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.
If this fabric seems familiar, that's because I've used it once before already this year: to sew my Valentine's Day dress. Even though it was just a thrifted sheet, the fabric was still much too lovely to toss out the large, usable scraps leftover from the dress. So I decided to test out a recent Ebay pattern acquisition: Simplicity 7460, which I cut in a size 8, but with size 10 length kimono sleeves. I like this pattern very much! It's really easy and quick, and the fit is great: loose without being baggy. I think it is the perfect summer top, and I'm sure I'll be making some more, because it is so comfortable to wear and so fast to make. I think this would be a great pattern for beginner seamstresses, since you don't have to worry about setting in sleeves or sewing a collar or anything else finicky.
These dark pink buttons are ones I harvested off of an old dress that I used to wear when Mr Rat and I were dating. I was very fond of that dusty pink floral dress, and sad when it got a big tear that I couldn't fix. So I've been saving the buttons all these years for something special, and I think this project was just right for them: I'm sure I'll wear this blouse a lot this summer and in summers to come, and the pink matches the rose print perfectly.
Mr Rat kindly took these photos of me wearing my new blouse in my parents' backyard while we were visiting them earlier this month. It did me good to see so much sunshine again, and the roses starting to bloom, and the nasturtiums and bougainvillea and pomegranates all so vibrant.
I'm wearing my new blouse with an old Simplicity 7880 skirt, made of thrifted cotton poplin.
This dress marks many firsts for me: first vintage vogue pattern (I tried sewing a few modern vogue patterns when I first started sewing my clothes again and had bad troubles with the fit every time, which scared me off from Vogue patterns for a couple of years), first buttoned front that overlaps a little ways under the waistband rather than going all the way down the dress, first pleated skirt, and first tucks.
The pattern is a 1970s Vogue American Designer Giorgio Sant'Angelo pattern in my usual size 8. It fit perfectly! So I think I can try other vintage Vogue patterns from the same era with new-found confidence. This particular pattern is actually designed to be made out of bed sheets, so my choice of a thrifted striped floral sheet from Goodwill suited it very well. I couldn't quite squeeze out enough fabric for the bottom ruffle, but I think the dress looks nice without it. With the ruffle I think it would have come down to my ankles, which is something to consider for future versions, but being a little shorter this time makes it more summery, I think. My only other change was inadvertent: since Vogue patterns can be rather scarce in portions of their instructions, I think I may have done the tucks on the sleeves on the wrong side, but I like the way they look, so I am not displeased with my mistake.
The construction is interesting: the whole skirt is pleated and then you turn up and sew the seam allowance on the back of the skirt only to create a casing for elastic. There is a sort of button fly detail in the front that was hard to figure out with the minimal Vogue instructions, but I managed it eventually. The fabric ties are pleated where they are sewn into the bodice sides. And the top of the sleeves are tucked (a very lovely detail), before they puff out down to the elasticized wrists.
Considering the greater level of detail, this dress didn't take me much longer to sew than any of my other dresses, which I find encouraging. I like the shape of it, and I think I'll likely make it again.
These photos of my new dress are also from our visit to our parents in California. I made this dress specifically to wear to an opening at the Getty Villa. We didn't get any pictures that night and I thought it was a shame not to wear such a pretty summer dress again while we were enjoying such warm weather, so I wore it again when we went to Descanso gardens with my Dad. It made me feel happy as a child to find some tall snap-dragons and make them 'snap.' And oh----the blossoming trees, and all the wildlife we saw! So many big frogs and turtles, all sorts of birds and insects and butterflies of every color. It was really a pleasant day to enjoy Spring.
Have you done anything special to celebrate the arrival of spring (or autumn, if you live in the southern hemisphere)?
These photos of my new spring outfit are a bit belated: Mr Rat took them on the same day that I took pictures of his tan linen shirt. And I actually sewed this outfit several months ago in February but it just wasn't spring-like enough to wear it right away. It wasn't quite spring at the beginning of this month, either, except for the blossoming trees and the very beginnings of leaves coming out on the willows. You can see also that the grass was growing green, but it was still very cold and windy. And so I'm afraid that my two-piece vintage dress made from 1970s McCalls 2592 (which I sewed last fall in denim) and Simplicity 7880 (which I have sewn many, many times) looks a little disheveled and wind-blown in these photos and so do I.
I made this outfit out of a queen sized sheet that I found at Goodwill. I suspect that it was homemade, since there was a zig-zagged seam that ran all the way down the middle, and an extra wide border where the Indian-inspired floral paisley print was turned sideways. Light green isn't a typical color for me, but I liked the old-fashioned print and decided to try it out, since $4 for a whole lot of fabric is not a large risk. The seam in the middle required some creative cutting, as you can see in the photo below. The collar, blouse, and peplum all have a seam down the middle back. And the wrinkles around my arms aren't typically there, it was just that I was hugging myself from the cold and wishing I could put my cape back on. We didn't get many other photos of the back of the dress, since it was a very quick, very cold photo shoot that day, so this one will have to do. The buttons are the inexpensive $1 'thin-line' sort from JoAnns, which I bought half-off on sale. It took me two sets of buttons to finish the front of the blouse, for a grand total of $1. It is a little hard to see in the soft grey light of these photos, but the buttons are a soft peach-pink that looks well with the pink flowers in the print of the dress. As usual, I finished the inside of the waist seam with bias tape, pinked the seams, stitched around the arm holes twice before I trimmed them, and used stiff waist-band interfacing to keep the waistband of the skirt from rolling. As a last construction note: I also cut the skirt so that the border was on the bottom, taking away the need to add any kind of hem, since the border was already finished on the edge.
I'm wearing my dress with my favorite vintage boots, stockings and a petticoat for warmth, and a vintage gold brooch shaped like a bouquet of violets that Mr Rat gave me for Valentine's day. My nephew gave the outfit his stamp of approval: it was the first time he told me that I looked 'very pretty.'
I have sewn 1970s-era Butterick 6469 before, but it was long before Mr Rat and I started this blog, and I wasn't as pleased with that original long-ago dress that I made as I am with this one. Since it has been several years since I last sewed it, I forgot how fitted this pattern is. While the dress is comfortable to wear overall, the tight sleeves don't give me a full range of movement. I think the simplest way to solve this problem in the future is just to switch out the long, slim sleeves for a puffed or flared style.
The sewing process for this dress was simple and straightforward. The only changes I made were to widen the skirt for more fullness, leave the buttons and loops off of the center seam and the sleeves, and to add some more of the cotton crochet trim to the neckline and sleeves. These particular sleeves have never eased in quite smooth for me, so I made a slight gather at the top to make it look slightly puffed. The gingham is from a queen sized cotton-poly blend sheet that I found at Goodwill recently. The cotton crochet trim is from Hobby Lobby, and was pre-washed with the fabric before I sewed it on by hand after the dress was complete.
I think this dress will look nice in the summer with a big straw hat and straw purse. Even though it is still grey and cold out, and I had to wear it over stockings and boots and under a heavy cape and shawl, at least the color and the pattern of this dress remind me that spring is coming.
You can see that I persist in sewing hopeful spring/summer clothing despite the weather's just as persistent insistence that it is not warm enough to wear them. I had just finished my first attempt of 1970s-era Butterick 3953 before Mr Rat and I decided to go visit the Red Butte Gardens in north-eastern Salt Lake City this past Saturday. Since it has been too dark, too stormy, and too busy to take photos for most of the month, Mr Rat suggested I wear my new blouse and he could photograph it during our exploration of the garden. It was a hopeful suggestion, but most of the time I was bundled up in my homemade grey wool cape and my long brown skirt and the only time my blouse saw the very weak sunshine was when I took off my cape long enough to capture the few photos above.
We enjoyed our trip to the gardens, and seeing the first bulbs blooming in the midst of the grey and brown expanses of grass and soil and bare branches. I also enjoyed wearing my new blouse, and foresee it making many reappearances during Me-Made-May and afterwards, as the weather warms up. I like the fit, the ruffles at the bottom of the sleeves, and the scooped neckline. The hardest part of sewing it was turning the long drawstring inside out. That took me quite a while of patient poking with a bamboo skewer. And the next hardest part was sewing the bias binding casings on straight for the sleeve elastic and the drawstring waist. The rest of the blouse was quite simple: it has no darts, just a little easing at the sides of the bust, and all the shaping comes from the casings. I did the buttonholes by hand, used thrifted buttons (I have so very many of these white buttons! You will probably see them on a lot of my summer sewing ahead this year), and added white cotton crochet lace trim by hand to the neckline, the bottom hem, and the ends of the sleeves. I like the crochet trim a great deal: it is delicate and simple. I try to buy a few spools of it whenever trims come on sale at Hobby Lobby and I happen to be near a store. Then I pre-wash it, since it is prone to shrinking, and iron it before I sew it onto my chosen fabric. This particular fabric is a thrifted piece of seersucker in a nice shade of grey-blue.
Altogether, I am pleased with my first attempt at this pattern. I think I might change the slope of the shoulders just a little, so that the neckline is a little tighter, but otherwise I don't think it needs any adjustments.
Has spring sprung in your part of the world yet? (Or autumn, for the lower hemisphere). Do you ever sew out of season, just because you are looking forward to the next one a little more than the one you are in? Winter feels like it has been going on for such a long time.
Now that the snow is melting and the sun is back warming up the very-blue sky, perhaps I can finally try to catch up on some of my sewing projects here on the blog. It is still cold to photograph outside, so I used the tripod and took a few photos of my new blouse in my studio (you can see some pieces in progress and some of my various sketches and paintings behind me). This short and simple top exists almost entirely thanks to thrift store finds and a little bit of work: I found both the pattern, 1970s-era Simplicity 5639, and the fabric, a black cotton with a subtle stripe woven into it, on separate thrift store trips. I think I've had the fabric since we lived in California, but I found the pattern here in Utah. It is always a nice thing to find a pattern I like in my size at the thrift store, and even nicer when that pattern is not missing any pieces.
I like that this pattern is a very quick and easy project. It didn't take me long to finish it. In fact, most of the sewing was done in one day. There are no closures to worry about, which speeds up the process even more. I did my usual finishing touches: edge-stitching the yoke all the way around, and finishing the hems with a narrow machine-stitched seam. Although it may be hard to see in these photos, I cut the yoke on the crosswise grain so that the stripes run perpendicular to the rest of the blouse. I'm pleased with the fit, which is breezy and comfortable. The simplicity of the cut lends itself well to highlighting handmade jewelry, like this honey jade necklace I made last year, or a beautiful shawl. The only concern I had during the construction would be that the blouse would be too short and I would worry about raising my arms whenever I wear it. But it turned out not to be a problem; with a narrow hem, it hits me at the high hip, and I can stretch any direction without trouble.
I imagine I will wear this blouse a lot as the weather warms up. It is wearable now with one of my long handmade Simplicity 7880 skirts over a slip and stockings and socks, and layered with a shawl, but it will be even easier to wear when it is hot enough to not need so many layers. In fact, this pattern strikes me as being so perfect for summer that I already cut out another copy in unbleached cotton muslin. I suppose it is optimistic to be thinking ahead to warm weather clothes, but I feel a need for hopefulness right now. Maybe the snow will finish melting this week---maybe it will be warmer next week---maybe by next month I can start planting flowers and re-potting my faithful houseplants, and even draw outside again.
What are you looking forward to doing when spring arrives? Or autumn, if you are in the southern hemisphere----summer can be just as hard to endure as winter, which makes the transitional seasons of spring and fall so beloved, so beautiful, and yet so brief.
While we are waiting for better weather to photograph our new sewing projects, I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the patterns I've thrifted in the past few months. Utah is much richer hunting ground for patterns than California, I think. I've also found some lovely pieces of fabric, but you'll have to wait until I sew them up to see them. . .
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?
This is the first Christmas season that Mr Rat and I have had a full size tree to decorate. Our tree is still pretty modest, bought for a mere $20 from Savers, and not any taller than I am----but we are so pleased to have a chance to hang the ornaments we've been given and bought at thrift stores the last few years. Of course, there weren't very many ornaments, since we've never had a big tree to hang them on, and so our new tree looked very sparse. After considering all those empty branches, I took an idea from the miniature tree we've been using the last five years and pulled out my Japanese origami paper and made peace cranes, which I then threaded with sewing thread loops. I also had some fabric that a friend gave me years ago with a lovely pattern of Renaissance rabbits playing instruments at a feast. So I cut them out and cut matching backs from a scrap of pink and cream ticking striped cotton, and sewed them together and stuffed them and added white ribbon hanging loops. Between all the handmade ornaments and the candy canes we bought at the grocery store, suddenly our tree didn't look so bare anymore.
Have any of you been working on Christmas sewing? I've made a few presents by hand, including some jewelry, and also stuffed toys for Gia using the leftover fluff from stuffing the fabric ornaments, but I feel like the hand-made part of my holidays was mostly ornament making this year. Although there is still holiday baking to be done, so I suppose our hand-made Christmas is not done yet. . .
And here is the miniature tree we've used the past five Christmases, with its handmade crane ornaments that I folded out of wrapping paper. The rest of the tiny ornaments are from Michaels craft stores and bought at thrift store Christmas sales.
I hope you all are having a good start to your holiday season! My own got off to a rough start with a bad case of laryngitis last week, but hopefully the rest of the month will feel better. I wish you all a festive, peaceful, and restful December.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew