Planning and inspiration (while I’m not doing)

I have basically not knit (except a tiny project) since before we went to London, and I haven’t sewn since then, either. It’s the end of May, and that was the beginning of April. Considering I’m someone who is more-or-less constantly “making”, let that sink in.

Sewing, knitting, and the sprinkling of other crafty things I do keep me sane. This is definitely a time in the world when we desperately need activities to keep us sane. But, because of a long vacation, a house guest and home projects, and then more house guests this past weekend, it also being gardening season, and me trying to get into an exercise routine at home (I work from home, with no gym or yoga studio close enough to get me to actually go regularly) while also trying to work on issues associated with a reoccurring shoulder problem, I haven’t really done my most favorite, stress-relieving activities in over a month. Like, 6 weeks or more. The good news is that I’m enjoying working out at home (I mean… kinda?), and that does help relieve some stress and tension. But it’s NOT the same as knitting or sewing!

So what do you do, when you haven’t been able to do your favorite activities? We all go through times when we just don’t have the time and/or energy. I, for one, plan. And daydream. And I’ve been doing a lot of both lately!

Heading into summer, my thoughts have been with two main “themes”, if you will: Western/ Southwestern, and tropical. Both are prominent players in my wardrobe, so it’s not like this is anything new. Except they tend to be styles or prints I don’t sew a lot, for some reason. (My Shaheen-inspired sarong dress, not included.)

Here are a few ideas that have been on my mind lately, with a new wild card thrown in at the end that I added just last week!

Peasant blouses and patio blouses

The two types of blouses I’m most interested in sewing right now are rick-rack trimmed patio blouses, and peasant blouses (plain, trimmed, or maybe even embroidered).

I’ve been on the hunt for just the right peasant blouse pattern for eons, and finally finally, it looks like Gretchen Hirsch’s new Charm Patterns line will hit the nail on the head. I backed the project and will get both of the first two patterns, one of which looks like the ideal peasant blouse that I’ve been hunting for! Fitted through the waist, elastic neckline and sleeves, modest in the cleavage-covering department (I’m always wary of people looking down my top since I’m short).

Source: Charm Patterns Kickstarter, peasant blouse sewing pattern

I can’t wait to get my hands on this pattern!

Patio blouses are easier, because I already have two vintage patterns that fit the bill, McCall’s 9925 and Simplicity 3978.

I have some metallic rick rack (or is it ric rac? I see both spellings) and red poplin, so I’ll likely start with that combo. Fun, right?

Ideally, I’d prefer cut-on sleeves to set-in. And that’s what the few vintage patio blouse tops and dresses I own all have. I find them more comfy, especially in warmer weather, so I may modify the patterns (I’m sure you’re absolutely shocked). Some patio tops like these, with jeans, shorts or capris, some Southwestern jewelry and maybe a leather belt and tooled leather purse, and I’ll be set. The peasant blouses are even more versatile, and something I practically live in during summer, so I basically think they go with just about any look!

Fabric-wise, I’ve been on the hunt for appropriate solid-colored fabric for blouses. Low-fuss fabrics like cotton or cotton blends. (I’d maybe entertain a solid-colored rayon for a peasant blouse, but I really have no love for silk.) This is turning out to be WAY more difficult than it seems it would be! I don’t want something as stiff as a medium-weight quilting cotton, so lines like Kona solids are out. Most of the cotton lawn I’ve bought for lining over the years is fine for that purpose, but too flimsy or sheer to work as a blouse. Cotton + Steel make very high quality lawn that I love, but in extremely few (if any?) solids. Some poplins are heavier than I want (like Robert Kaufman’s Malibu—too stiff for a blouse). The red shown above is Kaufman Superluxe poplin and though I haven’t washed it yet, it seems ideal. The only downside is that out of 49 colors, about half are shades of the same few pastel colors (whhhhhyyyyyyyyy… I mean yes I could dye it if I must but whhhhyyyyyyyyy are so many of them damn near the same pastels). At least there are a small handful of nice solids that I’ll probably buy, like green, chocolate, and turquoise. I want to try their Cambridge lawn, too. And I have no problem entertaining a poly-cotton blend for less wrinkles, but haven’t tried to hunt one down yet.

1950s jeans

I (obviously, if you’ve read my blog or followed me on Instagram awhile) have been on a slim jeans and cigarette pants kick in the last couple of years. I’ve sewn lots of both. I wore my latest Ginger jeans a lot in London and I still love them, but realized I spent half the time thinking “gah I wish my jeans weren’t as tight”. And not like, they didn’t fit me too tight, I just wanted more room overall. I think that’s why I went for the slightly bigger Collectif pants I showed in my trip roundup, because I wanted something well, roomier!

My goal is to come up with a jean fit that’s closer to my Western gingers (but with even more leg room still), and with a hidden side pocket zipper in angled/slash hip pockets, and front topstitching. Basically what you see on lots of women’s trousers from the 40s and 50s. I worked out the style of pockets on a pair of shorts I never blogged about last summer:

I made those with a center back zipper, which is what every modern pattern I’ve seen replicating this style of jeans has. I really want that inside pocket zipper with a side closure though, damnit. I haven’t even been able to find a vintage pattern with it… any that are similar seem to have a complicated button placket or just an opening, not an actual zipper.

But the deal is, plenty of actual vintage women’s jeans and trousers have that zipper-in-pocket! Maybe it was too complicated for pithy sewing patterns, I’m just not sure. Some vintage women’s jeans also have the same angled hip pocket style, but with a lapped side zip that goes through the bottom pocket edge, and that’s fine and period-appropriate too, but doesn’t look as tidy as I want. No patterns I’ve found to date have the zipper-in-pocket. They either have the button placket in the pocket, no pockets and a lapped side closure, or pockets and center back zipper.

So, I’m going to figure it out myself, damnit. Using examples in my closet. What I’ve shown below are two pair of vintage capris and two pair of pants from the repro brand Freddies of Pinewoods. The capris both have a zipper hidden in a side seam pocket (no angled top) which is a slightly different look. They button right at the side seam instead of slightly towards the front. Once I figure this whole shebang out, I want to try that on capris or trousers, too (well, ones with enough hip room to make that work).

The Freddies have the angled hip pocket and topstitching that I’m looking to emulate, in addition. Those are the things that really give them that classic 40s or 50s women’s denim or work trousers look.

I kind of don’t expect it to be that easy. I mean, I get the general concept, but there has to be a reason that it seems like no one has put this into a pattern, not in the 40s or 50s, and not now. Although good grief, if someone has and I’m just missing it, let me know. The closest I’ve found is in a Sandra Betzina book from the 90s, but her take on it doesn’t have any shield to protect your leg from the zipper. But I’ll probably use it as a reference anyway.

I’m just going to do a few muslins of the torso until I get it right (not sure what pants pattern I’ll use as a starting point yet, I’ve focused so much on the pocket!), take detailed notes so I can never forget, and nail it. Right? Right. Confidence!


This leads me to… capris! Back in the department of giving myself a bit more room than my favored cigarette pants, I want to do some capris / pedal pushers / long shorts (whatever length the mood strikes) this summer. Some prints, some solids. The only ones I can recall sewing are orange ones that started off life as cigarette pants, and these cat print ones (which I somehow can’t find). But I have a few pair of vintage capris that I just love (like the plaid and novelty print ones above), and those have more of a relaxed fit than both the pairs I’ve sewn. And relaxed is nice when you’re roasting in the dead of summer and eating ice cream.

The benefit of more relaxed fits will also afford me the opportunity to sew with non-stretch fabric for bottoms as well as stretch, although as usual, finding prints I actually like in bottomweight suitable fabric is quite a chore. Actually come to think of it, nice bottomweight fabric is difficult, period. Must be why I sew so many jeans—denim is a peach to find by comparison.

I even have a pattern in mind… one that I did a muslin for, maybe 2 and a half years ago now?!

Sometimes, I keep muslins that don’t work out at the time, just because you never know. It was a great idea in this case. At the time, I was deep in my hunt to perfect cigarette pants, and this pattern came out way looser in the leg and hips than I wanted. (In fairness, this has happened to me with patterns that look like they should result in cigarette pants, but these are clearly slim trousers and not cigarette pants, so I don’t really know what I was thinking.)

Recently I pulled them out of my Muslin Bin of Doom (thank you past Tasha for writing the pattern name and number on the muslin!), and the fit is not bad at all for a 1950s trouser or capri! Not overly fitted, but not so baggy as to look sloppy. I need to transfer a few changes that I see I did back to paper, maybe do one more fitting, and give them a whirl. If I like the overall result, and if I think the hips are roomy enough for it, I may try adding side seam pockets with a hidden zipper. In fact it’s possible I’d use them (after rotating out most/all of the waist darts) for the jeans, too. We’ll see.

I have one vintage fabric that would fit the bill nicely for capris I think, but I’m now on the lookout for more fabric. There are a few Spoonflower prints I’d love as capris or long shorts, so I’ve been meaning to get a sample of their lightweight and heavyweight cotton twills to see if they’d be decent (I’m always super hesitant about using Spoonflower for apparel because I do not like to baby my clothing). I also think it would be really cute in tropical prints, with maybe a cropped peasant blouse (like the black one I sewed last summer) and strappy sandals and a straw purse? Like these prints from an Etsy seller in Hawaii:

Source: Hawaiian Fabric NBYond / petroglyphs barkcloth / traditional print tapa

Those would also make killer sarong dresses, but now I’m getting off track!

Wild card: palazzo pants

As my best friend since college Amy would attest, fashion-wise, I’ve often been one of those people who will turn my nose up at something that’s popular or trending for a long time, and then suddenly on a dime change my mind and decide I might like to try it. Such is the case with palazzo pants. Just the other day, I saw a random ad for a Miss L Fire shoe event in London, showing these floral cropped palazzo pants:

Source: Miss L Fire

And that would totally not be my normal thing, but for some reason… this time, it appealed to me! I decided the cropped length would be great for someone short because it wouldn’t make me feel overwhelmed by the volume of the pants. (Also I don’t care about fashion rules garbage that tell you to wear really long things if you’re short to make you look taller. I’ll wear whatever length I want, thanks.) In fact, maybe that’s the reason that it appealed, as they weren’t floor-length. I could see making them up in something flowy, like a rayon challis or crepe, or a floral jersey. I saw these cute rayon prints that fit a tropical vibe! And both of them may have jumped into my cart…

Source: rayon crepe / rayon challis

I think I’ll use the 1940s repro Simplicity 3688 pattern as a starting point, widening and shortening the leg. I used that pattern to make stretch velour lounge pants earlier this year, which I love and never blogged about, but here they are (with the matching Jenna cardigan that I made for Christmas, also not blogged). These have a comfy elastic waistband, too.

I think that might be a good starting point for some tropical palazzo pants! And hey if I’m feeling extra into it, I could go all out and make a top to match for a beach set. Like a vintage playsuit but with pants instead of a skirt or shorts!

Putting all this to “paper” probably means I won’t do half of it, ha ha! 😉 But hopefully over time I will.

I also have other projects in mind, not necessarily for summer… finishing my black bouclé vintage coat (well, starting—it’s been all cut out for a few months) which will probably be a great project to start mid-August which is about when I start getting sick of summer clothes. I also plan to sew a slightly cropped Rigel bomber jacket in a wool plaid. And of course, I have to leave room for random novelty print skirts and dresses because those are the type of project I’m suddenly seized with and must sew right! this! instant! Gotta leave room for those moments. I’ve learned I can’t get too rigid in my planning because then I just chuck the entire thing out the window! (Ask me about my London capsule wardrobe that was excruciatingly planned and then completely abandoned because by that point I didn’t want to do any of it.)

I guess we’ll see what I sew up first! What’s inspiring you for summer?



Filed: Sewing, Vintage Wardrobe

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Golly, 24 Comments!

  • Pineapple fabric!! I have plans to sew a pair 50s capris out of a hot yellow fabric. I’m going to muslin them first, as it’s my first pair of pants ever let alone vintage, and I’m so freaked out about the possible fit issues. XP


    • Sounds fun! Pants fitting can be a real chore, but don’t let it deter you. No matter what you’re almost guaranteed to get a better fit than something from the store, just remind yourself of that if you’re struggling! 😀


  • Fun plans! I know how you feel, I’ve had little time for sewing lately and this weekend will be the third in a row I have been working on the same blouse – in rayon with lots of details (aack). I think I need some simpler blouses and have pulled out two vintage ones to try next ;o)


  • Juliana @ Urban Simplicity May 30, 2017 at 6:43pm

    I can personally attest to the Kaufman Cambridge Lawn–it is fabulous. I made a dress out of it last summer that I plan to wear a lot this year too. It would make a fab. blouse and comes in a lot of great colors. I started with Kaufman’s London Calling line because of the great prints (I have several dresses from them) and moved on to the solids later in the summer. It has a wonderful hand.

    I love your dreaming! So many great ideas. I’ve been kind of stuck in a making rut for a while now (I tend to find something I like and make it over and over again…I still love the pattern, but want to branch out a bit) and am looking at some shirt-dresses from McCall’s and Green Bee patterns. I’m really into henley necklines right now (I can’t stand collars) so I’ll probably be converting them. I’m always converting things into cut-on sleeves too! I want to experiment with 3/4 sleeves in a woven though and see how I like it.


    • Great to know about the lawn! I meant to try some the last time I ordered from and forgot.

      I’ve sewn up 3/4 cut-on sleeves in a 50s pattern I’ve blogged a couple of times, Butterick 6223. I had to fuss with the sleeve width as it was tii baggy overall, and then I went and made it a bit too tight below the wrist, but overall I really like it. The only downside is that it is hell to get situated under a cardigan, because the length isn’t something you can hold and grab with your hand as you put it on. But, not an exclusive problem to cut-on sleeves of course, mostly the length, I think.


      • Juliana @ Urban Simplicity June 2, 2017 at 11:45am

        I generally don’t look good in a full dolman sleeve because my biceps are rather…um…beefy in relation to my narrow shoulders, but I’d like to try an inset sleeve. I’m currently crushing on the Pearl shift dress from Green Bee patterns, but I’d like to add a waist tie to cinch it in a little (ala another McCall’s pattern I have that is similar)

        I forgot to mention that Art Gallery’s lawn is pretty good too (but pricey!!) I’ve only worked with the prints, but it had a lovely silky hand and nice drape. My only complaint is that it is just slightly sheer (not so much you’ll need to line it, but still) and that washing changes the hand just slightly.


  • Linen lawn! Hardly ever find it, when I do I buy it for summer weight tops and tunics. So much better than cotton for breathability, but the lawn weight seems to stop it creasing as quickly. I’ve currently got some in a muted bluey green that I’m planning a peasant blouse with maybe a dark orangey red neckline embroidery – the Gertie pattern would be perfect but I don’t think I can wait that long


    • Interesting! I didn’t know there was such a thing as linen lawn, but I’m definitely all ears if it makes the linen less wrinkley, because that’s the main reason I avoid it! Well that and it’s often muted colors, which isn’t really my thing. Your blouse project sounds lovely!


  • Vogue 7060 A (1950) has the inside-pocket zipper–I just used this pattern over the weekend to make a pair of capris. It’s not complicated at all, and well-described in the pattern instructions. (And looks fabulous when finished!)


    • Ooh that’s fantastic to know, thanks for the heads up! I can’t find that particular pattern online, but I’ve started looking for similar-era Vogue pants patterns, perhaps they also have it. Thanks again! 🙂


      • No problem! The secret is really just the equivalent of a centered zipper running immediately adjacent the ‘back’ pocket facing, top of zipper just about at the top of the pocket. Do the zipper first before anything else with the pocket, and the rest proceeds generally like any other pocket that buttons shut at the waistband. At least, that’s how this pattern did it–but it seems like probably a pretty universal approach.

        Hope you can track a pattern down. Mine has just 7060 on it (not 7060 A, though that’s what the vintage pattern wiki claims is the number), in case that makes any difference.


  • Marie Roche May 31, 2017 at 11:52am

    Your plans are well thought out and I am sure will be a success. I will continue my quest for well fitting tops, pants and jackets one muslin at a time. In knitting I would like to be successful as well in figuring out a good fit for my cardigans. Thank you for your blog you are always inspiring.


  • jeanine attaway May 31, 2017 at 3:57pm

    Oh my gerd, your plans are inspiring! I tend to have a few patterns I volley about the sewing room and sometimes I get to them, sometimes I go completely cuckoo and spaz out in a different direction. My problem is too many ideas, too many patterns, and too much fabric. I can think of worse things…


  • Stina Ljung May 31, 2017 at 4:12pm

    Daydreaming is what I have been doing too. Over the lovely redingote and matching dress (an Eva dress pattern) I wanted to sew for my brother-in-laws wedding in May (did not happen). Over the perfect pair of 40’s black nubuck walking shoes with wedge heels and pretty cut-out details on the side which I found on a Swedish equivalent to e-bay (I bought them, and they turned out to be way too big, like a 1/2″ too big). Over the 50’s shorts, bra and over-coat combo that would be so nice to wear in our garden this summer (might still happen). Over the blouses that I’m in desparate need of and have nice vintage patterns for… Too much dreaming and too little doing (I read blogs instead) …. but I did manage to finish a Kelly green 50’s inspired lace wool cardigan that I wore at my brother-in-laws wedding together with a re-fashioned black thai-silk dress (re-fashion done by me to get a more 50’s look). The upside to living in Sweden is that is’s very seldom too warm for wool even in the midst of may and height of summer…


  • I had to click on the link to the pineapple print and gave me a rec for blue flamingo print, then I saw a mustard cat print that also comes in a pink colorway!!! I want them all. I need to start sewing all the blouses that I have designed in my head.

    I saw a girl last night wearing a wide legged rayon jumpsuit (strapless though 😛 ) and it made me think it looked comfy and summery even though I’ve been hesitant to wear any pants made with a drapey material for a long time. Maybe though, maybe.


    • Oh, and I forgot to mention that I have a vintage a-line wool skirt with the hidden-in-the-pocket opening but it doesn’t have a zipper, just a hidden button in the waistband. That might work better in a skirt than pants since the pocket is under less stress. I’ve been thinking of copying it into my basic a-line skirt pattern because I love the angled pockets.


  • I’ve recently found your blog, and am so happy about it! 🙂 You are very inspirational and talented, and I love that you write that knitting keeps you sane. Me too. It helped me a lot when I was completely down with stress, and now I just love it. I found an inherited piece of fifties fabric, just enough for a skirt, but could not decide which one to sew. I started ironing it, and then decided it needed a wash. Good decision, because now I know exactly what to make. 🙂 I also love your free knitting patterns, but I don’t think I have neither patience nor talent to make them.


  • […] the flower crown look, which I paired with one of my favorite pair of vintage capris. If you read my last post, you can see the fit on these—nice and easy, what I’m hoping to emulate in some sewing this […]


  • The skirt of Simplicity 2215 (a Cynthia Rowley pattern) has a zipper in the pocket, I think. While I don’t think it’s exactly what you are looking for, maybe it will help you on your quest. 🙂


  • Well I finally came across the “zipper in a pocket” reference that I recalled seeing, ah the joys of a bad memory! It’s in Power Sewing, Sandra Betzina (pp 67-68 in my edition). I can send you a scan if you don’t have this book and want to check it out. She explains her version “all I had to do was make a centered zipper in a patch of fabric, then cut the side front pattern piece from the fabric patch”. She uses a pattern with slanted front pockets, but I’m sure you can adapt. Nine steps is all she seems to think this needs :-0

    I love this book, it’s my go to fly insertion that I still need to follow step by step because I can’t remember from year to year…


    • Oh I mentioned that book in my post! I do have it. When I initially approached the idea for jeans it didn’t quite make sense as it’s not a full inseam pocket, but I actually started with trousers (well capris) first. And while I didn’t end up re-reading that segment in her book, that’s about how I approached it, except I cut out the pocket pieces first instead of inserting the zipper into a patch of fabric. And I’ll be posting soon, you’ll see it worked! 😀


  • […] two things off my summer sewing to-do list: work out a hidden inseam pocket, and sew capris. Done and […]


  • […] happy to report that I accomplished nearly everything on my loose summer sewing list that I shared in May! I sewed a patio blouse, vintage jeans (technically pedal pushers), […]


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