Tag Archives: history

1934 Skirt

I’ve finished the 1934 skirt using only 1930s methods. It’s been a fun process and I’d recommend it as a way of relaxing. Definitely slow sewing.

Some 1930s details: the side placket and the waistband

Press studs / snap fasteners were the usual way to fasten a skirt or dress in 1934. Zips were still unusual, at least for home sewers in the UK; only one of my many 1930s sewing books gives any instruction as to how to insert a “slide fastener”.

The waist is finished with Petersham ribbon as instructed both by my pattern and by the various sewing books. The waist edge is turned over the top of the Petersham and the raw edge should be finished with “Prussian binding”. I have no idea what that is, so used a narrow bias binding. You can see from the photograph that it’s a nice finish. I did the waistband by hand – easier than by machine as it didn’t need unpicking afterwards….

I finished all the seams by hand overcasting and sewed the hem by hand too. My 1930s machine is straight stitch only.

What did I enjoy and what worked well?

I like the waist finish very much and would use that again.

I enjoyed the hand overcasting most of the time.

I love turning the wheel of my old Singer. How can it sew so well after 80 years?

I love the pleat. If you have been watching The Durrells on ITV on Sunday evenings you will have seen Mrs Durrell (Keeley Hawes) wearing a skirt with a pleat like mine, but she has one in the back too. It’s not needed for movement but it looks lovely.

What I did not like and what I would do differently

I would stay stitch the waist. One of the books warns you to check the waist measurement as the waist is likely to have stretched. When did stay stitching come in? It’s not in any of my 1930s books.

I would make a button placket rather than the press studs or I might use a zip. I’d stick to the side fastening as I think that looks good.

I will add a back pleat as well as a front pleat just because I liked what I saw on the television.

The next step is the jacket. I don’t wear suits but I think an unstructured jacket would look good with some of my other clothes. I’m going to give myself a break now and pick up the jacket in a week or two.

Meantime I’m going to be looking at this book again and again.


It has some photos but mostly it has illustrations of 1930s clothes. I just love the illustrations.

EmilyAnn is making progress with her 1930s dress pattern so why not go over and take a look?







Filed under 1930s, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dressmaking, history, sewalongs, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles

More of the 1934 Skirt

The skirt’s front pleat makes walking possible but I wasn’t happy with the original design (see here for reasons if you are interested in technical details). Above you can see the inverted pleat I made instead. I looked up pleats in my 1934 (ish) copy of Polkinghorne’s book and this was something they did, so it’s authentic. I’ve sewn it in place with hand topstitching as described in the instructions for this pattern.

I’ve found the process very soothing, turning the handle of my 1930s sewing machine, overcasting the seams by hand to stop them fraying. I’ve got the left side seam and placket to do next. This is very slow but satisfying sewing.

EmilyAnn is making great progress with her 1930s dress. If you’d  like to try making your own pattern, her blog is the one to read.

Carol has some very interesting 1930s photos and sewing details if you like 1930s clothes.

Meanwhile, I have bought this to make the blouse.



I’ll have to change the neckline because the fabric’s cotton rather than “washing silk” and it won’t drape correctly but it’s definitely a 1930s style novelty print.

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x


Filed under 1930s, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dressmaking, history, sewalongs, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles

The 1934 Pattern

The 1934 pattern is too fragile to use; not suprising when it’s  been folded up inside a magazine for 82 years. It has no markings except for notches and darts cut into the pattern pieces. Seam allowances of 1/2 inch are included.

I’ve started with the skirt. It’s a straight skirt with a slight flare towards the bottom but the main reason you can move in it is that there is a pleat in the centre front seam from around knee high.

I copied the pattern on to greaseproof paper and graded it up from the rather slight hip measurements of the original to mine. Plenty of ease allowed; I can always adjust when I’ve tacked the real thing. I’m no expert pattern grader but if you’re interested in trying, I think a skirt is the easiest.

How I grade a skirt:

Don’t alter any centre seams – you’re likely to throw out the grain line and the skirt will never sit correctly. Just increase the side seams equally. So if you need an extra 2 inches, add half an inch at the side seams; that gives you an inch at each side.  Take a look at one of the commercial multi-sized patterns and see how their size variations are done and how they keep the shape- an easy way to learn.


There are no hip or waist measurements provided with the pattern – the instructions say to pin the pattern pieces together before you start to check the pattern will fit. The rest of the fitting is done after cutting out – I guess even old sheets were valuable in the 1930s and not to be cut up for toiles as I have done.

The main difficulty with the skirt pattern is the pleat in the centre front. The instructions say to press it to one side and that’s all. That’s not enough because the pleat would sag unless sewn in place. Sewing it in place would require a line of stitching showing on the outside but just on one side of the centre seam.

I can find no reference to a single front pleat done this way in 1930s sewing books and I think it would look awful. I hope the 1934 magazine readers were not disappointed in their suit. Maybe they did the same as me: I’ve turned it into an inverted pleat as described in The Art of Needlecraft by RK & MIR Polkinghorne (1934). It works on the toile.

EmilyAnn is sewing 1930s too. Take a look at her pattern – made by draping – here.

Norma x








Filed under 1930s, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dressmaking, history, sewalongs, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles

1930s Sewalong: A New Idea

1934 Free Patterns

I’ve owned this 1934 magazine for years now but I’d forgotten about it until this morning. Since I tried on my previous version of the 1930s dress here I’ve been very concerned that making another isn’t the right thing for me. I really like the first version and when I tried it on I realised the only problem is that I have gained weight since I made it. But that might not be such a big problem now as I’ve started training properly for a half marathon in September and so far I’ve lost 5lbs. I’d rather wait and see what happens.

Then I remembered this. The free pattern is still with the magazine and although the blouse has been made the suit is untouched. I am thinking of making the skirt and blouse. I’m  going to trace the pattern rather than use the original. It wouldn’t be the right size anyway. If I do lose weight, the skirt will be easy to alter even when finished. If I leave the blouse until last it will be clearer to me what size it should be.

The instruction pages. Click on the photo to see them close up.

I plan to make up this pattern on my 1930s Singer sewing machine.


1930s Singer Sewing Machine

And just as a final bit of history:

1934 Send for Patterns

These are the patterns you could have sent for if you’d been in the UK in March 1934.

EmilyAnn has done a marvelous 1930s draped dress pattern at RetroGlam. Do go over and take a look: I guarantee you will be amazed; it’s really beautiful.

Thanks for dropping by.

Have a lovely weekend.

Norma x


Filed under 1930s, 1930s sewalong, Clothes, dressmaking, history, sewalongs, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles

1930s Dress – Fitting Begins

The pattern for the 1930s sewalong.

Fitting photographs. This is a version I made a few years ago and I’m using it to fit the new linen version. It fitted a lot better then – I am a bit heavier now.

I think the bodice is too tight and I should start one size up. Does anyone have any other suggestions, please?

EmilyAnn is making her own 1930s pattern using some 1930s draping techniques – I highly recommend going over and taking a look.

Norma x


Filed under 1930s, 1930s sewalong, dresses, dressmaking, sewing, textiles

1930s Dress – Some Progress

Thanks to Jackie at Nuhn Handmade I had the idea that I should make the 1933 dress using my 1930s Singer machine. I don’t use it often enough and this is a perfect combination – prevents any accidental use of non-authentic techniques. So no cheating!

I’ve decided on lavender(ish) linen to make my dress and I tried quite hard to source Irish linen but that didn’t work out. I’m expecting a parcel of Italian linen some time in the next ten days.

Emily Ann at Retro Glam is progressing with her 1930s outfit research. Why not pop over and take a look?

Meantime, I’m working on a large scrap quilt and I’ve got a piece of Welsh wool to turn into a dress or a tunic (depends whether it will stretch to a dress!).

Thanks for dropping by.

Norma x



Filed under 1930s, dresses, dressmaking, history, sewing, Singer sewing machines, textiles, Vogue Patterns

Sewing a Bit of History

Vogue 2671

Sewing 1930s – I’ve a few sewing books from this era and a keen interest in the clothes. I don’t think clothes from the 1930s necessarily translate well into modern times but I’m anxious to have a go at just that over the next few months.

I’ve made the dress before as a rather unsatisfactory wearable toile and I’ll be using the old version to improve the fit and workmanship on this one.

I am thinking of wool / wool mix crepe in a plain colour but I’ve got to  find some first. I’ll be attempting to sew using original methods – no zigzag seam finish for instance – that way I’ll get a better feel for the techniques. Living history!

Emily Ann Frances from Retro Glam is also going to be sewing 1930s and we’re going to discuss problems, progress and triumphs on our blogs. If you are also keen to sew 1930s then why not join us – there’s no deadline (and no rules).

Norma x


Filed under 1930s, dresses, dressmaking, history, sewing, textiles, Uncategorized, Vogue Patterns

Weald and Downland Museum Quilts

Frame QuiiltFirst Weald & Downland quiltCrib Quilt

Three of the patchwork bedcovers I’ve been involved in making at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton, West Sussex.

All the fabrics are as close to those used in the late nineteenth century as possible. The hexagon and squares were pieced over papers using English paper piecing as was the middle of the medallion quilt top left.

There are other patchworks and some quilted clothing. I’ll post some more photos over the next few months.

I’m hosting a day’s workshop on 22nd May at the museum and really looking forward to it.

Norma x




Filed under history, patchwork, quilts, sewing, textiles, traditional quilts

Birthday Quilt Completed


The Welsh Quilt last seen on my sewing table.

In the distant past most Welsh quilts were made of wool fabrics and filled with carded wool. In a land of many sheep that’s what you would expect, but traditional wool was gradually more or less replaced by cotton and for this quilt that’s what I’ve used.

There was once a thriving weaving industry in this area. In nearby Llanidloes there are still weavers houses to be seen, but there has been little work of that kind since the mid-nineteeth century when Yorkshire began to take over.

It is still possible to buy Welsh woollen fabrics and I have a gorgeous piece in my cupboard waiting to be made into a winter skirt, but it’s sadly no longer a major industry.

And back to this quilt…

The really traditional aspect is the frame pattern. It was a really popular pattern in the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. I’ve hand pieced (English paper pieced) the centre from octagons and squares and then framed it with strips of fabric.


I’ve quilted it by hand to continue the traditional theme. It’s been good to get the practice in hand quilting – I noticed the stitches becoming smaller and more even as I worked. Maybe someday it will be something I can be happy with.
It’s an 85th birthday present and I’m hoping that I’ve got the recipient’s taste right.

Solar Dyeing
If you’re waiting for solar dyeing results, I’ve brought the jars inside now winter is coming. I can see the hops are having an effect. Nothing happening in the beech leaf jars yet.
Have a lovely weekend and thanks for dropping by.


Filed under quilts, solar dyeing, textiles, traditional quilts