I started buying vintage sewing patterns because I really like the hand-drawn models on the envelope cover. Nowadays they're mostly just meh, not much effort. I also love how there's so much to choose from with vintage patterns, and rather than buying a new pattern that's just a replicate of a former era, a vintage pattern is a make worth recreating a moment in fashion history. Also, the price point is either significantly cheaper, or roughly equal to that of a new pattern depending on how used/un-used the condition of it is.
The first vintage pattern that I decided to take on is this cutesy little summer number pictured below by McCall's, #5614 circa 1977. Adorable, right? I mean, talk about capturing a moment in time, those two young ladies look as though they're experiencing one helluva psychedelic trip...all while looking hip and coooooool.
During this trip back in time, I thought it would be a good idea, and good practice, to start making muslin samples of my sewing patterns. For those of you who are new to the sewing world, a muslin is just a quick mock up of what would one day be a final make. You can sew long stitches so they can easily be pulled apart, add darts to ensure fitting, rough basting as needed, and without lining, finished edges or things like buttons. Normally you would use muslin cotton fabric, or any fabric that is similar to what you're going to sew with. The cheaper the better since you won't end up wearing it and might make a lot of marks all over it.
I've long had to build up the patience to make a muslin because it's one more step in the sewing process before the final product and I just want instant gratification. But, I decided since the pattern is vintage and the sizing is one size smaller than my actual measurements I would sew a simple muslin of the halter top. Turns out I was smart to do that. The bust turned out to definitely be to small and the waist for it was also ridiculously tiny, but I already knew that would happen. I ended up doing about 3 runs of the halter as a muslin. I'm also 5' 3" and have a short torso so I needed to take up the bodice a couple inches. I was frustrated at times, but maintained my patience as I knew I was getting closer and closer to the right fit.
Above you can see the original fit of the halter according to the pattern. It fits my stunt double who actually has a much tinier waist than I do, less curves too. I put this on and couldn't even get the pins to close the blouse together. After two muslins I made these changes to the bodice piece:
For the skirt, I only needed to add two inches to the waistband. I later realized, that with the shortened halter the front would actually rise up and expose the midriff. I was tired of the muslin-making process, and for that satisfied with the final outcome. One thing I might change which would only take a quick 5 minutes is bringing the pocket lining a little more in as they are too deep for my hands to even reach the bottom. My money wouldn't last long in deep pockets anyway because it all gets spent on fabric or ice cream.
The fabric I chose is this sort of blue-grey cotton chambray with tiny speckles of pink and yellow by Robert Kaufman that I purchased at Bolt Fabric when I started the pattern. For the skirt, I actually can't remember who the designer is, but it was the last bit of it and I bought it at Fabric Depot this past autumn. I fell in love with it immediately because it reminded me of Mexico and the colorful textiles that I've laid my eyes on during long-ago visits. It reminded me of the beautiful brown women in my culture who I've caught glimpses of in the countryside of Oaxaca and I felt the desire to be like them by wearing this somehow, someday. Yes, also, I tend to buy fabric without knowing what I'm going to make, but knowing that I will wear it one day. The pockets are lined with some leftover fabric from another project. I find this is a great way to reuse scraps of fabric. In this case I didn't even have enough of the skirt fabric for pockets so this idea came handy. I love that the color scheme and gold arrows are perfection.
Out of all the steps for this pattern my favorite and the one that tested my patience most was the hand-stitching that is done to close the underside of the halter band, both around the waist and along the top of the bust and down the back. It felt like I was really getting into the heart and soul of 'couture stitching', or at least a taste of it. I suppose couture stitching is when most or all of the garment is hand-stitched. Um, ya, not going to happen. My eyes were straining to see the thread, and my hands were growing tired stiff. Even though the quickness and ease of a sewing machine can get you through a garment faster, there is still worth in finishing a garment with hand-stitching. For me that's practice in the craft, testing and growing my patience, and in the end it is such a clean, crisp look. For a Virgo, attention to detail is priceless. You can just barely see the slip stitch along the edges of the band.
Now that the sun is *finally* coming out in Portland I can finally wear this la moda vintage gem. Thanks for reading, friends!
xo - Fonda
Many of the women in my family can sew, hand-stitch, tailor, crochet, knit--anything to do with fabric and fibers. I grew up watching them piece cloth and threads together by hand or machine, steadily slice through fabric with sharp shears, and smile when the final stitch brought it all together. These things I saw and continue to carry on.
My mom and granny have been a great influence on my sewing abilities. With mom, we used to work on projects together like making clothes or quilting with a sewing machine. You can bet she made my Halloween costumes, as well as for my little sister and brother. She was always sewing something to decorate the house, like curtains, bedding, or a quilt. I remember that she really enjoyed sewing baby clothes and blankets too, as she made a lot of ours and has kept them tucked away safely. She always seemed so patient, calm, and relaxed while sewing a project. She would take me shopping for fabric when I wanted to make something. Everyone knew her there and really liked her. She also worked at the local fabric store for quite sometime. Mom still enjoys sewing and I enjoy showing off to her what I'm making.
Granny is a seamstress and sewed wedding gowns for beautiful brides-to-be in our hometown and surrounding areas. I remember she would hand-stitch lace, sequin, and beads to the dresses. They were gorgeous! Sometimes she'd have me put them on so that she could adjust the hem. They were, of course, too big for me to actually fit, but the soft and shiny satin made me feel elegant for a brief moment. That was her profession and source of income for her family. Granny would make bridesmaids dresses, tailor men's suits, wedding accessories---she can pretty much whip up anything. When we'd be out shopping she'd take a look at a piece of clothing, then the ridiculous price tag, and say with a bit of sass her famous quote, "I can make that."
It seems our talent is a genetic inheritance. My great-great grandmother taught her daughter to sew, my great-grandmother taught granny to sew, and granny taught my mom. Our best guess is that this skill, this art and craft, runs even further back than we could even imagine. Granny first started teaching me when I was 5 years old how to do a basic hand-stitch with a needle and thread. From there she gave me my first sewing machine to which I had until I was roughly 19 or 20 years. To this day she is still tailoring wedding dresses.
My grandma (dad's mom) and about 3 (out of 5!)of her daughters, mis tías, can all sew too. Grandma sews a lot of kitchen items like aprons, placemats, napkins that are hand-embroidered. I know she made clothes for her children, grandchildren, and still does for her great grandchildren. A couple years ago I was down in California for the holidays and she pulled out a drawer full of blankets and quilts she'd made from when I was young. It was a strange nostalgia for me, I remembered a few of them and had glimpses of my time spent at my grandparents house cuddled up on the old leather couch. I learned to crochet from her though I didn't keep up with it as much the way she has. I still have some pot holders she gave me years back as a Christmas gift, as well as a couple aprons which get used often, and embroidered hand-towels that I will never ever use because they are much too precious to be dirtied. Something I always remember her doing was crocheting hats for the elderly through her church. Likely, she still does this.
Unfortunately, there aren't any old photos of my grandma sewing, at least none that she or anyone else could find. However, my mom found this old picture of me in a dress that grandma made for me and I shamelessly decided to share it here to make you smile.
Thanks for reading this little bit of family history of mine! I'm excited to start posting my threads soon and share my sew-ventures with you.