Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rosie the Riveter, by way of Colette Patterns

Not a new costume idea, but it combined three great advantages for me:
1. (Most important) I've been longing to make overalls!
2. World War II era
3. Comfortable and swing danceable

I sure did agonize over what pattern to use. The candidates included Folkwear's Rosie the Riveter

and Decades of Style's 1930's Sweetheart Overall.

Of course there are many vintage patterns, but nothing that I found was just right (though I may keep looking for a coverall pattern).

Even though the straight waist of the Folkwear pattern would be more historically correct for the 1940s, I couldn't stop thinking that a pointed, 1930's style waist would be more flattering to me. So in that sense I was leaning toward the Decades of Style pattern, but I worried about fitting it, and about wrestling with those crossed straps during visits to the loo.

So, taking a deep breath, I decided to use the Colette Parfait, which I have made and carefully fitted in its "real" form as a dress (no photos of that one, unfortunately, but it came out great).

Conceptually, adding wide pants to the bodice wasn't a difficult matter, but I knew that it would take a little thinking. My steps were:
  1. Instead of cutting the back bodice pieces on the fold,  cut as left and right sides and add a seam allowance to prepare for a center back zipper.
  2. Using New Look 6100, which I had previously made as shorts, combine the leg sections with the waist yoke sections and extend to full length
  3. Make a muslin!
  4. Tinker with the back darts to make them align vertically (this was only modestly successful; another muslin would have allowed me to make the dart angles perfect, but they were good enough for what is probably mostly a costume).

I knew from the book Pants for Real People that it would be better to make the crotch depth too short than too long (as it can be lengthened by stitching the crotch deeper, but not easily shortened), but even so I decided I needed to add another 1/2" to the crotch depth. In sewing, I further deepened the crotch by a full inch. That worked out very well; the crotch is neither baggy nor (ouch!) too short.

The order of sewing things together is much the same as it would be for the dress, except for the differences in constructing a side invisible zipper versus a centered back zipper. By the way, I did originally use an invisible zipper at the back (so that's definitely an option), but I decided to go for greater period authenticity as well as strength. 

I was so thrilled to find what I consider the perfect fabric for this project at Waechter's Fine Fabrics, a local fabric store which also happens to do a booming internet trade. It's a substantial rayon gabardine, with a perfect drape for the wide legs of these pants. I'm not finding the brown color on their website, but the pretty bright blue shows you what it's all about. This fabric seems like something you might actually have found in the forties, though perhaps not for factory togs!

I had a piece of red quilting cotton with white polka dots that would have been fine for the head scarf, but I have two problems with using that type of cotton for a scarf. The reverse side is very definitely white and not nice looking, and it's bulky to tie. Wonder of wonders, I also had a silk dress from Ann Taylor via Goodwill in a lovely red with white dots. Since I hadn't gotten started on trying to alter it to fit me better in the year since I bought it, and since I had never worn it, I decided that cutting it up for a scarf wasn't too much of a sacrifice. 

The whole outfit, including the white blouse, was made by me, which is rather in the spirit of the era, if I do say so!

The Never-Ending Quest

That's the quest for a "perfect" t-shirt, naturally. Truly, I don't know if I get closer or farther from that objective the more I work at it.

Though I do like the Ottobre Basic Design t-shirt shown in my last post, it does pose a fitting problem that I have yet to solve. Even though the shirt overall seems to have sufficient ease and looks fine when I'm standing still, when I lift my arms, the bodice hikes up over my bust. When I lower my arms, the shirt stays put in the wrong location.

Another aspect of this "hiking up" problem is that the neckline also seems to pull a bit toward the bodice.

I have done the sort of minimal FBA that consists of drawing a bump at the side seams, which is then eased to the back. I have cut different sizes at the neck and shoulder area. I have added more room at the side seams generally. And I've made the top in a variety of fabrics. To a greater or lesser extent, all of these variations still yield the "t-shirt stuck above the bust" situation.

A lack of sufficient width must be a part of this problem, but it seems to me that something about the angle and/or length of the shoulder and the armhole is also not quite right.

Thus was the stage set for experimentation with Kwik Sew 3740.

This is an odd choice because, first, Kwik Sew patterns are generally cut extremely large in the upper chest for me and second, this pattern specifically had been tried last year and found guilty of this fault. On the other hand, it is much straighter than the Ottobre pattern, so I thought the comparison might be instructive.

The two views in the Kwik Sew pattern have the same neckline but different armscyes to accommodate sleeves or not. The sleeveless top has an armscye that curves back in and up toward the underarm, which I thought might eliminate some of the folds that I get at the armhole. Below you can see the difference. 


On the left is View A, the sleeved version, with various alterations. On the right is View B, with the sleeve from the Ottobre t-shirt. Much to apologize for here--hair, lack of makeup, wrinkles--but onward! Both of these are made from cotton interlock knit, bought in scant one yard pieces at a recent local warehouse sale. Many choices derived from fabric shortages.

What I see in these pics, and I'm open to different interpretations:

  • On the left there is pooling of the fabric above the bust which I think is a result of excess width across the chest at that point
  • On the right there is less pooling above the bust. A similar amount of width was removed from both View A and View B, but View A has a different shape at the armscye.
  • On the right, the shoulder width may be getting too narrow.
But in neither case does the shirt hike up above the bust and get stuck when I raise my arms.

May I just say that as much as I love wearing 100% organic cotton interlock, a little spandex would not go amiss in these tops?

Here are some shots of my alterations for View B. I hope you can see them.

On both the front and the back, I have drawn a line from the apex of the most prominent feature (bust in front, shoulder blade in back) to the lower third of the neck edge and then downwards, parallel to the center fold through the hem. I then slashed both lines, leaving a pivot point at the apex, and overlapped the neck edge by 1/2", spreading the lower edge the same amount. This alteration narrows the chest width and increases the circumference at the lower edge at the same time, both of which I need! If I didn't need the extra width at the hem, I could remove the corresponding amount at the side seam.

I've also filled in the neckline and raised it 1" at center front, but I need to add more for a round neckline.

From here I messed around with another scrap of fabric, a thin cottony sweater knit from Fabric Mart. I wanted to replicate Vogue 1261, which has been positively reviewed and made up into any number of adorable versions, but which is said to be very wide in the neck and shoulders. Looking at the photos, I can well believe it!

I should have and would have added more width at the lower edge, but I was very short on fabric. So my top is not as full at the hem as the pattern's. And my cowl is much narrower, so much so that's it's scarcely a cowl at all. But that was the maximum depth I could achieve with my fabric!

See how easy it was to turn this t-shirt into an approximation of the other pattern? I think this was a lot less work than purchasing and cutting out a whole new pattern.

Sure wish this knit had more body and didn't show every bump and strap and seam beneath it.

So it will probably be mostly worn beneath a long jacket, like my fabulous, aging Oilily sweater coat. I have had this coat for thirteen years and I love it more every year that passes. It is full of holes and I need to replace a button. I saw the same sweater on eBay recently, but sadly in XL. If I see one in my size, I will buy it without a second thought!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Write Myself a Letter T-Shirt

 Three goals for this project:

  1. Make a start on my resolution to add at least five new simple t-shirts to my fall wardrobe.
  2. Use fabric on hand.
  3. Convince myself that I do not need to purchase an embroidery machine to add graphic interest to sportswear.

Pattern = Ottobre Woman T-Shirt pack (available from Banberry Place).

Sizing and alterations = Size 38 on top, 40 on bottom. Shortened sleeves 1 1/2" and added a small cuff. Lengthened the neckband slightly (I've noticed before, it's too short on this pattern). The shoulders are a bit wide and more room is needed at the bust, which I will address in future versions.

Fabric = wonderful wool jersey purchased two years ago from It didn't get used for a while as I've come to realize that gray is not my best color, no matter how much I love it. I thought perhaps adding a bit of color in an applique would mitigate the unflatteringness of the gray, and so it does, a bit. The applique is a Kokka print on canvas which I bought at Waechter's Fine Fabrics in Asheville, N.C.

I use Steam A Seam II Lite in the 8 1/2" x 11" sheets for this kind of raw edge applique. Yes, there is still a little distortion, but it's not bad. Past projects using this technique have held up very well through wear and laundering.

After applying the Steam A Seam to the reverse side of the applique fabric, I trim the edges, remove the paper backing and position the embellishment on the unsewn front garment piece. It sticks well enough to then hold the shirt front against myself to check the placement. The applique can be repositioned until I am satisfied. Then I gently press to fuse it in place. 

I have started using a hand embroidery hoop to hold the fabric taut while I zigzag it in place, which is very helpful. Even though my hoop is not tiny, I did have to reposition it halfway through attaching the typewriter. The little heart on the sleeve was small enough to attach all in one go. Lowering my presser foot pressure helped prevent rippling.

The sleeves are finished with a narrow binding strip the same width as the neck binding. I really like this finish, as it stretches and lasts better than a twin needle hem on a sleeve edge, which gets pushed up and down the arm throughout the day. The lower edge of the top is turned up and stitched with a twin needle.

I like this approach, but I'm not sure it's totally cured my embroidery machine longings. Maybe I need to try silk screening!