Sunday, January 26, 2014

McCall 1104 - Ladies' and Misses' Apron


If you tell most people to close their eyes and imagine a "vintage apron" this is the apron they'll see in their mind's eye.  This apron goes by many names:  pinafore apron, bib apron, farmhouse apron, kitchen apron, full coverage apron, work apron, church ladies' apron.  The pattern companies have always offered this style of apron for their customers, though in the last 15 years or so the style has been called out more as a vintage or retro offering than work wear.

This particular pattern shows up on eBay pretty regularly.  There may be several reasons for this. It may have been considered a good teaching pattern for Home Economics classes.  For some wartime industrial jobs, this type of apron would have been acceptable work wear.  If the pattern companies reduced their new offerings during World War II, women might have had fewer choices when they went to buy an apron pattern.  I have two copies of this apron pattern.  One is pristine and unused.  And then there is this one, which I thought was much more interesting.

This pattern has had a very productive life.  Both the envelope and the pattern pieces have seen a lot of use.  This was somebody's favorite apron pattern - or perhaps the maker had neither the desire nor the means to replace a perfectly functional pattern.  I suspect she made aprons for her own use.

Observing the way a pattern has been used almost allows us to hear the maker's voice:
"I never cut that little facing piece for the back - too much trouble."
"I don't know why you'd need to a pattern piece for the strings - they're just rectangles, and anyway, I like mine narrower/wider/longer/shorter."
"I don't pay any attention to the grain line for the lower back piece - I just line up the back edge along the selvage - it's faster that way.""
"Why would I want to spend time putting those pepper appliques on a work apron?"
I decided to start the new year by making myself a new apron, and I chose to use this pattern more or less as it was provided, using the pattern pieces for the fiddly facing bits and the strings, but not the pepper appliques - my whimsy goes only so far!  The fabric is a remnant I've had in my stash for years, and regular readers will recognize the lavender gingham bias binding from an enormous quantity I cut a few years ago and use regularly.

Here's that facing piece (on the right; the upper back apron is on the left.)

This pattern specifies one inch binding - eight yards of it, finishing to 1/4 inch.  My current sewing machine doesn't have a binder attachment, and I don't trust myself to sew the binding on in one pass, so I pinned and sewed it first to the back, then folded to the front, pressed and pinned again, and finally sewing down on the front.  This is one of my very least favorite sewing operations, but I do love the look of the end result.

As usual with McCall patterns, this printed pattern was very accurate and went together very well.

Note the horizontal slashed dart in the side fronts to add bust fullness.  You can see on the inside where I've left in my yellow gathering stitches.

Although the instructions didn't call for it, I topstitched this dart for added strength.

Here's the completed apron, just before its maiden voyage to the kitchen.  I'm afraid it'll never look this nice again:

Here it is opened out, showing that it would be relatively easy to iron (if one were so inclined.)

The back is fastened with a single vintage shell button from my stash. 

I've been wearing this apron for kitchen work for about two weeks now, and I find it very comfortable. I think I understand why the pattern was used so much.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

McCall's 689 - Choir Cottas or Surplices


I suspect that right about now there are many church choirs out there that are right up to their floppy bows in performances that involve extended lines of "Gloria" and "Halleluja," and "O Holy." In some cases their beautifully starched and pressed cottas represent the labor of the Ladies' Auxiliary.  With luck, the ladies would have been able to plan ahead and weren't slipping away from the Thanksgiving table to sew a just a few more hems to get the choir ready for the service for the first Sunday in Advent.

The boys in this choir from the 1930s look as though they're on the verge of making a run for the ice-cream truck (or just disintegrating into a scrum.)  Wouldn't you love to know what the photographer had just said?

via Whittington History Society

This printed pattern has been used.

Note the little gussets under the arms - a relic of the ancestors of this garment.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ullstein-Schnittmuster V 34 - BildhauerKittel

Based on the style of a women's dress pattern that was part of the same lot, my guess is the early 1920s.

Since I have no knowledge of German, I've relied on Google Translate to help me out here, so this post will be of a somewhat minimalist nature.

This is, apparently, a "sculptor's coat,"  which may be as generic a term as "artist's smock," or "shop coat." Available in sizes for both men and young men, this is a nice example of its kind.  Gathering the fronts and back into a yoke provides some additional ease, so that the coat could be worn over a suit jacket or a heavy sweater.  And you can't go wrong with four pockets!

Ullstein Verlag, a large publishing house based in Berlin, published Die Dame, a ladies magazine, and this line of home sewing patterns - a business model similar to that of McCall.

It's easy to imagine this smock being worn in the studios at the Bauhaus.
This perforated, unprinted pattern has been used.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Butterick 2360 - Women's and Misses' Work Garment

1940s (World War II)

It's hard to think of a more generic description than "work garment." Simplicity called their similar pattern a "Slack Suit or Coverall,"  but the concept is largely the same - a shirt and trousers united at the waist.  Butterick's solution to the drop seat is to sew the belt to the top edge of the trousers, with the shirt being buttoned to the trousers only at the side back edges.

In the description, Butterick advises us to "Note the large utility pocket,"which is the very long breast pocket on the shirt, with its convenient pencil slot.

Even though Butterick's copy department thinks that the sleeveless version is "perfect for your outdoor life," the illustrator decided to show the lady holding a pipe wrench, an implement not generally required for "outdoor life." I can imagine the sleeveless version being worn over a pullover sweater during the winter.

For the photographer's visit to the plant, this young lady has layered a white shirt with her "work garment:"

This unprinted pattern does not appear to have been used.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Ladies Home Journal - Men's Overalls

At a guess, 19-teens.  What I most like about this pattern (after the brilliantined hair, the jaunty pose, and the spats) is the fact that the gentleman is wearing a tie.

I'd like to know if there is a particular name for this style of overalls, which have no waist belt - the bib and trousers are cut in a single length.

Both the fly and the shoulder straps are buttoned.

This is an unprinted pattern.

When I unfolded the pocket piece, I found this fairly substantial thread of fabric.  Note that it's plied blue and white.  This is not typical of the yarns used to make denim, chambray, or hickory stripe.  If used in both the warp and weft, fabric made of this yarn would have had a mid-blue color, somewhat similar to chambray (even though the construction is different.) Because dyeing adds cost, plying dyed and undyed plies will eventually yield an economical fabric.  This contributes to an overall sense of the thrift of making work clothes at home.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Butterick 4258 - Ladies', Misses' and Girls' Martha Washington Costume

Probably the first half of the 1920s.

My town is too small to have a July 4th parade, but if we had one, it might feature a suitably costumed George and Martha Washington waving to the crowd from the back of an elderly pick-up truck.

This costume, which could also have been used for fancy dress balls, is a wonderfully inaccurate pastiche of eighteenth century styles.

And as an Independence Day bonus, if you're a fan of substantial fruit cakes, you might like to make Martha Washington's Great Cake.  This recipe comes from the web site for the Mt. Vernon historical site.
Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks and beat them to a froth. Then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream and put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd. Then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powdered to it in the same manner then put in the Yolks of eggs and 5 pounds of flour and 5 pounds of fruit. 2 hours will bake it. Add to it half an ounce of mace and nutmeg half a pint of wine and some fresh brandy.
Forty eggs!  Lordy!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Simplicity 4104 - Misses' and women's Slack Suit and Coverall


This one shows up on eBay now and again, and there may be a reason for this.  In the '40s Simplicity published a periodical for Home Economics teachers called School Sewing Service News.   The issue for March 1942 profiled five patterns in a section called "Fashions for Freedom."

In that feature we find this stylish, permed-and-lipsticked young woman modeling the coverall.  Note the fabric recommendations for corduroy, denim, or duck.  (Unfortunately, the snappy garrison cap - also known as a side cap - is not included in the pattern.)

One imagines young women making up this pattern during the spring of '42 so that they'd be ready to jump right into war-time work over the summer break.

Notice that the shirt is sewn to the trousers only in the front.  The overalls have a drop seat, which is achieved by opening the zippers or snaps on either side and unbuttoning the trousers from shirt at the waist.  To keep the whole ensemble together the belt is buttoned through.

Most of us are familiar with "the Rosie pictures" at the Library of Congress, and even if you have a suspicion that these color photos are a bit staged, they're still wonderfully inspirational photographs.

Starting in 1943 there was also Jenny on the Job, who appears in a series of posters issue by the U.S. Public Health Services. Jenny was drawn by an illustrator by the name of Kula Robbins, who seems to have vanished into the mists of unrecorded history.  Jenny would have approved of the Simplicity pattern!

In another poster, Jennie recommended low-heeled shoes.  As our model shows us, saddles shoes finish off the ensemble.  Here's a little lagniappe for Lesli - a nice Bass advert from School Sewing Service News:

This unprinted pattern was offered in sizes up to a 40" bust.  Mine is battered and I suspect it has some terrific stories to tell, if only it could.