A quick Friday hodge-podge

by Erin on September 21, 2007

First off, if you are planning to download yesterday's pattern from the V&A site, you might want to hold off until Monday — Cassie, the web content manager for the V&A site, made the dress herself, and emailed me to say that she is going to upload slightly tweaked instructions sometime today. (Also, I forgot yesterday to link to link-sender Catherine's web page; it's here.)

Also, if you are not reading Rostitchery, why aren't you? Today (or maybe last night) she linked to a bunch of sewing machine accessory videos. I really don't like watching tutorial videos (I'm too impatient) but I was TRANSFIXED by seeing this binding foot in action! I want one. I need one. I must have one. Can you say "contrast bias hems for the rest of your natural life"? I can. (There's a slightly scarier-looking one here.)

And one last thing (maybe your Dress A Day Moment of Zen) — Laura bought a copy of a 1958 McCalls Pattern magazine, and uploaded a few images from it. Here's an ad for a particularly wonderful dress:

1958 McCalls ad

I find looking at vintage dress ads almost exquisitely painful; the whole idea of advertising is to get you to covet the product, but the product, here, is almost fifty years gone. The chances of me ever finding this dress, in my size, in wearable condition … well, they're vanishingly small. Which means I will just have to redouble my efforts on the time-machine-development front, right? And just enjoy looking at the picture.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky O. September 21, 2007 at 10:24 am

Rostichery has a great blog, thanks!I found a utube video on her site that has a funny sewing machine song that led me in turn to this utube video- How a sewing machine works- It’s more for the men in your house who are clueless : )http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAhmYzmkvcY&NR=1

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selvedge September 21, 2007 at 10:30 am

Erin, that is why you sew. The chances of me finding a currently advertised dress in my size is infinitesimal. Because I am not one of the industry standard sizes. Sometimes the atractor is the particular fabric, so that leaves the dress undone, and sometimes my grasp is greater than my reach. But based on what you have shown, this you can make. Search for an appropiate fabric.. you may not find the silk of yore, but perhaps a rayon or cotton of today. Desiree

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xstpenguin September 21, 2007 at 10:32 am

Unfortunately I have one of those binding feet (doesn’t that sound vaguely ancient chinese torture!) and it is NOT easy to operate! It looked so great when the lady in the shop did it, but when I tried it myself at home I just made a big mess. And she did say that it’s a bit fiddly to do a complete circle – that is have the binding meet itself.I’m sure I just need patience and practice. Things I’m so good at!?I even bought some really nice tartan bias tape from McCulloch and Wallis (not cheap) and a set of bias tape makers with visions of contrast binding on just about everything!Dream on…

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Susan Marie September 21, 2007 at 10:51 am

Oh, cruel temptress! I share in your anguish over the beautiful dress. If I could dream up a perfect dress, it might just look like that. Sigh.

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Claire Wain September 21, 2007 at 11:04 am

I’m with xstpenguin – those binding feet are not as easy to use as they look! (I have the slightly scarier-looking one.) I like to bind just about everything, but I hardly ever use my binding foot, as it’s just too much of a pain. Same for my ruffler foot – I just make two rows of gathering stitches, and pull!I know what you mean about the pain of looking at the ads in vintage magazines. A friend gave me a copy of Vogue Patterns from 1961, and I want almost everything in it!

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Anonymous September 21, 2007 at 11:38 am

That first video shows a binding foot for a serger (note the instructions to set the machine to chain stitch). The second more scary video shows the exact binding foot that I own (the machine in the video is a Pfaff).Although the second video shows a prefolded manufactured bias tape, the foot is designed to produce those folds on its own. My experiments with homemade bias tape, with no folds pressed into it, were much more successful than prefolded bias. Cut a 1-inch wide bias strip, don’t press any folds into it, then feed it into the foot. You’ve inspired me to get that foot out and practice with it. Bias hems, indeed!As for joining the bias ends on a hem, leave a tail when you start, then stop leaving about 4 – 6 inches unbound and also leaving a long tail of bias. Join the ends (see any one of zillions of instructions on the web for invisible joining of quilt binding), press the folds into that 6 inch section and stitch.The most useful presser foot I ever purchased is an edge joining foot (also called a narrow edge foot). Line up that middle blade to run along a fold or in a ditch, adjust the needle position left or right = perfectly spaced stitch line every time with no wobbles. Just keep your eye on the blade, not the needle.http://www.pfaffusa.com/3156_3450.htmlCMC

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Latter-Day Flapper September 21, 2007 at 11:53 am

It occurs to me that, since I’m already fairly spatially able, my time might be best spent, after all, learning pattern-drafting. Then I could stop mourning all the patterns I’ll never find in my size (why, oh, why did all women in the 1940′s have 32-inch busts??) or that I cannot afford.I seriously need to do one of those duct-tape dressforms, too. That would make my life so much easier.

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The Mad Tatter September 21, 2007 at 12:30 pm

The caption below the dress says it all: “For the girl who knows clothes” indeed! I simply must have this dress![revving up sewing machine]

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Adrienne September 21, 2007 at 12:39 pm

Why in heaven’s name, after viewing such a beautiful dress and petty lady, do we all walk around in penitient rags and call it ‘fashion’? And overpay happily for substandard and even expetremely poor quality; not to mention lack of fabric altogether??? Hollister? Macy’s? YUK!! We are a country that is fat and sloppy. We should pay as much attention to being well groomed all over, as we do to spending gobs of money on hoaky looking animal nails and beauty shops where hair is mutilated beyond words. Don’t get me started on theboobs out all over the place thing; especially older chicks… sheeeeeeeesh!I emplore everyone here to make and wear some kind of pretty dress this month. Beautify America; it has lost the sense of what good grooming and fashion was and could be again.

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Adrienne September 21, 2007 at 12:40 pm

And I have lost the senase of what proofreading can do for a post…

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Thoughts on Life and Millinery. September 21, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I remember the dresses in the Modess sanitary napkin ads from the 1960. When I was old enough to need the product, I choose Modess over Kotex, simply because the dress in their ads were so gorgeous!

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Anonymous September 21, 2007 at 1:13 pm

Um, that bodice looks quite a bit like the bodice of the Clair McCardell dress pattern featured as one of the first posts on this blog. The skirt is different. The only difference in the bodice I can see is that this pattern has some little pleats at the shoulder, and the Clair McCardell pattern didn’t.Amy

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Joni September 21, 2007 at 2:36 pm

Love the shirred midriff band and the coy expression of the model. She’s definitely “a girl who knows clothes” and one can’t help but wonder if she knows something else as well.

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woodsywoman September 21, 2007 at 3:14 pm

Gotta love R&K before they went cheap and flimsy. “For the girl who knows clothes” was their slogan. I’d love to see a close-up on that model’s makeup. It’s exquisite.

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Karen September 21, 2007 at 3:20 pm

That bodice is to die for. I am so in love with that design of fitting the bust from the shoulders, though I haven’t had a success on that yet. Bought two vintage dresses on ebay like that, both looked awful on me for various reasons (one might get de-and re-constructed), and I haven’t found the right pattern to attempt it. Some day…

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Anonymous September 21, 2007 at 3:40 pm

I have a distinctive green box well, two actually of vintage Singer presser feet, buried beneath a fabric stash. Manuals that might have explained their use were not part of the inheritance. The feet were mysteries of gears and levers and tiny measuring instruments from a time when machines had precision and beauty…but I had no idea what they could accomplish. THEN, this morning, while lurking at Dress-a-Day, en route to doing work, there was that invitation to watch a binding foot in action! Oh, boy! Hope springs eternal…and sure enough! The scary link led to a demo of a double-funnel-shaped presser similar to one in my green box! Its a binder! Who would have guessed?There went the morning. A bit of determined googling and several hours later, Ive discovered a few things.1. The precision I find so attractive in turn of the twentieth century machinery has drawbacks. The drawback of MY binder foot is that it can only feed narrow binding. Wide binding requires its own foot with a larger funnel. For all that its cheap and unsightly, the modern, plastic universal tape binder is probably a very useful tool. 2. I have a gatherer foot in my boxes! If you have coveted the binder foot, you are ripe for new temptation. This is a GREAT foot. I hate, hate, hate making those two rows of basting stitches and then pulling and pinning them into place. It isnt so bad if all were constructing is an infants wee bodice but the skirt on that lovely tiered Derek Lam dress is a serious investment of time. The gatherer foot changes all that. It measures; it folds; it fastens…ruffle after ruffle…in one, easy motion. 3. I have a tucker foot in my boxes! You thought the gatherer foot was special? Wait till you meet the tucker foot! This baby not only can make a pin tuck of any desired width BUT it places a light crease alongside the new tuck to mark where you want the next one to lie. Maybe thats a bit too defined for todays deconstructed aesthetic, but with two, tiny slide rulers, adjustable by thumb screws, and a hinged marking lever, AND smoother blades to hold the fabric just so, deconstruction be damned…sometimes, anyway.Ive also discovered that:1. Cute as it may be, the sewer has absolutely NO need for a fancy gadget to feed edgings onto fabric. At least, I think thats what this next foot is supposed to do… 2. The reason theres so little discussion about the joys and uses of presser feet is that they require some dexterity. What with a sewing machines proclivity for hypertension and bipolar disorders, who needs to give it the added pressure of ruffling, tucking, and binding? And yet…3. Theres still this one foot that looks as though you might put a piece of fabric into the left-hand teeth and another piece of fabric into the right-hand teeth and fasten the two pieces together, if only there were a way to make the needle zigzag between the two. Wouldnt that be cool! Hmmmm.This was NOT what I was supposed to be doing today. Stephanie

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Moonwishes September 22, 2007 at 8:06 am

That lovely dress is the essence of feminine dressing. Who decided we shouldn’t dress in that lovely manner? Think how much skinnier many of us would be if we had had to maintain waistlines instead of being able to cop-out under shapelesss sacks! As a large lady who has been losing weight, I’m happy to say that after 35# gone, I can now see a waistline and the one fitted skirt I own will stay on my waistline instead of up under my boobs. Perhaps soon I too can wear a lovely vintage style dress that I admire so well. In the meantime I am working on learning how to adjust my patterns for better fit and discussing with hubby (who has a good eye for these things) which patterns will look better on me.I too, have a whole bunch of odd looking presser feet that came with a 1950′s Singer machine…and I have the instruction book! We just need to get the machine working and in the meantime I sew on a modern machine doing binding by hand.

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jenny September 22, 2007 at 10:13 am

Well, I know what look my next quest in vintage patterns will be…

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Bettsi September 22, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Exquisitely painful is exactly the term I would use. I see an image like that and it just squeezes my heart somewhere. This is how women should look. What happened to us? Where’s my midriff? Why don’t we have dresses like this anymore? Thank you for bringing these images back into the light!

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Joni September 22, 2007 at 3:12 pm

Adrienne, I think “theboobs” is a perfectly legitimate word. Perhaps our dictionary editor can back me up on this one… ;-)

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Adrienne September 22, 2007 at 9:21 pm

HAHAHAHA!!!!I will definitely try to be more careful whe I type, but it’s nice to know us girls defend each other when one of us (me) appears to type with her feet.(Feet; get it??} I do love that dress, though!Thanks, Joni! God love ya!

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Anonymous September 23, 2007 at 10:53 am

R&K had a store on Broadway here in new york until the late 1980′s.( perhaps a bit later) The clothing was so awful,it used to stop us in our stracks as we walked past the store. We simply called it “The Ugly Clothes Store”. It is nice to see that they had a more elegant past.

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a happier girl September 24, 2007 at 4:03 pm

I love how very Grace Kelly it is. Simple but elegant.

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Anonymous September 28, 2007 at 7:30 am

This looks like a Vermeer painting. SO classic and beautiful.

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