Thursday, November 15, 2012

I Dig the Bat Wing

A few months ago I bought a retro, unlabeled top at the thrift store, and it was so basic, and I liked it so much, that I decided to make a pattern off of it. It is the same piece front and back, so I put it on a grocery paper bag that I cut to lay flat, I folded to mark the center at top and bottom, and I traced around half of it carefully. I then went back and used my curves and straight edge to clean the pattern up. I created bands for the cuffs and hips based off my measurements, and then I set to making some new tops.

The first one came out snug in the arms and hips, but is wearable and has been frequently worn in the last few months. I made a few adjustments for the second, and it came out really well with none of the issues of the store bought or previously made one. I used a presumably vintage length of knit tube fabric that I bought in the thrift.

One of the major bonuses is that between the bat wing and the bands, the pattern goes together extremely fast! And sewn on the serger with minimal sewing machine stitching, it's nearly finished as it is constructed. Then there's the fact that this top embodies what I love about my favorite pieces of clothing- it has unusual details (bat wing and boat neck) while being totally functional and wearable.

 And so you can see my wings........
 Weak, huh? Well, that's because it is actually not a batwing top, although it does look a bit more wing-y when I don't have a long sleeve top underneath. But it's COLD. I think it's technically a magyar sleeve. How did I come to this conclusion, and what is the difference between batwing, magyar, and dolman anyway? I found a book called The Fashion Design Manual by Pamela Stecker that  clears this up- there is a preview on Google Books.
So if you don't know, now you know! Still, I'm pretty sure I'll never convince my husband to say magyar when it's so much more fun to say "bat waaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnnggggggg" in your best twang! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

This is Why My Stash is Totally OOC

Because $40 worth of lingerie elastic can be had in my local thrift store for $1.50 on the right day! These bits were grouped into bags- each cut looked to be about 4 yards, and there are lengths of waist and thigh elastic in almost every color seen here.

So, I am making myself up some new lin-ger-ie. I whipped up two unders using the absolutely lovely free vintage style "Grannie Pannies" pattern from Vera Venus. One pair, I did not photograph, because I was wearing them. If you happen to meet me tomorrow, I will be wearing these. T.M.I.?

These cost me about 20 cents to make. The elastic was almost theft, the fabric was given to me by some nice old ladies at a rummage sale, the rosette is from Grandma's stash, and the lining is thrifted rib knit. The only thing I paid full price for is the cone thread. Man, I love thrifting. 

You can download the free pattern from the Sew Vera Venus blog here. It comes in one size, a 37" to 39" hip, but the pattern can easily be graded up or down. It gives a really nice fit, and there is one main seam right up the center back, which makes them very comfy as opposed to just side seams. Basting and turning the elastic before stitching it down is the way to go, as one pair of mine ended up with a wee bit too much fabric at the thighs. I am just nit picking here though, as I love both pair. And wouldn't this pattern make a lovely bathing suit bottom?

The only issue I run into making underwear is with sewing the elastic. I used my serger for one pair with great results, but for this pair I simply sewed the elastic on the outside with a zig zag and trimmed the excess fabric away. I always get occasional skipped stitches when I zig zag elastic, and I don't know why. I have the tension up, and I am using a ball point needle. Any ideas or suggestions? Does this happen to you too? It drives me cray-cray!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

How Do you Solve a Problem Like Maria?

Nearly three years after the loss of my beloved Jack-Dog, we have decided to bring a new pup into our home. Meet Maria, so named by my Sound of Music obsessed daughter. She is a lab-hound mix and is about 4 months old. She's just as sweet as sweet can be. She had been at Macon County Animal Control for three weeks, and I saw her on their "Last Chance Homeless Pet Adoptions" Facebook Page. I'm so glad we went in. I wanted a dog that was a snuggler and a lover, and Maria has not stopped snuggling us since she came home. I know that she is a puppy and will certainly wake up, so we are looking forward to long hikes and trips to the dog park. This is the perfect time of year for us to adopt, as we plan to be home through the holidays, and we will have lots of company for socializing. 

Ain't she cute? 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Local Color- Mud Creek Falls

Just a few minutes away from our house, this picturesque waterfall is located in Sky Valley, Georgia. I just loved the moss covered rocks and evergreen foliage setting off leaves in various stages of turning.That is my girl and I on the rock, and that gives you some perspective regarding the size of the falls. This is a drive up location with a one mile trail that runs along the creek below. I am looking forward to checking out Mud Creek Falls as the seasons progress now that I know where to find it.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Rusty Corded Shell

What the heck is this woman talking about "Rusty Corded Shell?"

I finished this shell blouse a couple of weeks ago, and while it was pretty straightforward in construction, I decided to add some embellishment to the front by making a corded design. It was a major pain to turn the cord, as my fabric was really too heavy for this, but I persevered/ stubbornly continued on and ended up with this.
 I can always count on the hubby to cut off the top of my head in an already crappy iPhone pic. That's ok, it makes my five-head a forehead.

I used Butterick 3286 in a size 32" bust. I don't know what is up with this pattern, but it fits me pretty well and I am a 37" bust. I guess it's because it's supposed to be an "overblouse."

Although it is far from perfect, I really like it, and I plan to try again with a lighter weight fabric. If you are interested in trying this technique, check out the Coletterie tutorial here

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Smoke signals

Hello! Here I am! I am a major blog slacker. I have absolutely no reason for not writing. I started posts many times. I just didn't feel motivated to complete them. However, I have been sewing a lot and doing a lot of little projects around the homestead. I'm going to try to ease myself back in here by writing shorter posts more frequently.

Anyway, here is my finished wrap dress that I asked about like five years ago.

I decided to keep the pocket but remove the trim from it. I like how it turned out. It is easy to wear and comfy, great for doing house work. Here is what I look like doing house work. 
It has been so outrageously long since I posted, that about a month ago we completed the refinish on the cabinets that are without doors behind me, and we also put a coat of that Rustoleum paint on our pink counters. Here is an after shot:
This was a major improvement. The cabinets are great. The counter paint chips, but I'll take chipped cream over faded rose pink any day. 

Finally, to complete this loosely linked, random series of photographs, here is a pic of my Halloween sweetie dressed as Scooby Doo.
I have finally been getting some compensation for the many sleepless nights since she was born in the form of all of her best Halloween candy bars. I love that little pup. 

I hope everyone is doing alright in the aftermath of that crazy storm. So long for now...

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make it Better Yourself- Strawberry Frogurt

Well, the yogurt isn't from scratch, but it was on sale at my local grocery store, so I bought a few containers to try in the ice cream churn. It turned out great! Next batch, maybe I'll try some mix ins. Let's see, what's good with strawberries...Slivered almonds? Definitely chocolate chips. Any other ideas?

It was definitely a hit with Arabel. She thinks she's the luckiest kid on Earth for getting "ice cream" two days in a row, and I don't feel guilty about giving it to her a half hour before bed. In fact, I feel really good about teaching her how to make healthier food choices. Win/win! 

Saturday, September 29, 2012


I lost my cool at the farm stand today and came home with these...
Luckily, all but the three gourds are edible. I just put 'em in the oven whole and bake 'em. Is anyone else pumpkin crazy?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Mixed Emotions....

So, I am currently sewing a back wrap dress, Simplicity 6341 © 1974. The fabric is a vintage bed sheet. My dilemma is with the patch pocket on it- the huge, very '70s patch pocket. Half of me says it's awful and obtrusive, and the other half says that is part of the authentic '70s charm. These are the things I ponder late at night. I have a soft spot for the period details, but I also want to want to wear it, and as a friend commented, the pocket makes it look like an apron. But that is kinda how the Swirl style was, right? (See Lizzie Bramlett's article on the Swirl dress here, complete with photos of enormous pockets) A big, embellished dress/apron? A drapron? Another friend said it would look better without the trim as placed, and I think that might be part of the problem too. Although, I was thinking about just putting in some more useful side seam pockets. Any thoughts? 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dream Dress- Anniversary Edition

As alluded to in my previous post, I have already completed a project in my new sewing studio. My husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary last week, and I just whipped this little number up (I've always wanted to be able to say that!) to wear out on our first child free over-night out in two and a half years (thanks Ga Ga!).

 It is a great fit and the fabric is really cool. I used two identical 40s (?) feed sacks I purchased at an antique mall in Maryland when I visited my mom back in March.
Cutting into 70 year old fabric is a little nerve-wracking
 My original plan was to take Gertie's Bombshell Class on Craftsy and use that pattern. Well, I loved the class, and although I employed several of the methods Gertie instructs on in the construction of this dress, mine was not made as carefully as hers. In fact, it was made in a couple of hours spread over the three days before my anniversary. That's the "whipped it up" part. Also, I didn't use that Burda bombshell pattern. I am very small up top, and I just didn't like the way it looked on me. So, I used the top from Simplicity 4070.
Ignore the horrific bubble dress.
I am learning to look past the awful samples depicted on some pattern fronts. 
I moved the seams so they would be over my bust, as they were spaced too far out at the sides. I also shortened the bodice by one inch for my short waist, and "sweethearted" it a little more, as it seemed not so heart-y. To this bodice, I added the skirt from Simplicity 4491, which I know fits me well and is a style I like from having made it in my Daffodil Dress and in a leopard print as well.  
Of course, I double checked to make sure the bodice's princess seams would match the skirt darts and tucks, and then I shortened it a lot. A real lot.
Getting old, but not willing to hang it up yet!
I also put spiral steel boning in the bodice, moved the zipper to the side seam, lined the bodice, underlined the entire dress, included a waist stay, and sewed the zipper and hem by hand. Of the waist stay and boning, I must say I don't think I would have been comfortable in this dress without them. As Gertie says in the class, they are like scaffolding- that dress stayed just where it was supposed to, and I am one of those gals who always thought I didn't meet the requirements for holding up a strapless dress, if-ya-know-what-I-mean.
I loved wearing it, and I felt like a million bucks. The hub loved it too, and we both loved the gazillion pounds of sushi we consumed at our special dinner. And lemme tell ya, that waist stay does start to feel a little tight after a gazillion pounds of sushi and a bucket of hot sake. I can actually sum up the feeling with another photo......
In other related news, I received my copy of Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing in the mail yesterday. I am still reading through, but I think it is going to be a great resource for in depth techniques that my other sewing texts do not cover well. There are some really cute patterns to check out too. I'll give a full run down on the book once I have finished looking it over.

'Til next time...

Monday, August 27, 2012

This. Is. A Radio Test.

I didn't drop off the face of the Earth, but my family did move to a very rural new home, and we were without home internet service for the last two months. Yes, in 2012. 

So, we no longer live on that 13 acre farm. We now live on a modest home on one acre shaded by lovely, mature tulip poplar trees. There is a rushing creek across the street from our new home, and you can hear it from our big ol' front deck or even in bed on nights when the crickets aren't chirping too loud. There are lots of wildflowers and worms, and we hope to do some planting in terraced boxes in the spring. We really love our new house and feel so fortunate to be living here.
A photo of our home viewed from the dirt road in front.
 Courtesy of Jonathan Wilson
This picture gives a good idea of the feel of the land- the light in much of the front and left side-yard is filtered, and it helps create a serene, early morning atmosphere through much of the day. 

We have done a lot of painting, cleaning, etc. on the inside, and the outside shingles and deck still need to be re-stained. I will post some before and after shots when I can get them together. We have also done some work on the landscaping, which was nicely done but overgrown. 

We have a fenced back yard for the little one, and a laundry chute, and a basement man cave for my hub, and nice big windows to look out of, and all of that is very well and very good, but one of the best things about our new house, for me, is that I have my very own sewing studio. It's a finished room in the basement, and it still needs a little de-musting, but it's big, it's mine, and it's awesome. I am still getting it together, but I will definitely post pics when I do. 

In the meantime, my next post will have pics of my first completed sewing project, a franken-patterned strapless sweetheart mini dress that I made to wear out with my hubby love on our 5th wedding anniversary last Saturday. But more on that to come.......and it won't be two months! 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Secondhand Showcase- Wait! I know that pattern!

While browsing patterns last week in one of my regular haunts, I spotted this sewing pattern and got excited.

Courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Wiki
Not just because it's 60s and cute, but because it looked familiar. Even the fabric in view 2 on the left was reminiscent of an ensemble I had seen before....

I found this skirt and top in the thrift shop several weeks ago and listed it in my Etsy shop. I actually really like it, so I decided that it was okay if nobody bought it. It is handmade, with unfinished seams and fabric covered buttons on the back.

Well, when I got home with the pattern I did a quick comparison of the pattern and garments, and they are not a match- the skirt has darts, and the blouse only has a bust dart. Drat! But it was close! It's probably safe to date the garments around the time of the pattern though (based on the style, fabric, and finishing), which is copyright 1965. I love to try to match vintage handmade items with patterns. Does anyone else do this? Have you ever found a match? I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Secondhand Showcase

Sad to say, after my first Secondhand Showcase post last week, I had a slow thrifting week this week. I got a play kitchen for the baby on the cheap, a few vintage patterns, and a special sewing machine foot for sewing on sequins and elastic. Also, we had an incident where a clothing rack collapsed as we were looking through it! Thrifting can be dangerous biz!

So, I'll show some recent acquisitions that go right along with the holiday weekend. A couple of weeks ago I scored a great floral 70s bathing suit as well as a good condition electric blue 60s Jantzen bikini.

Cute, huh? As neither suit was my size (I have a middle school bust :), I listed both in my Etsy shop. The floral tankini has since sold. 

Oh, and the vintage bathing suit talk reminds me, I got a photo of the vintage style suit I made for myself. Here it is modeled in front of our vintage 60's Shasta camper. As the hubby is just about finished with work for the school year, I was cleaning it up a bit in the hopes we'll be camping out again soon.  

The baby was having a pool party. She has all the fun!!!! 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Krazy Kitchen Gift Embroidery

I have been working on this trio of kitchen hand towels for-ev-er. I did a lot of embroidery when I was pregnant, but now I usually embroider only at times when I can't sew. Like in the car. Eeeek. They are a wedding present and long overdue (although well within the acceptable one year.) Still, I really like how they are coming along.

I used a very nice quality, sturdy vintage flat sheet to make the towels, which I narrowly hemmed on the featherweight. I downloaded the Krazy Kitchen embroidery pattern pdf from Sublime Stitching, and I traced the motifs I wanted on my towels with iron on transfer pencil in my desired placement. I pressed the patterns on the fabric, chose my colors, and here's what I came up with.

 The silly patterns are based on the known fact that the bride does not like to cook. In her last house, there was a small window in the kitchen, and she joked that they had their own delivery window for take out.
I forgot the handle on the blender. Doh! I'll go back and fix that. 

The flaming pan was fun to make! I used a stem stitch for licking flame texture that the back stitch could not provide.  
In progress. I have a pistachio mixer that I love! The cupcake will be frosted in pink. 
I just love Sublime Stitching. The patterns are soooooo cute. I actually got totally distracted by browsing patterns while I was getting the links for this post. Next I want to stitch some cute little camper accessories with Camp Out.

So, do you embroider? Have you ever used any Sublime Stitching patterns?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Secondhand Showcase

On many of the blogs I read, people regularly show stuff they have thrifted over the course of the last week or so. I like to see what others have found, and from time to time, I do gush over what I've found here too. The thing is, I go thrifting, to the flea market, and antiquing pretty much constantly, and a lot of neat stuff I find never does get mentioned. So, I'm going to try to regularly share the things that I am most excited about. Some things go to my Etsy shop or eBay, and some things never ever leave my dirty old mitts.... 

Like these zippers. Whoever dies with the most zippers wins. 
I found this basket at a local rummage sale yesterday. 40 vintage zippers, two covered button kits, one dollar. For ALL OF THEM. So now, I have like 100 zippers, because I was already sick with this bug.  

I bought this fabric at a thrift store a ways from my house a couple of weeks ago. I am trying to go on a fabric diet, because I have over 200 yards of fabric in my stash (help me!!!!)  but this was so pretty, I pulled all of the quarters out of my change cup to buy it. I emailed photos to the fabrically (and otherwise) brilliant Lizzie of The Vintage Traveler blog, and she told me she believes it to be high end home decor fabric from the 50s or possibly early 60s. She told me to scrunch it in my hand, and if it sprung back without wrinkling all up, which it did indeed, it was rayon. Thanks Lizzie!

 This little buddy I found last week at Goodwill. Now, I haven't purchased a vintage machine in months, right? Right? At least two. But how could I pass up a PURPLE Kenmore with all metal gears at a total steal? That's right! I couldn't. It has a 1.2 amp motor, and that is some serious home sewing power. I spent the good part of a night taking it apart, cleaning various pieces, and putting it back together. That's my kind of Friday night par-tay!!!

How about you? Do you love thrifting? Do you post about thrifting? Do you do it for sport, money, or your private collection?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Melaina Buller Top- Sewing from Film Inspiration

Did anyone else love the movie Shag? My sisters and I used to watch it over and over when we were young teens. I have always loved the music, the dancing, and the clothing, which was all represented very well (the film is set in the 60s, but was released in '89). Don't put it on in expecting a great plot and well written dialogue, though. Well, a couple of weeks ago I was browsing vintage sewing patterns, as I have been known to do every day for an hour, and I came across this summer top pattern that looks just like a top Melaina (Bridget Fonda) wears in the movie.
Courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Wiki
Of course at first I wanted to buy the pattern- any excuse, you know? But then I got to thinking and realized I could make this without that pattern. My current vintage pattern collection is nothing to scoff at, and I knew I had to have something I could use as a foundation for this simple top. Enter Simplicity 6500, a simple, button back, darted bikini top. 
Love that Vintage Pattern Wiki
Once I rustled up my pattern, I traced it out (I use soil separator paper for pattern tracing) leaving plenty of extra room to extend the bottom. The I estimated how much length I would need to add for the desired, midriff length and drew in the added length (about 3"). I extended the bottom darts and made the waist larger by adding fabric in at the side seams and making the waist darts smaller. Then I cut, using what little fabric I had left from this piece to make ruffles and bias tape. 

From there, it all came together without much ado, the hardest part being getting the ruffles pinned across the bodice evenly and distributed somewhat evenly. When I make the next version of this in check, I will draw guide lines before I stitch, pinning the darts shut first. And, I will remember to interface the button placket. You would think that I would remember this sort of thing by now. All in all, the wearable muslin is kinda cute though....

In order for this blouse to be 60s and something that I would be comfortable wearing, it has to go with appropriately high waisted shorts. These are the bottoms from the bathing suit I finished up a couple of weeks ago, and I have plans to make a few more pairs of shorts in varying lengths. What is that thing about "the best laid plans of mice and men" again?

I also need to make the neckline a little higher in front and more of a bateau shape. Still, overall I'm pleased. It wasn't that long ago I wouldn't have dreamed I could sew anything up without a real pattern. Heck, it wasn't that long ago I couldn't sew at all. Look at me now, ma! Top o' tha worlddddddd........

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day Tennis Dress and Sewing "in the Flat"

Yesterday for Mother's Day, my sweetie pie husband gave me the day off. He cooked all of our meals and cleaned up too, and I was free to get some good sewing time in. I made a dress for the baby in a cute little retro print synthetic knit I found thrifting for a quarter.

For the second time now, I sewed an entire garment "in the flat." Does anyone else do this? What the heck do I mean? Well, the instructions for the pattern I used, Butterick 5976, would have you sew the side, back and shoulder seams, then attach the collar and facing, insert the zipper next, and then ease in the sleeves and hem them (those tiny little sleeves!) before hemming the dress bottom.

Here is what I did:

  1. Serged the shoulder seams together and pressed them backward
  2. Eased in the sleeve cap and serged into place
  3. Serged sleeve hem and hemmed/stitched the opening of the sleeve while flat 
  4. Sewed the collar as usual. Serged bottom of facing and attached facing and collar to dress
  5. Understitched facing and instead of tacking stitched facing to shoulder it in the ditch through the top of the shoulder seam
  6. Serged both sides of back seam separately then sewed to zipper bottom position. Inserted zipper, and hand slip-stitched facing edge at top of zipper
  7. Serged side seams and sleeve seams all at once. Pressed seams toward back. Alternately (to allow for small adjustments later) you could serge front and back individually and sew
  8. Serged hem and hemmed it
I don't know if there is any reason not to sew this way, but I have been finding many aspects of construction easier when garments are sewn in the flat- especially kids stuff. Um, and zippers! If you are machine sewing a zipper, it is way, way easier to sew it flat without all of that extra fabric in the way. And why fuss to fold and hem a tiny sleeve when you can just sew it flat? Yes, this does make a seam that ends at the armscye, but isn't that seam hidden by the child's arm anyway? 

I'd really be interested to know if anyone else sews this way or has tried it, or if anyone knows of reasons why it might be a bad idea. 

Now that I've rambled on, here are some pics of my little munchkin in her new dress.
Courtesy of the Vintage Pattern Wiki

It is great how she is so excited to wear a dress I have made her. Sometimes she comes to me with a shirt or scarf and says, "Mommy, I made this for you!" It won't be long before we'll have a little sweatshop going!