Wallpapering a Tent

The idea in my title might sound ridiculous but hey, what if you really felt comfy in the tent and wanted to stay awhile? What if that tent’s ocular pleasantries are a bit ‘dated’ but still ‘old-fashioned’ enough to be cute? Well…what if that “tent” I’m speaking of is something worn in the form of an over-sized vintage nightgown, and the “wallpaper” is a quaint but soft cotton? Bingo! Hello year 1969.

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This project was not my own choosing or doing, actually, but was kindly passed on to me by my mother-in-law. It was begun by her and completed up to the point before the marking of the pieces and sewing them together takes place. I was tickled, happy, and (later during sewing) slightly skeptical of the finished project, but now I truly enjoy the nightgown and am glad I got to finish it. The nightgown was even sewn on the machine given to me by my mother-in-law, one which had been her mother’s. My Grandmother’s stash gifted to me provided the lace. By using thread to link the past and present together, I get to wear a piece of the family’s memories.

THE FACTS:Simplicity 8457, year 1969 nightgown and bed jacket pattern

FABRIC:  It is a very soft but also quite sheer (va-voom!) printed cotton that might have a small blend of poly…but I’m not sure.

NOTIONS:  Every notion came from what I had on hand – two colors of bias tape packs, ivory thread, two buttons, and some lace (from my Grandmother’s stash)

PATTERN:  Simplicity #8457, year 1969

TIME TO COMPLETE:  As I mentioned above, the preliminary work was started for me, but what I did do took me about 5 or 6 hours to do. The nightgown was finished on February 19, 2016.

THE INSIDES:  I made sure all the edges are cleanly finished inside in either French seams or bias bindings.

TOTAL COST:  Zero!!!

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The size to the nightgown seemed to be a bit on the generous size for my proportions but having a roomy nightgown almost always is a good recipe for comfort, I figured. The original fabric pieces were cut out with a slight up-grading of about ¼ inch on all seam allowances. As the pattern was a size up than what I needed, I cut off the excess to make the medium precisely. Then, as the nightgown turned out, it is a good size for me. I have made several other Simplicity patterns from about 1968 to the mid-1970’s in a size medium, too, and they also fit me well. Hmmm…perhaps these run on the small side.

Luckily, the scraps that were leftover had been kept with the fabric pieces and the pattern. I needed those scraps for some pieces which hadn’t been cut out yet – a continuous lap-style placket for the front button closing and a neckline facing. With the scraps still available, I decided to go all out with the dated look and cut out a collar (which also didn’t come with the nightgown as my mother-in-law gave it to me).  My thought was, I enjoy collars, doing one wouldn’t take much extra time, and the large baby doll style was cute in the cover drawing. Nevertheless, I do not like the collar as much as I had hoped but it isn’t that bad, either. In the back of my mind I think the chest placket would look a bit basic or empty without it. However, the delicate lace around the collar wins me over to it.

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Speaking of the lace, my Grandma’s stash (as I said above) provided the most lovely, delicate, deep ivory lace that I could have wanted. It was a length which was just enough with perhaps 5 inches to spare for under the edges of both the collar and sleeves. Speaking of sleeves, they were originally cut to be quarter length but I shortened them by 3 inches. Cropped sleeves and the thin lace felt more in keeping with the rest of the nightgown to balance out the large amount of fabric everywhere else.

As easy as this was to sew together, it seriously was overwhelming and almost hard to find the seams when working with it at the sewing machine. There is so much fabric for the long length version…which is why it truly seems like a tent when I’m not wearing it. However, on me, the excess fabric seems quite nice and in proportion to the rest. This nightgown is an extreme example of how different something can look on its own compared to when on a body. When I held it up to show my hubby, he said the nightgown reminded him of something to wear to go camping. “Why?” “Well,” he came back, “if it wasn’t so thin, the whole family could stay warm under that nightgown.” That was a creative –albeit unexpected – thing to say, and funny to think about! I’m still laughing to myself just writing it! I think my calling the nightgown a tent had something to do with his idea…

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It actually took longer than I realized to wake up and hear the thought in the back of my head regarding the fabric’s print. I knew that the more I looked at the heavy layer of white in that repetitive vertical design I was always confused, like I was thinking, “this can’t be fabric”. The pastel colored bouquets in between the white swirls were the most annoying part of the print ‘til I was lying in bed on day and I saw the outdated floral wall paper on our ceiling (yeah, we need some renovations…). Eureka – wall paper! I’d finally pinned down what my mind was thinking without my knowing it. This fabric truly needs to have glue spread on the back of it and be pasted up on the walls of a movie set for a retro disco-era background…just don’t do that now that I’ve made something from it. Seeing remnants of this fabric actually got my dad to talk about memories of his Grandmother’s walls. Gosh, it’s amazing what a fabric can do.

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I did not follow the instructions as to where to work the button holes and buttons and decided to stick to my personal taste. A touch of claustrophobia keeps me terrified of anything which fits too tightly around my neck. Thus I left the chest free of buttons and only chose two over-sized pink pearl buttons to close the lower third portion of the placket. With no interfacing added into the placket (or anywhere for that matter), making a button hole in this thin fabric was a frustrating nightmare but nothing a little hand-stitching and some “fray check” liquid couldn’t fix. I’m still a bit frustrated that I took the time to make nice insides but sew such a crummy button hole. So goes life – at least this only happened to a nightgown and nothing made for wearing out and about.

DSC_0087a-compThis nightgown reminds me of an important point. Having one’s own taste is important, and recognizing that fact is even more so. Just because something is “out-of-date” or not conforming to what current trends tell us to put on doesn’t – shouldn’t mean you ignore your own likes or dislikes. To a point, those who rely on “ready-to-wear” are restricted but for those who sew…the possibilities for self-expression through what you wear are endless! When fashion is in the hands of one whose knows how to manipulate paper, fabric, and thread…THAT is a powerful, satisfying, source of enjoyment.

Sure this nightgown is odd, by hey, I’m glad to get to try it out and, gosh, it is comfy to lounge about and sleep in. It is so curious in so many ways, and between me and hubby we’ve thought of several ways of looking at it which make us smile. Since when is different bad?! So, in the end this is one of the strangest ways of liking an unexpected project. Who would have guessed? Perhaps a new and unexpected style might be just the “palate cleanser”, “trial for your skills”, “branching out of a style rut”, or “trip down memory lane” which shows you what you never knew you could like. Who doesn’t like something new?!

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