This blouse may look familiar to long-time readers. I've sewn this pattern before, most recently last fall in a soft floral tropical wool. This time I sewed it in crisp white cotton (from a thrifted sheet, like most of my projects) and trimmed it with a thin cotton lace from one of my very rare trips to Hobby Lobby. The construction of this blouse is simple because it is so loose and has no darts. Since the cotton was prone to fraying, I took my time and made faux French seams on the inside. I edge-stitched the collar, front placket, and cuffs, to keep it all looking neat. I made the buttonholes by hand, as usual, and used some thin-line buttons from JoAnns fabric stores that were in my stash to finish it all off. The most time-consuming part of sewing this blouse was sewing on the cotton lace after I was done with everything else. But I think it was worth it for that little bit of extra visual interest.
This year I've experimented with sewing printed fabrics and wearing lighter, softer colors. But I always feel most comfortable in plain black and white, and making this simple shirt reaffirmed that for me. If I could only wear three colors, I think they would be black, white, and brown. I'm never dissatisfied when I finish sewing a white blouse because I know I can wear it at anytime, anywhere, in any situation, and with any other color. You can't beat a white blouse for versatility. The only thing that gets quite as much wear in my wardrobe as my white shirts is probably this old black skirt made from my favorite Simplicity 7880 pattern that I am wearing here.
Mr Rat took these photos on our Sunday morning stroll through the park with Gia before we headed off to church and family time. The local schools are back in session this week, and it feels as though there is already a slight autumnal cast to the air, even though it is only late August. The mornings feel cooler, some of the leaves are starting to crisp at the edges and fall on the summer-green grass, and at last the day-time temperatures are dropping down about 10 or 15 degrees from the extreme heat we've had the last two months.
Do any of you do anything special to mark the changing of the seasons? Are you thinking ahead towards your next season's sewing plans? My next few projects will be in more autumnal hues and I'm even starting to think about what I need to sew to be ready for winter's snow. It feels like the year is shifting again----this one has been so full of changes----at least when I sit down to sew and to paint, I can feel steady and centered for a moment, like a rock in the middle of the stream.
This past Sunday while we were at the park taking Gia on her evening stroll, Mr Rat was kind enough to take some pictures of this dress I made from 1990s-era Simplicity 7752. I have been wearing this comfortable, easy shirt-dress a lot since I finished it at the end of May, when some of you might have seen it here on the blog or on Instagram.
It is an easy dress to put together, and would be a good pattern for someone just venturing into dressmaking, I think. The bodice has no darts, the facings on the skirt are simply folded over, the cuffs are made in one piece without needing a button closure, and the overall fit is loose and forgiving. I made my version out of a $4 cotton-blend sheet that I found at our local Goodwill thrift store. The collar and cuffs are made from scraps leftover from another sheet that I used to make a blouse recently. The buttons were also thrifted, a long time ago. I have a jar full of this particular style of white buttons, which I use on a lot of my casual sewing projects. I used some scraps of bias tape to cover the waist-seam on the inside of the dress, and did lots of edgestitching to keep everything crisp. My buttonholes took me the most time since I sew them by hand, but it is a relaxing thing to do while watching Masterpiece Mystery shows.
I like the peter-pan collar and the simple, breezy, comfort of this dress. I think this pattern will likely become a favorite, as I've already cut out another version in navy blue, with a white collar and cuffs. I will probably use the same white buttons on that one, too, I would highly recommend this pattern to anyone looking for a simple sundress. Although I can imagine this pattern working just as well for fall or winter, sewn up in a nice warm flannel.
I finished this new version of Simplicity 8458 (a 1950s reproduction pattern) back in the spring. Some of you might have noticed its appearance during Me-Made-May this year. I haven't worn it a lot since then, though. But when my sister invited Mr Rat and I on a wildflower hike up the Albion Basin in the Wasatch Front on a very hot Friday evening earlier in the month, I pulled it out of the closet and thought I should give it another chance. The good thing about a skirt like this is that it is loose and comfortable, has a good range of movement for walking and hiking, it is made of durable heavy twill from the thrift store (which makes it conveniently inexpensive, too, so I don't have to worry about getting it dirty or damaged outside), and is long enough to cover my legs from weeds but short enough to not tangle around my ankles. I think I've found this skirt's best purpose: to wear on adventures outdoors.
In terms of construction, I made it in the same way as my first version and my second version (which I have since given away because I wore it so rarely----it attracted lint very badly, which makes me feel wary of using cotton sateen again). It is a simple skirt with very few seams. Most of the time that goes into the sewing of it is in basting the pieces together and letting them hang overnight before sewing the rest of the skirt together. I used bias tape to hem the bottom, and used faux flat-fell seams on the inside to make the skirt really durable.
I'm wearing my homemade skirt in these photos with an old button-up white shirt I've had several years, thrifted leather boots and a thrifted straw hat. These beautiful photos were taken by Mr Rat and my sister, who generously gave us copies of the pictures she took on our spectacular sunset hike.
I finished this blouse a while ago (and took the photos a few weeks ago, too) but kept delaying making a post about it. The pattern is a Simplicity E.S.P. (Extra Sure Pattern) from the late 1970s or early 1980s, judging by its cover. I made my version out of a twin-sized navy cotton-blend shirt from the thrift store and on-sale thin-line buttons from JoAnns fabric stores. It all came together well and easily except the collar, which somehow was missing its notched look the first time around. I'm not sure if I was clumsy when I was cutting it out and it ended up a little long, or if it is a small flaw in the pattern itself, but I fixed it easily enough by unpicking the collar a little and making the seams smaller where the notch is---hard to explain, but it worked to make the notch visible between the upper collar and the shirt top where the bottom collar folds over.
The blouse has several interesting features: a yoke with gathers in the back that extends into a forward shoulder seam with gathers in the front. I forgot to cut a yoke lining when I first cut out the blouse, so I used a piece of blue and green plaid cotton from our scrap basket, which gives it a nice bit of secret interest on the inside. The sleeves are actually sewn into two parts, which are sewn together and the bottom and overlapped at the top and then eased into the armholes. They have a narrow seam along each edge, and then tie over the arm. When I started wearing my shirt, I found that they were flopping open all the way to my shoulder when I reached for things, so I sewed the top of the slit together for about two inches so the sides of the sleeves don't move around and gape so much.
I really like how this blouse turned out: a practical, camp-style shirt with a little extra style and interest in the sleeves. It is easy to wear, easy to wash, and cool and comfortable in this summer heat.
In these photos I'm wearing my new blouse with my three-year-old ochre skirt, which unfortunately just got a hole last week. It was in an obvious part of the skirt near the waistband. I couldn't figure out a way to repair it inconspicuously, so I took out the waistband interfacing, the zipper, and the skirt hook and eye to reuse on other projects, and put the rest of the skirt in the scrap basket (to get used as rat bedding for Daisy and Marigold, most likely).
I've been thinking a lot about the problem of fairness, and how difficult it is to attempt to be fair in one's actions towards others in a world where we are born into such radically different and often unfair circumstances. It is hard to try to live morally and ethically; it is surprisingly hard to live while causing as little harm to others as possible. We are often implicated in unfair practices just because we are ignorant that those things are happening on the farms where our food is grown, or within the factories where the items we buy and use daily are made. This article from Vogue Australia brought this dilemma freshly into my mind with its revelation that the fashion industry is the second largest industry in the world that practices slavery, right behind tech gadgets and just above fish, cocoa and sugar cane. The article quotes from the most recent Global Slavery Index that about 40 million people are trapped in slavery worldwide-----a truly heart-rending statistic. 71 percent of those enslaved people are women.
I don't mention this article just to make us saddened or to open our eyes to pain of others (although I think it is a good think to be aware of the pain of others---so we can do what we can to alleviate it). I mention it so we can consider that our efforts to sew our own clothes are never a waste of time. Yes, clothing may be cheap and plentiful and we don't have to spend time making it ourselves. But that kind of fashion comes at a great human cost, much greater than the pleasant hours that we spend sewing our own clothing. We sewers know that every time we put a hand-made garment on our bodies, we don't have to wonder if someone suffered to make it. I think that is a wonderful gift, and I'm thankful for it every day. I hope that we sewers can help educate other people to have more respect for sewing and the skill and time it takes to make clothing. If we join the growing movement to help garment workers gain fair wages and good working conditions (Fashion Revolution has interesting ideas about how we can help agitate for change), then everyone who gets dressed can share our innocent and untainted pleasure in putting on our clothes.
I've missed posting here---I've missed taking photos with Mr Rat----and I've missed all of you, and the interesting conversations that we have. This summer has been a hard one, and taking pictures and updating the website have both fallen by the wayside. Now that a few of the hard things are over and we are in the midst of coming to terms with some of the other difficult bits, I hope that we will be able to post here more regularly again. My goal is to manage a post at least one to three times a month. It is such a pleasure to have this project to work on together with Mr Rat: a little world of creativity to inhabit and develop here on our shared website, a record to keep of our efforts and growth. I don't want to let it go, and don't think that we are currently facing any life changes that will make continuing our work here impossible----it just gets hard sometimes when other things need our attention for a while.
I've had my copy of late 1960s-era Simplicity 9486 for at least two years now, and have always liked the look of the high waist, full skirt, ruffled sleeves and square neckline. Recently I found a large pale blue gingham sheet at Goodwill (much like the one I used to make this dress in the spring, just a shade darker) and decided that this would be a good time to try this dress out: at the height of summer, when comfortable, light dresses are the best thing to combat daily 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Simplicity 9486 didn't disappoint. My only adjustments were to widen the skirt quite a bit, since I like freedom of motion that fuller skirts give me, and to use narrow seam allowances at the back of the bodice along the center-back zipper, since I found the bodice to be rather tight around my ribs and I had already gone too far in the sewing process to let out the side seams. In the future, I will remember to add a little bit of allowance at the side seams along the ribs, for ease of breathing and comfort. Otherwise, I'm very pleased with the fit: I like the higher square neckline, the four darts on each side of the bodice give it a lot of shaping, and the sleeves have a nice shape and pleasing amount of puff.
As usual, I edge-stitched around the neckline, interfaced the fabric along the zipper to keep that area from rippling, inserted the zipper by hand with a prick-stitch, and finished and stayed the waistline with a piece of bias tape which I sewed into the waistline seam and then folded up over the trimmed waistline gathers and sewed to the bodice to completely cover the raw edges. I pinked the other seam allowances and used some scraps of white bias binding to make the casings for the elastic at the wrists.
I'm wearing my new dress with a new-to-me $3 straw hat that I also found at Goodwill. Mr Rat took these photos during golden hour at the park down the street from the complex where we live. The park has an arboretum on the other side of the creek from the play areas for children. Mr Rat and Gia and I had a lovely, peaceful time wandering under the trees and admiring the flowers and bees that are still enduring despite the extreme temperatures all month.
On a different note: I do have to admit that I feel uncertain about wearing light blue. I like to wear navy and feel like it is a good color for me, but I find it hard to tell whether light blue is an unflattering color on me or whether I am just more comfortable wearing mid-to-darker shades than lighter ones. Do any of you have any advice about this? Choosing colors is such a subjective process. Light blue does feel very summery to me, so perhaps it doesn't matter whether or not it is a flattering color, so long as it is a happy one.
What do you all think about choosing colors for sewing projects: do you only choose flattering colors to sew with, or do you sew with any color that strikes your fancy and makes you pleased?
I already made this pattern once, in black striped cotton. I liked that first version so much that I thought it would be useful to have a second summer top, but this time in natural muslin, to match my muslin Simplicity 7880 skirt that I wore for these photos from last summer.
Mr Rat has been busy with work and so I took these simple photos myself on our patio, using a tripod and the self-timer feature on our camera. It is such a pleasure to have a garden of our own, even if it is small and young and somewhat battered from the unexpected hailstorm that blew through the morning I took these photos of my (relatively) recently completed blouse. The sunflowers have big buds on the top, and my cheerful marigolds are just barely starting to bloom. Not bad for 99-cent store four-for-a-dollar seeds.
I don't think there is much to add about the construction of this blouse, since I made the same version in the same way that I did last time. This time I accidentally got some wrinkles across the back of the yoke, but given that it is muslin and tends to be a little creased and wrinkled anyway, I don't mind it. I like the cool, light, gentle, and casual look of muslin in the summertime. Do you have a favorite fabric for a particular season? I feel like winter is time for heavy wool in black and grey, and summer is time for white and cream colored muslin.
Gia Sick graphite on paper 2018
This past month has been a hard one. Mr Rat and I have been calling home often to hear about our families' latest troubles (which don't need to be listed here), while meanwhile we've been dealing with trouble of our own: at the end of May, we noticed that our dog, Gia, was feeling ill. By June 1st, we were very concerned, and when she woke us in the middle of the night by throwing up all of her food and then laying panting and insensible on the floor, we decided to rush her to the all-night emergency room at the animal hospital. A very long four hours later, we found out that she is diabetic. This has been a hard adjustment for us all, since now Gia needs twice-a-day insulin shots after her meals, she can't have very many treats or snacks or trimmings from the counter when I'm cooking, and even with her new medication, she is still more easily fatigued than she used to be.
Learning how to take care of our best friend's new needs has been absorbing a lot of our time and energy over the past month, so I'm afraid that all my hopes to make new posts fell by the wayside as I tried to balance attention for Gia with finishing a commissioned painting and doing some sewing and crocheting during moments of rest. Now that we are getting used to the insulin injections and are getting into more of a routine, I hope to start posting here more regularly again. I miss sharing the things I'm working on, and having a reason to take pictures on our walks and outings.
Monday May 28 - Day 28
This was Memorial Day, a bank holiday in the USA, so Mr Rat and I got to stay home. Since I knew I'd be doing some housework, spending time in the studio, and going walking (stormy weather or no), I chose to dress for warmth and comfort and wore my flared denim skirt along with one of my rare t-shirts and a thrifted sweater.
Tuesday May 29 - Day 29
I wore my denim peplum blouse and my long black Simplicity 7880 skirt.
Wednesday May 30 - Day 30
The weather started to feel summery so I pulled out some older favorites: my Laura Ashley jumper dress and my puff sleeved muslin blouse.
Thursday May 31 - Last Day
I wore my just-barely-completed new summer dress, made from a 1990s pattern. The dress and collar and cuffs are all made out of thrifted cotton sheets and the white buttons are thrifted too, from a long time ago. I'm glad that I finally tried this pattern, because I can envision it becoming a firm favorite. It could easily be redrafted as a loose blouse, too.
Things I have learned from participating in Me Made May 2018:
I am amazed that in a month's time I rarely wore the same garment twice (skirts excepted) and yet I still didn't wear all of my hand-made wardrobe options. I don't have an especially large closet----I think it's average, or even rather small by American standards. So that shows me that my whole wardrobe is really wearable, which gives me a lot of choice. Over the last six or so years I've made a lot---enough to gradually switch almost all my clothes from thrifted to handmade (right now I have two button-up shirts, one drawer of knits, sweaters and jeans, and one coat that I am in the process of relining----everything else is handmade by me). This weekend I'm going to see about selling my faux-fur winter coat because I have plans to make my own heavy wool coat. Then my wardrobe really will be homemade, for all seasons. I'm really pleased with my progress, and glad to have the many combinations I can make with all of the homemade clothes in my closet.
I don't enjoy taking a photo of myself everyday, but it is helpful in making good sewing plans for the rest of the year. Looking at photos of myself wearing my handmade clothing helps me see what looks good, what particular features and shapes I favor in my pattern choices, and what I still need to sew to make my wardrobe fully functional and practical.
It reaffirmed for me that I like the color palette that I've chosen for my clothes: I wore a lot of black, navy, brown, and white, as well as a little bit of tan, cream, rose, and olive green.
It helped me see that I like simplicity in my clothing and accessories. It also helped me identify some of the features that I like in my clothes: peter-pan collars, softly puffed sleeves, small prints rather than large ones (particularly gingham, stripes, and floral prints with lots of roses), solid-colored cotton fabrics, bishop sleeves, button-up shirts, jumper dresses, peasant blouses, and full skirts with a midi-to-ankle length hem. I realized that I prefer a semi-fitted or loose bodice over a highly fitted one (except for dressy clothes to wear to church on Sundays and other special occasions), and I also realized that I don't care for scooped necklines anymore, since my skin has had such a hard time transitioning to the dry weather here in Utah. I find that I like to be covered up, and then I don't have to worry much about sunburns or skin troubles or quick changes in the weather from cold to hot or vice versa.
I chose a few items that I think I will give away, as they are silhouettes or prints that I've realized were an interesting experiment, but don't fit in well with my other clothes. Right now I've pulled out three blouses to give away or put away for a while while I consider their place in my closet. I also put one dress away into my sentimental keepsake box.
This year's Me-Made-May also helped me realize that I don't need so many sewing patterns, or to keep collecting so many new ones. I have a good variety of patterns that I have tried and liked, which I can keep refining as I make new versions. As I wore different versions of the same patterns through the month, I realized how much I've come to like tried-and-true patterns. Tried and true patterns have many advantages: I already know how they will work with other parts of my wardrobe, I can count on a good fit, and they are easier to plan for. While I'll still try out some of the patterns that I already own which I haven't made yet, and I'm sure that I'll also still keep an eye out at thrift stores for the occasional pattern that catches my eye, I don't think I'll be buying many more patterns, because I like what I have to work with right now. Inspired by this realization, I've also been slowly working through my patterns and weeding out ones that I don't think I'm likely to ever make (or be satisfied with if I did make them) to give them away. This clean-out is helping me fit all of my supplies and patterns in an orderly way in my new sewing cabinet, which is exciting. When I have it all in order, I'll have to take some photos of our sewing space and how we organize our supplies for a future blog post.
Monday May 21 - Day 21
I wore my shawl collar blouse and the bottom half of my pale green floral set. Gia never has to get dressed, and yet she is always beautiful.
Tuesday May 22 - Day 22
I wore my black shirt-dress with a thrifted vintage leather belt. Some day I will have to try remaking this pattern and drafting the longer 3/4 cuffed sleeves that the previous owner cut off and neglected to put back into the pattern envelope.
Wednesday May 23 - Day 24
I didn't get a photo because I was baking bread in a homemade smock dress and got quite messy with flour.
Thursday May 24 - Day 24
I wore my brown puff-sleeved blouse, a handmade ribbon pin, and one of my black Simplicity 7880 skirts.
Friday May 25 - Day 25
Fridays are usually a big housekeeping day for me, filled with laundry, cleaning, and cooking, and time spent in the studio and taking care of the animals and the plants, of course. So I went casual and simple in a black cotton dress and a homemade necklace made of tree agates.
Saturday May 26 - Day 26
We had an early Memorial Day picnic with my brother's family, my sister, and my grandparents, so I dressed up a little in my recently completed (and very comfortable) blue floral dress. Also the eagle-eyed among you might notice that Mr Rat was kind enough to trim my hair for me.
Monday 14 - Day 14
I wore my black banded dress with a vintage agate necklace that I restrung after it fell apart one day on the way to the library. Finding all the beads was impossible, so I made a new, shorter necklace out of what was left.
Tuesday May 15 - Day 15
I wore my peter pan collared blouse with a ribbon tie and one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts.
Wednesday May 16 - Day 16
I wore my recently completed rose blouse and one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts that I made during the winter.
Thursday May 17 - Day 17
We had a wedding reception to attend in the evening, so I accessorized my rose print dress with my rarely seen (and only) pair of high heels, a vintage hat that Mr Rat gave me as a Christmas gift, and a wooden beaded bag that I found for a dollar at the thrift store recently.
Friday May 18 - Day 18
Friday was a busy cleaning and laundry day and although I was wearing a homemade smock dress, I didn't get a photo of it.
Saturday May 19 - Day 19
I wore my navy cotton twill jacket and my navy broadcloth Simplicity 7880 skirt, along with an old ready-to-wear white collared shirt (one of the few things left in my wardrobe that isn't handmade) and a sterling silver brooch in the shape of the letter E.
Sunday May 20 - Day 20
I wore my pale blue gingham dress and a recently completed crocheted shawl. This is the first time I've read a crochet pattern on my own and been successful with the outcome, so I'm really pleased with this simple shawl (although I didn't read the pattern perfectly and the shawl is a little shorter than it was meant to be as a result----but I'm fixing that on the new version I'm slowly working on when Mr Rat and I watch an occasional movie in the evening).
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew