McCall’s Sewing in Colour

Happy new year, makers and fakers!

I love old dressmaking books. I have so many now that new additions to my shelf of editions don’t often bring much illumination – you can only describe inserting zippers in so many ways – but they remain irresistable. And not so easy to find in op shops.

On 2 January, trawling Frankston Savers with another sewing chum, I was delighted to spot a new one. And two copies of it so we didn’t even have to squabble over who got it. It’s the 1969 imprint of the 1964 McCall’s Sewing in Colour, a tome described in its flyleaf as “the complete sewing book”.

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My copy once belonged to Robyn Thompson in 2A. I expect it was her Home Ec textbook in the early 70s. I wonder if she sewed for fun or for necessity. Perhaps she made herself the clothes her mum wouldn’t, or couldn’t buy for her.

The lists of fabrics at the start of the book include the exciting, futuristic proprietary names I see every now and then on clothing labels of the era – Acrilan, Orlon, Vincel, Terylene, Zephran – and I hope that Robyn wasn’t seduced by their sticky fibres.

There is a fabulous page of stills from a McCall’s film (and how I would love to track it down!) showing How A Pattern Is Created.

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I also picked up four metres of a quite lovely old polished cotton stamped Federated Fashion Fabrics in the selvedge.

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Before I can start cranking out some seamstressin’, my poor old Bernina needs some service lovin’. The top and bottom threads look like they are having a prolonged argument. I hope my favourite sewing machine fixer-upper can get them playing nicely again.

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Organza is the devil’s cloth

The dress to wear to my friend’s wedding this weekend is finished. And it almost finished me. Silk organza is EVIL… it’s probably made from REAL ORGANS. What a monstertrucker it is to sew, what with the unravelling and the wiggling and the stretching.

It’s the 1963 pattern, McCall’s 7052, with modifications. I just used the double-cowl bodice and then frankensteined skirt pieces from TWO different patterns. That’s metafrankensteining. I wanted a straight skirt at the front and a full one at the back, which means I could be vaguely sleek but still engage in wild, abandoned, drunken dancing (I anticipate it will be that kind of wedding. I hope it will be.) So I have a mullet skirt. Excellent.

I bought the fabric ages ago from Rathdowne Remnants, and lined it in an avocado-green silk you can still pick up for a song at Clear It. (Or, if you run out, and you know Moggy, you can raid her stash on a Sunday night like I did. Thanks, Moggy!) I couldn’t resist the blue roses, which I’m always drawn to for their genetic impossiblity, even though I don’t actually like roses much.  Also, I like the 1960s Readers Digest illustrative style of their rendering. It was before I knew how diabolical organza is and I won’t hurry to sew with it again… it’s just not worth it.

But after all that, I’m quite pleased with the result. Bring on the festivities!

Static. Or is that stagnant?

Not much doing around here for a couple of reasons. The first is because it’s flipping cold and my sewing room is unheated. Brrrr. The second is because it looks like this at present:

Right. So I need to do me some cleaning up before I can even get near the machine. And I should do so, pronto, because we’re off to the Fifties Fair later this month and I need to construct some kind of anachronistic confection. I’ve wanted to go for years but never got myself organised in time. Hard to imagine from the state of my room, eh?

In other news, I scored some lovely murky-coloured 60s silk at Camberwell Market on the weekend:

The pattern is big but the yardage is not (3m). I’m thinking skirt; any other ideas?

Post-it, post-haste

The Post-it dress is done! I love it!

Front:

Side

Back, showing the drape

It’s so hard to capture the colour of this fabric, but it really is Post-it note colour! It was absolutely filthy to sew because the fabric writhed, wriggled, slithered and morphed to an incredible degree. In the end I had to tack the interlining to the brocade just to cut it out, then overlock the two together, and then tack the whole dress together to sew – pins just weren’t doing the job.


And that pattern again, Simplicity 6218

Post-it dress

First: the man-shirt update, modelled reluctantly by the recipient:

I don’t love the fit in the sleeve which is tight at the front and loose in the back – but he’s not planning to conduct orchestras or communicate via semaphore in the thing, so a full spectrum of movement is not mandatory. Otherwise, I think it came up a treat and he picked the purple buttons himself (actually, he has an unexpected talent for picking buttons. I consult him on almost every garment because he picks the buttons I never would and they’re usually perfect). One day I’ll remember to widen the shoulders so he doesn’t get those wrinkles under the collar.

NOW. Moving right along. As foretold in the previous post, there’s a contest entry to prepare! I picked Simplicty 6218, a stunner of a 60s sheath gown with a cowl back and empire line. I’m making it in a simmery, drapey 1960s brocade that is the precise colour of Post-it notes. Or pus, if you’re feeling earthy rather than proprietory. But the ‘Pus Dress’ doesn’t quite have the same appeal as the ‘Post-it Dress’ somehow. Can’t think why.

Thought I’d show you how I go about lengthening things. A quick and dirty muslin told me I needed 5cm more length in the boobular section. So I pinned the pattern pieces at the bottom and traced the lower seam line then moved it up 5cm, like so:

This is the lining that I’m working on first and I’ve had to mess with the contrast because the fabric is a similar colour to the tissue.

The important thing is that you shift it precisely on the grain line (when you’re cutting on-grain) OR along the central axis if you’re cutting on the bias. Then, with a ruler, you need to draw new side cutting lines from the top edge of the pattern to the edge of the original placing of the lower seam. You can see this above on the piece to the right.

I’m also narrowing the neckline by 1cm because I have very narrow shoulders. I hope this is enough! This pic shows the front and back bodice pieces together at the shoulder seam… obviously the alterations have to match exactly here.

Now we move onto the vintage brocade. This is the cowl piece which is cut on the bias for drapeyness. I’ve added 5cm here too and redrawn the side seam… yup, I know this looks like a very different angle, but it’ll all be OK, I promise.

Now I’m using the lengthened lining piece as a pattern for the brocade. And it’s a bit sheer, allowing me to artfully cut a bodice piece that avoids the horror of accidentally landing a target-shaped motif slap-bang front and centre like some glorified aureola.

I’m not doing a true lining; I’m sewing the two fabrics together (interlining). But because one is so slippery and the other writhes and wriggles about, I’m basting them together….

…and then overlocking the straight seams since these synthetics unravel like the dickens!.

Phew! Next steps… well, I’m going to muslin the skirt because I have an awful feeling I might not have enough fabric… eek.