In Sporting Fashion

It’s not every day I go full on casual with what I am wearing, but doing so in vintage style is my preferred interpretation for having fun exercising in the great outdoors.  Spring marks the beginning of baseball season in the United States, and so what better way to test out my newest sewing make than during practice pitching and catching with my family in the local park’s field!  I now have the most chic but playful, bold yet practical pair of shorts I could ever imagine for summertime fun!  

They are pleated, bibbed, suspender style “short-alls” from the mid-1940s in the most luxurious cotton I could find locally.  This kind of casual dressing was the preferred choice of teenagers in WWII times, but I am more than happy to rock it as an adult on the 21st century.  Here’s to having sporting fun in just as much style as when I have a fancy affair…because handmade fashion is for me something I can wear at any and all occasion at this point!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  Chartreuse lime colored Supima cotton in a sateen finish (same as what I used as the contrast facing on this 1960s sun set)

PATTERN:  Simplicity #1322, year 1944 (reprinted again under the same number in the year 1946) from my personal pattern stash

NOTIONS NEEDED:  everything I used came from the accumulated stash I have on hand – thread, buttons, interfacing scraps, rayon hem tape, and a 6 inch zipper

TIME TO COMPLETE:  this was made in about 12 hours and finished in August 2020

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound for all the seams with vintage rayon tape finishing the hem

TOTAL COST:  1 ½ yards cost me $16 with a coupon

As mentioned when I first used small scraps of this fabric on my 60’s sun set (posted here), I have never really been a fan of chartreuse.  Nevertheless, I know it seems quite popular and a sought after color amongst vintage enthusiasts, so I have been wanting to cautiously try this color out for myself for far too long.  The fabric’s shade listed on the end of the bolt in the store was marked as “pistachio” but as it is darker and more yellow in undertone, I see it as a true chartreuse in person.  Considering my skin tone, I do not believe I’d like myself in chartreuse if worn alone as a solo tone. 

Nevertheless, made up in a separate piece as I have done here, whatever top is chosen to pair with the shorts is my chance to play with finding complimentary colors that I do prefer.  The suspenders holding up my bib extension integrate the chartreuse into my entire outfit and keep it from being distinct blocks of color separated at the waistline.  The only reason I went with a dusty blue tee here was because I had a baseball cap to match, but it was a hard choice.  I love the look of my shorts with tops on hand in all sorts of colors, and even with my printed, tight 90’s era tees (still in my wardrobe from when I was much younger) for a modern feel. 

I was so happy to find a Sears department store advertisement from Kansas City, Missouri of the same year as my pattern (year 1944) for some “short-alls” exactly like my own.  In this old ad, they were offered in a cotton twill and listed as “bib style buttoned panel, pleats front…a Hollywood favorite!”  Unlike my last pair of 1940s era shorts (which look like a mini skirt), these are a bit more structured and obviously shorts with their shallow pleats, higher rise, and slimmer circumference of hems, making them perfect for very active activities like baseball, tennis, or volleyball.  Under the same circumstances, my blue 40’s dupe-skirt shorts have me afraid of flashing someone with a peek of my undies and leave the fabric looking stained or limp when it gets wet.  These chartreuse suspender shorts do none of that.  Don’t get me wrong, though – each pair is appropriate for different occasions, obviously.  I equally wear and love both of my 40’s shorts, but the chartreuse pair avoids all the pitfalls I discovered with my blue pair.  Here, the suspenders and front bib even keep my top tucked in place!  

I thought ahead to choose something equally soft as the rayon of my blue 40’s shorts but more stable and sweat resistant – all of which qualities I found in the Supima cotton sateen.  The beautiful, slight shine to the fabric dresses them up, but they are still just a very easy-care cotton, besides being lightweight and cool to wear, too.  My next choice after the Supima sateen was a light to mid-weight denim, and I do currently have some such material set aside (from my Grandmother’s fabric stash) for a future project of another early 1940s play set.  I successfully tried a rayon and silk blend twill for my personal version of the 1940’s “Harp” shorts offered by Tori at “Potion 23”, a local designer for whom I was the pattern drafter and sample maker.  My 80s shorts were a (border print) cotton shirting and for the 50s I did a short romper in pique as well as shorts in heavy hopsack linen.  I now have a good arsenal of knowledge when it comes to what works best for different kinds of shorts.  Fabric choice has so much to do with the success of every sewing project but I find this fact especially true for shorts.  Such a simple little garment of summer has given me so much bother trying to perfect!

I claim home base!

The only reason these shorts ended up being closer to fitting like modern clothes in the first place was really due to a re-drafting ‘mistake’.  I only realized after assembling my shorts enough for my first try-on that the pattern was sized for teenagers.  This explains why the crouch depth sits so much higher than what I expected of a true 1940s pattern.  WWII era trousers for women had roomy bottoms for a fit that did not reveal a body form shape as do pants of today.  Using a true 1940s pattern is the only reason such a ‘mistake’ worked out okay after all.  As a teenager’s design, the distance between the hip line and waist line is really 2 inches too short for me.  My hips are about 7 inches down from my waist and not 5 inches, as given.  

I should have at least suspected that this was a junior’s design since the high school teenage crowd of the 1940s were the ones most commonly rocking the sporty, fun-in-the-sun clothes of WWII times.  The envelope back said this was either for women or junior misses and recommended Simplicity #1315 (reissued in 1946 as #2062) to complete it as a “mother-and-daughter set” of matching designs.  At least I was thinking ahead enough at the pattern stage so as to grade in some extra space at the seams of the centers and sides to bring it up to my waist and hip circumference.  I had to add in a total of 4 inches because a size 12 from back then is for a small 24 inch waistline, which is a modern size 0…definitely not me.

I am no less happy with my finished item even with the little unexpected – but no less welcome – hiccup in its making.  Now I have a decision waiting for me the next time I pick up this pattern (and I definitely will be coming back to it).  Do I keep the modern fit of reduced wearing ease (aka, current juniors’ sizing) or draft in the proportions of an adult size for a proper 1940s appearance?  Either way, I may just wear the heck out of these shorts and sew another copy in the exact same color and material.  I may just pick another one of the other styles given as an option in the pattern to try.  Nevertheless, I like these bibbed suspender shorts too much to not just end up making them again in some manner.  I kind of want to revisit this same design anyway so as to redeem the crazy and confusing way of closures that I opted for in my version.

The pattern for these shorts calls for workable buttoning front bib.  I did not do that on mine.  To get a snug fit on a pair of shorts meant for athletic activity does not seem compatible with a handful of buttons.  The Supima cotton is a fairly thin, loose weave that snags, ravels, and puckers easily.  Even if properly interfaced, I did not want to compromise the material with buttonholes.  Also, I could envision the front buttons being a hazard and getting caught during activity and ripped off…this worst-case scenario would not end well. 

To end up with a stable, secure closure that keeps the look of the bib front simple, I went for the tried-and-true, good, old reliable vintage metal zipper closing, albeit hidden under the front flap.  Over the tummy and under the bib, a short zipper connects the center front seam to an extension piece I added to left side of the shorts’ main body (since the pleat is only stitched part of the way).  Then, I have an inner button and elastic loop to fully connect the waistband, as well.  The entire right side of the shorts’ pleat and bib front is stitched down in place and all of the closures are accessed from the left side only.  This was all my own idea and it works pretty darn well.  I do not know whether or not this method of closing is something which would have been used back then or not, but it just made sense from an engineering outlook.  Yes, sewing is engineering sometimes.  I do happen to be married to an engineer so I suppose he rubs off on me. 

At least I have the suspenders with real working buttonholes!  There would be no easy way in or out of these shorts otherwise, from a practical perspective, though.  The straps are stitched down to the front bib, but come detached at the back waistline where there are the cutest imaginable flower buttons in a bright lime green.  The crossing point of the suspenders across the back of my shoulders is lightly tacked together so that no matter how I move, the X shape stays in perfect position.  It’s not that I really need suspenders to actually hold up my shorts.  This is why I have them as laying somewhat loosely over my shoulders.  Yet, I just love how there is just as much interest to the design of these shorts as seen from behind with the suspenders and the cute buttons. 

I enjoy the fact that I have such me-made vintage pieces to help me look forward to getting my exercise now that warmer weather is here.  I never was a big fan of shorts until I discovered how cute and appealing the vintage-style kind could be.  No matter how simple, any garment can be elevated by good design and tailoring.  I certainly put this particular shorts model to the test run right away for the sake of my post’s pictures, too!  I hope you enjoyed the change of pace by having photos of me in the action shots.  Don’t you think I am able to pull off chartreuse after all?  

Hands for Love

There is perhaps nothing so expressive, so poignant, so telling of emotion as the human hand.  Some of the greatest, most touching pieces of art are of nothing other than hands.  Through our hands, we create a tangible version of those abstract thoughts and feelings inside.  Hands are instruments to write books or letters, perform music, form sign language, make art, and cook food to name a short list of the many varied ways possible to show the affection, communication, sensuality, and creativity we have within.  It never fails to amaze me that one of the most common, utilitarian parts of our body can speak volumes in the strongest yet most beautiful way possible without a uttering a word.  The power of a simple – even silent – “show of hands” as a public display of solidarity for change has been proved powerful and relevant with the protests of the last few years for racial equity.  All of the things I have listed that hands can do are each so closely untied to the workings of our emotive heart.   

Thus, even though I am posting this following on the heels to the holiday for romantic or filial love, I would like the feelings given by this blouse to be expressive of bigger affections.  I guess I’m wearing my “heart on my sleeve” through the interpretation of fashion by crafting a blouse which calls to mind the many symbolical meanings connected to combining both heart and hands (with roses, for good measure) in my chosen fabric print.  With a motif like I am using, my garment’s design called for a vintage reference in its style so I can go back to the era that understood how to sport an obnoxiously mysterious hand print with unabashed artistic license.

The art form of Surrealism really understood the natural connection between fashion and manual handiwork with the way it persists in having such an obsession with anything hand, glove, or finger-like.  The Surrealist movement gravitated to fashion as its most visually stunning means of expression, especially due in part to the famous and talented trio of Elsa Schiaparelli (designer), Salvador Dali (artist), and Man Ray (photographer) in the 1930s decade.  There isn’t one, clear message to anything Surrealist – the viewer can feel free to internalize within themselves the dream-like eeriness of its art for individual interpretation.  It is better to keep things open to the perspective of the viewer for profound topics in art or fashion.  For me, here though, things are a bit more precise because I have my own vision coming from the perspective of the maker and not just a spectator!  

Schiaparelli Haute Couture dress, Spring 2017

At first sight, my print immediately sent me back into my undying fascinated adoration for Schiaparelli’s creations.  Hand motifs are the trademark of her brand.  This will have been my third project directly inspired by things she made (my first being her “Metamorphosis” 1937 dress and duster coat, then my second her 1951 voluminous sleeved blouse).  Here I am using a year 2014 Burda Style pattern which has a subtle, timeless, 1930’s style with its creative paneling, fit-and-flare silhouette, strongly squared off shoulders, and clever use of godet additions.  I will explain throughout my post the rest of my specific symbolical ideas.  For now, let’s move onto construction details.  You’ll want to know how not only this was the most complex pieced blouse pattern I have worked with – ever – but also a one yard project!

My blouse is here paired with a true vintage 1930s beaded necklace, my maternal Grandmother’s old earrings, vintage 1940s original heels, and my 1930s inspired Burda Style “Marlene trousers” (posted here).  I was playing up the vintage connotation with this combo yet it looks equally on trend with a modern skinny pencil skirt and stiletto heels.  I even added a hand drawn temporary tattoo on my left hand using the Inkbox free hand ink pen.  It is a squiggled abstract rose alongside my thumb.  I’ll do anything for a thoughtfully intentional, carefully curated outfit!  I even succeeded in achieving a full wrap-around French braid crown with my hair – something I have seen on the models in some of the old high fashion photography of the 1930s. My mask is me-made of some dobby striped Indian cotton. 

Our downtown art museum was the location for our photos.  The sepia toned hand prints behind me are an exhibit called “All Hands On Deck”, a series of photos from Damon Davis printed and published as lithographs by Wildwood Press in 2015.  These images originated in the protests that arose after Michael Brown Jr. was shot and killed by a police officer in August 2014.  Davis photographed protestors’ hands held up in the “don’t shoot” gesture, now transformed into a gesture of solidarity, community, and a call for change.  These large scale photographs were originally pasted onto boarded up storefronts around town which were damaged by rioting.  The secondary background we used (seen further down in this post) is modern architectural blue Plexiglas boxes by Donald Judd, year 1969, and made for a good Surrealist inspired setting.  Nevertheless, I absolutely adore the connection created by me wearing my blouse to the exhibit of hand prints.  Symbolism like this is what I made my blouse for.  I couldn’t be happier with my new sewing creation!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  1 yard of 100% silk crepe for each the exterior print and the white lining; sheer contrast godet panels of navy polyester chiffon

PATTERN:  Burda Style pattern #111 from December 2014, the “inset blouse with godets” (also called “raglan shirt” #110 on the company’s German website)

NOTIONS NEEDED:  one invisible zipper and lots of thread

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This project was a time hog!  This took me over 20 hours to sew (not counting the time spent agonizing over the pattern and its layout on my material).  It was finished on October 22, 2021.

THE INSIDES:  My edges inside are raw but cleaned up nicely and stitched over to reduce fraying

TOTAL COST:  The novelty printed silk was a discounted remnant that I bought back in 2017 from a shop on Etsy which is no longer in business.  I spent $20 for the one yard, while the solid white silk was found at a different shop online for $15 a yard.  The poly chiffon was bought from JoAnn Fabrics for about $10.  Altogether, I spent about $50 including the zipper.

Honestly, for as much as I had a very certain vision of what to do with my printed silk and how I intended to interpret my vision, this project was one of the most challenging to achieve.  At the project stage, I could find a handful of patterns or design ideas which felt like what I wanted.  Yet, each time I found they would not work on one measly yard.  My lack of fabric was the major controlling/limiting factor here, actually.  I would have bought more from the shop but one yard was all they had left.  This was a skinny 35” width material, too, so it was basically the size of a large scarf square.  I knew a fill-in fabric would be necessary, which I wanted become a natural part of the design and not something due to my shortage of yardage.  A print like this seemed to me to call for a classy design with sleeves and full coverage with a touch of something unexpected.  Doesn’t that sound like quite a challenge to fulfill?!  Now you can see why I stashed this fantastic silk print for the last 5 years! 

I suppose I was unintentionally ‘waiting’ for the right pattern to fall into my radar.  My final chosen Burda pattern was a happy, if unintentional, find I came across one night browsing through my magazine while looking for another design I wanted.  It suddenly struck me, as I saw it in my magazine, that my hand print fabric would be a probable match for the design.  I especially liked how the sleeves as well as the main body, particularly through the waist, are primarily the print so as to give a cohesive appearance to the design.  This way, the contrast godets refrain from clearly advertising that I ran out of fabric (which I practically did).  Together with the modern-vintage flair to it, everything else I was hoping to find for my project ideal was fulfilled better than I imagined.  Some things in life are just meant to be.

The instructions by no means call for one yard, but it seems to my special talent – dare I say trademark – for squeezing the most unexpected patterns out of small cuts.  This was the most extreme version of that which I have yet done.  Every cutting line was the neighboring pattern piece’s cutting line.  The top and bottom hems were at the fabric edge.  There was a one-way directional print that needed every pattern to be lined up and running the same direction, though, too.  If I would have needed even one size up from the one which was my size (36 graded up to 40 for the hips) the pattern would not have fit on the fabric. 

However, the fact that the main body pieces were quite rectangular and relatively straight cut (thanks to the additional shaping the contrast godets add) was the saving grace.  The sleeve pieces (two-part raglan style for the loveliest shaping over the shoulder point) just barely fit in between the convex curves of the main body patterns.  “Silver linings” outlook aside, this tight layout did work me up to being a stressed, freaked out, sweating mess.  Using a special material always makes me pause for extra figuring to weed out any mistakes, but squashing in the layout so very impossibly was the “icing to the cake”.  I don’t want to be in this circumstance ever again but I am so thrilled it worked out I can literally tear up slightly just thinking about it sometimes.

Ideally, I wanted the contrast to be jagged panels to contrast off the delicate trio of items on the print.  The heart is a well of emotions which can be crushed, betrayed, and injured all too easily.  Hands can be an instrument in protecting or harming the matters of the heart and are the instrument through which we can feel sensory pain.  Roses may be the flower of love, but they have tiny, thorny daggers which grow along with their beauty.  To have the added godets pointing in towards my chest like daggers is the kind of unsettling message that I feel Surrealism – particularly Schiaparelli – would prefer and only strengthens the symbolism of my chosen print. 

These godet stilettos are merciful, though, being in a gentle chiffon, adding the softly shaping curves that the straight cut body panels need to contour and form over my body.  They hide a sensual little secret, too, as they are sheer.  The opacity of the dark blue together with the fact that I double layered every godet (so as to have a clean finished hem with the raw edge tucked inside) makes their translucent quality subtle.  I originally wanted a striking sheer blood red chiffon for the godets.  Going for a navy chiffon blended in with the background to let the red and white print stand out better.

This was a project listed on the higher than average end of Burda’s difficulty level scale, and I agree.  However, it’s not on account of requiring advanced skills.  Yet it is tricky and complicated, needing precision sewing and the patience to stitch many three point corners.  There are 9 pattern pieces in total that look terribly similar to one another.  These 9 pieces cut out to 18 fabric pieces.  Don’t forget that I doubled everything to 36 pieces because everything for my version is lined!!  This was such an ordeal to assemble and such a confusing jumble of pieces to keep track of! 

I did change up one small part of the construction assembly along the way for a smoother finish and finer detailing befitting my deluxe material.  I wanted something nicer than just conventional turned under hems.  Thus, before assembling anything, I sewed each piece’s hem wrong side-to-wrong-side.  Then, I sandwiched the seam, trimmed to ¼”, between the doubled up fabric (as there is a white lining to the silk and two layers to the chiffon godets) and did a tight top stitching at a scant distance from the clean edge.  Only then did I put the main body pieces together, followed by adding in the godets, setting in the side zipper, and tidying up my seams.  Achieving perfect corners every time was so laborious and challenging! 

Luckily, this was one of the very few Burda designs which fit me precisely with no tweaks to the fit.  I measured the heck out of the pattern pieces before I did any cutting of my fabric, so I figured such…even still, it was a pleasant surprise.  I recommend this – out of any pattern ever – as the one which needs to be perfect at the pattern stage because tweaking the fit after being fully constructed is very nearly impossible.  The sizing is extraordinarily good here for curvy bodies so trust the size chart and try this for yourself, as well.  A very supple and softly draping material (nothing too stiff) is important to choose here, though, to get the full effect of how the godets fall into themselves, or open up, depending upon your body movements.  Even without the unique print I chose I think this blouse would still be garnering compliments literally everywhere it is worn – which is the case already!  This is a standout, extraordinary design worth every minute and penny I put into it and couldn’t be happier.  I have plenty of lace scraps from my Grandmother which I am tempted to save towards another version of this blouse.  I would also like to try out the dress version of this blouse design at some point the future.

I find it ironic and confusing that among professional academic circles fashion is the most frequently discredited and underestimated means through which to express oneself.  Clothing is a basic need, just the same as being both the viewer and the spectator is a natural part of the communal human existence.  We use our hands to make and acquire our basic needs, and craft them (if we have that luxury) to our own liking.  Even the cheapest ready-to-wear clothing is made by human hands (in some degree), which so many people forget when they pay $5 for their favorite retail store leggings or t-shirt.  Garments necessarily intertwine both human expression as well as some sort of manual effort, so turning that into elevated, intentional art is only one step away.  Expressing ourselves without a sound and by sight only is a shared characteristic of both our hands and what we wear…both are influenced by the workings of our heart.     

As beautiful and meaningful everything else our heart through our hands can do, it is charity – love for our fellow beings  – that is surely the loftiest act.  With parents of both sides of my family dealing with the disfiguring effects of rheumatoid arthritis, I realize all too well that something as simple assisting with doing a button is one small but mighty act of kindness with our hands which can make a world of difference.  I realize, too, that both heart and hands of humanity can sadly also do damaging, evil, scheming deeds of mischief at an individual level as well and create terror and sadness in this world.  What have your hands done today?  How is your heart?  I hope this post finds you happy, healthy, and feeling safe.  I also hope this blouse project of mine has cheered your day, made you consider, and inspired you!   

Jungle Animal Pink Knit 1950s Wrap Blouse

As I just had my WordPress blog’s anniversary, I’ve become nostalgic for the good old days of blogging a decade ago.  Even without being reminiscent, at the beginning of every year I think of the sewing challenge “Jungle January” that the blog “Pretty Grievences” began in 2013 and hosted for several years afterwards.  This year, for some reason, I especially miss it.  Thus, I’ve sort of been doing my own little adherence to that theme anyway this 2022.  I always seem to have animal prints on hand, and even though it is no longer January I would like to share something I made last month in the spirit of the challenge.  I previously posted my son’s tiger printed pants so it is my turn back in the spotlight with my variation on the theme! 

On a whim, for a last-minute getaway we had a few weekends back, I whipped a new top together out of a one yard knit remnant and a “quick ‘n easy” vintage pattern which has been on my radar recently.  This simple little project was everything I hoped for to take with me for the getaway – it was cozy warm, cute but classy, comfortable yet fitted, and sewn in a few hours…what could be any better?  It has a fantastic, artistic array of animal spots in a soft, feminine color combination!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a thick brushed finish knit which is 90% polyester and 10% spandex

PATTERN:  Butterick #7640, from spring of year 1956, original vintage pattern from my personal stash

NOTIONS NEEDED:  I just needed thread, some bias tape (which I made myself of a pink satin fabric remnant from on hand) and two buttons (salvaged off of a pair of my son’s worn out school pants before they were thrown away)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This took me 6 hours in one afternoon and evening on January 8, 2021

THE INSIDES:  left raw

TOTAL COST:  This was a discounted one yard remnant for JoAnn Fabrics, bought for $8.25

I always itch for something new – no matter how small – to bring with me to wear for every trip we take.  I do not buy ready-to-wear, so I sew for this desire just as I do normally and almost always use what is on hand.  I’m awfully practical, even when I splurge.  Honestly, I do not want to add to my existing fabric stash at this time, yet sometimes a little something new and fresh from what is on hand can be just what I need for inspiration.  We’ve hardly been anywhere since early 2020, thus I especially wanted something new even though we only had a little more than a week’s advance notice for the short trip we were to take.  Having spent $8 on a remnant roll makes my sensible side happy.  The way my top is an easy to make and easy to wear vintage design while still looking very modernly chic makes the rest of me happy.  This was a new fabric indulgence I discerned what to do with immediately so it never went to my stash and is being enjoyed in my wardrobe right away. 

The easy-to-make vintage pattern I used was even more simplified by using a knit.  However, there was only one way that using such a stretchy material worked out here rather than the called-for woven crepe, taffeta, faille, or chambray.  My pattern was a size too small for my measurements and I didn’t feel like grading it up!  Nevertheless, as a knit needs negative ease to account for stretch, the small size worked out in my favor here.  I found a perfect fit in the end after all!  What is still not accounted for is the fact that the envelope back calls for 1 5/8 yard of material and I was able to easily squeeze a long sleeved wrap top with a peplum out of .97 worth of fabric – less than a yard!  All the details I listed to the top are fabric hogs, but by flipping some pieces wrong side up I easily made it work with no compromise to the grain line or pattern layout. 

I did not have enough scraps leftover to tie end closures so I adapted by having both ends close with a button and thread loops.  In lieu of facings, some bias cut pink satin scraps on hand were folded in and used instead as a pretty way to keep the neckline stable yet still use up something on hand.  When I said I simplified this pattern, I really meant that in an extreme sense.  However, I find any 1950s dolman sleeved bodice (where the sleeve is cut as one piece with the main body and tapered in at the wrist) like this one is always easier to be more efficient for both layout and fabric amount.  They are also comfortable sleeve drama that was popular in the 1950s, which I may have something to do with the fact there are so many 1 yard or less projects from this era.  Everything about this project working out on one yard was only possible because the selvedge width was 54” wide and I was using a smaller size pattern.  Anything narrower in width and I would have at least been forced to go with ¾ sleeves or cull the peplum.  

I had no real choice but to abridge the pattern to a point because almost everything was missing from the envelope.  I believe this was one of the many patterns in my life which have been handed off to me by others looking to downsize their own stash as I do not remember buying it.  Either way – there was nothing but the main body front, main body back, and one waistline tie end present.  The long sleeves had been cut off the main body at the short sleeve lines, and I felt very lucky indeed to have them still included since everything else was missing.  I had to draft my own peplum pieces basing my design off of both the garment measurements and the drawings on the envelope back.  I would like to revisit this pattern again in the future (with a lovely vintage striped cotton in my stash) and give myself a reason to draft the rest of the pieces – the collar, neckline facings, sleeve cuff, and second tie end.

For such a cheap, quick project I wanted to spruce it up a bit with something extra handmade.  I had picked up 3 strands of turquoise dyed Wagnerite (a natural mineral) over the Black Friday JoAnn sale last year at $2 a pop.  In an hour, I finally turned those pebbles into a double strand necklace to bring out the beautiful aqua undertone in the print as well as match the handcrafted earrings bought from a gem, mineral, and fossil show.  I love crafting my own jewelry for outfits.  It showcases just another of the many aspects to my maker’s talents.  It is also an unexpected way to continue my self-made closet besides personally curating my individual style.

I paired my blouse with a ready-to-wear wool tweed bias cut skirt that I have enjoyed in my closet for the last 20 years.  It mimics the figure hugging skirts styles that were a not so well-known fad of the 1950s.  French fashion of the era in particular, but in general the higher end fashion scene worldwide, revived the curve baring, slim fitting, bias cut skirts of the previous 1930s decade for an elegant variation on the more widely known “wiggle” look.  I felt my top’s peplum would complement my hourglass body type in such a skirt.  Along this vein, I am wearing my 1930s inspired ankle boots from Hotter shoe company because the weather that day was cold, rainy, and messy for traveling. 

I will not be straying too long from the jungle, so if you love this top’s print as much as me you will not be left hanging.  I love animal prints too much to not come back to it soon enough.  I have an amazing rayon knit border print that has an animal theme and I intend to finally sew a summer dress using it this year.  If nothing else, I hope I have given you yet another idea of what to make with those smaller sized vintage patterns that seem to be so plentiful on the market…sew them up in a stretchy knit and take advantage of the forgiveness the material bestows!  This is an especially great way to use one yard cuts (my favorite challenge to conquer) as those smaller sized patterns use even less fabric…every little bit counts! 

Next up on my blog, I will feature the opposite of this simple knit top while still using one precious yard, though.  For a full teaser drop, it is a very complex blouse design made using a fine silk with the upcoming Valentine’s Day as its subtle theme.  Until then, have a great February 14th!  

Year of the Tiger

The Chinese Spring Festival celebrates the beginning of a new year according to the traditional Chinese calendar.  This year became the Year of the Tiger on February 1st, and my son was ready for it with an outfit made by me!  He thoroughly enjoys the fabric store as much as I do (I’m so lucky) so on one such visit he picked out this tiger striped micro-suede fabric from the remnant section asking me to make something of it.  I obliged him by choosing to sew the tiger print into crazy pants.  That wasn’t going to be enough to keep him cozy since he is easily cold in winter, so I turned a knit remnant from on hand into a turtleneck.  Now he has a full mom-made outfit!  I love enabling his personal style.  He is as intrepid as a tiger here, ready to make his presence known with some admirable confidence in a roaring bold look

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  just over 1 yard of polyester micro-suede for the pants, and 1 yard of an all-cotton interlock for the top (leftover from this project, posted here)

PATTERNS:  both are Burda Style patterns – “Rollneck Top for Boys” #132 from October 2020 and then “Trousers for Boys” #129 from August 2019

NOTIONS NEEDED:  lots of thread and just enough elastic for my son’s waist

TIME TO COMPLETE:  not long at all – it took me 3 hours to sew each piece and they were both finished February 2, 2021

THE INSIDES:  left raw, as neither fabric really frays much, but I did zig-zag stitch over the micro-suede “just in case”

TOTAL COST:  The microsuede was a discount remnant for about $7 and the knit and elastic piece were remnants on hand so I’m counting them as free

We asked him, “Show off those socks!” so he pulled his pants legs up!

It is a convenient fact that my son’s school ‘family group’ color is orange for when they have school wide events and divide up into ‘teams’ to compete in a trivia match or athletic race. Now, for such events, these wild and obnoxious but totally individualistic trousers are just the thing he can appropriately wear! In fact, I took it a step further and dyed one of his surplus plain white school polo shirts to be a matching toned, solid, bright orange. Of all things, I actually happened to have a bottle of tangerine liquid RIT dye on hand, so it was too easy of a fun ‘refashion’ to pass up. Most importantly, though, my son was totally ecstatic over the crazy idea, so much so that we even threw in a pair of plain white socks into the dye bath pot on the stove! Yes, we were literally ‘cooking’ up some fun that night. I’m proud to see he takes after me, it seems – my son is also assertive in being himself and letting his fashion choices reflect that, even if it means not being “the norm”. After all, he is not far off to think that the best stuff to wear is handmade by mom, anyways!

I simplified the pants and streamlined their construction since this was just a crazy fabric that was going to be for him to wear for fun and play…nothing nice to be worn at church.  The waist was given full elastic waist around rather than the called-for partial elastic with mostly drawstring fitting.  He is too skinny for drawstring waists, I have found out from some ready-to-wear items.  Taking it a step further, the front fly is here just for show too, a faux detail and non-working.  These are just pull-on pants, pretty similar to the waists of pajamas.  I was not in the mood to do a full fly with a fiddly, tiny, 5 inch zipper – especially not for play pants, as I have said.  Besides, my son was watching the entire pattern tracing and construction process, as well as helping me along the way, so I wanted to make this project appear easy to him.  It would be intimidating (no doubt) from his perspective to see how a zipper fly goes in, but I know it also would have made him think I can work miracles at my sewing machine.  More on this topic later down in my post!

Nice pockets are a must for me, but especially so for my son.  This is why this Burda pants pattern was fantastic…four roomy pockets!  I love how the front inset pocket flows right into the back booty’s applied patch pocket, connecting together at the side seams (see picture at right).  It is little well thought out touches like this that I appreciate in menswear (whether for big or small boys).  There is not much exciting that can be done with the overall general seam lines for most masculine clothing, so it all comes down to how the small stuff is refined.  All he cares about is if he has room for lots of nose tissues, rocks, food snacks, pencils, and all the other oddities that he loves to stash in his pockets.  It was a win-win for both of us.

I lengthened all the hems of both items by several inches to accommodate his fast rate of growing.  This is why you see the pants roll cuffed and the top’s sleeves pushed up his arms.  In sewing, catering what is made to the body it is intended for is presented with an extra challenge when it comes to kids.  My son grows so darn fast!  At least I know he always only gets longer in the limbs and taller in his height, but never really fills out.  Thus I can fit his waist and torso as it is, but only have to add an extra 2 something inches in length so as to give him an extra 9 to 12 months of wear.  Custom garment sewing really pays off when I sew for him, because what I make gets worn for a longer period of time than my son’s store bought items.  This vintage jacket I made for him (posted here) was able to be worn for three years because I thought ahead and added length.  Yay for my mom brain, which thinks ahead!

The turtleneck was super simple and much appreciated by both of us.  I love the fact there is a pattern for this because I rarely see kid’s turtlenecks for sale – he loves them because he is so easily cold but having something snuggled around his neck keeps him happily cozy.  There were only 4 pattern pieces for the win, too.  I triple stitched everything in a tighter zig-zag stitch than I normally use because this is for him…and if you’ve ever seen the way he plays, moves, and can be rough on his clothes, you’d understand.  Cotton knit does not have as much of a rebound or return in its stretch as a polyester nit does.  Yet, it is lofty, thicker, and more breathable than a poly…thus perfect for a turtleneck.  It was the perfect way to use up something long hoarded.  Hubby can’t believe the remnants I save, but no matter how small, they really do always become worthwhile.  My son’s top was made from what was left of a project of mine back from 2013, but at least it was a full yard!

My son was totally invested in curating this outfit and I was so happy he wanted to be included in the making of it, even if he was not the one sewing.  He is determined in the desire to learn to sew and make things for himself, yet even with something simple I make he is blown away with “how cool” (as he says) it all is.  My one time comparison of working the machine foot pedal to a car’s gas pedal is something incredibly appealing enough alone for him.  I don’t think he has a bigger view of the whole process yet, or sees exactly how what gets done at the pattern stage relates to what the finished piece will look like, but that will come.  Crafting clothes really is much easier to achieve than it looks in the end, I tell him, and I think how quickly the pants came together really made an impression.  From a fabric roll he picked out at the store to something he can wear, the whole thing took one afternoon and he was ecstatic.  To him, this is much more complex than the pillowcase bags or hair scrunchies the girls in his school classroom show off to him from their sewing classes.  It’s weird that after teaching sewing for hire to a bunch of stranger’s kids over years, I suppose I will now have to share my sewing class lessons with my own son in the future!

This project was incredibly easy and fun.  A good part is due to the fact that it is really satisfying to make something special for my boy but I also enjoy working with Burda Style kid’s patterns.  Burda patterns also seem to not be as wide and short proportioned as other kid’s patterns, even vintage ones, which is good for my tall and lanky son.  They turn out well for him and are much more available (and appealing) than any of the paltry offerings “the Big 4” pattern companies offer for kids.  I love the details and the accurate sizing to Burda’s children’s patterns, as well as the fact they fairly cater to both boys and girls with what offerings are in most magazine editions.  

Why can’t a home seamstress have the tools needed to make interesting boys’ clothes, too?  Why is it assumed that boys are not either recipients or participants in home sewing realm?  All the kids patterns offered from most companies are primarily for girls, it seems, and little men only get patterns so basic (i.e. pajama pants) that buying anything better than loungewear from a store is a more attractive option.  I want to make my son fashion apparel, something that has a good cut as well as something that is unique enough to warrant its making, and I do not want to pay for a design that looks so basic and unimaginative I might as well draft it myself.  Offer something better or more unique than ready-to-wear, and a pattern company would have an appealing edge that would attract me and others in my position, I am sure.    

Men desperately need to bring a sense of style back into mode, and what better way to do that than to start ‘em off on the right foot than when they are young.  Sewing pattern companies need to realize this and start offering interesting boys patterns, too, because sewing is not just women’s work and cute dresses are not the only thing worth sewing for all moms out there.  Maybe boys will even want to sew their own clothes if there are better pattern designs?  Home Economics is generally catered to girls, but I say that needs to change.  If they learn how to sew, maybe those boys will be capable of taking care of their own wardrobe as they grow into adulthood, and (if anything) be able to darn their own socks, patch tears, and attach buttons just the same as any woman.  After all, sustainability is for everyone, and taking take of what you have is the responsible thing to do, not restricted to ladies only because it is sewing related.   Just the fact sewing is very math oriented is enough to appeal to my son, besides the fact he wants to be like mom.  My rant is not done, but over for now.  Nevertheless, I truly think my son’s outfit is a good opportunity to recognize the gaps in the tools available to the home sewing community and see the progress in introducing boys (or men) to sewing that needs to happen.  Let men and boys be as creative and assertive in the sewing realm as women.  I’d love to see it!