At long last, I have fulfilled another one of my new year’s sewing resolutions: to find a vest pattern that fits. I’ve had 1970s-era McCall’s 5297 for a while, but only just got around to sewing it, and I’m glad that I finally did. For a first attempt, I think it fits pretty well, although I might make a few minor adjustments the next time I sew it: changing the slope of the shoulders a little to make the neckline more snug, and maybe bringing in the sides at the waist to make it a little more snug there too. This time I didn’t make any fitting adjustments, and I think it is a very wearable ‘muslin.’ Whenever I start to feel bad about fitting (it is so tempting to want everything to fit ‘like a glove’), I think of Nancy Zieman’s advice at the beginning of all of her fitting books: she says not to over-fit your clothes, because it can take the joy out of sewing. And I think she is right. When we only focus on the flaws and the minor problems, we don’t realize how wearable and comfortable the clothes are that we make, and wear them happily and un-self-consciously.
I made this first version out of a one yard scrap of wool (one of the delights of vest-making---it takes so little fabric!) that I bought at the thrift store for two or three dollars. The buttons are from my stash, the same ones that I used on my recently finished black rayon blouse, in fact. The only design change I made was to make the buttonholes smaller and add more of them so I could use smaller buttons. I think this makes it easier to wear, as it doesn’t bunch so badly when I’m sitting down, and I like the look of so many buttons in a line---it makes the vest look as though it could have come from the 30s or 40s as easily as the 70s or beyond. I interfaced all the facings, pinked and stitched all the inner seams, graded the seams around the bust, stitched down the darts in the back shoulders so they would stay flat, and edge-stitched all the seams and edges of the vest. I think this gives the vest a crisp appearance, even though the wool was very springy to work with and difficult to press.
I’m wearing my new black wool vest with one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, and my peter-pan collar blouse. My brooch is a vintage Taxco sterling silver rose from Mexico.
I liked the brown cotton version I sewed from this 1980s era pattern so much that I cut out another blouse using some pale brown and white pin-striped stretch cotton-polyester blend shirting I found at the thrift store a while ago and had waiting in the sewing cupboard. It was simple to make, just like the first time around, the only differences being that I chose to do a plain high collar band without a collar, and that I accidentally arranged the button guide higher than I did the last time. This meant I had to add an extra button on the bottom, but I think I prefer it this way, because having the top button higher and closer to the button on the collar-band keeps the blouse from bubbling at the top or leaving a little gap, as shirts are often prone to do when there is a wider space between the top button and the collar. The striped shirting was not always well-behaved: since it had stretch fiber content it wanted to pucker a little at the seams, although I think it is not so noticeable after ironing. It also had a tendency to fray, so I finished all the inside seams with faux-French seams. As usual, I did my button-holes by hand, and the small white buttons were from my stash---they were clearance purchases at JoAnns from a few years ago.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, made of poly-cotton broadcloth, a thrifted vintage shawl, and a homemade necklace made of black agate.
I’m very pleased with the fit and comfort of this blouse. I’m sure I’ll sew it again. I’m finding more and more the usefulness of sewing “tried and true” patterns in different colors and fabrics, with different collars and trims and buttons, etc. It allows for variety while giving me the assurance the fit is already good and it is quick, too, since once you’ve done the instructions once, doing it again is not so hard. It also makes integration into my wardrobe easier, since I know the style and cut of the garment, it is easy to know how to mix and match it with the other silhouettes that I have.
Do you prefer sewing with tried and true patterns? Or do you enjoy the search for ever-new styles and techniques, trying a different pattern every time you sew?
In my quest to find the right Hawaiian shirt pattern I came across this pattern book by Sunday and Sons called “Shirt”. The book contains 4 basic patterns entitled “Sport”, “Dress”, “Military”, and “Work”. Each basic pattern contains 4 variations giving you 16 types of shirts to fulfill any aspect of your wardrobe. The “Sport” shirt pattern contains a variation for this Aloha shirt which I have completed here. Overall, I felt like this pattern exceeded my expectations for design, fit, and finish. To start my review I will just say that this entire book is in Japanese however, they provide enough translations (measurements, titles, and sizes) and clear diagrams to make this doable even if you don’t know Japanese. There were only a few Japanese symbols that I needed to study and match on other pages to figure out a few sizing charts. Also, the patterns run on the small size. I usually wear medium and am a 38 Regular coat size, but in this pattern I was large and the shirt is fitted. Another aspect of working with these patterns is that you have to trace them all out on tissue paper and add seam allowances as they do not include them in the pattern. The pattern recommends 0.6 cm seam allowances but next time I will probably do a standard 5/8 inch to give a little more fabric to work with for seam finishes. For this shirt I used a cotton/polyester blend fabric that I sewed together using the reverse side of the print to mute the tones as all traditional Hawaiian shirts are done. The shirt came together nicely and the diagrams were easy to follow. The fit is slim but I have full range of movement and no tight spots in the shoulders or back. The only issue I came across was some improvisations I had to make for finishing the inside of the collar but this was minor. I will definitely use this pattern for my next Aloha shirt and I am excited to begin making other shirts out of this book as well, all of which look very promising!
When looking for inspiration for sewing projects, where do you like to turn? Pinterest, blogs, and magazines are obvious resources for collecting interesting imagery, as are fashion and art museums---but have you considered the library?
I checked this Dover book out from our local library, curious to see what ordinary American women were wearing in the early 1920s, and found that clothes of that era had a much more interesting variety of trims and embellishments---and that it was full of lots of ideas that could easily be used for sewing projects today. Since I don’t want to cause any copyright trouble, I just took a few detail photos. The book itself replicates an entire Philipsborn’s catalog, so it is quite large, with lots of ‘models’ on each page. For more books like this, try checking the Dover website. They have a large section devoted to historical fashion, and their books are always moderately priced.
Do you have any favorite books for sewing inspiration that you have found at the library?
All of these blouses use a contrasting ribbon bow at the neckline.
I like the idea of doing an oversized collar and cuffs of a blouse in eyelet and then trimming them in lace. Doing embroidery in two colors along the neckline and sleeves of a blouse is also an interesting idea.
It may be unusual to see special lace or cutwork collars added to shirts now, but they add a lot of visual interest. I noticed that many of the blouses have long sleeves with turn-back cuffs, sometimes cut in interesting shapes. This seems like a simple adjustment to draft using your favorite long sleeved, cuffed blouse pattern.
After a week of welcome warm sunny weather where I could wear a cotton summer blouse and feel comfortable, we are in fickle, surprising spring weather again: very cool cloudy mornings, sometimes sunny afternoons, and rain storms expected. I had planned to photograph some more of my homemade spring and summer clothes, but the weather made it necessary to wear more layers and so I decided to make a post about my new just-below-the-ankle length Simplicity 7880 skirt after all.
I finished my new skirt last week and have worn a few times already. It is made of dark brown poly-cotton broadcloth which I prewashed and then cut to 40 inches long and left the bottom on the selvedge so I didn’t have to hem it (which also makes it convenient to wear boots with, since there is no hem for the boot hooks to snag on). It’s a good length for me, I think, combining the grace and coverage of a long skirt with a short enough hem to make walking and climbing stairs easy. I’ve reviewed Simplicity 7880 a few times in the past (here and here and here for instance) and have worn other versions of it in a lot of other reviews, so I won’t write more about it here, but will instead post some more photos of our weekend walk to the monastery with Gia. Even though there was only the slightest bit of sunshine coming through the clouds, the flowers were spectacular: clover, cherry trees, forget-me-nots, poppies, tulips, wisteria, some lingering camellias, and so many others whose names I have not learned yet. What are your favorite spring flowers? Do you have flowers blossoming yet where you live?
I am wearing my new brown skirt with my recently finished brown cotton blouse (reviewed here), a vintage cotton velvet vest (for the details of its construction, you can look at my previous ‘in detail’ post about it), a vintage black crocheted fringed shawl I found at the thrift store last year, and a vintage Mexican silver and inlaid abalone shell butterfly brooch. Mr Rat took all these lovely photos.
I made this blouse last summer from vintage 1970s-or-80s See and Sew 6390 and it has become a favorite warm-weather blouse for its crisp yet comfortable look. The sewing was very quick and easy, since the sleeves are kimono-style and cut in one with the bodice. The instructions for the collar are clear and simple. I edge-stitched the collar and front band, machine stitched the hems on the sleeves and bottom of the shirt, and sewed the buttonholes by hand. The buttons are from an enormous bag I bought at the thrift store several years ago and have been using here and there ever since. The shirt itself is made of white cotton from an old sheet. For anyone looking for a quick, carefree summer blouse, I recommend this pattern. I’ll likely sew it again—maybe in linen next time?
I’m wearing my blouse with a new Simplicity 7880 skirt, just finished last week, made of dark brown broadcloth. I think I’ll be giving it its own post soon, since it is a good length and a versatile color for me. The malachite necklace I’m wearing in these photos (it was Saint Patrick’s day when I took them) is vintage, a gift from family, as are the earrings.
One of the blogs that I follow, Zelophehad’s Daughters, posted recently about crafting and its soul-healing and spirit-enhancing qualities. It is an interesting read. The blog author writes about her childhood aversion to crafting and femininity, having internalized masculine scorn for female activities and dress, despising them for being silly and shallow. It made me think of the same conflict in my own childhood, when I wore dresses to school only to be told by my classmates that “It’s not picture-day” and was sometimes teased by my brothers for my puff sleeves and eyelet-trimmed aprons.
Who is afraid of puff sleeves? It is ironic, is it not, that the second-wave feminists should have adopted masculine clothes like jeans, t-shirts and flannels as signs of their liberation? What is wrong with wearing feminine clothes? I think that to wear puff sleeves and ribbons and lace and full skirts (if you like them) can be a sign of respect towards the feminine identity, towards the skillful sewing and interesting designs of seamstresses past, and can also perhaps be subversive in a day and age that asserts that if you wish to appear to be an independent thinker and a serious person, you must adopt the respectable garb of men.
Well, like Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson, Simone de Beauvoir, Louise Bourgeois, and other unabashedly feminine women who were undoubtedly very serious people, I am not afraid of puff sleeves or feminine clothes. And here is my latest sewing project as proof: the very puff-sleeved 1980s era Butterick 4625. I made a combination of view D with the long sleeves used for views A, B and C. It surprised me how quickly I managed to finish this blouse. It took me only about 4 days total from start to finish. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out how well it fit. I made a size 8 and despite worrying at a few points that the blouse was going to be too small or the shoulders might be too wide, it ended up fitting very well. Since the sleeves had quite a bit of puff, I improvised some sleeve heads to help them keep their shape out of leftover scraps of the brown cotton I used for the blouse. I made a bow to wear at the collar out of some ribbon and a safety pin, which I can remove to wear a necklace instead, or a brooch. It was nice to make a shirt that fit so well and yet didn’t need any darts. It all cost very little, too, since the fabric was from the thrift store, and the buttons were harvested off of an old shirt of my husband’s when it was worn out and stored in my button stash until I could use them.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my homemade Simplicity 7880 skirts, this one made of poly-cotton broadcloth.
After a big failure last year with making a pair of slacks, I decided to focus on mastering shirt making. I had a great experience with the McCall’s M6044 western shirt that I reviewed previously, so I decided to try this one as well. I have to say that I didn’t like the fit initially. This pattern is unisex and I didn’t follow the fitting process that the Palmer/Pletsch patterns recommended. It seemed like a big hassle. After putting in the side seams though, I found there was too much flare near the hips and decided to bring them in about 1 ½ inches about midway down. This straightened the sides out but then caused the shirt to wrinkle in the back. My solution was to insert 2 ½ inch side slits to allow the shirt to fall more naturally. I made the shirt from cotton broadcloth that has a visible grain. I sewed the shirt with a vertical grain but used a diagonal grain for the pockets to provide a little detail. I like the shirt overall, but next time I think I will put in a curved hem instead of the straight hem and will need to remember to bring the side seams in before I do the seam finishing. It is a good pattern and I would recommend it with some minor alterations.
This was Mr Rat’s first shirt, made from the same pattern he used for his chambray western shirt reviewed here. Since he has already written about his experience with this pattern, we’ll just keep this post to photos. Even the photos are from a while back----we’re so far behind posting all of our sewing projects! And we keep making new ones. . .
This is my ‘wearable muslin’ of a 1990s-era pattern I bought recently, Simplicity 8620. I liked the loose fit, the bishop sleeves and the many interesting collar options, so I decided to test it with a two-dollar piece of pink cotton oxford shirting that I found at the thrift store a few months ago. I think this pattern would be better suited to a softer cotton or other fabric with more drape, but I like how the blouse turned out all the same. I made a size 8 and my only issue is that the shoulders are too wide. I am of two minds about this: since I want the blouse to be a little oversized and comfortable, I could treat it as a slightly dropped shoulder and leave it as is in future versions, or I could either cut the shoulders down to a size 6 or do a narrow shoulder adjustment.
Still, shoulders aside, I think the blouse is very wearable and comfortable. I finished the seams very simply with pinking shears and edge-stitched the front neckline and the cuffs. The sleeves have continuous laps, and the instructions were very clear, which made them very simple to assemble. The blouse came together very quickly---maybe about three days of work, including sewing the button-holes by hand. The buttons were scavenged from an old worn-out shirt and saved in my button-drawer.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my homemade Simplicity 7880 skirts and homemade rose quartz jewelry. The wool Indian shawl was a lucky find at the thrift store.
It was such a pleasure to wear my new outfit on a sunny morning to the monastery garden, where Gia went mad in the clover and made Mr R and I laugh a great deal. But another storm is coming, so now it is back to work on finishing my charcoal-grey wool cape that I have been sewing all month.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew