Sunday, 6 March 2011

Secret Sewer: 1930's Dress Project

I think I've mentioned before about my lack of sewing ability - while quite able to embroider, do cross-stitch and sew on buttons etc, I have never made anything from a pattern and the only machine I'd used was my mother's 100 year old Singer with a handle to wind manually!

To rectify this gaping chasm in my repertoire of housewifely skills, I have secretly been going to sewing classes! I bought an electric sewing machine, a Janome brand one, and made the most of the opportunity to attend free classes at Vintage Vision in Abergavenny. It's a social enterprise aimed at getting women skilled up.

The major achievement of my sewing classes was this dress transformation - a very dirty, 1930's evening dress that I bought off ebay and was committed to 'rescue' and turn it into something wearable.

I cleaned it thoroughly (a good soak in Oxiclean removed most of the stains) and hand repaired the beading around the neck where it had come loose, and painstakingly repaired some of the holes in the lace. I unstitched the really awful job someone had made of hemming it shorter. I also unstitched where someone had sewn up the side closure. I removed the lace sleeves, which were beyond repair. The dress needed sleeves for the shape to work, so I then cut the hem to get enough fabric to make sleeves. I made my own pattern for the sleeves and made a mock-up sleeve out of an old shirt to check the length and style. Then once I was happy with it, I used the pattern to make two new sleeves, ta da! The hardest bit was hemming the dress. The fabric is gorgeous crepe satin, (I think that's the correct term, it's satin on the back and a crepe on the front) but very springy, and it drove me nearly mad as it kept popping out from under the machine needle. The dress had closed at the side with hooks and eyes but these weren't good at staying closed so I inserted an invisible zip to help keep the smooth silhouette.

So, I am pretty pleased with myself! And it's much more wearable now - as a long dress it was still not long enough for tall me, so I'm happy with it being on the knee.

And aren't my silver disco shoes fabulous? From Matalan, many years ago!


  1. Oh My goodness!!! Wow!
    That is simply stunning, Im speachless!

    Glad to here that you have joined the sewing revoltion may your days be filled with lots more vintage stitchery!

  2. FANTASTIC job! I imagine this is how wartime gals might have tackled revamping/salvaging one of their mother's (or their own) damaged gowns. Just love the sleeves!

  3. You should be proud of yourself, you did an amazing job!! The sleeves look fab xx

  4. That's amazing! I love it x

  5. Wow! That is utterly stunning!
    I said that out loud in my office too. Hee hee!
    Good job, I love your blog!

  6. Oh well done! You did a very good job :).

  7. Pleased with yourself? PLEASED with yourself??? You should get some sort of award!! I enhaled my tea when I saw the complete item!!! This is ahhhmazing - an inspiration!! Well done you :)

  8. That dress is seriously amazing! I have been eager to buy a sewing machine but have pretty limited skills. Sewing classes seem like the way forward!

    Well done again! :)

  9. OH WOW!!!! Simply brilliant! It looks really amazing. LOVE the transformation. BRAVO!!


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