For some added entertainment this weeks post includes fifteen 1940s slang words and phrases. So, grab a cup of Joe and lets see if you can find them all.

When I bought one of the most dope vintage sewing machines last summer I wanted to be sure I could use it. In my opinion, spending your lettuce on a 1940s vintage Singer Feather Weight can be a gas and as long as the machine has been loved and taken care of it should work awesome.

Like an eager beaver I thought it would be fun to make a 1940s dress trying to use 1940s techniques on my 1940s sewing machine!

I bought the first fabric with stripes I came across. The cool thing, as far as having to match the stripe, is this pattern basically has one front seam up the center of the skirt. The top was one connecting piece and the skirt just one piece as well.

My plan was to follow the 1940s directions precisely.

This is my friend Katie that also co-owns a small sewing business called Prairie Rose & Marigold. We had a very fun road trip together to Indianapolis! I got three yards of rayon Art Gallery fabric from The French Seam .

Let’s get on the beam about vintage unprinted patterns. Todays patterns have all kinds of tips, measurements and directions printed on each piece. Things used to be different. There was a time when there was no extra print and instead each pattern piece had these dots, or circles, cut out in certain places. The dot cut outs on the tissue had special meanings. Dots could represent darts, three dots in a row meant to place on fold and yet other dots were for grainline placement. My coding skills are so moxie now!

The general directions explain these details well. Marian Martin patterns also give a full page of other sewing techniques, that may or may not be in your design, called, Practical Dressmaking Hints. 1940s techniques like finishing your seams, how to sew a pocket and bias tape were killer diller.

My first obstacle was figuring the pattern size out since it was not printed on the pattern. A size chart that was included helped me figure it out. I measured the waist pieces, added them up, subtracted seam allowance and figured out I had a size 14 pattern.

More proof of vanity sizing, a size 12 is only a 30″ bust in the 1940s! Patterns always get a bum rap.


The Singer Feather Weight does only one thing and it does it well – the straight stitch. The light gets really hot, stitch lengths are in stitches per inch, the reverse has a leaver and it’s so tiny in comparison to a regular machine.

Some 1940s changes included no interfacing. I used cotton woven fabric to stabilize the back of the dress where the button and hole were to go.

Finishing seams were different back then also.

I used bias tape to finish all the arm and sleeve edges and then hand basted a vintage zipper in place.

Here’s a few fat-head mistakes I’m not too chicken to share!

I put the neckline bias tape on flat single fold and realized by the time I got to the arms it should have been double folded.

I top stitched the side seams down at first. That did not look good, so rip!

I sewed the skirt of the dress to the wrong side of the waistband. I ripped with a faster method this time, a razor blade.

I made the button hole too small for my button.

I made a tuck when applying the zipper and caught it too late.

Last, I didn’t trim enough for the French seam and raw edges were popping out of the front.

In my defense – rayon is a soft, delicate, very thin and shifty fine fabric. When working with rayon your stitches need to be smaller, it needs to be pinned more and it can be slippery.

This dame has no shame!

After the news and stress of the 2020 pandemic I gave up on the 1940s and decided to sew the last bits on my regular machine. Welcome to the future! My zipper, button and button hole were sewn on my Juki. I did have to do a manual button hole because my button was so large.

I realized that my bias tape maker was also not 1940s as I was writing this. This cracked me up.

Don’t snap your cap, here’s photos.

Did you find all of the 1940s slang and phrases?

Behind the scenes~

My mom made us all ponchos.

It’s been so weird going from wedding season to staying home. I have been writing a daily diary on my personal facebook page, going on walks and watching documentaries. Hanging in there and being thankful it could be worse.

How are you coping and staying cozy through the uncertainty?


Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

Dream it, Sew it!


Tracy McElfresh
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