One of the blogs that I follow, Zelophehad’s Daughters, posted recently about crafting and its soul-healing and spirit-enhancing qualities. It is an interesting read. The blog author writes about her childhood aversion to crafting and femininity, having internalized masculine scorn for female activities and dress, despising them for being silly and shallow. It made me think of the same conflict in my own childhood, when I wore dresses to school only to be told by my classmates that “It’s not picture-day” and was sometimes teased by my brothers for my puff sleeves and eyelet-trimmed aprons.
Who is afraid of puff sleeves? It is ironic, is it not, that the second-wave feminists should have adopted masculine clothes like jeans, t-shirts and flannels as signs of their liberation? What is wrong with wearing feminine clothes? I think that to wear puff sleeves and ribbons and lace and full skirts (if you like them) can be a sign of respect towards the feminine identity, towards the skillful sewing and interesting designs of seamstresses past, and can also perhaps be subversive in a day and age that asserts that if you wish to appear to be an independent thinker and a serious person, you must adopt the respectable garb of men.
Well, like Frida Kahlo, Louise Nevelson, Simone de Beauvoir, Louise Bourgeois, and other unabashedly feminine women who were undoubtedly very serious people, I am not afraid of puff sleeves or feminine clothes. And here is my latest sewing project as proof: the very puff-sleeved 1980s era Butterick 4625. I made a combination of view D with the long sleeves used for views A, B and C. It surprised me how quickly I managed to finish this blouse. It took me only about 4 days total from start to finish. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out how well it fit. I made a size 8 and despite worrying at a few points that the blouse was going to be too small or the shoulders might be too wide, it ended up fitting very well. Since the sleeves had quite a bit of puff, I improvised some sleeve heads to help them keep their shape out of leftover scraps of the brown cotton I used for the blouse. I made a bow to wear at the collar out of some ribbon and a safety pin, which I can remove to wear a necklace instead, or a brooch. It was nice to make a shirt that fit so well and yet didn’t need any darts. It all cost very little, too, since the fabric was from the thrift store, and the buttons were harvested off of an old shirt of my husband’s when it was worn out and stored in my button stash until I could use them.
I am wearing my new blouse with one of my homemade Simplicity 7880 skirts, this one made of poly-cotton broadcloth.
After a big failure last year with making a pair of slacks, I decided to focus on mastering shirt making. I had a great experience with the McCall’s M6044 western shirt that I reviewed previously, so I decided to try this one as well. I have to say that I didn’t like the fit initially. This pattern is unisex and I didn’t follow the fitting process that the Palmer/Pletsch patterns recommended. It seemed like a big hassle. After putting in the side seams though, I found there was too much flare near the hips and decided to bring them in about 1 ½ inches about midway down. This straightened the sides out but then caused the shirt to wrinkle in the back. My solution was to insert 2 ½ inch side slits to allow the shirt to fall more naturally. I made the shirt from cotton broadcloth that has a visible grain. I sewed the shirt with a vertical grain but used a diagonal grain for the pockets to provide a little detail. I like the shirt overall, but next time I think I will put in a curved hem instead of the straight hem and will need to remember to bring the side seams in before I do the seam finishing. It is a good pattern and I would recommend it with some minor alterations.
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.
After the briefest day or two of sunshine, rain and cold have returned for the rest of February, and I have been grateful to wear my new warm, grey woolen cape. Unfortunately the wind and the rain have made photographing it difficult, and I was happy to get even a few photos despite the dim light and the hard wind that was pulling my hair every direction during our walk.
This is my second version of Vogue 8959. This time I made view B, but added more buttons down the front using the button guide from view A to determine the distances between them. I wanted a warmer cape, so it needed to close down the front instead of flapping open. I used the same black leather buttons that I used on my previous version of the cape, reviewed here. I also topstitched the seams by hand like I did on my short cape, since I was pleased with how it looked.
The fabric is a charcoal grey wool-blend coating, found at the thrift store, but since I wanted it to be very warm, I underlined all the pieces in large scraps of cotton flannel left over from making my nightgown and robe, reviewed here. The fabric I used for the lining is also from the thrift store. It is a shiny black acetate, I believe, judging from the feel of the fabric. It wasn’t very easy to work with, because it was very slippery and frayed a great deal. It behaved the worst at the buttonholes, where it started fraying around my hand stitching. Luckily I had some fray-check which I used on the buttonholes and haven’t had any problems with them since.
This was Mr Rat’s first shirt, made from the same pattern he used for his chambray western shirt reviewed here. Since he has already written about his experience with this pattern, we’ll just keep this post to photos. Even the photos are from a while back----we’re so far behind posting all of our sewing projects! And we keep making new ones. . .
My parents visited Mr Rat and I this past weekend and took us to see the Winchester Mystery House. It was a special occasion, so I wore my new bandana-print dress made from 1970s-era Simplicity 6278 for the first time. I don’t typically wear a lot of prints, but I like the pattern of bandanas very much, and couldn’t resist making a whole dress out of bandana fabric. The fabric is a stiff cotton-polyester blend, bought from a fabric-wholesaler on Amazon with a Christmas gift card. It came out of the wash a little softer than it went in, so hopefully this dress will get softer with time, although the stiffness gives the tiered and ruffled skirt more body, and is not uncomfortable to wear. When we went to the Winchester house it was a rather cool morning, so I wore my new dress with a black wool shawl and a Mexican silver necklace, both recent lucky thrift store finds.
I made the pattern in a size 8, as usual, and the only adjustment I made was to shorten the bottom tier of the skirt to just above my ankles, for ease of walking, and to widen it so the ruffle would be fuller. The pattern is not difficult for a sewer with previous dress-making experience. The bodice is somewhere between an empire and a raised waist, with darts in the front and back and a square neckline with a facing. The sleeves have cuffs that are meant to be closed with snaps, but I sewed buttons and button-holes on mine, out of personal preference. The tiered skirt has many pieces that are sewn together and then gathered at the top and attached to the tier above it. It is a little tricky to space the fullness evenly. I did a lot of edge-stitching to help make the dress durable and the seamlines smooth. The bottom ruffle has a narrow turned and machine-stitched hem.
I liked the Winchester house very much. It is a poetic, dusty place, a sprawling, labyrinthine palace that only the child-sized woman who built it probably ever truly understood. There are windows into rooms, hallways, floors---rooms that sprout out of rooms----doors that go nowhere----a stairway that ends suddenly at the ceiling----ornate wrought-iron elevators long rusted shut----a basement supposedly haunted by ghosts still stoking the long-dead fires of the enormous iron boilers----Tiffany glass windows gleaming in unexpected stacks and heaps in otherwise empty rooms. The rooms were not as large as I thought they would be. The carved wood ballroom was only large enough for maybe a dozen people or less to dance. But there are so many rooms---more than 160 in total, that they add up to quite a large house indeed. The two kitchens, the large laundry and the many beautiful pantries (one lined in marble to keep in the cool air) made me jealous---they must have been lovely and comfortable work spaces for Mrs. Winchester’s servants. When you stand outside in the gardens studded with her Victorian statues, you can close your eyes and imagine hundreds of acres of fruit orchards all around, heavy with the scent of blossoms and plums and apricots and peaches. A domain fit for a queen.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.