The Claire McCardell dress… take one

You may be aware I have been working on a Claire McCardell dress… that is to say I am sewing it from a vintage pattern of one of McCardell’s designs, using some retro fabric I picked up here in Canberra (from the 1960s).

Last night I spent my free time (aka when husband and toddler were sleeping) hemming the dress… I actually made a few of my on alterations to the dress including reducing the volume of the skirt which was otherwise typically very 50s and very full… all the same it felt like I was hemming and pressing forever! This innovation was a little bit experimental, I wasn’t sure if it wasn’t going to negatively compromise the overall design but given the fabric was vintage and I was short about a yard, this didn’t seem like a major issue. Given my shorter height I also reduced the length.

I am calling this post “Take one” as the process of photographing the dress (thank you darling husband) revealed a few things that weren’t obvious to me on the mannequin, that I want to correct. Particularly a bit of bulk on one side of the neckline where there was some tricky pleating. Additionally, I want to reduce the length of the bodice by about half an inch or so (you can see why in the last photo below). I also have a few remaining threads to remove (form where the seams were thread traced) but otherwise… I love it! Its extremely comfortable to wear and has a “dressed up for the weekend/brunch/coffee at the market” feel.

Without further ado…

A common theme in McCardells dresses, the high, tightly wrapped, surplice bodice

The back of the dress

A rose by any other name… Saturday musings

Its Saturday. Delight took the form of two hot air balloons that sailed silently over our house this morning as I hung out laundry. I raced up the backsteps to make sure my husband and son didn’t miss the unusual sight and we admired them together from the rear balcony of the house. Little Prince tried to say “balloon” but not successfully…Image

The other delight was discovering that the roses I planted a few months ago were happily blooming by the rear of the house. I cut a few of them and have displayed them in an old 1930s-1940s tea pot I recently found. The design of the pot was “the silver bough” by Grindley of England. The lid was long gone and the underside of the spout had a small chip but all the same, I saw the potential for a wonderfully “shabby chic” vase. Where is a Dutch painter when you need one?

That is life to me- its all about mundane prettiness and art in the everyday, don’t you think?


I absolutely must comment on the doily also photographed. I found this handmade treasure languishing in a thrift shop and was struck by its beauty and the obvious amount of time that someone had spent crafting such a gorgeous piece. I have a small linen and doily collection, and this is certainly one of my favourites! This was someone else’s piece of everyday art.Image

I have never made a doily, but this one might inspire me to start! (I can almost hear my husband groaning… its not a passion he is inclined towards)! Ha.

Last night I did some work on the McCardell dress… its coming along and I have loved the learning process. Last night when all others were slumbering, I was waxing thread and understitching facings with backstitch… I can’t wait till its finished… maybe tonight… and hubby can take some photographs.

The weekend beckons… enjoy yours!

I love vintage… everything!

A recent find was this silver plated 1960s cake tray made in England… it now displays lots of my earrings, bangles and vintage brooches on my dresser! So love it!

If you do happen to find silver bits and pieces when thrifting, make a paste of bicarb and water to clean it up and polish… looks wonderfully shiny with a little care!

For you flower lovers, the rose is known as “Evelyn”… one of my favs also, courtesy of my mothers garden.

oh the yumminess!

Buying Vintage Sewing Patterns online

I have been thinking about writing this post for a while. Today its raining. I have sewn the gathered skirt to the bodice of the McCardell dress and I have a few minutes to spare before picking up Little Prince from his grandmothers. I am also please to say I managed to get to the gym this morning after a rather decadent buffet lunch at the Hyatt yesterday to celebrate the Melbourne Cup (the horse race that the whole nation watches every November).

So here goes. What is the deal with buying vintage sewing patterns online? What can you expect?

At the very least, you should expect the seller has (1) inspected the pattern for damage and (2) counted the pieces and ensured the instructions are complete. Both of these things should be detailed in any listing on websites like eBay or etsy if they are not complete or if there is any damage.

In terms of condition, I have found most sellers are pretty good (and I have ordered hundreds of patterns online). Most will say: “gently used” or “used with some small tears” and the really professional ones will detail any attempts to rectify damage, usually with archival quality tissue paper.

Imagine how dismayed I was of late to pay $45 for a pattern that had clearly been exposed to moisture and was very damaged- scrunched ends, missing bits from the pattern pieces, tears, rusty dressmakers pins… The seller documented the envelope as torn (not an issue) and simply said the pattern was “brittle” which implies everything is at least in tact and needs to be handled with care. And yet the instruction sheet was falling to pieces, split and barely legible. All this for the price of $45, postage on top. We are not talking about a $5 pattern. Imagine how incredible it was for the seller to admit they didn’t inspect the pattern they sent and in any event thought that tears etc were all “par for the course”. Sorry, but anyone who professionally deals in patterns knows that any degree of damage needs to be accurately documented and the higher degree of damage, the less valuable the pattern tends to be (it would have to be rare and coveted to hold its value and to warrant some form of “reconstruction… by that I mean something like a 1930s Patou by a previously unknown pattern manufacturer).

While I am not going to name and shame the seller on my blog- (and there was no immediate apology when I brought all of this to their attention) I am going to do something to help you- the sewing pattern collector, savvy seamstress and/or vintage fashionista buy your patterns. I am going to list my favourite sellers on etsy- these are sellers I have come to trust over time and whom I have usually bought multiple patterns from. I recommend them, have never personally had any problem with the accuracy of their listing descriptions, they are prompt with mailing their items and generally take a sense of professional pride in the item they are selling you. The list has been compiled through experience through my own personal dealings.

In no specific order:

  • Miss Betty’s Attic;
  • Vienna’s Grace;
  • Midvale Cottage;
  • Adele Bee Ann
  • Retrowithlana
  • Piranha Republic
  • Anne8865
  • Backroomfinds
  • California Sunset

Good luck vintage pattern hunting and happy sewing!