My most recent dress reminds me of Jane Eyre, both for its somber color and its whimsy. The pattern I used was McCall 4968, circa the 1970s. I sewed it in a very lovely grey wool worsted with a subtle herringbone weave that I found at the thrift store a few years ago and only recently had both the confidence that I could sew with it and the need for more warm wool clothing to push me forward into cutting it out and making it into a dress at last. This may be one of my more eccentric dresses, with its little flutter sleeves, but I like it: it is warm and comfortable, and the sleeves make it special.
The sewing process was pretty straightforward: I edge-stitched all the seams to help them lay flat and crisp. I also pinked the edges of the fabric on the inside since I plan to wash this dress very gently and the wool is very firmly woven and not prone to fraying. I stitched the darts down so they would stay flat, a detail I've noticed on some wool jackets at the thrift store. Since even thin wool is still thick in layers, I was careful to grade my seams and gathers where they met. To make sure I didn't get a rippled zipper, I interfaced the edges of zipper opening before I stitched the zipper in by hand. The only part of the sewing process that was particularly difficult was sewing the facings over the gathered sleeves and trimming the allowance, then flipping it to the inside and top-stitching the outside. I had to unpick my first attempt and try again, because it was hard to manage that many layers of wool in such a small area as the arm-hole and have a neat finish.
Mr Rat was kind enough to take some pictures of my new jumper dress on our Sunday morning walk to the local park with Gia. Other than a few red berries, there isn't a very wide range of colors in our world right now: mostly shades of grey and white, a little bit of dull green, lots of soft and faded yellow ochre, brown, and the bright blue of a winter sky. We're due for a big storm that is supposed to blow in tomorrow, so the world will have even less color the next time we go walking. I hope wherever you are, you are staying warm, and enjoying the post-holiday peace of January.
We had an unusually sunny Sunday after a few days of heavy rain, so the three of us went over to the monastery to enjoy the greenness of the garden and the heady spring flowers that scent the air. I wore a new jumper dress that I finished last month using 1970s era Butterick 6000 as my starting point. Originally I intended to add long sleeves, but when I set them in I didn’t like the way they looked, so I cut out the sleeves, enlarged the armholes slightly and finished the inside with off-white bias tape. The bodice is lined, since the ivory cotton I found at the thrift store is slightly sheer on its own, and I finished the waist seam with bias tape on the inside, which acts as a waist stay and covers the gathers so it has a clean finish on the inside. As far as other adjustments go, I also cut the skirt wider than the original skirt in the pattern, and I took a little wedge out of the middle of the bodice front when I cut out the pattern, with the wider point of the wedge at the neckline tapering to nothing at the empire waist, since I’ve found in the past that low scooped necklines can sometimes be a little loose on me. I dislike rippling zippers, so I was careful to interface the edge of the fabric along the full length of the zipper, and then I hand-picked the zipper into place. I’ve found that doing my zippers that way solves the rippling zipper problem, and they always turn out straight and crisp.
You’ve probably already noticed if you’ve been following our sewing journal that I have a penchant for raised waist dresses. They are so very comfortable and easy to wear. I’ve sewn Butterick 6000 before because I like the empire waist and the simple lines of the design, but sadly the blue cotton dress I made from it last year got a big stain on the skirt that wouldn’t wash out and so I had to retire it before I ever got to photograph it for this blog.
I wore my new jumper with one of my thrifted pashmina shawls, a necklace I made myself out of blood agates and gold-plated spacer beads, and jade and cats-eye rings that I inherited from my grandmother.
Happy Easter to all Christian readers, and happy spring (or autumn if you live in the southern hemisphere) to everyone else!
This is one of the rare patterns where, when I bought it, I looked forward to sewing both the blouse and the jumper dress included. So often I choose a pattern because I am drawn to one garment or one view on the envelope, but not with this 1970s era pattern. Even though I made the jumper first, about two years ago, I reviewed the blouse first here. I felt that when I reviewed the dress (at last) that I should wear them both together, so you can compare the ensemble in real life with the pattern envelope picture.
I made a size 8, as usual, in black poly-cotton broadcloth. The empire bodice is lined with a piece of thin black and navy checkered cotton voile. The dress takes quite a bit of fabric to make the full length version, but it gives the skirt a grand sweep of fabric that makes using so many yards worthwhile. Although, I think the graceful shape of it is somewhat impeded in these photos by the long grass I was walking in at the monastery gardens. It has been rainy recently, and everything is growing---green, green, green! The grass and clover are lush and deep and there are flowers here that I’ve never seen before---snow-drops and tiny white and yellow narcissus, edging their way out of the ground early into the cold air.
The pattern fit well and needed no adjustments. I found putting the lining in slightly tricky at the time that I made it, since it was my first time inserting a lining. But overall the pattern would be an easy accomplishment for an intermediate sewer, or a beginner with patience. The only differences I have noticed between real life and the pattern envelope is that their version of the jumper seems to have a slightly different shape to the neckline, and the illustrator made it look like the end of the slit on the front of the blouse ends at the top of the jumper neckline, when it actually continues underneath.
Because I am fond of this jumper, and wear it often, I am considering making a winter version, perhaps in lightweight wool, for warmth. Even though I often wear this jumper over a black turtleneck and black tights, or under my favorite wool cape with a scarf (as I did here) it is better suited to spring and summer and early fall than these, the coldest days of the year.
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 and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew