April 27, 2016


This post doesn't have nice pictures. I'm not going to model my panties on the internet and they don't really look good when photographed flat on the table. However, I made a new pair of high-waisted panties today. 

I have made high-waisted panties before but I was never quite happy with them. Usually, I would either end up with visible panty lines at the back or the legs would cut at the front.

Then, last month, I bought some lingerie from What Katie Did (known for there great retro styles). A bra (I tried the bullet and cone bras which I was really curious about but ended up getting the Glamour Nouveau underwired bra. It's a more "normal" style but it worked so much better on my small bust), a suspender belt and high-waisted panties
And those were a bit of an eye-opener. I tried another style, with a lower rise but vastly preferred this high-waisted pair. I've worn them normally, for full days, since and I haven't been disappointed. 

These are the What Katie Did panties. They look particularly bad in a picture like this because they are made from less stretchy materials than most panties you come across. The black satin has no stretch at all and the rest is a mid-weight powernet (which, I suppose, means they would also work as light shape wear if you have squishy bits in the area covered by these). As a result, they have to be more gathered by the edge elastics. 
I'm just including these pictures because they also kind of show the other details that make these work so well: The side seam has been moved to the side back which allows it to be shaped a bit more in a place where people are shaped and there is is a slight corner in the leg line which allows the leg openings to be cut high in the front (so they won't cut) and low in the back (so they won't cause panty lines).

Obviously, I'm not trying to copy these but I would like to learn from them to make my own, self drafted and sewn, panties better. 
So, I tried to apply these two great details to my own basic high-waist panty pattern to see if that would improve it.

My materials are lycra and a thinner mesh which is about as stretchy. So, the panties lie much more flat on the table. Making the corner in the leg elastic was a bit fiddly but after one half-failed attempt, I got it to work. Other than that, the construction was pretty standard. And you know what? I think it worked!
The fit is different than that of the WKD pair, but I could have told you that just by looking at these pictures. But they are comfortable and don't seem to cause lines... Now I just need to try and wear them all day to be sure.

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with What Katie Did. I have just bought their products more than once and I love them. If you are in the market for retro-style lingerie, I heartily recommend this brand.
I am also not trying to rip off their product. As a seamstress and pattern maker, I am always looking at RTW items from a construction point of view. I try to understand what manufacturers are doing and why and incorporate that understanding in my own (private) work. 

April 24, 2016


And here it is: The blouse from this pattern from Bella magazine from 1952!

When I asked, most commenters preferred this multicoloured, kind-of-ethnic print. Some of you thought this type of print was not very 1950's but I think I have seen enough "souvenir-skirts" and embroidered central European peasant blouses in 1950's magazines to think that it isn't far off the mark. And I thought the scale of this print would suit this design better.

As I explained in the previous post, I made the pattern up without any alteration except to the collar and neckline. Even the length of the blouse looked OK when I held up the paper pattern to my body. And it is. Especially if worn in a proper 50's way: Tucked into a high waistband (here made even higher by a wide tie-on belt).
Without tucking in, the blouse is rather loose fitting. The back simple doesn't have waist darts and at the front, the bust darts have been turned to close and their width has made the bottom of the front pattern piece flare out in a kind of A-line shape. If I were making a pattern like this, I might have tried to hide the bust darts in those yoke seams but, of course, that would remove the option of making the blouse without a yoke. 

Interestingly, even when worn loose, the blouse doesn't become a tent. That more fitted back keeps the sides fairly close to the body and allows only the front itself to flare out, as you can see in this picture (the blouse looks better on me than on the dummy).

The sleeves are fine too. The openings may not be very wide but they are wide enough and there is enough ease in the blouse itself to allow me a proper range of movement. 

All in all, I'm pretty impressed. I didn't have very high hopes for this type of pattern. I thought any pattern would have to be simplified very far to allow the reading to draft it according to the very limited instructions. Of course this is a simple design and a simple pattern but all its proportions are right and so is the size. Oh, and it is also my fourth item for this year's Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge!

April 21, 2016

Sneak peek

Obviously, this is not how you should see this blouse, but I thought it would be nice to give you a sneak peek anyway. This is the blouse from Bella magazine, made using the pattern I showed here last week. I just followed the instructions and I am not disappointed.

There was only one thing really wrong with the instructions: There is one measurement which is missing, a corner of the front hemline. It is pretty easy to figure out though. Its distance to the edge of the rectangle looks similar to that of the bottom of the sleeve, so I made it the same: 7 cm from the edge. 

Then there was an issue I suspected: A tight neckline. Many vintage patterns have high, tight necklines and this one already looked that way in the drawings. I cut the collar piece from paper and put it around my neck: the full neckline is only 32 cm. I have been told that I have a fairly slender neck and I could only just get the pattern piece around my neck. I would not wear a garment with a neckline like that. The collar size I normally use is 36 cm, so I changed the neckline to allow for that. Like this:

After that, I made a different collar. Even re-sized, I wasn't very keen on that the standing collar with fold-over tips in the original design. Instead, I made a convertible collar. Simple and not out-of-style for the period. 
This type of collar is drafted, and sewn, from center front to center front. It does not touch the front overlap pieces. 

Draw a rectangle with the length of half the neckline measurement and the height you want as the height of the collar. In this case, the height is 7 cm. The collar folds so that is not very high. Then curve up the front edge of the collar piece by 0.5 cm and draw its point.
When sewing, sew up the top edge of the front overlap first, clip the seam allowance to the end of the seam so it can be pressed to the inside while the rest of the neckline seam allowance is still free and then sew on the collar. 

Oh, and because this collar folds back, it also shows more of the front facing than other collar styles. It is best to extend the front facing around the neckline, like this:

Next weekend will be really busy but I hope I will find some time to take pictures of me wearing the blouse. It looks so much better tucked in.

April 17, 2016

More 1956

The little casual suit from Beyer's Junge Mode from 1956 is finished! It stayed on my sewing table in an almost completed state for a week because I was hoping to find some nice buttons for it. Something contrasting, like in the picture. Maybe silver-coloured but light enough in weight so they wouldn't pull too much on my fairly thin fabric... I didn't find any and went with black plastic instead. 

In the magazine, this picture is part of a spread about summer fun in and near the water, so I really felt that it belonged outdoors. Of course, it should actually be worn on the sunny-yet-windswept shores of a lake, while you are getting a small sailboat ready for a day on the water (I'm not a boat person, but I have seen scenes like this). Instead, I took pictures on my tiny balcony where the light is never quite what I'd like. 

Anyway, I made toiles for both trousers and jacket. I ended up taking the trousers in by an amount which is basically one dress size (which gives me a useful idea about Beyer's sizing for bottoms). On the jacket, I only took in the sides at the bottom by 1.5 cm, creating a slightly tapered shape which I prefer over all-out boxy. The jacket is supposed to be loose so although I guess I would also fit me if I had sized it down, I'm fine with the straight-from-the-pattern fit. And I like the drop-shoulder look and fit more than I thought I would. 

There is one alteration I had to make though: The jacket didn't have pockets. That, in my opinion, is, quite simply, ridiculous. I added two simple patch pockets.

I made the suit in my go-to summer fabric: a cotton-linen blend in very dark blue with thin stripes in a lighter colour (I have used this stuff for several things in the past. I liked it so much I bought the rest of the bolt last year. More than 12 m of it...). In the magazine, they used a contrasting, white fabric for the collar a facing. It looks nice but I thought the jacket would be more versatile and easier to mix with my normal clothes if I made it all from the same fabric. 

I am pleased with the end result. The cropped trousers have a nice fit. It's a very retro look but not out of my comfort zone. The jacket is so wide that it will be easy to wear over all kinds of tops and I think it should look good with a lot of my trousers and maybe also with pencil skirts. 

Of course, this is also yet another item for my Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge. Although I made two garments here, they share a pattern number so I think I should count this suit as one (not that it really matters because I didn't set myself a specific number of things to sew this year). 

April 12, 2016

Bits of fabric

Just a quick question: Tomorrow, I hope I will have time to get started on this blouse. 

That yoke looks ideal to use up an odd little off-cut I was given when buying fabric at one of my usual places last summer.

One of these, to be precise, on black. Both are too small to be used on their own but seem big enough for the yoke, collar and cuffs of this blouse.
So, the question is: Which one would you like to see?

April 7, 2016

1950's blouses

A big "thank you" to those of you who replied to my previous post! And if you didn't but would like to weigh in after all, please do. I read all comments, also those on older posts. 
I am glad I asked because your answers actually surprised me. Both on the Pinterest board of the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge and on We Sew Retro, I see so many dresses compared to anything else, I assumed you would all refer those. Instead, the votes were clearly in favour of separates and hats. I promise I'll look for a hat pattern in the coming two months (probably a 1930's one...) but today, I have a blouse from the 1950's. It is another one of Bella magazine's "draft-as-instructed" projects and this one is actually in my size so I may just try and make myself one next week. Whether or not I do that, I will give you an  additional little tutorial about making other collars than this really high and tight one (I'm usually not such a big fan of those myself...)

The blouse comes from Bella magazine nr. 16, August II, 1952 and is for ladies with a bust circumference of 88 cm. The editors of the magazine had this to say about it:

Blouse and skirt are especially popular this year and now that the summer is getting towards its end and lots of suits will be worn again, it seemed right to Bella to dedicate the instructed pattern to this.

The designs depicted here all have cut-on sleeves and a standing collar with rounded fold-back corners. Three of them have yokes which allows for interesting design variations. You can see a nice example with stripes used in different directions and it is easy to imagine other variations on this theme. Something similar can be done in a fabric with a check. To make the yoke, its pattern piece should be separated from the front of the blouse. Depending on the thickness of the fabric you can make the yoke in a double layer or make a 4 cm wide front facing in which you make the buttonholes (either way, I would recommend using a lightweight interfacing at that front edge where you will add buttons and buttonholes). The front of the blouse is stitched onto the yoke. Close side-, sleeve- and shoulder seams and add the cuff of a double layer of fabric to the sleeve edge (this double layer remark makes it sound more complicated than it is. It's a normal cuff which means each one consists of two pieces of fabric). Sew on the interfaced collar, sewing the neckline edge between its layers. 

For a more dressy look, you can stitch a pleated strip of fabric in the yoke seam. In this case, the pleated fabric was first basted along the folded-over edge of the yoke which was then stitched onto the front of the blouse. This allows the pleats to fall out. You can also let the pleats fall in by following the order of construction mentioned before. It will look no less lovely (I'm not so sure about that...).

The blouse is also nice in two different fabrics, don't you think? Here you can also see how it can be worn over the skirt with the addition of a knitted waistband. In practice, this will work especially well if you use a wool fabric. Of course, in this case, it is required that you find a perfectly colour match between fabric and yarn. 
To make this blouse, you should use the waistline in the drawing as the bottom of the pattern. For the waistband, cast on 170 stitches and knit 2, purl 2 for a chest circumference of 88 cm (they do not mention a needle size or anything. Most 1950's knitting was done on thin needles though. 2.5 is very common). Knit to a height of 10 cm. Stretch the waistband while sewing it on. 

Then, the blouse can also be made in its simplest form, without a yoke. In that case, you have to make a front overlap of 2 cm along the entire front edge and add a 4 cm cut-on facing that. A big or small bow looks nice under a standing collar like this.

And if you do not plan on removing the jacket of your suit, you might as well make a dickey instead of a blouse. It would save you on sewing and on fabric and you could even make the back from a cheaper material. The dotted lines form the sides of the dickey. The front and back are connected at the waistline by two pieces of elastic of 15 cm long. 

As usual, we didn't mention all the possible variations. So, if you do not quite like any of the options shown here, you can use your imagination to create your own version. Surely, that will give you even more satisfaction!

In this case, it is pretty obvious what each pattern piece is (although just to be sure: the collar is on the left, the cuff on the right).
When drafting the pattern, make the rectangles first and then put in the measurements mentioned along the sides, draw the lines inwards to make the points for the pattern. All measurements are in centimeters and there is no seam allowance included.
Oh, and although the blouse looks quite sleek in the drawings, that is just because it is worn tucked into high waistbands. It has no darts so it is basically a fairly loose-fitting design.  

April 1, 2016

A pattern question

There's something I would like to ask you all: What kinds of freebie pattern would you like?
You may or may not remember, but when I took the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge this year, I also promised to share six projects from my vintage collection. So far, I translated one "draft-to-instructions" pattern from Bella magazine. In that case, I picked a stylish dress for a larger size: bust 112. 

For the next patterns, I would like to ask you what you want: More projects like that one in different sizes? And which sizes? Separates? Accessories like cut-and-sew hats or collars and dickeys? Knitting patterns? Or even something for children (I think I even have a boy's pattern or two)?

Just let me know and I'll see what I can do.