Friday, September 14, 2012

Mauve Madness II

This September (Sewing Month!), I wanted to challenge myself with something new, or at least brush up on some sewing techniques that don’t get much use. I’ve been taking Gertie’s Starlet Suit Jacket course on Craftsy, but my jacket needs are still a few months off, and so far I have only watched the lessons.
I decided to toss a few challenges into the Mauve Madness collection. Here are two big ones: a silk blouse made from a vintage pattern almost four sizes too small, and a fitted, pleated skirt. Whew!

Click on any pic to see larger version

I purchased this size 30 pattern as part of a large lot, and really, I probably should have put it aside for sale or to give away.
B3495, mid-40s?
The sewing experts suggest that you should not try to grade a pattern up more than two sizes, and this was at least three sizes. I just could not resist that diagonal yoke panel-bow tie. I set about enlarging it to a size 36.

The back and lower front pieces each have a center and a side seam which can be expanded by ½ inch without losing shape.
New front piece (on muslin)/Original front pattern
That gave me 8 x ½ = 4 inches already. I added a larger wedge at the lower back edge since I needed to increase the hip measurement by, let us say, a lot more!
MUCH larger back piece
With the front bodice gathers and the waist tucks at the front and back waist, there was also a lot of fitting flexibility in the torso.

I decided my biggest concern would be across the shoulders in back, and where the diagonal yoke stretches from the sleeve across to center front. If these areas were too small, any arm movement would tear the blouse apart. Therefore I spread the back another ½ inch all the way from the middle of the shoulder down, and did the same with the tiny triangular front shoulder piece and the yoke/tie piece.
Larger front yoke and tie pieces.
I diverged from the pattern instructions a couple of times. The pattern did not mention any interfacing, but I interfaced the front and neck facings to help them stay put. In addition, the instructions called for the yoke-tie piece to be faced only to center front, and for the tie to have a narrow hem. I thought it would look better to have a two-sided tie.

This is a silk-cotton blend, but it was as sensitive and slippery as 100% silk. I hand-basted any seam on a curve or bias, because the fabric would slide in all directions as it ran through the machine.
I got lots of practice on finishing with this project. My French seams are nice and neat on the side seams, but I still haven’t gotten the hang of French seams on the sleeves. Maybe you’re supposed to use another finish on sleeves? The sleeves and hem are hand-sewn, and I did nearly go blind trying to stitch with dark grey thread on dark grey fabric. Not as bad as black but almost!

And one more thing about the pattern: it is not dated, but I place it in the mid-40s due to this public service announcement on the envelope flap:

Isn’t that interesting? Have you ever seen this on a pattern? Do you have an idea of the date?


On to the next big challenge!

This fabric is a loose-weave silk or blend.

It has that raw-silk smell, a nubbly texture, and the threads are easily snagged. I first stabilized it by fusing a very lightweight interfacing to the entire yardage. This skirt requires a surprisingly large amount of fabric because so much of it (20 inches) is inside the pleats.
1930s style skirt adopted by the 1980s in this pattern
It’s a very simple shape with simple construction, except for these pleats! I can NOT believe how difficult it is to sew seven parallel straight lines! Twice! (The front and back have the same pleats.)

Normally a skirt with sharp pleats would be made of wool or a synthetic blend in order to hold the crease, but the interfacing allowed this floppy silk to stay sharp.
Then would you believe I decided to line it? Yes, I lined it with Bemberg and I used the same pattern, pleating it in the same places. Fourteen more pleats! The only difference was that I cut away the extra fabric in the stitched-down portions of the pleats to reduce some of the bulk.

It has its share of problems, but they are all minor and overall I’m so happy with the pleats that I can overlook the other stuff. Of course, it isn’t hemmed yet…

I was making progress on the next item in the Mauve series when my iron broke. Hmmm. Are the sewing gods trying to tell me something? I will be back on the job as soon as I can get a new iron, but that means I have to decide which one I want.

Any suggestions for a good steam iron?



  1. Katrina, Oh my! My jaw is still on the floor. This is exquisite sewing. Simply beautiful. I'm beyond impressed. Where have you been hiding such talent? I sew too, so I appreciate the skill. Thank you for sharing. Both pieces are beautiful.

    I have been travelling all summer and still not back home - but I blog at Bring the Monkey about quilting and sewing and I posted about an iron I purchased shortly before leaving last May. Love it. Steam was fantastic - the iron was made for seamstresses and quilters. Starts with an "O"

    Am I showing my age with my astute memory here?

    1. Thank you, I am going to go check out that blog post right now.
      Hey, at least you can remember that you wrote about something. My memory has such huge holes in that I'm always afraid I'm going to repeat a topic almost word for word one of these days. If I haven't already.

  2. Great blouse and skirt. I love the pleats. I'm doing Gertie's starlet jacket as well, or that is, I paid for the class and bought the material. I'm excited to see how yours turns out.

    1. Thanks! I think you'll get to the jacket before I will, or at least have a reason to wear it sooner. I'd like to do one in wool, but that limits the wearability here.

  3. That blouse pattern is absolutely gorgeous and definitely early to mid 40's I would say.It goes so well with the skirt pattern too.I love 30's fashions but must admit hating anything 1980's I would not have looked twice at this blinkered I am ! I am still not sewing anything but when I get back to it in the autumn I want to make outfits rather than odd items so you are inspiring me!keep up with the mauve madness!!

    1. Thank you!
      Agreed, I don't much care for the 80s styling and sometimes the hairstyles turn me off before I can flip the pattern over to look at the line drawings. But they copied almost everything from previous decades (1920s dropped waists, 30s skirts, 40s shoulders and shirtwaists), so in the interest of frugality, I like to use those cheapo 80s patterns instead of the mostly unattainable ones from the earlier decades when I can.

  4. The blouse is so, so lovely, Katrina! I have not seen that Public Service Announcement anywhere before - how interesting.

    1. Thanks Patti!
      Yes it's one thing to have an old pattern in your hands, and quite another to have something like this that really brings the realities of wartime to life. No doctors or nurses!

  5. Wow - very impressive sewing and beautiful results.
    You're so skilled and also determined!
    Thanks for taking the time to share all the information.

    Sorry I can't suggest an iron - I have a bog standard domestic iron. The sewing class I went to had some steam generator type irons which were more powerful but of course bulky if that's a consideration for you. Good luck with your search.

  6. Those are two fantastic items youve made - I think I am in love with the blouse, the bow, the shaping....the fabric! Totally gorgeous. BUT I can appreciate the work gone into those pleats! I'm interested that you interfaced the fabric - great thinking, would never have occurred to me- & it achieves such a lovely end result. Thanks for sharing this link in your comment, I've really enjoyed reading (& more of your posts!)