Tuesday, March 17, 2015

7 Best Sheath Dress Patterns with Vintage Style: Easy to Sew

Butterick 4386
Ever wanted to make your own Little Black Dress? This article will review fitted sheath dress patterns that are easy to sew.  This is a second post on easy to sew dress patterns with vintage style, following "9 Best Dress Patterns for Beginners: Easy to Sew". After mastering the super easy shift style dress, it's time to sew a classic sheath dress. This article is edited from a very popular article from three years ago, so the patterns shown are current and available

What makes the sheath dresses shown here easy to sew?

1) no waistline seam, and they look great if belted

2) dress skims the body, but isn't super tight or super loose (like a shift dress)

3) no set in sleeve (but this pattern does have sleeves if you want them)

4) most are still 2 main pattern pieces: front and back

This is Butterick 4386, a dress with a classic darted torso. It can be sewn into so many great styles, from a "little black dress" to a tropical summer dress, the fit will be slender. There is a back zip and hem vent.

Now that you know what pattern style to look for when you want a smooth fit, here are more sheath style patterns that will create that silhouette. The patterns include New Look: 6261, Butterick, See and Sew: 5235, and two from McCalls: 2401, 7085. All of these patterns have vertical darts to shape the waistline and back views, and most have sleeves as well.


Curvey fit? A princess seam line pattern is the best for creating a good fit. Those long seam lines provide an opportunity to fit the bust line, torso and hips more carefully. There are six seam lines to work with, and each one can be let in or out only a little bit to affect the fit. Butterick "Fast and Easy" 5554 and Simplicity "Amazing Fit" 1586 both have armhole princess seams, so a good fit can be achieved with fuller bustlines.  Both include sleeves, if that is something you want to include in your dress.

This style of shaping is a vintage feature, having both the angular French dart and the side bust dart. This will create a smooth 'fit and flare' silhouette.  A French dart is sewn at an angle, and trims away the waistline without having the usual vertical dart showing in front.  This is a good choice for bold patterns that shouldn't be cut up with vertical arts.

Once a good sheath pattern is selected, there will be a few things to consider.

Question: What fabrics are best for sheath dresses?

Answer: In addition to the simple cottons mentioned in the previous dress article for shift dresses (quilting cottons, cotton gingham, woven cotton plaids and stripes), we can add stretch wovens to our list. Keep your stretch manageable, don't select anything too 'wiggley' and out of control. When using a stretch, lay out the fabric so the stretch goes around the body (not 'up and down' or it will bag at the rear!).

If the fabric is soft or thin (like a brocade, lace or satin) I would suggest using a cotton or taffeta to 'back' that fashion fabric using a 'flat lining' or 'interlining' method shown in an earlier blog post HERE.

Obviously, the classic sheath dress is a vintage look that an experienced sewist can whip up in almost any fabric, from wool flannel to brocade.

Question: How can I make the sheath pattern fit me?

Answer: Make a fitting sample before cutting out the fashion fabric. This process is more essential with the semi-fitted sheath style. Plan to do a trial fit sample dress in a 'muslin' or similar cotton test fabric before cutting out your dress pattern.

If you feel you are an easy fit and don't need a fitting muslin, then when you cut your fashion fabric, I suggest using 1" wide seam allowances down the side and back seams lines. This will give room to alter for fit in case you need 'more room'. Math: get a 1" wide seam allowance by adding 3/8" to your cutting line if you are using standard US pattern's 5/8" wide seam allowances. Yes, you will have to draft that line onto your pattern tissue first, before you cut.

Slender fit: For a figure with small curves, look for slender darts. Don't take up extra width in the darts. Do your fitting from the side seams.

Curvey fit: For a figure with larger curves, the darts will be wider and may be shaped towards the dart point. This fit may also need side and back seam line adjustments. Traditionally, the back seam was cut 'on grain' or very straight, but now it is common to use that seam line to fit the back view more closely.

Princess seam lines make curvey fittings easier. Just distribute any alterations through the several seams, and you will notice that the fitting process is actually easy to achieve.

Question: How can I make the zipper easier to sew?

Answer: Add 1" wide seam allowances down the seamline where your zipper will be sewn. You will be soooo happy you have the extra fabric when you put in the zipper. It helps to have the extra width when trying to fold the fabric under. Before your start, be sure to clean finish the fabric edges. Doing that will make sure that the edge won't unravel and snag into the zipper. I use an overlock seam or I zig-zag over the fabric edge to bind that over and prevent it from unraveling.

Once you perfect sewing a sheath to fit, it could become your favorite: fast, great fit, and easy to sew.

(This article was first published Feb. 21, 2012)

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fashion Bookshelf: Therese de Deillmont and the Encyclopedia of Needlework

Therese de Dillmont is the mother of all needlework crafts, having begun her instructional book during the 1880's: The Encyclopedia of Needlework. This book is still available, a tiny volume crammed with illustrations and 'how to' on many techniques that seem lost and forgotten today. My own volume shown here dates back at least a century, a gift that was found in Europe.

Alabama Channin has profiled Mme. De Dillmont in an article with just enough information to get you started on a search for your own copy. For me, this was one of the first books on my sewing self, and it is still a stand out today, black and while illustrations included.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Navy Blue Vintage Dresses

Back in the old days, the wearing of Navy blue signaled the start of Spring. Here are some darling vintage Navy Blue dresses listed on Etsy to start your venture out into the warmer days ahead. Stop by the shops shown here and you'll find more goodies for spring. My own two dresses shown here are only part of what I have added this week. Enjoy a bit of shopping for Spring!

From UPPER RIGHT through LOWER RIGHT, counter clockwise:

1) Blue Lace Dress, HERE, shop: Chronically Vintage

2) Blue Cotton Swirl dress, HERE, shop: Le Mew Vintage

3) Blue Cotton Print 50's dress, HERE, shop: PintuckStyle

4) Blue Stripe Shirt dress, HERE, shop: PintuckStyle

5) Blue Sheath Ruffle Collar dress, HERE, shop: The Dress Form

Thursday, February 26, 2015

9 Best Dress Patterns for Beginners: Easy to Sew

This is the first is a short series on sewing patterns that are EASY to sew or EASY for new sewists (beginners). Because these styles tend to be shift dresses (loose with bust darts) or "A" line in shape, they are perfect for summer. This is the season to best sew for warm weather, the timing is right to make one of these styles.

This post is the first of a series on easy to sew dresses that I first published three years ago.  As one of my most popular series, it has always generated alot of interest.  Many of those patterns are no longer available, so I thought it was a good time to re-post the original article with new and current patterns from the 'big 4' companies.  If you have a good pattern to recommend, just leave your comment below.

The shift dresses pictured above have an "A" line or loose fit, while the sheath dresses pictured below tend to fit the waistline more closely, and can be smooth over the hips.  The sheath dresses all show back darts to trim out excess fabric in the back waistline area.  Often this style has a back zipper, but the looser "A" line shifts can usually be sewn without a zipper for a 'pull over' style.

Both types of dresses shown here have bust darts in the side seam lines.  This dart creates a smooth fit in the underarm and reduces bulk in the side seam area.

What I look for when choosing an easy pattern are several elements that need to come together:

1) seam lines: few seam lines to sew - just the side seams please!

2) pattern pieces: two main pattern pieces - front and back

3) darts: few darts - bust darts are fine

4) zipper: nope!

5) sleeves: nada!

6) neckline: simple and round, I think facing is easier than bias edge, but that's me

7) hemline: machine sewn? yes please

8) fabric: smooth, medium weight cottons: these are easiest to sew - quilter's cottons, cotton gingham checks, cotton shirting plaids and stripes.

Here's a few patterns that would be EASY for a newbie, or FAST for those with experience.

Easy Palmer Pletch McCalls 6355
McCall's 6355: basic shift pattern by Palmer/Pletch, neck binding, optional fitting darts. This pattern has options for creating a good fit.

easy to sew McCalls 6102
McCalls 6102: View D, shift style, 2 bust darts, pull over, large size range, neckline facing

easy to sew McCalls 6465
McCall's 6465: view E, slip over, sleeveless bias tape arm holes, loose A line shape


READ the measurement section for the company that you are buying the pattern from.  Each one will require the following: Bust, Waist, Hip.  Be sure to measure without clothing for accuracy.  If you are not the same size as the patterns listed, for this style of dress, choose your bustline to find the best size.  You can add to the hip area if you need more room there, and the waistline measurement should have little effect on the pattern.

HOW WILL THE DRESS FIT?  If you scroll down or click the tab on most pattern websites, you will find the GARMENT MEASUREMENTS. This information lists what a dress will measure after it has been sewn.  These measurements can be compared with a similar dress or top you own, so that way you'll know what the results will be. Use this to select hem width, hip and bustline ease (the term 'ease' means looseness). It is a great way to find your pattern size for that specific dress, if you feel the size measurements may not be exactly your fit.

(the original version of this article was published February 17, 2015)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Vintage SALE on NOW

Valentine SALE on all VINTAGE at PintuckStyle on Etsy. More markdowns that ever, so drop by to see what's new.

This fashion illustration from Spring of 1963 was for a large department store in the upper mid-west that is no longer open. This is by Richard Ely, whose work was very popular during this time. He also taught at fashion illustration at FIT in New York, where he lived working as a professional illustrator.


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