Friday, February 26, 2010

make do and mend

I have this friend who is very good at finding treasures.  All manner of curios have passed through his hands over the years, and occasionally one is gifted to me.  Perhaps you have a friend like this, or you have this strange ability?  Once, he found a vintage suitcase on the side of the highway.  Upon opening it, he saw its lonesome content: a taxidermied baby gator, very dusty and old.

Last fall, he found a rusty red tin of buttons and gave them to me.  The tin appeared to contain a lifetime of buttons, none of them newer than the 1960s I think.  (Is there a button-dating resource?  I'd like to know.)  One night I sat down and separated the buttons into shank and flat jars:  


Digging through the sediment, I found many striking old gems.  Buttons today just don't measure up!  I also discovered button tins are full of non-button things, such as belt buckles, bra backs, and beads.  If you collect buttons, for the sake of the next generation, please keep your miscellany separate!  The remnants:

I like the feeling of viewing a person's history (or a family's history) through the lens of a button collection.  There are matching sets apparently cut from a garment, and covered buttons slowly disintegrating.  I found several dozen clear flat buttons designed for utility's sake. Probably a third had been salvaged from clothing--the thread was still attached.  This collection was a hard-times response: make do and mend.  Today, maybe it'd be considered hoarding.  It doesn't appear the collector wasted a thing, and I hope to do her thriftiness justice over the years.  I will never, ever need to buy another button in all my years! 

Here's the best part!  My three favorite non-button finds, two bullets and a lapel pin named Don:

Another gift, found by said friend and given to my other half, guards our living room.  I will let you decide whether it is treasure or something else:

Monday, February 15, 2010

Madeleine Mini Bloomers pattern review

If you've read any sewing blogs the last few days, you've likely heard Colette Patterns released a mini bloomers pattern that is free to download.  Last night, after cutting out Simplicity 2443 (and realizing I had miscalculated yardage for the skirt by 1/4 yard) I decided to switch gears and start on these sweet little bloomers.  I used some leftover voile from this dress, cut it out quick with a rotary cutter and cans of tomato paste as pattern weights, and got to sewing.

The instructions are easy to follow and clearly illustrated, and the whole project came together in a couple of hours.  The most time-consuming parts: threading the elastic and ribbon (I used twill tape) through their casings.  This took no more time than usual, but would've been quicker had I trimmed the seam allowances enclosed by the casing.  I struggled to negotiate the safety pin (pinned to the end of whatever I was threading) through at every seam intersection!  To be fair, the pattern suggested trimming.  I just didn't do it.

It seemed like a beginner or advanced beginner pattern to me.  No extraordinary skills or know-how are required--just a little bit of patience!  All the raw edges must be finished, so if you have a serger or pinking shears, use them.  I zig-zagged the edges but I suppose it would've been faster to pink them.

One weird part: the front and back crotch seams don't match up perfectly.  When it comes time to sew that seam, you'll notice that either the front or back piece (can't remember which; I think it's the back) is drafted so that a very angular piece extends beyond the opposite half.  Does that make sense?  Anyway, this is inconsequential.  Once you sew the crotch seam, you can trim that little triangle so that the front and back edges form a continuous line.

What few modifications I made were out of necessity: I didn't have any 1/4" ribbon on hand, so I made a wider casing to accommodate the twill tape.  I also did a few steps out of order because I thought it'd be easier.  (Rather than sewing the elastic casing, then threading the elastic, then sewing the ribbon casing, then threading the ribbon, I stitched all casings and threaded last.  That way the garment wasn't gathered and puckered while I was trying to sew the leg seams.)  Also, be sure you stabilize your buttonholes on lightweight fabric!  I used tiny scraps of light- or mid-weight fusible. 

On a real person, pardon the lighting issue:

Next time, I think I'll change a few more things.  I cut the pattern according to the sizing chart measurements, and I was the smaller of the two in one size category.  The chart covers bust, waist, and hip but not badonk circumference, which would've been helpful.  That happens to be my most girthsome measurement (about 13" larger than my waist), and much of the gathered effect was lost in the back because I filled it out.  I'm not sure what will remedy this, although I think a slightly higher rise and strategically decreased seam allowances would help.  Or maybe just cutting a larger size.  Just a caveat for all you ladies with proportions like mine!

So, if you haven't already downloaded the Madeleine Mini Bloomers pattern from Colette Patterns, get to it!  And if you make a pair, I'd like to hear how they turn out.  I like how they feel and drape in Little Folks voile.  If you use this fabric, I recommend a smaller needle, either 70/10 or 75/11.

Note: I tried to be very aware of framing the issue of fit.  Like a lot of women, I have more going on in some parts of my body than others.  So few of us can sew a pattern straight through without making alterations.  Sewing for my body can be frustrating because I usually can't just pick a size and go, but it's also a welcome challenge and has helped me feel more comfortable with myself.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

voile, vintage, and Value World

Look!  I finally took a photograph of the dress that won't sew itself!  This is my rendition of McCall's 5845 in Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks voile.  Back view:


 There are several things to note about this pattern.  First, the dress is supposed to have exterior darts.  This was kind of a neat detail, but didn't suit the vintage/classic feel I was getting from the fabric.  It's fully lined (skirt shown unlined) and because of this, the garment contains a total of 28 darts.  TWENTY-EIGHT.  Next time, I will find a faster way to mark them, because something tells me I took the long route.  

The reason the dress is still separated at the waist is this: I sewed the skirt sides together without fitting it first.  Same goes for the lining.  Then I trimmed the frayed bits from the seam allowances, and only then did I think to try it on...  And you know what?  I have a little too much real estate to cram into that skirt.  Now I am avoiding the most horrifying part: figuring out whether I can just let out the seams, or if I must reconstruct half of the dress.  Damn.  It.

My goal is to have it finished by my birthday at the end of the month.  It'd be fun to dress up in something I made!

If I make this dress again, I think I'll use a heavier-weight fabric, forego the lining and just finish the seams.  Lining is a nice idea, and the sheerness of the voile really necessitated it, but making a lining really means putting two dresses-worth of work into one garment.  No thanks.  I'd rather have two dresses.

Last Monday Abbey and I made a trip to Indianapolis, our closest major city, for a day of mall commerce and thrift store bargains!  One Value World (née Village) had an amazing selection of vintage patterns, and I chose just five to be my very own:

Only $0.49 each!  See the one in the center?  Before finding that pattern, I bought a dress cut just like it at H&M for $15.  Perhaps I'll finish one project before beginning the next, huh?