If this fabric seems familiar, that's because I've used it once before already this year: to sew my Valentine's Day dress. Even though it was just a thrifted sheet, the fabric was still much too lovely to toss out the large, usable scraps leftover from the dress. So I decided to test out a recent Ebay pattern acquisition: Simplicity 7460, which I cut in a size 8, but with size 10 length kimono sleeves. I like this pattern very much! It's really easy and quick, and the fit is great: loose without being baggy. I think it is the perfect summer top, and I'm sure I'll be making some more, because it is so comfortable to wear and so fast to make. I think this would be a great pattern for beginner seamstresses, since you don't have to worry about setting in sleeves or sewing a collar or anything else finicky.
These dark pink buttons are ones I harvested off of an old dress that I used to wear when Mr Rat and I were dating. I was very fond of that dusty pink floral dress, and sad when it got a big tear that I couldn't fix. So I've been saving the buttons all these years for something special, and I think this project was just right for them: I'm sure I'll wear this blouse a lot this summer and in summers to come, and the pink matches the rose print perfectly.
Mr Rat kindly took these photos of me wearing my new blouse in my parents' backyard while we were visiting them earlier this month. It did me good to see so much sunshine again, and the roses starting to bloom, and the nasturtiums and bougainvillea and pomegranates all so vibrant.
I'm wearing my new blouse with an old Simplicity 7880 skirt, made of thrifted cotton poplin.
This dress marks many firsts for me: first vintage vogue pattern (I tried sewing a few modern vogue patterns when I first started sewing my clothes again and had bad troubles with the fit every time, which scared me off from Vogue patterns for a couple of years), first buttoned front that overlaps a little ways under the waistband rather than going all the way down the dress, first pleated skirt, and first tucks.
The pattern is a 1970s Vogue American Designer Giorgio Sant'Angelo pattern in my usual size 8. It fit perfectly! So I think I can try other vintage Vogue patterns from the same era with new-found confidence. This particular pattern is actually designed to be made out of bed sheets, so my choice of a thrifted striped floral sheet from Goodwill suited it very well. I couldn't quite squeeze out enough fabric for the bottom ruffle, but I think the dress looks nice without it. With the ruffle I think it would have come down to my ankles, which is something to consider for future versions, but being a little shorter this time makes it more summery, I think. My only other change was inadvertent: since Vogue patterns can be rather scarce in portions of their instructions, I think I may have done the tucks on the sleeves on the wrong side, but I like the way they look, so I am not displeased with my mistake.
The construction is interesting: the whole skirt is pleated and then you turn up and sew the seam allowance on the back of the skirt only to create a casing for elastic. There is a sort of button fly detail in the front that was hard to figure out with the minimal Vogue instructions, but I managed it eventually. The fabric ties are pleated where they are sewn into the bodice sides. And the top of the sleeves are tucked (a very lovely detail), before they puff out down to the elasticized wrists.
Considering the greater level of detail, this dress didn't take me much longer to sew than any of my other dresses, which I find encouraging. I like the shape of it, and I think I'll likely make it again.
These photos of my new dress are also from our visit to our parents in California. I made this dress specifically to wear to an opening at the Getty Villa. We didn't get any pictures that night and I thought it was a shame not to wear such a pretty summer dress again while we were enjoying such warm weather, so I wore it again when we went to Descanso gardens with my Dad. It made me feel happy as a child to find some tall snap-dragons and make them 'snap.' And oh----the blossoming trees, and all the wildlife we saw! So many big frogs and turtles, all sorts of birds and insects and butterflies of every color. It was really a pleasant day to enjoy Spring.
Have you done anything special to celebrate the arrival of spring (or autumn, if you live in the southern hemisphere)?
These photos of my new spring outfit are a bit belated: Mr Rat took them on the same day that I took pictures of his tan linen shirt. And I actually sewed this outfit several months ago in February but it just wasn't spring-like enough to wear it right away. It wasn't quite spring at the beginning of this month, either, except for the blossoming trees and the very beginnings of leaves coming out on the willows. You can see also that the grass was growing green, but it was still very cold and windy. And so I'm afraid that my two-piece vintage dress made from 1970s McCalls 2592 (which I sewed last fall in denim) and Simplicity 7880 (which I have sewn many, many times) looks a little disheveled and wind-blown in these photos and so do I.
I made this outfit out of a queen sized sheet that I found at Goodwill. I suspect that it was homemade, since there was a zig-zagged seam that ran all the way down the middle, and an extra wide border where the Indian-inspired floral paisley print was turned sideways. Light green isn't a typical color for me, but I liked the old-fashioned print and decided to try it out, since $4 for a whole lot of fabric is not a large risk. The seam in the middle required some creative cutting, as you can see in the photo below. The collar, blouse, and peplum all have a seam down the middle back. And the wrinkles around my arms aren't typically there, it was just that I was hugging myself from the cold and wishing I could put my cape back on. We didn't get many other photos of the back of the dress, since it was a very quick, very cold photo shoot that day, so this one will have to do. The buttons are the inexpensive $1 'thin-line' sort from JoAnns, which I bought half-off on sale. It took me two sets of buttons to finish the front of the blouse, for a grand total of $1. It is a little hard to see in the soft grey light of these photos, but the buttons are a soft peach-pink that looks well with the pink flowers in the print of the dress. As usual, I finished the inside of the waist seam with bias tape, pinked the seams, stitched around the arm holes twice before I trimmed them, and used stiff waist-band interfacing to keep the waistband of the skirt from rolling. As a last construction note: I also cut the skirt so that the border was on the bottom, taking away the need to add any kind of hem, since the border was already finished on the edge.
I'm wearing my dress with my favorite vintage boots, stockings and a petticoat for warmth, and a vintage gold brooch shaped like a bouquet of violets that Mr Rat gave me for Valentine's day. My nephew gave the outfit his stamp of approval: it was the first time he told me that I looked 'very pretty.'
This week marks the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1138 people and injured many more. In remembrance of that great loss, all over the internet, people have been asking "who made my clothes?"
For me, that answer is simple. I make almost all of my clothes. This morning I counted my wardrobe and found that out of the 66 woven garments that I own, only 6 are not handmade by myself. That means that 91 percent of my clothes are made by me. I am not counting sweaters, knits, or underwear in the total number because I don't currently have the capacity to make those things, but in case you are wondering, my few sweaters and t-shirts fit neatly in a single drawer along with my one pair of jeans and my one set of exercise clothes. My socks and slips other delicates also fit in a single dresser drawer. I thrift most of my sweaters and turtlenecks, so I don't think they are adding much to the problems that beset global fashion right now. If you want to learn more about the toll that the fashion industry takes on garment workers, the environment, and even the people who wear clothes that they may not like but feel pressured into wearing and quickly discarding because they have no personal relationship with the garments on their body, there is a lot of information on the Fashion Revolution website.
I started sewing my clothes when I was quite a small child. My mom taught me how to sew with a plastic needle and plastic canvas when I was a toddler, and by the time I was seven years old she had me sewing myself a matching shirt (teal blue with a pattern of white cats---I'll have to find the photos of me wearing it to share some time) and shorts set (with lots of her help, of course). I remember crying when the thread would snarl up, and laying on the floor feeling like I would never finish. But I did finish that outfit, and I wore it until it was worn out. Although I made things here or there through my youth and teens, it took me until I was married and had a sewing machine of my own to take up sewing my own clothes again more seriously. It has been a long six years since then of learning and making that I am glad that I continued with. My classmates at art school questioned whether spending time doing things like sewing was worthwhile, especially if it took time away from art-making. It is something I have questioned myself, since sewing certainly takes time and patience. But it also brings creative and aesthetic pleasure, and it is part of the 'total work of art' which is life. Artists like Georgia O'Keefe (who sewed quite a few of her own clothes) and Frida Kahlo valued their clothes as a means of expression. Why shouldn't I, as an artist, a seamstress, and a woman?
Sewing my own clothes means that I have a personal relationship with my clothing. I get to wear things that I like and that fit me. My clothes are made from mostly thrifted fabrics and cheap remnants from the fabric district, so I can feel confident that I am making as little negative impact on this beautiful world that I love that I can.
Every year we have the chance to make a little progress if we keep practicing.
Do you make your clothes? How does sewing impact your life?
(The photo above is a sneak peak of a new review coming soon. I've got three sewing reviews worth of photos ready to post, so expect some action here on the blog in the next week!)
For this shirt, I chose a tan linen fabric. I felt like the natural color and rough texture of the fabric was appropriate for the style of this shirt. I took my time working on some of the details like getting the pockets to match as perfectly as possible, finishing seams, and carefully putting in even top stitching on the collar, pockets, and cuffs. I made a few changes to the original pattern. My version of the shirt has a placket on both front pieces of the shirt which made it necessary for me to draft a larger collar. This turned out to be fortuitous because it added an extra 3 cm or so that made the fit a little more appropriate. I am really happy with the outcome. The fit is excellent and the design is classic.
I, Mrs Rat, of Mr and Mrs Rat, do pledge to wear me-made garments and jewelry through the month of May. I pledge to minimize outfit repeats, wear as many me-made items as possible, and to be more adventuresome while creating outfit combinations. I will document this here on the blog and I will also attempt to document it on Instagram if time allows me to (you can find the link to my profile by clicking here) with the intention of discovering which sewing projects will be useful to plan for the rest of the year, how to make my wardrobe more cohesive and practical, and how to be more confident wearing my me-mades.
Are you planning on participating in Me-Made May this year? I like to photograph my outfits as part of the challenge, but Zoe, of So Zo What Do You Know, who runs the Me-Made-May challenge has made it clear that you do not need to take photographs or have a blog or social media account to participate. My first time participating in Me-Made May was last year (you can find the link to my posts on the right hand of the blog) and I thought that it was an interesting and challenging experience, and it did help me plan out my sewing projects for a while afterwards. You can find the sign-ups for this year's Me-Made May by clicking here. With fashion revolution week right before Me-Made May starts and right after Earth Day (Sunday, April 22) ends, I think it is a good time of year to ponder our relationship to our clothes and to consumption and production (since we are not just shoppers, but sewers and makers also). It is also a good time to plan for the rest of the year ahead, as we creep towards the halfway mark of June.
(the photo above is one I took of myself during last year's Me-Made May wearing a homemade blouse from a 1980s pattern, a homemade skirt from my favorite 1970s Simplicity 7880, and a homemade sodalite necklace)
Here is my way of using up fabric scraps: save up money, adopt two beautiful rats in a big cage, clean said cage with repeated scrubbing, cut leftover fabric scraps in pieces and use to decorate cage for rats, let rats enjoy. Enjoy rats. Repeat cleaning, cutting, decorating (also watching the rats redecorate), and enjoying.
Marigold and Daisy seem to like it, anyway. And I really like having pet rats again.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.