to get 50% of the pins into it.
I am considering attaching some sort of magnet to the machine, but I fear this would interfere with the digital components. What do all the other sewers do about this problem, I wonder?
I had first used this 1957 Vintage Vogue pattern (V2903) to make a Queen of Hearts costume for my sister. I finally had the time and cash to attempt a more wearable version.
This pattern takes 6 metres of fabric, that is a lot, especially when you have a very small working space. I used a quilting fabric because of the beautiful design, which reminds me of Delftware plate motif.
Delftware (Wikimedia Image)
Being quite short, I ended up using only around 5m, as I cut the length a foot shorter, even before hemming. If like me, you find cutting the pattern a most tiresome activity, ready your forearm muscles for this beast. It is 8 large, long pieces, plus facings. Nevertheless, it is really quite a simple sew.
One down side of this pattern is the sleeves, as I learnt first time around. They were designed for a Vogue model, and are only suitable for sitting at a dinner table or standing in front of the sink, no reaching or waving allowed (a lady in the 1950s probably wouldn’t engage in such uncouth behaviour). Needless to say, I left the sleeves off this incarnation.
1950s Delftware Dress
I added the embellishments of ribbon trim and a button as it is otherwise quite plain. I also wear a tutu/petticoat under-skirt underneath to fluff it out to a truer 1950s style. I didn’t iron in the pleats of this dress, because I quite like the looser flowing feel.
All things considered, I would use this pattern again.
Growing up, we didn’t use pot holders to take things out of the oven, we used tea towels. This, of course, resulted in many burns and the throwing of trays onto the bench.
I decided to make pot holders a few years back as a practical way to preserve handsome fabrics (I’m not a quilter). I have now realised that they are far more protective than tea towels against heat, are charming gifts, distinctive kitchen decor, and can be used as large coasters to absorb condensation from beer-steins or cold containers.
Patchwork and Christmas
I use fabrics from deconstructed ‘failed’ sewing projects, and scraps I have lying around.
I cut two squares of the fabric and lay them right side facing each other. I place several layers of wadding on top and sew around 3 ½ edges. I have yet to experiment with binding tape. I then choose a pattern to sew into the middle to flatten it out.
Handle for hanging: Pin long fabric or ribbon between right-side facing fabric pieces before sewing edges. Sew both edges if hanging on a hook. To be slipped through an oven handle, sew one end, make a button-hole on the other end and sew a button in place.
(this post was prepared pre-flood, enjoy!)
My first attempt on this Vintage Vogue pattern ended up looking something like a pasty blue pillow case. The second incarnation was far more successful. Granted I didn’t add the collar, disregarded the skirt pattern, and raised the waistline about 4 inches, but an axe with three new blades and 5 new handles is still the same axe.
I had to stitch and restitch the skirt three times because I wasn’t using the recommended fabric. My second attempt included some tulle to support a full skirt. It wasn’t so much a throwback to On the Town as it was bulbous and unflattering. I pulled out the tulle to allow the gathered cotton to fall more naturally. The gathering was, however, too dense for the light fabric, so there was little improvement. Normally I would have given up, but the fabric was just too beautiful to turn into another pot holder.
After my fourth attempt the skirt sat flat with just two pleats at the front and some tapering down the back. It was as much a pencil skirt as my hips would allow. After two insertions of the zipper and restitching darts 5 times, the end result is something reminiscent of an Elvis Presley Hawaii movie circa 1962. This is actually kind of great being I am recently in possession of several of these gems.
Lesson learned about patterns:
Use recommended fabric
Pay attention to where the waistlines are designed to sit
Making items bigger with the assumption you can always take it in, can make things worse
When I moved into my current rental, they have lace curtain in the kitchen. I love lace, but these were stained, moth-eaten and tattered. We have one of those post-war houses which are so common in Brisbane. It could be kitsch if it weren’t entirely cream with lino and chipboard throughout. In an effort to put some personality into the place, I whipped up some simple curtains which I think look pretty spiffy.
Curtains really can be so simple to make. Unfortunately, I think the cost of decent fabrics, the trend towards ceiling to floor windows and the effort to wash them, means fashions have moved towards blinds. However, I find curtains less sterile and can add more unique style to a room.
I cut a thick, stiff, cotton fabric 1.5 times the length of the windows across and about 6 inches longer. If I did them again, I probably would have cut them twice the length to allow for more gather when they hung. I hemmed all four sides of the squares using a rolling hem, then pressed over the top edge enough so that the rods would be able to fit through and sewed it down. I simply used some regular ribbons as ties.
Here’s a picture:
Trim the loose threads before taking photos
Consider how much gathering you want before cutting. Curtains need a significant about of overhang to be effective.
I didn’t learn ballet as a little girl. I instead endured portly coaches sitting on me in an attempt to turn me into a flexible gymnast. When I had tired of New Age yoga teachers and protein fuelled gym instructors, I decided to take up ballet.
Currently I am learning to pirouette. Singular. There’s a lot of falling over involved. I decided that what I really need twirl is an aqua little number.
Laying the fabric over a bought skirt, it was cut and hemmed within half an hour. Armed with my swishy skirt, I promptly chassed into the kitchen. My head whirled around, my arms stayed in a perfect oval, my working leg didn’t wave about like a rag doll. I may not have been able to do another since but I still feel this project was a success in both the ballet and sewing departments.
Story for another day (coming up)… Queensland Ballet Theatre’s Alice in Wonderland.