Sunday, August 29, 2010

Visiting old friends (and bringing some of them home)

I'm making progress on my 60s shirtdress!  However my husband lured me away from my sewing room yesterday  with a suggestion that we go out to eat and then to do a little retail therapy -- a bookstore for him, and a fabric store for me.   (Yes, my husband is awesome.)   So we hit Cafe Express for burgers, then it was on to Borders, where my husband stocked up on reading material for the next month or so.  (He reads fast, so a month's worth of reading material for him is a decent-sized pile!)  Then on to High Fashion Fabrics, where I rooted around in the quilting fabrics section for a very contented hour.

High Fashion Fabrics, taken last December with a Diana Mini.

When they were calling for the last chance for cutting before closing, I had five bolts stacked up, and planned on eliminating a few, but my husband encouraged me to get them all.  So I did, with absolutely no arm-twisting.   :)   Several are ones I have come close to buying in the past, so I was glad to finally bring them home!  I also grabbed a couple of inexpensive cotton/poly batistes for linings.

I had been wanting some dotted fabrics, so I made sure to grab a few:

Michael Miller's "Dinky Dots": my dog is also named Dinky!
From Amy Butler's "Love" collection: sort of Miami Vice on ice.

This was near the dots, and I liked the geometric repeat.  I don't usually go for red, but ended up with two red fabrics yesterday!

"Beatrice", another Michael Miller collection.

And these two I have almost bought on more than one occasion:

"Redwork/Bluework" from now-defunct Chanteclaire fabrics.
From Jackie Shapiro's "Sweet Peas" collection.

Buying at High Fashion, I do end up paying a couple of dollars more a yard than I might online.  However, sometimes fabrics that seemed fab on the computer monitor, I don't like so much person.   I feel more confident about my brick-and-mortar store purchases.  And of course, if you want to have a local fabric store, you need to support it!  Not that I don't appreciate online retailers too -- especially when they have sales.   But as it happens, three of the five fabrics I purchased yesterday don't seem to be available in Internetland anymore.

I think these (and the rest of the stash, lol) will keep me busy for a while.  I wish I could sew faster!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So I made some stuff

And ... meh.   I had this bright idea that I would make things that I actually needed, instead of vintage dress after vintage dress in crazy patterns that have no real place in my wardrobe, which believe it or not is like an altar to all that is plain.   Seriously, my store-bought stuff (and that's 97 percent of what I actually wear) is plain, plain, plain.  Solid colors, and really only a few basic shapes.  On top is usually a tank top with a cardigan over it.  On the bottom will be jeans or some sort of wide-legged chino, or an a-line to full skirt.  Almost all in solid colors (lots of different colors, though!) with very little embellishment.  Perhaps you have noticed, as I did, this is not what I tend to sew.

So, I made a knit top, from Jalie 2806 -- the third version of this top I've made.   It came out fine.  I've worn it already, and I'm sure I'll wear it a bunch more.  I need knit tops.  Then I decided to make a gray version of New Look 6944, which I have already made twice before. (Actually, I planned to make a black one, but couldn't find black fabric that I liked.)  Even though the first two skirts made from this pattern fit perfectly, this one came out a little too big in the waist.  Yes, I can fix it.  Do I want to?  Nope.   Because this skirt was incredi-boring to sew.  It turns out I hate sewing with plain old fabric, even fabric that feels soft and has a nice drape, like this gray rayon twill does. Even though I like the color gray quite a bit, actually.   The level of aggravation I felt took me by surprise.   It took my husband asking me if I had at least learned something when I vented all over him about it to realize that indeed I had.  My first thought was, no!  Because I've used both pattern and fabric before.   The lesson didn't hit me until hours later, but I think it might be a big one.   It's rich pattern and interesting detail that grabs my interest when sewing.  Contents of my closet be damned.  Either sewing is purely about the process and not about expanding my wardrobe for me, or I've undergone some sort of personal style metamorphosis while I wasn't looking.  Not sure which yet.

So, here are the garments that launched a thousand mehs.  Apologies for the toilet paper in the background.   Sooner or later it'll make it that last foot and a half into the bathroom.

I'll definitely sew more knit tops, because they're quick, and maybe I'll finish the skirt someday.  I have a dozen plain, solid colored cardigans it would look great with.   Maybe I'll find some awesome trim that will make it into a more exciting project.  But for now, it's getting shoved aside in favor of a 1960s vintage shirt-dress pattern, to be sewn in a loud floral fabric.  I feel so much better already.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

ZOMG 1940s hoodie!

My husband was kind enough to throw in an assortment of Dover books featuring reproductions from Sears catalogs into his latest Amazon order.   I spotted these in London, but knew I could get them more cheaply in the US. (Plus, my suitcase was full by that point.)  Anyhow, I am now the proud owner of the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s and 1960s editions from this series:

I finally had a chance to look through these yesterday, and they definitely provide good sewing inspiration.  I'm hoping that I can combine details I like from the designs in the books with patterns I already have.  These books are only about $10 each from Amazon, and very nice resources to have on hand.

This was my favorite discovery, from Everyday Fashions of the Forties:

Check out that dress with a hood!  I had no idea that hoodies were around in the forties.  I love hoodies!  I love forties fashion!   So you can just imagine how I feel about finding them mashed up together!   And only $3.98, too.  If only I could travel back in time and stock up!

Here is a better shot of the text on the page.   "Hoodwinker" -- ha ha!

Friday, August 13, 2010

New vintage sewing gadget!

I've loved the idea of a hem marking device since I first heard about it, but for some reason didn't go looking for one online until my husband suggested it.  Duh!  And usually I am very, very good at buying stuff online, too.  So .... here's what came in the mail this week!

I specifically wanted one of the chalk-spraying types -- they just seem like they'd work better to me.  Plus, the idea of making it spit chalk by squeezing the bulk just seems more fun.  It appears to take cartridge refills -- hopefully I'll be able to find more, or refill the current cartridge.  Anyhow, mine is the Dritz Scovill version from the 1960s, and it's full of chalk dust and ready to rip.  Too bad my current project is a top.   But next time I make something with a skirt, I'll be happy not to have to painstakingly mark and measure all the way around.  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

More 50s sundresses

Two more of Butterick 6574 ... I think it's time to step away from this pattern!  But I have to say, I finally get why folks love "tried and true" patterns so much!  This is the first pattern for which I've truly mastered the fit.  I sewed these two up knowing it was just going to work.  Very cool.

I did try one new thing -- horsehair braid in the hem.  Given that the modern version is made from some sort of plastic, I like to think of it as My-Little-Pony-hair braid.  I had been curious about it in the past, but when Gertie of Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing provided a helpful tutorial, I was inspired to give it a try.  Her tutorial is here and you can see how her dress came out here.   I used one-inch width braid, because that was what Jo Ann's had, but I think it was about right for the look I was going for: a little bit of body, but nothing overly dramatic.  Mine didn't have the nifty loops for fullness adjustment, either, but it didn't seem to need them.  I was actually able to completely encase the braid in my hem, too, which I like.  I imagine that would have been a challenge with the two-inch braid Gertie used.  

Anyhow, here are my latest Butterick 6574s ... surely there's a cuter name for them?  Help me out here!

I made the hem about an inch shorter on the purple one, just to see how I'd like it. It's fine, but the longer length is better.   On the purple one, I also pieced the skirt so that I could have the pattern running up and down, which worked out pretty well.  On the gray/brown dot one, I just let the lines of dots wobble all over, and they meet perpendicularly at the side seams.   But it doesn't look as bad as I thought that might.   Incidentally, the gray and brown dot fabric is from Amy Butler's Midwest Modern collection, and reminds me of The Gobbler -- grooviest motel in Wisconsin for some reason I can't quite articulate.  Perhaps that's why it's my favorite of the bunch.  (The purple is I Forget What from I Forget Where, like most of my fabric.) 

Oh, remember how in my last post, I was proud of having made a dress for only $6? Yeah, I know many have done even better, but for me that's a record.  Or was ... until I realized that I had no work-appropriate shoes to wear with it.  So, not one but TWO pairs of matching shoes are on their way to me from Zappos.  Hm, that dress is not looking quite so cheap now ... 

Monday, August 9, 2010

From fail to frankenpattern

OK, so I started McCalls 9583, but somewhere along the path I took a wrong turn, and ended up with this:

I guess my brain was not firing on all synapses that day, since I forgot how to do the lining trick for a sleeveless bodice that lets you finish the arm and neck holes, and ended up with something I couldn't flip right-side out.  I have done this correctly before -- I need to go look up the tutorial, clearly!  At the time I was thinking that I just needed to unpick the side seams, so I did that, then got distracted and sat down a little while later and sewed them right back up!  So I vented a little and picked them out again ... except I picked out one of the princess seams in the bodice by mistake.  It was one of those where you stretch one piece as you sew, and I just couldn't get the pieces to line back up properly so that I could re-sew them.

At this point, I might or might not have cried.

At any rate, that version of the bodice ended up in the trash.  I had enough fabric to cut only one more time, but no idea how close it would come to fitting, since I didn't get that far.   So I dug through my pattern stash and came up with another pattern that had darts similar to Butterick 6574, where I have the fit pretty much worked out.  That pattern was McCalls 7245:
... and that almost worked.  The resulting dress fits pretty well if I haven't eaten breakfast yet.  But I won't choose between my clothes and my regularly scheduled mealtimes, and given what an atrocious job I did matching the plaid in the back (no photo -- you'll have to take my word for it) it really wasn't worth the amount of disassembly required to let out the seams.    Not sure what to do with this now.  Goodwill? Etsy, where perhaps I could recoup the cost of my materials, at least?

So, I made another version, out of a bedsheet I picked up at Goodwill a while back.  I love a good cotton percale, and I really like the print, too.  There's perhaps $6 of materials in this dress -- and it is fully lined!  I overcompensated and added a little more than was needed to the waist of this one, but being a little loose doesn't bother me the way too tight does.   The other modifications I made seem to be spot-on.    I'm pondering making this again, and if I decide to, I've got a black fabric with white dots and an embroidered border picked out for it.  And I might even go back and try the bodice for McCalls 9583 one of these days.  But first I'm going to be practical for a change and fill in some gaps in my wardrobe ... more on those projects when they materialize!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sewing, not showing

That's what I'm doing.  I now have three, soon to be four, dresses that I have not posted here.  Two Butterick 6574s, one mentioned previously and one more (OK, time to give this pattern a rest).   And two from McCalls 9583, or what that project turned into when I zigged where I should have zagged too many times.  But more on that soon, when I have pictures and not just pattern numbers!

There's also a new sewing machine at my house:

Alas, this lovely Singer 15-90 is not here to stay: I'm just fixing it up for a friend.   My friend's interest in sewing was sparked when a neighbor gave her this vintage machine.  However, it needs some TLC before it's ready to sew, and having to fix up a machine before even properly learning how to sew proved to be too daunting a task.  So my friend went out and bought a low-end Brother machine, and was ready to give this one to me.   Perhaps I should have just accepted the gift, but I know that this machine will likely sew better than her new machine once it's been cleaned and oiled.   I also know that she has a pre-teen daughter and they love doing things together, so I can easily see two sewing machines getting used at her house!   So I said I'd get it going, and then have her come over for a lesson on it.   I am no expert on vintage machines (I just like them a lot!) but I have done some reading, and I think I know what I need to do.   I've already installed the necessary parts, and just need to tackle cleaning and oiling (and finding a new needle).    

Strangely, the machine came with a walking foot and a (fabulous!) Greist buttonholer, but no basic foot. I plan on learning how to use that buttonholer before returning the machine, and then maybe hunting one down for my Singer 500A.  I have heard that they make gorgeous buttonholes.   I love that my modern Janome makes automatic buttonholes, but I would never, ever describe them as gorgeous.  (Hm, maybe some day I should show off my own sewing machines.  I have the Janome and three vintage machines, plus a serger and coverstitch.  You can see why I felt I shouldn't accept the 15-90 as a gift!)

And finally, FINALLY, I got my Etsy shop up and running.  I've been wanting to start selling off some of my excess patterns for a while: I've come to the conclusion that a pattern is going to have to be super-freakin-fabulous for me to tackle re-sizing.  I have a lot of bust 34, and a lot of 1970s stuff, but a smattering of other sizes and eras as well.   Nothing rare or extra-fab, but I'm trying to make the pricing attractive.  I have a ton more to list: the whole process takes a while, especially counting pattern pieces.  I cannot tell you how much I HATE that part -- mainly the trying to refold them all up afterward and get them back in the envelope!   One pattern had 34 pieces!  Argh!