Monthly Archives: June 2009

Walk away, and don’t look back.

I’ve talked about Butterick 4790 (the “walk away” dress) before. I don’t recall how long ago I bought the pattern, but I finally started the dress last September and stopped when I managed to hork up my sewing machine for a couple of weeks, and then didn’t get back to the dress mostly because of the tedium of stitching on nearly nine (NINE!) yards of bias tape. However, after the success and momentum of last weekend’s vintage sewing adventures, I finally got going on the last things I had to do to 4790, namely hemming and edging and buttons, oh my. And now that it’s finished,* like nearly all versions of the walk-away that I’ve seen posted, it hangs on me (and my mannequin) like a sack. This dress is meant to be fitted, and over heavy-duty shapewear at that. Modern sizing simply does not compute with this design. However… my friend Megan dropped by, and her shape is more, well, busty than my own, and the colors of this dress are just right for her, so… yep. The dress is now Megan’s.

*But for the buttons, which Megan will choose to suit her taste.




Filed under fashion, friends, sewing, vintage

Vintage Sewing: Part Five

Bonus dress edition!

When my friend Alison started this whole “Let’s plan a weekend to get together and sew from vintage patterns” idea, I already had a stash of patterns from which to choose, and some vintage curtains that I’d deconstructed into panels of fabric. I was ready to go!

I was ready to go, that is, until I discovered that the vintage pattern I’d chosen was missing pieces. Important pieces. As in, all of them. All I have for Simplicity 3282 is the sleeve, cummerbund, and skirt pattern for View 2. A lovely dress that I still hope to make one day, when I draft a replacement bodice, but I had NO pieces for View 1, which I’d intended to sew. I scrambled to put Plan B into action, and as yesterday’s post attests, it went off well. But here were are at Sunday, and my sewing buddies  who chose fully-lined patterns and troublesome fabrics are still at it. Sooooooo… enter Plan C. As I mentioned in Part Two, I had already found a modern pattern, McCall’s M5686, which was similarish to the vintage Simplicity 3282. So, what the heck? I have the time, and the fabric. Let’s do it!

I’ve never sewn McCall’s before, so I check my measurements against the pattern size chart, and am shocked (SHOCKED!) to come up as a 6. Really? I double check. Yep, those are the measurements. Well, alrighty then. I cut out the pattern, minus the sleeves which I am leaving off as I try to emulate the vintage pattern. I add two inches to the skirt length, for the same reason. I cut out the fabric. I mark the pieces, all of which have pleats all over the dang place and require lots of marking, to be followed by lots of folding-ironing-basting. I finally start sewing. When the bodice is together, I do a test fit… and it’s too small.

Too small!

Alison grabs the pattern envelope, and finds ANOTHER size chart, this one on the envelope FLAP, which puts me at a 12. Well, that’s just a little different, now isn’t it? ISN’T IT? Yikes! I have excess fabric, but not enough to cut out the whole dress again. And ugh, those pleats. It takes me about 12 seconds to decide that I’ll open up the side seams, and add fabric panels. Which means I have to do math. Oy! Okay, let’s see… 5/8-inch seam allowance, times eight by the time I’m done adding TWO panels, and the zipper still needs to go in, so let’s see. X times Z, carry the Y, drink a glass of wine, divide by N, and what do we have? Okay, I shall cut two 3-inch panels and slip them into the side seams of the bodice, which should add 3.5 inches to the finished circumference. And then the same for the skirt. Done and done, new fitting, crisis averted. Whew! Hmmm, that two inches that I added to the skirt length is no longer as much excess as I’d thought. The skirt will now become a rolled hem, to maximize length.

Okay, so now all I need to do is finish the arm holes where I left off the sleeves and… hey. Don’t these look a lot narrower than they do on the pattern envelope? They look a lot narrower. I don’t really want them to be narrower. And I don’t want sleeves, even cap sleeves. Hmmm. Alison suggests finishing them with bias tape. Hey, that’s a good idea! I’m not thrilled with the idea of my dress potentially looking like a ringer tee, but better that than sleeves. I make a quick run to JoAnn.

JoAnn closes 15 minutes before I get there. I really want to finish this up while I still have momentum, so I decide that I will make my own bias tape. Self fabric is the way to go! Yay!

Okay, now, um, how do I do that? I sit down with the 1949 edition of The Complete Book of Sewing (an early birthday gift from Alison; if you’re going to sew vintage, you may as well have vintage sewing reference) and look it up, to discover that it’s exactly how I pictured it as I drove back from JoAnn. Cut cut cut, iron iron iron iron iron iron IRON IRON IRON and finally, ready to sew. I sew the new bias tape, I add bows at the shoulders, and voila, I have a dress, with POCKETS:





Filed under fashion, friends, nostalgia, sewing, vintage

Vintage Sewing: Part Four

I left you all on Saturday morning, when I had created my graded pattern but had yet to cut out my fabric. Things went fairly smoothly, aside from accidentally leaving the zipper opening on the right, rather than left, side of the dress, ripping out the seam on the left side, and then restitching the exact same seam, which of course required ripping it out again. Argh. By the end of the evening, my sewing friends had completed the full muslins-as-linings for their more complicated patterns, and, because I had no lining to mess around with, I had a finished dress:


I say “finished,” but I have every intention of going back in and putting in a side-seam pocket. I need pockets. As long as I keep altering this pattern, I think I’ll also move the zipper to the center back next time, which will call for a doubly-long zipper but eliminate the whole right/left issue. Now that I’ve successfully sewn my first vintage pattern, and graded/altered it as well, I just can’t seem to stop messing around!

I wore the now-referred-to-as-Dragon Dress out in public to go to the store on Monday, and received no fewer than SIX compliments on my dress from complete strangers. How lovely! It’s cottony-comfortable, fun to twirl in, and apparently looks quite flattering. The only caveat (aside from a serious lack of pocket) is that when I crouched down at the store to look for something on a bottom shelf, the skirt spilled around me in a three-foot radius, thus preventing a store clerk from restocking a wide swath a shelving until I got up again. Which really isn’t a problem for ME as much as for the people AROUND me.

Tomorrow: Vintage Sewing Weekend’s Bonus Dress


Filed under collections, fashion, friends, nostalgia, sewing, vintage

Vintage Sewing: Part Three

When last we met, I had located fabrics from which to make a muslin (from the Hope Chest line of vintage repro fabrics by Spring) AND a finished dress (a set of Asian dragon-themed sheets) from my chosen vintage pattern (7245 from an unknown maker, if you haven’t been following along). All I needed to do was get to it!

Sunday found me re-ironing the vintage pattern, and ironing the fabric that had been folded in my linen closet for five years (no easy task). I traced, I marked, I cut, I researched what a common seam allowance was at the estimated time of the pattern’s production. I sewed the neckline facing on backwards, because I always do that. I ripped out the offending seam and properly restitched the facing. I used my rolled-hem foot for the first time. I put in my first side zipper, and it looks it. The stitching is neat along the sides, but leaves something to be desired at the short ends. And it’s the wrong color.

The dress, which my mother estimated would be a size too small, is actually two sizes too big.

Pinned/clipped on my mannequin:

Yesterday evening, I graded a pattern for the first time. I transferred the original pattern to posterboard, and made sizing adjustments. I also shortened the hemline by nearly three inches, and made the skirt fuller. Today, I shall cut up the sheet set and get together with some sewing friends, and hope hope hope that my first attempt at pattern grading is successful!

NOTE: The toile shown above is for sale at my etsy store, and knowing that the buyer will likely rip out the zipper and redo it, it is priced accordingly.


Filed under fashion, friends, nostalgia, sewing, vintage

Vintage Sewing: Part Two

Part Two: In which fabric has been sourced. In part, out of my linen closet, where I found a set of sheets and somewhat matching curtains left over from my old apartment.

The sheets, a solid, very pale lilac in the neighborhood of Pantone 14-3911 for those of you with Shopping Guides,* are cheap (also inexpensive, ba-dum-bum) and will be a good weight for making up a muslin. I can get started on that as soon as I finish up some work-related stuff. (Woo! Income!)

The “curtains” that I would use for the finished dress are actually unsewn lengths of a subtly baroque-print fabric that I had previously hung from a rod with curtain clips. I never stitched them up just in case I ever wanted to use the fabric for a project, but then stored the panels in my linen closet instead of my sewing stash, and thus “lost” them for five years. But… I dunno. It’s enough fabric for pattern 7245, for which I should be happy. And yet, it isn’t thrilling me.

Enter: Mom. Who calls to tell me that she’s going to the thrift store and Hobby Lobby, and that I’m going with (re: driving) her whether I want to or not. While I would usually jump at the opportunity to take advantage of her Senior Tuesday 50%-off deal, I am watching my pennies very carefully. But I do need zippers for these dresses, and I’m not being given a choice anyway.

At the thrift store, I find a complete twin sheet set in a print that I’m sure will work wonderfully with this dress. Navy blue, with large Asian dragons and phoenixes and swirling red ribbons. With mom’s discount, only $5.

Hobby Lobby’s selection of zippers is slim, but I finally find a 9-inch blue zipper. And then see the sign that all patterns are 40% off. And after all, I still have the vintage blue floral curtain fabric that started this whole mess! I picked up McCall’s 5686 for $1.80.

McCall's M5686

View B is very similar to the Simplicity 3282/view 1 that I’d wanted to sew in the first place. I’ll simply leave off the sleeves and lengthen the skirt, and I think the 5686 neckline is actually better suited to the fabric I have. I can still add the 3282 bows to the shoulders for a cute touch.

Maybe I’ll sew TWO dresses on Vintage Sewing Weekend!

Still to be continued…
*If you don’t have a Pantone Shopping Guide, you really should get one. Invaluable for matching furniture, clothing, wall paint, you name it. 1,757 swatches, in a convenient fan guide. The same 1,757 swatches that Pantone provides for the textiles industry, but in a vastly cheaper printed-rather-than-fabric-swatches format. $20.
NOTE: See that single-open-quote in the McCall’s “Easy Stitch ‘n Save” logo? It should be an apostrophe. This common typographical error makes McCall’s (and everyone else who does it) look like a bunch of amateurs. If you would like to hire a graphic designer/production artist who notices these things and will not let them slip by and reflect upon your own business, contact me via (No, I don’t do website design. This will be apparent when you see my poorly-coded site.)


Filed under family, fashion, sewing, shopping, vintage