Sunday, February 12, 2017

Beyers Wäscheheft; sewing vintage undergarments and pajamas for the whole family!

One of the ways that I satisfy my sewing craze when my limited time prevents actual sewing, is browsing/collecting/hoarding vintage sewing ephemera.

I've written before about Lutterloh, and once I realized how much I admired pre and post-war German sewing ephemera, I expanded my searches internationally-- which led me to fabulous sewing magazines. I'd heard of Burda before, but it wasn't until I browsed eBay that I realized the trend of sewing magazines began long ago-- why didn't this approach become popular in the US? It's so practical and conservative to issue a full magazine of patterns, allowing the user to trace the pieces once they are ready/interested.

Anyway, I recently purchased a collection of old sewing magazines from a seller in Italy for a very fair price. After winning the bid, she emailed and asked if I would be interested in having extra magazines for no charge except additional shipping. What a kind offer! With an enthusiastic yes and payment, I waited impatiently for the package to arrive. The Italian post estimated it would be approximately 10 -14 days, and within 5 days it was departing from Italy... but from there, the international shipping stopped updating. Weeks went by with no update, and we began worrying the package had been lost. Suddenly, after over 3 weeks, it updated its location to have landed in the US, cleared customs, and arrived on my doorstep only a few days later. My original purchase was in the first week of December, and it arrived a month later in January... and when I opened my package I was humming with delight. BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL PATTERNS!

Behold the glory of this Beyers magazine, from cover to cover:

I have already traced the bra pattern 37_522 from the pattern above (left side of page). It is very simple and elegant in its design, so I think it's a good place for me to start. The size is 96 cm (~38 inches), so I think it should fit in the cup area but I expect I will need to reduce the band size overall. I am *very* curious about the crossover bra on the right side of the page! What a curious design, right? Bust size is 92 cm (~36 in)-- so my size! BUT, I don't think I want to start bra making with the technical design. I need to have an understanding of adjusting the cup size before I start, since my cup size is typically larger than the bust for which an  average pattern is drafted.

I've also traced the vintage bra pattern 37_526 from the top right of the page above. I like the ruffle detail above the cup, and the V stitching on the bra band between/below the cups. It looks like a really love pattern. The size is 104 cm (~40 inches), so I anticipate it being too large for me. Currently, my high bust measures ~36" and full bust 39.5", but I'm just really curious about the pattern itself.

And lastly, I've also traced out the pantie pattern from the right column, center square above. There are two panties pictured, and I have traced the pair with the lace cuff at the thigh, with an inset crotch gusset. I have no idea how I feel about these, but they look very fun and easy to sew. The size, as-is, will not fit me because I am very pear-shaped. It measure 114 cm, which I am quite sure is the hip measurement (reading the magazine with a translating app is time consuming, but I am starting to memorize some of the sewing terms, making it easier). 

What are your favorites from this magazine? There are so many patterns here that I am keen to sew-- what else do you think I should put on my list? If things go well, once I'm done with uni this year, I might take some special orders for sewing as I hope to build a little side business for fun,

I probably won't get started on sewing anything from this magazine for myself for at least a few weeks or a month, because I have two dresses already cut out and awaiting the machine. I've got limited time due to full-time classes and full-time work, but that hasn't stopped me from dreaming and making incremental progress.

Have you ever sewn from mid-century magazines like these? Do you collect them too? If so, have you considered preservation methods for your pattern sheets? The pattern sheets themselves are quite brittle, and folding/unfolding them results in tiny pieces of paper flaking away. I am very concerned about them becoming 1) unusable and 2) ruined after just a few uses. To prevent their demise, I am researching local options for large-format scanning/copying, such as that used with architecture designs. I think I can get relatively affordable copies.

I'd love to hear from you about your experiences using the traceable pattern sheets. Some people think they are a nightmare, but I see them as a puzzle. I really enjoy the tracing, and the kid enjoys helping me with it too.

More to come, soon...


Monday, February 6, 2017

Pattern Drafting and Fitting with Alfred Bach's Basic Pattern

A few weeks ago I purchased an interesting vintage draft-your-own dress package on eBay, and also purchased an expansion pack of sorts that allows the seamstress to extend her basic block into FIFTEEN new dress styles, by adding collar/neckline variations. Yeah! I've been keen on getting myself set up with a basic block, but haven't found the time or energy to really develop my own sloper. Alfred Bach's set promises to "FIT ALL SIZES," including Tall, Petite, Stout, Slender; Teens, Juniors, Misses, Half Sizes, and Large Sizes.

The "Pied Piper of Sewing," as he called himself, included copies of his hand-drawn patterns

Quite the promise, huh? In reality, the blocks range in size from 28" bust to 50" bust, and allows the user to grade between sizes rather easily. The insert included with the pattern block pieces was quite short, but explained a few basic mods like adjusting the waist, adjusting for broad back or forward shoulder, etc. He's also quick to note that if you want more information/guidance, then just go ahead and purchase his series of books.

I didn't do that. Or, I should say, I haven't done it yet.

I went ahead and chose a bodice size that was close to my current measurements. At the time I started this process, my high bust measured 36" and my full bust measured about 39.5". I chose to trace the pattern in the following bust sizes (at corresponding points for that size on the bodice): 36" at neckline/shoulders, 34" through armscye, 38" at side seams, grading to size 40" at waist. I added additional room at the waist, since I am a very merry pear shape. 
I marked the darts for size 38", but found the front waist darts to be over 2" too high when I sewed a muslin-- so I plan to lower them in future construction. I also plan to wear a more supportive bra. Ha!
Yeah, I need to drop those darts ASAP. Also, the side seam is not sewn here but trust me, it's going to work.
The pattern modification process for the bodice really wasn't too difficult, but I only sewed one muslin and then made more mods, so we'll see if I'm pleased with the finished product. I went ahead and cut out a full dress, since my only pain point in fitting was the armscye, and I figured I could deepen that some more if needed without much headache. I did self-draft a facing for the armscye, since the pattern was intended to have a sleeve. I had serious trouble modifying the sleeve, despite reading multiple books and the Curvy Sewing Collective guide for a large upper arm adjustment. Based on my math, I needed to add 2" but this seriously distorted the sleeve head and I felt like it was such a mess when I planned to re-draft the sleeve head like recommended. My traced original was nowhere close to fitting adjacent to the modified sleeve-- hard to explain, but whatever, it doesn't matter.  I'm sure I could get it if I kept trying, but I prefer sleeveless dresses anyway, aaaaand, I don't plan to stay this size forever.

I decided my first dress would be a try at Style 14 with a vintage linen plaid. I had 4 yards of this fabric in my stash, which was just enough for a bodice, the collar, and a very full skirt. The skirt is simple a dirndl style, with 3 panels the full width of the fabric (45") that were ~32" long. It's good for me to remember that just the bodice and collar/ties for Style 14 take a full yard; this is in part because the ties are cut on the bias.

These patterns come with very few construction details. The collar packet has a booklet that includes illustrations for construction of the collar, which is useful and awesome. As illustrated, you take your bodice block and overlay the "Back Marker" and "Front Neck Marker" to modify the neckline. What you see pictured on this page is pretty much the entire construction details for the dress.

Front neck marker overlaid on bodice front
I would definitely not recommend this for a beginner, because the pattern lacks all of other construction details. I am rating this pattern as intermediate overall in difficulty, because it is a very straightforward dress. In comparison to any other tea dress I might have sewn, this is easy. In the prep and sewing department, however, I would probably rate this as difficult. The pattern requires (as part of the intended process) modification to fit the user's exact needs; it requires locating and tracing the appropriate size of collar pieces; and it requires the user to have their own knowledge about dress construction, pattern fitting, and finishing in general. Finding and tracing the collar and neckline pieces was very annoying, because of course Mr. Bach didn't put all of the corresponding pieces on one sheet-- no, I had to find them on three different sheets.

These are the collar pattern sheets. There were so many sheets to unfold in my quest for Style 14. 
Because I want to really love this dress, I'm tempted to give it a full lining... but I'm also equally tempted to just get on with it and serge the edges for finishing. It's not as clean or nice, and I'm always concerned about whether I'd need a slip under a dress to prevent showing my undergarments. I love wearing a slip, but if the fabric is sheer at all I should really just line the dress. Hmmmmm. I guess we'll see where I land!

See you soon,


Friday, February 3, 2017

Handspun Yarn: AVFKW Blue Faced Leicester wool, undyed

2016 was a good year for me and my spinning wheel-- we became reacquainted and I found my passion for fibery goods again. This is especially great news and rather heartwarming to my husband, who is probably wondering if we should use all of my fiber to insulate our future home. My fiber stash has grown to a gargantuan size, thanks to the many sheep and alpaca fleeces I've acquired, along with a surprising amount of prepared fiber that I haven't spun as quickly as I'd expected.

One of the spinning projects of 2016 included this fiber from A Verb for Keeping Warm, 4 ounces of undyed, brown BFL. While I really enjoy working with wool from raw fleece to spinning, it can be so relaxing and rewarding to just spin something that's completely ready to go.

I spun the yarn worsted style (inch-worming along with my drafting technique), then chain plied it. It was a very straightforward project, in which my aim was consistency in my drafting. My technique is improving!

I'm really happy to see that with concentration, my spinning can move from looking very handspun to looking more "commercial," in its construction-- which is really just code for saying it looks consistent. I don't mind the rustic look of handspun yarn, as I think it lends itself to a certain charm-- but I also don't want to always look lumpy bumpy handmade, particularly when I need to feel warm *and* need to look professional. I anticipate using this yarn for a scarf/shawl of some sort.

Details are also listed on Ravelry in my handspun stash: Natural BFL.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Vintage Sewing: Alfred Bach's Basic Pattern and Design by Numbers, a pattern drafting system

While browsing sewing patterns on eBay, I stumbled across a copy of "Design by Numbers," a pattern packet that includes 15 separate neckline designs in 24 different sizes. Feeling skeptical, I zoomed in on the text and found that the pattern itself is an add-on for Alfred Bach's "Basic Pattern" block kit. Intrigued, I hit BUY IT NOW! and zoomed it my way via US Postal Service.

The next item of business was buying the requisite Basic Pattern, which I also found on eBay. Zoom, zoom.

Photo Courtesy of FriskyScissors on Etsy
With the help of Etsy's archives of sold items, I found this listing of an original, unused set of the Basic Pattern. It gave me some insight to how the blocks are intended to be used/graded, and what I might be able to expect in my kit.

Photo Courtesy of FriskyScissors on Easy
Internet information about Alfred Bach is spotty with an initial google search; most of what turns up are sale listings for his booklets for various topics including "Shortcuts to Fitting," "How to Drive a Sewing Machine," "Shortcuts to Professional Tailoring," and "Shortcuts to Professional Dressmaking." I dug a bit deeper using my all-access Ancestry account, which includes a basic membership to Searching keywords "Alfred Bach" + sewing, I found a few articles that gave me more information-- both from newspapers in my home state of Utah!

Salt Lake Tribune, Sun Aug 15, 1976

Salt Lake Tribune, Sun Aug 15, 1976
In addition to Alfred Bach being an industrial engineer, he was a self-made home sewing efficiency guru. His marketing events and sewing seminars sound similar to what Lutterloh offers at conventions and fairs these days. I'm curious if any women in my life remember attending his courses at the historic Salt Palace, or at the Bon Marche department store in Ogden. It looks like he was teaching these workshops for over ten years, so he must have been successful. I'm really surprised that I've never seen his pattern system before, considering that I have been collecting stuff like this for so many years.

Ogden Standard Examiner 29 Dec 1965
It sounds like Alfred Bach most definitely produce a regular radio show, because I found it listed in the broadcast guides in the newspaper. He also had a feature on television, at least occasionally, because I found references to it too. I'm sad that I've been unable to find any audio or television archives, however.

I'm not sure what to expect with the pattern kits I've ordered, but it sounds like a connect the dot system, similar to other pattern drafting tool kits like Lutterloh, the Haslam System, the Dot Pattern System, etc. When they arrive, I'll keep you posted about the new adventures.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Vintage Sewing: Mail Order / Anne Adams 4885, a 1960's tent / shift dress

Note: This pattern is listed in the vintage pattern wiki as Mail Order 4885, perhaps because it was delivered in a workbasket envelope via postal mail-- but my envelope most definitely said Anne Adams on the cover.

I lost my sewing mojo last year, in part because I've been rather lazy and have gained weight. I make all sorts of excuses about it, but honestly, it's hard to find time to exercise when my commute and work (at a desk) keep me away from home and on my bottom for over 12 hours every day. Once I'm home, there's coursework to do and I just don't seem to find the time to be active.

Meanwhile, I dread making new pattern alterations to fit my current body shape and size, so I've chosen to sew rather shapeless dresses that are comfortable and classic (in a sense). They'll have the added benefit of still fitting once I return to my prior shape and size, since they are sewn to fit through the shoulders. I generally sew bust 32 or bust 34 patterns for the best fit through the shoulders, and then alter from there to accommodate my pear shape-- my bottom half has *never* fit within the measurements of a bust 34 pattern. Ha!

Tip: If you're new to sewing with vintage patterns, be sure to buy a size that matches your bust measurement-- not the size number you think you wear. Sizing has changed so much over the decades, and because my clothes are almost exclusively homemade, I don't even know modern sizing. For reference, in the 1930's - 1940's, a size 16 was typically a bust 34. By the late 50's, bust 34 was a size 14. In the late 60's and 70's, a bust 34 was commonly labeled size 12-- where it appears to remain

This means that women changed THREE sizes in just 3 decades, all while maintaining that same measurement! Ha!

Moving on to the details of this dress:

EASY! The pattern is drafted to include pockets, but I omitted these because the fabric has a lot of texture and drape and I was concerned the pockets might not hang well. The fabric is a loose linen weave, rather rustic and still includes bits of semi-processed flax stalk. The highlight of the dress is its bias roll collar, but the interfacing I used wasn't quite stiff enough. Oh well-- I'm pleased with it anyhow.

Changes: Rather than cutting the dress slightly off grain as the pattern calls for, I placed CF (center front) and CB (center back) on the grain line so I could omit the CF seam, by placing it on the fold. I needed to do this in order to fit the dress within the limited yardage I had.

Mid-way through construction, I found myself unreasonably angry at the pattern because it calls for a bias strip to face the collar. Nowhere in the cutting guide does it say it's needed-- only in the assembly instructions. I was very annoyed, because I hadn't planned for this and had to piece scraps together! When all was sad and done, however, it really wasn't a big deal. Someone in Instagram suggested this is why we're taught to read through the instructions before beginning, but to that I say BAH HUMBUG. Reading ahead is spoiling the fun! ;)

The pattern calls for a lapped zipper at the neckline, in the center back of dress. I've only ever sewn a handful of lapped zippers, but I really like them and think with practice I'll be really pleased with my results someday. Until then, I find my work to be rather mediocre (not enough and constituent continuous lap), but since it's on my back I never notice once the dress is done and being worn. Ha!

And here's the finished pretty, in all of it's poorly-lit, office bathroom glory. Our building has been under active construction for 5 months now, and I'm so ready for them to finish installation of all the new fixtures. Just a few weeks ago we sat down in a conference room to find fiberglass slivers stabbing our arms, because the construction crew had installed new light and done a rather shoddy job of cleaning up. On Friday, they had painted half of the walls on our floor right before the office opened for the day, and we all felt rather woozy and annoyed by the heavy fumes. Jokes abounded about being high in the workplace, because really, it was like we were huffing paint or something!

I'm griping, so it's time to go and think about happier things like the portrayal of crime and criminals in the media, or the causes and effects of poverty. School beckons.