Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vintage for me, too?--part 2

One difference that I forgot to mention is that the majority of early kids' patterns aren't labeled for "toddler", "girl", or "child."  In fact, the pattern envelope illustration can make you think that it's universal across the board, because they often picture all three and there's no real way to tell before you buy the pattern.  In fact some patterns that are clearly for an older child look like they should be able to fit a toddler as well.  And the differences vary according to company. The "girl" sizes, though, tend to be the bigger ones.  "Girl" starts at about size 7 and up, and can overlap with the larger "child" sizes.  "Toddler" and "Child" also have an overlap, which can make it confusing when you're trying to determine if a pattern will fit your child.

The only way to tell if it will fit your vic-um-recipient is to measure the kid and then measure the pattern.  I have a long list of measurements that I redo every month for Bit, simply because they change so fast at this age.  I've made vintage 2s that must have been for a child, but since it wasn't labeled, I didn't notice until after it was together that the pattern was bigger than I thought it would be! On the other hand, I've made child 2s that fit perfectly after they were shortened.

Just because she's into pattern size 3s, doesn't mean that all of them will fit her without adjustment.  Modern Butterick, for example, well, the shirts tend to be short.  I emailed them complaining the first time I made Butterick 3477 the shirt was five inches too short when, being a child pattern, it should have been too long!  With Butterick patterns, the difference is really in the length.  I would assume that with McCalls and Vogue being the same company, it's the same for them, but I've never had cause to find out--with modern patterns, I tend to stick in the categories I know will more or less fit Bit.

According to Simplicity's Simply the Best Sewing Book, (I recommend it for bare beginners.  It was a prize for winning third place in the costume contest two years back and actually the first sewing book I ever had... after sewing for 17 years), the difference between "child" and "toddler" is that the shoulders are wider--according to their charts, there's an extra 1/2 inch--and the back is wider by 1 1/4 inch.  The sleeves and the general length are longer as well.  These are modern measurements, but generally, it should hold true.  You'll need to measure the kid, and then measure the pattern itself.

Vintage patterns always have to be lengthened for kids.  Frankly, people are generally taller now than they were then, children included.  Not only that, but they wore dresses much shorter than we do on little girls!  But they're also not as clearly marked, so to ensure that it fits, you have to be more careful with vintage than you are with modern.  For the most part, if I check the finished length on modern patterns, and it's okay, I can go full steam ahead and whip out a new dress or outfit for Bit that will fit her.  But with vintage, well, unless I measure carefully, I can end up with a hot mess!

Friday, September 16, 2011


I'm still doing the Supergirl outfit.  If she doesn't wear it for Halloween, it'll make a fine dress-up outfit.  But for two weeks, all we've heard is "I want to be a Pumpkin for Halloween."  And today, it was "I want to be a nice pumpkin, not a scary pumpkin, but with fangs and big teeth."  *sigh*  Not specific is she? 

Hello Simplicity 2788.  I'll have to change the smile, and instead of that velour jumpsuit, we'll be wearing a leotard and either tights or leggings--whichever is the least expensive.  I'll be stuffing it with wadded up newspaper balls and putting a lining in it out of muslin to keep the newsprint from staining.  It'll be lighter, cooler, and cheaper than using batting or fleece.  I learned the hard way with the Foofa costume two years ago--

I made it out of craft felt, thinking that because it would be nice and warm that it was a good thing.  But it's usually just starting to get cold  and more raw than anything at Halloween.  Poor kid was completely overheated because it was simply too warm.

So it's knit or spandex and broadcloth this year.  And the hat is only a perhaps because my SIL says she can get a super cute headband for a pumpkin costume. 

Bit has learned that if there's something wearable that she wants, Aunt Laura is a bit of a patsy when it comes to dressing her.  It's a hard economy.  She's taller than most kids her age and is now in 4Ts just for the length.  And my brother and SIL are struggling to make ends meet.  We're lucky enough that we don't have to worry about paying the bills, and I shop smart.  I spend time researching before I buy anything.  I go for the most value for my money, shop on sales, and use coupons at the fabric store.  When it's cheaper, I buy from etsy, ecrater, bonazle, or ebay.  Which means that Bit and her sister get clothes that fit that you'd have to go to stores other than say... Target, Wal-Mart, or K-Mart to buy.  The girls have made me incredibly thankful that my mother took the time to teach me sewing basics.  I've learned a lot more from the internet.

Aside from the "Nice pumpkin with fangs and big teeth" today, Bit picked up the fabric I have laid aside for a dress for her.  I was waiting for my pattern to arrive because I managed to track it down one size bigger.  She brought it to me, gave hugs and kisses and said, "Thank you for making my dress Aunt Laura."  Great reward!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Project Runway...

Why is it that the winning designs this season look like they came straight from the Wal-Mart clearance rack?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The yoke dress

There are two basic kinds of little girls' dresses-- (actually scratch that.  There are two basic kinds of dresses!)  the yoke dress, which is by far the most common and what I call the tunic dress.  Today, I'll be talking about yoke dresses.  Weather they're empire, drop waist, or anything in between, these dresses feature a definite waistline, and a gathered or pleated skirt.  Variations on the yoke dress are numerous, but the principles and basic construction are all similar.  Later on this week or next, well cover a-line tunic dresses and talk about princess seams as a major variation.

Now, yoke dresses as they relate to vintage.  Adult fashion carries over into children's fashion.  The twenties saw straight, boxy dresses with buttoned waistbands.  The thirties were more into loose-fitting short dresses that were heavily influenced by Hollywood--specifically Shirley Temple.  (Twenties dresses were also longer, but the economy as it relates to the rising and falling of hemlines is another topic.)  Most twenties patterns I've come across--and the 1928 Singer Sewing for Children book I have--have more in the way of tunic dresses than yoke dresses.  The thirties and forties have a mix, and the fifties is almost all yoke dresses.  The sixties began to see a mix, but leaned more heavily towards tunic dresses than yoke dresses.  (This is all from examining patterns, BTW) The seventies saw a mix, with yoke dresses with ruffles at the bottom of the skirt becoming common in the late seventies and early eighties.  Late eighties and the nineties saw almost a resurgence of 50s-style yoke dresses.  The hems were tea-length, but they had the same full skirts and in the case of almost all of the Daisy Kingdom patterns, required pettiskirts to go underneath!  Nowadays, almost anything goes, though yoke dresses are still the most common.

This is an almost modern yoke dress.  Ignoring the oversized collar, (90s here!) it has a definite yoke, waist, and a skirt gathered into it.   Due to the pleating and the v waist, I wouldn't venture to call this a typical example, but the basics are all there. 

Simplicity 2430 is a modern example.  The whole dress can be broken down into three shapes--cylinders for the sleeves, a square for the bodice, and a triangle for the skirt.  The difference between this modern example and vintage examples are in darts.

Yes, you heard me right--darts in a toddler-sized dress!  Vintage examples of yoke dresses usually have waistline darts.  In toddlers and young children, who are, in essence, cylinders, they're really just for show.  The only time I've seen darts in a toddler dress make sense, they were on a back neckline to make the dress conform to the back and shoulders.

You've probably seen this particular vintage pattern over on Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing or on the Pattern Junkie.  The Pattern Junkie talked about the artwork, and how the littlest one obviously needs a bathroom yesterday.  ;)   For Gertie, it's a project she has to conquer to finish sewing Vogue's 1952 edition of "The New Book for Better Sewing".

Because this dress has been sewn millions of times, it would be possible to sew it without the pattern or even glancing at the instructions.  I've sewn fifties patterns before, and while the instructions are a little more detailed than the 30s pattern instructions, I probably wouldn't even bother.  :) In the next few days, I'll go over how to construct a basic collared yoke dress.  I'll be using a vintage pattern, so we'll even deal with darting! 

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vintage for me, too?

Vintage and vintage inspired fashions are taking over.  Pattern companies are re-releasing patterns from their archives in more modern sizing.  Modern sizing?  Yes!  Measurements are everything with vintage patterns, even children's patterns.  Somewhere around the late seventies to early eighties, they redid the sizing, adding more ease and generally making sizes bigger.  So a 1934 toddler 2 is smaller than, say, a 1989 toddler 2.  While there are small differences between toddler/girl/and child patterns (all easily adjusted) I'm not going to talk about those today.

Instead, let's talk about the differences between modern little girl dresses and vintage.  Aside from sizing,(they fit closer to the body and actually fir Bit better) there aren't actually many differences between modern and vintage dresses.  Difference #1--the hemline. 

Bit is in size 3s now.  Well, close enough.  :) She's actually in between, which means that 2s aren't going to fit for much longer, so 3s are the order of the day!

Simplicity 1703 is one of my next dress patterns for her.  It's from the 50s, which means twirly skirts (which she loves).  But it will have to be adjusted.  The finished length for this dress is 17 inches.  Sounds short, doesn't it? 

Especially when you compare it to Butterick 4054, which is a modern pinafore dress.  Aside from the fact that the vintage pattern is much more interesting, ;) the length is vastly different!  The finished length for this one is 24 inches.  Granted, it's tea length, but that's a huge difference from the 17 of it's vintage counterpart.

For knee length, Bit needs 22-23 inch dresses.  Yeah, she's taller than average.  :)  I'd be lengthening most things anyway, and to be perfectly honest, there's just more variety in vintage than modern!

Difference #2-- neckline.  Vintage patterns tend to have smaller, more closed-in necklines than modern.  My usual solution is to simply cut off the seam allowances to open the neck up enough that she doesn't feel like she's being choked.

Difference #3--this one you have to watch for!  Up until the late 70s-early80s, patterns came in one size per envelope.  Personally, I think it was a ploy to sell more patterns.  ;)   So if you're lucky, you can find the pattern you want in the size you need.  Otherwise, you may have to learn how to grade a pattern up or down.

Difference #4--the hem.  Most modern patterns have a 1.5 inch hem allowance. Vintage, though, a 3 inch hem isn't uncommon.  Since dresses were the order of the day, they gave generous allowances for the hem so it could be let down as the child got taller.

Difference #5-- seam allowances.  This is where you have to look at the admittedly brief instructions.  Modern patterns tend to have a 5/8 seam allowance, but that's not always true with vintage.   Take the Hollywood dress I made earlier this summer--

The seam allowance on it was 1/2 inch.  Since the fit is closer, if I'd gone with the usual for modern patterns, even that much would have made it too small!  I'm not saying that your seams have to be perfect, but quilting has taught me that going over the requisite amount is generally a bad idea!

Difference #6-- variety.  Most dress patterns are some kind of yoke dress.  But by going vintage, you have about 80 years worth of patterns to choose from.  Since the 1930s, styles for little girls' dresses haven't changed that much.  Oh, drop waists came in and out, shapeless a-lines were queen, circle skirts took over and ruled the roost.  But since dresses were a wardrobe staple, there were more interesting patterns released.

I got started sewing vintage for the Bit last spring because I stumbled across a pattern that I just had to have.  It was from about 1946.  At the time it seemed surreal to me that I was making a pattern for my baby niece that my aunt could have worn!  I will admit that some look dated, but not all of them do.  :) I'm attracted to pretty, interesting, and different.  I didn't start out being a pattern collector (I can hear my collection jeering at me now!) but I pick up patterns that I'd like to make.  And they're vintage more often than not!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

weekly goals

Since it's my usual no-sewing day here on Granny Lane, I decided to go ahead and plan my projects of the week.

1) Finish the pay-back dress.  I'm tired of it hanging around and taunting me

2) make at least one pair of Gracie's new jeans

3) Finish drafting Nikki's coat (started that last week.  I'm trying to make matching coats for both Gracie and BB.)

4) Make the matching blouse for Gracie's jeans.

5) if there's any time left, enlarge the pattern for Gracie's blue jean jumper.

The jeans, jumper, and blouse are all meant to go together.  It's all bumblebee stuff AKA Georgia Tech yellow jackets.   We're a Tech family--three of us went there.  Geoff has a Master's from there, and Sarah and Jared bachelor's.  So we (naturally) cheer for Buzz's team!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Butterick 7637

This is my favorite picture from the photo shoot!  :) Doesn't she look adorable?  I meant to blog about this before I went to bed, but I crashed hard last night, and as it's 3:30 in the morning, I'll be heading back to bed shortly!  Looking back, I should have taken an inch out of the smocked bodice piece because as it stands the puffing is overly dramatic and it just looks messy.  I still wonder where my three-inch hem went, though.  Because I was lucky to get an inch in the end and I swear I added enough length!  I am, however, proud of the resulting hem--it's hard to get two skirts hemmed just right.  Anyway, hope y'all have a good morning; I'm off to go back to bed.  Tomorrow, I'm going to get the last dress project done so that I can get rid of it!