Vintage Pattern Contest – Completed Projects!

I ran out of time (and steam) and only made the capelet and the dress. But these were the two major components I wanted to enter in the contest, so mission accomplished! The voting has begun, I’m quite nervous. I don’t know if I really have chances in winning one of the prizes — in any case I worked really hard on both my capelet and my dress, with grading and tracing and figuring out how to construct something without instructions!

Vintage Pattern Contest

The Capelet

The pattern comes only in one size, Small (sizes 10-12). By comparing my bust measurements to the ones on the pattern envelope, I discovered I fell somewhere in-between sizes Medium and Large. But the challenge remained: this pattern is in size Small, and I need to make it bigger! I am familiar with the slash and spread grading technique, but I just couldn’t see where/how I was supposed to slash the cape pattern pieces, they are so very different from a normal top! And getting the collar to fit just right after grading the capelet was also a challenge for me.

I went through my (modern) patterns stash and found a pattern for a cape. I observed how the grading was done – adding more to the side seams, a bit less to the neckline, and not adding any length at all. And then I carefully reproduced a similar grading on my own vintage pattern (which I had previously traced on pattern paper, of course! ;))



I quickly whipped up a muslin to check the fit. When I assembled the collar, it became very obvious I had somehow added way too much to the under collar piece. I knew I was supposed to ‘ease’ the under collar while attaching to the upper collar, but this wasn’t easing, this was making pleats!

Back to the drawing board!

I compared the upper and under collar pieces, spotted the differences, and decided to re-draft my under collar closer to the upper collar shape. I measured the neck opening of the capelet pattern pieces with my flexible ruler — making sure I measure between the circle of the font piece and the center back, subtracting seam allowance, and transposed the measurements to my collar pieces. I cut it again out of muslin fabric, assembled the pieces and ahh! Much better! (By the way, the wrinkles are because of wrinkles in my fabric!)


The final collar looks pretty good on my capelet, so glad I managed to make it work!


The Dress

Whipping up a muslin and actually making the dress are two completely different things, I discovered. I omitted the back neck facing when making the muslin, for example. And order of construction doesn’t really matter because it’s just a muslin anyway, right? But now that my dress is cut and ready to assemble for real, I’m having doubts about what I should sew first. There is no mention of interfacing on the list of notions or fabric needed, but I decided to interface the cross-crossing edge of the pleated front pieces with a strip of fusible interfacing, to give them more body. I also interfaced the back neck facing.

N.B.: I have no idea if the order of construction I improvised for my dress was the best order possible, I just tried to do what seemed the most logical, step by step. And I decided to start with the pleated front pieces, which appeared like the most labor-intensive part anyway.

And it was. It really was.

I had to mark the pleats, circles and crosses twice, as the markings was fading from manipulation and steam. And each time I thought I was done steaming the heck out of these pleats and ready to baste them in place, I would try to line-up the pleated piece with its facing, and realize it just didn’t match. Ugh! I had to ‘un-pleat’ and ‘re-pleat’ the front pieces at least 3 times each until I reached an acceptable matching between them and their facing. I basted my pleats in place and then basted the front pieces and the facings together.

Then, I stitched the back shoulder darts, and stitched the back neck facing to the back piece. Now the tricky bit: How do I get the back facing and the shoulder seams to be all neat? I puzzled a bit, and then figured out I had to wedge the back facing between the front and back pieces, wrapping the front piece around. When done stitching, cut the corner, trim seam and turn inside out. It didn’t turn out perfect, I guess my pleated front in all its layers was just a bit thick to really make the edge even with the back piece.



My next step was to make the front and back darts. This step is relatively simple — only relatively because there were some strange markings telling me I had to stitch horizontally, and it just didn’t make sense to me. I decided to ignore them.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI thought this was the best time to sew in my invisible zipper to the left side seam, stopping the stitching at 1,5 cm from the bottom edge, to be able to sew the side panels without going over the zipper. I also closed the right side seam, this time stitching all the way to the edge. At that point, I still wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do with the armholes opening. There are no facing pieces. I don’t see any stitching line on the drawings. I left the armholes as is for now, I figured I’d solve that puzzle later…

Pleats, pleats, I love pleats, give me more pleats! Time to pleat the side skirt panels. Again, the pleats were very tricky as the pleats on each side edges need to form a box pleat when stitched to the front and back pieces. Pleating the side panels went quicker than the front pieces, for sure — I guess experience was finally sinking in?

To attach the side panels, I aligned the center pleat with the side seams, and eased the rest. Indeed, my front and back pieces together were a few cm bigger than my side panels. I thought it was a bit strange, as I had carefully marked my cutting lines of all my pattern pieces with my chalk marking tool, carefully marked and press my pleats, etc. The tricky bit of the side panels were indeed the pleats formed by the joining of the panels, giving the illusion of continuity with the front and back darts. I was off by a couple of millimeters every time, nothing that couldn’t be corrected with a few hand stitches on the final dress!

At that point, I tried on my dress, squealed in delight, but realized the horizontal seams at the side panels were stretching a bit and the whole thing was losing its shape and sharpness quickly. What to do, what to do? I grabbed a piece of twill tape and sewed it in place as an emergency measure. No more stretching! Crisis aborted!


Armholes, right? Nope, let’s push this problem to later. Let’s do the hem instead! That one is easy!

I used horsehair braid to give more body to my hem. My horsehair was white, and I didn’t like how it looked on my blue fabric, so I ‘hid’ the horsehair with a bit of black lace. (For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, see this post on my blog.)


Yes, the armholes. I refused to address the problem until now, no way around it, I have to find a solution. Then I laid my eyes on a pack of bias tape I originally bought to neatly finish my seams (but ended up using my pinking shears instead)… bingo! I’ll use this tape as a facing, and hand stitch in place, brilliant! Problem solved!


The last, last step was the bow. I cut a strip of fabric 10 x 35 cm, folded in 2, stitched around at 6mm leaving a small opening for turning. Then slipstitched by hand the opening shut. Tie it up in a cute bow and hand stitch in place.


I love it. LOVE IT. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT. Worn with a petticoat, it’s really one of my dream as a little girl come true! Look how twirly it is!

And worn with my capelet for a bit more coverage, I’m ready for a vintage night out!

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There’s one down side to this vintage pattern contest: it has rekindled my interest in vintage fashion and I’m definitely going to try other vintage patterns (or vintage reproduction patterns) I have in my stash. Where shall I start…?


Vintage Pattern Contest – muslin progress

I officially dislike vintage pattern magazines for their lack of instructions, markings and, well, clarity. Hats off to the seamstresses of the time — they obviously knew what they were doing! I mean, look at this sheet:


Seriously? I’m dizzy just looking at it!

I took the bull by the horns and attacked tracing my pattern pieces. Lucky for me, there are only 5 pieces, 6 if you include the back facing. Pleats and darts are somewhat clearly indicated, however you’d expect a bit more markings, like notches to know where to attach the pleated front bodice pieces to the lower piece? I can only rely on the sketch and the picture in the magazine to imagine what goes where. Again, hats off to the seamstresses of the 50’s!

Here are my pattern pieces, ready to cut my muslin fabric. As you can see, I got confused around the back dart/pleat, hence the extra lines.


After this was all done and my muslin fabric was cut and marked (so. many. pleats. to. mark. ugh.), the first challenge: how the heck to assemble this? Where do I start? What comes next? And better yet: how are you even supposed to get in and out of this dress? They don’t mention a zipper or buttons in the list of notions, and the pictures don’t help at all. I studied the pattern and figured out I had to put a zipper at the side seam — both back and front pieces are cut on the fold, and the skirt is composed of side panels, also cut on the fold. That leaves only tiny side seams, about 20 cm, where to put a zipper.

Below is my (almost) finished muslin, with only one side skirt panel attached. Seeing the width of the skirt, I’m not worried about not inserting the 2nd one to check the fit, I was more concerned about the waist and the bust to be honest!




The front/side pleat hangs funny because I didn’t press it at all and I’m still wearing my sweatpants under the dress 😛 Interesting construction though, basically the joining seam of the front and side skirt panels form a pleat that merges into the front darts. Brilliant. Same happens on the back.

I’m absolutely ecstatic about how the muslin turned out, I think I won’t need many alterations. The lower bodice is snug but not uncomfortable, I can bend, breathe and sit without a problem. And the fabric I’ll be using is a gorgeous stretch sateen, so I’m not worried about the final dress being too tight. I might give myself a bit more room under the sleeves though, I guess ladies of the 50’s didn’t have big muscular biceps and triceps with extra loose skin hanging after losing a lot of weight 😆

Talking about fabric, here’s what I want to use:

stretch satin blue

Isn’t it amazingly beautiful? And only 4.50 EUR/meter! I should receive my package today or tomorrow. Can’t wait to start on the real dress! 🙂

Vintage winter holidays party outfit ideas

This Vintage Pattern Contest is really inspiring! Or it’s driving me mad, one of the two. Because I don’t have enough of just making a dress, I thought I’d just go ahead and make a complete outfit — just in case I’d be invited to a fancy cocktail party. I know I won’t be, but I just don’t care 😉

Here’s what I’m hoping to make:

Récemment mis à jour9

Top left is the dress from an old July 1959 issue of Dutch pattern magazine Marion. Top right is a capelet from a Simplicity pattern dated 1964. The gloves and the purse are patterns from the 40’s. I know, I’ll end up with an outfit spanning three different decades, but I thought they all matched, somehow.

I’ve started on my dress muslin, I’m ecstatic about the outcome — but I’ll keep that for my next blog post.

Vintage Pattern Contest – I’m in!

I just entered the Vintage Pattern Contest on Pattern Review. Not an easy task, as the contest is already underway and I have a serious lack of vintage patterns that fit in my stash.

I suddenly remembered I had a few Dutch pattern magazines (Marion) from the 50’s and 60’s. Not all the designs are on the tracing sheet, and even worse, not all the sizes are on the tracing sheet. But lo and behold, I found it: The perfect vintage dress, in my size, in the July 1959 issue. I’m in LOVE!


Look at this beauty! The pleated top! The full skirt! The bow!

But it will be a challenge, my friends. I have no instructions whatsoever, and the tracing sheet is the most repulsive sheet I have ever seen. This is all I have to make the dress:


A drawing. And my common sense, I suppose. But I’m up for the challenge!

And now, to find the perfect fabric… Not too heavy, otherwise the full skirt won’t stand out nicely. There’s a fabric market in my town on Sunday November 17, that wouldn’t leave me much time to make the dress, this might be my last resort if I can’t find anything suitable in my stash.

I’m so excited! 😀

Summer sewing hiatus

Long time, no write!

Let’s say that late spring/early summer is never my most active sewing period in the year. I’m definitely more of a winter sewist. My sewing room is up in the attic and it usually gets way too warm up there for me to sew. And with vacation, outdoor activities, peaks in freelance work activity and the usual huge peak in workload at the office… you get the picture. Sewing gets relegated down the list of priorities…

I spent a little over 3 weeks back home in Canada in May/June, I was overly due for some down time. I did some sewing over there (many thanks to my mom for cutting the fabric and to my grand-mother for lending me her machines!) but the projects didn’t turn out as good as I would have hoped and are now unfortunate UFOs by lack of enthusiasm and energy to finish them. Meh.

I did score 2 lovely items at the weekly flea market though. First, a vintage capelet pattern dated from 1964, Simplicity 5416. I’m so used to paying big bucks for vintage patterns that when I asked how much the seller wanted for it, her reply took me by surprised: 25 cents! Oh my! The pattern was in a big box full of other 60s and 70s patterns. I soon regretted not buying the whole box, since the week after the seller wasn’t there anymore. Booh.

Even though I couldn’t get my hands on the rest of her patterns on my second visit at the flee market, I did find a lovely evening purse covered in beads and sequins. I don’t know how old it is, nor how much it’s worth. It has a label “Made in Hong Kong” inside, meaning it does have a bit of age. Anyway, the embellishments are pretty much intact, the closing and chain still look perfect and for 5$, I couldn’t say no. Isn’t it pretty?


And on top of being ‘busy’ with relaxing, vacationing and working this summer, I’ve been struck by a new activity: fangirling 😉 It’s all their fault:

Marvel totally sucked me into their cinematic universe. And comics universe. And do you know what that means? Yeah, cosplay ideas popping left and right in my mind… *sigh* I guess I’m going to add a ‘Cosplay’ category and tag sooner or later 😉

Oh and if you’re wondering about the Spring Flowers project photo shoot, I have really really nice pictures to share. Just need to find some time to post them. I’ll do that this week, for sure!

My first vintage sewing machine!

It’s about time I make a post about my new (old) machine! It’s been in my possession for over two months now, but I have yet to present it to the world.

Introducing my first ever vintage machine, a Singer 128 with hand crank, dating from 1915 according to the serial number. The 128 is the portable model, and is a bit smaller than the standard-sized treadle 127 model. It might have been portable, but this thing weighs a ton! There is unfortunately no cover, I guess it got lost along the way during its 97 years of existence.

I don’t know much about vintage sewing machines, and this one was cheap, so I thought – what the heck!  I bought this machine for two main reasons:

  1. Because I think vintage machines are gorgeous and it’s a collectible
  2. Because they are very strong machines and can sew thick materials like leather.
I think it’s beautiful, even though the decal has faded and the body is pretty rusty. I brought it to my sewing machine dealer to let him have some fun too; he cleaned and oiled the parts, and even repaired some that were either missing or damaged. So to answer the question that’s on every reader’s mind: does it work? Yeah, it does. Well, it did when I got it back from the dealer. And then I played with it, sewing on a piece of fabric and my needle got stuck…. and since then, I can’t seem to be able to make normal sewing ‘loops’. Bummer. Something I’ll have to fix one day if I actually want to use it.
The machine didn’t have many accessories: only an extra shuttle and a few bobbins. And some other strange-looking objects that I’m sure are very useful, I just don’t know yet what to do with them!
I thought: maybe I should get old accessories for it too! So I went on e.bay and bid on some presser foots. Unfortunately, I wasn’t alone bidding, and I kept on losing at the last minute. Ugh. But I finally got lucky! I won a bunch of foots (tucker, hemmer, ruffler) AND an original instructions booklet from 1925. Yay! 😀

One thing that works is winding the bobbin! Thank goodness for the instruction booklet, although I had to re-read the same line several time to understand what they meant by: “Draw out the left hand center to the left, and place the bobbin between the cup at the right and the center hole at the left”. Huh? That sentence goes from the left to the right, to the center and back to the left again… help! Anyway, I managed to figure it out and yes, it totally works, as you can see in the following video!

I’m very pleased with my machine, even though I know it needs a lot of TLC. What amazes me is the realisation that despite they were made almost 100 years apart, there aren’t that many differences between this old Singer and my Bernina. The bobbin system evolved, true, and now we have computer machines running on electricity. But in the end, it’s still a needle going up and down, a bobbin, a presser foot and feed dogs. And that’s the true beauty of sewing – ancient and modern, all at the same time!

Mad Men Dress Challenge – challenge complete!

It happens so often: you finish a sewing project, but the only effect it has on you is “meh”. When I decided to join the Mad Men Dress Challenge, I was afraid my dress would become one of those projects. I was SO wrong. I absolutely ♥ with my purple dress and love how it turned out!

The dress wasn’t very complicated to make, I just used the Simplicity Amazing Fit 2648 pattern (view C with V-neck), with the sleeve from Simplicity 2247 view A – but shortened to about elbow length. And I omitted the zipper, since my dress is made with a stretchy double-knit. Did I ever mention I love the Amazing Fit collection? Yeah, I think I did. Several times. Well, here’s another: I love that collection. You can easily mix match bodices, skirts and sleeves to make the dress of your dreams, and they are so easy to fit.

To draft the collar, I used the tips included in the fantastic book Make Your Own Dress Patterns. Joan’s collar seemed to be coming down straight at the center back, but I preferred to draft the collar in such a way that it flares just a bit. I think the front collar is pretty close to the one on the original dress – I did a good job eyeballing it! 😆 My ‘tie’ is a bit longer than Joan’s, and I decided to make come out from the inside of the dress, I thought it looked more interesting this way.

What do you think? Pretty close, huh? I can’t wait to wear my dress to work on Monday! I’ll try to take a picture of me wearing the dress as soon as possible!


Thank you Julia for this great challenge idea, I can now channel my inner Joan with my purple dress!

Next project in the pipeline: three evening dresses/ball gowns for a friend’s photography assignment… my biggest challenge ever!

ETA: I just added a picture of me wearing my dress at the office today 😉

Mad Men Dress Challenge

You might have noticed a new badge on the left: the Mad Men dress challenge. The goal is simple: Find a dress on Mad Men that you love and create your own version. The idea comes from JuliaBobbin and being a Mad Men fan… I just couldn’t resist.

I ploughed through countless images and videos of the show, trying to find something to make. Then I found this article from Tom & Lorenzo, featuring a pretty purple dress worn by Joan. Ha! There you go! That’s what I’m going to make!

I have a purple double knit I’ve meant to use for ages, but could never find enough inspiration. I love the color. And I think the shade is pretty close to Joan’s dress, don’t you think?

To make the dress, as much as I would like to use my pattern sloper and draft everything on my own, because I’m short on time I decided to go for my trusted Simplicity 2648 Amazing Fit pattern, with the V-neck. I’ll make simple sleeves (probably borrowed from another Amazing Fit pattern I own – I love that collection!) and draft the collar and the ‘tie’ at the front.

Let’s see what I end up with 🙂

But no sewing for me today, it’s time for some pampering at the hairdresser!

Lost and found

Let’s go back in time, to August 2010. I fell in love with an awesomely pretty vintage apron pattern, but two months later, I still hadn’t received it.

Well, lo and behold, while sorting out drawers overflowing with papers and magazines, my husband found an unopened shipping envelope addressed to me. He had the presence of mind to not throw it away. When I went downstairs about 30 minutes ago, I saw the envelope on the table and I went 😯 An unopened shipping envelope? Addressed to me? From Your Pattern Shop? Nooooooooo… could it be…?

Yes, it was.

I RECEIVED MY PATTERN AFTER ALL!! It’s been sitting in its shipping envelope for more than 1 year, can you believe it?

It’s beautiful. It’s gorgeous. It’s so d*mn pretty! Must. Make. One. ASAP.

There you go, I just had to share my joy 🙂

Wedding dress project – pictures!

Finally, here are some pictures of my happy bride in her wedding dress, on the Big Day. No wardrobe malfunctions, no drama, only smiles, love and happiness!

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