My Fall for Cotton Project – Sewalong Update

1940s Girl Friday blouse, Decades of Style

For the first two part of September, I was set on making a 1950s (or was that 1940s?) suit or at the very least the jacket, which I wrote about in the post Fall for Cotton – A Vintage Sewing Challenge. But after I washed my home dec fabric a couple times and then did a burn test, I finally had to acknowledge that there was a little synthetic something in there. A tiny big of hard residue was left after it burned. I didn’t want to shop for more fabric or patterns so I looked over the vintage patterns I had, including some I got in August (see My Vintage Weekend) and via Vintage Martini (my Instagram pic of those). Here’s where I am on my Fall for Cotton project.

Decades of style 1940s blouseI got this lovely Decades of Style blouse pattern from Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics in Berkeley a few months ago so I thought maybe it’s time to make it up. I had some lovely vintage Swiss dot fabric that I got in Philadelphia at Maxie’s Daughter Fabric. I never wear that color but I really loved the fabric so I bought four yards because it wasn’t very wide. (I’ve had an aversion to green since high school because I had to wear a forest green uniform – think green plaid, green skirts and pants, green knee socks.) I think the owner said that it was from the 1940s. I need to check on that.

I’ve never used Swiss dot fabric before either so this would definitely be a sewing challenge, especially because I really didn’t start sewing until last weekend! So excuse the iPhone photos, I’ll be doing another post on t finished product with better pics!

I cut out the pattern last week – I decided to forgo tracing it because of the time factor (sewalong participants are supposed to post photos of their finish project by Sept. 30). Before I cut the pattern, I checked the size measurements and the finished garment measurements. Based on those numbers, I decided to cut the size for a 36 inch bust and graded up one size in the hip area.

I thought about not doing a muslin because I just wanted to get going but there would be no way of getting more fabric so I cut a muslin of the front and back pieces.

Muslin of 1940s Girl Friday Blouse, Decades of style

It fit around the hips and that’s all that really mattered to me. Oh, and I realized that I sewed up to the wrong marking on the side seam. See how it’s wrinkled around the armhole? I wasn’t paying attention and marked my muslin with the dot for two sizes smaller. Oops. I made sure to fill in the correct dot on the pattern so I wouldn’t repeat that error!

Vintage fabric often has widths much smaller than we use today. This fabric was only 34 inches wide. For my size, the pattern calls for 1 1/2 yards of 45 wide or 1 1/8 of 60 wide. As you can see from the photo below, folded in half, it was just wide enough to cut two front pattern pieces. Whew!

1940s Girl Friday Blouse, Decades of style - Front pattern piece

This pattern has two shoulder darts instead of side bust darts, four tucks in the front and four darts in the back for a flattering shape. I have no idea how one would adjust the bust for this pattern – create a larger shoulder bust? Add a side bust dart? I have a small bust (cup size A) and it fit fine for me. I think it would also work for a B cup but nothing larger.

I used a French seam along the shoulders and right side. The fabric is a bit sheer so that was the best option. (See how the dots look on the wrong side? Fuzzy!)

French seam - right side, 1940s Girl Friday blouse, Decades of Style

The trickiest part is the invisible zipper, which you install on the left side – not a whole lotta margin for error there – especially with my vintage Swiss dot, which is rather lightweight.

I’ve only installed two invisible zippers to date – one side zipper on the dress I made for the BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern Contest (I didn’t win but I was one of 20 finalists). You can see a photo of it in my post Nitty Gritty Dress Details. And the other on the skirt I finished earlier this month but haven’t taken final pics of yet. I wrote about the pocket though in How to Add a Patch Pocket to a Skirt.

I use a regular zipper foot because I can’t seem to find an invisible zipper foot that works with my Kenmore machine. The one that came with it doesn’t work well.

After I installed the zipper, I tried it on and pinned the center front. You don’t sew the center front seam until after you’ve attached the collars. It fit well but it was a little snug in the hips. The difference between my muslin and this version is that I followed the directions when I made the one with my fashion fabric. When I made the muslin, I just sewed the tucks along the lines in the pattern. The lines for the tucks don’t go all the way to the bottom of the pattern piece. But when I read the directions, I sewed them correctly. So that meant I lost some ease. Same thing for the back darts. On my muslin I sewed them coming to a point about an inch from the bottom. The directions say to sew it down to 1/8 inch at the bottom.

Checking fit of 1940s Girl Friday blouse

So how did I add ease? I decided to redraw one front tuck on each side 1/8 inch away from the original line. I sewed the tuck and then I very carefully removed the old stitching.

The patterns calls for bias tape on the armholes and front neck area. Luckily I had enough fabric left over to make some. The pattern said to cut it 1 1/2 inches wide but I only had a bias tape maker for 1 3/4 inch and 1 inch so I decided to go with 1 3/4 inch. But when I started putting it through the bias tape maker, it didn’t look very good – maybe because of the dots, which are rather fuzzy in on the wrong side of the fabric, it just wouldn’t form the folds very neatly. So I ended up just ironing by hand:

  • fold in half, iron
  • fold one side to middle fold, iron
  • fold other side to middle, iron
  • fold in half, iron

Though I really hate ironing, I hate sloppy folds even more and it didn’t take too long to iron a couple yards. (Have you seen this cool post by The Scientific Seamstress Printable Bias Tape Maker? She created a bias tape maker you can use to make 1/2 inch single-fold tape – on a sheet of paper. However, I was too lazy to print it out and put it together but when I have more time I’m definitely going to check it out.)

I am happy with my custom bias tape!

Bias tape for 1940s Girl Friday Blouse, Decades of Style

The unique aspect of this pattern is the three collars. I’ve never made anything with more than one collar. The top collar on top runs all the way around your neck, the other collars are each separate pieces that go under the top collar. So you’ve got two collar pieces under the top one.

The pattern shows you how to add embroidered running stitch on each collar, suggesting that you make the stitches 1/4 inch in length and place each row of stitches 1/4 inch apart.

I wasn’t sure if I would do it but when I had to go get the invisible zipper I passed by Lacis, a lace museum with a great retail store that carries all kinds of embroidery floss, ribbons, lace and notions, so I stopped in and picked a yellow (perfect match for t yellow of the dots!) and a green. They’re only 45 cents each so I got one of each.

Embroidery Floss for 1940s Girl Friday blouse, Decades of Style pattern

Here are the collars lined up.

1940s Girl Friday blouse, Decades of Style pattern, collars

And here they are with the embroidery.

1940s Girl Friday blouse, Decades of Style pattern

I admit that after I did about two of the bottom collars I started thinking that the yellow was too bright. But I got plenty of encouragement on Instagram and Brooke of Custom Style assured me that it wouldn’t be too bright and it would help make the collar shape stand out. So I finished embroidering all the collars last night and basted them together.

Here’s a larger detail of two bottom collars.

Collar detail - 1940s Girl Friday Blouse, Decades of Style

It took me nearly the entire weekend to get to this point. I didn’t expect it to be so time-consuming. My husband thought I was rather obsessed, which I guess I was. The hard part’s done. Now I have to attach the collar, add the bias tape and hem the blouse. Whew!

Have you made any garments from vintage patterns with unique details such as this collar? If you have, please put links in your comments below. I’d love to see what you made!

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6 Responses to “My Fall for Cotton Project – Sewalong Update”

  1. September 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    I had to stop by to check out your project and Holy Moley!! I have that blouse on my table half made!!! I made it once before, last year for the Collar challenge for Sew Weekly, and LOVE it. I’ll move this one up on my projects list. Yours is GORGEOUS.
    Don’t you love their patterns, I have about 6 of them : ) Can’t wait to see your finished shirt!

    • September 30, 2013 at 3:40 pm #

      Thank you! So you’ve actually made it once before, eh? Here’s a question for you then – how did you finish your center front seam below the bias facing? I ended up pinking them on mine.

  2. September 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

    Oh, my goodness! That collar is even more amazing than the little closeups I’ve seen on IG! The yellow thread outline looks perfect – I admit I was a little worried when I first saw your fabric choice with that pattern, but the outline really makes it work! I cannot wait to see it on you!

    I never use a bias tape tool – it’s always so much easier and better result in the end to just iron it like you did. =)

    I’ve actually made a dress from a 1939 pattern that has a double collar. I still have to attach the second collar and make a belt to be finished with it. You may have seen a photo or two a month or so ago on IG. Here’s a link to one of the in process photos.

    • September 24, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

      Thank you! I admit I was a bit nervous about using that fabric – because of the color and because it was dotted Swiss. The embroidery really does help show off the collar shape. It took a while to mark the lines for the embroidery but it was worth it. I think I may do a post on embroidering a collar.

      So you don’t use bias tape makers either, eh? Well I can certainly see why. Making bias tape without one certainly does get better results – and it really doesn’t take very long (even for those of us who hate ironing).

      I remember seeing that photo on IG! That is a great double collar. I just love details like that! You don’t see anything like that in RTW. You picked some striking colors for that pattern. Thanks for sharing!

  3. September 24, 2013 at 9:31 am #

    I remember your project from the Flickr group. That collar is incredible!! I am so glad you stuck it out with the yellow thread, because it looks amazing. AMAZING, I tell you!

    PS: How does your bias tape look so perfect?? I make my own with one of the little wedge-shaped tools and it never looks as nice as yours does!

    • September 24, 2013 at 11:33 am #

      Thank you! I tried using the bias tape maker and it didn’t look good – folds didn’t go to middle. So I just did it manually. Check out the bullet points above for the deets.

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