Monday, June 27, 2016

What Constitutes a Sewing Pattern... with Freebies!

Hello my dears. Today I would like to opine a bit about sewing patterns (quelle surprise!). Seriously though, I feel like many of us are missing out on the wide variety of sewing pattern types that history has given us, so here is a bit of a Sewing Pattern types 101. A pattern is defined as "a model or design used as a guide in needlework and other crafts". These designs might not always be what you'd expect when you read the word pattern.

Standard: We're all familiar with a standard sewing pattern. By this I mean a full-sized, cut it out and lay on your fabric pattern. These were made popular by the big 4 pattern companies over the last 100 or so years but they have become so standard that many have never heard of other types of patterns at all. 
For example, this reproduction of a 1920's McCall's standard pattern:

Depew #3062

But what else is available today and throughout history to the average seamstress?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Sew Expensive - Butterick 6527 1930's Evening Gown


Hello my dears,
Today for your viewing pleasure, I have another edition of Sew Expensive. We've has some truly lovely evening gown patterns showcased in the past but today we have a rare Butterick pattern, of all things.

Usually we don't see too many Butterick patterns going for nearly as high as say Vogue or McCall's and that's usually because Butterick didn't spend as much time on their artwork and often didn't bother with color envelope illustrations until the late 1930's - early 1940's. A lot of a pattern's value will hinge on both truly beautiful artwork, and the more unusual design aspects of the pattern itself. Butterick managed to meet both of those criteria without coloring the envelop illustration with this pattern.
Very recently, Butterick 6527 sold on Ebay for a shocking $362.

Butterick 6527

This pattern is a very unique design from around 1936 and features some amazing and sought after design details including a rounded low-cut back neckline with halter or strap options, an interesting panel of shirring at the skirt resting just over the pelvis (not sure I would want to draw attention there myself but it looks nice in the illustration), and an eye-catching gathered center-front bodice. And then of course there is the lovely and diminutive capelet that looks like it attaches at the shoulders and gives a bit more modest options for shoulder coverage. Having the pattern in a very friendly size 38" bust is also a big factor.

It's fun to take a look at the envelope back when you can to see how the pattern was drafted and assembled... you know, if you're a pattern geek like I am...


If you wanted to draft up your own pattern like this and didn't have a lot of time, you could always use Depew #4235 as a starting point and make a few adaptations from there.

1940’s Evening Gown #4235A (1947)

How about you? Do you think that the pattern was worth over $350 or would you rather pay that for a finished gown?

Happy sewing,

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

La Mode Francaise and Pretty French Costumes from 1932


Today for your viewing pleasure I have pictures from one of the my favorite French magazines. This breathtaking, rare 16 page magazine is full of chic costume (Travestis) fashions from January, 1932. The pages contain advertisements, amazing full-page color fashion illustrations, photographs, and articles. This issue features costumes with some of the most colorful and mind-blowingly beautiful illustrations I have ever seen. Please pardon some of the photo quality - these were taken a long while back with my old, lousy camera...


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why I do what I do... And why I'll keep doing it.

Recently, I found myself explaining to a friend why I reproduce sewing patterns for a living, and it got me thinking. Why do I really do what I do? As a pattern seller on Etsy since 2008, I've had lots of opportunity to get to know the pattern selling field in depth, both as a seller of original patterns, and a "reproductionist," as I call myself. Those who sell reproductions often find quite a bit of ire directed our way. Some of it is justified, and some of it isn't. Some of us are very careful, have researched our rights meticulously, and even have copyright lawyers. Some are less honorable, or less informed, and sometimes blatantly illegal.

As a member of two very large vintage pattern seller teams on Etsy, I became well acquainted with the reasons some people really don't like reproductions, and it can sometimes be hard to belong to a field that can sling quite a bit of undeserved frustration your way.

You would be surprised at some of the angry comments directed towards myself and others by those who only sell original sewing patterns (though, I must point out, they are not necessarily a majority in the field, but a very vocal minority.) I heard things like, "You devalue our sewing patterns by making copies," or "You're violating copyright law and stealing" and a few other arguments. And over the last 5 years or so, I've spent a lot of time explaining myself. Recently I was asked to leave the largest pattern selling team on Etsy, Pattern Patter, because a change of leadership and team policy decided that suddenly any PDF (digital reproduction) seller on the team was not allowed to compete with other team members in the marketplace. So for example, if someone from the team were to list an original sewing pattern that I was selling as a reproduction, I would be required to take my reproduction down. This was impossible due to the time and money I spend developing a pattern - money I need to recoup by selling that pattern. I tried to negotiate this point and others but the leadership, though they tried to reach a solution, couldn't and instead asked me to leave if I couldn't comply.
I don't blame them. They're doing what they can to protect their businesses from what they see as a threat to sales. That's ok. Misguided, but ok.

I feel compelled today though to explain once and for all, why I do what I do, and what I've learned doing it for as long as I have, and why some of these detractors are quite mistaken.

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,