I apologize for the grainy photos----but at this point in the winter, I will take any weak ray of sunshine that I can get. Photographing indoors right now is much easier for most garments than outdoors while there are still mounds of snow everywhere, and ice patchily melting.
This is actually a garment that I sewed in November of last year to wear on our Thanksgiving trip to San Diego. When Mr Rat and I visit his parents, we are outdoors a lot, and sometimes help out cleaning up after the many animals on their property (Mr Rat's mother runs a successful petting zoo business and has miniature horses, ponies, miniature goats, ducks, chickens, and many beautiful rabbits scattered around their large yard). We also like to pick fruit and weed Mr Rat's cactus garden that he planted when we moved away from California and had to leave our potted cacti and succulents behind. While I do wear dresses and skirts while I'm in San Diego, sometimes it's useful to have my legs fully covered in denim, so I decided to attempt to make myself some jeans before we went last fall.
I was lucky enough to thrift a large piece of dark, heavy denim two or three years ago----almost five yards, I think, and 60 inches wide. It was very inexpensive, so I decided to go ahead without doing a muslin first and just try sewing up a pair of denim trousers using the 1970s Betsey Johnson pattern Butterick 3846, also found at the thrift store. I've made some pants from size 8 1970s patterns before (a while before I started this blog) and found that they fit----but just barely. They were too tight to be comfortable. My measurements are really closer to a full size larger for my lower body than my upper body, so I decided that making a size 10 might work And it did, even better than I thought it might. The crotch depth is rather low, but I think that goes with the 1940s-style of these wide-legged pants. I think the lower rise is necessary to make this style of high-waist pants comfortable to sit and walk in, since the denim has no stretch. The darts at the front and the back make the fit quite good, I think, and I like the high waist and wide waistband that make it easy to tuck in my shirts. I was careful to finish my seams with machine stitching on the inside to prevent fraying, I edge-stitched the waistband and the hem, and I used some heavy buttons that I bought at JoAnn fabric stores for the waistband closure and a metal jeans zipper for the front fly (my first time attempting one of those!). I did the buttonholes for the waistband by hand, which was a bit of a chore with such heavy fabric. But a thimble made it happen, and I put some fray-check on the inside, just to make sure it was as stable as possible. I didn't add the patch pockets this time, although I think I might the next time I need to make some pants. I did add some belt loops out of left-over scraps so I can wear a belt when I wish. The other thing I did to make the pants more sturdy was to sew the crotch and inner leg seams twice, to help them withstand the strain of movement. I left the hems rather long so I can wear my jeans with clogs, but when I'm wearing them with flats I just roll up the hems a little into a cuff, which has a rather 1940s look.
I was really impressed by how well our 1940s Singer 15-91 sewed through denim! On my old contemporary machine I would have been worried about straining the motor, but with our all-metal vintage Singer and a jeans needle, it was no problem at all.
I'm wearing my still-pretty-new jeans with a chambray shirt that I found on the clearance rack at a local thrift store for a dollar. It had a big tear near the original cuff, so I cut them off, sewed up a new hem on my machine, and rolled the sleeves up. I don't often do refashions, but occasionally I find something at the thrift store that I like well enough to take home and mend, like this shirt. I love the color and the faint floral pattern, and think it will make the perfect comfortable cleaning/work shirt.
I'm also wearing my old Lotta from Stockholm clogs and a thrifted sweater.
Here is my first completed project from my "Winter Make Nine" plans. A photo of the pattern I used for my new blouse, McCalls 5771---A 'Marlo's Corner' pattern circa the 1970s in my usual size 8---is in my previous post. McCalls 5771 is a very simple blouse pattern, perfect for a beginner who wants to try making a vintage, sightly Edwardian looking shirt. There are no bust darts, so the fit is slightly loose. The sleeves are gathered, (and rather more generously puffed than I thought they would be based on the pattern envelope illustration) which made setting them in very easy. The cuffs are very basic; in fact, I'm not sure how to describe the way they simply fold over to button without a lap in-between----just fabric that has been folded up and stitched. The collar is also basic: just a long rectangle that is set on more in the manner of a waistband than other collars I've done. I'm not sure about the shape it gives the collar; it tends to flatten a little in the front where it buttons. But overall, I think it is a good basic shirt design, and a quick sew (at least up until the time for buttonholes and buttons).
The material I used was a thrifted cotton sheet with small grey stripes. I edge-stitched the collar, front, hems, and cuffs for crispness, pinked the seams on the inside, did the button-holes by hand, and used some plain white buttons that I bought on sale at JoAnn fabrics to finish everything off.
I'm wearing my new blouse in these photos with my still-serviceable old grey wool skirt and my dark grey wool cape. And of course two warm pairs of socks, a petticoat, some thrifted grey leather gloves, and my old leather boots. We were lucky to get these photos before the next storm blew through and left almost a foot of crusty white snow. Trying to document sewing projects in the winter time is always challenging.
I've been intrigued by how many #makenine references I've seen around the internet over the past few years. If you're not familiar, it is a challenge set up by Rochelle New of the blog Lucky Lucille and the small business Home Row Fiber Co. The concept is to choose nine sewing (or knitting or crocheting, etc.) projects to be completed throughout the year at any pace. Since my end of the year review shows that I make far more than nine projects a year, and one of my goals is to plan out more of my projects in advance, I thought that I'd try to make two sets of "make nine" plans: one for cold weather, and one for hot weather. Utah doesn't have much in-between weather---it hardly ever hits the 60s or 70s. Mostly it is in the 50s or below or the 80s and up. So while we live here, I think it might help to have two defined wardrobe planning categories, and I thought I'd start by sharing the nine patterns that I have cut out and ready to sew over the next three months of winter.
Starting in the upper left corner and going roughly clockwise:
McCalls 5994 - I have the jacket and skirt cut out of thrifted navy pin-striped wool.
Simplicity 7752 - I thought this might work to layer under the jacket of McCalls 5994 as another option from the matching skirt. This is cut out of a thrifted navy cotton-polyester sheet.
Simplicity 9842 - This is also cut out of the same thrifted navy cotton-poly blend sheet. I'm going to make the long-sleeved version, which should work well year-round, and I can wear it with the navy wool McCalls suit for a monochromatic look.
McCalls 5766 - I cut this out of some black flannel that I bought from JoAnns on sale. I wear my flannel dresses a lot in the winter, and would like another option. This one will be maxi length, and I'm excited to try out this pattern and to have a cozy long dress.
McCalls 5771 - This one is almost done, actually. It is laying on my sewing table waiting to have the cuffs finished and buttons done. I made it out of a thrifted white sheet with pale grey stripes. I think this will look nice with my grey wool skirt or grey wool jumper.
Simplicity 7880 - I just cut out a new version in black flannel, to add some warmth to my selection of skirt bottoms for the colder months. I wear my other versions a lot, but they are mostly made out of broadcloth, and I need some heavier, warmer ones.
McCalls 5531 - This is going to become my new brown wool winter coat (although lengthened, and with the skirt widened a little). My mom gave me the wool for my birthday, and I have it cut out, as well as brown flannel left over from another dress I cut out for interlining the bodice and sleeves, and lining that I bought using a birthday gift card from JoAnn fabric stores.
New Look 6073 - I started sewing this before I got my coat supplies, and have been taking a long time finishing all the hand top-stitching, which is why I haven't started my coat. But I'm getting close to finishing, and I think I should be able to wear it over my coat for extra warmth on extra cold days. This is made out of thrifted camel colored wool and thrifted rayon lining (a really lucky find, especially considering it is in a matching, slightly darker shade of camel-gold!).
McCalls 6209 - I have this cut out of brown flannel, also bought on sale at JoAnns.
I do have two other projects I'm tempted to add in, even knowing that I might not get all this done during the winter months. The other two are a black and white cotton-poly blend dress that would work for the warm months, too, and a brown twill jumper dress, which could also be worn year round. So if I don't get to them yet, they will probably be on my warm-weather list. And if I don't get to all of the projects I have cut out, I'm not too worried. I will just start up again on them in the fall, as they are all things I want to wear, and I will still need warm clothes next winter, too.
When planning out sewing projects (especially nine at once!), it's hard not to think about the time needed for the projects, the patience, the skill-----the endurance. When I was writing this post, I wondered if "thoughts on patience" might be the right title, but then I felt like endurance is more accurate: sticking with something until it's done, even if it is tiring, or hard. Mr Rat and I were having a conversation about sewing and other people's perceptions of it. When he tells his coworkers that he likes to sew, or when I mention that we sew to people at church, we both experience the same reaction: sewing is generally seen as being too time-consuming, and scary to start doing because it requires the acquisition of so much skill. But like making art, or learning a language or a musical instrument, it is really endurance that is required most of all. There are two important steps in sewing: first---to get started, and second---to stick with it. Mr Rat and I started this blog almost three years ago to record our projects and to make that record public in case our sewing pattern reviews and the other things that we post might be helpful to anyone else. But Mr Rat wondered if our current intermediate to advanced level of sewing might seem daunting to a sewing-newcomer, which made us both reflect on how we got started sewing. It was messy! It was frustrating. I learned the basics as a child, and I can assure you that there were temper-tantrums and crying on the floor, and claims that I'd never get over being scared of the machine. Anything that we do with our hands requires muscle memories built up over a long period of time to really get comfortable and skillful. Mr Rat just decided to recycle two of his oldest self-made shirts into fabric he can use as patches on new shirts. And they look so different from his most recent shirt, finished three years later. I had been sewing my own clothes as an adult for at least three years before we started this blog, so my first wonky projects are not on the internet. But I remember them, and how when I made them I wished to be better, and sew more complex things. And years later, I am a better seamstress (although striving to get better, still) and I can sew my own coats and capes and complicated blouses and dresses (with tucks and handmade buttonholes and darts that are not bubbly), things that I struggled to even attempt when I first started sewing regularly again.
I just wanted to mention this as an encouragement to the beginners, as well as all of you more experienced sewers: it's important to keep on enduring. Practicing is the only way to get better, and even if it is tiring, it is worth while. Because after a year, two years, a decade. . . then you can look back and see that elusive progress that you dreamed of. The process may feel hard, just like looking at a long list of projects can be daunting at the beginning. But I know that over months of an hour spent here or there at the sewing machine and the ironing board, these projects will get made and posted about here, and then I will get to have the pleasure of wearing them, and feeling like myself every day. And getting a little better at sewing along the way. All of our goals have to be reached one step at a time, and just sticking with it----enduring----is how to get there. It doesn't take anything more special than to just keep trying.
I have always admired shirts and coats with elbow patches. I really like the contrast they add especially when they are made of leather, corduroy, or wool. I was really excited to make this Sunday and Sons Work flannel to keep me warm during these long and cold winter months. I spent a good deal of time getting the pocket patterns just right and making sure the plaid matched in just the way I liked. I used the brown corduroy not only for the elbow patches but also on the inside of the cuffs, under the collar, under the pocket flaps, and as trim on the sleeves and side seam hems. I like these little details. They are small but unique and add more character to the shirt. I feel like flannel shirts should be roomy so I made the extra-large version (which is really more like a large in U.S. sizing). It feels comfortable, the fit is good, and the style is right on.
As you can tell from this last photo, Mr Rat and I are teaching ourselves how to play the classical guitar. Our new guitar was an exciting Christmas gift. We've never had our own instrument before, and we are both excited about this! We both play piano (but don't have access to one) and Mr Rat plays a little bit of saxophone, from a long time ago, so learning how to play a stringed instrument is a new learning process for us both, and one that we are enjoying. Mr Rat looks so handsome practising in his new home-made flannel!
This post is catching up from last year, as I made this smock and matching purse in the fall and only managed to wear them outside once before snowy weather blew in. Now that we are in the depths of winter, I've given up on the idea of photographing out in the landscape (at least until I have a heavy wool garment to share), and am going to try to take some photos in my studio on sunny days instead. And maybe this way I can catch up some of the things that I sewed last year and haven't had a chance to review yet.
My sewing cabinet housed almost 5 yards of this nice rust-colored corduroy for four years or so from the day that I originally found it at the thrift store to the long overdue day when I finally chose a pattern for it. The pattern I finally picked out, 1970s-era McCalls 3483, was also a thrift-store find. It is a size larger than I usually make, which made me uncertain about buying it, but for 50 cents I thought it was worth a try. When I imagined pairing it with my long-neglected corduroy, I thought that going a size up wouldn't make a difference to a loose over-garment, and I was right. I was actually surprised that I didn't need to narrow the shoulders, and the fit was good without any adjustments. I remember reading in one of my sewing books that the difference between pattern sizes is about 1 inch overall---which is a big difference if you are trying to make a fitted garment, but is very little difference in a loose or flowing garment so long as the fit is good around the shoulders. The one curious bit about the fit of this garment that I noticed is that the smock looks much shorter on the drawings on the pattern-cover compared to how it fits me in real life---which is almost down to my knees. I'm an average 5 foot 5 inches, in case any one else out there has this pattern and needs a reference for the length.
Since corduroy tends to shed and fray, I was careful to do faux-flat fell stitching on all of the seams, which had the nice benefit of giving them a top-stitched look on the outside. I also did top-stitching on the collar to keep it neat, as well as the cuffs and the narrow hem. I also used some scraps of old thrifted bias binding and sewed them by hand to the edges of the inside facing and sleeve openings so they won't have trouble going through the wash. This gave them a clean and neat finish, as well. McCalls 3483 has a lot of nice details: over-sized patch pockets, puffed sleeves with big cuffs, an exaggerated collar, and a neat yoke opening. Since the button closures called for loops, and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of trying to turn corduroy inside out (that sounds like a recipe for a headache), I cut little pieces of the selvage of the fabric and rolled them into little tubes and sewed them shut by hand. Then I made them into button loops and sewed them on to the yoke and cuffs by machine. The buttons are from JoAnns. I took my smock with me to see what kind of ball-shaped button I could find that matched the fabric, and was really happy to find these nice faux-leather ones in just the ride shade of ochre.
I think this smock makes a stylish alternative to wearing a sweater indoors all winter long. And in the fall and the spring, it is the perfect lightweight pullover jacket. I made a purse to match it out of scraps leftover from my smock and a wooden purse handle set that I bought half-off from JoAnns for the grand total of $4! The inside of the purse is lined with scraps from my Folkwear shirtdress. The last of the corduroy scraps leftover from both smock and purse recently got used by my husband as details on a shirt he is almost finished sewing. This ended up being a rather thrifty outfit, especially worn over my old brown smock dress that has some paint stains on it (which my new corduroy smock nicely covers up), and worn with the clogs that were given to me for my birthday. It makes me glad that we can take something that no one wanted and use every scrap of it to make not just one, but three interesting new useful things that will bring pleasure to Mr Rat and me.
I know this photo is terribly blurry, but Gia looks so charming that I couldn't resist adding it.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.