Saturday, March 28, 2009

1932 Draped Wrap and Cape: Pattern Review

1932 Draped Wrap and Cape: Pattern Review

I understand from the pattern proprietor that this pattern was reviewed in Threads magazine in January 2006. They sewed up the wrap in a silk lace that was beautiful. So, if you have that issue or can hunt it down, see what they have to say. Their insight may compliment (or refute) mine. In fact, if you do find the review I would love to see what they said and their photos of the finished product. Please consider sending a scan of it my way. You can email me here.

Pattern Description:
The pattern comes from my favorite company Decades of Style. As the pattern envelope says "This fabulous draped wrap and cape is a vintage style from the sophisticated early 1930s that's perfectly at home today."

I created the draped hip wrap, with a sleeve on one side and a cape treatment on the other. The sleeve is 3/4 length with a bell shape the widens at the exit. The boat neck-style neckline provides a great opportunity to show off your favorite vintage or antique brooch. The pattern is snug-fitting and designed to be worn as a light wrap and not over many layers.

It is a very unique design that (in theory) will work well with everything from jeans to formal evening wear.

Pattern Sizing:
I sewed a size C, designed for up to a 46 inch bust. That is my high bust measurement, but I am also broad shouldered and large busted and I wish I would have opted to sew size D, designed for a 49-55 inch bust. The final wrap was too small for my frame. The pattern ended up fitting my narrow-shouldered mother, probably a 38 inch bust and a size 12 in modern clothing.

The wrap is a very snug fit, so consider sizing up a few sizes. It MUST fit your shoulder width in order to drape as it should, which means you may want to go a few sizes up if you have a broad figure. You will also want to cut a muslin in a draping fabric to test before you cut into anything expensive.

As the pattern envelope says "Choose your size carefully. It makes a difference! "

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope once you were done sewing it?
Nope. Sadly my finished product did not have the glamor and easy draping fit shown on the pattern envelope. The front cape treatment did not wrap around the front neck and lay over the shoulder as the pattern illustration describes. You can see images of the in progress garment frustrating me with its ill fit wrapping earlier in my blog here.

I wrote Decades of Style for advice during the fitting process and they kindly wrote back with words of honest reflection and encouragement. They said, "In all honesty, the pattern just did not work the way the illustration showed it – with the ends wrapping around the neck and fitting all smooth and beautiful... I (pattern designer) ended up wearing mine by tying the free ends together in the front either at the waist or up slightly towards my shoulder. It made the wrap look completely different from the illustration but it was still attractive and unusual."

Were the instructions easy to follow?
As with all Decades of Style instructions, I found them well organized, easy to follow, and complete. The large illustrations of each phase of the process make it easy to follow along, even without much sewing experience.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?
Likes: The concept. The simplicity of the design. The utterly unique vintage style.

Well, the disparity between the pattern illustration and the final fit is a huge disappointment. It is like false advertising when a pattern illustration looks differently from the final product.

The fit of the wrap is very difficult, especially around the shoulders and the bust. For my large busted figure, I just could not make it work. This is not necessarily a flaw of the pattern, but rather a flaw of my shape in combo with the wrap.

Additionally, even on my narrow and smaller mother, the wrap still pulls on the body as it is worn. As mentioned, the final product fits my mother very nicely and she has adopted the garment and is modeling in these photos. Unfortunately, as she wears the well-fitting wrap, it still pulls on the body. The inside of the wrap that attaches underneath her sleeved arms to hold the garment closed wants to pull askew forward. Something about the physics of the long wrap portion makes the garment want to shift out of whack. I am not an expert seamstress, so I have not exactly figured out what is happening or how to fix it, but I do know that this wrap is the kind of piece that will need constantly adjusted while wearing to keep it in place. That is never the optimal situation.

Fabric Used:
The pattern suggests to choose a fabric with a nice drape, anything from velvet to wool, or possibly a corduroy or fleece. I choose a beautiful and softly draping gray wool dotted with flecks of green, red, blue and yellow. For the lining I used a very high quality burgundy rayon. Both were purchased from Elfriede's Fine Fabrics in Boulder, Colorado. It is the only place I want to buy fabric these days, and I don't even live in Colorado! Her staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and she stocks only the highest quality clothing materials. Plus, she has an array of buttons that would make even a non-sewer squeal with delight. The wool worked well for this project, although something with even a looser and softer drape would proably have been even better.

Pattern Alterations or any design changes you made:
I ended up putting gathers in the lining rather than darts. Truth be told, at one point I did indeed have darts sewn into that darned rayon lining, but I sewed them in backwards. I had to rip them all out, leaving a bit of a mess in the fabric. My patience level was low, and I am not sure the fabric would have survived additional pinning and restitching of the darts, so I opted to run a gathering stitch the length of the darted area and pull it down to size. It appears to have worked well, and I would almost recommend this as an alternative to darting the lining in the first place. "Why make darts when you don't have to?" is my motto.

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?
No. I am such a loyal Decades of Style fan that it pains me to say this, but this is not a pattern I recommend. It is just as well I guess, because the pattern is no longer available. It's officially out of print (although with careful searching you can find it still at 3rd party vendors).

This pattern is a great idea but a flop in its original form. With modification it can bcome a lovely wrap with unique style. A muslin in a draping fabric is a must, and don't forget to watch your shoulder fit carefully.

p.s. I grew up with a Portuguese Water dog - Henry - who looked JUST like this lovely little puppy my Mom sat with in the park for this photo. They are the nicest, sweetest, calmest, most loyal animals. My dad is proud to say that he knew how great Water Dogs were long before Obama did, so he now considers himself trendsetter. My brain went into a time warp when I saw this picture because that dog looks just like Henry did, right down to the red leash and collar and black floppy hair in the eyes. Our Henry has been gone for about a year and a half now and we miss him. So every time we see a Portuguese Water dog we like to stop and say hello and pat their head. It is a little bit like being with Henry again.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Everybody's Favorite Claire McCardell - progress.

Everybody's Favorite Claire McCardell has taken me on a roller coaster of emotions this week. Last week I made my first muslin with hopeful excitement. Then it did not fit quite right and I become a bit despondent. I pulled out my Fit for Real People and started perusing the alterations, wondering what I needed to do to reach a flattering silhouette. But it all seemed so daunting. The muslin looked like an oversize straight jacket. Granted, the muslin still needed a full bust adjustment to even out the proportions, but even with a longer bodice and deeper darts, I still had this issue of an odd armpit fit and too much fabric across the upper chest (see images below for proof). I almost gave up. Almost.

Luckily Threads Magazine and my weekly sewing class restored my faith. Threads is offering a fitting DVD preview with the current issue, and you can find the preview online as well. My "ah-ha" moment came in watching the "Fitting the Torso" section specifically on "Fitting the Shoulders." It turns out that an incorrect fit in the shoulder "rise" can cause many problems in the chest and upper back that look like bust fit issues, but are really shoulder fit issues. Simply increasing or decreasing the slope of the shoulder patter can correct the fit.

Inspired, my sewing instructor Lovita traced my shoulder silhouette on some butcher paper on the wall and we created a shoulder map. In laying the pattern against my shoulder map as instructed in the video, we indeed found disparity between the two. In turns out that my shoulders have a more severe downward slope than the pattern, and there is a good couple of inches of excess fabric between the pattern's should slope and mine. This accounts for the pouches of fabric gathering over my bust line!

We did some other measuring, and we think that my back is a smaller pattern size than my front by a size or two. Also, we already know the pattern will require a full bust adjustment AND a full waist adjustment.

So, I went to Kinkos yesterday and for $12 I had the front and back pattern pieces copied twice, to give me the freedom to slash, spread, move and modify without fear. I am taking today off from work and plan to do some alterations (just as soon as I get back from the gym, which is yet another way to try and make patterns fit. Wink.). The next step will be to trace the altered pattern piece onto a soft fabric tracing material to construct a lightweight muslin. This will give me something form fitting to allow for final alterations. Next, I will sew a full blown fabric muslin from this altered fabric pattern, make any final changes, and FINALLY move onto my well fitting final garment.

I am invigorated and again hopeful that I can make this dress work. Claire McCardell was after all a genius of simple and flattering design, and I would be honored to wear her dress. I have two versions of it planned in my mind already. One will become my little black dress and include the full 3/4 sleeves and the fitted straight skirt with the pleats in the back. I will make this in a high quality raw silk dupioni. Second, I would like to make the cap sleeved version with a fuller circle or semi-circle skirt in a seersucker, maybe a purple and white or blue and white. And if I get this really well fitted, I also envision making the bodice only a few times over in different shirting materials for work tops. Oh Claire McCardell, you are destine to become not just everyone's favorite, but also MY favorite too!

Areas of poofing and pulling due to excess shoulder material.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lauren's getting hitched.

My lovely friend Lauren's is getting hitched in a few short weeks, so we had to have a bridal shower of course. Sunday I co-hosted an intimate champagne brunch with our friend Melissa in honor of Lauren. Friends dropped by for games, food, and of course gifts. On the menu, we served:

Blueberry Muffins
Ham and Gruyere Quiche
Individual French Toast Casseroles
Prosciutto-wrapped Grilled Asparagus
Fresh Berries with Lemon Curd
Frosted Brownies
Cigar Cookies
Cafe au Laits

The menu was lovely, and just perfect for a brunch like this. The quiche can be made a few hours before the party and served room temperature. The muffins can bake a day ahead. The brownies were baked and frosted the night before and cut and displayed just before guests arrived. Also, the french toast casserole is prepared and chilled overnight, so it can be popped in the oven as guests arrive and effortlessly served warm straight from the oven. And finally, the lemon curd is made the day before to chill and set.

I had never made a lemon curd before, but I think it is the perfect accent for a spring brunch. I am now on the quest for the perfect lemon curd. It is such a delicious and beautiful food with such an abysmal name. It is a shame really. I mean, by definition curd is the thick remains from coagulated milk, and I am sure you agree that anything coagulated is pretty gross. But Lemon Curd is utterly delicious, and far from gross. With its sunny yellow color, silky rich texture, and tart and sweet flavor, it embodies the essence of spring. When I served it up on Sunday I almost felt like tulips and iris and daffodils and small fuzzy bunnies and little downy chicks should spring from the bowl of curd. That is how much it reminds me of spring.

The food was delicious and I am proud it was all homemade (except the cigar cookies!). But the best part was champagne in the morning. I probably drank 5 mimosa throughout the party. That would explain why I broke my hubby's favorite mug as I did the dishes later that afternoon, and why I had a headache at 5:30. Drinking early in the day is a once in a while treat that always reminds me why I am not a day drinker. There is a reason most people like to binge and then sleep it off. Coming down from a buzz is just not that comfortable.

A pretty engagement ring on a pretty bride-to-be.

A slightly dirty, very funny wedding mad lib over mimosas.

French Toast Casserole

This is close adaptation to a Paula Dean recipe from the Food Network website, with some slight modifications. The recipe is incredibly rich, and I think it would be entirely feasible to cut back on quite a bit of the fat. First, swap the half-and-half and milk portions and use more milk. The real kicker is the two sticks of butter in the topping. I think you could cut that in half and only serve each person a tablespoon of butter rather than a whole quarter stick. I mean, I know butter is delicious, but that is just gluttonous.

I have left the recipe in its original form intended for a full casserole dish, but for my individual casseroles I cubed the bread and constructed each serving it its own ramekin. I ladled the liquid eveninly amond the dishes and refriderated covered individually. I baked them together on a baking sheet for 20 minutes until they were puffy as the recipe describes. They were perfect! It yields one casserole dish or eight individual servings.


  • 1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Dash salt
  • Praline Topping, recipe follows
  • Maple syrup


Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

Post party, my pumps on the floor.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The new girl in the house.

Ladies and Gentlemen, without further ado, let me introduce you to the newest little lady in my life. I like to call her Mrs. White, although her birth name in full is White 622. And I am not sure if she would want me to tell you this, as she is a bit shy about her age and origins, but I bought her from Ebay. I know, I know, don't judge her for that! The truth is that she came 100% tuned, cleaned, and ready to stitch. She may not be the newest machine on the block, and she certainly does not have the computer aptitude of younger machines, but she has aged gracefully with white-ish gray silver coloring so classic and becoming on an older lady. She also has a bit of the extra weight you would imagine an older Mrs. White to carry, and when I try to lug her to sewing class it takes two hands and a grunt to lift her into my trunk. No matter, she will either burn off the extra pounds as I sew with her or we will love her regardless of her heft.

She also comes with the experience and expertise common to those with time under their belts. Look at all those stitches! She sews both regular AND stretch (although I can't lie, I tried sewing the stretch this weekend and couldn't really tell a difference. What is stretch sewing?). She can make little scallops and triangles and stitches that look like a EKG monitor. I have the Decades of Style Girl Friday Blouse on my things-to-sew-soon lineup, and I think Mrs. White will be invaluable in decorating the collar.

My old trusty little lady Singer Stylemate 347 is back there too, completely healed and in prime sewing condition. She was on her deathbed just a few short months ago, but I am pleased to say that a trip to Gromes's Sewing Machine Repair in San Antonio healed her good as new. It turns out her timing was off somehow. The technician marveled it could be off so much, as the old Singers are usually very stable. I may never know what threw her into her timing tizzy, but I can tell you that I am happy to have her back. You can tell I like her, as I spent more to repair her than she is technically valued at, but you can hardly put a price on an old tried and true girlfriend, now can you?

Now I get them both of these ladies out on the weekends and set them up side by side. It's like a little sewing circle on my kitchen table with all the girls invited! It is great, I can have them each threaded for a different project and swap between as the mood strikes. The past few weeks have been too busy for sewing, with lots of work projects and family visits, but I am itchin' to sew, and I have fabric, patterns, and inspiration all lined up. So it won't be long until you see the fruits of our labors posted here. Stay tuned, just like these little ladies