Cranberry Comfort

I feel like I am barely making it through most days lately.  There, I said it.  Why hide it?  I think I speak for many people.  So, all I felt like making most recently was something really useful and unpretentious from my go-to decade of the 1940s.  I have a whole slew of fantastic things to make, all ready to get put together, but they sit there intimidating me at the moment.  Something as basic as my days have been, an item which helps me feel like myself, is all I wanted out of my newest sewing project.  

It has been a long while since I last had a new 1940s shirtdress but I’m back with another one finally!  The way my chosen cotton complements the local fall season foliage cheers me.  The relaxed feel but refined appearance to the thrifty 40’s era design suits any sort of occasion.  Not that I have many formal ‘occasions’ to dress up for anymore, but sometimes that means getting put together for myself because my well-being matters.  My most recent event which called for this post’s dress included taking a stroll through the neighborhood to find this amazing Dogwood tree at the height of its seasonal colors.  I rather wish I could stay hidden in its beauty but the leaves are nearly gone now by the time I write this.  

The color scheme here alone helps me find joy by reminding me of some favorite seasonal homemade comfort food by the rich cranberry color of my dress and the orange hues of the tree.  I love making homemade cranberry sauce with a hint of orange zest (no canned version for us).  Also, there is a fabulous roasted beet and mandarin orange salad I make with a red wine and olive oil vinaigrette poured over a bed of fresh spinach leaves.  Besides, these dishes, there is my yearly “upside down cranberry sour cream cake”, which is a family favorite I try to bake each November.  Mmm – are you hungry yet? 

So excuse me if my palette for this fall is exceptionally inspired by both nature of the moment and what’s cooking in my kitchen, but now you will know why after seeing the dress that started my current color scheme.  Look for more golden, earthy, rustic, rich tones to come!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton print, probably vintage from the 90’s or even 80’s, with the brand of “VIP fabrics inc.“ printed along the selvedge

PATTERN:  McCall #3828, year 1940

NOTIONS:  I used lots of thread, one side seam zipper, and three vintage Bakelite buttons out of the stash of hubby’s Grandmother (There was fourth button to the set which has been sewn down the front of my dress.  It is on an older me-made project – this year 1940 velvet hat, posted here.)

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress was finished on October 16, 2020 in about 6 to 8 hours.

THE INSIDES:  cleanly bias bound

TOTAL COST:  This was a 3 yard piece out of box of about 50 something different cuts of vintage fabrics, all of which I bought for only $25.  So this was one incredibly cheap dress!

There’s really not much to say about making this dress other than praise.  It was pretty basic to sew but I can brag this is probably my best made collar to date.  The overall dress turned out perfectly without any fitting tweaks needed (although I did grade up in size).  I will get much use out of this because the color, fabric weight, and ¾ sleeves will lend this to being an all-season item so I my 8 hours spent to make it was very worthwhile.  This can be dressed up with pearls and heels or dressed down with tennis shoes or sandals.  The dress is deceptively as comfy as a nightgown but makes me look oh-so-put-together in the blink of popping it over my head.  Altogether, it is nice casual wear that is the golden ticket to versatility – so very hard to find in RTW.  I know I am partial, but my opinion is that the decade of the 40s does this style of dress best!  We are so lucky to be still enjoying the benefits of such smart fashion, born of the trials of the WWII era, in our own times.

The buttons might be the coolest part to this dress, being prized vintage Bakelite notions from the sewing stash inherited from my husband’s side.  They are purely decorative because I was apathetic enough to not even bother to make proper buttonholes.  “As long as it’s wearable…” I felt so very below my normal par.  Honestly, I almost felt bad using them on such an everyday style dress I (nicely) whipped up.  Weird, right?  It’s the kind of the feeling of wanting to save them for something better.  Yet, I really think there is something to letting ourselves enjoy those really special things in seemingly not-so-special settings.  Don’t wait for the ideal tea party to feel the thrill of connectivity when using your Grandmother’s antique china.  Why wait for the right occasion to make yourself up if you think it would make your day nicer?  You are worth it, even if you are just at home.  Enjoying something special in a regular setting is better than never at all.  Yet, as these singular buttons were the perfect complement for this dress, I’m just going to let them be one of the many reasons why I want and need to wear this dress frequently!

My dress’ details are surprisingly low-key given the date on the envelope – year 1940.  Vintage McCall’s patterns are always such wonderful designs but this one is a little different than the norm.  I appreciate the fact that the collar is a lot smaller than the traditional 40’s era overpowering one and the sleeve caps are not as obnoxiously puffed as most from the time.  It slightly bothers my mathematical perfection tendencies that the front overlapping blouse-style bodice leaves the seam off-kilter to the center seam to the skirt.  No matter – I can get over that but I have come to expect a bit more precision from a vintage McCall!  The skirt’s front box pleat and the back skirt’s 3 panel seaming is classic early 40’s feature which keeps the skirt looking slim but gives me plenty of room to move easily. 

At some future date I may come back to embroider an arrow point to stabilize the top seam end where the pleat opens up.  Apparently, I’m expecting to wear this out soon enough!  Such a detail might bring this dress up a par, so until it is needed, I will not add it.  This has to stay a stress-free creation that fulfills a need for the moment.  I also realize now after the fact that a good project which grounds me is just what was needed after all the super fancy dresses I have been sewing in secret behind the scenes…subtle hint for a vintage princess themed series to come!   Not that I have any qualms about going out in a strongly vintage outfit or over-the-top frock, but it is always nice to have something to wear which doesn’t scream my presence as loudly as other new items do in my closet of today.  As I said above, this way I’m camouflaged with my favorite fall tree!

I added something old, something new, and items dated in between the two when it came to my accessories.  My leather woven belt and leather Naturalizer brand heels are from my teen to early 20-something years.  My earrings and watch are late 40’s from my Grandmother, when she was a teenager herself.  However, the one add-on that stealthily steals the show is my handbag.

The purse I am using is a true vintage mid-40’s telephone cord treasure, also known as a “plastic cord bag”.  (See this excellent post at the “Dusty Old Thing” blog page for more history to these!)  The ivory and brown version I have creatively has a different design layout for the cord on either side (which you can see if you look close at the details of our pictures)!  I used to always think these kind of purses were too novelty for me and I never intended to buy one.  The bright red, blue, white, and yellow combination versions turned me off by being so garish (in my eyes).  However, I came across a perfect condition one locally for a steal of a price (they tend to be very pricey) and I couldn’t resist.  Owning one for myself now, I have found a true appreciation for their quality, besides the fun and statement-piece like quality a “plastic cord bag” has to perk up an outfit.  A basic outfit needs a bit of a pizzazz, right?

I can’t just finish up this post without giving you something extra.  All this cranberry and orange colored saturated color goodness can’t go wasted.  I know you are curious about some of my favorite cranberry recipes, right?!  As Thanksgiving will be soon upon us, I’ll give you the recipe I use for homemade cranberry orange sauce.  This is a ‘from scratch’ recipe which is super-easy and it calls for healthy ingredients like applesauce and a touch of maple syrup.  Enjoy and please do let me know if you try it and find yourself liking it as much as I do!  Here’s a toast to all the goodness around us, whether we are able to realize it or not, which is upon us this season.

Dyeing and Over-Dyeing…

Sometimes something simple can sound tragic when different words sound the same.  Don’t misread my post’s title.  I have now discovered the joys of colored fabric dye, that’s all.  Now, let me go back to cooking up my next re-coloring job because this is quite a lot of fun to do and very useful!  I am by no means an expert on fabric coloring, I’ll admit, but this is a short recounting of my experiences in dyeing which started with this 2020 pandemic.

Yes, I’ve had a few other posts already for “Alter It August” 2020, but here’s one more squeezed in at the last minute because I need all the excuses I can find to spruce up my wardrobe’s unloved items!  This is almost a dual project post because when talking about my new adventures in color dyeing is summed up in two examples.  I not only fully revamped an old RTW shirtdress of mine but also dyed one of my son’s extra school polo tee.  As he is doing remote learning from home, and he had a plethora of school uniform tops which still fit, we needed his wardrobe acquisitions to be a more fashionable color besides white for them to be useful for the “new normal”.  My shirtdress was something I liked enough in its details, fabric, and general design to keep on hand for the last 12 or so years, yet I never wore it on account of the very blasé color, ill fit, and lack of a little ‘something extra’ to make it special.  After I addressed the sewing part of my dress refashion, I took two completely different approaches to give a new color refresh to each item, and ended up with a shade of green in both cases.

It is important to note how both items became green because dyeing is generally an experiment even if you think you know how things should turn out.  Just because the bottle you’re using says a certain color is inside doesn’t necessarily mean that is what you will end up with.  Every little factor in the dyeing process – from the fiber content, to the way you stir, to the continuous temperature of the water – seems to affect how your item will turn out.  It is fun, but always a happy gamble, I find.  When I am up for a dye job, I have the mindset of being happy with whatever the result is.  That’s when things are pretty desperate for the item to be dyed, and I am fed up past the point of tolerance for the way the original item looks.  It’s a dye job or it’s out the door!  Luckily, these two items for both me and my son were saved and now we can color coordinate our dressing, he he!

THE FACTS: Let’s lay this post out a little differently than the norm on my blog. 

FABRIC – Instead of ‘fabric’ (as this is a refashion project), I started with a store-bought, button-front, RTW “Land’s End” brand dress my mom picked up for me on clearance about 12 or 15 years ago.  It was cute enough, and I was appreciative, but the bland and dirty grey color of the shirtdress really made me feel uncomfortable with myself and down in attitude just to wear it.  I was always at a loss as to how to accessorize it to become cuter and more ‘me’.  It was borderline in the fit, too, as it was a petite sizing.  Thus, the dress has a slightly higher waistline on me which isn’t that obvious because it is very classic and vintage inspired, I think.  The side seams do have these super handy, super generously sized pockets that I love and the way they are hidden in the full skirt is fabulous to me.  This is a pretty dress I can wear to church or wear to play in other words, and versatile outfits are both hard to find and something that I can always use more of.

The fiber content is a soft and slightly stretchy shirting.  It is a blend of 67% cotton, 28% polyester, and 5% elastane.  For some reason it seems to wrinkle up more than is reasonable because “Land’s End” normally makes very well-known iron-free shirts for both men and women.  Even a thorough ironing job doesn’t banish the creasing.  There is a slight rustling sound when I swish in this dress so I guess the fabric – although over halfway cotton – is a poly shirting at heart.  Nevertheless, if there hadn’t been so much cotton in the content, my dyeing attempt on this dress would have been much more difficult and probably less successful.  If you have something that is less than 50% cotton or any other natural fiber (in other words, a mostly man-made material), it will not want to take to recoloring using the regular RIT brand dye.  I would have needed a special synthetic dye, which has a very limited spans of colors to choose from.  I just made the regular dye work with this dress!

My son’s school polo also came from “Land’s End” as well, and was in 100% cotton.  I did not change or refashion it at all, merely changed the color.  As he is growing in height, and seeming not in weight or waist size, his extra short sleeve school shirts that he no longer needs still fit him…for now!

PATTERN and NOTIONS:  For my dress refashion, I used no pattern – made it up as I went – and all I needed in notions was lots of thread and one long 36” coat zipper (which was happily on hand).  I let what I needed to do find better fit for this dress on my current body dictate how the refashion would go.  The dress was a size 2, and in a basic sense it did fit me, but was far too snug for a button-front shirtdress…if you get my unwelcome picture.  So, I cut off the buttons, and stitched up the buttonholes, and sewed a zipper down the front to give me just a few extra inches across the front.  All that I basically needed was some wearing ease in this dress.  As the side seams were serged far too close to the stitching line, my only easy option was transforming this shirtdress into a zip front dress.  Voila!  As easy as it was to find a better fit with this dress, next it was a bit challenging to take it to the level of looking finished and appearing as anything but a refashion.

My son gave the the zipper bracelet I am wearing! It’s so perfect for me!

I did have a giant sash belt that came with the dress, luckily, so I had a little bit of something extra to work without having to cut into the dress itself.  I snipped the sash belt in half, running down the fold and seam line, so that the width was divided in two but the length was kept as it was.  I used 2/3 of the length of the two long pieces to make a little binding to cover up either side of the zipper all the way down the front of the dress.  These self-fabric bindings cleanly covered up the top-stitching to the exposed zipper and also what was left of the buttonholes. The remaining 1/3 to the sash belt was sewn into tubes, turned inside out, and slipped into the binding on either side of the zipper right at the waistline.  This creates a sort of attached waist ties that perk up the dress.  There are thread chain belt casings at the side already, and the waist seemed rather plain without anything extra, so I thought I would use up what little was leftover for the attached tie belt.  This was a zero waste refashion – not a single scrap leftover!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The actual sewing portion to refashioning my dress did not take all that long – only a few hours.  That was finished on August 20, 2020.  However it ended up taking much longer because of all the steps I needed to get my dress in this new color.

TOTAL COST: These would have been free refashions if it hadn’t been for the cost of the dyes, color remover, and setting liquid – in total about $15 for the four bottles of items I needed.

For my dress, before I did any dyeing, I began with yet another experimental job – using RIT brand color removing powder.  I decided to try and do this in my wash machine, and I did not fix the setting correctly so that my dress did not sit in the liquid as long as it should have.  I will chalk it up to a beginner’s mistake.  However, as I did not follow the proper directions, the color remover did not work correctly and it only took out enough color to turn my dress into an ugly yellow.  Weird, right?

My next step was to color my dress.  I originally intended on dyeing my dress a blue so I had a bottle of RIT in blue turquoise.  Yet, as the color remover turned my dress into a yellow, and I was dipping it in a blue, I ended up with a bright sage green.  I know it makes sense under the principles of the color spectrum, but really – who would have guessed?

I was working with a bottle of liquid dye, and this has the best chance of turning out an even color as compared to the powder (mix with water).  Even still, it turned out slightly splotchy in certain places on my dress.  Why?  Any pre-existing stain, or flaw, or mark on the fabric will be amplified when that item is color dyed.  Yeah, not something to be excited over but definitely something to remember for any dye job.

Other than a few little marks that stayed with my dress, the color turned out very even for me.  I dyed my dress in our large stainless steel sink, so there was plenty of room to have enough liquid to completely immerse the dress, as well as do some good stirring to spread the color.  Technically, our sink is not the best place for dyeing.  With the RIT dye, the temperature is supposed to be kept at 140°F or warmer, yet not boiling either, for the whole 30 to 60 minutes it ‘cooks’.  That is why the best place to dye is in a pot on the stove because you can keep an even and constant temperature.  Yet, the bigger the item – like my dress – the more room you will need and so an ‘on the stove’ option was not exactly feasible here.  We made it work alright by starting off with a stronger water-to-dye proportion for quick color retention, and then add a small pot’s worth of extra almost-boiling water along the way to keep a relative constant warmth.

This is the richer color I had before putting my dress in the fixative liquid. Also, you can see what I was covering up by sewing down the binding on either side of the zipper – the marks of the old button closings.

The final step to any dye job that is a cotton, linen, rayon, or a blend of these is to set the color with a liquid fixative.  This is another 30 minutes of the same process as what the dye job was – stirred evenly in a 140 degree bath.  I hate the fact that when I go through the dye fixative step, the color becomes a tad lighter than when my item came out of the dye.  For example, when I first over-dyed these faded, true vintage items from my Grandmother, the colors were rich and just what I wanted…but that was before the setting liquid bath.  Boo.  When dyeing a nylon, silk, or wool, to set the color you merely run the item through your wash machine with an old towel and your regular detergent, and the colors seem to stay brighter.  Oh well, as I said above, any color improvement, even if it is not the most ideal one, is enough to make the item worth keeping if I’m doing this in the first place.

There are different add-ins with each dye job depending on the fiber content of your item.  I added salt and dishwashing liquid to the dye before adding my dress.  However, for some silk I recently re-colored using a bottle of RIT Kelly green dye (for a completely different project coming soon) I added dishwashing liquid and white vinegar.  It was into the dye bath leftover from coloring this silk that I threw in my son’s school polo.  This should have been a no-no because his shirt was cotton – it should be in a dye bath with salt.  However, I was not about to waste a whole bottle’s worth of dye without trying to dip something else.  Thus, the green dye bath only gave my son’s shirt a light minty green color rather than a deep, true, Kelly green.  Also, the water was hovering around 130 degrees by this time (as a second batch).  Even still, I think my son looks good in pastels and he himself is happy with how it turned out – so that is all that matters, right?!  Now we can go be twins in green for the win.

I jokingly have a little play on the fact that I am stirring up a steaming sink or pot full of opaquely colored ‘potion’ when I do my dye jobs.  A little witchy cackle is all that’s needed (and I do believe I am good at that) as well as a recitation of “Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble” for a proper finish.  Hubby usually just shakes his head with a smile.  Yes, I enjoy how a simple color change – although a bit time consuming – can really perk up an item and is a creative way for anyone to personalize something with no sewing needed.

A few months into my dyeing exploits and I realized many colors became very hard-to-find or almost non-existent altogether, even looking through the internet shops (not counting the price-gouged items).  Apparently, I must not be the only one this year who is finding the fun and usefulness of color dyeing.  Have you done any such thing yourself?  Are you an old pro at it by now?  Do you have any great success stories or maybe sad disaster tales to share?  Maybe you have not yet tried it.  If so, I hope this post was useful.  Thanks for reading!

’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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“Retro Forward” with Burda Style – a Roomy Button-Front Dress

As much as I do like getting “dolled up”, there’s been times when I need or have to leave the house and do something without feeling much like getting put together.  Not that I take a lot of work to fix myself up, I just don’t leave the house too much looking like I rolled out of bed and sometimes I’d much rather stay in my cozy relaxed home lounge clothes looking like I really don’t care.  I’ll bet most of you, my readers have those times, too.  Well, I have now found a pattern to make myself a dress that is the perfect compromise – it’s every bit as comfy as a nightgown but a nice style for many occasions…all with a vintage flair.  Perfect!  How spoiled can I be making something exactly what I want so I can go out and still feel like I’m in house lounge-wear?!

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THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  a 100% cotton lightweight jersey knitlong-sleeve-dress-no-104-01-2011-line-drawing

PATTERN:  Burda Style “Long Sleeve Dress, # 104”, from January 2011

NOTIONS:  I had all the thread and interfacing I needed, but I did have to go out and find one more pack of matching buttons (I had some of the ones I wanted to use but not enough).

TIME TO COMPLETE:  This dress took about 15 hours to sew, and was finished on May 20, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  As this knit does not fray, I left all the edges raw.

TOTAL COST:  This cotton was bought at the now defunct Hancock Fabrics.  I believe I spent about $15 to $20 (with a discount), more than I normally spend for a dress but the fabric is such a nice quality.

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Burda Style has had this pattern out for a while now, hasn’t it?  This is a shirt dress that rather reminds me of a cross between the 1980’s and the 1940’s, which is why it’s part of my “Retro Forward with Burda Style” blog series.  I know the 80’s did often mimic the 40’s in many ways such as exaggerated shoulders, generously sized bodices, lovely sleeve cuffs, neckline details, and feminine menswear – part of my dress.  The 80’s and 40’s also made great use of jersey knits, except the skinny skirt and elastic waist sort of does sort of tip the scales in favor of the dress being in the decade closer to our own times, though WWII was all about combining comfort with style for women.  Even my shoes are a 1940’s style, vintage from the 1980’s.  So my verdict is non-committal – I’m happy with my dress whatever flair or style it might have.

dsc_0593a-compwI was originally going to line the knit but I’m glad I didn’t as it would have made the seams much too bulky and the dress too heavy.  Any fabric thicker than medium weight would not work here.  I also thought the dusty blue background and dainty small-print floral printed on the knit had a sort of quaintness which might bring out the vintage flair without being over-cute.  When I bought this fabric, my friend the store employee told me the color and print suits me well and I do very much agree with that.  The print unfortunately hides the special squared off sleeve design (see my layout of the bodice pieces picture, at left).  As my project looks finished, I now see the small floral making my dress seem more like a housecoat than something to be worn out and about, but oh well.

This was a bit of a challenging pattern to sew both on account of the decrepit instructions, the delicate fabric, and also because it is always a task to harness loads and loads of gathers.  For this dress there are tight, full gathers from the neckline, around the shoulder piece, and over to the other side of the neckline in a continuous and dramatic line.  Add in the fact of turning and shaping those uber-gathers into a definite shape and getting in down into a facing as well and there is a hand-stressing, time-intensive detailed area that used up all of my two boxes of straight pins just to keep in place for stitching.

dsc_0673-compwI messed up slightly on the shoulder panel and I do not feel entirely the one to blame (…although I did do the sewing).  The instructions didn’t give me something to help at this point, so here’s another ‘oh well’.  It still turned out o.k., I just would not recommended to top-stitch down the non-interfaced facing on top (from the visible outside) like I did.  I made it work, but doing so made the whole intricate panel with the dress gatherings harder to achieve.  Believe me, it would have been better the other way around.  The neck and shoulder detail on this dress is stunningly lovely in my opinion, and worth the effort…if only I had done it 100% right.  I think this is the part of the dress’ construction which takes just as long as making and cutting the rest of the dress combined.  It also is the base from which the rest of the dress hangs and (in my opinion) the primary focal feature.  (P.S., look how similar this dress bodice for sale on Etsy is to the one of my dress.)  I have an idea that the shoulder panel of this Burda Style dress would look lovely in a contrast with the right combo of colors.

dsc_0671a-compwI also adapted the sleeve cuffs (with another big ironic thank you to the instructions) due in part to another “mistake” of mine as well as tailoring the design to appeal to me better.  After two frustrating spells of unpicking stitches after mismatching the proper cuffs with the correct sleeves I realized I had sewn the arch of the cuffs inward to my body rather than outward, which I should have done.  I had had enough of futzing with things on the dress by this time and left them as they were.  However, I did not like how wide the cuffs were on my shorter frame and compared to the rest of the dress, cuffs which went halfway up my arm did not seem to work here.  Thus, I folded the cuffs back (just like the ones for my “Double Duty” year 1931 dress) and hand sewed a single elastic loop-and-button closure on each cuff to make them easy and adjustable.   These turned back cuffs make the enormous sleeves a bit more manageable for me and add another nice touch to the dress.dsc_0666a-compw

Besides all the little boo boos, I did some slight changes to the design.  First, I raised the center front neckline enough to add another button closure for a less revealing decollete.  Second, I switched up the skirt front pattern pieces so that the designated bottom hem became the new waistline.  As designed, the skirt to this dress is incredibly skinny at the knees and I saw a potential problem with walking, especially as the skirt buttons closed.  This step slightly widens the hem but keeping the back skirt design as-is still keeps the tapered silhouette and makes it easier to walk.  Granted, my dress’ skirt does open up above the knee at the thigh as it is, and I think this hint of hotness is need to save the dress from becoming overly conservative.  “She’s got legs…” and I know how to (subtly) show ‘em.

Finally, I left out the pockets.  Yes, I love pockets and rely on them more and more, making sure I have them in most of the garments I now make, but no – there’s enough poufiness to the gathered elastic waist I’m happier with the overall look with them left out.

The elastic waist does make this dress so incredibly comfy.  So, as much as I was doubtful I would like it on myself, the wearing of it wins me over.  I didn’t really bother with how the instructions said to make the waist because I had a method I wanted to use.  Similar to my “Ever Green” knit dress, I used the existing seam allowance of the waistband to sew a skinny ¼ inch casing for elastic to run through.  This method makes for quite tight gathering which isn’t too out of control as the casing is part of the dress, and anchored to it at both top and bottom.  The skinny elastic makes it easy to cover with a belt.  I sort of have a cheaters button at the waistband – a fake buttonhole with a button sewn to it.  The real working closure is a hook-and-eye.  This pulls the elastic waist together in a stable manner, versus a button closing.  I don’t want anything popping open on me while I’m wearing my dress…boop, surprise!  No, thank you.  That’s why there’s even a tiny safety hook-and-eye at the V of the neckline, just in case.

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All said, I really do like my dress very much, I just don’t feel that the amount of effort and frustration was worth this dress.  However, I find myself reaching for this more often than I’d ever had expected, so the usefulness and comfort which I’ve taken advantage of many times already does now make the effort worthwhile.  I am a very cold-sensitive person, and having my arms covered always feels quite comfy to me.  So, the loose sleeves of this dress is perfect for chilly nights during spring, summer, and early fall where I live, with the open, leg-revealing skirt keeping me from being too warm.  Here’s to a great one-step outfit, not too nice yet with casual ease!  And, here’s to a “new” type of clothing…what I call the “housecoat” dress, ideal for rolling out of bed and keeping the feeling but not the look.  The perfect dress for one’s needs can be so wonderful!

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