• Sewing,  Vintage

    I Made a … 1950s Vintage Dress – From a Vintage Sewing Pattern Simplicity 3274 – Part One

    My latest vintage sewing project is a 1950s vintage dress. I used a vintage pattern that I bought from Wave of Nostalgia in Haworth; Simplicity 3274. I wanted to try and create a really authentic feel for this dress by using vintage fabric, notions and techniques. This post details the making of the bodice. The making of the skirt will follow in my next post.

    The 1950s Vintage Dress Part OneVideos:

    If you’d like to watch the step by step making progress. I have two videos now on Youtube that will walk you through my entire process. This is the video for the bodice and the video for the skirt can be found here.

    Making the 1950s Vintage Dress Part One:

    I am making view 2, with the short sleeves but am leaving off the skirt bands and detachable collar, as this dress already has one hell of a statement collar. At first I thought it might be too much but it is one of those details that help to give that 1950s feel. You can buy a copy of this pattern on Etsy*.

    1950s Vintage Dress Sewing Pattern Simplicity 3274

    I almost always trace my patterns as I normally make several fit adjustments at that stage but as this was a Misses pattern, my 163 cm self matched the size guide almost exactly so I skipped that step and just cut the pattern as is. However, I did end up having to alter the bodice later. More to come on that in Part Two.

    I transferred all the markings for the pleats, darts and balance marks using tailor’s tack, as well as tacking in the centre front of the bodice. This is really important for garments where the closure has an overlap as these need to match up exactly for a good fit.

    White tailor's tacks stitched through the pattern paper for the bodice pleats

    The Bodice

    I then started work on the back pattern piece by following the directions indicated in the instructions. This was the usual stages of stay stitching, sewing in darts and pleats.

    Sewing in the pleats at the waist on the back pattern piece

    With the back pieces prepped I moved onto the front. I started by hemming the front facing edge, turning it under by ¼” or 6mm and stitching in place.

    Turning under the front edge of the facing

    Then I machine basted in place the strip of interfacing that reinforces the centre front and the buttonholes, trimming it down to match the neck curve.

    Trimming down the strip of interfacing to match the neck curve

    Next I repeated the same process as the back for the darts and pleats.

    To mark the sewing line for the darts I used a tracing wheel and a piece of cardboard to protect my table. This leaves a little pattern of indentations that will disappear when ironed. This is a great way to mark in a sewing line when you can’t use chalk.

    Using a ruler and a tracing wheel to mark in the stitching line for the darts

    I tie off the threads of my darts and trim them down before removing as many of the tailor’s tacks as I can from the darts and pleats. 

    I then took the fronts to the ironing board and give everything a thorough press: The hemmed facing edges, the waist pleats and the darts. I press the darts over a tailor’s ham to make sure I get a neat point. 

    Pressing the point of the dart over a tailor's ham to get a sharp point

    The Collar

    I pinned the interfacing to the wrong side of one layer of the collar and then machine tack it in place around all three edges, trimming down the interfacing close to the stitching to reduce bulk.

    Trimming down the interfacing after it had been sewn onto one half of the collar

    Then with the right sides together I pinned the two layers of the collar around the outside edges. That is the edges without balance marks. I then machine them in place, pivoting at the corner for a sharp point. 

    Next, I trimmed the seam allowances of the main fabric down and notch the curved edge so that the collar will lay flat once turned inside out. I also trim the corners to reduce bulk and help with that essential sharp point. 

    Trimming and notching the seam allowance of the collar once the two halves were sewn together

    Then back to the ironing board for a good press. I turn the collar right side out and use my fingernails to crease the seam open before using the steam of the iron to help roll the edge into shape and give it a firm press.

    Pressing the curved edge of the collar

    Inserting the Collar

    I joined the shoulder and side seams making sure to match the balance marks, and then pressed them open.

    Pressing open the side seam of the bodice

    I then overlapped the two halves of the collar at the centre back, matching the circles, and then machine tacked them in place sewing all the way along the open edge of the collar.

    Then, I pinned the collar to the neckline, matching the markings and tacked that in place, making sure to keep adjusting the angle of the bodice to prevent puckers. 

    Machine tacking the collar to the neckline of the bodice

    Once the collar was tacked on I then folded back the front facings with right sides together and tacked those in place.

    Machine tacking the facings in place once they had been folded back into position

    Next it was time for that bias strip that I had cut earlier. I pressed a fold into one side and matched the fold to the tacked sewing line overlapping the edges of the facing slightly. I now think that I should have pinned the bias on the other way around because trying to press the other edge under once it was already on was really tricky. But hey that’s a lesson for next time.

    I then tacked the bias strip in place by hand. This was definitely needed as there were some points on this collar with 9 layers of fabric and it was becoming distorted with the pins. 

    Tacking the bias tape onto the neckline by hand

    Finally, I stitched the whole thing together in one go. This had to be done very slowly with lots of smoothing and adjusting on the way. To neaten the short edge of the bias strip I simply folded them under as I got to them. 

    The Sleeves

    With the collar on it was time to set in the sleeves. I have a separate sleeve tutorial that explains this in much greater detail so I will be brief here.

    I make up the sleeves by running gathering threads around the top of the sleevehead and then joining the sleeve seam making sure to match the balance marks.

    Then I ease in the sleeve in two halves, making sure the underarm sections match smoothly, and evenly distributing the excess ease around the top of the sleevehead.

    Pinning in the sleeves

    I then machine the sleeve in two halves, starting with the underarm, and then returning to my starting point and working from the inside of the sleeve. This way I can smooth the excess as I go with my fingers preventing tucks and puckers.

    Sewing in the sleevehead from the inside on the sewing machine

    I then hem my sleeve with bias tape. This probably would have been easier to do before I set it in but of well. I pin the bias tape in place matching the raw edges, leaving a little excess to neaten the raw edges, and then machine the tape in place. 

    Pinning the bias tape onto the sleeve hem

    Then using my sleeve board, I pressed the bias tape around to the inside of the sleeve and folded the remaining raw edge under for an even hem. To neaten the join, I rolled the raw edges under so that they just met at the sleeve seam before I pressed the top edge in place.

    Hand Finishing the Bodice

    For the bias neck facing, I ended up having to fold the bias tape under around a tailor’s ham to get it to lie correctly. I pinned it in place before steaming and pressing it over the ham to retain the curved shape.

    Shaping the bias tape around the neckline using a tailor's ham

    Then I hand stitched the bias tapes in place. For the sleeve hems I used a slip stitch but for the curved neck facing I decided to use a herringbone stitch as I still wasn’t sure it would lie completely flat and that extra bit of movement from a herringbone stitch might cover a few sins.

    Hand sewing the bias tape in place whilst crosslegged on my bed

    The Finished 1950s Vintage Dress Bodice:

    Close up of the finished polka dot 1950s vintage dress bodice with wide collar.

    If you’d like to see the rest of the making of this dress I shall leave a link to Part Two here. The bodice turned out really well and I can’t wait to show you the finished thing.


    Claude x




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  • Sewing,  Vintage

    I Made a … 1940s Vintage Dress Butterick B6485

    This 1940s vintage dress is actually a modern reprint of a vintage sewing pattern. I have been collecting these types of pattern for years and I decided that it was finally time to actually make one and I chose this Butterick pattern from 1944 for my first Youtube project video.

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  • Dressmakers Mannequin with pins in it and a tape measure

    5 Things to do When you Lose Your Sewjo

    When you lose your Sewjo (or your motivation to sew) it can be really upsetting. This wonderful hobby that once brought you so much joy suddenly leaves you feeling meh. On top of that, you also have to deal with feeling guilty for not wanting to sew, as if you were betraying the sewing gods.

    If you’ve been left disconnected from your sewing projects, or can’t find the motivation to start a project you were once so excited about, don’t worry. We have ALL been there.

    So here are my top tips to make it though this tough time and find your sewjo once again.

    How to Find Your Sewjo

    Pins and needles in a pink pin cushion
    Photo by Lisa Woakes on Unsplash

    1. Stop being so hard on yourself

    First of all we need to tackle all those negative thoughts that come to mind when you think about sewing. Loosing your sewjo can be a vicious cycle where you feel bad for not wanting to do something that once made you happy.

    But if at this moment in time you don’t feel like sewing, give yourself permission NOT to sew. Consciously take a break and don’t beat yourself up for it. Our hobbies shouldn’t be a chore. Take some time away to recharge.

    2. Try and identify the cause

    It is so often the case that the reason we feel so down about our hobbies is due to other circumstances in our life. If you’re really stressed at work or are going through a break up, just getting through the days can be tough. Is it any wonder you don’t feel like doing anything other than sleeping and watching Netflix?

    Again go easy on yourself. Know that this tough time will pass and when you start to feel better in other aspects of your life, creativity will return.

    3.  Get organised

    Use your time off from sewing to organise what you already have. This way you might discover patterns you had forgotten you had bought, or fabric that is perfect for that top you wanted to make.

    They say tidy home, tidy mind. Bringing some clarity to your work space or craft room might make you realise just what you love about your hobby. If you find yourself surrounded by fabric you don’t like, give it away, sell it on eBay, get it out of your life. You don’t want it dragging you down. Rediscover special pieces that mean something to you. If you want to go all KonMari keep only the things that spark joy and treat them with the love they deserve.

    Then when your sewjo returns, and it will return, you have a choice of projects that excite you ready to get stuck into.

    4. Find artist that inspire you

    Whenever my sewjo leaves me, I find it really helpful to look at other people’s work. Instagram, Pinterest and Youtube are full of amazing people sharing their work with the world and often I find their enthusiasm infectious.

    I love to follow people with different style to me, and even from different crafts. A few of my favourites are Brittany J Jones on Youtube and Gather What Spills on Instagram. Brittany makes really cool, contemporary clothes and is so passionate about sewing. She really inspires me because she is always so fun to watch.

    Gather What Spills is an account dedicated to visible mending. I love the hand stitched repairs and patches they share as well as the naturally dyed threads. In fact they inspired me to try visible mending for myself. Check out this post where I rescued my bra.

    Branch out a bit and see what other people out there are making.

    5. Try something new

    This is possibly my best tip for you. If you feel like you’ve taken some time out, want to get back into sewing but don’t know where to start, try something completely different.

    Do you always make baby clothes? Why not try making a bag instead? Never made a quilt? Give it a go. Fed up of sewing? Why not learn how to knit?

    Being a beginner at something is really refreshing as there are no expectations and no pressure. If it doesn’t work out, or you didn’t enjoy it, oh well! You were trying something new. Experiment with new techniques and skills and give yourself permission to just play around. You might discover your sewing takes on a whole different direction.

    And that’s it! I hope this post helps you find your sewjo once again. If you’re looking for inspiration why not follow me on Pinterest? I pin a wide range of things so hopefully you will find something that inspires you.

    All the best,

    Claude x

    Dressmaking dummy
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  • Knitting,  Sewing,  Style,  Vintage

    2018 Retro Round Up

    As the end of December approaches, as do my university deadlines, I thought I would make a little round up of my sewing year. I usually take time out of the online world during the Christmas period to enjoy time with friends and family, but before I do enjoy this final post of 2018.

  • Sewing,  Vintage

    I Made a … 1930s Inspired Dress

    Time to catch up with Retro Claude. Blogging has taken a back seat to working in the past few weeks. But I thought I would catch you up with all the things I have been making, starting with this 1930s inspired dress.

    I made it to wear to the What Katie Did summer social. If you aren’t familiar with What Katie Did they make excellent vintage reproduction underwear and stockings. Every year, they host a little party to launch their new collection and I was lucky enough to be invited!

  • Sewing,  Vintage

    1940s Pyjama Playsuit

    When I started this blog I wanted to inspire and motivate myself to make my own clothes and it looks like it has worked! I have been sewing for 10 years and finally, I have made something exclusively for me to wear; a 1940s playsuit.

    I can’t believe it!