Checking Off The List

A pictogram to identify an issue as resolved.

Thank you all for being so patient over these last few months.

The Vintage Pattern Lending Library had a few bumps in the road, that kept me from posting – but all seems resolved, or well on it’s way to being resolved.  I see lots of big green check marks on my To Do list – so it must mean that I’m getting closer to arriving at where I want to be!

There are some very exciting things that I hope to be announcing soon.  These developments (like a fine wine) have taken some time and energy to bring to their finest peak . . . but I am sure everyone out there will be as delighted when it comes time to break the news.

So  –  if you have stopped in hoping to see new content, only to be disappointed, please accept my apologies for the long silence.

There should be some new goodies coming your way on the blog by this weekend!

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The Classic 1930’s Coat – Part 1

I was hoping to get the next section about the Traveling Jacket posted, but I got a bit stalled out in the pattern alteration phase. I will be posting up the information about the pattern alterations in the next day or so.

In the meantime, I thought I’d let you know about my current sewing project – a 1930’s coat.

My old winter coat (nearly 20 years old) is finally at the point where further repairs just aren’t going to cut it. And thanks to a very generous Christmas  gift last year from my wonderful mother-in-law, I was able to brush up on my dormant tailoring skills by taking a refresher course at Apparel Arts in San Francisco. (Be sure to check out Suzy Furrer’s book.  Simply one of THE BEST books on pattern drafting, in my humble opinion.)

I went burrowing through the Library’s archives, looking for a pattern close to my size, and matching the requirements of the class.  (Notched collar, welt pockets, two piece sleeve – etc.) Eventually out of 5 patterns than met the requirements, I narrowed it down to this pattern from 1933 –

It has that classic “Casablanca” look to it, and I love the long length with the box pleats falling from the waist at the back to the hem. Another interesting design feature is the long dart that comes in from the underarm and angles down towards the pocket.  (You can see a bit of the dart if you peek closely at the right hand side of the white coat.  There’s a little angled shadow that’s center and just above the double welt pocket – that’s the dart.

Now – if I could only find a pair of those brown shoes shown in the left illustration!

My old coat was black, so I decided that for a fabric I wanted something a bit different.  I wasn’t sure what, one of those I’ll know it if I see it things.  I also knew that while Britex Fabrics would be the number one choice for wool – I didn’t want to pay 250.00 a yard for a full length coat.  I knew if I even browsed over there I would fall in love with something much beyond my budget.

Instead, I went to Discount Fabrics in Berkeley, CA.  Which is a great place, if you don’t mind spending a couple of hours in there browsing.  It’s rather like a fabric treasure hunt, and if you find something you like,  snap it up — because there’s no telling if it will be there the next time you come.

It took me a bit to track down the woolens . . . and while the selection wasn’t nearly as huge at Britex . .  all of it was lovely stuff.   I found what I was looking for.  A blue-gray Italian wool, with a very slight pile surface.  It was a bit lighter weight than I was looking for, but  the canvas and other structure inside should give it more body.

(excuse the slight wrinkles from it being folded!)

The fabric is 60 inches wide, 100% camel hair wool,  and ran about $ 55.00 per yard which means it would have run anywhere from $ 100.00 – $ 150.00 a yard anywhere else.  You can’t really see it in this picture, but it has little flecks of pale blue, pale and medium gray in it.

I made a muslin first, using Nancy Zieman’s book Pattern Fitting With Confidence.  (This is a reissue of her earlier book Fitting Finesse.) I’ve used this primer for years to alter vintage patterns to fit me – and highly recommend her method.

I ended up having to adjust through the waist and hips for my extra inches.  and having to widen the upper sleeve to for my more “fluffy” upper arms.  I also decided to raise the neckline lap at the center front a little higher – since one of the things I hate is wearing a coat where the cold air is whistling down my front!  The muslin only needed a few little tweaks in class (hooray for Nancy Zieman!) — one of which was to open up the shoulder seam a little more to allow for shoulder pads.

Unfortunately I can’t show you the finished muslin – because I’ve already taken it apart to use as the pattern for cutting the coat.  But trust me . .  even as a muslin . . . it looked SHARP!

I decided to do everything in classic couture tailoring methods, which translates into lots of hand work.   I went through and chalked all of the markings, and then thread basted everything . . . and I mean everything with silk thread.

(thread basted pocket opening)

(Dart hand basted and ready to be sewn)

All of the thread marking didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it would – and there was a sort of zen quality to plying needle and thread through buttery soft wool.

The refresher course at Apparel Arts helped get my brain in motion – but some of the techniques were a bit modernized for what I wanted to do, such as machine stitching rather than pad stitching being used for the collar.  Don’t get me wrong – for current tailoring these options work great, and are amazing time savers.  But having chosen a vintage pattern, I wanted to do something a lot closer to what would have been done in 1933.

So – my next step was off to research the Library’s vintage tailoring books!

Part two of this series will cover constructing the darts, making the double welt pockets  . . . and what my tailoring research turned up.

My next post will cover sewing the darts and the double welt pockets.


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The New York Times Loves The 1920’s!

It seems the 1920’s are in vogue again, and if you’d like to take a peek at what’s happening in the big apple, take a look at this weekend spread from The New York Times

Picture number 12 features the back view of our 1930’s Lounging Pajamas If you’d like to see the front view – visit the link. and check out the lovely photo submitted of the completed garment.

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An 1895 Traveling Jacket ~ Part One

A slight technical glitch prevented me from getting this up on Tuesday as planned. But it seems to be resolved now . . . so here is the post that should have gone up yesterday!

All sorts of things come into the Library’s Archives, almost on a daily basis.  Fashion catalogs, commercial patterns, odd bits of paper brick a brack, so that when a package comes, it’s always a surprise and a treasure hunt when I get to open it.

There’s always swoon-worthy stuff . . . from that amazing chic 1950’s ensemble, to the complicated design of early century evening gowns.   But – even amongst so much eye candy, there sometimes comes something exceptional that just grabs me.

This 1895 “Robe de Voyage” or Traveling Dress is from a copy of La Mode Illustree dated May 5, 1895. (I’ll write a longer post on the history of La Mode Illustree at another point.)

When I opened up this newly arrived issue, and saw this jacket, the first thing I did was scan the included pattern sheet to see if it was there . . . and found it!  Not all of the garments shown in an issue are included in the pattern sheet, so it was just good luck that this jacket that I was so taken by was included.


In all of the 1895 archives that the Library owns I have never seen a design like this one.  I went to work to replicate the pattern from the pattern sheet, and get it set up in electronic format. When the formatting was completed, the pattern pieces look like:

Listed from upper left, going clockwise – the pieces are:

Jacket Trim


Jacket Inset

Jacket Front

Jacket Back

Jacket Side Form

Sleeve (at bottom)

As with most of the patterns from this period from La Mode Illustree, there are no sizes given.  Typical of these early patterns, I presumed that the jacket would run very small.  Especially through the armscye and the bust area.   Measuring the pattern through the approximate areas, I came up with an estimate of an 18″ waist and 30″ bust.  (Clearly a lot of adjustment is going to need to happen to make this wearable for me!)

Looking at the illustration of the front and back, the jacket looks to be constructed using princess seams, which appear to be lapped (or welted) seams with top stitching.   The shoulder seam is placed directly on the shoulder, and the collar is a standing,  mannish style that folds over on itself.

The sleeve is huge – it measures 32-1/2 inches across at it’s widest part.   The leg 0′ mutton sleeve has the lower part fitted closely from the wrist to the elbow by a series of pleats.   Many of these sleeves had a lining, and used netting or crinoline in between to keep the poofy shape of the sleeve.  This pattern does not have a sleeve lining pattern included.

The jacket trim is a separate piece, that gives the illusion of a double breasted closure, when in fact the jacket opens at the center front.  It is interesting to note that the lower edge of the center front does not meet, but wings open slightly from about the hip bone.  (My best guess based on looking at the picture.)

The original text indicates that it is to be made of a gray-blue serge and trimmed with large metal buttons.

There is also a skirt pattern given with this jacket, and the text indicates that a “chemisette-blouse” was to be worn underneath.  In an issue of Harper’s Bazar from about this same period, a similar jacket and skirt is shown, with a sleeveless blouse, that was to be worn underneath the jacket, with the understanding that the jacket would not be taken off in public.  I am guessing that the “chemisette-blouse” might have been something very much like that.  Especially looking at how tightly the sleeves fit in the lower arm, it would be uncomfortable to say the least to try to get an arm through there with a long-sleeved blouse! (I will include a picture of the full ensemble with the skirt later this week, in the next blog post. )

Given how small the sizing is on this pattern, my usual method of sewing a muslin and then slashing and adding is probably not going to give as good results as starting with a pattern that is closer to my dress form’s size.   I have a set of princess pattern blocks from String Codes, which I’ve had for quite a while, and haven’t put to use. I’ve heard mixed reviews about how accurate they are for pattern design – I’d love to hear from anyone who’s used their product.   I think in this case, even if they don’t turn out to be very accurate – they will provide a jumping off place to start working with the original pattern pieces.

**Next post which should be up on 09/10 or 09/11 I’ll have information on the skirt, and redrafting the pattern.**