Mr Rat says that this is his favorite dress (albeit a two-piece dress in this instance) I’ve made yet. We bought the fabric together at the Los Angeles fabric district last month for $4 a yard, which makes this one of the most expensive dresses I’ve ever made and shared on this blog. I’d estimate that it cost about $23 total, including the thrift-store bought buttons, thread, and the skirt zipper from JoAnns that I had already in my stash. I’ve had McCalls 6339 circa 1978 for a while and always felt a little intimidated by it until I thought to myself recently that truly it is just a skirt and a blouse---and even though the blouse has princess seams and self-bias binding on the bottom---that isn’t so hard. I’ve made button-up blouses before. And really, it wasn’t so hard, although it was somewhat time-consuming since I wanted the finish to be nice. I flat-felled and top-stitched the seams, bias-bound the inside of the arm-holes, stitched on the self-bias binding by hand, made the button-holes by hand also, and had to do quite a number of darts on the skirt before I gathered it. I’ve never seen a full skirt constructed in that way before, but it really controls the fullness around the waistband and gives it a nice, flattering shape. I didn’t make many construction changes to the dress: I left out the pockets since I usually carry a bag, I didn’t add the tucks at the bottom of the skirt, and I had the shorten the back of the blouse so that it didn’t wrinkle around the top of my hips. I think the next time I make it, I might try shortening the whole bodice a little bit, although this method worked fine; I just had to lengthen the bias binding a little to accommodate the new edge.
For its first debut, I wore my new gingham dress when we walked to the monastery on Sunday morning before church and watched the squirrels do astonishing acrobatic feats in the trees. There were lots of birds, bees, one fat and strangely hairless bumble-bee, and the aforementioned wildly active squirrels. Most of the garden looks very dry----summer in California is a brown time for the most part---but there were still a fair amount of pink blossoms to enjoy: oleander, roses, some curious-looking lilies, and the fuchsia bougainvillea. I hope your August is going well, and you have some flowers to enjoy, too.
After I saw a few more holes appear in Mr Rat’s favorite jacket, I persuaded him to leave it at home long enough for me to pull out my mending kit and some scraps leftover from my bandana print dress and from a new Hawaiian shirt that Mr Rat is working on to patch it with. Every time I cover the threadbare spots with colorful bits of fabric and sashiko-style stitching, Mr Rat comes home, puts on his transformed jacket, and admires its increase in character and personality. It takes time to get to know an object, just as it takes time to get to know a person. And I love that he wears my love on his sleeve, and his collar, and every other ragged spot.
Mr R and I went to the park on Saturday and walked around the pond where the big handsome geese and the neatly attired little ducks like to float and preen and sun. There were seagulls too, drifting and flying about lazily as if the weather was warmer than it truly was. But the sunshine made it feel almost like spring.
Mr R wore a new shirt he made (which you will see in a new post) and I wore a jacket that I made during the fall using 1970s era McCall 4130 and only wore once before the weather grew too cold and wet to wear an unlined cotton twill jacket. The jacket matches my Simplicity 7880 skirt (previously reviewed here) very well, so I wore them together to make a navy suit. I pinned my new Mexican silver rose brooch that Mr R gave me for valentine's day to the jacket lapel to celebrate the return of the flowers. This jacket has some interesting features, including a bust dart hidden under the large lapels, back and elbow darts that make the whole jacket quite fitted, and gathers at the shoulders that give the top of the sleeve a slight puff. The only trouble I had with making it was that I didn’t realize until after I had sewn in the facings that the jacket was a little too long at the bottom to end at my natural waist, and so it wrinkled and bunched when I wore it with full skirts. I ended up doing a simple fix by folding up the facing to the right length and re-sewing the hem with the facing doubled. It doesn’t look as nice on the inside with the doubled hem despite the time I had taken to finish the seams with seam-binding, though, so I traced out the pattern pieces and redrafted them shorter for next time, so I can have a clean finish and a good fit. Otherwise I like the fit and shape of the jacket, although the one hundred percent cotton twill does wrinkle very easily. But that is what irons are for, yes? And for my first time attempting this pattern, I think the result is quite wearable.
I liked the shape of McCall 5526 with its slight peplum and sharp collar, so last winter I decided make a heavy jacket with it, making some modifications, since the original pattern is unlined and meant for light to medium weight fabrics. I made mine out of wool and tried some tailoring techniques for the first time. The whole front of the jacket is interfaced, as is the upper back, the bottom of the sleeves and the bottom of the hem. I used a stiff interfacing for the collar to give it more structure. I top stitched all the seams and edges by hand to make the wool lay flat and keep the corners sharp and crisp. The hand stitching sinks into the wool and becomes fairly invisible. I used the pattern pieces to draft a lining: the back and front are lined with cotton flannel, for warmth, and the sleeves with polyester lining fabric, to make it easier to put on and take off. I used some of the leftover pieces of flannel to make sleeve-heads to give the tops of the sleeves a nice shape. The faux-leather buttons are from an old clearance sale at JoAnns, and the fabric was a decent sized piece that I found at the thrift store. I stitched the button-holes by hand.
I cut the pattern to a size 8, and am mostly pleased with the fit, although I think I would make some changes the next time I make this pattern. I think the shoulders are a little too wide, since they tend to wrinkle a bit in the back, and sit out a little further than where my shoulder ends. Next time I will try narrowing them at the edge and a little at the top of the princess seams. After looking at the photos Mr Rat took of me wearing the jacket, I think the back waist may need to be shortened very slightly, also. And although I don’t mind the way the peplum gapes a bit in the front, I would need to add some more fabric to the hips to accommodate my full skirts if I would like it to close all the way next time.
Mr Rat took some photos of me wearing my jacket over my striped cotton McCall 6209 dress at the monastery on Sunday afternoon. It was a grey, beginning-of-winter day, and the garden was green with recent rain. Gia came along with us; though she was too busy smelling the squirrels’ hidden caches of acorns in the tall clover to want to join in the photos with me.
Mr Rat is very fond of his old Levis denim jacket and wears it several times a week in cool weather. But it is so old that it has been getting holes in it and Mr Rat asked me if I thought he should throw it away. He looked so sad about the idea that I suggested that he give his jacket to me and I would see what I could do with it. So I patched it up for him with bits of bandana and plaid cotton from our scrap box, and he was delighted to keep wearing his jacket, which he says has more “character” now.
My advice for anyone interested in patching their clothes is to add reinforcement stitches along the inner portion of the patch as if you were quilting it. It helps keep the patch from being easily snagged or ripped and gives it extra durability. It also looks nice in a decorative way, especially in a contrasting thread color.
Does anyone else patch their clothes? I wonder sometimes, living in an area where everyone’s clothes look so very new, whether it is considered socially appropriate to wear patched clothing. But when one has a personal attachment to an item of clothing that is only growing more beautiful with age, doesn’t it make sense to prolong its lifespan by patching it and mending its holes and rips? To wear clothes for very long does seem like such a rarity now.
Simplicity 8696 is a vintage coat pattern from the 1970s. As usual, I made a size 8. My coat is made of black 100 percent cotton twill from JoAnn fabric stores. A gift card combined with a good sale on bottom-weight fabrics made the large amount of yardage needed for such a voluminous coat affordable. The hood is lined in a scrap of black cotton left over from making a dress, and the sleeves and all the seams are bound in black bias binding. It took a long time to finish all the seams that way, but it looks lovely and it is very effective at keeping the fabric from fraying. The fabric is prone to wrinkles and lint, and has to be ironed often, but it is also easy to wash, has some natural water resistance (which makes it a good rain jacket for drizzly days), and it is lightweight, roomy, and just warm enough to wear when there is a slight chill in the air. The jacket and hood are gathered at the neck with a drawstring, which I made out of bias strips sewed together.
My Simplicity 9343 brown work dress has been so comfortable to wear that I made a second version in black cotton. My only change was to make the skirt a little more full by cutting the skirt pieces wider. I’m pleased with it, and wear it often. It is so loose and simple.
I really enjoyed making this jacket and I was very satisfied with the outcome. The most challenging part, in my opinion, was setting in the sleeves (there are a few spots of puckering but I tried to iron them out really thoroughly). The jacket is very light and has a nice shape. I work in a laboratory and my coworkers have asked, when wearing this jacket, why I decided to dress up. Once when biking to the train stop a fellow biker said I looked like one of the actors in the movie Chicago (a rather bizarre encounter best not recited in full here). In any case, I can get away with wearing this jacket casually or with a white shirt and tie and it works. Mrs. Rat suggested that the next version could be made out of denim with a contrasting corduroy collar and some added flap pockets on the front. I will definitely keep it in mind as one of my future projects.
I made this jacket from an out of print pattern by Simplicity, number 3523, made in a size 6. This is a modified version of view E. I added two more buttons down the front, lengthened it slightly so it would be long enough to reach my natural waist, and added patch pockets. The fit was good without modifications, and the pattern was easy to follow, and not too complex for an intermediate sewer, or a beginner with patience. The fabric is a slightly faded but very soft denim my mom bought for me at a discount fabric warehouse in Anaheim. It was very easy to sew, and behaved well for the extensive top-stitching and edge-stitching I did on all the seams. The inside is clean-finished with faux flat-fell seams. The button-holes are stitched by hand, and the buttons are self-fabric covered. They are easy to make with a kit, although it takes a little strength to push the backs on over the denim. I am wearing the jacket over a dress I made from a vintage 1980's Butterick pattern, number 3227.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew