About two weeks ago I decided to try a small experiment to cheer myself up: I thought that I would try to make myself some hair flowers. I've seen many beautiful women in the online vintage community wear them, but when I've looked on Etsy they've always been a bit out of my price range. Besides, I like to make things with my hands, and the one or two YouTube tutorials I could find made it look pretty easy. And it was. Hair flower clips are easy, inexpensive, and quick accessories to make that have a big impact on outfits, and help a bit with feeling cheerful, too. And also hiding hair that is growing out, if you, like me, have that problem too.
Frida Kahlo and Paula Modersohn-Becker, two artists who I admire very much, both used to wear flowers in their hair when they painted. Paula Modersohn-Becker said that she loved to dress up to paint and put flowers in her hair, as it was a special occasion for her, and something worth celebrating by looking her best.
The orange chrysanthemums in my hair were a gift from my mom that she found at a local dollar store. The little orange flowers were on sale for a dollar at Michaels craft stores. I'm wearing them with a new dress that I made recently and hope to photograph with Mr Rat soon.
Without further ado, a simple tutorial for making your own hair flowers, if you're so inclined:
- fake flowers of your choice
- alligator hair clips or bobby pins
- a piece of green felt
- a hot glue gun and hot glue sticks (it is helpful if your glue-fun is a low-heat glue-gun, as it is easy to burn yourself working with small objects like the flowers and hair clips)
The first thing you will want to do is pull the leaves and flowers off of the stems. You can discard the stems or cut the wire and re-use it for some other craft project.
The fake flowers have a tube of plastic that sticks out of the back where they were connected to the stems. You will want to take your scissors and cut it off as close to the base of the flower as possible.
Next you will want to cut a circle out of the felt to cover the plastic base of the flower.
If you choose to add the leaves from your fake flower stems for your hair clips, hot glue the leaves to the base of the flower, then hot glue the circle of felt over the top. You may need to hold it between your fingers just long enough for the hot glue to set.
Next you will put a line of hot glue on the flat part of your alligator clip or bobby pin and press it to the back of the felt, trying to keep the flower and leaves positioned to cover the clip as much as possible. Set aside to let cool completely.
A completed hair flower clip!
I made a set of orange flowers for me, and two sets of pink flowers for my niece. She was delighted.
If you give this tutorial a try, or have done this before---tell me about it in the comments! I hope that you enjoyed this simple craft, and that it might cheer you up every time you put flowers in your hair (or give them as gifts to a special friend or family member).
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.
Thank you for your patience with my sudden absence from the blog, and for the many kind and supportive comments that you made about my pets' health. The rats are at rest now, and Gia has recovered from her infection. It's been a hard few weeks, but I've gotten back to work in the studio, and I've started sewing again, too.
This is my most recently sewn project, and for once, I felt better about it once I put it on than when I was putting it together! It's nice when a project turns out better than you expected, rather than worse (or when you feel uncertain or indifferent towards it---those can be discouraging feelings, too). I think this may be my ideal prairie dress: a solid dark color trimmed in one of my two favorite trims (eyelet ruffling and ribbon, if you are curious), with a big sweep of skirt, interesting sleeves, and great comfort of wear. I've noticed that pullover dress patterns from the 1970s can be very ingenious, and this is one of the most interesting ones I've come across yet. Essentially it is a big smock dress with a ruffle at the bottom and a belt that is sewn on just at the top of the triangle near the bust-line/neck-line. All of the shape comes from tying the belt---which looks so deceptively like a sewn-on midriff---into a bow in the back over the very full trapeze-style skirt. This means that the waistline is fully adjustable, and because the rest of the dress is quite loose, it could be worn comfortably no matter how my body shape might subtly fluctuate. And yet it looks quite fitted! I think that this is rather a remarkable sewing feat, and I am very impressed by whoever drafted this dress.
It took me about a week to sew. The most complicated part was inserting the eyelet along the bottom ruffle, as it had to be sewn upside down into the seam allowance and then the ruffle sewn over the top and all of it turned and ironed downward. I'd never done that before, but it worked out fine, with only one little bit getting caught in the seam and needing un-picking. The eyelet also gives the big sleeves some more shape and definition.
The fabric is some 100 percent cotton poplin that I got for Christmas from my husband. It was only $2.70 a yard (and had free shipping) which I think is quite a good price for such nice, crisp cotton. I still have almost half the yardage left, so there will likely be another navy poplin summer dress here on the blog at some point. The eyelet was thrifted long ago, and even though I used a lot on this dress, I still have a little bit of it leftover for some other neckline, some other time. This dress really needs the eyelet, as otherwise this particular neckline would be just too low. This particular pattern was a Christmas gift, as well.
I feel like I now have a great prairie-style summer dress to wear to church or family picnics or going to the farmer's market. I like sewing projects that can be worn on nice occasions or more casually. My wardrobe space is not large, so the more versatile items I have in it, the easier it is for me to get dressed every day. Having this dress be a success is an encouraging start to my summer sewing. I'm working on a simple gathered navy skirt now to replace an old one that got worn out, and then I hope to sew some simple summer dresses and blouses, especially ones that I can wear walking and hiking and that are light and cool in the heat that I know is coming.
What are your summer sewing plans? Or winter, for those of you who reside in the other hemisphere?
Easter is my favorite holiday. Even more than Christmas or Thanksgiving, I find it a hopeful holiday----a reminder that second chances are possible, that spring comes after winter, that warmth and light come back after darkness, and that death is part of the cycle of life and rebirth and renewal that all things go through. I love Easter hymns, and reading about Christ, and pondering the challenges of trying to practice faith and be genuine in my heart.
When I can, I enjoy making a new Easter dress to make going to church and family dinner feel even more festive. This year I decided to go back to an old favorite pattern: 1970s-era Simplicity 5497, which I have made once before. I like the fit of my original striped dress, which I wear often, and have been meaning to make a new version. When I started thinking of what I wanted to make for Easter, I thought immediately of that pattern, with a few changes. This time I made the short puffed sleeves, and I tried doing a little pattern drafting by tracing out the collar pieces and taking out 2 inches of width to make a much narrower peter pan collar. I was hoping to get a slight 1930s look, with the raised waist, puffed sleeves, delicate little round collar, and lovely floral pattern. I'm not sure I quite succeeded in evoking that decade, but I'm pleased with the look nonetheless.
Let's talk about the fabric! I found this beautiful sheet at the thrift store a few months ago and thought that it is the best floral sheet that I've ever found. I love the print, the green striped border, and the names of the flowers. It evokes a botanical garden to me, or a herbarium. It was a little sheer, though, so I was careful to underline the bodice with a white cotton sheet (also thrifted) which I also used to make the cuffs and collar. I cut the skirt of my dress long enough to reach my ankles, and used the green border as a ready-made hem, since I wanted to incorporate it into my dress design. To keep things neat, I sewed a scrap of bias tape into the seam where the skirt meets the bodice, then folded it up and tacked it to the interlining layer by hand, so it hid the raw edges of the trimmed skirt seam. I always stitch a second time around the arm-holes before I trim them as well, for extra strength in an area that gets a lot of wear. The zipper was also stitched in by hand, and the facings at the neck were folded and stitched along the edge of the zipper tape, to keep things neat inside.
One problem with using thrifted sheets is that sometimes they are not quite on grain, as I found out when I cut my cuffs out thinking the grain line was matched to the edge of the fabric only to find that they warped and twisted slightly when I interfaced them and folded them to sew onto the dress. It's not something that shows up when I'm wearing it, only on the hanger, so I think I will just have to live with it. It's one of those things that's difficult to tell ahead of time. Another little problem that I faced was that when I drafted the collar to be smaller, the points stuck out in the back on either side of the zipper and didn't want to lay flat against the dress. That problem had a simple solution: I just tacked down the edges of the collar by hand. They won't fold over a sweater anymore, but they lay flat.
I'm wearing my dress with a homemade white crochet shawl from last year, a gold brooch shaped like a little bouquet of violets that Mr Rat gave me two Valentine's Days ago, and my trusty old clogs. Even though the trees are finally blooming, there has still been a chill in the air until just the last few days. And now suddenly we are close to 80 degrees, and a short sleeved dress will be just right.
Happy Easter to all of you, no matter what faith you practice! I hope that today brings peace to your heart and wonder for the beauty of this brief season.
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?
This unfortunately won't be a very picture-heavy post, as the weather has not been cooperative for outdoor photos again this month. The snow is finally melting, but the winds are coldly biting and incessant, and made me very loathe to take my heavy wool coat off at the park, even for Mr Rat to get a few pictures of my new FolkWear Black Forest Smock. I've never posted about my winter coat on this blog, although it is a refashioned sewing project. I spotted it on the clearance rack of Decades vintage store in Salt Lake City last year for $5. One of the buttons was held on with a safety pin and the sleeves were outrageously long. But all the beautiful ribbon and ric-rac trim caught my eye, and I had to take it home and fix it. Now the lovely pewter reindeer buttons are secure, and I folded the cuffs inside the sleeves and stitched them up by hand, making them fit much better. This coat has kept me warm all winter so far, and I often get compliments from strangers when I wear it. It is so distinctive, and cheerful, too. I will have to try to imitate the way that it is trimmed on my own sewing projects at some point.
Back to the main sewing project of this post, my new Black Forest smock: my mom gave me the pattern for Christmas, and I've been excited to try it out. Even though it wasn't on my winter make-nine list, I decided to go ahead and make it anyway, since I've been struggling with my depression these past few months--especially this past month----and a warm smock made of flannel felt like just the thing I wanted to wear. And I was right, as I have worn it twice already since I made it, even though I barely finished the last bits of hand-sewing right before we took these photos on our Sunday afternoon walk. I was worried that it might be a hard pattern to sew. I've only made one Folkwear pattern before, as a pattern-tester, and found that it challenged me to learn new skills. This pattern took some new skills too, like learning to make many tiny pleats around the neck-line and cuffs. But it wasn't hard. It actually came together very quickly, with one day of cutting out the pattern and fabric, and another two days of sewing before it was finished. The style and sizing are so forgiving that there isn't any fitting to do except to make sure the neck binding will fit over your head (I used a very small seam allowance to make sure it would fit over mine, since I have a rather large head circumference). The fabric was easy to work with too. It is a blue and tan plaid flannel that I found while thrift store shopping with my husband and mother-in-law in San Diego this past Thanksgiving. I got a four-yard piece for $6. So far, it has pre-washed well, and is very warm and soft. The pattern instructions for the Black Forest Smock are clear and helpful, although I'm not sure that I got the tiny pleats quite right. But I think there is a lot of lee-way to adjust and change them, so I'm not too bothered about it----making pleats is a skill that I am still practicing. There aren't many size options to choose from for this pattern, as it is meant to be quite loose; I cut on the "slender woman" lines along the sides. I did a faux-french seam to finish the insides. I think I could have done a french seam, but I'm not very experienced with them, and I wasn't sure which seam finish I wanted to use until after I had already sewn the seams. Doing any kind of seam finish on a half-inch seam allowance was a bit of a challenge, so I ended up doing my faux-French seam mostly by hand, which worked well. The pattern doesn't tell you what sized buttons or button-holes to do on the cuffs, so I just chose two that I liked from my vintage button collection, and pinned out the positions myself, and then did the button-holes by hand, as usual. It is interesting making a garment that doesn't call for interfacing: it gives the smock a rumpled effect, but I think that adds to it's charm, and also makes it extremely comfortable. If I ever get tired of wearing it as a day dress, I can always use it as a nightgown. Or sew up another one as a nightgown. . . Or make a summer version out of linen or soft cotton, and learn to do the embroidery included with the pattern. . . I left off the pockets in this, my first version, but perhaps in the next one I will add them and decorate them too. . .
As you can tell, I do like my Black Forest smock a lot, and I am sure that I will make this pattern again.
As a side note, my mom recently trimmed my hair and cut off the layers for me. Even though they did make my hair curl more, I wasn't overly fond of that last hair-cut. Now it is short and light and one length, and I plan on slowly growing it back out again. It does make me feel a bit like an Edwardian child in these photos, though, to have cropped hair and a billowy smock. I just need a Steiff teddy bear named "Winnie-Ther-Pooh."
And as another side note, look at the bottom of the post to see what an interesting little creature Mr Rat and I saw while we were taking pictures. Mr Rat thinks it is a nutria, and we were both astonished to see it swimming in the icy creek in such cold weather. As soon as it saw Gia, though, it crawled into a crevice in the bank and disappeared.
This post is catching up from last year, as I made this smock and matching purse in the fall and only managed to wear them outside once before snowy weather blew in. Now that we are in the depths of winter, I've given up on the idea of photographing out in the landscape (at least until I have a heavy wool garment to share), and am going to try to take some photos in my studio on sunny days instead. And maybe this way I can catch up some of the things that I sewed last year and haven't had a chance to review yet.
My sewing cabinet housed almost 5 yards of this nice rust-colored corduroy for four years or so from the day that I originally found it at the thrift store to the long overdue day when I finally chose a pattern for it. The pattern I finally picked out, 1970s-era McCalls 3483, was also a thrift-store find. It is a size larger than I usually make, which made me uncertain about buying it, but for 50 cents I thought it was worth a try. When I imagined pairing it with my long-neglected corduroy, I thought that going a size up wouldn't make a difference to a loose over-garment, and I was right. I was actually surprised that I didn't need to narrow the shoulders, and the fit was good without any adjustments. I remember reading in one of my sewing books that the difference between pattern sizes is about 1 inch overall---which is a big difference if you are trying to make a fitted garment, but is very little difference in a loose or flowing garment so long as the fit is good around the shoulders. The one curious bit about the fit of this garment that I noticed is that the smock looks much shorter on the drawings on the pattern-cover compared to how it fits me in real life---which is almost down to my knees. I'm an average 5 foot 5 inches, in case any one else out there has this pattern and needs a reference for the length.
Since corduroy tends to shed and fray, I was careful to do faux-flat fell stitching on all of the seams, which had the nice benefit of giving them a top-stitched look on the outside. I also did top-stitching on the collar to keep it neat, as well as the cuffs and the narrow hem. I also used some scraps of old thrifted bias binding and sewed them by hand to the edges of the inside facing and sleeve openings so they won't have trouble going through the wash. This gave them a clean and neat finish, as well. McCalls 3483 has a lot of nice details: over-sized patch pockets, puffed sleeves with big cuffs, an exaggerated collar, and a neat yoke opening. Since the button closures called for loops, and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of trying to turn corduroy inside out (that sounds like a recipe for a headache), I cut little pieces of the selvage of the fabric and rolled them into little tubes and sewed them shut by hand. Then I made them into button loops and sewed them on to the yoke and cuffs by machine. The buttons are from JoAnns. I took my smock with me to see what kind of ball-shaped button I could find that matched the fabric, and was really happy to find these nice faux-leather ones in just the ride shade of ochre.
I think this smock makes a stylish alternative to wearing a sweater indoors all winter long. And in the fall and the spring, it is the perfect lightweight pullover jacket. I made a purse to match it out of scraps leftover from my smock and a wooden purse handle set that I bought half-off from JoAnns for the grand total of $4! The inside of the purse is lined with scraps from my Folkwear shirtdress. The last of the corduroy scraps leftover from both smock and purse recently got used by my husband as details on a shirt he is almost finished sewing. This ended up being a rather thrifty outfit, especially worn over my old brown smock dress that has some paint stains on it (which my new corduroy smock nicely covers up), and worn with the clogs that were given to me for my birthday. It makes me glad that we can take something that no one wanted and use every scrap of it to make not just one, but three interesting new useful things that will bring pleasure to Mr Rat and me.
I know this photo is terribly blurry, but Gia looks so charming that I couldn't resist adding it.
I was sad to not get this dress finished and photographed during the fall, as I had intended when I got the fabric for my birthday and started sewing it in November. But even though I didn't finish the last of the buttonholes until December, it isn’t so inappropriate for the brown and grey shades of a milder winter’s day---so long as I wear my thrifted vintage sheepskin boots and my homemade crocheted shawl with it.
This fabric is homespun cotton in a tiny gingham check/plaid from JoAnn fabrics, making it the rare fabric that we bought on sale at the fabric store rather than buying it second-hand. The buttons are from JoAnns, too, and the zipper that closes the dress in the side seam. This was my first time trying out 1970s-era Butterick 6914. I am very pleased with the comfortable fit, and I also like that there is no zipper going up the middle of the back like most patterns. Side-zippers can make getting dresses on and off a little slower, but they have the advantage of being far more invisible. I like the sleeves with their long, deep cuffs (so long that they are curved and faced, rather than folded like a shorter, straight cuff would be) and I think the little pocket on one side of the skirt is an interesting detail. It gives it an apron-like feel, just right for working and cooking and painting and sewing----you can stow any number of little things in a useful patch pocket like that.
The homespun drapes nicely, but has a tendency to warp and fray. I interfaced the top of the patch-pocket to help keep it from stretching out, used bias binding to finish the inside of the waist seam (as well as acting as a waist stay), and was careful to finish all the seams on the machine rather than pinking them as I normally would for cotton fabrics. I edge-stitched all my seams, as usual, to help keep them crisp and make them more durable. I've noticed with my vintage empire-waist dress patterns that the bust darts tend to be very deep and will end up very pointy if I don't stitch right along the edge of the fabric for a good half-inch or so at the end of the bust dart to help flatten it out. I also suspected that the sleeves wouldn't ease in smoothly at the tops (in previous patterns I've tried from the 1970s I've found that the sleeves tend to have excess ease) so I did a little extra gathering at the very top of the sleeve-head to make the extra fabric look purposeful, and I think that I was successful. The buttonholes are done by hand, and took me a long time, since they are rather large and there are quite a few between the bodice and those lovely long cuffs. The other thing that delayed my finishing this dress was getting Mr Rat's help pinning up the hem. Since the sides are cut on a curve, they stretched out and I couldn't just turn and hem the bottom the way I would with a dirndl-style skirt.
I think that prewashing homespun fabric before you cut into it is very important, since it is a little stiffer with sizing when it comes straight off the bolt, and gets very soft after even one wash. All that said, I like how my first homespun dress turned out, and will definitely use this fabric again if the opportunity arises.
In these photos that Mr Rat took at the park, I’m also wearing one of my homemade capes for extra warmth and a brown jade necklace and earrings that Mr Rat made me as a gift several years ago.
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.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.