Category Archives: Sewing Through the Decades Challenge

The half-Birds skirt

The Theme
This week’s Sew Weekly theme was ‘Hitchcock’ – to “draw our inspiration from the films of Alfred Hitchcock and the (mostly blonde) women that were impeccably dressed by his costume designers, including the legendary Edith Head”.

So many fabulous outfits!! It was a real toss up – Rear Window or The Birds. In the end, I decided to go with The Birds, inspired by this outfit here:

I love this movie – and yet, I’ve only seen it once, about 13 years ago. I remember watching it late at night in my flat in Dunedin with my then-boyfriend. It was the first Hitchcock movie I’d ever seen, in fact. And quite frankly, the concept was rather terrifying!

One of the key reasons this outfit appealed to me was that when I saw it I knew exactly what pattern I was going to use – Simplicity 4771, from the early 1960’s.

While it’s not for a belted dress, the pencil skirt, belted top and boxy jacket remind me so much of the lovely mint-green dress-and-jacket set the heroine wore in the movie. And it’s also one of the patterns on my Sewing Through the Decades plan, which is an added bonus. 🙂

(I admit it, I was also inspired by this Barbie doll image I found – how cool is this? I so want one!)

The Facts

  • Fabric: dull pink acrylic (and maybe wool as well) blend, about 1 metre. No idea how much it cost, I’ve had it for so long! And around 1/2 a metre of dull green lining, about $1 from Arthur Toye in their half-price sale
  • Pattern: Simplicity 4771
  • Year: early (I think?) 1960’s
  • Notions: 23cm dress zipper (rescued from an old garment as some stage in the past) and a couple of vintage hooks-and-eyes
  • Time to complete: around 5 hours (sheesh!)
  • Will I wear it? Yes! I actually really like this skirt. 🙂
  • Total cost: No idea! The lining is the only part of it I’ve bought in the last few years (aside from the pattern, and I can’t remember how much that was). At a guess, maybe around $6?

The Story

When I choose this pattern (and this outfit for inspiration) I was intending to make up the entire outfit – skirt, top, belt and jacket. And then I thought, well, I might be a bit pressed for time with the jacket, so I’ll at least do the skirt, top and belt. And so I started on the skirt.

Ah yes, this skirt.

The pattern was simple enough – like the pattern cover says, it’s simple to make. I complicated it a bit by lining the skirt (after all, you’ve gotta line acrylic weaves, don’t you?!), but that didn’t add a huge amount of time to it. What did add a lot of time to this skirt was that I got a bit lazy and didn’t try it on until I’d put the waistband on. At which point, I discovered that it was to tight. Argh!

Clearly, my quick-unpick and I didn’t spend enough quality time together last weekend with the Librarian’s Nightmare dress. *sigh*

And can I just say, acrylic woven fabrics are not fun to unpick, no they are not.

So anyway, I took off the waistband, and let out a couple of centimetres at the back pleat. Then I tried it on again, and it was still a bit too tight. Yay, more unpicking. Let it out another couple of centimetres. (I have no idea how it go so small – in theory it was the right size. *shrug*) Finally, it fit! Shame I had to unpick several seams (due to the lining as well) to get it that way. Oh, and cut another waistband as the original one was now too short.

Oh well. At least I now have a dull pink warm lined pencil skirt with a small kick-pleat at the back, and I like it a lot. 🙂

Sadly though, since the skirt took a lot longer than I expected, I didn’t get the top finished. It’s cut out – hopefully I’ll get around to it one day soon. I still want to make the matching boxy jacket in this dull pink acrylic as well – I think it’ll look lovely as a suit. But in the meantime, it’s a half-Birds outfit.

Pattern Review
Not a lot to say about this pattern, as I’ve only used the skirt so far. Nice and easy to sew up. Easy to add lining to it if you want to as well. The instructions for the zipper were slightly hard to follow – I ended up ignoring them and figuring it out myself. (I don’t know why they insist on doing overly-complicated and too-small illustrations for putting in fastenings. Grrr.)

And just coz it’s The Birds, here’s a random oh-no! photo…

The Mod Ascot dress

A little bit late for this weeks At The Races Sew Weekly Challenge, but better late than never, right?!

I present to you, what I’ve named the ‘Mod Ascot’ dress…..

The Facts

Fabric: A black-and-white tartan A-line skirt I made ages ago that’s been sitting in my mending/alterations pile for a couple of years. Not 100% sure what it’s made of, but some sort of soft, heavy stuff with a fair amount of stretch to it. Also some black cotton drill that was in my scraps bin.
Pattern: Simplicity 8381
Year: 1969
Notions: 60cm invisible zip ($8), two vintage buttons from my Great Aunt’s button stash, hook and eye at the back of the collar
Time to complete: 5 hours
Will I wear it? I’m not too sure, actually…..

Total cost: $8 (dratted expensive invisible zip!!)

I had a couple of hiccups with getting this dress made in time – I was really wanting to get it finished before the weekend as my mother came up to visit from Dunedin (hi, mum!), but I didn’t quite succeed so it got put on hold until after the weekend. At which point I discovered I didn’t have a zip long enough, so had to wait until a day I could get to the fabric store. Today, at 2 minutes before they closed – yay! (Thank you lovely fabric store people for letting me run in and get a zipper while you were closing up – you’re awesome.)

My other hiccup with this was trying to figure out what fabric to use – after so many black based Sew Weekly challenges, my black and white fabric supplies are running somewhat low! After debating about what to do for quite a while, I remembered this black-and-white tartan floor-length A-line skirt that I made ages ago and that’s been in my things-to-mend-or-alter pile for a couple of years. Voila! Fabric for the black-and-white challenge! There wasn’t much of it though, so a paw through the pattern collection yielded only a couple of dress patterns that it would fit onto. One of which was also, conveniently, in my Sewing Through the Decades plan. Pretty convenient, huh? I managed to bust some scraps, sort out a reconstruction, and also knock another item off my Sewing Through the Decades plan! (Which also handily fits in with the new Sew Weekly challenge – Refashionista.

I’m not 100% sure about this dress though, I must admit. The pockets and the collar just don’t seem to work. Or maybe it’s just that it’s so not my usual decade that I feel kinda weird in it. I don’t know. I tried putting a belt with it, in case it improves it. What do you think? Is it wearable at all? Should I try removing the collar and/or pockets and see if it makes it better? With or without a belt? (Argh! I just don’t know!!!)

I did a small bust adjustment to the pattern and shaved some off the bust curve, but other than that I left it alone. (Although the sleeves are about 2cm shorter than they should be, as I ran out of fabric to make them the right length!)

This pattern was reasonably easy to make up. The pockets were a bit of a pain, though – I just couldn’t get the cotton drill to press into a nice curve. Gah. Next time I might try cutting out a template from cardboard or similar and pressing around that and see if that works……

I didn’t have a hat to wear for this, so thought I’d do the mix-and-match black-and-white theme instead, so you’ve got striped tights and a black-and-white spotted headscarf, just for that clashing pattern fun. Woo hoo!

Steve took the photos – he wanted to experiment with mirror ones. (Perhaps also because he was being lazy and didn’t want to get out of bed where he was reading while surrounded by two cats? Hmmmm. Maybe.)

So, what do you think, honestly? Wear it? Modify it?? Just get rid of it??? (Sigh, two dresses in a row I’m not happy with. Grrr.)

Green is green is, well, green!

To cut a (not so) long story short(er), this week’s Sew Weekly Challenge was to make something in green, since it’s about the time of St Patricks Day.

Therefore, I made a green dress. A very green dress. If there was one thing that could be said about this dress, it’s that it is green. There is no doubt about it. Green, green, green.

Apparently this dress brings to mind images of leprechauns, Christmas, Irish Dancing and Santa’s Helper, according to my mother and Steve. They’ve also informed me it’s very very green. (Not that I had any doubt whatsoever about the colour.)

Too bad – I quite like it, so I’m going to wear it anyway. So nah nah nah to all of that.

So saying though, it does look better with a black belt, just to break up with colour a bit. And will probably be better again with black knee-high boots and a black cardigan over the top. Which is all rather convenient really, since it’s made from a very heavy-weight cotton drill, so it’s definitely a winter-weight dress.

And without further ado (or comments on it’s greenness), here it is, the Green Dress…..

The Facts

Fabric: 4 metres of heavy-weight cotton drill (trouser weight, really). Not sure of cost as it’s been in my stash for a while, but at a guess ~$35
Pattern: Style 1541 ~$6 from TradeMe
Year: 1976
Notions: Invisible zip ~$6, hook and eye, vintage bias binding (free from a friend)
Time to complete Around 4 hours
Will I wear it? Yes! Even if it does make me look like a walking Christmas character and makes my boyfriend laugh. So there.
Would I make the pattern again? Yes. Although next time I’d drop the waist by 1.5cm as it’s a little bit too high for me at the moment

Total cost: Around $47 although the fabric has been in my stash for probably around 10 years so not sure if you can still count it as a cost by that stage!

So it turns out that I have a lot of green fabric in my stash. These are a few of the varieties I have (not including any knit fabric, or at least half of my stash which is currently in storage):

As you can see, I had a few options for this challenge! Since the challenge was to make something green, I went for the greenest fabric I had. Why not, after all! Hence this bright kelly green cotton. (And after all, I am quite fond of bright colours.) With the challenge being about colour this week, it was also a good opportunity to make the first item in my Sewing Through The Decades plan – Style 1541 from 1976.

I must admit, I did regret the fabric choice a bit while I was making this dress. It’s a very heavy-weight cotton drill, essentially a trouser weight fabric, and at various points in the process it felt a bit like I was attempting to wrestle it into submission so it would do what I wanted/needed it to do. At times, the fabric nearly managed to wrestle me to the ground instead, but eventually I beat it into shape. Without even breaking any sewing needles, which is a bit of a miracle! I’m quite happy with how it turned out in general – it feels a bit odd having such a heavy dress (usually I make them out of craft cottons, which are nice and lightweight) and the skirt sticks out quite a bit due to the fabric weight, but it actually feels quite nice to wear! And it’s definitely more of a winter dress than many I own. I suspect I’ll get quite a bit of wear out of it in winter, with tights and boots and a cardigan over the top. 🙂

For the pocket trim, I used some vintage bias binding given to me by my lovely friend Hillarie. I’m debating whether or not to use some for trim around the neck as well – I keep changing my mind, so haven’t done anything about it yet. I do find it a bit amusing that I inadvertently ended up making one of the dresses on the cover, with it’s white and green combination! I was originally planning on making one of the styles with the collars (apparently they’re called ‘revers’, who would have guessed?) but after I cut them out I decided that the fabric was too heavy so ended up just making the basic neckline style.

I think I’ll make this pattern up again – it was nice and easy and it worked quite well. I’ll drop the waist by about 1.5cm next time though, as it’s sitting a bit high on me. I did a small bust adjustment on the dress as well, which worked out quite well (yay for princess seams! So easy to do a SBA on!) and I’ll repeat that in the future. I’m curious as to how this will turn out in a lighter fabric as well, especially since the skirt is cut on the bias, which you can’t really tell when it’s done up in a fabric this heavy and stiff.

One day I’ll also decide whether I want to put button details on the pockets or not. Like the bias binding trim around the neckline, I just can’t decide so have left it alone for now.

This dress makes me smile in it’s greenness, even if it’s too green for some people. 🙂

My Sewing Through the Decades plan

A few weeks back, I heard about the Sewing Through the Decades Challenge and, never one to resist a sewing challenge, I decided I’d take part as well. 🙂

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to figure out what I should do for this challenge. The idea of making a dress from every year in the 1950’s held a LOT of appeal, but I decided that no, I do a lot of things from the 1950’s, it’s time I branched out and explored other decades a bit, and what better time to do it than with this challenge? So, this evening I went through some of my patterns and I’ve decided on my Sewing Through the Decades plan. It may only be the first part of the challenge for me (who knows, I may yet decide to do the one-dress-a-year-from-the-50’s idea?), but I figure it’s a good place to start. I’m going to explore the decades around the 1950’s, and make two things from the 1940’s, two from the 1960’s and two from the 1970’s. (To start with, anyway!) Here’s what I’m planning on making….

From the 1940’s:

Vogue 2289 from 1949

Vogue 2876 from 1943

From the 1960’s:

Simplicity 4771 (year unknown, but sometime in the 60's)

Simplicity 8381 from 1969

And from the 1970’s:

Style 1541 from 1976

Simplicity 6157 from 1976

I was only able to find a few of them on the Vintage Patterns Wiki, as it seems some were originally published with a different reference number. (Very annoying how they change them!) So here’s the full list of what I’m going to make:

  • Vogue 2298 from 1949
  • Vogue V2976 from 1943
  • Simplicity 4771 from sometime in the 1960’s
  • Simplicity 8381 from 1969
  • Simplicity 6157 from 1976
  • Style 1541 from 1976
  • I’m hoping to tie a few of them in with the Sew Weekly challenges, too.

    I’ve given myself a few challenges here. I’ve been wanting to make a shirt dress for ages, even though the idea of all those buttons and button holes fills me with dread. But hey, the only way to get better at them is to do them, right?! The shirt dress will also be the biggest challenge as it’s sized for a petite size, and I’m anything but that, so I’ll need to make some adjustments to the bodice section to make it long enough for me.

    So now I’m eagerly waiting for the next weekly sewing challenge, to see which of these I can incorporate into the challenge first! 🙂 (Sadly I won’t have time to start one just for the sake of starting one this week, as I’ve got a lot of things on, but even if I can’t make one fit this week’s sewing challenge, I’ll start one next week anyway. The only question being, which one do I do first…..?? If you’ve got an opinion, let me know! I’m taking votes to decide. 😉