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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Sewing Another Trench Coat

The Trench - in purple

I made my first version of this coat a couple years ago. (You can read about it in this post The Trench.”) The pattern is from Christine Haynes aptly named book Chic & Simple Sewing, which I reviewed here.

I found this handwoven heavyweight cotton purple fabric at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. I thought it would do nicely for this coat. The Depot sells cut fabric (not on the bolt) for $2/yard, fabric on the bolt is $3/yard. (For more info, see my post, Fabric at the East Bay Depot.)

Then I had to decide what I would use for the bias tape. I found a lovely remnant of striped silk at Discount Fabrics in San Francisco. I liked the idea of having diagonally striped bias tape.

After I started sewing the coat and attached the sleeves, I wondered about using more of the silk fabric as an additional accent to the coat. Eventually, I decided to put some of the silk fabric along the bottom edge of the sleeves. These pieces would be sort of like cuffs but I would just be placing a piece of fabric over the sleeve ends.

If I had figured this out earlier, I could have sewed the silk on to the sleeve before I attached the sleeves. It would be a pain to rip out the seams so I ended up hand sewing the silk to the sleeves (see photos below).

I actually made the bias tape last year and finally got around to finishing The Trench this past weekend. The big difference between this version and my previous one, is fusible tape. When I made this coat the first time around, I hadn’t used any fusible tape for sewing seams. It would have made my seams on the bias tape look significantly better. The bias tape didn’t lay flat so I hid that unevenness by sewing rick rack on top of the seam line. You can see that version here.

For the purple trench, I used a double-sided fusible tape –  Design Plus Ulta-soft Double Sided Fusible (3/8″) – which I read about in the an issue of Threads magazine. It is an excellent stabilizer for lightweight fabrics. Back in 2009, I ordered of two rolls of it from LJ Designs. At that time it was $9.99 for a 27-yard roll. (The price has gone up a dollar.) My first roll is nearly depleted but I still have one roll that’s unused.

It was a very tedious process ironing the fusible to the bias tape because I had to first iron it on one side and then the other. The good thing was that there was just a little edge of fusible at the center fold of the bias tape. So I could then put the bias tape over the unfinished coat edges and iron it in place. This meant I didn’t have to pin the bias tape. Yay.

The fabric I used was rather thick so I hand sewed the hem. Also, because this particular cotton has a tendency to unravel, I sewed bias tape over all the seams, which is a nice detail on an unlined jacket.

Below are many photos of preparing and attaching the bias tape, making the pockets and cuffs, and other details.

Ironing fusible to one side of bias tape
Peeling the paper from the fusible tape
Ironing the bias tape
Ironing fusible to opposite side
Ironing bias tape in place
Sewing on bias tape
Front edge and neckline
Bias tape along front edge. Neckline bias tape ironed in place
Pinning the cuff in place for hand sewing
Finished cuff
Notches cut into pocket corner curves
Ironing the pocket

 

Pinning the pocket
Sewing the pocket to The Trench
Inside view of the bottom hem and seam covered with bias tape

The Trench

The Trench

This coat is the first thing I made from Christine Haynes‘s book, Chic & Simple Sewing. It has only has five pattern pieces: jacket front, jacket back, sleeve, pocket, and bias tape. And the last two items are optional as you can make the coat without the pockets and you can buy bias tape rather than making your own. It’s pretty easy to make and looks great.

I had a few yards of this rich dark grey wool fabric that I got at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, a cool nonprofit organization in Oakland which sells all kinds of things that people donate (art supplies, fabric, furniture, beads, yarn, baskets, small appliances, you name it). I only paid $2/yard for this fabric! I also found a yard of lightweight herringbone tweed wool fabric at the Depot. So when I was looking at my fabric stash, I thought those two fabrics would make a good combination – the dark grey for the coat and the herringbone for contrasting bias tape. (For more info, check out this post “Fabric at the East Bay Depot” by yours truly.)

This was the first time I made my own bias tape. Before I bought Christine’s book, I had been reading about bias tape in Anna Maria Horner‘s beautiful book Seams to Me. Her instructions and diagram on making bias tape were very clear and easy to follow. (For an online tutorial, see Coletterie’s “How to make Bias Tape”.) I hadn’t thought about making my own bias tape before and Anna Marie’s book used bias tape tohttps://csews.com/clothes/the-trench such lovely effect, I was hooked. I went out and bought a couple different sizes of bias tape makers. I really wanted to make something with my own bias tape. And then I saw this coat in Christine’s book and realized this would be the perfect thing.

Like the title of Christine’s book, this coat is simple to sew. After you cut out the pieces, you sew each front piece to a sleeve piece and then the back edge of the sleeve to the back piece. It has raglan sleeves as you can see from this photo below.

The Trench has raglan sleeves.

It only became slightly tricky when I wasn’t quite sure which side was the “right” side because the fabric I was using was the same on both sides.

Once I sewed the main coat pieces, it was on to the bias tape along the front opening of the coat and then around the collar. At this point in my sewing life, I had not used things like Steam-a-Seam or other fusible webs, which make it easier to get nice looking seams. So I blithely sewed the bias tape to the front edge and soon realized that the lightweight herringbone I was using for my bias tape didn’t look so good. The seam didn’t quite lay flat and was a little puckered in some areas (darn it). My solution? Rick rack to the rescue! I bought some black rick rack that I sewed right over the seam, which made a nice transition between the herringbone bias tape and the dark grey of the main fabric.

Then I had another problem. The coat flopped open instead of staying upright like the one in the book. It was the fault of the fabric I choose plus the bias tape and rick rack added a little more weight that made it “flop.” So I decided that I needed a covered button to keep it together at the top. I put the button on one side and made a loop out of black corded elastic for the other. Click on the photos below to see larger versions of the rick rack and button. (Christine chose a medium-weight cotton fabric for her coat. I’ll be making another version of the coat using a heavier weight purple cotton fabric and striped bias tape.)

Bias tape, rick rack detail
Covered button detail

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last step was to hem the bottom and sew on the patch pockets, which are really useful. I love big pockets. The Trench has pockets large enough to stow your cell phone, a paperback book, wallet, and keys. I wear this coat a lot in the Bay Area. It’s perfect for cool weather here. But when it gets a little chillier, your arms will get cold because the sleeves are 3/4 length. So heave some arm warmers ready or wear a sweater underneath.

If you make this coat, you’ll be sure to get compliments on it. Thanks for a great pattern, Christine!