Thursday, February 26, 2015

9 Best Dress Patterns for Beginners: Easy to Sew

This is the first is a short series on sewing patterns that are EASY to sew or EASY for new sewists (beginners). Because these styles tend to be shift dresses (loose with bust darts) or "A" line in shape, they are perfect for summer. This is the season to best sew for warm weather, the timing is right to make one of these styles.

This post is the first of a series on easy to sew dresses that I first published three years ago.  As one of my most popular series, it has always generated alot of interest.  Many of those patterns are no longer available, so I thought it was a good time to re-post the original article with new and current patterns from the 'big 4' companies.  If you have a good pattern to recommend, just leave your comment below.

The shift dresses pictured above have an "A" line or loose fit, while the sheath dresses pictured below tend to fit the waistline more closely, and can be smooth over the hips.  The sheath dresses all show back darts to trim out excess fabric in the back waistline area.  Often this style has a back zipper, but the looser "A" line shifts can usually be sewn without a zipper for a 'pull over' style.

Both types of dresses shown here have bust darts in the side seam lines.  This dart creates a smooth fit in the underarm and reduces bulk in the side seam area.

What I look for when choosing an easy pattern are several elements that need to come together:

1) seam lines: few seam lines to sew - just the side seams please!

2) pattern pieces: two main pattern pieces - front and back

3) darts: few darts - bust darts are fine

4) zipper: nope!

5) sleeves: nada!

6) neckline: simple and round, I think facing is easier than bias edge, but that's me

7) hemline: machine sewn? yes please

8) fabric: smooth, medium weight cottons: these are easiest to sew - quilter's cottons, cotton gingham checks, cotton shirting plaids and stripes.

Here's a few patterns that would be EASY for a newbie, or FAST for those with experience.

Easy Palmer Pletch McCalls 6355
McCall's 6355: basic shift pattern by Palmer/Pletch, neck binding, optional fitting darts. This pattern has options for creating a good fit.

easy to sew McCalls 6102
McCalls 6102: View D, shift style, 2 bust darts, pull over, large size range, neckline facing

easy to sew McCalls 6465
McCall's 6465: view E, slip over, sleeveless bias tape arm holes, loose A line shape


READ the measurement section for the company that you are buying the pattern from.  Each one will require the following: Bust, Waist, Hip.  Be sure to measure without clothing for accuracy.  If you are not the same size as the patterns listed, for this style of dress, choose your bustline to find the best size.  You can add to the hip area if you need more room there, and the waistline measurement should have little effect on the pattern.

HOW WILL THE DRESS FIT?  If you scroll down or click the tab on most pattern websites, you will find the GARMENT MEASUREMENTS. This information lists what a dress will measure after it has been sewn.  These measurements can be compared with a similar dress or top you own, so that way you'll know what the results will be. Use this to select hem width, hip and bustline ease (the term 'ease' means looseness). It is a great way to find your pattern size for that specific dress, if you feel the size measurements may not be exactly your fit.

(the original version of this article was published February 17, 2015)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Make Your Own Vintage Gloves: Free Pattern

Make your own gloves from a 1950's free vintage pattern in pdf file format. This file has patterns to enlarge and tutorials to get you through the sewing process. I can see this used for awesome glove and costume projects, so save yourself a copy now because you never know when you'll want to use it! You'll find that free pdf file HERE on The pdf file alone is HERE.

While I'm at it, I want to credit the original designer of these gloves, Edith M. Hummel, who wrote about making gloves in her book: "You can make your own gloves", 1946 and about accessories in: "You can make your own bags and accessories", 1952 and 1957. This pattern appeared in the January 1956 issue of Workbasket Magazine. Her books may still be available in long established libraries.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Pendleton Mystery Shirt: Guide Shirt or Buckaroo Style?

Pendleton wool plaid shirts are an American classic, and as such it can be difficult to determine the age of one, when it seems like all the others. This older Pendleton shirt, while sporting a well known black and red wool plaid check, has an unusual feature that is a design style new to me. When I first saw this shirt, my well-trained daughter (by me) had found it at the Goodwill, among all of the other wool shirts on the rack. She recognized the plaid, but what caught my eye when she waved it aloft ("Eureka!") was the uniquely curved center front and hemline.

Hemlines in men's shirts are funny because they have remained mostly hidden over time, carefully tucked into pants. Pendleton shirts worn outside the pants is a style preference that came into fashion after they had earlier been designed as a tuck-in sporting shirt. So when was this shirt made? The wool has a hard finish, without loft, spongey depth or fuzziness of some wools.  It has the old label style and it is well worn.

After searching online, and not finding any mention of this hemline, I found a 1927 catalog page on the Pendleton site that shows the debut this same shirt. On the left side of the page, #572, appears worn by a man with a gun, but his version "Guide" has a 2-button cuff. This shirt has the same small breast pockets and clean fit of this shirt. In a color view of three folded shirts, the same plaid is shown for # 533 styles, and a one-button cuff as described. This is very similar to the "Buckeroo" featured on the opposite page, but in a different plaid (the Buckeroo is listed has being available in a 'tan plaid'). And finally, the garment label appears in the upper right corner of the right page, and this is the same graphic design. Here is a larger scale version of the catalog page.

So the question remains, do shirts from 1927 have this same hemline shape? When did this curved front phase out?

Below are more views of this shirt, showing how the front placket is shaped and lined. These clearly show a rather innovative method of pinching a tuck to created the front placket (rather than sewing on a separate long piece of fabric to create the button placket). These button plackets are lined, rather than faced with wool.

If you have suggestions or answers, let us know here so we can solve the mystery of when this shirt was made!

This close-up view shows how the center front lines swings wide to create a curved front overlapped edge.

The reverse side of the button plackets are lined and show the 'tucking' technique that created the placket, and also a small tuck release.

While the wool is still strong, the lined collar and label show signs of deep wear, and are becoming thread bare. This close up view also shows a twill lining that seems to show up on the very old shirts, and probably earlier than the usual 'satin' or twill versions in beige or other colors shown. I have also noticed on later shirts that chain stitching can be found on the back side of top stitching, which may be a later use than single needle top stitching.

HERE is a Buckaroo recently featured in the Pendleton Facebook page.

HERE is a catalog page featuring the Buckaroo shirt advertised as by "Levi" of Pendleton wool in 1938: Saddle and Western Gear, page 121

HERE is my Pendleton Pinterest file, I'll keep adding 'em as I find 'em!

HERE: a taxonomy poster showing the main styles in Pendleton shirts

Monday, February 2, 2015

Retro Styled Swimwear: Super Bowl Inspired!

If you watched the Super Bowl half time entertainment, you couldn't miss those cute retro styled polka dot two-piece swim suits worn by dancers. For me, seeing them in such a widely viewed venue signaled a popular acceptance of those retro styled high waisted briefs.

This pin-up style is a fresh look for swim wear in general, after decades of much lower bikini bottoms. While the look has been available for awhile, it has been mostly confined to vintage wearing girls with a flare for Rockabilly or Swing styles. But there it was up on the tube, for all of the world to see as cute, wearable and sexy too.

This selection of similar styles come from a wide range of online sites, two are even from New Zealand, so we know that it's now a 'global thing'.  I hope these inspire your vintage swim look for this spring and summer, numbers starting from top row, upper left corner: 1 & 6--Unique vintage, 2 &,,,,, .