Do you ever have that experience where you’re rooting through your stash, and you find some fabric pinned to a pattern piece that’s already cut out? And then you think, “what the heck is this?”
In honor of “International UFO Day,” (on Thursday, and thanks for the heads up about that, Instagrammer “mesewgood”) here’s a report about a Claire McCardell bolero, cut out in October, finished in June!
I don’t have a lot of UFO’s (Unfinished Objects) because I don’t have a lot of space during the winter, and my sewing things are constantly coming in and out of a closet. The only exception is my husband’s “Christmas Tie,” renamed his “Birthday Tie,” then his “Father’s Day Tie,” and now, his “Next Christmas Tie.” Someday I’ll be feeling it.
But back in the fall, when I made this Claire McCardell dress for my sister:
(Here’s the post about making that dress.)
I had also cut out some pieces for the matching bolero, but ran out of time to put it together.
So that’s what was sitting in my stash. Already cut out? Why not finish it?
Well, one reason is that the exterior “fashion” fabric is the wool jersey that I used for the dress, and right now, this guy is Public Enemy #1:
But I figured I could keep the pieces in a plastic bag when I wasn’t sewing, to stop Morris Moth and his many, many friends from munching my delicious merino. Mmmmm…
Reason #2, which I’d forgotten about since I’d made the Edith Head bolero, (here’s that post) is that a lined bolero is every bit as tricky as a lined jacket. Fortunately, this one has cut-in sleeves, as many McCardell designs do, so I didn’t have to set in sleeves four times.
So I forged ahead.
For lining, I used knit jersey from International Silks and Woolens in L.A., which has vintage fabrics on the third floor. This is some kind of acrylic from either the 50s or the 80s, but it feels like cotton jersey.
I bought it because it reminds me of the “Modern Masters” fabrics, issued in the 50s, which used designs from famous artists like Picasso and Chagall. McCardell designed a number of garments made from that fabric. Here’s some info about Modern Masters fabric from the Cooper Hewitt museum in New York. Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler has also written about Modern Masters.
The bolero pattern is cut as just one piece that connects via a center back seam, goes over the shoulders and is sewn under the arms. It’s a very clever pattern draped in McCardell’s unmistakeable style.
And did I mention that it has piping? Sandwiched between the layers? “Hunker down over that ironing board and start pinning, sister,” I heard a little voice (Karl) say.
Actually, it’s pretty easy to make piping with this Bulky Overlock foot, so I stuck some cording in a 2″ strip of fabric and got going. Since this a knit that will stretch, I didn’t bother putting it on the bias. I read recently that you should make the stitching by the piping loose while you’re making it, then closer when you attach it, to keep the seam along the piping smooth.
I made the piping in loops to attach to the neckline/front/back and the sleeves.
So far so good. Then, looking at the directions…la, la, la…whaaaa?!
This early 50s pattern is telling me to “bag” the lining? And look at those directions. Clear as mud! (“Bagging” a lining is a method where you attach most of the lining to the exterior by machine, and work on parts through a little hole, and it’s kind of like a Mobius strip, and yiiii!)
Fortunately I’d read about bagging linings in the past and then got a headache and drank a glass of wine. But I knew the piping would look better if I bagged it, so I gave it a go.
First I connected the neckline, center front and sides by machine, sandwiching the piping inside. I used lots and lots of pins for this nervous-making endeavor!
I graded (trimmed the seam allowances at different levels) the four layers of seam allowances between the exterior, piping and lining, and pressed.
I was a happy girl!
Then the tricky part…figuring out how to get the sleeves and lining put together, with the piping inside, without hollering at everyone in the family, who were stopping by frequently to find out whether they would ever be fed.
Not for the faint of heart, but it did work! So I graded and pressed the sleeve edge seams, then decided to make a burrito.
Sadly for my family, the burrito was not for dinner. I used a “sorta” version of the “burrito method” that’s used to make shirt yokes, where you roll everything up and stick it between the exterior and lining, so it looks like a burrito, then stitch it up and pull it right side out through the neckline.
In this case, I stuffed the sleeves and piping inside the bolero and closed up the back lower edge by machine, leaving a 4″ opening. Then I pulled everything out of that opening, and hand-sewed it closed.
It did dawn on me then that I could have done a better job of matching the pattern on the center back seam, as this bolero is reversible. Which of course I never thought of. So if you run into me wearing this inside-out, please don’t bust me. You know our non-sewing peeps will never notice.
The original bolero was black and red, to be reversible with the black dress. McCardell wanted all her pieces to be versatile. Lovely design, Claire!
My sister is tall and Maddy is petite, so you can see that this design fits a variety of body-types. After Madeline put it on, she said, “Mom, do you think it’s too hot for me to wear this to work this week?”
So I believe the McCardell dress is now “whereabouts unknown.”
As for the bolero, though cut for Janet, it fits me fine, another McCardell miracle…so Janet and Maddy, don’t be looking for it under the Christmas tree. And Mr. Jet Set, I wouldn’t be holding my breath about that tie, either.
Readers, what UFOs do you have in your stash? Confess!
And happy Independence Day to all of you who are stateside with me. What a glorious weekend so far!