Hold My Hand, Please!

vintage patternI can’t remember when, where or why I bought this vintage Vogue 5098 pattern, but I can’t stop looking at it. It sat on my desk for a while, and I snapped it on Instagram. Every morning as I sat to put my make-up on, I’d gaze at this envelope drawing and think, That’s really lovely.

What has stopped me from sewing this dress? Fear – it won’t be an easy fitting project and I might fail in public. Blogging – the perceived need to supply readers with fresh content on a regular basis. Life – it’s been demanding, but I’m bored of talking about that. Lethargy – too many patterns make it a bit too easy to skip past the ones that take more thinking about.

So why not slow down, dig deep, and challenge myself? It’s time to find my backbone and attempt a pattern that I don’t know how to sew. Isn’t this how I started my journey in the first place?

pattern piecesHere are the pattern pieces – 12 of them in all. Fortunately, only one of them is damaged and needed repairing with masking tape. (Masking tape is better than sellotape because a) it can be peeled off and repositioned and b) it won’t melt beneath an iron.)

masking tapeThere are no pattern markings, but each piece is numbered.

pattern numberAnd there are kimono sleeves. I’ve sewn those babies before and know how much they hurt! But hey, bring it on. Which view would you go with?

vogue 5098Taking out the pattern pieces gave me a lot of food for thought. Does blogging lend itself to improved sewing skills? Sometimes. Can blogging get in the way of your learning? Sometimes. But you do what you can do. So cross your fingers, everyone, and don’t hold your breath! This isn’t going to be a fast make. But I think we can all cope with that, can’t we?

When was the last time you sewed something that scared you? And I ask that question as someone who is genuinely scared!

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62 Responses to Hold My Hand, Please!

  1. Chris says:

    What a nice dress! I think I even prefer the version without the collar, maybe even because it is a bit less vintagey. Do you really think it’s going to be so hard to fit? With the princess seams and the waist seam there should be a bit of playing room, don’t you think? And the pleats of the skirt could be more or less deep, depending on the waist situation?
    But i know how you feel: I am very scared myself at the moment! I bought the most expensive (by quite a long way…) piece of fabric in almost 30 years of sewing in Italy recently – and now I don’t dare to even start…

    • Ooh, you have suddenly made me feel a million times better. Yeah, this is going to be easy-peasy to fit. Or at least, not as bad as I thought… Good luck with your fabric! Intrigued to see it.

  2. surreyjan says:

    I’m scared every time I pick up the scissors…. Once it’s cut, if it’s wrong, it’s wrong!! No going back.

  3. For me, with the collar – it looks more ‘finished’. Those darts/pleats which join at the waistband look really interesting – good luck! PLEASE, when you finish, could you pose in a paisley turban?

    • Ha, ha, ha! Now, the turban is truly scary!

      • The ferret wrapped round her arm is even scarier! My opinion: the collarless version may be more wearable. I love these old patterns, but must admit I haven’t attempted one since losing my..er..girlish shape. The proportions can be a little odd- at least for my broad shouldered frame. It’s lovely though, I’ll be looking out for your progress on this one.

  4. DavyMade says:

    I love the black version with no collar and shorter sleeves. It’ll be great for the upcoming warmer months! …everything I sew scares me :). Thanks for being honest with us about your fear. It’s somehow encouraging to know more experienced sewers still get scared. Great job challenging yourself! We all need a good challenge here and there. I can’t wait to see how this turns out! You got this!

  5. What a fab pattern. I love the collar on the blue dress. My last scary project was making my Gerard coat. Making the bound buttonholes was pretty hairy. Good luck with your dress.

  6. redsilvia says:

    That dress is ADORABLE! Those skirt pleats make me squeal. I hope you make the blue dress version, just my own personal preference for a 3/4 sleeve.

    Honestly there’s nothing hard there. It’ll be much easier than all the flat felled seams on the jeans you just finished (beautifully!). Pick an easy to work with fabric and have at it. Chris is right, there are lots to seams to customize fit. Just measure the pattern against you and a favorite fitting garment to get and idea of bodice length and such. I use the “15 minutes a day” sewing method when life doesn’t give me much time and it really does work. You’ll be flying through it!

  7. Roni Arbel says:

    Two bomber jackets in progress are sitting on my desk because I can’t bring myself to cutting the welt pockets… Can’t decide on placement and I’m afraid I’ll fail…

  8. Alice says:

    Since you aren’t very comfortable with the pattern, make the collarless dress. The collar is one less detail to worry about. Good luck! It will be a very sophisticated dress when it is done and you must post a picture of the finished frock.

  9. I have a coat which has been a WIP for over 2 years, due to fear. It’s not even a properly tailored coat, although it does have bound buttonholes (and yes, I have bought your ebook, but still…). It’s just the thought of it!!!

  10. V. Kathryn Evans says:

    Blue! I love that little collar – my sewing is always a bit theatrical – looks fine until you go backstage…so I have this lovely fabric, soft, pale pink linen. I want to make a pattern from a dress I already have – I’ve been planning it for a while – the linen has sat in my fabric chest for 6 years! I just dont’ want to ruin the fabric – but it’s doing nothing where it is so what’s stopping me?!

  11. amcclure2014 says:

    I’m scared before I start anything. I sit and contemplate and procrastinate… I like the collarless version. looking forward to seeing it.

  12. Just dive on in, the water is fine 🙂

    Seriously, I find that I am more motivated (and even excited!) to sew because of blogging. I so appreciate everyone who kindly posts their triumphs, their challenges, and even their mistakes. It is much more fun to see how people work through problems, than to watch a 30-minute tv show where they edit out the hard parts.

    As to your choice, I like the collared version, maybe because it does look more vintage. What would YOU enjoy wearing more?

  13. Grace says:

    It’s a gorgeous pattern, I would also suggest no collar and then if you love it you can make another version later. I have loads of vintage patterns with kimono sleeves, I really love the look, have you had issues with them in the past? I am about to attempt a coat in a year-long sew along with some other intrepid women! Otherwise I would probably procrastinate forever, it’s great to learn together.

  14. This is such a beautiful vintage pattern. Looks so classic and refined. I always find that I measure the finished circumference of the pattern at various points (e.g. waist, bust) and fit this against my own measurements. I noticed the last Vogue pattern I used actually had some finished size measurements already in the instructions (very handy). Patterns with many pieces seem scary at the outset, but I always find that if I take my time (easier said than done as I’m a born rusher) I can make a success of them. Good luck, we’re all waiting to see this wonderful creation!

  15. Marianne says:

    Blogging should never stop you from making this dress. On the contrary, I think your best posts ever were the epic tales of the making of the wool Vogue coat and the 1960s suit! Can’t wait to read the in progress posts about this challenge!

  16. Sox says:

    I prefer the collar and sleeve length of the blue dress. And I’ve never sewn welt pockets.

  17. Kathy Lynch says:

    You can do it, Karen & what’s more, I’ll bet you’ll do it with style! Both versions are lovely but my preference is the collared version. If the paisley turban suggested above is a “no go”, how about a pill box hat a la Jackie K?! And colour! What colour???

  18. ewa says:

    On the envelope the collarless dress looks more attractive, but when I think of the prospective garment, somehow the collarless looks unfinished with just a button on. It is a beautiful pattern.

  19. Glenda says:

    You would look stunning in the blue dress with the collar. You could always make it with the collar and the shorter sleeves for summer. Whichever you choose you will do fabulously.

  20. Melizza says:

    Wish you loads of luck. But I anyone can make it work you can.

    I love the collared version.

  21. fk says:

    Failing in public is actually a good thing, providing that one can fail gracefully. Don’t you admire and respect someone who has to say, “well I made a mistake”, or “that didn’t turn out as I wanted”, or simply, “geez, I f*cked up”. There’s nothing so annoying as someone who’s always perfect, or worse, pretending to be perfect. I like the collarless version with the longer sleeves. But be aware that the figures drawn on that envelop don’t have human proportions. Those waists are way too thin. It’s not fair because the finished garment is just not going to look the same on an actual human being. Take careful waist measurements. Do you never make a practice muslin? I would, for the bottom half of this dress.

    • amcclure2014 says:

      Do you think this is because of changing body shapes, though? My mother, born 1928, 5’8½” (very tall for that era), had a waist of 19″ that my father could put his hands around. She looks terrific in old photos we have, in the fashions of whatever era. Oh, and she never wore corsets. (My mother is still alive) I’m afraid my waist is currently nearly double that! So this is probably not a style for me!

  22. When did I sew something that scared me? Holy smoke, every time with a vintage pattern like that! Read the instruction sheet to figure out the markings and to see how much you can visualize. Make a muslin version to work out the kinks. Also, I recommend taking one of Susan Khalje’s video courses on Craftsy or her website (SusanKhalje.com) because it will show you what you need to know to take on a project like this. Once you learn how to sew old-school it opens a new world of wardrobe possibilities.

  23. Stephanie says:

    That is very pretty! Good luck! Are you not emboldened by your jeans success? And what colour will this be?

    I am not an accomplished seamstress so I basically fail in public each time I post something online. 🙂 But honestly, I don’t care what anyone else thinks of my sewing, as I’m sewing for me, not for them, and I’m learning at my own speed. The truth is that there’s a degree of narcissism in all of us, and when other people are looking at us and our failures they are mostly worrying about their own and will quickly forget about ours (if they care at all). At least that’s my two cents.

  24. That is a beautiful pattern! Vintage patterns are spectacular for their preciseness and unique details – I love sewing from them. When was the last time I sewed something that scared me? Actually, every project I start intimidates me in some way (and I have been sewing for a very long time). That’s part of why I love sewing – the opportunities to challenge yourself while being creative.
    Think of the first time you tried a bound buttonhole: pretty scary, huh? But now you make them with finesse and even have penned your own guide to making them.
    A couple of thoughts on this project: spend the time to make a real muslin which you can write on, tear apart if need be, and then use as your pattern. Use the best, finest fabric for it you can, and underline it with silk organza. No need to rush – enjoy the process and you will definitely be successful!

  25. smashandme says:

    Failing scares me a lot but never trying something scares me even more. I really really don’t want to leave behind a big stash of stunning fabric for someone else to paw through and have all the fun of sewing! (does anyone else worry about that??) I would much rather have a some interesting learning experiences, some ‘I screwed it up again’ blog posts and a few winning garments! The black first – then the blue version!

    • Sarah says:

      You have inspired me to start using some of my stash! I’m always scared of cutting into it or wasting it on something that doesn’t end up looking any good! Thanks – I will keep in mind that if I don’t use it, someone else might!!

  26. Katariina says:

    Lovely dress! I made a wool coat to my father and that scared me. And because it scared me, it took me half a year to finish it but finally I got it done and it turned out quite good. Except the collar has some issues but oh well… I did learn a lot while making that coat and my father is really happy with it! 🙂

  27. anne says:

    I made something sort-of similar for my daughter – I ended up taking a basic bodice draft that fitted her, and modifying it until it looked like the pattern pieces (it had kimono sleeves with a narrow panel from waist to sleeve hem, and multiple tucks radiating from the CF waist seam).

    She’s tiny, with narrow shoulders, a large bust and not much of a waist or hips – so not really the ideal woman of that time 🙂

    Oh, and I vote for no collar – the collar looks a bit matronly to me 🙁

  28. Nathalie says:

    What I lovely pattern! I think blogging has not necessary improved my sewing. But it has made me more daring to try new things. I’m going to try making a bikini next. That is something I thought I would never try.

  29. Thea says:

    Good luck – what a lovely pattern you’ve picked! I think both versions are lovely, so whichever you go with I’m sure will be lovely, and I look forward to hearing about progress and any setbacks, so we can encourage you again 🙂 The last thing I made that scared the pants off me was – trousers! I was so convinced they would be really hard that I sewed through them in a morning and was like, what, that’s it?? They’re not perfect, but I made trousers. I’m still impressed by myself (and really need to blog about them!). Best of luck, and have fun!

  30. Jenny says:

    That’s a lovely pattern, I prefer the elegance of the collarless one but either would be stunning.

    I’m trying to get the confidence to start the Craftsy ‘Coture Dress’ project and keep letting myself get distracted. I feel like once I’ve started, I have to plough on or I’ll feel like a failure. Silly really, especially as the whole point is the slow, methodical, detailed approach. I will if you will…

  31. Jennifer says:

    I’m scared every time I think about starting a new project. But I’ve just tackled my first pair of trousers with a fly zip which I eventually managed to figure out, and I’m really pleased with how they’ve turned out. I think in general that being scared or nervous means you care and that’s a good thing – just take a deep breath, count to 10 and give it a try!

  32. jay says:

    The pattern markings are the little holes punched in. When you get your head round them they’re ok. I like both versions, in fact I love both versions. It would come down to what fabric I had for me.
    Vintage patterns often have a less generous interpretation of size, but you probably know that. They also tend to have smaller waist measurements in proportion to size. I think this project is going to be a winner.

  33. Sarah says:

    They are both lovely, but I think I prefer the collarless one, but I like the longer sleeves…but short better for summer…! I have so much fear of cutting beautiful fabric that I don’t often actually sew anything – but having watched the “Great British Sewing Bee” again this year, I AM going to dive into my stash and make myself some clothes this year. Maybe I’ll start with a bit of re-fashioning of old clothes first..;-) Good luck with the dress – looking forward to seeing the progress!

  34. sewbusylizzy says:

    I’ll put my hand up – something totally freak me out. Button-down shirts freaked me out. Unusual fabric would make me freeze. Too many patterns puts me in a spin.
    I’m getting better at ignoring those things. Feeling less inclined to sew for blogging’s sake. I sew for my sake. I’ve just finished sewing a button-down shirt where I had to add seam allowances. I know that sounds minor but every little error becomes a big one when sewing a shirt, the errors multiple & nothing fits together neatly.
    So I just went slowly & figured out some new approaches to address my ‘issues’ and possible problems I might encounter.
    Guess what? Shirt success. It’s quirky but one of my best shirts from a construction perspective.
    I enjoy the more technical projects the most. I just have to be patient with myself.
    You can do this. Absolutely. Just breathe. Stop. Think. Put it down. Walk away. Sleep on it. Sew when you are sure and focused. It will be fun. Slow & steady but rewarding.
    I’d make the black dress but I’m a plain girl. Less fuss is more me.

  35. I prefer the collar, but collarless will mean you can wear it straight away. I am trying very hard not to let blogging force me to sew in a particular way. Hard though! Good luck in this one and we will all hold your hand!

  36. Geo P says:

    I remember following your clear instructions for the kimono sleeves on Butterick 5605, I’m sure you won’t have a problem with that. I’d go for the collarless version for day wear.
    I’m really scared of sewing with sheers, I’ve done it once and it was such a pain! I’ve recently read somewhere that starching the fabric makes cutting and sewing a lot easier, so I might try it again at some point.

  37. kieravanella says:

    Sewing clothes in general scares me! I see so many patterns I want to try, but then chicken out. This pattern reminds me so much of something my mother would have worn…complete with the fur! Good luck and I can’t wait to see!

  38. modistegirl says:

    I like both but think I’d go with the black one. It’s collarless and I am quite a collar averse person! Saying that though I have bought a beautiful vintage pattern which not only has a collar but also pockets with a flap and button holes! That’s three things I have never done. However the instructions look quite good and the pattern looks like it fits, so I am going to press on. Taking a deep breath….

  39. colognegrrl says:

    I’d do the collar because this is something you might wear to a special occasion. The collarless version reminds me too much of the “a dress a day”-refashions where people just snip away parts of the garment to make it wearable (no offense!).
    Also, just a few weeks ago I finally cut into a fabric I had sitting around for 20 (let’s spell it: twenty!) years because I told myself that I could just as well donate it if I didn’t use it. So I sewed my blouse and I’m so happy I did.

  40. Christine says:

    I disagree. I think the pattern pieces are marked, you just need to know how to ‘read’ them. I can see from the layout page that they have given you the info to correlate with the markings on the patterns – it may not be in the style you are used to. I remember dress-making with patterns like this and the need for tailor’s tacks (I think they were called). But still, a tricky pattern to attempt and I wish you all the best. Will watch your progress with interest.

  41. sewbusylizzy says:

    …. I’ve got this pattern!

  42. Danielle says:

    If anyone can do it, you can!! I like the blue version.

    I’m always a little nervous to do a new pattern and cut into fabric for the first time. I’m always plagued by what if’s: what if I cut it wrong? What if I don’t understand the instructions? What if I run out of fabric? What if I hate it in the end? (I’ll feel like I wasted the fabric!)

    I’ve had a lot of things going on in life and work and so haven’t sewed anything in ages (read: months). But every time I read one of your posts, I always say to myself, I really need to get back into it! So you inspire me to turn in the sewing machine and get going. 🙂

  43. Jo says:

    You can do it, Karen! That collared version looks gorgeous, very classy. I’m scared of invisible zips and buttonholes (as I hadn’t made a buttonhole… until tonight) so I decided to put both in my latest dress…. and both worked! I have no idea why I avoided buttonholes for so long as they really aren’t scary.

    Reading sewing blogs definitely motivates me to sew and develop my skills. I especially love “in progress” posts where people share construction details (such as your Ginger Jeans post) and their fitting issues/disasters. It’s interesting to read through someone else’s creative process and see how they resolve any issues.

  44. MNBarb says:

    I’m making a vintage Vogue from the ’80’s. I understand your fear but only two things can happen; success or failure. What’s to lose?

  45. tinygoldenpins says:

    I am holding your hand. I can’t wait to see the finished beauty.

  46. Hilary says:

    I was once told, “Always aim for success. If you succeed, you will be happy. If you fail, the world will love you for trying.” Win win! Like so many others here, I have fear before cutting and fear before stitching. Personally, I couldn’t choose between the two designs.

  47. What is all that fear, babe? Don’t let it blind you. Identify and issolate the most dificult parts of this project, and look for the info that’s gonna help you doing them. To start with, I would not attempt to make a dress like that with seam allowances included. That method is too inexact and does not allow for mistakes. I would cut all those allowance off and work with the real patterns. That or doing a muslin. But you weren’t asking for advice anyways, hehehe…
    I have a scary project ahead: a leather jacket. I have had the leather sitting there for months. Leather does not forgive a single mistake. So, I bought a book and studied. Of course my blog is not the reason I sew… I sew for myself. We don’t need more preasure, but of course I do not have your audience!

  48. Gail says:

    You’ll be fine. Vintage patterns tend to have better instructions than the modern ones – just need the patience to read them!

  49. These dresses are amazing! Great choice.

    When I get anxious and feel overheated, I tell myself I can do the next step. If I look at one step at a time, I know I can figure things out and/or find someone to help me. I have a wonderful sewing teacher, and that helps my confidence.

    I recently took a failed project to her and we talked about where things went wrong (a simple faux-wrap skirt). First, I should stick with straight skirts, and second I need to use drape fabric. Easy enough to fix!

    Best luck!

  50. Sewniptuck says:

    Says the woman who has taken 2 weeks to apply an exposed zipper – chunk it down! One bit at a time and we’d love to see your WIP posts.

  51. One of things that always puzzles me is why a blogger seems to feel that only a finished project gets a blog post. I actually like the one step at a time progress posts.
    And me, right now, I need to force myself to focus on the pants that I want to make. Muslin in progress, but, well, intimidated!

  52. Birgit says:

    I can’t wait to see the result! That pattern is stunning!
    Right now I’m actually quite frightened sewing-wise, I’m making a dress for my mom for the first time, but her body is so different from mine, so the fitting is completely different, and I jus’t don’t want to screw it up!

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  54. Tracy Davis says:

    I think I sent you this pattern! You very kindly mentioned on your blog that I was selling the amazing vintage pattern stash of a friends’ aunt who was sadly now in residential care as she had dementia. All the money raised from that went towards her care (I can’t remember the exact amount we raised but it was around £400). I think I sent you that pattern as a big thank you for helping us. I would love to see this made up It makes me very happy to think that her obviously well loved patterns are inspiring a new generation of sewing fans.

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