Connections: Vintage Vogue 1415

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My family.

My in-laws recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary.  They asked everyone to dress from the era (1966).  A few months back I ran some ideas on this blog, but in the end settled on a very different, much simpler dress.  Little did I know when I selected it, that it would connect me once again to family – this time my father’s mother.

While we were traveling, I fell hard for the Marfy re-release of their first pattern.  I didn’t feel ready for a Marfy dress, so when I got home, I looked through my pattern collection and found Vogue 1415.  It was perfect, even though it’s a simple shift dress.

 

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Grandma, 1927

I didn’t know my grandmother well, though I wish I did.  This is a picture of her as a young woman.  It’s her senior yearbook photo when she was at Duke University.  She graduated in 1927.  She loved history, and was in the Women’s League of Voters at Duke.  According to the yearbook, “she was the embodiment of dignity and modesty, and hers, too, is that rarest of womanly virtues, silence. When occasion demands, she talks and what she says is well worth listening to. That she will be a success is a foregone conclusion.”

She died when I was just 13, of heart disease.  Most of my early life I lived far from her.  I did get to know her husband, my grandfather.  Even after she had been gone for 20 years, he still spoke of her with respect.  I didn’t really know her, except that I admired her.  She was elegant, sophisticated and an amazing cook.  We took walks together whenever I visited.  But I never knew she sewed.

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Love these directions!

So when I opened Vogue 1415, which was her pattern, I was surprised to see her fitting notes on the pattern pieces.  I made version E, the print dress on the right in the photo, the same one she chose.  I don’t know if she made this dress for herself, or for my Aunt, who would have been in her early 20s at the time.  (I’ll never know as my Aunt and grandfather both passed away in 2003). But I felt connected to her in a way I hadn’t before.

Sewing details:

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Pieces cut, underlining basted in.

I used a silk/wool sharkskin suiting from Emma One Sock.  This fabric can have a fair amount of luster, depending on the light. Because this is a superfine worsted wool, I decided to underline the dress with silk organza.  Though the dress didn’t call for lining, I used black silk crepe de chine to line the dress.  Both lining and underlining came from Gorgeous Fabrics.

My first lesson on this pattern… 1960s sizing with a modern body. I made a muslin first: the pattern envelope had the right measurements for me, but I’ve been having fitting issues of late.  This is bustier than I expected – the darts and princess seaming were difficult to adjust just right.  If the girls weren’t high, the dress itself had all kinds of drag lines.  So, I found a bra that did the trick.  (My grandmother noted that the bust darts seemed high).

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Back princess seam, needing a better press.

Though the muslin fit well otherwise, it was very fitted, so I used 1/2 inch seams.  This gave me a bit more wearing ease, though the fit is still off a bit. In addition, there was a fair amount of easing to do in the princess seams, and I’m glad I discovered this in the muslin first.

The second lesson was the fabric.  Worsted wool requires tailoring skills – and that means proper pressing skills.  I made good use of a press cloth, steam and clapper to get the seams to lie flat.  Still, the final pressing was problematic.  Why?  I didn’t finish sewing in the lining or the hem until after we got to North Carolina.  And the folks at the airBnB had a fantastic collection of movie memorabilia, but only a miniature iron:

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Not angles.  That really is the size of the iron. The stick in the cabinet, directly above the iron, is Hermione’s wand from the Deathly Hollows.

I had better success using my flatiron and press cloth on the hem.

Overall, I was pleased with the dress.  I wore my grandmother’s pearls and an old pair of Betsey Johnson platform heels.

Some parting photos:

 

 

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Vintage & Antique Sewing

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This weekend, we traveled.  We went north to a very hot, and very humid Charlotte, NC for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. I have a post later this week about the dress I made for it.  On the way back to relatively cool Florida, we stopped at the old family farm in upstate South Carolina to clean out my late grandparents house.  Or try anyway.

In the four-generation picture above, my grandmother Margaret is on the left, and oldest woman is my great-grandmother, Marie, who owned the house before my grandmother.  But the sewing items I found at the house also tell the story of my mother, and of one of my great-great grandmothers.

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I’m not sure who these thimbles belonged to, but most likely my great-grandmother.  I found them in a jar in the kitchen, and I think the jar had been in the attic. I’d love to ask my mother, but sadly, her memory is being robbed of her. I put them in my pocket and fidgeted with them the rest of the day.  They are bent, as if shaped to great-grandma Marie’s finger.  I’ve never mastered using a thimble, but these felt good on my fingers.  I loved her dearly.  She was my earliest sewing teacher.  (“Those stitches are beautiful, but these are not.  Keep your focus all the way through a project, don’t be lazy.”)  She also taught me crewel embroidery. Sadly, I never learned tatting, her specialty, but I have some of her  pieces.  Of all the things I brought home, these thimbles have the most sentimental value.

We also cleaned out the patterns.  Well, this occurred before I got there – my sister saved them from the trash. My sister said they found them in a suitcase in the attic. They’ve probably been there since the mid 70s, when the house was renovated.  She said they did have to throw out more than half the patterns because they were in such bad shape. Many of these envelopes are tattered and disintegrating.  Almost all of these were used – my grandmother actually used her patterns.

I only had one in my collection – the Balmain, which I got from my other grandmother.  Judging from the dates on the McCalls patterns and the styles/sizes, I think my grandmother was sewing mostly for my mother who would have been in high school/college.  My mother’s handwriting is on a few.  Still, my grandmother married very young, and the styles would have been fashionable for someone in their late 30s, early 40s.  I think my grandmother liked McCall’s best, given how many there were.

IMG_2440My grandmother clearly liked Spadea patterns. These are in pristine (but used) condition.  These patterns, and the catalogues above,  were still in the mailing envelopes.  The patterns were all mailed to Loring Air Force base, which dates them to the early 60s (I think 1961).  The catalogues were mailed to her at the farm, after she remarried, so it’s from the early 70s.  (My first grandfather died in his 40s, when I was 2.) I think she bought these designs for herself, as they were a bit more sophisticated and elegant than the many mod patterns from McCalls.

I knew this existed, and I had requested to have it when my grandfather passed away:

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But I didn’t know this still existed (terrible pix, no lighting, nor AC for that matter):

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Both are still at the farm.  My brother is going to get both (and all those parts to the left) and bring them to me, as our car was full.  I remember them being together and even using the treadle when I was very, very young.  But I thought the machine was lost.

The machine itself is in terrible condition.  Perhaps it’s just aesthetics, I won’t know til I get it out of the house. I think it may have been in the attic for the last 40 years.  The cabinet/treadle is in great shape, as it had been used as furniture since the mid 70s.  The drawers were still filled with acorns – my doing from when I was little.

I’m not sure who owned it.  My grandmother obviously got it from her mother, Marie.  But Marie’s life span doesn’t really overlap when these machines were made. Still, the house didn’t have plumbing til the 70s, so perhaps it had limited electricity as well.  Looking at when my great-grandmother lived (1861-1964), I’m thinking it was hers.  She also lived in that house in her gloriously long life.  It could have been my great-grandfather’s mother’s machine though (1872-1937).  I’ll never know.

I don’t have the faintest idea how to restore it or preserve the old patterns, but if anyone knows anything, please comment!  Likewise, if you know of any restorers in the north Florida area (or east Tennessee, where the machine will live with my brother for a while), please let me know!