Vintage dressmaking love: a 1930s velvet evening cape 

Popular through the 30s, 40s and 50s, an evening cape made of a luxury fabric like velvet is an instant wardrobe pick me up. 

Because of its propensity to be crushed if not cared for properly, I had been aware of a length of velvet that I have had in my little studio for a while. 

When looking through my sewing patterns last night I came across a gorgeous 1930s evening cape marked July 1938 in pencil. It would be a perfect marriage, I decided and I took a deep breath, fortified myself with a cup of coffee and finally cut the treasured velvet.

To say the pattern was light on in instructions is an understatement but at the time the pattern was produced most women would have some experience in making their own clothes if not access to a seasoned dressmaker. 

I made a decision to stabilise the Cape front with a selvage edge of silk organza attached with catch stitches and added silk organza to the “Medici collar”. I hemmed with catch stitches….

I plan to make a satin lining today and wear over a black dress for my sons kindergarten performance this evening. Nothing like a deadline!

In the interim here is what Constance Talbot had to say about capes and evening coats in my beloved “The Complete Book of Sewing”…

Simplicity 4612 1940s style mothers day dress for high tea at Old Parliament House

Before I get started on my own dress, this girls dress was made using the Geranium dress pattern widely famed online, for my daughter with a long skirt in Michael Miller fabric (I think it was Cloud 9 for the bodice with a batiste lining). Probably her last wear as she has been growing. But it was fabulous as a birthday party dress when she turned 2. 

On to my vintage reproduction dress…. I adore all the fashion illustrations of romantic floral from the 30s and 40s (which also experienced quite a resurgence in the 80s and 90s). With the addition of revers styled from those appearing in Vogue 5134 this was dress was made for mothers day high tea, using Liberty “hasketh” (100% viscose). The revers on this type of dress appear more frequently in late 30s designs from which I also drew inspiration, (an example of late 30s Australian Women’s Weekly fashions below)…

There were no issues with the fabric but I would warn other sewists using this fabric to be extra careful with cutting the pattern pieces given the subtle one directional pattern of the snowdrops. This was probably the most expensive fabric I have worked with. Mistakes with this equal crushing moments of realisation. Not that I did that (cough, cough).

Alterations included shortening the sleeve and skirt (I used a rolled hemming foot on my Singer 222, did both skirt and sleeves, very fast work). Most seams were trimmed with my vintage Singer pinking attachment. I love working with such a beautiful machine! The waistline seam was lapped.

Anyway, I loved wearing this dress! And it was a great occasion to work towards completion.


1940s floral dress in Liberty print rayon for mothers day… Ooh la la

Enjoying an almost perfect morning with my little girl, Ken and Barbie and Constance Talbot (author of one of my favourite 40s sewing books “The Complete Book of Sewing”).

The Winter sunshine on our patio is gorgeous but I am ever watchful for spiders, having been bitten by a redback a few years ago. Not an experience I recommend at all!

Looking forward to Mothers Day on Sunday and will hopefully have completed this pretty 40s dress project. Being in love with a chosen fabric certainly helps. AND I always love sewing with my Singer 222. Such a wonderful machine.

I plan to fully baste the lapped waist seam before stitching…. I have learnt my lesson with previous projects!

Hope everyone else is also having a great week! Happy sewing! 

Vogue 1440 Donna Karan shirt and leggings or tapered pants

If you sew, you need this pattern in your life. Made the tapered pants. Love, love the pants. The kind of love where you ransack your bedroom looking for them and sob when you discover that alas, they are in the wash. I should add the gorgeous Donna Karan rayon double knit I purchased from Mood online probably has something to do with it.

Clearly I needed a second pair, but paying more shipping from the US to Australia…? Not cheap, especially with the Aussie dollar. I took a deep breath and drove out to the few local fabric stores looking for a ponte or double knit with the same fibre content. I searched online and called some stores in Sydney…. Based on my search, I could buy “less” quality locally for about the same price per yard. In the end I caved. You can’t go passed quality and the fabric has the look and feel of a garment you’d reasonably expect to find in the $300 range. (I adore Donna Karan’s style). 

Beautiful and comfortable black pants are a wardrobe workhorse. I plan to make two more pairs (you can whip them up in an evening- my reliable Elna SU made it quick work)…

Like I said, you need this pattern. (And I haven’t even started on the shirt.) Whilst Donna Karan patterns are no longer produced by Vogue, some stores still have some of her more recent patterns in their drawers.

For anyone who is interested, Donna Karan’s autobiography “My Story” is a really interesting read, I read it in a weekend. With two kids, that says something!

Inspired by Chanel Vogue 7975 is well underway

Finally started on my Chanel inspired jacket. Fashion fabric is black and white tweed purchased from Mood in 2013. Trim: fairly wide, black, tiny sequins for interest but nothing too flamboyant. Lining is storm blue China silk.

Base pattern is Vogue 7975, neckline restyled to form a more flattering v neckline.

Basting with my treasured vintage silk threads… Aren’t they pretty?

Knitwit pattern 7100- a very reliable kids tshirt pattern

My boy looooves Hanna Andersson style pjs which don’t have masses of ease. I have been using Knitwit 7100 from the 70s (aussie pattern make) to get the same look and feel. This soft , pirate print cotton spandex was purchased at Spotlight last weekend. I made a matching pair of boxer briefs from Ottobre magazine but also used an 80s Kwik Sew leggings pattern as a sloper for some pj pants in the same long John style. 

My boy is happy….operation: “jammies” accomplished! 

1970s fashion and store stamps- a mark of vintage sewing pattern provenance 

As a little girl growing up in Canberra, I still have memories of being shepherded by my mother along a city Street pavement on a hot Summer afternoon and ushered into the relative cool of a dark fabric store full of fabric, notions and patterns. It was an oasis. It was also an exciting look at another world. The doll like wardrobe she made for me in my early years earnt me the affectionate nickname of “the Duchess” amongst her work colleagues and I vividly remember the beautiful paisley and red velvet creations she proudly made on her elna supermatic (the cream of sewing machines at the time). 

Sadly so few of those stores exist now, if at all. All that remains are the store stamps that appear on old pattern envelopes. Such as these in my collection. Most of these examples are local…  Claridges, Ganters and even David Jones Canberra which used to sell sewing patterns (no longer). Enjoy the pattern fashion illustrations and designs!

1930s fashion-  wide legged pants on the Singer 222

What are you working on? With a mile long to make list, this 30s simplicity pattern hit my work table. After some late night cutting I have been progressing it incrementally in tandem with a 1940s house dress by Hollywood. 

These two garments are my first two garments to be made on my 1956 Singer 222 ‘Gidget’. You can see Gidget above with my Singer pinking attachment.

Gidget, truth be told had been sitting idly in her box for decades when I purchased her. Beautiful condition, she was ‘jammed’ but thanks to the fabulous video resources by Carmon Henry at April 1930s, I was able to get into the lower bobbin case assembly and remove one tiny faun thread. Oiled, polished and with a slight belt tension adjustment she is perched on our kitchen table with the glamour of a Jaguar.

Having worked with a Singer 221 since February, I confess I find the 222 wonderful to work with, particularly in terms of having more room to navigate for waist and arm hole seams. It is more than worthy of the love accorded to it by collectors and dressmakers alike.

A long time in coming, below is a photo featuring the black out curtains I made earlier this year with my Singer 99- the fabric was so heavy my husband had to help me support its weight as I guided it through the machine for an even feed. But they turned out very well!