Reenactments are something I really, really enjoy doing, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend many last year at all. One of my favorite events is a WWII reenactment held at Fort Indiantown Gap every January in Annville, Pennsylvania: Battle of the Bulge Commemoration Living History Week. It’s only open to the public on Saturday (January 31st) but if you’re in the Annville area I highly recommend checking it out!
I’m not able to attend this year’s event either (insert super sad face) but I wanted to post a few photos from last year’s event that never made it to the blog. I did share just a few pictures last year of my Knit For Victory project, and a few more photos from the year before (which was my very first reenactment!), but neither of those posts included details of my Women’s Land Army impression, so I decided to do a bit of a flashback today.
It’s no secret that I’ve been struggling with my sewing for quite some time now. Quite a long time actually. I never seem to sew things that fit me or suit my lifestyle or my fashion preferences. I love sewing 1940s garments with a passion, and although I do participate in a few period appropriate events a year, my life is not a WWII reenactment. In my daily life I like to mix a bit of my favorite bygone eras in with fun, modern prints to create a look that can only be described as “me”.
My plan for Sew For Victory this year was much different than the garment I made last year. Instead of recreating an exact copy of a 1940s dress (right down to reproducing the fabric myself) I decided to recreate an exact copy of what makes me happy. After all, shouldn’t sewing always make us happy? Is that not why we sew to begin with? The fabric I picked for this year’s SFV challenge is definitely not a 1940s print but it certainly boosts my morale, and I can’t think of a more WWII inspired plan of action!
You guys, I can’t even tell you what this project has done for my sewing spirits. It is hands down my most favorite thing I’ve ever sewn!! I mean it. We’re definitely running out of time here as Sew For Victory winds down, so I took a risk and skipped any kind of test muslin. I just took my measurements, traced out my size, cut into my fabric and went for it. Honestly I was fully expecting this shirt to be a dud because I always manage to sew things that don’t fit quite right. But long story short, the Sewing Gods were on my side!
The pattern is The Smooth Sailing Blouse by Wearing History Patterns and the fabric comes from Tula Pink’s new Fox Field collection that I bought at Hawthorne Threads. The shirt is a late 1930s/early 40s style with the iconic puff sleeves of the era which I love! I bought size pack A and cut a straight 14 although I probably could have sewn the size 12. The shirt is beautifully form fitting but perfectly comfortable, and looks really sharp when tucked into high-waisted pants. I was warned that the arm cuff runs rather snug, but since my gangly little arms aren’t much thicker than a broom stick, I had no issue there. In fact, I had no issue with anything on this pattern at all. I’m still rather amazed at that!
So why this fabric? Well because it’s amazing. Period. When you classify yourself as a garment sewer, people will try to make you feel inferior for wanting to sew with quilting cottons. They don’t always do this intentionally, but that vibe is surely out there. Well I say that’s all fine and dandy – More quilting cotton for me!! I love cotton and I love fun prints, sue me. I am thoroughly unimpressed with fancy charmeuse and other sophisticated substrates. Give me bunnies and gigantic flowers on fabric that’s meant to be slept on by generations of children. It’s what I love most of all.
To me this fabric holds a certain modern likeness to the feed sack prints of the past – Printing pretty pictures on a utility fabric for women who want practicality in what they wear. Obviously quilting cotton isn’t the ideal fabric for everything but it’s the perfect pair for this particular pattern. The puff sleeves need a bit of structure to hold their shape and they certainly get it from a nice quality quilting cotton.
I had thoroughly intended to make a matching pair of trousers to accompany this shirt, and I still will if I have time, but I just couldn’t wait to share this project with you! It makes me so, so happy. I really can’t stop smiling! It’s been such a long time since I made something that I utterly fell in love with so I kind of just want to bask in this sewing high for a while and not rush another sewing project. …but I reaaaalllly want a matching pair of pants so we’ll see.
I have to thank Lauren at Wearing History for making such a beautiful, well tailored pattern that pairs so well with my favorite fabric. My enthusiasm for sewing and blogging has been completely restored!! I’m just sorry I waited so long to find out this was the project to bring my sew-jo back.
Well there ya have it. My very victorious Sew For Victory project! Well hopefully this is one of two projects but, as I said, we’ll see. I’m so over the moon with this one that I don’t mind if it’s my only contribution. Sewing is a never ending quest for creating your ideal wardrobe and evolving your personal style, and my path suddenly got a lot more clear cut. Expect to see a lot more of this from me!
If you’re participating in Sew For Victory don’t forget to upload your finished garment photos to the official Sew For Victory Flickr Group! It’s not too late to join in and make something last minute either! Submissions are due Wednesday April 30th by the end of the day, but it will take me a few days to compile the photos for the slide show (like I made last year) so I’ll allow some leniency for any hard working ladies who made it late to the party
Anyone who finishes a garment for the challenge will have a chance to win some awesome prizes (also like last year but better) so don’t miss out!
Sewing For Victory feels good. You should really try it.
Today I have some images from a great sewing booklet by DuBarry Patterns, published in 1945. It includes tons of tips and techniques for sewing success as well as a really great color photo chart suggesting which colors suit you best! I’ve included both the full spread, and a much larger scan so you can actually read the text. I thought it would be a fun reference for Sew For Victory! I have not digitally enhanced the colors in order to keep them as true to the original printing as possible.
I’m actually a little disappointed by the suggested colors for auburn hair and brown eyes haha! They seem a bit dull in comparison to some of the other palettes. Though I am lucky to have the “most perfect type of face” lol.
What does your hair and eye color suggest for you? If you’re participating in Sew For Victory, did you pick one of the colors from your palette? I did!
p.s. I’d really love to scan this entire booklet and make it available as a free download for you, but it’s around 60 pages I think so it will take me a while!
If you’re still undecided about what fabric to use for your Sew For Victory project, here’s a few photos to help inspire you. The clothing styles, as well as fiber contents, did change quite drastically throughout the 40s (especially when you look at pre and post WWII differences) but the fabric colors and prints stayed pretty constant throughout the decade. Some people are pleasantly surprised to see such bright colors and wild prints!
Rayon certainly dominated the fabric industry then, but natural fibers like cottons, linens, and wools were also popular despite rationing. If you enjoy sewing with knits, rayon jersey is definitely an appropriate option! One fabric you won’t find available for consumer use in the 40s is polyester. While the research and production of synthetic fibers was important for the war effort, I’ve yet to see polyester clothing or fabric advertised in any of my 1940s catalogs. The polyester as we know it today wasn’t truly popularized until the 1960s.
If you’re feeling more adventurous and want a customized fabric for your project, consider the natural options at Organic Cotton Plus! RIT dye was all the rage in the 40s, especially with the Make Do And Mend mentality alive and well. “Upcycling” your clothing wasn’t a trendy thing to do then, it was a necessity. Give an old bed sheet new life, or add a custom color to your project like I did with my 1940s inspired Archer shirt. It’s a lot of fun and solid colors make excellent wardrobe staples.
p.s. This is the last weekend to use your Sew For Victory coupon codes for 20-30% off your sewing patterns, so don’t miss out! Judy at Vintage4me2 is having a 40% off sale until the 29th so you can get up to 70% off your pattern through her right now! Now that’s a steal.
I love reading everyone’s introductions and seeing the inspiration photos in the Flickr group! Keep it up!
Another free download for you! This issue of Butterick Fashion News contains sixteen pages of beautiful illustrations of the latest sewing patterns available in April 1943. There are some seriously gorgeous styles in this one!
To purchase original catalogs (just like this one!) and sewing patterns, please visit Judy at vintage4me2. Judy is currently having a 40% off sale on all Buy It Now items until March 29th! (Yep, you can use your Sew For Victory coupon on top of that!!)
Please feel free to link to this page, pin this page, or send your friends here. Please do not redistribute, re-post, or sell these downloads (in whole or part) anywhere else. I have made it available FREE for you here on Lucky Lucille!
If you appreciate these little peeks into Fashion/Sewing history as much as I do, buy me a cuppa’ coffee to say thanks! Only if you want to, of course
To open the eBook you must click the download button from an iPad or iPhone, in Safari browser, with iBooks installed. A new browser window will open and will appear blank for several seconds. It’s a pretty large file so the screen will look as if nothing is happening as the file loads, but soon you will be prompted to open the eBook in iBooks or a similar application, from that browser window.
The PDF should open on any computer, tablet, and/or browser, but may take a little while to load. Again, the images are large. When the browser window opens, click the icon in the top toolbar (second icon in from the far right) to download and save the PDF.
When I stumbled upon this series of photos in the Google LIFE archives I could hardly believe my eyes or contain my giggles. The photos are clearly from some sort of large party featuring a balloon artist and well, …a whole lot of ridiculousness.
It’s amazing how these photos are almost 70 years old but there’s still something so familiar about them. I feel like I recognize every single face from somewhere. Isn’t it funny how old photos can be like that? There’s really nothing more timeless than having fun and not taking life too seriously. If I could travel back in time, this would be an evening I’d like to be part of. I wonder if any of these people are still alive and remember this night as one of their favorites. I think I would.
After the weather put a damper on my first attempt to photograph this skirt, I decided to write about it in two parts. In Part One I shared all about the “guts” of my skirt, that is, the inside details of construction and how I sewed it all up. But for those of you who don’t sew, here are some non-sewy outfit shots!
It was still freezing outside, but Wil and I had a lot of fun taking photos despite the chill. I shared a little video on Instagram to prove how cold I was haha! Where is Spring?!
Oh yeah, I changed my hair color! My next WWII reenactment isn’t until June so I figured I can have wildly red hair until then. The color is so fun and it was just the kind of brightness I needed in my life to bring me out of my funk. I’ve been experimenting with finger waving clips and was so close to having really awesome hair for this shoot, but I jumped the gun and took the clips out before my hair was completely dry. Rats. All of my wave brushed out so I opted for the beret instead, which is fine because I really like berets!
Hey look, someone dropped some Raisinets on the ground!
Getting out in the woods again, taking photos, and wearing my handmade skirt has made me feel so much better. I want to thank everyone who left a comment on my last post about being in a sewing/general funk. It’s so nice to know I’m not alone and you all truly made me feel loved. Thank you from the bottom of my heart <3
Well, this is the last post about my first completed Twelve Pattern Challenge project. Now I can get back to sewing those pants I’ve been talking about!
Next up on my Twelve Pattern Challenge agenda: Pants. I already have a pants pattern in my T.P.C queue but there are a few things that are making me hold off on it for now. I’ve sewn the Simplicity 3688 trousers a few times before (here, here, and here) and they have great potential, but the work involved to transform them into the pants I’m longing for right now is too much for me to think about fussing with. I really want a pair of pants with a fly front, lots of pockets, and belt loops. I’ve never sewn a fly front before so that’s another reason why I’m feeling the need to add fly front trousers to my challenge.
I searched high and low for a vintage pattern to fill this void, but instead found a practically perfect modern pattern to fit the bill. The Vogue 8836 pattern looks nearly identical to the 1930’s trousers shown in the photo above! I’m pleased to report that Jo-Anns will be having a sale on Butterick and Vogue patterns this weekend (no I’m not psychic, I have the app) so I’m going to scoop it up for $4.99 instead of $13.50! Score! I’m sure all the ladies in my WWII reenacting troupe will understand that I had to sneak away from the event to grab a pattern on sale, right? They totally will.
Now that I have my inspiration and a pattern, I need to narrow down a fabric choice. I already have some beautiful rust colored corduroy in my stash, but I might want something a little thinner with more drape for Vogue 8836. I’ve started a Pinterest board for My Ideal Wardrobe so I can start to get a general sense of fabrics, textures, and overall themes of things that inspire me.
I like chic menswear, tweeds, and timeless color palettes. I also like things that are soft and look like they’ve been broken-in and well loved overtime – You know, Vintage-y things. Practicality also plays a crucial roll here so I’m looking for fabrics that are washable and fairly durable. I don’t want to fuss with matching plaids either. …and I really like the color green lately.
Denver Fabrics doesn’t advertise swatches but you can order any fabric as small as 1/8th of a yard, which is pretty much a swatch. I ordered quite a few swatches of different fabrics, some obvious for pants (polyester blend suiting and such), and some potential wild cards (peach skin?!). Number three is my favorite so far, but we’ll see which one I like best when they get here!
The only thing I plan to change on the Vogue 8836 pattern is to add double welt pockets to the back, which is also a technique I’ve never tried, so I’m taking the online class Designing Details: Pockets with Kenneth D. King to help me through it.
I’d also like to try and squeeze in some shirt sewing in February but we’ll see how involved the pants are first. I’m really excited about these! I’m picturing them now and they look so good in my head haha!
Have you ever sewn pants? Did you have good luck with them?
The weather is still brutally cold and windy so I haven’t been able to get more real outfit photos like I want, but I can show you the bones of my skirt in the meantime while I wait out Mother Nature. This is McCall 5557, a vintage skirt pattern from 1944 that I bought from Judy at Vintage4me2. It also happens to be the first completed project in my Twelve Pattern Challenge.
I used a micro brushed cotton twill from fabric.com in hunter green. My initial impression of the fabric was underwhelming at first. The color is beautiful, the weight is perfect, but the fluffy brushed finish really didn’t show itself until I washed it and took it out of the dryer. Then it felt glorious! SO FLUFFY! This fabric is everything I hoped it would be and more. It’s inexpensive and machine washable but feels so much nicer than anything I’ve ever used from Jo-Ann Fabrics. It still wrinkles like cotton, but it’s the perfect three season weight and looks almost like wool at a casual glance. I love it!
Aside from choosing better quality fabrics in 2014 (off to a good start!), using better seam finishing techniques is also on my to-do list.
I bound all of my raw seams with 1/2″ single fold bias tape. Rather than use the traditional Hong Kong technique, I went the lazy route and folded the bias tape as I topstitched it. The lazy way works well if you’re very careful and make sure you’re catching both edges of the bias tape in the same line of stitching. I bound all four of the gore seams with one strip of bias tape after stitching them, except on the side seams. I bound the edge of each side piece first, so I could sew them together and press the seam open for the zipper insertion.
I always refer back to Sunni’s free zipper class on Craftsy when installing zippers. She does an excellent job of explaining the process and I get a perfect lapped zipper every time! I only take one small extra step after Sunni’s instructions, and that’s to measure out a stitch guide on the outside of the fabric to make sure I’m sewing a straight line.
I used a nine inch zipper in my first skirt attempt, but felt it looked much too long for a 1940s style. This time I used a nine inch zipper, but sewed it at seven inches so it appeared shorter. I can still get the skirt on easily and I think it looks much better at the shorter length.
My next challenge was deciding how much I wanted to hem the skirt. The pattern suggests a two inch hem, but I wanted to be sure the overall length was spot on for the WWII reenactment at the end of the month. Skirt/dress length makes a huge difference in how period appropriate your clothing looks. So, to be as authentic as possible, I consulted my original 1942 Sears and Roebuck catalog and went skirt shopping!
After browsing around a bit I found a page that listed the finished skirt length for each size. That settled it, 25 inches below the waist band would be my finished length! And look, I’m not even far off from “wool worsted flannel in laurel green”. Just like I planned it or something
My pattern pieces didn’t line up at all at the bottom. I noticed this as I was tracing the original pattern but decided not to square it up since the hem would ultimately conceal any weird length issues. I measured 25 inches down from the bottom of the waist band and made a chalk mark, then measured 2.5 inches down from that for my bias tape allowance and hem fold line. I cut off any extra.
I was going to use lace hem tape originally, but liked the look of the 7/8″ wide bias tape better. Plus, I figured it would be more durable in the long run with the weight of the fabric and all. I tried to gather the bottom of the skirt slightly but with the bias bound seams it was too thick to pull the basting stitches. I sewed the bias tape to the hem and steamed the crap out of it with my iron to get it to shrink up a bit. It ended up fitting quite nicely inside the skirt after that! I stitched the top of the bias tape to itself to prevent it from stretching, and then attached it to the actual skirt by hand with a blind hem stitch. I made little tick marks (on the inside of my skirt) with chalk, every half inch to ensure my blind stitches were straight and even. It looks pretty darn good from the outside if I do say so myself.
I sat down in bed with a needle, some thread, one cat, and one dog, and by the time I got to episode three of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries on Netflix I was finished with the hemming! I think I’ve watched Season One about 17 times now. (…any one else obsessed? Season Two needs to reach the US quick before I go crazy! Ah!)
As far as the waist band issues I was having earlier, I figured out the problem thanks to a reader comment. I had assumed the top of the skirt would measure the exact same size at the waist band so I didn’t think to measure that part of the pattern as I was double checking everything initially. I measured the waistband and the hip but not the actual waist. I do have a major tendency to stretch things out as I iron, but the bigger issue was the waist measured an inch bigger than the waistband right off the bat! No wonder it wasn’t matching up! The pattern probably assumes that you know to ease the waist of the skirt into the band, but I didn’t know that. Now I do.
One thing I did with this pattern, that I’ve never done before, is keep a notebook and write about all the changes I made or odd things I encountered while sewing. This is definitely something I’m going to keep doing in the future because it makes everything so much easier to refer back to. The purpose of my Twelve Pattern Challenge is to pick patterns that I can master and then remake again and again to build a better wardrobe. So far I’m off to a fantastic start! I’m really pleased with my fabric choice because it does not look or feel cheap. I put away my pinking shears, left my serger in the closet, and took the time to use seam binding to finish all the raw edges. I made not one, but two muslins to perfect the fit of this pattern. I didn’t skimp or cut corners on anything, I actually used interfacing in the waistband (I couldn’t be bothered with it before)! I did proper measuring when deciding how much to raise the hem, instead of just doing what the pattern suggested. I took my time and I made something I’m really proud of. I haven’t been really proud of my sewing in quite some time now but that’s quickly changing.
The only thing I would change on this skirt is my buttonhole. I cut a little too close to the stitching in one spot so now the thread is unraveling a bit with wear, but I bought some Fray-Check to fix it! Soooo I guess I would change nothing!
Now I just need to wait for some less brutal weather so I can get some proper outfit photos and then move on to the next pattern on my list!
Do you have a goal to “up your game” with sewing this year? What steps are you taking to do that?
I had a big enlightening moment at the end of 2013 that sparked an idea that would overhaul my entire approach to sewing. Last year I was constantly choosing patterns to sew that never got worn, I wasn’t making an effort to alter patterns that didn’t fit, I wasn’t choosing quality fabrics, and I wasn’t properly finishing the insides of my garments (all according to my own standards, of course). After evaluating my ideal wardrobe, and understanding why I wasn’t wearing what I was making, I came up with the Twelve Pattern Challenge. The purpose of this challenge is to create a handmade vintage wardrobe that I will want to wear everyday, that I can wash with ease and I’m proud of inside and out. Quality, not quantity, is the goal.
Here are the basic rules:
I will pick a total of 12 patterns to sew from in 2014. This is my bank of wardrobe staples.
I will select patterns from my stash first, but also give myself an allowance of new patterns to purchase.
I can sew any combination of patterns, in any order, but…
I will sew at least one pattern every month, and all 12 by the end of the year.
I will make a muslin for each pattern and perfect the fit to the best of my ability.
I will concentrate on proper, durable seam finishing techniques in order to really finish each garment.
Once the fit is perfected, and the initial pattern has been made according to the original instructions, I can re-make and alter the pattern as many times as I’d like.
I will attempt to use up my stash fabric, but only if the fabric is appropriate for the garment and of good quality.
*If I’m working through a pattern and I discover it’s just not working out (because of construction or fit problems) to the point where it’s no longer fun to work on, I will move on to a new pattern or replace the pattern that’s not working with a new one.
My Pattern Bank will consist of: 2 pant styles, 2 shirt styles, 2 wrap dresses, 2 skirt styles, 1 lounge wear set, 1 handbag, 1 jacket, and 1 blazer.
My Pattern Bank so far: Pattern Number One: DuBarry 2434B Jacket – circa 1939
Pattern Number Two: Simplicity 4498 Wrap Dress – circa 1943
Pattern Number Three: Advance 3297 Wrap Dress – circa 1943
Pattern Number Four: Simplicity 4139 Shirt – circa 1942
Pattern Number Five: Mail Order Pattern 4821 Dirndl Skirt – circa 1954(?)
Pattern Number Six and Seven: Simplicity Reproduction 3688 Blazer and Pants – originally circa 1944-45(?)
My Pattern Allowance:
I just purchased a six-gore suit skirt pattern (circa 1944) from Vintage4me2, so there’s one more to add to my bank! Now I only have four patterns left in my allowance to find. I’m still looking for a 1930s or 40s loungewear/pajama set that I can wear inside, but will also be acceptable to wear outside (if made in the right material) when walking Lucille in the summer time, or running errands. I need a second pants pattern and shirt pattern in slightly different styles than the ones already in my bank. The one handmade item I DO use every single day is my little tote bag, so I’d like to make another one that’s more durable and more purse like.
I bought an entire bolt of muslin fabric (50% off at Jo-Ann’s!), and I have pattern tracing paper, so there’s no excuse for me not to test fit each one of my garments. I’m also considering the Craftsy class Sew The Perfect Fit in order to help me with any alterations I might need.
I’m going to try to sew from my stash first and foremost, but my stash only has shirt/dress weight cottons in it at this point. I’ll be ordering a lot of fabric online this year since there are NO fabric stores near me (besides Jo-Ann’s and I’m not happy with their bottom weight fabrics recently). I’ll be making an effort to plan new garments with an entire outfit in mind, and I will order swatches before buying unfamiliar fabrics.
Phew! Okay this post is getting slightly long winded but I really needed to spell this all out for myself so I have a solid reference to move forward with. Having a set plan is a big factor in sewing success so I’m just trying to follow my own advice for once ;).
This is the official kickoff to my Twelve Pattern Challenge! What should I sew first?!