Here is my first completed project from my "Winter Make Nine" plans. A photo of the pattern I used for my new blouse, McCalls 5771---A 'Marlo's Corner' pattern circa the 1970s in my usual size 8---is in my previous post. McCalls 5771 is a very simple blouse pattern, perfect for a beginner who wants to try making a vintage, sightly Edwardian looking shirt. There are no bust darts, so the fit is slightly loose. The sleeves are gathered, (and rather more generously puffed than I thought they would be based on the pattern envelope illustration) which made setting them in very easy. The cuffs are very basic; in fact, I'm not sure how to describe the way they simply fold over to button without a lap in-between----just fabric that has been folded up and stitched. The collar is also basic: just a long rectangle that is set on more in the manner of a waistband than other collars I've done. I'm not sure about the shape it gives the collar; it tends to flatten a little in the front where it buttons. But overall, I think it is a good basic shirt design, and a quick sew (at least up until the time for buttonholes and buttons).
The material I used was a thrifted cotton sheet with small grey stripes. I edge-stitched the collar, front, hems, and cuffs for crispness, pinked the seams on the inside, did the button-holes by hand, and used some plain white buttons that I bought on sale at JoAnn fabrics to finish everything off.
I'm wearing my new blouse in these photos with my still-serviceable old grey wool skirt and my dark grey wool cape. And of course two warm pairs of socks, a petticoat, some thrifted grey leather gloves, and my old leather boots. We were lucky to get these photos before the next storm blew through and left almost a foot of crusty white snow. Trying to document sewing projects in the winter time is always challenging.
I have always admired shirts and coats with elbow patches. I really like the contrast they add especially when they are made of leather, corduroy, or wool. I was really excited to make this Sunday and Sons Work flannel to keep me warm during these long and cold winter months. I spent a good deal of time getting the pocket patterns just right and making sure the plaid matched in just the way I liked. I used the brown corduroy not only for the elbow patches but also on the inside of the cuffs, under the collar, under the pocket flaps, and as trim on the sleeves and side seam hems. I like these little details. They are small but unique and add more character to the shirt. I feel like flannel shirts should be roomy so I made the extra-large version (which is really more like a large in U.S. sizing). It feels comfortable, the fit is good, and the style is right on.
As you can tell from this last photo, Mr Rat and I are teaching ourselves how to play the classical guitar. Our new guitar was an exciting Christmas gift. We've never had our own instrument before, and we are both excited about this! We both play piano (but don't have access to one) and Mr Rat plays a little bit of saxophone, from a long time ago, so learning how to play a stringed instrument is a new learning process for us both, and one that we are enjoying. Mr Rat looks so handsome practising in his new home-made flannel!
I started this shirt back in April hoping I would have it finished in time for Summer. That was too optimistic I suppose. This is also the third time I have sewn this pattern (you can see the other versions here and here). I like this pattern because it makes a shirt with a slim shape compared to most “Hawaiian shirts” one would buy from a store. We found the fabric in our favorite thrift shop that happened to be “Hilo Hattie” brand adding some authentic Hawaiian prestige. For this shirt, I decided to give all the seam allowances the standard 5/8” as opposed to the pattern’s recommended 0.7 cm (in most cases but varying depending on the seam). This allowed me to do my best job yet at finishing the inside seams since I had more allowance to work with. It also gave me some added room in the shoulders, which I think was fortuitous. I am very pleased with this shirt and am now starting on Sunday and Sons’ “Work Regular” with a nice warm flannel which I will probably complete just in time for spring!
This blouse may look familiar to long-time readers. I've sewn this pattern before, most recently last fall in a soft floral tropical wool. This time I sewed it in crisp white cotton (from a thrifted sheet, like most of my projects) and trimmed it with a thin cotton lace from one of my very rare trips to Hobby Lobby. The construction of this blouse is simple because it is so loose and has no darts. Since the cotton was prone to fraying, I took my time and made faux French seams on the inside. I edge-stitched the collar, front placket, and cuffs, to keep it all looking neat. I made the buttonholes by hand, as usual, and used some thin-line buttons from JoAnns fabric stores that were in my stash to finish it all off. The most time-consuming part of sewing this blouse was sewing on the cotton lace after I was done with everything else. But I think it was worth it for that little bit of extra visual interest.
This year I've experimented with sewing printed fabrics and wearing lighter, softer colors. But I always feel most comfortable in plain black and white, and making this simple shirt reaffirmed that for me. If I could only wear three colors, I think they would be black, white, and brown. I'm never dissatisfied when I finish sewing a white blouse because I know I can wear it at anytime, anywhere, in any situation, and with any other color. You can't beat a white blouse for versatility. The only thing that gets quite as much wear in my wardrobe as my white shirts is probably this old black skirt made from my favorite Simplicity 7880 pattern that I am wearing here.
Mr Rat took these photos on our Sunday morning stroll through the park with Gia before we headed off to church and family time. The local schools are back in session this week, and it feels as though there is already a slight autumnal cast to the air, even though it is only late August. The mornings feel cooler, some of the leaves are starting to crisp at the edges and fall on the summer-green grass, and at last the day-time temperatures are dropping down about 10 or 15 degrees from the extreme heat we've had the last two months.
Do any of you do anything special to mark the changing of the seasons? Are you thinking ahead towards your next season's sewing plans? My next few projects will be in more autumnal hues and I'm even starting to think about what I need to sew to be ready for winter's snow. It feels like the year is shifting again----this one has been so full of changes----at least when I sit down to sew and to paint, I can feel steady and centered for a moment, like a rock in the middle of the stream.
I finished this blouse a while ago (and took the photos a few weeks ago, too) but kept delaying making a post about it. The pattern is a Simplicity E.S.P. (Extra Sure Pattern) from the late 1970s or early 1980s, judging by its cover. I made my version out of a twin-sized navy cotton-blend shirt from the thrift store and on-sale thin-line buttons from JoAnns fabric stores. It all came together well and easily except the collar, which somehow was missing its notched look the first time around. I'm not sure if I was clumsy when I was cutting it out and it ended up a little long, or if it is a small flaw in the pattern itself, but I fixed it easily enough by unpicking the collar a little and making the seams smaller where the notch is---hard to explain, but it worked to make the notch visible between the upper collar and the shirt top where the bottom collar folds over.
The blouse has several interesting features: a yoke with gathers in the back that extends into a forward shoulder seam with gathers in the front. I forgot to cut a yoke lining when I first cut out the blouse, so I used a piece of blue and green plaid cotton from our scrap basket, which gives it a nice bit of secret interest on the inside. The sleeves are actually sewn into two parts, which are sewn together and the bottom and overlapped at the top and then eased into the armholes. They have a narrow seam along each edge, and then tie over the arm. When I started wearing my shirt, I found that they were flopping open all the way to my shoulder when I reached for things, so I sewed the top of the slit together for about two inches so the sides of the sleeves don't move around and gape so much.
I really like how this blouse turned out: a practical, camp-style shirt with a little extra style and interest in the sleeves. It is easy to wear, easy to wash, and cool and comfortable in this summer heat.
In these photos I'm wearing my new blouse with my three-year-old ochre skirt, which unfortunately just got a hole last week. It was in an obvious part of the skirt near the waistband. I couldn't figure out a way to repair it inconspicuously, so I took out the waistband interfacing, the zipper, and the skirt hook and eye to reuse on other projects, and put the rest of the skirt in the scrap basket (to get used as rat bedding for Daisy and Marigold, most likely).
I've been thinking a lot about the problem of fairness, and how difficult it is to attempt to be fair in one's actions towards others in a world where we are born into such radically different and often unfair circumstances. It is hard to try to live morally and ethically; it is surprisingly hard to live while causing as little harm to others as possible. We are often implicated in unfair practices just because we are ignorant that those things are happening on the farms where our food is grown, or within the factories where the items we buy and use daily are made. This article from Vogue Australia brought this dilemma freshly into my mind with its revelation that the fashion industry is the second largest industry in the world that practices slavery, right behind tech gadgets and just above fish, cocoa and sugar cane. The article quotes from the most recent Global Slavery Index that about 40 million people are trapped in slavery worldwide-----a truly heart-rending statistic. 71 percent of those enslaved people are women.
I don't mention this article just to make us saddened or to open our eyes to pain of others (although I think it is a good think to be aware of the pain of others---so we can do what we can to alleviate it). I mention it so we can consider that our efforts to sew our own clothes are never a waste of time. Yes, clothing may be cheap and plentiful and we don't have to spend time making it ourselves. But that kind of fashion comes at a great human cost, much greater than the pleasant hours that we spend sewing our own clothing. We sewers know that every time we put a hand-made garment on our bodies, we don't have to wonder if someone suffered to make it. I think that is a wonderful gift, and I'm thankful for it every day. I hope that we sewers can help educate other people to have more respect for sewing and the skill and time it takes to make clothing. If we join the growing movement to help garment workers gain fair wages and good working conditions (Fashion Revolution has interesting ideas about how we can help agitate for change), then everyone who gets dressed can share our innocent and untainted pleasure in putting on our clothes.
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.
For this shirt, I chose a tan linen fabric. I felt like the natural color and rough texture of the fabric was appropriate for the style of this shirt. I took my time working on some of the details like getting the pockets to match as perfectly as possible, finishing seams, and carefully putting in even top stitching on the collar, pockets, and cuffs. I made a few changes to the original pattern. My version of the shirt has a placket on both front pieces of the shirt which made it necessary for me to draft a larger collar. This turned out to be fortuitous because it added an extra 3 cm or so that made the fit a little more appropriate. I am really happy with the outcome. The fit is excellent and the design is classic.
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.
“You guys have an awesome dayyyyyyy!!!!” the vagabond called to us as he hopped onto the back of his grocery cart and sped away down the sidewalk. We were taking a few photos in front of an abandoned drive-through fast food restaurant on a recent Friday evening. I speculate that it was once a Long John Silvers back in the early 90’s but its most recent tenant appeared to be a fast food Biryani Indian restaurant. I felt like the setting reminded me of some of the neighborhoods near the beach in Oceanside, CA where I spent much of my youth.
This is my second version of the Aloha shirt from the Japanese pattern company Sunday and Sons. I have decided that this pattern will be my go-to Hawaiian shirt pattern from now on. The fabric comes from Island Fabrics located in the fabric district of LA and is sold as “bark cloth.” I used the fabric reverse side out like all traditional Hawaiian shirts and carefully matched the pocket to the pattern on the shirt. I appreciate that this shirt has a slim fit since many Hawaiian shirts I come across tend to have a boxy shape. Although the shirt is fitted it still maintains flexibility and comfort since it includes pleats on the upper back and side slits at the bottom hem line. One thing to keep in mind about these Japanese patterns is that the sizing runs a little small. I use the large shirt pattern even though I typically wear a medium.
Hawaiian shirts have always been an important part of my wardrobe for both casual wear and dressy attire. The great thing about a nice Hawaiian shirt is that by changing from shorts to slacks you can go from the beach to dinner at a nice restaurant without too much trouble (and vice versa). I am really excited to have a pattern that reliable produces excellent results every time!
Note from Mrs Rat:
Usually we take our photos in local parks and the monastery garden up the street. They show one side of California: lush year-round flowers, redwood and olive trees, and lots of sunshine. But for Mr Rat’s most recent Hawaiian shirt, we decided we would take our photos at an abandoned restaurant near the grocery stores where we usually shop. It is the other typical side of California: empty, decaying store-fronts, palm trees, weeds and trash and broken glass, and of course---strange encounters. Mr Rat mentioned the encounter with a friendly homeless man while we were taking these photos----a few months before, in the same spot, we watched with astonishment as over a dozen police cars sped down the street (we found out later there had been a shooting at the motel a block away). A different homeless man was walking by and told us in a disgusted voice: “This happens all the time around here.” And it does----in California.
At long last, I have fulfilled another one of my new year’s sewing resolutions: to find a vest pattern that fits. I’ve had 1970s-era McCall’s 5297 for a while, but only just got around to sewing it, and I’m glad that I finally did. For a first attempt, I think it fits pretty well, although I might make a few minor adjustments the next time I sew it: changing the slope of the shoulders a little to make the neckline more snug, and maybe bringing in the sides at the waist to make it a little more snug there too. This time I didn’t make any fitting adjustments, and I think it is a very wearable ‘muslin.’ Whenever I start to feel bad about fitting (it is so tempting to want everything to fit ‘like a glove’), I think of Nancy Zieman’s advice at the beginning of all of her fitting books: she says not to over-fit your clothes, because it can take the joy out of sewing. And I think she is right. When we only focus on the flaws and the minor problems, we don’t realize how wearable and comfortable the clothes are that we make, and wear them happily and un-self-consciously.
I made this first version out of a one yard scrap of wool (one of the delights of vest-making---it takes so little fabric!) that I bought at the thrift store for two or three dollars. The buttons are from my stash, the same ones that I used on my recently finished black rayon blouse, in fact. The only design change I made was to make the buttonholes smaller and add more of them so I could use smaller buttons. I think this makes it easier to wear, as it doesn’t bunch so badly when I’m sitting down, and I like the look of so many buttons in a line---it makes the vest look as though it could have come from the 30s or 40s as easily as the 70s or beyond. I interfaced all the facings, pinked and stitched all the inner seams, graded the seams around the bust, stitched down the darts in the back shoulders so they would stay flat, and edge-stitched all the seams and edges of the vest. I think this gives the vest a crisp appearance, even though the wool was very springy to work with and difficult to press.
I’m wearing my new black wool vest with one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, and my peter-pan collar blouse. My brooch is a vintage Taxco sterling silver rose from Mexico.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.