Betty Joan Blouse, Stage 1

Progress Report on Betty Joan Blouse

Greetings to all my friends and followers here at WordPress!  How is your New Year so far?  I’m housebound as I recover from a very nasty virus.  I’ve turned a corner in the treatment and am gradually recovering.  I have worked on the Betty Joan blouse during the past weekend.  Here are some of the approaches I’m applying.

Using different seam finishes on different parts of the garment

This cotton requires a very gentle approach when sewing.  This is why I am being flexible about the seam finishes.  I noticed that since the shoulder seams are slightly on the bias there is a tendency to stretch and curl if I use a turned under finish.  So I decided to use a straight stitch 1/8″ from the edge of the seam allowance and then pink.

 

 

The side seams of the blouse have a combination of finishes.  This is a short kimono sleeve without gusset.  So the sleeve curves from under the arm to the sleeve hem.  From a point about 1″ below the underarm, the side seam is straight.  What I did was turn the seam allowance under at this point and stitch at the turned under edge of the seam allowance.  From the underarm upwards I had to clip the seam to get the curve to lie flat after pressing.  So from the underarm to the sleeve hem, I stitched 1/8″ in from the seam allowance and then used the pinking shears.

It would be difficult to get the curved seam to turn under unless I resorted to handling this part of the blouse more than I should.  Also the need to clip the seam at this part would have resulted in the stitching for the turned under edge to come undone.

Using Flexi-Lace Hem Tape to Reinforce Seams

It is necessary to stabilize the curved underarm seams of kimono sleeves without gussets.  Some sewing books recommend using stay stitching 1/8″ or so in from the edge of the seam allowance.  Others say some type of seam tape or selvedge edge should be used.  I found these suggestions too stiff for the lightweight cotton.

I have so many scraps of Flexi Lace that I decided to try using this instead.  I simply cut the strip in half and applied to each underarm seam.  The lace curves nicely and is light enough not to make the seam difficult to press open.

Lapel Treatment for the Neckline

 

The collar shown in the pattern envelope which inspired me has me completely stumped.  I did not know how to get the look correctly.  I do not want to meander along a path that goes on for months while I experiment in my spare time.  What I want is something I can complete in a reasonable amount of time and wear.  It’s ok if the result is not 100% like the source of inspiration.  It’s enough for me to be retro-inspired.

I do not like band collars or any kind of collar that is high on the neck.  For these reasons I decided the most expedient and comfortable thing to do was to adjust the neckline and then fold the lapels back without adding a collar.

I am satisfied with the way this experiment turned out.  The neckline is interesting and comfortable.  I will also be able to wear a choker, short string of pearls or a small chiffon scarf tied sideways just like they did in the late 1940s and 1950s.

 

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Mood Fabrics: Here are my picks for Betty Joan

Snow fell all day over New York City.  The streets were very slippery but thankfully it was not bitterly cold and windy.  I felt up to the long trip into Manhattan.  I currently live in a neighborhood where only the local train is available.  Weekends bring many changes to the other lines where I can transfer.  So I decided to stay on the local and read “Dior by Dior” and revisit the early years of Christian Dior’s career.  I was rewarded for my effort when I made it to Mood Fabrics.

Mood Fabrics is located at 225 West 37th Street.  There is a street level store where home decorating fabrics are sold.  To reach Mood Fabric’s nirvana for the home sewista, you must enter the office building next door and take the special elevator that goes direct to the third floor.

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When the elevator doors opened I felt dazzled and uplifted.  Here was a little lobby that looked like the formal reception area of a showroom.  At the entrance to the shopping area I had to check my totebag and then was free to browse the many, many, many offerings.

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There are two levels I had the time to browse through.  The first was filled with aisles of well organized bolts of silks, satins, organdy, and other fabrics suitable for dressy clothes.  What isn’t on a shelf is in a large circular bin.  Sales Associates are available in every section to answer questions, pull the bolts and help you make a selection.

My vision for the Betty Joan outfit is very practical.  I want to wear it while I’m out and about on a weekend.  I knew I wanted a conservative, chic look to the outfit and decided to go with all natural fibers now that I am sewing for myself.  I was directed to the lower level where cottons, denims and shirting fabrics are available.

Selecting fabrics, trims and threads is not something I do well on my own.  I like to have a knowledgeable Sales Associate answer my many questions as we review what is available.  I am happy to say that the Associate who helped me was excellent and in less than 10 minutes I had my skirt and blouse fabric.

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Selecting the buttons took the most time.  There are just so many that I had to look and look again.  There were some novelty buttons in the shape of hearts and stars that were very cute.  I had to resist, though, because they just did not pull together the look I had in mind.

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I finally chose a simple button that has a dark grey center that matches the color of the skirt fabric.  The lighter grey at the edge of the button blends nicely with the blouse fabric.  So here we have my choices:  charcoal grey poly/cotton denim for the skirt; 100% cotton shirting in a soft white background with a grey paisley design.

Mood Fabric is a place a sewista can get lost in for hours of delightful  browsing.  For this reason I think it is wise to have some clear idea of what you are looking for before going.  This way you do not wear out your Sales Associate with endless journeys to and from the shelves.  Since I had a screen capture of the pattern envelope illustration that inspired my interpretation of the style that also made it easier for the Associate to offer suggestions.

I’ve already hand washed the fabric so that it is pre-shrunk.  Once it is dry I can cut it out and begin the adventure in bringing this style to life.

Draping Update: Almost there!

Update on draping my basic toile

I continue to make progress using the Precision Draping technique from the book of the same name by Nellie Weymouth Link which was published in 1947.  This toile fits comfortably.  The remaining issue is with the back skirt darts.  They are still too long.  I think I know how to resolve this and will continue to work on this in the days ahead.  The apex also has to be lowered and the elbow dart on the sleeve shortened.

Once I resolve the issue with the back skirt darts I will move on to practice with adding style ease.  I think by the New Year I will be ready to start draping basic skirts, blouses and chemise dresses for myself.

I don’t notice too much difference between this system from 1947 and the modern one I’m more familiar with except for the skirt.  It is not as form fitting as a pencil skirt.  Also for a basic fitting shell there is more ease and movement.  It is not like the second skin a modern toile is.

Progress Photos – 10-11-17

Fitting toile in progress via a fusion of draping techniques

Update on development of my basic fitting toile through draping

Since publishing the last posting, I have practiced everyday using tissue paper on the dress form.  An attempt at creating a fitting toile from a tissue paper drape was not satisfactory.  The technique presented in Precision Draping by Nellie Weymouth Link has some good points and some areas that are weak.  I have learned this through repeated draping in tissue, pattern creation and one fitting toile in muslin.

Precision Draping does not require any marking for grain or guidelines since tissue paper is used for the medium.  This can be a drawback since there is no easy reference for knowing whether a dart or seam is correctly on grain.  Furthermore, the tissue paper is fragile and easily tears if handled too firmly.

The benefits to this system, though, offer an opportunity to get practice in eye and hand coordination, as well as real knowledge of how moving the tissue paper over the form creates darts, tucks, and seams.  I have also learned some of the original 1947 techniques that helped me realize that a 1940s Pencil Skirt was very different from a 1950s Pencil Skirt.  I will blog more about that in the future.

What I have done is combined the good parts of Precision Draping with the technique developed by Hilda Jaffe and Nurie Relis in their book Draping for Fashion Design.

The breakthrough came this week when in just 1 1/2 hours I draped what is the best fitting toile so far.  This required thinking outside the box and accepting my body’s own needs.  These are:

*No need for a shoulder dart on the back bodice.
*No need for a second dart at the side or above the bust.  One dart below the bust is adequate.
*The skirt front only needs one small dart.
*Because of the shape of my backside and a hipline lower than the standard 7″ below the waist, the dart intake is over 2 1/2″.  I need two darts that are longer than average.  For a fitting toile and pencil skirt the back darts are usually 5 1/2″ and 4 3/4″.  Mine are almost 7″ each.

Because there is a surgical mesh in my abdomen to correct an incisional hernia, I have a little puff in that area that will never go away and must be de-emphasized.  In Precision Draping, author Nellie Weymouth Link encourages the student to learn to use the dress form lines in ways to enhance a positive feature and detract from an unflattering one.  For me it is important to  find ways to make a pencil skirt without those darts.

One solution will be creating a six panel skirt with the basic pencil skirt pattern.  In the photos below you see the fitting toile with the darts.  In the third and fourth photos lace seam tape was pinned along what will be the panel lines.  The darts will be absorbed into the cutting line for the panels.  This leaves only one dart at the back that I will have to deal with.  I’ve read that the dart intake can be divided in half and removed from each seam on the back panel.  When the time comes to try this I will share it here.

I have tried using the sleeve pattern from Nurie and Relis’ book but the cap ease was over 1 1/4″.  It proved very tricky to ease into the entire armhole as the book recommends.  I plan to draft a fitted sleeve using the French Fashion Academy method followed by the alteration I have used in the past since it provides good results.

Once the fitting toile is finished I will have a record of what my basic dart lengths are, the dart intake, the level of the bust apex and more.  The next series of lessons will concern how I add ease.  For this I will revisit the ease tuck from the 1930s draping technique I blogged about last year.  For that I plan to use tissue paper draping until I have it down right.

More to come…

Fitting toile in progress

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Front.  Notice the very short skirt dart in front.

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Back of the fitting toile.  When viewed from the side the back darts draw much attention to their length and the short dart on the skirt front.

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One way to create a slimmer look and remove the focus created by the dart lies in absorbing the dart into a style line.  In this case the pencil skirt will have 6 panels.

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The first dart will be absorbed into the panel line shown by the lace seam tape.  The remaining dart will have the intake divided in half.  Then 1/2 the intake will be take off each seam of the side panel.

 

Draping breakthrough…Photos and progress report to come soon

Hi everyone!  I have had an amazing development.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with the fit from the pattern shown in the previous posting.  I needed more muslin and had to wait for my order to arrive.

This got me to thinking of a vintage draping book written in 1947 that has occupied my bookshelf for several years.  I considered it more of a curiosity and reference book.  But two weeks ago, while waiting for the muslin to arrive, I began to seriously experiment with the technique presented in that book.  In “Precision Draping” by Nellie Weymouth Link, tissue paper instead of muslin is used for draping the first pattern.  During the WWII years cotton muslin was very hard to come by so many professional drapers and schools used tissue paper with good results.

I decided to give it a try.  I can get 10 sheets of tissue paper for 99 cents so I figured it would be fun to see if it worked.  Surprise, surprise!  I had to slow down and be very careful but I was able to create a genuine 1947 fitting toile from the entire process.

I am still having some issues with the skirt darts due to the changes the surgery made to my abdominal area but I am confident I now have a way to get around this.  I am working on a half-muslin toile right now.  When it’s finished I will put up the photographs.  If I can master this technique I will be saving money on muslin and working more authentically with a vintage system.

It will take a few more months of practice before I can make slopers based on my drapes but if all goes well I will be embarking on a completely new adventure.  The Precision Draping Technique uses a combination of draping, flat patternmaking and slopers.  I think this will be a good way to economize my time.

The only modern technique I have used is to draft the sleeve pattern from a modern draping book by Nurie Relis and Hilda Jaffee entitled “Draping for Fashion Design.”

Once the fitting toile is finished I will be able to confirm that I have correctly marked the apex, bust, chest, waist and hip levels on the form.  After this I need to revisit the ease tuck as a way to add needed style ease.  For this I will rely on the 1930s system I experimented with during the 1930s Sew-along with Norma last year.

I am very excited and optimistic about this development.  Photos and progress updates will soon be forthcoming on a regular basis now that summer is over.

First skirt toile: Fitting issues

Introduction

I decided to do the fitting toile in separate parts before assembling the bodice to the skirt.  This makes it easier for me to focus on the specific areas in each that present fitting problems.  As I am learning today, the surgical mesh that was put in place in the late 1990s to repair an incisional hernia has affected the fit of the skirt around the waist and abdomen.

Here are a few photos on the problems as well as what I think the toile is telling me the solutions should be.

First Skirt Toile-Fitting problems and possible solutions

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My abdomen is a bit puffy where the mesh was placed.  This affected the waistline and abdomen lines.  The front skirt length is 1″ more while the side and back skirt length are the same.  I eliminated 1/4″ from the center front length and it now rests in a better position.

There was only 3/4″ for dart intake.  The drafting instructions called for dividing that intake evenly between two darts.  I do not like the way the darts look.  Also, during the fitting the waistline gaped between the darts.  I will use this extra amount to increase the intake.  The extra amount was pinned into place.

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This custom made dress form includes a derriere which I think makes a big difference when aiming for an accurate fit and enough ease around a pencil skirt or any skirt for that matter.  At the back, I also found more gaping between the darts, so that excess will be used for the next skirt’s back darts.  Here, too, I am thinking one dart may be better than two.

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To create a more pleasing shape, I’m going to try tapering the skirt from the hip to hemline.  I’ll measure in about 1/8 to 3/16″ at the side seam and taper to zero at the hip.  This will give the skirt a bit more of a curvy shape.

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To create some sense of shape at the front and make something of a visual distraction from the puffy abdomen I think darts that slant to the side seams might work.  What do you think?

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It’s still too soon to tell how the next toile will come out but I think there will be some improvement.  If you look at the right side of the skirt (left in the photo) there already is a better shape resulting from some tapering at the side seam and taking in the excess fabric that had been gaping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Josie, my new dressform

Introduction

This is Josie, my custom made dress form.  She is very modest about her figure and wanted to be dressed up when I introduced her to the RetroGlam readers and subscribers.

Earlier in the Spring of 2017 Naomi and Norma encouraged me to begin sewing clothes for myself again.  I’ve spent the last three years or so getting my skills back by making clothes for a Misses Size 4 using my Wolf dress form.  With the completion of the 1930s Sew-along with Norma project, I was confident enough to do just that.

I had saved enough money to get a custom made professional dress form by Andy’s Forms in New York City.  Rohan of Andy’s Dress Forms made the form for me based on a series of measurements taken at the store.  When the form arrived last week I was so pleased and so amazed that it duplicated every aspect of my figure.  Rohan makes each form using the traditional hand made methods involving paper mache and fabric.

I decided to name the form Josie Jr. after my Grandmother Josie who taught me how to sew.  My late Mom used to help with all the fittings and critiques when she was alive and before the onset of Parkinsonism began a slow set-in of her life.  It is important for me to have this form since I cannot do a proper fitting without the help of another person to pin, review and assess how the outfit looks.  Even a three way mirror is no substitute for the ability to stand back and see how the toile looks from different angles.

My Basic Fitting Shell

I have been on vacation this past week so there were many happy, uninterrupted hours spent getting acquainted with Josie and her fitting needs.  By naming the form and looking at it as a bit removed from myself, I am better able to critique the fit and results.

One thing I had to admit was that the various surgeries I had in the 1990s altered the shape of my body.  The clothing I made prior to that time was more symmetrical and there were very definite differences between bust, hip and waist.  I have gained weight so that there is some cleavage at the bust and a nice curve at the hip.  But due to an ovarectomy in 1992, I was left with an incisional hernia that had to be repaired twice.  During the second operation a surgical mesh was put in that solved the problem.  Thank goodness I have no further problems.  The mesh, though, resulted n a little bulge at the abdomen that makes me look like I have a bit of a puff in that area.

This has resulted in the front skirt length being 27″ and the side and back skirt length being 26″.  The skirt pattern looks a little odd at this point and my waist is less indented than it was before the surgery.  Overall, though, the operation was a success and that is what counts.

Here are the photos of the basic fitting shell pattern.  The muslin is already cut and awaiting sewing.  Results will appear in the next posting.

The side dart was bigger than the vertical dart.  It was better to shift the dart intake to the vertical dart so now I have a shell with just one dart.  We’ll have to see how that looks.  I’m used to having a vertical and side dart since working with a standard Misses Size 4.  Since this is custom dressmaking now I’m sure more surprises are ahead as I get familiar with sewing for my new body shape.

I’ve always had sloping shoulders so the shoulder dart is about the same as it was when I drafted patterns for myself over 20 years ago.  What is different this time is the center back seam on the bodice has less shaping since my waistline is a little larger due to the surgical mesh.

Here you can see the way the skirt rises at the center front.  I had no idea when drafting the pattern that this would happen.  This needs testing through the fitting of the first toile.  I’m very curious to see the results and what further adjustments may be needed.  It is my hope that anyone else who has undergone surgery and gone through a period of adjustment will learn along with me how to develop styles that will make the least of any figure flaw and favor those parts that are more flattering.

Right now I think that the skirt darts are too small.  Perhaps only one dart each side with the entire amount for intake will be better than two.  We won’t know until the skirt is finished.

First Project after Perfecting the Fit

At first I was thinking of making another 1930s inspired dress for my first custom made project.  But dealing with my little fitting issues has me thinking I should start simple before attempting anything with flounces and all the pretty, fluttery features of 1930s styles.  So I will go with the 1950s styles which flattered my Mom and Aunties and which I grew to love as a little girl.  They were women with a healthy body weight and well defined figures (helped by wearing girdles).  I do not plan to wear a heavy girdle but I favor  light-weight shape wear.  I think 1950s styles with their well defined waistlines are a good place for me to start.

I plan to start with this basic chemise from the 1952 edition of “Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing.  There will be changes such as a back zipper instead of a front slit because I do not like pull-over dresses made of woven fabrics.  The collar will be turned back for further comfort because Mandarin collars are not one of my favorites since they are too close to the neck.

Knowing how the pattern pieces of the original style looked will also help me draft the style and figure out the kind of kimono sleeve used.  It could be a Short KImono Sleeve without Gusset.  Another possibility is that the pattern was based on a long  Kimono Sleeve cut to the desired length.  I will compare these illustrations with those in my patternmaking book.

The book also shows the pattern layout, which is another help since I don’t have to do much to  figure out the placement of the pieces.

Now, back to working on the toile.