Sunday, October 31, 2010

Nazi Nightwear

I recently scored a vintage German sewing and lifestyle magazine on eBay!  It's named "Illustrierte W√§sche- und Handarbeits Zeitung", and published by Vobach.  I think the title translates loosely to "Illustrated Clothing and Hand-work [ as in embroidery, etc. ] Magazine".   Since it's from 1937, it dates to Nazi-era Germany.  The first half of the magazine features patterns, in the middle there's a pull-out pattern sheet, and the second half has articles that appear to be about hand-sewing, food, home decor, etc.  

Most of the patterns in this issue are for night-wear, undergarments, and house-dresses. Most are for women, but there were a few for girls, and a page of boys' pajamas too.  The pattern sheet makes Burda's look like a cakewalk:

The pattern sizes for women are Roman numerals from 0 to VI.  Girls' sizes represented in this issue are 13-14 and 15-16. I was surprised to find that I seem to be closest to a 15-16.  They do include 15-16 on the women's size chart, but the women's clothing featured is not offered in that size.  Most designs seem to be available in two non-continuous sizes, such as 0 and II, or I and III, though my cursory attempt to locate a specific pattern on the pattern sheet was a complete failure!  Here's the size chart:

And finally, here are the illustrations of most of the patterns in this issue -- the most interesting part to me!  I hope that eventually I can make at least one of them.

And here's a sample article page from the second half of the magazine.  I didn't show more of these because they're mainly text.  At some point I'd like to dust off my German (which was never that great to begin with) and attempt translating some of the articles.   If any of them prove to be interesting, I'll share them.  The middle right article below seems to be about coleus, a plant with pretty variegated leaves I used to grow on the back porch of my previous apartment.

Happy Halloween, folks!  I went out and bought candy last night: mainly for moi, but if we do happen to get a trick-or-treater, I am ready.  

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend sewing plan

Because, yay, I have working sewing machines!  Monday night I took my two ailing machines up to a place up towards Tomball that does repairs (Sewing Machine Warehouse on Highway 249).  I'd called that morning, and been told that their current turn-around was two weeks, and that they charged $99 per.   Not good news, but they were the dealer that Janome listed on their site for this area, and none of the other places that do sewing machine repairs are even remotely near my house either.   So I sucked it up and packed up the sewing machines for a little road trip.  (Husband came along for moral support and to help with carrying.)   Just getting there and back blew my whole evening, but (insert happy dance here) my sewing machines came home with me, fixed, the very same night!   The guy who worked on them said that the repairs were so small he didn't see putting them in the queue, which he said was running more toward a three week wait at this point.  He fixed the Janome on the spot, and it turned out the problems with the Singer were, uh, user error.   Though I'd tried to follow the threading diagram in the manual, I did not have it right, and the thread wasn't going through the tension disks.  Plus I had the needle in backwards, because the needle that came in the machine when I bought it was backwards, and I'd been careful to check its arrangement when I put in the new one.   The repair guy showed me my mistakes, and now I'm good to go!  I moved my cover stitch machine out of the way so I can have both sewing machines set up, and I'm going to alternate between them for projects.  

So, anyhow, sewing project:

I posted this one a few weeks (or is it months?) back, as one of the favorites in the large batch of vintage patterns I got from my neighbor.   I'm going to make (or attempt to make) version A on the left, in a cozy flannel.   I finished drafting my pattern alterations last night.  I have a few misgivings about how this one will come out, because the pattern straight out of the envelope basically makes a long cylinder with bust and shoulder darts and sleeves.   The upper part of that cylinder looks to be a good fit for my measurements, but the bottom part would sew up into something a good two inches smaller in circumference than my actual ass.   So I had to add some curve to that previously stick-straight side seam, and I'm not sure how that is gonna look made up.  I put in an extra inch, tapering out from the waist to the hip, on the front piece, and an inch and a half on the back piece, for an extra five inches in circumference, which I hope will give me enough wearing ease.  I've never had a dress with this shape because they're not likely to fit off-the-rack, so I don't even know if it'll be a good look for me if it does fit.  But I like the idea of it, so I'm going to forge ahead.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


Note to self: you are not a sewing machine technician.   I tried to fix my Janome, but just made things worse!   I think I understand what the problem is: the machine thinks the bobbin winder is engaged, even when it is not.  A little online searching told me there is a sensor pin that can get bent, resulting in this problem.  All I need to do is get the top off to get to the pin.  Easy enough ... or not.   I took out a couple of screws, but still the top would not come loose.  So I took out two more screws.  Now it was looser, but still wouldn't come off.  Then a couple of nuts (and I don't mean the edible kind!) fell out of the innards of the machine.  And wow, what depressing feeling that was.  I think I know where they go, but putting them back will require getting the top off somehow.   So it's off to the certified Janome service location, which turns out to be a million miles from my house.  Sigh.

And my backup plan, the Rocketeer?  Turns out it's not making stitches properly.  Sometimes the top thread gets looped up on the bottom, and others the machine doesn't make a stitch at all, and the thread just pulls out of the fabric.  I'm not sure how to fix this, so the Rocketeer needs a repair shop too.

OK, enough venting!  Here's something more positive:  I finished my ugly, shortish, unplanned scarf, which is just the knit stitch a million times because I haven't learned anything else yet.  It started out as something I was just doing for practice.  It's a little hard on the eyes, but might be okay with my black winter coat.  Despite the fact that it's pushing 90 degrees out and he's wearing fur, my dog obligingly played the role of  scarf model.

Now, onward and upward!   I plan to finish my abandoned project from two years ago, now that I've got my knit groove back, and then the sky's the limit.  Because my dear friend schmeebot  hooked me up in the knitting supplies department.  Look at the bounty she sent for my b-day a few weeks ago!  There were also a few books in the package, but they are upstairs, where I tend to do my reading.

Let me tell you, I laughed and laughed as I unpacked all those DPNs.  Have you ever seen so many?   I want to make something with every single set!  I can't even imagine what you'd make with those tiny size 1s on the far left!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The hospitality dress

Another dress down!   I've only been sewing on weekends of late, so my progress was not swift, but I'm very happy with the outcome.   That said ...

Does it not look like I should be bringing you some fresh towels?  Or a refill on your coffee?  A side of bacon, perhaps?   After some deliberation (and my husband's sage input), I left off the pockets to keep from veering too far into maid-or-waitress territory.    But this style has been so heavily co-opted for modern-day uniforms, it's hard to leave it behind completely.   However.  I do like the dress, and intend to wear it, albeit not to hotels, diners, or the office.   The fit is extremely good for a pattern I've never made before, especially in the shoulders and upper back, problem areas for me.  I think the wrinkles in the photo below are just from normal walking: I have a pretty vigorous stride.

Here is the pattern I used.  It's a mail order pattern, so no date on it. I would guess it's from the 1940s, but it has a 3 cent stamp on its envelope, which makes me a little less certain.  Bulk rates in the 1940s were lower than 3 cents, but I guess this didn't go out in bulk, so I have no idea what the postage should have been.   I used a previous pattern to do my alterations when I traced it off: I took out a little under the arms, and added a half-inch to the bodice length.  I think I may have added a bit in the hips -- if I did, I shouldn't have, even though my hip measurement is two inches bigger than what was given.   It went together very easily, though the sleeves had me scratching my head a bit: they seemed too big!  I know that having more of a sleeve head than necessary is common, and that was certainly true here, but I found that the bottom of the sleeve was wider than the sleeve band, too.  I decided not to trim off what seemed like excess, and just gathered it a little so it would fit.  I think it came out okay, and I'm not sure I would go to the trouble of altering it were I to make this again.

I did I full lining, as is my preference, but I didn't want to line with the shirting material that I was using for the collar and cuffs.   So I attached the collar facing to the lining material: it's kind of doubling as interfacing too, as it adds a little needed support to that area.  (I guess technically it's "outerfacing" since it's not inside.)   The lining does not hang free: I sewed the hems of the lining and outside material together.  The cuffs and collar are edged with the velvet rick-rack.   I neglected to get a close-up shot, but hey, it looks like the pockets I posted earlier but ended up not using.

As always, my husband deserves a big thank you for patiently taking many photographs of two very difficult subjects.  A natural-born model I ain't.   And my poor dog was desperate to go to the park a few doors down: on the weekends we head over there a couple of times a day to meet up with other dogs he can play with.   Even though he's just a little guy, he loves to run with the big dogs!

Next up on my sewing schedule: trying to fix my machine.  Ugh.  But I can't leave a wad of fabric jammed in it innards forever ... 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Greetings from the rick-rack appreciation society

Sewing!  Finally!  After several very busy weeks, I found time to return to my sewing project.  This one features one of my faaavorite things, rick-rack!    Mail order patterns from the 1940s often picture rick-rack details ... I don't recall noticing it as much on the envelope patterns.    Anyhow, I thought I'd share my rick-rack installation process, since before I did it the first time, I found it a bit hard to wrap my mind around how one would possibly get it into the seam all straight.

First, here's my rick-rack.  (With some tic tacs ... they were on my sewing table and I could not resist the silly rhyme!)   I couldn't find the color I needed locally, so I bought some from Etsy.  Because I wasn't sure what would match, I bought two: one traditional rick-rack in a color called "cranberry", and this velvety stuff, which was described as "raspberry".  Either could have worked with my fabric, but the velvet matched my selected buttons better. 

To get everything straight, I draw my seam line on the fabric, and then baste the rick-rack along it, putting the basting stitches dead center, where I also want to sew my seam.  The rick-rack goes on the right side of the fabric, with the right side of the rick-rack facing down (if it has differing sides -- the velvet does).   The pictured example is a pocket with a fold-over flap, and the flap gets the rick-rack.   Once you get the rick-rack in place, you can put your fabric and lining/facing right sides together as usual and sew.  The rick-rack will be inside the sandwich, but the basting stitches will show you exactly where to sew.

Yay!  A nice rick-rack edge!  And here's the finished pocket, waiting for me to get the dress together.  Prefect? No, but at least the rick-rack is straight ...

I'm hoping I can finish the dress today, if my sewing machine cooperates.  Last night, it decided to believe it was perpetually in bobbin winding mode, even though it is not.   After a quick Google, I was able to come up with a work-around, which involves jamming a wad of fabric into the crevice by the bobbin winder.  Not what the instructions on Google recommended, but it works, and I'd like to postpone disassembling my machine at least until I finish this project!   This definitely motivates me to search out a zipper foot and button hole-making attachments for my Singer Rocketeer, so that I can finally sew garments from start to finish on it.  I may need to if the  Janome continues to misbehave.

And finally, if I can't inspire you to partake in rick-rack, how about some cupcakes?   While we were out and about yesterday,  I picked up a half-dozen from my favorite cupcake place.  I love the current "cupcake boutique" trend.   Yes I know I could make them at home, but I don't love cooking, and I'm the only one in the house who would want them.

Mmmmmm. Cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The not so wild animals of southeast Texas

I haven't had time for sewing of late!  Among other things, my in-laws were visiting last weekend.  We did some fun things while they were here, and ate at some of our favorite restaurants.  But the very top of the list for me was our trip to Bayou Wildlife Park, which is about 25 miles or so south of Houston.  My husband (shall we call him the Invisible Man?) and I went there seven or eight years ago, and we enjoyed the trip then, but for some reason hadn't been back since.

Why do I love Bayou Wildlife Park so much?   You can get really, really close to some of my favorite animals:

iPhone?  I can haz?
I love ostriches and emus, and this ostrich was pretty interested in me as well.  I think he thought my phone was a snack I was failing to share!  

The park is basically a private zoo / wildlife preserve.   When you pay for admission at the front gate, you can also purchase buckets of food.   When we went last time, we were accosted by emus as soon as we pulled through the gate: they just walked right up to the car because they knew what we had in there!  We stopped and rolled down the windows, and soon emu heads were darting in and out of the car windows, emptying our bucket as fast as they could!  This time we didn't have an emu welcoming committee, but by the time we got to the parking area there were a few assorted beasts waiting for handouts. 

There are some animals housed near the parking area (like this ostrich) who you can interact with over a fence, plus a petting zoo area with goats and pigs.  The giraffe enclosure is by the petting zoo, but the giraffes weren't interested in us.  We were told they don't eat the food you can buy at the gate, so I guess that's why.   There were some deer just wandering in the picnic area, though, and they were happy to walk right up to you for a handout and a scratch behind the antlers.  Touching (most of) the animals is allowed, but they caution against holding onto any animal, especially by the horns.

The highlight of the visit is the tram ride through the park.  It takes about 40 minutes, and you want to be sure to still have plenty of food in your bucket, because the animals come right up to the tram for a snack.   Animals you'd never expect to do this, like ...

Camels!  They had both one-hump and two hump varieties, but the two-humper went to the other side of the tram and I didn't get a good picture of her.

And buffalo!  Around the time I was taking this shot, there was a Watusi bull on the other side, with a horn-span wider than the opening in the tram!  His horns kept banging on the sides.

And a zonkey!  (Because who ever expects to see a zonkey, anyhow?)  She was really sweet.  I'd love to have my very own zonkey!  There were lots of other animals too, some of them endangered.  Not all are willing to approach the tram, and some (like the rhino) are kept fenced off because they are more dangerous.  I think many of the animals were born at the park, and there are no predators in the mix, which probably helps with their placid demeanor.

Anyhow, I had a blast, and I want to go back soon.   I have a lot more photos that I haven't had time to edit yet, but as I get to them, I will put them in my Bayou Wildlife Park flickr set.   Incidentally, all these photos were taken with my iPhone, and post-processed in-phone with an application called PictureShow.  Here are a few more shots:

Emu (black swan in the background)


And finally ...

My ostrich friend again!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The joy of linings

Last week I finally did something I should have done a long time ago, and ordered a stockpile of lining fabrics from   I love, love, love a lined garment!   But buying lining material just isn't as fun as picking out the fashion fabric, so I was picking it up locally, often at the last minute, and paying more than I really needed to.  I like to sew mainly with cotton, so that's what I line with too, rather than the silky or satiny stuff that the word "lining" may conjure up for many.  But the local fabric store has been out of white cotton batiste for a while now ... well, they're out of the stuff that's under $20 a yard, and there's no way I'm paying so much for lining!   My preferred stuff there is $3.99 a yard -- cotton/poly, but it feels nice and presses well.  But I digress ... here are the linings I ordered:

Naturally it was impossible to take a photo that got all the colors right!  From left to right, they are: yellow-green (voile), lemon yellow (batiste), emerald green (voile), fuchsia (voile), pale mint (batiste) and bright aqua (voile).  (I bought the white I needed, too.)   I have no specific plans for any of these, but I am sure each and every one of these three-yard lengths will find its match.  Where "match" is a relative term.  I love a surprising lining color: it's a throwaway detail that only the wearer knows about, which makes a garment feel more special.   I have a lot of fun pairing up my fashion fabrics with linings, even before I have a dress in mind.   Who else likes playing with color when it comes to lining?

Of the lined dresses I've made so far, here are my favorite combos.  I'd love to see what others have come up with, too.  If you've got a photo, link to it!

This was my first lined garment ever!  The white fabric is thick enough that the watermelon red doesn't show through.

The pale sea green harmonizes with the fashion fabric's palette.

A hidden pop of coordinated color. I wish I had more of this yellow voile, but I bought the last bit on the bolt!

The mint green is kind of an odd choice.  While it doesn't really match, I think it fits.  Makes me happy, anyhow!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Finally ... final 60s shirtdress

Well, it took a few weeks, but I finally got photos of my final 1960s shirt dress from mail order pattern 9123.  This pattern worked out well for me ... I feel as if I made very few alterations, but the truth is, I made them before I did any sewing by comparing the bodice pieces to ones of a dress I had previously altered and making changes as needed.   Kind of like using a sloper, but I am too impatient to actually make one of those!  Here is the link to the first two dresses I made from this pattern.  I guess there won't be any photos of me wearing those, but I made no alterations between making this version and its predecessor, and the first is only slightly different, with less cap-shaped sleeves and a little more looseness in the bodice.   I'm thinking of this final dress as the "atomic 60s" version, because of the fabric I used.  The print doesn't look exactly like atoms, but it reminds me of the atomic depictions that wer popular back in the day, and something about it says "Science!" to me.   I love this fabric, and had a piece of it in the pink color way that was even prettier. I used it to make a skirt, that came out too big.  I could have altered it, but decided to give it away instead.  Anyhow, the fabric is just quilting cotton from JoAnns.   I wish I could buy another length of the pink, but it's long gone now.

Here it is, from the front, back, and side.  I didn't realize until I saw the photos that the back of the neck sticks out a bit, even after adding back neck darts.  But it's not too bad.  The only execution problem I had was clipping a little too close to the collar corner on one side and having some threads come through when I flipped it.  I wanted super-duper pointy points on my collar!  I fixed the problem with a little Fray Check.  The lining of this one is aqua cotton/poly batiste, similar to the color of the big  dots in the pattern, and the buttons.  

Today is also my birthday.  I'm 38, and I think I'm reaching the age were birthdays are both good and bad!   One part of me is all like "yay, presents!" and the other is going "how the $&%@! did this happen?"  But I expect I'll have a nice day, regardless.  My husband gave me my main present before my trip last week -- an iPhone 4, which was great for taking photos, playing games that ran a little too slow on my old iPhone 3G, and watching episodes of "What Not To Wear" in my hotel room.  

My birthday also marks the two year anniversary of my really getting started sewing, as my sewing machine was my big birthday present of 2008.  Having a decent sewing machine (mine is a Janome MemoryCraft 4900) made such a difference for me, as my previous forays into sewing involved plenty of time battling my crappy old machine, which couldn't maintain thread tension and was prone to thread snarls and half a dozen other nasty habits.  I think now my basic sewing skills are pretty solid, and I hope to take on some new challenges in the coming year, both in terms of learning new techniques and starting to do a little design innovation.  I have some fashion design textbooks, purchased from University of Texas' campus bookstore at the beginning of the year, but haven't made time to actually read them yet.  But I think they'll be a useful resource for breaking new sewing ground. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Changing seasons, changing projects

I am back from Calgary!  I was up there for work, but I had a day to explore the city, and it was just beautiful.  All the trees are turning, and the weather was perfect, which according to my Calgary colleagues was a stroke of luck.   Rather than trying to see the tourist attractions, I explored the city's parks, since the beautiful, hilly Fall landscape seemed totally exotic to me.  I shot six rolls of film, and took over 400 shots with my iPhone.  I may share some favorites later on.  But now, on to sewing babble!

Before I left, I had planned this 40s wrap housedress as my next project:

But upon my return to Houston, I found that evening temperatures were dropping below 70, and hereabouts we call that Fall, folks!   The light-colored, lightweight fabric I had chosen suddenly seemed wrong for the season, and that big shoulder ruffle is not the best for layering under a cardigan.  So I think I'll set this combo aside for a while.   I pondered some other options:

And ultimately decided on this:

Apologies for the early morning light in these shots!  The floral fabric is s really soft cotton in a peachy-pink, with pale peach poly/cotton batiste for lining and perhaps contrasting white collar, cuffs and pocket flaps.   I think adding the pictured rick-rack detail in a cranberry color would be awesome, and a cranberry cardigan (note to self: acquire one if this dress works out) would make this a perfectly acceptable Fall outfit for the Gulf Coast area.