Archive for the tag 'sewing'

When I saw the Pantone Spring 2014 fashion color report, I thought it looked a little familiar. So I pulled out a couple of old Simplicity pattern books I have in my stash, and there, on the front of the Simplicity Summer 1959 book:

Simplicity Summer 1959

This look is Simplicity pattern 3014 in a “Far Eastern print” in rayon/silk blend by Fabrex. Of course, the print most reminds me of Islamic & Mediterranean tile-work, which even in the 50′s would not have been considered “Far East”. The mixture of obi, frog closure, kimono sleeve and Turkish-style mosaic print is interesting, though. And if that isn’t Dazzling Blue, Hemlock, Placid Blue and Violet Tulip, then it is pretty darn close.

Later in the book we find:

Simplicity Summer 1959 Dress

This look is Simplicity 2961 (which also included a short version) and I think it’s pretty safe to say that’s nearly Celosia Orange there. It illustrates the black and white print and full skirt adorned with a pop of color in the form of a bright “obi”. Included in this issue are also brief instructions and diagrams for constructing these wide sashes to add to your accessory closet. I’ll be exploring these in a later post.


Thursday’s Child: Heritage School

The history of Nebraska as a prairie state, of immigrants and settlers, is a valued part of our heritage around these parts. Willa Cather and Beth Streeter Aldrich wrote brilliantly of Nebraska’s pioneering history. (I personally recommend My Antonia by Cather and A White Bird Flying by Aldrich to anyone and everyone.) The social dynamics of European immigrants as settlers of Nebraska, the interaction of the communities of isolated nationalities, and how it can still be seen in the Nebraska of today are fascinating lessons in the history of American immigration, differing from those taught by 19th century Boston and New York. And we are proud of that history; of the perseverance and courage of our forebears.

And so, in my little part of the world, we try to teach our children the lessons of prairie life. In fourth grade, we send our children to Heritage School for a day, where they participate in a one-room class taught in the style of the late 19th century, in period clothing (or close approximations thereof) and with period expectations of manners. This after a long unit at school learning the differences they can expect, learning the songs they’ll sing, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (as it was said in the 1890′s), learning what kinds of lessons they can expect, and preparing for the spelling bee.

The foundation: A thrifted dress, possibly from a Halloween costume, but most probably from a past participant in Heritage School.

And where do I come in? The costume, of course. When I attended Heritage School, my mother made my costume, and I could do no less than to put my skills to work for my own daughter’s special day. I cheated a little; At Goodwill dollar days when the Halloween costumes were still on display I found a dress that would fit Kit, who is nearly the same size as I am. (The dress I wore to Heritage School in 4th grade Kit wore at Halloween when she was 6.) The dress is a somewhat unfortunate color of peach, and had a strange stand-up, fold-over collar and 3/4 length sleeves, with a weird yoke-look created with applied eyelet on the front of the dress. Obviously we had some things to change. I removed the eyelet on the front. I planned on removing the edging from the sleeves as well, but plans change. I managed to find a fabric that closely matched the dress and was therefore able to remove the weird collar and replace it with a rounded collar much more in keeping with the period. The matching fabric also allowed me to use contrasting fabric on other parts of the costume, which was nice.

All decked out.

I created a plain muslin petticoat, which you can’t see. The bib apron is my own design, and I’ll be re-making a slightly modernized version with a tutorial in the near future. (It’s really very easy, and I just made it up as I went. In the re-make, there are a few points I’ll change for the sake of elegance of design.) For the bonnet I used this tutorial with a few changes (namely using a contrasting fabric for the underside of the brim and no interfacing) and was very happy with the results. Kit has requested that we keep them rather than donate them to the school when she’s through, but we will be lending them out in the future. Kit is by far one of the tallest children in 4th grade, and the items of her costume are very much adult-sized. I know from personal experience that it can be a challenge to provide costumes for a child of such above-average size, and it amuses me a little to know that a teacher could just as easily borrow this particular outfit. Notes on the costume itself: Yes, it is March, but it is snowing today, so long underwear was necessary, and owing to the non-period-correct short sleeves, her long-johns show. Also, I was so busy making the costume that I forgot I needed to go hunting for less-obvious shoes. Bad mommy. She does have a shawl of wool plaid for wearing inside the chilly schoolhouse, but fortunately, they’ll be wearing their own coats for recess.


Wednesday’s Child: Zombie Pinup

zpinupLast year for Valentine’s Day, I helped my husband prepare for a very special photo shoot. The Zombie Pinups website was hosting a Zombie Valentine contest, and we wanted to take part. Zombie Pinups is run by a friend from Zombie Army Productions out of Chicago, and last year’s contest was judged by Matt Valentine; a contestant from Syfy’s Face Off. The prize was a great lot of horror-related swag. So my husband gathered together a team of makeup artists from the area, I helped prepare the set and costumes and he found a model he liked for the part, and we put together an entry. And we won! You can see a gallery of the complete shoot at my husband’s website, but be careful, as some of the images are definitely more risque than others. The giant heart-shaped floor pillow seen at left was my major contribution to the effort, and you can find instructions in another post.


Thursday’s Child: Pirates

This weekend my daughter and I are attending a costume birthday party with a pirate theme. I’ve worked a number of pirate festivals in my day, in addition to having a reasonable ren faire garb closet, so putting together a couple of pirate costumes doesn’t present that big a challenge. However, I’ve got a bee in my bonnet to go Airship Pirate instead of High Seas pirate.

Now, the golden age of Caribbean privateers and piracy up the coast of the US was in the 17th and 18th centuries. Your typical Airship pirate is aiming for somewhere mid-19th, so the look is going to be somewhat different.

By the Victorian era, gone was the tricorne from the naval uniforms of Europe, and thence out of pirate ken. However, the tricorne’s descendant, the bicorne (you might recognize this hat style from a number of famous paintings of Napoleon.), was widely in use in naval officer dress around the world until the early 20th century, and would be a good option for a Victorian-era costume. For an airship, leather aviators caps and goggles, though somewhat cliche’, are also useful.

I like the idea of steampunk and pirate costumes (or both) for women incorporating items of men’s clothing as well. A peek at historical female pirates generally shows them in very masculine wear, although that might be artistic license. But it must be said that trousers seem a more practical garment for swashbuckling than a dress. For a steampunk outfit, I think a knickerbocker-style pant tucked into tall boots would be lovely. A more feminine approach would be a pair of bloomers, although at some point the knickerbockers and bloomers will be difficult to tell apart. A pair of baggy pants made of linen could be either. Give it a fancy edging and a casing for elastic and it’s a bloomer, tuck that fancy edging into a boot top and it’s a knickerbocker. Very handy.

My own plan involves a black velvet corset, linen bloomers in a color I haven’t chosen yet, probably cinched above the knee, stockings and booties, a man’s banded-collar shirt and a fur and leather mohawk aviator cap affair if I have time to make it. With some adjustments at a later date, this could also make a good con costume.


Sunday’s Child: Ahoy matey!

Sunday’s Child focuses on happy children. The easy way out for a Sunday article is therefore a toy pattern. I’ve gone a step further and taken the exceptionally lazy way out by providing you with a scan of the pattern, but not even trying to enlarge it to useful proportions. The graphic is set at about 1 square = 1/2″ and should just fit on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. It will then need to be enlarged by 400% for the sit-able size. However, the toy itself is sweet and whimsical, and is both stuffed animal and nursery furniture, and one can adjust the size to anything desired, from tiny to towering. My own child is outside the appropriate age group for this toy, or I’d make it myself. Added note: I love that it has a tattooed fin. So, without further ado, I present the Sit-on Whale from the Woman’s Day gift issue, November 1963.

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A Dress for Kit

It has been quite some time since I made this item, but a variety of factors inhibited me from posting about it. The short and sweet is this:

Kit and I went to the fabric store together to buy supplies to make her first-day-of-school outfit for her 1st grade year. She chose a couple of patterns that happened to be on sale cheap that day, and were very simple, so I bought them in two sets of sizes, to fit now and to fit later. Of those, we alighted on Butterick pattern 5022, item B, a jumper-style dress. We went hunting for fabric, and Kit chose bright guitars on a green background and purple with white dots. (You might recall that when I made her stocking I thought her choice of greens was… weird… but once I got them together, they looked great. Well, the same could be said of this experience.)

Some sewing, some adjusting, and some time later, here is Kit in the finished product:

Guitar Dress 2
She looks cute, and she loves it. I did some extra work to make sure there were almost no raw edges, and it’s made of quilting cotton, so it is very washable and is a nice, light and airy dress for her to wear on these HOT summer days!



I have a love affair with kitschy vintage stuff. Bowling things make me especially happy. I love bowling bags. So, when I walked to the sporting goods section of the Goodwill a few days ago, and saw a tooled-leather bowling bag practically in pieces on the bottom shelf, I swooned a little. But what would I do with a bowling bag that was falling apart? Was it in good enough condition to try to save?

The answer was no. The stitching was rotting, the thing was falling apart. The bottom had obviously been sitting in water at some point, so there was some staining and some mildew. But… but… well. Tooled leather bowling pins. That’s all I’m saying. I bought it, and I brought it home, and I got some ideas.

Step one was simply giving up and taking the entire thing apart. I broke it down to its constituent parts, and then discarded whatever clearly couldn’t be saved. That was pretty much all the non-leather parts, including the bottom, as well as many of the very thin leather parts, like trims and lacing. But I did get the two large front and back panels, two smaller panels from the sides and the side/top parts where the zipper resides. Which, really, were the only important bits.

Step two was reconditioning. I first soaked the pieces in hot water for a bit, then washed them carefully. I used Dawn dish soap. (Hey, if it’s safe enough for the oil-covered critters, I figured it’s safe enough for this, and I didn’t have any saddle soap handy, although I really should get some.) I scrubbed carefully with a soft cloth to remove the dust in the tooled designs, and the filth on the inside of the leather, to include mold on at least one piece. After rinsing thoroughly, I let the pieces dry overnight. The next day, the task was to remove as many of the tedious little leftover bits of stitching as possible, and then oil those puppies. I had some mink oil I bought to condition some shoes, and along with the shoe brush and an old cotton sock, I first scrubbed, then rubbed, the mink oil into both sides of the leather pieces, being careful to get the edges really well.

Ladies and gentlemen:


The bowling scene. I love this. I believe this will be one side of a knitting bag. It will be a basic tote style, with the rest of the body made of felted plaid wool suiting or coat material, and bowling-themed lining fabric. (I’m contemplating designing my own, having not yet found one I really love anywhere.) The handle hardware will be replaced, and it will also have a shoulder strap.


The rose. Yeah, this is awesome. Another tote-style bag, possibly also a knitting bag. Like the other large panel, the handle will be replaced, and it will have a shoulder strap. Meanwhile, this one will, I think, have a black/red color scheme. I’d like to do plaid in those colors if I can find it, but otherwise a plain black or strip will work. For the lining, I’m thinking rockabilly, Day of the Dead or Catholic imagery. And I was also thinking about doing some kind of black-polish wash-type thing to only the rose portion of the tooling.

Last, but not actually least:


Each of these pieces measures a little under 6″x9″. I’m thinking I’ll knit and felt bodies for them and make clutches or little handbags out of them. The floral motif one will have a zippered coin pocket. (I am not sure what that zipper was for, but it reached into the liningless bottom of the bag.) The other piece used to have a little window sewn on to put a name label. The stitch holes delineate an area almost the exact size of my driver’s license, which means by the time I sewed a window pocket there it would be too small to actually put the ID in there, or at least, a very tight fit. So. I’m thinking it’ll have some kind of pocket, but I’m not sure what.

Not pictured are the zipper bits. I haven’t finished reconditioning them yet, as I have a LOT of stitching to take out first. (Including removing the zipper.) Once done, I think they’ll make a really interesting little bag. I have ideas. Oh yes.

The really nice thing about all this is, I think I can do a lot of the sewing on my machine, including sewing the leather pieces to the fabric. The former stitching left holes, and as long as I go slowly and/or hand crank the machine, I think my machine will be able to use the old stitch holes with no problems. That’ll save a lot of work, although the other nice thing about the stitch holes is, even my ungainly hand-stitching will look neat, wherever it happens to be necessary.


Princess Peach

For Halloween, my daughter requested a Princess Peach costume. Now, as a gamer, I think that’s pretty darn cool. As a person who sews only moderately well, I felt a little bit threatened by the level of challenge it was bound to present. It turned out pretty OK, and Kit dubbed it “AWEsome!”. Good enough for me!

Princess Peach

We aren’t cosplayers, and I was working with some of the most uncooperative fabric known to man, so there are a few inaccuracies, shortcuts and otherwise non-perfect things about this costume, but overall I think it is recognizable, and really, pretty great if I do say so myself.


Cold, Cold Crafting

So, this weekend is the Midlands Pirate Festival at the Bellevue Pumpkin Ranch. Saturday night is the Lincoln Zombie Walk. Last year, we had a great time with both of these outdoor events. This year, it is supposed snow and the high is mid 30′s. It will be a coooold pirate fest, and a colder zombie walk. Cory and Kit probaby won’t even attend the pirate festival, and the zombie walk hinges entirely on the weater at this point.

However, I am committed to helping my friend run her booth at the festival, so I’ve had to do some quick thinking about how to turn my pirate garb from summer to winter, and fast. The current plan: A skirt, possibly two. I am hoping to have time to make a pair of woolen bloomers or breeches to wear underneath. Kneehigh stockings or sock-weight tights and boots. For a blouse, I really don’t know yet. I have no bodices that really fit at the moment, so I’m going with a sash this year. I’m hoping to get a dreadlock hat made of felted wool, since it will be both piratey and warm. And to top it all off, a bucaneer coat.

And here’s where it gets crafty. The coat will be the one pictured below, repurposed.

Great Coat to Pirate Coat

This is an old German military greatcoat that has seen better days. It’s a sort of heathered black/green wool felt, very heavy. The lapels fold back on themselves and button like a good, old fashioned pirate coat should.

My alterations will include the following:
Cutting it shorter and rehemming.
Relining from the waist down.
Relining and reshaping the collar.
Altering the side-back seams so it is a more shapley cut.
Repositioning the belt thing in back to accentuate the new shape.
Adding pleats below the new seam line to give the back more flounce.
Using the material cut from the bottom to fashion giant cuffs.
Adding a LOT more buttons.

I got started on it last night, and have some better before pictures that I’ll post with the finished project. I’ve gotten it cut down, got the back seams redone, and got stuck because I couldn’t find black thread. I’ll be picking up some of that, plus some lining material tonight, although I’m torn on whether to go with black or try to find some to pick out the green, but I think the rest of the work on it should go VERY quickly.