This time it’s a Shirtwaist Dress from the ‘Gertie’s New Book For Better Sewing’. I have a vintage black shirtwaist dress. It’s preloved and now adored so much that it’s slightly faded and just a little see through (though with a pettiskirt that’s not a problem). I was on the hunt for another shirtwaist dress that I could wear around the house and not stress that the kids & normal wear would kill it. So when I saw this dress pattern in Gertie’s book I decided that I would give it a crack.
A pic from my Martinis and Slippers Instagram account.
Next was the fabric. While I was on holidays in Mauritius last year I posted a picture on Instagram of the gorgeous teal & floral cotton fabric that I picked up in Rose Hill for only $AUS 12.00. From memory I got about 5 or 6 metres.
In early January this year I copied the paper pattern pieces onto tracing toile and then cut up my pre-washed fabric and then folded everything up for another time. From memory my brand new Pfaff sewing machine shit itself when I was testing / trying to shirr. So after only having the machine for 3 months I had to get it serviced and believe it or not it’s still a shit trying to get the shirring right. So I use my elcheapo Brother $99 machine (side loaded bobbin for the win!!) to do all my shirring.
Of course this Shirtwaist Dress has shirring on the back so held back doing starting sewing this dress until my Pfaff was back from the Doctors & in the end I still used the Brother because the shirring was so bloody temperamental.
Overall this dress was really easy to do, I will admit I struggled with the collar when I was about to join the collar to the dress it was too short & the notches didn’t match. So I double checked that I had copied the right size which I had. So I did it again and sewed a smaller seam allowance & managed to get it to fit. I absolutely love this dress, it really does have a very 1940’s feel to it – did I mention it also has pockets!!!
I still have heaps of fabric left over and I will probably make a skirt or maybe a shirt…hmmm.
It’s taken me 2 whole years to finish sewing a dress. I know it sounds bad but there is a story behind why it took me so long.
I found the pattern for this dress 1958 Ladies’ Party Dress on the Sense & Sensibility website. My friend who sews told me about this pattern all those years ago and I decided that this was the dress that I would start my sewing journey with.
The pattern was bought online, downloaded as a PDF, printed into a million (well it felt like that) pages and then I had this huge jigsaw pattern to stick together. All of that I did with no real hassles. The next thing I did was trace the pattern onto tracing toile so that I didn’t have to cut up my giant jigsaw puzzle, plus the thought of sticking paper onto fabric and then trying to pin it & cut…yeah…no thanks.
So tracing the pattern was easy. Then I realised half way through tracing that I was copying my shop bought clothing size – not my true size. SHITE…start tracing again. I wasn’t happy about it but at the time I was thinking it would be better than cutting the fabric and it’s too small.
Then I had darts….darts at the back and front of the bodice and I just froze. I had no idea how to copy those darts from the pattern to the fabric. No idea at all.
So everything was folded up and put into the bottom of a box and I decided that perhaps I needed to go and do some sewing lessons. One of the first things I learnt to do in those first few weeks of my sewing lessons was transferring the dart from the pattern paper/toile to the fabric. I had a burst of enthusiasm and I pulled the fabric out of storage and transferred my darts, pinned them down ready for stitching aaaaaand then put everything back into storage.
Fast forward almost two years and I needed to finish that dress off. However…I learned a few things over the years.
1. Wash your fabric – yup…I didn’t wash my fabric before cutting it.
2. Make a toile – yup…I didn’t make a toile and I discovered that my torso is short so quite often I have to adjust the bodice of any dresses / tops that I make so that they fit.
3. I cut rather large notches on my fabric – a simple straight short cut is all that is needed…not my giant year 7 sewing class triangle notch (I was doing what I was taught all those years ago!).
4. Lining – didn’t even think for a minute that I would need to add lining to my bodice. I ended up having enough fabric so I self lined it and it turned out perfectly.
I start sewing, matching my giant notches and trying on my toile/real bodice and it was a tight fit. I was seriously wondering if this dress would fit once I put the zip in.
Meh…just keep going.
It’s cool, so what if it doesn’t fit me, at least it’s practice. I sometimes stress so much that what I am making won’t work or fit or look any good but I have to remind myself that even if I fail at least I tried and at least I am getting practice and using the skills I have learnt.
Sure enough it all came together and with my brand new overlocker I was even able to finish off all my raw edges.
I took a deep breath in and zipped her up and what do you know…it fit!
If I had to make any changes I would actually lower the bodice a little – maybe half an inch to an inch and I would make the skirt a bit longer. Otherwise this dress is awesome and will be worn this coming Spring/Summer.
I have already received a compliment wearing this dress (it was a mild day so I HAD to wear it out!). I went to Spotlight where I bought the ‘Deck Chair’ fabric from originally and one of the ladies working behind the cutting counter said my dress was beautiful and when I told her that I bought the fabric here she said “I know”.
The deck chairs are navy & white and goes perfectly with my navy shoes and cute vintage navy purse I picked up at The Vintage Emporium in Tyabb this past weekend.
Oooh look what I made!!!! (a gravity defying child AND clothing to fit my gravity defying child!!)
Sooo, it’s the end of February and this is my very first post this year yeeeeahhhh sooooooo sorry eeek…. I can’t say I have been lazy just really busy doing stuff. January was a bit of a blur of school holidays, bbqs, an annual trip to Barooga in NSW, celebrating Australia Day and getting ready for the new school year. Of course that meant I had to clean the cupboards in the kitchen…?? I had to!!
Then February was all about..more Summertime bbqs, getting my little 3yr old settled into kinder, which I am happy to say she loves, as well as a very quick and very much unplanned trip to Sydney to visit a very dear friend of mine (Hi Gina!!).
I made a few New Year Resolutions and one of them was to dedicate more time to sewing. I am ok at it…not brilliant but I have made a two dresses, a few circle skirts and a top based on a pattern from 1942 but most of those were done in the sewing classes I attend each week.
Really what I wanted was to be much more autonomous when sewing. Not having to ask for guidance or help or getting stuck but just being able to sew & understand the instructions that come with patterns. So I bought a few patterns and yep…I instead of taking me 4-5hrs to complete it’s dragging on and I’m now 4 weeks (2hr lessons each week) into a top that I thought would be easy.
Regardless for ages I have been doubting my ability and doubting that I can really sew, then about 3 weeks ago I popped into spotlight and saw this really cute ‘Vintage Paper Doll’ patterned fabric with a yellow background and on a whim I bought it. It was on sale and I was thinking that I could make myself a novelty circle skirt with it.
Then Miss A saw it and declared it “her new dress”. So I got to thinking that there might be a simple free girls dress pattern that I could find online and then if I stuff it up..meh. If it works then HOORAY!!!
I Googled, I Facebooked, I searched the sewing pages that I follow until I saw a few pics and that led me to Create Kids Couture. I found a dress that I liked. I bought it and printed it out and really started to stress…the ‘what ifs’, the ‘not sure’, the ‘I don’t think I am going to be able to interpret the sewing jargon’.
Then I figured…it’s a piece of fabric…material. So what if I stuff it up. It’s all practice anyway. Away I went. Oh uh…first road block. I didn’t have any contrasting fabric to use. I could make it all using the same fabric but it would look so much better with contrasting fabric.
Off to Spotlight I go and I find some but there on the sale table is the exact fabric I already have at home ready to be cut but with a pink background, rather than the yellow background I have. Miss A declares the yellow is yucky and she wants the pink. I would have preferred the pink too…in fact if I had seen it the first time I would have bought the whole bolt. Anyway…I also bought it because I figured I could keep the yellow fabric to make my novelty circle skirt.
I followed the instructions and with the exception of one step, which I quickly rectified it took me two nights to complete this dress.
The gathering on the skirt took me 3 goes. The first time the thread broke, so I unpicked and stitched again. I got my gathers all done and then ahhh…BROKE the thread again and this time I have no idea how it broke.
Third time lucky…!!! Oh and of course…ha ha…FRICKEN ha…I found an awesome tutorial on creating gathers using a zig zag stitch that just looked so awesome that I am going to give this dress a crack again and see if this new fandangled zig zag gathering business works.
My most gorgeous most adorable baby girl!
I don’t have an overlocker so I wasn’t able to finish my edges as nicely as I would have liked, however my Pfaff has a huge number of stitches to choose from and one of them is a zig zag that will suffice for raw edges.
Overall I am absolutely freaking thrilled. It’s amazing how something so small can boost your confidence so much. I want to find a few patterns that have sleeves – I don’t think I can let my child out of the house in the middle of winter with a halter neck dress on.
In any event the dress I have made is called Hadley, cost $10.00 and you can buy it from the Create Kids Couture website. It’s a downloadable PDF pattern with full instructions and pics to go with it. Any pieces of the pattern that have straight edges you have to measure up yourself but the curved pieces are on the PDF. Absolutely perfect for beginners so give it a crack if you need a confidence boost or have a gorgeous Daughter like mine!!!
I actually finished it about 4 weeks ago but just never got a chance to have some proper pics taken of the finished skirt, last night was my first opportunity so here it is.
I am really proud of my effort and because Melbourne had some amazing warm days in the first week of September I did actually wear my skirt outside…in the world…and it was perfect. Made all the more better because I FREAKIN MADE THIS BABY!!!.
Yup…handmade by me!
So, what to do now? Well I decided to do a top next. A good friend of mine is a collector of vintage patterns and she recently finished an adorable blouse from a pattern made in 1944.
I couldn’t help myself, I have to make this top. So I borrowed the top and tried it on – perfect fit and works so well with my Freddies of Pinewood jeans.
The pattern is a 34 inch bust and I AM NOT a 34 inch bust. So I copied the pattern onto interfacing – no way in hell I am cutting up a paper pattern from the 40’s!
I then skillfully (HA!) added an extra 3cms to the sleeves and sides of the pattern – the black lines are the original lines on the pattern and the red is my attempt at increasing the size of the top.
When I got into my sewing lesson I showed my teacher the pattern and my friends blouse and my ahem…dodgy alterations to the pattern size and I decided that was my next challenge. It’s a gorgeous top and I will actually make a few of them and shock horror…will go and buy the same fabric as my friends version just because it’s so freakin perfect!!
The real deal – vintage sewing pattern instructions.
So by the end of my lesson I managed to finish my skirt and started cutting my fabric out ready for my gorgeous blouse, just hoping that it does actually fit when it’s done. If not, then that’s ok. It’s all good practise I suppose!
I was absolutely convinced that by the end of Monday’s lesson I would have completed my skirt.
Nope, didn’t happen. Although I am desperate to get this skirt finished I also understand that there is a process to follow and all the extra little unknown steps actually help to produce a more professional looking skirt.
Ok, so when I arrived into class thinking that I would be trimming some edging on my skirt – maybe iron it down and then getting straight into the hemming I was kinda right but also wrong.
First up – trimming that excess fabric in the corners of the facing and then using the iron to press it down and then stitching it so it doesn’t roll up when you are wearing it.
Ooh messy edges.
All neat & tidy!
Extra stitching to the facing to stop it rolling out when wearing (oh and I had to iron this after stitching, with the aid of a Tailors Ham – how amazing is a Tailors Ham!!!..gotta get me one of those!).
Then the flap that covers the zipper needed to be pinned into place.
Then be stitched over to hold the flap in place.
Then I had to find out what the seam allowance was on this skirt, checking the paper pattern it was 3.2cms so we cheated a little and made it 3cms. I had to get the measuring tape and head over to the iron and measure & iron 3cms all around the hem of the skirt so the fabric would be pressed into place.
Next is to overlock (insert Angels playing on harps here cause I just LOVE using the overlocker) the edge of the hem.
All nicely overlocked and ready for….HAND STITCHING……AHHHHH!
I am kinda getting really excited now. I really really want to finish my skirt and BAM. I am told that I have to HAND STITCH my hem. Thank goodness this isn’t a circle skirt. LOL.
So never having actually been shown the correct way to do hidden stitching and always being very unimpressed with any hand stitching I have done in the past I was actually really surprised that it was actually pretty easy and shhh I actually enjoyed it.
Yup, I totally enjoyed sitting at my table and stitching with my hands and a sewing needle and getting all squinty eyed while I try and find 2 looms that my little needle could go through.
Unfortunately class finished before I could so I will ahem…cheat and actually pick it up sometime this week and finish it while the method is still fresh in my head.
Almost finished!!! I still have 4 weeks of lessons to do so I am curious as to what I will do then – another skirt would be great!!!!
The half way point in my first ever sewing lessons as an adult and I am quite happy to admit that I really am enjoying it, I am busting to get this skirt done and just put it.
Week 5 was all about facing. I started pinning the paper pattern to the fabric last week but the class ended so this week I doubled checked that my two paper pattern pieces were in place and pinned down. I cut the pieces out and then got the interfacing out, placed my cut pattern pieces over the interfacing and cut those pieces out.
Pattern pieces overlayed on the interfacing.
Once the interfacing was all cut I had to cut a nick into the sides of the facing that sits on my hips so I could distinguish which side goes where, it’s easy with my fabric because there is a very distinct front and back to it. If you had fabric that was difficult to determine ‘front’ or ‘back’ the nick/cut comes in handy when fusing the interfacing to the facing – ooh look…technical terms!! lol
Over to the ironing board where we double check that the fusing & interfacing are the right way – fabric pattern facing down (or right side down) and the interfacing with the glue sits on top of the fabric (glue side down). Calico under all the fabric to protect the ironing board. Calico on top of the fabric & interfacing to protect the iron and press away. You need heat & pressure to make the interfacing stick.
Interfacing all fused onto the facing. I trimmed those fuzzy edges.
Sweet sweet overlocker! Overlock the short edges on my facing (seriously…how fricken amazing is the overlocker…person who invented the overlocker – YOU ROCK!).
Overlocking the short edges of the facing.
Short edges are overlocked and just need to be trimmed.
Now to match all my pieces up ready to join them up.
Stitch the matched up facing pieces and then you have one long piece of facing that has a long piece that sits at the front of the skirt and two smaller pieces that sit at the back of the skirt.
Stitching 15mms from the overlocked edge.
Oooh look…some stitches.
Iron those seams please – nice and flat – this is the BEFORE shot.
Pew pew..never underestimate the power of the IRON. lol
The interfacing needed to be added to the skirt (I was secretly jumping for joy inside…I am that much closer to finishing my skirt). I matched the seams and pinned and then sewed but…BUT had to stop where the back darts are because the zipper has to be done a special way.
This is where it kinda got tricky, most of what I was shown kinda went in the space between my ears and then flew straight back out – well some of it. I managed to match seams & pin the right hand side of the zipper & facing. Stitched those no probs. Eeek my problems start with matching seams where the flap is that covers the zipper on the left hand side of the skirt.
The teacher did it and I tried making notes but…I am going to have to do that about 10 times before I remember how to do it.
Either way, I stitched the seams and a bit of tweaking – literally a millimetre on both sides and I managed to get the fabric to meet at the top of the skirt.
All stitched together!!
Sooooo I guess next week will be the bottom hem? I heard something about hand stitching ?!?!?!?!?!?! WHAT. Sigh.
After a trail blazing session last week this weeks class moved at a much slower pace.
I had to mark down my alterations and EEEEK maths was involved in working out averages and halving stuff. I wrote the ‘formula’ down to ensure that my skirt was taken in at each side equally and then using a curved ruler and pen to mark out the alterations.
That pen line is the line to sew on.
Both the seams with the pen lines drawn on, ready for sewing.
A bit more sewing and then another try of my skirt and perfect!!! Great fit, not too tight & not too loose so on to the next step.
I had to trim the seams, overlock them (love the overlocker!!) and then iron the seams down – both the sides and the front seam.
So I kinda got excited now….on to the next bit..huh huh…uhh NO.
I had to alter the paper versions of the patterns so when I do this skirt again (which I will) the size will be perfect. So…more measuring and cutting.
Finally I got onto the interfacing. Trim the paper pattern, overlay that onto the fabric, pin in place…getting excited because…oh..sorry…class is over.
Yeah so that was my Monday night session. It felt like it was done in 5 mins and not 2 hours.
Zippppppppppers!!! I nailed this baby! Ok, so it was the second time I have sewn in a zipper BUT both methods were totally different so I have now learnt two totally different ways of achieving the same outcome. The beauty of learning I suppose.
First up – sewing my back centre seam but not all the way up because….<insert heavenly music> that’s where the zipper goes.
Seams apart so you can see what was sewn.
Iron the seams apart.
This is where the zipper is pinned & sewn in – there is a bit over overlap.
Pin thw zipper in place but only on one side and sew that baby in place.
Then you want to pin the other side of your zipper in place and sew that down too.
Stitch the other side of the zipper in place.
Zipper is all sewn in!!
This is the overlap that covers the zipper when you are wearing it.
THEN…the next bit. Putting your two pieces together – join up to make sure they are in place and pinning them together.
Pins running up along the edges that are going to be stitched together.
Sew the seams all the way down both edges and well…you have now got the makings of a skirt.
I had to try it on for sizing – sorry no pics and my teacher helped to pin it in a bit so it would fit. Pins were inserted where it has to be bought in to fit and the job next week. Altering the skirt to fit me.
Ok so after a great start to my introduction to sewing last week, I picked up where I left off ‘THE OVERLOCKER’. I used one in 1992 for about 20mins and it was fun. I love that it stitches and trims the edge of the fabric and leaves your material looking so perfect & finished.
So I had another muck around with some scrap fabric and used a different machine from the one I used last week. Last week the loops were all over the place and looked worse than amateur. So this week I made a point of using a different overlocker and what would you know – perfect. Nice loopy loops and it works out that the good machine also has cream coloured thread which works perfectly against the colours on my fabric.
So I stitched and stitched on my practice scraps and then decided to tackle my pieces of fabric for my skirt and it only took me less than 5 minutes to make a mistake. I stitched the wrong edge. YUP. You see, we overlock the edge that the zipper goes on because later on when the zip is on the skirt it will be hard to overlock it then. Anyway. Not a huge problem as the edge I overlocked will be done when the time comes to do it!
The next part of our class was darts. I have 4 of them on my skirt so it was a matter of learning how to transfer the dart on the pattern onto your fabric and then gathering those darts and stitching them. I tried it on some scrap fabric and it worked. Then tackled my real fabric and it worked again! Whew!!
See that sewn in line…that’s my very first dart!! yay yay
So I have decided that I want to start learning to sew. Ideally I would love to learn how to make my own 40’s & 50’s dresses & skirts & tops & whatever else takes my fancy.
I did sewing at school when I was in yr 7 – a long time ago! I touched on it again when I was about 16 but that was for 1 semester.
So, lesson 1 was about double checking your size based on the pattern specs and then unraveling the paper pattern, cutting the pieces your require and then overlaying that onto your fabric. Cutting the fabric and marking the darts and the little triangle bits (that’s the technical term…no…really…lol).
This is the fabric I bought. It has teeny tiny writing in French on it.
There is even an Eiffel Tower printed over it.
Marking the darts was important for me. I have another way above my level dress that I am working on and it’s a 1958 party dress and yeah, I hit the darts bit and went…uh. Oh. Hmmm.
I know how to mark those now, so no guessing.
All pinned and ready to cut!
This is the pattern I am making, there were about 6 to choose from and I am so grateful for a 1940’s vintage styled skirt.
Finally I got to have a go on an overlocker, takes a bit of getting used to but yeah. First lesson was great and I really enjoyed it, can’t wait for next week.