Holiday Season 2017

Happy Dance Clip Art

Season’s Greetings to all my blog followers and WordPress friends! 

I have been on an extended break from sewing because of professional commitments and family related matters.  I will be back after the holidays to check in with Norma, Naomi, Carol, Hila and my other good friends here.  I am making slow progress on my toile for the 1947 drape featured in the last posting.  It is good progress so I will have many positive learning experiences to share in the months ahead.

In the meantime, I wish you and your families a beautiful holiday season and good health for the year ahead.


EmilyAnn France May



“Happy Dance Clip Art”
Public Doman
Clipart Library


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


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: 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.


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: Sewing a flounce

Progress Report1930s Sew-along with Norma

This week I worked on the flounce for the dress.  Flounce and ruffle are words sometimes used interchangeably.  For me, a ruffle is a strip of fabric that is cut on the straight grain, gathered an sewn into the garment.  A ruffle can have trimming or use other notions to add to its effect on the overall garment.

A flounce moves much more than a ruffle will due to its cut and shape.  The pattern piece for a flounce is circular or semi-circular in shape.  It can also be slightly flared instead.  The key features of a flounce are that one part is on the straight grain and the other part is on the bias.  This creates a fluidity that a ruffle will not have.

Flounces use up a lot of fabric.  Cutting goes well on the widest piece of fabric you have.  For this flounce the center front and back pieces are on the straight grain.  The side seam goes on the bias.

It is very, very important not to rush when sewing a flounce.  Before even sewing the side seams, it is wise to baste the flounce at the side seams in a special technique I learned from Claire Schaeffer’s “Couture Sewing Techniques”.  I will show how this is done next week using a scrap of muslin and basting threads in two different colors.  This technique has proven to be very effective in that the drape of the flounce sets in beautifully before the side seams are sewn.  Gravity works it’s power to settle the fabric so that there is very little puckering when machine stitching.

It is important to also stay stitch any other part of the flounce you will hang or pin from when allowing the hang of the side seam to set in.  I did all basting and stay stitching by hand.  Again another time consuming and exceedingly slow procedure.  However, given how shifty rayon faille is this proved worthwhile.  Sewing was so easy.

In the weeks ahead I also have to begin focusing on the belt.  This is going to be another project in itself.  The belt making kits I have come with silver buckles and silver prongs.  These look very cheap and tacky against the rich green fabric for the belt.  So along with an appropriate interfacing for the belt I now need to see if anyone sells prongs and buckles that are close to the green color.  Gold is a possibility but I think it will be too obvious and detract from the way the belt and dress print are meant to blend rather than compete with each other.

Progress Photos


The flounce doesn’t look like it’s doing much after hanging on the dress form for 6 days.  This is because we’re looking at if from Center Front which is on the straight grain.  It also will need some special consideration for finishing the side seams so that the flounces move outward, rather than inward as they are doing right now.

Right now the flounce doesn’t look so great.  It will have more movement once the hem is completed and it is sewn to the bodice.


This close-up of the side seam shows just how much gravity has had its effect on the settling of the hang of the flounce.  Once the side seams are finished and pressed it will be sewn to the bodice.  To be safe I will let the completed dress hang for a few days more before trimming the hem to even it out.



1930s Sew-along with Norma: Bias bound V-Neckline


During the early stages of my dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma, I was challenged many times to come up with a way to finish a v-neckline with bias binding.  After several unsuccessful attempts I tried what I call the NEC Technique which evolved through blog comments with Norma and Carol.  The NEC Technique is still evolving so I have not created any definitive tutorial on how to carry it through.  Instead I will show you how it has worked on my 1930s dress.  The rayon faille fabric I’m using has a beautiful drape.  It also is very lightweight and some reinforcement is needed to keep darts flat.  The seams are finished using hand overcasting, a technique popular among home sewistas in the 1930s.

The NEC Technique stands for Norma, Carol and Emily.  Here is a look at how I finished the neckline.  It remains flat without any stretching or gaping taking place.

V-neckline finished using NEC technique


Finished neckline with double fold bias binding.  The binding is all in one piece around the neckline and is mitered at center front.  The first step is to machine stay stitch the front and back neckline using a medium length stitch.  Pre-shrunk cotton stay tape is then hand stitched above the sewing line to stabilize the neckline.  I used a single strand of waxed and pressed poly thread.  The running stitch is more flexible than a back stitch so I went with that.  The seam of the neckline is then trimmed.



After shaping and steam pressing your bias tape cut from the fashion fabric pin and baste the tape over the neckline.  Some of the basting thread still has to be removed from the neckline.  Make sure the basting stitches are secure and hold the tape on the right and wrong side of the fabric.


The bias tape is then hand stitched on the outside and inside using very small slip stitches.  Use a small sized hand sewing needle and waxed thread.  I’ll sew in a hook and eye at the back of the neckline when the dress is finished.

The rest of the treatment to support the neckline

Here is a look at the rest of the neckline treatment that was necessary.  When a fabric has sufficient body the NEC technique should work as described above.  Since rayon faille is very lightweight, I found it was necessary to use interfacing and a facing.  What you see in the following photos was applied before finishing the neckline with the bias binding.


I hand stitched a length of lace hem tape to the upper side of the darts on the front of the dress.  This worked to keep the darts flat and positioned towards the center front.  The tape was hand stitched using two rows of very small running stitches after the darts were steam pressed.


Here you can see the lace stay tape holding the dart in place.  The interfacing is a blend of rayon and poly.  It works very well with the rayon faille.  The edges of the interfacing were pinked.  I hand stitched the interfacing slightly above the stay stitching.


I find that an interfacing and facing that ends about 4″ down along center back provides a better support than a neckline that is only 2″ wide.


The facing was finished with hand overcasting and then hand stitched to the wrong side of the dress.  After that the bias binding was applied and slip stitched into place.  The facing will be tacked at the shoulders.


At center back, the ends of the facing are turned under and slip stitched to the zipper tape.

I did not grade the seams because the fabric is very lightweight.  I thought it would be better for supporting the bias tape to have an equal amount of fabric on each side.  The finish looks a little thick because of this but I’m ok with it.  I think if I use this technique again ways to improve it will come to mind.  I’d be interested in learning if anyone else tries this neckline finish out and takes it in another direction.

In the next posting I will show from start to finish the details of how this same kind of finish was used for the sleeve hem.

1930s Sew-along with Norma: Contrasting fabric for belt and buttons

New Experience:  Contrasting Solid Color Fabric with Prints

This is a very quick update on my progress with the dress for the 1930s Sew-along with Norma.  As with all my sewing projects it goes at a stop and start pace.  I let things develop as the process advances.  I find it more of an adventure and hope you do, too.

The solid green fabric cuttings came in this past Saturday.  I enjoyed playing with the them by wrapping them around the neckline or waistline of the dress form.  I also draped  a large piece of uncut fashion fabric used for the dress pm the form, too.  I then had to make a few hard choices.

First the green velour was too shiny and did not have the feeling of the 1930s to me.   It would never work as a trim or a belt because it stretched and curled a lot.  This left the darker green poly silk that drapes beautifully and sets off the print fabric very well.  After making the decision to use this fabric I then had to arrange the green fabric against the floral print in different ways.

If I used the solid color fabric as a trim for the neckline and sleeve, there would be a bit of overkill in using it for a belt, too.  The color is very strong and I believe the eye and the brain respond more favorably to having a bold color like this be focused in one place on the dress.  For this reason I decided I will use it for a self-fabric covered belt.  The fabric will also look very good when used for fabric covered buttons placed along the vertical sleeve dart.  It will bring attention to the fitted line from wrist to elbow in a pleasing way.

This means the beautiful vintage Czech glass buckle and buttons have to wait for another fabric and another project.  As pretty as they look when placed against a swatch of the print fabric, they get lost when used on the actual garment.

In the end this means all my work on the bias tape finish for the neckline and sleeve hem will barely be noticeable unless you see it up close in person.  But when I think how striking the solid green belt and buttons will be I’m ok with it.  The bias tape finish will still work out well with the rayon faille and since it is unusual it is a sign of custom dressmaking techniques at work.

I’m usually very conservative when it comes to selecting contrasting solids to go with prints so this marks a big step out of my usual comfort zone.  I’m glad the dress is continuing its “conversation” with me and letting me know what changes will further add to a successful execution.

The Green Poly Silk

This is the one I’m going with for now.  I plan to wait until the dress is finished before making a final decision.



The Green Stretch Velour

Although this stretchy fabric wouldn’t work for a belt I think it would make a beautiful sash.



If any readers have a preference for one or the other fabric, please let me know.  I’m still open as to the final choice of fabric and how it will be used.


Adapting to change

  1. Here are some excellent illustrations to add to our library of 1930s inspired styles. Thank you, Carol. Once again your research has turned up some lovely works.



Laura Baldt was the author of Clothing For Women; Selection, Design, Construction; A Practical Manual for School and Home, by Laura I. Baldt. Published in 1916 and reprinted in 1917. Her book can be viewed online at$b103138;view=1up;seq=7

In the mid 1930’s in the midst of the Great Depression she was the editor for a newspaper pattern company. These few ads show a very current and chic outlook.

The first two are from 1934 and the last is from 1936.

Laura Baldt also authored pamphlets for the Department of Agriculture that were used in education programs during the Depression.


This “shirtmaker frock” is from 1936 and features the scalloped binding so popular at the time. Scalloped bindings are often seen in Depression era quilts. It’s possible that women in sewing groups sponsored by the federal government liked to show off their skills this way.


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