Red, white and blue and blue

Reminded by A Dress a Day in her excellent Hundred Dresses series of a pattern I meant to revisit, I set about turning a very 70s red white and blue (and blue) tablecloth into a frock.

You can see the first iteration of this exact pattern and frankensteining in this post, Bright, sunshiney fail. This time I had a bash at using the gathered skirt included with the pattern but it looked ridiculous. I recut it as an a-line and matched the big swathes of colour at the waistline. Bodice is fully lined, the armscyes are bound with self-bias, and I weighted the hem with a nice fat bias strip too.

Oh, and I took pictures with Instagram. It means the cruddy photos I take with my phone now look artfully cruddy.

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I like the back better than the front! The back skirt is eased in a wee bit.

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Mr Men dress

At a vintage fair a couple of weeks back, I bought a big (curtain? Bedspead?) panel of 1960s Sheridan linen. I love this stuff so much. Shades of green and bile, big chunky floral… My cuppa tea for sure. But you want to be careful how you slice in to such a thing. Not only is it irreplaceable but big prints call for simple lines.
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So I tested out a basic shift pattern. This is most unlike me because of my extreme human A-frame construction. I generally need me a cinched waist.

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I’ve had this Mr Men curtain for perhaps 7 or 8 years. Nicely stash-ripened and time to cut. A few modifications – length, darts, neckline – but look, I made a shift! Terrible photo. I must take a better one.

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If you must have your own Mr Men dress, I spotted the same fabric for sale on eBay.

Spring’s the thing

It being the first of September, I declare that SPRING is HERE, and my apricot tree wholeheartedly agrees. As do the bees feasting upon its bountiful blossom.

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That sky, those flowers… they’ve got me all inspired. Next project must combine this shirtdress and fabric. Springy as!

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Red dress, grey top

A foul cold is doing the rounds and I am among the fallen. A day at home wallowing in my ill-health permitted construction of a wee blouse from a 1970s pattern and some strange and wonderful silk I got at The Fabric Store sale some time ago.

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I bound the sleeve edges in bias tape (sleeves, schmeeves) and made it a little shorter with a curve in the lower hem.

I keep thinking that I should make fewer stunt frocks and make more practical separates but I struggle to find tops that suit me. They’re often very shapeless. This one is OK: darts and a back zipper give it some shape. I made an amateurish mistake and used too-heavy interfacing on the collar (doh! This is what happens when you deplete the stash!) so it pulls a bit on the otherwise lightweight fabric.

Several weeks back I made up a frock in a bright red seersucker from Savers… about 7 metres for $9. It’s so vivid a red that my camera lost its shit and couldn’t photograph it accurately. This shall have to do:

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I took a bit out of the back shoulders to reduce the gape, added pockets and ric-racked the bejebus out of all the hems Check out the giant ric-rac action! Like a dinosaur spine!

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I like this one but unfortunately the bright red and white trim takes it into Little Orphan Annie territory. Maybe I should go the perm and dye-job to really embrace the look.

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Bright, sunshiney fail

I loves me some loud, lurid and large 1970s prints for frock sewing. Particularly when they come from someone’s nanna’s old curtains and/or are completely untrue to the era for the pattern I choose to make ’em up in.

I also loves me some frankensteining because I’m already being disrespectful in so many ways, what’s another middle finger to the pattern designer to tell them I think they I can do a better job on that skirt?

The best projects combine all three of these misdemeanours. A friend of mine is getting hitched next weekend and she’s a particularly sunny character. What to make to wear? I plundered the stash and considered many, many options. I kept returning to one bit of op shop curtain that I’d always loved for its extreme awfulness, but thought, ‘nah. Too far. This is just one step too far. That print is larger than my head, and it has more acid colours than a citrus grove.’

Yet, I took that step. You might want to don your sunglasses roundabout now.

IT BURNS, IT BURNS….

I had two pieces, one full-width about 2m long, and a thin strip that had been tacked on to widen the curtain. Just enough for a dress If I cut carefully. I unpicked everything and gave it a wash. I used two patterns: the bodice was from a cheapie 1950s(?)  mail-order (instructions include how to make it up for any size from 32″ to 38″ just by fudging your cutting and seam allowances. Nice.) and the skirt was pulled from a 1970s hippy-gypsy-folksy-leg-o’mutton-maxi dress. Seemed a wise choice to keep the skirt as simple as possible to really showcase the ridiculously large blotches of the print.

It was a wise choice and it look smashing on Headless Esme, but what you can’t see is that I haven’t bothered sewing up the back because the skirt is too narrow. She no fit. I added a bit of width but not enough, and it kills me, because if I’d just flared out an extra inch either side, she’d be apples. WOE! To the Pile of Shame you go, frock.

Sulphurous delight

My 50s sheath made up in 70s lurid sulphur-yellow rose-printed corduroy that I warned you about in the previous post is finished and I’m delighted with it!

Who knew that mashing up two such disparate decades would work?! Love it. So soft and cosy. And the fit is great – the only thing I’d change for next time (and I suspect there WILL be a next time) is to bring it in a bit at the top of the back seam where it’s a bit roomy because I have no shoulders.

Otherwise, usual adjustments, blahdy blah, lengthened bodice, widened hips, same old same old.

I would like to make special mention of lsaspacey for two reason. One, is her series on designers on the Colette Patterns blog is awesome. Secondly, she requested that I make the sassy neck detail (done) and talk about the instructions for this given my proclivity to charge ahead without reading them properly. Let’s have a close look at the neckline, eh?

Right. Now the eagle-eyed among you will notice that the wee pointy bit does not line up with the raglan sleeve seam. It’s set back about, oh 1.5cm. How could this be? This is not in the pattern illustration! They lied, again!

Nah. I just didn’t read the instructions again. I sewed the facing on in one fell swoop whereas I should have stopped and started and pivoted and so on to work around this seam. Never mind – it worked out ok, but next time I’ll do it right, if for no reason other than penance, and I feel I owe it to lsaspacey…

Bad drafting indignation

So we rabid fans for old stuff love to shakes our heads nostalgically and talk about how modern sewing patterns are made for the masses and fitting is a dead art, woe, lament, etc. Old patterns were just so beautifully drafted, we say.

Not always so. I’m going to show you a zinger of an error in a pattern I’m working on. It’s a small thing… but surely, because it’s a small thing, the fact that it’s wrong is more puzzling and infuriating.

Here’s the offender – Simplicity 4232, a ‘4 Season Dress’ they say. Cute, eh? Raglan sleeves, French darts, sassy next detail.

Here’s the pattern piece for the bodice. That’s quite a deep dart, non? That’s to be expected because it’s doing the work of both a bust dart and waist dart. Ambitious little thing. Sure to go far in this world.

Let’s see how it lies when the dart is sewn and pressed flat. Traditionally you press bust darts down so let’s examine that first…

Oh my, that’ll never do. See how the dart isn’t caught in the side seam the whole way down? What’s that little triangle going to do flapping away in there, unrestrained? It’ll fray and make a weird bump on the outside, that’s what it’ll do. No no no. So maybe it’s meant to be pressed up? I advocate pressing up anyway because if you’re going to have extra bulk hanging about, wouldn’t you rather have it enhancing your bustular region rather than upgirthing your midriffery? I’m not the only one who feels this way – pattern~scissors~cloth is a bit more scientific about it, though…)

Oh my word, that’s even worse! Outrageous! You can imagine my indignation as I made up my muslin. Well, let’s see how Simplicity explains this disaster! Get me a time machine so I can zip back to whenever this pattern was made so I can shake my fist at the Simplicity patternmakers!

LOOK AT THAT! They don’t even DRAW DIAGRAMS accurately! Those bust darts are huge, how on earth are they little skinny slips of things now?

Oh.

TRIM darts and press open.

Trim them.

Ahahaahahhaaa. Right.

My tip to you…. read every word of the instructions. Don’t just look at the pictures. Because old patterns were so beautifully drafted and they thought of everything.

By the way, if you’re easy offended by anachronism and the colour pallette of the 1970s, look away now.

I’m making this dress (with trimmed, open darts) out of some printed corduroy that my sister in law gave me when her mum cleaned out her fabric stash. I love to think the her mum had plans for a suit, or maybe overalls for this. And believe me, that gold colour is even more radioactive in real life. So awful it’s good. I”ll be like a walking velvet painting and eyeballs will be insulted everywhere.