Lucky finds, October 2015

Hello dear readers! I have many things to share with you. Sewing projects but also several inspirational things, as the past few months were rich with good findings. I have been to a few garage sale the past weeks, which I haven’t done a lot this summer. As you probably already know if you’ve been around for some time I like vintage clothes and old books and magazines. I entered the world of garage sales when we were looking for decor props for our wedding and I got hooked. We don’t have estate sales in France (or at least they’re not the thing they are in the US and there are not as many), so we’re left with garage sales to try and find interesting goodies from the past. Sadly it seems that the tendency here is more for people to throw their old patterns away because they think they won’t be interesting to anyone nowadays, which I find really sad, and which makes finding old sewing patterns a bit of a challenge. When I see the posts on the WeSewRetro Facebook group and other groups for selling vintage patterns, it seems it doesn’t work the same in the US where people seem to find patterns much more easily. But I’m still hoping to be able to find interesting patterns here someday (or talk enough about this around me to the people I know to be able to salvage some from the dumpster ’cause they’ll know some people could be interested). Anyway, back to the subject! I made some good findings last Sunday at two garage sales, and I wanted to share them with you.

As you might have guessed after reading the introduction, I didn’t find any pattern per se, but I did find many sewing related magazines, from different periods of the 20th century. :) At the very start of my first visit I discovered a pile of magazines in front of a booth. I couldn’t believe my eyes! The lady told me that she grabbed almost all the magazines she found in her attic, which belonged to her grandmother, saving just a couple for herself. To other ladies went by while I was quickly browsing through them to decide what to bring home, and I was quite happy to have been there early. In the end I bought almost all of them. ^^; There is a catalog from the Louvre dating from 1935, with a part on clothes but also some housewares, and about ten issues of “Le Petit Echo de la Mode” from 1937 to 1939. Those are fragile, two in particular are a bit damaged. I might do copies or scans of those to keep another “safer” version.

Among those magazines were also two pattern catalogs from 1917-1918 for “Les patrons français Echo”. I didn’t know this pattern brand, I’ll try to look into it. Those went directly into the “I’ll take them” pile without thinking! ^_^

On another booth I found this little book title “Je serai couturière”, which means “I will be a seamstress”. It’s a collecting of sewing advice previously published in the “Modes et Travaux” magazine, grouped together in one booklet to create a sort of sewing reference guide. It was published in 1952 and has 79 pages organized in sections (how to use a pattern, sew sleeves, necklines, closures…).

Then somewhere else I found three issues of that same magazine the book was made from, Modes et Travaux, dating from 1967, 1973 and 1979. Inside you can find some sewing inspiration and knitting and crochet patterns. That’s all for sewing magazines, now let’s see some knitting ones. I don’t knit so I usually skip those, but recently my mom (who used to sew but now mainly knit and crochet) told me that she was disappointed at the modern knitting magazines, that she used to find more interesting things back in the days. So I thought “Hey, I’ll look for things for her!”. Those weren’t very expensive so I guess it’s not a huge loss if she’s not interested in any of those, and I can use then as inspiration maybe. If I knew how to knit, I’d definitely make some projects from those magazines!

There is a Phildar magazine without any date on it, but from the style I’m guessing 70s or 1980-1981 at the latest. I hope she’ll find some things of interest in this one. The other two are much older, so I’m not sure she’ll like them, but they were amongst the pile of fashion magazines from the 1930s and I thought the idea of magazines around knitting patterns + a novel (which the title “Tricot-roman” means) was fun. And then two Phildar devoted to babies clothes. This is not a hint to a big reveal, it’s just that there were some cute clothes inside, they were really cheap and I foresee possible other babies in my mom’s future as beside me my mom has two other children, both younger than me.

And then some materials. First two pieces of lace, one that I intend to cut and use as appliques and the other to sew on the border of a future piece of clothing. Under them you can see a piece of fabric I also got at the garage sale. We call that king of fabric “madras” in French, I don’t know if there’s a special name for that kind of cotton check fabric in English… I love that type of fabric, but didn’t have any in my fabric stash. I fell in love with the colors and considering the crazy amount of yardage I got for the price I paid it was a steal, and I couldn’t let it pass. And now I’m off to think about my next sewing projects. ;p

70′s dress from a japanese pattern

Do not forget the giveaway for La Modette’s fabric store, you have until tomorrow 10pm Paris time to enter (that’s 1pm pacific time I think)!

This dress was made a few year ago (I was still living in Japan!) and was never shown here, but I love it and with summer coming it’s a good time to finally share it. This project was born because we were invited to a “disco” themed party, which was a perfect excuse to finally make of those long and flowy dresses from the 70′s that I love. I browsed the web for inspiration (no Pinterest at the time, I had to save the pictures on my computer ;p ) and fell in love with this pattern drawing: McCall’s 4399.

I didn’t want to order a pattern, so the plan was to make a dress similar to the maxi shown on the cover, using a pattern I already owned as a base. I didn’t have any vintage pattern at the time in my collection. Instead I turned to my collection of japanese pattern books, and found that the top of the I dress from the Stylish Dress Book had a similar top that I could use.

I used a picture from the envelope back as my guide for fabric requirements and the overall shape of each pattern piece and I went modifying my pattern to get the dress I wanted. In the end only the shoulders and armholes of the original pattern remain untouched. XD I changed the neckline to lower it and added lots of length to the top. The original pattern has a seam under the bust with a gathered skirt, mine doesn’t have any horizontal seam. However there are seams down the center front and center back since the botom of the dress was to wide for my fabric width. I was planning to add sleeves, but left them of at the last minute because of a lack of time. I did like the dress as it was so I left it like this.

I used a floral cotton fabric that wasn’t probably the best choice in terms of thickness and drape (it probably is light quilting cotton) but that I thought was nice in terms of print. Plus I didn’t have much time so I had to do with what I could find around me. Because of that fabric it might not be as flowy as it could be, and it’s not as light as I wished it was during very hot summer days, but I wear it all the same. I wear it every summer since I made it. For the neckline ribbon the pattern calls for “stretch lace or foldover flexi-lace”. I couldn’t find any so I used a sort of gauzy ribbon. Since it couldn’t follow the round neckline at the back I slightly gathered it. Now I think it wasn’t the best idea, but I’m too lazy to change that… ^^; If I make it again I’ll probably cut a fabric band the same shape of the dress neckline (kind of like a facing).

The funny thing is that this particular pattern is for a maternity dress. Of course I wasn’t pregnant at the time but I didn’t mind and I don’t think the resulting dress screams “maternity”. But I was super happy to have it when I was indeed pregnant last year. :) It was indeed perfect, as you can see in the following pictures.

Overall I’m quite happy with this dress. I love that it is quite comfortable because of the tent shape (I can even tie the ribbon at the front to remove the empire waist) but still feels feminin. Sure it has flaws but at the time I made it I didn’t have that much sewing experience and I was super proud to be able to make it by altering another pattern. :) It’s quite nice to wear. I’ll probably make other(s) in the same style, either maxi length like this or shorter.

Firsts I remember for this project:

  • first vintage style garment
  • first time hacking a pattern

1916 dress project

Summer approaches, and with it the end of my sewing lessons. Realizing that, I started a project last week that has been in my mind for some time, and was delayed by my pregnancy: making a dress from a 1916 magazine’s pattern. There are many unknowns in this project, which might turn out very easy or, as I suspect, quite challenging. That’s why I want to use the remaining lessons to start it with an experienced seamstress beside me. And I hope to share the process here with you. :)

The magazine is La Mode Illustrée from January 1916. It was published during the war and you can feel it when you read the front page article, which talks about lifestyle changes: reducing costs, having less employees, even women looking for a job! It seems a little bit strange to read this nowadays. I like reading those old magazines, they give you an insight at what life was for some people in those days. The dress I’m interested in is shown on the “afternoon dresses” page and described as a dress of broadcloth and velvet (I think, not 100% of my translation here). In the description they write that this dress was designed so that an older dress in a narrower style could be used to make it, lengthening the velvet band at the bottom if needed.

What do you think of this dress? Would you wear it? I do find it really promising, it looks nice and elegant. And although I think the journey in itself will probably be interesting, I do hope to have a wearable garment at the end of it. I fear I might have to make quite a lot of alterations: I doubt my measurements match those of the average women of that time, and they probably wore corsets under their clothes, which I’m not going to do on a daily basis. I actually prefer to wear my corsets on the outside. I couldn’t find any measurements on the magazine or the pattern sheet, so I have no idea what size this thing is supposed to turn out. It will be a surprise. ;)

Vintage inspiration: movie poster

Last Sunday we went to the restaurant with some of my husband’s family and just accross the table, on the wall facing me, was this movie poster:

Of course I couldn’t help but look at it (it’s not like anyone could miss it) and I quite liked the lady’s outfit, which felt like from the early 50s. So after a while I got up and took a picture of it. And I thought I’d share it here with you.

I really like the sleeve shape on her blouse. It was fun because after that we talked about clothes and costume history for a few minutes. And we checked the Internet to see what year the movie was released in: 1952.

As a side note I promess that I’ll share longer posts soon, I have many things to show you, I just have to find a little bit more time to edit my pictures and finish the translations.

Puces de Saint Ouen: findings

Here is my last post about our flea market expedition. It’s time to share the lovelies I brought back home with me!

Even though I like many vintage styles, for various reasons I don’t really buy genuine vintage pieces of clothing. I don’t know many real vintage shops and don’t like to buy clothes online, the styles aren’t always what I’m looking for and the price tag often puts me off. In the end I prefer to look at vintage pieces online or in old magazines to get inspiration to sew my own interpretations of my favorite styles. I’m sharing this to describe my state of mind when I left for the flea market: I didn’t intend to spend a lot, especially not in clothes, maybe get some patterns, magazines or lace (I love lace).

While most of the clothes, as expected, didn’t really tempt me, I was surprised to find myself drawn to one type of clothing: lingerie. The pieces that really caught my eye were mostly cute petticoats and delicate slips, lace and ribbon adorned. I love those items that, to me, are expressions of feminity and and elegance, because they shown an attention to all details, even those you can’t see. They’re useful, sometimes essential for a successful outfit, but they’re more than that. They’re not just functional but also pretty and well made. I love that. You can’t find pieces like that easily nowadays, and I don’t feel confident enough to make them myself yet. So of course while I wasn’t the one who was looking for clothes at the beginning, I eventually gave in and came back with two petticoats from the 50s or 60s. To be honest I had been thinking of buying some petticoats for some time, so this wasn’t a complete surprise. And those two were my size and just the length I needed. They don’t have the same amount of puffyness, which will allow me to wear them for different occasions.

This one is the fullest. It’s a little less pretty but still nice with the lace insertion in the middle.

This one flares just a bit, it will be perfect to wear with simple outfits at work. The elastic needs to be changed, but the petticoat is beautiful.

What do you think? Isn’t it nice to wear such lovely undergarments? I wish we could wear nice clothes more often.

The rest of my findings were more typical of what I usually buy: no lace this time, but old magazines and patterns.

From a first shop I got some patterns from the 60s or 70s for room/nightwear (there are 4 outfits), a vintage magazine without any cover and a very nice special issue that focuses on blouses embroidery. All of those were found in an old box in a corner of a shop that wasn’t at all specialized in sewing or clothes. It was quite a lucky finding! The coverless magazine is full of wonderful houseclothes/nightgowns/blouses inspiration. It also has some embroidery motifs. How I wish I could still get the mail-order patterns from this! The motifs in the embroidery magazine are full-size with a text description of the stitches to use and, my favourite, sketches of blouses embellished with the motifs! It gives you ideas on how to use them. This magazine already inspired me some embroideries.

Lastly, I got 5 patterns from 50s or 60s magazines.

Now I regret not taking one or two more patterns. ^^; The patterns were published in magazine and are one-size only. I have no idea of what size I might be in 50′s France, so I will have to measure and probably alter them. The series Casey recently did on pattern grading will be useful! Since they were inside magazines there is more than just the outfit pattern and its instructions: instructions and measurements for other projects, embroidery motifs… It’s fun to discover.

Here you are! My Saint Ouen flea market report is now complete. It was a really fun and fruitful trip! I will surely go back now that I know the place a little, but not two often, that would be bad for my wallet. I’ll try to take more pictures next time.

Twin patterns: reversible wrap circle blouse

Here is my second installment in the “twin patterns” series. This time things are a little different: we’re not talking about different colored versions of the same pattern. While looking for wrap blouse ideas I found those two patterns, from two different companies, that are exactly the same. Here are Simplicity 5397 “Reversible Wrap and Tie Blouse” and Butterick 6835 “Wrap-and-Go Blouse” : a donut shape with a band at the top and bottom to wrap/tie the top at the waist, closing the sides and creating a sleeve effect.

(source: Vintage Patterns wiki)

I found it amusing to find exactly the same pattern by two different companies. Obviously those were released during the same era, but I don’t know their exact publication year. I wonder if they both had the same idea at the same time, or if one was released and then the other company thought it had to sell the same style so as not to be left out. It makes me think this was a popular clothing item at that time. Or maybe one company released it earlier in the decade, and when it got out of print the other tried to release the same style? It’s a very basic pattern, so maybe there are tiny variations between the two but they can’t be very important. You can also wonder wether other big (or small) pattern companies also released their version of this pattern.

I actually quite like this style. I think it would make a nice over-blouse in a sheer fabric with a tank top underneath in summer (you can probably see quite a lot of the body through those huge sleeves when you lift your arms), or in any fabric with a long sleeved top in autumn/winter. The flowing sleeves are quite typical of the 70s, but wouldn’t look that much out of place today.

What do you think? Do you like it? Do you know of other patterns that were released by several companies?

Puces de Saint Ouen: wedding dresses

Here comes the second part of my flea market report. Last time I mentioned that we visited a wedding dresses exhibition currently held at the Serpette market. I took pictures of most of the dresses, pictures that I’m sharing today. The exhibition is quite small, but some of the dresses are really nice. I you do happen to be at the flea market, it’s worth going to check them out. The exhibited dresses are actually on sale, so they change all along the exhibition as people buy them and take them home. Here is an overview of those we got to see last saturday.

This black dress facing the exhibition room entrance is of course modern:

According to the exhibition staff, this dress below dates from the 40s. I wouldn’t have guessed!

This one is from the beginning of the 20th century. Look at that lace:

This one as you would have guessed is from the 50s:

And last is this outfit which suprised us a little. I wouldn’t have worn that to my wedding, but to each his own.

The pictures are all available on my Flickr stream, where you can see them bigger if you want. And if you want to see the dresses for real, they’re in the exhibition gallery, alley 6 of the Serpette market (which is on the street named rue des rosiers).

In the last part of this report I’ll show you what I came back home with. ^^ But this will have to wait until next week, as I’m going to visit family this week-end.

Puces de Saint Ouen

On Saturday I had my first vintage shopping trip! :) The lovely Jen from Pretty Little Pictures, a fellow seamstress and vintage lover, is currently in France (she lives in Australia) and when she wrote a post on WeSewRetro asking if anyone would like to meet I jumped in. Someone recommended she made a trip to the big flea market in Saint Ouen (north of Paris), known as Les Puces de Saint Ouen, and I offered to accompany her if she planned to go. I had never been there and thought it might be fun. She did want to go, so we spent a few hours there on Saturday and it sure was fun! I’ll split my report (with pictures) in several parts, so that you have a chance of reading it before next month…

After my train being (of course!) delayed due to several minor incidents I finally was able to meet her around 10:30 in the north of Paris. Luckily the weather (which is being rather fickle lately) was really nice, so we were able to walk to the market while chatting. We were both wearing handmade circle skirts and had a little Marilyn moment while passing over a kind of grid on the pavement, which I would have gladly avoided, so be careful with those… After that incident we kept getting worried about our skirts at every wind blow. The flea market of Saint Ouen is quite big, and actually divided in several markets spread along three streets in the south of the city. Each market is quite different from the others, in size, style of items and more importantly in architecture/organization and atmosphere. It was really funny how each one feels quite different. I had done some research on the Internet beforehands and took notes with me, so we had an idea of where to go. We avoided the most expensive historical furniture and art ones, to concentrate on the cheaper and most flea-market like ones. We started with the Vernaison Market, which I really liked. It is the oldest one and they say it remains true to the original style of the flea markets. It’s outdoors, quite big and divided in tiny passageways bordered by little shops. You can really get lost in there if you’re not cautious! I have know idea of what this market’s map would look like, but it sure felt like we turned a lot. The pictures below were taken there.

The shops are quite varied here. We found a few selling vintage clothes, lace or sewing notions, and a lot were just offering a mix of different things among which you can hope to find some of those. In a shop that was mainly sewing furniture we stumbled upon a box full of embroidery patterns with some sewing patterns and magazines mixed in. It was like digging in a treasure box. :) I did my first vintage clothes shopping at this market, I’ll tell you more on what I got in another post. After leaving this market we were quite hungry and stopped in an italian restaurant for lunch. If you ever go there, it’s a little further up the street, after the Dauphine market. It was quite nice and seems to be actually owned by italian people. We then went back a little to visit the aforementioned Dauphine market. This one is indoor, with a big glass roof. It’s divided in straight alleys bordered by shops on two levels. We found an incredible vintage clothes shop there! They had pieces from the 19th century! They had very nice dresses on display on mannequins (which made us want to check it in the first place). They also sell reproductions of victorian boots in limited series. All the outfit pictures shown below were taken there and you can find a few more on my flickr.

There were quite a few other vintage clothes shops, although smaller and not as impressive as this one. And also a little shop specializing in printed materials: old advertisements and drawings but also old magazines and patterns! We spent quite some time there, it was really hard to decide what to get (although Jen has been very reasonable, I was impressed). We found another shop after that also had magazines, patterns and notions.

After this market we went to the Serpette Market. It’s quite expensive and not what we were looking for, but they currently have a wedding dresses exhibition there that we wanted to check. You’ll get pictures in the next post. This market is indoor without natural light and the atmosphere was really different from the other two, not as friendly and nice. We then went to briefly check two other smaller markets in the other streets, which we didn’t like as much. The Passage Market has a big vintage clothes shop (I think it takes at least 1/3 of the place!) but it seemed to be lots of designer pieces, so more expensive. And we couldn’t take pictures of the window! :( We then headed back to Paris, as we were a tiny bit tired from walking all the day. The contrast between the flea market’s atmosphere, with all it old things, and the bordering street we took to go home with its streetwear market merchants was a little weird.

As you can guess I had a really nice time. I loved the flea market and spent a really nice moment with Jen, whom I’m happy to know. She’s a very nice and friendly person and it was fun to discover the market with her and share some time with a fellow vintage-inspired seamstress. I guess I’ll go back to Saint Ouen now that I know it, but I’m afraid it won’t be as fun to go alone. But if you’re ever in the neighborhood and like vintage stuff, I definitely recommend you to go check it out!

Different uses of gathers, part 1

After my last post I wanted to dive more deeply into the world of gathers, and make a follow-up post on how they are used in clothing. It turns out there is quite a lot to say about them, so this will be a series of two or three posts. First we’ll see the most common uses of gathers. Everyone probably already know about them, but I thought it would be nice to start with simple pieces with gathers uses listed by type. Then we’ll see some more original pieces. Most of the pictures are from my books and magazines collection (if you click on them you’ll go to my Flickr where I listed the sources).

At the waistline

The goal here is to have a fitted garment at the waistline that will get fuller at the bottom. I think it’s one of the most common use of gathers, with ruffles and puffy sleeves.

Empire waist

Small gathers so that the top isn’t very wide

This version has more gathers, so that the skirt part is fuller

Natural waist

Full gathered skirt are a common thing in fashion from the 40′s, 50′s and early 60′s. I love that type of skirts! Of course they were also commonly used in more ancient history.

Full gathered skirt on a 1957 dress

Low waist

You can find a lot of those in fashion from the 50′s also, with the “long torso” trend where the waistline was below the waist. That’s what I used for my blue 50′s dress last year:

Today it’s most commonly used in skirts where the gathers start under a yoke, see the part about yoke.

Tiered skirts & ruffles

Gathers are used to make tiered or ruffle skirts. Ruffles can also be added to different parts of a garment as an embellishment.

Dress with a tiered skirt.

Ruffle skirt

Ruffle at the bottom or a tunic, dress or skirt

Ruffle at the bottom of sleeves

A ruffle was added to the neckline of this bolero, which makes it look at little fancier

Under a yoke



You can also have yokes in skirts, which make the gathers start below the waist, around the hips. That makes the skirt full without having to much thickness at the waist. See this example by Eolune.

At the neckline

Here the gathers embellish the neckline and give a little fullness to the top.

At the bust

You can also use gathers to shape the bust part of an empire waist dress or top.

At the sleeves

Gathers can be at the sleeve cap to make it stand up a little, or at the bottom to tighten it around the arm. This creates a nice puffy sleeve. You can see an example of that on the last picture.

I hope you enjoyed this journey in the world of gathers as much as I enjoyed researching it for you. If you have common or uncommon pieces with gathers to share, please leave a common I’d love to hear about it!