I am sorry for the long absence. This has been a year of unexpected and difficult adjustments, and sometimes those take up so much time and energy that there isn't much left over. Those of you who have been following along for some time will already know that our twelve and a half year old Labrador, Gia, who we loved and adored, passed away at the end of December. We had a difficult January. We tried to adopt a border-collie lab mix but there were some very large problems with the adoption----ones we couldn't handle in our current living situation----so we had to give him back up to the shelter, which was a terrible experience for my husband and me. Our second adoption ended up being a good match for us and for our new dog. His name is Cougar. He is a five or six year old golden retriever, lab, pit bull mix, and he is as sweet as can be. But he has needed a lot of training, as all of his manners are indoor manners and no one had ever taught him to walk on a leash. Between Cougar's training, bad weather, family visits, having friends and co-workers over for dinner, working, learning to make tortillas, replacing a broken bed, etc. our weekends for February were packed full, and then we were in March and suddenly the news became an overwhelming presence in our lives, and we were carefully taking stock of our pantry, and then our worries were confirmed as the coronavirus epidemic became a pandemic and like most of the world we became isolated in our living space.
I imagine that you are all dealing with some form of social distancing and self-quarantining, so you will probably understand why after over a week of working together in our smallish dark apartment and only leaving to exercise with Cougar very early in the morning, my husband and I were feeling hungry for a change of scenery. We decided last Sunday that we should take Cougar and get out and go on a drive out to the Bonneville salt flats, on the edge of the Utah border.
The salt flats are a striking place----miles on miles of flat white thick crusted salt. I wore a recently completed dress that I made from a thrifted sheet with a large print of faded roses and thought that the contrast of roses and salt ended up being rather poetic. The dress is actually made from a 1990s pullover blouse pattern, Simplicity 9132. I simply shortened it to 5/8ths of an inch below the waistline marking and then added a gathered skirt made of simple rectangles. It was a fast and simple sewing project, and it is very loose and comfortable. I made a size 10, but it is such an over-sized design that I could have easily made an 8, or even a 6 and I think it would have fit fine. The buttons on the cuffs were leftovers from my button jar. There weren't any other fastenings. I did discover a small hole in the sleeve after I finished sewing---one of the risks of sewing with second-hand fabrics, especially vintage sheets----so I simply cut out a little scrap of leftover fabric and patched it up. I don't think it is noticeable unless you know it is there and look for it. I don't mind patching things these days, as I feel like it is a statement that I care about this earth, and that lovely things should be cared for.
Getting out in the sunshine and fresh air felt very good after so much confinement. Hopefully Mr Rat and I can catch up somewhat on our backlog of sewing projects to photograph since we suddenly have our weekends all to ourselves for the foreseeable future. I have been cutting out and sewing new projects in an effort to keep myself busy and cheerful in the hours that I am not painting in the studio or doing housework. I miss doing little ordinary things---getting to plan trips to gardens and museums, going to the grocery store, going out on errands to buy buttons or go to the thrift store. They used to break up the monotony of working at home. Now I've had to try to find other things like doing extra baking, playing records, and taking breaks to play games with Cougar. Getting dressed up every day helps me feel dignified even when I feel overwhelmed by sadness or worries for the future. I'm trying to wear more of my homemade jewelry again, as the splash of color brings me a little burst of contentment when I put in on in the morning. I spent some time today doing more beading because I realized I had several strands of stones that were given to me for Christmas that I hadn't used, and beading is so relaxing when I am stressed. The simple action helps me focus on my hands.
How are you dealing with social isolation and quarantine? Do your clothes or crafts bring you comfort, too?
The poinsettias in the basket are hair-flowers that I made to share with the female side of my family at our Christmas family dinner. I tried to minimize wrapping paper this year, or to use kraft paper, reusable bags, and second-hand yarn bows, etc. to make our gift wrapping a little more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
This is another one of those patterns that I've been meaning to try out since I bought it when it came out and was on sale at JoAnn Fabric stores, but haven't gotten around to until I slimmed down my pattern collection considerably. I don't often buy new patterns, but I got this one because----well----because of the sleeves! They are pretty wonderful, and I was curious about the 1940s way of including front and back tucks around the waist to give a bloused top a neat shape when tucked into skirts. It is also a pattern that doesn't require much fabric, despite the volume of the sleeves, which is another plus.
The fabric for this wearable muslin is a bit of a surprise for me; the print is much larger than what I usually gravitate towards. But I was browsing a fabric sale at Clever Octopus, the local creative reuse center, and found this for two dollars, and thought immediately of Thanksgiving, and putting together something festive to wear. Well, it is done before Thanksgiving, and it is certainly festive, but I doubt I will actually wear it on the holiday, as we will be in Southern California visiting family and it will probably be very hot and we will be helping in the kitchen, so I will likely be wearing something more casual.
But I did enjoy wearing my new blouse to church this past Sunday, along with an old homemade skirt, a necklace made of jade (at least I think it was jade----I made it several years ago from beads that I bought at JoAnns), and hair-flowers that I made with dollar-store marigolds and alligator clips that I bought off of Ebay. If you are interested in making your own hair flowers, I have a tutorial here.
Construction notes: I cut a size 8 and the fit is good, with ease for comfort and moving around---except at the hips. There is one button at the very bottom of the blouse that causes it to ride up and ripple a little if I try to button it because my hips are a little too wide for the bottom of the blouse once the tucks were sewn. I think the easiest way to deal with this is to leave that bottom button off in future versions of the blouse, as it doesn't show when tucked in anyway, and I don't plant to wear it any other way. I did the button-holes by hand, as usual, and edge-stitched the neckline and cuffs. I did a narrow hem at the bottom. I used dollar brown shirt-buttons from JoAnn fabrics, as I didn't quite have the right amount or color of buttons in my thrifted stash. I didn't include shoulder pads, and luckily, I don't think this blouse needs them! I don't care for the way shoulder pads look or feel on me, so usually I might add a sleeve head to help the sleeves puff, but no padding otherwise. I didn't add a sleeve head in this blouse as the cotton is quite crisp. I did leave the top portion of the sleeve seam un-trimmed, which helps the gathers at the top of the sleeve puff out more. I also didn't try to pattern match, as I only had two yards of my second-hand fabric to work with and the repeat pattern is quite large.
After wearing this blouse all day on Sunday, I can affirm that this is a comfortable blouse, and I plan to keep this pattern, as I can imagine making some summery versions out of striped, floral, or solid cottons.
Have any of you tried this pattern? Do you plan on making Simplicity 8736? What do you feel grateful for during this Thanksgiving season?
I feel grateful for the fall, as brief as it was. It was beautiful. I feel grateful for my husband and my dog and my family. I am grateful for the use of my hands and the things that I can make: drawings and paintings, bread, meals to share, our indoor houseplant garden, quilts and blankets, letters and journals, music on the piano and the guitar, useful household items like re-usable grocery bags and washcloths, and of course, my own clothing.
As the year has progressed, I've been working on paring down my patterns. I used to enjoy having lots of choices and trying out new patterns almost every time I sewed a garment. It gave me a sense of plenitude, adventure, and richness of choice that I missed in some other aspects of my life. That has been a fun way to sew, but over this past year, I've found that approach working less and less well for me. Instead of bringing me excitement, my ever-expanding collection of patterns has been giving me decision fatigue. When patterns didn't turn out well I felt intensely discouraged. This has led me towards simplifying my sewing supplies and routines, so I've spent some time over the past two months sorting through my patterns and pulling many out for donation at the local creative re-use center I've only kept ones that I have had success with in the past and that have enough ease for current and future subtle changes in weight and muscle tone, or that looked promising enough to merit getting wearable muslin tests and a final decision over whether or not to keep them after all. Simplicity 9902 is one of the second small selection of patterns that I hadn't yet made up, but that I wanted to try.
I found Simplicity 9902 at the local creative reuse center, Clever Octopus, earlier in the year. It is a size 11/12 for young juniors/teens, but the measurements for this size are actually quite accurate for me, except for the shorter back neck-to-waist length. Keeping that in mind, I lengthened the pattern a bit over an inch. It has a bit of blousing now, so I could probably shorten it slightly if I wanted to, but the blousing also helps it have more ease for movement, so perhaps I won't make further changes. I also lengthened and widened the skirt to suit my own tastes. Since the shirt-waist has an elastic waist that is hidden under a belt when worn, it is forgiving to wear, despite looking rather neat and tailored in an early 1960s way because of the peter-pan collar and the subtly puffed sleeves with their small cuffs.
I made my test version in a thrifted cotton that I believe was originally one of the "homespun" line at JoAnn fabrics. I like the small navy blue plaid: it is versatile, and the cotton is soft and has a nice drape that suits the looser, gathered waist very well. This will be a good year-round dress because the cotton is light enough to wear comfortably in the summer, but is a dark enough color to look good in the fall, winter, and spring, layered with tights, a petticoat, sweaters, and coats. The buttons are also thrifted. Other construction notes: I did lots of edge-stitching to keep things looking neat, I made my button-holes by hand, the elastic is inserted in a waist channel made by sewing the bodice and skirt seam allowances together at the top, and I made small sleeve heads out of cotton from my scrap basket to help keep the tops of the sleeves puffed out.
I plan to keep Simplicity 9902. It is a sewing success, and I can see it working well in other cottons, linen, flannel or light-weight wool. It is one of those rare styles that looks good in all seasons and can be worn for most situations. I can imagine doing a summery version where I left out the waist elastic and made a loose pullover with short sleeves. I think there are many possibilities for adjustments and drafting new details. The fit is overall good, although I will add a warning to other women venturing into sewing the occasional teen size to check the waist length and that the arm holes may be a little smaller and higher than they are usually drafted for adults.
I have a few other patterns that I want to test out with wearable muslins, so keep an eye out for some new garments over the coming months, both here and on Instagram (when I can get around to taking photos for either platform---unfortunately it is very dark through the winter and occasions to take photos can be sparser than ever with the limited hours of day-light). I think that I will start repeating patterns far more often next year as I finish making wearable muslins and start experimenting with making pattern drafting adjustments to the patterns that I've kept in my collection. There will probably be some more paring down of patterns and styles as this process continues, too. I feel very drawn to greater simplicity at this moment, and though I think I will always like some variety of choice, I also feel attracted to experimenting with more of a "uniform," or at least a more unified set of variables in my closet to mix and match.
Mr Rat took these photos of me in my new autumn dress a few weeks ago on a weekend trip to Red Butte Gardens. It was cool enough to also need my newly thrifted wool coat, which required a few hours of mending and patching the lining to be in wearable condition again. I am glad that I did it, though, because I think this coat will be a firm favorite for many winters to come.
Do you prefer to sew new patterns? Or to make adjustments to what you already have? Have you ever been inspired to make a big change to your sewing pattern habits? Do you sew "uniforms" for yourself?
Before I get into reviewing this pattern, please let me first thank all of you who left kind and supportive comments on my last post from the bottom of my heart. I really appreciate the advice, the sympathy, and the solidarity. And I also want to mention that I was (and still am, a bit) worried about posting about the challenges I am sorting through this year. It is a hard balance between sharing real struggles, over-sharing personal details on the internet, and maybe worst of all---coming across as ungrateful and complaining when I think there are surely readers who are facing far worse challenges with health, finances, loss, grief, heart-break, or any number of terrible burdens. I know that I have much to be grateful for, and I am grateful for the good things and good people in my life---even as I simultaneously struggle with a sense of helplessness and discouragement about the things and people that are not good or whom I have lost, the slow pace of positive change in my own life, and how much I yearn for many things that are not available to me right now. I think those feelings are something that anyone who is struggling can relate to, and that was why I chose to post about some of my current struggles here (at least those not related to family or friends, as I wouldn't feel comfortable posting about problems in a public forum like this that involve other people other than Mr R and myself). I hope that you will forgive me if I was at all insensitive in my last post.
Sewing does play a role in facing and coping with hard feelings because sewing can offer small changes, and dignity, and self-expression. I value all of those things, and I value the conversation that I have with all of you, and want to thank you again for being here. As this hard year progresses, I am trying to using sewing's good qualities to keep bringing small, good changes into my life.
Now I will write a short review of my latest summer blouse. I often cut out sewing projects in batches, as cutting out fabric on the floor isn't my favorite part of the sewing process, and then I can sew several projects in a row without having to stop and do that step again. So I've had this peasant-style blouse cut from 1970s era Simplicity 8305 for a little while. I decided after a few sewing flops earlier this summer that I should focus on the simpler projects: ones that I am pretty sure that I will wear and like. This pattern reminded me a lot of a black gauze peasant blouse that I had for several years in California before it wore out. I've never found another one at the thrift store, so I thought that I should finally make my own and hopefully fill that long-standing hole in my closet.
I'm glad that I did, because this blouse turned out well. It is surprisingly generously cut, which gives it a flowing look, and also gives me no qualms about any possible size-changes in the future necessitating its removal from my closet (as I mentioned in my last post has happened to a lot of my more fitted clothes over the past few months). The lightweight brown cotton voile has a raised pattern of dots that give it a little bit of interest, and made it a little more challenging to sew, as my machine foot and needle didn't like getting over the dots very well. But my old Singer is very sturdy and managed, and the voile is very light on hot days. The slit down the front was too low when I finished the blouse, so I sewed it up a bit by hand and it still fits over my head just fine, as the neckline is relatively wide in the first place. The fabric was a remnant I picked up very cheaply in the LA fabric district a few years ago, so I'm glad that I finally used it, and that now it is a versatile summer blouse that I will wear often in the heat.
After such a positive review, it may be surprising that I don't plan on using the pattern again. But about a month ago I found an almost-the-same 1970s pattern at the thrift store that had a skirt and vest pattern with it that I liked better than this current one----and it has a draw-string neckline, which would make the blouse a little more adjustable. So I plan to keep the new, thrifted pattern, and send this one back to the thrift store for its turn to get chosen and used by someone else. If you ever come across a copy, I would still recommend it as a simple, elegant blouse, with clear instructions, and not too difficult for even a patient beginner to make.
In these photos that I took on our front patio with our sunflowers, I am wearing my new blouse with a brown skirt that I made almost two years ago, and new brown clogs that I found at a recent trip to the thrift store with my mom. It was a great find, as my over-five year old black clogs just got too uneven on the bottoms to wear anymore.
Please look forward to a new post from Mr Rat soon! I took some photos with him of his most recent sewing project and I'm excited that he will share them here as soon as he has time to sit down and write a review of his own.
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?
I apologize for the grainy photos----but at this point in the winter, I will take any weak ray of sunshine that I can get. Photographing indoors right now is much easier for most garments than outdoors while there are still mounds of snow everywhere, and ice patchily melting.
This is actually a garment that I sewed in November of last year to wear on our Thanksgiving trip to San Diego. When Mr Rat and I visit his parents, we are outdoors a lot, and sometimes help out cleaning up after the many animals on their property (Mr Rat's mother runs a successful petting zoo business and has miniature horses, ponies, miniature goats, ducks, chickens, and many beautiful rabbits scattered around their large yard). We also like to pick fruit and weed Mr Rat's cactus garden that he planted when we moved away from California and had to leave our potted cacti and succulents behind. While I do wear dresses and skirts while I'm in San Diego, sometimes it's useful to have my legs fully covered in denim, so I decided to attempt to make myself some jeans before we went last fall.
I was lucky enough to thrift a large piece of dark, heavy denim two or three years ago----almost five yards, I think, and 60 inches wide. It was very inexpensive, so I decided to go ahead without doing a muslin first and just try sewing up a pair of denim trousers using the 1970s Betsey Johnson pattern Butterick 3846, also found at the thrift store. I've made some pants from size 8 1970s patterns before (a while before I started this blog) and found that they fit----but just barely. They were too tight to be comfortable. My measurements are really closer to a full size larger for my lower body than my upper body, so I decided that making a size 10 might work And it did, even better than I thought it might. The crotch depth is rather low, but I think that goes with the 1940s-style of these wide-legged pants. I think the lower rise is necessary to make this style of high-waist pants comfortable to sit and walk in, since the denim has no stretch. The darts at the front and the back make the fit quite good, I think, and I like the high waist and wide waistband that make it easy to tuck in my shirts. I was careful to finish my seams with machine stitching on the inside to prevent fraying, I edge-stitched the waistband and the hem, and I used some heavy buttons that I bought at JoAnn fabric stores for the waistband closure and a metal jeans zipper for the front fly (my first time attempting one of those!). I did the buttonholes for the waistband by hand, which was a bit of a chore with such heavy fabric. But a thimble made it happen, and I put some fray-check on the inside, just to make sure it was as stable as possible. I didn't add the patch pockets this time, although I think I might the next time I need to make some pants. I did add some belt loops out of left-over scraps so I can wear a belt when I wish. The other thing I did to make the pants more sturdy was to sew the crotch and inner leg seams twice, to help them withstand the strain of movement. I left the hems rather long so I can wear my jeans with clogs, but when I'm wearing them with flats I just roll up the hems a little into a cuff, which has a rather 1940s look.
I was really impressed by how well our 1940s Singer 15-91 sewed through denim! On my old contemporary machine I would have been worried about straining the motor, but with our all-metal vintage Singer and a jeans needle, it was no problem at all.
I'm wearing my still-pretty-new jeans with a chambray shirt that I found on the clearance rack at a local thrift store for a dollar. It had a big tear near the original cuff, so I cut them off, sewed up a new hem on my machine, and rolled the sleeves up. I don't often do refashions, but occasionally I find something at the thrift store that I like well enough to take home and mend, like this shirt. I love the color and the faint floral pattern, and think it will make the perfect comfortable cleaning/work shirt.
I'm also wearing my old Lotta from Stockholm clogs and a thrifted sweater.
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.
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 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?
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.