Ta Da!!! Last weekend I finished the pjs in time to meet the contest deadline, even managed to write a review and work out how to use the self-timer button on the camera. (I don’t read manuals most of the time and I couldn’t tell you where the manual for the camera is.)
The review is here. From this 1947 Advance pattern (which I recently found out the department store chain JC Penney used to own), I made view 1, with the short sleeves.
Does it look like the picture on the pattern? Yes. Although I didn’t put on bangles for the pic, but at least my toenails are painted.
The yellow floral was a cotton sheet and the pale pink was a large nightgown, both from the local thrift store.
The trim was handled differently. The pattern called for lace edging – 5 yards of it – at $3 a yard at Jo-Ann, I wasn’t going to spend $15 on trim. For a couple of weeks I toyed with the idea of making a crochet lace trim instead. I experimented with a few trim crochet patterns and liked this one and I thought it was meant to be when I found some crochet cotton at a garage sale for 25cents. I did crochet some trim but decided it wasn’t going to work and gave up on the lace edging altogether. I salvaged a bit of trim, bows and buttons from the nightgown. The extra ribbon trim on the sleeves came from the nightie – the sleeves were cut that way.
What I Learned
Tracing a pattern onto tissue paper is boring, but doable.
Unmarked vintage patterns are not so scary after all. The instructions, while glossing over details, still give you enough information to sew the garment. (Although these were only pjs, not a tailored coat.)
I can fit into this size, but the pants are a bit weird – way high in the waist but way low in the crotch. I did make a rough version of the coat out of a poly-cotton sheet and it fitted ok, but I didn’t bother with the pants. Live and learn. These are pjs to warn me not to put on weight as there isn’t a lot of wiggle room to get them over my hips. There’s elastic in casing only at the back – the front has a yoke.
I wish I’d discovered this tip before turning over and pressing the edges of the bias strips. I need a gadget (a set square?) to cut bias strips properly, although the polka dots worked as a guide.
Sheets have crooked grain. The nasty polycotton sheet (how can polycotton feel slightly slimey?) used to make up a rough version would not line up with the grain. I got very frustrated trying to get it to lie flat on the floor (folded), even ironing it directly on the floor at one stage. The cotton sheet was slightly less frustrating – even after cutting off the edges it was still not quite true. I gave up trying to make the grain perfectly straight.
The worst part about sewing for me is preparing the fabric and laying it out. Yes I understand why you have to wash and iron it. But how on earth do you iron large swathes of fabric on an ironing board? And then lay it out, folded of course, and get it straight and wrinkle free? This is the most hated part about sewing. Having to do this is probably 90% of the reason why I don’t do much sewing.
Cutting on the floor is also a pain. First you have to sweep the floor. Maybe mop it and wait for it to dry. Or at least dustmop it. Then it’s hard on your knees and the fabric won’t cooperate and lay flat. I’m seriously contemplating getting a fold-out cutting board that you can put on the bed. Of course I’d have to make the bed first.
Forgot to cut the pants yoke on the fold so had to re-cut. A simple mistake anyone could’ve made.
Blue tailor’s chalk doesn’t wash out well. All the buttonholes have this bluish look to them from the chalk.
I wish I’d had the sense to plan ahead and apply the trim on the coat’s yoke before inserting the sleeves to avoid the unpicking/resewing business where the lace disappears into the sleeve seam. However the main annoyance with the eyelet lace is that it frays a bit and I didn’t allow enough at the ends to properly turn it under and secure it – so it’s going to fray with repeated washes and I’ll have to replace it down the track.
I can do buttonholes by hand! The guide had instructions for hand made buttonholes. I did consult my 70s edition of the Readers Digest Complete Guide to Sewing and did 3 for practice, before noticing the pattern guide had instructions already. Whilst doing the 9 buttonholes, I kept on thinking of Laura Ingalls Wilder – in Little Town On The Prairie, she’s got a job in town sewing men’s shirts to help raise money to send Mary to college. Well she hated doing buttonholes so much she became very fast and proficient at them. On the other hand, I took hours…..
As the pink fabric was much thinner than the yellow fabric I doubled it for the yoke of the coat as I didn’t want the facing to show through. As can be seen by the pants yoke, you can see through the pink fabric. Don’t really care about that on the pants, but it was a good decision for the coat.
My choice of DVDs to have on in the background was a winner. I borrowed from the library a few seasons’ worth of The Closer. I knew that I needed something on in the background that was better than free-to-air TV, but it had to be something I’d seen before and didn’t mind watching again. The Closer turned out to be a perfect choice, you can follow the plot by dialogue only and it’s watchable enough to get me through the hours of handsewing. Anything that’s more engrossing and that I like more, like MadMen or Larkrise to Candleford or (insert period drama with gorgeous sets and costumes here) would be too distracting and I’d end up watching that rather than sewing.
Making these pjs to a deadline almost got me used to the idea of sewing regularly. I almost found myself thinking I needed to sew something else pretty much straight away. There seemed to be a gap in my free-time that almost needed to be filled by another sewing project.