It’s been a while since I’ve sewn with a Big 4 pattern, but I was looking for a new shirt dress pattern and was really drawn to this one, Vogue 8903. I wanted something casually loose-fitting that would work well with silk. Specifically this gorgeous Jason Wu crinkled silk crepe de chine (sold out, but available in an almost identical colorway here) that I bought with my Mood Fabrics gift card last spring.
As far as silk goes, this one was pretty easy to sew with due to its textured nature. And it’s such a beautiful fabric; I love the tiny metallic polka dots scattered throughout. Plus it’s crinkled, so it can’t wrinkle – a definite win!
I finished this dress weeks ago, so the details are a little hazy, but I know I didn’t make any major pattern alterations. I sewed up View A sans collar. The one feature I was unsure about were the arm bands, so I basted them on to check the fit. They ended up being extremely wide and droopy on me, so I reduced the width by an inch or two before I sewed them back on. I also shorted the dress by a few inches (as I usually do).
I didn’t make a muslin since I figured this would be an easy-fitting kind of dress, but there is one major fit issue. Luckily the patterned fabric hides it pretty well, but there’s some definite drag lines going on in the shoulder/upper chest region. Weirdly, they’re sloping in the opposite direction than the ones on my Granville shirt (which indicated I needed a square shoulder adjustment), so I’m not sure what’s going on there.
I went down one size to a size 8, and the fit is pretty good except for the shoulder issue. I like that there’s some gentle shaping from the back darts, but since there’s no restrictive waistband the fabric just skims over the body.
Overall I love the casual cool vibe of this dress. It’s insanely lightweight and comfortable, and it pretty much feels like I’m wearing nothing at all, which is perfect for hot and humid summer days.
I think this might be the last hurrah of the summer dress. I had planned on making one or two more, but the early arrival of some very rainy and unusually cool weather has me more in the mood for fall sewing. Plus, I’m about to be spending a lot of time in cold air-conditioned buildings at grad school, so I’ve definitely got cardigans on the mind!
Does anyone else get super excited about wardrobe planning every season? I think I like making lists almost as much as I like sewing!
Hello! This is Lindsay’s husband Nathaniel guest-blogging a few prefatory remarks about my experience cleaning up an old sewing machine: specifically, a 1916 Singer model 128 with “Rococo” style decals, hand-crank, and bentwood cover. Lindsay’s parents ran across this beauty at an antique store in small-town Texas and the deal was just too good to pass up. According to the Singer Serial Number Database, it (F7213523) was born in the Clydebank, Scotland factory sometime in 1916, making it exactly a century old this year! Though the 128 is a 3/4-size version of the 127 and technically “portable” (i.e., it has a handle), this machine is made of solid steel and weighs in at 27 pounds, not including the case, cover, or crank! It is among the earliest 127/128s, which were produced from ~1912 up until the 1960s.
The thing was in really decent shape to begin with, but it was rather dusty withal and some parts needed a good de-gunking. Plus, the wood had gotten rather brittle with age and had stray scuffs/flecks of paint here-and-there. To begin, I simply wetted a cotton rag with warm, slightly soapy water (about a dime’s worth of dish soap to a pint of warm water) and went over the whole thing thoroughly. Then I removed all the face-plates, the foot, the tension-disk assembly, and the sliding plates that cover the shuttle. I soaked all of these, in addition to the various other attachments (hemmer, binder, tucker, ruffler, etc) in boiling water with a dash of OxyClean-like product for about 5 minutes, after which I dried them all thoroughly. Caveat lavaretur: these cleaning procedures worked for me, but your results may vary; please take care!
I wanted to clean all the wood up nicely, but first I needed a bit of fine-grained sand paper to gently rub off any marks that the soapy water couldn’t tackle. Next, it was time to shine, but I was afraid to use a store-bought furniture polish: instead I made my own! Easiest thing in the world: if you can make your own salad dressing, you can make this DIY-wood polish. In fact, it’s really nothing more than a vinaigrette: you mixed one part cheap olive-oil with one part white vinegar (some recipes use more vinegar than this; I also added a couple drops of essential oils to mask the vinegar smell). Put this 1:1 mix in a spray-bottle, spritz some onto a cotton cloth, and rub it uniformly into the old wood one area at a time. Simply repeat this process until your wood is clean, dark, and shiny! I did this all over, inside and outside, bentwood cover and all. Emboldened by my success with the wood, I also used the “house dressing” to go over the black Japanned parts of the machine (including the decals, gingerly) which resulted in a lustrous shine tip-to-tail!
After all of the metal parts had completely dried, I attempted to polish them up using Blue Magic brand “metal polish cream”. I chose this over other options at the auto-parts store because it claimed to work on all metal types. While I was able to get a nice shine on the face-plates, I had a tougher time with the balance wheel and the hardware pieces. Also, I’m not sure what type of metal the different parts are made of, but I would not recommend using this stuff on the gold “Singer badge” on the side of the machine above the serial number: it made it shinier, but I think it also made it more silvery (and less gold-y), which is unfortunate! Before putting all the polished baubles back on, it was advisable to give the machine a good oiling; in fact, the manual (1930 ed; 1951 ed) says “To ensure easy running, the machine requires oiling and if used continuously it should be oiled every day. With moderate use an occasional oiling is sufficient” (pg 16). The manual is really clear and easy to read; it also includes detailed, hand-drawn diagrams including one that indicates where to apply the oil. WD40 is good for de-gunking, but never oiling (and don’t get any on the surface of the machine, or it will eat away the lacquer and dull the decals). Though other lubricants may be serviceable, it’s always safest to use sewing-machine oil.
Thanks Nathaniel! He did all this for me one week when I was really busy at work – isn’t he the best?
I’d never seen one of these vintage machines up close before, so it’s been really fun to learn how it works. It’s actually remarkably similar to a modern sewing machine, as you can see by the diagram below. I love that all the various parts are exposed so that you actually understand how it works and do repairs on it. I imagine it must be similar to working on an old car before everything was computerized and hidden away.
We took a few short videos of the more interesting bits:
Threading the shuttle and needle:
It’s kind of hard to see the stitches in this video, but just for fun I tried sewing through 24 layers of fabric on the three machines I own. First on my very basic first machine, a Brother XL2600, then on my Pfaff Ambition 1.0 (which I love), and finally on the 1916 Singer. The Brother has a walking foot on it, but still obviously had some trouble and made a lot of noise doing it. The Pfaff sewed through it beautifully and the Singer didn’t have trouble either, though I still need to work on sewing more smoothly and adjusting the stitch length.
Machine demo/comparison: 24-layers
We’re not experts by any means, but hopefully some of you will find this post useful or interesting! Do you own any vintage sewing machines? And if you do, do you sew with them on a regular basis? I’d love to hear any tips!
This is definitely the most feminine thing I’ve ever sewn. Something about the design of Sew Over It’s Doris Dress struck a chord with me the instant I saw it and I decided I needed to make one. The vintage-inspired style is a new one for me, but it was really fun to try out. Sometimes I like to sew outside my comfort zone as much for the new sewing experience as for the finished garment I end up with.
I made this dress back in May, so, as is the danger of blogging so far removed from sewing, the details of making this dress are a little fuzzy.
I sewed the smallest size – a size 8 – even though the measurements were 1.5″ too big in the bust. I made a muslin of the bodice, thinking it would be too big, but I actually didn’t end up making any changes. Because the bodice is meant to be loose fitting and the waist can be cinched in with the tie this is a pretty easy pattern to fit. The only alteration I made was to cut the length about halfway in-between the above knee and below knee options. I ended up shortening it by a few inches when I hemmed it though, so I think it ended up pretty close to the original above knee length – maybe an inch or two longer.
I used Liberty tana lawn in the classic Hesketh print, featuring snowdrops. This design was originally produced in the 1890s, and I love the art nouveau vibe it has. I bought the fabric on eBay from katsfabrics. She sells ‘seconds’ for much cheaper than the retail price, and I couldn’t find any defects in the fabric I bought.
This dress had a lot of fun, new-to-me features: bust pleats, a side zipper, a buttoned front integrated with facings, and a skirt made from seven flared panels. The skirt does use up quite a bit of fabric (especially if you have a directional print), but it’s a really nice shape.
This was my first time sewing with a Sew Over It pattern and I was impressed with the quality of the instructions: they’re very detailed and easy to follow.
This was originally meant to be my birthday dress, but I was sick on the days leading up to my birthday (so I didn’t finish it) and on my birthday itself (so I didn’t go out anywhere fancy anyway). My birthday wasn’t a total bust though, because I did manage to go to the cat cafe, play pub trivia, and eat a deep dish pizza, so that’s a win in my book!
Instead I ended up wearing this dress to Nathaniel’s grad school graduation a couple weeks later. He got his Masters in Statistics en route to a PhD in Educational Psychology – I’m very proud of him!
I don’t think vintage-inspired will be my usual thing, but it was definitely a fun style to try, and I love the way the dress turned out. Do you have a favorite Sew Over It pattern? After my success with this one I’d love to give another one a try!
It’s now well and truly hot in Texas (the heat index is 109 as I write this) and my wardrobe is in desperate need of more warm weather clothes, specifically separates.
Luckily, these makes are helping to fill that gap: on top is a sleeveless Granville Shirt in chambray, and on the bottom are high-waisted scalloped hem shorts.
First, the shorts. After making a few versions of Grainline’s Maritime Shorts I was ready to try out a new pattern: enter the Scalloped Hem Shorts from Pattern Runway. They have a lot of nice details, including the namesake scalloped hem, center front seams, slash pockets in the front, and welt pockets in the back. I remember being smitten with Sophie’s polka dot version of these shorts ages ago, but I’ve just now gotten around to trying out this pattern.
I used a lightweight black twill and planned on these being a wearable muslin. I made an XS at the waist graded to between an XS and XXS at the hip and shorted the legs by 1/2″. They were too big when I tried them on during construction (as I’d read in other reviews) so I took in the side seams by 3/8″ as well as taking a 3/4″ wedge out of the center back at the top of the shorts and the waistband.
Overall I’m pretty happy with these shorts. The fit’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for a wearable muslin. The welt pockets didn’t turn out too well, but luckily they’re not very visible in black. My favorite feature is definitely the scalloped hem – I love the way it looks. These are quite high-waisted on me (a bit more than I was expecting) but they’re still comfortable.
And now the shirt! I was pretty happy with the fit on my last Granville, but I knew there was room for improvement. The main problem was the drag lines from shoulder to bust. Karen commented on my post that I may need a square shoulder adjustment. It had never occurred to me before that I had square shoulders, but she was absolutely right – thanks, Karen! I found a picture online that showed the problem, and it looked exactly like my drag lines. So I added 3/8″ to the outer edge of the shoulder line and the drag lines have all but disappeared – success!
I also thought the bust and armhole area was a bit too tight on my last shirt, so I undid some of my SBA (ending up with a 1/4″ SBA from the original) and lowered the armhole 1/2″. This definitely made it less restrictive, and I feel like I’m getting pretty close to the perfect fit.
I used the leftover fabric from Nathaniel’s birthday shirt from last year. I’d bought a bit extra with the plan of making something for myself too (very little truly unselfish sewing goes on around here). It’s a Kaufman chambray with woven dobbies and the quality is really nice.
I’ve done a lot of work fitting this pattern, but I know that it’ll be worth it as sleeveless button-ups are one of my favorite things to wear in the summer. I’m planning on this being a TNT pattern for me, and I already have a couple more versions planned – one in silk charmeuse, and another in the classic strawberry thief print from Liberty.
My love affair with Named Patterns continues… This time I made the Leini Dress from their Summer 2014 collection.
The fabric is a cotton jersey from Mood (sold out, but there’s another colorway available here). It’s not my usual style, but for some reason I was really drawn to this bold floral print. I think it has to do with the colors – navy, mustard, and olive green are some of my favorites to wear, so I think they made the print seem more approachable. And I’m really glad I decided to buy it, because I’ve grown to love this fabric (and dress) a lot!
I thought the print would work best with a fairly simple design, so I decided on the Leini Dress from Named. The elastic waist makes it easy to wear, but the bodice pleats and clean finish around the neckline and armholes make it a bit more interesting and polished.
This fabric is just a touch see-through, so I had trouble deciding on how to line the bodice. I was going to use self fabric, but the outlines of the flowers were visible from the right side. I also didn’t have any white jersey in my stash, and any other color would have cast a tint. Finally I hit upon using some light beige mesh I have in my stash for bra-making. It’s nice and lightweight, and it allowed me to get the clean finish I wanted.
The pattern says it works with either knits or wovens, although all the other Leinis I’ve seen seem to be wovens. I think it worked really well in jersey, although I’d also like to make one in something like rayon challis. I used a combination of serging, zig-zag stitching, and straight stitching, based on whatever seemed appropriate at each step.
I made my usual size 34 and the only adjustment I made was to shorten the skirt by a few inches. I think the fit is meant to be a bit loose through the bodice, so you could probably size down if you wanted to, especially if you’re using knit fabric. The only change I’d make next time is to raise the armhole just a bit – maybe 3/8″. Overall, I think this is a great basic pattern and would work well for anything from a casual day dress to a fancier silk number.