1930s Dress Completed! Meet Miss Norma N. Carol

Hello to all my WordPress friends and blog subscribers.  I am very happy to introduce you to Miss Norma Naomi Carol, the name I selected for the dress I’ve finally completed for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  I love selecting a name for an outfit I have completed.  I chose this name as a way to say thank you to the three WordPress bloggers who have seen me through this year long learning experience.  Norma started it with the challenge to sew a 1930s style using techniques appropriate to the period.   Carol generously provided material from her research which she posted at her blog and some which she emailed me during the early stages of the sew-along.  Naomi gave me ongoing support and encouragement as I worked my way through the stumbling blocks and challenges that come with going outside one’s usual repertoire of sewing techniques.  I hope you will accept this homage as my way of saying “Thank You Very Much!”

I will let the photos do the rest.  .  .

Accessories

I decided that since this is an interpretation of a Depression Era style, accessorization should be very simple and kept at a minimum.  For that reason I chose a simple pair of pearl earrings with a bow made of rhinestones that works with the orange-yellow buds in the print of the fabric.  The other accessory is a reinforced belt with fabric covered buckle and snap closure.  Thread loops were created in the color of the belt to downplay their presence on the dress.

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Here she is, Miss Norma Naomi Carol

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1930s Sew-along with Norma: Covered and Underlined Buttons

Introduction

I’m now at the part I love about dressmaking–considering and making the finishing touches.  For my dress created during the 1930s Sew-along with Norma those finishing touches will be a belt and fabric covered buttons.  The green fabric I chose works well with the floral print of the dress and provides just the right contrast.  I started with the buttons first and will share what I learned in the form of a tutorial.

Planning for the buttons

Fabric covered buttons are made using a brass top and bottom designed to grip, hold and cover the fabric that is shaped around the top of the button.  On the inside of the top portion of the button are little teeth against which you mold and press the fabric so that the teeth grip and hold it securely.  When that is finished the bottom portion is snapped into place.

The fabric I am using is very lightweight and has a slight sheen.  As a result, the metallic gleam of the button shows through the fabric making it even more shiny.  I needed to underline the button fabric, so to speak, to prevent the shine from happening.  It is very important that the buttons have a matte look about them so that they stay in keeping with the dress fabric.

At first I thought a poly-china silk would work but it proved of no use in hiding the shine from the brass of the button top.  So I next tried a very lightweight cotton interfacing.  This solved the problem very well.  I was now ready to cover the buttons.

Fabric Covered Buttons with Underlining

1.  The underlining and button cover fabric is trued and steam pressed.  To keep things simple I pinned the fabric together at regular intervals so that it would not move when marked and cut.

2.   Here is a close-up of the button tops and bottoms.

3.   On the back of the package is a round button pattern.  This is to be cut out for use in marking the fabric that will cover your buttons.

4.   Another close-up of the buttons.  On the top at the left is the inside of the button top and to the upper right is the inside view of the cover.  In the front to the left is the right side of the top of the button and to the right is the outer part of the bottom of the button.

5.   I was interrupted when tracing the pattern onto the fabric so I will explain how I obtained what you see in the photo above.

a.   The fabric was pinned as shown in Step 1.

b.   I used a very sharp piece of new Tailor’s Chalk that I broke in half so that it would be very easy to handle.

c.   The cardboard circle (Button Pattern) was carefully held in place while I used the piece of chalk to trace the shape.

d.   A very sharp straight pin was used to hold the underlining and cover fabric together.  I continued in this manner until I had 10 pinned circles ready to cut.

e.   I used a small Fiskars Craft Scissors to cut out the circles.

6.   Since I could not cover the buttons at this point I put all the cut circles into a little box along with the button tops and bottoms.  I removed the pins so as not to have marks left in the fabric.

 

7.  When I was ready to start covering the buttons I stitched the fabric and underlining together at the outer edges using a conditioned, double strand of cotton thread passed through a #6 hand sewing sharp needle.  Cotton is much stronger and less likely to knot the way a polyester thread would.  The thread should have a 1/2″ tail after a double knot.  Use tiny running stitches all around.  At the end cut another tail about 1″ long but do not knot.

 

8.   Gather up the circle by pulling on both tails of the thread.  Put the top of the button inside and then gently draw the thread around the button top until it is covered.

9.   Coax the fabric onto the teeth on the inside of the button top.  The instructions on the package recommended using an eraser but I do not think that is wise.  A micro tweezer or crochet hook is a better choice since you cannot mark up your fabric with it.  Once the fabric is securely in place, gather the fabric as much as possible, then trim the tail.  It is not necessary to make a knot.

 

10.  Top of the button after the fabric has been smoothed out an before the tail of the thread was cut.

11.   Now it is time to snap the back of the button into place.

12.  To ensure the back is securely in place I press own with the top of a spool of thread that fits over the back of the button.

13.  The process is now completed.  The top of the button will look like this.

14.  And the bottom will look like this.  (Sorry for the blurry photo.)

15.  I now have to determine how much space is needed between each button and then they will be sewn onto each sleeve.

 

1930s Sew-along with Norma: line sketch of the dress

Naomi of Spare Room Style brought up a good point about the photos of the completed dress.  All the details get lost in the print of the fabric.  At her request I’m uploading a pencil sketch I hope will make the details clear.

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Details of front of the dress

Bust darts from center of front shoulder to 1″ above apex of bust.
V-neckline with interfacing and facing on inside, bound with bias trim slip stitched into place.
Bodice extends about 2-3″ below widest part of the hip line.  On the Misses Size 4 this is a length about 13″ below the waist.

Details of back of the dress

Center back seam.
Slot zipper application (hand sewn with running stitches).

Flounce

Cut with center front and center back on lengthwise grain.
Two flares each side of center front and center back.

Sleeve

Fitted sleeve.
Vertical dart running from wrist up to elbow.
Sleeve finished with hand sewn bias binding at wrist.
Somewhere between 5 to 9 buttons to be placed along vertical dart line.

Belt

In planning stages.

Pattern Notes

A basic chemise pattern is used for the bodice of the dress.
–Slight shaping was applied from underarm down to end of bodice.  This is not a straight, tubular shape.
–The width at the hipline is widest to accommodate movement and the need for enough fabric so that the dress can be comfortable when the belt is worn.
–The wider the hip line is creates a need for the flares to be slightly wider.  The flares for the size 4 will have a little less depth than the flares for a size 6, 8 or 10.  It is a matter of preserving the overall proportions of the dress.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Dress finished, belt next!

Introduction

To all my blog friends, readers and subscribers.  A big thank you for following, advising, correcting and encouraging me during this year long journey from conception to creation for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  I am happy to report the construction of the dress is completed.  The project, though, is not.  I still have to make the belt.  And that is the element that will transform this late 1920-early 1930ish chemise into an attractive dress.

I’m thinking of making fabric covered buttons in the same green fabric that the belt will be made of.  There would be five buttons along the vertical dart of each sleeve to create the look of of a buttoned closure.  Right now I’m not sure.  Further experimentation will show if this will work or not.

Here are progress photos of the completed dress along with construction details I learned along the way.  Once the belt is completed the dress will get a professional hand pressing.

Completed dress

The vertical bust darts originating at the center of the front shoulder help keep the chemise shape straight.  I have never worked with this kind of dart before but will consider it again should I make a dress or blouse where a straight side seam is used.  It provides a nice flow to the fabric over the bust line.  This kind of dart can also be transformed into tucks or gathers over the bust.

The vertical dart in the sleeve affects the way it looks from the back.  It creates a forward movement from the elbow down.  The sleeve has a nice fit around the wrist but is not tight.  The vertical dart can be worked into an opening that closes with ball buttons and fabric loops.  I’d like to use this sleeve again.

The flounce is on the lengthwise grain at center front and back.  The side seams go off onto the bias.  Even though the rayon faille is very lightweight, the extra weight of the fabric from the flounce made it slightly heavier than the tubular shaped bodice of the dress.

I found that rayon faille is a great fabric to work with for simple styles that float and drape around the body.  To get the effect I wanted for this dress a little control was needed.  I decided to improvise and created lightweight stays out of lace hem tape.

The lace stays for darts and seams

To keep the bust darts positioned and facing towards center front, I hand stitiched a length of Wrights Flex-Lace hem tape onto each dart inside the stitching line.  This was done before pressing and sewing to the back bodice at the shoulder line.  Two rows of tiny running stitches were used.

After joining the flounce to the bodice I noticed that there was a slight tendency on the bodice to look like the joining line was going to sag.  To remedy that and prevent stretching, I encircled the joining seam above the stitching line with Wrights Flexi-Lace hem tape.  A row of tiny running stitches above the sewing line and near the edge of the joining seam were used.  Then the seam was pressed up towards the bodice.

The hem tape was awful to work with.  It is Wrights Soft and Easy hem tape but I found it anything but that.  Despite being washed and softened and steamed before use, it crinkled no end when applied to the circular hem.  I will not be using it again.  The plus side of using it is that is provided a nice weight at the hemline.  From the right side the flares hold their place beautifully so I consider it a happy outcome.  Still that rippling and crinkling get to me.

More Wright’s Flexi-Lace was used along the vertical sleeve dart before it was pressed towards the center vertical grain of the sleeve.  The bonus which the stay provides is that there will be more support for the buttons if I decide to sew them along the dart line to create the look of a button closure on the sleeve.

I also used Flexi-Lace along the inside of the seam where the zipper was hand sewn.  It provided the right support for all the hand stitching which followed:  running stitches for the zipper, another row of running stitches to the inside tape along the seam and vinally the hand overcasting of the seam.

Since rayon faille is so twisty and lightweight, I found that the flounce had a tendency to move inward when placed on the dress form.  I wanted the side seam to flare outward so I used a 1 1/2″ wide strip of soft lace hem tape which was stitched over the completed side seam of the flounce on each side.  One row of running stitches that attached the lace only to the seams was used.  The lace stay was applied after sewing the flounce and before attaching it to the bodice.

To keep the side and shoulder seams of the bodice and the seams of the sleeves flat I used lace stays on each seam before sewing the seam itself.  Near the stitching line I used a running stitch.  At the edge I hand overcast the rayon faille and lace together.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Using hem tape

Update:  Hemming the 1930s styled dress

My dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma is coming into the home stretch.  There are many reasons why it has taken me almost a year to actualize this style.  First, my full-time job keeps me very busy and some weekends I’m not up to the level of attention fine dressmaking requires.  Another reason is that when you draft your own patterns it’s a very big adventure.  It takes time to learn how what you see in your imagination will eventually play out with the pattern, muslin and fashion fabric.  Sometimes there are such bad flops along the way it is better to start anew with the hard earned knowledge gained from the mistake.

I have learned so much from this project that I plan to do another 1930s influenced style after the dress is finished.  In that project I hope to create a combination of modern and period techniques based on what I learned from the 1930s challenge created by Norma.  I’m very reluctant to skip along to a 1950s style project since I would lose the awareness and sensitivity gained from this year long journey into 1930s sewing land.

After the flounce was sewn into the bodice gravity not only worked on the hem, but also on the seam that joined the flounce to the bodice.  The pattern goes straight around a point about 10 inches below the hip line.  After the dress hung on the form, I noticed it dipped slightly at the sides.  This might be one reason why the inset flounces on 1930s dresses and skirts  have a curved seam that is higher at Center Front and Center Back and lower on the side seams.  I plan to do my next flounce like this.

My reference books show hems finished with a tape that looks a little like ribbon.  I do not think they had anything like Wrights Flexi-Lace in the 1930s so I went with Wright’s Soft and Easy Hem Tape to finish the hem of the flounce.  It was very stiff when I took it out of the package so I washed it.  I hung it to air dry until slightly damp.  Then I pressed it with a steam iron.  In the close-up of the hem, I’ve already machine sewn the hem tape and basted it in place for the final hand stitching.

The rippling comes from the circular hem.  I’ve pinched in excess fabric where needed.  After hand stitching and light steaming the hem will flatten.  When seen from the right side the hem is smooth so I think this hem treatment will work out.  To stabilize the joining seam of the flounce and bodice I hand stitched into place Wrights Flexi-Lace all the way around.  Tiny running stitches at the top and bottom of the lace were the best choice to sew it in place.

At the French Fashion Academy, we rarely if ever used either Flexi-Lace or Soft & Easy Hem Tape.  Seam edges were zig-zagged and sewn in place with a catch stitch when a flat hem was needed.  Even so, I like the look of lace hem tape because it does look a little retro as do pinked seams.  If I have a choice, though, I prefer Flexi-Lace because it is softer and accommodates curves much better than the Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Progress Photos

The dress is turned inside out so you can see the finishing for the hem and the joining seam of flounce and bodice.

Close-up of hem finished with Wrights Soft & Easy Hem Tape.

Close-up of the flounce hem, from the right side of the dress.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: How to handle a flounce

Here’s a very quick update on my dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

After some cold sweats and a worrisome night, I fixed the boo-boo I made with the flounce.  In my previous posting, I said I was going to try stay stitching by hand.  After doing that I pinned the flounce to the dress form to let the drape set in.

What a mess I made.  The delicate flounce stretched horizontally and was too big for the lower edge of the dress.  It was a good thing I cut the flounce much longer than planned.  I had to cut a few inches at the top off after stay stitching by machine about an inch below the edge.  I used three tows of machine basting for stay stitching.  Then I clipped the top of the flounce and gently pinned and basted to the bottom of the dress.  This solution worked.

Lesson learned—

  1.  Always stay stitch a flounce along the upper edge.
  2. Then stitch side seams.
  3. Finish side seams.
  4. Clip the edge of the flounce before basting so that the edge will go straight in to the other seam.
  5. Use lots of pins and baste with small basting stitches.
  6. Machine stitch along stitching line and then 1/4″ above.  Trim seam and finish according to what works best for the design and fabric.
  7. Now is the time to hang the dress or skirt with the flounce onto the form or a hanger so that the drape can set in.

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Here’s the dress as I await the drape to set in.  Hemming will be next.  I think I’ll do a photo tutorial of how I make the fabric covered buttons.  I think I will make the belt myself.  A seamstress on Etsy does beautiful work for the kind of belt I want but it’s $30 and up.  That is more than what I spent on the belt fabric.  I’ll have to think of a way to make a belt that doesn’t need eyelets or a prong to close.  The gold or silver of prongs and eyelets will clash with the print and belt fabric.  I do not find a prong and eyelets to match the green fabric for the belt so a creative workaround will be developed.

The dress needs a pressing but so far I’m getting more pleased with how late 1920s it is looking.  Once the belt is made it will be more early 1930s.

 

 

 

 

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Rayon Faille and Bias Seams

Introduction

Here’s my update on the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.

The flounce for my 1930s inspired dress was cut with the center front on the lengthwise grain.  The flounce is a semi-circular shape with side seams falling on the bias.  The fabric I’m using is rayon faille.  It has a lovely drape and feels very light next to the skin.  It is not slippery but very shifty.  And since the side seam of the flounce is on the bias, this part of the construction required some thought and adaptation of familiar techniques.

What I show here is a solution I came up with based mostly on the needs of the fabric.  The purpose is to encourage you to take those techniques you know and, when required, use them as a starting point to your own solution to a sewing challenge.  It’s impossible to always find an answer in a book since the combination of styles, fabrics, sewing machines and time available vary from one sewista to another.  This is why creative thinking is a good thing.  Books are there to guide us but it is experience that is our greatest teacher.

Basting the side seams of the flounce

In Couture Sewing Techniques , Claire Schaeffer writes about a basting method used in couture sewing called lap basting.  It is used when sewing a bias seam and permits the grain to settle when the garment is hung on the dress form for a few days before sewing.  I used this technique when sewing a denim circle skirt and it worked out perfectly.  The basting was one as described by Claire:  I used a single strand of conditioned thread that was knotted and had a 2″ more or less, tail of thread behind it.  With this I basted from the top down for about 6″ more or less.  Then I cut this length of threa leaving another 2″ tail.  Another length of conditioned basting thread was used and a new row of basting stitches continued where the other left off.  This new row of stitches started slightly above the previous.  From there it continued down about 6″.  Then it was cut and the process repeated.  The only knot was in the first length of thead starting from the top.

The cotton denim skirt then hung on the dress for for a few days.  The threads permitted gravity to pull the fabric down as the grain settled.

I tried lap basting on a scrap of rayon faille only to find it did not hold the fabric well enough to prevent shifting when I machine stitched it.  Since the side seam is on the bias I did not want to use tear away or even water soluble stabilizer.  When sewing on the bias I find less is more.  I decided to do something different which I’ll show in the photos that follow.

Basting rayon faille when the seam is on the bias

I’m using a scrap of muslin since the print of the dress fabric prevents the basting stitches from showing up.  I use two different sizes of hand sewing needles.  To condition the basting thread I used a new dryer softener sheet.  My advice is to change the dryer sheets often and avoid using ones you’ve already put into the dryer.  I find them to have no conditioning and softening effect on the thread.

The solution I came up with was to baste two parallel rows of basting stitches next to the seam line of the side seams.  One length of stitches was longer, for which I used the #8 Sharps.  The second row consisted of smaller stitches which filled in the spaces between the longer basting stitches.  For the smaller stitches I used the #6 Between hand sewing needles.

I’ve learned that rayon faille response better to a double strand of basting thread.  The seam remains stable enough to sew without the need for a stabilizer.  In the photo above you can see the lap basting on the top.  Below that is the solution I used to baste the side seams of the flounce.  The knot at the start of the line of stitches  worked out very well since the top remained stable and the stitches after it did not come undone.

When machine sewing, I used a medium stitch length and stretched the side seam only a little.  None of the basting threads broke and the seam did not pucker when the basting stitches were removed.  After pressing the seam was flat.

Finishing a side seam on a bias flounce for any fabric

My sewing teacher taught me a way to stabilize the side seams of a bias cut skirt or flounce.  This will lessen the tendency of a bias cut seam to continue to stretch even after the garment is finished.  We used cotton twill tape that was washed and then steam pressed while damp.  When the tape was dry it was catch stitched to just the seam.

Cotton twill tape is too weighty for rayon faille.  I went into the stash I keep of different hem tapes and trims.  This 1″ wide piece of lace was just right.  After pre-shrinking I catch stitched it to the side seams of the flounce.

I then pinked the edges of the flounce to keep them from fraying.  Since the bias is very tricky to handle I believe this was enough of a finish.

Once the flounce is sewn in I will photograph the way the flounce and bodice side seams hang so you can understand the reasons why these different finishings were applied.