Utterly impractical sewing

Remember this? It’s a old Vogue designer pattern I bought earlier in the year because it is everything I love about the 80s.

It hasn’t just been sitting in my pattern collection; I am actually making it up. It’s been quite a journey so far and it’s not done yet. But I have finally got it to the point where it looks like a dress, so I thought I’d post some progress pictures.

The pattern envelope does not lie. The shoulders are seriously wide. Consequently the waist looks tiny. It hasn’t got shoulder pads in yet either, so those shoulders are going to be even bigger when it’s done.

The hip pocket flaps form amazing sticky out fins when the dress is on a body or dress form. My other half said it reminded him of a 50s Cadillac. Underneath them are welt pockets.

The fabric is gaberchino. It needs to be something that is drapey enough for the pleats in the bodice back but has enough body to make the more structured details. I’ve used a lot of interfacing to beef it up in places.

Here’s a better view of the shoulder and neck. The pins are holding the armscye facing in place as I haven’t topstitched it yet.

And here is the back; there is a lot going on there. There are going to be buttons and button holes on the upper back bands and at the collar and the back half-belt. My dress form has a much shorter waist than I do so it won’t be quite so blousy on me.

I still need to add insets under the arms, do a ton of topstitching, put the shoulder pads in, and make all those buttonholes. Oh and hem it, too. There is loads of work in this and that’s without making any effort to make the insides look nice – the pattern doesn’t call for anything special there so it’s all overlocked seam allowances. It’s a wonderful pattern though; beautifully drafted and full of interesting details. It’s been a lot of fun to sew.

I’m coming to the conclusion that the end result is going to be less wearable than I’d originally thought, what with the high neck and the very narrow skirt. But it will be a spectacular dress for going out somewhere fancy in, if we ever get to do that again. And when I finish it I will do my best to get some good photos…I’d better look up some 80s makeup inspiration.

Silver trousers again: Vogue 1347

Work on the Merchant and Mills Strides trousers continues. But here’s a trouser pattern I recently finished instead.

Long time readers of this blog know I have a thing for silver trousers. I usually have at least one pair in my wardrobe and they get a lot of wear. Recently I’ve changed shape – I lost weight while sick – and my clothes no longer fit. Things should return to normal soon but in the meantime I need some trousers that don’t fall down. Enter the bottoms from Vogue 1347, wide leg trousers with a drawstring waist. No link to the pattern because this one is out of print, although it’s often available second hand on eBay and Etsy. Here’s the line drawing.

Vogue 1347 line drawing, McCalls

The lines of the trousers are pretty simple but this is a Ralph Rucci designer pattern so the finishing is amazing. If you followed the pattern instructions closely you’d get an absolutely exquisite garment: fully lined without an exposed seam allowance anywhere. I’m afraid I didn’t bother with the lining at all, and my seam allowances are finished with the overlocker. I’ve never seen such comprehensive instructions for lining trousers with a fly front anywhere else though, so I may come back to the pattern in future just for that.

I always find things drop out of inseam pockets on trousers so I added zips to mine. And I couldn’t be bothered to make a long skinny drawstring out of self fabric so mine is an acrylic cord. The fabric itself is Lady McElroy Uttoxeter, a black and white tonic twill that looks silver from a distance. It’s no longer available anywhere I’ve looked but this particular piece came from Sherwoods Fabrics.

And now the obligatory back view, because this is a sewing blog after all. I’m standing up straighter than I usually would which I think explains the folds. They have plenty of room anyway, and would even if I was at my normal size. I normally need to go up one size for the hips in most sewing pattern size charts, but this pattern has so much ease built in I didn’t bother when I traced it. I added 5cm to the length, as I usually do with Vogue, and they’ve come out just above floor length which is perfect. The hem allowance is a huge 8cm so there is a lot of wiggle room even without lengthening the pattern but I wanted to be sure to have a deep hem.

I’m really pleased with these. They are a lovely shape and I like that they have a proper fly front despite the adjustable waist; it makes me feel slightly more dressed up. And it’s so nice to have something that fits.

Thanks to my husband for the photos.

Vogue 1466 modelled photos

Vogue 1466 jacket in black boiled wool

Here’s another project I finished during lockdown and didn’t get modelled photographs of until now. This is the jacket from out-of-print Vogue 1466, a Donna Karan design. Boringly I made it in the same colour as the designer original, although I think the Donna Karan fabric is woven (wool melton) and mine is a stable knit (boiled wool). Here’s the pattern envelope photo.

Vogue 1466 envelope photo
Vogue 1466 envelope photo, McCalls

And my terrible photo of the line art from the back of the envelope, because by the time I went looking for that the pattern had long since vanished from the McCalls site.

Photo of Vogue 1466 line art from back of envelope
Vogue 1466 line art from back of envelope, McCalls, my photo

I made this as a warm layer for wearing at work, because the room I work in at home is much colder than the rest of the house.

The back is very plain indeed.

But there’s all sorts going on at the front between the asymmetric closure, the pockets, and the collar tab. The pockets should be double welts not single but I couldn’t make it work with my very thick fabric.

I had to add an extra snap to the front to get it to not gape at the waist if I don’t stand up perfectly straight. The model on the pattern envelope is wearing a belt so doesn’t have that problem and all the runway pictures I could find had belts too. I tried mine with a belt but prefer it like this because there is a ton of ease at the waist and it looks a bit bulky when pulled in.

I noticed Donna Karan did some variations on this style with various bits of embellishment on the sleeves which looked very nice, but definitely not everyday wear.

I doubt this is going to get worn much until the weather cools down but I think I’ll be very glad of it in the autumn. I keep reading about how we’re all dressing super casually now thanks to coronavirus but it doesn’t seem to be true for me. I like putting an outfit together even if no one is going to see it other than my husband and son. On which note, thanks again to my husband for taking the pictures and managing to capture detail in black boiled wool…not easy. Although the high quality pictures did make me realise just how tired the skirt I’m wearing here has become (also Vogue, 8956 but out of print so no link). I’ve carefully edited out the shots where the sad saggy hem is visible. Going to have to either fix that one or remake it this year.

Ultimate 80s

Last week took a rather unexpected turn and I ended up first in A and E and then having surgery. I’m home now and feel a lot better – thank you NHS! And I bought a sewing pattern to cheer myself up so I thought I’d share it because this has got to be the ultimate 80s power dress. It’s Vogue 1376, I think from 1984. The design is by Claude Montana.

Vogue 1376 envelope photo

I’m pretty sure it’s the dress from this magazine ad.

Ad from Vogue (image from Pinterest)

I even found a YouTube video of the Montana 1984 spring/summer show with several models all wearing the same dress.

Here are the line drawings.

Vogue 1376 view A line drawing
Vogue 1376 view B line drawing

I love the pockets. They’re quite fancy welt pockets made using a clever technique that was new to me. The pocket bag is sewn on to the pocket opening, turned through, and then folded up and back to form the welt. There is no separate welt piece so it’s much less faff. And then that triangular flap gets sewn on top, hiding the beautiful welt. Or the not so beautiful welt if it goes wrong.

The pattern doesn’t have a photo of the dress back which is a shame as there’s a lot of interesting detail there. The video shows that the back belt is made of a different fabric which looks like leather. I think I’d stick to self fabric though.

The shoulder pads are immense. The pattern says 2.5cm thick. I think it would take two sets of modern ones to get that height. It amused me to see that at the time Vogue offered a shoulder pad pattern which the envelope suggests as an alternative to buying pre-made pads.

Although it’s obviously very much of its time I think there is a wearable dress in here. Just need to find the right fabric.

Vogue 1466 high necked Donna Karan jacket

A black wool jacket (Vogue 1466) with a high neckline lies on the floor

I have finished making the jacket from Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design. I’ve been working on this since the start of lockdown; it’s been a slog. It was actually done a week or two back, when the UK was going through an incredible heatwave. Not the best time to be finishing a heavy boiled wool jacket. I was so fed up of it after trying it on multiple times in the blazing heat that after the last snap was sewn I left it sitting on the dressform and didn’t even take photographs. The weather has cooled down since then. In fact the last few days have been rainy so I still haven’t got any modelled photographs but I did try it on and take some detail shots.

Here’s the technical drawing. The unusual thing about this design is the high collar with the tab. The tab is a separate piece held on by snaps.

Technical drawing of a jacket with a high neck and asymmetric closure(Vogue 1466)

Closeup of the collar. I was concerned this might not be comfortable to wear in practice but so far it has been all right. I originally chose this pattern because I’m often in need of warm layers to wear indoors and I fancied something a bit smarter than a sweater. I don’t feel comfortable in most cardigans – don’t ask me why – and definitely not in traditional tailored jackets. This one is unlined and made in a stretchy boiled wool, which makes it a lot easier to wear.

A closeup of the necline of a high necked black wool jacket (Vogue 1466)

The insides of this are all finished with bias binding on the seams. It took forever, and I can’t say it’s the most even binding the world has ever seen. I almost wished for lining, but the wool is so thick and warm that adding another layer would have made this like a winter coat.

The inside of an unlined jacket with bound seams

The shoulder pads are just visible here. They’re the largest ones I had in stash – this jacket really needs them.

The inside of an unlined jacket (Vogue 1466) showing bound seams and covered shoulder pads

After all the shenanigans involved in finishing the welt pockets with French seams, they end up barely visible. Nice and roomy though.

I’m looking forward to wearing this now. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures of it on a body soon.

The inside of an unlined jacket (Vigue 1466) showing front facing and pocket bag

Bits and pieces

This blog waxes and wanes, but of late I’ve been managing to post consistently every week. I can’t say I’ve made a lot of progress on my jacket project since my last post though. I’ve made the welt pockets…which is basically step one of the pattern. Not a single construction seam has been sewn. I haven’t even made the darts.

The pockets are nice, though. Admittedly from the outside they aren’t the greatest welt pockets I have ever made. Slightly uneven welt, and the ends are a bit squashed.

Single welt pocket in black boiled wool

But the insides are gorgeous. The pattern instructions (Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design) include a new-to-me technique that makes the pocket bag end up french seamed. Not an untidy or even overlocked edge in sight. I’m not normally one to care about beautifying the inside of a garment, but this jacket is unlined so the pocket bags are going to be seen. I’ll have to go through with the Hong Kong finish the pattern recommends on all the other seams now, simply in order not to let the pocket bags down.

French seamed pocket bag

Anyway I imagine anyone who’s still reading has heard more than enough about welt pockets by now. I also wanted to share a couple of links to blogs I’ve enjoyed reading lately.

Some Use Some Wear is a blog about the evolution of a wardrobe. It’s not a sewing blog, but I enjoy it because the author talks about the stories behind her clothes.

The other one isn’t a single blog – it’s a whole series of blogs about creating incredibly screen-accurate Doctor Who cosplays. They aren’t being updated any more but there’s a huge amount of reading material in the archives. Even if you’re not into Doctor Who, the process the author goes through to source authentic fabrics and develop accurate patterns is fascinating. He covers several of the classic and new series Doctors. My favourite is his Fourth Doctor costume blog and all the others are linked from there.

Vogue 1466 toile

I’m making a jacket in a thick black boiled wool. It’s special fabric and quite an involved pattern so for once I’m doing a toile to check the fit before I cut into the good stuff. Before we get into the photos of me pinned into unflattering unbleached calico with wild hair and not a smidgeon of makeup, here’s the technical drawing and model photo so you can see what I’m aiming for. It’s Vogue 1466 which is an out of print Donna Karan design, so no link I’m afraid.

I normally start one or two sizes down from my measurements in Vogue because of the large amount of ease they include, and add 5cm length between bust and waist and also 5cm to the sleeves. With this one the finished pattern measurements showed there is next to no ease at the hip so I used my true size there. Here’s the front view.

I haven’t got any shoulder pads to put in, although the pattern does need them, so I think that explains the diagonal wrinkles from shoulder to armscye seam.

There is a lot of ease in the sleeve caps and I didn’t do a great job setting them, so there are a few little tucks. In my defence, setting the sleeves in boiled wool will be a lot easier than in calico. Despite the bad sewing and the unforgiving fabric the arm mobility in this is impressively good. I can reach right over my head without problems.

I think I need a little bit more bust room, despite the printed finished garment measurements showing a large amount of ease there.

I haven’t got a good photo of the back. All the ones where I was standing straight came out blurred! Anyway you’ll have to take it from me that the back is OK. What this does show is that there is a lot of room in the waist, but I think that’s intentional.

I haven’t got an unblurry shot of the side at all, but this one is the least bad. Again looks like I need a full bust adjustment and shoulder pads.

This one shows the collar tab slightly better. Mine seems larger than the technical drawing but similar to the model photo. The collar is comfortable to wear, which is the main thing.

So, some small pattern tweaks and then on to figuring out how I’m going to manage those jetted pockets in ultra thick boiled wool.

Pattern prep: Vogue 1466

This is my next sewing project: the jacket from Vogue 1466, an out of print Donna Karan design. It may seem like the wrong time of year to be making a wool jacket but I am almost always cold even in sunny weather. It’s worse now I’m working from home as my work area is the chilliest room in the house. I want something a little bit smarter than a jumper or cardigan, but not as structured as a suit jacket. This design is unlined and can be made in boiled wool for a bit of give, which is ideal.

I was puzzled by one feature of the pattern. There are separate left and right back pattern pieces because there’s a back vent so one side has an underlap. But there are some other small differences between those two pieces. The shoulder line is slightly longer on one than the other.

And the one with the longer shoulder line is also slightly longer in the body. Neither difference is huge but it’s enough to be noticeable when sewing.

I can’t see any reason for the difference. There are no separate left and right pieces for the sleeves, nor the jacket front and side pieces. I can only assume it’s a mistake. When I traced the pattern onto paper I used the longer shoulder line for both pieces and the longer body length. I’m making a toile for this one so I should see if it’s worked fairly soon.

Winter coat musings

So about this time last year I was agonising over what pattern to choose for my winter coat. And the perhaps inevitable result was that I didn’t make a winter coat at all in the end but made my ancient version of Vogue 1276 last another year. The lining is destroyed and there are lots of shiny patches where the fabric nap has worn off but it’s still plenty warm. Just don’t look too closely.

But I’d still really like to replace it with something less scruffy. I am currently trying to decide between two patterns, neither of which was in the running last year. The first is (out of print) Vogue 1321, a Donna Karan design that I’ve got a copy of in my pattern stash.

I’m pretty sure the design is this one from her 2011 Fall collection, although it looks a different colour from the pattern envelope one. Anyway it ticks most of my boxes: it’s quite long, should be warm with all those yards of fabric in the skirt, and I love a dramatic collar.

One detail that’s not very apparent from the photos is the raw edge finish. This means using a fabric that won’t fray too badly; Melton or boiled wool probably.

Of course it’s not a perfect choice: the pattern is unlined. If I make this one I’m definitely going to have to add a lining. It’s unsurprisingly a complete fabric hog as well; something like four and a half metres of wide fabric.

My other choice is completely different and very new: the long padded coat from the November 2019 Burda. I’m showing the technical drawing and not the model photo because I don’t really care for the fabric they used for the sample. I’m also not sold on the ribbon tie, but that’s purely decorative and can be left off: there’s a zip and snaps as well.

Burda 114 11/2019 puffed coat line art

I think this would look great in a high shine metallic fabric – real science fiction vibes.

There are possible construction issues with this plan. Sewing the lines of top stitching on metallic fabric will be tricky. They are sewn through the shell fabric and a layer of batting, so there needs to be some way of preventing the batting from shifting. I can’t use pins because they will leave marks. I understand that basting spray for quilting is a thing, but I’ve also read that it doesn’t work well with high loft batting which is what this pattern needs. Maybe basting spray and then pins in the seam allowances? Anyone with experience of basting spray willing to advise?

I’m very torn as to which of these to pick. They’ll cost about the same and they’re both big projects. The Donna Karan is more classic, but the Burda is more fun. Decisions, decisions…

Vogue 1501

This is going to be a tricky dress to write a blog post about because I made it right at the end of last summer and have forgotten some of the details. As soon as I finished it the weather turned cold, and so I didn’t wear it last year at all. Now summer is back it’s finally having its moment.

The pattern is Vogue 1501, a Rachel Comey design. It’s got some beautiful and unusual details. The bodice is only attached to the skirt for a short distance along the front, floating free elsewhere, and there are thickly padded shoulders.

The pattern is written to produce a neatly finished inside without a single exposed seam. What it is missing is any reasonable way to hang up the finished dress in a wardrobe. A couple of long ribbon loops sewn into the waistband at the side seams would have been a useful addition! As it is I have to hang it using a skirt hanger connected below a regular hanger with a bit of string.

Here you can see the inside of the skirt and the waistband with all the edges either bound or sewed with french seams. It’s beautiful but it took forever.

I think I made my usual length additions on the bodice. If I was making this again I would take a little of the extra length out because the pleats in the bodice tend to collapse. I notice the skirt is a smidge shorter on me than the model which I find is a more flattering look, but I can’t now recall how I got to that point. I do remember getting the skirt pattern piece upside down more than once while sewing though; all the pleats mean it is very wide at the top.

The back has a nice little keyhole opening which adds some interest but mine’s not hanging quite right on the body. The keyhole is slashed into the pattern piece. It looks to me that I needed to make the button loop longer to account for the lost width from the allowances at the keyhole edges. Apart from that little annoyance I really like the back view. The open back is airy without showing lots of skin.

Now let’s talk about the shoulders. I read a lot of reviews of this pattern before making it up and every one skipped the padded shoulders. The pattern has you insert a gusset into the outer shoulder shell/facing seam to make space for a pad that’s supposed to be 2cm thick. I decided to give it a go but I’m not 100% happy with the results and I think the pattern could be improved to give a better finish. The gusset as drafted is symmetrical. It’s a long thin oval with a point at each end: the same shape as a marquise gem. But a shoulder pad has a curve in it to shape over the shoulder, so the gusset should be a crescent shape: concave on the side closest to the shoulder. The facing’s armscye should be made slightly shorter than the shell armscye to match the shorter length of the concave edge. If you make it up as drafted you inevitably end up with wrinkles on the underside of the shoulder where there is too much fabric trying to fit into too little space. They aren’t very visible in these pictures (hooray for black fabric, it hides a multitude of problems) but I assure you they’re there and you can also see them in Vogue’s model photos if you zoom in, so it’s a problem with the original designer dress and not the adaptation to a home sewing pattern.

Speaking of fabric, this is made from a poly crepe I got from Barry’s Fabrics in Birmingham last summer. It was great value and I’m very happy with it; it drapes beautifully and feels nice to wear. It was a little tricky to make the narrow hems for the back bodice edge in this fabric though. A silk or cupro twill would be absolutely perfect for this pattern.

Despite all the niggles this is a good summer dress for me – not too fluffy and very wearable. I can’t see me making another one soon but I’ll hang onto the pattern just in case. It would look amazing in white linen.

Thanks to my husband for the pictures.