Downloadable books at Global Grey

The book which I use for custom pattern drafting is based on the method used by French dressmakers in the 1950s.  I am very happy to announce that this sought after book is now available in PDF format at Global Grey.  The URL is:

Global Grey is a labor of love run by Aisha.  Her passion for making out-of-print books available has resulted in this website.  I encourage anyone who downloads a copy of the patternmaking book to give a small donation towards the upkeep of the site.  Aisha runs it on the donations she gets from visitors and then makes up the difference with her own money.  Let’s support her in this effort.  Her work to make out-of-print books available to a new generation is a worthwhile endeavor.

A booklet of 1960s crochet and knitting patterns for hats is also available for download:

If anyone is nostalgic about the fashions teenage dolls wore in the early 1960s I recommend checking out the booklet of outfits for the Tammy doll by Ideal.  The link for this booklet is

To learn more about Aisha and Global Grey, please visit her About page at

A sense of accomplishment with hope for future projects

I am in the midst of a family history project that has grown into a living and breathing entity that calls me back again and again. It’s as if I’m drawn into something bigger than myself which will not be quiet until the story is completed. This is another reason why my Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt project has taken so long.

I miss with my heart and soul all my dressmaking projects. They are now part of “Whenever Land” a place where I can focus on them when I’m fully alert and not surrounded by research notes, phone calls and draft documents related to the family history project.

Writing the family history in a book format a struggle for me. It does not flow the way blogging or dressmaking does. When I’m sewing or drafting a pattern the thought process is at a different level. I start with an idea and work towards its realization. Everything flows. There are challenges where I pause, but then the flow resumes.  The same applies to my blogging.

Writing  a book is very hard. I have scattered memories, research findings and a wealth of family stories to piece together. Then I have to figure out what the deeper meaning is. Finally, the way in which the story is told is very important. One has to show the story through the scenes and flow of the narrative. I cannot do that in chapter format. I’m doing something very different called an episodic format. Each ep (episode) is only 2-3 pages long. The idea is to encapsulate a specific point in the history and let the ep tell it on several levels. In a way an ep is like a unit in sewing. You stitch together one or two components to complete a part of the greater garment.  An ep is also like a blog post in that it is self-contained.  It doesn’t have to link to what came before or after.  It is up to the writer and the needs of the larger narrative.  This is what I’m learning about the process.

Today, as a reminder that I can sew and design I’m looking back on the Donna Skirt and Blouse. This was a breakthrough for me because after a long absence from sewing my skills started to come to the fore. Hand made buttonholes, inserting a zipper by hand, hemming a circular skirt. I also challenged myself by creating a blouse with a waistline yoke as described in Claire Schaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques.” I decided to upload these photos taken yesterday to introduce my Twitter followers to what I’m able to do.

I have decided to reclaim my Saturday or Sunday afternoon hours for sewing. The family history is underway and will get time during the weekday early a.m. hours. Writing is a tricky thing. It requires waiting for the voice of inspiration to drop in whereas for me with sewing it is always there.

The Donna Skirt and Blouse was inspired by the everday outfits housewives wore in the 1950s and early 1960s. My inspiration was “The Donna Reed Show.”

Vintage Pattern Envelope and Pattern Sheet Detail: Vogue 1940s bias cut coat

Vogue no. 8262 was available sometime during the 1940s. The design is deceptively simple and looks like a quick and easy project. Once you review the pattern details you might think twice. The coat front and back pieces are cut on the bias and has bound buttonholes, a roll collar and bound pockets. I would have to think twice about making this coat on the bias because the recommended fabrics like wool and silk crepe can be very expensive. As a thought exercise I find the study of this design very useful in considering other ways to achieve the look without the angst bias cut fabric can induce. There is the stretching and sagging that might occur due to mishandling. The coat does not have a lining so that makes it simpler in some ways.

The pattern envelope describes this style as:

“Coat, beach robe or long monk-like hooded house robe. Bias front and back worn hanging free from shoulders, or belted at waist with wide novelty or corded tie belt. Long loose gathered-at-top sleeves. The small shaped c0llar and inset pockets are optional.”

There are no belt loops for the coat which would make using a wide belt impractical if you plan to take the coat on and off throughout the day. I think If I were to attempt to recreate something like this I might cut it on the straight grain using the basic pattern for a tent coat and add more flares to the pattern. Instead of bound pockets I’d make in-seam pockets so that the flow of the flares is not interrupted.

The pattern instruction sheet is very brittle and torn in some places. For this reason I could not scan the entire sheet. I’m posting here the portions about the sleeve stiffener and shoulder pad since these details are helpful for recreating a period look. This coat uses a sleeve stiffener (a/k/a sleeve head) that is sewn into the cap of the sleeve. The shoulder pad is home made using cotton batting and a lining fabric to cover it. The pattern does not specify how many layers of batting to use nor does it give a height for the finished shoulder pad. Since the sleeve head is used I’d think a very thin shoulder pad about 1/8″ to 1/4″ high would be sufficient.

This pattern was a gift my late Mom gave to me. I know that if she were younger when she selected this she would have liked to wear view D as a house coat. The loose style and flowing silhouette would be flattering for any figure type. This simplicity and adaptability of this coat are typical of what my Mom considered a style that can move with you through the years and still work well.

BYW version of the illustration

Pattern alteration instructions

Instructions for making the sleeve head

Instructions for the shoulder pad (note the triangular shape)

Ann Adams 1940s Sewing Pattern Instruction Sheet

Mid-Summer greetings to all!  I’ve been so busy with my job that sewing is limited to that strange realm called whenever.  As in whenever I get an extra hour or whenever I have an afternoon off.  I’ve learned that it’s very true that haste makes waste so I don’t fight the trend.  The Secretary Blouse and Sheath Skirt are coming along very nicely.  At least at the end of a session, whenever that is, I leave feeling satisfied and progress is being made.  I do think, though, that I’m reaching my limit with synthetics.  It is true that in terms of pressing and laundering they are low maintenance but in terms of sewing they often require as much effort as more expensive natural fibers..  I’m seriously considering going to natural fibers or natural-synthetic blends once I use up the remaining poly gabardine and rayon I bought for a New Look Suit.

In the meantime, I want to tell all visitors, THANK YOU FOR LOVING AND SUPPORTING MY BLOG.  The stats show a steady stream of visitors coming each week.  There are at least 40-60 views each week.  I’m truly delighted that so many people from around the world are learning from the post “How to sew an all-in-one bodice” or how to draft the Donna Skirt.

I’m going through the vintage patterns my Mom bought for me many years ago, before she passed away.  She thought that if I studied the diagrams, instructions and layouts I could adapt the system I learned to produce something comparable.  Mom was very sensible about apparel.  She thought style was more important that fashion.  Time has proved her on the mark as far as I’m concerned.  I’m sharing in this post the instructions and diagram for a 1940s dress designed by a pattern company called Ann Adams.  I think it would look just as flattering today.  The dropped waistline and below-the-knee hemline can create a slimming effect.  This style would also look good on a very slender, small busted woman because the shirring stitched into the side dart creates the appearance of a fuller bustline.  The optional sash can cinch the shaped waistline in even further if a more fitted look is desired.  The pattern illustration shows the dress made in a print but I think a solid color would show off the topstitching, shirring and flared skirt panels to better effect.  What do you think?

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For Hila: Vintage Sewing Techniques for making a coat

Hey there!  Hila, here are the tips from the vintage booklet “Tailoring” published 1945 by The Spool Cotton Company.

I’ve never seen instructions like the ones given here.  I think these are more labor intensive since the interlining is considered a separate layer from the fashion fabric.  “Reader’s Digest Complete Guide to Sewing” has a simpler process:  the interlining and fashion fabric are basted together and then cut and treated as one layer.  The only thing these instructions have in common is that the back interlining piece will not have the pleat the way the lining does and has the back seam abutted. This is how I learned to do it and it works very well.

Still, it’s very educational to see how clothing was constructed in the past.  It helps understand how techniques are always evolving.

The Dressmaker’s Library: “Illustrating Fashion: Concept to Creation”

When I’m between sewing projects I love to sketch.  There is something very satisfying to seeing an idea given expression on paper.  It also helps when I go fabric or notion shopping because I can show the salesperson what I’m making or want to make.

If you want to learn how to sketch be assured that no previous drawing skills are needed.  The key to success is to find a book that takes you through the process step by step and provides detailed instructions.  “Illustrating Fashion:  Concept to Creation” by Stephen Stipelman is an excellent book.

The cutting method .

Stipleman shows you how to draw a standard 10-heads croquis.  Before moving on to drawing garments he spends several chapters explaining how to understand such concepts as the balance line of the figure and the center line of the garment.  Much attention is devoted to the poses and sense of movement needed in the figure.

One of the most helpful exercises for a beginner is in the chapter where the cutting method is explained.  Here the croquis is treated like a paper doll.  The arms and legs are cut and taped into different positions as shown in the illustration above.  Tracing paper is then put over the figures and a new figure is drawn.  Stipelman emphasizes giving the figure an attitude and stance.  His illustrations are always accompanied by good descriptions.

There is no substitute for attending a class and getting feedback from an experienced teacher.  But if that’s not possible you don’t have to wait.  I recommend you seek out this book and study the lessons.  You will not be disappointed.  I had no real drawing skills prior to beginning the lessons in this book but can now sketch my ideas.  I have a long way to go but I am seeing results.

Here are three of my recent practice sketches using examples from the chapter on how to draw skirts.

What I love about this book is that eventually you can move on to sketching in your own style.  Since my interest in fashion extends to Barbie dolls I do see some of that in my own sketches.  If you decide to develop this talent you’ll be amazed at what is inside of you waiting to express itself.

The Dressmaker’s Library: “Fashion Illustration 1920-1950”

“Fashion Illustration 1920-1950 Techniques and Examples” by Walter T. Foster is a valuable addition to any dressmaker’s library. The value lies in the book being a visual reference on several levels. First, there are the fashions of the decades beautifully and simply drawn. Then there are the body types for each decade showing what was considered the ideal figure for the time.

Fashion figure of the  late 1920s.

Fashion figure of the 1930s.

The slender, linear look of the 1920s gave way to the curvy sensual look of the 1930s.  The tubular silhouette was replaced by one in which fabrics were cut to flow over the body.  There was an emphasis on movement with flares, godets and flounces.

Fashion figure of the 1940s.

By the 1940s the figure is fuller and curvier. The reader will gain insight into how a woman’s body was envisioned by the illustrators and designers of the 1920s through the 1950s. Even though these illustrations represent the ideal of these decades they speak to the reader on many levels. I learned that I prefer the overall look of the 1940s since the inspiration comes from a woman who is living an active life and looks like she has a healthy body weight and outlook on life.

Foster provides some basics to start a croquis (rough sketch of the fashion figure) but does not go much further than that. There are no graded lessons taking the reader through an organized series of exercises. If you already know how to sketch then you might be able to get more out of this book. There are many examples of first sketches compared to finished sketches. For someone with experience these will provide all you need to recreate similar fashion illustrations.

There is a brief treatment of how to draw children. The section on drawing the male fashion figure is treated in the same manner as the female fashion figure. There are some guidelines with the rest of the presentation consisting of many sketches.

“Fashion Illustration 1920-1950 Techniques and Examples” is published by Dover and is available for $12.95. I got mine new from Amazon