Non-Stop Gloating

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Don’t say you haven’t been warned. I was going to do an end of summer, melancholy post quoting Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson’s “September Song,” but then…

SQUEEEEE!!!!!

(Yes, I’m copying fave sewing blogger and exclamation point abuser OonaBalloona from Kalkatroona, but I’ve decided that this post deserves some (what she calls) bratty behavior. And if you take a look at Ms. Balloona’s mind boggling make matching indescribable fabric featuring spray paint cans, you will yell SQUEEEE!!! too.)

I’m going to start with dessert first. I was wandering around my second visit to the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair today, and went into the exhibition hall to admire my 5–count ‘em 5–ribbons for this year’s sewing makes. Then I noticed that a new ribbon had appeared:

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SQUEEE!!!! What was that big-fat Special Award ribbon doing there!!!!! (How’m I doing with the exclamation points, Oonaballoona?) I looked closer, and saw that the jacket was awarded the “most creative” entry in Needlecraft-Fiber Arts Division 112.

Hold it! That’s the division that includes…knitting?

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(Check out those gorgeous sweaters! And the knit lace shawl above it! There are several different Special Awards in this division, and it looks like the garment-makers cleaned up.)

And doesn’t Division 112 also include…quilting?

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Those Vineyard quilters are really something. For a small community, this fair is extremely competitive.

Well, I was pretty darned pleased with myself, until I saw this Chanel-style lined jacket and matching dress in the Junior Division:

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The winner of that Special Award is 12. squee. (Okay, I’m jealous.)

And speaking of talented 12-year-olds, my art-makin’, cake-bakin’ boy picked up his fourth ribbon in as many years, for his killer caramels on the far left.

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(That’s what makes life worth living.)

I also had fun sneaking a look at people checking out my jacket, while trying to resist the urge to shout “DO YOU REALIZE HOW MANY HOURS I SPENT CATCHSTITCHING THOSE FRICKIN’ SEAM ALLOWANCES?!?”

Like this macho-looking guy, with the “Fireworks Crew” shirt on. The Oak Bluffs Fireworks were last night, and it’s organized by the firefighters. This man spent about five minutes thoroughly checking out the construction of my jacket…proving once again that, when it comes to crafting, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

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As for the other ribbons, aw, I thought you’d never ask…

Charles James came through for me with this 50s skirt “make” (click on “Charles James Skirt” under “Categories” for details). As well he should’ve, considering his persnickety ghost was floating around my ironing board making snarky comments the whole time I was making the thing. (You owe me dinner, Charles.)

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And in addition to the Chanel jacket ribbons (click “Chanel Jacket #4″ under Categories), Coco must have been rooting for me in her own ennui-ish, chain-smoking way by bringing a blue ribbon for my Chanel 2.55 bag knock-off attempt (under “Make a Chanel Bag” in Categories). The judges gave me a shout-out for matching stripes. How often does that happen?

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And my fashion girl-crush, Claire McCardell, was represented as well with a blue ribbon for the wool jersey shrug I whipped up from a Spadea pattern. The judges complemented me for the French seams and difficult fabric.

And my last ribbon was for the Frankenpattern crushed bateau-neck top I made with 50s vintage fabric (on the right).

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I got second place because the interior of my hem was uneven, so the judges said. But what the heck do they know?

Did I show the inside of the hem on my blog? No, I did not. Nor will I.

I think my makes got some good luck as well from a quick meet-up, right before the fair, with reader and fellow garment-sewing enthusiast Deb Wilkinson, who was here from Minneapolis visiting relatives.

Deb was telling me about a group of her local sewing pals who get together to fit and stitch, which sounds like a whole lot more fun that a book club to me! Lately, they’ve been testing Style Arc Patterns, which have become a phenom for their cutting-edge style. It was fun to meet you, Deb!

And I need to send props to all of you readers as well. Your blog visits and comments really helped me through some difficult projects during a long, snowy winter. THANK YOU!!!!

And now, the dirge. Dame Oonaballoona, I know you grace the stage at those time when you’re not causing massive clashing fabric collisions that shouldn’t work, but somehow always do. Willst thou join moi in September Song?

“Oh it’s a long, long while, from May to December, buuuuuut…”

I don’t care because I won those freakin’ ribbons! SQUEEEEE!!

 

 

 

What to wear to a Martha’s Vineyard wedding, and Club Bernina, too.

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I went in the sewing shed after what I thought was a brief hiatus, and my Swiss intern, Karl, met me with this:

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So after a little back and forth about our relationship being so new, and Massachusetts beach days numbering on two hands, and it being difficult to drag a 35 pound hunka-hunka burning love to the beach, I could tell that Karl was getting over it, when he said:

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So, to make him happy, I whipped up this 50s scarf, professionally photographed here by my husband, who was standing around in a wet bathing suit.

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(The car is my husband’s 1950 Willy’s Jeepster. I refuse to drive it.)

The scarf is from a 50s pattern, and it has lots and lots of what I call “tedious tucks,” so Karl was happy as a clam making them. I used Bernina Blindhem Foot #5, with the needle all the way over to the left, to make 24 nice, even interior tucks:

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(A Bernina #10 Edgestitch presser foot works better for this job, but off-shore as I am, Karl and I made do with the #5 foot that I had with me.)

That big, beautiful Bernina 560 also made me a large corded buttonhole to pull the scarf through, so the finished muslin looked like this:

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I made the final version out of some beautiful silk I bought at the L.A. outpost of The Fabric Store. (More info on L.A. fabric stores here.)

You’ll be hearing more about this pattern in the future, so “stay tuned” (as they used to say in old media). For details about the partnership between JetSetSewing.com and Bernina USA, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab above.

Since President Obama and his family are here on Martha’s Vineyard, (not that we’re hanging out or anything), I’ve been giving some thought as to what people should wear to events here, specifically weddings.

“What should we wear” is the second question I get from off-islanders regarding weddings, the first being: “how many beds do you have for our extended family?” (My official answer, “Our septic system can’t handle any guests, and you don’t want to find out why.”)

To tell you what to wear to a Vineyard wedding, I need to know two things: who is it, and where is it?

If the wedding is “up island,” (in rural, expensive Aquinnah or Chilmark), then the next question is: Hippy or Hollywood?

If it’s Hollywood, you can count on gorgeous views:

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Tons of charm, great food, lots of well-organized assistants and heavy security. I recommend that L.A. “wealthy boho” look you can find at Calypso St. Barth.

LEONE DRESS

It costs a fortune, but you know you can make something like that. Please note that the wedding will probably take place under a tent in a field something like this:

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So wear flat shoes that won’t sink in the grass and that will protect you from ticks and manure. And make sure that your dress can be pulled up easily in a porta-potty, because there’s going to be one.

If it’s a hippy wedding, odds are good you’ll be peeing in a field, so dress accordingly. If they ask you to bring food, do it. As a matter of fact, I’d eat first and bring a flask of Chardonnay. Seriously, you can wear anything, even this:

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(Doesn’t that rope thingy look like something mid-century sculptor Isamu Noguchi would have designed for a Martha Graham dance about yachting? It was about as expensive as a Noguchi, too.)

There’s a lot of poison ivy up island, so again, your footwear should be flat, disposable, or hose-able. Bedazzled Crocs would be good. During one particularly bad October deluge, the bride resorted to wearing her garden clogs down the aisle.

And for any wedding in a tent, you need good bug spray with Deet to ward off the ticks that carry Lyme disease, and a WARM wrap or jacket for after the sun goes down.

Now let’s head “down island” for a wedding either in Edgartown (permanent host of the Preppy Olympics) or any place with the word “Club” in it.

Let’s look at Edgartown. Beautifully manicured Captain’s houses:

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Gorgeous New England seaside gardens:

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And ample places to buy the Preppy uniform of whale pants, polo shirts, breton shirts etc…

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For this type of wedding “weekend,” bite the bullet and fit in. If you just landed from planet “not preppy,” you could go to this store and be all set:

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A pretty teal dress for an afternoon wedding, white jeans and Breton shirt for whatever lunch/brunch comes your way, and a featherweight lavender cardigan for anything outdoors.

As for the khaki shorts on the left, at my Vineyard wedding 26 years ago (at an inn with an outdoor wedding venue but indoor plumbing, thank you very much) a plus-one guy from Edgartown showed up in an oxford-cloth shirt, docksiders, the ubiquitous preppy navy blazer and khaki linen shorts. Shorts! At a wedding! Mercifully for him, I can’t recall his name.

On that same afternoon, the power went off all over the island, including at the hairdresser, sparing me from looking at wedding pictures with a giant 80s bouffant hairdo. It was fate! (Note: between the salt air and the wind, everyone’s hair looks terrible on the Vineyard, so don’t worry about making an effort.)

As for weddings in the other regions and cultures of the island, where the wedding could be in the tin-roofed Tabernacle:

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Or in the sand:

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Best to call the mother of the bride and ask. She’s probably dying to vent.

One last question about Edgartown. Is the wedding at the Whaling Church?

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It’s gorgeous, historic, either too hot or too cold, and has the most uncomfortable seats on the planet.

For your sake, I hope the wedding looks like this:

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Okay, that wasn’t actually a wedding. It was the Official Blues Brothers Revue, doing a fundraiser for the Vineyard Playhouse. The gorgeous trompe l’oeil painting on the back wall was done by talented Vineyard muralist Margot Datz.

While I was at the concert, sitting with boomer-age friends who, in the 70s, toured as recording artists, lived with famous musicians, and spent quality time alternately crashing in Teepees or on lumpy NYC futons, ALL we could talk about was how happy we were that the Whaling Church had new, thicker cushions for our aging bums! And even with better cushions, my sitz bones were killing me! So bring a wrap, even if it’s hot, because you’re going to need to sit on it.

And enjoy the Vineyard. Really, there’s a reason why presidents have been coming here for more than a century.

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Ooo, my husband’s out sailing…I’ll be right there, Karl!

 

New(ish) Patterns for the Varsity, Letterman, Aviator or Bomber Jacket

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As a blogger, I can look at my stats and know what’s bringing readers here, and I’ve been surprised lately to see that people are searching for Varsity/Letterman/Bomber/Aviator-style jacket patterns. Thinking of fall sewing already?

During the winter I wrote about how this cut of jacket was becoming a style statement, and included a link to a New York Time Style article featuring designer versions.

Elletra Weidemann

(You can find that post and info here)

While I’m in the sewing shed laboring on a project that’s not ready for prime time (oops, and going to the beach, too, forgot I told you that…) I thought I’d share some of the jacket patterns I’ve found while procrastinating–er– “researching” online.

Even though this basic style is somewhat interchangeable nowadays, the jackets come from two different places in history.

The Varsity or “Letterman” jacket started in the 1860’s at Harvard University (of course, where else, rah rah rah) when athletes had the letter “H” sewn onto their sweaters, and if they did particular well, they got to keep the letter. This started a U.S. tradition of athletes earning “letters” to wear on their wool jackets with leather sleeves.

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Earning a letter allowed these “jocks” to date the prettiest mean girl and beat up the sensitive guys…or at least that’s how it plays out in most American movies about high school. International readers, does this style exist in your country?

The bomber or aviator jacket was developed in the early 20th century for pilots to wear in cold airplane cockpits, and they were often made of sheepskin with shearling on the inside for warmth. During the 30s, the jackets were shortened to waist length to create the A2 style we’re familiar with now.

Brando in bomber jacket

It’s definitely a “bad boy” look.

This style has gone in and out a number of times, but now the jackets are having a moment, so stitch one up fast while they’re still hot!

Here are some patterns for women’s jackets that I found recently on BurdaStyle:

Burda slouchy varsity jacket pattern

I like the 3/4 batwing sleeves and low neckline of this pattern, found here.

 

Burda flowing varsity jacket

This one, found here, has blousy sleeves and slash pockets.

 

Burda collarless varsity jacket pattern

I like the clean neckline, snaps, and zipper pocket detail on the sleeve. You can find it here.

Here’s one for men, cut with raglan sleeves, found here:

Burda coat pattern

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kathleen Fasanella of Fashion-Incubator.com has a men’s bomber-style jacket pattern with in-depth instructions, which can also be used for manufacturing. (Info is here.)

Bomber jacket pattern

Then I found this free downloadable jacket pattern that looks comprehensive, and has a sort of 60s “warm-up suit” cut:

(Free Vlisco Bomber Jacket Pattern PDF)

Apparently that pattern was developed for a contest by a Dutch fabric website, which features modern African ankara wax print fabrics. So then I spent some quality time on their highly-tempting online fabric store…(Vlisco) Beware, they have some gorgeous things for your stash!

Here’s a look at one of their jackets made up. Wowza!

Vlisco Jacket

That’s all the patterns I could find, but if you’re aware of any others, please let us know in the comments. It’s a fun look to stitch up for fall.

Update: After I published this post, I heard from Gabrielle of the Up Sew Late Blog. She told me about the following patterns:

The Papercut Patterns Rigel Bomber, which has a modified “V” neck, and plain raglan sleeves or sleeves with shoulder detail:

Rigel Jacket

And the StyleArc “Sharon Sweat Top” which could be used to make this kind of jacket, or to fake a Lululemon apres yoga jacket. With a wide range of sizes and a princess seam cut, this could work for more pear-shaped women.

SHARON-TOP

Thanks for the heads up on those patterns, Gabrielle!

All of the links to these patterns, and more, can be found on this Pinterest page:  

Enough procrastinating. Back to sewing!

Not about sewing; about not sewing.

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And stopping to smell the…well, you know the rest.

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Even though I had a pattern project to finish, an interview to write up, and a laundry list of things to do (including the laundry), a perfect day like this is too rare to spend on chores.

So we packed up a few sandwiches and drinks, beach towels and a boogie board, and headed to the beach.

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(I’m wearing my 40s beach jacket, which thankfully did not end up looking like Gertrude Stein’s bathrobe, and a pair of Tom’s shoes, needed to hit the clutch in the old manual Jeep Wrangler.)

We headed “up island” to the part of Martha’s Vineyard now known by the Wampanoag Indian name “Aquinnah.” The town changed the name several years ago, but the locals often still call it by the old name, “Gay Head.”

When you’ve turned onto Moshup Trail and can see the water over the windswept shrubs and poison ivy, you know you’re getting close.

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We have access to a beach that has a parking lot you open with a key, but it’s not too far from the public beach called Philbin.

You’ve got to haul your gear over a big hill to get to the beach, so we pack light.

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On the top of the hill is a beautiful view looking out over Aquinnah, with the Gay Head lighthouse in the distance.

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Ahhh, that’s better.

We had our picnic, and I took a little stroll.

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Those rocks get covered and uncovered, depending on whether a big storm has come through in any given year.

I turned and walked toward the multi-colored clay Gay Head Cliffs which have been drawing tourists for a couple hundred years, and were home to the Wampanoag Indians long before that. A number of Wampanoag families still live in the town.

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Big waves today, so my son spent a lot of time surfing into shore on his boogie board, while we were jumping the waves. When I got home, my suit was full of sand and seaweed.

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I love how the Hug Snug rayon seambinding on my jacket glistens in the sun.

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(Oh, come on, you didn’t think I could do an entire post without bringing up sewing, did you?)

An Epic Road Trip and Meeting Susan Khalje!

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Okay, despite the title, there was only one thing truly epic about my road trip to Maryland, and that was meeting haute couture sewing expert and master teacher Susan Khalje!

When I contacted Susan, she graciously invited me to visit her studio, north of Baltimore, where her popular haute couture sewing classes are held. I wanted to hear about her recently-launched online video series, which includes “The Cocktail Dress” course (now available), and a number of other courses in the pipeline. (Find details here on SusanKhalje.com)

Susan has given me access to the Cocktail Dress course for review, and I’m very eager to have a look. Here’s the pretty pattern that goes with the course (which comes in a range of sizes, up to a 50″ bust):

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Susan even gave me a sneak peek at the French jacket pattern she’s currently tweaking, which will be released in conjunction with her highly-anticipated “French Couture Jacket” online course:

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Between you and me, I think it will be the go-to pattern for a lot of sewing enthusiasts, so if making a Chanel-style jacket is on your bucket list, you may want to hold off until that course launches in the fall.

Susan and I talked about the sleeve alone for about 20 minutes, during which I learned its little secret… (Shhh…I’ve taken a vow of silence on that subject until the course is launched.)

Susan very nicely allowed me to interview her for a whopping two hours, giving me enough material for about 10 articles. So in the coming weeks I’ll be going over my notes and writing an article to be featured on Bernina USA’s website WeAllSew.com. (For details about the collaboration between Bernina USA and JetSetSewing.com, please click the “Bernina Collaboration” tab at the top of this post.)

I’ll let you know when that post goes up. Many thanks to Susan Khalje for taking the time to meet up with me!

While I was on the road, I decided to join Instagram, and discovered that most of you sewing peeps were already having a party there without me! So I’ve started daily posts featuring my favorite vintage patterns, using the hashtag #patterndujour.

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You can find me on Instagram under the name “jetsetsewing.” Let me know if you’re a reader, and I’ll be happy to follow you!

Though I was torn away from my dear Bernina 560, “Karl,” for a week, sewing was still on my mind, so I visited G Street fabrics in Rockville, Maryland, which is right outside of Washington, DC.

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I’ll admit that I’m a little spoiled having shopped for fabrics in L.A. and Paris this year, but I did find a few fun things among the fabrics rolls.

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I really liked this selection of vintage-style oilcloth yardage, but just couldn’t get in the mood to make a tablecloth.

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They do have a nice selection of fabrics for both basic garment sewing and high-end dress-making, as well as some quality suit fabrics and designer fabrics, like this brocade from Anna Sui.

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While I was there, I picked up supplies for my next project, which is to make a Claire McCardell dress and bolero jacket from this 50s Spadea pattern.

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This style of Grecian-inspired design, with long adjustable strings cinching the waist, is a recurring theme in McCardell’s collections, and in fact there’s a black rayon version in the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute collection.

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(Claire McCardell Dress in the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute’s Collection)

Though this style may look familiar now, the dart-free, adjustable-waist concept pioneered by McCardell was radical in its time.

I’ve written in the past about how the Spadea pattern company took existing garments that were being sold in stores, deconstructed them, and drafted patterns from the pieces. So by using this pattern, I should be able to create a clone of the dress in the Met. Here’s a brief history of the Spadea company, written by Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler blog: (Article about Spadea Patterns)

The pattern has a matching bolero, and in researching McCardell, I found this description of the outfit in an ad: “Evening Elegance: black crinkle-crepe sheath, red and black reversible jacket, $55.” Sounds great, huh? I’ve also seen modified versions of this dress in wool jersey, another McCardell signature.

So if all goes well, I’ll be putting together this dress from black merino jersey bought during my mad dash through The Fabric Store in L.A., (L.A. Fabric Stores), and lining the bolero with the red wool jersey I just bought at G Street Fabrics.

And the dress will be worn by…my sister?!?! No fair!

Well, here’s what we’re cooking up.

I’ve mentioned before that my sister, Janet Eilber, is the artistic director of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance, AKA The Martha Graham Dance Company. You can peruse Janet’s impressive bio here.

Like McCardell, Martha Graham knew her way around a length of jersey, and one of her most famous dances, Lamentation, is danced entirely inside a jersey tube. Graham used the fabric to give the feeling of “stretching in your own skin” from grief. Janet also told me that Martha designed many of her own costumes, via draping.

I’ve always thought that Claire McCardell’s designs, which use a recurring set of pared-down “American Look” elements, have a lot in common with Martha Graham’s spare choreography, which uses a recurring language of movement to reveal the emotional core of the dances.

So, when my sis told me that she would be speaking at the upcoming DANCE & FASHION (!!) exhibit held by the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and that she needed a dress to wear, I said “have I got a designer for you!”

Here’s a link that describes the exhibit in depth: (Dance & Fashion MFIT exhibit details) The exhibit will feature actual dance costumes as well as dance-inspired designer gowns and streetwear. It sounds fantastic, so I’ll definitely be there!

The exhibit opens at The Museum at FIT on Monday, September 12th, 2014, and runs through January 3rd, 2015. On Tuesday, October 28th, dancers from the Martha Graham Company will be performing Graham’s works “Lamentation” and “Spectre-1914,” to be followed by a panel discussion including Janet, designer Doo-Ri Chung, and Melissa Marra of MFIT.

So we’re going to find out if this ingeniously simple design can be easily adjusted to fit a variety of figures, which was McCardell’s intention. I’ll be making up the dress here, then sending it to my string-bean sister to see if we can fit it via photos and sister mental telepathy. (Or possibly via Skype, as my blogging pal CarmencitaB does with some of her clients in France.)

If the whole thing’s a bust, I have some original McCardell dresses in my collection that I just might be willing to loan to my sister. Considering how many times I raided her closet as a teen, it seems only fair.

Speaking of L.A., the West Coast branch of Mood Fabrics has just reopened, after sustaining earthquake damage in the spring. I’m glad they had the opportunity to work on their roof, as the day I was there (during an early March deluge) there were garbage cans everywhere to catch the raindrops dribbling in from the old skylights.

Phew, that’s it for me! How’s your sewing going?

40s Beach Jacket finished thanks to useful tutorials, and to Karl, my beloved.

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So I persevered to finish the 40s beach jacket, and thanks to some helpful tutorials from other bloggers, (and of course my new beloved, Karl the Bernina 560), I learned some new tricks along the way.

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(Actually, I won’t be modeling the finished product, as that would require posting a photo of my bare legs, which ain’t gonna happen.) And here’s why I needed a loose jacket:

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(Fresh fishburger and onion rings from Sandy’s Fish and Chips in Vineyard Haven.)

Even though my initial attempt at making the jacket looked like Gertrude Stein’s bathrobe, I stuck with it because Karl the B560 had made such fabulous buttonholes. Since I was using a linen blend from Joann’s Fabrics that barely cost more than muslin, I figured I could test out a few new techniques without worrying about messing up some big project.

I started out with this pattern, which I’m guessing is from the early to mid 40s.

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When you open these vintage patterns, you never know what you’re going to find. The pattern pieces were there, but the instructions were falling apart.

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There’s always lots labor-intensive information in these patterns:

Vintage edge finishesVintage pattern instructions

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All of those instructions talking about marking with chalk and thread or tailors’ tacks, basting and fitting first…it seems like a lot for a simple beach jacket. But this pattern may have been issued during WWII, when fabric was rationed and “Make Do and Mend” was patriotic, so I can see why women would have wanted to make sure they didn’t mess up what little they had.

Since the pattern was unprinted, I chose to use my chalk marker to mark the hole punches and notches.

Chalk marking a vintage pattern

This method worked because the main pattern piece was so huge that I had to cut the two sides in single layers. If it had been a double layer, I would have used tailors’ tacks to mark both pieces at once. As you can see, you would need to be a codebreaker to decipher all of the holes, notches and triangles in this diagram:

Vintage pattern drawing

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The front of the jacket is at the bottom, the neckline and sleeve are in the middle, and the back is at the top, by my shoe, so you can see how big it is.

One big piece, easy right?

I started to put it together, and even though it was a vintage size medium, it was HUGE.

vintage jacket pieces

Not only that, but it was cut for those big, round shoulder pads that were popular in the 40s, and had a comeback in the 80s:

Norma Kamali

I loved wearing Norma Kamali back then! So comfortable, but still cool.

I wore plenty of shoulder pads in the 80s, and if you were working then, I bet you did, too. It was a time when the women’s movement had actually gotten recent graduates like me into the workplace in traditionally male fields. We quickly learned that if you showed up in a DVF sexy wrap dress, and then you had to go hand in a request for TV studio time, as I did, you’d have to live through old Ron “elevator eyes” telling you that you looked reeeeal gooooood in that dress before he would do diddly-squat for you. So we all started wearing body armor, and that how shoulder pads and “power suits” became popular.

But as author Thomas Wolfe once said about shoulder pads, “You can’t go home again.” (Or maybe that was Tom Wolfe in “Bonfire of the Vanities,” plenty of shoulder pads in there.) I knew I just could not put shoulder pads in the jacket, because it would look like it had been in my closet since the 80s. So I took the jacket in a whopping four inches on each side and under the arms, and it looked a lot better.

I’d recently read a tutorial about a trick that tailors use to turn collar points, by sewing over a thread and then pulling it through to turn the point. It was written by professional shirtmaker extraordinaire Pam Erny on her blog “Off The Cuff”. I’m going to send you to her blog to learn the technique, but suffice it to say, it worked like a charm the first time out.

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Thanks for that great tutorial, Pam!

I was a little disgruntled with the vintage instructions for the jacket, because they neglected to mention stay-stitching around the neckline or reinforcing the collar with interfacing, both of which it really needed. I tried sticking in some fusible interfacing after the collar was on, but it still was looking uneven and dimpled.

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I decided to line the inside of the collar with twill trim to reinforce it, so I used the Bernina #5 blindstitch foot to guide my stitching as I “stitched in the ditch” (stitched over a seamline) on the exterior.

I hand fell-stitched the top of the twill trim to the collar, and used the haute couture trick of pulling the stitches a little tight to “shrink” it. That got the collar to stop rippling and stand up better.

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“Fake it till you make it,” as they used to say in showbiz (okay, during the Rat Pack era, maybe).

I was fortunate that Bernina USA, in addition to loaning me the B 560 machine, also provided me with a walking foot, which helps feed both layers of fabric evenly under the presser foot. It’s very useful if you’re working with knits, matching stripes or plaids, or combining fabrics of different textures.

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This particular walking foot comes with three sole plates, one for regular stitching, one for quilting, and one for edgestitching and ditch-stitching.  Since I was using this project to experiment, I used the walking foot for some edgestitching along the side vents, and it kept the stitching nice and even.

Edge stitch with walking foot

When you learn to sew with a mechanical as I did, you sew by “feel,” and I have to say that this B 560, even with all the computerized bells and whistles, is still is very easy to control using the foot pedal. The stability of the fabric feed is something you can feel as well, and it just takes a lot of the anxiety out of sewing a difficult project.

Well, this jacket was taking a lot longer than I had anticipated, and even though I was over it, I still had to finish the seams. I decided to try a technique I’d seen on Laura Mae’s “Lilacs and Lace” blog, where she uses rayon seam binding to give her seam allowances a pretty vintage look.

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Made in the USA! It’s something like $7.50 for 100 yards!

I’ve seen rayon binding, or something similar, reinforcing the seams of an early 1950s Claire McCardell wrap dress that’s in my collection, where it was used to stabilize seams cut on the bias, as well as the waistband.

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I’m going to send you over to Lilacs and Lace to see Laura Mae’s very clear and useful tutorial on this seam finish. You end up with a nice clean seam allowance, similar to a Hong Kong finish, but less work. I’ll admit that this being my first time around with the technique, my seam finishes look a little wonky, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.

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The last thing I did was use the walking foot again to top stitch the outside of the jacket following the line of the stripe, to keep the front facing from flapping around:

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Mmmm, nice buttonholes, Karl!

Yikes I’m out of thread!

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Right under the wire!

I am happy that I stuck it out with the jacket, and I learned a few new things along the way.

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Now I can get to the beach!

Dorothy Parker’s bracelet, Gertrude Stein’s bathrobe, and more fun with Karl

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So my lovefest with my Bernina 560 sewing machine, AKA Karl my Swiss intern, was interrupted this weekend by houseguests from Boston, leading me to have to sneak around to spend more time with him. I knew if I got out my ironing board, I’d be busted, so I just went in the shed and played with his knobs.

You can put your own message on the very top line of the welcome screen, so we had some fun with that:

image (“What would Coco do?”)

image (“Help me, Obi Wan Khalje“)

image (“It’s good to be Kenneth King“)

It was at about the same level of maturity as photocopying your behind, but Karl and I thought it was hilarious.

I was also stalling because, honestly, the 40s beach jacket I’ve been working on, which I thought was going to be this hot Barbara Stanwyck film noir look:

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…really was turning into Gertrude Stein‘s bathrobe:

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Seriously, I was hoping it would look more like the Mao jacket that the painter Sir Francis Rose is wearing behind her.

This is not to say that Gertrude Stein didn’t pick up some style hanging out with Picasso, Fitzgerald and the “new moderns” in her early 20th century Paris salon.

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That jacket looks similar to the 30s Chanels I’ve seen in the Met Museum’s online collections, and the tweed hat is a cool accessory.

And how about this hat?

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Mmrreowrrr!

I was frustrated with the fit of the beach jacket, despite Karl’s fabulous buttonholes. Honestly, I thought it was on a midnight train to Wadder-town.

Of course, all weekend long I was blabbing about Karl to my literary and somewhat acerbic friend, who feigned interest as long as I listened to her cryin’ about turning 50. (Been there, done that, had the hot flashes.) I told her there was an alphabet function on the B 560 and she quickly suggested a few phrases I could stitch up that probably shouldn’t be repeated on a “general audiences” blog.

That gave me an idea, though. Could I stitch a phrase on some fabric and make it into something? And have it look classy?

Since I was doing it for my friend, and neither one of us is the “daily affirmation” type, I picked one of my favorite quotes from jazz-age humorist Dorothy Parker, who wrote for the New Yorker Magazine, was a member of the Algonquin Round Table, and was known for her biting wit.

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Whenever the phone would ring, Parker would quip “What fresh hell is this?”

Not being a phone person, I can completely relate to that, particularly when the number that pops up is from my son’s school.

So, using the memory function with the B 560’s alphabet, I input each letter, and separated the words with a straight stitch. I took a linen remnant I had, stuck on some fusible interfacing, and then Karl got going with the lettering.

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I sewed it up like a tube, turned it right side out, finished the ends, and then Karl did that buttonhole thing that makes me weak in the knees. I hand-sewed on a couple of brass antique shoe buttons from my stash, and my friend had a “cuff” bracelet she would actually wear.

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After that, I calmed down about the 40s beach jacket and took it in a couple of inches on each side. I tried it on and thought, you know, it doesn’t look so bad. I was trying to rush through it, when really, I just needed to step back and take a break.

Meet my new Swiss intern, and Willkommen, Bienvenue to Club Bernina

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I walked into my summer “sewing shed” this morning, and there he was. Meet my new Swiss intern, Karl.

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I believe he said something like this:

Hey Girl ryan gosling scissors (find more “Hey Girl” here at the site I snitched it from)

How did Karl come into my life? Like most love stories, it was kismet.

I’ve written in the past about how I came back to sewing, after having learned on and sewed with a straight stitch Singer through the 60s and 70s:

Singer 15

It was great machine for it’s time. When I resumed sewing, it was on a Big Box store mechanical that was fine, and then I found a Bernina Bernette on eBay, which was also a nice machine.

I strive to give my projects an authentic vintage look, but to be honest, they were becoming too labor intensive, and I was avoiding vintage patterns with details like buttonholes because they were just taking way too long.

I knew I was going to need to upgrade to continue my obsessive vintage designer reconstruction quest. And I knew that would require talking my husband into it. So I decided to go a different route.

Researching new machines on sites like patternreview.com, I saw that people had good things to say about a lot of brands, but people were passionate about Bernina, particularly about the quality of the stitch and excellent handling of a variety of fabrics, which is what I need when sewing garments from expensive, delicate fabrics. More than once I’ve seen beautiful Italian wool get sucked in the abyss of the stitch plate, and I was done with that.

I was familiar with Bernina’s WeAllSew.com website, because I won a Threads Magazine/WeAllSew.com competition in the spring of 2013, for this Schiaparelli Wrap project:

My Spring Wrap

So I decided to get in touch with the people at Bernina USA. I asked them to have a look at my website, to see if they would be willing to help me out with my reconstructions of vintage designer garments.

In my email, dear readers, I referred to all of you brilliant, witty and accomplished garment sewing enthusiasts who have been hanging out with me at Jet Set Sewing, as proof that my new website was getting somewhere. I thank you so much for spending time here and participating in the conversation.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later, the folks at Bernina USA offered to loan me this FABULOUS B 560 machine for a year, to aid me in my quest for nice buttonholes and expert finishes on those Claire McCardells and Chanel jackets that are coming up in my project queue.

So before long, I was getting on the boat leaving Martha’s Vineyard:

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(yes, I was the crazy lady with crafting rolling bag taking selfies at 6:45 a.m.)

I headed to the Bernina dealer Ann’s Fabrics outside of Boston, in Canton, Massachusetts, where my new machine was waiting for me. Having never “driven” a modern high-end machine, I had no idea what to expect.

They unwrapped my heavy, solid, and pretty groovy-looking machine, and then the very knowledgeable Nancy Hoell gave me a tour. Nancy is one of their educators, who is a fellow garment-sewer and sewing instructor, and she gave me a great rundown of what to expect. She told me that the Bernina 560 has the solid mechanical engineering that Bernina’s famous for, merged with a computer that controls a lot of the sewing and tells you everything you need to know about sewing the fabrics you’re working with.

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Do I look happy? Oh, yeah, cue Pharrell Williams:

I also met Andy Bates, the new owner of Ann’s Fabrics, and Cheryl Aldrich, the store manager, and was reminded again of how incredibly nice people are in the world of sewing.

So then it was time for Karl and me to head home (and yes, I know, the real Karl Lagerfeld is German, but this Karl is all heavy Swiss engineering.)

We took the freight boat together, and I showed him some of the sights.

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(The boat on the right with the black hull is the recently renovated whaling ship the Charles W. Morgan, which was visiting the Vineyard from Mystic, Connecticut.)

When we got home, Karl and I immediately went in the sewing shed and started fooling around. Even though I thought the B 560 was going to be complicated, after trying things out, I found that it was pretty intuitive using the computer screen. So I decided to test out my personal Waterloo, which is buttonholes.

We didn’t have a buttonholer when I was a kid, but I made plenty of buttonholes, all by hand. When I put buttonholes in Chanel jacket #2, they were kind of a disaster, though I refer to them now as “funky.” I’ve avoided buttonholes since.

So I played around with the various buttonholes, and after looking through the very clearly laid-out paper manual (there’s also an on-screen manual), I tested a few out. They were easy as pie.

I tried out this “heirloom” buttonhole, made to look like hand-worked buttonholes (but better than mine, obviously) and really liked it, but thought I would use it later on a project with more delicate fabric:

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I decided to use more traditional buttonholes on the 40s beach jacket I’m making, sewn with viscose embroidery thread so they would stand out. No guts, no glory! After fooling around with Karl some more (he has a lot of stamina) I created a sample buttonhole in the length I wanted. Nancy had told me that each subsequent buttonhole would sew itself at exactly the same length and width.

We can’t go totally high-tech here at Jet Set Sewing, so I used this old-school buttonhole spacer I found on eBay to mark the buttonhole placement.

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I love that thing!

Having marked the buttonholes, I put the jacket on the machine, and threaded a cord of hand-embroidery thread around the buttonhole foot to make a buttonhole that’s sewn over the cord.

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The foot itself has a sensor that tells the machine what’s going on with the buttonhole, and displays what’s happening while the buttonhole’s sewing. For each buttonhole, I hit the pedal, and sat back and watched while it sewed itself.

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In about 20 minutes, I had seven perfectly-matched corded buttonholes.

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I cut them open using this Japanese buttonhole cutter I ordered recently from the Sew Maris shop on Etsy.com. It’s super sharp and very precise.

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Not long after, my husband and son wandered in, saying something about making dinner. But how could I think about eating, when I was so entranced with Karl!

I’d just like to say how much I appreciate Bernina USA’s assistance with my reconstruction projects. In exchange for this generous loaner, each month I’ll be demonstrating some of the ways a modern machine like the Bernina 560 can aid vintage and haute couture garment sewing enthusiasts like us. These posts will come under the heading of Club Bernina.

And soon you’ll be seeing some of my projects and tips on Bernina’s We All Sew website. I’m pretty excited about that!

I’m sorry, but I must go now. Karl is calling me again.

Hello Sailor! Breton Top patterns shove off…

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Okay, I’ll admit it; I’m a Breton top abuser. Right now in my drawers and closet there are at least 10 shirts in this classic style in various colors and fabrics. Walking around the grocery store, I see that I’m not alone. You put one on, and it’s not like you’re wearing a T-shirt, right? You’re not a slob–you’re Audrey!

So it’s no surprise that patterns for boatneck tops like this have been among the most popular releases this year.

The latest is this pattern from Tessuti for the “Brigitte” Top, which I like because it has a high boatneck line, and four options for sleeve lengths:

Tessuti Brigitte pattern

I’m assuming the Brigitte it’s named after is Bardot:

Bardot

(Love it with the red pants, red shoes, red car…)

Another pattern released this spring is the “Coco” pattern from “Tilly and the Buttons,” for both a Breton top and dress:

Tilly Coco pattern

She always manages to get her dimple lit just right.

And I’m assuming that the “Coco” this pattern is named after is Mademoiselle Chanel, who stole this look from the boys in the 30s, and basically started the “girl in a jersey shirt” thing.

Chanel

(At the end of the post, you’ll find a pinterest page with links to all of the patterns shown in this post, saving me hours of cut and paste…)

Those of you hanging out at Jet Set Sewing over the winter already know that I have a thing for this style, as I wrangled with making a 60s “crushed boatneck” pattern for about six weeks. The resulting knit version, with matching Chanel-style bag, looks like this:

Crushed boatneck top and 2.55 bag (Details of how I made it are here.)

I recently saw a Burberry version of this style, with the boatneck folded out:

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For $250! I wouldn’t say that stripe matching is very impressive, either.

What is the enduring appeal of this style?

Well, here’s the original inspiration:

French Sailor

Bonjour sailor, new in town? My sewing pal Carmen (of the CarmencitaB blog), who lives in Breton, France, told me that the original inspiration was the French Navy’s uniform, which included a striped jersey shirt and the traditional red pom pom on the hat. Then Carmen, as I recall, you told me that nowadays French women wouldn’t be caught dead in a bourgeois Breton shirt, unless she was a rich Parisian, right? We Americans are nuts for the look, though, because secretly we want to be as haughty cool as the French.

But like the tunics I wrote about last time, this look has woven (or should I say knit) itself into western culture during the past 100 years, going from a working-man’s uniform, to a modernists’ casual-wear:

Picasso (Picasso)

Morphing to 50s film, both mainstream and new wave:

AudreyJean Seberg (Audrey Hepburn and Jean Seburg)

Going rock ‘n’ roll and pop:

MickMadonna (Mick and Madonna)

And then inspiring designers like Jean-Paul Gaultier to riff on the classic design for years.

GaulthierPrincess Caroline in Gaultier (Princess Caroline of Monaco in Gaultier)

And the look is still a modern girl’s best friend:

Sofia CoppolaDuchess of Cambridge (Sophia Coppola and the Duchess of Cambridge)

Over stateside, this look has become a wardrobe staple, (or default, in my case) so let’s all save roughly $225 and make our own, shall we?

In addition to the “Brigitte” and “Coco” patterns, there are a number of patterns that can be used to create this style. Once you’ve found a favorite, and have it properly fitted, these tops can be easy to crank out (if you have the patience to match those stripes). If you’re not accustomed to sewing with knits, Colette Patterns has just released a new book, The Colette Guide to Sewing Knits, with a lot of up-to-date information.

Here are some other Breton shirt patterns that are out now:

These two are from BurdaStyle. The one on the left has a chic Audrey-like band detail across the top, and the one on the right is fitted for larger sizes, and can be color-blocked:

Burda Jersey Tunic patternBurda Tunic pattern

I’ve tried this pattern from New Look, and it’s authentic and easy:

New Look 6838

This Sandra Betzina pattern, Vogue 1363, can be made with or without darts, making for better fit options if you’re busty. I would bring up and straighten out that ballerina neckline a bit to make it a true boatneck. This pattern goes up to a 55″ bust.

Vogue 1363

 

And here’s a recently re-released Simplicity vintage pattern, which can be made with a woven:

Simplicity 1364 boatneck pattern re-release

I really like the French darts and dropped shoulders on that one.

Here’s where you can find the links to all of these patterns, as well as pictures of the zillions of celebrities who’ve used this look to pretend they’re not wearing a T-shirt.

In my last post, I found I touched a nerve writing about the history of the tunic, as many readers confessed to having tunic moments in their past.

Some of you are making tunics this summer, and I’d love it if you would send photos to me so I can post them. Lynn, Lizzie and Mary, I’ll be looking for photos from you! If anyone else is making a tunic or vintage-style beach cover-up, please send it my way. My email address is under the “about” tab above.

As for me, seconds before I was going to cut that modern Vogue tunic pattern:

Vogue patterns 8897

to make a Tory Burch “homage” out of striped linen, I had a change of heart, and decided to try to recreate this 40s beach robe instead:

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Unfortunately, even though the pattern is a vintage size medium (which usually runs small), it turned out to be enormously wide under the arms. So I’ll be posting pictures when I’ve gotten it fitted and it stops looking like Gertrude Stein’s bathrobe.

In the meantime, I’m waiting for a new arrival in my summer sewing Batcave. (No, not THAT kind of new arrival…good grief, it was bad enough that I had my baby at 44…) I’ll let you in on my new bundle of joy when it arrives next week. Actually, it’s more like dreamy personal assistant that never talks back.

I hope your summer sewing is going well!

It’s not a knock-off, Tory Burch. It’s an “homage.”

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I’m thinking about some summer sewing, and in particular how useful a long, loose tunic can be after a month or so of sitting prone on the beach then eating fried fish burgers and fresh onion rings at Sandy’s Fish and Chips. (Not to be missed if you’re on Martha’s Vineyard.)

After having researched the ubiquitous Tory Burch tunic:

Tory Burch tunic

(which, along with Jack Rogers sandals, sprout like dandelions in June as you head north from Vineyard Haven toward West Chop), and having checked out the price of said tunic at Neimans:

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(If you look really closely, you’ll see that it’s $325.)

…the thought of making rather than buying has become more appealing to me.

This style of tunic is nothing new, and you can find patterns for them dating back to the 1920s. Here are a few I found:

Miss Conover's 1920s tunic pattern

20s Tunic pattern

(This reproduction is available from Mrs. Depew, and all of the links to the modern patterns and reproductions in this post can be found on my “Beach Tunics” pinterest page here): 

Here’s a Russian version from the 1920s:

Style: "1769395"

For when you do your healthful group calisthenics to be strong on the collective, Comrade.

(Okay, okay, I apologize to my Eastern Bloc visitors for making fun. We Americans have been making jokes about you since the Cold War, and I’ll bet you’ve been doing the same about us.) If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a look at the “Wild and Crazy Guys” from the 70s:

As I’ve aimlessly scrolled through patterns on eBay, I’ve seen tunic patterns from the 50s and 60s:

Early 60s tunic pattern

Followed by a hippie resurgence in the 70s:

70s tunic pattern 270s tunic pattern

(Think the guy in orange is saying, “hey Jude, wanna listen to The White Album while I fondle your rick-rack?”)

Here’s singer Francoise Hardy doing the boho tunic as only the French can:

francoise-hardy-voila in tunic

Even Yves St. Laurent got into the act in the 80s, designing kind of a “power tunic”:

80s YSL Tunic

Now thanks to Tory Burch, overly-embellished tunics are back at the beach and summer cocktail parties. The good news is, they’re not that hard to make, and if you fit them right, they work on just about everybody.

A couple of years ago, I made a tunic using this Simplicity pattern:

Simplicity 1718 tunic

What I like about the pattern is that it’s relatively fitted, and the armscye (armhole) is not gigantic, which is common in modern patterns.

I made the tunic out of Chinese LangChou silk, also known as “mud cloth,” ordered from the very sweet Sofia from Crose Fabric (Crose Fabric on Etsy.com), who ships her fabrics from China.

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This fabric goes through a weeks-long process, developed hundreds of years ago, where it’s buried in mud with some kind of yam enzymes (or something like that), and when it’s taken out, the silk has become cool to wear and water resistant. It has a pleasant, earthy smell that makes you feel like you’re working with fabric from an ancient culture. It’s very stable and easy to sew. (Though if you order some of the printed LangChou, be aware that it can have large permanent black marks on it that you’ll need to cut around. You’ll need extra fabric, and anything you make will look a little funky.)

Here’s a scarf I made from some of Sofia’s vintage-looking LangChou silk a couple of years ago:

Langchou scarf

(The green cloche was a Christmas gift that the boys picked out at Marie Mercie, the cult hat-maker in Paris: http://www.mariemercie.com/)

Since I was trying to give the tunic a 20s “Egyptian Revival” look, I bought some vintage Art Deco trim from Etsy to put around the neckline and cuffs.

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As usual with my projects, I thought it would be quick, but after quite a bit of swearing and hand-sewing, it was finished.

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(If you stare really closely at my cleavage, you’ll see that the neckline is slightly uneven. But I don’t really care, because no one’s staring at my cleavage anymore.)

When I came to the island this week, I brought some striped linen with me, though this time I’ll use a different pattern to make a tunic. Here are some of the choices out there now:

Vogue patterns 8897

Vogue 8897, which is very close to the Tory Burch design.

Simplicity 4149Butterick 5465Burda 8501

And some independent patterns:

Sew Liberated tunic patternLekala Tunic pattern

The orange top is from Lekala patterns, which can be custom ordered for download using your specific measurements: (Lekala Tunic Pattern)

Now, I better get going before Tory Burch gets wind of it!