Today I died and went to vintage sewing pattern heaven

I was out running some boring errands today and decided to stop in at one of my favourite vintage clothing stores just to have a look around. They had some vintage fabric and while I was looking at it one of the owners started chatting with me. I mentioned that I love using vintage fabric for the clothes I make and she told me she had a box of vintage sewing patterns in the back if I would like to have a look at them – of course I said yes! I wasn’t really expecting to find much, but that box was an absolute treasure trove and I ended up coming home with five patterns! If I could have afforded it I definitely would have bought more, but I’ll be going back very soon to pick up more!

Most of the patterns were from the 60’s and 70’s (sadly none of those were in my size), but when I reached the bottom of the box, my heart almost stopped as I saw patterns from the 1920’s and 30’s! I’ve never seen patterns this old in my city, nor have I ever been able to buy any online, because they’re usually incredibly expensive. I actually had to restrain myself from scooping them all up because it was an unplanned for expense that I couldn’t entirely justify. I narrowed it down to five patterns, three of which I knew would fit my older sister (the one I’ve been working on Operation Sharon Tate with!), one I thought might fit another one of my sisters (and even if it doesn’t, it was way too incredible to leave behind!) and one that was in my size.

I checked them when I got home to make sure there were no missing pattern pieces and they all appear to be complete (sadly minus an embroidery transfer for the dress that is in my size, but I can always try coming up with a design myself, try to replicate the original, or find something online that would look nice). I also did a bunch of research online to try and date the patterns and was able to come up with some rough estimates (this is one of the resources I used and it was very helpful in dating two Hollywood sewing patterns!).

This pattern roughly dates to about 1935 and the timing of finding it was perfect! My sister is in town and finally got to try on the dresses I’ve been making her – which was such a thrill! Two of the dresses need very minor alterations which I will be doing ASAP, but they look absolutely gorgeous on her and it was one of the proudest moments of my life to see her in them! While she was trying on the dresses we decided that it would be good to make a slip to go with one of them and I was planning on looking for a pattern online, so it was amazing to find this one in her size less than 24 hours later!

This Hollywood pattern (featuring Ann Shirley) roughly dates to 1939 and is for the same sister. I’m going to be bringing her to look through the rest of the patterns as well, because most were actually in her size! It was tough to decide which ones to pick up for her, as they had several incredible dress patterns from around the same time period, but after seeing her in the dresses I’d already made yesterday, I thought that this particular style would look absolutely stunning on her so I made sure to snap it up.

This pattern is one of my favourites and is also for my older sister! It was much harder to date this one but from what little I was able to find out, Chatelaine started making these patterns available in 1928 and late 20’s to early 30’s seems about right from the style of the skirt. If anyone has any information about these patterns or any thoughts on when they could be from, I’d love to hear it, by the way! These skirts are gorgeous and just the kind of thing I’ve been looking for!

Another favourite! The “Belrobe” (or instruction sheet) for this pattern very luckily lists the exact dates that it was patented! August 19th 1919-January 23rd 1923. I’m not sure why two dates were listed, but I hope someone with far more knowledge of vintage patterns will be able to enlighten me. I have another one of my sisters in mind for this pattern and I’m already dreaming of making it – the tough part will be sourcing non-polyester versions of the kinds of fabric the pattern calls for, which can be really tough, at least here in Canada. I’m hoping that with a bit of dedicated hunting I can source some better quality fabric because I refuse to resort to polyester satin again, the destroyer of all my best laid sewing plans, especially for a project as special as this. If anyone knows of possible sources that might ship to Canada, or can give me recommendations on what other types of fabric might be suitable if all else fails and all I can find is polyester, I’d love to hear it!

And the last pattern…

McCall 3442 – this is the one that is sadly missing the embroidery transfer. I love that it came with this piece showing the finished garment! This is the only printed pattern I found today and the instructions are printed directly onto the pattern pieces (aaaaand are pretty much non-existent and of the “slash here”, “gather this edge” variety, but at least that’s something!) and so is the year! According to the date on the pattern pieces, this pattern is from 1921! Technically this is a pattern for a girl and not a woman, but since it would fit me, you’d better believe I plan on making this dress, even if I only wear it around the apartment!

Unfortunately this pattern and the skirt pattern don’t come with direct recommendations for fabric, though in the instructions for stamping the transfer on the back of this pattern, silks and woolens are mentioned, as are “wash materials.” With the skirt there is no indication at all, but I know it definitely needs to be something that can hold those inverted “plaits” well. I think I have some a few vague ideas for fabrics that could work nicely (such as linen for example), but I am in no way an expert when it comes to fabric, so once again, I’d appreciate your suggestions!

I still can’t believe that I actually own these beautiful patterns – or that I found them so close to home and was able to purchase them for an absolute song compared to what they would typically go for online! These are now the oldest original patterns in my collection and I can’t wait to sew them!

Now, time to finally drag myself away from the pretty patterns and go make dinner because I’ve been alternating between staring at these in awe and trying to research them for the last five hours or so!

Simplicity 8920: A Marcia Brady Nightmare Fuel Fail of a Dress

Awhile back I finished this absolute costume of a 1970’s dress, using Simplicity 8920:

I had such high hopes! This was going to be so much fun! I was going to look just like Marcia Brady! If only I knew…

I made view 1 over the course of a few weeks, because I kept putting it on the back burner to work on other projects. I’m not sure what I think of the finished dress. I love the pattern and the fabric I chose, it was fun to make something so in your face! But wearing it on the other hand…let’s just say I’ve tried it on a few times, but haven’t been able to bring myself to wear it in earnest just yet. I think what’s killing it for me is unfortunately the massive collar, which kind of overwhelms my petite frame and features. I think I might try this pattern again but make the collar smaller.

The fabric I used for the collar and the band were also a huge problem – the satin did not want to behave. It wouldn’t iron properly no matter what I did or how much time I took working at it and it ended up causing major frustration. Next time I’ll definitely use another fabric. I ended up being so frustrated with how this project was going that it lead to me taking even more breaks from this dress, and then finally rushing to get it finished because by that point, I knew it was a bit of a mess and I probably wasn’t going to wear it. So I didn’t finish it as neatly as I could have or normally would have.

I hemmed the dress before getting mad at it, so the hem is pretty darned good at least! I think I used the wrong kind of elastic for the sleeve, so it ended up being kind of a mess. I had to insert the zipper two or three times, because I kept doing it wrong, and by the time I finally got it in, I had already given up.

Then, joy of joys, when I was about to give it a final press, I dropped my iron, making part of it come loose. I thought I had fixed it, but oh boy, did it ever get messed up on that fall! It pretty much burns and/or melts fabric now no matter what setting I put it on. Time to start looking for a new iron!

This project was a bit of a fail all around, but luckily I had enough projects that were actually going well that it didn’t really get me down or lead to a string of failed projects, as has happened in the past when I’ve lost confidence after a project went wrong. I don’t know what to do with this dress now though. Keep it as a reminder of the project? Hold onto it in case my niece wants to use it for a Halloween costume one day in the far off future? Save it in case I’m ever magically invited to/decide to have a 1970’s costume party? Donate it? I’d appreciate any ideas, because I’m kind of at a loss.

If I’m going to do anything other than keep it in my closet, I definitely need to re-do the buttons, they aren’t evenly spaced out and I should have put the first one up higher on the band. There is a lot of this dress that I would fix and finish better, if I could bring myself to pick it up again, but the more I look at it, the more I dislike it because of that awful satin. I definitely don’t think I’ll be messing with Fabricland’s cheap satin for awhile after this, it ended up letting the entire project down, just as it did with the dress I originally made using it. Polyester satin just might be my new sworn sewing enemy.

On the plus side, I love the main fabric of the dress, which I found at a thrift store, and I love the vintage buttons and zipper I used. Maybe I could fix this wreck by replacing the awful satin with another purple fabric, if I can find something nice that would work. That could at least ease the utter loathing I feel when I look at that damned satin…

I’m so sorry I failed you, my queen!

Operation Sharon Tate part 2/Style 3837

Today I wanted to share the third dress I’ve made as part of Operation Sharon Tate, the ongoing project I’ve been collaborating on with my sister, where I’ve been making her late 1960’s and 1970’s clothing.

This dress is yet another muslin/toile, since my sister lives out of town and needs to try these dresses on and have them properly fitted before I can really dive into the projects for real, but I really like it so far.

I used Style 3837 for this dress, and made view 3:

This pattern is from 1972 and is STUNNING. You can find some truly gorgeous Style patterns from the 1970’s and they’re quickly becoming one of my favourite pattern companies for 1970’s patterns. I only wish they were easier to come by!

Since this dress was being made for my sister, once again I took some progress pictures to send her that I’ll include in this post. Including this one of a very real problem I was dealing with while making this dress:

My cat fell in love with this pattern and dress and I kept finding her snuggling up with the dress and pattern pieces or instructions while I was in the process of making the dress. At every single stage of making it, Cali found a way to rub up against, cuddle, paw and sleep on this dress and otherwise infuse it with her love – and fur. Pins be damned, the wanted this dress!

The first progress photos I sent my sister! You can see from the second photo that the front panels were just ever so slightly off, which drove me a little nuts. I almost took the dress apart to try and align them properly, but decided to wait since I might have to alter the dress anyway. I did better on the back of the dress at least! And in the last picture, I had to show off my very nearly invisible hem to my sister (and now the internet), because it’s one of my favourite sewing techniques and it always makes my day when I can come as close to nailing it as possible.

I used elasticated thread for the sleeves, which took a little trial and error to figure out since it was my first time, but my trusty 1960’s Singer 403A got the job done! It certainly isn’t perfect, but I’m pretty pleased with it. I took some close up photos of the inside and outside of the sleeves, complete with the remnants of Cali’s nightly snugglefest with the dress:

Somehow I didn’t photograph the dress once it was finished, probably because we kept having a lot of gloomy, rainy, flood warning filled days where I couldn’t take pictures, but I did take two photos once the sleeves were on, so close enough!

As you can tell, I still haven’t figured out a good set up for taking photos, but I’m hoping to get to it soon, I’ve just been incredibly busy and haven’t had a chance to think about it properly or set anything up. Sorry about that!

I really love this pattern and I hope I’ll be up to the task of making view 1 soon, which involves a lot of yummy shirring and embroidery! I can’t wait to even make this view again! If you come across this pattern and love 1970’s fashion, snap it up! It is SUCH a fabulous pattern!

My sister can’t come down for a visit soon enough! I’m so excited about her trying these dresses on and then re-making them even better for her – on top of just being excited about seeing her and my niece in general! On pins and needles until the summer…

Sewing, Playing, New World Wandering

Apologies for disappearing again, I’ve been struggling with ongoing technical difficulties (my laptop hates me, basically, and I can assure you that at this point, the feeling is mutual), but other than that, I’ve been doing a ton of sewing and exploring my new surroundings. Every chance I get, I’m going for walks in my neighborhood, finding new and old stomping grounds and haunting the thrift and antique stores. I’ll do a proper round up of my most recent sewing projects as soon as I can, but since I don’t know if I can trust my laptop, I’m going to just write a quick post today, sharing some of my most recent crafty finds and what I’m currently working on.

On the weekend I went to the fabric flea market, which is an annual event in my city. A mix of local businesses, seamstresses looking to destash and fabulous fabric lovers in general come together to sell anything and everything sewing related. This is only the second time I’ve been and it was the first time I went alone, which was kind of nerve wracking because it tends to be very packed and loud, so it gets intense and overwhelming if you’re an anxious person, but it was worth it. I found some incredible fabric and patterns and only wish I had been able to pick up more of the wonderful fabric!

From top left: 6 meters of 100% cotton, 10 meters 100% cotton, 1 meter African wax print, 1 meter cotton/poly blend, 2.75 meters 100% cotton, 1.3 meters silk, and 2.2 meters cotton.

All in all, I brought home just over 23 meters of fabric, plus a nice little pile of patterns:

From top left: Simplicity 7485 (Size 9/10), Style 4274 (size 8), Simplicity 6279 (size 8), Butterick 4646 (size 12), Butterick 4526 (size 14), Simplicity 8705 (size 12), Simplicity 9446 (size 12), Butterick 6330 (size 18-20-22).

The top four patterns are all ones I snagged to sew for myself, and the last four are hopefully future projects for my sisters, though I didn’t realize until I got home that Butterick 6330 is unfortunately the wrong size for any of them. Typically I keep their measurements on my phone just in case I find a nice pattern that might work for one of them, but it was too crowded to pull out my phone at the flea market. Oops. It’s too bad, the pattern is gorgeous.

I also found these two gorgeous children’s patterns:

Vogue 7058 (size 5-6-6X) and Simplicity 2392 (size xs-l).

I don’t know for sure yet if my niece will go for that gorgeous Vogue dress, but I might just make it anyway, because it looks fabulous and involves a lot of really fine techniques and embroidery and I’d love to challenge myself to create something really beautiful with it. I’m currently working on Simplicity 2392, which unfortunately has some confusing instructions. I’m trying to follow them as much as possible, but may just end up winging it a bit. You can’t tell from this terrible photo, but it features embroidery as well, which I’m already rebelling against and instead using a design by one of my incredibly talented sisters. My embroidery isn’t doing her artwork justice, but it’s a joy to try and recreate it for this special piece.

The yoke of the dress and the beautiful piece that inspired this project, by my awesome sister Celia.

I have so much work left to do on this wee dress, but I’m enjoying it, even though the instructions are a bit of a headache. So many teeny tiny seams! I’m the embroidering pockets as well, and will definitely post another picture once the dress is done. So far, even though the instructions can be a bit confusing, I totally recommend this pattern, the little dress is so pretty and it’s really nice to make a dress where you can take the time out to do embroidery. I really love making children’s clothing when I get the chance and am thrilled to have the excuse to try my hand at creating a small beauty like this one.

I have another project on the go as well right now and have many more planned. I finished three or four dresses since I last updated that I’ll have to write about soon. Today I’m off to get a pattern printed because obviously having two projects in the works just isn’t enough! Working on sewing projects with or for my loved ones has been so wonderful and creatively inspiring, and I’ve been finding endless inspiration on my little jaunts around the neighborhood. The clash of history and modernity, colour and sound in my surroundings ignites the old creative spark and I hope I’m able to translate some of it into my sewing.

I hope you’ve all been doing well! I’m crossing my fingers that this misbehaving laptop starts being more reliable from here on out so I can write more.

Now, off to get that pattern printed!

Operation Sharon Tate: Works in Progress

In my last post, which feels like it was written a million years ago, I mentioned that I was working on a dress for one of my sisters. Well, since I last wrote, I finished the mock up for it and another dress for her and now that my laptop seems to be working again (trying not to even breathe on it in case it decides to freeze again!) I’m finally going to post about them!

In case you’re wondering, the reason this post is titled Operation Sharon Tate is because my sister and I are both huge Sharon Tate fans and what started this dressmaking project was her wish for some Sharon Tate inspired garments. Sharon was always incredibly stylish and would transition effortlessly from mod mini skirts and dresses to casual (yet stunning) hippie chic, so these are the sorts of styles that we have been focusing on.

The first dress was made using Style 2204, from 1978:

As always, my photos are horrific!

I was taking and sending her progress pictures throughout the process of making both of these dresses, which I’m really glad of! The mock up was made using a vintage bed sheet, because that’s how I roll.

She chose view 1 and it was my first time sewing an elasticated sleeve and neckline, so it was interesting to do and much, much easier than I thought. It was also my first time sewing raglan sleeves! Luckily with this pattern, the sleeves were incredibly easy to figure out. Since this dress is just a mock up, I wasn’t using any fancy finishing techniques and was being a bit slapdash about things, but it was only because I knew that I might have to take in or let out seams or adjust the elastic in the neckline, etc, and I wanted to be able to do that easily in the test garment.

Unfortunately my sister lives out of town, so we won’t be able to do any fittings until she comes back for a visit (hopefully in the summer!). I’m itching to make this dress in some really nice fabric for her because I really loved making it. The pattern is great and I know this dress is going to look beautiful on her once it’s in a nice fabric and properly fitted.

The second dress was made using a fabulous pattern she found online, Simplicity 7756, from 1968:

This fabric was was originally going to be used for the entire mock up, but I decided against it due to the flimsiness of it – though it did end up appearing in the dress, albeit in much smaller doses!

She chose view 3 and since she’s leaning toward wanting this dress made in a sturdier cotton fabric that will hold a nice shape, I tracked down some stiff cotton at the thrift store to bring this dress to life. Unfortunately, merely handling this fabric immediately causes it to wrinkle, and it’s so weirdly stiff that I stabbed myself several times while sewing it, but I carried on for the love of my sister and the project.

Ooof, the wrinkles!!! The lighting! The ridiculous lack of a real set up for taking photos! Unfortunately since I spent my first month in the new place both sick with a brutal sinus infection and injured after the move, I haven’t finished unpacking or set up a proper space for taking photos yet. Ho hum. It’ll happen eventually! I hope you’ll excuse the horrific photos until then.

Originally she wanted the collar to be in the same fabric as the rest of the dress, but once the dress got to the stage it was at in the photos above, I knew that would be a mistake with this fabric because the collar would just blend in and look very plain. I wanted it to really pop in the photos, especially since she won’t be seeing the dress in person for awhile, so I went ahead and used the fabric from the picture with the pattern to make up the collar.

If you’re wondering about the weird looking hem, it was just pinned in place. also, yay for the dress still being a wrinkled mess! These progress pictures were never intended to be put online, but here we are!

But something was still missing. After seeing how much better it looked with a contrasting collar, I really wanted to add a contrasting sleeve cuff. The pattern didn’t give cuffs as an option, but I knew that if my sister agreed, I could either try my hand at drafting some, or find a pattern in my stash that might include a cuff piece in her size. I spoke with my sister after sending this photo and luckily we were both on the same page and she had been thinking the same thing!

I dug around in my patterns and found another Style pattern in her size: Style 1064 from 1975, which is a blouse pattern that luckily had usable cuffs!

So I cut out the cuffs and got to work immediately. Once the cuffs were finished, I found some pretty vintage pearl buttons from my collection for the cuffs and the front of the dress, sewed them on, inserted the zipper and hemmed the dress!

Yes, it’s still wrinkly AF in these pictures. I’ve since ironed the hell out of it and hung it up safely in my closet to prevent the wrinkle demon from attacking it again.

All I need to do now is figure out the belt!

My sister loves how both of these mock ups have turned out so far and I hope she likes them even more once she’s tried them on and that they fit! It’s been so much fun working on this project with her and I can’t wait for her to try these dresses on so I can get started on the real garments. I love both of these patterns and it’s been really hard to resist the urge to just go ahead and make them both up properly.

We already have a third dress planned that I’ll probably get started on next week! In the meantime, I’ve been working on a dress with a collar that is so 70’s it hurts – Simplicity 8920, from 1970:

I found this pattern in a vintage store and couldn’t resist it, even though it’s one size smaller than I normally take in 70’s patterns. Fingers crossed it will actually fit. This dress is so 70’s and SO Brady Bunch that I’m completely obsessed with it even though I know that the likelihood of it coming out looking like a costume is damn near 100%.

Since it was going to go in that direction anyway, I decided to embrace it and found a sheet at the thrift store that would really bring it home and made it up in it. The timing of making this dress was great, because I’d learned how to sew raglan sleeves with elastic casings from the first dress I made my sister!

This dress is nowhere near finished, as you can see. The purple satin in the third picture was salvaged from a dress I made back in August that was a total fail (and thus, never blogged about), it’s going to be used for the collar, sash and band (if I decide to include it). The raglan sleeves on this pattern were a nightmare compared to my sister’s dress. Like putting together the most confusing puzzle, but I figured it out in the end.

The band, slash and collar are just about ready to either be sewn onto the dress (in the case of the collar and band) or finished (in the case of the very pieced together sash). Once that’s all done, I need to insert the zipper, hem the dress (boy howdy is this dress ever going to be short! The hem is supposed to be about 2 1/2″ but I might change that to an inch or so, because I don’t know how comfortable I am with the length!) and sew the buttons onto the band. I’m going to have to track down some buttons though, I don’t think I have any in my collection that are quite right for this dress.

Though this dress is fun to make and I’m excited to see what it will look like once it’s done, I’m having way more fun sewing for my sister and planning the sewing projects for my other sisters, so I can’t wait to get stuck back into those projects. This one isn’t nearly as important to me, which feels kind of weird to say because I know I should be more excited about this Brady Bunch inspired fever dream of a dress, but I just love collaborating with my sisters on projects so much and I’d forgotten just how much fun it is. It’s been incredibly rewarding and exciting and has made me fall in love with sewing all over again on an even deeper level. Hearing my sister get excited about the progress of the dresses when I would send her pictures and coming up with ideas together, planning fabric and colours and patterns and everything has just been so much fun, I’d happily sew her an entire 1960’s and 70’s wardrobe.

Well, this cursed laptop is demanding that I update it again. Hopefully this update won’t cause the touchpad to freeze and stop working again like last time. Ugh. Never again, Windows, never again. Fingers crossed this time nothing bad will happen and I’ll be able to post again soon – I miss you guys!

A lucky Betsey Johnson dress (and a bit of a life update)

Awhile back I was browsing through one of my local Value Village stores and by pure luck found one of my most amazing thrift store finds so far – a Betsey Johnson dress! My heart just about stopped when I saw the tag. Betsey Johnson is one of my favourite designers and I absolutely adore her work, so finding a dress by her was like a dream come true!

This is obviously one of her more recent dresses, probably made to be sold in a retail store sometime in the last 15-20 years, I’m guessing, and I love it! It’s in fabulous condition and actually has pockets! The previous owner had sewn the pockets closed for some reason and the stitches were coming loose, so I wasn’t sure if the dress was just coming apart a bit and needed mending at first, until I had a closer look and realized exactly what had been done. I carefully unpicked the stitches, because POCKETS! In a DRESS! Actual pockets! Who wouldn’t want that?!

The dress is a size or two too big for me, unfortunately, but if I wear it with a belt, I think I might be able to get away with it – until I grow into it a little more at least!

I see this dress as having not only been a lucky find, but one that brought me some good luck as well. Though things have still be tricky and stressful, some good things have started happening since finding dress, such as the move I briefly mentioned in my last post.

I finally found an apartment that I really like, in a neighborhood that I love and feel safe and at home in, and I will be moving next month. I’m so happy about the apartment and can’t wait until all of the stressful parts of moving are finally over and I can relax in my new home and be in a place that feels much more peaceful.

I’m going to have to show a lot of self-restraint because my new place is right down the street from a vintage/antique store that I love, plus there are a lot of other wonderful little places in the neighborhood, including my favourite fabric store! This is going to be such a fun neighborhood to live in, there are little art galleries and quirky boutiques and pop-up shops and some really great places to eat. It’s kind of artsy and funky and I feel right at home there already.

Things have been incredibly busy trying to get everything packed and ready for the move and life has been stressful, but once it’s all over I’ll be able to post more regularly – I have a backlog of other cute vintage finds and sewing projects to share and a ton of posts planned in general! I may be busy and stressed, but in a lot of ways I feel more at peace and I’m looking forward to this next chapter of my life – I’m going to make it a damned good one! I mean, with this Betsey Johnson dress, how could it not be?