My most common item I create as a gift for someone is a really cute, finely detailed apron…and if not self-drafted, there is one pattern that I use for all of them. It’s a vintage re-issue, Simplicity #1221, originally Simplicity #4939 from 1944. This is a true winner of a pattern, with one cut piece needed to make it and a good design that has a complimentary fit. Not every apron is so good at being fashionably waist slimming yet with full coverage for food stain protection, too. Neither are all aprons so good at being a one yard, two hour project! One of these days, I need to get around to making a version for myself, especially after making so many for others. Here’s the post on my first gift version of this same apron pattern. This particular one was going off to my hubby’s godchild as a present.
This is the first time I had made a reversible apron, and I love how it turned out. I wanted her (the recipient) to have something she would not find otherwise, something fun, and ultimately useful! Just one layer of material (printed cotton) alone was too thin to be a useful against food splatters anyways. As the apron design is so simple, it was easy to merely have the backing fabric become an optional, yet wearable, second side. The entire raw edges are encased in ¼ inch bias tape so they look the same on either side, too, besides being an easy and colorful finish.
The sizing is good for gifting, as well. It is in loose, general blocks of measurements as small, medium, and large gradients rather than precise numbered sizing. As long as I can estimate the recipient’s body as compared to my own, I can find the right size. The waist of the apron should just about cover the front 2/3 of the wearer’s waist, so that always gives me a good way to choose what size to make after measuring the pattern in comparison. The godchild is actually a 20-something who is my size body (or slightly smaller) so I made the apron to fit me. However, it is always harder to let something go to someone else once you try it on for yourself, you know what I mean?
I made the ties as long as the pattern calls for, which is short enough for only a knot and not a full bow. The neckline has no closures and flips over the head to lay on the neck and shoulders like a collar, so I feel the shorter ties complement the overall simplicity of the design. At the base of the ties, I added a small name tag to credit me, the maker, so the recipient can remember who gifted it to her!
This was yet another one of my many remnant stash-busting projects. I only had one yard of Burberry plaid fleece, half a yard of black fleece, and leftovers from other projects to help me finish this one off. Yay for a smart use of fleece, the fabric I love to hate, in a print I very much enjoy! This coat is a very versatile and a breathable weight of warmth. It was a quick undertaking which ended up looking much better than I imaged it might. My projects which use up scraps really make me inventive in a way for which I am proud. In conjunction with that incentive, my “Pandemic Princess” series is also inspiring me push my Disney dreams farther than just one outfit per leading lady. Oh, what have I started!
FABRIC: the exterior black and Burberry plaid fabrics are polyester fleece, the inside lining is burgundy polyester crepe (leftover from sewing this 1930s lounging robe), the inner layer is pre-quilted cotton covered batting, and the under collar together with the front facings are cotton sateen
In the late Nineties, the Burberry print began a trendy revival courtesy of the “logo wave”, which was all about sporting Gucci belts to Chanel bags and Louis Vuitton wallets. As a teen at that time, I was one of the biggest fans of the tacky, over-the-top usage of the knocked-off Burberry tartan on anything under the sun. (Oh, what was I thinking!?!) Now, I am much more restrained but still enamored by the fashion plaid print. All I ever bought of the Burberry brand as a teen was an expensive Pashmina Burberry neck scarf at a fine retailer and the brand’s classic eau de toilette. Now, I am breaking out of that shell by making of this coat. I’m returning back to my teenage fascination and half reliving something I never got to do growing up…only half because this is not a true, trademarked Burberry material.
I am not one for brand flourishing myself – of course not, when I sew my own clothes. Yet, a Burberry plaid is my long restrained weakness. At the same time, however, it is so gaudy in my mind that I never knew what to do with it or how to pair together with a pattern. I figured to tone it down with a darker contrast remnant on hand and – even though both cuts are only cheap fleece – treat them like a finer coat fabric to hopefully end up with something which might not be tacky. At least the coat turned out better than I expected while being nicely tailored and cozy warm! This was a successful experiment and yet also a weird one to see finalized after all these years.
I sort of blended the lines between a trench and an over coat, just for practical purposes. A trench coat is designed to protect you against rain while an overcoat is designed to protect you against the cold. A trench coat is lightweight while an overcoat is heavyweight. For my coat, the fleece outside is fluffy polyester, so it really doesn’t get wet easily even though it is not waterproof. I tested this truth out later the night of our pictures when I played in our son’s snow fort, which was beginning to melt. I stayed warm and dry and most of the wet snow either rolled off or could be brushed off of me. Usually one has to layer up to be warm in a trench coat because it is merely supposed to be waterproof appropriate gear for all seasons. Yet, I am a person sensitive to the cold so I upped the game on my version with the cozy quilted cotton layer between the exterior fleece and polyester lining. It is a coat which is in between lightweight and heavyweight, as all materials are pretty lofty load individually.
This is still double-breasted like a proper trench coat, with a large stormproof collar that can be turned up enough to completely protect most of my face from the elements, if I so need. However, my coat’s collar is wonderfully modern in the way it is asymmetric and the tailored princess seams and color blocking reflects the new fitting and color options which the new Burberry line has to offer. The length of a trench coat is traditionally to just below the knee. However, nowadays one can find trench coats in various lengths: full, knee, three-quarters and short. So I suppose I can call this a very personalized, updated version of a 90’s Burberry inspired trench coat.
Amazingly, this was a very easy coat to make, even with complicating the construction by fully lining and layering it. There are no darts, no chalk markings to make, and every seam is straightforward with first rate shaping drawn into the seam lines. The fit was spot on, too. I went up one whole size because I was planning on adding extra layers into the coat and that was to right move. I have full and unrestrained freedom of movement. More or less, I cut out 3 whole coats – fleece, quilted cotton inner layer, and lining poly – so I was happy the two pieces for the front (doubled into four) and two pieces for the back (double cut sides with one center on the fold) were simple. The facings and the under collar had sew-in interfacing to back them up as they were a thinner material in key areas which got double-breasted and needed structural support.
I did sew each layer to the coat separately, but hand tacked the quilted cotton inners to the eternal fleece plaid along their matching seam lines “in the ditch” to eliminate shifting of the layers. It was important remember to shorten the sleeves and the bottom hem of the quilted inner layer by cutting off 1 ½ inches. It is very difficult and bulky to hem quilted cotton and thus I wanted to account for the turn-under hemming to the fleece and lining only. I also had to make the seam allowances ¾ inch to the quilted cotton and poly lining so the inner layer fits inside as slightly smaller than the eternal coat layer. I found out some these tricks of how to work with pre-quilted cotton material (as well as how breathable but pleasantly warm it can be) as I made this 1940s jerkin vest for our trip to Denver, Colorado back in 2019. I also knew from making this 60’s cocoon coat how shifty fleece could be when you try to sew it into something structured. So, I combined both of what I learned from two separate winter past projects into this newest, latest, dare I say, just about the best coat I have finished so far.
I like the unusual and slightly easier route of making handmade chain stitched thread loops along the right front closing edge in lieu of buttonholes. The fact it is black on black color along the front is the only way I like this feature, otherwise I think thread loops would be too weirdly obvious. The instructions called for fabric loops. However, I know how those sort of things are fussy to add in a seam and more often than not pull out of a seam anyway if not anchored to a base of some sort (seam tape, bias strip, etc.) along the seam allowance. I used heavy upholstery thread for making my coat’s thread loops and attached the loop bases to the interfacing inside the coat edge, so these closures are definitely stable.
For some weird reason, my last Pocahontas inspired outfit finally gave me a decent idea as to what to do with long hoarded, one yard remnant of Burberry looking fleece. Luckily, I was able to sew it together quickly enough to take advantage of the same photo shoot against the breathtaking backdrop of my favorite creek after the most recent snowstorm. This coat’s earthy colors pair nicely with my Pocahontas separates (in the previous post), but also work well as an item from the era of the release dates to the Disney films. All the elements I desired for this project were fulfilled, only Pocahontas’ Disney story is the opposite of everything this logo plaid stands for. At the same time, it suits her aesthetic so well at the same time. Let me explain.
I like using irony to drive home a point. Pairing an overworked fashion print with the raw, pure beauty of nature is amusingly contrary enough. Yet, modern fashion is synonymous with the throwaway culture severely detrimental to our world of today, threatening the very existence of living things, and fleece is one of worst offenders being a petroleum-based product which will not break down. Thus, I only use fleece when I do because it is already on hand in my stash from before I became more conscious of the environmental impact of what we wear. For many years now, fleece is something I will not buy and love to generally hate (ugh, plastics). However, I am a firm believer in making use of what one has, and doing that effort well enough so that item lasts. I believe this is the most sensible thing to do with questionable products such as fleece.
Hopefully what I have done here would be Pocahontas approved if she knew where I was coming from with my reasoning. It does have colors I believe she would like – after all, a deer I met out in the wild didn’t seem to mind one bit!!
Of all the Disney princesses, Pocahontas is perhaps the most underestimated and impressive, in my opinion. She is the real deal, straight out of American history! Not that an animated children’s movie did the best possible job at transferring a real life impression of her true story. However, it is still a visually appealing treat and well-crafted interest point from which to find an incentive for reading up on the factual tale of Pocahontas. She is portrayed as resilient, compassionate, understanding, beautiful in her selflessness, and remarkable in the way her life had a notable impact. Yet, she is relatable royalty, and quite down-to-earth for a princess, er…daughter of the Chieftain. For all of this, Pocahontas is coming sooner than later as part of my ongoing “Pandemic Princess” blog series.
As a girl who has grown up with a deep love for getting out into the local wilderness to enjoy the wonders of nature, the 1995 Disney version of Pocahontas is my sister spirit. I for one certainly know the ‘river is not steady, but always changing’ after exploring the same waterside haunts all my life. I never know what surprise will be waiting for me each time I go. The creek never looks the same for each visit. There is always different animal activity. Yet, for as much as I relate to, and enjoy the song “Just Around the Riverbend”, this outfit is more inspired by the theme of the movie, “Colors of the Wind”. My top has a Pocahontas-worthy magical breeze of leaves sweeping across it, complete with a sneaky silhouette of both Flit the hummingbird and Meeko the raccoon. My skirt is a rich color akin to the natural ‘gold’ of the earth the Native Americans prized so highly – ‘Indian corn’, also known as maize. My earrings are vintage turquoise cabochons from my own grandmother, a hint towards the necklace Pocahontas wears which was her mother’s.
Yet, because the sequel in 1998 “Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World” is my favorite over the original, we took our pictures in a winter setting. As much as I feel ‘at home’ visiting our local waterways, I especially love the hushed, majestic beauty of a wintertime creek. This way I could wear cozy boots and also take full advantage of the combo of prevalent snow and mud to do some critter tacking! Being inspired by the ‘post-John Smith’ part of Pocahontas’ tale prompted me to make some related outerwear to go along with this outfit. This outerwear will be in a follow up post. Hint – it will be London inspired!
FABRIC: top – a custom printed Spoonflower polyester crepe de chine; skirt – a golden mustard color slubbed linen-look polyester
PATTERN: The blouse was made using a “Quick and Easy” Butterick #7490, year 1955, and the skirt pattern was Simplicity #3626, year 1961.
NOTIONS NEEDED: one long separating ‘sports’ zipper, a waistband sliding hook n’ eye, a vintage metal 7 inch zipper, bias tapes, and lots of thread
TIME TO COMPLETE: Both pieces were quick to make – the blouse took me 4 hours and was finished on January 25, 2021. The skirt was made in 5 hours and done on November 5, 2020.
THE INSIDES: Both items have cleanly bias bound edges inside.
TOTAL COST: The Spoonflower fabric was about $20 for one yard (with a sale discount), and the skirt fabric was a remnant cut from a rummage sale – thus practically free. The long separating zipper for the blouse was a bit of a pricey buy, so my total for this outfit is about $27.
Just like the last time I sewed this same blouse pattern, my Pocahontas set is an outfit composed up of two different one yard cuts of fabric – so economical! The skirt was easy-to-make. These one yard pencil skirt patterns from the 50s and 60s always look nice, are so versatile, and are pretty simple to fit. Yet, the pocket details alone took up most of the sewing time spent. The blouse was comparatively fail proof as I knew what to tweak this second time around so it would fit me perfectly. It’s happily comforting to have standby separates to sew, but they are even better when princess inspired!
I steered away from any ethnic references for this “Pandemic Princess” outfit (out of respect for the Native American culture). Instead I stuck with pure aesthetic reasons. To me, Disney’s Pocahontas inspired clothes should be earthy in tones and comfy to wear. Here I have both needs fulfilled with a dash of vintage class through choosing two favorite styles of mid-century era patterns in my stash. The added fact I was working with one yard cuts of fabric was also a great restriction. It forced me to hone down my separate pieces into both a wiggle skirt and a simple, cut-on sleeve blouse. However, I was not forced to scrimp enough to leave out the fantastic skirt pockets – yay! I also made the most of the top’s border print, too. When my arms are open, it seems as though I have a wave of wind going across me to send off as a goodwill blessing, just like in the end of the first Pocahontas movie.
There isn’t much I changed, eliminated, or added here – just the almost-unnoticeable small details. First, I’ll talk about the blouse. To accommodate the border print for the blouse layout I desired, I had to slash the underarms to make the pattern resemble a “T” shape. I probably would have done this adaptation anyway, as this pattern needed reach room. It’s no fun to pull out your tucked-in top just to move your arms up to take care of your hair. Then, I took out 2 ½ inches vertically across the back to shorten the long waist.
As I learned the hard way the first time I used this pattern, it has a very generous shoulder room which never works well when there is a center back zipper. As my last version of this top had a back zipper that reaches only 1/3 of the way down from the neck, I chose to make this top stress-free to be dressed into. No wiggling and struggling is necessary here because I adapted the back to have a center separating zipper. Even the neckline finishing was simplified, too, with bias tape used in lieu of proper facings. The fabric is so sheer that a wide inner facing would’ve been obvious from the right side and distracting from the border print.
The skirt did need some piecing of the pockets for me to keep them in my pencil skirt. As I was so focused on just trying to squeeze a successful skirt out of leftover material, I half-heartedly ‘forgot’ to make the pockets deeper. As of now, they are shallow pockets. I should not complain because pockets of any size are useful and appreciated, but it’s handier to have them to be more akin to mini purses. Out of a desire to make construction simpler and keep the tapered wiggle line shape to the skirt, I left out the back kick pleat. The seam is all sewn up. This doesn’t make the skirt harder to walk or move in – the hips and thighs are roomy enough. I had to shorten the hem by about 3 inches due to lack of fabric, so the hem is a bit wider than originally intended anyway. As you can see, it did not prevent me at all from exploring around my favorite creek haunts to capture these pictures.
I must have done this princess outfit right because the wildlife came to me as we were taking some of our pictures. It’s too bad for picture taking (but good for them) that the wildlife is camouflaged with the environment well enough to not be noticeable behind me. In the following post, you will more clearly see the one creature which amazingly came up to check me out! My Pocahontas vibes must have been strong. “Come roll in all the riches all around you, and for once never wonder what they’re worth”, so she sang in “Colors of the Wind”. Spending time outside in appreciation of Mother Nature is priceless.
There is safety in numbers…mathematical equations, that is. The consistency and assurance of having a logical way to figure out a problem is helpful in other spheres of life because, as we are taught in school, math is not just pointless numbers on paper. Mathematics can be found in science, space, biologics, industry, fashion, and more. Games especially call for math skills. Out of all the games to be played, there is perhaps nothing else that calls upon the exacting perfectionist in me, awakens my inner competitiveness, and leaves no room for my sense of graciousness to my opponent quite like a game of chess. (Those are also all the reasons for me avoiding playing it.)
However, that doesn’t mean I and others like me don’t have a great respect and fascination for those you enjoy and excel at the game. Thus, it comes as no big surprise that such a powerful, mind provoking game loved worldwide could make related statement in fashion, yet the influence of “The Queen’s Gambit” came just over a month ago like an unexpected global storm. It has become Netflix’s most watched scripted series to date. Granted, “The Queen’s Gambit” is fiction loosely based on history, and sadly doesn’t really teach novices a whole lot about the game. Nevertheless, the fashion for the time period it was supposed be set in (50’s to late 60’s) is spot on, visually stunning, and (most importantly) still very wearable for today. So those of us who will not be playing the game more because of the show (raise your hand with me) can certainly copy the mid-century fashion.
Say ‘hello’ to crisp angles and opposing colors, chic short dresses and straight lined silhouettes. My mom says I look like Emma Peel (as fashionable as she was a smart espionage agent) from the 1960s British television show “The Avengers” in this dress! I do so love the bold, mod fashion 60’s and forget that fact after so many other projects for other decades in between. I am all here for a reason to jump back into the era headfirst through “The Queen’s Gambit” outfits!! There will be more in the works very soon…this bow neck, babydoll dress will be next up for my early 2021 sewing.
FABRIC: heavyweight 100% linens for both the exterior black and white fabric, yet the black is a smoother finish while the white is a textured (slubbed) hopsack; lined in a lightweight 100% cotton muslin
PATTERN: Simplicity #8588, year 1969
NOTIONS NEEDED: All I needed was one 22” long zipper for the back, lots or thread, and bias tape to finish off the inner edges and hem.
TIME TO COMPLETE: This dress was whipped up in 4 hours and was finished in the afternoon of November 26, 2020.
TOTAL COST: in the remnant clearance bin at JoAnn Fabrics, I only spent about $6 on this dress!!!
Both linens on this dress were something I had bought about 3 years back now. Yes, as on point as sewing this dress may seem in the light of “The Queen’s Gambit”, I had the idea for making this much earlier. Pierre Cardin is a long-standing fashion icon for me and his creations are the epitome of the power of the avant-garde (next to Elsa Schiaparelli). Only now, it took an entertainment fad of today to give me a very good reason to pull my needed supplies from my storage tubs and finally make room in my sewing queue to transform them into something wearable. Amazingly, I only needed one sole yard of each color linen for this project…60’s era mini dresses aren’t much to wear so they don’t need much material, ha! This is yet another one of my many “remnant” projects. They never cease to amaze me – how good you can look on scraps!
In the final episode of the series, Beth proves her dominance in a chess tournament in Russia. The nail-biting competition sees Beth don an array of elegant and high-fashion outfits to communicate she is a woman in control. Among them is the black and white “I’m Chess Dress”, made in viscose material inspired by mid-1960’s London design. Like many of Beth’s other outfits, the two-tone coloring, and strong lines subtly reflects the pattern on a chess board (from here). I immediately recognized the series’ dress mimicked the idea that I had a few years back! Beth’s dress in viscose has more drape than many such 60’s era dresses, which tend to have a soft structure like stable knit. Linen is similar in quality but a bit more of a call back to timeless quality I adore. So I suppose this is all me working at redeeming a slight ‘fault’ I saw I the series’ fashion. I like my version better – it’s more wearable!
Besides the serendipitous dating, the clean, angular lines and chic thoughtfulness in the design lines drew me into this particular pattern. Don’t judge a pattern by its cover. Just because a pattern seems simple at first glance doesn’t mean there isn’t a happy little complex variation waiting for you once you pull out those tissue pieces or study the line drawings. The detail of note here is the lack of true side seams. The side front panel technically ends a few inches over into the back half of the dress. It is so subtle! Also, there are no bust darts. The dress is strongly A-line yet some slight bust shaping is cut directly into the shaping of the side panels. Most 60’s era patterns have sleeves which fit my larger upper arms terribly but these are so comfortable and generous in ‘reach room’ right out of the envelope. I am very impressed with this pattern, unlike any other 60’s pattern I’ve used so far. I appreciate a design which seems suited to my body type but more importantly I enjoy finding a pattern seems to have a touch of higher quality. Everyday wear in the era of the 60’s is not particularly known for it’s complex, meticulous tailoring in the anxiousness of the younger set to depart from the classiness of the decade before.
The common pairing for the popular black-and-white color combo of 60’s dresses seems to be having the dark color on the sides and the light color in the middle. Check out my Pinterest page here on this topic for more inspiration and to see what I’m saying. I realize the color layout I used on my particular dress is the opposite. However, I just have to prefer what will suit me accordingly. Black down the center is more slimming for my body type (believe me, I experimented with draping it differently on myself before cutting out). The black emphasizes the angular qualities to this design. It also makes this more of an all season dress in my opinion. I am wearing thick ribbed tights with this – just as any 1960s gal would do – but bare legs and metallic sandals or even tall go-go boots would be just as perfect of a pairing in other seasons. White on a dress may not be a popular color for winter but when color blocked intentionally yet minimally, it works.
However aesthetic my choice of color layout was, my heavy use of black over white visually voices my lack of dominance in the game of chess. If Beth Harmon in “The Queen’s Gambit” wears all white as the reigning victor, well I am more of the ‘dark horse’ kind of player. It is said that the person who plays the white pieces (and therefore starts the game) has the advantage. I am certainly not the champion type because if I was, I wouldn’t be enjoying the game anymore…no one wants to see me that serious and obsessive, not even me.
I couldn’t ask for a better backdrop for our pictures than the local World Chess Hall of Fame. In front (and behind me in many pictures) is the world’s largest chess piece. Just a year ago (October 2019) we attended the opening night for two very relevant chess inspired fashion exhibits, which were apparently ahead of their time.
Firstly, Michael Drummond, a multi-talented artist and veteran of “Project Runway” Season 8, put on the exhibit “Being Played”, described as “thematically marrying the issues of climate change and the stress the fashion industry places on the environment”. See the online version of the exhibit here! Drummond was inspired by the noted chess fan Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi film “2001: Space Odyssey”. There was an amazing dress completely made of chess pieces as well as reclaimed remnants of sewing and art supplies reinvented into wearable art with a deeper message. No wonder Drummond was interviewed by the New York Times regarding where to find clothes inspired by “The Queen’ Gambit” (see article here).
The second exhibit from back then was “A Beautiful Game”, showcasing the World Chess Hall of Fame’s artifacts of “chess-inspired beauty products, photographs, posters, and advertisements while illustrating how the sophistication and brilliance of the game have been celebrated and revered in chess and popular culture. Also highlighted was new, interactive artwork by chess champion and author Jennifer Shahade as well as Pinned!fashion designer Audra Noyes.” The online exhibit can be seen here. It had the most appealing posters and glamorous chess sets from the last 100 years that made me want a perfume bottle or lipstick tube player set for myself (yes, for no real reason)! The exhibit also taught me that the power of the queen piece was elevated to the status of “chief executioner” circa 1500 after a string of powerful female monarchs.
My husband and our son both enjoy the game of chess at least, with the occasional addition of my dad as another opponent. One our son’s Christmas gifts from last year was the coolest ever variety of chess that has mirrors and lasers! Nevertheless, I’ll just stick to chess inspired fashion for myself, thank you. Sewing has the math and the strategy that I enjoy.