Basic is Beautiful

Don’t you just hate it when a longtime favorite and much loved wardrobe staple of yours gives up its ghost?  Yeah, always a bummer!  My decade and a half staple – a bohemian-style, maxi length, lightweight denim skirt – ripped apart from too much love.  Well, for someone who sews all chances of having a replacement is not entirely lost.

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It took me two years to find the right pattern and fabric to finally have a lovely replacement that I love almost just as much as my original – this is saying a lot!  Sure, I had plans to make a pattern from my old favorite but I realized it might not be a bad thing to move on with my style and try something similar yet different at the same time.  Also, because one basic staple deserves another, I have my new denim skirt paired with a slightly seductive, vintage, knit white tee for another wardrobe filler.  I’m hoping my set has a slight nod to the 1970s era yet still stays modern.  To have a garment be an indispensable staple piece, yet also vintage and modern, is the best combo ever for those days when I want to blend in yet still wear styles which pay tribute to the past.

Every time I make something really needed and purposeful (not just what tickles my fancy), I realize how beautiful sewing the basics can be.  This is why my outfit (specifically my skirt) is part of the Petite Passions’ Wardrobe Builder Project for the month of May. As you can see, it is helping me get the motivation to build on my everyday casual wardrobe!

THE FACTS:McCall's 6623, year 1979-comp,w

FABRIC:  Skirt – 2 yards of a lightweight, light wash, denim chambray with scrap Kona cotton for the waistband lining; Top – less than one yard of a ribbed cotton knit

PATTERNS:  Skirt – Burda Style “Tiered Denim Maxi Skirt” #102 B, from April 2017;  Top – McCall’s #6623, year 1979

Tiered Denim Maxi Skirt 04-2017 #102BNOTIONS:  Besides the invisible zipper, which I bought because I don’t necessarily keep ‘specialty’ zips on hand, everything else needed was basic (thread, interfacing, bias tape) and came from on hand.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The top was sewn a while back now, finished on August 24, 2015 after only 3 hours’ time.  The skirt took me about 5 hours to make and was finished on May 16, 2017.

DSC_0416a-comp,wTHE INSIDES:  My skirt is all clean inside with both French seams and bias tape while my knit top is raw edged inside (as it doesn’t fray).

TOTAL COST:  The top’s ribbed fabric was a miserable little scrap remnant – technically it was about one yard but was badly hacked into with all the corners squarely cut off.  See below the “tight squeeze” to fit the pattern pieces on it.  The knit was bought for about $2 when Hancock Fabrics was closing.  The denim was bought the year before from Jo Ann’s Fabric store for about $9 (more or less I don’t remember).  I suppose my outfit is about $12 but priceless in utility to me!    

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Now, as for any Burda Style pattern, printing and/or tracing is necessary to have a usable pattern to lay on your desired fabric.  My pattern was traced from the downloaded and assembled PDF bought at the online store but if you have a magazine issue, use a roll of medical paper to trace your pieces from the insert sheet.  It’s at this preliminary step that you pick out your proper size and add in your choice of seam allowance width.  A scissor with a magnetic ruler guide helps immensely to quicken along the step to getting a finished pattern prepped.  Sorry to repeat something you might already know, but this is just an “FYI” for those that don’t know.

There were only subtle changes that I made to the skirt for my version.  The main change, to lessen the gathers of the lower panel, was part taste.  I planned on doing that anyway, but the amount of the gathers was dictated by the fact I was working with only 2 yards of material while using a pattern calling for at least 3 yards.  I am a smaller woman, and on the edge of being petite height, so I figured such a full maxi skirt as the original design might be a bad idea.  I really do like the skirt fullness as it is now even if I did not get to choose exactly how I wanted it.  Sometimes “making do” works better than trying to start from scratch to be ‘perfect’.

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Other than changing the amount of gathers, I sewed the gathers onto the upper skirt piece like a normal seam rather than top-stitching on like the pattern called for.  This top-stitched panel would’ve created a frilly ruffle where the two panels came together.  I was decreasing the gathers for a slimmer skirt and a frill through the middle of a half-gathered panel would have messed with the silhouette.  This regular seaming also saved me the trouble of finishing the one edge of the gathered panel so I could equalize my time spent to invisibly hand-stitch down the hem.

I already took out 3 inches from the overall length but my hem even still became a wide 3 ½ inches.  This baby runs very long as if it is a “Tall” sized pattern.  It does sit on the hips, with the top of the skirt riding just below my true waist.  As one who wears a lot of vintage, which almost always has a high-to–true waist, I still like this feature which is more modern, it’s just a change for me (not a bad thing, as I said above).

DSC_0404a-comp,wAs I went through the extra effort to make no stitching visible, under stitching the facing at the waist and having a hand-done hem, I figured an invisible zipper here was the only way to go.  After having my last invisible zipper failing on me and trapping me in my dress back in 2012 (post on that here), I have taken a long hiatus from this specific notion but coming back to it has been a refreshing and rewarding success.  I love how you don’t see anything but the zipper pull…but, yes, I realize that’s why they are called invisible!

My top is the third time I have used McCall’s #6623 pattern – this is unprecedented for me!  (Here are my first and my second versions of this pattern.)  I still yet want to have the gumption to make and wear that strappy cold-shoulder version.  The tank is so lovely and basic I need to make a few of those in some basic colors.  For some reason I really love this one pattern, and it loves me by the way it fits me so darn well.

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I find this pattern interestingly unique, not just from the fact that each view top has its own pieces (none shared), but because of the small “From a Norton Simon Inc. Company” logo next to the McCall’s logo.  This pattern’s year, 1969, was a decade after Norton Simon himself retired from active involvement in his business.  What’s up with that?!

McCall's 6623, year 1979-comp,zoomNot too many people know that Norton Simon, the smart art collector and businessman behind Max Factor cosmetics, Avis Car Rental, and Canada Dry Corporation (to name a few), also controlled the McCall Corporation and all its publishing (magazines and such) between 1959 and 1969.  How I have not heard of this man, who seemed to have an influence in so much of the companies and products that are a part of our modern lives, before recently?  He was on the cover page of TIME magazine on June 4, 1965, in People magazine (1976), and even ran for the United States Senate (in 1970).  His conglomerate is now ranked 112th on FORTUNE’S list of the 500 largest American corporations    I wonder why this is the only McCall pattern I have seen with his naming rights on it.  See – patterns are so interesting in so many ways!

Sewing this top was super simple and easy.  This is the first time I have used this pattern un-altered.  I did have to add in snap on lingerie straps made from ribbon to anchor the shoulder to my underwear.  Otherwise the shoulders on this open-back hottie piece slide a bit all over the place.  Basic bias tape adds a bit of soft shaping and contrast finishing for the neck edges, and a little left chest pockets adds some small utilitarian interest.

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My biggest setback was working with the rib knit – a very first for me to work with.  I thought I had this pattern understood but not this time.  I had to sew the side seams several inches smaller than normal to accommodate the give of the ribbing.  It acts like a slinky toy!  It was a tough call to figure out the sweet spot between too loose of a fit and too snug.  I didn’t want the rib knit to lose its design when fitting over me yet I wanted it to be body complimentary without being a second skin.  After several stitchings, un-pickings, and re-stitching spells I like the balance I found.  This top does look so hilariously small on the hangar – the ribbing springs back so it seems like something for a 10 year old girl.  It also is best dried flat after washing.  The weirdness of the rib knit also meant all my hems are unfinished – not by choice but at least I think the raw edges look good on this occasion.  This quirky material has a definite personality!  Working with it was a definite learning curve.

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Between all the challenging and involved projects that I want to make (from my too numerous ideas), sewing basic necessities always is a pain to get around to.  Who completely wants to sew something merely because you need it, when nowadays ‘stuff’ is so easy and available to buy?  And yet, such sewing also always ends up so satisfying for me and it always amazes me.  The staple clothing necessities that you reach for everyday can be an uncommon source of creative pride and possess better individual style if you don’t exclude them from receiving the personal touch of hand sewing.  I’m practicing what I preach lately by giving away a good amount of the ready-to-wear that I do not like or use so that my ‘me-makes’ and my vintage pieces can take over my wardrobe.

Do you make your tees, and jeans, and anything else basic?  If yes, do you like them better than the ready-to-wear option?  Have you ever worked on sewing up a replacement for an old favorite garment?  Is sewing what you need something that you have a love or a hate attitude towards? Maybe, like me, you feel a bit of both?  What is your experience (if you have one) with rib knits?  One last query – has anyone else seen a McCall’s pattern with a “Norton Simon” logo?  If you have any feedback for these questions, please do share – I like to ‘hear’ what you have to say!  As always, thanks for reading.

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’73 Coat-style Shirt Dress, a Turtle, and a Belt

This is a complimentary layered outfit of three pieces, working together as an effortless way to stay warm in the cold a la early 70’s style.  Three of the major pattern companies contributed towards my outfit – Simplicity, Burda Style, and Vogue – to spread out my contributing sources.

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This is also one of those fun oxymoron outfits where I find alternative ways to wear garments taken for granted…my shirt dress is actually worn like it’s a coat.  It is a heavy denim, flowered and all.  It’s like I’m bringing the flowers from out of season to the sleeping winter landscape.  My turtle neck top is not at all dated but actually quite enticingly fashionable, and it’s neither fit on its own for the very cold temps, mostly just a perfect layering piece, especially with its short sleeves.  The jeans were made by me as well, from a pattern of a different era (blogged about in a separate post here).  I can even eliminate the extra layers underneath and wear the shirt dress with my vintage 70’s heels and a neutral belt for a dressy outfit at the other end of the spectrum (seen down later).  Yeah, I love to mix things up and break boundaries – a least a bit when it comes to the clothes I make!

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This outfit is made for Allie J’s “Social Sew” for the month of January 2017 “New Year, New Wardrobe”.  There isn’t much I intend to change for this coming year’s sewing, social-sew-2017-badgebesides filling in new dates of historical sewing (teens era, and early 20’s), and continuing to try new techniques and having fun doing unique and meaningful outfits (loose resolutions, I suppose).  I feel that this outfit applies to the monthly theme because the dress was a U.F.O. (unfinished object) as of 2016 fall, and I was starting new tackling it and finishing it so as to be happy with it.  This outfit further applies to the monthly challenge because I have been meaning to make these items for a while, like since 2014 for the dress and turtle.  70’s style is still “in” so I guess there’s no time like now to just get around to a long intended project.

THE FACTS:simplicity-5909-yr-1973

FABRIC:  The Dress:  a cotton floral denim which may have a hint of spandex; The Turtleneck: a lightweight polyester jersey in a blue navy, leftover from my 1971 “Bond girl” dress; The Belt: a thin jersey backed vinyl, grooved and a bit weathered like a skin, in a cherry red cranberry color

PATTERNS:  The Dress: Simplicity #5909, year 1973; The Turtleneck: Burda Style #114 A, from December 2014, online or in their monthly magazine; The belt: Vogue #9222, from 2016, View vogue-9222-year-2016Eburda-style-turtleneck-114-a-dec-2014-line-drawing

NOTIONS:  I had (believe it or not) everything I needed to finish all this on hand already without needing to buy more than an extra spool of tan thread.  I used three different colors of bias tape (whatever was on hand), used a vintage metal zipper for the back of the turtleneck, and used vintage buttons and the belt buckle from hubby’s Grandmother’s stash.dsc_1033a-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The dress was halfway made in October and November of 2016, and completed this year, finished on January 20, 2017.  I’m guess-timating a total time of about 25 hours spend on the dress.  The belt was made on October 21, 2016 in only 3 hours, and the turtle top was made one night the week after that in about 3 hours, as well.

THE INSIDES:  The dress is nice inside with bias binding, the top is left raw for the inside edges, while the belt has cut raw edges, too, finished off in my own special way (addressed down below)

TOTAL COST:  The vinyl was a remnant bought on double discount at Jo Ann’s Fabric store – a total of about $4 for one yard, so there’s plenty left over for a purse, yay!  The other fabrics were something on hand for so long I’m counting them as free.  Thus, between the vinyl and the thread, this outfit cost me about $6.  Sorry, allow me to pat myself on the back for this one.

I am so, so happy to have finally found a use for this floral denim.  It had been in my mom’s fabric stash since I can remember, then she gave it to me for my stash and I had no intention or even remote idea of what to do with it for so many years.  There were 4 freaking yards of this dated-looking flowered denim that could be from the 80’s for all I know.  So when I happened to notice my Simplicity #5909 1973 pattern having a similar looking fabric, I was sold.  Choosing the ankle-length, long-sleeve option was a give-in to use up all of the bolt, as well.  I might have been taking an easy road to follow an existing drawing, but – hey, at least I found a use for what seemed doomed to be an ugly duckling in my fabric stash!

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Making the shirt dress was technically not hard – it fits me great out of the envelope with no real fitting.  What was difficult about it was dealing with the large amount of such a heavy fabric.  Marking all those pleats and buttons all the way down was exhausting.  Besides, the stitching required to sew this fabric hog together was boring, straight, and monotonous, especially when it came to the long side seams.  Just trying to stitch on it was its own problem.  Half of the time it took me to stitch was I think spent throwing and pushing around fabric so as to even get it laid out right just to sew on it.  I’m not meaning to complain, just wanting to throw this fact out to anyone who is thinking of making a 4 yard denim shirt dress, too – you’ve been warned what you’re in for.  Like I say, though, it’s worth it in the end.

I’m loving the features of the shirt dress.  Of course it has the large collar lapels that are so traditional on 70’s clothes, but this collar also has an all-in-one collar stand.  There are separate chest front and back shoulder panels which keep the upper bodice flat, without the pleats of the bottom 2/3 of the dress.  There are long horizontal knife pleats in pairs all the way down the hem, four in both front and in back.  The extra wide cuffs have a lovely double button closure, with a continuous lap opening (for which I merely used pre-made bias tape rather than self-fabric).  A baker’s dozen of camel-colored vintage buttons complete it.

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This dress pattern’s long version was definitely designed for a woman with weird proportions – tall women with petite length arms.  I am about 5’3” and I had to do a 4 ½ inch hem to have it fall at my ankles.  However, the sleeves were so short, and I had to add one extra inch in length to make them appropriate for my arms (and my arms are a ‘normal’ length, not petite).

The denim is soft with the little bit of stretch, but still heavy, so in lieu of interfacing I chose only to use a medium weight, non-stretch 100% cotton.  It stabilizes the cuffs, collar, and upper back and front bodice panels with making them stiff.  I do have to laugh at how much of a rustle my dress makes when I move.  The fabric is not a heavy of a denim as my husband’s Levi jeans, but it sure does make a heavy, sort of muffled static “white noise”.  Definitely not the best dress for sneaky espionage work…no possibilities of quiet stealthiness in my denim coat-dress. I’m just doing some silly reflection.  It is a great winter dress!  Someone that recently gave me a compliment on my outfit commented that you just can’t find anything like this to buy – yes, that’s why I sew!burda-style-turtleneck-114-b-dec-2014-model-shot

The other great chill buster that keeps me cozy is my lightweight turtleneck top.  I figured the turtle pattern would work well with my 70’s dress because the Burda model picture looks very late 60’s with the equestrian-style helmet/hat, her long hair, and A-line pleated skirt.

This was so ridiculously easy to make I couldn’t stop voicing my amazement for a while after I finished – just a few hours and voila!  Of course, my top was made up more quickly without having the full long sleeves, but even still this is a great pattern.  I barely had a yard of the interlock knit leftover and I was able to make this!?  I’m so tempted to whip up a dozen of these turtles in every variety – quilted knit, sweater fabric, sheer fancy stuff, and more especially I’m hoping to find a funky printed knit for a true Space Age look to go with my ’67 jumper.

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The long sleeves are something I do love, but they have more of a 1930’s look so I might end up using them as a replacement on an old-style elegant Art Deco dress in the future.  I will say the body runs small – I almost wish I had went up a size…but hubby’s happiness with how it looks on me makes me say, “Nah, I picked the right fit…”

dsc_1027a-compwThe back neck exposed zipper is sort of mixed feelings sort of thing for me.  I love the modern way it looks even though it is a vintage 50’s or 40’s era notion.  I do not enjoy how it almost always gets caught up with my hair even though I close the zip with my head upside down so my hair isn’t in the way.  Oh well, win some, loose some – I cannot think of a better solution so I’ll shut up about it.  Hint, hint – when in an adventurous mood, you can even wear the back neck unzipped and the stand-up collar lays flat on the chest for a completely different appearance to the top!  O.K., now I’ll move on.

Another amazing thing to this outfit is the belt.  Look at that asymmetric loveliness!  It’s freaking awesome.  I look at it and can’t believe I made it, it seems so professional.  This is a really great design and it has wonderful shaping for around the waist – this is not a straight rectangle sort of pattern.  Belts might seem hard to make or even mysteriously different and even intimidating (working with vinyl or leather), but all of that is blown away by using Vogue #9222.  The instructions are clear and all the designs are so neat I intend to make all of the views available.  In your face ready-to-wear, store bought belts…I can make something better than you, you are often only half belts, with elastic across the back.  My belt is all belt, 100% my style and my make!

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My only caveat is that I wish I had extended the length of the belt to go up to the next size.  Cutting out a paper pattern on a slick vinyl leaves room for shifting and a small margin of error.  In order to get the two belt pieces matching together, I had to trim them down slightly, and thus I ended up with a belt that was a little smaller than the pattern intended.  This is why I recommend adding an extra 4 or so inches to the belt length going around the waist.  You can always cut some off, but you can’t add it on, especially when it comes to vinyl.dsc_0002a-compw

I was able to machine stitch most all of the belt, but I used a tiny ‘sharps’ sewing needle to hand sew on the buckle and the belt loop.  I did not want to test four layers of vinyl on my machine so I did not fold in the edges of the seam allowance.  I left the edges raw and tried something experimental.  Taking a hint from store bought belts, which have some sort of seal along the raw edges, I used a matching colored nail polish (yes, fingernail lacquer) to paint over the edges of my belt, both coloring and sealing them at the same time.  It’s a rather permanent option, nevertheless I did see some faint rubbing off of the nail polish onto my dress after one wearing.  So – it’s not perfect, but an easily available solution that I am happy to see worked out so well.

This was the first time making grommet eyelets and I think they are a success.  I have tried before again and again to get metal grommets to turn out right, but that was experimenting on fabric (for a corset) and this time they came out much better in the vinyl.  It was like a boost of confidence I needed, feeling that ‘o.k. I can do grommets, I understand how they work now’ so maybe, eventually I can have them turn out well for my future corset.  Does anyone have any tips to share about the keys to successful metal grommets or even what to avoid?  Should I add some glue to the back (to keep them in place) and can you replace one if it gets wonky (or does that not work)?  Just wondering.

dsc_1041a-compwI hope this post has inspired you to see outside of the traditional box for sewing and making every day-type of clothing items.  There is so much room for inventiveness when you make things yourself, the sky’s the limit!  A dress that is a shirt-dress worn like a coat, a belt finished-off with nail polish…a girl’s gotta do what she has to do when she gets an idea with a sewing machine, some material, and extra time on her hands!  Yup, I live on creativity and can’t stop.

Do you, too, have any big hopes for making some neat things this year, something which gets you all amped up just to think about it?  Do you too have some ‘ugly duckling’ fabric around just waiting for the ‘right partner’ in the form of a pattern to complete it (or did you ditch it)?  What is your favorite way to put yourself together to combat the cold weather?

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Star Wars, Pinball, and Year 1974 Cozy Layers

The title might seem like an odd combo, but bear with me here…it is all connected, at least to me with this newest outfit.  In this post, I’ll proudly reveal myself to be a big fan for the decade of the 70s and its amusements – something that many vintage bloggers as well as those who lived in that decade seem to generally not share in common with me.  As one who is at the age to have totally missed that era, I can feel a connection to the decade of disco music, pinball machines, bell-bottom pants with platform shoes, and Star Wars because all these things played a big part in my parents’ lives.  What they were “in to”, I saw in old pictures, records in the basement, and clothes or memorabilia in a forgotten closet – and all that was cool and interesting to me.  Parents are interesting anyway, right?  Reasons given, I’ll move onto what I actually made.

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Inspired as I was to make things for Allie J’s “Cozy Layers” Social Sew #8, I might have went a bit over the top here.  Anyways, let me present my 1974 waterproof jacket, easy 1974 knit flared jeans, and a draped sweater vest.  Whoever says winter dressing is no fun hasn’t worn these kind of garments!  These pieces are so fun and warm…and handmade;)

THE FACTS:butterick-3914-late-1973-or-early-1974

FABRIC:  Pants – a cotton polyester blend brushed double knit in what looks like a denim finish; Jacket – a olive green snakeskin print vinyl with a knit backing, a poly micro suede and a basic polyester for the lining, and a fleece sandwiched in between; Vest – a poly cotton blend sweater knit for the draped front and the leftover poly micro suede for the back

mccalls-4052-yr-1974-cover-compwPATTERNS:  Pants – McCall’s #4052, year 1974 (love the whole play suit separates – lots of options here); Jacket – Butterick #3914, late 1973 to simplicity-1588-view-aearly 1974; Vest – Simplicity #1588, view A, year 2013

NOTIONS:  I only used what thread, interfacing, and other notions from on hand.  The pants button came from the stash of Hubby’s Grandmother so it might be vintage.  I only bought a metal jeans zipper for the pants.

THE INSIDES:  Most seams are bias bound on the vest, the pants edges are left raw, and the jacket seams are covered by the lining.dsc_0777-compw

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The vest was finished first on November 21 after only 3 or 4 hours, the knit jeans came second being finished on November 22 after 3 or 4 hours, and finally the jacket was done on November 28, 2016, after about 15 hours.

TOTAL COST:  The denim knit was something I bought about 5 years back so I don’t remember where it came from or how much I spent for it.  All of the rest of the material for this outfit was bought about 2 years back when there was a Hancock Fabrics store closing, so it was incredibly dirt cheap.  In all, not much fabric was used here – 2 yards of each fabric, except for ½ yard of the vest sweater knit, and voila!  Look what I came up with!

I won’t bore you too much detail in this post about sewing and construction details because not only are there three me-made garments here, but also one of them was tricky and complicated (the jacket) while the other two (vest and pants) were super easy.  I must say I am very pleased with all the patterns, especially the vest and pants.  The jacket is great, too, don’t get me wrong, and surprisingly warm for being a not-too-heavy of a weight.  My only reserve is that I am doubtful whether or not I paired the right fabric (the vinyl) and pattern together.  My hubby makes me feel better by saying that the material would have been hard to work with (and it was) no matter what pattern I’d have chosen, but this style is uniquely neat especially with the raglan sleeves.  The vest is more of a novelty item, but I am realizing it will go with more than what I first thought, mostly because I like it so much!  However, one can never beat an easy creation that looks so good and fits so great, so the jeans are the ultimate winner, especially for being so basic and versatile.

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dsc_0796a-compwI will go over each item briefly to comment of the fit and anything I changed.  First comes the vest.  I made a straight size small and found that I should have graded a size up for the hips the same way as I do for regular garments such as blouses and dresses.  The neckline of the draping were taken in by an extra inch to make for less of a droopy wrap, purely personal taste.  A facing of the micro suede used for the back was drafted from the pattern for the neckline edge.  I found the back of the vest to be quite long, ending at the bottom of my behind…not flattering.  So, to vent my frustration waiting for our Thanksgiving guests to arrive, I unpicked the bottom hem and re-sewed it 2 inches shorter in the back of the vest.

I love the texture and interest of this vest, besides the fact it is a wonderful weight to wear.  It keeps a chill out of my middle but yet the lack of sleeves keeps me from rey-in-the-force-awakenscropover-heating inside stores and homes.  I’ve always associated vests with the outdated 80’s things (like boxy front-halves of a weskit) that I wouldn’t be caught dead in, but now that I have a fashionable vest, I may have to re-think the value of this kind of garment for winter layering.  The funny thing is, this vest made in this desert sand khaki color, with its rough texture, and criss-cross design totally reminds me of the outfit for the lead character “Rey” in the 2015 Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens”.  I know it’s not exactly the same thing but I believe you can definitely tell where I see similarities.  This vest, though modern, also reminds of the creative and interesting, bold but relaxed style that see in 1970’s dressing.

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My idea to whip up the pants was spawned of all my ideas from and of the vest.  All of my previous pants have all been made of woven fabrics so I went for a thick denim knit sitting all lonely and forgotten in my stash for the last 5 years.  Now I’m glad I never sewed it up into a dress like I had originally planned because these 70’s pants are way hotter…oh, and comfy.  Everything I love about vintage 1940’s trousers is combined with my love for the 70’s here – full and wide legs, true waist, chic styling, and perfect fit.  Add on a body skimming booty and less excess fabric around the thighs and welcome to the disco era.  My favorite part is the lack of both the conventional waistband and the front placket here, replaced with a simple loop and button above the zipper.  It makes for a very clean look that’s so easy.  The instructions showed to sew in a ribbon waist, but I used some wide non-roll navy elastic instead and I think this turns out much better and is a better (and more forgiving) fit.  The best part?  These pants are a perfect fit for me without a hair’s breadth of change…go vintage patterns!

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These pants make me feel very tall, skinny, and all legs.  This was the 70s ideal body type anyway, and I like the feeling because in reality I normally think of myself as short, not skinny enough, and definitely not very leggy.  I kept a very long hem on my pants so as to wear my new 4 inch platform strappy heels.

After making year 1974 pants, I remembered a project waiting in the wings downstairs for the last several years.  This, together with the thought of another cozy layer to add to the 70s gloriousness, and I reached for the jacket project.  This was rather an exhausting project that I don’t know I was ready for, but it should see much use in the next few months, starting immediately.  There are some things I wish I could have made to work out better, but I am just proud at my first official coat and my first sewing with this kind of vinyl.  I do love the slightly golden sheen to the snakeskin print and the waterproof protection without looking (and sounding) like a plastic raincoat.

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The most stressful part of sewing this coat was the thought that I only had one shot to get things right…unpicking and re-stitching wasn’t really possible here because once a hole is made, it’s permanently going to be there.  Also, the vinyl was sticking to all the metal parts of my machine so I had to sandwich a layer of wax paper around the coat’s seams at almost every stitch so it would glide under the presser foot.  This wax paper method worked like a charm, and was easy to take off, it just was something else to add to the difficulty level.  So, in total not only did my stitching have to be accurate, and I was limited to my use of pins for seams (reverting to clothes pins), but I had to sew between wax paper.  This coat must have given me at least one grey hair.  My only change was that in lieu of gathers under both the front and the back yokes, I made my own pleats – two ½ inch ones on each front and one giant box pleat down the center back.dsc_0776a-compw

My two giant pockets are lined in a remnant of a 1970’s curtain which I had on hand from a buying someone’s small fabric stash at re-sale store.  It was so bold and fun, I also added bright green bias tape to finish in inner edge.  No one will ever really know it’s there, but I like how the print makes me smile whenever I see the funky brightness inside my pockets.

I still don’t know how to close the coat – any suggestions?  I don’t like it belted and it is warm enough that a little air actually feels good.  I’m beginning to think I should just leave it open and casual.

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1974 is an interesting year for me to channel.  My dad graduated that year from high school and (among other things that happened) he became a lover of the pinball machine.  Every chance we could as I was growing up, my dad and I would hover over and eye up every pinball machine, with the occasional dropping of a quarter to do a real play.  I always saw my dad as a champ at the game and he still enjoys playing when he can.  Luckily there are some game lounges around in our town nowadays that are much more respectable than those of the pinball culture 40 years back.  1974 was also the year the California Supreme Court ruled that pinball was more a game of skill than one of chance and overturned its long prohibition, opening the way for general acceptance of this form of amusement nationwide (info from here).

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So much of this outfit is due to the influence of my dad.  He still has some of his 70’s bell bottoms, though he got rid of his platform shoes, trench jacket, and elephant pants years back.  Now his daughter has her own version of what he used to wear, sorry dad!  He loved Star Wars and bought me many of the toys and even watched the movies from the roof of their house on the drive-in screen which had been up the street.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess.  Star Wars is still around on screen, and the 70’s style is coming back today, and retro amusements are just as fun, so it’s hard to resist re-visiting my dad’s past with my own handmade twist.  This one’s for you, dad, hope you don’t shake your head at this…just smile.

And now for some Star Wars light saber fun with my own son before bed time…

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OO7 Halston-Style Maxi Dress

Allie J's Social Sew badgeWhen I saw Allie J.’s monthly “Social Sew” theme of August being “Hot, Hot Heat”, I picked up a project waiting in the works to sew up and finish.  I think my garment perfectly fulfills each word of her challenge theme – what else could be doubly ‘hot’ more than a 1970’s, Halston-style, “James Bond girl” movie dress, with the ‘heat’ being the weather outside that necessitates a maxi sundress.

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I have sewn plenty of garments from year 1971 patterns, but here’s another for this post that rather looks like a 1930’s does 1970’s.  My dress is directly inspired from a dress worn by the “Bond girl” Barbara Bach in the 1977 movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  Now that I’ve got this dress, all I need is some secret gadgets, a little intrigue, the classic theme music playing in the background, and a handsome chap in a suit.

Barbara Bach - close-up“Just call me Agent.”  Barbara Bach (“Agent Anya”) marked the beginning of a new type of “Bond girl”.  Post Barbara Bach, I love how Bond girls seem to share the same similarities of lovely garments, kick-butt moves, assertiveness, and thrilling action as my other favorite screen girl, Agent Peggy Carter.  Elegance doesn’t have to be prissy…it can be strong and self-empowering, especially when you have made your own outfit for the part!

Butterick 6671, August 1971, junior's-compTHE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Lightweight, 100% polyester interlock knit

PATTERN:  Butterick #6671, from August of 1971

NOTIONS:  Navy thread (which I had already) and 3 packs, same as 3 yards, of silver sparkle decorative elastic, bought from JoAnn’s Fabric store.

TIME TO COMPLETE:  My dress was finished on August 15, 2016, after a total time spent of maybe 10 hours (I’ll break down this time amount in an explanation down below).

TOTAL COST:  This interlock knit is cheap and cost even less with a coupon, but I did need a couple yards.  The three packs of elastic were a few dollars each – so I suppose my total is about $10.  Not bad at all!!!

I find it so curious how my dress is from a ’71 pattern and the only thing was the neckline which needed to be changed to make it up like a ’77 Bond movie gown.  Vogue even cameVogue 8449, early 70's dress out with similar jeweled neckline maxi sundress in 1972, too (#8449), more alike than my own pattern to the Bond movie costume.  I usually think of vintage movies as keeping pace with fashion or at least starting a trend, but here is a certain design out there offered 5 years before being made up for a noticeably major movie series.  Halston’s style of minimalist, elegant, body complimentary garments for women was already popular and available to the public by the date of this pattern, and well established by the release of the Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me”.  So, while I think the outfits of the movie are just awesome, I do not see them as cutting edge (what I would expect from a Bond movie) as much as my pattern is.  I also find it interesting that this pattern is in juniors’ sizing, appealing to teenagers.

The juniors’ sizing is something I had to adjust at the cutting/layout stage, but as many of my 70’s patterns seem to be in these shorter teen proportions, I knew what to do.  I add in 2 inches across at a line drawn horizontally across the chest somewhere between the end point of the bust line (or slightly above) and the bottom third of the armhole.  The chosen line to add in the two inches is then added in around the back to completely bring the bust, and all the subsequent proportions of the waist and hips, too, back down to normal misses’ adult size.  (See my first junior’s dress.) As this is a sleeveless dress, my add-in line was at the bust line point over to the point of the side seam.  Sure this makes the hem a bit longer, but a wide and thick hem helps to slightly weigh this dress down.

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As my dress is a knit, I eliminated the back center zipper.  However, I had problems fitting the back dipping arch of the dress and I can’t say if it’s because of the pattern, or the way I sized up, or from eliminating the zipper.  It was really baggy!  I added in three darts on each side of the back, which sort of mars the smooth simplicity I was hoping from this dress, but I would rather have a good fitting garment.  The high halter neckline of the original pattern was also cut down to just above the bust line and out over to the edge.

Movie still - back viewMy chosen fabric of the lightweight interlock was a great choice, if I must say so myself, but a surprising one.  Until now, I’ve only used this kind of interlock as a lining to back other fabrics as I am making a garment, so this is a first time for the interlock to be worn on its own.  I am quite pleased with it.  Polyester is my least favorite fiber material, but it is most tolerable to me in this light interlock form.  It creates hardly any static, has a nice flowing ‘hand’, is breathable with its tiny waffle weave yet silky in finish, super sheer by itself but opaque once worn, and with a stable stretch.  I’m supposing the original movie dress is either a rayon or a silk jersey knit.  However, this interlock was on hand in the house in a perfect matching color (a very dark blueish navy) and has similar but slightly less body-clingy properties…so it was used, and I’m glad I did!  Yay for stash busting!DSC_0215a-compfull dress shot -

The thigh-high slit helps amp up the hottie factor.  It also makes the skirt portion of the dress just beautifully move and flow around me as I walk as if it has its own independent mind and its own places to go.  I see in the Bond movie that Barbara Bach’s dress is the same way.  Her dress however has two off-center front slits up to the thigh whereas mine only has one on the left side seam.  At first I had it as a knee-high slit, but that just seemed to reserved compared to the rest of the dress, so I made it higher (but still not as high as the pattern called for)!  I can’t help but think of the ZZ Top song, “She’s got legs…”

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The neckline is pretty much the highlight of the dress, so I took extra pains to get it right. Now, of course the movie dress has diamanté straps and neckline decorations of real crystals, probably.  Mine is more of an everyday girl’s version.  The metallic elastic would not be sewn on by my machine, and neither would my machine tolerate metallic thread no matter what I tried.  (It was getting stuck in the tension feed.)  Thus, although the dress itself only took me just a few hours to make, hand sewing on the metallic elastic took me many more hours than that.  Argh!  Hand sewing is something my hand, shoulders, and neck cannot take without making my body miserable, so I did the sewing in stages.  As I’ve said before, the promise of the end look always gets me through the hard parts of finishing a garment.

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So does anybody know of a metallic thread that is decently sturdy?  I used a Coats and Clark brand and even hand sewing was hell with it.  I had to sew with little short lengths because after a dozen stitches the thread would fray and separate.  Is Gutermann better?  Or is there some brand better yet?  Or do the modern offerings of metallic thread just…well…stink, and should I try vintage metallic thread?

Making this OO7 dress makes me ponder a few things.  Again, this dress is one of the many I’ve sewn which amazes me at how easy and inexpensive fancy gowns are when self-made.  In the stores, I’ll bet buying a gown remotely like this, which probably would not fit half as well, would cost a fistful of dough to buy.  Again, another vintage pattern shows me how patterns, designers, and movies all have been so interrelated.  Again, I see film fashion and iconic designs transmuted to the public is generally so lacking nowadays (with a few occasional exceptions).  Glamour is easier to wear and more available in the hands of those who create with fabric than the greater populace reliant on ready-to-wear realizes.

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For more movie images, see Barbara Bach’s fan website here or ‘Classiq.me’ for a review of the movie fashions

A Christmas Cotton Set for the Mr. and Mrs.

No – I’m not talking about the Mr. and Mrs. Claus of Christmas, but making something for me and my hubby! It feels so good to finally see (and get to wear) something from my stash that was silently begging to be re-fashioned! It is nice, too, among the business of making (and finding) gifts for everyone else to make holiday gifts for a little “selfish” sewing for ourselves…

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I’m wearing my Burda “Wrap, Drape, and Tie” set from the previous post.

This story starts with a downer but ends well. One attempt at creating an elegant, ankle length, full circle cotton skirt for a Christmas about 12 years ago turned out to be a disappointing fail that I couldn’t wear. The skirt only looked tacky, overwhelming, and literally homemade. It was just one those bad ‘fabric-print-pattern’ combinations. However, I loved the print of mistletoe and holly, and the cotton was very soft, thick, and high quality so I always wanted to make something better of a ‘failure’ to redeem myself. Here is that re-fashion combo on Christmas day at family’s house – not-so-good picture and all! It is a man’s neck tie, 3 ½ inches wide from a 1971 pattern, for my hubby and a vintage inspired bias-skirted apron for myself.

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  100% cotton is the “Holly and Mistletoe” print, but the lining for the back of my apron (in a deep bright green) is a broadcloth which I suppose is mostly cotton, too, with some polyester perhaps.100_6606a-comp

NOTIONS:  I used whatever I had on hand for both the apron and the tie, which included thread (of course), interfacing, bias tape, and a blank clothing label.

PATTERNS:  The Tie: McCall’s #2971, year 1971; The Apron: the “Mango Tango” pattern from the book “A is for Apron” by Nathalie Mornu; The original skirt: Simplicity 4883, “Design by Karen Z”, year 2004, made in a size larger than what I needed so as to have an elastic waist.

Simplicity 4883, full & half circle skirts, yr 2004, with A is for Apron bookTHE INSIDES:  Both items could not be made any better even for being rather fast in completion. The apron has bias bound edges, both inside and on the edges, while the tie’s edges are not seen, 100% covered, tucked away inside itself. There is a “custom label” underneath just like store bought ties, too (picture below).100_6827a-comp

TIME TO COMPLETE:  I have a beef about the tie which I’ll address later, but it took me a total of 2 ½ hours to make. The apron took me maybe 4 or 5 hours, which is twice as long as my ‘normal’ time for aprons, a fact due in part to adding lining, doing some fitting, and much ironing.

TOTAL COST:  As this was a re-fashion of something bought and made from such a while back, made with what was on hand, I’m counting it as free. However, the tie only calls for 5/8 yard, and the apron pieces are rather small, so both could be made from scraps or at least very little fabric to make them low-cost creations.

100_6603a-compFor this duo of re-fashions, the absolute hardest part was at the pattern layout and cutting stage. It was hard to re-establish the grain line and selvedge direction on a garment that had already been made. My first step in the re-fashion was to cut off the waist panel which extended several inches down below the waist so that I could deal with just the bias circle skirt part – the only part I really wanted to use this time. I’ll save the skirt lining and the waistband for some other time. Now the only thing I knew was that the center front of both the front and the back skirt were on the straight grain, so I the rest I figured from there. Then finding the right grain for each of the pattern pieces for both patterns was the next challenge. It was kind of like a puzzle to fit the patterns in on the right grain and I can tell the bias might be just very slightly off in the tie and the apron skirt, but so close to right on that I shouldn’t be fretting. A successful re-fashion is always something great, especially when you can end up with two wearable projects out of one unwanted one!

100_6822a-compNotions and supplies given to me by my Grandmother came in handy for these two projects. Pre-Christmas time can be crazy enough the way it is, and the last thing I needed was an extra errand to the fabric store. Besides, I love to make my projects work as far as I can with what is on hand, although I do try to keep up a good supply so as to make this practice work more often than not. Anyway, I used two slightly different colored bright red single fold bias tapes (1/2 inch) for the apron, as well as a random cut of happy Christmas green. Going with a slightly shortened apron skirt, this green cotton lined the back of my apron and also a man’s utility apron I made as a gift for my sister-in-law’s husband, so it was enough for two actually. Hooray for stash busting with a good cause.

Oh goodness, the cover of the tie is so happily deceptive, for as nice as the tie turned out it 100_6655-compcertainly did not take me 45 minutes. In reality, it took me half of an hour to do both the cutting out and sewing out the pointed ends and two hours of hand sewing to finish the long inner center seam edges. (The two hours of hand sewing were actually quite productive, as I was multi-tasking listening to Ken Burns’ program on the history of “Prohibition”.) However, surely there must be a faster and easier pattern to use to make a tie so I probably will not be using this pattern again. Beyond some not-as-clear-as-they-could-be instructions, the pattern wasn’t really all that bad. After all, the tie did turn out quite nice, with clean finishes, and creative construction methods…it just didn’t live up to its façade of being ‘quick and easy’ as it makes you think. I do appreciate the fact that the tie pattern gave two size options: a 3 ½ inch wide or 4 ½ inch wide front bottom. Both of us decided unanimously for the 3 ½ inch option. He didn’t want to look too vintage, although he does look totally like a swing era gent in his picture.

100_6604a-compHow and who came up with the method of transforming a ‘T’ shaped end into a self-faced triangle? So smart, I wish I’d done it, but whatever, it tickles my mind. Seriously, look at that pattern! There is definitely some backwards thinking ‘engineering-style’ needed in sewing, especially when it comes to designing patterns, in order to deconstruct how to manipulate fabric and get it to turn out a certain way. I think this tie pattern is a good example of what I love about sewing…it’s better than magic how something in paper that’s flat, odd-shaped, with no dimension can become a wearable work of art. Amazing!100_6654-comp

My hubby’s father has done all this before me – he makes ties out of worn out denim blue jeans, and he has made his own pattern for his projects. Not to give away any secrets but it has a simpler design of construction which fits appropriately with the heavy weight of the denim. My father-in-law’s ties and my own are both products of re-using and re-fashioning, a trait I am proud to share. I am the happy owner of a copy of his personal, special pattern and maybe I’ll have to try it in my quest for the perfect design.

My biggest fear was that the two ends would turn out looking wonky. What if one side of the point has a different angle? As it turned out, following the markings of the pattern and such did produce perfect angles for even looking tie ends. Yay! I’m proud at being able to successfully make a not-so-traditional item and try something new.

100_6738a-compA cotton tie might sound odd just because you don’t see them sold but ties haven’t always been what they are today. In the 1910’s and 1920’s men’s ties were more like scarves or square bottomed. In the 1930’s, 1940’s, and the 1970’s tie were often a little wider than what we’re used to, and throughout the last 70 or so years ties were made from different materials such as sweater knits or made with odd monograms, painted designs, and appliques. On the pattern I used, the envelope back lists every material under the sun (almost) as recommended fabrics.

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Love the quote on this page!

Interfacing was added down the inside center of hubby’s tie. I didn’t really know what to use as interfacing. Muslin cotton? Canvas? Regular modern interfacing? I went with the modern lightweight interfacing and merely ironed it down in very small patches at the two pointed ends (to create a sharp triangle), at the center seam for joining the two pieces, and once in between. I made sure to tack the interfacing down with the tie anyway when I hand-stitched the first center inside seam down through all the layers. It should stay in place if it needs a washing, which I can do ‘cause it’s only cotton, he he.

I have so many patterns and choices when it comes to apron making but for some reason this particular design from a book of mine “spoke” to me, just seeming to be the right fit for the Christmas cotton. I’ve already made my mistake when I made the skirt, and it a pattern naturally pairs up with a fabric I’m not resisting. I kind of wanted something classier for my apron, like ivory or soft green color highlights by using different bias tape than the bright red I did use, but Hubby was right when he said those colors would have been too muted. I do love the slightly vintage flair to it, the very fun and feminine bias flaring skirt, the unusual pocket (too small to be too useful, but still cute), and the neckline features. In other words, everything! Maybe I should re-name this apron into a twist on the pattern title – “Christmas Tango”?

Patterns from this book are in the back, needing enlargement of 400% to be true to size. I took the “easy” route for the patterns and used a photocopier service to do all the printing and figuring for me. Otherwise one could draft the patterns up to full size themselves.

100_6813a-compThe pattern was made “as-is” except for a slight fitting I made to the ties. The ties are an extension of the bodice and slanted at such a sharp angle down that on my smaller frame I would have ended up with a bow over my behind…not the best spot. So I added a pair of 100_6825-comp1/4 inch darts into the inner (upper) curve where the bodice section runs into the ties to make a sharper turn, keeping the ties around my waist where they should be. Keep in mind that this was done before I sewed on the bias trim. Notice, too, how I took the extra time to line the extension of the ties with the printed fabric so that there wouldn’t be a “wrong side” of green lining cotton showing behind me. I love to make such little touches that none but an expensive apron would have. It doesn’t take much extra effort on my part and gives the pleasure of having a de-luxe apron.

Perhaps the mistletoe on the print will prompt holiday smooches both ways – from him for the cook (me), and from me to the dapper man with the cotton tie (me). Being a coordinated twosome has never been so fun and tolerable as this. It’s not like making matching clothes. An apron and a tie are just something to add onto our clothes, that we can take off when we feel “too cute” together. What a better time to be together than the Christmas holiday, anyway!

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My special “Merry Christmas” pin is decorating the apron top!