This past October, Threads Magazine invited members of ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) to create an outfit based on historical patterns. For my entry, I chose to create a feminine version of a WWII bomber pilot jacket. The jacket was worn over a blouse of soft silk georgette and incorporated design elements found in 1930’s and 40’s clothing. Coordinating slacks of wool lined with silk crepe de chine completed the ensemble.
My entry was awarded “Finest Construction”!!! Due to space constraints of the magazine, some of the construction details couldn’t be included. Knowing that the competition would be other professionals, inspires you to produce your best work, plus incorporate couture level techniques.
Historical research revealed that most WWII bomber crews painted images of pin-up girls on their planes. The artwork was a bit of light-heartedness during dangerous times, served as a good luck charm and reminded the men of loved ones left at home. My late father-in-law was a B-24 bomber pilot stationed in the Philippines. His crew named the plane “Dumb Dora” after a popular cartoon strip of the time. Dumb Dora was embroidered on the lining as a nod to this tradition.
I feminized the jacket by using a French metallic lace (from Mendel Goldberg Fabrics). The lace was underlined with grey linen and black silk tulle; lined with silk charmeuse . I chose tiny tooth zippers which didn’t compete with the delicate feel of lace.
One particularly challenging detail was to line up the lace motifs to match when the front zip was closed. Collar and lining both inserted by hand.
The blouse is a modified version of a Marfy pattern, available free, on the Marfy website. Look under “patterns” for the free top. I extended the shoulders and added cap sleeves. If you use the Marfy pattern, be aware that the underarm is quite high. I lowered it about 1.5 inches. The pattern is designed with gathering along the front neck, but it’s easy to convert to released pleats. Blog post from 2014 explains how. Tiny self covered buttons close the back. Narrow French seams on sides and shoulders give a clean finish to the inside.
A typical hem finish in the 1930’s-40’s was a picot edge. I found considerable overlap of the terms “hemstitch” and “picot hem” while researching the topic. The Art of Dressmaking (Butterick Publishing Company, 1927) describes Picot Edging as “simply machine-hemstitching cut through the center.” Doesn’t work!! Cutting through the middle as described causes everything to come undone. Singer made a machine, the 72W19, which has two top threads but I think only one bobbin. I managed to find the instruction manual on-line but it seems to refer to only one bobbin. It’s also described as a hemstitch machine, so the stitches done with this machine also might come undone if cut through the middle. Attachments also exist for vintage Singer machines which move the fabric side to side, replicating a zig-zag stitch but again, one top thread and one bobbin.
My method of replicating the stitch is as follows: I used stitch 1345 (Bernina 780 machine). The stitch does a triple stitch lengthwise, then a triple stitch to the right side, repeat. Other machines probably have something similar. Adjusted stitch for length of 3.6mm and width of 3.5mm. I used a 90/14 topstitching needle; the wing needle created pulls and too large of a hole in my silk georgette fabric. If you are using a cotton or linen fabric, the wing needle may work better. Lay tissue paper over the fabric and (using 50 weight cotton thread) stitch about 3/4″ away from the raw edge. Tear the left side of the tissue away.
Tear the right side of tissue paper away. There will be little pieces of tissue between the stitches. I picked them out with fine tweezers. You could experiment with water soluble topping. I didn’t as I didn’t want to wash the completed silk georgette top. Using very sharp scissors, cut just outside the horizontal stitches. You don’t want to nick the thread as that would cause stitches to come undone. Run your fingers back and forth along the cut edge to fray it slightly.
Looks better when done with matching thread. A simple pair of solid tissue weight wool slacks, lined with silk crepe de chine complete the outfit. The challenge required a complete ensemble, so it was nice to have one uncomplicated piece.
I’m working on the next Challenge to be held in Denver this October. No previews as Threads prohibits any publishing of your work before it appears in the magazine. Wish me luck!!
43 thoughts on “Threads Challenge at ASDP”
Mary, your ensemble entry is amazingly outstanding. The the explanation of all the details is remarkable. You have so many talents, but you are truly the Queen of Sewing. So proud of all you do. Along with how strong and compassionate you are. Congratulations!
Thanks and thank you for reading.
Beautiful. Love the background information on the inspiration and stitching process.
Thank you for letting me know.
Mary, IMO how you upscaled this challenge is amazing. You should have won in all categories.
# 1) What do you mean by “solid tissue weight” wool for the slacks? #2) It’s hard for me to tell, but did you do the picot edge on the upper edge of the blouse neck and blouse hem? #3) Did you cover the blouse button using one of those hokey kits (IMO) found at fabric stores or do you have a professional covered button maker machines? I used to know a place in Vancouver BC that offered this service but I think they went out of business.
Thank you for the more in-depth description & revisit of your gorgeous makes- so well-worth the study- & the thorough replicable picot edge tutorial. It looks like the picot edging was used on the “flutter sleeve” and maybe the underarm sleeveless part of the opening? Thank you for sharing your skill & knowledge in such a clearly illustrated manner. Do you teach anywhere?
Thank you and thanks for letting me know you enjoyed reading. The underarm portion of the armseye is turned under twice and stitched by hand to form a tiny hem. Classes are listed in the dropdown box on my main page. Have classes in Rhode Island and Palm Beach Gardens plus Zoom.
Wool was solid color/ very lightweight. Wording was a bit confusing. Yes, upper edge of the neckband and the bottom of the hem band were also edge finished with the picot stitching. I have a professional button maker. Much easier and more reliable than the kits. I also use to make matching bridal buttons. Thanks for reading.
Congratulations Mary. I saw this in Threads last week! You’re a winner in my book any day!!
Your work is always fabulous and extremely well done. Can’t wait to see what comes next. I always learn something new from your posts. Thank you
Thanks. This challenge encouraged all who participated to push themselves. Very happy with the results.
My grandmother who was born in 1891 used to make picot edging by using the straight stitch her pedal Minnesota brand sewing machine would only sew. She would have either a raw edge, folded once or twice depending on the look and about 1/8 to 1/4 from the edge. She then came back and hand sewed almost a blanket stitch tightening the “zag” stitch to create the picot. Depending on the look she determined if she would use every stitch or put spaces in there.
Back in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s a booklet came out for Pfaff machines on how to use various stitches to create amazing lace, picot, and other stitch edges. The stitches used are common on any modern machine along with various feet. The booklet went into tension, stitch length, various fabrics and using stabilizer if necessary. I suggest anyone who likes adding a unique edging to try find this booklet. It is soft cover about 8-1/2 X 11 inch size and I purchased mine at the dealer. If I can find the booklet again, I will post name and author.
Thanks for all the info. I’ve seen the stitch you describe. I think the vintage machines could do almost as much as the modern ones if you knew how. Sounds like a great book. Let us know name/author.
Exquisite work as always! I’m curious how many hours you spent on the jacket?
Thank you. I didn’t keep track of time but probably about 50 hours.
Best of luck on the next challenge. Your entry was my absolute favorite. Thanks for sharing further details. It’s fun learning from you even if I never attempt couture😁
Thank you. Even if you incorporate one or two details it can make a difference. Thanks for reading.
Beautiful. So inspiring. Thank you!
Beautiful Mary! Thanks for sharing your expertise!
Your outfit was my very favorite…beautifully made, and fashionable!
That’s just extraordinary. I love how you geeked out on the details, and especially love the zippered cuffs.
Thank you. It’s the little details that make it.
Fabulous and fascinating, Mary. I was so happy to see more photos and explanation of your exquisite winning entry.
Thank you. It’s a great competition and I’m looking forward to next year.
Wow, I’m in awe of your beautiful craft. Your stitching is just beautiful inside and out and inspires me to achieve more in my sewing. Best wishes for your next entry!!
Thank you. I knew the judges would see every stitch so the inside had to be perfect.
Beautifully done Mary! Loved reading your post, so much more detailed than what was in the magazine. Good luck with the next entry, looking forward to seeing it!
Mary, your work is always so exquisite and made with the most luxurious fabrics. Oh the lucky girl to wear this outfit leaves me with a bit of green eyed monster, 😉. You are so generous with your knowledge and you always inspire me to be a better sewist. I wish I had a place to wear such a beautiful ensemble.
I’m going to check out tissue weight wool. I’ve recently become obsessed with linen and, I would love to hear your thoughts on working with linen.
Thank you again for your generosity,
Thanks so much for your compliments. This jacket can be dressed up or down. You’ll enjoy working with tissue weight wool and I love linen for casual wear. Thanks for reading.
Regina, I’m making a sample man’s linen jacket through a course I’m taking. The linen was sourced from https://baltic-flax.com/collections/fabric-shop in Lithuania. The colour specifically selected for the course is Baked Clay as it will show how good or bad my tailoring skills are. I wanted to work with higher quality linen than I have available to me locally in Canada. I’m thrilled with the quality of the fabric and colour. I plan to start wearing more linen and will order from them again. I assume you’re in the USA so you’d be looking at shipping and customs charges too, but I think it’s worth it if you can’t find what you’re looking for locally.
Mary, once again you’ve knocked it out of the park! Such beautiful details on every piece. I recognized the Marfy top since I’ve used this pattern myself after studying your post about the silk blouse you made with it. You continue to inspire us! Congratulations on your well-deserved win!
I found the booklet on using your machine to make all sorts of edging. The book was written for Pfaff, however all the stitches used are on most modern machines. Only difference will be the stitch number and who looks at those!
Crocheted Laces and Edgings for Pfaff includes 50 bonus antique embroideries (2004)
by Cindy Losekamp
This is just brilliant, beautiful and inspiring! Congratulations Mary!
You are so inspiring Mary. I cannot wait to do a sewing retreat with you. Hopefully in the future sometime.
Thanks. Hopefully travel will get easier and a trip to the US will work. Would love to meet you.