Thursday, August 26, 2010

Orange Color Block Mod Dress- Simplicity 7535 from 1968

I heart color block patterns

Coffee & I are BFFs

When deciding on this pattern, I wanted a really popping color. That's one thing I love about the mod color-block patterns- the ability to combine a really bold color with a neutral like white. So, I went with a bright orange, which I thought was a great color for the mod look. I also went with the fabric that I've been the most comfortable working with-- 100% ponte de roma polyester that I got from a local fabric store (is it just me or does Joann's have a very limited color palette for knits?). Sure, knits can be tricky, but they have that stretch that I love.

Overall, this was a pretty seamless project--uh wait, bad choice of words. Let's just say it went pretty well. I did have some trouble getting the two fabrics pieces (the orange and the white) to meet at the front in clean points. There was some bunching at the corners, but I didn't let it stress me out too much. Instead, I moved along at a pretty good clip and came out with a product that I was quite pleased with (but of course, as always, with a few warts here and there).

I didn't spend much time with my bestie Mr. Seam Ripper, although I did struggle a tad with the facing for the neck. I have been using a bias tape technique to face my armholes and necks. I got the technique from this link: It's a great technique by the way, and I'd like to thank the original poster for putting this out there. BUT, with this project, I got sick with over-confidence (anyone have a cure for this?). I decided to cut the facings from the pattern pieces and use those. Why did I decide to use those when I had a workable technique that I actually understood? I guess I thought I was getting "good". I thought I was a big kid, ready to sit at the adult table.

I'm not a big kid yet.

I think you can see the overconfidence in my face

The pattern called for slip-stitching the facing to secure it and keep it down. I still have no friggin clue how to machine or hand slip-stitch. Yep, I've seen the tutorials. Yep, I've looked at pictures. Yep, I've read my machines' manual. I just DON'T get it. When it comes to hand-stitching, I must say, I just hate it. Deep down, I think I'm resistant to learn hand slip-stitching because I just HATE HATE HATE hand-stitching so much. I have no patience for it. I hate hand-threading. I hate tying the knot. I hate the actual stitching process. Did I mention I hate hand-stitching?

When it comes to machine slip-stitching, I tried to follow my machine's instructions. I set it to the correct stitch, but no matter what I did, the stitches weren't blind and that's the whole point. I can see them VERY clearly, each and every damn one of them. So, I know I'm doing something wrong but I just don't know what. I think I should sit down and practice with some scrap fabric. Now, it's just the little matter of getting over a little laziness and a lot of impatience. I wish there was a cure for that...

Now, there was one minor difference between the pattern and my actual results that I didn't quite understand. I don't think I did anything "wrong" to cause the difference, but I noticed that the color block is under my bust in the final result, whereas the pattern pictures the color block as mid or above bust-line. Could my bust size be forcing the color block south?

Overall, with relatively few snafus, I found myself speculating about a few things that I've been glossing over:

1.) IRONING: I'll admit it. I don't iron my fabric. I tried to when I did my first pattern, but either I'm an ironing imbecile, or my iron just plain sucks. No matter how much I try to smooth out those wrinkles, nothing seems to happen. At least I pre-wash my fabric (okay, I didn't do it the first few times, but now I do), doesn't that count for something? So, my question is, am I making a big mistake by not ironing? It doesn't really bother me to use wrinkly fabric, but could it be throwing off my technique?

2.) ON THE GRAIN: I line up things okay. I'm on the grain. Well, pretty much anyway. I'll admit-- I'm not that picky about getting things on the grain. My pieces are decently "on the grain." Does "decently" cut it? Should I be pickier?

3.) SELVAGES: I keep reading about how you're supposed to pull your selvages to make them even. Mine are sometimes a little off. I haven't been able to bring myself to care. They're not horribly off. Just a little. Does this matter much?

4.) HEMS: My hems aren't bad. They just aren't great. They're always a little "wonky" looking, but I can't quite put my finger on what I'm doing wrong. They always look a little rumpled in spots. Every book I have glosses over hemming. It's makes me feel a little dumb, when the book thinks it's so damn easy that hardly any instructions are required. But, I don't feel that dumb, because I'm realizing something about sewing. I had thought originally that it's all about technique. I'm beginning to think it's more of an "art" than a "skill". It's also a lot more about patience than anything else.

Over and out!

Love those mod chain belts-- got this particular one at Target

Earrings were purchased at Target, necklace is vintage Sarah Coventry

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Alteration Project- From Green Monster to Mini Dress

.BEFORE- Feeling like the Jolly Green Giant but less jolly

I found this late 60's (or maybe early 70's) polyester maxi dress at a thrift store for $1.00. Sure it was long (not to mention very, very green), but I saw potential. All it really needed was to be hemmed. Okay, hemmed a lot. And cinched in a tad too. So, I ripped out the stitches with my bestie Mr. Seam Ripper, marked my new seam, and stitched away. Then, I got out my ruler and hacked off about 1/3 of the overall dress. Stitch...stitch...and VOILA!--a mini dress is born.

AFTER- feeling a lot more jolly and a lot less giant

I'm pleased with the results and will happily wear this one come fall. It seems like the long green scarf thingy was supposed to be an ascot that ties on the front of the dress. It really weighed down the dress, though, not to mention strangled me. So, I swept it over my shoulders and think of it as a little cape. I also added a mod-style chain belt that I found at T.J. Maxx the other day. If anyone's interested, they're made by Rampage, and come in several different designs and metals. I like how it completes the look.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My 5th Dress- 60's Boho with Bell Sleeves COMPLETED

Tailoring the beast
Don't I look wind-blown? Or is that exasperation?

My seam ripper and I are besties

The previous post shows the Simplicity pattern I used for my fifth dress. I picked view 1. I was hoping for a cute boho mini dress. I even picked out this geometric pattern at Joann's that I thought was really cool. I don't "hate" the dress per se. But, I'm not gonna lie. I don't "like" this dress. But hey, at least it wasn't my fault, as you'll see below.

What follows is the rundown of what I learned and the problems I encountered. Oh, and you better believe it, there WERE problems ; - )

1.) PRINTS: Be very careful with prints. It may seem fabulous when you pick it out at the store, but if you're petite like me, prints can really swamp your frame. I think that's one of the big problems with this dress. Plus, this print looked way more 60's on the bolt. Once it became a dress, somehow it lost that flavor for me. I guess I should have picked a double-sided pattern, too, since the sleeve insides are shown in this design.

2.) MATERIAL: I doubt I will ever use 100% cotton ever again. It didn't drape well. It was stiff. It was boxy. And since I LOVE LOVE LOVE (did I say LOVE) to tailor my dresses for a close-fit, it drove me nuts that I couldn't get the cotton to nip in well at the waist. I totally lost my waist in this dress. I hope to find it again, someday...

By the way, I literally machine-basted this monster three times, trying to tailor it. It was a total Goldilocks moment (except for the last part where it's "just right"-- fairytales aint real after all).

3.) INVISIBLE ZIPPERS: Yay! I finally figured them out. It wasn't rocket science, but if anyone asks, it was. Shhhhhhh! Don't tell.

4.) SLEEVES: I did my first long sleeves with this dress. Honestly, the only thing that I truly like about this dress is the sleeves. I think that's why I fell for this pattern in the first place-- a total love affair with bell/angel sleeves. Since I don't like this result, though, I'll probably do another bell sleeve dress in the future.
My biggest problem with the sleeves: somehow when I'm doing curves, the fabric often bunches on me and I end up sewing a bunch of overlapping fabric that I then have to rip out with my seam ripper. It seems to happen even when I'm being super careful, and I think it's not happening. Oh and of course, this never happens when I am basting, only when I am stitching tiny little stitches that then take forever to rip out. Damn Murphy's Law.

5.) MYSTERY ISSUE: When I first started laying out my fabric and pattern pieces, it was abundantly clear that I did not have enough fabric. I told the lady at Joann's the correct yardage. Did she short-fabric me by accident? Was she wrong about the width which caused me to pick the wrong yardage (I always have to ask what the width is, because I don't know where to find it on the Joann's bolt)? Was it a shrinkage issue from pre-washing/drying? I guess this will remain one of the many mysteries of the universe. What I ended up doing was "making it work" as Tim Gunn would say.
6.) CONSTRUCTION: I'm going to say it and I hope I don't jinx myself. Construction-wise, this probably turned out the best of any of my dresses. So, even though I'm not pleased with the result, I learned a lot and I guess I'm getting better, right? Fingers crossed. Pressing forward.

Look closely at the photo below, and you'll see the tinge of pain in my face...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

My 5th Dress- 60's Boho with Bell Sleeves

I'm almost done with Simplicity 8234 (View 1). I'm using this black and white patterned fabric I got at Joann's (100% cotton). Almost done. So far no major disasters. Just a few minor crises. I bonded with my seam ripper a few times. I think I should name my seam ripper, since I spend so much time with it ; - )

More to come, along with pics, in the next few days. I wanted to finish it tonight, but I've learned that I tend to rush when I work late night and then I pay for it by making a bunch of mistakes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My 4th Mod Dress- Simplicity 8878 from 1970

I made the dress in this post using the above pattern.


My fourth dress. My salvation! Yes, I finally complete a dress that I feel really comfortable [GASP] wearing!

In fact, since I made it less than a week ago, I've worn it twice. It didn't turn out perfect (I know, I know, always the critic), but by God, it's perfect to me.

I used 100% polyester knit from Joann's, and I'm very happy with the fit and colors. I even figured out a trick to do the armhole and collar facings using bias tape. No more bulky vintage facings for me! Take that curved seams!

The biggest struggle was the zipper. I bought an invisible zipper again and still couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. Everyone online kept saying how "easy" it was. I felt pretty dumb.

After struggling over it, I finally installed it like a regular zipper. I had to go over it a few times with my machine so the stitching looks a little funny, but you don't really see it. I'm not sure why the zipper wouldn't stay. The seams kept coming a bit loose in certain areas.

Later, I figured out what went wrong with installing it as an invisible zipper. I had sewed part of the seam (like the pattern instructed), but with invisible zippers, you need a totally unstitched seam. So, I will try that again next time and hopefully the zipper will behave.

The best trick I learned this time around involved narrow zig-zag stitching. With my previous knit dress (#2), I used a straight stitch. It seemed like the dress wasn't holding well. This one holds a lot better with the zig-zag.
I'm still very unsure of myself when it comes to tension. Anyone have any good tension rules I can follow? I'm all about having some rules to follow. I don't like uncertainty, which is why I've been frustrated at times with sewing.

3rd Mod Dress- Simplicity 8088 from 1969

Above is the pattern I used to complete the dress pictured.


My third dress was my biggest disaster (don't worry, it gets better later). I thought the poplin I got at Joann's was a little annoying. It was just wouldn't unwrinkle no matter how much I ironed it. It also bugged me that the poplin looked a little marred when I did my seam ripping (haven't had a project yet that didn't involve seam ripping- just call me Astrid the Ripper). It also seemed like it got marred by my pinning.
Nevertheless, things weren't so bad... Until the big slip. Snip! My scissors, who were innocently attempting to cut a loose string, cut into the collar. Panic ensues. What shall I do?

Well, I was tired. I was coming apart at the seams (ha, ha). So, I decided to fold it over and try to sew it shorter so as to mask the cut. I didn't seem like it'd be enough to sew the cut shut or to use fabric glue. It seemed like it would come loose. Let's just say the collar turned out lumpy and uneven and too short and...okay, I've tortured myself enough.

And then there was the zipper. Invisible zipper? More like sewn on backwards zipper. Yes, I sewed the zipper on backwards. My husband is still giving me shit about it.

This project was one of those disasters that we've all experienced. Something goes wrong. Very wrong. And at that point, you're so pissed off that it happened that you say "fug it!" You say, "I'm going to just finish this blasted thing!" You don't care about the result anymore. You just want the Chinese water torture to be over.

You can't see all the problems in the pictures, due to the clever photography of my husband. I'll have to ask him to take some pictures that are more illustrative of my failings. Then again, it's more fun to fake it!
Oh well, I feel like I did a decent job tailoring it to my body (I use an adjustable dress form for this). So, it wasn't all bad...

3rd Project- Sixties Stewardess Dress Alteration



After the fiasco of my second dress, I decided to take on something a little easier-- an alteration. I'd found this 60's stewardess style dress at a local thrift store for $5.00. It was many sizes too big for me and many inches too long. Quite frankly, it looked like a bad housecoat that I remember my mom wearing (sorry mom!).

So, I took that sucker to the sewing machine and with dogged determination, I was going to get something right. And guess what? I did! I took in the waist many inches and made it much shorter. I like it. Sure the hem's a little goofy if you look real close, but I'm my own worse critic.

Anyone know how to get rid of old dress smell? I tried to wash it. Still smells kinda funky.

2nd Mod Dress- Simplicity 6679 from 1966

The dress in the blog was made from the above sewing pattern.


It happens to the best of us. We go through a struggle, but we sorta forget about it. We move on, and we think- "hey, that wasn't so bad after all." For some reason, we gloss over all those blood, sweat, and tears that made the thing difficult in the first place.

And that's what happened to me when I made my second mod dress from a vintage sewing pattern. My first dress (see previous post) was a struggle. I made it so much more difficult than it needed to be. I demanded perfection on the first try. That was just plain silly.

Somehow on the second dress, though, I managed to forget about the difficulty of the first dress. My husband encouraged me and praised my work. I thought, "hey, I can do this!" It was the equivalent of a kid giving her mom a picture to put on the fridge, saying, "Look what I made!" And mom gives a big smile and loves the picture even though to an outsider, it's just a bunch of scribbles.

Needless to say, I was overconfident. I picked an awesome diamond/harlequin black and white mod dress. I shortened it into a mini.

It was a beautiful dress, and I was way too ambitious. I couldn't, for the life of me, get those friggin' colorblock diamonds to meet into a point. I finally got it to "good enough", but I hadn't learned my lesson the first time. I was trying to be perfect-- I was too ambitious--but I'm only a novice.

And did I mention I decided to sew with knits my second time around? Probably not the greatest idea. My inexperience with knits led to a zipper as wavy as the Atlantic. My inability to make points led to a back that was as uneven as Obama's presidency.

And did I mention the armhole facings or the collar? I still can't get them quite right. Blasted curved seams are the death of me.

But here's the dress. You can't see all the whining and complaining my husband endured, and he took the pictures far enough away so that you can't see the raggedy armholes or wonky collar. I could say these little details give the dress character....But I won't. I want to get better, and I'm trying not to kid myself! ; - )

First Mod Dress- Simplicity 9236

The dress featured in this blog was made from the above pattern. I did shorten the length.


I sewed my first item about a month ago. I picked this 1970 mod dress pattern, because it was a "how to sew" pattern. Somehow this sounded less intimidating. It wasn't.

Each step was pain-staking. It took me about an hour to get up the courage to cut the pattern once I'd laid it out on the fabric. What if I cut it wrong? Then there would be no going back--what if I had to go back to the fabric store again? That was scary enough the first time!

Yes, even the planning stages were tense. I needlessly mulled over my fabric choice, terrified that I'd somehow pick the "wrong" one, resulting in a completely unwearable dress. I paced around the fabric store, while my husband kept wondering if he should go wait in the car. It felt like hours to him, but it felt like days to me. Finally, I "settled" on a fabric. I was so apprehensive at the time-- I don't even recall the type of fabric I picked. I only know that it wasn't a knit. I only know that, because it raveled and raveled and raveled...

As I followed the pattern I would encounter word after word that I did not know. Sure, I'd read several books, but who could absorb all that? I could only cram so much new terminology into my brain without melting into a pile of "I-give-up."
WTF is stay-stitching? Huh? Hadn't seen that one. Looked it up. Okay, this isn't so bad...

And then the zipper. So scary but surprisingly not so hard. I let out a sigh of relief. My confidence was up. My confidence was premature.
Every time I got a little confident, there it would be. It would stare me in the face. It was confusion. It was re-reading that pattern over and over again, trying to make sense of the sparse directions. It was ripping out stitches. It was not once, not twice, but three times a seam ripping.

Why did I try to learn this? I couldn't do it... I just didn't have the "natural" talent. But wait-- clearly no one could learn this without a teacher? It wasn't MY fault! Rip--Rip--Rip!

And then there was the dreaded facings. I didn't know their purpose, let alone know how to install them. And what did they mean to sew the right side to the right side and then turn the facing inside and what the heck was slip-stitching and...??????

I have no idea how I continued... I was ready to melt into a pool of pity, while my husband retreated to the other room, playing Sid Meier's Civilization. While he tried to rule the world, I tried to rule the dress. That terrible, monstrous, RAVELING dress!

And what would happen if I actually sewed this thing? Would it even hold together? What with all the raveling and those darts--they were already coming loose at the seams!

And at some point it must have happened. Acceptance. Tolerance. Perseverance over perfection. This dress was not going to turn out perfect. No matter how type-A I was, I could not do this perfect the first-time. And I was going bat-shit crazy in the process.

That's when the lumpy hem was okay. That's when the armhole facing that wouldn't stay inside the dress didn't seem like such a world crisis. That's when I finally completed the dress and thought: "hey, it may not be Mary Quant, but it's mine."


Hey, I'm Astrid, and I'm new to sewing. I've created this blog to share my experiences as a new sewer with a passion for vintage sewing patterns.

I've loved vintage clothing for a long time, particularly the 60's mod look, but I've always found finding vintage to be challenging. Sure, you can buy online, but there's always the risk that it won't look right when you finally get to try it on. Even in a big city like Atlanta, vintage clothing stores have hardly any stock and what they do have, often happens to be in the wrong size. So, that's what brought me to sewing from vintage patterns.

I'm learning how to sew strictly from books, which can be a bit frustrating at times, but it's also fun. I had never even touched a sewing machine just one month ago. I'm still not so confident that my items will actually hold together. Is this a common fear for new sewers or should I really be afraid? ; - ) Ha ha.

Within the blog, I plan to showcase the vintage patterns that I sew from, along with my finished creations. I'll also share the struggles that occur along the way. And trust me, there WILL be struggles!