I feel as though almost all of my posts now start with an apology for the present irregularity of posts here on the blog, and I wish I could say that it is likely to change. . . But probably it won't, and posts will likely keep on being spotty for the rest of this year at least. 2018 has really been a rough one for Mr Rat and me. Every month has brought new challenges, unexpected problems, and all kinds of daily difficulties. November was no exception: first Mr Rat was sick with one of those head colds that makes it hard to sleep at night, and then we traveled to California for a week to visit his parents for Thanksgiving (luckily, he was feeling better by then), but when we got back I came down with some version of what he had. Between that and spending more weekends at family events now that we live closer to my parents and siblings, we just haven't had too many chances to take photos for the blog, even though we've both finished projects recently and have several other things in progress on our sewing table.
So I apologize! And hope that you will all be patient with the way life makes it hard to be consistent. Both Mr Rat and I care about documenting and reviewing our sewing projects for this blog, so don't worry----there will still be posts here, and I really do hope they will be more regular again next year. But until then, we'll just keep doing the best that we can.
All that being said, here are some photos I took with the tripod in the studio of a skirt set that I made to wear to California for Thanksgiving. Skirt sets are great to travel with, since I could wear the skirt with the blouse and then each separately with other tops and bottoms to make multiple outfits while packing very little. This particular set, which I sewed out of a $2 cotton queen-sized sheet that I found at Savers a few months ago, was also the perfect weight for enjoying the warm 70-degree California autumn days. I chose two tried and true patterns for my skirt set: my favorite 1970s skirt pattern Simplicity 7880, and the 1980s kimono-sleeved blouse pattern Simplicity 7460 that I sewed for the first time in the spring. What I didn't like about my first version of this pattern was that because the blouse is quite loose, it tends to shift around a bit while I wear it, making the lower v-neckline difficult to wear modestly. So this time I chose the higher, rounded neckline, which solved that problem nicely. It also makes it easier to wear this blouse under crew-neck cardigans, which is the only way I can wear it now that we've come back to Utah and found winter well arrived and settled in on the doorstep. But I know I'll be wearing it sweater-less next summer, and enjoying its versatility, practicality, and wearability. My favorite (and most worn) sewing projects combine those aspects with some artistic detail or bit of originality---in this outfit I think it is the subtle Victorian-like stripes that first drew me to buying the sheet, and also the spacing of the tiny buttonholes down the center front in sets of two. It took a long time to make so many buttonholes by hand, but it was worth it. I reused some tiny tan buttons salvaged from some old worn-out thrifted shirt that got turned into scraps some time ago to finish my top. The skirt was very simple and quick to make, since I used the existing deep hem of the sheet as the hem for the bottom of my skirt. I used waistband interfacing for stiffness, and also sewed in by hand a vintage metal zipper that I thrifted a long time ago. The seams are all finished with pinking shears.
And. . . I cut my hair. I've been thinking about it for a long time, but kept putting it off, and putting it off. I haven't stepped into a hair salon in about seven years. For most of that time, it just wasn't affordable for me to get haircuts, so my mom or Mr Rat would kindly trim my hair. And now that we have enough income that I can get my haircut without worrying about overwhelming our budget, I have been too frightened to go. When I was younger, the adults around me told me that I would grow out of my shyness. But I haven't, and the idea of talking to strangers can be enough to keep me from going outside on some days. Right before our trip I had a day where I was feeling up and brave and I decided I would walk to the salon first thing in the morning after my husband left for work----and I finally did it. My long hair was limp and straggly here in Utah because the humidity is so low. But with my new short hair, it has more wave and body again. Some days it curls a lot more than others, and most days it's a bit messy and wild, but overall I'm pleased with the change. Mr Rat likes it, so I think I'll keep it awhile.
I hope that you are all having a good close to your month, and that your start of December is peaceful, rather than stressful. The holiday season can be a hard one---but with some planning, it doesn't have to be more difficult than it has to be. At least, that is what Mr Rat and I are hoping. We are planning on going to a Christmas concert this weekend to celebrate the season. Is there anything that you do that is special to mark the upcoming end of the year or any of the many holidays that fall within the next month?
Green is an autumnal color---it is the color of early autumn, as the leaves just start to change golden, and the cooler weather makes the grass a tender color. Our neighborhood is very green right now, and I am glad of it.
My wardrobe is also a little greener after I finished my newest version of my favorite 1970s-era Simplicity 7880 skirt pattern. This one is made of green broadcloth from my spring trip to the Los Angeles fabric district with my mom. The green pin-striped wool that I made my matching vest out of was already in my stash from a lucky thrift store find several years ago. While I did succeed in making a wool vest last year, there were some things I didn't like about it: it tends to wrinkle in the back because it is a little too long there, and the pattern was unlined. So I decided I would try a new vest pattern that I found at the thrift store since we moved here: Simplicity 5204. I wasn't certain how this would work out, since it is a teen-sized vest, 11/12. But the measurements are close to my normal Miss size 8, so I decided I would try it out. And it fits almost the same! I compared it to my black vest and found it is almost identical. But there are a few differences that make this version my preferred one: it is lined! It is also darted instead of princess seamed----I don't really mind the difference there. And the other thing I prefer about it is that it is designed with small slits up the side (I added one to the center back seam as well) which takes care of the wrinkling and bunching problems I had with my last one.
Other details about the vest: I lined it in the same green broadcloth that I made the skirt out of. I stitched all the darts down by machine, and edge-stitched all my seams. Worsted wool is very springy, and I am not adept enough with the iron to make it behave with steam alone. I did the buttonholes by hand, as usual, and added a few more for that old-fashioned look. The buttons are from my stash, part of a big bag I thrifted a few years ago. The contrast between the brown and green is very gentle, and matched my new thrifted basket-purse, and my new thrifted brown leather shoes----which I like so much! My new shoes remind me of the Edwardian style ones that American Duchess is releasing, but at a much lower price point: $6 from Goodwill is a lot more affordable for me than $160. Although maybe someday I will have enough spending money to support independent businesses as well as the thrift store.
The rest of my outfit was thrifted as well: the tumbled stone charm bracelet (missing a lot of its charms, but I like it anyway) is from a few years ago, and long-time readers might remember my bow-tie blouse sewn from a thrifted sheet.
We are lucky to rent in a very verdant condominium complex. The buildings aren't new, and the little roads are full of potholes, but the somewhat wild landscaping is beautiful. We have a little green creek that runs through our tiny backyard. As we wander through the complex there are ponds full of fish, turtles, sometimes geese, and always many ducks. We've gotten used to their raucous laughter----sometimes even in the nighttime. It's more pleasant than the sounds our human neighbors made in some of our previous apartments. Mr Rat took all of these beautiful photos very close to home as we gave Gia the short walk that is all she can manage anymore. But how glad we are, that our short walks are so pleasant! We are so grateful to live where leaves and sky and water all meet together.
In other ways, I haven't been feeling very lucky because I've been sick a few times this month. It's one reason why posts here have been infrequent again. But the other reason is because I had the novel experience of being a pattern-tester for an independent pattern company. Mr Rat took some photos of my new garment that I made but I can't share them until the pattern is released, and I'm not quite sure when that will be. But I will try to keep an eye out so I can finally post them for you all, along with some notes about my experience.
Luckily, I have been sewing other things and expanding my fall wardrobe, so look forward to some new posts here as soon as Mr Rat can take some more photos with me! We have some plans for photos the next few weekends, and Mr Rat has finished a new shirt which I am excited to photograph and he is excited to share with you.
I hope you are all having an illness-free change of the seasons, and are finding lots of reasons to be outside while the weather is so gentle. At least, I hope your weather is gentle, and not still in the extremes of summer (or winter, for any of you in the southern hemisphere) still!
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 new version of Simplicity 8458 (a 1950s reproduction pattern) back in the spring. Some of you might have noticed its appearance during Me-Made-May this year. I haven't worn it a lot since then, though. But when my sister invited Mr Rat and I on a wildflower hike up the Albion Basin in the Wasatch Front on a very hot Friday evening earlier in the month, I pulled it out of the closet and thought I should give it another chance. The good thing about a skirt like this is that it is loose and comfortable, has a good range of movement for walking and hiking, it is made of durable heavy twill from the thrift store (which makes it conveniently inexpensive, too, so I don't have to worry about getting it dirty or damaged outside), and is long enough to cover my legs from weeds but short enough to not tangle around my ankles. I think I've found this skirt's best purpose: to wear on adventures outdoors.
In terms of construction, I made it in the same way as my first version and my second version (which I have since given away because I wore it so rarely----it attracted lint very badly, which makes me feel wary of using cotton sateen again). It is a simple skirt with very few seams. Most of the time that goes into the sewing of it is in basting the pieces together and letting them hang overnight before sewing the rest of the skirt together. I used bias tape to hem the bottom, and used faux flat-fell seams on the inside to make the skirt really durable.
I'm wearing my homemade skirt in these photos with an old button-up white shirt I've had several years, thrifted leather boots and a thrifted straw hat. These beautiful photos were taken by Mr Rat and my sister, who generously gave us copies of the pictures she took on our spectacular sunset hike.
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.
I already made this pattern once, in black striped cotton. I liked that first version so much that I thought it would be useful to have a second summer top, but this time in natural muslin, to match my muslin Simplicity 7880 skirt that I wore for these photos from last summer.
Mr Rat has been busy with work and so I took these simple photos myself on our patio, using a tripod and the self-timer feature on our camera. It is such a pleasure to have a garden of our own, even if it is small and young and somewhat battered from the unexpected hailstorm that blew through the morning I took these photos of my (relatively) recently completed blouse. The sunflowers have big buds on the top, and my cheerful marigolds are just barely starting to bloom. Not bad for 99-cent store four-for-a-dollar seeds.
I don't think there is much to add about the construction of this blouse, since I made the same version in the same way that I did last time. This time I accidentally got some wrinkles across the back of the yoke, but given that it is muslin and tends to be a little creased and wrinkled anyway, I don't mind it. I like the cool, light, gentle, and casual look of muslin in the summertime. Do you have a favorite fabric for a particular season? I feel like winter is time for heavy wool in black and grey, and summer is time for white and cream colored muslin.
Monday May 28 - Day 28
This was Memorial Day, a bank holiday in the USA, so Mr Rat and I got to stay home. Since I knew I'd be doing some housework, spending time in the studio, and going walking (stormy weather or no), I chose to dress for warmth and comfort and wore my flared denim skirt along with one of my rare t-shirts and a thrifted sweater.
Tuesday May 29 - Day 29
I wore my denim peplum blouse and my long black Simplicity 7880 skirt.
Wednesday May 30 - Day 30
The weather started to feel summery so I pulled out some older favorites: my Laura Ashley jumper dress and my puff sleeved muslin blouse.
Thursday May 31 - Last Day
I wore my just-barely-completed new summer dress, made from a 1990s pattern. The dress and collar and cuffs are all made out of thrifted cotton sheets and the white buttons are thrifted too, from a long time ago. I'm glad that I finally tried this pattern, because I can envision it becoming a firm favorite. It could easily be redrafted as a loose blouse, too.
Things I have learned from participating in Me Made May 2018:
I am amazed that in a month's time I rarely wore the same garment twice (skirts excepted) and yet I still didn't wear all of my hand-made wardrobe options. I don't have an especially large closet----I think it's average, or even rather small by American standards. So that shows me that my whole wardrobe is really wearable, which gives me a lot of choice. Over the last six or so years I've made a lot---enough to gradually switch almost all my clothes from thrifted to handmade (right now I have two button-up shirts, one drawer of knits, sweaters and jeans, and one coat that I am in the process of relining----everything else is handmade by me). This weekend I'm going to see about selling my faux-fur winter coat because I have plans to make my own heavy wool coat. Then my wardrobe really will be homemade, for all seasons. I'm really pleased with my progress, and glad to have the many combinations I can make with all of the homemade clothes in my closet.
I don't enjoy taking a photo of myself everyday, but it is helpful in making good sewing plans for the rest of the year. Looking at photos of myself wearing my handmade clothing helps me see what looks good, what particular features and shapes I favor in my pattern choices, and what I still need to sew to make my wardrobe fully functional and practical.
It reaffirmed for me that I like the color palette that I've chosen for my clothes: I wore a lot of black, navy, brown, and white, as well as a little bit of tan, cream, rose, and olive green.
It helped me see that I like simplicity in my clothing and accessories. It also helped me identify some of the features that I like in my clothes: peter-pan collars, softly puffed sleeves, small prints rather than large ones (particularly gingham, stripes, and floral prints with lots of roses), solid-colored cotton fabrics, bishop sleeves, button-up shirts, jumper dresses, peasant blouses, and full skirts with a midi-to-ankle length hem. I realized that I prefer a semi-fitted or loose bodice over a highly fitted one (except for dressy clothes to wear to church on Sundays and other special occasions), and I also realized that I don't care for scooped necklines anymore, since my skin has had such a hard time transitioning to the dry weather here in Utah. I find that I like to be covered up, and then I don't have to worry much about sunburns or skin troubles or quick changes in the weather from cold to hot or vice versa.
I chose a few items that I think I will give away, as they are silhouettes or prints that I've realized were an interesting experiment, but don't fit in well with my other clothes. Right now I've pulled out three blouses to give away or put away for a while while I consider their place in my closet. I also put one dress away into my sentimental keepsake box.
This year's Me-Made-May also helped me realize that I don't need so many sewing patterns, or to keep collecting so many new ones. I have a good variety of patterns that I have tried and liked, which I can keep refining as I make new versions. As I wore different versions of the same patterns through the month, I realized how much I've come to like tried-and-true patterns. Tried and true patterns have many advantages: I already know how they will work with other parts of my wardrobe, I can count on a good fit, and they are easier to plan for. While I'll still try out some of the patterns that I already own which I haven't made yet, and I'm sure that I'll also still keep an eye out at thrift stores for the occasional pattern that catches my eye, I don't think I'll be buying many more patterns, because I like what I have to work with right now. Inspired by this realization, I've also been slowly working through my patterns and weeding out ones that I don't think I'm likely to ever make (or be satisfied with if I did make them) to give them away. This clean-out is helping me fit all of my supplies and patterns in an orderly way in my new sewing cabinet, which is exciting. When I have it all in order, I'll have to take some photos of our sewing space and how we organize our supplies for a future blog post.
Monday May 21 - Day 21
I wore my shawl collar blouse and the bottom half of my pale green floral set. Gia never has to get dressed, and yet she is always beautiful.
Tuesday May 22 - Day 22
I wore my black shirt-dress with a thrifted vintage leather belt. Some day I will have to try remaking this pattern and drafting the longer 3/4 cuffed sleeves that the previous owner cut off and neglected to put back into the pattern envelope.
Wednesday May 23 - Day 24
I didn't get a photo because I was baking bread in a homemade smock dress and got quite messy with flour.
Thursday May 24 - Day 24
I wore my brown puff-sleeved blouse, a handmade ribbon pin, and one of my black Simplicity 7880 skirts.
Friday May 25 - Day 25
Fridays are usually a big housekeeping day for me, filled with laundry, cleaning, and cooking, and time spent in the studio and taking care of the animals and the plants, of course. So I went casual and simple in a black cotton dress and a homemade necklace made of tree agates.
Saturday May 26 - Day 26
We had an early Memorial Day picnic with my brother's family, my sister, and my grandparents, so I dressed up a little in my recently completed (and very comfortable) blue floral dress. Also the eagle-eyed among you might notice that Mr Rat was kind enough to trim my hair for me.
Monday 14 - Day 14
I wore my black banded dress with a vintage agate necklace that I restrung after it fell apart one day on the way to the library. Finding all the beads was impossible, so I made a new, shorter necklace out of what was left.
Tuesday May 15 - Day 15
I wore my peter pan collared blouse with a ribbon tie and one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts.
Wednesday May 16 - Day 16
I wore my recently completed rose blouse and one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts that I made during the winter.
Thursday May 17 - Day 17
We had a wedding reception to attend in the evening, so I accessorized my rose print dress with my rarely seen (and only) pair of high heels, a vintage hat that Mr Rat gave me as a Christmas gift, and a wooden beaded bag that I found for a dollar at the thrift store recently.
Friday May 18 - Day 18
Friday was a busy cleaning and laundry day and although I was wearing a homemade smock dress, I didn't get a photo of it.
Saturday May 19 - Day 19
I wore my navy cotton twill jacket and my navy broadcloth Simplicity 7880 skirt, along with an old ready-to-wear white collared shirt (one of the few things left in my wardrobe that isn't handmade) and a sterling silver brooch in the shape of the letter E.
Sunday May 20 - Day 20
I wore my pale blue gingham dress and a recently completed crocheted shawl. This is the first time I've read a crochet pattern on my own and been successful with the outcome, so I'm really pleased with this simple shawl (although I didn't read the pattern perfectly and the shawl is a little shorter than it was meant to be as a result----but I'm fixing that on the new version I'm slowly working on when Mr Rat and I watch an occasional movie in the evening).
Monday May 7 - Day 7
I wore my pale tan striped puff-sleeved blouse and one of my Simplicity 7880 skirts, along with a vintage tiger eye brooch.
Tuesday May 8 - Day 8
I wore my black broadcloth jumper dress and a muslin blouse made from a 1970s pattern that I recently completed and haven't photographed for the blog yet. My necklace is a silver locket Mr Rat gave to me right before we got engaged. It's my favorite piece of jewelry.
Wednesday May 9 - Day 9
I wore a as-yet-unblogged khaki version of Simplicity 8458, a 1950s reproduction skirt pattern, and my floral collared blouse.
Thursday May 10 - Day 10
I wore my muslin square-necked blouse, my long brown Simplicity 7880 skirt, and my homemade jade necklace and earrings.
Friday May 11 - Day 11
The weather took a turn towards cold and rainy and I had lots of chores to do, so I wore a simple outfit: my black flannel dress and a homemade adventurine necklace and earrings.
Saturday May 12 - Day 12
I didn't get a photo of my outfit, although it was handmade. It was just that kind of day.
Sunday May 13 - Day 13
I wore my tan striped dress with a vintage silk scarf and a hair barrette I made myself with some velvet violets and leaves.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew