Thursday, November 29, 2012

{Pencil Skirt Sew-along} Hemming

Of course, you can sew a simple hem by machine, but on a slim skirt like this without a large hem circumference, sewing the hem by hand doesn't take that long and gives a really professional-looking finish.

First you'll need to determine the desired length of your finished skirt. I like my pencil skirts between about 28-30" - a good 50s length, a little below the knee. If you have other skirts you like the length of, you can use them as a guide. Measure down from the waistband and mark with pins.

Fold up along the line you marked with pins, taking out the pins and pressing as you go.

Simple turned-up hem

This is a good option for lighter weight fabrics (as it's double-folded, thicker fabrics can get a bit bulky). Unfold the crease, then turn in about 1/4-1/2" from the raw edge and press. Turn the hem up again, pin in place and blind-hem with an invisible hem stitch (see below).

Hem with seam binding or hem tape

Seam binding is a ribbon-like tape made of rayon or polyester. Seam binding gives a lovely looking hem and is perfect for thick fabrics as it adds no bulk, but as it can be a little slippery you may prefer to opt for a bias binding hem, which is easier to control. Lay the seam binding along the edge on the outside of the skirt. Pin in place (note: my pins are facing the wrong way because I am stupid. Face your pins the other way to make it easier as it's going through the sewing machine).

Stitch right up close to the edge of the seam binding (here you can see why it's important to have your pins facing the right way). When you get to the end, fold the raw edge under and stitch in place.

Fold up the hem along the crease line and pin in place. Blind-hem using an invisible hem stitch (see below).

Hem with bias binding

Like seam binding, bias binding gives a very pleasing result. Bias binding is folded in on both sides, so no raw edges and no visible stitching.

Fold in the end. With the skirt right side out, lay the bias binding along the bottom edge, easing the fold open and pinning in place along the crease. Stitch along the crease line.

Fold the bias binding along the stitch line, then turn up the hem on the fold line and pin in place. Hem by hand with an invisible hem stitch - see below.

Invisible Hem Stitching

I promise this is not difficult - or even very time consuming - and it's so worth it for the polished look of the finished hem. There are two types of stitch commonly used - regular blind hem stitch and herringbone catch stitch. Note: These instructions are right-handed - if you're a lefty you might find it easier to mirror the techniques.

With the hem pinned in place, thread a needle and knot the end. I usually like to start at a seam so I can stitch on the spot without it showing on the main part of the garment. Draw the needle from the back to the front (so the thread tail is enclosed within the folded hem) and make a couple of stitches on the spot to secure.

For hems using seam binding or hem tape, we'll use a simple blind hem stitch. From the starting point, push the needle through the tape from back to front. Then take a tiny tiny stitch - just catching a few threads - in the main skirt slightly to the right of where the needle just emerged. From there, catch the top of the hem again. Continue all the way around the hem.

After stitching, give the finished hem another good steam press, paying particular attention to the kick pleat to make sure all the creases are crisp.

Hemming the slip lining

We'll make a narrow double-fold hem for the lining. There are various ways you can do this, this is just one method (google "baby hem" or "machine-rolled hem" for more). Turn the skirt inside out and turn the hem under to about 1/4" longer than your desired length (the finished lining should be 1/2" - 1" shorter than the skirt). Press.

Flip the lining over the waistband so it's inside out (wait, should that be outside-in? The other way round, anyway) and clear of the outer skirt. Trim 1/4" from the crease, then fold up again and pin.

Machine stitch the hem as close to the folded edge as you can.

When you turn the skirt the right way round, if all has gone according to plan the hem of the lining and the hem of the skirt should be facing each other, so no turnups are visible from the inside or outside of the skirt. (I've got the skirt folded in half in this picture, which is why you can see the outside of the skirt at the top and bottom of the pic!)

{Pencil Skirt Sew-along} Adding the Waistband

There are a surprising number of different ways to do waistbands. I'll cover two main methods: topstitched folded waistband and waistband with grosgrain facing. I'm was also hoping to try and do a bonus post for making a shaped waistband, but as I'm running short of time (and have yet to figure out how!) that can wait til another time. This, of course, is why we didn't cut the waistband pattern piece at the cutting out stage.

Glossary of Terms

• Facing is fabric which has the 'right' side facing the inside of the garment.

• Interfacing is used for stiffening. It is always enclosed (between the outer fabric and the facing) and is never seen once the garment is completed.

• Iron-on or fusible interfacing has a special heat-activated glue on one side, so when you iron it onto your fabric the two fuse together.

Topstitched folded waistband

This method is suitable for medium weight fabrics - thicker/heavier fabrics might suit the ribbon-faced waistband (below) better. Although modern sewing methods tend to avoid having stitching showing on the outside of the waistband, I quite like the look of the topstitched waistband. It seems it was common in the 50s - I've noticed a lot of my original vintage skirts have topstitched waistbands, and it's also described in many vintage patterns.

To make the waistband pattern piece, mark out a rectangle the length of your actual waist size plus a 1" overlap by twice the desired width of your waistband (e.g. 1").

Add seam allowances all the way around, then cut the waistband from your skirt fabric. Press in half lengthways. If your fabric doesn't hold a crease well, run a line of hand basting along this centre line. Fold in the seam allowance of the long edge on the other side of the waistband and press.

Cut a piece of iron-on interfacing the length and half the width of your pattern piece excluding seam allowance (so, your waist measurement plus 1", by the width of the waistband). Lay this along the crease line on the inside of your waistband piece and iron to fuse it to the fabric.

Pin the interfaced side of the waistband to the top of the skirt, right sides together. Line up the right-hand side with the edge of the zip/seam, while on the left there should be an overlap.

Stitch in place, then press the seam with all the raw edges upwards.

Fold the waistband right sides together (your crease will be 'inside out'), and stitch across both ends (leave an overlap on the left side, while on the right side your stitches should just clear the edge of the zipper tape). Clip the corners and turn right side out.

Sandwich the top of the skirt within the folded waistband, so that the fold on the inside covers the stitching lines. Pin on the outside, making sure to catch the inside waistband. It can help to hand-baste it in place if the fabric is slippery or if the pins distort the waistband (often the case, especially with heavier fabrics).

On the outside, topstitch all the way round the waistband, close to the edge.

(here's one I made earlier!)

Ribbon-faced waistband

This is quite a traditional vintage technique, found in many vintage skirt patterns. It's especially suitable for thicker fabrics, which when folded to make a basic waistband would result in an uneven thickness due to the doubled-up seam allowances at the bottom. I've tried to demonstrate this in the diagram below, which shows a cross-section of folded and ribbon-faced waistbands (lighter weight fabrics won't have this pronounced effect, just heavier fabrics like tweeds and woollens):

I've used the waistband piece from my pattern, which is cut on the fold and includes the overlap (which is trimmed off the right side). To make your own, mark out a rectangle the length of your actual waist size plus a 1" overlap, by the desired width of your waistband (e.g. 1"). Add seam allowances all the way around (you won't want more than 1/2" for a 1" waistband, but if you're making it wider than that you can go with 5/8" if you're more comfortable). Cut the waistband from your skirt fabric.

You'll also need a length of grosgrain ribbon the same width as your waistband, and the same length as your waistband pattern (including seam allowances).

Turn over the seam allowance on one long edge and press.

With right sides together, pin the edge of the waistband to the top of your skirt, stitch in place and press.

Pin your ribbon to the waistband piece, positioning it just a fraction inside the seam allowance. Topstitch in place.

Turn the ribbon to the outside (so that the inside of the waistband is showing) and stitch over the ends - next to the zipper tape on the right side, and 1 1/2" from the lapped fold on the left. Trim the excess close to the stitching.

Turn the ribbon back to the inside, then pin and hand-stitch the ribbon to the seam allowance on the inside. Press.

Note: If you like the look, you can of course topstitch the ribbon-faced style of waistband in the same way: after attaching the waistband to the top of the skirt, stitch the ends of the waistband to the ends of the ribbon. Then, position the ribbon on the inside, pin or hand baste in place, and topstitch on the outside, through all layers (ribbon and folded waistband).


You can either add a skirt hook-and-bar fastening, or make a buttonhole in the overlap tab (if your machine doesn't have a buttonhole function, or if the attachments intimidate you, you can hand-work a buttonhole) and sew a button to the underlap.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Five Handbags To Aspire To

Pretty much every self-respecting vintage gal has at least a minor handbag obsession. Despite owning maybe a dozen handbags already, I still have a healthy wishlist of bags in colours I don't yet have (green, pink, turquoise). I love little boxy purses and metal-framed handbags, I've no time for big slouchy leather shoulder bags or chain-handled evening purses. My tastes of course may differ from yours but there are, I think, certain handbags which every vintage girl - or at least all those with a passing interest in the midcentury era, before the 60s and 70s girls shoot me down - aspires to own.

1. The lucite box purse

Beautifully carved clear lucite purse, $198 on etsy

One of the ultimate vintage wishlist items is the lucite box - shimmering, ethereal and ice-clear, the stuff of fairytales. I could dedicate an entire post to these beautiful purses (and possibly will one day). They were very popular in myriad designs in the 1950s, the gleaming plastic emblematic of the brave new, space-age world of the mid century years. Sadly as these lucite lovelies are wildly collectable, prices often run into the hundreds, particularly for signed examples (Wilardy, Rialto, Charles S. Kahn, Patricia of Miami and Miami Handbags are among the most highly prized labels) in good condition.

The collectable nature and resultant high prices of these bags put them out of reach for most of us, but if you stalk ebay and etsy you can sometimes find (less collectable) bags for as little as £30/$50. I have in my collection a little pearlised lucite bag with a carved clear lid & handle, which is inexplicably yet to appear in an outfit post - I'll try to remedy the situation soon.

2. The perfect leopard bag

Almost as elusive as the endangered creatures from which they take their pattern, the perfect leopard handbag is the ultimate vintage accessory because it will go with everything and - striking yet understated, vivacious yet chic - it will add panache to even the very simplest of outfits. I'm on an eternal hunt for mine - I have a picture of it in my mind: slightly trapezoid and with a flat base, a metal frame, kiss clasp and a black or brown leatherette handle - indeed, not wholly dissimilar to the one above, which has previously sold on etsy. Alas, my dream leopard bag has not as yet presented itself - at least not in my price range.

3. The telephone cord purse

Left: It's mine! Right: telephone cord bags in the Sears catalogue, 1957

I can't remember when I first came across telephone cord purses, but I do know that the kitschy bright colours spoke to me right away. I don't know where they originated, but they appear in the Sears catalogues throughout the 1950s. These bags are pretty collectable and tend to be priced on the high side on ebay and etsy (my primary vintage shopping source), hence the aspirational classification. But thanks to my lovely Mr. I can finally cross this one off my wishlist, as the bag above is currently winging its way to me as my birthday gift.

4. The 1940s crochet handbag

Extravagant fan-shaped crochet handbags - often seen with lucite handles and zipper pulls - were especially popular in the late 1940s. Nearly all those I've seen are in black, with the sole exception of my own, which, in chocolate brown with amber lucite handles it seems was an even luckier buy than I realised.

5. The basket bag

Basket bags "handmade for you in far-off lands" in Sears, 1956

A summer must-have, better yet if it's decorated with artificial flowers or fruit! A basket bag in natural or white straw, wicker or cane will go with all your summer dresses - perfect for a picnic day out. Mine - a white wicker box bag - gets a lot of use through the warmer months.

Do you agree with my choices? What's on your ultimate aspirational handbag wishlist?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

{Pencil Skirt Sew-along} Adding A Lining

I'm currently playing catch-up with my sew-along posting schedule, so this follows straight on from inserting the zip.

Remember that lining your skirt is totally optional, and I've included it primarily to offer an extra stage for more experienced sewists. If you're a total beginner I'd recommend skipping the lining and just wearing a slip with your skirt.

Also, I'll be honest, these instructions are my own method that I made up - I have no idea how they compare to any 'official' method!

First of all, the most important thing to remember about a lining is that the right side faces in - you're basically making an inside-out skirt. So remember - especially if you're using a lining fabric that has a right and a wrong side (e.g. a satin) that the right side will be facing your skin, and the wrong side will face the fabric of the outer skirt. I reiterate this because despite being such a simple concept, I find it a bit of a mind*bleep* and it's what I struggle with most with linings!

Okay, let's get started.

You'll use exactly the same pattern piece(s) for the lining as for the outer skirt, just make them shorter. You can choose to stop the lining at the level of the kick pleat, or make it about an inch shorter than the skirt itself.

Note, although my skirt has side seams, I'm using the original one-piece pattern to cut my lining, as my lining fabric is too narrow in width to accommodate the extra seam allowances.

Lay the pattern piece on the lining fabric - I only bought enough fabric for a half-length lining, so my pattern piece is overhanging the edge of the fabric. Pin the pattern in place and cut out.

Lining, by its nature, is slippery, so it's a little more tricky to sew than say cotton or wool. The good news is we won't be repeating all those darts that we made in the outer skirt. Mark off the tops of the darts with chalk or disapearing ink pen - although we won't be sewing the darts we still need to 'remove' the excess fabric, otherwise the waistline won't match when we attach the lining to the skirt.

Pinch the dart markings together to make a small tuck, and pin.

Machine-baste the tucks in place, and sew the side seams or side darts.

Sew the back seam, leaving the top free for the length of the zip you're going to be using plus about an inch. Press the stitched part of the seam open but leave the top part unpressed for now.

With the skirt right side out, place the lining inside the skirt, right side facing inwards, wrong side facing the skirt outer fabric. Line up the top edges and the side seams/darts; the tucks in the lining should also correspond to the front and back darts. Pin in place along the waistline, and machine baste just (like a couple of millimetres) within the seam allowance - but leave free about an inch either side of the zipper opening.

At the zipper opening, turn under the lining so it covers the edge of the zipper tape but doesn't come too close to the teeth. Press and pin in place.

Carefully slipstitch the lining to the zipper tape.

Next up, waistbands...


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