Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Vintage Make Four Progress Report: McCall's 5297 from 1976!

Sometimes I'm not sure why I sew.  It makes me pay a lot more attention to my body much more than I like to and I usually end up feeling like I'm a freak because NO pattern ever fits right out of the envelope!  And then I decide, "Well, I can modify this so it will fit really well."  Even though previous fitting experiences have been quite frustrating, with no clear lessons learned, and no actual pattern at the end that I feel can be used again...so frustration without reward.  As I said, why do I sew?!  And why do I think I can make something fit?!  

Sorry for the rant!  Onward!  
This dress needs a matching jacket.  I have tried a couple of different versions of the one in the pattern (See & Sew B5699), but wasn't thrilled with them.  They're okay, but not that great.  So I was getting ready to go ahead & cut my lovely navy wool & silk/rayon lining (thank you, Mood!), and decided, no, let's try something else.  Digging through my pattern boxes, I came across McCall's 5297 from 1976, which my mom gave me recently. (I think she might have made it for my sister?  I don't remember it being for me.)  Anyway, the jacket looks good, it's with princess seams (which always work better for me), and I just want to shorten it & round it a bit, so it's a bit more like this Mohammed-Make out of some of my beloved West African fabric. I get a lot of use out of this jacket, wearing it over tops or by itself with skirts and dresses.  

So I started a toile/muslin.  And was quickly reminded that even though princess seams are pretty good for fitting me, they're not perfect either...even this wonderful jacket from Mohammed is too loose at the waist.  So, I started playing with 5297 & ended up making it a bit more like the one above. Specifically, that meant turning the front side piece into 2 pieces, like the jacket above.  Essentially I went from 4 jacket front pieces (not including lining & interfacing) to 6.  It took lots of cutting & trimming & pinning, and of course I'm not 100% sure it's right, but I found some free cotton I'd been given & decided to try it all out.  If that works, then I'll get to work with the wool.  You can see to the right that I did lots of tracing/drawing and modifying.  

Frankentoile!
I used lots of scraps from other projects & from old sheets I get at Goodwill.  You can see my Frankentoile to the left, using 4 different pieces. 

One thing that is good (I guess) is that most pattern pieces fit me perfectly through the back.  It's sort of amazing how I match that part so well.  At least I don't have to fuss with that.  Just the sides & front!   

By the end of the day, I had the cotton version cut out, put in a new needle, wound a bobbin & did the back neck darts & center back seam.  A day spent fitting & cutting out & even making a bit of a start on the actual sewing...not too bad!  


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Few Small Items Finished

I really need to get cracking on See & Sew B5699, the jacket anyway, so I've got something new to wear this winter.  However, I got some free fabric a few weeks ago and decided to use some to make a new nightgown, and to finish up a smocked pillow that has been laying around for months.  So here are those 2 items, which have cleaned off my sewing table, giving me plenty of room to get that wool out & start cutting!  

The mother of a colleague taught Home Ec & Sewing in a public school in Pennsylvania for years.  And she has a ton of fabric.  My colleague is trying to get her to start cleaning out her basement, so she brought me a bag.  

This 100% polyester is something I'd never buy.  But since it's pretty & feels silky, I thought it would make a good nightgown...and I can always use more nightgowns.  Years ago I bought a nightgown which I really liked, but it finally wore out.  Since then I've made 3 which are essentially copies of it.  This is one of them.  It's a quick project & I like how slick & silky the fabric feels. 

And this morning I finished another smocked pillow!  Again, some fabric I got free (on www.freecycle.org); it's a light denim and there wasn't much (less than 1/2 yard), so a pillow seemed like an obvious project.  As with nightgowns, I can always use another cushion cover & I enjoy all the different textures created by the smocking around the house.  

I have only been using smocking on household items, but here's an amazing example of smocking on a dress, from a sister-blogger, from a 1960s pattern.


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Slenderette Tropicale - Simplicity 2847, 1958 - Done!

This is my third Vintage Pattern Pledge item for 2014!  It's also the 3rd 
Simplicity 2847 Slenderette pattern I've made; older ones here.  I love a shirtwaist!

And here I am modeling it in front of our garden, which we began working on in earnest this year (as opposed to just mowing the grass & ignoring it).  It's coming along quite well & is mostly native plants now. We've been in the house 3 years now, and have done lots inside...it was time to stop being bad neighbors & spruce up the front.

The Roommate & I also made the low slate wall you see...we are inordinately proud of it & it looks great--really adds a lot to the yard.  All of which is a way of saying, this is why I haven't been sewing much, and why the one thing I have been sewing has taken forever!

Another reason it took forever?  Because it's fully lined with silk & I used Hug Snug seam binding all over the place.  It looks great inside, as you can see. 

I do love this pattern!  It's got pockets, which I always look for on a dress. 

It's a really interesting pattern also because the bodice front & back have the sleeves built in...meaning no sleeves to inset, which I hate.  

It does have lots of buttonholes, though, which makes up in difficulty/impatience for the lack of sleeves!  

 The buttons are juniper, and we got them in Tallinn when we were there about 2 weeks ago.  I bought 8, not really sure what I'd do with them, and then got home & realized they'd match perfectly with the Tropicale.  


I get a lot of use out of my other Slenderettes, so I'm expecting to wear this quite a bit over the next few months before fall sets in.  


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

From the Collection: Children's Hats from SW China - The Best is Last?

I mentioned that the Roommate & I often try to buy things in sets of three. Not sure why we do that, but it's a habit we've tried to keep up. Of course sometimes we cannot resist & we buy some other odd number of items (7 Ethiopian pillows, for example). Anyway, the best of these three amazing items, another child's cap from SW China, which we bought in Dali in 1994.

The front of this has an overlapping leaf design, and YES, that is real hair, braided & woven with some wire to make super-scary horns.  Wouldn't any child feel protected wearing this cap?  

I'm guessing it's also from the Bai people, but I need to do some more research.  We got them all in Dali at the same time.  

BTW, they were made for wearing--all three have chin-straps.  

Enjoy the details below...



Note: Clicking on the photo will bring up a much larger version for your perusal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

From the Collection: Children's Hats from SW China - 2nd Entry

Another child's cap from the Bai people in SW China.  The first in this little series is here. Gorgeous embroidery & details on this scary face.  Not sure what's in the nose--it's quite hard, and feels like it might be wood?  I am especially partial to the teeth! I also love the mouth & eye details, including super eyebrows, which reminds me...

You'll be glad to know the Roommate & I try to shop in threes...so another one is coming (and I've saved the best for last)!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

From the Collection: Children's Hats from SW China!

The Roommate & I will be on a big trip thru Finland & Iceland to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary (yes we are proud!), so the next few weeks I'll be sharing a few items From the Collection. I hope you enjoy these lovely examples of folk art.

Think about this: you're a parent in pre-science culture.  You see the high death rate of children, especially babies.  Even if you have a clue about clean water or immunizations, you have no way to put that knowledge into daily use.  So you might try other methods to ensure the health & success of your baby.  These children's hats, richly embroidered & decorated, are an attempt to ward off evil spirits, while also ensuring luck, wealth, happiness & longevity. 

The scary face would definitely give an evil spirit a fright, don't you think? 

This hat is from the Bai people, an ethnic minority in
SW China (we purchased this cap in Dali in 1994). 

The exquisite embroidery, along with the fake fur, and a little trapunto (for the nose), give this cap a distinct personality.  I imagine a little boy or girl would be thrilled to wear such a scary cap, the equivalent of the superhero capes Western children wear.  The row of Buddhas will bring luck and wealth.  

Lotus embroidered on corduroy
used for the back of the cap. 

The lotus flower (above) endows purity on the wearer while the bird may mean a messenger or a shaman.  I can guess, but really, will never know what the mother or grandmother or aunt or sister was thinking when she made this treasure for a new member of the family. 

I'm a librarian, so compelled to include a bit of reading in case you'd like to find out more:
Symbolism in Chinese Children's Hats & Baby Carriers (2007)
and even more reading (on the Bai & Miao, but other ethnic minorities, too)!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

English Paper Piecing + West African Prints = Super Cool Clock!

Piece By Number
I really don't like doing handwork, and save up any hemming or button reattachments into a group...then do all the torture at once, usually while watching a DVD.  However, a post on SewMamaSew inspired me to give English Paper Piecing a try.  If you'd like some history, or more info, please check out this PDF from the International Quilt Study Center at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.  

I knew I wouldn't have the patience for a very big project, so what to do? 


Inspired by a Japanese folded paper technique (kanzashi) I saw in the book, Fabric by Fabric: One Yard Wonders, I decided to make a clock face.  (See Erin's using kanzashi here!)  I also wanted to use my dwindling supply of West African fabrics. The Roommate collects clocks, and our sun room has 5 on different time zones. So I had the idea and the fabric, but wasn't interested in trying kanzashi, so what to do?

A bit of googling found the Piece by Number site, where I found a pattern called Circle of Geese.  The pattern is here (another PDF). You can see her example up there to the left; isn't it pretty?  


A close-up of mine in the photo to the right. So many tiny stitches!  Almost can't believe I did that... 

Paper piecing is a real hassle: sew everything to a piece of cardboard, stitch them together, unsew to get the pieces of cardboard released and do it again.  I was thrilled I only had to repeat the block 3 more times!  I thought it would get easier with repetition, but it didn't! Honestly, it was just as much of a pain the 4th time as the first.  However, you can see that it's a great way to make little pointed pieces all come together.  

I finished it, but the Roommate & I decided that the hands didn't show enough, especially from a longer distance away. So I took the hands off and traced them and tried to fashion some triangles with interfacing.  I think buckram would have been better, but here's what happened...

I think it looks great!  It will be a striking addition to our clock collection & a fun way to use up some of my fabric scraps from a great shopping trip!

What do you think?