Posted Saturday, 7 September, 2019
Hello dear sewists,
Today's post has been written in collaboration with a darling insta-friend of mine, Lizzy of @handmadebylizzy. We're both vintage pattern enthusiasts with a soft spot for the 70s and a long-abiding passion for florals.
When Lizzy messaged me to let me know that we had the same vintage pattern in our respective collections, we had to do a little sew-along together. Call it fate, call it kismet, call it destiny. It seemed only natural that we sew our dresses together (cue angelic harp music).
Now, we won't use the term "sew-along" to describe what happened here because Lizzy and I both sewed our dresses and took pictures in our own time. We very loosely worked to a similar timeframe and that's exactly the non-sew-along-sew-along that suits our respective lifestyles.
The interesting part here is that Lizzy and I both deviated from our signature florals in constructing our 70s tunic dresses.....and we both regretted it! The heart wants what the heart wants, hence this post's title.
Lizzy was kind enough to send her thoughts on this make through, so please continue to read our Q&A below as a form of sweet little mini-review.
How did you come to find this pattern?
Lizzy: I find all my vintage sewing patterns on Etsy. I can spend hours (and I do spend hours) scouring the site for unique patterns that let me experiment either with a new silhouette or sewing technique.
Brooke: Same! I can't specifically remember finding this one though.....When I'm deep down the vintage-pattern-hunting rabbit hole the details can get a little hazy.
What drew you to it?
L: I was drawn to the drama of the maxi caftan and also the way in which it was styled in the drawing! I love bohemian looks and I thought it would be a simple, yet dramatic piece I could go to time and again for an easy yet chic look. My goal was to style it similarly, which is why I paired my look with market flowers and 70s style shoes, but it was an uncharacteristically 100 degree (37.7°C) day when I took these photos and I couldn't fathom putting anything on my head so the scarf had to be omitted!
B: I loved the sweet little bow details at the neckline. I hadn't sewn anything tie-front or loose-fitting in a while, and I thought that the silhouette would lend itself to 60s mod or 70s boho style. I also thought that as the pattern had fairly simple lines (not too many seams breaking it up), it would go so nicely with some prints....preferably floral, of course!
What material did you select and why?
L: I chose a medium-weight linen in a sage green/grey shade. I thought linen would pair nicely with the breeziness of this pattern, but ultimately found that a lighter weight material in a shade that didn't resemble a potato sack would have been much more effective, hence why I sadly hacked my caftan up and removed a bit of the drama I had intended for this look! (Editor's note: Lizzy is too harsh on herself. The final outfit is amazing!)
B: I chose a lightweight seersucker with a little grey and cream check. Despite being lightweight and a bit crinkly, the fabric was a smidgen stiffer than I anticipated, but this doesn't affect the overall garment. Bonus! It doesn't always require ironing, so long as it's stored hanging up, or rolled when travelling.
Did you make any tweaks to the pattern?
L: Ooooh did I make tweaks! I originally sewed this pattern up as is and fringed the hem but it just did not work with the fabric I chose. I looked like I was wearing a potato sack and the grinder didn't lay very neatly. I decided I would cut it in half (I was very nervous doing this!) to make a crop top and adding elastic to the waist. Though this gave me more shape, it still looked a bit like I was wearing a potato sack, so I decided it needed some trim (I rarely sew with solids and when I do I can't help but add some embellishment, whether it be a fringed hem, trim, embroidery or special buttons). I bought some upholstery trim at a local fabric store and sewed it down on the sleeve hem, top hem and skirt hem. It definitely elevated the look a bit, though I am a bit sad I don't have my easy breezy maxi caftan.
B: I sewed mine as is, with the notable exception of removing the cuffs on the sleeves. I went to all the effort of putting them in and wore it for one day like that, but as suspected, I just didn't like. I chose the shorter version and followed the instructions. Despite having an overlocker (serger), I followed the 70s finishing instructions for pinking and enclosed seams, just for fun. My fabric didn't fray very much so I was confident to just experiment. And hey, if it's good enough for 1970s home seamstresses, then it's good enough for me!
How did you find the instructions?
L: I found the instructions to be easy to follow though I've been sewing for 4 years now, so I feel I could muddle through most instructions. With vintage patterns you do have to translate some of the sewing terms as materials and techniques have changed. For example, there were no serging instructions (but there were cute "pinking" illustrations and instructions to "clean finish"), as I suppose sergers weren't so prevalent at the time.
B: I love 1970s instructions and pattern markings. Everything is so clear and bold. This is reflected in the pattern styles of the time too!
If you made this pattern again, what would you do differently?
L: Oooh I would choose a patterns that is a bit more "me". I generally sew with floral prints, but I shied away from them because I thought it would be too overwhelming in the volume of fabric for this look. So I definitely plan on making it again in a more suitable fabric (lighter weight/different shade/print) and making the pattern "as is" without the tweaks, though perhaps I'd still embellish it with trim :)
B: I'd sew it with a floral. I was worried about selecting a large floral and having it overwhelm me.....Now I realise that was silly. I'm never happier than when smothered in florals. Perhaps I'd even sew the longer version. Stranger things have happened.
What do you like about vintage patterns (1970s patterns specifically)?
L: I love the drama of the silhouettes of 70s patterns. I love wearing clothing at the natural waist with great volume either in the flare of the pants/skirts or in the sleeves. I love the dramatic deep v-neck front or criss-cross back. I love the bohemian yet sleek vibe 70s patterns give off.
B: Aside from my previous comments, I love the simplicity in design. In the 1970s designs were striking and elegant. From boho to chic, there's so much scope to recreate or reinterpret 70s designs. It also helps that everything old is new again and the 1970s are bang on trend.
Do you have any recommendations for people who want to sew vintage patterns?
L: I would say, jump in! You get such a wide range of unique designs and you can generally purchase them inexpensively online or in thrift stores. Just be mindful that they are decades old so you'll have to handle patterns pieces carefully (I store each of mine in a ziplock bag to keep them from tearing). The sizing will be different as well, so you'll have to take some tine to determine your "vintage sizing" but once you do the vintage sizes are pretty reliable (FYI, I have experience sewing vintage patterns from the 60s and up so I can't vouch for patterns before this time period). I would recommend studying the body measurements listed and make a muslin first perhaps.
B: I'll echo Lizzy here and say, just go for it! If you're worried about messing up the pattern, then by all means trace it off! (Gently though, the paper can be brittle and delicate from age). I'd recommend starting with patterns from 60s-80s (yes 80s are often classed as vintage now!), as the patterns are oftentimes in better nick and the instructions are more comprehensive, but don't let that limit you. The most important element for success is to choose a pattern that sings to you. If it's a 30s or 40s pattern then so be it! (that's what practice garments i.e. toiles or muslins are for).
As an aside, I've recently noticed that some other lovely ladies have been sewing up twin outfits and using the hashtag #sewtwinning. After a bit of reading I've found that this hashtag was started by the lovely Brittany (IG handle @BrittanyJJones), who has a lovely blog and is a prolific YouTuber to boot. Go and check out her work and peruse the hashtag on instagram. Perhaps you'll be inspired to do a little mini-sew-along with a friend too.
Until next time,