I feel as though almost all of my posts now start with an apology for the present irregularity of posts here on the blog, and I wish I could say that it is likely to change. . . But probably it won't, and posts will likely keep on being spotty for the rest of this year at least. 2018 has really been a rough one for Mr Rat and me. Every month has brought new challenges, unexpected problems, and all kinds of daily difficulties. November was no exception: first Mr Rat was sick with one of those head colds that makes it hard to sleep at night, and then we traveled to California for a week to visit his parents for Thanksgiving (luckily, he was feeling better by then), but when we got back I came down with some version of what he had. Between that and spending more weekends at family events now that we live closer to my parents and siblings, we just haven't had too many chances to take photos for the blog, even though we've both finished projects recently and have several other things in progress on our sewing table.
So I apologize! And hope that you will all be patient with the way life makes it hard to be consistent. Both Mr Rat and I care about documenting and reviewing our sewing projects for this blog, so don't worry----there will still be posts here, and I really do hope they will be more regular again next year. But until then, we'll just keep doing the best that we can.
All that being said, here are some photos I took with the tripod in the studio of a skirt set that I made to wear to California for Thanksgiving. Skirt sets are great to travel with, since I could wear the skirt with the blouse and then each separately with other tops and bottoms to make multiple outfits while packing very little. This particular set, which I sewed out of a $2 cotton queen-sized sheet that I found at Savers a few months ago, was also the perfect weight for enjoying the warm 70-degree California autumn days. I chose two tried and true patterns for my skirt set: my favorite 1970s skirt pattern Simplicity 7880, and the 1980s kimono-sleeved blouse pattern Simplicity 7460 that I sewed for the first time in the spring. What I didn't like about my first version of this pattern was that because the blouse is quite loose, it tends to shift around a bit while I wear it, making the lower v-neckline difficult to wear modestly. So this time I chose the higher, rounded neckline, which solved that problem nicely. It also makes it easier to wear this blouse under crew-neck cardigans, which is the only way I can wear it now that we've come back to Utah and found winter well arrived and settled in on the doorstep. But I know I'll be wearing it sweater-less next summer, and enjoying its versatility, practicality, and wearability. My favorite (and most worn) sewing projects combine those aspects with some artistic detail or bit of originality---in this outfit I think it is the subtle Victorian-like stripes that first drew me to buying the sheet, and also the spacing of the tiny buttonholes down the center front in sets of two. It took a long time to make so many buttonholes by hand, but it was worth it. I reused some tiny tan buttons salvaged from some old worn-out thrifted shirt that got turned into scraps some time ago to finish my top. The skirt was very simple and quick to make, since I used the existing deep hem of the sheet as the hem for the bottom of my skirt. I used waistband interfacing for stiffness, and also sewed in by hand a vintage metal zipper that I thrifted a long time ago. The seams are all finished with pinking shears.
And. . . I cut my hair. I've been thinking about it for a long time, but kept putting it off, and putting it off. I haven't stepped into a hair salon in about seven years. For most of that time, it just wasn't affordable for me to get haircuts, so my mom or Mr Rat would kindly trim my hair. And now that we have enough income that I can get my haircut without worrying about overwhelming our budget, I have been too frightened to go. When I was younger, the adults around me told me that I would grow out of my shyness. But I haven't, and the idea of talking to strangers can be enough to keep me from going outside on some days. Right before our trip I had a day where I was feeling up and brave and I decided I would walk to the salon first thing in the morning after my husband left for work----and I finally did it. My long hair was limp and straggly here in Utah because the humidity is so low. But with my new short hair, it has more wave and body again. Some days it curls a lot more than others, and most days it's a bit messy and wild, but overall I'm pleased with the change. Mr Rat likes it, so I think I'll keep it awhile.
I hope that you are all having a good close to your month, and that your start of December is peaceful, rather than stressful. The holiday season can be a hard one---but with some planning, it doesn't have to be more difficult than it has to be. At least, that is what Mr Rat and I are hoping. We are planning on going to a Christmas concert this weekend to celebrate the season. Is there anything that you do that is special to mark the upcoming end of the year or any of the many holidays that fall within the next month?
I made a black flannel version of 1970s-era McCalls 6209 almost exactly a year ago, and wore it so much last winter that I thought I'd better plan ahead and make another flannel version for this upcoming winter. In fact, I will eventually have three flannel versions of this pattern, since I also cut out a long-sleeve version in brown, which is awaiting my attention in my sewing basket. It's nice to have more than one dress I can rely on for extra warmth in frigid weather.
Since I've made this dress so many times before, I won't add any construction details this time. I'll just add that I'm wearing it here with a petticoat and stockings, and a glass bead necklace that belonged to my grandmother.
I hope that you are all having a good start to November, and that you had a safe and happy Halloween, if you live stateside.
Now that Folkwear has officially released their newest pattern, the 1940s Lindy Shirtdress, I can finally share my version of it with you all! While I was still on Instagram, I noticed that Molly Hamilton of Folkwear patterns had put out a call for sewers who were interested in pattern testing. I've never pattern-tested before and thought it would be an interesting opportunity, so I replied. I didn't get selected for the first round of pattern testing, but I did get an email inviting me to join the second, for this shirtdress. My reward for being a tester was a free copy of the test-pattern and 50 percent off a pattern of my choice from their catalog. I haven't sewn with Folkwear patterns before, mostly because they are rather expensive for me, so this was a lovely chance to get something I otherwise wouldn't. I ended up choosing the Gibson Girl blouse, partly because of some of the beautiful versions I've seen of it on the internet, like this one by Sallie Oh.
The photos above are the quick shots I took in my studio when I finished sewing the dress over a month ago. A week or so later, Mr Rat took the photos below while we were walking in the park. I've gifted this dress to my sister, who wears a lot of shirt-dresses to work (she is a professor). In the park photos, I'm wearing the dress with an experimental crochet purse that I made myself and a vintage brooch shaped like sewing scissors.
In terms of construction, this is one of the more complicated dresses that I have sewn thus far, with a shawl collar, pleats on the front bodice at the shoulder and waist, gathers in the back, cuffs on the 3/4 sleeves, a waist band, and a pleated and darted skirt made out of 5 panels (if i am remembering correctly). I used a piece of Indian block-printed cotton that I found at the thrift store in Santa Clara and had waiting in my stash for the right special project. This soft cotton was a good choice, because it was thin and easy to press and sew into the darts, pleats and gathers that give this dress its interest. It also had a nice, soft drape that made the flare of the skirt very lovely. The instructions of the pattern are clear and thorough, and I think that overall the dress has a good fit. I chose to sew a size small, although I'm right inbetween the measurements for a small and an extra-small. I think the next time I will sew this pattern I will adjust it for my own tastes: narrowing the shoulders, which are rather wide for my narrow shoulders (period appropriate to the 1940s, of course, but not my favorite look on myself), and possibly substituting a full gathered skirt for the pleated skirt. Changing the skirt should be easy, since the dress has a side zipper and the skirt is attached to a waistband that sits at the natural waist. All I have to do is make sure that I have a side seam that leaves an opening for the zipper.
If you've never tried Folkwear Patterns, I can now say that I recommend them. I think their patterns are unique and interesting and well drafted, and I look forward to trying more in the future.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew