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.
Day 1 - Tuesday May 1 -
I wore my 1970s Simplicity 5497 striped cotton dress with white collar and cuffs, along with a homemade black velvet bow pin. I should sew this pattern again. I really like it.
Mr Rat wore his recently completed tan linen shirt.
Day 2 - Wednesday May 2 -
I wore my checkered blouse and my long black Simplicity 7880 skirt. My necklace is homemade with black agate beads.
Day 3 - Thursday May 3
I had some errands to walk to, so I wore a very simple and practical outfit: my denim jacket made from Simplicity 3573, which is actually a robe pattern (this is one of the sewing projects I made during the winter and haven't caught up reviewing here on the blog yet, so you will likely see another post about this jacket sometime soon) and underneath that, although you can hardly see it, is my denim skirt made from 1950s-reproduction Simplicity 8458. And though you can't see them in this photo either, I am wearing homemade sodalite earrings. My straw bag is thrifted.
Mr Rat wore his chambray western shirt.
Day 4 - Friday May 4
I wore my blue bandanna dress along with a necklace I made myself from sodalite nuggets.
Day 5 - Saturday May 5
I wore my navy and white gingham dress, which was perfect for the warmer weather we got this weekend. We were so busy that my best photo for the day was this candid snap Mr Rat took of me making faces at Gia trying to convince her to kiss me.
Day 6 - Sunday May 6
I wore my blue roses dress made from a vintage 1970s wedding dress pattern. I haven't reviewed this one for the blog yet---it was a dress I made back in January when I was longing for spring----so you will likely see some photos of this again soon.
Happy belated Valentine's Day! I'm glad I took these photos of my new dress yesterday on Valentine's Day, when there was a little bit of sunshine, because today we woke to a world transformed by snow.
I'm sure many of you will recognize one of my favorite patterns, 1970s-era McCall's 6209, which I have made before in tan striped cotton, black cotton-polyester broadcloth, and most recently in black flannel. I am fond of this pattern for its fit: it is more semi-fitted than fitted, and the ease makes the dress very comfortable for every day wear. But the small waist and full skirt and sleeves still give the dress a fitted look without the discomfort of tightness.
As I've mentioned a little bit before, I'm trying to experiment a little more with sewing with patterned fabric. Last summer I found that I like to sew and wear gingham, and I've sewn with stripes a few times, but so far I haven't tried many floral fabrics until the last few months. Our local Goodwill has a good selection of sheets, and recently I've found myself drawn to the ones with rose prints. At $2-$4 each, they are a small risk. I bought a few and have made two dresses out of them so far (only one of which has been blogged about), and I have yet another floral-print outfit cut out to start work on next. Roses are among my favorite flowers, and I miss my mother's rose garden very much. Wearing roses on my clothes reminds me of the places and plants that I love so much, and brings a little cheer to the grey winter that is so close to spring.
One of the advantages of sewing with sheets is that they are often already soft with washing. This sheet in particular had a nice drape and was easy to sew with, especially since the print hides any tiny imperfections and mistakes like a bust dart that isn't perfectly aligned with the other bust dart, or edge-stitching that can get a little wiggly. Imperfection has become a theme for me. I have to remind myself often that the goal is to get better slowly, and to make wearable clothes along the way. This dress turned out very wearable; it is so light and comfortable. Already since I finished it I've worn it twice, and received more compliments on it from people at church and from family members than any other garment I've sewn. When my grandpa saw it, he told me I was quite the "flower girl."
Since I've written about this pattern before, I will keep the construction notes brief here: I pinked the seams, finished the waistline with some thrifted bias tape, and had to trim the bottom a little to even it before I turned and finished it with a narrow hem. The zipper is stitched in by hand, and I stitched twice around the arm-holes to reinforce them. As usual, I edge-stitched the top of the sleeve-bands and the neckline to keep them crisp.
Mr Rat and I had a pleasant and quiet Valentine's Day. I wore my new dress and a Mexican silver heart necklace that I found a yard sale last year. I made a black-rice vegetable salad and prepared the ingredients so that when Mr Rat got home from work we could cook okonomiyaki together (savory Japanese pancakes with vegetables and little bits of meat cooked into them). We picked out our gifts for each other at a local antique mall a few weeks ago. One of the gifts Mr Rat gave me was a lovely little gold brooch shaped like a bouquet of violets, which is near the bottom of the photo at the end of this post that I took of my drawer of vintage brooches. Some were my grandmother's, and some are lucky finds from thrift stores, and some I've found with some careful searching on ebay for under $5. It's nice to have choices to wear with my dresses and blouses and jackets.
Did any of you do anything nice for Valentine's Day (with or without a significant other)? I like that Valentine's day can be a celebration of love in all its forms, including that of friendship. When we lived in Santa Clara we invited our friend K and her daughter to come have dinner with us, since her husband worked very late into the evening. It's pleasant to find a way to celebrate, no matter what the circumstances. And who doesn't need a reason to celebrate when winter feels like it has been here so long?
Mr Rat and I went to Southern California to visit our parents for Thanksgiving, and oh it was sunny and warm! Thanksgiving day hovered around 90 degrees in my parents' backyard, where Mr Rat and I took these photos of my newest attempt at 1990s-era Simplicity 8620. Although I like the pattern, I haven't had much luck with my last two versions: the first (reviewed here) was too wide in the shoulders and the fabric wrinkled badly and didn't drape well enough to really suit the looseness of this blouse pattern. The second (reviewed here) had wonderful drape, but the first time I tried to wash it I made the mistake of putting it in the washing machine on the delicate cycle and it came out weirdly warped and unwearable. I should have tried washing it by hand.
This version is made from a mystery floral fabric that I found at the thrift store a while ago. It has a gentle drape, and I suspect it is actually a lightweight wool, given the hand of the fabric and the way it behaves under an iron. It frayed badly, so I was careful to finish all my seams, mostly with a faux flat-fell finish, and to bind the armholes with some grey rayon seam binding that was also from the thrift store. I decided to use self-covered buttons, which I made with a kit from JoAnns. The fit is the same as my last black rayon version, with a narrow-shoulder adjustment, although this time I decided to add the large collar, which ended up being rather dramatic, but looks nice with the bishop sleeves, I think. I edge-stitched all the seams, sewed the button-holes by hand, and sewed two snaps to the top of the button-placket area, to help keep the blouse closed and neat where the collar meets.
Although the style, color, and pattern are somewhat of a departure from my usual earth-toned solids, I'm pleased with how this blouse turned out, and foresee it being a versatile blouse for all kinds of weather---the lightweight wool making it warm in cooler weather and wicking away moisture to keep it cool and comfortable in warmer weather. On Thanksgiving day I wore it with a homemade necklace made of autumn jasper and my brown Simplicity 7880 skirt (reviewed here).
Now that we are back in Utah, we are also back to grey landscapes, grey clouds, and heavy coats. How do you adjust to the weather when you are sewing? Do you readers always sew seasonally? I thought this blouse might be unseasonable, but I think it turned out to be just right for November in California, and I am hopeful it will make many reappearances here in Utah in the spring.
We’ve been having a hot spell in California, and so I’ve been grateful for all the cotton in my handmade wardrobe. This was an outfit I was particularly pleased with for being cool but still interesting when I wore it last week on yet another 90 plus degree day: the blouse I reviewed here, and the recently completed gingham skirt I reviewed here. I made the citrine necklace, too, which I blogged about recently here.
It was so cool here the past two weeks that I had optimistically assumed that autumn had begun early. This past weekend proved me wrong with a low-90s heat wave that drove me to pick out one of my breeziest of homemade outfits to wear to church: my muslin blouse, reviewed here, and my matching muslin skirt, which though several years old, I have not yet reviewed until now. Since I have already reviewed this skirt pattern before, many times (here, for instance, or here), I won’t go into too many details about construction. I only made two major changes to this particular version of 1970s era Simplicity 7880----I lengthened the skirt, leaving the bottom hem on the selvedge of the muslin (I think it was 35 or 37-inch unbleached muslin, which hits me at the high ankle), and I used a button to close the back rather than a skirt hook and eye as most of my other skirts are finished.
Even though it was very warm when we walked out to take photos, there were a lot of beautiful flowers to admire, including an enormous sunflower patch at the school garden next to the monastery where Mr Rat and I like to walk on Sunday mornings. There were bees busy everywhere, and Mr Rat got some lovely photos of them intent on their work, their legs fat with pollen like little yellow chaps. He also got his coveted butterfly photo in the monastery gardens: a beautiful big swallowtail that circled us and landed on the fig tree, then drifted off and joined with another swallowtail who challenged it to an upward duel of spiraling until they were lost from sight in the redwood trees.
I’m wearing my homemade muslin outfit with one of my favorite straw hats that I bought five years ago at a farmer’s market stand, turquoise jewelry given to me by my thoughtful and generous mother-in-law, and a thrifted shawl. My clogs are Lotta from Stockholm, three years old and still wearing well.
So many of my favorite fashion/sewing blogs have bemoaned the recent racist rallies here in America and expressed that it makes them feel like their websites are shallow or frivolous in the face of such disturbing events. I’ve thought about this a great deal over the past few weeks as Mr Rat and I talk over the news, and I don’t think that blogging about sewing or clothing should be so easily dismissed. Our passions are what make us human, and sharing them is what keeps us kind. It is an act of optimism when we are feeling overwhelmed with darkness to keep on working and making things---whether art or clothes or ceramics or poetry or music. To make something ourselves and share it is to make a modest contribution towards a kinder, more generous, more creative world. Instead of feeling despair, let’s resolve to be more compassionate towards those around us, and keep improving whatever corner of the earth we inhabit.
Mr Rat gave me some beautiful stone beads for our recent wedding anniversary. I chose the colors: yellow, green and grey. I made necklaces and earrings and bracelets out of them, and have been wearing them often since.
This necklace is made of citrine nuggets. I love the vivid deep yellow—it reminds me of Van Gogh’s paintings.
This necklace and earring set (I also made a bracelet) is made of green jasper and onyx. The jasper reminds me of reptile skin.
This necklace and earrings are made of grey zebra jasper spaced with silver plated beads. I love to see the differences between stones. They are all similar, but each different, wonderfully unique.
Monday May 1
We had a dentist appointment first thing in the morning and the dentist complimented me on my style and asked me where I shopped for clothes. I make most of my clothes, I replied, and she asked me if I made my jewelry too, since it matched my outfit so well. Yes, I said, I do that too.
Mr Rat is wearing his chambray western shirt, reviewed here.
Mrs Rat’s necklace and earrings are made of yellow-ochre colored jade. I am wearing my muslin square-necked blouse, reviewed here, and my poplin skirt, reviewed here.
Tuesday May 2
We stopped by a local school during our evening walk to take a few quick photos, and found the classrooms all decorated with very mysterious looking signs and symbols.
Mr Rat is wearing his second Hawaiian shirt, reviewed here.
Mrs Rat is wearing her brown plaid dress, reviewed here. Although it is hard to see in this photo, the necklace is made of autumn jasper.
Wednesday May 3
On the hottest day of the week, I am wearing my kimono sleeve shawl collar blouse, reviewed here, and my navy skirt, reviewed here. My necklace and earrings are made of sodalite.
Thursday May 4
Mr Rat is wearing his Patterns Pacifica Hawaiian shirt, reviewed here, and his patched Levis jacket, which I posted about here.
Mrs Rat is wearing her Laura Ashley jumper, reviewed here, and one of her favorite white shirts, reviewed here.
Gia, as always, is wearing her one and only lovely fur coat.
Friday May 5
Mr Rat is wearing his green twill jacket, reviewed here.
Mrs Rat is wearing her brown smock dress, reviewed here. My necklace is made of a mixture of stones left over from other beading projects.
Saturday May 6
I am wearing my brown ankle-length skirt, reviewed here. My sweater and pin are vintage, which I think is okay with my pledge, since neither of those garments are things I know how to make myself.
I’m holding a letter I wrote to my friend on some recently thrifted vintage stationary charmingly decorated with strawberries and matching strawberry stickers.
Sunday May 7
I am wearing my muslin blouse again, reviewed here. I haven’t blogged about this muslin skirt yet, which is made from my trusted 1970s era Simplicity 7880.
The surprise for me about the first week of Me-Made-May is that I didn’t feel as challenged by wearing my homemade clothes and jewelry as I did taking photos of what I was wearing every day, and often what Mr Rat was wearing, too. The lighting is always difficult in our apartment, the weather ricocheted from a heat wave to a cold weekend, Mr Rat doesn’t get home until sunset most days, which made getting non-blurry photos difficult----all the usual problems for anyone trying to document a daily project.
I also had some bad days this week, and couldn’t always manage a smile. Since I am trying to document the whole month, I thought it would be more honest to include those photos than to skip over them and leave them out. I try to keep things pleasant here, and as positive as I can, but I’m sure we’ve all felt the difficulty of those days when getting up and dressed at all is a challenge. I am feeling a lot of uncertainty and anxiety right now, which is one reason why I look to getting dressed as one of the few times when I get to make a choice that is all my own, even if it is just what color blouse or what piece of jewelry I get to wear that day.
We had an unusually sunny Sunday after a few days of heavy rain, so the three of us went over to the monastery to enjoy the greenness of the garden and the heady spring flowers that scent the air. I wore a new jumper dress that I finished last month using 1970s era Butterick 6000 as my starting point. Originally I intended to add long sleeves, but when I set them in I didn’t like the way they looked, so I cut out the sleeves, enlarged the armholes slightly and finished the inside with off-white bias tape. The bodice is lined, since the ivory cotton I found at the thrift store is slightly sheer on its own, and I finished the waist seam with bias tape on the inside, which acts as a waist stay and covers the gathers so it has a clean finish on the inside. As far as other adjustments go, I also cut the skirt wider than the original skirt in the pattern, and I took a little wedge out of the middle of the bodice front when I cut out the pattern, with the wider point of the wedge at the neckline tapering to nothing at the empire waist, since I’ve found in the past that low scooped necklines can sometimes be a little loose on me. I dislike rippling zippers, so I was careful to interface the edge of the fabric along the full length of the zipper, and then I hand-picked the zipper into place. I’ve found that doing my zippers that way solves the rippling zipper problem, and they always turn out straight and crisp.
You’ve probably already noticed if you’ve been following our sewing journal that I have a penchant for raised waist dresses. They are so very comfortable and easy to wear. I’ve sewn Butterick 6000 before because I like the empire waist and the simple lines of the design, but sadly the blue cotton dress I made from it last year got a big stain on the skirt that wouldn’t wash out and so I had to retire it before I ever got to photograph it for this blog.
I wore my new jumper with one of my thrifted pashmina shawls, a necklace I made myself out of blood agates and gold-plated spacer beads, and jade and cats-eye rings that I inherited from my grandmother.
Happy Easter to all Christian readers, and happy spring (or autumn if you live in the southern hemisphere) to everyone else!
I spent almost a week at the end of March sick in bed with one of those violent colds that make it hard to do anything with either head or hands. When I am under the weather my favorite thing to wear is a smock dress. They are loose and easy and comfortable, and if I put on a necklace I feel a little bit put-together even if I am otherwise worn out.
I made this smock dress about two years ago using an old Simplicity project runway pattern 3529. It’s been a versatile dress: sometimes I wear it as a working smock, sometimes as a summer dress when wearing anything other than loose cotton feels unbearable, and I even occasionally use it as a nightgown when my proper one is in the wash. It is made from a large length of black cotton that I bought in the fabric district in Los Angeles. Since I had so much fabric to work with, I lengthened the pattern a great deal, and widened it, too, until it is ankle length and very loose. I made the pattern in a size 8, and although it is a little roomy in the shoulders, I don’t mind it. It’s a dress where more ease is a good thing.
I am wearing my smock dress with a homemade necklace made of adventurine beads. I was still a little sick when I took these photos, so if I look less than my best, hopefully you’ll understand why. Thank goodness for books when you are ill and cannot go out. They take us into other worlds, other lives, for a while.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.