Mr Rat and I went to visit the San Jose rose garden a few weeks ago. It is one of the largest rose gardens in the entire United States, and it looked beautiful in its early autumn glory of blossoming. It was hotter and brighter than I thought it would be, and the sun made everything glint, a vast, dizzying mosaic of color.
The jumper dress I am wearing is one I sewed from a vintage 1970s Laura Ashley pattern published by the McCall pattern company, number 4760. It is made from black broadcloth, and is one of my favorite skirts. I consider it a skirt, but with the suspenders, it is somewhere between a skirt and a dress---a jumper, really. The only change I made was to make gathers at the waist of the skirt instead of pleats.
I like Laura Ashley’s patterns from the 1970s more than her later clothing. Her designs from the 1960s and 1970s are interesting and varied takes on clothing from a hundred years previous. Perhaps because my own ancestry has several plains-crossing pioneers, I feel drawn to prairie clothing, and gather patterns in that style from the 1970s when I can find them. This particular jumper has a unique cut that I am very fond of. It is quite unlike anything but itself.
Someday I will have to make the jacket and blouse in this pattern, too, and a long jumper to match, so I can have a suit like the model on the cover.
Mr Rat and I went to the library last weekend and walked around the park behind it for a while afterwards, where he was kind enough to take some photos of the dress I was wearing. It is one of the oldest dresses in my closet, made a few years ago from a vintage 1970s dress pattern, Butterick 6999. Both the dress and collar are made of cotton. It is lasting well, proof that homemade clothes can be just as durable, if not more durable, than off-the-rack clothing.
Butterick 6999 has some interesting details: the entire midriff is interfaced and lined, which gives it a structured look, and instead of back darts above the midriff on the back of the dress, it has tiny gathers. I made a few changes to my dress: originally it had long sleeves, which I hemmed back to just below elbow length to make the dress more versatile for all the seasons of the year. Instead of the flared skirt on the pattern, I substituted a gathered skirt. The under-collar is cut slightly smaller than the over-collar, and is cut on the bias, which gives the whole collar a nice roll when assembled together.
I’m fond of this dress, which fits well and is quite comfortable. My favorite aspect of it is the big, puritan-style collar. I’ll surely be using this pattern again.
Simplicity 8696 is a vintage coat pattern from the 1970s. As usual, I made a size 8. My coat is made of black 100 percent cotton twill from JoAnn fabric stores. A gift card combined with a good sale on bottom-weight fabrics made the large amount of yardage needed for such a voluminous coat affordable. The hood is lined in a scrap of black cotton left over from making a dress, and the sleeves and all the seams are bound in black bias binding. It took a long time to finish all the seams that way, but it looks lovely and it is very effective at keeping the fabric from fraying. The fabric is prone to wrinkles and lint, and has to be ironed often, but it is also easy to wash, has some natural water resistance (which makes it a good rain jacket for drizzly days), and it is lightweight, roomy, and just warm enough to wear when there is a slight chill in the air. The jacket and hood are gathered at the neck with a drawstring, which I made out of bias strips sewed together.
My Simplicity 9343 brown work dress has been so comfortable to wear that I made a second version in black cotton. My only change was to make the skirt a little more full by cutting the skirt pieces wider. I’m pleased with it, and wear it often. It is so loose and simple.
This is one of my favorite shirts. I like the collar, the gathering at the back, the big soft sleeves. My version of McCall 6648 is a size 6 made in soft white cotton. It takes quite a bit of fabric for a shirt, but it is worth it, I think. The instructions are clear and easy to follow. A beginner sewer with patience could make it without too much difficulty, since the fit is very forgiving. I did faux flat-fell seams on the sides and sleeves and edge-stitched the collar and button placket. The buttonholes are stitched by hand, and the buttons are flat, clear plastic. I found the set of them at the thrift store, still on their card. The only change I would make the next time I make this pattern would be to make the cuffs on the sleeves slightly larger. When I tuck in my blouse the cuffs are tight enough to make my range of movement limited if I try to raise my arms too high. A minor problem and one easily fixed, but if you are making this blouse for the first time, you might want to double-check how large the cuff is compared to your arm before you sew it on.
I am wearing my McCall 6648 shirt with yet another version of Simplicity 7880, this time made in black cotton. Although you can’t see it in these pictures, this particular skirt goes down almost to the floor.
This is how Gia feels about our sewing. Why aren't you petting me? She wonders.
I really enjoyed making this jacket and I was very satisfied with the outcome. The most challenging part, in my opinion, was setting in the sleeves (there are a few spots of puckering but I tried to iron them out really thoroughly). The jacket is very light and has a nice shape. I work in a laboratory and my coworkers have asked, when wearing this jacket, why I decided to dress up. Once when biking to the train stop a fellow biker said I looked like one of the actors in the movie Chicago (a rather bizarre encounter best not recited in full here). In any case, I can get away with wearing this jacket casually or with a white shirt and tie and it works. Mrs. Rat suggested that the next version could be made out of denim with a contrasting corduroy collar and some added flap pockets on the front. I will definitely keep it in mind as one of my future projects.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.