Little Letterman

A little bit of necessary and unselfish sewing which had been finished in time for the arrival of cold weather is my new pride and joy.  After all, it is worn by my little pride and joy!  The fall and winter holidays are all about family and appreciating those in our lives, after all!  My son needed a warm yet dapper winter coat and I more than stepped up to the challenge.  By using a vintage pattern with scraps leftover from other projects, I came up with a no-cost classy children’s coat unlike what any store has to offer with all the benefits of vintage and the longevity of brand new.  When a utilitarian garment like a coat can be as much as a fashion piece as a great shirt or a nice pair of pants, then outerwear is no longer an unwelcome covering merely necessary due to the weather.

It rather alarms me how successful my project was because of how grown-up this new jacket makes him seem.  Being that I see him on a daily basis, it takes something out-of-the-ordinary on him in a photograph for me to see our son in a different light.  I think kids’ clothes are way too casual in general today – kids are underestimated.  Dressing nicely in no way hinders them…rather the opposite. Children can be so cute all polished up and put together in something nice and halfway grown up.  It’s a good practice to get them in the habit of doing so every now and then, anyway, it gets them in a good frame of mind.  Sadly though, it is hard to find them dapper and somewhat fancy clothes in the ‘normal’ RTW circles.

Children’s clothes lacking attitude, lettering, and brand logos are hard to find today; however, letters were popular in vintage kids and teens clothing too (30’s to 60’s, peaking in the 50’s), with a different purpose.  Back then it was all about school pride, name initials, and occasionally movie stars like Roy Rogers (for one example).  Most of this lettering went on outerwear, like the well-known Letterman jackets and sweaters.  This particular jacket I made is very much a combo of the youthful Letterman style mixed with the more grown up Gabardine style.  A men’s Gabardine jacket is about hip length with little to no shaping at the hem (straight cut), regular set-in sleeves, and a collar (normally).  It was popular in the 1940s.  A letterman jacket for the youthful crowd often had two-tone colors going on with the sleeves – frequently raglan style – being a different color than the body, a banded bottom and collar.  Both styles have front welt pockets.  The pattern I used is a quaint “Father and Son” mini-me design after all, so I love the way the adult and the child features combine to make my son look like the little man that he is!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  the plaid is a rayon suiting, the forest green accents are a vintage cotton corduroy from my paternal Grandmother, and lining is a combo of fleece quilted to a poly lining

PATTERN:  Simplicity #7744, year 1968

NOTIONS:  I only used what was on hand – thread, interfacing scraps, leftover fabric, and even a zipper which was cut off an old RTW sweater of his which has been long ago been thrown away after he wore out.  I even had the snap system leftover from doing the placket on this dress of mine!

TIME TO COMPLETE:  After 30 plus intense hours over the course of just over a week, the jacket was finished on November 4, 2018

THE INSIDES:  Full lining means “What raw edges?!”

TOTAL COST:  Nothing, zero, zilch is pretty much the full cost.  Leftover materials from several other projects plus using material given as a gift for the other half of it means this coat of his is as good as free!  How’s that for a homemaker’s dream!

What I particularly love about this project is that because I am using up remnants for it, besides emptying my stash, my son and I end up matching each other just a bit.  Let’s fluff off the “Father-Son” look the pattern advertises and give a big ‘yay’ for a not so commonly seen “Mother-Son” pairing!  My 1945 Glen Plaid me-made skirt suit set left just enough leftover – one yard – to be more than just a scrap.  At first I was thinking of using it for a purse, but rayon suiting it too nice for just an accessory I probably won’t use all too often.  Great fabrics need to be seen, worn, and enjoyed!  By chance I asked my son if he liked it – he sometimes likes to “pet” my softest fabrics and his opinion is normally quite thoughtful and interesting.  His positive enthusiasm lined it up for something for him.  A winter dress coat was the next big thing he needed, and one yard was just so close of a cut for my chosen pattern so it seemed like those two were meant to be together.  It is not too obvious of a mini-me look (compared to my suit) for him to mind but it is still enough of a pairing that I am thrilled!

It also continues his mommy-made wardrobe sort of like a theme.  If you look at the 1940s overalls I made him a few years back and his recent 1960s house coat, leftovers from both projects are in this coat – one seen and the other unseen.  The forest green corduroy for the jacket’s sleeves and trimmings are leftovers from the overalls, which is already leftover from my Grandma’s stash.  She used this corduroy to make things for my dad and his siblings when they were little so I feel all choked up over how special it is for me to carry on the tradition.  The puffy lining to the inside of the jacket was made possible by the leftover “lily pad” fleece of his house coat.  I mock-quilted it to the poly lining in angled lines that meet at the back center for a bit of a decorative touch to something very practically meant to merely keep our son warm and toasty.

It’s the details that make a garment standout and stand the test of time, just like all the vintage items that are loved by so many or like the high fashion items crafted by design houses for superstars and runway shows.  There is something to the love for the beauty of sewing – or the love for the recipient, too – manifesting itself in the excess time which goes into fine details.  Such details make creating in the first place have a bit more easily visible worth, sort of like a proof of time well spent, remotely tangible for those open to appreciating them.

Such reasoning is why I spared no amount of effort in my zeal for a fantastic, professionally finished coat.  My first mission in this goal was to make the best welt pockets I have done yet.  I normally am not adverse and stressed out by a sewing technique as I am with creating welt pockets, even though I know how to do them.  The pressure was especially hard because of several irreversible steps before the pocket needs to be created and if I messed up, well…the coat would be no more.  However, I happily feel that I succeeded in not ruining my project, but still failed in making the best welt openings ever.  I am just overly critical on my own work, so to every other eye they are great welt pockets.  Working with tiny and precise seams in corduroy is not by far an easy thing.

That fact also applies to setting snaps though corduroy.  I had to make several “test run” tabs, complete with interfacing to mimic the thickness, and we failed with a few settings before we both realized we were running short of snaps and rather finding the right pressure to use on the press mechanism.  These sort of things – much like welt pockets – get to a point where you just have to take a deep breath and just go for it!  We made one ‘male’ snap on the hem tab itself and two ‘female’ snaps on the coat to give the option of pulling it in…or not, if wanted.  Having options to one’s clothes is lovely!

We did not want to push our good luck with the snap settings, and I wanted something lower key, so I stitched down large, black, easy-to-handle snaps at the sleeve cuffs and neck closing.  As much as this was mostly my idea, and my creation, I was thinking of him throughout the process.  I made sure the large snaps were something he could handle all by himself.  I made the front pockets bigger (they reach all the way to the front zipper and end at the bottom hemline) because I know all the things he likes to stash in his coats.   The front zipper is recycled off of an older garment he wore out and grew out of so I knew it worked for him.  Even the choice of green corduroy was really his choice – he could have chosen navy blue or burgundy cords, too.  I did think ahead and made the sleeves just a few a few inches longer in the hopes of this jacket lasting an extra winter.  The way he eats more food than us, though, and grows like a weed that thought is just a hope, perhaps.

Ironically, or maybe appropriately, the pretty fall backdrop for these photos is his school’s front entrance street-view grounds.  This was soon after he went back into a new year of school and after class picture time.  Sometimes, those school pictures are not always the best so we had a good excuse to take good shots of the jacket – going out and try to capture the real side of him in a much more ascetically pleasing look than a uniform.

For a jacket that resembles the symbol of the elite in a school, he really is nothing stuffy no matter how nice he may look.  He is just an eager, individualistic little man who is still trying to get the hang of finding the words for everything he has to say (it’s a LOT lemme tell you!) and the letters that form such.  Thus, he has no logo inscriptions.  I appreciate the fact he does seem to be forming another sphere of his life at the same time – a rather dapper, fun style for himself in his non-school-uniform clothes.  Sometimes we have to remind him on weekends to reach for the printed tees in his closet and not his plaid dress shirts!  If I can encourage and help him along in this sphere (especially since, for the moment, he likes my taste and I enjoy his), than my sewing is very worthwhile to be such a means of expression for one of the most important people in my life.  Never underrate the power of a boy and his mother.

A “Mini-Me” Vintage Lounging Jacket

“Like father like son…” is a cliché that absolutely applies more often than not to my husband and our son.  So…one grown up vintage smoking jacket (previous post) deserved a half-pint version, too!  I kept with the family ties and made my son a fleece housecoat, or lounging jacket, using a vintage 60’s pattern that my husband’s mom had used to sew something for him when he was little.

Kiddie catered, this has a frog theme of my son’s choosing, with a printed fleece that reminded him of lily pads (they do see things differently and more creatively), with cute frog face buttons.  Anytime he is slightly chilly in the pajama time of the evenings or after his bath, this fleece housecoat is the perfect thing for him.  It was his Easter morning garb to rush outside from bed and look for eggs in the backyard!  He looks so grown up in this and it makes him so cuddly cozy to hug!

THE FACTS:

FABRIC:  fleece

PATTERN:  Simplicity #7407, year 1968

NOTIONS:  I used of some ribbon from my stash (leftover from the suspender straps to his 2017 Halloween costume) and he picked out the buttons on clearance at JoAnn

TIME TO COMPLETE:  The way I made it kept it fast and easy.  It was finished in October 2017 and it took about 6 to 8 hours to make.

TOTAL COST:  As with my presents, I don’t really count the cost, but I only needed just over one yard of clearance fleece so my total wasn’t much at all!

I made my son’s housecoat pretty much the same way as I had made mine own (posted here).  Fleece does need any edge finishing, which is so weird to me as I always sew with material which does fray where cut, so just like my housecoat I merely sewed ribbon along the edges for both decorative and stabilizing purposes.  I love the contrast ribbon edging gives.  It is just enough of a pop of color and keeps the fleece edge from rolling.

Of course no house robe is complete without a pocket (he loves to stash tissues, by the way!) so I gave a nice big oversized pocket.  I really don’t see how two pockets work when house coats wrap over almost asymmetrically, but the patterns almost always call for two.  The wrap edge would meet along the edge of the second pocket (if I would add it) and that seems weird to me.  Anyone know what’s up with the two pocket wrap-on house coat problem?

This was pretty much his exact size.  I just added a little more length in the sleeves to make sure and account for his growing like a weed!  The only thing I really changed was to leave out the waist tie.  Kids don’t need fussy clothes.  I just sewed down more of the ribbon around the waist to bring it in, anchoring it down with the buttonhole.

My son may not be as dapper as his dad is in his smoking jacket, but this one is perfect.  My son might look a bit serious in his photos but believe me he is hiding his giggles as well as the teeth he has lost.  I make sure not to forget to be fair with my sewing and make time to create for my family – they deserve nice things, too!  I know in my experience that home-time garments might not provide that fantastic of a post but they are the most worn and loved.

1943 Overalls for My Little Man

Our son is now old enough to really understand exactly what mommy does in front of those stitching machines, so with a vintage pattern on hand he now can also share in my handmade goodness.  The overalls were quite easy and fun to make and I think (so does he) that they turned out so well!  Besides, I’m quite pleased to make something out of the ordinary, yet vintage, and supremely useful, all at the same time.

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My best reward ever is how he is so proud and happy to wear them!  “Mommy made them!” he loves to announce of his own accord to anyone he meets while wearing them.  He even asks to wear them, which will not be all that much longer because he’s growing tall and fast – cuffs to the pants’ hem might be in order at some point to extend their wearing.  It looks like, at this rate, he will probably be receiving another pair for summer made in denim from me…I don’t think he’ll mind at all and neither will I 😉

THE FACTS:  butterick-2744-year-1943-envelope-front-comp-w

FABRIC:  small wale 100% cotton corduroy in a dark, dusty forest green color and a 100% cotton tan printed corduroy

NOTIONS:  All I needed was thread, snaps, buttons, and hook and eyes – all of which I had on hand.

PATTERN:  Butterick #2744, year 1943

TIME TO COMPLETE:  These only took me about 6 hours to make – easy peasy. They were finished on March 2, 2016.

dsc_0120-comp-wTHE INSIDES:  all bias bound

TOTAL COST:  Zero!  I’ll explain.

Different vintage corduroys went into our son’s overalls.  Firstly, my Grandmother as given me her generous stash of corduroy in many solid colors.  I am almost certain she said it was originally intended for my dad and his sister when they were little.  Now some of that corduroy has went towards making something for her great-grandson.  That is where the solid green of the overalls is from.  The plane print corduroy is something hubby and I bought at a vintage market.  Our son is a huge fan of anything that goes (planes, trains, and automobiles) so we knew this was perfect for him even though it was only a small remnant piece, not a whole cut.  Thus, I incorporated a definite “boy” touch to his overalls, adding vintage to vintage, and accommodated our little man’s likes at the same time.  Whew.

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I must admit I was dubious going into this project because 1.)  I was using an original Butterick pattern which tends to have an unusual fit (normally generous sizing), and 2.)  the smaller the scale of clothes, often the harder and more fiddly they become (think of doll clothes).  As it turned out, the overalls weren’t as awkwardly small to make as expected since there weren’t any too small spots save for the straps over the shoulders.  It’s hard (hell actually) turning corduroy tubes inside out…it naturally wants to stick to itself like glue.  I also did experiment with the legs of this pattern to make my little guy his Halloween costume (posted here) and found out the width and length of the size then, and what I needed to change.  Muslins (also known as mock-ups) are something I hardly ever do, but between the pattern and sewing for someone new, I glad I knew how to make good fitting overalls for my boy’s final garment.

The sizing went by chest and age, but I thought height would be more important.  As our son is rather tall and skinny for his age, and the pattern seems to run short and wide so I added several inches to the bottom hem of the pants legs and a bit extra on the ends of the shoulder straps.  For the next pair of overalls, I will also add a bit more to widen the bib front, too.

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Our son cannot live without pockets, so luckily there are two patch pockets over the behind, however they take some getting used to on his part.  He sort of naturally expects the side placket closures to be pockets because that’s where modern pants normally have them.  I can’t help but laugh when he takes a money coin or toy or whatever he intends for his pocket and slips it in the side placket thinking it’s a pocket…the item falls right down his pants leg right to the ground with him completely mystified!  He also does seem to find the fake front pocket flaps a bit annoying.  I had to stitch those flaps down to avoid frustration because he kept playing with them, pulling at them, and generally expecting to find a pocket under them.  Sorry, dude, next time I’ll leave them off or make them really working pockets.  He is such a perfectionist just like myself sometimes.  I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, as the saying goes.

dsc_0108-comp-wFor the closures, I don’t see how a potty trained child could deal with button closures all over as the pattern originally calls to make.  Buttons on the side, buttons on the bib/strap ends – really?!  I sewed large heavy duty snaps to attach the shoulder straps to the bib front with two fake non-working buttons sewn down for decoration.  Large sliding waistband-style hook-and-eyes close up the sides of the waist.  My little man completely understands how to work both hook-and-eyes and snaps on his own without assistance making life easier for me and giving him confidence in dressing himself.  I wonder how button closing worked for any mom who made this pattern and feel sorry for the mom and child who dealt with this…why buttons.  Would not hooks and snaps been used in the 40’s?  Anyway, a bit of hidden modern practicality is a great touch to updating some vintage garments.

All of us appreciate the fact that these overalls end the skinny man’s perennial problem of drooping drawers.  We as his parents like the absence of “plumber’s crack” our little guy sometimes has, and he himself likes not having to pull up his pants on a regular basis or hold up his drawers when he runs.  It’s not that we don’t buy him the right clothes…I’ve taken in the waist of many of his store bought pants.  When you’ve got no booty and no hips to hold your clothes on yourself…well, gravity takes its toll.  Overalls are the wonder solution.  Now I know why they are so widely seen in vintage, especially for children.  Overalls let them be free to do what they do best – run, move, play, and have a good time.

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Now that I’ve made these overalls, I feel like I have noticed a few thing about vintage 40’s children’s wear as a result of this project.  The pants are hilariously wide and baggy but they do make the overalls cute, not to mention easy to play in and so classic of the 1940’s.  I know crouch depths were low, waists were high, and leg widths were roomy for both men and women’s trousers of the 1940’s, but I guess a “mini-me” ideal carried the same trends into children’s wear, too.  I also find it interesting that the pattern is specifically co-ed – meant for both girls and boys.  I see this non-gender specific aim in clothing patterns primarily from both the 1940’s and early to mid-1950 era, mostly for designs which offer pants, jackets, shirts, hats, sleepwear, and overalls for those 5 and under.

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This raises questions I’d never thought of before.  Was this merely a result of rationing – on the pattern company’s end and for the purchaser?  Why not the patterns from the 20s, 30s, or late 60’s and on (in these eras I see mostly only housecoat patterns being co-ed)?  I think it may have to do with the outlook of society at the time.  From a purely practical standpoint, boys and girls really don’t have much shaping differences to take into account under 5 years old…no more different than one child from another.  Choosing different fabric can totally customize the pattern but then again a young mom of 1943 would probably like to make a garment that would give her the most bang for the buck and time spent to make, something more than one child (if that was the case) could wear equally.  Interesting stuff to figure out!

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Halloween 2015 – Me and My Cowboy

Halloween is a bigger deal than it used to be in my life now that our little one is actually old enough to realize what it is about and enjoy it.  I’ve also realized it does give me a very good reason to sew something for my half-pint and not just myself.  In 2015, I didn’t do that much sewing for Halloween, but enough to be proud of and count as projects to share.

My outfit wasn’t much, just something I put together at the last minute.  I dressed as some sort of punk, dark, vintage-style housewife, in an original 50’s blouse, a pencil skirt, platform heels, and a handmade apron with dachshund featured print.  Yes, that is purple hair I sported for the night.  However, my son’s outfit received most of my attention.  He went as a 1940’s cowboy, with part vintage, part handmade, and the rest being items from my childhood for a special kind of outfit.

THE FACTS:butterick-2744-year-1943-envelope-front-comp-w

FABRIC:  For the cowboy: ½ yard of super clearance polyester suede with a metallic printed wrong side; For my apron: a 100% cotton M’Liss print, exclusive to the now-defunct Hancock Fabrics store.

NOTIONS:  I had all I needed for the cowboy vest and chaps, and for my apron I bought skinny bright orange single fold bias tape.

PATTERN:  A vintage original Butterick 2744, year 1943, was used as the basis for the cowboy chaps, and the apron used the “Cosmopolitan” pattern from the book “A is for Apron” by Nathalie Mornu, published 2008.  (See this post to see my last apron from this book – I’m a big fan of it!)

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TIME TO COMPLETE:  The cowboy outfit parts only took me about 3 hours hours in one evening on October 29, 2015.  My apron was finished on Halloween, October 31, 2015, made in 3 hours, too.

100_6573aw-compTHE INSIDES:  The cowboy outfit is a costume so I didn’t do anything fancy inside, my apron is all clean finished bias bound.

TOTAL COST:  $2.00 for the suede fabric, and maybe $10.00 for my apron

His hat and six shooter set is mine from when I was his age, the sheriff’s badge on the vest is also mine from a visit to Silver Dollar City.  The shirt was given to us by a dear acquaintance – it a true 1940’s original with embroidery of swirls and hobby horses, fancy pockets, and special buttons.100_6460aw-comp

For the sewn part, I basically took a simple button front vest from my tykes’ wardrobe and traced it out and remade it into the faux suede.  This was easy as pie (which isn’t as easy as some sewing) – just two small side seams and even smaller shoulder seams.  Next the vest was cut and re-shaped slightly to be more open and curved so the front so his shirt can be seen.

My original plans were to only make him a vest, but my hubby said some passing comment sounding surprised as to the lack matching chaps.  I took this as a sort of challenge even though this was not at all what he meant – he just didn’t know what I had in mind.  There wasn’t much fabric to start with and even less after the vest was made…but chaps aren’t a full pants leg, anyway.  So I pulled out a vintage 1940’s children’s pattern from my stash as the basis to cut by – this way I also was testing out the fit of a pattern I wanted to make anyway.  I didn’t have a length of fabric long enough to go all the way up his leg so I merely made a large loop to add on for the top of the chaps’ legs.  The loop is perfect for the chaps100_6476w-comp to hang, or float, over his jeans.  A length of elastic is tied around his waist with the chaps’ top loops going through, and the rest hanging from that.

A rectangular strip of fabric was sewn all the way up into the side seams, then it was cut into little strips to turn it into fringe.  I love how the metallic “wrong side” makes the fringe look quite neat, bestowing just enough ‘bling’ for a little boy’s Halloween outfit.

Our little “cowboy” was so tickled by his outfit and so proud of himself.  “Mommy made it!” he would tell others on me, but that’s o.k.  Being a cowboy must run in the family.  My Grandma has a picture of her husband, my Grandpa, in a handmade cowboy outfit when he was little, so I’ve been told.  My dad loved playing cowboy himself – his room (when he was my son’s age) had a western theme to it, as I can still see in the cute printed paper lining of his old dresser set.  One of my dad’s favorite Christmases growing up was the one when he was given a western set, and he still remembers the bright red velvet hat that came with the set.  In the old pictures from then my 5 or 6 year old “cowboy” dad looks so much like my son did for Halloween – very cute to see.

100_6470aw-compMy apron is something I’ve been wanting to make for a long time.  The fabric had been bought a while back (maybe a year or two) and the apron pattern has also been on my radar of things to make ever since I bought the book in year 2011.  Now I could combine both into one!  Besides, how could I go wrong with something that combines my favorite things – a dachshund dog printed fabric (I own a dachsie, by the way), an apron, and a design named after one of my favorite mixed drinks, the Cosmopolitan.

This was super easy to make.  I like how the pockets are right over the hips – this way they can’t catch stray food like aprons with center front pockets often do.  I like the slightly vintage “café waitress” aura to it, as well, though this is not as strong with my version compared to the original in the book.  Look at how cute is that fashion themed fabric on the one in the book!  My fabric is pretty darling, nevertheless.  I mean there are cute wiener dogs dressed as a ladybug, police officer, witch, princess, and butterfly!100_6572-comp

This is not the best apron for coverage against spills and messy cooking, but it is mostly decorative anyway.  I did slightly change the pattern by both making the inner dip of the U-neckline smaller and having the center back neck closure be Velcro hook-and-look tape rather than a button and button hole.  I also had to shorten the neck straps so the waist ties would be where they should be rather than on my hips.

I went through just over 2 packs of bias tape to go around and around all the edges.  Honestly – that is the hardest and only step that takes up all my time spent to make this apron.  I thought the amount of edging I had to sew would never stop.  This sounds like a Halloween “Twilight Zone” nightmare… the “different sewing dimension where the edges to finish never stops and keeps going…with no end…you can’t take your foot off of the pedal, and the bias tape keeps coming, never lessening…”  Oh, I could have too much fun with this!  Happy Halloween everyone!

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