Sewing and wearing vintage-inspired clothing is something I love to do. I often find these patterns have more interesting construction details and work well in both vintage look and modern fabrics.
When I heard the line up for McCall’s Big Vintage Sew-along I was really excited. There are so many excellent patterns in there. If you haven’t checked out the full edit head to this foldline summary or see the site www.vintagesewing.co.uk. There are 20 patterns in total, from the 1930s through to the 1960s plus a couple of Gertie’s 50/60s inspired patterns (they’re understandably year-less but stylistically probably just dip into the 60s).
Over the coming months you’ll see versions of all the patterns cropping up online thanks to the BV Sew-along blogger tour, this will keep the inspiration bubbling and hopefully help you get started.
If you just can’t wait to clock eyes on some vintage dresses, I’m here to help. I realised I’d already sewn four of the patterns from the edit! So take a look at my round up and let me know if you’re tempted to make any of the patterns yourself. I’ve included notes on things to watch out for and as getting the size right with vintage patterns is so important, detailed what size this 5ft4 lady with a 36” bust and 41” hip chose. Right, now you know how bootylicious I am, let’s get started!
(Warning: The pictures in this post were assisted by a professional make up artist and photographer who I coerced into making everything look nice but have not been airbrushed as proof by my sock lines hahaha)
When I saw the line art for this dress I knew it had to be mine. I MEAN SWOOOOON! And I can honestly say this dress makes me very proud. I used a berry crepe fabric I bought in Walthamstow market last year and made self covered buttons. I used a coordinating zip and seam binding. I’m not going to fib, this isn’t an easy dress as there are a couple of areas where you really need to focus. The construction is 90% done by pressing under seam allowance and then topstitching the panels together. That much topstitching NEEDS a special foot or you’re going to go insane, unpicking and redoing. The other area to focus on is the pockets at the top of those swan head darts. This is where I had to read the instructions 4 or 5 times. After all my hard work I preferred them basted shut! Go figure.
1. I cut two sizes down from my measurements to make a close fitting shirtdress rather than coat dress. This is predominantly a size 6 graded to a 14 at the hip.
2. The skirt was shorted 12cm. I probably should have just shortened by 8cm but too late now.
3. It took three toiles to adjust for my small bust and narrow shoulders, a slight swayback, plus to practice the pockets!
4. My crepe was very light and the dress is unlined so I’d recommend more of a triple crepe or cotton instead.
5. GET A TOP-STITCHING FOOT (I used my stitch in the ditch foot with a right hand needle position).
A tea dress can be a wonderful addition to your wardrobe because it easily works for day time and occasions if done right. I liked the effect of B5209 when done in a print even though you lose the beautiful seam lines a little. This dress I’m definitely going to make another plain version. Here I used a Liberty tana lawn from Minerva Crafts (they have some left in multiple colours), white lining with a secret purple side seam zip. With so many intersecting seams, the instructions cleverly direct you to not sew to the end of each seam, but stop and backstitch where each intersection will sit. This allows you to fit each piece together accurately to get the beautiful star at the centre front.
1. The bodice is self lined but I added lining to the skirt to be tights-friendly.
2. There is a BEAUTIFUL underrepresented lip shape curve at the back neckline that is very eye catching when your hair is worn up.
3. A print will help disguise any slightly off alignment seams if you’re feeling the pressure to be accurate but an air erasable fine line marker is invaluable to this pattern.
4. I sewed a 6 around the shoulders and chest but blended out to around a 14 in the ribs and waist I also reduced the gathering on the bust by about 4cm by using the markings for size 6. Finally I lowered the bodice 1cm.
This pattern is so lovely because it’s modest but interesting and has a surprise dip in the back. After two years in my wardrobe is comes out for weddings, parties, dinners out, work meetings and events, and once, a trip to the ballet! In a complete disregard for the pattern directions I used a viscose from Minerva Crafts. This makes the gathers at the shoulders very pretty, and the skirt extra swishy, but makes the back facing roll out occasionally. This dress is constructed using a partial front and partial facing to create the wrap effect in the upper chest.
1. I had to do a major hollow chest adjustment and full tummy adjustment, plus make the pattern a little more petite.
2. The outer fabric and facing is joined together BEFORE the shoulder seams are sewn, it’s suspicious but trust me, it leads to a neat finish.
3. While viscose is lovely, I’d definitely suggest something less fluid.
4. If you check out my blog there’s a tutorial for making a coordinating belt which is great to finish the look.
OOH this one, I’m excited even introducing it. This pattern is great fun to wear as the bodice is flattering, the front cut out and scoop back are both eye catching, and the circle skirt is amazingly big! I used a 60”-wide Liberty carline poplin, which isn’t as nice quality as tana lawn but has a good weight and the print is so lovely, the fabric base doesn’t matter as much. I used a soft cotton lawn as the bodice lining, hemmed with bias binding and installed a lapped zipper.
1. This is an great pattern for a beginner as it’s easy to fit and construct, especially if made in a cotton poplin which handles well, is often the standard 60”-wide and comes in so many prints.
2. Bias tape is an excellent way to hem a circle skirt as it stretches to fit the curves. 99% of the time I machine hem circle skirts as life’s too short to sit and hand sew such a large area.
3. Wouldn’t this look good with a bow made from rouleaux loops!
So if you enjoyed all this vintage craziness from me, look out for my BVSA post on the the 15th!
Thank you for your comments on my recent post. I wore the dress to a wedding this weekend and confirm after a few hours on the dancefloor that it has excellent swishy movement! During my post, I promised to talk a little more about my fabric covered belt.
I used a quick and easy method of making a thin semi-flexible fabric belt with a pronged buckle. If you prefer something sturdier there are links to additional tools and directions at the end. My belt was made using an amalgamation of tutorials also listed at the end.
So! There are a few things I had out on my table when getting started:
- Belt buckle – I picked up mine from a car boot sale as it’s a great place to find vintage buckles. Alternatively eBay generally have a good supply of them.
- Eyelet pliers/tool – Generally any tool you buy will include a pack of eyelets. You might even find a full kit that includes a rotating hole punch (see below)!
- Eyelets – I also picked these up from a car boot sale, hence the funny storage tin.
- Seam ripper – if you don’t have revolving punch pliers to make 3 mm holes in your fabric, your seam ripper will be fine.
- Chalk pencils – so you know where to poke your holes!
- Finally some drafting tools – paper, pencils and a ruler.
Here are the highlights!
Measure your waist, adding about 8 – 10 inches to the length (You need extra for installing a pronged buckle and so your belt extends round you without looking short).
Then measure the bar for your belt buckle. Ignore the prong for now. This will be the finished width of your belt.
“Draft” a paper pattern that uses your length and width, then add seam allowance all the way around. The belt should be cut on the grain. Cut two of your fabric and one of stiff fusible interfacing. Sew it up around the two long sides and one short, trim seam allowances, turn the right way and press the heck out of it.
For the buckle, mark about 2 inches in from the unfinished edge at the centre width of your belt. You can either add a hole and an eyelet here, a tiny buttonhole or if your belt won’t get worn often just seam rip a little hole about 3 mm in size. Thread the prong of the buckle through the eyelet/buttonhole/hole. On the back of the belt, fold the free unfinished edge around the back of the buckle, turn under and hand stitch in place.
Mark your first eyelet at the point on the length where your belt will fasten (drape your belt around you to check) and be sure that your mark is at the centre width. Then mark additional holes at 1 inch spaces until you’re about 3 inches from the end of the belt.
Make the smallest of holes with your seam ripper. Insert an eyelet face up through the hole (aka the broader side is the top and that will show on the front of your belt). Insert the plunger of your pliers through the wrong side of the hole in the fabric, you will see it is now sitting inside your eyelet. (See below without any fabric in the way).
Press firmly and the back of the eyelet will be crushed securely around your fabric. Repeat until all your eyelets are in place.
If you’d like, you can add another small strip of the fabric to make a stay to hold the tail of the belt in place when it’s buckled. Measure out a piece 1/2” wide and long enough to wrap around whatever width belt you’re making and overlap neatly at the back. You can stitch the ends together in place so it will never move.
Or slip the finished ring over the belt and down towards the buckle end, just don’t let it slip off one day!
There you have it! Your very own fabric covered belt!
Additional supplies and tutorials
There is the option to use belting inside your belt which will be quite firm but I find those belts a little less forgiving after lunchtime. Also you will struggle a little more to punch the holes through belting and will definitely need to use metal eyelets rather than plastic ones. This belting is not nylon webbing for bags or seatbelts, it’s a flexible buckram strap and it sort of reminds me of the casing plastic boning comes in.
Rotating hole punches have the ability to punch through leather, fabric and card and can be set to punch holes of varying sizes.