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1951 Dress & Sewing Bonanza

I’ve been a bad blogger…but not a bad sewer.  Promise!  I’ve been spending all my spare time working on my 1951 dress that had to be finished no later than last Friday – which I managed to accomplish…after  more than a few late nights, and much more swearing.

I made a mock-up of the bodice, which worked well, but was a little small around the waist.  So I made a few adjustments to my traced off patterns, and began on my fashion fabric.  I started work on the bodice at first, then realised that missing skirt pattern parts were more complicated than I thought.  Not only is the front side of the skirt gathered, there is another panel at the front that is joined to side front in pleats – aarrggh!  Luckily Dajarra the Super-Nerd came to the rescue.  We took a photo of the pattern instructions, and projected them onto the wall.  We then compared the projected image to an actual pattern piece to check for scale, etc. and thankfully they were drawn more-or-less to scale.  We then traced the skirt pieces onto newspaper taped to the wall, and voila!  A complete, accurate pattern.

Tracing the pattern onto newspaper

All went well after that, until I tried the bodice on and it was waaayy too big, so a few more adjustments were made and it looked a little better, but still not quite right.  I thought the bodice might sit better with the skirt sewn on, so on it went and the dress looked like a huge, floral potato sack.  It was horrible and I began hating it.  After cracking the sads and a good nights sleep, I decided it would be best if I unpicked almost the entire thing and started basically from the beginning again.  Much better.  Until I couldn’t get the blasted thing off without help.  All I can say is that women in the 50s had much, much smaller arms than me.  I decided to change the sleeves to a cap style (which I like better, anyway), and did a bit of “creative” (read:  lazy) re-drafting in the underarm area and all was well.

Here I am, modelling it for my Mum at the lovely old house my grandparent’s party was held at.  After all the problems I had making it, I’m quite happy with the way it turned out and I received lots of compliments at the party.

Update: someone asked for a picture of the pattern packet – here it is:

My exciting weekend didn’t end there, however.  My gran who was a talented seamstress gifted me her overlocker (!), as well as some other bits and pieces, including an amazing wooden, pull-out  sewing caddy that I remember from when I was little.  It was full of old zippers as well, which is awesome!  And when we got home from the party Dajarra presented me with a dressmaker’s mannequin as an anniversary gift.  I am very spoiled indeed!

My gran's old, and my new, sewing caddy

My new dressmaker's mannequin with my new dress

My new overlocker

Now I just need to get over my slight fear of overlockers and learn how to use it!


14 responses »

  1. Pretty dress! Can we see a picture of the envelope? I’ve been looking around for an early 50’s dress perfect for florals, and this may be it. 🙂

    Really cute! Well done.

    Sergers aren’t scary, just take an hour or two to sit down and practice threading and re-threading until it doesn’t frighten you anymore. The time invested in building that skill is WAY worth all the time you could spend avoiding your serger and fearing it.

    • Thank you for your kind comments on my dress. I’ve updated the post to include a picture of the pattern envelope for you.
      Thanks also for the encouragement to get to know my overlocker (serger) – you’ve made me much more confident to learn! Once I have a little more time, I’m going to spend some time playing with it.
      – Kristen

      • Are you outside America? It’s funny, I was going to write “overlocker” because that’s the word people use here, but I try to Americanize my online sewing nomenclature… Thanks for the pattern picture, it’s dreamy.

      • Yes – I’m from Melbourne, Australia. When I first started reading sewing blogs it took me a little while to figure out what a serger was…now, of course, I know.
        Isn’t the picture lovely – I think half my joy of sewing comes from looking at the pattern envelope designs…

  2. Wow, I’m impressed with the lengths you went to to make the missing pattern piece. Good work.
    The dress looks amazing. What fabric have you used? I have a few old patterns with the gathered bodice and I imagine it has to be a really soft silky fabric.
    Lucky ducky with all your new sewing gadgets.

    • Hi Khristie B – can I just say that I’m stoked you’ve commented on my blog?! I read yours regularly, so I feel a bit starstruck! Thank you.
      You’re totally right about the fabric choice – I struggled a little to find a fabric that I a)liked and b)had a soft enough drape. I ended up going with a light cotton that has a bit of stretch to it (I have no idea what the technical term for the fabric is – I’m not quite up to that stage yet). It worked pretty well for this dress, but something even softer would probably work better.

  3. The dress is gorgeous! Well done! I love the neckline, and I might just have to steal that idea with gathered sides of the skirt… Is it just the front sides that are gathered, or does the back match the front?

    Gasp! Wow, that are some great gifts! The supply box is wonderful, and a dress-form is so practical. I bought a serger recently, don’t be afraid of it! Just take an afternoon to properly introduce yourself to it and I’m sure you’ll have fun playing together =)

    • Thanks, Erika! It’s just the front sides that are gathered. The back of the skirt falls quite flat and there isn’t nearly as much fabric in the back as at the front – as much as I love a full, frothy skirt, it balances out the look of the dress nicely.
      I feel so spoiled to have received so many great sewing-related gifts, and all in one weekend! Thanks for the encouragement to get to know my serger, too. All you lovely sewing bloggers have really boosted my confidence, and I don’t feel nearly as nervous now!

  4. The dress looks lovely! What a brilliant idea to get the missing pattern pieces!!

  5. Love the sentiment behind your dress, its v pretty. And what great gifts! I have one of those sewing caddies, its so (sew!) handy! 🙂


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