I found 1970s-era Simplicity 7100 at the thrift store and immediately thought that it would make a great cleaning dress. As a housewife-artist, a significant amount of my time every week is spent cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, baking, gardening, and doing messy tasks in the studio like gessoing new canvases, sanding panels, or washing brushes. I don't mind cleaning---in fact, I find that it helps me focus my mind and dissipate my anxiety. Bringing a little order to my surroundings can help me feel like I am bringing a little more order to my head and heart. But I get tired easily---I'm not sure if that is an effect of my depression or a different health problem, and I have to admit that there is something discouraging about the endlessness of cleaning. No sooner do I finish my mundane tasks than it feels like I must start them all over again. Routine can be calming, but it can also be stultifying and sometimes exhausting.
One way I've learned to deal with the harder aspects of cleaning is to dress up for it. This might sound counter-intuitive, since you don't want to get your nice clothes dirty, and cleaning is by nature a dirty task. But I've found that having a few items of clothing that I've made especially for cleaning out of durable materials like cotton, twill, and denim, and also setting aside some older dresses that I've retired from wearing outside the house, means that I can clean without feeling frumpy and messy and unattractive. Feeling at least moderately pretty and neat while I clean means that the large amount of time I spend doing it doesn't feel so burdensome. It also lifts my mood to wear something that I like, and a simple necklace or earrings, too. I don't have to worry about the way that I look if someone knocks on the door, and I feel more dignified in general, which is very helpful when doing tasks (like scrubbing out sinks) that can feel very undignified.
So when I see an interesting smock pattern, or in this case, jumper dress, I often consider its qualities as a cleaning outfit. This pattern looked like a great cleaning dress. And I already had about 5 yards or so of heavy dark brown cotton twill that I found at the thrift store for $9 last fall, that I thought would work perfectly with the simple lines of the flared A-line jumper. Twill would make my new jumper nice and durable for all kinds of indoor and outdoor tasks. The loose shape and the larger size (10, when I usually sew an 8) also meant that it would be very comfortable. The pattern is sized for maternity, but I asked my mom whether she thought it would work for a non-pregnant body, and she said she thought it would. Her experience sewing her own maternity clothes was that they were cut looser, but were otherwise not very different from regular patterns. So I bought the pattern for 50 cents, took it home and noticed that the only thing different about it was that there was a little extra length drafted into the center front of the dress, so I lined it up with the back and trimmed that extra amount off. I did add about two inches to the bottom of the dress when I was cutting it out because I wanted to make sure that it would hit my legs below my knees.
The rest of construction was easy: I was careful to finish all the seams with faux-flat fell stitching to keep them neat and from fraying (I've found in the past that twill tends to fray badly). I sewed in the zipper by hand and added a hook and eye at the top of the zipper to help keep the neckline closed. I folded and stitched a narrow machine-hem. The neckline facing is also folded and machine-stitched, and I top-stitched the neckline and arm-holes.
Because the dress is so loose, it sometimes slips a little backwards on my shoulders, which can make the hem look a little off from the side. But it is a minor issue for a dress that turned out the way I had hoped: perfect for cleaning, for tough jobs, for getting dirty, for being comfortable.
In these photos I'm wearing my new jumper with a very old t-shirt (my one and only, since I usually wear button-up shirts and blouses), my trusty old Lotta From Stockholm clogs, and a necklace that I made myself from leftover beads from other projects. And please pardon my unruly hair! It's getting to that length where sometimes it curls under and sometimes out, and I can never tell what it will do in the morning.
Do you ever sew anything with very specific tasks in mind? Have you ever made an outfit just for cleaning in?
This is the brown flannel dress that I had on my winter make-nine plans, which was hanging unfinished in my last update post. Now that I've completed it and am close to completing my cape, I think I'm almost half-way through my winter project list. Of course, I haven't stuck completely to it---I've also been cutting out other projects, and I made the jumper dress that I mentioned I was thinking about adding to my list at the time that I made that post (hopefully it will appear in a review here on the blog soon)---but bit by bit, I am working my way through my pile of projects.
I've made McCalls 6209 many times, and this is my third flannel version. I wear my navy blue dress and my black dress at least once a week through the long six months that make up the cold season here. Since I wear them so much, it felt like a good idea to make another version. This time I left the sleeves in a bell shape, my only change from my other versions. To make this simple change, I cut out the bishop sleeves included in the pattern, but left off the cuff and sewed a narrow hem instead. I was careful to interface the back zipper so it wouldn't ripple, and did a narrow machine hem on the skirt as well. I don't know if I've mentioned before that I don't usually use the skirt pieces included in this pattern. I like my skirts to be more full, so I usually cut a rectangular dirndl skirt using my favorite skirt pattern, Simplicity 7880, as a reference.
There is some sunshine now, and more rain than snow, and even some buds hesitantly turning green. It was just over 50 degrees when we took these photos yesterday while walking Gia at the park, and it was amazing how warm that felt. There were a lot of people walking their dogs in shirt-sleeves. I'm not so acclimatized as that, though, so I wore my new flannel dress with a petticoat, tights, and a shawl that I crocheted myself last year using this free pattern from Laughing Purple Goldfish designs. I also wore vintage brown leather gloves that I thrifted a while ago, and my purse for the day was a $2 basket that I also found at the thrift store. I made a liner for it using scraps of muslin and a white ribbon. It's just the right size for a purse, the woven wood is clean and sturdy, and the liner-bag keeps my things private. My necklace is home-made from unakite beads, which were a Christmas present from my husband. They were just right for St. Patrick's day. We made soda bread, which is my favorite part of that holiday.
I am looking forward to spring so much! I've started choosing patterns for the floral sheets from my last post, and I even finished sewing up my Easter dress last week. I can't wait until the world becomes colorful again. As quiet and restful as the brown and grey winter landscape is, I miss the variety that comes with the blossoming season.
Are you looking forward to the change of seasons where you live? Are you making sewing plans or already sewing projects for the next season? Do you like to sew something special for holidays? How do you adjust your sewing plans for the weather?
I took advantage of a bit of rare morning sun this morning to take a few photos of our sewing corner to show that there has been some progress made over the past few weeks, albeit rather slow. But as I mentioned in my previous post (and a very heart-felt thank you to everyone who left a kind and encouraging comment!) I've been struggling with my emotions this winter, and the weather has been very dark and stormy recently---not good for my spirit and not good for taking photos for this blog. This week we're only due for one storm, and some sun after that, so I hope I can photograph one of my two completed dresses or my nightgown that I haven't reviewed yet, or maybe even the flannel dress in the photograph above that is waiting for its neck facing, sleeves and hem to get done in the next day or two. The brown dress and cape are both from my winter make-nine list. I think that after I finish these two garments that it might be time to set some of the winter projects aside for later in the year, though, because I'm itching to make some warm-weather clothes to remind myself that within two months there will be warmer weather and more sun again. I do have some thrifted wool cut out for sewing projects that will work well for unpredictable spring weather, though, so I will probably keep slowly working my way through the cold-weather pile, but not feel stuck to finishing it before I start adding light cotton things in, too. Like an Easter dress for next month! I chose a pattern and made a few modifications and cut it out of a recently thrifted sheet----and I'm looking forward to getting started on it. It has flowers on it, and that makes me hopeful. I love flowers, and all the green, growing things. I can't wait to plant a garden, even if it's very small, and mostly in pots. It will be such a pleasure to see the green tips of leaves nudging their way out of the ground again.
Speaking of cotton and sheets, below is a photo of some more sheets that I've thrifted recently and am eager to turn into summer dresses, skirts and blouses. I was pleased and surprised to find two of the same pink floral patterned sheet (one is a little bit more faded than the other) at different thrift stores over the past month. The sheets are on the right hand side, and the left hand side is a different pile of second-hand fabric, which I hope will be destined to become the first quilt that I've made in about a decade---and the first quilt that Mr Rat has ever made. Mr Rat and I have been saving fabric from his Hawaiian shirts for about three years now, with the idea of making a quilt out of them. When they get stained or ripped or don't fit well anymore, then Mr Rat gives them to me and I harvest the buttons and cut the shirt into big pieces of fabric. We intend to make them into a quilt in the "Windmill" pattern for our queen bed. It will likely be a long, slow project, but that's all right. It's nice to have something to pick up and put back down, doing a little bit at a time. The windmills will be half patterned Hawaiian shirt cloth and half cream colored cotton from the big sheet that I found at Goodwill on sale for $1 that is at the bottom of the pile. I think that we finally have enough fabric to get started! Maybe more than enough. . .
And last, there is a photo of Gia, because she is beautiful, and the best of friends. And now, I'd better get ready to take her on a walk while the sun is still shining. And hopefully we will be back again to post soon, and more regularly again.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.