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: 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!

Scarlett Willow Shop Review!

Full disclosure: I was given these garments as a gift from Scarlett Willow Shop and only paid for shipping. I was not, however, asked or expected to write this review in exchange for these items, I did so because I wanted to and all opinions expressed in this review are my own honest thoughts and impressions.

Full disclosure: I was given these garments as a gift from Scarlett Willow Shop and only paid for shipping. I was not, however, asked or expected to write this review in exchange for these items, I did so because I wanted to and all opinions expressed in this review are my own honest thoughts and impressions.

Awhile ago on my old blog, I wrote a spotlight piece on Scarlett Willow Shop, one of my absolute favourite shops on Etsy. Well, Ashley, the owner of Scarlett Willow, was incredibly sweet and sent me a wonderful thank you package that I wanted to share with all of you!

Ashley sent me two gorgeous vintage tops and I absolutely love them. They were very well packaged and came wrapped individually in tissue paper and it was so exciting to unwrap them.

This first top appears to have been made by a home seamstress (one of my favourite kinds of vintage garments to find!), as there are no tags (or signs of tags being removed), and I really love it. The voluminous, floaty sleeves are amazing and the top fits really well. The top is in amazing condition and I’m really looking forward to sewing skirts (and eventually a pair of bell bottoms!) to pair with it! I think that this top must have been made in the mid to late 1960’s, and I really love the style, it’s so much fun to wear!!

The second top is a lovely 1960’s yellow pussy bow blouse:

This blouse is amazing and I can’t help but smile when I put it on, I love the bright yellow floral print! I’m already mentally planning skirts I can make to go with it and can’t wait to start sourcing the fabric! I love how this blouse feels both classy and fun with the bright colour and print. It has so many wonderful features, such as the button up sleeve cuffs, the pussy bow, the light gathering at the shoulders…this blouse is just gorgeous!

Both tops are in excellent condition and arrived freshly cleaned, which was really nice! Shipping was really fast, even though Scarlett Willow Shop is based in New York, and I’m in Canada, which was fabulous! I can’t wait to start wearing these on a regular basis, I know they’re both definitely going to become major wardrobe staples! They’ll fit perfectly into the 1960’s-1970’s inspired wardrobe I’ve been building and creating for myself.

Thank you so much, Ashley, for these incredible gifts! I feel so honored to have been given them and to have them in my wardrobe!

You can find Scarlett Willow Shop on Etsy and follow them on their fabulous Instagram account!

I know what I like (in your wardrobe)

I can’t believe January is almost over! I spent the last month doing a fair bit of sewing, and finished up a jacket that I had temporarily abandoned due to buttonhole related anxiety, so I thought I would share the clothes I’ve been making (and finishing) this month and do a bit of a catch up.

While not the most perfect jacket by any stretch of the imagination, this is the first one I’ve ever made and I’m pretty proud of it. I forgot to take a photo of the back, but there is a self fabric tie that you do up in the back and I really like that feature, which makes it doubly silly that I forgot to photograph it!

I made this using McCall’s 4215:

The fabric is a mustard corduroy and I used brown vintage buttons. I started this jacket back in November, I think, but was so intimidated by the permanence of buttonholes even though I’ve sewn them a number of times before, that I put this project on the back burner until a week or so ago when I decided to bite the bullet and finally finish it! I’m really glad I did, because I think this jacket will be fun to wear once the weather finally starts warming up.

I actually used McCall’s 6904 to make two dresses this month because I loved this pattern so much!

Both times I made view B but omitted the faux pockets. I messed up a bit on the sleeves of the first version because I accidentally cut out the pieces for the long sleeved version and had to try and fix it because I didn’t have enough fabric left to re-cut the sleeves, but I still absolutely love this dress and wear it all the time.

I used the same brown vintage buttons that I used for the jacket and this wonderful 100% cotton fabric that I love. I found this in the quilting section, but it’s much softer and more lightweight than typical quilting cotton and works really well for the dress. I love this fabric!

The second version was made using this adorable fabric that I also found in the quilting section, though this one is definitely a heavier weight, but I couldn’t resist those raccoons with their disgruntled little faces!

Close up of the disgruntled raccoon faces!

Unfortunately, the fabric is a little too pale for my skin tone and I think it washes me out a bit, which is really too bad, because it’s a really fun dress and those raccoons never fail to put me in a good mood. I’ve been trying to think of ways that I could still wear it, but don’t know if something like dyeing it a darker colour would completely mess it up and obliterate those adorable raccoons. What do you think? I’d appreciate any advice any of you might have!

And the last big project of the month was made using yet another vintage McCall’s sewing pattern! Wow, I didn’t realize that I’d been on such a McCall’s kick! I really wanted to make a dress inspired by the style of 1960’s and 70’s clothes sold by one of my favourite Etsy shops, ScarlettWillowShop, so for this dress I used McCall’s 4762:

I love Marlo Thomas and That Girl is such a fun show, so I couldn’t resist making this dress! It had been waiting in my pattern stash for the right fabric and as soon as I saw this vintage fabric in the thrift store I knew it would be perfect! I made view B of this pattern, because I knew it was already going to be pretty long on me, since I’m only 5’3″.

I completely lined the dress using a vintage bed sheet, because the main cotton fabric I used for the dress turned out to be kind of rough and scratchy against the skin and I knew it would bother me too much to wear it unlined. Luckily I realized that before I started sewing! This is the first fully lined garment I’ve made and I love that almost every single seam is hidden inside of the lining. I still need to pink the sleeve seams, but I finished the dress yesterday morning and then things got really busy so I didn’t have the time to do it.

I’m posting this last three pictures of me actually wearing the dress mostly in memory of the last truly 60’s/70’s feature left in my 1960’s apartment building – the tiles on my bathroom wall! The cool vintage vibes this place had were what made me sign the lease, but sadly they stripped away all of the old features that made this place so cool years ago when they renovated the common areas of the building.

Speaking of apartments and moving, I looked at an apartment today. I wish I could say that I loved it and will be moving in right away, but it was definitely not for me. The apartment itself was very tiny and very dark, and the small size and darkness made me feel claustrophobic and awful, like being in a small, dark cave. There were other issues with the place too, and I just knew that I wouldn’t be happy there. It’s really too bad because everything outside of the apartment would have been great, but I just couldn’t say yes to a place that made me feel so unhappy. Years ago, I probably would have taken the apartment due to some silly feeling of obligation or low self esteem or a bunch of other nonsense factors, so I’m proud that I was able to realize that it wasn’t right for me and I wouldn’t be happy there, and actually call back and turn it down,. And I’m almost even more proud of the fact that I was able to stand my ground when the manager of the building tried to make me feel bad and like I was making some huge mistake that I was going to regret over the phone.

I know I won’t regret it, I made the right decision for me and I’m really proud that I was able to assert myself and make a choice that was in my own best interest instead of trying to appease someone else out of misplaced guilt. And I know that turning this place down isn’t the end of the world, there will be other (hopefully better!) apartments.

What about you? What have you been sewing lately? Do you having any apartment/house hunting nightmares you’d like to share? Do you know what I could do to make the disgruntled raccoon dress work? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Zee Vintage Fashion Review

1970’s Pantel Dress

A few weeks ago I bought this incredible 1970’s Pantel maxi dress from Zee Vintage Fashion on Etsy and I absolutely love it! It’s as comfortable as a snuggly nightgown, but absolutely gorgeous!

The dress shipped very quickly, was carefully and beautifully packaged, was exactly as described and Zee was really friendly and wonderful to do business with!

Sadly I wasn’t able to find out anything about this designer/brand, but from the other dresses I’ve been able to find of theirs on Etsy and eBay, I really love their style and will definitely be on the hunt for more!

This dress has some really lovely little features, such as the empire waist with light gathering in the front and back and a neat sleeve technique I’ve never seen before – this extra bit of fabric on the inside of the sleeve head which makes the sleeve puff out even more when worn!

I find this detail fascinating and definitely want to try using this technique in one of my own garments someday!

It also has a self fabric belt that you tie up in a bow in the back of the dress that’s really pretty, and a row of lovely orange buttons down the front:

At 5’3″, this dress is floor length on me, which is perfect for the style. This is the kind of dress that makes you want to run around in the grass barefoot with flowers in your hair and I love it!

And speaking of flowers, the fabric is just gorgeous!

I love everything about this dress and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase from Zee, I’d gladly do business with her again and definitely recommend her shop!

Zee Vintage Fashion is based out of Hamilton, Ontario, and can be found on Etsy.