In search of buttonhole twist

I nearly fell at the final hurdle with Vogue 1073. The hem is finished in a really unusual way that calls for ‘buttonhole twist’ thread. I’ve heard of this stuff as fairly thick, shiny thread used to make hand-worked buttonholes but never seen it in a shop. A quick internet search didn’t turn it up in any online shops in the UK.

What you use the buttonhole twist for is attaching a plaited braid to hang from the bottom of the dress hem, using a hand-sewing stitch that resembles a series of french knots. The braid is made out of the same fabric as the dress. The stitches attaching the braid clearly show on the pattern envelope photo, although I don’t think they’re very visible in this electronic version.

I was thinking of buying some embroidery floss and trying to use a single strand of that, but then I remembered I had this DMC Special Dentelles 80 thread left over from when I used to do lacemaking. It’s thick and slightly glossy thread with very little elasticity. It seemed to work OK for attaching the braid, although I think it may be slightly thicker than whatever Vogue used.

Amazingly there are no bloodstains on the hem, despite my having rammed a needle into my finger while sewing the braid on. I am not good at hand sewing. This whole project has been pretty hard on the fingers.

You can see the funny little knots attaching the braid in this picture. The braid is definitely meant to be attached below the hem rather than on top of it according to Vogue’s diagrams.

So that’s the dress done at long last! I haven’t got pictures of it yet because the nights here are drawing in so fast there’s now no daylight left by the time I get home from work. Hopefully I’ll get some at the weekend.

The project list is reorganised because of new Vogue patterns

It’s New Vogue pattern time! And this collection is much more to my taste than the last one. But first an update on the venerable Vogue 1073, which is progressing. I have pretty much finished the shell and now I’m tackling the lining. This dress is definitely going to need lining. It doesn’t help that my dressform is wearing her usual black t-shirt in the pictures, but the fashion fabric is definitely less than opaque.

Inserting the zip has been the worst part so far. I wouldn’t normally bother with one in a knit, but this dress has such a high neckline you couldn’t get it over your head without it. Normally zips hold no fears for me but this one took four goes to get in without going wavy. The solution turned out to be to interface the back opening edges. It’s still a bit wavy but so much better than before. I’m pretty pleased at how well I got the waist seams to match at the zip.

And I can report that each pair of pintucks on the body took 35 minutes to sew if you include the thread tracing and pressing. There are six pairs. My next project is definitely going to be something that sews up more quickly than this.

And speaking of next projects, I think I’m sorted for project ideas until 2012 and beyond. The new Vogues are out, in the US anyway, and I assume they’ll hit the UK in the next week or two, and there are some really good ones.

Everyone seems to like V1265 and it’s definitely my favourite. I’m wondering if I could get away with this at work with a contrasting vest underneath, because it’s unfortunately bra-unfriendly. I bet you get a good swish off that back skirt though!

I’m surprised I like V1268 as much as I do. It’s very 1980s, which might be what saves it from the country and western look you’d normally get with that much orangey-brown suede. I bet it would look great in grey.

And then there’s V1276, a coat pattern with a hood! This one is a Today’s Fit, which have completely different sizing from the main range.

As for the rest, there’s a lot of designer party dresses shown in very shiny blue fabrics. There are lots and lots and lots of jackets. There’s a pair of jeans. The Very Easy range has two ‘custom fit’ day dresses which come with pattern pieces for different cup sizes, although I can’t help thinking they have strangely similar necklines. About the only thing that’s missing is some more interesting skirts. Definitely a good collection. I hope it gets to the UK soon.

The ULTIMATE sleeves

I have been sewing for more than four hours today, and what do I have to show for it? A pair of sleeves! But not just any sleeves. These are the sleeves from Vogue 1073. They have curved darts. They have gussets. They have pintucks with hairpin bends. One thing about this pattern, they don’t save all the difficult stuff until the end.

Here’s what the dress is supposed to look like.

And here’s what I have so far. The pintucks on the front have come out a bit more pointy than Vogue’s photo, but the technical drawing of the pattern shows them as pointed so maybe it depends on your fabric. I’m not sure I could have made mine much less pointy because the fabric’s quite thick.

One thing I hadn’t appreciated when practising for the pintucks is that the curviest tuck goes right over the shoulder seam, meaning you need to deal with the bulk of the seam allowances while sewing. I ended up trimming the allowances back to about 1/4″ at the point where the tuck crosses the seam. You can just see the end of the back shoulder dart in this picture too. The pattern hides all of its darts under the tucks.

The back has curved darts but I didn’t take a picture before making the tuck over them. Funnily enough, having the darts there made it easier to sew the tuck. Even at the points where you can’t really see what’s going on, you can feel exactly where you’re meant to be sewing because the edge of dart is your stitching line.

And finally the gussets. They aren’t beautiful, but who looks at your underarms?

In actual fact the sleeves aren’t quite finished even now. There’s some faffing with a facing and a slit to be done. I think I’ll have a bit of break first. This pattern is a lot of fun, but I can feel my brain melting.

Can haz pintucks – Vogue 1073 samples

I’m currently making Vogue 1073, a pattern that’s well out of my comfort zone. The obviously awkward feature in it is the curved pintucks, although no doubt there are others that I’ll discover later on.

The pattern instructions say something along the lines of ‘to make pintucks, fold along the marked line and sew close to folded edge’. Perfectly accurate but light on detail. So I spent an evening sewing pintucks in scraps of my fashion fabric in various different ways to try to find a way to do it neatly. This is what worked best for me.

My fabric is a viscose doubleknit – or perhaps it’s an interlock as I’m not quite sure of the difference between the two. Anyway it’s a beefy knit with no obvious right and wrong side. I’m sewing it with a stretch needle and a looser than normal needle tension as my machine tends to skip stitches on this fabric.

I start off by hand basting along the tuck with a long running stitch so I can see it from the right side of the fabric. Unfortunately the pictures that follow are a mixture of two different tucks with slightly different shapes because I kept forgetting to take photos as I went.

It’s easier to sew the tuck with the inside edge of the curve on top of the work, so the side where the fabric bunches up is on the bottom. This seems counter-intuitive to me but it really did work better that way round. It’s also easier to be neat if you keep the tuck very small – mine are a scant 1/8 of an inch.

Fold along the line of basting (wrong sides together) and sew along the line. When you get to the sharp curve, stop every few stitches with the needle in the fabric, lift the presser foot, and rearrange the fabric under the foot to avoid sewing any wrinkles in. It’s a bit difficult to see what’s going on and it feels like the needle’s about to fall off the edge of the fabric all the time. I had to resist the temptation to correct that as it just resulted in a wrinkly mess when I did.


Once you’re done it looks a bit wrinkly.

Pull out the basting and press, and it looks a whole lot better. And you can reuse the basting thread for the next one.

The samples didn’t all come out right first time, but I found that it’s possible to recover a wrinkly one by unpicking the wrinkle and resewing that section. This probably depends on the fabric. Mine’s quite forgiving.

Next stop, sewing the real thing. After I’ve cut out the interfacing and the lining, that is, which will be a job in itself.

A whiter shade of pale?

I finally got some reasonable photos of the white dress. The weather in the UK turned a lot greyer which probably helped, although I’d rather we still had the sun!

Simplicity 2833
Simplicity 2833

I haven’t got the fit quite right but it’s wearable. I think I overdid adjusting for my narrow shoulders so next time I’d trace a size up in that area. The pattern itself runs true to size.

I really like the lapped zip. I will definitely do that again. I usually do an invisible zip on all centre back zips, but this is neater and easier, although probably slower to sew.

I’m just not sure what to wear the dress with. These blue shoes are the best out of the ones I’ve got. It would probably look better with white patent leather shoes or boots, but that’s not the most practical option even if I could find a pair!

The devil’s own hue – white dresses

I’ve been making a lovely reissued sixties pattern, Simplicity 3833. It’s a fairly simple A-line minidress with a nice bodice detail. I’m doing the long-sleeved version in the mini length.

I used an ivory-coloured stretch cotton. The idea came from a black and white photo I saw of someone wearing very much this style in white. I think it was taken in the late sixties. It looks elegant and a bit Courrèges on the lady in the picture so I thought it was well worth imitating.

I’m quite pleased with my version, but I cannot get a usable photo of it. We’ve had a couple of tries under different lights, but the shots come out overexposed. Very frustrating. I remember reading somewhere “white is the devil’s own hue to paint” and the same seems to be true of photography. (After some checking I found out it was Dorothy Parker, of all people, in a story called The Custard Heart.)

So as I can’t show you the dress properly here’s the one decent picture I do have, a close-up of the bodice sitting on my dressform.

Anyone got any tips for photographing white dresses? I’ve tried outdoors and indoors…I’m wondering if I need to wait for a day with no sun.