Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Half-Circle Skirt

I have had a 3 yard piece of Pendelton wool plaid that I've used as a shawl for years, since I couldn't work out what I wanted to make from it.


That's about a 40 inch waist and the skirt comes to somewhere below my knee. Looks fairly dire on the hanger but OK on me.

I drafted the pattern by using some circle math and all four pattern pieces are identical. Quick and dirty.

The cf and cb bias seams match perfectly, but the side seams don't. If you look at this picture

you can see that the lighter stripe is made up of white, then light blue, then medium blue.
That is not a bi-directional pattern. So my sideseams line up in the larger picture - wide dark stripes and wide light strips and the thin white double lines and single reddish lines, but the white/light blue/medium blue strips are inverted from front to back. I would have needed 6 yards to match the plaids all the way around.

I just did a simple placket closure as I plan on taking this skirt in a considerable amount next fall if possible.

Next time, I'll probably try this in a large check cotton and pastels for summer.

1940s slip pattern, Mrs. Depew Vintage #325

The other day, I downloaded an interesting slip pattern from Mrs. Depew on Etsy. It is pattern #325, a 1940s slip with contrast panels and a scalloped center front embellishment.

This pattern is from a French system of patterns, designed for home sewists. If you've heard of the Lutterloh system, it is kind of like that. You'd receive a miniature pattern and a set of special rulers. You would use the pattern and the rulers to scale the pattern up to the desired size. The Etsy vendor sells a PDF which has helpful instructions (translated to English), pages of rulers to tape together (in centimeters) and of course the tiny pattern.

I drafted the pattern up for a theoretical 48" bust, grabbed some unbleached muslin, and went to town with the sewing machine. I didn't even iron the muslin until I had sewn the pieces together. That's how excited I was to dig in.

The muslin was pretty close, but rather baggy in the torso and short: and came to just above my knees (I'm tall). So I pinned out the excess, transfered the changes to my paper draft, and then set about copying the draft over 4" longer, with legible notes and my best guess at construction order.
 After carefully adding 3/8" seam allowances that were actually measured, rather than eyeballed on wrinkly muslin, I discovered that this pattern probably had seams allowed already. Oh well, too late.
And further pondering produced the insight that I should have used my high bust measurement (41" now) from the beginning, which probably would have still been all right.

I decided to make it again in the muslin (after washing and ironing the rest of it 0_0 ) and use the results as a nightgown. While the fabric was in the wash, I did my best to devise a pattern layout for economical fabric use.
I came up with a lazy 2 yards and 10 inches. I think if I did a layout on unfolded fabric, I might do better. But that takes more space to cut out and involves flipping and flopping pattern pieces around. Fugeddaboudit.

I spend most of my sewing time making doll clothes for my Etsy store, so I try to run my own clothes together as quickly as possible. Especially trial versions that will be too big eventually (see the post).
I stitched the seams with a double needle in red thread, from the right side (lots of lapped seams on this). The side seam was the only one not lapped
I also decided to cut the center front embellishment of red also, and bind the top edge in red. Those two were stitched with a single needle. I did not do the front inserts in contrast, although the red stitching on the top picture shows where they are.
I made wide straps since this would be a nightgown.

My order of construction was to first do any stay stitching I felt necessary, then making the front assembly (center front, contrast insert, and side front - pcs 3, 4, & 5 on the original pattern) with the contrast insert lapped over the other two.
Then I lapped the bodice front (#2) over the front assembly. That took care of all the double needle stitched lapped seams, and I switched to a single needle and sewed the side seams, switched to red thread and stitched the front embellishment in place.
I did a quick-n-dirty overcast hem in red.

It looks good! I'm excited to try making a slip in an inexpensive synthetic. The slip will have simple ribbon straps and probably simple seams. I'll save a lux hand-stitched silk version for My Skinny Future Self (see this page for an explanation).

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wardrobe thoughts

I want a wardrobe of clothes I like, in colors that suit me, that will work together nicely. Is that so much to ask?

I cruised the Vintage Ad Browser (google it) in the clothing category in the decade of 1940, delighted by the color combinations there. Wine with bright green, Copenhagen blue with goldenrod, dark teal and dusty pink, muted red and pale green - so many pretty colors!

Inspired by these colors and by the Fashionable Forties' blog (which details a Swedish wardrobe plan from the 40s and the blogger's journey through the process of making such a wardrobe) I've settled on two palettes of neutral colors: one for fall/winter and one for spring/summer. Yes, we do have at least 2 seasons here in northern California.

Fall/winter colors are brown, wine, and dark teal, with Copenhagen blue, navy, and goldenrod for spring/summer. Each set of neutrals will work well together, and my several red accents I already have (belt, shoes, handbag) will work with all six colors. I will try to collect some green accents for fall/winter, and white for spring/summer.

What clothes shall I make? More importantly, what clothes will I wear? I'm not keen on dresses or suits - I'm a casual person, with no need or desire for dressing "corporate". I like separates, so blouses and skirt and trousers. I'll make two dresses (maybe three) and several trousers and skirts, and as many blouses as I can stand. Some jackets of the same colors and materials as a few of the skirts to stand in as suits if I need. But I won't wear a matching skirt and jacket very often, if at all. That's a dandy plan for when I'm holding at one size, but what to do in the meantime?

I want to have two skirts, two trousers, and two blouses that fit me at all times. So far, I have dropped one dress size about every two months. So I'll be making a couple of garments a month to stay clothed. I can do that.

I have one pair of trousers, a modern cut in a nice dark brown stretch sateen. And a pair of distinctly unflattering Levis 501 button fly that are getting baggy. For future construction, I'm looking at Wearing History's Smooth Sailing pants, and probably a self drafted less wide-legged pant.
I have a great four piece skirt pattern that is part of a Vintage Vogue reissue suit (one skirt in wine already in the closet), and I've partially constructed a four piece half circle plaid skirt (I love a plaid skirt with some swing to the hem) with bias front and back seams. It is hanging up to let the bias finish stretching out.
I have two stretch tops, and one woven cotton blouse in my closet that is not a vintage pattern, but has that feel: a mint green with sprays of flowers scattered over, pointed collar and short sleeves. I figure it has a few months left in it as I can take the side seams in a bit when I have to. I have several repo vintage patterns that I've made in the past that look good, and I realized today that I have a lot of dress patterns (what was I thinking?) that can be truncated into nice blouse patterns.
Cheap cardigans will stand in for jackets for the next 10 months.
I have one short trenchcoat in electric blue which will be loose but not horrible for I expect the next 40 pounds. I'll be very sad when it no longer fits. And a great vintage coat that I need to take in. And I'll make it again when the current coat is too large.
Yes, that is not a lot of clothes by the overstuffed standards you see on various makeover reality shows.

So I'll spend the next year trying out patterns, practicing finishing techniques, and confirming my color palettes. I will the the Queen of Cheap and Cheerful fabric.
Then in January 2015, I hope to be stabilized at a good weight, when I can start making long-wearing, lovely versions of my favorites from the previous year in quality materials.

Welcome! What's it all about, anyway?

Hi there!
I thought I ought to sit down and explain just what it is I think I'm doing here (not that that, in the end, may bear any resemblence to what I eventually do). So here goes!

I love vintage clothes, but I don't want to look like I'm unclear on the current decade. So I tend to mix vintage or classic styles in with my other clothes. Sometimes I wear hats and gloves, but rarely at the same time.

I'm about 6 feet tall and fat.
Yes, I said fat. Not overweight, not obese, not fluffy, not padded, not Junoesque. Fat. So there.
I started sewing in junior highschool, when I discovered that anything but a man's shirt from the tall section failed to reach my wrists. Now, decades and decades later I still sew many of my own clothes, rather than buying the overpriced, badly made, hideously colored tents on offer for middle aged women in the fat lady section. Or - heavens - tights masquading as leggins masquarding as jeans.

On the plus side (ha ha ha), I've been losing about 2 pounds a week since January 2014, so my old clothes are falling off me. Many have already been consigned to the local hospice organization's thrift store. And some old favorites (I didn't save many) are back on the clothes rod! I'm going from a 24 women's (US) to probably a 14 misses US. From 255lbs to 170lbs.

How am I going to cope with clothes for the next year? I don't know, so to distract myself from that issue, I'm busily planning a wardrobe for the future skinny me.

To keep myself clothed in the meantime, I'm in the process of digging through my vintage patterns (mostly Vogue and Butterick re-issues) for any pattern that either is a blouse pattern or can be used as one. I'll post as I work on various garments. These will be wearable test garments, to see if I like the style and my color choices.

And that's what this blog is all about. My wardrobe and sewing adventures.

So, what does this have to do with sieves, anyway? The title is the same as the URL. Anagram, anyone?

(This post will become a 'page' on this blog, for future visitors)