After last week's Thrifty Thursday post where I mentioned Lucky Lucille's Sew For Victory Sewalong, I got to thinking and decided that even though I was a couple of weeks late, I would join in on the fun. I pulled out all of my Forties patterns and narrowed it down to two. I couldn't really decide between them as they were two very different dresses for two very different seasons, so I decided that I would try to make both of them. Nothing like starting something two weeks late and setting the bar twice as high huh?
Here's the dress I'll be making first:
I'll be making the short sleeved version on the right with the fabric shown below it. It's a deep auburgine colour with a nice drape and is quite thick. Almost all of the fabrics in my stash are thrifted and unless it's a fragile lace or velvet, or if it's wool, they all get tossed in the washer and dryer. This was no exception and it turned out fine. I'd rather find out ahead of time whether a colour is going to bleed or if the fabric is going to do something weird when washed. There's nothing worse that putting hours into making a dress, washing it once and realizing that it's only fit for the rag bag.
One of the issues I had with this pattern is an obvious one...there is a fair bit of water damage. The pattern is fine, the pattern pieces are all intact, but the envelope is definitely worse for wear and unfortunately the bit where the size is marked is faded and it's impossible to read the second number. This pattern is either a 16 (34 bust) or an 18 (36 bust.) Needless to say, I didn't pick the most straightforward of all patterns in my collection! Oh, and did I mention that like most pre-Fifties patterns, this one was unprinted? Yippee!
This is the second pattern I chose:
The fabric beneath it is a vintage seersucker in a warm teal blue and mustard floral print. I think this would be a great dress for summer with a pair of mustard coloured sandals! I'm a very pale reddish-head, so the cut-out option on the left isn't an option (I don't want to blind passersby if the sun hits my tummy in just the right way,) so I'll be making the dress on the right.
Anyhoo, back to the purple dress...
In the spirit of the Make Do and Mend mentality during the War years, everything I'm using for this dress is coming out of my collection of vintage notions. I also have a piece of vintage purple polka dot fabric that wasn't printed on the grain properly, but I think it will be perfect for the belt as it will be fused and stitched within an inch of its life, so being off-grain shouldn't matter...I hope. It also just so happens to be the perfect shade of purple to go with this dress.
For the neckline trim and the pocket trim I''ll be using ric rac, but I'll apply it in such a way that just the tiniest bit of pink shows. I'm hoping this will work. If not I'll switch to a vintage white lace trim. The buckle is one I've carted around with me for quite awhile and I think it will be perfect!
Immediately after deciding on the pattern and choosing the fabric, I got right to work on my muslin. I don't always do a muslin - I know that I usually need an FBA, a Short Back Adjustment (similar to a Swayback Adjustment, but the fabric removed is across the shoulderblades) and a Full-Arm adjustment (getting yanked around by ex-racehorses = muscles where no muscles were before, apparently...) but because I had no clear idea of the size of this pattern, I figured that I would just go ahead, cut it out and sew it together and figure out my next step from there.
It's cute, isn't it? As you can see by the gathers at the front, no Full Bust Adjustment was necessary. I had to add 1/2" to the side of each pattern piece including the shoulder seam, cut out over an inch for the Short Back Adjustment and add some room to the bottom of the arms, but all in all it was pretty great!
This pattern is interesting because both the bodice front and the sleeve are each one pattern piece. The gathers aren't added in separately, they are just a long extended piece that you slash, gather and sew, so there is no added piece at the waistline, it's just all flows together.
With vintage, unprinted patterns, I always write the pattern number and the piece name (ie C - Bodice Front or whatever it is named in the instructions) on the tissue in pencil. I know many sewists like to keep their patterns pristine, but with unprinted patterns, if one piece happens to flutter off your worktable or fall to the floor behind your sewing machine, there will be absolutely no way to know which pattern it came from when you find it months later (yes I speak from experience.)
I don't trace my vintage unprinted patterns, but I only use most of the pieces once. As I mentioned earlier, I cut out my muslin, as is, transfer all of the markings, dot-by-dot, sew it together, make all of the adjustments, sew it together again, try it on and when it's absolutely perfect, out comes the seam ripper and I tear it all apart. Why tear it apart? So I can have the perfect pattern pieces for the next time I make the dress without destroying a vintage pattern and without time-consuming tracing. How do I do this? Freezer paper. Let me explain:
I figure that since I've already cut out the muslin, rather than tossing it into the rag bag, using it as a template is a good idea. (I don't like to make wearable muslins because I find that I never get around to making the actual item out of the chosen fabric - I just move on to the next project.) After I've taken the muslin apart (all adjustments need to be sewn-in/added etc. first) I iron each piece and then cut a piece of Freezer Paper big enough to cover the pattern piece. Freezer paper has a plastic coating on one side that easily fuses to fabric. You can find it in the grocery store with the cling-film and aluminum foil. Don't buy wax paper - it's not the same thing and will destroy your iron! I place the pattern piece upside down on my ironing board and iron a piece of Freezer Paper onto it.
*Note: Be absolutely sure that you have the plastic side down and iron on the paper side or you will wreck your iron!
I then flip the pattern piece over, cut around the edges and write the pattern number, manufacturer and pattern piece on it along with any notes like "Place on Fold" or grain lines, which on unprinted patterns are shown with different sized dots. I use a good, old fashioned Sharpie for this. After I'm finished with the project, I just fold the pieces up and store them in a freezer sized Ziplock along with the original pieces and pattern envelope. It takes up more room but for a pattern I know I'll make again, it definitely saves a whole lot of steps!
Well, there you have it! I'm hoping to have my fabric all cut out and ready to sew by the end of the day today so I'm off to the ironing board. I'll leave you with a photo of the notions I chose for my other Forties dress. I'm undecided as to whether to make the belt out of the seersucker or to use something else. Any suggestions?