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‘Australian Home Journal’ Category

  1. Australian Home Journal 9044

    May 16, 2017 by rosie

    dsc_0414

    One of the problems with having small children is that they grow so quickly. In terms of sewing, this is a problem because:

    a) I finally get around to sewing her something, and then she hardly gets a chance to wear it because she grows out of it.

    b) She grows so quickly and I have minimal sewing time, so by the time I consult my (somewhat extensive) toddler sewing pattern stash, I realise with horror that half the patterns I’ve been thinking about and dying to make are no longer applicable, because they are too small. I can’t help but mourn for the patterns I may never have the chance to realise.

    So, when my little vintage Australian Home Journal coat pattern arrived in the mail, I decided that I should just go for it and make it ASAP, in order to maximise wear before winter set in. I had a feeling it would be a little on the too big side, but I figured that this was a far better outcome to have than too small – maybe she’ll even get to wear it next winter too!

    It was, of course, exactly around this time that my beloved Bernina started playing up, and I had to take it in to be serviced. SIX WEEKS LATER I was finally able to get stuck into the coat.

    This is definitely a stash slasher. The wool is left over from a project I made about five years ago; the lining was a piece of silk that had been wallowing in a tub for a couple of seasons. Even the inter-lining was a piece of Shapewell I found in mum’s sewing cupboard when I was up visiting at Easter time (thanks mum!).

    As for the pattern itself, I’m guessing it’s from around the 50’s, but that’s really a stab in the dark. I don’t think it had ever been used- it seemed to be still factory folded and I couldn’t see any signs of wear and tear or pin marks etc. I always get a little thrill when I discover an old pattern and I am able to give it another chance at becoming a real garment. Maybe the original pattern purchaser had my problem, and by the time she got around to making this coat, her child was too big for it!

    img_1520Anyway, typical of the era, there were no markings on the pattern, just a couple of punch holes that you have to decipher to tell you where the grain of the fabric is etc. And no separate pattern pieces for linings – just a brief sentence or two about how to alter the existing patterns and the assumption that the reader will figure it out.

    Similarly, the instructions are crammed onto two pieces of paper (the other sides are advertisements for buttons), with tiny hand-drawn illustrations that aren’t always completely accurate. Each ‘step’ actually contains about 4 or 5 steps in one that are sometimes only partially explained, and again, sometimes just assumed knowledge.

    The other challenge was that the front envelope illustration wasn’t a completely accurate depiction of the coat – particularly the collar, which doesn’t meet at centre, as implied in the drawing.

    I confess I did a bit of googling to brush up on bound buttonholes – the ‘instructions’ supplied just didn’t cut it for me! Plus, they used a different method to what I had used previously and I wasn’t confident it would work with such bulky fabric. In the end, the method I went with turned out pretty well in the end and were not as traumatic as I was expecting them to be.

    img_1615

    img_1617Sewing the points of the yoke was a little tricky – trickier than I was anticipating. The finished result isn’t perfect, but luckily, working with such a bulky fabric means that it’s quite forgiving. Still, every time I look at it I wish I had done a better job!

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    I don’t think I’ve ever done welt pockets before, so this was a new thing for me too. They are not perfectly even which annoys me slightly but I’m glad I gave them a go – it was tempting to just sew right down that seam and omit them altogether!

    dsc_0412The lining is attached by hand to the jacket. I suppose being a child’s jacket, this task didn’t seem too onerous – not sure how I’d feel about doing this in an adult size though!

    I’ve always loved little girls’ jackets, especially with a vintage vibe. I’m glad I had the courage to give this one a go, even if the end result is far from flawless. And yes, it is too big (especially in the sleeves), which I might address at some point if I have the time.

    dsc_0417I should have given it a bit of a press before taking these photos – it had been sitting on the back seat of our car up when I popped it on her and it’s a little crumpled.

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    Winter is well and truly on its way here in Victoria, so I’m glad I got it done in time. Problem is, its little headstrong owner is refusing to wear any type of jacket (or cardigan or jumper or poncho) at the moment! Maybe next year…


  2. I’ve got the Blogging blues…

    October 8, 2013 by rosie

    I feel like this blog is doomed! Part of the problem is that in order to post, I feel I need to have created something new to share, but I have had so many setbacks lately, I just haven’t had the chance to sew anything!

    Last time I posted, I was all revved up about winter patterns and 1960’s-inspired pinafores and a bit of a fabric splurge on winter woolens at the Fabric Store’s sale. Unfortunately, sinus surgery put a big fat ugly spanner in the works – two weeks bedridden, in totally unglamorous recovery without even so much as cutting out a pattern let alone making something. Even knitting was too hard (I’m not a very committed knitter – I’ve been on and off knitting this for over a year now).

    However, whilst convalescing, even though I couldn’t physically do much, I did manage to do a lot of thinking about clothes and pattern construction and sewing and fabric. I opened up a few of my books for inspiration – including Claire B. Shaeffer’s Couture Sewing Techniques; the V&A’s The Golden Age of Couture: Paris and London 1947-1957 (that exhibition traveled to Bendigo back in the summer of 2008/09 – I went twice); and several of my Australian Home Journals. I love my AHJ’s, but the frustrating part is that, until the late 50’s/early 60-‘s, all the gorgeous free patterns are designed for ‘the average 36” bust figure’. I have come to the conclusion that this size is simply too big for me to try and adapt for my body type in a satisfactory way – the difference is just too much. As is my frustration. The only compromise I can see is to use the pattern pieces given as a guide to drafting a pattern from scratch in my bust size. However, there is one obvious impediment – I am not a trained pattern drafter.

    In pondering this whilst bedridden, I rediscovered Harriet Pepin’s Modern Pattern Design – my husband had given me a copy of this book for my birthday a few years back. In a nutshell, this is a textbook, written in 1942, for pattern drafting. The images within it are delightful, and, obviously, all examples and illustrations and designs are beautiful, (and often complicated) vintage concoctions.

     

    draped skirt


    glamour skirt bodic backs

    The text itself, and its tone, is also a reminder of a bygone era. Harriett makes no concessions, and she certainly doesn’t beat around the bush when it comes to her (and her era’s ideas) of ‘good’ or ‘right’ design. Coming from today’s world, where we are encouraged to celebrate a diversity and range of body shapes, styles and opinions, Harriet’s world seems unforgiving:

    “Notice that side seam lines E-F-H should change to conform to changing contours caused by flesh deposits on the heavier, mature figure. If side seam on Mrs. Heavy were to be made vertical as it was for Mrs. Slim, it would fail to divide her silhouette vertically and would reveal her bad figure lines.”

    If the following illustration is anything to go by, it’s amazing what 70 odd years can do to body shape perception. Consider Harriet’s examples below. In a country with one of the world’s highest and fastest growing obesity rate, is this how we would describe “Mrs Plump” ?

    Mrs Slim to Mrs Heavy

    Aside from the historical skew, I’ve been meaning to try out Harriet’s drafting technique for a while. It seems a little more involved than Winnifred Aldrich’s Metric Pattern Cutting, and as it’s ‘genuine vintage’, I guess I’m secretly hoping it will help me achieve a ‘genuine vintage’ look. Apart from the inconvenience of it all being in imperial measurements rather than metric, the one thing that has stopped me every time in the past is the apparent omission of any mention of ease in the bodice. Upon reading the chapter, it looks as though one is meant to take the literal body measurements and use them in the pattern draft without factoring in any ease at all. Surely that would make it impossible to get on the wearer, let alone make for a flattering and comfortable fit? Frustratingly, Harriet alludes to ease here and there in the chapter, but never explicitly states how much to add, or to which measurements. My first attempt at the bodice was pretty dismal – it’s evident I’m going to need a good chunk of time and space (and patience) to try and nut it out.

    Unfortunately, two weeks off work means a lot of catching up upon return, which, in turn, means no progress in the sewing front. The few things I have attempted lately have been disasters. It’s always so disappointing – you invest so much emotional hope and energy into the ‘vision’, and then there’s all the time spent cutting out the pattern, cutting out the fabric, sewing the pieces together, only to discover that, frankly, it looks terrible. The latest to this list was a shirt for my husband. In theory, it should have been fine – I’ve even used this pattern before on a shirt for him, with good results. But for some reason this time round, it’s just not working. It’s the cut of the shirt – it’s too daggy, too old man 1980’s baggy, and I’m not sure I can fix it. So bits of it are lying all over the house, mocking me. Do I spend the energy and try and finish it anyway and put it down to ‘experience’, or do I just move on? The worst of it is that I even used the ‘Classic Tailored Shirt’ tutorial from Craftsy. Don’t get me wrong, the tutorial is excellent, and Pam (the instructor) has such a relaxed and calming way of speaking and teaching. It’s just that, I was even more care careful than usual – trying to be precise in my pressing and turning and folding, and flat felling all the seams! So it’s a real shame that I’m just not convinced by the end product.

    And now that things have settled down a bit, the season is turning, and I’ve realised how fickle I am. We’ve had glimpses of sunshine, the days are getting longer, and daylight savings has just kicked in. All of a sudden I’m looking longingly at my summer cotton stash and thinking of 1950’s sundresses and Christmas party outfits and 50’s inspired shorts and shirts for the perfect picnic and bike ride scenario.

    Too bad we have to find a place to live and move house next month.


  3. Bound for Glory! (almost) – in pursuit of the perfect bound buttonhole.

    February 11, 2013 by rosie

    After what feels like an eternity and a thousand set-backs, I have finally completed my AHJ Frock No. 7641 from September 1, 1950. Yes, remember that dress I started ages ago, with the overly ambitious small bust adjustment? That SBA was stressful. But, it did end up working – sort of – with a lot of wrangling and ‘ad lib’.

    The reason I chose this dress in the first place was because I wanted to overcome my fear of bound buttonholes. With 13 of the suckers, I figured this dress was sure to put me on track.  Plus, I was also attracted to the ridiculously huge pockets.

    I consulted the Readers Digest in addition to Gertie’s new Book for Better sewing. The instructions and diagrams in this are great, and I highly recommend it. Warning though: Bound buttonholes are just as time consuming as you’d think!!!

    I must admit though, my bound buttonholes still aren’t as perfect as I hoped. I think they did improve as I went along. I did the window facing with silk organza for the facing as well – I had to do these entirely by hand for  the two buttonholes in the corner of the collar, as the angle was too acute for me to use the sewing machine by the time I had attached the facing to the collar. I suppose I shouldn’t aim or expect perfection for the my first time, and overall, I’m fairly happy with the dress.

    The fitting did cause some issues – I had to use 6 cm seam allowances rather than the normal 1.5, and I ended up fitting the front and back darts by ‘eye’ retrospectively (well, mum did the fitting when I went home to visit one weekend.) There’s one bit in the front (the bottom of the button hole facing bit) that doesn’t sit particularly well, and I’ll have to go back and hand sew it down a bit, but I think I can pull it off, overall.

     

    A bit crumpled from being at work all day, but you get the idea. The SBA didn't turn out too shabby after all!

    A bit crumpled from being at work all day, but you get the idea. The SBA didn’t turn out too shabby after all!

    The original pattern

    bound buttonholes are everywhere - collars, sleeves, opening and pockets!

    bound buttonholes are everywhere – collars, sleeves, opening and pockets!