I've made 1970s-era Simplicity 8611 before in black broadcloth, and it is a much loved member of my closet. Jumper dresses are so versatile, since any change of blouse makes them feel like a new dress altogether. In these photos, I am wearing my new golden version of Simplicity 8611 with my homemade peter pan collar blouse and one of my first ever homemade bags. I didn't use a pattern for my duck-goose bag---I found the panel of printed fabric at Goodwill and sewed two of the pieces together, using big scraps of muslin from my scrap box to interline it for some structures and some large pieces of linen leftover from my husband's shirt to line it. The wooden handles are from JoAnn fabric stores, bought with a coupon. So the grand total of the cost for my new tote bag was about $6. Tote bags are so useful for library trips, walking to the grocery store, or just carrying a sketchbook and a book of poetry to the park. On Sundays (like the one when these photos were taken) I use my handmade bag to carry my scriptures and a shawl to church.
The cotton for the dress is also a Goodwill find. In its previous life it was a king-size sheet, but I like it better as my new dress. I've worn it quite a few times since I finished it three weeks ago. As Mr Rat remarked, it matches the leaves exactly, and it pleases me to wear something special to enjoy the spectacular color of our neighborhood. Mr Rat and I watched an episode of 'Autumn Watch' on PBS recently and learned that people like us who go out to enjoy the fall foliage are called "leaf peepers." Autumn Watch is an unexpectedly funny show: in the first episode they aired hilarious (and sometimes tragic) footage of squirrels fighting over cached nuts, and bears eating tree-loads of apples.
Since I've sewn this dress before, its construction was quick and easy and had no surprises. I pinked most of the seams, lined the bodice with the same fabric that I used to make the rest of the dress, hand-picked the zipper, and used the big scraps left over to make door-cozies (my sister says that's what those tubes of stuffed fabric are called in England) for all of our downstairs doorways. The townhouse we're renting has two big sliding glass doors downstairs plus a front door and a garage door. This means that during the winter it is frigid and drafty downstairs. So now thanks to the leftovers from my new dress, our apartment is remarkably warmer. And that's a very nice thing, since it makes looking forward to winter not so hard.
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 past Sunday while we were at the park taking Gia on her evening stroll, Mr Rat was kind enough to take some pictures of this dress I made from 1990s-era Simplicity 7752. I have been wearing this comfortable, easy shirt-dress a lot since I finished it at the end of May, when some of you might have seen it here on the blog or on Instagram.
It is an easy dress to put together, and would be a good pattern for someone just venturing into dressmaking, I think. The bodice has no darts, the facings on the skirt are simply folded over, the cuffs are made in one piece without needing a button closure, and the overall fit is loose and forgiving. I made my version out of a $4 cotton-blend sheet that I found at our local Goodwill thrift store. The collar and cuffs are made from scraps leftover from another sheet that I used to make a blouse recently. The buttons were also thrifted, a long time ago. I have a jar full of this particular style of white buttons, which I use on a lot of my casual sewing projects. I used some scraps of bias tape to cover the waist-seam on the inside of the dress, and did lots of edgestitching to keep everything crisp. My buttonholes took me the most time since I sew them by hand, but it is a relaxing thing to do while watching Masterpiece Mystery shows.
I like the peter-pan collar and the simple, breezy, comfort of this dress. I think this pattern will likely become a favorite, as I've already cut out another version in navy blue, with a white collar and cuffs. I will probably use the same white buttons on that one, too, I would highly recommend this pattern to anyone looking for a simple sundress. Although I can imagine this pattern working just as well for fall or winter, sewn up in a nice warm flannel.
I've missed posting here---I've missed taking photos with Mr Rat----and I've missed all of you, and the interesting conversations that we have. This summer has been a hard one, and taking pictures and updating the website have both fallen by the wayside. Now that a few of the hard things are over and we are in the midst of coming to terms with some of the other difficult bits, I hope that we will be able to post here more regularly again. My goal is to manage a post at least one to three times a month. It is such a pleasure to have this project to work on together with Mr Rat: a little world of creativity to inhabit and develop here on our shared website, a record to keep of our efforts and growth. I don't want to let it go, and don't think that we are currently facing any life changes that will make continuing our work here impossible----it just gets hard sometimes when other things need our attention for a while.
I've had my copy of late 1960s-era Simplicity 9486 for at least two years now, and have always liked the look of the high waist, full skirt, ruffled sleeves and square neckline. Recently I found a large pale blue gingham sheet at Goodwill (much like the one I used to make this dress in the spring, just a shade darker) and decided that this would be a good time to try this dress out: at the height of summer, when comfortable, light dresses are the best thing to combat daily 100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Simplicity 9486 didn't disappoint. My only adjustments were to widen the skirt quite a bit, since I like freedom of motion that fuller skirts give me, and to use narrow seam allowances at the back of the bodice along the center-back zipper, since I found the bodice to be rather tight around my ribs and I had already gone too far in the sewing process to let out the side seams. In the future, I will remember to add a little bit of allowance at the side seams along the ribs, for ease of breathing and comfort. Otherwise, I'm very pleased with the fit: I like the higher square neckline, the four darts on each side of the bodice give it a lot of shaping, and the sleeves have a nice shape and pleasing amount of puff.
As usual, I edge-stitched around the neckline, interfaced the fabric along the zipper to keep that area from rippling, inserted the zipper by hand with a prick-stitch, and finished and stayed the waistline with a piece of bias tape which I sewed into the waistline seam and then folded up over the trimmed waistline gathers and sewed to the bodice to completely cover the raw edges. I pinked the other seam allowances and used some scraps of white bias binding to make the casings for the elastic at the wrists.
I'm wearing my new dress with a new-to-me $3 straw hat that I also found at Goodwill. Mr Rat took these photos during golden hour at the park down the street from the complex where we live. The park has an arboretum on the other side of the creek from the play areas for children. Mr Rat and Gia and I had a lovely, peaceful time wandering under the trees and admiring the flowers and bees that are still enduring despite the extreme temperatures all month.
On a different note: I do have to admit that I feel uncertain about wearing light blue. I like to wear navy and feel like it is a good color for me, but I find it hard to tell whether light blue is an unflattering color on me or whether I am just more comfortable wearing mid-to-darker shades than lighter ones. Do any of you have any advice about this? Choosing colors is such a subjective process. Light blue does feel very summery to me, so perhaps it doesn't matter whether or not it is a flattering color, so long as it is a happy one.
What do you all think about choosing colors for sewing projects: do you only choose flattering colors to sew with, or do you sew with any color that strikes your fancy and makes you pleased?
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.
Mr and Mrs Rat
Mr and Mrs Rat like to sew.