My Passion for Wide Elastic and Dental Floss! And Edith Rears Her Ugly Head

Karl and I have been putting in overtime around here…because after you make a 20s Schiaparelli that turns into a fugly Mom Jeans vest, you’d better get back on the horse right away.

First thing we came up with was a new version of the asymmetrical sweaterknit wrap I designed last year. I wanted another one, because during Boston’s epic winter (2 yards/meters of snow!) we were all bundled up in our massive puffer coats, then we’d go inside and either freeze or roast. So I kept the wrap in my bag and used it all the time in theaters and restaurants.


This new version uses French seams to finish the innards, and foldover elastic to bind the edges. The pattern and tutorial are free free free on the website


Yeah, I’m getting my Judy Jetson on.

It’s part of Jet Set Sewing’s partnership with BERNINA of America. Details are above in the Bernina Collaboration tab. I can’t thank them enough for helping with all the vintage reconstructions going on around here.

And speaking of which, isn’t there a little part of all of us that wants to be a Hitchcock blonde? Even though she’s put in danger, hacked up, or obsessed about by Jimmy Stewart (and Hitch himself)?


Edith Head did the costumes for most of the Hitchcock movies, including the ones that fashion people obsess about, such as “Rear Window,” “The Birds,” and “Vertigo.”

The Birds

(That’s the “Nile Green” suit from The Birds, from last year’s Hollywood Costume exhibit.)

Edith Head released a series of patterns during that era from Advanced, all very Hitchcock in nature. You can hear my travails of making a bolero from one of the patterns in this post: “Long Live Edith Head”


All’s well that ends well.

As a little pick me up, I decided to do a quick make of this “turban” in another of the Edith Head patterns:


What could be so hard about making a hat? It’ll be fun!

(Does anyone else hear ominous music playing in the background? Like the theme from “Psycho” where the violins go EE EE EE!?)

Just two pieces for the exterior, cut on the grain.


I made it from some leftover jacket fabric–a stable knit–and it was a quick go. The main part of the hat is gathered with some release darts of various shapes and sizes, then is attached to a round crown.

But you know that part of a Hitchcock movie when Mr. Everyman’s just going through his day, and then everything gets weird?


When I went to cut the lining, out of leftover silk crepe de chine, it was (EE EE EE!) on the bias!


(If you’ve ever cut and sewn silk on the bias, then you know that deep foreboding you have when every move you make could lead to a massive wadder…)

I knew I would need industrial-grade shears, just in case Norman Bates was coming to hack away at the silk with a kitchen knife.



(Kai Serrated Shears. The best ever for silk. Just go get some.)


Asymmetrical wobbly darts! EE EE EE!

Honestly, I’d rather go up to the top of that clocktower with Jimmy Stewart:




Sometimes sewing is so suspenseful.

Well, what do you think? Tippi Hedron, or Eleanor Roosevelt? I’m still on the fence:

IMG_4849FullSizeRender 3

So then I moved on to a skirt I’d been thinking about making, based on 40s Claire McCardell dirndl skirt I have in my collection. The dirndl was her first runaway design hit in the 30s, based on traditional dress that she saw in Austria. During that era, she’d bought a funky farmhouse across the river from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where people from Broadway, fashion and journalism were hanging out on weekends. Their houses were rustic and freezing, so she created warm, comfortable eveningwear, made out of wool jersey or tartan. She also pioneered stretch waistbands on skirts during World War Two rationing, using chest bandages.

So I put together a big skirt with a couple of deep McCardell pockets:


(Neither one of them was upside down this time!)

Then I decided to use a gathering technique I’d read about somewhere (the source of which, sadly, my brain refuses to cough up…):


You zigzag over a string of dental floss (unflavored, unless you want to smell minty) then pull it up. I was skeptical, but…


Goal! I sewed it with a zigzag onto a band of 3″ wide knit elastic, which comes under the heading of “where have I been” because it’s so soft and stretchy. I had already sewn the elastic into a circle and then enjoyed annoying my teenager by snapping it at him before I attached it. Once I had it sewn on, I took out the dental floss so the waistband would stretch.


Well, that’s pretty sweet! But do I really want to, um, reveal that I’ve gone “fully elasticized?”

Thanks to a nine-foot by 13″ remnant of raw silk hiding in my stash, no one will every know!

McCardell Dirndl with Obi Belt

Bring on the holidays; I’m ready to eat!

How’s your sewing going?

21 thoughts on “My Passion for Wide Elastic and Dental Floss! And Edith Rears Her Ugly Head

  1. Love love love that skirt. The sash is perfect. And I like the turban! It sits so far back, though, I’d be worried about it falling off my head. Confession: I have never seen any of those oh-so-famous Hitchcock movies (movies were a go-to-jail-do-not-pass-go ticket to hell in my early years), so thanks for reminding me that I need to watch them!

    • The hat is actually pretty secure on my head, which is good because I would have to go on Ebay to get a hatpin! As for Hitchcock movies, I’d start with Rear Window as it’s really more of a comedy thriller, and Grace Kelly’s wardrobe is to die for.

  2. Great new projects! What a stylish skirt to disguise holiday over-indulgences. Aren’t Kai scissors the best! They really do tame that nasty, slippery silk. Happy Thanksgiving and I certainly hope for a milder winter than last year.

    • Yes, I’m a Kai scissors addict now! I love the professional serrated ones so much that I’ve gone for the straight ones as well (lefty in my case–hard to find). I’m working on a big stash cleanout now in anticipation of another trip to Janssens. Maybe I’ll bump into you there again.

  3. Thanks so much, Mr. Research Summary! Your wife is a lucky gal because she’s going to need to learn to sew to get this hat! I suggest that you, your wife, and all the little Summarys head to your local sewing machine dealer to get a machine and lessons, then you can spend hours online finding the 50s Edith Head pattern and…oh, wait, this isn’t SPAM, is it? Well, regardless, you should learn to sew and make your wife the hat.

  4. You’re welcome, and having looked at your website, next time I need a ghost writer to do a research paper or blog post, I’ll be hiring one of your fine writers. You have has some mad editing skillz, dude!

  5. I’m unfashionably late to the party but I want to ask… is there a specific fabric to waistband ratio you used? Or did you gather using the fabric available? Did you stretch the elastic while you were sewing? Many many thanks

    • Hi Cristi, I didn’t use a ratio, as I was trying to make it as full as the original McCardell, which was 94″ around, I think. I gathered the fabric first and didn’t need to stretch the elastic because I used the zigzag which was stretchy. I like this method because the elastic doesn’t get distorted.

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