Join me in my adventures as I write romance novels and sew vintage and contemporary fashion.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

In Praise of Stretch Poplin

What a provocative blog title, eh? I can't help myself. For most of my life I avoided poplin because it was what uncomfortable summer clothes were made out of--at least when I was a kid. But then I saw this pattern and simply had to make it.
I wanted to make it as close to the short-sleeve version as possible. I had red buttons and a vintage red belt buckle (I even have the red fedora and pheasant feather) so all I needed was the proper weight blue fabric. I have to order most of my fabric online, since the nearest fabric store is 200 miles away, and when I do go to the fabric store, my husband often waits in the car if he has no where else to go. You can imagine how relaxing that is, so I take my chances online.

I found a fabric that was the perfect color and according to the description it was crisp, but draped well. It was also poplin. Stretch poplin. I bought it anyway, because of the color, and once I started working with it, I realized that a few bad pedal pusher experiences had made me into a poplin snob.

So the fabric worked out. The pattern, not so much.

I started carefully unfolding and ironing and discovered that the pieces had a name written on them--Helen Tracy.
How quaint, thought I. Did she sew with friends? Was she part of a home economics class? I happily pondered possibilities until I started finding pattern pieces with different names.
And then I started noticing duplicate letters identifying the pattern pieces--two K's. No L. In fact there were not only pieces that didn't belong in the envelope, some very essential pieces--the bodice pieces, for example- were missing. Too many pieces to fake it. Helen was very careless with her pattern.

I regrouped and found another pattern that was similar and started ironing again. No names and all the pieces were there.

Before starting to sew, I played with the idea of top stitching in red, but decided against it. For a kid's dress, maybe. For me, no.

As usual, the pattern callously called for a zillion bound buttonholes. Instead I got out my beloved 1956 Singer and used the buttonholer. 
In a matter of minutes, I had a row of beautiful buttonholes and I hadn't cursed or cried once.
I'm in love with this collar. I don't like fusible interfacings, so I used a crisp woven sew-in.
The skirt front has pockets set on the edge of a sewn down pleat that flairs beneath the pocket.
I cuffed the sleeves and top-stitched the edges. There are some pretty healthy shoulder pads under that poplin--3/4 inch, I believe.
I made the belt from belting I borrowed from a vintage belt kit. 
I made belt loops from thread. My mother taught me to do this and I've always enjoyed the process.
And here's the our snowless landscape. Usually in January it's cold and snowy. This January, I'm in my shirt sleeves, wearing heels. 
This dress is really comfortable. I'll definitely be making more in this style. 

One more view, showing the useful pockets. 


  1. Very cute! Love the pops of red.
    My mother sewed on a 1958 Singer from new until it finally gave out in 1990. She taught me to sew on it and I remember trying to make button holes with that buttonholer. It takes a bit of practice.

    1. Thanks, Christy! My machine was also my mother's. I learned to sew on it, then when she bought her Bernina, she passed it on to me in high school. Somewhere along the line my brother ended up with it, but I recently regained custody.

  2. This is beautiful! I love the shoes too :) You look fabulous. I'm glad you got the old machine back, they just don't make things like they used to. You almost make me want to try to sew again.

  3. I love reading about your process, Jeannie. Once again, a gorgeous dress. Love the color and it goes perfectly with the red shoes. You're so talented!