Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Sleep No More Skirt and the I Don’t Believe In UFOs Blouse

What we have here, folks, is a double header.

First of all, I hope you had a merry christmas/awesome 6th day of hanukkah/day just like any other. I myself celebrated in the traditional way of my people, gorging on popcorn during Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows (it was awesome. AWESOME.) and then feasting on Chinese takeout in the company of my family. It was quite a day, I must tell you.

Second of all, quick, to the sewing project! Or projects, as the case may be. Because I recently completed an extremely frustrating little blouse that I decided to pair with a skirt I made the other evening and wear out to a neighborhood Christmas Eve party. Of course, no holiday is complete without me forcing my mother to take photos of me and yelling at her while she does so, so here we go:

As you can see from my charming expressing, I was being a bit of a jerk about these photos. I’m sorry, Mom.

Let’s break it down, shall we? First, the easy part. The skirt:

I love this skirt. Love. LOVE. It’s unbearably simple, but I believe it to be extremely flattering. It’s a basic six gored navy skirt made from Simplicity 3688, a reproduction 1940’s pattern. I love it. It’s full at the bottom but because of the gores it’s really nice from the side and the rear:

Glides right over, right? I think the key is, when you have a bit of junk back there in the trunk, which I do, and you like full skirts, which I do, you have to make sure that the skirt only fills out past the hips. Which is sad, because I love me a gathered skirt. It just doesn’t love me back….

Pleats are okay, though, right? RIGHT?

Whatever. Look at the pretty simple skirt:

It’s hard to see the gores, which are topstitched, but I love the 40’s flare of this skirt. I call it my Sleep No More Skirt (find out more about the show here and read my review here) because I was inspired by the event (on so many levels) and just adored the severe but elegant skirts of the female performers. So 40’s, so sleek and easy to move in but flattering and lovely. I whipped this skirt up over two evenings, and that includes hand stitching the hem and the zipper. I love 40’s style bottoms, they all use exactly one button which is a great way to get rid of those beautiful but seemingly useless one-offs you may or may not have haunting your button box.

I used a gold one. It felt right.

Now, to the blouse, which is more exciting, but also more ANNOYING. I call it my “I Don’t Believe In UFOs” Blouse, because really, I don’t. I don’t like, nay, I can’t physically start one project, one big garment, before I have finished the one I’ve started. I just can’t do it. I have to finish what I start, I just have to. And that determination is pretty much all that kept me going, I must tell you.

zI got this blouse pattern from a lovely Etsy seller, SewUniqueClassique, and I was extremely excited about it. I waffled for a week or two after I found it online and then finally bit the bullet. I imagined that this would be my new go-to-blouse pattern, I would make every variation and use it all the time. I love this style of blouse, and this one seemed to have the shaping and details I’ve been looking for in a pattern. It looks perfect on paper, right?

Quick and easy, eh, Butterick 8097? Oh, sure. SURE you are. So I guess I’m just slow and frigid, because I had a hard time getting this one into bed. First of all, for such a short blouse (you can’t see in any photos but it only reaches a few inches below the waist) it ate up almost three yards of fabric. Second of all, it’s fussy. Really fussy. Lots of hand sewing (on shirting poplin? Really? That’s not happening), lots of silly steps, general struggle, but who would expect anything less? And while the fit is nice, it’s actually kind of baggy around the waist, despite the diamond darts and oddles of shaping, and it’s got a lot of fabric bunching in the back:

I suppose I should have done a swayback adjustment, but I’ve never done one of those before. Sigh.

I should say that now that I’ve finished the thing I do really like it and will probably get a lot of wear out of it. That being said, I don’t know if I would make another of these.  I might, because I like a challenge, and because I like a lot about this style, but my hopes for the blouse I make seven of and wear daily have been dashed. Sigh. I like the collar, though:

And the gathered sleeves:

I like the color, too. It’s a stretch poplin I got from Fabric Mart for 1.99 a yard. Bam. And the buttons are from my beloved PA Fabric Outlet, real shell, too! Fancy dancy.

And there it is.

See? Happy Face. I guess it’s my own fault, really. I’m always looking for patterns I would make more then once, rather then something I would just do once but do really carefully. What about you? Do you look for patterns that will make one unique statement in your closet, or ones you can make over and over again?

I used picnik to make some 40’s style shots.

I’m reading Macbeth, because it’s the primary source material for Sleep No More. SO CLEVER.

Can you just see me keeping the home-fires warm?

Glamor Shot!

And there you have it.


Filed under Butterick Patterns, Clothing, Sewing, Simplicity Patterns, Vintage

Awesome Things You Ought To Know About: Holiday 2011 Edition

(This is from Handmade Ryan Gosling. Like you do.)

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I thought I would compile a little list of things that are delighting me right now, as well as some goodies sprinkled over the internet that you might not be aware of, currently.

1. The irreplaceably excellent Dixie has done it again. Not only has she posted a series of helpful tips to help newbies like myself sew with knits (which is something I’ve never done. But I’m about to do it. Wish me well.), but she’s given the world a free dress pattern! What? I know! Cannonize that woman right now. It’s called the Ballet Dress and it’s comfortable looking and adorable and available fo’ free from now until the 23rd of December. Download it. NOW.

2. Somehow, who knows how, via Pintrest, I stumbled across this list of photography tips, most of which actually seem quite helpful. As someone who struggles with getting great shots of my creations, this seemed like an excellent resource! Check it out here.

3. The Victoria and Albert Museum has an archive of free 1940’s knitting patterns. Of course, there are many free vintage knitting patterns out there, but I just really love that the V and A has them online. I wish the Met would publish patterns inspired by some of their famous dress-portraits, or even their fashion wing! How cool would that be? (If the Met does decide to do this, you heard it here first, see?) Anyway, you can check out these wartime-approved knitting patterns here, and make someone you love a knitted waistcoat, or a balaklavah helmet. Like you do.

4. I don’t really know what you do with your time, but I spend a lot of mine on this website, Animals Talking In All Capitals. If you asked me to pin down why I find this so hilarious I honestly couldn’t tell you, it just is. The same goes for Louis Vs. Rick. The same person turned me on to both of these, (thank you VERY much, Sarah Y.) and I love her eternally for that.

5. You know what I like about the holidays? Everywhere you go, there’s a lot of booze. And it’s the perfect gift, really, when you go to a party or an event (unless it’s thrown by Mormons, or something, in which case, it’s a huge faux pax, don’t do it). But how much cooler is MAKING your own booze? And if you don’t have a pocket distillery, you can at least infuse it on up with these recipes. Try Martha’s method, or make some peppermint vodka to warm the cold nights! I bet you could make as many kinds of infused liquors as there are holiday themed candles at Anthropologie. Who wants to accept that challenge? Anyone? Buller?

That’s what I’ve got for you today. Don’t forget to enter my pattern giveaway and win your own holiday gift!

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Filed under Clothing, Fabric, Giveaway, Inspiration, Knitting, Sewing, Tutorial

The Not Everyone Can Be You Dress

You know how in your mind you may be one person but in reality you are in fact someone completely different? So, for example, in my own mind I’m thoughtful and contemplative, a bit shy, wryly funny, and rather ironic. To others, I think the irony and wryness shines through, but I doubt the other things take center stage, if I’m being honest. So just like I would love to be, long to be, crave being Joan Holloway (or Harris, take your pick) from Mad Men (like you don’t get the reference) , I know that in my heart of hearts, I’m Peggy.

And you know what? That’s really okay. After all, Peggy, despite her few enormous missteps, is actually doing quite well for herself. Girl has a job and an apartment and a cute radical boyfriend. She asserted herself with her boss, and she does something that makes her wildly happy. She even seems squared away with job and the Catholic Church, which is cool, if you’re into that kind of thing. She’s actually getting her life together. Joan, on the other hand, has her crappy sexual-assault prone-husband away in ‘Nam, she’s keeping Roger’s baby (spoiler alert), she gets no respect for her considerable talents at work, I mean, come ON. Still. She’s awesome. And I would love to be a Joan. But sometimes you just have to face the music, and dance. I’m a Peggy.

Still, a girl can dream. Or even be a Peggy with Joan flare, every once in a while. Just like Peggy herself did when she was trying to impress Playtex/assert herself as a woman. As Joan said, “stop dressing like a little girl”. And so she did:

And it was awesome. Peggy looks great in this shade of blue. But Joan, well, she rocks royal like it’s her job. Don’t believe me? Check it out:

Heh. This is from Nixon vs. Kennedy and they TOTALLY read Paul's one act play and it's amazing. This show. Always zigs when you think it's going to zag.

Or here:

But most of all, best of all, here:

I wouldn’t dye my hair red. I don’t really smoke, and I would feel a bit odd with that pen necklace, I think. But a royal blue dress? That I could do. And so I did. I used this pattern, McCall’s 7362, a vintage 1960’s darling from this etsy seller (thank you!)

And I used some royal blue wool purchased at my beloved Pennsylvania Fabric Outlet, bought at the PRINCELY sum of 14 dollars a yard (insane, for me, but WORTH it) to create this:

I took these photos with a mix of flash, which obliterates detail, and no-flash, which achieves an odd pink hue. I color corrected in picnik, but still. Sigh. First world problems.

The color is more like this:

And I love it. LOVE. IT.

The pleat detail is pretty cool, but it doesn’t really photograph all that well. But it looks a bit like this:

Cute, right? I like it. It’s less dramatic then on the pattern envelope (isn’t it ALWAYS?) but I like it. And the fit is lovely. It’s a touch big, but very comfortable and the sleeves fit really well, which has been a problem for me in the past. And with a belt the room in the waist is in now way noticable. Score.

I really like the slash neckline. It’s not lined, just faced, and I ended up hand stitching portions of the facing to the inside of the dress, just to make it lie flat and not re-assert itself.

This photo was altered using a setting in Picnik called Orton-ish. I don’t know what that really means, but I love it.

Yes, I’m feeling like a pimp, so I go ahead and brush my shoulders off. I made this dress over a month ago, but circumstances conspired to make me unable to photograph it until tonight. So there you have it, my blue wool “I want to be Joan but am Peggy but maybe just while I wear this I can be Joan” dress. I have to say, I should really make more of these. You are never going to be from Peggy to Joan on dreams alone. It takes really cute clothing. And accessories. Which I think I did well:

Which match:

This set belonged to my grandmother. I’m trying to wear more brooches. Don’t ask me why.

And there you are. Most of the time I may be a Peggy, but in this dress, I’m a Joan. Powerful. Sexy. Ready for anything, and wearing the shoes to match. How did I get so tied to a fictional character? Something to ponder, while I look AMAZING


Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!


Filed under Clothing, Fabric, McCalls Patterns, Sewing

The South Philadelphia Sweetheart Skirt

Yesterday we had a reading at the theater company for which I work. It went well, if you were wondering, but it was not, actually, the most interesting thing that happened at work. The most interesting thing was this:

which we found graffitied on our wall. Way to stay classy, South Philadelphia.

You see, I work in South Philadelphia, bastion of stupid things. Now, let it be said that I do like this neighborhood. Great restaurants, lovely people, a veritable plethora of funeral homes (I do wonder why they call them homes, don’t you?). It’s a paradise of greasy hipsters, performing artists (there is a bit of crossover here, let’s be honest), excellent brunch places, ironic bikes, dogs,  large Italian families, cheap rents, large Mexican families, gardens, murals, and mummers. It’s a good time. But every once in a while something happens that makes me roll my eyes and sigh.

Of course this isn’t limited to this area, my own neighborhood, Northern Liberties, recently has faced a spate of murders which is… But I have a loyalty to the North which the South may never get from me. So it wasn’t that surprising to see that we had been graffitied over the weekend by someone whose name is presumably Kris. I suppose he wants to take over our organization. I see this as an act of war, really, it’s like his invasion of Poland. I called the anti-graffiti network, and they actually took care of it this very day, but it was still up yesterday when I had our lovely box office manager, Joe, take my photo in my new skirt. And so I figured, why not use the natural environment around me, right?

The pattern, Burda Style’s FREE PATTERN, the Marie skirt,  is one I’ve used before with my My Lips Your Lips Tulips Skirt. I like the pattern a lot, and I had some wool blend fabric left over from my Rear View Pants so I figured, why not?

This is a good pattern for leftovers, you can squeeze it out of small amounts of material, espeically if you don’t cut the pieces on the fold and just live with the seam lines. I cut the front on the fold and cut the back on the selvedge line, which is fun because then I didn’t have to finish that seam. (Internal high five). It’s also really fast, this pattern. It took me, like, 2 hours, which for me is a record low.

So sad. Kris is the worst.

This wool is more drapey then the poplin, so the pleats are softer. I don’t hate it, it’s just a different effect. But I’m glad there is some stretch in this wool, because otherwise the narrow hem-line can be a bit restrictive.

But it’s a great “young professional working in the non-profit sector in the arts” skirt. It’s a tall order, I know, but I think it pulls it off.

The one issue I have with this style is that it has a lot of excess fabric in the back, because of the pleats. I don’t really need a lot of help in the “junk in the trunk” department, so if I make this pattern again I will eliminate that.

Yep. Picturesque South Philly. It’s an upper.

But at least I look cute!

And I even did something with my hair:

Which is good, for that Nordic Princess look.

The graffiti may be gone, but it lives on, here, and in the hearts and minds of all who believe. Thanks, Kris.

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

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Filed under Burda Style, Clothing, Sewing

Holiday Giveaway! (See how non-Christian centric I am?)

Ah, it’s that special time of year once again, when red and white and green plaster the world in a dizzying haze of glitter, when music fills the air with tales of reindeer and wasseling and female submission to a male paradigm, (seriously, watch that, it’s amazing) and I want to put my head through a wall. Okay, maybe that’s being a little dramatic, but I do not particularly enjoy this time of year. I totally respect and appreciate that for many people this is a fabulous season of joy and love and superplum scented dreams, but for me, it’s a headache. Because when you don’t actually celebrate Christmas then watching other people do so is like going to a country where you don’t speak the language. It’s interesting, sure, but pretty soon you are just exhausted and a little hurt to be left out of the fun.

And don’t even get me started on Chanukkah. Hey, I love Chanukkah as much as the next Yid, but the truth is it’s just not as important to us as Christmas is to Christians. Yom Kippur is important. Passover is important. Hell, Purim is important. Chanukkah is just puffed up to be competitive.

Still, for all my cynical grumblings and growls when I hear Christmas carols (one more drummer boy and I will literally smack someone in the face, I am not in the habit of making idle threats, Universe, you hear me?) I must hearken back to my school days of yore and remind myself what Vincent Scully said about the holiday season. We celebrate in December, the darkest time of the year, as we are about to embark on several harsh and lonely winter months, because as dark as things are now, we should remember that light will someday return.

So with that in mind, I’m hosting a little holiday giveaway. Because while we run around buying and making gifts for other people, it’s nice to get some stuff for ourselves, too. Right? Right.

So I am giving away to one lucky reader a little package of gifts, including this Vintage Simplicity pattern:


It’s a shift in a between size (11) and it’s cute! It has a long and short sleeve variation so you could rock it in wool for the winter and then poplin in the summer. Or whatever. I don’t know your life.

And a bunch of these lace pieces, cuffs, collars and bits, which I got in a large grab bag:

How large, you ask? About Cadfael sized, as it turns out:

But look at how pretty they are!

You could use these to embellish a cute knit top, or a sweater, or some frilly lingerie, doll clothing, the possibilities are endless!

That is totally my hair. Sigh. Struggle.

I am giving away 25 piece of lace, PLUS the pattern. And if you are really nice to me, I might even make a tote bag too. I give and I give.

So to enter, just leave me a comment by December 23rd, letting me know what you would do with these bits and bobs of lace, and/or what you would do with this pattern, and you will be in the running to win! Happy holidays, everyone.


Filed under Clothing, Giveaway, Notions