This past Sunday when we took our morning walk to the monastery I wore my recently completed Simplicity 8131 bow-necked blouse, one of my long cotton-polyester broadcloth Simplicity 7880 skirts, my black wool vest, and since it was very cold and windy I wore my grey wool cape, too.
Mr Rat and Gia and I were charmed by the many squirrels taking advantage of the recently wilted clover to find all their hidden stashes of nuts. The wind scudded big white clouds across the sky behind the pink church with its beautiful bell-tower, and the heavy, sleepy flowers nodded in every rush of wind that sounded so much like the waters of the ocean distantly roaring.
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.
Today we’re going to look at the details of a vintage brown cotton-velvet vest from ‘The Branch – Div of Joshua Tree.’ I like the tag on this one a lot, because when I lived at home in Los Angeles my family drove through the desert quite often. Strangely enough, though, I found this vest at a Savers thrift store in San Jose, close to where we live now.
The finish on this vest is simple: the front princess seams are edge-stitched, as is the hem, neckline and arms. The inside is finished with a front facing that is interfaced and serged at the edges. The side seams and front princess seams are finished with pinking shears. The back hem, the back neckline and the arm holes are turned and sewn flat. The back has two darts, pressed towards the center.
I made this vest for Mr Rat as a Christmas gift last year. The pattern is McCall 2447, which is still in print. The instructions are clear and easy enough to follow. Mr R's vest is a size medium and fits well through the shoulders, although I think I could have taken in the sides a little more for a slimmer fit around the waist. Mr Rat says he is quite happy with it, but if you plan on making this pattern, I would advise making a muslin or at least measuring it and comparing it at the waist and ribs to decide on what size or combination of sizes you want to use. The fabric is a piece of wool tweed that I bought at a church rummage sale in Pasadena some years back. It is fully lined in olive green.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew