I'm a HUGE fan of Petit Main Sauvage's Lauriana, who is an incredibly accomplished stitcher and seems to literally rock every decade. So this heartfelt account about the challenges of sewing, and specifically the 'failure' of her #VPJuly project, really resonates with me. After all, we've all been there at one time or another, but I hardly think Lauriana can class anything as a failure given her gorgeous vintage makes from this year alone!

If you have read my blog before, you may know that I’m not a beginner anymore. Not by a long shot. Although there are plenty of people who have many more years of sewing experience than I have, I think I sunk a lot of sewing time into the years I’ve have. That also involved learning to draft my own patterns, spending time helping a local designer and a lot of fabric shopping (with or without buying anything). 

I’m not writing all of this to brag, I’m writing it to give a bit of background. After all, failure is sometimes an unavoidable part of sewing. And I can tell from experience that the chance of absolute failure of a sewing project grows less as your skills and experience increase. 

A lot of early garments fail because we pick the wrong fabric for the project. Or a design, which looked great in the picture, but doesn’t actually suit us. Mistakes like that can be avoided with more knowledge and more experience.

Add to that the fact that pattern making, although it is time consuming, does kind of guarantee a garment that will fit (again, once you have enough experience with it) and you may be able to guess where I'm heading…

I don’t have many issues with failed sewing projects these days. There may be the occasional thing of which the making feels more like hard work than expected. Or something which looks good, but is not that comfortable. But real failure? That’s rare.

It did, however, happen to the dress I wanted to sew for this post.

I have taken part in #VintagePledge since the start and every year, I have used it not just to motivate myself to sew from my vintage pattern stash, but also to get out of my comfort zone. Because of it, I have, on occasion, gone back to using patterns, tackled new pattern systems and new-to-me eras of fashion history. Of course, it would go wrong sometimes (I had some long struggles with 1930’s fashion in the past two years).

This year, I had started well. After a bit of a struggle, I made a 1920s dress I’m really happy with. 1920s is so tricky. I’ve tried two dresses and both times ended up adjusting the patterns to make them a bit less sack-like. Which may completely ruin the period look.

I found out that the 1950s patterns from Beyer’s Mode work for me without a lot of work. 

And I made my first (actual vintage, not re-print) early 1940s dress from a 1943 copy of the same magazine. 

And then came the moment I really had to decide what to write about for this post. My original plan was quite ambitious, but I won’t tire you with that (it had something to do with the sharing of old “draft to instructions” patterns which I am also doing on my blog this year).

In the end I decided to make this dress, from the same magazine as that first successful 1940s dress.

At first I wasn’t in love with the tiered skirt, but I had warmed to the look. The pattern was actually for one size smaller than mine, which gave me the opportunity to try something: Make it from jersey. 

A lot of 1930s and 1940s dresses should have a sleek fit, which we could achieve most easily and comfortably by using jersey fabric. I’ve seen this done on other blogs, but I had never tried it myself. I thought it would make for a nice, comfortable dress and something interesting to write about. 

I happened to have some thin jersey in my stash with little to no lengthwise stretch. I thought it would work well for this dress. Maybe the colour was a bit boring but I actually have good precedents in my sewing career for making complicated dresses in grey. 

Tracing the pattern was not a problem. Yes, it can be daunting to do this for the first time, but I’m an old hand. I chose not to make a toile because I don’t think I have another fabric which behaves in the same way as this one. I did remember the one fitting issue with the first dress (not enough length in the front bodice) and and decided to cut more than double width seam allowances on the top and bottom of the front bodice piece. 

Then came the cutting. The subtle stripe, which I liked in this fabric, is actually on the wrong side. It is the most stretchy thread in the fabric. It actually gathers up the thin grey knit. And it forms ever-so-slightly wavy lines…I did a lot of adjusting with the cutting out of those skirt tiers. And that was after I had to consider whether or not to adjust for a fabric lay-out on 140cm instead of 90cm. 

The pattern doesn’t give any lay-out information, but the skirt tiers are pieced to fit on 90cm wide fabric. I cut everything apart from the bottom tier. By now, I was starting to regret going for this skirt.

Sewing usually makes me feel better about a project. It didn’t this time. Gathering this material is SO annoying. It seems impossible to get the thread tension even and if you pull the threads later, they sometimes get snagged.

There is nothing really wrong. Not yet. It may not be fun to sew this dress, but it is not impossible that I might still be able to turn it into a wearable garment. However, I lost faith in making this dress. It is still in pieces on my sewing table and chair (and maybe some pieces fell to the floor). It put me off sewing for a week and when I returned, I felt I had to go and do something else.

So here I am, as much as I love the #VintagePledge, it also presents me with the occasional failure, UFO and the frustration that comes with that.

P.S. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Marie and Kerry for their great work for the VSPP, which is made even more impressive by the fact they still keep up the good work over the years!
Wow! Jo's, of Three Stories High, foray into unprinted vintage patterns has resulted in a seriously adorable tennis dress, complete with polka dots and ric rac! What's not to love about this make?!? Best of all, she attributes her brave approach to taking part in #VintagePledge since 2014. Well, Jo, it's been a pleasure following your vintage journey!

I am excited and honoured indeed to be joining an esteemed list of bloggers and makers joining in the July Vintage Pledge EXTRAVAGANZA. It means a lot to me because without joining the vintage pledge last year I don't think I would have improved so much as a dressmaker through the inspiration it gave me. I had been an admirer of vintage patterns because I liked the artwork, but now I can truly say I am a maker of a wonderful wardrobe full of them thanks to the Vintage Pledge 2015 and 2016.

For this guest post I wanted to try to use an unmarked vintage pattern. You know, a little challenge to myself, a little step up. I love this pattern and have avoided it for over two years now because it is 'pre pattern marking' and that is a bit scary.

Now if I am going to be totally honest with you, my heart was with the shirt dress. I wanted to try the princess seams to give a shirt dress better shape for me, but in reality when I got the paper pieces out, I got a little bit frightened about putting on a collar and button band without any markings. 

I knew it would be possible, but I kind of chickened out. No matter, as the other tennis dress was really beautiful too. The square neckline attracted me because I didn't have anything like that in my wardrobe. So I cracked on cutting out and marking every tiny hole.

I tacked the whole dress together. That is how I have been working recently. I have only ever made one toile in my life and that was a self-drafted pattern. Tacking a whole outfit works for me because I have made so much now that I have a good idea of what I need to alter when I cut right at the start.

I made a few changes. If you are a long time reader of my blog you will not be surprised to know it was too long in the body. This is just what happens on me and why I make my own clothes.

I also made it longer because I was not going to be playing tennis in it even with those big ball pockets stood on a tennis court! Lengthening was a strange phenomenon for me because I usually have to shorten things.

The fabric is a thick viscose with a lovely drape purchased from the stitching show last year at the NEC in Birmingham, the grand purchase total being £12.00. At the end I added on the ric rac because I am a sucker for the stuff and the buttons are shown as on the pattern. I added three purely because there were three in the packet.

Will I be tackling another unmarked pattern? I wouldn't specifically hunt one down, but if I really liked a pattern/design/image, it wouldn't stop me from having another go.

Do join in with the pledge if you haven't already - it could be something as simple as a skirt to get you going or you could end up like me and make nearly all of your clothes from vintage patterns by the end of the challenge. My motivation to sew more generally definitely started with the Vintage Pledge back in 2015. It really has been an inspiration.

Happy sewing one and all. Thanks Marie, I feel totally honoured to share one of my vintage makes in your creative space.

Jo xxx
Despite her last-minute change of plans and reservations about her alternative pattern choice, Gabrielle of Up Sew Late has sewn a gorgeously practical dress for #VPJuly! In her floaty coral number, she's certainly channeling Diane von Furstenburg by the Castle.

When you hear the name 'Diane von Furstenberg', wrap dresses are probably what spring to mind. They're the style she's most famous for of course, but she also designed loose fitting dresses like this one - and from the number of copies of this pattern I've seen for sale, I'm guessing it must have been a popular style.

The pattern is this one, Vogue 2065, a Diane von Furstenberg for Vogue American Designer Originals from the late 1970s:

The back of the envelope description reads as follows:

Loose-fitting, A-line, pullover, blouson dress, seven inches (18 cm) below mid-knee or ankle length, has scooped neckline, round collar, center front neckline slit with button and thread loop closing, elasticized waistline, pockets in side seams, narrow hem and top stitching and edgestitch trim.  Above or below elbow or full-length sleeves are gathered into buttoned, shaped turn back cuffs. Purchased belt. 

And why did I choose to use this pattern? Well, to be honest, even though I'm very happy with the dress I've made, this pattern wasn't my first choice!

I had two first choices: a red and cream striped 1940s summer dress, and a cream wool and lace 1940s winter dress, both already well underway.  I'm very sorry to say fitting issues with both dresses got the better of me when I tried to finish them up (for now - but I will conquer these dresses!), so I had to step away from the 1940s and towards a more recent era.

My next thought was to sew something fun and exaggerated from the 1980s. I got so far as to identify a couple of very cool and unusual Vogue Individualist patterns in my 1970s/1980s filing cabinet drawer, but then an annoyingly sensible voice piped up in my head and reminded me I already have a wardrobe full of fun clothes that get very little wear. So I made a second pass through the filing cabinet drawer, this time looking for 'wearable' and 'suitable for the office (or casual weekends)', and came up trumps - THIS DVF pattern; pretty, office-appropriate and very wearable, and even in my size.

I really hope the very bright pink fabric stops it from being a boring choice!

By the way, please excuse all the crumples in the photos - I did iron the dress properly, but I then drove into the city to take these photos wearing the dress, and apparently driving makes silk crepe de chine rumple and crease! 

I usually sew a size 12 in modern Vogue patterns for my upper half and a size 14 for my lower half, but I thought 1970s sizes might be a little smaller than modern sizes, so the straight size 14 in this pattern looked about right - and it was.  The pattern was straightforward to sew, though the amount of hand stitching required took me by surprise and meant the dress took a lot longer to finish than I'd anticipated.

My gorgeous, very drapey silk crepe de chine comes from last summer's sales at The Fabric Store here in Sydney, and it proved to be the perfect choice of fabric for this dress, even if  I didn't have quite enough of it (my neckline and cuff facings are cut from a different fabric).

It's hard to show movement in photos without jumping around (and also being a good enough photographer to capture the jump!); the next photo is the best we managed to show the swish and drape of the fabric:

You don't normally see castles in Sydney, but yes, the building behind me in a couple of these photos is very castle-like. The building was apparently based on Inveraray Castle, and was originally built as a 'palace for horses' (ie stables!) for the 5th Governor of New South Wales. And it's now the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, which I think is a much more suitable use of a small castle!

If you compare my dress to the detailed description above you might notice a couple of differences... firstly, my dress is knee-length, not 18cm below mid-knee, and secondly, where's that top stitching?

It's knee-length because I just thought the shorter length looked more balanced with the elbow length sleeves and simple bodice (I did try the longer length and it was rather nightie-like).  I normally add between 7 and 10cm to skirt or trouser lengths in Vogue patterns, so it was a novelty to get rid of some length - a full 16cm, and that's with enough fabric left for a nice deep hem too.  I should point out though that a lot of that excess length probably came from my fabric "dropping"; the much smaller collar pieces certainly stretched out significantly even with minimal handling.  And as for the top stitching, well it turns out it was only supposed to happen at the hemline, and other than that, the instructions are all about slip stitching and more slip stitching! I ended up continuing with the slip stitching theme for the hemline anyway - when you're on a roll...

Here's a close up of the collar - it's not perfect, but given the amount of adjusting that was involved to cope with the un-interfaced collar upper stretching out I'm pretty happy with it:

I did have to make another surprise adjustment as I was sewing the dress - but it's one that's not as noticeable.  When I tried the dress on with the cuffs pinned in place before sewing buttonholes, I noticed that the cuffs were very tight on my arms, so to gain a few millimetres of width I've sewed press studs with buttons on the outside instead of buttonholes.  There was actually supposed to be a second button on those cuffs, just in case the cuffs were too loose, but I didn't see any point adding buttons that I will never be able to use so I left them off.

Obviously too I have yet to get a purchased belt, and my hemline really needs one.  I did a lot of measuring and marking and trying on to make sure that hemline was horizontal, but you wouldn't know it because the elastic at the waist tends to move up at my hips when I walk around, and that makes the hem rise at the sides! I wish I'd noticed before we took photos... but I know it'll be fine when I add a belt.

So, what's the overall verdict? Well, pleasantly surprised!

Mid-way through making this dress I was really worried about my pattern choice; it was looking so much like a nightgown that I thought it was going to be a wadder - and what a waste of hours of handstitching that would have been! Thankfully the elasticized waist pulls it back into "dress" territory, as does the shorter hemline  - phew! - and I know this dress is going to get a lot of wear.

Thank you so much for having me, Marie!
Reproduction patterns are a wonderful way to dip reluctant toes into sewing vintage, so I'm happy to be sharing this lovely 1950s-inspired dress by Kacy of Miss Kacy Sews today. She's chosen a very pretty floral print for her #VPJuly contribution and speaks highly of the pattern and its instructions.

Whew, Butterick B6055, great pattern, beautiful dress. I am living for this dress right now! This pattern is one of the patterns in Butterick’s Retro collection from 1950. Super quick and easy pattern. Easy to read and super simple to follow. 

I was worried that because of the collar it would be difficult but not at all, the directions walk you right through the harder parts and it went together like a breeze. I would certainly recommend this pattern if you’re on the fence about it. I sewed a 14 in the shoulders and top of the bodice, 16 at the waist of the bodice and a 16 skirt.

I chose this pattern because I loved the pockets!! I mean seriously, these pockets are the stuff!! 

I used a lovely, bright floral fabric from my stash. I’m pretty sure I got the fabric on clearance for either $2 or $2.50 a yard! All notions were also from my stash. 

All in all, I think this took about 6 hours total start to finish. I love this pattern and I will be making it again. I would like to make another in a solid colour, perhaps without the sleeves. I think this dress is a very flattering fit for my body type and I’m very pleased with how it came out! Here’s the finished dress!!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my #VintagePledge make, I know I’ve enjoyed seeing everyone else's!