It all started with this crêpe by John Kaldor that I bought at the Knitting & Stitching Show in London this October:
What colour is this? Umm, blue? No.
Having bought this crêpe early in the day, I then decided to get some matching navy gabardine for something or other – I was still working under the assumption that this was blue. There was no shortage of navy fabrics at the show, but none of them matched my crêpe – they decidedly clashed with it in colour. 😣 So I adjusted my goals: find something – anything! – that would go with it, be it fabric, yarn, bead or button. 😲
Once I stopped focussing on navy, I found lots of things that went beautifully with my crêpe – and they were turquoise. Bright viscose chalis lining and even brighter satin piping. Muted cotton jersey. Dark basketweave suiting fabric. As well as pretty cornflower blue cotton jersey which totally clashes with the rest of it!
We are not used to think of turquoise as anything but bright, but every colour – every hue, if you prefer – comes in many variants with different brightness and saturation. Or, speaking in terms of paints, the colour pigment is the same, mixed with different amounts of white and black.
So, what did I do with it?
Four garments making up three outfits: a crêpe dress, a basketweave skirt, a crêpe and basketweave top and a jersey blouse – a dress and two tops with a skirt. All vintage patterns from German sewing magazines.
The first one is an asymmetric dress from a 1937 Mode und Wäsche given in a large size – I had to grade it down by two sizes.
The second one is from a 1939 Mode und Wäsche, it is described as a “two piece dress” – a typical thing of the time, which is a separate skirt and a top made in the same material, so that when they are worn together, they look like a single garment. The top is not a blouse – it mimics a blouse with a vest over it, but is in fact a single garment made of two types of fabric. Such effects were very popular at the time, there are even complete suits with jackets and waistcoats and all, that are made as a single garment, with a single layer of fabric everywhere. Fascinating. I’ll have to make one of those.
But I digress. This outfit came exactly in my size (will the wonders never seize?), so I could use it as is.
The third garment is from a 1949 Ihre Mode, it is a wrap-around top. This magazine is more of a catalogue really, and although the patterns are included, they are all given in a ridiculously small size – I had to grade it up by four sizes. 😤 There is no sizing table, so it all becomes too much of a guesswork. This is the second blouse I made from this magazine, and I think it will be my last – the patterns are not well drafted either, with mistakes that only become apparent during sewing, when it is really already too late! ☹️
The asymmetric dress
The asymmetric dress went together quite easily and fitted nicely straight away! 😀 Except for the sleeves. It has a pleat on the front and two pleats at the back giving the skirt enough room to walk without looking wide and heavy. The dress buttons up at the front – and this opening extends all the way down below the hips, so no side zips are needed.
I wanted to accentuate the lines and the scallopped front, so added a bright piping. But I decided against a large white scallopped collar and scallopped cuffs because that felt like turning into a scallop myself… 😉 I thought that less is more, and keeping the collar and cuffs plain would make the scallops on the front closure stand out even better. Besides, it makes the dress look modern, in my opinion, rather than a “costume”.
I’m not showing you a full picture because it’s not finished yet. A couple of waist darts to add and sleeves to sort out – they are enormous. Plus, I managed to make it ever so slightly too small in the hips. It was fine last time I tried it on – but that was before Christmas. Ouch! 😳
I lined the dress with viscose chalis. Not just the skirt and bodice – I lined it completely, sleeves and all. This is mainly for comfort: the crêpe is synthetic, and although it looks good and falls and drapes well, it still feels like polyester that it is. The weave does make it somewhat better breathable than ordinary polyester cloth, but it is a long way from cotton. However, lining it with viscose chalis solves the problem. I did it with my synthetic chirimen dress, and was very pleased with the way it feels and wears. This is now my preferred way for making dresses at a reasonable cost: the upper cloth can be synthetic because the choice of natural cloths is so limited, but lined with viscose chalis makes it feel good and look even better.
The dress was straightforward to make, and yet I managed to fall into a rookie trap of making the lining the same way as the outer shell. What’s wrong with that? The lining is worn with the right side to the body and the wrong side to the outside world, so it is mirrored compared to the outer shell. What’s left is right and what’s right is left, and in an asymmetric garment that means cutting differently, not just sewing differently! 😬
Fortunately, plain viscose chalis is completely uniform and reversible, so I didn’t have to throw anything away. However, I only discovered the mistake when all the lining was put together and I was ready to attach it to the outer shell. So, a lot of unpicking and re-sewing. The back and sleeves were symmetrical, so didn’t need changing, so I unpicked the front panes along the shoulder seams, the front parts of the armhole seams and the side seams, and then I decided to convert my overlocked seams on the rest of the front into French seams, effectively turning it all inside out. Less unpicking this way. 🙂 Since I didn’t want to loose too much of the width in those additional seam allowances, I needed to make very narrow French seams. I tried it with a regular straight stitch foot, but the result was distinctly underwhelming. 😒 The foot was sliding on the thickness of the turned in seam… what I needed was a piping foot the wrong way around – with the cord to the right of the needle.
Yeah, like this! 😃 This is a buttonhole foot – hence the two channels on the underside. I cut my internal seam allowance very close to the seam, so it fitted beautifully into the narrow channel.
Definitely a much better result!
I also gave it a second stitch just at the edge, to make sure the seam doesn’t unravel in the wash.
A two-piece dress
The second outfit was fairly straightforward as well. No tricky asymmetric bits this time, just not enough material. Isn’t there always some challenge with sewing? 🙂
The basketweave fabric was a remnant, and although I would have liked to buy a bigger piece, I had to do with what they had. Plus, there wasn’t all that much crêpe left over from the dress either…
My compromise was to make the central pleats in the skirt out of crêpe, and make the skirt with a lowered waist rather than a raised waist as in the pattern. You don’t see it under the top anyway, and I think that lowered waist is more comfortable. Plus I didn’t have enough fabric for a raised waist anyway. 😉
On the top, I decided to make a real button down closure at the front rather than a fake one. They just had decorative buttons sewn onto the middle, and a zip in the side. I also decided to line the whole top with viscose chalis and let it come out to as edging. I added some embroidery with Necchi Supernova which just happened to have a leaf pattern in exactly the right shape and size (cam 18-0-11, turn the top cam 180 degrees to make the leaves slant to the back or to the front).
The edging around the bottom was easy enough except at the front where it curves. Since my edging is really lining turned up to the right side, I had to ease it quite a lot to make it curve around the corner without wrinkles.
Once pinned, it was obvious I could not just put it under the sewing machine like that – too much gather in the material. So I decided to baste it with an invisible basting stitch that does not need to be removed when you sew over it with a machine. It is a kind of backtacking stitch with very small stitches showing on the right side, and the rest hidden between the layers – there’s nothing showing on the other side of the sandwich. Because this stitch is quite invisible under machine stitching, you can use it on just the difficult bits like curves and do the straight bits with pins – it is not necessary to baste the whole thing! And because you don’t remove it, there are no ugly bits of basting thread poking out from under machine stitching, and indeed you can baste exactly where you’ll stitch later (not just you can – you should!).
A digression on basting: at the diploma awarding ceremony at my tailoring college, the teachers asked us about the most important lesson that we’d taken away from the three years of hard work. For me it was basting. It looks like a waste of time but in fact it saves time and gives a far better result than stitching over pins.
The button closure down the front was another little puzzle. In the pattern, there was no closure there – they just had a row of buttons going down the front. I quite liked that idea, and didn’t want to make the usual overlapping button closure with cut buttonholes.
That’s much better, isn’t it? Round buttons all along the front with thread loops for closure.
Those buttons are no buttons either – they are beads of real turquoise. Unsurprisingly, the colour matches perfectly. 😉
The wrap-around top
Now for the wrap-around top. It’s got saddle sleeves – the top of the sleeve extends onto the shoulder, and the front and back panes are gathered.
I made it out of plain cotton jersey with lycra – plain but not that simple. It is a medium weight jersey rather than light weight, but it is dense rather than thick. Lycra gives it 4-way stretch, yet the density makes it keep the shape. Very nice material, that.
I did not want any stretch on the shoulders because that would pull the blouse out of shape, so I’ve sewn a fine organza ribbon to the seams.
The rest was quite straightforward, except that the pieces didn’t actually fit together at the sides, by about an inch. The armholes were also shaped differently left and right, but the sleeves were the same, so that’s a mistake. Fortunately, I noticed it before I cut the fabric.
The belt was a puzzle. The shorter piece (33) is marked “front belt” and the longer piece (34) “back belt”, but where does this attach to? The front belt seemed to attach to the end of the right front pane, and it would put it at the hip. I couldn’t figure out where to attach the back belt, other than to insert it into the left side seam, which wouldn’t make it a “back belt”… But let’s not get hung up on labels. Anyhow, with the “front belt” coming out at the hip, there was no way I could tie it securely and not have the blouse gape open at the front. They haven’t thought it through.
As a solution, I moved the “front belt” up so that it is now coming from under the long shawl collar at the waist level. I smoothed the curve of the hem and it looks quite nice. Similarly, the “back belt” is inserted into the side seam also at the waist level, so that I get a nice wide tie that actually works. Except it’s too long and the back is too loose, and the whole thing feels like a bath robe! 😤
But I think I know how to sort it out: I’ll move the “back belt” from the left seam into the right seam and tie the two belts at the back. This should smooth things out! With these corrections the top will be worth repeating! 😃
And I thought I was going to be done with this Turquoise Quartet this weekend! But it doesn’t look like it…