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Monthly Archives: April 2011

Passion for Preservation

After deciding to go with McCall’s 9040 for my 1951 project, I googled the pattern number to see if I could find out more about the pattern, and stumbled across the Vintage Patterns wiki.  I discovered this site a while ago when I first started out sewing and thought it was a wonderful resource, both for those interested in dressmaking and those history buffs out there.  I fall into both those categories, as I suspect most vintage sewists are.  I was mildly surprised to find that McCall’s 9040 wasn’t there.  I looked up a couple more of the patterns I had on hand and found that half of them weren’t listed either.  I’ve since cross-referenced all my vintage patterns, found which aren’t listed (heaps of them!) and am in the process of adding them to the wiki.  I’m massively into preserving elements of history for the future, and love that so many dressmakers/pattern collectors have dedicated their time and effort to creating this fantastic wiki.

Onto another, slightly related, topic – I took out the pattern pieces of McCall’s 9040 to trace off the pieces (another preservation technique – told you it was related) and found that all the skirt pieces are missing.  Boo!  But, as it’s really just another full, gathered skirt (for which I own literally dozens of patterns) I could either pinch some pieces from another dress, or just draft my own.  I’m just thankful that all the bodice pieces are present and accounted for – there is no way I’m talented enough to draft any of those.  I was also amazed at the condition of the pattern pieces.  Given that the envelope is so worn and looks so…old (it is 60 years old) the pieces inside look almost brand new.  It’s incredible that they’ve lasted this well.  I’ll just have to take extra care of them to ensure they last another 60 years!



I received an invitation in the mail the other day to my grandparent’s 60th Wedding Anniversary celebration.  Can you imagine being married for 60 years?!  It’s pretty incredible.  Here they are on that happy day almost 60 years ago:

So, I decided that since I’ll be in the midst of Me-Made-May* during the celebration, I should make myself something special to wear.  Then I decided since I was going to make something special, why not make something that’s a celebration of the 60 year milestone.  Something from 1951, to be exact.  So I hastily got out my box of patterns, trawled through them, and found four from that year. 


McCalls 9028


McCalls 8901


McCalls 8509


McCalls 9040

Whilst I love the Tinkerbell-iness of the third pattern, it’s not appropriate for a luncheon in Benalla, and as it’s going to be in May with the cooler weather the second one won’t quite do.  The shirts in the first pattern are awesome, and will definitely be getting a run at some stage but I’ve decided to go with the last pattern.  It looks a lot more complicated than anything else I’ve ever sewn, and I’m working on a quite tight deadline but luckily we’ve the Easter break coming up, so I can dedicate a bit of time to it.  It also means I’ll probably have to go fabric shopping (!), as the pattern calls for between 2.7 to 4.6 metres of fabric…and I don’t have much in my stash with that kind of yardage.

*Sewists undertake to wear at least one self-made item each day for the whole month.  Some incredibly talented people even pledge to wear entire self-made outfits for the month!

Seats in the upright position, please!

It was a nice sunny day today, so I decided to take some pics to show off a few of my favourite self-sewn items.

First up, the skirt I finished last week.

Aside from the fact I look like an air hostess in this photo due, in no small part, to the scarf (which I’m wearing because of a stain on my shirt), I nearly didn’t use this pic because of the expression on my face.  But, I’m pretty sure I look like this most of the time in real life so I decided to go with it.

The pleats make this skirt awesome

I used a lovely cotton with a diagonal pattern that I bought as a remnant from Tessuti in Melbourne, which makes this (even buying a remnant) the most expensive thing I’ve sewn.  I was more than a bit nervous cutting into this, but it turned out fine, and I have some fabric left over…even after having to cut the pleated section twice due to my unthinking silliness.

Next up is what I call my candy-striper dress:

You can’t really tell but the dress has red stripes

I made this dress from red and white striped seersucker which means…no ironing!  I love seersucker.  When I first finished it, it didn’t fit me well at all and it made me sad and I hung the dress in my wardrobe in a sulk.  But a few weeks later I checked it out again and realised that if I shortened the shoulder straps it would fit me okay…this is my cheeky fix:

Overall, I’m a pretty lazy stitcher, and if there’s a sneaky, quick way to fix or do something then I’ll take it.  I just doubled over some of the strap and then whacked some buttons on top to make it look like part of the dress design.  No one’s called me out on it, so I think I got away with it!

Last up, another red striped dress.

with Matilda

This pattern is from 1959.  I love that vintage patterns still hold their own today and can actually look quite modern.  The belt I’m wearing, by the way, I made from Tilly’s Bow-Belt Tutorial.  I love the belt, it was so easy to make and I wear it all the time.

Barry’s Buttons

Over the weekend I visited with my in-laws and I finally got to experience the awesomeness known as ‘Barry’s Buttons’ (must be said in hushed awe).  For years, more so since I started sewing, I’ve been hearing about my father-in-law’s amazing button collection which I found out started when he found a box chock-full of cards of vintage buttons – hundreds and hundreds of beautiful buttons – in an op shop about 30 years ago and bought the lot for $5.  $5 for so many buttons!  One of those buttons alone would go for $5 these days!  The collection has been raided over the years but he still has many, including lots of still intact cards.

A little while ago Barry saw some brooches in a shop made from buttons and went through his collection putting different combinations together for some brooches of his own.

We glued them together…

and now we all have lovely, one-of-a-kind ‘Barry’s Buttons’ brooches.


Oh – I also finished sewing a vintage skirt, which I’ll post about when I can be bothered getting properly dressed for a photo

Embroidered Classics

How beautiful are these embroidered book covers from Jillian Tamaki?  Two of my loves together – books and stitching!