How to Make a Short Sleeve 233 Glamour Girl Dress for Summer

By Molly Hamilton
on May 14, 2022

Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress Sleeve Muslin Test

by Cynthia Anderson

Today I am going to show you how to make the iconic Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress a little more appropriate for summer by shortening the sleeves to make a short-sleeved version. I will show you how to do this with test muslin fabric so you can try it yourself and make the adjustments you might need to get a good fit for a short sleeve.  

Dress Details

In the 1930’s and 1940’s movie stars held the American public in thrall and this figure-flattering dress was emulated by many. Movie studios published still photographs of their stars in elegant attire, and fans clamored for the chance to copy the dress, coiffures, and make-up of their favorites. Folkwear’s Glamour Girl Dress is a stunning example of early 1940’s styling, designed to emphasize feminine curves, to drape elegantly, and give the wearer an aura of discreet sexiness.

Illustration of Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress Front & Back Views



A close-fitting bodice is highlighted by a narrow “V” neckline. The front bodice and skirt gather into a curved midriff that ties at the center front, providing snug individual fit. A fitted back hip yoke ensures a smooth line. The flared skirt drapes gracefully at center front and back bias seams. And, the three-quarter length sleeves are distinctively gathered at the elbow. The dress zips at left side seam for ease getting in and out. And, of course shoulder pads are essential for the proper fit of the early 1940’s silhouette; but feel free to leave them out as desired.

Three skirt lengths are offered in this sewing pattern: the ankle length of our original evening gown, a 1940’s daytime length, and a strictly contemporary mid-calf length.

Note the reasonable yardage requirements, which reflect the need to conserve fabric during the Second World War.  And read more about the history of fashion during that time on our blog here.

Fabric Choices for Warm Weather

This dress has a lovely drape you will want to keep. Any light to medium weight fabric with drape will do. Silk or rayon crepe, satin, challis, or soft cotton make beautiful choices. To make this dress a go-to in your summer wardrobe, use cotton lawn, bamboo, silk/cotton blend, or linen. Choose a fabric that is soft enough to allow for the subtle built-in shaping at the neckline. Be sure to have a look at Folkwear's fabric selection.

Make a Test Muslin

It is best to test any sewing pattern adjustments by making a cotton muslin first. I am going to show you how to transform this glamorous dress into an breezy summer version, by shortening, and slightly widening, the sleeves in a test muslin. 

If you are making this dress for the first time, I recommend making a test of the entire dress to ensure a good fit and length. If you only want to test this short-sleeve adjustment, you can just make a muslin of the bodice and sleeves. For this short-sleeve adjustment, you will make the dress as instructed in the pattern, but with the new sleeves. 

Design a Short Sleeve for the Dress

Note: Shortening the sleeves will eliminate the gathering detail on the lower portion of the sleeve. The gather is a great feature, but doesn't work for short sleeves. But, the short sleeves will keep you cooler in warm weather.

Sleeve fit is different for everyone and varies depending on the pattern used. How you prefer to wear your sleeves is personal preference and totally up to you.  If the sleeve looks or feels too tight or is not as comfortable as you would like in your test muslin, then an adjustment is in order. 

A good sleeve fit requires an adequate amount of fabric to go around the arm, plus a little bit more. This extra amount of fabric is called ease. All commercial sewing patterns are designed with some kind of ease.

It generally takes one to three inches of ease for a woven sleeve to fit comfortably at the bicep and allow for a full range of motion, but this can depend on your size and the cut of the sleeve. If a sleeve feels too narrow there is not an adequate amount of ease. Adding 2"(5cm)-3'(8cm) will create more width and room. It does not take a large amount of ease to make a big difference in how a garment fits and feels. Making a simple sleeve width adjustment is not hard to do.

If you are happy with the fit, amount of comfort, and look of a sleeve pattern as is, then leave well enough alone.  Go with the sleeve from the sewing pattern straight out of the package.

Sleeve Fit:  For the short sleeve in this pattern, you probably want a little more room at the bicep than the fitted long sleeve for comfort and ease of movement. To figure out if the sleeve in this Glamour Girl Dress pattern is roomy enough, start by measuring the circumference of your arm at the bicep (usually the widest part of your upper arm). Take the measurement with your bicep flexed.

Compare your bicep measurement to the sleeve pattern at the upper sleeve or bicep point, as the case may be. Your arm circumference measurement should be at least 2-3 inches less than the pattern measurement.  If you feel a little more room may be needed at the bicep, I will show you how to add the ease needed below.

Sleeve Length: To create a new short sleeve for this dress, trace the sleeve pattern for your size using Swedish tracing paper (or any paper that is transparent enough to see through) using the shorten/lengthen line as the cut line for the bottom sleeve edge. You can always make it a bit shorter, but don't forget the hem. I recommend a 1" (2.5cm) hem; 1/2" (13mm) turned up twice. If you decide to shorten your sleeve further, indicate the final length with a horizontal line. The hem will be added when the ease adjustment is made.

Now that you have the length of your sleeve, cut out the sleeve pattern and pin it to the test fabric (on grain for testing). I prefer to cut the sleeve pattern out without the hem added. I find it easier to make the ease adjustments and add the hem on the test muslin. This method preserves your original sleeve pattern, so it does not need to be recreated if you make a mistake or decide to readjust the ease.

Note: This is not a full sleeve adjustment. Which means the armhole and the sleeve seam are not disturbed or altered. This adjustment is made by adding width to the bottom of the sleeve edge only. Then a line is drawn to connect and grade the underarm edge to the bottom of the sleeve. This creates a gradual width increase down the length of the sleeve, ending at the bottom edge. We are widening the sleeve to create a short sleeve because the cut and fit of the Glamour Girl Dress's sleeve is fairly narrow.

Adding Ease

The sleeve for your pattern size may still need more ease added to make it fit well. Even though the sleeve pattern was designed with ease built-in, adding a bit more can make for a more custom fit.

To widen this sleeve, extra width (ease) needs to be added. The amount of ease listed for the sizes below should be considered a maximum. This adjustment is meant to make a narrow sleeve design a little bit wider for comfort. For a basic rule of thumb, you can use the numbers below for your size to add some extra room (ease) to the bottom of a short-sleeve for this Glamour Girl Dress. You can, of course, add a little more or a little less, depending on how you prefer the sleeve to fit.

  • Size XS-SM add 1" (3cm) of ease at bottom of short sleeve
  • Size MD-LG add 2" (5cm) of ease at bottom of short sleeve
  • Size XS-3XL add 3" (8cm) of ease at bottom of short sleeve

 Making the Adjustment

With the sleeve pattern pinned to the test fabric, draw a horizontal line that extends beyond each side of the bottom sleeve edge.

Photo drawing extended sleeve edge

 

Divide the amount of ease you are adding in half and add this half-measurement to each sleeve edge on the drawn horizontal line, as seen below.

In this case, I am making a size medium and adding 2" (5cm) of ease. The 2"(5cm) of ease is divided in half, adding 1"(3cm) to each side of the sleeve edge. Remember that the seam allowance has already been added to the pattern and you do not need to add more.

Photo of one-inch ease measurement added to sleeve edge

 

Using a French curve or hip curve draw a smooth line connecting the under sleeve edge to the newly added width. The connecting line can have a slight curve or be more straight.

Using a hip curve will allow you to experiment with the degree of curve the line has. More ease can be gained through out the sleeve edge if there is less curve to the line drawn.

Photo showing line drawn to sleeve using french curve
Photo of finished line drawn to add ease to sleeve edge

Draw the same curved edge on the opposite sleeve edge.

Photo of opposite edge being lined up with french curve
Now, with width (ease) added to both edges of the of the sleeve, add the hem.
Photo of both edges of sleeve with ease lines drawn in

 

Draw a perpendicular line at the newly widened edge. Extend the line down to accommodate the hem to be added.

Determine the total hem depth and divide it in half. In this case, I am adding a 1" (2.5cm) hem. Draw a horizontal line parallel from the bottom edge of the sleeve that measures half the hem depth, 1/2-inch (13mm) in this case.

Photo of hald the sleeve hem drawn
Draw another parallel horizontal line using the same half measure under the line just drawn, creating a hem that totals 1"(2.5cm). Now the sleeve is ready to be cut out.
Photo of full hem drawn to sleeve

Construct the front and back bodice to test the sleeve adjustment only.
Photo of Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress Short sleeve muslin

Stitch up the sleeve right sides together as normal and add the sleeve to the armhole according to the pattern instructions. And if you want, shorten the skirt hem for cool comfort!

For a bit more fun, also consider changing up the curved midriff and back yoke. These details are perfect for playing with pattern design direction or cutting on the bias. Try these options on a test muslin to see what you like.

The Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress paper pattern and pdf is on sale the month of May. Not only is it a great pattern for summer, but it is always nice to get ahead in next season's sewing. You will not regret the adding the long sleeved version of this dress to your upcoming Fall/Winter wardrobe!

Hope you enjoy making and wearing this shorter sleeve version of the Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress! As always, share what you make!!

 

 

 

Sleeve Construction and Detailing of 121 Guatemalan Gabacha

By Molly Hamilton
on May 12, 2022

Sleeve Construction and Detailing of 121 Guatemalan Gabacha

by Molly Hamilton

We recently resized and re-released the 121 Guatemalan Gabacha.  This cute dress (or apron) pattern was first published by Folkwear in 1978, and was based on dresses and aprons that were commonly found in markets near the town of Chantal where a large textile mill in the 1960s and 70s produced gingham, and Western influences met with Guatemalan textile brilliancy to come up with this apron (and dress).

The Gabacha is fairly simple to sew, but there are a few details that can make creating the sleeves a little easier, especially if you are making the shaped cuff.  The shaped cuff really quite simple and fun and adds a great detail to the dress, so don't be intimidated by it.  For a tip on making the bias ruffle, go here.

Seams

I made my dress from a cotton lawn and I wanted to use French seams to finish all my seams because I like the look and feel of French seams in a garment with lightweight cotton. This works fine for this dress, except for where the dress attaches to the yoke and the ruffle to the dress; there you will either need to finish the raw edge that is folded under, or just leave it (it is basically covered by the gathered edge anyway).  The French seams work fine for the underarm gusset and for the set-in sleeve.

Sleeve Pleats

The easiest way to create the sleeve pleats on the sleeve cap is to clip into the seam allowance by 1/4" or less at the pleat marks.  This allows the pleat to be easily and accurately folded toward the dot (pleats fold toward the front of the sleeve - make sure you are making a left and right sleeve correctly, especially if your fabric looks the same on the right and wrong sides).  Machine baste the pleats in place.

Sleeve Gusset

This dress has a underarm gusset that helps the sleeve attach to the dress body.  This is an old-fashioned (or traditional) technique used to provide room in the arm for garments that are made with straight edges (i.e. no curved armsyce).  Gussets are not hard to sew, but you do need to be precise.  This particular gusset is one of the easiest I've ever sewn because you don't need quite so much precision because you are only attaching it on three sides and therefore there are less seams to match.

To attach the gusset, place it on the sleeve (I did French seams, so wrong sides together first) matching the dots.  Be sure the wide edge of the gusset is on the pleated side of the sleeve (this wide edge will attach to the dress).  Sew one side of the gusset to the sleeve and then sew the other side of the gusset to the sleeve, again matching dots.  If you are doing French seams like I did, you will do wrong sides together, then right sides together enclosing the raw edge.  Your seam line will go through the dots.  Often for gussets, you only stitch between the dots, but it is fine to stitch through the dots on this gusset. 

Be sure to match dots when sewing gussets.

First side of gusset is sewn.  Second side will also be a French seam; wrong sides pinned together, I sewed a slight 1/4 (6mm) seam.

Gusset with one side finished and the second side being sewn on - wrong sides together and sewn before turning the right sides together to finish the French seam.


Second side of sleeve gusset, folded right sides together.  First seam of gusset is sewn, second seam will be through the dots on the left.


Be sure to attach gusset so that the wider edge of the gusset goes to the side of the sleeve with the pleats (this will get sewn to the dress).  The V end of the gusset goes toward the cuff of the sleeve.

 

Shaped Cuff

I love the shaped cuff on this dress.  It is subtle but a tailored design that makes the dress special.  The straight cuff is very simple and you will follow the same instructions as I did here without turning under the shaped edge.  

First, you need to turn under 1/2" (13mm) on the shaped edge (or if using the straight cuff, turn under 1/2" on one edge).  It helps a lot to mark the 1/2" seam line.  I measured down 1/2"  from each valley and peak of the cuff and then connected the dots.  I then clipped to the dot at each valley so that I could turn down the seam allowance.  At the peaks, I folded the fabric edges over each other to make the corner. The draw-in seam line helps make this precise and give a nice, even shape to the cuff.  Note: I often use Crayola ultra washable thin markers to mark fabric when I sew.  They come in a range of colors that work on just about everything (but black), and they wash away easily.  

 
Measuring and marking the seam allowance on the shaped cuff.

Seam line drawn in place, valleys of shaped cuff are clipped.

The drawn-in seamline helps with folding the edge over precisely to get a nice shape on the cuff.

 

Once the cuff is "shaped", sew the seams together at short ends and press open.  


The shaped cuff with edges turned under, ready to be sewn to the sleeve.

Attaching Cuff to Sleeve

Sewn two lines of gathering stitches to the cuff edge of the sleeve and pull up stitches to gather evenly. 

Gathering lines pulled up on sleeve edge, ready for cuff to be attached.

To attach the cuff to the sleeve, you will need to place the right side of the cuff to the wrong side of the sleeve, matching raw edges, and matching the cuff seam line with the gusset point. 

Right side of cuff facing wrong side of sleeve; raw edges together (the shaped edge is away from the gathered edge of sleeve).

 

Adjust the sleeve gathers to fit the cuff and pin in place.  Sew the cuff to the sleeve at the 1/2" (13mm) seam line. You can trim the seam to about 1/4" (6mm) if desired to reduce bulk.  Then turn the cuff out and press the seam allowance toward the cuff.

Now, turn the cuff back toward the sleeve at the fold line.  The shaped cuff edge will cover the seam line of the cuff/sleeve.  Adjust and pin cuff in place.  I placed pins at each valley and peak of the cuff.  You should topstitch the shaped cuff to the sleeve being careful to stitch close to the edge of the folds of the shaped cuff.  This is also where having the marks on the shaped part of the cuff can be helpful for stitching.  Pivot at each corner of the shaped cuff leaving the needle down in the fabric.  If you are getting near a corner but feel your stitch might go over or be too short, you can adjust the stitch length for one or two stitches to get it to the peak (or valley) of the corner to be more precise with your topstitching. 

Once the cuff is stitched down, you can remove the gathering stitches at the cuff and sew your sleeve onto the dress.  Again, match dots and notches, and you should have no problems.  I used a French seam here and so sewed the first seam with the wrong sides together and a slight 1/4" (6mm) seam allowance, I trimmed the seam allowance slightly to be even and sewed the seam again at the seam line with right side of sleeve facing right side of dress.  

This sleeve is fun and a great detail of this dress.  I hope this tutorial helps you get a clear understanding of putting the sleeve and shaped cuff together for our 121 Guatemalan Gabacha.  For a video to see how to do these steps, check out the link below!  

Happy sewing!

 

 

WWII Wartime Fashion History

By Molly Hamilton
on May 09, 2022
1 comment

Photo of Wartime Men & Women marching in street with US Flag

WWII was THE dominate force in the world in the first half of the 1940’s and fashion was profoundly influenced by its impact. Every aspect of life and the resources required to support the war effort demanded sacrifices that would unite the population. The need for uniforms took precedence and shifted manufacturing away from everyday clothing for men, women, and children. Civilian clothing styles were dictated by rationing and utility which would continue even after the war had ended. America, the United Kingdom, and France were all drawn into WWII. Yet the impact of the war would prove to effect each nation differently. All three nations would come away with a different story told through the everyday lens of fashion. Wartime did not mean giving up on beauty and dressing the best you could. However, it did mean new considerations and a sense of cooperation was be needed to ultimately win WWII.

Despite the restrictions and difficulties of war, women, especially in the US and Britain, were encouraged to fulfill their patriotic duty to look attractive. The US and British governments with the help of designers would help mold the look. In America, Hollywood movie stars would model these designs enticing women to emulate and escape through the clothing on the movie screen.

Photo of 1940's wedding gown
A wartime wedding dress that could have been made from a pattern similar Folkwear 233 Glamour Girl Dress Pattern.

 

Folkwear’s 233 Glamour Girl Dress and the 247 Lindy Dress each met the parameters set by wartime restrictions, while still providing women with a touch of glamour and daily utility to their wardrobes. Dresses like the 247 Lindy Dress (and our out-of-print 235 Sporty Forties' Dress) became a unifying everyday uniform, allowing women to go about their lives with the ease of knowing they looked good without fuss. It was part of the new "utility" look. While The 233 Glamour Dress and it sensual lines provided a much-needed escape and a bit of glamorous fun. Keep reading to learn how fighting Hitler's war was fueled by fashion and weaponized by glamour.

Photo of three women in uniforms with weapons

By the start of the war in 1939, Paris had long enjoyed its status as the undisputed capital of fashion and culture, leaving the world transfixed. Fashion magazines, news publications, and going to the movies were portals to all things French. However, six months into the war on June 14, 1940, a four year German occupation would seal Paris and all of France off from the gaze of its captivated audience. French life and fashion design did not end, but many talented designers and creatives would shutter their studios, flee, or join the fight. The artists and designers that remained continued to create the best they could despite the occupation. This closed bubble resulted in fashion and art that would diverge vastly from the world outside of France.

Photo ofThe President of the Chambre Syndical de la Haute Couture, Lucien Lelong
Lucien Lelong watching a designer work on a half scale dress form.

 

Hitler coveted Paris and considered it a jewel to be taken. The Vichy government of France handed Paris over to Hitler in part to keep it from being destroyed, preserving its beauty and talents. The President of the Chambre Syndical de la Haute Couture, Lucien Lelong, convinced the Nazis that the fashion industry should be kept alive to preserve jobs and keep French talent from being relegated to dangerous work for the Germans. Implying that French talent would be part of Hitler's spoils. Paris fashion houses continued to produce two fashion collections a year, dressing mostly the wives of Nazi officers and privileged women from countries that sided with Germany. The occupation would prove to be a safety net of sorts, allowing much of French life to continue uninterrupted. However, the average French woman was left to dress in rags and make do with much resentment.

Prior to the war, American designers merely copied Paris fashion and the British followed suit. With France cut off from the world, the US and UK would have to find their own muses. Rationing of resources would steer fashion in both nations, setting the challenge of producing appealing clothing within government issued restraints. Both raw materials and labor were allocated to the war effort, leaving civilian clothing in short supply and women at the forefront of producing and organizing what was needed. Limited availability of fabric lead to tightened bodices, shortened skirts, and dispensing with extra details, such as pockets, cuffs, large pleats, and linings. Items consisting of metal, like buttons, clasps, zippers, were limited in civilian garments. Supplies of manmade fibers such as nylon were increased for civilian clothing, leaving more durable and warm fabrics like wool for uniforms, silk for making parachutes, and dyes for making explosives. Manufacturers of shoes were committed to supplying the troops with boots, resulting in a civilian shoe shortage. Church and society women's charities organized Tag and Jumble Sales to help ease the clothing and shoe shortages that continued even after the war ended. Utilitarian and uniform-like clothing became a sacrificial badge in everyone's fight for victory.

James Laver in Costume and Fashion: A Concise History writes, “The look was simple but stylish, with good proportion and line. It incorporated padded shoulders, nipped-in waist, and hems to just below the knee.” The Utility dress was born. Rations of fabric would persist even after the war and the Utility dress would be reinvented as the shirtwaist dress (similar to our 247 Lindy Dress), to lessen the reference to war.

Photo of women waiting in line for rationed goods.
Women waiting in line, most likely for rationed goods, wearing simple Utiliy clothing



Women on both sides of the Atlantic were encouraged to "Make-Do and Mend," which was a continuing trend born out of the Great Depression. Classes were held and an extensive range of how-to booklets were provided to women and children that taught useful skills on how to extend the life of the families' clothing. These classes provided not just needed skills, but a social outlet as well. Using outdated clothing to make new, more fashionable designs was encouraged. This creative outlet proved to be a much needed diversion for women and girls of all ages.

 

Photo of Make do and Mend Class
Photo of Make-Do and Mend books

 

After the experience of Europe's Great War (WWI), the importance of women’s roles in supporting the war effort had been cemented and there was no doubt of the role moral played in seeing people though the sacrifices required of every individual. The British people were still recovering from the destruction and loss suffered with WWI and the government took strong action to rally the population once again. In order to encourage women to embrace and shift away from popular feminine detailing that had reigned in the 1930's, a scheme was devised by the British government. The prestigious designers Norman Hartnell, Hardy Amies, and Edward Molyneux of The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers or Inc. Soc., all submitted designs to help promote the cause. Their efforts changed what women would consider fashionable. Women made the most of the simple yet sophisticated look and its dignified allure.

Fashion historian Jayne Shrimpton writes in the publication Fashion in the 1940's, “The Utility Clothing initiative might never have succeeded had the government not taken the inspired decision to involve leading London couturiers in the design of Utility clothing.”

 

Photo of The Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers working

Photo of three women in popular 1940's suits.


Out of this collaborative effort came a fashionable boxy suit, with a rounded-edge collar and lapels, and a flared below the knee-length skirt. Previously popular Tweeds and plaids translated nicely into Utility clothing. Women were excited to see familiar fabrics take on a modern look. Bright colors, prints, and patterns helped elevate the simplicity of the designs. Not only were these designs economic and resourceful, but they were also easy to sew, making them accessible to everyone.

While rationing and purchasing for everyday needs with coupons was a reality for both American and UK households, rationing for clothing was not as severe in the US. As a result a new energy emerged that inspired American designers and the public to embrace a sense of optimism.

With the absence of French influences, American designers thrived in their freedom to define a new American look. This clean slate set the stage for ready-to-wear American sportswear. The clothing introduced was simple and easy to wear. The active spirit of the fashions proved trendy and popular, setting the stage for what would eventually become the iconic Sporty American look (see Folkwear's 235 Sporty Forties dress, which is coming back into print later this summer!).

Norman Norell and Claire McCardell were two American designers that filled the gap for high-quality designs that previously had come from Europe. Norell added glamour and sparkle to the bleak days of the war, by covering the simple Utility dress in sequins that were abundant and ration-free.

Photo of Norman Norell 1940 sequin dress

 

McCardell introduced an even more sporty design aesthetic that appealed to the desires and modern attitudes of women. The casual practicality, and comfort of her designs, worked around rationing restrictions with ease, producing designs that would become American classics. McCardell replaced scarce wool and silk with, denim, seersucker, and jersey to make classic dresses and separates. McCardell’s wrap dress was first introduced in denim and came with a practical oven mitt to match! The wrap dress enjoyed a longevity that lasted well into 1950’s. The classic wrap dress was born and McCardell included it in her collections for the rest of her career.

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Photo of Claire Mc Cardell Designing a dress

 

The US and British governments adopted similar strategies to encourage support for the war, while still maintaining morale. The US government and cosmetic companies partnered to propagandized beauty.

To look unattractive these days is downright morale-breaking and should be considered treason.’ So it was that a lipsticked American woman was a good American.”

Photo of wmoan applying lipstick wearing military helmet

 

Playing off Hitler's hate for "made-up women" cosmetic companies were quick to create campaigns that encourage women to wear make-up responsibly, but not neglect beauty. Lipstick was weaponized. In the US and Britain, women were encouraged to wear red lipstick as warpaint. In 1940, Elizabeth Arden created a lipstick to perfectly match the red piping on women's military uniforms. Official military kits for women included matching lipstick, cream blush, and nail polish. Besides sticking it to Hitler, wearing lipstick became a symbol of a free society worth fighting for. Wearing make-up became a coping mechanism, that helped women to maintain a sense of dignity and pride, during a time of fear and uncertainty. Lipstick is still considered a pick-me-up for everyday life.

Prior to the war any self-respecting women would have never left the house without stockings. Silk stockings were a mainstay in every woman's wardrobe, but they did not stretch, were delicate and ripped easily. Plus, the support of a garter belt was needed to hold them up.

By the 1930's the US was importing the lion's share of the world's silk supply (mostly from Japan) for the sole purpose of making hosiery. The E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Company hired a scientist by the name of Wallace H. Carothers, who invented Fiber 6-6 or what would become Nylon. Dupont was quick to recognize the economic impact of making hosiery out of nylon and within three hours of the experimental debut, 4000 pairs would be sold. Dupont would gain 30 percent of the hosiery market almost overnight. Women also  recognized the economics of nylon stockings and were happy to abandon silk.

WWII redirect the use of nylon hosiery and how women would cope. Once the US was attacked by Japan, the demand for a strong material (nylon) was needed for manufacturing glider tow ropes, aircraft fuel tanks, flak jackets, shoelaces, mosquito netting, hammocks, and parachutes. Women's hosiery would have to take a back seat to the war effort.

Due to the shortening of skirt lengths, and the redistribution of nylon to the war effort, women were left with the issue of bare legs. Women had fallen in love with nylon stockings and were not keen on going back to silk. Besides, used silk stockings were being collected for making parachutes. So, women did the next best thing. They shaved their legs and drew a liquid paint line up the back of their legs to emulate the seam line of hosiery. This gave the cosmetic industry yet another product to exploit during the war. By 1942, nylon stockings hit the black market, but shaving remained.

Photo of woman using guide tool to paint hosery line down the back of her leg
Photo of two ladies painting hoisery lines down back of legs

 

As mentioned previously, Hollywood would do much to propel the fashion and cosmetic industry to thrive while inspiring women to do the same. Even if rationing limited availability, women were motivated to do the best they could with what they had. Glamorous movie stars like Katherine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman were the epitome of women with strong yet feminine allure. Women wanted to be like them, and men were intrigued.

Photo of Katherine Hepburn in iconic pants
Note these trousers are very similar to our 250 Hollywood Pants (and to the trousers in 240 Rosie the Riveter).

 

During the war, the US and Britain had become leaders in fashion and they were eager to continue their fashion status after the war ended. However, a liberated Paris was poised to reclaim it’s standing.

Even though the war officially ended in 1945, it would take time for the world to regain a sense of normalcy. Britain would struggle to recover from the extreme devastation it suffered for a decade or more. It took years to rebuild and for supply chains to recover and innovate once again. Rationing of clothing would not end until 1949. The US recovered more quickly, simply because the war had not touched its shores and manufacturing would resume. Fabric shortages would continue in the US and the UK until demand could be met once again. With peace came the desire to put the war behind and to move forward with new possibilities. As a result women lost interest in the wartime Utility dress, uniforms were stuffed in the backs of closets, and the world impatiently waited for something new.

 

Christian Dior and his “New Look” would not only reinstate Paris to the world’s fashion pedestal. But his exaggerated feminine silhouette consisting of a tight fitted bodice, tiny cinched waist, voluminous long skirt gave women the elegant and prosperous look they longed for. It was not just a new look, it was a transformative phenomenon.

 

 

 

 









































































Bias Ruffle on the 121 Guatemalan Gabacha

By Molly Hamilton
on May 01, 2022

Bias Ruffle on the 121 Guatemalan Gabacha

We are excited to offer this very cute sewing pattern back in print and in larger sizes (and as a PDF pattern)!  The 121 Guatemalan Gabacha is a dress or apron that has a few special details.  There is handwork detailing that we will show soon, but also several pieces of the pattern can be cut on the bias.

The bias detailing on the 121 Guatemalan Gabacha is a simple, but fun way to add a little interest, especially if you are using striped or checked fabrics.  Ginghams are great for this pattern with the bias detailing.  You can add as little or as much bias detailing as you want.  For all the bias options, you can cut the pockets, yokes, front, inset, and ruffle on the bias.  Or you may want to just do the pockets, or just the front yoke inset.  Cutting all these pieces on the bias does use more fabric, so check yardages if you are interested in this option.  Of course, cutting just the pockets on the bias (or the front inset) won't really add any more fabric.  Just be judicious when laying out your pattern. 

When I made this yellow dress, I wanted to add nearly all the bias detailing.  I cut the pockets, front inset, and ruffles on the bias.  I had about 4 yards of this 44" plaid lawn and it was more than enough to get all the bias cuts.  Because these pattern pieces are smaller and not full garment pieces, you don't have to worry so much about stretching.  Just handle gingerly.  For lots of bias sewing tips and tricks, see our blog post here.  The ruffle is the largest piece and may give a little trouble feeding through some machine for gathering, but I had no problems with it at all.  

When adding bias detailing like this there is very little you do differently than if the fabric was cut on the grain.  But the biggest change in the way you sew the garment together is in the ruffle.  The bias ruffle is cut with a 45 degree angle on the short ends.  If you sew the ruffle pieces together as you would a typical on-grain pattern piece, the ruffle will not work.  Normally, you put two pieces of the fabric with right sides together, matching any notches, and sew along the seam line.  If you do that here (see below for example), you end up with your ruffle pieces facing each other at 90 degree angles.

Right sides together, matching edges = WRONG WAY TO SEW RUFFLE TOGETHER


You'll end up with a ruffle at a 90 degree angle to the other ruffle

CORRECT WAY TO SEW THE RUFFLE

With right sides together, place the ruffle at 90 degree angle to the other ruffle and match raw edges.  Sew on seamline from one end of the angle to the other.  There are notches to help you at the 1/2 inch seamline here. You want to match the seamlines to each other, not really the raw edges.  So you will have little "ears" sticking out from each end of the seamline.  When the ruffle is folded out, these "ears" can be trimmed, but you will have ruffle top and bottom edges that match each other.

Here's a short video of the same thing!

Learn Embroidery With Threadwritten and Folkwear

By Cynthia Deis
on April 30, 2022

Learn Embroidery With Threadwritten and Folkwear

Our Old Mexico Dress is a favorite and part of that lure is the embroidery that can be added to the dress. We are happy to invite you to join Sarah Pedlow at Threadwritten for another on-line embroidery class focusing on the skills and techniques used in for this dress. This next class takes place May 14, 2022 and registration is open now.

 

This pattern also makes a really useful shirt, shown here in a mix of machine-embroidered fabrics. Note the way the shoulders are constructed, this allows for a wonderful mix of fabrics on this pattern. 

Learn more about the Threadwritten embroidery class on May 14, 2022 here.

Find the PDF version of the pattern here.

Find the Print version of the pattern here

 

 

Fabric Suggestions for 266 Greek Island Dress and 265 Afternoon Tea Dress

By Molly Hamilton
on April 23, 2022
1 comment

Fabric Suggestions for 266 Greek Island Dress and 265 Afternoon Tea Dress

by Victoria Watkins

It's time for another fabric suggestion blog, and for this one I'll be offering ideas for both the 266 Greek Island Dress and the 265 Afternoon Tea Dress. Both of this month's featured patterns are similar in concept and drape, with a sheath dress underneath and a tunic or jacket over the top. You could use the fabrics I've chosen for either pattern, though some might be better suited to the dress or the accompanying outer layer, which I've noted below.  And, if you want tips for working with slippery or sheer fabrics, we have some great tips for working with bias and slippery fabrics here and sheers and laces here.  Great tricks and tips for working with any of these fabrics!

 

First is this champagne colored silk charmeuse from Harts Fabrics. Silk charmeuse could be suitable for any of the pieces in either of these patterns, though I particularly think of the sheath dress of the 265 Afternoon Tea Dress. Our photoshoot sample was made in a silk charmeuse very similar in color to this one, and the feel of the silk combined with the reflective sheen made the dress feel ethereal. So completely gorgeous!


A silk charmeuse fabric in baby blue
For another silk offering, Dharma trading has a huge variety of silks available. This charmeuse looks great in baby blue, but they have 32 total colors available!


Linen in a stone color
For more practical and everyday, casual wear, both patterns would work wonderfully in a linen. This Stone yarn-dyed linen is breezy for the warming weather, but hardy unlike the delicate silks above. 




a burnout brocade fabric in champagne color
The tunic and jackets in the two patterns create opportunities to play with sheer or patterned fabric layering over the sheath dresses. Something with a burnout, like this burnout brocade from mood fabrics, would make for fantastic outer layers! Velvet burnouts could be gorgeous too.


Finally, this silk chiffon from Promenade Fine Fabrics would be absolutely perfect for the tunic or jacket(s) from either pattern.  That top layer in this silk sheer - so pretty!  
And don't forget to read our blog posts about working with sheer and slinky fabrics (bias cuts and sheers).  There are some really helpful tips for working with fabrics like this.
What do you think? Would you try a fun outer layer like this?  Would you want to go fancy with your dress or more casual?  Let us know!

Personalizing the 266 Greek Island Dress and Jacket

By Molly Hamilton
on April 13, 2022
3 comments

Personalizing the 266 Greek Island Dress and Jacket

by Esi Hutchinson

Happy spring to you all!  When I found out we were featuring the 266 Greek Island Dress sewing pattern for April, I volunteered to make a sample I would wear myself. The Dress is a great slip dress that I wanted to personalize for my style. I loved the style of the Jacket as well, especially the collar that adds a dashing element to the outfit.  So I am going to show you how I personalized the dress, as well as a couple of pattern and sewing tips and tricks while I created this outfit.

This pattern is quite formal, however if you want to make it more casual you can change up the fabric as well as what you choose to style these clothing items with.  See the end of this blog for several ways I plan to style the Dress and Jacket. I did not want to make the Tunic because, while absolutely gorgeous, it was a little formal for my sense of style. You can see the line drawings of all the garments in this pattern below.

 

We suggest silk, crepe de chine, charmeuse, polyester to make any of the garments in this pattern.  They are really great made out of lightweight (or medium weight) fabrics with good drape. We have some beautiful Tencel twill fabrics in stock that will suit the anything in this pattern.  The Aqua and the Mulberry are my personal favorites. 

I really wanted a white dress so I chose a rayon lyocell blend that I found, and a lilac cotton voile for a lightweight jacket.  

I was inspired by Cynthia's blog making the 213 Child's Prairie Dress and Pinafore.  It's the cutest pinafore I have ever seen with the most lovely machine-stitched embroidery of wildflowers. You can find this embroidery pattern here in our shop.  When I found out I was going to make the 266 Dress a light bulb turned on in my head and I thought that is was a great way for me to embellish this dress. 

Making the Dress

I tried on one of Folkwear's samples of the 266 Dress and decided I wanted to alter it by bringing in the waist on the front and back by one inch so it would be a bit more fitted at my waist. I would not bring this dress in any more than an inch.  The dress is naturally loose-fitting and bringing it in further could alter the drape in a less than flattering way. However if you know how to do it - go for it, but make a muslin first. 

My waist line matched with the notch on the side seam.  I made a mark 1" from the side seam at the waist notch.  Then, I drew a line from 1/2" (13mm) below the top of the side seam to the 1"(2.5cm) mark. And from the 1" mark to about 5 inches below the waist mark.  I used a French curve to create a gently curved line connecting those points. I drew in a new notch at this new waistline.  I did the same thing for the back piece.   I also shortened the dress to just below knee length.  This is easy to do at the lengthen/shorten lines on the pattern.

I cut out all my fabric pieces using a white rayon lyocell blend and cut a lining with the same fabric because it is semi-transparent. I could have used a darker fabric, but I needed white drapey fabric for my vision for this dress. And white fabric with drape is often somewhat see-through. I just cut another layer of the dress portion.

It is easier to embroider the dress in separate pieces in my opinion. So I embroidered the dress before sewing it together. You can read more about that process in Cynthia's blog or in the wildflower embroidery pattern

I transferred the embroidery design template to my dress using a washable marker, I have mentioned before in other blogs that Crayola markers are great except they are quite pigmented and it will be hard to see your progress if using the for this kind of work. You could also use a piece of transfer paper or non-permanent pen in a color that is visible and made especially for transferring a design to fabric. This blog is a great resource. Do not iron the embroidery with the non-permanent pen or marker.  Wash it first, then press.

I made sure to start my design an inch and a half above the bottom raw edge, keeping in mind that I will stitch the design slightly below the hem line.  I did this so that when I folded hem, the very bottom of the design will fold under and there will be no gaps between the bottom of the dress and the embroidery.

Front of Dress, transferring the embroidery design

Back of Dress with embroidery design traced onto it.

I started machine stitching the design beginning with different shades of green on the stems and stalks. I suggest when using delicate fabrics use a longer stitch as there will be less tugging and bunching of the fabric. Stabilizer would also be helpful for some fabrics.  Cynthia also mentions in her blog to double up your thread in the top needle as this can create more dimension to your embroidery as well as using different shades of a color. You can keep the bobbin thread the same color throughout the embroidering process. I used white in my bobbin the whole time to match the dress color.

Doubled up thread in the top needle

Stems stitched. 

Starting on the flower heads.

 

 

 

I decided to add a little bit of embroidery on the front yoke to tie the look together.

 Dress and lining sewn together and ready to be put together.

I put the wrong side of lining fabric to wrong side of main fabric, slipping the lining into the embroidered dress. 

I made the dress as instructed in the pattern.  And, I decided to add ties to the side seams of the dress to make it a bit more form fitting.

If you are going to add ties to your dress, think about the final width you wish your ties to be. You will fold the ties in half lengthwise wrong sides together, stitch one short end and the long edge and turn right side out. I cut two strips of fabric on the bias, if you don't have enough fabric to cut on the bias cut on the cross grain. My strips were 2"/5cm wide by 30"/76cm long.  

I opened up the seam on both sides of the main (outer) fabric at my waist and inserted the short raw edge end of ties, then stitched them in.

I did this step last because I was not sure if I wanted the ties or not.  If you know you want to add ties, definitely do this step when constructing the dress. Sew the ties into the side seam when you sew the side seams together. I did not include a zipper as I can slip the dress on over my head.  Depending on your shoulder width and the fit you want, you may not need to have a zipper in the dress. 

Jacket time! 

The fit of the Jacket is unconfining, it has a elegant, graceful drape to it that flows beautifully when you walk. To emulate that even more I decided to use a lightweight fabric, a lilac cotton voile which is semitransparent. I used French seams on all of the seams except the back Godet.  There I used a flat-felled seam. Sometimes certain patterns and fabrics can't handle French seams in the sleeves, however the way that this jacket is assembled allows for French seams that do not disrupt the fit of the Jacket.

To create French seams. With wrong sides of fabric together, stitch seam only a scant 3/16”/4mm (fig. 1). Press to one side. Turn right sides together and stitch on seamline, taking care to include previous seam (fig. 2).  Your seam edge is now enclosed inside the fabric.  This is a great seam to use with lightweight fabrics and in delicate garments.

 

To create flat-felled seams. Stitch on the seamline, right sides together (Fig. 1). Press seam to one side (usually toward back of garment). Trim underneath seam allowance to a scant ¼”/6mm (Fig. 2). Turn raw edge of upper seam allowance over trimmed edge. Stitch down, keeping close even distance from seam (Fig. 3).  This seam treatment is a bit easier to do with more structured fabrics that are medium or heavy weight, though some lightweight fabrics are good too.

Inserting the godet.  Putting the godet in was not difficult, just make sure your markings and stitching is precise and correct.  

Flat-felled seams on the godet.

Adding the Sleeves with a French Seam.

The fabric was too lightweight for any button that I liked and that went with the jacket and color.  So, instead of a button and loop closure as the pattern calls for, I made two ties.  I cut two strips of fabric measuring 1" (2.5cm) by 5" (12.7cm). I used a 1/2"(13mm) bias maker and folded ties in half and stitched along the long edge and one short edge - ending with a 1/4" (6mm) wide fabric tie.  I slipped the ties under the front seam about 1/2" (13mm) and topstitched the ties down about an 1"(2.5cm) below the collar.

Here are my results. I loved every step of this process!  Yes, the embroidery did get tedious at some points but I kept on going in hopes that it would be as beautiful as I hoped.  And I think it turned out quite well!  The dress is lovely and unique (the embroidery is delicate and stunning). I can wear the dress on its own, with the jacket; and I can wear the jacket with other dress or even with jeans or leggings.

You can even style the jacket with tank top and and pair of jeans for a more casual look.

What do you think of this outfit?  How would you make your own 266 Greek Island Dress?  What are your inspired by?

 

 

 

The Beginning of the End for the Corset

By Molly Hamilton
on April 09, 2022
1 comment

Autochrome of Edwardian women dressed in colorful dresses

The period between the American Civil War and the Great War was a time of vast change, setting the stage for the modern world. Like any period of change it came with conflicting dynamics. When Mark Twain coined this era “The Gilded Age,” by no means a compliment, he meant that the period was glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath.

Mark Twain the author of The Gilded Age


While, greed and corruption was unbridled, it also enabled developments in industry and technology that would accelerate changes in every aspect of life, including fashion.

As you will discover, the Folkwear 265 Afternoon Tea Dress and the 266 Greek Island Dress each played a part in the shifting attitudes of women who had never known life without the corset. When you think of how revolutionary this would have been for women, any thought towards shedding the corset must have seemed radical. Keep reading to find out how two garments Folkwear has patterns for influenced how the Gilded Age would unfolded, setting the stage for a tectonic shift in fashion.

From a modern perspective, we tend to think of fashion history as “before the corset” and “after the corset.” The Gilded Age was a time that started to shift attitudes for women and what they wore. The cinched up Edwardian Gibson Girl did not give way to the liberated Flapper of the Roaring Twenties overnight, but rather she signified the beginning of a transition that would span twenty years and embodied the attitudes that gave rise to change. In essence it was the Gibson Girl that sent out the invitations and it was the flapper that eventually crashed the party.

With the Gilded Age came America’s Second Industrial Revolution, lead by the Titans of Industry. Mass production, shipping, and communications expanded business like never before. The country expanded both outward and upward due to new technologies in the steel industry, which caused the railway to boom outward and the sky scrapper was born. Urbanization exploded with immigrants and farm laborers lured by the hope of a better way of life. New technologies like the telephone made business transactions possible on the spot. Refrigeration allowed for more food varieties to move everywhere via the train, hence the modern beef industry was born. The electric light bulb enabled work to continue into the night. Cities were being built with water, electricity, gas, and sewer systems all in the promise of a modern life. Textile production increase exponentially and new types of fabrics were abundant. Department stores and mail order catalogs flogged their wares nationally, opening up reasonably priced goods and ready made clothing to the far reaches of the country. For the first time, new immigrants were able to blend in and look "American".

Photo of crowded edwardian Hester stree in NYC

Photo of Edwrdian women working in textile mill
Textile Mill


Mass production of consumer goods exploded, which created a better standard of living and expanded the middle class. But in its wake, skilled labor was devastated, forcing the poor to work for low wages, resulting in more extreme poverty. The wealthy new American Tycoons continued to get richer, while doing their best to emulate and out-do their European aristocratic role models. This was the beginning of the country becoming an industrial world power.

Seemingly out of no where, an illustrator named Charles Dana Gibson (1867-1944) made a fictitious drawing of the ideal “New Woman.” She was known as the Gibson Girl and was featured in the popular magazines such as Scribner's Harpers, Collier's, and the Century.

Charles Dana Gibson illustration of Iconic Gibson Girl
Charles Dana Gibson illustration of the iconic Gibson Girl

His creation resonated with Edwardian women and would serve as a role model for overlapping generations (1890’s-1914). Gibson’s illustration was not a figment of his imagination. He gave the glamorous “Gibson Girl” a fully illustrious life, with aspirations, and an aesthetic lead by independent pursuits. This illustrated young woman would serve as an icon to American women, introducing them to a new version of themselves, with a set of standards for beauty, fashion, and manners.

Charles Dana Gibson Illusrtation of New Women inspecting the weaker sex.
Charles Dana Gibson illustration entitled "The Weaker Sex."


The Library of Congress described the Gibson Girl:

“…as an independent and often well-educated, young woman poised to enjoy a more visible and active role in the public arena than women of preceding generations. They agreed [writers of the 1890s and early 1900s] that the Gibson Girl represented the visual ideal of this new phenomenon. During her lengthy popularity, the Gibson Girl appeared in varied guises that highlighted her talents and interests as well as her beauty and social skills. As her star faded, the Gibson Girl’s active, vital persona paved the way for future icons, such as the flapper of the 1920s.”

While the Gibson Girl aesthetic still employed the exaggerated hour glass shaped waist, with big puffed sleeves, a pompadour hairstyle, and large pinned hat, she embodied fresh and exciting possibilities.  See our 205 Gibson Girl Blouse for a typical blouse of the time.  Her rein while lengthy would not last, but her imprint would.

The veiled truth was that Gibson’s illustrated “New Woman” was an intentional marketing scheme. Jobs were opening up and an educated middle class of women workers were being primed to spend their surplus wages on a vastly expanding variety of consumer goods, services, and leisure activities.

By the mid 1910’s the S-corset stepped in, reshaping the ideal silhouette. The abdomen was pulled in, the chest thrust forward and pulled back to create an s-shape. 

Photo of walking Gilded Age women in S-shaped corsets
Edwardian Ladies with the s-shaped corset silhouette



Even though women still held traditional roles as wives and mothers, much was beginning to change. The culture of domesticity that restricted women during the Victorian Era was snubbed by the “New Woman.” Many were earning higher educations, working in offices. Some were campaigning for the right to vote, and many were building the roots of the Progressive Era and modern day social services. A spirit for independence had been awakened. And while it might seem insignificant, this yearning for independence was exercised by what women wanted to wear. Women wanted less restrictive clothing to go along with their expanding lives. The Victorian aesthetic was fading. Dresses were less fussy, the bustle was not as common, and skirts had less drapes, layers, and ruffles. Ready-made manufactured clothing was starting to emerge, enabling women to opt away from time consuming handmade clothing. While, fashion styles did not undergo a dramatic change, the offerings and options exploded.

Photo of two Edwardian ladies
Photo of two Edwardian ladies


As the Gilded Age steamed ahead, Edwardian women of all classes enjoyed a simpler, less exaggerated version of dress. Soft sheer fabrics like cotton lawn, voile, organza, handkerchief linen became synonymous with the era. Designs were made of light fabrics, often multi-layered and diaphanous, creating an almost weightless effect. Blouses and shirtwaists became billowy at the waist, and white became the color du jour for blouses and summer dresses. Skirts were long and gored (see our 209 Walking Skirt), hats came varied in size for versatility, shoe styles and materials expanded. The beautiful details of the period were relegated to fine tucks, pleats, lace insets, embroidery, silk flowers, ribbons, and delicate jewelry.

Photo of Edwardian Lady back view of her dress

Autochrom of Edwardian lady in pink dress

The slimming corset that extended beyond the hip, creating an elongated silhouette was very much a fixture in most Edwardian ladies wardrobes. This corset had lighter construction and allowed for a wider range of motion.

Despite being corseted, long held attitudes on dressing were beginning to lighten. Social mores dictated that proper ladies follow a strict code of social rules of acceptability that would have influenced every aspect of everyday. The gracious life of an upper class Edwardian lady demanded different fashions for different times of the day.

Photo of Edwardian Ladies modeling Tea gowns
Edwardian ladies modeling Tea Gowns

Fashion Plate of Edwardian Tea Gowns
Fashion Plate of Edwardian Tea Gowns

However, it was the introduction of the Tea Gown that would gently influence the easing of restrictions and would give women an opportunity to be more comfortable and socially acceptable all at the same time. The technologies that would allow for the production of sheer fabrics made this trend for delicate fabrics more readily available. This style of dress was worn at home, during the late afternoon (tea time), marking the time between day wear and evening wear. They were immensely popular because women could put the tight corsets aside for several hours and enjoy the comfort of these loose-fitting, casual styles of soft layered fabrics, yet still be tastefully presentable for visitors. The social acceptance of not wearing a corset, if even for just a few hours in the privacy of your home may seem insignificant. However, this lean towards independence played a role in changing attitudes. The Folkwear 265 Afternoon Tea Dress while inspired by the Edwardian Era and is perfect for anyone who loves the aesthetic.

Culture and the arts were gaining influence and a much larger audience during this era. The Gilded Age, originally a derogatory term coined by Mark Twain, was taking on new meaning as a refined and elegant art aesthetic, known as the Aesthetic Movement.

Alphone Mucha Art Nouveau Poster

 Alphose Mucha. Lithograph F. Champenois Imprimeur-Editeur 1897

 

Renee Lalique. Dragonfly Woman corsage brooch 1903

Art Nouveau, a product of the Aesthetic Movement was in vogue in major stateside cities, though it originated with the Arts & Crafts Movement of England and coined in Belgium and was most popular in Paris. It characterized an aesthetic consisting of long, sinuous and organic lines that Alphonse Mucha’s posters and Renee Lalique's jewelry would epitomize and proved hard to resist. Architecture, interior design, glass design, clothing, theater set design, and illustration were all influenced by this feminine and sensual aesthetic. Hardly a surface was left untouched.

American art and literature flourished during this time like never before. Wealthy patrons were anxious to exhibit their new wealth and their patronage was higher than of any previous era. They decorated their mansions and dedicated their own museums with art by Winslow Homer, Abbott Henderson Thayer, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Albert Pinkham Ryder, John Singer Sargent, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Mary Cassatt, and many others.

John Singer Sargent painthig Rose, Lilly, Carnation
John Singer Sargent. Carnation, Lilly, Lilly, Rose 1885-6

They lined their bookshelves and libraries with gold embossed leather cover books by the likes of authors such as William Dean Howells, Henry James, Edith Wharton, and even the acutely perceptive Mark Twain and his co-author Charles Dudley Warner. Much of the creativity of the era was inspired by the changes that occurred in society, holding a mirror up to the populace.

Photo of the Edwardian author Edith Wharton
The American author Edith Wharton in a Tea Gown.

The theater and ballet was mainly patronized by the wealthy of New York City, in the early 1900’s. It was during this time that New York City cemented it's reputation as the business and arts capital of the United States. The nouveau riche lived to put themselves on display for one another. Social events provided a stage, giving the wealthy an excuse to show off and cultivate their understanding of the expensive new world they were so eager to consume. Technology in cinema provided an affordable option for the middle class and were wildly popular.

Photo of two young Edwardian ladies in greacian style dresses
Simpler style of dresses popularized in the late 1910's.

With restraints loosening creatives were anxious to make their mark on the arts and culture and women were at the forefront of this creativity opportunity. The early years of the 20th century witnessed many avant-garde innovations, as people freed themselves from the constraints of late 19th century Victorian society. Culture, fashion, and the arts were tremendously affected by new interpretations of classical styles and outright revolts against tradition.

Photo of Isador Duncan dacning on beach
The infamous Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan (1878-1927) was an influential figure in the 1910’s and today is regarded as the founder of modern dance. She revolutionized dance with her free-form interpretive movements, encouraged arts education for children, and scandalized audiences by wearing non-restrictive, flowing robes that she adapted from Classical Greek vase paintings. The theater created a socially acceptable venue to introduce radical clothing to women and society. Our 266 Greek Island Dress pays homage to this unforgettable woman.

Photo of models in Paul Poiert designs
Models in Paul Poiret designs
Photo of Coco Chanel in Bartiz in her own designs
Coco Chanel in her own design.


French designers Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel’s differing styles were also challenging the ideals of American fashion giving women a taste of things to come. With the opening of her Paris shop in 1912, Madeline Vionnet introduced the avant-garde and sensual form fitting effect of cutting fabric on the bias. Vionnet was called the “Queen of the bias cut” and is best known for her elegant Grecian-styled dresses.

Photo of Bionnet Draping fabric on a half scale dress form
Madeleine Vionnet draping a bias design on a half-scale model.

Vionnet and many exciting and avant-garde designers and artists had put their creativity on hold once the war started. However, this extraordinary pool of creativity would not be diluted, but would keep gathering momentum that would erupt once the smoke of WWI cleared.

Due to influences both quiet and bold, society was beginning to see women in different and daring new ways. But most importantly, women were seeing themselves in ways they had not imagined before.

An Edwardian couple out for a stroll.

 

By the time WWI erupted in Europe in 1914, the Gilded Age as known in America and the Edwardian Era as know in England had ended, but this influential era would provided the catalyst for tectonic shift that would felt around the world with the entrance of the 1920's.

I hope after learning how both large and small acts have altered the history of women's fashion, you will be inspired to make your own history! Enjoy making and wearing the Folkwear 265 Afternoon Tea Dress, (pdf) and/or the 266 Greek Island Dress, (pdf) this spring and summer. They are both perfect for light, breezy fabrics, and cutting on the bias. Make either dress for an occasion or just to make everyday more comfortable and special. It is not hard to see how these lovely dresses made Edwardian women rethink their wardrobes and toss aside their corsets.

Have a look at the blog Tips for Sewing Tricky Fabrics: Sheers and Lace  and Tips for Sewing Tricky Fabrics: Bias Fabrics and Binding to help make sewing these lovely dresses a breeze.

Photo of young Ewardian ladies enjoying themselves
Young Edwardian ladies enjoying life.

Tips for Sewing Tricky Fabrics: Bias Fabrics and Binding

By Molly Hamilton
on April 04, 2022
4 comments

Photo of window pane fabric bias draped on a dress form

by Cynthia Anderson

Beautiful fabrics simply make garments more special. However, sometimes these beauties can sometimes be a challenge to sew with. Folkwear's 265 Afternoon Tea Dress and the 266 Greek Island Dress are two favorite sewing patterns that are perfect for using these beautiful, but challenging fabrics -  bias cuts, slinky silks, sheers, laces. 

The patterns, and many others, are perfect for using slippery silks or rayons, bias cuts, and for layering sheer and/or lacy fabrics to achieve a filmy, flowy, and romantic look. In this blog series you will learn tips and techniques on how to achieve success in sewing fabrics that can be tricky to work with.  Today we are focusing on bias cuts and bias binding.

Sewing on the Bias

Bias-cut dresses were first made famous by designer Madeleine Vionnet in the early decades of the 20th century, and nearly every fashion designer since then has used a fabric’s bias to create a fluid and sensuous effect. Bias is any diagonal direction on woven fabric, and is thus stretches more than the lengthwise or crosswise grain of the fabric. The "true" bias is along the 45- degree angle (see below) and has the most elasticity. This stretchy, flexible quality is what gives bias garments their sensuous drape.

Labeled photo of fabric grain

While any diagonal direction on woven fabric is considered "bias," the fabric's true bias is along the 45 degree angle.

Bias garments can also cling to the figure, so a looser fit at the waist and hips is often figured in at the cutting stage. Wider seam allowances provide extra room for fitting adjustments (so if you want to add a little extra to your seam allowances when working on the bias, consider that when cutting your fabric). Garments cut on the bias use up more fabric and require additional care in handling, fitting, and finishing, so be patient with yourself and the garment.

These tips can help you sew successfully on the bias.

Planning & Layout
• Bias-cut garments require more fabric. Large pieces, such as the front and back of a circle skirt, may not fit completely on the fabric width when you lay them out for cutting. You may have to split the pieces, add seam allowances, and stitch them together before proceeding with garment construction.

Photo of how to lay out Bias cut skirt on  narrow a fabric
When pattern pieces are laid out for a bias cut, they may not fit on the fabric width. Therefore, you may have to slash the pieces apart, cut the pieces out of the fabric separately (adding seam allowances to the slashed edges), and then sew the pieces together before proceeding with garment construction.

 

• If the pattern you've chosen does not provide required yardages for the bias cut, lay the pattern pieces out on a cutting surface as if you were laying them out on fabric. Keep the pieces between the imaginary selvages of a standard fabric width, such as 45” (115cm) or 60” (150cm). Then, measure the length the pattern pieces extend—this is the yardage you will need.

• If you are cutting the garment out of folded fabric and are nervous about keeping the bias correctly aligned on both layers, cut out the pattern pieces one at a time on a single layer of fabric. In this case, remember to flip one of the pattern pieces over so you'll have both left and right pieces where appropriate (for example, cut right front piece or right sleeve with printed side down against the fabric, and left front piece or left sleeve with printed side up).

•  As bias relaxes, it stretches along lengthy vertical seams, such as side seams, so you may want to add more generous seam allowances, up to 1 1/2” (4cm). The extra allowances also facilitate fitting adjustments, if needed later on.

Cutting & Marking
• When cutting out, keep the fabric on the cutting surface and try to prevent any extra yardage from hanging over the edges, because the weight of the fabric will cause the bias to stretch and the finished garment could be misshapen. You might want to prop up extra fabric on an adjacent table, stool, or countertop.

• If you're using a lightweight or slippery fabric, such as crepe de chine or georgette, place the fabric on top of tissue paper and pin the two together before cutting out the pattern. When assembling the garment, you can even stitch through both layers and then tear the tissue away. Some sewers make a fabric sandwich, with layers of tissue paper on both top and bottom.

• Because bias-cut fabric is so easily distorted, mark all notches and dots, and trace stitching lines (if desired) BEFORE moving the pattern pieces on the cutting surface.

• After cutting out the pattern pieces, hang them up by their top edges (e.g., sleeve cap, shoulders, waistlines) for one to three days, so the vertical seams can relax as much as possible before you begin stitching. The best way to do this is to baste the pattern pieces to a strip of scrap muslin or other fabric; attach the scrap fabric to a hanger with pins, tape, or clothespins. Before you start constructing the garment, replace the printed pattern on the cutout pieces and readjust markings if they have relaxed or stretched out of position.

Stitching
• Baste garment pieces together before stitching, to make sure they stay matched up correctly! You'll be amazed at how much the layers can shift if you don't baste first. To allow the seams to flex when you machine stitch them, baste short stretches of the seam at a time and leave long, unknotted thread tails hanging.

• Work on a flat surface as much as possible. Use a terry cloth towel on the sewing machine table to keep the bias fabric from slipping and sliding.

• Stitch opposite seams in opposite directions, to keep the bias from hanging or stretching unevenly from one side to the other. For example, stitch the left side seam from top to bottom, and the right side seam from bottom to top.

Making Bias Strips
Many of the 266 Greek Island Dress seams are finished with bias strips. And actually, many Folkwear patterns have bias finishes or use bias binding in the construction of garments.  You can purchase ready-made bias binding, but it comes in limited colors and fabric types. If you want your bias binding to match the garment perfectly, or contrast with it creatively, make your own—it’s easy.

• To make bias strips, fold corner of fabric over to form a square and cut off excess. The diagonal edge of the folded square is the true bias.

Photo of fabric square folded diagonally to create the true bias

• Open out the fabric square, using the crease line as a guide and draw out the strips. Cut the width of the bias strip according to the pattern instructions.

Photo of bias srips drawn on thrue bias of fabric square

• Cut diagonal strips of equal width, parallel to the bias.

Photo of bias strips cut from fabric square

• Stitch ends of the strips together if necessary to obtain desire length of strip.

Photo of strip ends stitched together to create longer bias strip
• Press seams open and clip the extra tips to form a continuous bias strip. The strip is ready to be sewn to garment as directed.
Photo of bias strip seam allowance pressed open and excess edges cut away
For a helpful YouTube video reference see How to Create Continuous Bias Binding.  This techniques is different than the one above and will help you make a lot of bias binding in a shorter amount of time.  

Finishing
• Bias doesn't unravel very much, so you can be light-handed with seam finishing. Overcasting or trimming seams with pinking shears may be enough. For edges that will show, such as necklines, use bias bindings to hide the raw edges and provide a decorative finish as well.


• Hang up bias-cut garments for at least one full day (and up to several days) before hemming, so the fabric can relax. The more drapey the fabric, the more the garment will stretch. Then, trim the hemline evenly before stitching it.

• Because bias continues to relax, the side seams may stretch over time. You may have to re-level the hem periodically during the life of the garment.

• Don't hang bias garments in your closet because they may continue to stretch. Instead, store them folded or rolled up in drawers or on shelves.

 

Yes, some beautiful and enticing fabrics have a tricky side. But that does not mean they have to get the best of you. Once you master a few simple tips and techniques you can easily tame unruly fabrics, conquer their fussy side, and enjoy the luxury feel and drape that every sewist deserves.

One of the pleasures of sewing is trying new things with confidence and we are always here to offer you guidance. If you have ever been inspired to make Folkwear's 265 Afternoon Tea Dress  (xs-3xl) and/or 266 Greek Island Dress (xs-xl), now is the perfect time. Each of these patterns are on sale through the month of April and both are available as a printed pattern or pdf version. Celebrate Spring, yourself, or a special occasion by making and wearing one of these beautifully flattering and comfortable dresses. Hope you find these tips helpful.








 

 

Tips for Sewing Tricky Fabrics: Sheers and Lace

By Molly Hamilton
on April 04, 2022

Photo of Sheer Fabric and Lace.

by Cynthia Anderson

Beautiful fabrics simply make garments more special. However, sometimes these beauties can sometimes be a challenge to sew with. Folkwear's 265 Afternoon Tea Dress and the 266 Greek Island Dress are two favorite sewing patterns that are perfect for using these beautiful, but challenging fabrics - slinky silks, sheers, laces. 

These patterns, and many others, are perfect for using slippery silks or rayons, and for layering sheer and/or lacy fabrics to achieve a filmy, flowy, and romantic look. In this blog series you will learn tips and techniques on how to achieve success in sewing fabrics that can be tricky to work with.  Today we are focusing on sheers and laces.  To learn more about working with bias cut fabrics or bias binding, go here.

Sheer fabrics like chiffon, georgette, voile, organdy, and organza are challenging to work with because they're so soft and delicate. Silk charmeuse can be slippery and unruly to handle. However, there is no denying the beautiful drape and effect that only these fabrics can provide. There is no need to shy away from these fabrics and every sewist is eventually lured by such temptations. Before you begin cutting, review these tips for working with slinky fabrics, sheers, and lace to ensure success!

Sewing with Sheers and Lace

Layering sheer materials and lace over each other or over heavier-weight solid fabrics is a creative and easy way to achieve beautiful effects. However, the lightweight filmy quality of sheer and lacy fabrics can be troublesome and exasperating to sew. If you take just a little extra care and follow these tips, you'll get great results from these beautiful fabrics.

Planning, Layout, and Cutting
• If the pattern calls for interfacing, choose light weight, sheer fabrics for interfacing, such as organza, organdy, or other sheer fabrics that match the fashion fabric or are flesh-colored. For materials other than lace, you can even use the fashion fabric itself, as a self fabric interfacing.

In the photos below silk organza provides a light-weight yet stable interfacing to a sheer gauzy cotton fabric.

Photo showing silk organza being used as interfacing
Up close photo of organza used as interfacing on sheer fabric

 

• If the sheer or lace fashion fabric is a bit too transparent for your taste, simply underline the pattern pieces with a matching or flesh-colored sheer. To underline, cut the pattern out a second time from the selected underlining fabric. Baste the underlining pieces to the fashion fabric pieces, wrong sides together, and then handle as one during garment construction.


• If neckline, armhole, front opening, or other facings will show through the fabric, omit them altogether. Instead, bind the edges with bias strips or line the entire garment with a compatible sheer fabric.

• Cover the cutting surface with muslin, flannel, or an old sheet to keep sheer, slippery fabrics from sliding around. You might even want to baste the fabric to the muslin underlayer around all edges, before pinning and cutting pattern pieces.

• Instead of cutting pieces on the fold, make a full size pattern piece and cut from a single layer of fabric. For example, the FRONT pattern piece is usually just the right front section of the garment and is cut on the fold. Make a mirror-image drawing of the FRONT piece, which will be the left front section of the garment, and cut the whole piece from a single layer of fabric.

• Cut the pattern pieces out one at a time, from a single layer of fabric. This will prevent the underlayer from shifting out of position. Be sure that you cut both left and right pieces, where appropriate (see Planning and Layout in Bias section here).

• Insert pins in the seam allowances only, so you won't have pinholes showing in the finished garment.

Photo of silk pinned within the seam allowance

 

Sewing
• If you baste seams before sewing, baste only in the seam allowance.

• Start sewing with a brand new sharp needle, and choose an appropriate size for lightweight fabrics, such as 60/8, 65/9, or 70/10.

• Experiment with different threads (cotton, silk, polyester, or blends) on swatches of the fashion fabric, to determine which you like best.

• If the fabric is too slippery and hard to manage while stitching, place a layer of tissue paper on top of the fabric (between fabric and presser foot), and then tear away the tissue after stitching.

Photo of tissue paper used to satbilize stitching silk georgette

 

Photo showing tissue pulled away from stitching on silk georgette


• To keep fabric from being pulled down into the hole of the sewing machine needle plate at the beginning of seams, begin stitching on a small square of self-fabric. Be sure to hold the thread tails taut for the first few stitches, then let them go. When you’ve finished stitching the seam, cut away the square of fabric.

Photo showing holding of thread using small square of self fabric
Photo of stitching to prevent slippery silk fabric being pulled down into stitch plate


• Don’t back stitch at the beginning or end of seams. Instead, turn the stitch length to O (zero) for a few stitches, to knot the threads. Alternatively, tie the thread tails in square knots at the beginning and end of the seam.

• Don’t overload a lightweight, filmy garment with bulky seam finishes and hems. French seams are ideal for sheers, because they are self-finished and end up being quite narrow. For hems, it’s usually sufficient to turn up 1/8” (3mm) twice and edge stitch.


Special Notes For Lace
• If lace has a specific directional design, be sure to lay out the pattern pieces so they face in the same direction (a "with nap" layout). Also try to match the design motifs as closely as possible at obvious places, such as center front and center back. The "with nap” layout will probably require extra yardage, and matching the design motifs may also require a bit extra.

• Try to position the lace design motifs in a balanced way, so they won't look off center when the garment is complete. For example, if the lace has a prominent floral motif, try to position that motif in the center of the pattern piece.

• Take advantage of the pretty scalloped selvage edge of lace by using it as a shaped hemline on the sleeve and garment front/back. Simply lay out the pattern pieces so the finished hemline (not the cutting line) runs along the edge of the lace. When the garment is finished, it will already be "hemmed" by the scalloped edge, and you won't have to deal with turning up or facing a hem. 

Photo of scalloped lace edge aligned on hem/stitchline of pattern edge


• Be careful not to snag the lacy fabric with the sewing machine presser foot while stitching or with the point of the iron while pressing.

• For a ready-made applique embellishment, carefully cut out one of the design motifs from the leftover lace fabric and hand stitch it to the finished garment where desired.

 

Again, once you master a few simple tips and techniques you can easily tame unruly fabrics, conquer their fussy side, and enjoy the luxury feel and drape that every sewist deserves.

One of the pleasures of sewing is trying new things with confidence and we are always here to offer you guidance.  Celebrate yourself, or a special occasion, by using these beautiful fabrics to make a garment that is special. Hope you find these tips helpful!