Tag Archives: dresses

home sewing in the 1920s, or getting ready for november’s monthly stitch

Amy Barickman's Vintage Notions
Amy Barickman’s Vintage Notions

Trolling through our local library’s listings for things vintage, I spied Vintage Notions by Amy Barickman, and requested it.  In due course it arrived, and I was surprised because it has nothing to do with haberdashery.

It’s a monthly diary and homage to Mary Brooks Picken (1886 – 1981), an American who created a national mail order Course in Dressmaking and Design, was one of the founding directors of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, was the first woman to be named a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York), and wrote nearly 100 books/pamphlets, some still in print.

The book also has several sewing “patterns” (more like diagrams) from Picken’s publications, and they particularly piqued my interest.  You know me ~ I was soon looking around cyberspace to see what else might be available.

excuse my hand!
excuse my thumb!

That’s when I discovered there are reprints and some originals of Mrs. Picken’s books and pamphlets available today.  I ordered and promptly received one of the 3 in her 1920s One-Hour Dress series.

The dresses and variations in this 1925 booklet use the same folding process as my pinny.  Perhaps this method or process was in general use in the 1920s.  Paper patterns were quite possibly not in general use.

I freely admit to being thoroughly & happily spoilt by today’s printed patterns.  Game for giving the 1925 booklet a go, I carefully read directions & diagram a couple of times.  (Warning: Don’t think you’re gonna do this in 1 hour straight off, unless you’ve done this before!)  I think I’m ready for November’s Monthly Stitch challenge!

Pssst!  Cornell University has an online copy of  The Mary Brooks Picken method of modern dressmaking, 1925, here!

seeing stripes

Pinstripes, to be precise.  When I saw Vogue 1236 last season I remembered this black, aging in stash for a mere 4 years. I used the pattern a couple months ago, almost as a toile, and wound up wearing the dress a lot.  So I was looking for an excuse to get the pattern out again.

Saturday morning I dove into the boxes of fabric, but couldn’t find the pinstripe.  I remembered pondering whether to keep it or toss it when packing up for the last move, but couldn’t remember what I decided.

Giving up the search, I dragged out a large black bin liner with a wonderful green fleece, thinking to assuage disappointment by making a hat out of the green. Hats + green = perfect combination!

But guess what I found at the bottom of the bag.  Yep.  There was the black pinstripe!

front pleat detail
front pleat detail

After struggling for a day, the hat’s on hold briefly, and it’s forward with the pinstripes.  Will add about 6” to the length this time, as my summer sample is ok, but I wish it had a good 2 or 3 inches more in length, and a decent hem.

Reading through the directions last night I remembered my question from summer about those front pleats: to sew down or not to sew down.  Looking closely at the pattern detail, I think they should be sewn.

If nor,not, there’s always the seam ripper.  😉  (and editing!)

faffing about ~ buttons

click any to go to larger photos

Technically, it’s Wednesday, but I’ve been faffing about so much this should would have been posted Tuesday if I’d stayed on target.  So I’m cheating and back-dating this. Shh – don’t tell!

It’s these buttons. Can’t seem to resist them. And since dear friend & secret swap partner Sewin Love UK‘s latest care package arrived yesterday I’ve had these beauties staring me in the face.

Also… the weather’s changing, which means dragging out all those boxes (well, not that many now that I’ve downsized so drastically) and sorting through, trying to guess what will be needed now, and what to save for later when it’s really winter.

And then there’s last week, which was beastly hot & humid, when I wore my last 2 (new) dresses to death, and began to realize how much I miss dresses instead of bottoms & tops, then realizing the h&h weather could return…   😦

Couple that with seeing Phryne Fisher and reading all about the costumes, which combine British and French 1920’s influence, to better reflect the lead’s character.  The dresses and coats were looking awfully comfortable, even if I don’t have her waif-thin figure. (memo to self: designer says cut on the bias for curvy figures …)

Not to mention trying to decide what to sew next, given all the above.  So it’s been faffing about in general here.

How about you?

summer sheath – puzzle answered

symmetrical pleats!
symmetrical pleats!

Samantha, of Sewin Love came the closest to the correct answer.  She wrote…

“I believe your pleats are pinned in the ‘wrong’ direction, looking at the pattern looks as though they should be folded in opposite direction. EG left to right rather than right to left?”

Remember, that pattern piece was placed on the fold, and I should have had a mirror image of the pleats when I opened it up.  But I didn’t, when I took that photo, because I was busy not thinking about symmetry, and took the photo.

Later, before sewing down those pleats – thank goodness, no unpicking! – I realized the sides weren’t symmetrical, or each side folded towards the center.  I re-pinned one side, then sewed down the pleats and basted across the top.

Dear Readers, did I present the puzzle adequately, so you had a fair chance at the answer?   Be honest, please!!!  I didn’t intentionally mean to trick anyone, and apologize if you’re feeling I did.

Thank you to all who wrote in a comment!

the summer print sheath puzzle

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Last night the quandary over why I couldn’t cut into the orangey rayon was solved – yeah!  And the weather’s turned hot & humid again, so the pattern has been cut out of a Hawaiian print added to The Stash last December.  Might finish it before the night is out.  I’ve a plan for the peachy rayon, too, but wanted that sheath first.

The mystery was solved when I realized the pattern’s style is informal.  Recommended fabrics include seersucker & chambray, and they’re definitely more sporty and informal types of fabric.  I wouldn’t describe the rayon as sporty, and that was the difficulty.

Those front pleats are a bit of a mystery I need to look up on-line.  The pattern says to baste them, but never says to take out the stitches.  Looking at the photos, I can’t tell if they’ve left the pleats sewn down, or not.  Maybe I’ll flip a coin, but most probably I’ll check the fit.  If it goes on & comes off easily with the pleats sewn down, I’ll leave them!

Didn’t have quite enough fabric to do the 2-piece self-lined bodice, so will use bias binding. Sew up the sides, and it’s done!


Amongst the photos above I’ve included a picture that’s not quite right. See if you can figure out what’s wrong!

Think I’ve been watching too many Masterpiece Mysteries lately?  🙂

flash! karen’s etsy shop has patterns

this is Karen of Sew U Sew Me - she's NOT the clothes pin at the top of the page!
this is Karen of Sew U Sew Me – she’s NOT the clothes pin at the top of the page!

And they’re selling real quick, because her prices are great, she ships internationally and doesn’t charge an arm & a leg. If you’re in the market for craft, kids, or fashion patterns, from 1960s to current, click on over to Sew U Sew Me.

Happy shopping!


weekly photo challenge: world through your eyes

fabric piles on chair (yes, there IS a chair underneath) - reminding me I want to use these SOON
fabric piles on chair (yes, there IS a chair underneath) – reminding me I want to use these SOON

Well, you know I’m thinking fabric and colour and pattern all the time, so what better things to share in this week’s challenge?

Warning!  You are about to enter into the strange and wonderful thought processes of moi, matching fabric with pattern, style & colour.  Proceed with caution!

retro-inspired Balenciaga
Balenciaga dress – 20s fashion that’s very current: Love it!
(click to go to original post on Mizhattan.com)
summer pattern board
summer pattern board

Inspiration: On left is a feminine and fresh Balenciaga that, minus that fuzzy hat, would look great for a 1920s day or night on the town.

On the right is my current wish list/pattern board, which I see all the time. It contains patterns from 1930s to 2013 styles.

It’s supposed to remind me of all those gorgeous things I want to make & wear NOW!

(Hope the un-subliminal messaging works – hee-hee!)

Which brings me to fabric bought last December,  but meant for this summer because they’re very light cottons.

2 light weight 100% cotton fabrics
2 light weight 100% cotton fabrics
(ignore the beige with berry branches at top right)

really wanted to use the white with cherries for Folkwear’s Metro Middy Blouse, but when I started laying out the pattern Sunday afternoon I realized there wasn’t enough. Rats! (Went with medium weight linen & cotton blend for that pattern, but that’s another post.)

Still thinking in blouse & skirt mode, I wandered over to me board of patterns …  I kept seeing the red, in me mind’s eye, as a circle skirt.  Scanning the  pattern board, I started thinking about elongating the bodice of Folkwear’s 1930s Day Dress.  Hmm… that might work as a blouse – just button it down the front a bit more.  Plus, it’s high on my Must Make This Summer list.

click to move to Folkwear's page!
click to move to Folkwear’s page!

A light bulb moment!  Why not go whole hog & make a skirt & blouse instead of a dress, using the bottom right view.  That’s my  Plan B… to see if there’s enough of both fabrics to make a tail on the bodice for a blouse, & a waist band for a separate skirt.

In your mind’s eye, can you visualise cherries on white fabric for the blouse, with maybe the red for the collar & sleeves? Then I’d do the skirt with the solid red, and maybe cherry fabric for the adorable pockets?? If there’s enough fabric….. and must use some cute buttons… that cherry fab needs cute buttons…

If not, no doubt there’s a Plan C or D or even E available, all from the pattern board.  Decisions!

(Have temporarily given up the idea of a circle skirt outta this red, of course.)  But not the idea of doing a circle skirt.  😉

(Oh, that ‘extra’ beige fabric with the berry branches? It’s slightly heavier 100% cotton & perfect for a-nother blouse with longer sleeves to wear with that skirt.)

Sometimes I wonder about meself… and need another creative person to bounce an idea off of.

Sew, what do you think?

weekly photo challenge: escape

amongst the piles, current project is bright yellows/orange on tippy top of fabric piles & actually under the pressure foot
amongst the piles, current project is bright yellows/orange on tippy top of fabric piles & actually under the pressure foot

Borrowing from Urban Rustic, I think of this as my sewing slum, and it’s a delightful escape. Having spent so much time getting machines cleaned, & finding infrastructure (fabric, patterns, thread, bindings, ribbons, laces, buttons, interfacings, etc.) it’s such a pleasure to just sit down and sew.

Decided this morning to make up a seersucker fabric purchased last weekend. Am doing an extremely simple gathered straight shift with tie shoulder straps. It’ll do for either nightgown or house dress when it’s super hot… which is what I was vainly looking for this morning.

If you can’t find it/don’t have it, sew it! Which makes this not only an escape to a pleasanter, though decidedly crowded place, it’s also a process whereby to escape from heat, and add a needed item to me wardrobe.

Not bad for a Friday!

a wee bit more sewing bee!

from the BBC-2 web site
from the BBC-2 web site

Note-This shoulda been a monday or tuesday post, but was too busy to put it up – apologies for not feeling like writing this week, & saving them all up for today – my bad On a brighter note, you’ve the whole weekend to catch up.   he-he!

There’s just something about the camaraderie all 8 contestants displayed that’s knocked a big hole in many people’s hearts around the globe.  If you’re one of those with withdrawal pangs, here’s a wee bit more detail. And lots more piccies!

❤❤  Faithful Readers know I’m a fan of Debi over at My Happy Sewing Place.  Her partner, David, has written a beautiful guest post of his observations of the show, having accompanied Debi to Lauren’s Grand Opening last weekend, when many of the contestants also came to help out. As a man who doesn’t sew, he had time to observe and reflect on what was happening. It’s inspiring reading!  ❤❤

the sewers, in alpha order

  • Ann is on Ravelry, and has ventured into quilting
  • Jane’s gorgeous handbags are available online
  • Lauren’s shop sells online & has just opened in Birmingham, U.K.
  • Mark & his wife spend their evenings making historic costumes for themselves
  • Michelle is a young mum & makes unique fashions for herself & her baby
  • Sandra continues to sew for herself & her 3 daughters… and has started her own label
  • Stuart writes a quilting column for a monthly magazine, and holds quilting workshops around the U.K., including at Lauren’s store
  • Tilly is publishing her own patterns, has a very popular blog, and also does workshops at Lauren’s store

judges & presenter

  • May Martin has taught at Denman College (Women’s Institute Academy) since 1995
  • Savile Row’s Patrick Grant is a director of a bespoke menswear firm and has absorbed their high level of workmanship
  • Claudia Winkleman is well-known for hosting BBC programmes, including Strictly Come Dancing & The Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman

BBC-2 aired the programmes, and this is their site. Note that I’ve tried several times to view clips on their site and have only gotten to see 1 or 2.  Not certain if it’s because I’m not in England, or if the site was overloaded with requests to view.

not enough hours…

McCall's 4116, center & bottom right versions
McCall’s 4116, center & bottom right versions

I missed the memo that said this week was going to have 8 hr days instead of 24.   AGH !  There’s been so much to do, primarily sewing machine-related.  Sheer heaven to finally be able to back stitch, do decorative stitches, vary stitch lengths – yeah!

Plus there’s been a 30% off sale on all those extra machine bits… am trying not to lust after more than the 4 extra pressure feet just purchased.   😉

AND… CurlsnSkirls is now on Ravelry.  Trolled back thru my photos & discovered more knit & crochet projects than I thought.  Am adding them as time permits.  If you’re also on Ravelry, do stop by.

AND I have a sewing commission… sort of!  A friend wore a hat I admired, and said she wished she had more in different colours.  We decided it most resembled McCall’s 4116,view E.  For the moment, and as it’s gone chilly again, hats trump the summer dress.   Now, about those 7 other feet I’d like to have…

did spend 10 minutes sticking plastic flowers into this old decoration, ready to hang
did spend 10 minutes sticking plastic flowers into this old decoration, ready to hang