1940s dress sewing

As the new year begins, I’m going to post some makes from the previous one which have yet to see the light of day on the blog. First up is this dress which I made by rubbing off a pattern from a top made by my Mum years ago, which feels very ‘meta’ – self-referential sewing pattern drafting?

1940s dress sewing

Don’t worry, I’m not hanging about on my roof in jelly shoes on this snowy day in early January – photo taken in the summer!

To make it into a dress I simply traced off the top and lengthened the side seams. I’ve always loved the top because to me it feels quite 1940s – due the slightly puffed shoulder, the impression of shaping round the bust, and the functional feel of the cinched-in tied waist, so I wanted to make a similar style dress.

1940s dress sewing

If I make this again I will pay a bit more attention to the shape of the side seams rather than simply just lengthening them. You can’t really tell on the photos but the way it hangs is just slightly too clingy for my liking. But all in all I was really happy with this make and have got quite a bit of wear out of it.

The fabric is the same fabric I used to make this dress. I’ve still got loads of it so it probably won’t be the last item like this in my wardrobe!

1940s dress sewing

1940s dress sewing

1940s dress sewing

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This dress came together one Sunday this summer in a way which I wish happened all the time. I was pottering about thinking I’d like to make something but not really settling on any one idea. Then my eyes fell on a skirt I’d got in Les Petits Riens ages ago with the intention of altering it. Before I knew what was happening I was drafting a bodice – inspired by the original waist tie of the skirt, which became the straps – and pulling out the skirt pattern from my Colette Patterns Truffle dress to go with it.

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The whole thing came together really quickly and I was really focused on the task. Not only did I really enjoy the process of making it but I love the result too. For me that is the ultimate sewing feeling. Making something in a flurry of positive energy which you love and will wear.

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My first instinct is to think that it would be great if it was like that all the time. But if it wasn’t for those days when I can’t get focused and I make something that makes me feel less than thrilled then I wouldn’t know how good those other great days feel. And, while we might not realise it at the time, it is those ‘awful’ days that prepare us for the good days.

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A friend recently told me that she was struggling to build confidence to write more, doubting why she was doing it and what she had to say etc. Then a friend said to her that it didn’t matter if what she wrote was ‘good’ or not, or even if she read it back. What mattered was writing everyday as that way she’ll be ready when her ‘good’ ideas come.

So I need to remember to remind myself to just make something, anything. Regardless of whether it invokes feelings of confidence and positivity or self-loathing and despair, it will make me feel alive!

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I made this jacket with the intention of wearing it with the outfit I made for my cousin’s wedding, but they didn’t look quite right together in the end so I didn’t wear it on the day. It was an interesting project though, and I think I’ll get some use out of it.

But, STOP PRESS, the best thing about making this wee jacket was that I discovered my new favourite technique: the Hong Kong finish!

The Hong Kong finish is basically a neat way to finish seams when overlocking or french seams won’t cut the mustard. It involves sewing bias binding onto each side of a seam. As this jacket has a princess seam I think it gives the inside of the jacket a really cool look – in fact the inside of this jacket is way more interesting than the outside.

To learn how to do the Hong Kong finish I used a tutorial in my copy of ‘Sewtionary‘ by Tasia of Sewaholic but you can also find plenty step-by-step guides on this here world wide web.

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To make the jacket pattern I started with the Jackie pattern from La Maison Victor but I made quite a lot of changes to make it fit and I added a pleat at the back.

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I previously made a modified version of this pattern for the Sew It Up competition back in 2014.
This time round I changed the shaping at the front. Unfortunately I think I should have used some stronger interfacing as the fabric requires a bit more support to sit right. I feel it droops slightly.

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To jazz up proceedings I also used some red piping in the shoulder seams.

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Not a life-changing project by any means but always good to learn new techniques and do a bit of pattern engineering to modify patterns!
I particularly enjoyed working out how to do the facing which I mostly sewed by hand.

I’ll definitely be using the Hong Kong finish more in the future to make the insides of garments as nice as their outsides – and maybe even better.

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I made this outfit for my cousin Holly’s wedding which took place a few weeks ago in Bonnie Scotland. I’m not very good at knowing what to wear for special occasions so I knew I wanted to make something specifically for the wedding that I really liked. I set myself the challenge of sewing something from fabric I already have rather than buying more. This was also a way of helping me decide what to sew – i.e. I started by choosing the fabric and then deciding what kind of style I wanted to sew, rather than the other way round.

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I bought this fabric a few years ago in a shop in the Montmartre in Paris. I absolutely love it and I’m so glad I finally made something with it! It’s quite sturdy and I think it is perfect for making something look a bit more formal.

After much deliberation I decided to make a two-piece outfit and make the skirt from the Deer & Doe Belladone dress and the Tate Top from Workroom Social.

For the skirt I lined the waistband with some soft denim and added a lining. I’m really pleased with the overall finish and think it might be one if my best ever invisible zips! 🙂 One of the things I love about the Belladone pattern is the slip stitching required for the hem facing. I think a hem facing is such a good way to finish any garment.

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For the Tap top I made quite a lot of changes: I adjusted the length to make sure it stopped just before the skirt. I moved the front neckline darts to the underarm position – and I moved the back darts so that they are in line with the front darts. I decided to use this wonderful video tutorial from Sew Over It and do an all-in-one facing as I think this gives the cleanest finish. I used a hem facing for the outer fabric and I finished the all-in-one facing with some red bias binding.

It wasn’t my intention when I started but the top is actually fully reversible and can be worn both ways! Result!

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Overall I’m really happy as I made two garments I enjoyed wearing for a special occasion but they will also get lots of use in everyday life worn separately!

Thanks to my patient Mum for taking these snaps! 🙂

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I’ve recently gone back through my previous sewing projects and read what I said about them at the time. I’ve often said things like ‘if/when I make this again I will…’ or ‘next time I’ll change…’. Inevitably many of these ‘next times’ have not happened yet. So I thought it would be a good idea to look at past musings on some of my previous sewing projects and then decide whether the ‘next times’ were still on the cards or not.

One pattern I was definately still motivated to have a second stab at was Papercut Patterns’ Clover dress. I made it back in November 2014 and I had trouble getting it to fit because I didn’t choose the correct pattern size. I really enjoyed this project because it helped me have a big revelation about pattern sizing and the importance of the high bust measurement!

In a nutshell I realised that I should choose patterns based on my high bust measurement. First you should find out the difference between your pattern’s high bust measurement and full bust measurement (if in doubt go for 5cm as this seems to be the standard for patterns drafted for a B cup). Then you take your own high bust measurement and add this difference to it. Then choose the pattern size with the bust size which corresponds closest to this measurement. You will then need to take out the difference between your actual full bust measurement and the pattern bust measurement as the pattern will fit at the shoulders and back but it will still be too big at the bust. So you will need to do a small bust adjustment. (See my previous post for a fuller explanation!)

So, last time I made the mistake of just choosing the size XXS (bust 82cm) – my bust measurement is 78cm so I thought it would make sense to choose the smallest size and then just do an SBA to take out the excess at the bust. But what I didn’t realise was that when you substract 5cm from 82cm you get a high bust measurement of 77cm which means this size is actually too small for me at the back and under the arms (my high bust measurement is 79cm).

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This time I took my high bust measurement and added 5cm to it (79 + 5 = 84cm). So based on this measurement I chose the next size up, XS (bust 88cm). Then I did an SBA to take out the difference between my bust measurement (78cm) and the pattern size (88cm). The main problem for a pattern like the Clover is that it’s not very obvious how to do an SBA! So I just decided to invent a method which involved taking in the centre front seam. I taped all the pattern pieces together and sort of held it up to myself to see what seemed about right and then redrew the centre front down all pieces at the same time. I’m sure that is not a ‘proper’ method but it worked for me!

In the end I took out slightly less than 5cm at each side as it seemed like a lot when I held up the pattern pieces to my body. I’m really happy as it sits perfectly at the neckline and doesn’t sag at all. At the back it is not tight at all and it is much more comfortable under the arms than my previous attempt – if I was being really picky I should probably take out a bit at the back neckline but I think it looks fine and as it is a loose style you don’t notice.

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I decided just to do the bust insert pieces in the same fabric but do some grey topstitching to accentuate them.

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All in all I’m really happy with the finished result!

The fabric comes from a shop I recently discovered and it was ridiculously cheap, 2 euros a metre. The shop is just beside the canal in Anderlecht and is called ‘GoTex‘. Really friendly and nice staff too! Highly recommend a visit there.

I made the dress a few weeks ago and have been wearing it loads so far. I cut the hem quite short so it is more of a tunic than a dress – but I’ve worn it with chunky tights a lot. In these photos I’m wearing it with another skirt underneath for warmth. I took the opportunity to get some quick pictures while visiting Blankenberge on the Belgian coast this weekend. It was pretty cold and windy so when I say ‘quick picture’ I’m not lying. I was keen to get my jumper and coat back on!

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I’d previously visited Ostende and Knokke but this was my first visit here and it didn’t disappoint. I like the slightly kitsch faded-glamour of Belgian seaside resorts. They always remind me of childhood trips to Blackpool in the UK. We ate ice cream and waffles in a place called Chez Vincent with amazing 80s’ decor, played air hockey in an arcade, walked in the sand dunes, walked along the shore, drank hot chocolate in the café on the ‘Belgium Pier’, and ate our packed lunch in a very windy spot with a generous serving of sand.

From Brussels (via Blankenberge) with love x x x

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