Playing with Pleats

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Butterick 8038I had been after Butterick 8038 for some time, but it was rarely for sale and was always too expensive when it was, but I was finally lucky enough to win it on e-bay.  According to vintage patterns wikia, it is a 1957 pattern, which looks about right.

I love the fact that the pattern has been used, but never pinned, so either weighted or just free hand cut.  All of the markings had been made using blue chalk, and the bias facings, which are not included in the pattern, were cut from newspaper.  My favourite story was the extract from a letter to the paper asking who stole 2 geranium plants and hoping that they feel bad!

My pattern was for a 36 inch bust. In modern/re issued vintage patterns, this would probably fit alright, but having just had a bit of a disaster with a 36 inch bust 50’s pattern not being even vaguely big enough, I thought I would try my hand at grading the pattern up. I have amended/ adjusted/ tweaked patterns before, but never done a full size change. This pattern is worth the trouble so I looked up various methods.

I looked at several different methods to enlarge the pattern, some of which made much less sense to me than others, and finally settled on this one for its clear instructions and logical approach.  It took time, but all good things do.  I do not intend to reproduce the approach here (especially as I was so messy!) but the tutorial I used can be found at A Stitching Odyssey.

I traced the pattern onto tissue paper and then set about adjusting it. If I do this again, I would use a thicker paper for the initial trace as it was fiddly when cut and curled when I was trying to line up the pieces etc. It looks really messy, but I got there in the end.  It was also possibly not the best pattern to try this on given the crossover of the bodice, but with a consistent approach and a bit of care it seems to have works.  The size increase was not big enough to accommodate an extra pleat so I  reduced each pleat by 3mm and this worked well.

I would have loved the long sleeved version but my fabric was just too tight.  The fabric was a sari with borders one each side.  I had bought it from a charity shop for £4 and I really had set my heart on doing this dress in this fabric.

There was some rule breaking in the cutting.  The skirt was always to be cut cross grain as I wanted the border to run around the bottom.  The fabric was too narrow to cut the skirt back on the grain anyway. Given the sheen, this risky, but all great endeavors are!

I have never really used tailors tacks much, preferring to just place a pin in the fabric to mark a point unless the pattern was very detailed. In more recent times, I have started to use tacks more often, but with this dress used it to mark all points.  This was particularly useful when working on the pleats.  I did the ‘from’ pleat lines in one colour and the ‘to’ in an other which helped make the construction easier.

The dress went together very nicely – the instructions were clear.  The construction appeared complicated when I read it beforehand, but was all quite logical when you were actually doing it.

2015-05-22 018I love the skirt on this.  I am not a slender lady, but find that full skirted dresses are quite flattering.  I love the look of the pleats, the volume they give without adding bulk to the waist you can get with a gathered skirt.

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I am absolutely delighted with the fit of the dress.  I may move the starting points of the crossover sections down about 1/2 inch next time and try using bias binding around the neck and armholes when I make my next version as 2 inch bias facings were hard to double turn when going round the curve of the neckline.  I would really like to do the long sleeved version, possibly with the straight skirt for autumn/winter but also another sleeveless one in a more everyday fabric.  Just love it – I honestly believe it is the best thing I have ever sewn!

 

 

Floral and green Lutterloh dress

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I was given some fabrics by someone I met on Facebook who was having a clear out.  They were furnishing fabrics, and coordinated well with one another.  I had used some of the plain green fabric to make my walkaway dress, but had a fair amount left.  The floral fabric I had originally wanted to use as the front of the walkaway dress had not been wide enough, but went so well with the green that I really wanted to use them together.  Also, I have wanted to be a bit more adventurous with mixing fabrics.

Page  (27)I had really like the look of a Lutterloh pattern (112) for a while, and it seemed the perfect opportunity to give it a go.  It was from the “domestic bliss” pages of the book (circa 1955), a few pages dedicated to making pinafores, aprons and coveralls for the modern woman so that she can set about her daily tasks suitably attired.  This was a pinafore that you could wear over your smart clothes but gave pretty much full coverage and was quite large on initial stitching to reflect this fact.

2015-04-22 002I enlarged the pattern using a proper Lutterloh tape measure which I only recently acquired from e-bay.  I had used a printed copy previously and have to say that using a proper measure makes it feel so much easier and I do feel that the points were more accurate. I did have a little help with this:2015-04-03 002

The floral fabric (curtain or cushion fabric) was much thicker than the plain green, but I like the contrast.  The section is enough to give the whole dress body and the ‘jushhh’ factor I am often after.  I love the shaping created by the pleats in the front.  It did take a fair bit of altering as the centre front was particularly wide, which is why the shaping around the bust ended up being quite rounded and pronounced, it was while I was fiddling with it but then I liked it so I kept it.  I feel it is quite a balanced look.

I have done very few button holes since restarting sewing, and not covered any buttons at all.  I had intended too cover some normal buttons from my stash, but, as I was using the floral fabric, didn’t want to stitch through the covered button, so I bought some metal cover yourself buttons.  Unfortunately, having spent a disproportionate amount of time choosing exactly which floral bits to make into buttons, I only had one successful button – one covered but quite squashed button, and one squashed but still refusing to clip into place button.  I appreciate that my fabric was quite thick, but still found it disappointing.  A few days later, I purchased the same buttons but the plastic version (cheaper but I just liked the metal ones better) and these worked so much better.  So I finally had my funky buttons.

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The overlap at the back was quite large and I had to reduce this, and also decide whether to just stitch down the back or leave the extra fabric from the crossover in.  I went with the latter.

2015-05-10 009 2015-05-10 011I am very pleased with my results, not the best sewn dress ever, but I think it is really quite pretty.

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Wiggle Dress

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I love the style of clothes in Madmen, the earlier series mainly.  The contrasts are fabulous, from the demure wife with her full skirts and beautifully contoured bodices, to the overtly seductive, figure clinging dresses of the office secretary, Joan Holloway.  Very different looks, yet both are extremely feminine and, in my opinion, overtly sexy.

oh my!

oh my!

I also love the figures that fill the dresses, January Jones, who plays Don Draper’s wife, is petite shapely, whilst Christina Hendrix, who plays Joan has larger than life curves and she uses them.  I assume both looks are helped, at least in part, by good foundation garments, but there is something so sexy about dressing to accentuate what you have rather than hiding away.

I loved Gertie’s wiggle dress from her book.  It has diamond shaped gussets under the arms to enable movement.  I had never seen this before, but have since found it in the ‘how to’ sections of my Lutterloh books.  The concept fascinated me, so I have given it a go.

My first wiggle was in a light cotton.  Gertie has her own sizing, based on the American sizing, so my top was a size 10 (UK equivalent 14) but, for the first time in my life, I had gone down a size at the hips to a size 8 (UK12).  I couldn’t quite believe it, even though Gertie does say that she has her sizing is based on herself and those women she has come across, so I stuck to a 10 all the way down.  It was massive – not only were the hips too wide, but they reached their widest much too low as well.

The dress is heavily shaped along the side seam – much more reliant on this shaping than other dress patterns I have used.  Given this, it is one time when drawing an outline of yourself on a large piece of paper and using this silhouette to decide the widest/thinnest points of your figure would be a good idea.

2014-06-16 12.28.15 2014-09-13 008 I like the dress as it emphasises/exaggerates natural curves.  I like this but it means you have to get the fit just right, otherwise it will just bag out at the sides – more obviously too large than when that extra fabric is shared around your body.  That said, if it is close, tweaking is relatively easy.

I made the second dress in a heavier, plain green cotton with a slight stretch to it.  I went down to a size 8 for the hips and it was a much better fit, needing a couple of centimeters reduction around the hips as they were still a little low.  I love this green but am now debating whether to scoop out the neckline at the back into a deep curve.  I think that as it is complete I shall wear it a couple of times before I consider changing it.

Update:  I have done a third version in a very heavy, vintage jersey fabric.  I didn’t do the underarm gussets this time as the stretch permitted movement.  This is a very warm and comfortable dress for winter.

Bombshell (Part 1)

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F1309_2-vintage-style-mother-of-the-bride-dressJust look at it!  Possibly the most perfect dress ever created.  Unfortunately I cannot take credit for it, it isn’t one of mine.  It is a creation of the fabulous Whirling Turban who make the most beautiful, vintage styled clothes ever!  Unfortunately they are a little out of my price range but one day……..

It’s the neckline that I love most, so I have set about making something similar.  It is going to take a while, but all good things come to those who wait.

My starting point is from Butterick B5814 by GertieBombshell starting point

I appreciate that this may not look that much like the dress above but when you look at the construction it is an excellent place to start, and a damn fine dress in its own right!

Having read some reviews on one of my favourite sites, Pattern Review, I decided that a muslin was a must.  In most modern patterns I am a size 14 on top, increasing to a 16 for the waist or hips depending upon the style.  The reviews had said that this pattern is a snug fit, and having read the finished measurements I decided to go 16 all the way.

 

 

2014-03-24 003The muslin was not impressive.  It didn’t excite me and needed tucks here, and adjustments there.  The shoulder adjustment was expected as I have slightly narrow shoulders, and Gertie has done a whole tutorial and making this adjustment.  I needed to also do a toil for the skirt to see how low the top came.  So I made the skirt and then couldn’t find where I had put the top!  House turned upside down, I even remember vaguely thinking to myself that I shouldn’t put it there as I’d never find it again!  Anyway, I haven’t and as I knew it didn’t fit I had to do it again.  Given that it had seemed quite large, I decided to try the 14 so did it again.  Please excuse the fabrics – curtain lining skirt and son’s quilt cut offs for the top.The ugly fabrics did show me something though – how nice it was to have the stripes running down the left hand front side – just a lucky cut as the lower left front is a separate section.

The fabric I had chosen from my stash as a first attempt is a rather loud floral cotton.  My only concern is that given the details within the dress, it might become too busy, but I am going to try and match the pattern in some of the most eye catching places to reduce this issue as much as possible.  I am considering it to be a wearable muslin but hoping it will be fabulous.

It has been a slow process – most of the pieces were cut out separately as it is asymmetric and also to pattern match as much as possible.  I haven’t used boning since the early 90’s and managed to sew the first piece in the wrong way round.  I unpicked it, then sewed it in the wrong way round again!  Luckily the third time was a charm.

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Gorgeous but a little too revealing!

The dress is fully lined/interlined and has, in my opinion, been quite fiddly, but gorgeous takes time and effort.  I was delighted with the final result upon first try on.  Unfortunately, upon wearing it (around the house) I have discovered that it is too low/short in the bodice for me.  It is supposed to be a low dress and I was prepared for that and, in a snap shot it is fabulously saucy!  But when I pull the waist down to my natural waistline, it gets a little too low and shows my bra.  I deliberately added the skirt to the muslin to check if it would be decent, but didn’t face it.  That 1.5cm seam allowance can make all the difference.  My plan is to separate the bodice and the skirt and insert a ‘belt’ panel, possibly in red if I can find a good match.

This was never expected to be a one attempt wonder, I am glad that, once altered, it will be a fabulous dress, and one step along the road towards the dress of my dreams!

TO BE CONTINUED…………………………….

My first Lutterloh dress

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I came across the Lutterloh dressmaking system by finding vintage patterns on Etsy that needed enlarging.  I looked into it further and found a lovely site dedicated to using these patterns, and then I managed to buy some on e-bay.

The pattern system started in the 30’s and they are still producing books using the same system today.  You start off with pattern pieces that look like this:

Lutterloh pattern example copy

You enlarge them using your bust and hip measurements and a special piece tape measure.  You do need prior sewing knowledge, or excellent instincts, as there are no construction details and many of the patterns have darts without details of their depth and sometimes width. There is a whole section on sewing techniques and skills, although mine was in German , which I don’t speak.   I believe that the average woman would have a greater sewing knowledge and be used to adding or adjusting darts at the time when these patterns were published.

I chose this dress as my first Lutterloh project because it is gorgeous, and not too precision based as it has the gathered sections.  Lutterloh pattern example copy I decided against the central front seam, but with hindsight think it would have been a point of interest.  I intended to do buttons down the back of the dress as in the original pattern but had issues finding buttons that were interesting enough for the straps on the front and not too fussy, overbearing or lumpy to use on the back.

Whilst I am pleased with the dress, I find it a little plain, and don’t think it suits my body as much as some other frocks I have made.  I think my choice of fabric was poor, but I just loved the colour so very much. The fabric has a light cotton feel, but also has a slight stretch, which I thought would be a good idea as it would be a little more forgiving on the fit if needed.  The straps across the front are functioning as they need to be opened to get the dress on and off – the zip (button opening) in the back only goes to the waist, so you need to be able to open the gathering on the front panel.  2014-05-04 014

I didn’t think I would like the neckline as it extremely high, but I stuck with the original draft and am glad I did as I think it is one of the nicest necklines I have, and it feels sophisticated.  The fit has absolutely delighted me.  I had read that these patterns do fit very well, but given that we are all different shapes and that the enlargement is drafted using bust and hip measurements, I had reservations.  In addition, scanning and printing the pattern and then enlarging it myself does leave plenty of room for human error.  But I am delighted – it fits beautifully around the back.

One problem is that with natural movement, the front seam joining the top to the bottom can become visibly from behind the lower tab.  I have countered this by putting a small press stud between them, just to stop it riding up and down.

It isn’t perfect, but as my first attempt at a Lutterloh pattern I am delighted and hope to try it again in a more interesting fabric.  I hope to do it in a textured fabric, maybe a tweed or wool mix for the autumn.  I would also loved to do the top with the buttons down the back – I know that would be awkward to do up/undo, but that opening is not essential as long as the front tabs are real.

Even more excitingly, I shall be enthusiastically trying more of them!  Watch this space!