Vintage Sewing Library: 1930s-40s Draping

I’m not sure if I have shared this link before or not, but I returned to it recently and thought I should share. These books were linked to on The Vintage Pattern Files blog, which is itself an incredibly generous resource for knitting and vintage fashion too. But the books themselves are great resources on draping, and one of them happens to be a Woman’s Institute booklet produced in the mid 30s. Evie of La Couturiere Dimanche scanned it and made it available on her blog (here). I love all things Woman’s Institute, and their materials from the 30s are especially hard to find. Yay for the internet!

designingbydraping1936

There’s another by Mary Evans from 1935–Draping and Dress Design.

drapinganddressdesign1935

It goes into some depth on draping sleeves and shoulders and necklines, which are my current problem areas to get the fit just right. Also interesting historically, since there seems to be an erroneous contemporary idea that toiles or muslins weren’t really used, despite Mary Brooks Picken advocating them in notes in Fashion Service in the 20s and these draping guides. My suspicion is that wartime shortages made fabric more expensive during the 40s, or maybe people had less disposable income for muslin, or the make do and mend mentality changed sewing practices during that time, and maybe that stuck until our contemporary era. If anyone knows more about that, I’d love to hear it!

As far as my own projects go, I have two wearable muslins in progress at the moment–one is a blazer jacket that actually allows some movement and incorporates tailoring techniques (thank you Craftsy courses!) and another is my first decent self drafted corset.  Both started as flat pattern attempts, went wrong multiple times, and gradually morphed via draping and chalking and cutting and cussing into something more like a workable pattern. I think draping is more my style thank flat patterning, despite all my attempts to do it the hard way. Sigh.

 

 

Fitting Woes: Moulage Drafting

Wow, it appears I have not posted in months. Sometimes I go full Luddite and stay offline for everything but work and listen to wordless cello music while I sew buttonholes by hand, because the pileup of current events has me too depressed about everything to subject myself to the bombardment of information about the all the terrible things…but then Craftsy drags me back.

So I just lost about 10 hours of my life to attempting to draft a moulage. Never again. I took Suzy Furrer’s class on Craftsy, after a lot of reading on the subject and a lot of optimism about this maybe being the thing that finally gets the right armhole/shoulder/neck fit that has eluded me for a few years now. Having just drafted my basic moulage, I can see that it’s clearly a f-ing disaster and it’s going to take either remeasuring measurements I’m 97% sure are accurate, having taken them a gazillion times for a gazillion different drafting attempts, or this process will require a holy fuckton of muslin making iterations that I’m not willing to do, having already been there and done that so many times and have a trial/error based sloper that works already. Let’s call this one a total FAIL.

The problem isn’t the class, really–Suzy Furrer does a fine job of teaching something that seems incredibly complicated to convey via distance learning. She’s thorough and as clear can be expected when neck deep in the hell of applied geometry using fractions. But I have a feeling that the industry standards, basically the formulas and rules behind the drafting, are not going to work for my proportions. As with virtually every set of out of the envelope patterns.

And it seems to be a bit more complicated than simply doing a “forward shoulder adjustment” seen all over the web (see: here for example) and on Kathleen Cheetham’s “Fitting the Neck and Shoulders” Craftsy course, which I have *also* taken and found abysmally lacking in anything new or revelatory that can help with my weird body shape. I like her body positive framing of the adjustments, but it’s mostly what I’ve seen in any number of books on basic pattern alteration already.

I have a) forward shoulders b) a broad back and somewhat wide shoulders and c) a large rib cage and d) relatively thick, short waistline. In fashion column what-to-wear parlance, I’d be an apple body or an inverted triangle. Comparing my trial and error slopers has been interesting, because my back bodice is almost two sizes larger than the front. My shoulders are not only forward, but have something of a concave curve in the front. I’ve noticed this on family, too, almost as if being broad backed without our front proportions being equal causes the shoulder angle to shift slightly to arrange this mass on the frame. It seems as if having a forward shoulder takes the straight horizontal line of the back and makes it into two planes moving in different directions, also rotating the shoulder blade slightly out. I think this changes patternmaking for close fitting garments in a way I have yet to see explained. See exhibit A from some random Tailor and Cutter board I can’t find now which had no citation for the original source anyway:

3971376789_13042f79b5

I think a lot of drafting assumes the figure alignment to the far right, while mine is basically the center one plus boobs and maybe a slight swayback. Le sigh.

There was a fantastic piece in Seamwork (here) talking about gender neutral or gender flexible fashion (a subject near and dear to my heart because some days I want to dress like a 18th century dandy and some days I want to be Scarlet O’hara and my taste ranges all over the place!) On the difference between menswear and womenswear:

“Fundamentally, womenswear and menswear are made for differently shaped bodies. Menswear proportions usually consist of more width in the shoulder, long legs, and a short torso. Womenswear is designed to accommodate someone who is the widest at the hip, and who has a shorter torso, a bust, and shorter arms.”

So, again, I’m wondering if simply adding bust definition to a sloper intended for male bodies wouldn’t be the easier way to get here. Full bust adjustment + waist darting on a menswear sloper? Maybe the usual seam shifting of most forward shoulder adjustments? The world may never know, because I’m irritated to the point of sewing knits for awhile.

 

Lol, just kidding. I’m actually working on a pair of stays with shoulder straps to work on my garbage posture because it’s probably easier than learning to draft for this sh*t.

Rabbit Hole of the Day: WTF is a Fichu?

I watch a LOT of period dramas. (Aptly named, quoth the partner. Har har.) And I read a lot of old timey sewing materials, so I know I’ve seen a fichu collar, and I have seen it referenced in pattern books, but ask me what it actually IS and/or how to make it and I don’t really know. So…wikipedia says:

A fichu is a large, square kerchief worn by women to fill in the low neckline of a bodice. It originated in the United Kingdom in the 18th century and remained popular there and in France through the 19th with many variations,[1] as well as in the United States.[2] The fichu was generally of linen fabric and was folded diagonally into a triangle and tied, pinned, or tucked into the bodice in front.

I’ve seen it in books from the 1800s, and especially like this example from Godey’s (source):

GodeysNov1862

Here are some gorgeous examples from 1780s era paintings by Adelaide Labille-Guiard, whose story is fascinating in its own right–I had never heard of her before researching fichus, but she was a talented painter who defied convention by learning painting at all in a mentoring system that typically denied access to women and went on to earn a living as a professional painter and teacher of her craft, painted royalty, and even divorced and remarried in the 17oos! (source for paintings; source of biographical info)

 

Some more pretty pictures of unknown origin:

 

And here are some examples from museum collections (all from The Met, I believe, via pinterest and here):

So how might one sew up one of these pieces of lacy frilly uber feminine indulgences? Like so (from Peterson’s Magazine, found on this treasure trove of historical pattern inspiration here):

fichu petersons magazine june 1877

Or like this, from an unknown source but originally viewed (here):

fichu1 dressdiariesdotlivejournaldotcom

Tea In a Teacup has a great, in depth post on different varieties of fichus and how one might construct and embroider the different shapes (here). She created the following diagram, which is a great starting place for sewing up a few of my own to slip under vests or into necklines that scoop a bit lower than I’d like (what can I say, I’m a prude about my decollete):

teainateacup1

Also cool to see was the ways this historical article comes back from time to time in fashion cycles, as does everything, it seems. (Except maybe the monokini.) For sewing inspiration and some styling and interpretation ideas, here are way too many images of fichus, fichu collars and fichu-esque drapery, mostly from Etsy, Pinterest, Ebay and the Vintage Pattern Wikia. The vast majority of actual fashion pieces are from Dior in the 50s/modern day:

Hour count for 10k hours project: 298

Current Sewing Projects: Knit Blouses and Victorian Blazers, Oh My

I want so many things on my sewing table. Impossible things. Impractical things.

Camiknickers.

7221aefa7f049f40805764e9dbd870fb

Black tulle tutus and sunglasses and spring cool.

0448ce27b55c43f963b4e14f899e8715

To draft the perfect catsuit.

f0d5f98e2b3bf9a88801dde901a8621e

But more than anything this week, I have been working on a Victorian style blazer. Something like this, but sleeker, more vampirey. This is a Burda jacket from the Hills are Alive or something about the sound of music, but my brain is taking it to a dark nuclear post-apocalyptic place. I loathe the running stitches and the pockets and the boxy fit, and I don’t like the position of the front bust darts either. So like this but not really like this at all except the high shoulder and the high-ish back neckline. *shrug* I also have been irritated in the past by the lack of seam allowance on Burda patterns, so I definitely won’t be buying this one. Just eyecandy. Also: do you think that’s really her hair, or is that a weave? It’s a serious hunk of hair there.

c392960c746cad8d6af1cb533ed0bace

My partner hates poofey shoulders. So of course those have to happen. Because like Lady Gaga, I’m a free b***h, baby, and I LIKE a little old timey high sleeve cap if it doesn’t poof vertically. I’m thinking a single button closure in the front, a shawl collar, with a high back neck. I’ll probably give it a go in denim waste fabric for now, saving my red herringbone suiting for when I get the fit right.

I’ve actually had a good sewing week–I tried using  a vest pattern to draft a bodice for a jacket, and used my 1880s sleeve from the recent tailored jacket attempt. The fit is nearly perfect, except for the shoulders. When I move my arms forward, it pulls on the front of my shoulder and on the back, along the edge of the scye near my scapula. All my reading of historical tailoring stuff has me wanting to try a new approach on my next attempt. They talk about getting armholes TIGHT, which seems to be sort of the opposite of the slash and spread suggestions I’m used to seeing and trying and failing miserably with. The idea, as I understand, is that the better the fit of the bodice, even–and maybe especially–in the armscye area, the more independent the sleeve movement will be from the more stationary bodice. Instead of lowering the armhole or adding more back ease and sacrificing the hard earned fit, I’m going to try adding more fabric to the bodice armhole, but not only in my usual vertical direction–I’m going to shift the side seam outward and slightly up. With my back being broad and somewhat rounded at the shoulder/scapula line, as well as slightly hunched forward, my back is taking up fabric from the sleeve and my shoulders/back extend in this weird diagonal way compared to the standard form. What I want to do is cover my entire back with the bodice, so that the ease in the sleeve isn’t used up by my back mass. If that makes sense. We’ll see!

I took my jacket attempt #1 and chalk lined it all up trying to figure out where to add. I even bought some hook and eye tape, since I haven’t gotten over my buttonhole aversion just yet. So drafting and cutting attempt 2 is my project for tonight!

Another thing to consider is sleeve pitch. Sleeve pitch, as I understand very roughly, is the sort of rotation of the sleeve in the scye. Most of the time the center top of the sleeve is aligned with the shoulder seam in the usual high position on top of the shoulder. But with stooped posture or forward shoulders or very erect postures, tailors *seem* from my reading to rotate the sleeve slightly within the scye to accomodate. This keeps the grainline in the right position relative to the arm. So with my shoulder being rotated forward maybe 10-15 degrees from standard (this would be set “high” in the tailoring parlance, I think), I might try rotating my sleeve forward to keep the hang correct. What I’m curious about in this case, though, is whether it matters at all that this might throw off the match up of underarm sleeves and side seams. Would one need to shift the underarm seam? In my case with the 1880s style two piece sleeve it doesn’t matter at all, though.

I’ve been branching out and sewing with knit fabrics quite a bit too. I resisted it for ages, seeing it as something like playing an electric guitar to sound good because your technique isn’t good enough to play acoustic. But the perfectionist in me loves the lack of fraying seam edges and the lazy instant gratification craver in me who has been sewing for three years with precious little wardrobe action to show for it ADORES the fact that I can sew up something quickly that forgives minor fitting issues. So far in the last two weeks I’ve made: two great fitting, exceedingly comfortable pairs of thongs (which I intend to make a pattern of to send out into the world soon!), a princess seamed scarf collared 1930s style blouse and another more Edwardian-ish high necked, poofy gathered sleeve blouse in a sleek, pretty ITY knit! Not gonna lie, I’m pretty stoked. That’s like a year’s worth of finished objects for me, and ALL self drafted. Someday, when I find a tripod, I’ll have to post pictures. It’s an incredible feeling to find that my spread-so-thin sewing attentions come together sometimes and actually produce something.

Also, the weather is BEAUTIFUL here. I love it.

 

Happy weekend!

 

 

 

 

Sewing Machines: Slantomatic 401

I’ve been trying to rotate some of my favorite machines recently. I love my Necchi machines so much that I could sew on them forever and never feel like I was missing out on anything (is there such a thing as sewing machine monogamy?) but variety is the spice of life, they say. Also I want to use the others enough to keep them well maintained and to break some of the older ones back in to optimal performance. So I’m revisiting some of my Singer machines.

I currently have two Slantomatic 401s. One of them came to me perfectly tuned, oiled, adjusted. It was the first vintage sewing machines I purchased for myself when I began sewing regularly and the Walmart plastic Brother sewing machine just wasn’t working for me anymore. The first time I sewed with it, I was in love. Compared to the rickety, inconsistent stitch quality of the bargain basement Brother, with its dismal white lump design and utter lack of aesthetic appeal, it was heavenly. The stitches are gorgeous and the feed is so consistent that I can turn my work and sew perfectly over the stitches that came before. *swoon*

It converted me to a vintage machine enthusiast forever. It’s gear driven, which gives it a feeling of solidity and precision like nothing I’d sewn on before. Internally it’s all metal, save for one part–there is a very large, crucial gear on the handwheel that is actually textolite, a very durable plastic material. Unlike many of the plastic and nylon materials Singer used over the years, it doesn’t seem prone to breaking, thankfully. (For more info, see Old Sewing Gear’s great blog here.) It has zig zag, a blind hem stitch, and three step zig zag stitch built in, as well as a ton of other decorative stitch possibilities. The needle position is adjustable and the needle plate has measurements engraved in it, which is really helpful with seam allowances.

I bought another in awful shape as a clean up project. It was caked in weird greasy gunk externally, which was impossible to get off without alcohol soaked q tips. It was varnished up internally as well, which alcohol works well to clean up–it evaporates quickly enough that it isn’t as much of a problem near wiring as something like WD40 would be (which the jury seems out on using to loosen stuck sewing machines anyway). The camstack and gears that allow for the decorative stitching were bound up as well–I had to use a hair dryer multiple times to allow the warming and cooling of the metal to expand and contract the parts enough to work the oil in and loosen up everything. Now it sticks a bit from time to time, but overall it’s working wonderfully.

So that’s my current go to machine for my foray into sewing with jersey. With a ballpoint needle, it works incredibly well for this purpose. I thought I’d share some photos of mine and some of the technical information I’ve found over the years. (Apologies to the original source of the schematic–although the manual can be found on the Singer website, I’m no longer sure where the schematic is from. And the service manual was made available by Donald of Sewing Dude – his post here. His blog is very informative and very, very funny!)

singer 401a – manual

singer 401a – schematic

singer-401-service-manual from Sewing Dude blog

 

Free Vintage Sewing Library: Etsy Seller of Shame Edition

Brace yourself, the snarkiness is coming. As well as links to free stuff, for spite and because they’re amazing.

Soooo…I’ve been very into tailoring research lately. Cruising the web at all hours of the night for some sweet, sleek menswear resources. And I’ve found quite a few great ones on archive.org…that I see AGAIN on etsy.com marketed as the sellers’ own work. As I’ve said before and will say again, I think this is a horrible thing to do. I generally hesitate to call anyone out on this stuff because I’d hate to be wrong. BUT. Antique books are an extremely expensive hobby. I know this firsthand, because there are so, so many things I drool over and cannot afford even if I can find them. And it is virtually impossible to find enough old tailoring materials to compile a very large collection, even if I wanted to spend huge amounts of money on it. So when I see an etsy seller like HowToBooks who deals exclusively in collector’s item/antique books that are listed in ways that bury the actual title/author deep in the description (if they are stated at all) AND who sells items I have found on archive.org–seriously 95% of this seller’s dressmaking/tailoring content is listed there–I know they’re a jerk who’s just taken free materials to sell as their own. Let me elaborate:

“Design Your Own Clothes Mens TAILORING and TUXEDO PATTERNS Formal Wear Tailored Suits” by HowToBooks is actually the 1907 edition of Croonborg’s Grand Edition of Supreme System of Cutting Men’s Garments. Available completely free, here, courtesy of the good folks (likely librarians and interns who spend hours slaving over a scanner) at archive.org.

“Men’s Tailoring the Red Book for Men’s Tailoring 1917” is another Croonborg text–actually called New Supreme System for the Cutting of Men’s Garments. I know for an absolute fact this seller stole this one off of archive.org, because they include a picture of the table of contents that contains a pencil mark that is the EXACT same on the free version of the archive.org pdf available, for free, here.

This seller has a lot of great things listed in their shop. Don’t pay for them. They’re probably all available for free.

There is another etsy seller named BuriedTreasureChest that I found during my search for tailoring references that does the same shady stuff. This jerkface also sells the Red Book of Men’s Tailoring–the same Croonberg text, with the SAME PENCIL MARKINGS on the table of contents. No joke.

They also sell “Victorian Costumes Patterns Book” which is really The Diamond Garment Cutter from 1895. I know they stole it from archive.org because on the page featured on their listing, there is a penciled in “137” that is also visible on…you guessed it…the archive.org version, available free of charge in all its glory here.

This bothers me because libraries are my spiritual homeland (and that smell=heaven)  and also because I know what it’s like to spend 10 hours scanning and editing a book because you’re a design/typography/arts and crafts junkie who truly loves these books and wants to partially fund the obsession. As a matter of principle it really, REALLY bothers me when people profit off of the work of others as these sellers are doing. It also bothers me when people don’t cite their sources. It might be petty of me, but HowToBooks has about 4500 sales at current count–if each one of those is $4, then some jerkface has made about 16k, give or take, off of stolen books. Screw them. Screw them so much.

Whew. Sorry, it’s been a stressful work week.

ooftheshining

On a happier note, I’ve been hand sewing and it is the best kind of Zen medicine. At least, now that I learned to condition the thread with beeswax. I’ve been working on a wearable muslin of a vest to get a better bodice sloper. It’s actually going very well, and only needs buttonholes now. I also finished my wearable muslin / first attempt at sewing with chiffon. It’s a simple tunic type shirt with set in sleeves and a high scarf collar that ties in front, and gathered sleeves with tie closures. It fits and it has that romantic-young-man-in-a-Jane-Austen-romance look that I like so much. So that’s encouraging.

 

Vintage Sewing Library: Medieval Embroidery Inspirations

This is the rabbit hole I’ve been down today. Medieval blackwork embroidery:

All of the above examples are from medieval portraiture except for the photograph, which is from (here).  There is a gorgeous reproduction of the cuff above, which is from Holbein’s portrait of Jane Seymour during the Tudor era. This version was done by Alexandra Gray (more info here).

3493160_orig

I’ve found a few great sources for this on archive.org–one is a book from 1532 from Alessandro Peganino, because when I go vintage, I go VINTAGE. Here are some of the illustrations it includes:

The original book is available for free (here). I’m hoping to incorporate some of these designs as trimming details on some of my 1920s tunic attempts!