1930s Sew-along with Norma: Completed Toile V.2

Observations on vintage garments:  darts, flares, armholes and sleeves

Version 2 of the toile for 1930s Sew-along with Norma is completed.  I have a much, much better idea where improvements are needed.  Better yet, I also have some solutions that will take me forward.  I’m not ready to cut the fashion fabric yet.  There is still more to accomplish in the learning curve.  I’ve come a long way since diving in and taking up vintage draping and drafting techniques these past two months.

The drafted sleeve from the Ralston book “Dress Cutting” did not work out.  I think it is due to the shape of her armhole being different from the one in the toile.  Also, I discovered a few things about draping for set-in sleeves:

*Drawing the armhole on a draped garment is not always easy.  Sometimes the toile tightens up after sewing.  The markings that were in the right place when pinned to the form shift slightly inward.  This can happen if the drape is too tight.  When there is too much ease it will shift outward after being unpinned and sewn.

*Draping a set-in sleeve results in more ease than I’ve ever seen in a sleeve pattern before.  Dealing with 1-2 inches of excess ease is a big problem.  Alterations that work for lesser amounts do not succeed as you’ve seen with the previous postings.

*From drafting and sewing the sleeve from Ralston’s book I got several impressions about vintage garments.  First the armholes in some years were higher than what we are used to today.  Second, sleeves were tighter at the wrist and elbow.  This means that the concept of style ease was different.  Today we require comfort and movement from our closthes.  This is why we do not see many sleeves with darts or elbow ease.

Bust darts are another problem in vintage garments.  I think whether you sew from a vintage pattern or use a system from the period to drape &/or draft you’ll find the bust darts are too high for modern standards.  The apex goes past the natural point of the bust.  I think this is due to the different foundation garments women wore in the past.  Uplift, underwire, padding and cone shaped bras lent to that shape.

The flares of the dress need adjusting and greater depth if the dress is to have more pizzaz to it.  Right now they look so tired.  Thankfully, there is a solution to that.  There is also a solution to the bust darts.  I plan to play around with some muslin again.  I’ll try the double French darts that were shown in the pattern illustration from “Paris Frocks at Home”.  If that doesn’t work I’m going to modify the dart to a more modern interpretation and put the apex at the level we are used to today.

Even if the sleeve worked out it, too, would need adjustment.  It should cover the arm but not encase it.  So it’s back to the drawing board and dress form.  My  modification is to go back to a sleeveless style.

The ongoing problem I have is with the bias binding at the neckline.  I am applying it right on top of the neckline and using pick stitches or back stitches.  Even though I’m hand sewing the bias binding keeps rippling.  I’m going to try opening it up, stitching on the edge and then turning it to the wrong side.  Do you think that will stop the rippling?  If that doesn’t work, I’m going to look to different, non-1930s techniques that will provide a solution.  I really don’t want to use armhole and neckline facings since this is a pull-over dress.  It needs to be lightweight.  But I can’t have the neckline damaged by normal wear and pulling on and off.  Stay-stitching hasn’t completely solved this problem.    Any suggestions most welcome!

Version 2 photos


The flares need working on.  I plan to fix the placement and depth.    I need to fix the level of the dart.


The sleeve I made using Ralston’s drafting instructions sings too much to the front of the dress.  It was somewhat tight at the wrist.  Since the underarm seam has to be 3/4 ” to the front of the side seam this may have something to do with it.  I think using a sleeve drafted from a different patternmaking system was part of the issue.  Also my armhole was not that well positioned.


The mitering went pretty good this time but I’m still not satisfied with the rippling that takes place.  I’ve steamed, stretched and shaped before applying but it still doesn’t lie flat when sewn on as “Paris Frocks at Home” recommended to readers in 1930.  The Butterick pattern directions I have from the book also recommend sewing it on by placing over the neckline and machine stitching.




6 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Completed Toile V.2

  1. Have read cross cut bindings, rather than bias cut, are less likely to ripple. Best for straight edges. Also, bind each side of the V neckline separately, joining the two sides at the center V.

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    • I knew I could count on you to find something very helpful and useful. You’ve been such an Angel during this project! Thank you!!! I will definitely try straight grain this time.

      I think some of my problems were caused by the fact that I used draping muslin instead of medium weight muslin to make the toile. I found that I have enough medium weight to do the next toile. I cut it out and think it will handle the binding much better.

      I’ve been travelling for personal and work related activities the past two months. This is what happens when I’m working in a stop and start mode for sewing. So many breaks I lose my track of thought unless I write down what the next steps are and pin it to the toile.

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    • I think I found the answer to my problem. And it might be caused by my own oversight since I’m tired from so much travel lately. The muslin I used is draping weight. It’s really not meant to be used for making up the toile. I found my stash of medium weight muslin which I’ll use this time. It takes to sewing very well and can withstand being worked on over and over.


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