Sunday, 5 June 2016

Heather: The Big Vintage Sew Along

The Big Vintage Sew Along is an annual blogging event organised by McCall Pattern company. Each year they choose a selection of reproduction vintage patterns from their range and invite the sewing community to have a go at reproducing these vintage styles. You can find out more about the project here.

If you've read some of my older blogs over at Dresstoration you'll know I'm a vintage fan, so when I received details of the challenge I knew I wanted to get involved. I picked out this lovely 1930s coat-dress which I thought would suit my style. 

From the moment I started cutting the pattern out I knew this garment was going to be tricky. If you look closely at the pattern diagram you'll see there are curved darts of the hips and shoulders. This is not a feature I've ever attempted before, so I decided to make a toile of the bodice in some leftover muslin, to check I could get the curves right.

I started with my usual method of checking the garment fit against my pattern block. I shortened the bodice back by 2cm at the seam, and the front by 2cm at the shoulder. Having cut out the pieces from muslin and battled for about 30 minutes to get the curves to fit together nicely, I thought it might be a fun idea to read the instructions... (I have inherited this bad habit from one of my parents. Clue: It's not my Mum.) 

This dress has an unusual feature, in that almost all of the seams are joined together with a line of top stitching/edge stitching rather than the classic right-sides-together method. This means that those lovely curved darts are actually created by pressing under the curves and then lining them up with their corresponding partner before edge stitching in place. Not easy. (Big thanks to Amy from Almond Rock who set me on the right track here! See her version of this dress here.

Having figured out what I was supposed to be doing I stitched up my toile, with promising results.

Happy with the fit, I rooted through my stash and found some tan cheesecloth in a perfect 1940s brown, which I thought would make a lovely summer version of the outfit. I also opted to shorten the sleeves at this point for the same reason.

I started by making up the back of the garment. The curved edges were tricky but not impossible, and aided significantly by the purchase of an adjustable zipper foot which allowed me to align the edge of the foot which the edge of the fabric perfectly. The instructions suggested using a contrast thread for the visible stitching so I went for a soft coral pink, as I knew it would match a pair of vintage-looking shoe boots I picked up from Office a few years ago. 

The majority of the garment assembly was straightforward and before long I had 90% of a completed garment, just awaiting the attachment of the collar and front panels. This is where things started to get a little tricky. On the front of the garment there are two tiny pockets. See them? No, I didn't either. They are actually hidden behind the top two curves of the bodice and creating them involves a lot of pins and pressing and tacking (and swearing). Finally I got to this point: the front top stitching.

There are some learning points here: 
1. I should have tacked these beastly darts in place rather than sewing straight from pins.
2. I should have overlocked the edges of every piece before I even started this exercise.
3. You can't press cheesecloth enough times- it will always looked like you just screwed it into a ball.
4. Cheesecloth was not the right fabric for this dress.

The fabric moved around a lot whilst stitching. It pulled out of shape in some places, and there are some definite hidden holes under those seams from my stitch unpicker.
But I finished it. It was really tricky, and there was definitely a point that I was ready to consign this to the pile of never-to-be-finished UFOs. 
But I persevered, and I'm so pleased I did...

Check out those shoes!

You can just make out the contrast edge stitching here.

Hand stitched arrow heads on each dart.


Why not have a go at your own vintage challenge?

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