Category Archives: 1940s

Vintage Clothing article: Sydney Morning Herald

Photo by Jon Reid, Sydney Morning Herald

I am absolutely delighted for my dressmaking teacher that the Sydney Morning Herald decided to do a story on the rising popularity of dressmaking in a vintage style. I’m sure there are many dressmakers and many sewing teachers out there in Sydney but I doubt any of them could rival Bev. As she says to me, if I re-told half the stories she’d told me, or some of the things I’ve seen her do and say, no one would believe me. To top it off she’s an excellent teacher. Some people teach you how to do something. Bev teaches you why and that I think is much more valuable as you can learn to adapt it. Best of all, she knows my likes and dislikes so well that if I come to her with a pattern – vintage or otherwise – and a concept; if she thinks it will look awful, she’ll tell me! I’ve watched her be diplomatic with other students. It’s only us lucky long term ‘permanent fixture’ students who get the warts and all version.

Lastly – because I know Isobel will say it – I’m not looking at the camera because we were instructed to pretend the photographer wasn’t there.

Related Links: 

SMH Article: These Dedicated followers have vintage fashion all sewn up


My overlocker is evil

My overlocker is evil. Not David Berkowitz evil, but evil just the same. More like Jack Nicolson’s character in A Few Good Men; a fastidious pain in the butt. After I carefully tied the threads so I could avoid re-threading the overlocker, the said beast snapped the thread in the lower looper.

After cursing subsided I got the overlocker working and was able to progress. There were a few more hurdles along the way; unpicking the wrong sleeve and running out of bobbin chief among them. However today the sleeves finally went in and I’m delighted. I’ve hung it in the wardrobe to let it drop for a week before I tackle the hem.

Made from original 1940 Simplicity Pattern 3459

I was so happy that I used the flurry of energy that followed to revisit an old friend. I’ve been working on this overcoat since… well, I don’t actually remember. Is it one year, or two? Either way, I am determined to finish it before this winter. Yes 2012’s winter.

The reason it is taking so long is the cornelli work on the upper part of the collar. I’m completing it in gold-bronze coloured deco thread. It’s in the bobbin with ordinary cotton on the top, so it’s sewn upsidedown following a template I hand-drew on stitch and tear. The lines below took me about 1 1/2 hours to complete. It is it not quite an inch wide.

Cornelli work - deco thread on brown wool

At that pace, it is little surprise that it’s been a multi-year work in progress. I shall see how long this new found energy stays. It is going to be a big week. I get the joyous task of trying to look after 4 cats in a one bedroom unit for a fortnight. The two old girls – Licorice and Saffron (the latter pictured below assisting with sewing the collar) and the two ‘bounce-off-the-walls’ boys – Pickle and Gesso. I know from past experience that the Pickle – the ginger ninja – is not well loved by Licorice and Saffron. They view this spirited adolescent with contempt. Only a mad man would expend that much energy going from one side of the room to the other. Yet this time, it may be Pickle doing the sneering as Licorice and Saffron will be on his turf.

Saffron and the half finished collar

The plan is segregation. The old girls get the bedroom and the indefatigable lads get the living room. I have to go between the two dishing out reassurance that all is well with the world; the usual cranky, funny two-wheeled owner will be back shortly. I have arranged with work to only be at work ever second day so I can be home to play umpire. This may seem extreme however in the context of Saffron’s FIC (feline idiopathic cystitis), it’s far less stressful to take a couple of days annual leave than to have a trip to the vet.

It’s also a big week as I’m starting on liteneasy. I’m not sure that I will take to this regime easily as I’m a fussy eater. Yet I’m willing to give it a shot. It will be a lot easier than trying to cook meals in between emptying litter trays for 4 cats! It may be a very quiet week on the blogging front; or a very busy one depending on the antics of the boys and girls.

The sprightly boys

And the not so sprightly girls

My 2011 in photographs

It’s only natural to reflect on the year as it comes to a close. So here’s some highlights – and lowlights – of 2011.

New Cats

It’s hard to believe that Andrew has only had Pickle a year! He arrived in mid-January 2011 and was a playful and bitey kitten.

Bitey pickle

Now look at him… all grown up!

I can see you!

Then came Gesso! Much smaller than Pickle had ever been and far more sooky from day one.

His deafness has brought a few new challenges. Getting Pickle to steer clear of walksticks and wheelchairs was difficult enough. Gesso has taken ‘challenge’ to a whole new dimension; culminating on Christmas Day when he got too close to Andrew while he was standing and ended up being trod on. He sunk his teeth in to Andrew’s foot in protest. Fortunately, Gesso was unharmed and although left with a nasty bite, Andrew’s foot is healing. I’m hoping that after that experience, Gesso will learn to dodge feet, walking sticks and wheelchairs as well as Pickle does.

My girls, Licorice and Saffron, continued to be good company; for me and for each other:

Licorice and Saffron kisses

The learnt how to get food from their new three-tiered cat toy; how to get nibbles from the treat ball; plus basic targeting skills using clicker training. (Short videos hyperlinked)

New Art

There were few surprises in the artistic area. I continued my pattern of putting things in paintings and then removing them. (The daschund below first had a skateboard; later replaced by stilts.)

Daschund issues

I rediscovered an old canvas and turned it from this:

textured background

to this:

Self portrait (unfinished) 23.5.2011

Andrew started art school (of which I am more than a little jealous). I don’t have many photographs of his work… I wish I had more. Here’s just three from this year:

These two oil paintings are still in progress:

New Sewing projects

Some things never change. Saffron continued her dressmaking assistance into 2011. Her favourite habit is sitting on the fabric one is trying to sew!

Saffron doesn't want me to sew

I embarked on some heirloom work for a white cotton sateen slip:

Heirloom work

and completed a thoroughly indulgent silk slip.

Silk bias cut slip

Somehow I quickly forgot how difficult it is working with slippery and lightweight fabrics, for I moved on to this 1940 pattern:

2 dresses in one

which, as at the time of writing, remains incomplete (needs sleeves, facings and a hem!)

1940 dress in progress

New places

I explored some other parts of Sydney in 2011 and we ventured a little further afield. First to Fitzroy Falls (reasonable disabled access):

2011-02-25 Fitzroy Falls Gardens

then to Mogo Zoo: (access was a bit dodgy due to uneven and steep paths combined with recent rain!)

2011-02-26 Mogo Zoo Giraffe

Tiger eats his chop!

To Balls Point Reserve in Sydney: (inaccessible!)

View from Balls Point Reserve of Sydney

Of course, I couldn’t forget the Dubbo trip! (Dubbo Zoo is wonderfully accessible and we had such great experiences photographing countryside on the way there and back).

Between Wellington & Orange

Near Dubbo

La Perouse was not new but offered up some beautiful sunsets for us.

2011-01-29 Kite Ship and Sun

New Wheelchair

Looking back on this, I have to laugh. Below is a cake I made to celebrate receiving news that Andrew would get a new wheelchair.

Celebratory cake!

We received confirmation we would get a chair back in April. Naively, I made this cake in May thinking the chair would arrive any day! We finally took delivery in September!

For anyone wondering why the mm’s on this cake are lime green and orange… well that was the colour choice being debated. The triffid, as I like to call it, brought much needed relief in the form of a more lightweight chair. It also caused a crisis by being too wide to fit through the bathroom door.

New home

Once it became clear that the bathroom door could not be widened, after much drama, it was time to move house! Now I can only be thankful that Andrew has nowhere near as much crap in his place as I do in mine. Even so, packing was not easy. Pickle helped by packing himself in a crate.

PIckle packed himself

New family

Not content with expanding our feline family, my brother and sister-in-law, gave me a niece as well!

Io I

Lysh & Io I

New job

A minor little thing that happened this year!

New ‘disabilities’

This is one ‘new’ thing 2011 brought that my family could have done without. However, we don’t get to choose these things, so I went about learning what I could about MS and being as supportive as possible.


Well, put like that, it was one hell of a year. Here’s to 2012.

71 years and counting

1940 dress in progress

Simplicity dress pattern 1940. Sleeves still to be added.

It’s official. It will be 2012 before this 1940 dress is complete. Sleeves appearing this side of Christmas? Not likely. Self-facing the neck line by next Saturday? Yeah, right!

In between now and Christmas Eve, I have 5 days of Santa avoidance to complete. 3 whole days and 2 half days in the office dodging Christmas cheer in order to finish work I need to complete in 2011. As such I doubt that I’ll be coming home to sew!

The centre yoke piece on this 1940 Simplicity pattern is what attracted me to it. It rises up to create a diamond shape under the bust and below the waist forms an upside V. (It’s most easily seen in the drawing on the pattern picture below).

The under bust piece, inclusive of the gathers, was actually very easy. The pleats in the skirt, a snack. Getting the bottom of that yoke attached to the skirt part and to line up with the yoke piece at the back – a real challenge. The original Simplicity pattern recommends to join the centre yoke and back yoke first. I can see the advantage in that approach – after the fact. It seemed, at the time, worth giving up having the yoke attached in order to avoid the fiddling at the sides. In the end, it’s a line ball call on what is easier. Quite simply, this style of pattern on a sheer fabric (which the pattern suggests), is a recipe for unpicking! Even with interfacing in that centre panel, the piece moves as quick as John Travolta’s hips in Grease.
2 dresses in one

1940 dress in progress - back viewIf any vintage junkies out there are considering this style of 1940s dress, I urge you to ignore the pattern (Simplicity, my foot!) and go with cotton! True, it won’t fall as beautifully as the sheer however you’ll escape the need for a slip and a few hundred expletives. Your unpicker will thank you as well. Mine has removed the zip twice before I let it off the hook with a case of third time lucky.

Finished dress in the new year I hope!

The self packing cat

Assistance at the keyboardIt’s the end of a long week and Saffron and Licorice seem to be settling on the bed getting ready to ‘assist’ in writing my blog post… much like in the ‘photo booth’ pic on the right… impeding keyboard access!

Tomorrow I’m off to the Vintage Show at Canterbury racecourse. I’d like to say that I will be wearing a dress made from my newly acquired vintage patterns but alas no!

I have completed the top and bottom of the toile and now have to join the dress through the centre yoke piece.

The original pattern suggests top stitching this semi-diamond yoke shape into place. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it on the final dress but for the purposes of completing the toile and finding out if the pattern needs adjustment, I think I’ll just hand-baste the pieces together.

It’s not a fantastic photo but below is the toile in its current state. The original pattern has a side opening. While normally I’d leap at the chance to change it to a back zip given the sheer fabric I’m going to have to go the authentic route.

As this is only the toile, I’ve cut off some of the length – so don’t think this is the 1940s dress mini skirt style! As it is I think I’ll be lengthening the pattern because I’m sure that the average height of women in 1940 was shorter than today.

Meanwhile, over at chateau de Andrew, packing is in progress. Pickle is doing a good job of living up to ‘curiosity killed the cat’. So far he has checked out a number of packing boxes before deciding today to climb the tower of milk crates and settle in for an afternoon nap. Personally I think he’s done us a favour and packed himself for the move! PIckle packed himself

Behind the times

I must remember to adjust my wristwatch to daylight savings time. In this digital age, every other appliance seems to have adjusted the time for me. Then again, being an hour behind probably won’t matter to much. I’m 70 years behind on my clothing!

2 dresses in one

This is my next sewing project. The plan is to make a black slip and then two dresses out of these sheer floral fabrics. I had wanted to use cotton sateen, also known as polished cotton, for the slip. I’ve made slips from this previously (to sleep in) and they have a lovely feel. Unfortunately obtaining black is a wee bit tricky! I bought a georgette instead but I’m not convinced that it will work. I’ll have to check with my sewing master.

As for the top part, I’m confident that these fabrics will look lovely. The black one on the right I bought at a vintage show (although the seller was honest enough to tell me that it wasn’t actually an old piece of fabric – just an old look!). At the same show I bought a piece of unused 1940s black crepe. I’m saving that for a special piece. The brown print I bought on the left yesterday. Wedding_2009_0_24 054_sIt reminds me of the ao dai (Vietnamese traditional dress) Thienhuong’s family gave me for her wedding. The flowers on the ao dai are far prettier than on this fabric but given all those ‘soft pleats’ I don’t think it will matter. I’m intending to use a ‘cross’ of the pattern on the left and the one on the right. I don’t want the puffy short sleeves which are on the left and I’m not fussed on the large collar. That said, while pretty, that high ‘boat’ neck would look silly on me. (I’d look like a giraffe in a floral print) In the end it will probably be more like the one on the left but with more subtle sleeves and a small turn back collar. I have some calico to make a sample bodice which I hope to cut the pieces for this weekend. Of course this depends on whether Saffron and Licorice choose to assist with the fabric. The last time I cut something at home, Licorice curled up in one end of the fabric which was draping off the end of the cutting table. It took me some time to realise she was there… I just couldn’t fathom why the fabric wouldn’t slide across the table.
Cat assistance aside, I shouldn’t really be cutting fabric, I should be tidying as I have guests coming next Saturday. Well, actually, I’m not ‘the host’. Andrew and I were invited to dinner at a friends house. They have a lovely single storey old style house. Unfortunately that means it comes with a small bathroom with a narrow door which Andrew can’t access. When I told my friend that Andrew couldn’t make it but I could come, she and her husband offered to cook all the food and bring it over the my place. I now just have to clear enough art and sewing stuff out of the way to set-up the table. At least I don’t have a Pickle cat in permanent residence on my table like this one…
My table II
…although Licorice did some table top dancing last time we dined.

1940s pattern hunting!

Woohoo! I found some 1940s patterns today. I actually searched through over 2000 items on etsy to select these 3 patterns. There are more patterns out there than I thought however many are very similar or could be made from an adjusted modern pattern. These 3 were a little different and I couldn’t pass them up. My day got even better when one of the sellers I bought 2 patterns from emailed me a pic of a third pattern which was also a gem. My new purchases, all yet to arrive, are all below. To my delight, I could date all 4 of them to a year by using the pattern dating guide in “BluePrints of Fashion: Home Sewing Patterns of the 1940s” by Wade Laboissoniere. A book which has been drooled on whilst in my possession!

Blouse pattern Butterick 1939

1939 blouse pattern

Blouse pattern Butterick 1940

1940 Blouse Pattern

Simplicity Dress Pattern 1940

1940s Dress Pattern (Simplicity 1940)

McCall’s Dress Pattern 1944

1940s Dress Pattern (McCall's 1944)

Christmas in October

Low Bank Account Balance. Vintage Fashion and Jewellery Show. What is wrong with those two items? Nothing, when your mother buys your Christmas present in October!

I went to the Vintage fashion show seeking 1940s dress patterns. These are not dime a dozen – even at the vintage fashion show – so I figured the level of self-restraint I was going to need was at the low end of the spectrum. I think I’ve been to the show 3 or 4 times now. There have only been 5 of them and I know that I’ve been to most. I tried on a dress in last year’s show but it was too small. Being a vintage show, it’s not like once can just ask for a different size. So it was with great surprise that I left with not 1, but 3 pieces of clothing… all the perfect size for me – especially a black Matthew Eager dress. I have to confess to having no idea who Matthew Eager was until I arrived home and googled him. At this point – if the online prices are any guide – my mother was very happy at the bargain she had scored for me. Merry Christmas to me and a good weekend to boot.

A drawer of treasures

2008 girl seeks April 1940 pattern! I love the waistline on this dress from April 1940 edition of Australian Home Journal. My sewing teacher took one look at it and said she wouldn’t like to be drafting a pattern with that waistline but if I could find a pattern no problem. All I need now is some meticulous¬†collector who has every sewing pattern that Australian Home Journal ever sold and I’ll be right!