Before I get into reviewing this pattern, please let me first thank all of you who left kind and supportive comments on my last post from the bottom of my heart. I really appreciate the advice, the sympathy, and the solidarity. And I also want to mention that I was (and still am, a bit) worried about posting about the challenges I am sorting through this year. It is a hard balance between sharing real struggles, over-sharing personal details on the internet, and maybe worst of all---coming across as ungrateful and complaining when I think there are surely readers who are facing far worse challenges with health, finances, loss, grief, heart-break, or any number of terrible burdens. I know that I have much to be grateful for, and I am grateful for the good things and good people in my life---even as I simultaneously struggle with a sense of helplessness and discouragement about the things and people that are not good or whom I have lost, the slow pace of positive change in my own life, and how much I yearn for many things that are not available to me right now. I think those feelings are something that anyone who is struggling can relate to, and that was why I chose to post about some of my current struggles here (at least those not related to family or friends, as I wouldn't feel comfortable posting about problems in a public forum like this that involve other people other than Mr R and myself). I hope that you will forgive me if I was at all insensitive in my last post.
Sewing does play a role in facing and coping with hard feelings because sewing can offer small changes, and dignity, and self-expression. I value all of those things, and I value the conversation that I have with all of you, and want to thank you again for being here. As this hard year progresses, I am trying to using sewing's good qualities to keep bringing small, good changes into my life.
Now I will write a short review of my latest summer blouse. I often cut out sewing projects in batches, as cutting out fabric on the floor isn't my favorite part of the sewing process, and then I can sew several projects in a row without having to stop and do that step again. So I've had this peasant-style blouse cut from 1970s era Simplicity 8305 for a little while. I decided after a few sewing flops earlier this summer that I should focus on the simpler projects: ones that I am pretty sure that I will wear and like. This pattern reminded me a lot of a black gauze peasant blouse that I had for several years in California before it wore out. I've never found another one at the thrift store, so I thought that I should finally make my own and hopefully fill that long-standing hole in my closet.
I'm glad that I did, because this blouse turned out well. It is surprisingly generously cut, which gives it a flowing look, and also gives me no qualms about any possible size-changes in the future necessitating its removal from my closet (as I mentioned in my last post has happened to a lot of my more fitted clothes over the past few months). The lightweight brown cotton voile has a raised pattern of dots that give it a little bit of interest, and made it a little more challenging to sew, as my machine foot and needle didn't like getting over the dots very well. But my old Singer is very sturdy and managed, and the voile is very light on hot days. The slit down the front was too low when I finished the blouse, so I sewed it up a bit by hand and it still fits over my head just fine, as the neckline is relatively wide in the first place. The fabric was a remnant I picked up very cheaply in the LA fabric district a few years ago, so I'm glad that I finally used it, and that now it is a versatile summer blouse that I will wear often in the heat.
After such a positive review, it may be surprising that I don't plan on using the pattern again. But about a month ago I found an almost-the-same 1970s pattern at the thrift store that had a skirt and vest pattern with it that I liked better than this current one----and it has a draw-string neckline, which would make the blouse a little more adjustable. So I plan to keep the new, thrifted pattern, and send this one back to the thrift store for its turn to get chosen and used by someone else. If you ever come across a copy, I would still recommend it as a simple, elegant blouse, with clear instructions, and not too difficult for even a patient beginner to make.
In these photos that I took on our front patio with our sunflowers, I am wearing my new blouse with a brown skirt that I made almost two years ago, and new brown clogs that I found at a recent trip to the thrift store with my mom. It was a great find, as my over-five year old black clogs just got too uneven on the bottoms to wear anymore.
Please look forward to a new post from Mr Rat soon! I took some photos with him of his most recent sewing project and I'm excited that he will share them here as soon as he has time to sit down and write a review of his own.
It’s probably apparent that Mr Rat and I have been struggling to keep up with this blog. We’ve both been facing---some new, some old----challenges in the past year and a half since we moved from California to Utah. I thought that it might be useful to look at a few of those challenges here, both to help me sort them out and make plans to hopefully adjust to or overcome some of these problems, but also to offer support to those of you readers out there who are facing similar or different challenges. Sometimes we need a reminder that behind the photos of the beautiful things that we wish to highlight and remember and share on the internet, there is a continuum of daily living that includes many real struggles that also need to be considered and acknowledged.
A few of the challenges that Mr Rat and I are facing that relate to our ability to sew, photograph, and share about our sewing here on the blog include:
Right now, I am trying to solve the sewing problems in a few ways:
I know that this was a lengthy post, and probably more for my own benefit to be able to write things down and think about them, but what do you readers think about these issues? How do you deal with changes to your body as you slowly sew a workable wardrobe? How do you deal with sewing for different climates when you move states (or countries)? Does your sewing act therapeutically for you when you are stressed or sad or depressed? Or does it become another burden when things aren't working out on your sewing table or away from it? How does your self-image and the way that it changes over time as you get older and more experienced change the things that you want to sew or the way that you present yourself on the internet or in person to the rest of the world? How do you balance sewing with the many other demands on your time and energy---especially during difficult times when you might be care-taking for a loved one who is sick, or helping a friend in need, or feeling overwhelmed with the demands of work or church or family or just getting from day to day?
In my last post I mentioned that I wanted to sew a few more things before we took our trip to San Diego to visit my husband's parents. Well, I only managed to sew one thing: this checkered tan smock dress made from one of my tried-and-true favorite patterns, Simplicity 9343 circa the 1990s. And I didn't even get these photos on the blog in a timely fashion either, for which I apologize. I feel like the explanation for my here-again, gone-again relationship to the blog this year is a bit lengthy and requires a blog post in itself, which I am working on and hope to post here soon. But the shorter explanation for my current disappearance from the internet is that Gia got sick again in July and I spent most of the month going to and from the animal hospital with her and managing a barrage of new medications to try to get her stable again. She is currently doing well, and recovering from the last of her infections. We are hoping that her current recovery will last a while, because the last three months have seen far more trouble than peace in her health.
Back to this dress: since I only sewed one thing for this trip, I'm glad that this is what I sewed! The fabric is a sheet that I found half off at Savers, one of our favorite local thrift stores, which means that the dress only cost me $2, as I already had interfacing and white thread in my sewing cabinet. Beyond being a thrifty make, it was a comfortable and lightweight choice for travelling, being in the car for long periods of time, and walking around in the dust and the heat. The long hem and sleeves kept me from worrying about sunburn, and the loose fit kept me from feeling too hot and confined. The only adjustment I made to the pattern is one that I've done on all my previous versions of the pattern: changing the elastic casing at the bottom of the sleeves for a narrow sleeve band that slips over my hands instead. I used the hem of the sheet for the hem of the dress, so it went together quite quickly and easily. This is a pattern that I would highly recommend to any beginner sewers looking for a manageable project that doesn't require fitting, darts, or closures, or for more advanced sewers looking for an easy summer dress that is extremely comfortable to wear.
I made a matching square kerchief out of a large scrap of the same gingham fabric so I can cover my neck while hiking or getting into the cooler weather of fall in another month or two. But I didn't bring it with me to the zoo, so it's not in any of these pictures. I mention it here because I think that making a matching kerchief, scarf, or bandanna is a useful way to use up some more fabric scraps. A lot of my 1970s patterns include a pattern for a shawl or kerchief---a useful addition. I wish that more modern patterns included those kinds of extras. Some of my vintage patterns also include extras like purse or pouch patterns, or ties and bows that can be tied at the collar or belted around the waist. Since our rats passed away earlier in the summer, I have to be more inventive about using our fabric scraps. I imagine that you'll see some posts about that in the future as I work my way through our scrap basket and come up with different uses for the ongoing problem of sewing project leftovers.
We did two exciting things on our trip to San Diego: we visited the art museum and saw a beautiful show of Spanish golden age artwork, and we visited the San Diego Wild Animal Park, which is the more distant partner of the San Diego Zoo in Balboa Park. The Wild Animal Park is set much further back in the hills of rural San Diego County, and boasts a large "safari" area of the park where many species of African animals mingle together in a very extensive multi-acre enclosure that imitates their native savanna habitat as closely as possible, all the way down to the native African varieties of grass that are grown for the animals to eat. We had a really nice day there. Our favorite part of the park was the Australian section, where they had an enclosure you could enter to walk around with kangaroos, wallabies, and a variety of ducks. If the marsupials approached the path, you were allowed to reach out and pet them gently. There were a few babies there, and the smallest was aptly named Clementine (her mother's name was Orange). You can see her in the photo below. I wish that I could be so effortlessly good looking, and charming besides!
My husband took all of these lovely, amazing photos, except the ones of the two of us, which were kindly taken by my mother-in-law.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.