1930s Sew-along with Norma: Starting at last!

A quick update…At long last I’ve started to make the 1930s influenced dress.  I cut all the pieces on Sunday.  I haven’t worked with a rayon challis before and realized very quickly this fabric has to be gently handled.  It is lightweight and given to shifting around.  I used a cutting mat and rotary cutter which worked out well.

I don’t have pattern weights and at first wasn’t sure how to proceed.  I placed the large mat on the floor and then the folded fabric on that.  After laying out the patter pieces and coming to the best arrangement, I marked the fabric into lengths that would accommodate the smaller pieces like the sleeve and flounces.  This is one of the things about making your own patterns that isn’t always discussed.  Figuring out the most efficient layout takes time and maybe even a few attempts.  Once this part was done I straightened the grain on the pieces and lightly steam pressed.

Rayon challis shreds a lot so I used a 3/4″ seam allowance when marking with tailors chalk around the edges of the pattern.  I plan to use a turned under seam finish.  One of the 1930s pattern sheets I found online has the stitching being done by hand using a running stitch.  I think I’m going for this one since I do not feel confident stitching close to the edge of this fabric by machine.   I also do not want to use a stabilizer out of concern that when I tear it off it will distort the grain.  I also do not want to use a water soluble stabilizer since that can start running into an extra expense I don’t want to incur.  I’d rather spend that money on the finishing touches like silk thread for the button loops or a pair of earrings to go with the dress.

I used a tracing wheel and dressmaker’s tracing paper to mark all seam lines.  Since the dress is a simple cut and consists of straight lines it was easy to do without much shifting of the fabric.  I held a clear plastic ruler on top of the pattern right at the sewing line after inserting the tracing paper.  Since I cut patterns with the right side of the fabric facing up this worked out well.

I’ll photograph how the progress on the v-neckline proceeds. In the meantime, to continue our review of laundry and pressing techniques from the past here is a YouTube video about how a happy housewife of 1947 experiences greater joy, health and satisfaction once she buys an IronRite pressing machine.  As you watch the video you’ll realize using this machine required a skilled operator.  Not everyone could be so adept and clever at assessing which way to apply the presser to more complex garments.  To think that a housewife would be expected to do all this work for her family and derive greater happiness from their crisply pressed clothing is sad in some ways, if looked at from our vantage in time.  At the end of the day, what was the Mary Jones of this video left with?  If this was upped in time to the modern day, Mary Jones would take several courses to earn a certificate of competency in using this pressing machine.  She’d get authorized and certified by the training institute and manufacturer.  Then with a loan from the bank, she could open her own pressing service, earn a salary from this skill and join the ranks of other women who run small businesses.  From housewife of 1947 to entrepreneur of 2016 we have come a long way.

I will also post “Tubbing Your Paris Frocks at Home, Part 2” soon.  I tried some of the vintage ironing techniques in the chapter.  At first I treated it like a bit of a joke, but they worked very well.  The results were that I did not need to use a high setting on the iron and I spent less time ironing.  Which means less electricity to heat the iron and no water needed for the steam.  I adapted the techniques a little and I think I will keep them.  I took photos and it will be fun to show you how I made do in my small apartment.

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6 thoughts on “1930s Sew-along with Norma: Starting at last!

  1. I think that film is so offputting. I don’t suppose they caught on in private houses?
    Exciting that your dress is underway. I haven’t used rayon challis either – sounds a bit scarey to me but your careful approach sounds like the right one.
    Have fun!

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      • Yes, the woman using it didn’t have any toddlers. It looks a very good opportunity for a business. I think I’ll be sticking with my iron – I like ironing anyway. Just as well – we are just back from a week’s holiday!

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      • Hope your holiday was a good one and you’re ready for the next phase in your one year project. I love my Rowenta iron and with the vintage ironing techniques the job is getting easier. I’m posting about it today. Stay tuned and thanks for the encouragement.

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