“Mystery Blogger” Award

I’m so humbled and honored to share the fact that Emily of “The Pretty and the Kitsch” has nominated me for the “Mystery Blogger” award.  Thank you so much for this wonderful surprise!  This means a lot to me and really bolsters me up.  I’ll not be shy in saying I am proud of what I have to offer on my little space on the Internet, and do find that the time and effort to do it is a real pleasure that brings out the best in me.  Yet sometimes I need to hear that what I do is appreciated (don’t we all?) and so this has been such a lovely blessing.

“Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.” Created by: Okoto Enigma

Here are “The Rules” to the “Mystery Blogger Award”:

  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself
  • Nominate 10-20 bloggers you feel deserve the award
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny one
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

And so to begin…

Three Things About Myself:

  • As much as I love to talk and write, I do not like talking about my personal self at all unless it’s in the context of some point I want to make or reference, or do some good.  I don’t know why.  Yes, I can be shy but also very outgoing…I guess it’s just a matter of being content with myself and enjoying a good conversation with others.  I have done a lot of varied and curious things in my life and know a range of subjects that keep surprising people I know, so I probably am interesting.  Yet, I do not like to lay those things out there generally.  Thus, consider this post as me being very brave and please respect the fact that I am going out of my comfort zone here!

 

  • I do love cars…a small percentage of the reason I am nicknamed “Seam Racer”. In particular, I love 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000 era fast sports cars, especially if they are a stick shift, manual transmission.  Years back, I passed up a reasonably priced vintage Lotus Esprit, and I still kind of wish I had gone for it, but I do love my “baby”, a hot red ’93 Ford Probe (with only 60K original miles mind you!) and taught myself how to drive a stick shift on her.  This led to me figuring out why a stick shift works the way it does, to learning more about cars than I thought I ever would, to knowing how to make the most out of my car’s peppy motor just so I can be the very first among other cars to get up to the speed limit when taking off from a stop light.  My little racing “baby” makes driving so much more fun than most people ever know it can be.  One day I want to find an old empty giant parking lot or a lonely winding road and really see what she can do with me behind the wheel.  Zero to sixty in a handful of seconds?  Yes, please!

 

  • I not only stick to being creative through sewing, but I also love almost all other aspects of the arts and crafts world. I think I have an inbred desire to see something made with my hands.  Ever since I was little, I have made what I wanted with my hands using what was on hand. If I wanted a playhouse, I used a cardboard box to make something way cooler (and cheaper) than anything I saw out there for my parents to buy.  If I get excited about a book or setting, or just want a new picture to hang on the wall, I paint or draw something.  It’s the same with my clothes creating too, I suppose.  If I see it, or if I visualize it, or come up with an idea, I make it happen.  I can make jewelry, do calligraphy, make plastic models, cut hair, make rubber stamps, I can do flower arranging (I had been a florist for a year), mix and master music, or just plain make a killer meal.  I love it all and do it in spurts, although with a family and a household to take care of, I’m am mostly focused on sewing and writing at the moment.

Now – Questions for me to answer:

If you had a time machine, where in time would you take it to first and why?

I love history.  Pick a time, any time or place.  This is too hard to narrow down…really.

If you could be a character in any book, film or TV show, who would you like to be?

This is also tough!  I would have to say I would love to be a companion to some of the heroes in the half-fictional classic stories that I love, ones that seemed so real to me when I read that that I’ve almost been half-there.  There is “King Solomon’s Mines” in which the intrepid but wise Allen Quartermain would take me through the most dangerous yet picturesque regions of Africa to meddle in the action arising from the Zulu and Boer Wars.  Or I could visit “Prisoner of Zenda”, where I could see the handsome Rudolf (or Rupert) in the imaginary territory of Ruritania and get to know the Princess Flavia better.  Or there is Narnia, of which I still half-hope to find a portal to one day, and I would love to go there with Jill Pole or Lucy Pevensie.  So I suppose this is not really the clearest answer to the question, but the most honest one.

Who would you say inspires you the most?

My Grandmother (on my dad’s side), who died early in 2017, is my greatest inspiration on so many levels, I can’t even explain it right now.  I miss her so much.

If you could only eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would have to be a rounded out meal, because I love a good amount of meat, with veggies and a starch or carb at every supper, with a healthy dessert.  I can certainly live without sugar, I don’t have much now the way it is.  I really don’t know though.  There is hardly any food that I don’t like so this would be a very hard punishment for me.  I like variety in my meals, and I cannot live without the occasional strong drink or rich morsel of chocolate.  Whatever, I could chose here would be something I would regret.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Bi-location, definitely.  (I guess this would count as a super power!)  I have so much to do, remember, and take care of, that I am often sorely aware at how much I wish I could use that time to spend instead on other things I would rather enjoy.  If I could bi-locate, part of me could do the soccer and t-ball game drop-off for my son, house cleaning, wash the laundry, make meals (not all meals mind you, I enjoy cooking but do need breaks), pay bills, and other boring adult/mom things so that I could actually find leisure time to enjoy blogging and sewing better, write my dream stories, read more books, practice my other artistic outlets, or just sit in the sun with my dog for just a handful of examples.

So – enough about me!  (Yes, please!) To return the “Mystery Blogger Award” favor to others, now, here is my list of 15, in no particular order:

Now for my 5 questions to those bloggers I have nominated to answer!

  • What everyday tool could you not live without?
  • Do you have a preferred heel height for your shoes?
  • What is next on your “bucket list”?
  • Who makes you laugh the most?
  • Is there a pet that you wish you could have?…no limit!

That should sum things up here!  Thank you again, Emily, for nominating me for this!  Go visit her blog and show her some extra love, too. I want to end this post with something very important – that every one of you dear readers also gives me a little award for every comment and viewing.  Thank you as well!  I wish I could have a mile long list to include all of you for a nomination.

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World War Two Weekend 2018

Last weekend was the annual WWII reenactment that we attended and I thought I would share with you some pictures of the event.  This weekend event has been going on in the spring at the historic Jefferson Barracks for over 30 years now, and it was especially perfect weather to make it even more enjoyable this year.  Almost every one out of 6 years is terribly cold, muddy and rainy!  This time it was balmy with a clear sky.  We met some new, wonderful people and there was a good turnout.  My 5 year old had a blast.

I had two different outfits for the two days, each of them half me-made, and both definitely worth sharing.  These outfits are something you don’t see every day!  To have a change of pace from my ‘normal’ posts, this one will be picture heavy with the traditional history nuggets.

For Saturday I was a British Women’s Land Army girl and my hubby was an Army 2nd Lieutenant Engineer.  Both of our jackets are true vintage.  My pants are the ones I blog about here (from 1943), tucked into the reproduction “Rosie” boots from Royal Vintage shoe company.  By me wearing these military style “Double Buckles” boots, I am reenacting a Land Girl which would be doing other chores than farming, such as at a “Lumber Jill” part of the forestry division called the “Timber corps”.  The girls who worked in the fields often had tall black rubber “Wellington” boots (galoshes).

The British Women’s Land Army (WLA) was a British civilian organization created during the First and Second World Wars so women could work in agriculture, replacing men called up to the military. Women who worked for the WLA were commonly known as Land Girls.  Even though the word “army” is in the title designation, it was actually a civilian organization. Before the Second World War, Britain had imported much of its food. When war broke out and U-boats were destroying many merchant ships bringing supplies to Britain from America, it was necessary to grow more food at home and increase the amount of land in cultivation.  Since many active and healthy men were joining the military, women were needed to fill their shoes and more. The WLA continued in existence even after the war had ended, as food rationing continued until 1950 when it was disbanded. During the time of its work, the WLA had provided 90,000 women to work on the land and had kept Britain in food for the duration of the war. Though Britain had rationing, no-one actually starved during this time – a testament to the work done by the WLA.  (Info from here, here, and here.)

DSC_0104-comp,,three part combo

However, the details to this original jacket share their own interesting story.  It is quite the sturdy garment, made of a heavy cotton twill, but it was obviously made in a hurry.  Many of the seams are not flat felled properly, the way the raw edges hang out in random spots.  The top stitching is a bit wonky, and some of the bobbin thread to the machine sewing did not catch properly.  Now, I am not criticizing, just seeing all of this as a sign that probably resources were low, time was short, and these garments were sorely needed!  The hem is surprisingly interlock stitched…yes, just like modern serging.  My jacket is quite shorter than what I see on women in old pictures of WLA work, so I’m supposing that my jacket might have been hemmed at a more modern date – I’m not sure.  I do love how old extant garments have so much to teach and to tell.  There’s a story in every stitch.

One of the most practical details to this jacket that I love is the removable buttons.  They are very basic buttons indeed.  They seem to be formed plastic, in a military olive color, with a pin through the middle which has a loop at the back.  This way a round jump ring can keep the buttons’ pin backs in the tiny button holes down the left front of the jacket.  The cuffs have the same removable buttons, too.  For all the practicality that these show, I am sort of surprised that the belt is not made to be removable.  It is sewn down at the center back.  I must admit, this way I suppose the belt will not get lost or shift around on the garment.  What she is wearing should be the last concern for a Land Girl to get her jobs done!

For the second day of the event – Sunday – I wore a Women’s Army uniform that is admittedly not perfect, as it is still a work-in-progress, but decent enough for the day.  My skirt is a lovely cotton twill straight skirt made by me from a 1946 pattern for a suit set that I have made, just not yet blogged about.  However the jacket has not so authentic roots.  This began as a basic, cheap reproduction that fit me decently well, and was close enough to the real thing in style lines that I figured I could just use the matching skirt to cut up and refashion more jacket details such as pocket flaps, an extra back bodice panel, and shoulder epaulettes.  I even added shoulder pads.  The details of a real women’s Army jacket are all there, as I believe.

My left shoulder badge is for the Army Ground Forces – a unit established with a mission to provide units properly trained for combat operations, especially organizing of task forces for special operations.  Army Ground Force personnel made over 40 major landings on enemy shore and accounted for nearly 80 percent of the Army’s battle casualties, while capturing over 3 million prisoners.  Women were part of the Army Ground Forces (AGF) – frequently assigned to Armor and Cavalry schools as radio mechanics, they took care of requisitions involving radio equipment, repaired and installed radios in tanks or other vehicles, and even trained men in code sending and receiving (info from here).

At some point, if I do more reenacting or if a women’s Army jacket in my size happens to cross my path at a good price, well – I plan on ditching this repro version for the real thing and using this imitation as an Agent Peggy Carter uniform, like what she wore in the “Captain America: The First Avenger” movie.  I can totally see Peggy being a part of the Army Ground Forces, anyway, especially since she was excellent at code breaking.  Until I find a real-deal uniform, I realize I need some more pocket buttons, and some appropriate lapel pins (I left Peggy Carter’s SSR pins on, sorry I’m not sorry!) to be at a WWII event.

Trying to do dedicated, full out authentic reenacting on a budget can be hard and time consuming.  It is worth doing right, though, because this is more than fun…it’s sharing history and retelling what happened to others by putting yourself in a place back in time.  By either participating or attending a re-enactment is a very special way to learn history that makes what is read in books come to life!

A copy of the “Schlüsselmaschine Enigma” (Enigma Machine) the hardware invented by a German and used by Britain’s codebreakers as a way of deciphering German signals traffic during World War Two.

If you want to see pictures from the other years’ WWII weekend, see this post for 2015, and this picture and this post, or even this one, for 2016!

A Random Pattern Piece Find…

Sometimes my vintage sewing patterns hide little surprises inside.  In the case of the year 1934 McCall #7823, a tap pants and bra set from the previous post, there was a lonely sleeve pattern from a completely different unmatched envelope.  What has been your weirdest find inside a pattern envelope?  This is I suppose not the strangest or most exciting, but it is random and makes me scratch my head at the history paper patterns hold.

 The random tissue piece is for a “short sleeve” with the number McCall #5918, in a size 16.  Why would a pattern for undergarments have a sleeve pattern randomly shoved in it?  I guess it really doesn’t do any good to ask why, I’ll not figure that out!  However, thanks to the internet, I can see what the rest of the pattern did look like (below) and find what year it came from.  This sleeve piece is from a stunning pattern that is of the year 1944, ten years after the date of the envelope I found it in!

Until this lonely orphan finds the rest of its match, I will keep it on its own and maybe try it out on a sleeveless garment.  However, there must be an existent pattern out there somewhere to have an image to share, and it’s probably missing a sleeve piece, too!  The front bodice of that dress is killer sexy, anyway!  I am laying out this info in the hopes that one of you lovely readers perhaps just might have this pattern.  I offer a pattern trade so my sleeve pattern could be a complete design.  A pattern copy for a pattern copy?

The “Summer of the Pinafore”

Several months ago when Mena Trott (of Sew Weekly fame) and I were brainstorming the Sew-along on Instagram called the “Summer of the Pinafore”, we became mutually interested in this curious garment.  As odd as a pinafore might look, it’s really so versatile and practical.  Just think, a pinafore’s generous pockets serve as mini purses attached to ones clothes.  Its frilly personality makes it fun, fresh, and pretty.  Its multi-purpose “sundress-apron-jumper” design makes it something for mostly any season with the right fabric.  An assortment of trimmings and even a wild or quaintly cute print only makes the pinafore look better.  No really, this garment is meant to be there when you want to get things done and not worry about what to wear, like an old friend helping you out in your need.  And if you sew your own, it provides an opportunity to successfully use up things from your fabric and notions stash.

The “Summer of the Pinafore” is in its last week now (it ends at the first week of October) but I wanted to share some inspiration and knowledge to perhaps help others be motivated to join with me, to sew, or at least wear more pinafores outside of the sew-along.

So firstly – what exactly is a pinafore, after all?

A broad definition is that it is a collarless, sleeveless garment that implies an apron.  A pinafore is often (not always) tied or buttoned in the back, and may be a simple apron or a full sundress-like jumper for wearing over clothes.  This broadness and changing use of purpose for such a garment leads to much of the confusion as to what is a pinafore, after all…if you really want to “pin” down the term.  What doesn’t help clear things up is the added language differences for the same thing as well as nicknames – “pinny” (colloquial term), “training tabard” (for children), “smock” (full bodice), “jumper” (sweater top in British English), or the plain old “apron”.  The term “pinafore” certainly should be on a list of quirky and interesting sewing and garment related terms.

To go with a technical explanation, the very name of this garment reflects how the pinafore was worn. The original pinafores had no buttons and were simply “pinned” onto the front, “afore” the body, which led to the conjunction “pinafore”.  The last few centuries have seen this staple in the history of garment wearing evolve in use, shape, and purpose.  Over the next few posts, I will add to this discussion when I share my two vintage pinafores which I made.

Pinafores are a quaint, sensible yet embellished article of clothing which has stood the test of time, and deserve to make a comeback in some form or fashion.  Yet, just because they are vintage does not mean they cannot still find their appeal today either!  My next “convertible” creation will hopefully demonstrate that – stay tuned!

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Burgundy Jacquard Dressing Gown

Hubby and I have been long overdue for a vacation for over 5 years now.  A few weeks back we finally went somewhere for a few days – Chicago!  Our hotel was the historic Knickerbocker in the heart of everything, along the Magnificent Mile.  To cut to the point, we explored the hotel in the evenings, and we found the secret door to the speakeasy upstairs as well as seeing some of the unique, original 1930s and 20’s posters which lined the hallways.  All of this made me glad I had taken this as an opportunity beforehand to sew myself something special for the occasion!  I figured (correctly), that by the evening, I would be dog-tired, and not want to stay completely put together, yet stay elegantly presentable while being comfortable.  A vintage 1936 dressing gown was the perfect answer…

It seems a true dressing gown is something that rides a fine line between opposites.  It is not purely utilitarian and overly warm, both of which better suits a housecoat.  Yet, at the same time, a dressing gown is much more restrained than a tantalizing, sexy boudoir robe and not flimsy like a negligee.  It is a garment with practical, chic elegance which is unashamedly luxurious and feminine.  It is meant to be cozy in the way of being light yet chill-busting, because a dressing gown is generally flowing (and very classical Grecian in influence especially for the decade of the 1930s).  This vintage page (below) from a “Good Needlework Magazine”, year 1937, describes the ideal dressing gown.  See how it recommends satin, rayon, silk velvets for the best materials.  A modern robe is no match in opulent charm to a full dressing gown.

Unlike both a housecoat and a boudoir robe, a dressing gown is something to be seen and worn in somewhat private settings, such as a secluded hotel lounge (my immediate modern purpose) or to host late night card parties with friends or answer the front door (traditional recounts of their usefulness).  However, the name immediately implies that a dressing robe is a garment for a stage in-between dressed and undressed…like a “wrap dress sort of a housecoat” for when you would just have your slip on to do your hair and makeup before going out or for doing the opposite actions unwinding in the evening.  Even still, a dressing robe isn’t so much about action, as it is for inaction…especially for any time after the 1930s.  Most homes have had decent central heating since then, as well as leisure time being an attainable part of life, and with the frilly details and scant warmth to a dressing gown, this is something perfect for not doing anything, and completely treating one’s self to a little bit of luxury under the excuse of usefulness.Making this gown was somewhat of a leisurely luxury…it was so easy to whip up!  I used a great, small Etsy shop reproduction of a year 1936 German pattern and some luxurious mid-weight jacquard that seems to mimic a very nice rayon for the ultimate dressing gown for myself.  I am not one to wear reds all that much, but this burgundy jacquard was like a magnet to me in the fabric store…something I wanted to use in some way.  I couldn’t see it as anything but nightwear, for some reason – even though my dressing gown idea meant I needed a whopping total amount.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  The fancy exterior is 3 ½ yards of 60 inch wide mid-to heavy weight jacquard, 98% polyester/2% spandex (which feels like a rayon), from Jo Ann’s fabric store.  The lining is a crepe finish (buff, non-shiny), lightweight, matching burgundy poly lining, also from Jo Ann’s.

PATTERN:  a German year 1936 pattern re-produced in PDF form through “Repeated Originals” Etsy shop  

NOTIONS:  I had thread, ribbon, and clasp closures on hand…this needs only very basic notions!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This gown was made in about 10 to 15 hours and finished on August 9, 2017.

THE INSIDES:  …what insides?  This gown is fully lined…

TOTAL COST:   This maybe cost me about $30 or $35, all coming from purchasing the fabric…

Perhaps I only pictured the jacquard in nightwear because I was thinking of the rich red robe of Scarlett in the movie “Gone with the Wind” or Whitney Frost’s robe in Season Two of Marvel’s Agent Carter.  Both ladies wear some dressing robes I crush over but I credit Whitney Frost’s gown to give me the idea to use two metal, gold-enameled filigree clasp buckles from on hand for the asymmetric chest closing.  An elegant robe with a luxury fabric which is not seen that much anymore deserves even more fancy touches…because I can!  Any garment can have buttons.  My gown has something to close it as unique as it is, and there are two less items in my notions stash, too. One of the unique details which are part of the design itself is the pointed, arched front waist seam.  It perfectly complements the gently arched neckline, in my opinion, and both provide a nice ‘frame’ for the asymmetric bodice closing.  The arched, pointed waist is on both sides of the front wrap, and amazingly do line up when the dressing robe is closed.  The waistline does have double tie closings to anchor this flowing robe in place – a pair of burgundy satin ribbon ties for the inside, and a pair of self-fabric bias ties for the outside closing.

The hardest and most time consuming parts to having a finished dressing robe were two things.  I’ll start with the first in the order of being made – assembling the PDF pattern.  I believe we have an extra ordinary amount of open floor space in our living room (where I cut out projects and assemble PDF patterns) and still I was almost completely out of space, so the large size of the connected pages into one full set of pattern pieces might be the biggest drawback for anyone else.  Take note – this pattern is similar to many PDF patterns, especially from Burda Style, where there is no seam allowance given.  It must be added in by you, in the width of your choosing.  As the size for this dressing gown’s original measurements are (bust 38”, waist 30”, hips 42”) technically inches above my body size, I did not add seam allowances so as to easily cut down on the excess.  In reality I could have added little seam allowances because this seems to run small in the overall fit.  It just fits me, without any room for bulky clothes, but I do not think I would like this any bigger because a sloppy fit would make all the fabric to this ankle length robe overwhelming.  So I guess I succeeded in a good fit after all.

Turning all the edges out all around so I could have a fully lined gown was the second challenging part that took up most of the relatively short time I spend on sewing this.  I didn’t really want to bother deciding on a seam finish (bias, French, or raw) and a dressing gown’s inside is seen much more than any regular wearing garment.  Thus I went all out and fully lined my robe, except for the sleeves.  Whenever I want to make something nice, going the extra mile to make that special touch, even though it’s probably a bother, always ends up so very worth it in the end…at least for me!

I know the pattern shows cuffed sleeves, but I can wear that on my every day long sleeve shirts – I wanted the drama that wide bell sleeves add to my dressing gown.  Besides, many, if not most, of the various other dressing gowns I perused on the internet (both patterns and extant garments) have similar bell sleeves, especially the 1930s ones.  I did find the original pattern sleeves to be a tad short when I checked before cutting out.  I am on the smaller side of average for my arm length, and I added 1 ½ inches, so everyone else interested in this pattern take note!

Many of the 1930s dressing robes also tend to have a neckline frill or ruffle, too, I noticed.  I do have a vintage one yard scrap of some sheer, black, mechanically pleated 3 inch wide trim that would mimic the collar on my pattern’s drawn image cover.  I was sorely tempted to add that trim to my dressing gown, but the trim is vintage and uniquely lovely, so I really think it deserves to be seen on a 1930s street dress or nice dress.  I actually used up all of my jacquard fabric on the gown, so a self-fabric neckline ruffle was out of the equation, anyway.  Having something frilly, fussy, and complicated around my neck doesn’t sound like anything but a bother on something meant to relax in, and I like the simplicity of the elegance to my robe as it is.

You really can’t see my slippers all that well, but I am wearing my prized vintage late 1930s to mid-1940s Daniel Green slippers.  They are mine because of an even trade with a local shop of some vintage heels I wasn’t wearing, so I count myself as lucky to have these because they are something I probably wouldn’t have bought otherwise.  They are in pristine condition and just so amazing, I had to bring them on the trip and wear them with my dressing gown.  House slippers have changed so much since these beauties – another example of how modern versions of things cannot stand up to vintage when it comes to class and personality.

Please – do yourself a favor and find a dressing gown pattern for yourself (maybe use the one I did) and make one, too.  Like me I believe it will come together quicker than you imagined, and you will want to wear it more than you expected.  Just find that luxurious fabric that speaks of fluid elegance in your mind, and go for it!

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