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.
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.
I've made 1970s-era Simplicity 8611 before in black broadcloth, and it is a much loved member of my closet. Jumper dresses are so versatile, since any change of blouse makes them feel like a new dress altogether. In these photos, I am wearing my new golden version of Simplicity 8611 with my homemade peter pan collar blouse and one of my first ever homemade bags. I didn't use a pattern for my duck-goose bag---I found the panel of printed fabric at Goodwill and sewed two of the pieces together, using big scraps of muslin from my scrap box to interline it for some structures and some large pieces of linen leftover from my husband's shirt to line it. The wooden handles are from JoAnn fabric stores, bought with a coupon. So the grand total of the cost for my new tote bag was about $6. Tote bags are so useful for library trips, walking to the grocery store, or just carrying a sketchbook and a book of poetry to the park. On Sundays (like the one when these photos were taken) I use my handmade bag to carry my scriptures and a shawl to church.
The cotton for the dress is also a Goodwill find. In its previous life it was a king-size sheet, but I like it better as my new dress. I've worn it quite a few times since I finished it three weeks ago. As Mr Rat remarked, it matches the leaves exactly, and it pleases me to wear something special to enjoy the spectacular color of our neighborhood. Mr Rat and I watched an episode of 'Autumn Watch' on PBS recently and learned that people like us who go out to enjoy the fall foliage are called "leaf peepers." Autumn Watch is an unexpectedly funny show: in the first episode they aired hilarious (and sometimes tragic) footage of squirrels fighting over cached nuts, and bears eating tree-loads of apples.
Since I've sewn this dress before, its construction was quick and easy and had no surprises. I pinked most of the seams, lined the bodice with the same fabric that I used to make the rest of the dress, hand-picked the zipper, and used the big scraps left over to make door-cozies (my sister says that's what those tubes of stuffed fabric are called in England) for all of our downstairs doorways. The townhouse we're renting has two big sliding glass doors downstairs plus a front door and a garage door. This means that during the winter it is frigid and drafty downstairs. So now thanks to the leftovers from my new dress, our apartment is remarkably warmer. And that's a very nice thing, since it makes looking forward to winter not so hard.
This year Mr Rat and I celebrated my birthday by taking a trip to the Red Butte Gardens to see the colors of the changing seasons: red against green, green just turning golden, flowers still blooming while berries were clustered bright red on bushes and tees, and the birds, bugs and fishes all busy among the leaves. I wore my new prairie dress, made from 1970s-era McCalls 4038, and inspired by the dresses featured in my last post. McCalls 4038 is properly a wedding dress/bridesmaid dress pattern, but that didn't stop me from using it to make an every-day dress for myself. The black broadcloth portion of the dress is from my trip to the LA fabric district with my Mom back in April, and the black and reddish-brown floral cotton is from JoAnns fabric, a gift from Mr Rat earlier in the month so I could make myself a new birthday dress to wear, as I do some years. The alternating panels makes the style of this dress so interesting to me, with its resulting patchwork look. It's a unique take on prairie fashion, and historically inspired dress.
I sewed it with my regular methods---interfacing the back zipper so it won't ripple, sewing hooks and eyes to the collar by hand, and sewing some bias binding into the waistline as a stay and to cover the raw edges of the gathered skirt. The pattern has some interesting details, like elbow darts to make the fit of the puffed sleeves more comfortable, an underlined midriff (which doesn't keep mine from wrinkling a bit in photos---maybe I should shorten the midriff slightly the next time I sew this pattern? Or add a little bit more allowance at the side seams? Or both?), and the bottom band of the skirt is fully faced, which gives it a nice drape and swing. I pinked any of the seams that weren't faced, so the inside is neat and tidy and ready to endure the washing machine. Cutting out all those different panels in two different colors of fabric took quite a bit more attention than the cutting process usually demands. I'm glad that I took the time, though, because I like the result.
I decided that I wanted some embellishment on this dress, so I added some dollar-a-yard black lace from a past trip to the LA fabric district by hand, and then sewed on (also by hand) two rows of narrow black ribbon from JoAnns around the neckband and the wrists of the sleeves. I usually watch Poirot and Marple mysteries from the library while I do hand-sewing. Do any of you have a favorite thing to do while you sew? Or do you need to concentrate the whole time? I often sew and iron with just the sound of Gia snoring, or occasionally with a record or a CD on, but when I'm hand-sewing I find that I have enough attention to spare to put a movie or TV show on instead. It's one of the most relaxing parts of the sewing process.
I'm wearing the dress in these photos with an old pair of heeled boots (I have to wear a chunky heel with this dress or else the hem drags on the ground, which does limit my shoe options---but on the positive side, it makes me look taller), homemade red jasper earrings, a thrifted vintage crocheted shawl, and a thrifted crochet purse. Later on that day we went to the antique store on the way home and I found a very pretty necklace made of glass beads in the shapes of flowers and fruits. It looks really nice with this dress, and I intend to wear them together in the future.
Have you ever sewn yourself a birthday outfit? What do you like to do to celebrate the change from one year to the next? My birthdays can feel very melancholy ever since my grandmother died during the night of my birthday five years ago. When my brother called me the next morning, I thought he was going to wish me a belated happy birthday, but instead he told me the news of my grandmother's sudden passing. Every year I remember her, and remember time passing. But it makes those remembrances sweeter when they happen in a beautiful place with the person that I love most. Then---and when we have dinner with my family, or get Gia up on the bed so we can sleep in a pile after a busy and tiring day, or even if I am sad enough to weep but Mr Rat holds me while I do----then I feel comforted that even though time is passing, and sometimes it brings heartache and hardship, that it also brings moments that are filled with love and affection----and great beauty.
Postscript: have any of you ever dreamed about riding or sleeping on the back of a giant lizard? Mr Rat and I discovered these huge lizard statues in the children's garden and since no one was around, and it was almost my birthday, and I was wearing a special birthday dress. . . well, I just had to take a turn on the back of one of the lizards so I could indulge my fantasies for a moment. It would be so magical to be tiny for a while and see the world magnify in scope to the scale it is for a lizard---but I suppose that is already our view of things as such tiny beings on such a magnificent big planet. But I would like a garden to be my whole world, at least for a while.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.