Friday, April 22, 2016

Lovely 1920's Couture and a New Pattern Release!

Well, hello my dears!
I have been hard at work doing two things very diligently. The first has been working on a pattern project a very long time in the making. The second is learning how to stop and take care of myself. It has taken me a few years but I have finally learned the lesson that chronic pain teaches everyone familiar with it: You have to learn when to stop. It's not easy, especially when you're an obsessive workaholic who loves what you do for a living!
This lesson has called for less blogging and more gardening, less pattern drafting and more quiet moments with a good book, less 14 hour days and more tea, yoga, dog walking, and wine in the garden breaks.
Self-neglect is a hard habit to break, but at least I've been enjoying the learning process :)

When I haven't been seeking those quiet, peaceful, relaxing activities, I've been quite happily working on a reproduction for what I consider one of the crown jewels of my vintage pattern collection. But it had to be done right, and that called for some painstaking research and a lot of work.

The pattern in question: A 1929 Maggy Rouff Couture design that looks more like it's from the early 1930's. Maggy Rouff was rather fashion forward in general but in 1929 it seems like she started setting the stage for the hemline making its descent from the flapper just-below-the-knee, to the calf-length we associate with the early 1930's.

This wonderful design features three versions that can be sewn long sleeved or sleeveless. The front has a wrap effect with yokes trimmed in bows and a flounce for a faux-bolero effect. However, the most interesting feature by far, is the straight skirt which is trimmed with asymmetric flounces for the suggestion of an uneven hemline -  in a manner that was very fashion-forward for 1929. 

My favorite part about adding the original pattern to my collection was how it felt a little bit like an Easter egg. I knew it was familiar-looking when I bought it, but couldn't quite place it. Then I opened it up and there was a photograph printed on one of the pattern pieces. The photo of the original Maggy Rouff design that the pattern had been designed from. I ran back to my collection of vintage magazines, and sure enough, in a fall 1929 magazine, there it was. The dress! The original pattern envelope made no mention of any designers on the front as they usually do.

The dress in question at far right.
The flounce creates the illusion of a longer, asymmetrical hemline and calls to mind en evening look if one were to leave off the sleeves.
Also from Maggie Rouff and her fellow designers that year, came the beautiful, flounce bedecked evening gowns that merely flirted briefly with the floor:

Maggy Rouff on the left, Patou on the right.
All of this of course, eventually led to a reproduction. But I had several mangled and badly torn pattern pieces to re-draft along the way (poor little pattern, I'll save you!). And this pattern, with 13 pieces and a half dozen flounces takes up more paper/ fabric than any pattern I've yet to work with. But she's finally here!

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, Depew #3061.

Depew #3061 Ladies' Dress Sewing Pattern.
I've been playing about with some sketches and draping and there's even a way to sew this dress up for an evening look! Simply leave the sleeves off, extend the front and back hems about 4", cut a few more flounces like the ones at front and back, sew them a few inches below the first set and voila, evening dress!
A quickie in Photoshop - not my best work but you get the idea.

You can really play around with this dress by leaving the flounces off at the bodice, or cutting them from contrasting lace, or leaving all flounces off for a smoother day-time silhouette.
The sky is the limit!

Happy sewing,

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Aaaaand I'm back... again...with a Cocktail Dress!

Hello my lovelies. I'm sitting here with a cup of tea in hand and kicking myself. I haven't posted to A Few Threads Loose since November! Bad Blogger, bad! Time really got away from me this winter. Between work (busier than ever) and the exhaustion that follows chronic pain like a big, wet, rain cloud, I've been hiding under a rock for months. To top it off, all of my friends moved away. All of them. Living at a military post can get rough and having all of your friends move away comes with the territory, but I've never quite gotten used to it. Being a military wife can be a lonely job, let me tell you.
But I'm back, out from under my rock, and trying. Trying to focus on what I love, which is this vintage/sewing/blogging/ pattern drafting world of mine, and not on the loneliness, pain, and exhaustion I've been stuck with these last few months. As my late mother's favorite and mortifying saying goes, "I'm putting my big girl panties on and getting over it.". Oy, still mortifying... some things never change.

I only worked on one sewing project while I was away. It was something that I told myself I didn't even need to blog about - it would be just for me, it wouldn't be work, it wouldn't be a sew-along or a tutorial and I didn't have to try. But it felt so good to get something so right that I just had to share. No tutorials, just a pretty, pretty dress.

The pattern is a massive adaptation of my #3015 French Cocktail Dress Pattern.

In fact, I self-drafted the entire back of the dress and half of the front to get the look I was going for, so the only thing that's the same is the pleating at the hip and a bit of the neckline! The dress was for our holiday party in December. My husband came home and gave me a month's advanced warning (bless him) instead of the usual week I get if I'm lucky to plan an outfit for these things. It was time to sew!

And please pardon my photos, thanks to El NiƱo, my studio is the darkest room in the land. But hey, I'm not complaining or anything. I love the rain!

The bodice has these great pleats that get stitched in place and then joined to a sleeve piece pleated to match. I pulled out all the stops, using every couture technique in the book to make this baby luxurious, and just as pretty on the inside.

The hip at one side features a really interesting pleat detail where the pleats are first made horizontally, a couple more are added vertically and then they are sewn together to simulate a side seam.

Now on Lusty Lulu the back zipper had a strange pucker at the top that I couldn't seem to sort out. But luckily, when I was wearing it went away and fit like a glove. Literally, like a glove, and I think I might have made it a bit too fitted in the hips because sitting was a tricky affair, even with the vent at the back hem.

The side that doesn't have pleat details instead has a v-shaped inset, which was cool enough in print but would look really neat in a contrasting solid on another dress.

The dress was completely interlined (meaning each pattern piece was lined and basted together to form one layer, changing the stiffness and drape of my original cotton).
I think from now on I might underline every dress I ever make again. It was a bit time consuming but hand-basting everything together was so relaxing, and having my pleats perfectly marked out on my lining pieces made the process so much easier than trying to find markings on all that print.
I also added a silk taffeta waist-stay which took some of the pressure off of the zipper and made for an even better fit.

Ultimately, I was absolutely thrilled with how it fit, no one at our holiday party was wearing anything like it and I felt like a million bucks in this dress! My husband was really amazing too. I worked for weeks on this dress, making 6 test muslins before I got the pattern perfect (ugh, so much muslin!) and to make sure that he "looked good enough to be seen next to a killer couture dress" (his exact words) he went out and bought a suit and had it tailored. I was next to 6 feet and 3 inches of James Bond in a black suit all night and was really touched by his gesture. He is NOT a suit man, and buying a suit was his way of saying "I love you."
Also, he's insanely gorgeous so that helps :)
He's shy so I don't usually blog about him much, but in case you're curious, he was sweet enough to model my flight cap pattern a few years ago... sigh... I'm crazy about that man.

But enough about me. What have you all been doing since we last chatted? Have you been sewing? Cooked anything good lately? I miss you guys!

Happy sewing,

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

New Patterns from Mrs. Depew Vintage

Hello my dears. Before the great headache of 2015 (we're on day 13 now, super fun times) I was working up a storm on some new sewing patterns for Mrs. Depew Vintage. All are swoon-worthy lingerie pattern reproductions. A few you might even recognize from my crazy S-Series obsession (yes, I'm still hunting).

Not only are these lovelies available in multiple sizes (I've graded the patterns to every size the original pattern was available in back in the day) but they're also available in both paper, and instant download versions!
So without further ado...

1930’s Bra and Tap Pants #2023

This charming little set can be sewn in 2 versions. Version 1 is an uplift bra that fastens at the center back, Version 2 is a bra for evening wear with a cross-over strap fastened at the front. The panties may be made with or without lace and a full-sized motif pattern is included for applique. 
SIZING: Size 14 - 20, 32 - 38" bust, 27" - 32" waist.

1930’s Step-in Chemise #2024

This great step-in can be sewn in 2 ways with either lace or self fabric uppers. The fitted top has V - shaped neckline and the lower section joins the upper section in a pointed line. 

SIZING:  Sizes 14 - 24, 32 - 42" bust, 26" - 36" waist.

1920’s Foundation Garment Corset #2026

This corset is a corset in the very loosest sense of the word. It was originally marketed as a Brassiere in about 1920 and isn't necessarily meant to fit too tightly. It can be made from woven fabrics and a hook and eye tape closure at center back. This is the perfect foundation piece to wear under those 1920's day dresses to get that slim, smooth, bulge-free silhouette. 

SIZING: 32"- 50" Bust.

1910-1920’s Brasserie #2025

You don't see these very often, they were in vogue in the late 1910's -  early 1920's and acted as a full coverage bra/ camisole. It has a dart at center front and pleating at the sides, can be made from woven fabrics and is trimmed with matching or contrast bias tape. The back closure is a length of elastic for comfort.

SIZING: 34"- 48" Bust.

And that's not all! When I wasn't working on bra sew-along posts, I was putting something very exciting into the works. I'll soon be posting a complete tutorial series on how to draft a Haslam Foundation Pattern, adapt it to another design, and sew the whole thing up into a complete garment.
... and I shall call it Project Haslam...

How about you? Have you ever tried the Haslam pattern drafting system? Did it go well for you or was it intimidating? 
Would you be interested in giving it a try if I posted a free pattern for you to use?

Happy sewing,

Sunday, November 15, 2015

1940' Bra Sew-Along - Finishing with a closure.

Hello my dears. I hope you're having a lovely weekend so far.
I just want to start this post out today with a warm hug for my friends and followers in France. Your country was my first love and my oldest friend, and after the events of yesterday, you are in my thoughts and prayers.

It's a chilly day here in Monterey and the sun is at a low angle in the sky. My house smells like a house should on a cold day - hints of apple cider and a pot roast in the oven are wafting up the stairs to my studio. And it's the perfect time to type up a blog post and finish our sew-along.

In our last post we discussed edge finishing and sewing our straps in. Now all that's left to do is add our back closure and we should be done! I know we're all used to hook and eye closures in bras these days and that's what I prefer for this bra. But if you're going for a full 1940's bra style, know that you can also use buttons and loops if you like, or a French bra back, which is essentially two lengths of elastic and a hook.

For this project I have used plush-backed hook and eye tape with a double set of eyes for adjusting fit. This is pretty much plug and play, but there are a few notes on placement.

The first thing to do no matter what type of closure you use, is to stay-stitch the center back of each piece D to keep it from stretching while you work. This can be done with any straight stitch 1/8" from the edge.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

1940's Bra Sew-Along - Finishing edges and adding straps.

Hello again my dears,
In our last sew-along post, we sewed our actual bra pieces together and now we're ready to talk edge finishing. We'll need to do this before we before can sew our straps in place. There are a few ways that you can finish your edges if you're not sewing a whole bra and lining together and turning it right sides out. You can bind your edges, add applique lace at the edges, or my favorite, face the edges with rayon or cotton seam tape.

This is easy as pie and makes a nice, neat finished edge on both sides.
First lay your chosen tape (I like 1/2" wide rayon seam binding) on the top edge of the RIGHT side of the bra. Pin it in place and stitch 1/8" from the top edge.

Now press the tape upwards. This will give you a crisp edge later on. After that, fold the tape over onto the WRONG side of the bra edge and press again.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

1940's Bra Sew-Along - Sewing the real thing.

Hi there lovely readers. I hope I'm posting at an o.k. rate for you. It's been a strange week and I've been unfortunate enough to have a headache for 5 days now. I went to the doctor today just to be on the safe side and everything is fine - I'm just one unlucky girl this week...
For today's post we're going to sew our actual bra together now! In our last post, we went over lining and facing options. Now that we've squared that away, and you've faced your pattern pieces (if you so chose) we'll put together our bra in the exact same order we put together the test muslin.

This time though, as we sew each individual seam, we're going to stop and press the seam allowance a certain way, then top stitch it in place. This will give us that lovely 1940's look, as well as securing our raw edges.

So we start by sewing pieces A and B together along that tricky curved seam, and then press the stitches as sewn without opening them up. This will set the stitches. Then open pieces A and B, and press the seam allowance UP onto piece A.
Now you're ready to very neatly top-stitch 1/8" from the seam on piece A, as done below.

Now stitch both center front pieces together and press that seam open.

Top stitch again 1/8" from the center front seam on EACH side.

Then sew piece C to the lower edge of pieces B, press the seam allowance DOWN, and top-stitch 1/8" from the edge on piece C.

Now you're ready to attach the back of the bra, pieces D, to the side seams.

Once you have, press the seam allowances outwards to piece D, and top-stitch again.

And voila! You have the lion's share of the sewing done! Next, we'll talk finishing edges and adding straps.

Happy sewing,

Saturday, November 7, 2015

1940's Bra Sew-Along - How to face pattern pieces and lining options.

Happy weekend, sewers! Ready to do some more bra sewing?

In our last post we talked about adjusting our cups sizes. Since I haven't gotten any more fitting questions from you, we're ready to move on.
Today we need to talk about lining options. What should the inside of our bra look like? Well, there are three methods of lining I have used in bra sewing in the past and one is far superior to the others.
The first is fully lining the bra. As I did with my bra #2001 for the Oooh la la Pin Up Sew-Along, you sew two complete bras (minus straps and closures), one of lining and one of outer fabric. Then you sew those two pieces right sides together all along the bottom seam and then bind the top edge. You can also sew the entire bra together at top, bottom and edges, leaving a gap to and turn the bra right side out. This conceals all of your raw seam edges. This can lead to some of your seams shifting a bit and if you have thin fabric, seam edge shadows can show up all over the place.

From a 1940's Brassiere in Profile - the edges here have been turned under and stitched, or faced with a piece of cotton tape.
Another technique is to sew one bra without lining, but of at least medium-weight fabric, and simply bind or turn the raw edges under as done in the bra above. By far though, I prefer to face my pattern pieces and use top stitching and rayon or cotton tape to finish my edges. This is the closest I can get to a historically accurate bra from the 1940's without hunting down some cotton-backed satin (seriously, it's hard to find!).

So to do this, simply cut the entire bra out from your outer fabric (I'm using white satin from our kit), and another entire bra from your lining fabric - I like fine cotton lawn or muslin for this.

Pieces C in satin and cotton, ready to be pinned.
Lay the lining pieces wrong sides together onto your outer (satin) pieces and pin them securely in place. You'll want your right sides to the exterior for this step.

All pattern pieces in cotton and satin, pinned wrong sides together.
Carefully baste each set of pieces together only along the top and bottom edges about 1/8" from the edge.

You will want to leave the left and right edges (side seam, center front and center back edges on all pieces) un-basted. If they are basted at all edges, this can lead to some creases and bunching that won't sit well on the sewn bra.

--Update: This method is a good one to use if your fabrics aren't prone to fraying. The satin I'm using doesn't fray very much so I'm comfortable with having a trimmed, top-stitched, but unconcealed raw edge inside my bra. If you want a more finished appearance on the inside, then you can either fully line the bra as mentioned above (instead of just facing your pieces) or you can finish the raw edges of each seam with either a serger or an edge stitch (a blanket stitch was very common on curved bra seams in the 1940's).

Here is the interior of my bra using the facing/ top-stitching method.

And now you're ready to sew your actual bra together!
Any questions about lining, facing or binding?

Happy sewing,