Monday, November 28, 2011

Ahh, those days w/ servants!
The Roommate & I have a very old cookbook (early 1900s) and it mentions which part of the recipes you should have your maid do.  Along those lines, obi (帯), the traditional oversized belts worn by Japanese women w/ their kimono are difficult to put on by yourself; you need at least another set of hands, and strength.

So I got a kick out of an article I saw on the plane about Sayuki, the first white geisha, who has begun selling つけ帯, or self-tie obi!  Here's the website, in case you need to get yours before the new year holidays, and there's a video about how to put it on--without the help of your servant!  According to Sayuki, geisha have been using such obi for years...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Japanese crafts

Thought you'd like to see two interesting gifts that the Roommate & I received from students when we lived in Japan.

On the left is an origami Girls' Day display.  Girls' Day, also known as Hinamatsuri (雛祭り), or Doll Festival, and in most homes there would be a large or small display of dolls (doll size influences display size).  At the top are the Empress & Emperor, then below, various courtiers, including guards & musicians.   A student had made this as part of a class assignment for public school, then brought it in to show the Roommate.  He asked what she was planning to do w/ it:  "Throw it away."  NOOOOO!  So of course he brought it home to me & it's been treasured ever since & on display in the 9 places we've lived since then.  It's in my sewing room now.

On the right is a cloth representation of Murasaki Shikibu (紫 式 部), a pen name for one of the earliest novelists anywhere.  She wrote The Tale of Genji in the 11th century.  When we left Japan, one of my students gave it to me.  Her mother had made it.  I thought it was nice, but my co-workers informed me that the student's mom is probably an expert & most likely a teacher of this craft--they could see the artistry and skill in it, even if I couldn't.  I do love it though, and it's been another treasure that has decorated our various living quarters throughout the world.  

You may remember that my yukata was made from fabric representing Japanese women poets lounging.  Here's the post showing that fabric.  I have tried to decipher the very stylized writing to figure out which poet is which--but I haven't figured out which one is Murasaki yet.  

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vintage girl's pattern - blue coat - lining!

I got a request for the lining, so thought I'd get this up.  My mom got all the fabric, lining & buttons on the army base when she lived in Germany.

Here's the post where I talk about the coat & you'll see some old photos there.

And here's the post where you can see the pattern that my mom used.

Thanks for looking!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hipsters vs. Old People: How to Tell the Difference

Or is there one?!  This is so true it hurts!

This is from a site called

If you're wondering, yes I am sewing (mostly unsewing) and trying to decide whether or not to re-cut the bodice (I always buy an extra 1/2 yard for mistakes & mind changes!).  Fortunately for me winter hasn't arrived...yet!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Vintage Pattern - Girlswear

You've seen the photo of me in my little blue coat (and seen the coat by itself--it's one of the many items of children's clothing in our bedroom).  Well, here's the pattern.  Looking thru the vintage patterns I have from my mom, I came across this & thought you might enjoy seeing it.  

It's Simplicity 2336 & is from the early 1960s.  

Hopefully my mom will comment to let us know where she got it (Germany or the US?).  If it was Germany I'm sure it was on the army base; apparently it was easy to get items from the US on army bases (maybe it still is?).  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

It's all over now, Baby Blue!

I woke up this morning with this song in my head:  Blue Sky, Allman Brothers, Dickie Betts singing.

Actually, I'm pretty happy, so I almost always have happy music in my head.  But that inspired me to try one more time...well, 4 more hours.  I just keep finding that if I made the darts big enough, it really messed up the bottom & sides.  And taking up in the middle (adding a 1/2" seam down the middle of the front on the muslin), just didn't seem to do it.  I also found (and am finding with the pattern I'm now adapting, too) that what fits on Helen, when cut out & sewed doesn't fit...sometimes not even close!

I never thought pattern making was easy; a friend in NYC does this for a living, and she's very much in demand, but I was right--it's difficult.  So I gave up & went thru my vintage patterns & found this one, Simplicity 9602, from my mom.  It's the right size--a 12 in the old size; 1971.  I still have to modify it a bit because I want a V-neck & a collar (still trying to get Scruffy Badger's Simplicity 7501!).  But since I'm starting with the correct size, not 6" too big, I'm hoping this will go better & faster.

I am finding that sewing with corduroy is a bit of a challenge.  I have to pin more & sew slower or everything crawls around.  And I'm used to pressing cotton, or linen, which is so hardy.  I'm using a very light hand so I don't mash the corduroy.  Here's the fabric in case you've forgotten thru all this what it looks like.  I was in Hancock again today (forgot a zipper, so I bought 3), and they still had the pincord (thin corduroy) on sale, so I got more...purple this time!  Another print, of course!

I've missed this class (ends 11/30): Bits of Thread Pattern Making class - Bodice, but this experience has definitely made me interested in taking the same thing, hopefully in the spring.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Reader, I gave up...or not!

It's been a day and a 1/2.  I am still trying to get this vintage 1967 (too large) Simplicity 7501 to fit correctly. (Here's the original blog where I explain how I mixed up 7501 & 7051.)  And here's Scruffy Badger Time's post about her cool pattern that I just had to have...

I thought I had it on this version, then I had a horrible time getting the back to fit.  You can see on the left what the piece I was using looked like when I started (and that was after many adjustments), and on the right is what actually works & fits!  After what felt like a zillion more adjustments.

I finally got the  back looking okay and realized that, perhaps because of the large darts, that the front was about 2" shorter than it should be. (I figured this out when it didn't match up at the side seams.)  So I had to start w/ new fabric (the green is #3, after the purple & the red).  I could have gone on with the shortened front bodice, but because I was worried about darts, I decided to use up some cheap fabric I bought a while back.  My other thinking was that if it works out, I might actually wear the green dress...

You can see that Bella is very supportive.  She likes supervising me when I'm working.  She especially likes the warm light & the warm computer & playing with thread.  She gives lots of head bumps so that keeps me going.  

So, I got it fitting fairly well, so decided to move on to modifying the neckline & adding a collar.  That took lots of pattern drawing & redrawing, believe me, to get the curves to match at the sides & back of the neck.   But I felt pretty sure that I'd changed the darts enough that it would be pretty close.  Not so.  :-((

I finally got the collar & facing done & tried on the bodice again, and I'm pretty fed up.  Now the front isn't fitting right anymore, though I think the collar & back look good. What the heck is up with that?  I played with it a bit, but can't quite figure out what to do to remove that bulk & get it to fit correctly.  You can see the 2 arrows I drew toward the problem in the picture to the left.  I started ripping out seams before bed & will give the darts yet another look. I'm quite pleased with the collar, though...but am almost thinking the neck is too big for a winter dress.  At the reference desk there's a vent that is always blowing on our necks, so I'd have to wear it with a silk scarf or something.  I do have a ton of jewelry, so a neckline like this is a good way for me to display that collection.  (Ah, yes, there's another collection; this house is full of them, which is why we need the new South Wing that's being added.)

I am going to give it another try.  Or maybe not.  I will see how I feel in the morning after yoga class & a trip to Heidelberg Bakery!

I took a look through some other vintage patterns I got from my mom.  I found 2 that might work, not exactly what I want, but that will work with the fabric I bought.

And I'm rather under the gun on this.  I know once I really start it won't take that long, but I've only got thru this Monday, really.  I just don't have that much time and we'll be away for Thanksgiving and Xmas & then again to California in if I don't get it done soon, it won't be done before spring & won't be much use to me then.  I'll be thinking about spring colors by then!

In the meantime, you'll find me on Bonanza or Ebay looking for a Simplicity 7051 or something similarly cool in my size!

I'm wondering if a belt would take care of that waist bulkiness?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bella models the W. African fabric quilt; knitted socks

You may have seen the list of items I've made (I've made more, but don't necessarily have pics, or haven't put them up); this in particular, a tablecloth & 2 small quilts I made of fabric we bought in Ghana & Burkina Faso.
Well, it's winter here now (cold & rainy tonight), and Bella is staying warm by avoiding the hard wood floors and the leather love seat!

And here are some nice warm wool socks from back in the late 1980s when I was knitting socks a lot.  They're the Roommate's.  They haven't been worn that much (wool doesn't look good at all when you live in the Middle East!), so they're 20+ yrs old but in great shape...I can never make the same thing twice, hence the mis-match.

Do you love the bedspread pictured above?  It's a print from India.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Just for fun! A super-cool McCall's pattern from...

Post was a big food company, they made breakfast cereal before being bought out by an even bigger food company.  I wonder if my mom saved cereal box coupons to get this, or did it come in the cereal box?  But it's the correct size, so perhaps she sent away for it. I don't remember if she made a dress from this pattern?  (I'll ask.)  Or was it for me or my sister?  The pattern has been cut.  

Anyway, I was going thru patterns last night (& I now have all my mom's old ones), and thought this was a fun one to share.  I actually may think about making it--but I am not sure--it looks like it could be for women less curvy than I am...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Weavings at work?!

As I mentioned before, we didn't take enough photos of weavers working when we were in South America & Central America.  However, here's a nice one of a woman in Guatemala using a backstrap loom.  And check out her huipile, the top she has on.  She's probably weaving another; I'm sure I asked, but do not remember.  

Anyway, because I didn't take enough pictures for the "Weavers at Work" series, I'll post a few that I call "Weavings at Work," people wearing amazing woven clothes while going about their business...

Don't worry, we do have others of Weavers at Work, but you'll have to wait until we get to the Oman, Asia & Africa photos...

The second photo is a huipile shop in Antigua, Guatemala.  We saw an awful lot of beautiful, high-quality huipiles for sale in the big market towns (Antigua, Chichicastenango, etc.), and it rather boggled my mind; I mean there are only about 14 million people there; it felt like each of them was trying to sell 3-4 huipiles!

Finally, the women in the third photo are a the market in Nebaj, and are wearing typical northern Guatemala dress.  (It's pretty easy to tell where women--and sometimes men--are from, if they're wearing their traditional dress.)  Can you see the woman on the right?!  In her hair is braided this amazing ribbon, which is woven & embroidered.  We have such a "ribbon" but it's only 6' long--we saw some that were 12'.  This is the problem w/ traveling while poor--I could have easily bought 10 of them, but instead had to make a choice!  We did buy 7 huipiles, though!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

By Jove, I think I've got it! Well, half...

Finally...I think this may be it.  See what you think.  I don't know how many time I've re-done the darts, but it sure looks like it's just about right now.  Some way or another when I was taking up the pattern, I ended up w/ too much at the shoulder seam, and not quite enough at the side seam.  But that's easily fixed.

I've cut out the back now & marked the darts.  But when I sewed up the first little waist dart, I didn't do it right; that's usually how I know I need a break, or am too tired to continue.  Generally I find if I just keep going I end up making all sorts of mistakes & the next time I sit down to work the first 30 minutes or so are un-sewing.  So I took the hint from that messed-up dart & went downstairs to deal w/ the laundry & to finish up a fruit salad the Roommate had started.
Back - needs work
Back - uh oh
With any luck I'll get the top finished tomorrow evening (when the Roommate is at a class).  I've decided rather than sew up the side seams for the fitting (this is a muslin, remember), I'll sew up the back seam & leave one side seam undone.  This way I can pin it on myself.  The Roommate is good & patient with these things but I'd rather be able to do it myself, if necessary...

Back - not quite there yet
Update...well, maybe not quite.  The back wasn't quick either.  I had even taken out a bit from the center of the pattern (with a fold, like I did on both sides of the front), but that wasn't nearly enough, obviously. And the darts don't sit right at all; almost as if I've got a bust at the back, too! They are also not quite at the waist.  Onward!  But I'm going away for the weekend so it will have to wait 'til the holiday weekend (11/11) for more work.

Here's a hint where we're headed this weekend!  We'll be waking up in the City that never sleeps...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Those Darned Darts! or The Saga Continues

This looks to be a never-ending project!  Hope you're either a) learning something or b) amused by all this.

So where am I now?  I used the original pattern & drew the darts onto my now new piece of muslin (it's that special kind of red & white muslin!), pinned the darts, put it on Helen.  It looked okay, so I sewed up the darts; and re-fitted it to Helen & it didn't look so good...

I took out the darts & tried again--essentially I moved them out about 1/2".  Pinned, put on Helen.  Looked okay. Sewed them up, put on Helen--did NOT look okay.

If you're wondering what that white triangle is in the photo, it's a dart that I just keep moving around to trace onto the pattern.  I figure it's a normal size person bust-dart, so once I get the angle correct it will be the right size & shape.  It probably doesn't show in the photo too well, but I just pinned the neck & the side seams to the dressmaker's friend and marked the fullest part of the bust.  Then I laid my paper dart and pointed that right at the fullest part.  Then I drew on the darts.  I will sew them up later; I have to go pick up the car which is getting new tires for the (supposedly bitter) winter that's got started last weekend.


I think I've adjusted & re-adjusted about 8 times now!  I do feel I'm getting close.  I finally put in the waist darts, trying to make them a bit wider so they made the waist fit better.  Then I went back to the upper darts, trying to get them the right width at the side seams & at the right angle.

I'm really hoping this pays off in me being able to use it over & over...if not, I'll be pretty upset to put in all this work!  Or maybe it's character building?!

I didn't need to gain respect for pattern designers, but boy, is this difficult.  I'll have to pay more attention at they gym when I watch snippets of Fashion Project Runway.  I have to go to work tomorrow, & we're going to NYC this weekend, so I was hoping to get it done today...not sure whether I'll get back to it before next week.  But at least I feel like I might actually figure it out at this point.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Battle of the Pattern - Getting Warmer!

Well, this is at least the 3rd version of trying to make Simplicity 7051 (from 1967) into not only a smaller pattern (38 vs. 44), but also to change the neck from a jewel neckline to a V with a collar!  (See Scruffy Badger Time's Simplicity 7501 to see where I'm headed.)

So you saw the purple version.  I played with the original pattern a bit, retraced it onto newspaper, re-cut the purple and played a bit more trying to fit it to my dressmaker's friend.  That did not work and of course I'd cut it too small by then to re-use it.  So I went back to the original pattern again and took out a bit from the shoulder to the bottom with a narrow fold.  I also made sure to shorten it a bit.  Then I found some more scrap fabric (I got a bunch free from a while back) and re-cut one more time.  I drew on the darts, but only pinned them for this photo.  I will sew them tomorrow & try fitting again!  This is a lot of work & is trying my patience, but I think that once I get this done, though, I think it will be so useful--between this & the bodice for Simplicity 2847 I'll be ready for anything.  (Hopefully...)