Current Projects: Sewing Dickeys and Tinkering on the Necchi Esperia

So far I’ve sewn up one dickey that I really like. It needs buttons and buttonholes and some pressing, but here’s the work in progress:

photo 1It’s draped on the newly re-stuffed and covered-in-pinnable-jersey dressform my grandma and I made out of duct tape. Not perfect, but a good start. I wanted a high, cut on funnel-neck style collar so that I can press the edges down for that tuxedo look. Like this:

photo 2I love, love, love the color. I was surprised that it wasn’t pure hell to sew, either–it’s a cheap-ish stretch satin and the only ones I’ve worked with seemed to fray quite a bit, but this is holding up pretty well in the time between cutting and edge finishing.

photo 3Next time I sew this I’ll use lighter interfacing, because with a facing and the interfacing, it ends up a bit wonky around the neck when it’s worn beneath something. Behind it is the machine I’ve been using–it’s a Necchi Esperia from 1957 or so. I love the minimal design and the pastel. It was a Goodwill purchase–the motor was shooting sparks, so I got it for a song. I’ve seen that before, actually; if you’re lucky, it’s one of two simple things: carbon brushes that need replaced, or just dirt. these old machines are just a bit dusty in the motor and if you disengage the handwheel and run it at high speed for a few minutes and maybe add a bit of lubricant to the designated holes in the motor, it fixes it right up and runs much better. That was the case here, but it still isn’t quite right. I’m not sure if the timing is a bit off, but even after about 20 solid hours of sewing it still isn’t quite as smooth as it should be for a Necchi. (I haven’t learned how to work on timing yet, but I will soon thanks to the Ray White sewing machine repair class! :D)

photo 4There’s something I love about the simplicity of a straight stitch sewing machine. So much less to go haywire in the mechanics. And it seems like working with wovens about 90% of the stitching I have to do is a plain old straight stitch. This one is extremely crotchity about backstitching, though, and I haven’t ever noticed the same thing in another straight stitch only machine–if I switch to a reverse stitch from any position other than the lowest needle position, it’s pretty much guaranteed that my bottom thread is going to bind up and turn into a thread nest I have to pull out. It may be that all sewing machines do this and I’ve just been oblivious about the reason for the bind ups, but I don’t think so. Maybe a timing thing? We’ll see.

In my usual trying-to-do-five-million-things-at-once way, I’ve been at work on a black taffeta blazer, binding with chiffon seam binding as I go (my usual raggedy overcast inner seams are a pet peeve at the moment), doing the Burda University digital pattern drafting course, AND living out some of my early childhood library career fantasies by digitizing some of my old sewing books. So many things I want to do and make and try and read and, alas, so little time. #digitalageproblems

Sewing Project: Refashioning Old Clothes + Dickeys in 30s Style

So many projects, so little time. Among a bajillion other things, I’m currently working on a wardrobe refashion project. I’ve been really, really into wartime sewing pamphlets and cotton bag sewing materials that give tips on how to reuse fabric and refashion clothes that you already have into something new. During WW2 especially war rationing resulted in some ingenuity in reusing old materials.  It has me digging through my old bags of clothes I’ve been meaning to discard with a new pair of eyes! So many things that I don’t like because they don’t quite fit can be deassembled and used in ways I had never though of before. Some of my many sewing failure projects can be reused too.

There are lots of ways to do this–patterns with yokes, with top pieces and bottom pieces that join, special sleeves, kimono type sleeves, etc.makedomend image by BeautyArmy

And my current personal favorite–the bodice with a deep neckline + a dickey beneath. What is a dickey, you ask? It’s a common vintage clothing article worn beneath shirts and suitjackets to add variety, or to dress lightly underneath an outer layer. It’s a kind of partial blouse without sides or sleeves that sometimes has ties at the sides to hold it in position. Here are some pattern examples:


Advance 3247

dickeys2I love it for the potential variety this could add to a wardrobe. One shirt + an infinitely variable number of necklines. It also gives me a low risk way to indulge in and wear some of the nicer fabrics from my stash. Here’s what I’m planning on playing with over the next few days:

DSC_5291Two kinds of gorgeous red chiffon, some dot lace and some stretch satin. Normally I would be too afraid of wasting them, but since a dickey requires so little fabric and is cursed with far fewer fitting issues than a full blouse, results are likely to be pretty good.

I have two pieces of clothing to rework–both are velvet, semi fitted, and not at all my current style. One is an old button up basic blouse with no darts or embellishments. The other is a burgundy pair of pants which are a bit too clingy for me, and which I wore so much in my teen years when grunge was the thing and we all walked on our pants legs that the bottom 4″ of the pants leg is not pretty. The shirt will be remade as a deep v-neck (cutting out a new neckline, binding the raw edge with wide bias strips of a similar color broadcloth) long sleeved blouse, but the pants I will be completely disassembling and trying to remake as a more bustier-like fitted blouse or Edwardian style corset cover shaped blouse. The end goal is to be able to wear them with dickeys sort of  like this contemporary interpretion of 30s fashion: