Sunday, 31 March 2013

Pattern for Smartness

All you vintage fans have to watch this film (made in 1948). Probably more cringeing than that time you went to see Jerry Lewis at Crown (for example - I only heard the reviews), but actually very useful and interesting, particularly for a beginner like me.

Go Betty!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Dress and Blouse for the Little Woman

Robert Fritzlaff is a shining inspiration to me. He is a male designer of women's clothing in the 1950s and '60s (apparently a bit in the '70s too). He is also heterosexual. Yes, I know it shouldn't matter but it does. Sewing dresses for GF and daughter shouldn't be this enjoyable for a hetero male, but thanks to RF there is a precedent. Actually it's possibly not that uncommon. RFs taste in clothing is brilliant, too, as is his view of high fashion today ("garbage").
OK, off the soap box. I started making a dress yesterday:
Butterick 4061 (1965), Size 16T, Bust 36 "proportioned for teens" for my girlfriend, who left her teens even before I did, but we'll see how it fits when I'm finished. She gave me two more hurdles, being I must use an invisible zipper, and I must re-use a skirt section of an old dress she bought at a garage sale (sigh).
I forgot to scan or photograph the pattern cover but it looks like this:
I've been given the task of creating 'A'.
Cover tells me how much fabric I need (which I ignore, since I have to re-use old pieces). I also need interfacing for the facing.
One thing I found curious is that the pattern keeps mentioning the "Jumper". This is referring to the bodice. I kept looking for a jumper and for the bodice instructions, but they're one and the same!
So, cut out the fabric. I did just the bodice first, rather than all of the cutting at the start (means I don't have to use a hundred pins all at once). The first thing to do is to attach the interfacing to the facing - fusing is the name for the modern version. It must be pressed on and heated (iron or press), and is to be applied to the inside of the facing.
I cut out parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 in linen and 3 and 4 again in interfacing (Tip: Lay the interfacing on the linen and pattern pieces on top - saves cutting twice). Then trimmed 3/8" from the bottom of the interfacing and fused it to the wrong side of the linen.
Cutting the front and back. Notice dot triangle at fold
Facings. Only #3 has the dot triangles
The dot triangles are Butterick for "place at fabric fold", because the piece has to be continuous and double the size of the pattern piece. Different pattern vendors have different codes for this. Also, the two big dots on #4 must line up with the grain of the fabric (the same thread must go through them both). Not doing so with affect how the garment will move or how it stretches, so it's quite important.
Butterick has "easy steps" in following their pattern. Unfortunately, some of these are very complex.
Step 1: To make dart in BODICE FRONT, bring small dots together. Stitch, tapering to single dot, press down.
Seems straightforward, make the bust darts in the front piece (big piece with the dot triangle), then press down. But wait, there's more!
Trim 3/8" from lower edge of front interfacing. Baste to inside of bodice front as shown. Here we must depart from the instructions. In the '60s the interfacing had to be stitched. Now it doesn't. Since you have pressed it on, you need to ignore any mention of stitching it on without the facing. It is attached to the facing, and they should be treated as a single unit.
Sorry, I was not going to publish this in parts, but now will since I'm taking so damn long to hem the thing. Invisible hemming is the last step, and I badly misinterpreted the instructions in the Singer manual. Now I'm off work for a while so will post again shortly.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Wasn't my fault this time!

Well, it wasn't. Her indoors wanted to go outdoors during this rainy, cold day. Back to Tyabb no less. After being nonchalant at the packing house, we went to the nearby Antique Shed. At this place I remembered seeing a lovely Singer 201K last week for only $45. In the first minute I saw a wooden cover that looked suspiciously like a sewing machine cover. The note said Singer something, something, lid, something $25. Looked at the lid and it seemed a bit heavy. The lid seems to have a sewing machine under it. It looked rather good too. Of course at this price who could resist.
Singer 201P
Kept asking myself why it's $25. Reading the other lid label it has been professionally restored. $25? $25? Kept asking why in the queue and when I put it in the car. Got it home, oiled it thoroughly (it was almost completely seized) and plugged it in. About 20 seconds after putting my foot down, it went from a groan to a gallop! Sews beautifully too. Why on Earth was it $25??? It's almost like new. The P model is identical to the K model (made in Scotland) except it's two tone brown and was made in NSW. It's very quiet and was made in 1957. Obviously it hadn't been used for ages but it's probably worth $200, considering the condition. The solid wooden case is like new as well.
Didn't want to boast. These machines are fantastic bargains. Go get one :-)

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Labour Day Holiday Fun

I was just telling a friend on FB that we went to Tyabb packing house for the holiday yesterday. Spent three hours rummaging through some very old magazines in the increasing heat. Dropped in at a beach in Mornington for about 30 minutes and went home. The funny thing is calling it a successful day. It was truly fun, and got a heap of magazines. Mine all had free patterns and were only $5 each! Normally you'd pay more than this for a vintage pattern alone, so it was great to have an amazing old magazine in great condition. My better half was happy just to get her magazines (although I suspect a little envious at my haul).
They made 'em big in those days too. These are almost A3 size. The patterns are uncut and they will remain that way. If I want a pattern, I'll trace it onto some dressmaker's paper. Ordered a huge amount from Nancy's Notions the other day. After having made several garments from old patterns I noticed that the patterns get damaged every time they're used. They get pinned and it's almost impossible not to cause ripping when pinning or cutting the fabric. They are also weakened each time they're folded, unfolded, ironed or placed in the packet.

Went to a bazaar after the packing house and almost bought a Singer 201K (they closed at 3pm).

Where do you get these magazines? Tyabb is good, but if you aren't in Victoria, Garage sales of deceased estates or your local bazaar.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Appreciation of a good suit

Some people call my appreciation an obsession but it's not, or I'd buy more of them. Not sure of the number but around eighteen would be in the ball park. Vintage or not, the fact that a well made Italian suit will set you back $10 at an op shop (or $5 at one I visited this morning!) or $2,000 from a shop in the city makes it essential that should I see one, the fee is trivial enough that should the garment be in good shape (I mean no moth holes) and a good cut it's always a bargain. One post-buy tip I have is to always have the item dry cleaned. Why? Dry cleaning kills moths and their eggs. If paying up to three times the cost of the suit puts you off, don't buy it: One or two little moth eggs could mean the ruin of your entire wardrobe. I learned this the hard way a few years ago. Bargain 1930s art deco style suit in Adelaide cost about $10. Got it home, little woman altered it for me (it had been let out more times than an old dog with irritable bowel syndrome) and it did look fine. Put it in the wardrobe and six months later paid $280 to invisible mend all the new moth holes! The note to self about the necessity of the dry clean was a big one.
OK, back to latest acquisition. I generally don't check out the suits in op shops these days, because as opposed to someone obsessed, I probably have enough. This one was a little big (aren't they all?) but really nice fabric. Since the pants were just a bit big, I altered them. Alterations for my smaller frame included splitting the back seam (the pants' bum crack) and taking up the hem. These mods are very easy, which is probably why my friend Jenni (Jack's daughter) suggested it as a good starting point to learn the art. Have to say that after sewing several women's garments and a men's shirt, it was almost too easy. The jacket will be a lot harder, so I'm not going to tackle it for a while.
Here are the pants:
photo of the pants

And I started to alter here (this is an after shot - you can see my alignment wasn't the best):
Misaligned but they fit. Taken down about 1 1/2 inches
Measure your waist before you start. Measure the pants too. Make sure of the amount you're taking it in by using a safety pin to hold it together. Does it fit nicely? Measure the amount you need to take in and if you're like me, write it down too.

Undo everything from the inside, but take note of the order in which you undo it: This is really important if you're not an expert (and if you were you wouldn't be reading this) it's too easy to stuff it up when reconstructing. So, get your seam ripper and undo the pants down to just above the crutch. You'll see how the seam allowance has just been folded back. Press this flat after unpicking, and leave the thread in (so you can see where the seam was). Mark the new seam such that it's the old seam line plus half the reduction on each side (I used a white dressmaking pencil), and reduce (taper) this new seam so that the other end is at the same point as before you unpicked it (the bit just above the crutch). That is, say the pants are 34". You have a 31" waist. The bit at the back (above) bust be reduced to 31", so fold and press the seam 1 1/2" more than the previous stitch line. Line up the bottom to where it was before.
Pin (even better to baste) this, sew it, then press (iron) the seam flat. I didn't bother trimming anything from the seams. I wore the pants last week, and although not as great as the other Italian ones, they felt pretty fine.
The back is where you start.

So that's the $10 Italian suit. I'll let you know if I get around to the jacket. If I do, it'll be as good as having it tailor made for me (if all goes according to plan, that is). Wish me luck!