Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 2: Making the Dress

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Art from the pattern envelope. I made View B.

See Part 1 here for general impressions on sewing with a vintage pattern.

For Patternreview.com’s Shirtdress contest, I made a vintage shirtwaist with lots of modifications.

I started out with a McCall Pattern Co. pattern 7649 printed in 1949.

The dress features:

  • Open collar
  • Dolman sleeve
  • Button front opening
  • Scoop front pockets
  • Unusual layered skirt back with many tucks and darts
  • Side zip
  • Belt
  • Shoulder pads
  • Darts at waist front and back

I left the basic shape of the dress alone, but knew I would need to shorten it and modify the padded shoulder to make it wearable. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice this contest rule when I chose the pattern:

The opening must be sufficient to take the dress on and off, but does not have to be the entire length of the front.

With that fitted waist, there was no way my dress was going to qualify. My solution: extend the button opening all the way down the front and eliminate the side zipper.

I had my work cut out for me!

shirtdress_1_26
Taking the padded shoulder away affected the fit of the back and the dolman sleeves, but eventually I got it sorted.

First order of business: unpad the shoulder. To get the shape of the bodice right, I made a muslin. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t need to change the length, waist, or bust. But those shoulders were awful! While still wearing the muslin, I pinched the bagginess out and pinned a new shoulder seam in place, constantly checking the back and front in the mirror. I ripped out the old shoulder seam and sewed the new one in place. Back to the mirror, I saw that it would need more adjustment. It took three tries, but I finally got it. Once I made a new pattern piece with the changes, I was ready to cut my good fabric.

shirtdress_1_10
Skirt muslin back view: so many tucks and darts!

Speaking of fabric…  I used an Amy Butler design entitled “Cotton Blossom.” I found the cotton woven on sale at Moona Fabrics on Etsy, but I would have paid full price. It’s really good quality material and I love that color combination! Here’s some more Amy Butler on fabric.com.

I didn’t have any problems putting the top half together. The only other change I made was to add fusible interfacing to the facings and inside the collar. Since the original didn’t call for any interfacing at all, I chose Pellon SF101, which is on the lighter side for a collar. I suppose in 1949 they would have used starch to stiffen the collar. I’m grateful for the modern materials that make starch unnecessary. I finished everything but the buttons and buttonholes and set it aside.

Next – the skirt. I didn’t think I would need to make a muslin for the skirt, but when I started looking at how it went together, I was baffled. To get that cute shape in the back, there are 5 darts and 6 tucks! I felt like it would take less time to test it with a muslin than it would ripping out the inevitable mistakes.

shirtdress_1_1
Sure, that makes sense. Practically sews itself!

It wasn’t difficult once I ran through it once, but it was time consuming. There was a lot more time spent marking and ironing than usual.

For the pockets, I tried to eliminate some bulk by using a lightweight woven on the inside (which does not show). The pockets turned out to be roomy and useful. Finally, I can wear a dress and not have to have a separate bag for my phone!

Here’s a little slideshow of the pockets going together.

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I have to admit the next part made me nervous. I carefully cut the skirt front down the middle. I drafted a new pattern piece for the facings behind the opening. I used that to cut out two facing pieces and two more lengths of interfacing. Using the top half as a guide, I mirrored the steps I used to assemble the facings. Finally, it was time to sew the back to the front and the top to the skirt. By some kind of miracle, my math and obsessiveness worked. and everything fit!

I don’t want to do that again, but at least now I know I can.

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As regular readers know, buttonholes are not my favorite thing to do. But I think I have finally turned a corner. Not flawless, but not bad!

shirtdress_1_11
Finally figuring out how to do buttonholes!

The dress also called for a 1″ belt. I’ve never made a belt before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was pretty easy. I stiffened the fabric (there was a pattern piece for this) with a one inch strip of Pellon ShirTailor fusible interfacing. Then I fused a strip of heat-n-bond ultra-hold tape right on top of the Pellon. I folded over the seam allowances and just fused them to the back. Finishing was just a matter of sewing on the buckle. It was so easy that I will consider doing belts a lot more!

IMG_4093

I finished it with a simple invisible hem. I’ll definitely be wearing this dress a lot. It looks good on its own, but can also work under a sweater or other layers. I am really happy with the result, but I think I am ready for something quick and easy next time!

Until then,

Happy Sewing!

shirtdress_1_24

Check out all of the shirtdress contest entries here.

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Contest · Fashion · Vintage

1949 McCall’s Shirtdress Part 1: Sewing with a Vintage Pattern

7649
My vintage pattern: McCall 7649 from 1949. I made a variation on View B.

This post is about the shirt-dress style and sewing with vintage patterns in general. Those of you who just want to see how I made it, hang in there. That post is coming soon!

Patternreview.com’s Shirtdress contest inspired me to consider making this classic style.

For the contest:

  • The dress must include a front opening that has button closures.
  • The opening must be sufficient to take the dress on and off, but does not have to be the entire length of the front.
  • The dress must be at least mid-thigh.

I have a few shirtdress patterns from the last few years, but a flea market find printed in 1949 seemed a little more special. I love the attitude of the popped collar. The scoop front pockets are big and useful. The back has some interesting tucks and darts that add volume and interest. In my opinion, only two things hold it back from being a modern design: the length and the wide, padded shoulders. I figured those would be easy enough to edit and dove in.

About Vintage Patterns
markle_collar
Style inspiration: popped collar shirt-dress can be worn today too

Everyone has their own idea about what vintage means. If you were born in 1998, something from 1997 might be considered vintage. Others might start much further back. For me, I think I start with patterns made before body/size measurements became standard for the major pattern companies – around the early 1970’s.

Some things have been the same for a long time.

  • Pattern printed on that same brown tissue paper
  • Seam allowance is 5/8″
  • Pattern markings such as triangles and dots are the same and used for the same purposes.
  • The illustrated envelope and included instructions are very similar.

Other things have changed over the years.

Sizing: no multi-size patterns. The pattern is printed for a single size only. This one is a size 12, which is somewhere between a current McCall’s 6 and 10. The vintage pattern’s bust is comparatively smaller than today with the same the waist and hip.

Pattern Tissue: the triangles for matching pieces together are numbered. Why don’t they do this anymore? I was surprised to find that the pattern tissue had French and Spanish wording as well as English.

shirtdress_1_15
My attempt at a View B pose

Instruction Sheet: the pattern came with a single page of instructions, densely printed front and back. It seems like they did their best to utilize every bit of that space, making the text and illustrations tiny. But it’s all there: general sewing instructions, cutting layouts, and numbered step-by-step assembly instructions.

Some of the terminology has changed, but it’s easy enough to follow. Fabric is referred to as goods, waist refers to the top of the garment, slide fastener means zipper.

Common widths for “goods” were evidently different than they are today. Therefore, I had to figure out yardage estimates and layout on my own.

Conclusion

Because the pattern format has remained so similar over the years, anyone comfortable sewing from a “Big 4” pattern should not have any trouble.

Since the pattern is a single size, you may need to work a little harder to get it to match your measurements. You can’t just draw a line between a 12 waist and 14 hip. The instructions do explain how to make common changes, though.

You will want to think about modern techniques and tools that could help with construction such as fusible interfacing, overlocking, automatic buttonholes, fabric markers, and so on. Fabric options are also different today. Synthetics especially have come a long way since the 1940’s.

Read everything carefully and take notes. My pattern did not mention belt buckle and buttons on the pattern envelope’s materials list, but they are part of the written instructions. I don’t know if these kinds of omissions are common or not, but it never hurts to double check.

Sewing a dress using a vintage pattern was akin to making a cake using a vintage recipe. You might find yourself scratching your head as you go, but it’s a fun way to make a connection with the past. I’ll definitely consider vintage patterns again.

Happy Sewing!

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Fashion

One-piece Floral Swimsuit Part 1

I recently signed up for Sewing Swimsuits: The Supportive One-Piece on Craftsy.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, craftsy.com offers interactive online courses for many subjects, including sewing, knitting, art, photography, and cooking.  I have taken a few of these in the past and always found them to be worth the time and expense.

Sewing Swimsuits is taught by Beverly Johnson, a Canadian lingerie and swimwear designer.  I love her.  Her teaching style strikes a nice balance between just-the-facts and friendly chat.  She also offers classes on sewing shapewear, bras, and panties.

I have been wearing two piece swimwear for at least 20 years.  One-pieces are always too short or too high-cut or too something.  Making my own one-piece has been on my sewing bucket-list for years.

Beverly’s class teaches how to make a simple maillot that fits.  The idea is that once you know how to do that, you will be able to apply your swimwear skills to other styles. Craftsy rates it appropriate for the intermediate student: “For those who are already comfortable with the sewing machine and have made at least a few projects successfully.”  I would say that’s about right.

Gathering the supplies took way longer than actually making the suit.  I ordered a variety of foam bra cups to find out which size and shape worked best.  I needed swimwear elastic, which is designed to withstand chlorinated water.  Of course, I needed lycra fabric that I liked, but also nylon swim lining.  The class does not include a pattern, so I had to get that also.

B4526_04
Art from B5426 pattern envelope, view B

I started with Butterick B4526 which contains a pattern for a simple, scoop-neck one-piece.  But after re-watching the class, I put it back in the envelope.  Why?  In the first lesson, Beverly advises against patterns with a back piece that is cut on a fold-line.  The reason is that you need to have a curved seam in the center back to accommodate the shape of the wearer’s lower back.  I already have to make adjustments there when I sew pants, so the two-piece back was a must-have. Aha. That’s one fit problem identified.

I hunted online, and other than the instructor’s own patterns, there are none currently in print that have a two piece back and a plain scoop neck. I didn’t want to use the instructor’s patterns just because there was no download option and I was too impatient to wait on the mail.

Sometimes being impatient leads to a lot more work.  I took my Butterick pattern and extra pattern paper and started marking it up.  I made modifications to the back pattern piece to make it look more or less like the shape of the one in the video.  Finally, I added seam allowance to the side that used to be placed on the foldline.

orange_muslin_leg
Spandex muslin marked with new leg curve

I had some plain orange lycra that faded like crazy when I washed it.  Since I no longer wanted to use it, it made good “muslin” for testing the pattern.  I cut out a set of pieces then basted it together and tried it on (with a bra, to simulate having foam cups).

Okay….  the bust darts were too low and the leg openings were way too low.  Seriously unflattering!  This kind of thing happens when I try on ready-to-wear suits, so it’s not surprising. No problems with the center back though, so the two-piece modification worked.  Standing in front of a mirror, I took a fabric marker and sketched in the changes I wanted to make.  I marked the true bust point so I could place the dart correctly.  I also drew lines (a little wobbly, but that’s okay) around my leg opening showing where I wanted the new leg opening to be.

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Lining test fit on duct-tape double. Much better!

With a little math, the marked-up muslin, and some rulers and markers, I made more changes to the pattern.  At this point, it doesn’t look very much like the original at all.

I was fairly confident in my pattern, so I cut muslin 2 from my good lining fabric. I basted it and tried it on for fit.

In Part 2, read about putting it all together.  Until then, happy sewing!

 

Fashion · Whimsy

Walk the Dog Raglan Tee

Planning Time
Planning is fun!

Last week, my serger died.  Let’s pause a moment and mourn its passing.

Thank you.

So I got a new one!  And this serger has a lot more bells and whistles.  Welcome to the workshop Singer 14T968DC!  The new machine can do the functions of the old serger, a Simplicity 4-thread overlock. But the new one can be converted to work as a cover-stitch machine as well.  I have been giddy to try everything since I got it out of the box.  I already had several knitwear projects cut and ready to sew, so I will be able to create useful things as I learn.

First up is a simple raglan tee.  I used McCall’s pattern M7286 (rating Easy), but any favorite raglan pattern would do.  I have always been drawn to bright red clothes and anything with high contrast and color blocking.  Something about that sharp, vivid combination of black and white with any bright color really puts me in a great mood.  So when I saw the “Where’s Fido” pattern, I immediately thought about pairing it with blocks of black or red.  Plus, the dogs in the pattern are so whimsical and cute – how could I resist?

I considered black accents, but in the end, I cut out a red neckband and short red sleeves to go with the patterned front and back.

I have been using my duct tape double to test fit clothes as I go.  I’m glad I did. On the model, I could see that the shape was a little boxier than I usually like.  I pinned some darts into the back and it looked much better.  Since the top is so casual that it could even serve as sleepwear, I chose to leave it loose and boxy.  But before I took the pins out, I made new pattern pieces for the back and front. I reduced the back by the area pinched out by the darts.  I lengthened the side seam on the front to match the new back piece. Then I traced the new pieces onto swedish tracing paper, cut them out, and put them with the rest of the (tissue) pattern pieces.  The next time I make this raglan, I will have a choice between a straight or fitted version.

Now that I have the coverstitch machine, I wish I had cut the bottom straight across. Then I could have done a completely ready-to-wear hem finish.  The shaped hemline seemed like it would be better suited to a zigzagged narrow hem though.  So I will save the coverstitch for a future project.

 

It turned out so cute, I can hardly believe it.  If only my dog had a matching leash and collar…

(getting out markers) Hmmm….