November 3, 2013

A fabric problem

It's not a problem really… It's more like an embarrassment of riches…
But, let's explain first. I'm really good at find decent fabric at modest prices and I make the vast majority of my clothes from such fabrics. Whenever a local fabric store has it's annual sale though, I'll try and buy something special. Something I wouldn't normally be able to find. When, over a year ago, the largest local fabric store, Toetenel, was closing down, they held a sale to get rid of all their old stock. Yes, all of it. I didn't even buy much but what I bought was great stuff. Three pieces of wool crepe and three pieces of silk. And ever since, I've been afraid to cut into these. They're just so beautiful and so different from my usual fabrics and if I messed them up, I could never replace them unless I was willing to pay a lot more….

These are the two colored pieces of wool crepe, green and raspberry, two meters each, at 140 cm wide (the third piece is a heavier black crepe). 
They've become 'Holy Grail fabrics'…..
And last week, when I pulled them out of the drawer (which has moth-repellent stuff throughout) to gaze at them lovingly, I noticed a small moth-hole in the green crepe. Of course, I put all these lovely fabrics straight in the freezer to get rid of any remaining creepy crawlies. I did get the message though: if I don't sew with them, I may lose these wonderful fabrics in some other way, which is much, much worse than taking the risk of a garment turning out less-than-fabulous.

So, now I'm trying to decide what to make from the green wool crepe. A dress comes to mind, of course. Lately, vaguely 50's dresses always seem to be the first to come to my mind. 

I thought about copying this dress, from Margriet magazine from 1950. It is described as a 'visiting dress' and it's meant to be made from wool crepe! The pattern diagram is pretty much useless to me because it's for their size 42, which has a 98 cm bust (just over 10 cm more than mine…).

I tried to get close to it by drafting from my trusty sloper. Because I had my doubts, I made a muslin of the bodice.

Bleh. The gathers are there, they just won't behave like I want them to. Even without the weight of a sleeve, the gathers just get pulled open into stupid random 'roominess' far before reaching chest level.
I have drawn up the bodice pieces from the diagram as well and plan to muslin those too, just to see if they're any better. I fear the worst though. Free patterns in magazines are often sloppily made, in the 1950's as much as today.
If I can't make the upper bodice look like it does in the picture, I don't think I'll risk my beautiful crepe on this pattern.

So, I started sketching. A fabric like this would do well in draped or gathered shapes… 

Like this cowl neck with added pleat. I thought about back yoke and a collar and doodled a bit to find an appropriate skirt shape. I sort of settled on the narrow skirt with the gathered section.

I kind of liked that sketch, but not enough, so I tried some variations on the theme. I quickly came up with the idea to change to sleeves from normal to raglan. I think I like that. And I tried out variations on the skirt: pleats instead of gathers, an inserted flared bit etc…
And I considered a pocket. I'd like one, but for wool, this fabric is thin and delicate.

Again, I kind of liked the ideas, but not enough. So, sketched one of my old 'how to use Pattern Magic' ideas. A dress with a 'tying a bow' feature at the side front which does all the shaping. Either, sticking with my usual silhouette, at the waistline, or, in a 1920's inspired way, a bit lower.
I will definitely make a dress like this, but I'm not so sure I should use this fabric…

So, this is where I'm at now. I'm going to study my 1930's and 1940's magazines for inspiration because I think this fabric suits the styles from that era. Hopefully that will help a bit.
And please, weigh in with your insight and recommendations...


  1. Gorgeous fabrics... being mid-way through a wool crepe dress, I can happily say it's a great fabric to sew with! Just make sure you pre-shrink... wool crepe is notorious in that regard. I'm absolutely loving the colours, and your dress design will be perfect!

  2. Pretty! It is a little hard for me to see, but maybe the original Margriet has a more forward shoulder seam than you muslinned? Would that have allowed the fullness to drop as gathered from the collarbone through the chest-hollow rather than spreading out into "stupid random roominess?" (lol!) I like the solution of the raglan sleeves. That brings the shoulder seam forward as well! And could you support a pocket in the horizontal seam at the top-most part of the skirt's gathered section? -I'm looking at the arching versions. I do like those lines! They might really sing in a pinstriped or tweed fabric! But don't hide your beautiful darlings any longer! -Kimbersew