Join me in my adventures as I write romance novels and sew vintage and contemporary fashion.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Butterick 5882 -- The Gertie Dress

When Butterick came out with this pattern, designed by Gertie Hirsch, last year, I snapped it up because it was ridiculously cute. Honestly, I couldn't see myself wearing it, but not too long afterwards my daughter emailed me and asked me if I would make her the "Gertie Dress". Yes, I would, since I was halfway there--I had the pattern. The only thing left was fabric shopping and the year-long procrastination period that always happens when I make myself finish current projects before jumping into something new, fresh, fun.

This is obviously a dress that requires a muslin and I decided it may as well be cute, so I bought red retro floral cotton for under $3 a yard. I traced the pattern size that corresponded to my daughter's measurements, then brought the bodice to the haunted hotel for a fitting. The bust cups fit perfectly, but I had to take the sides and waist in over an inch--almost two inches toward the top. I had the boning basted into the bodice for the fitting, so I was fairly confident until I got home and sliced two inches off the top. Suddenly it looked way to small, but I finished the dress and mailed it off to my daughter. Guess what? It fit perfectly--so perfectly that the muslin has become the finished product. I love it when that happens.

This pattern was really easy to make, except for those cups. I loved making them, because I like tackling techniques I haven't yet tried, but attaching them to the bodice was pretty tricky due to extreme curves. I didn't take photos because I was going to document the construction of the "real" dress, but I wish I had. Anyway, with a lot of curve clipping, I got them sewed in.



I will make this dress again. We're talking white with black polka dots and black bust cups, which will have a nice retro feel. So, in closing, kudos to Gertie for coming up with this pattern.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pattern Sorting Day--the 80's

It's the first day of my spring break--the perfect time to finally sort through my patterns and organize them.
Way too many of my patterns are from the 80s and they take up a lot of space, but I refuse to let them go. When my husband asked me why I keep them, I explained that I'm waiting for them to become cool again. Are we not grateful to all those people who stashed their patterns from the 30s, 40s and 50s, even though they undoubtedly thought the styles were dated and ugly? I admit, I have a hard time believing that the 80s will come back, but if they do, I have a lot of authentic patterns at the ready.

As near as I can tell, my patterns fall into five categories:

1) Good Memories:

I made this safari coat and wore it until it fell apart. I got lots of compliments on it and kind of wish I still had it.

I had a lot of fun wearing this dress. I love shoulder pads and this dress had an abundance of padding in that area.
I'm not sure if this the 80s or early 90s, but regardless, I love pleated pants. I don't care how many times I'm told not to wear pleated pants, I ignore the advice and wear them. Also, the artwork on this pattern is wonderful

2) Victim of the 80s:

My husband called the divided skirt I made from this pattern "The Culottes from Hell". I ignored him and wore them anyway. I probably should have listened.


3) What was I thinking?


I never made this dress. I don't know why I bought the pattern, although it would have made a fine maternity dress. Let's hope that was what I was thinking.


More culottes from hell. I didn't make these either. I don't know why I didn't understand that short, curvy people shouldn't wear boxy clothing.

4) I want to be Rene Russo:



And the final category....

5) Perhaps I can do something with this...

I think the short white sarong is adorable. Hope my daughter things so, too, because she's getting it when I make it.


I love these Paddington Bear coats. I had one in the 80s and just recently sent it to donation. So hard to let it go. Now I need another.

Honestly...isn't this the 50s all over again? The copyright reads 1989. I never made this skirt, but I will. Love the back kick pleat.

And here they are, my memories of the 80s, sorted into Zip-lock bags


 with an index sheet on top, just in case I need to find a pattern to  make something from the 80s.


Because you never know when that decade will come roaring back. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Ghost was a No Show

Our haunted rooms are the ones opening onto the balcony
I did not spend the weekend sewing or writing. My husband and I met up with the kids at the Gold Hill Hotel, which is located just a little south of Virginia City, Nevada, home of the Comstock Lode. This is the same hotel where we shot the indoor photos for the Really Retro Victorian clothing blog last July.

This is William the Ghost's room, but he was on vacay.
The Gold Hill hotel is the oldest hotel in Nevada, having been built in 1861 and it has quite a history. Mark Twain once hung out there. In addition to the new rooms in the hotel (there's an addition on the back) here are five original rooms available for rent, two of which are purportedly haunted. My daughter got a haunted room--Rosie's--and so did my husband and I--William's --but, no ghosts. I'm wondering if it's because we used a Groupon. Perhaps these are union ghosts that only work under the proper conditions.

The meal we were served at the restaurant more than made up for the ghosts not showing up. Excellent food, excellent service. A fine time was had by one and all and we're definitely going back.


Friday, March 21, 2014

The St. Paddy's Day Dress Part 2: The Curse of the Busy Print

I love my St. Patrick's Day dress. It's comfortable and fun to wear, however, I discovered something interesting while wearing and photographing it. Due to the busy nature of the print, the details are rendered invisible...which makes me think I needn't have bothered with the details.
Somewhere in this photo are a belt and two pockets. 

The pockets on the dress are adorable, fun to make...


and invisible:



The belt is really cute...


and invisible:

Granted if you get close, you can see them...but I don't know if I want people squinting at my midsection, trying to make out details.

Next time around, I'm making the dress out of linen--solid-colored linen that will show detail--and I'm going to embroider the neckline and pocket using the iron-on design that came with the pattern. The pattern front assures me that the embroidery is "simple to make" and I'm hoping they mean simple for a person like me.
 Below is a photo of my first embroidery project, which I started when I was ten. I keep it to remind me not to start embroidery projects. It was supposed to be a bib for my baby cousin. You might notice that it's not a bib...that's because I think my baby cousin was in junior high by the time I finished it.

But I gave quilting cotton another try and really love my dress, so maybe I'll have similar luck when I try my hand once again at embroidery. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 17, 2014

The St. Paddy's Day Dress Part 1

I fell in love with this print when I saw it in the quilting section of a fabric store. It's been a long time since I've made anything out of a good old quilting cotton, so I thought why not? It'll be perfect for St. Patrick's Day. [Side note: Once upon a time, the only fabric I had available to me was quilting cotton, so that's what I made my dresses out of. Many was the time that some well-intentioned soul would seek me out to tell me that my frock matched their pillows, quilt, bedspread, curtains, etc. Because of that, as soon as I had another source of fabric, I abandoned quilting cotton and never looked back...until now.]

For the pattern I chose was Simplicity 3608 from 1951. I'll definitely make this pattern again.


I had to grade it up one size and shorten it 6 inches.

A dress like this calls for a smart belt. Fortunately I had just the belt kit in my stash of stuff.


The dress features an actual kick pleat instead of a slit. Here's the underside (kind of hard to see, but if you look closely you can see the fabric backing for the pleat:

And the right side...
Kick pleat in action...

I had a hard time deciding how to do the shoulder tabs. The pattern shows them sticking up. 

And here they are tacked down:
I tried wearing them sticking up, but they kind of bothered me. Here I am in San Francisco, the day  before St. Patrick's Day with my shoulder tabs sticking up. After we got done taking the photos, I tacked the shoulder tabs down. I prefer them that way.
Another shot of the dress. The sun was so bright everything washed out, but I think you can see the fit.
Before we got done taking photos, I made a friend...


One thing I really loved about this dress and the fabric, is that it didn't wrinkle. I packed the dress in a small suitcase, pulled it out a day later and it looked like I'd taken it off the hanger. If no one tells me that I match their cushions in the next few days, I might just make another sortie into the quilting cotton section of the fabric store.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

Vogue 8850

This is the finished dress looking dramatic
against the curtains that hide my pressure
tanks. 
As I continue my stash/slash mission, I decided to tackle Vogue 8850, a 1951 design. Since my last two experiences with Vogue re-issues have been challenging (although they ultimately had happy endings), I decided that this time I would make a muslin. And not a slap dash muslin like the one that got me into trouble with Vogue 1136.

In the fabric stash I found some rather strange midnight blue rayon that I'd bought to make my 1940s Sew for Victory outfit last spring. I ended up making a linen suit, so the rayon was taking up space.

When I say that the rayon is strange, I mean that although it drapes well, it has a cheap-suit shine to it and seems to be more of a costume fabric than a wearing fabric. I also found out that it scalds easily and that super glue melts it. (Don't ask.)  
Apparently the third time is a charm for Vogue re-issues, or maybe I've just gotten wiser, because this dress went together easily.The top was a lot of fun. It required chalk lines and basting and actually paying close attention to the directions instead of glancing quickly at the pictures before making command decisions.
The shoulder drape is made by gathering part of the right front bodice and sewing it to the tab. 


A separate piece of fabric is attached to the left front bodice to make the lower bodice drape.

I adjusted for sloping shoulders and a high waist before sewing things together for a change, and the bodice fit well. Since this is technically a muslin, I did something I rarely do and pinked the edges instead of finishing them.

The drape is the reason I made this dress. I mean, who doesn't love a drape? It's a large semi-circle of fabric, gathered and attached at the waist so that it appears to be one with the shoulder drape.
I hung the dress for a couple days before hemming, just in case the drape stretched. Guess what? It stretched.

I hand rolled the hem of the drape for practice. I've always meant to learn to hand roll a hem, but never actually tackled the job until now. It came out well and I'd do it again, but I might wait until I have a football game or something to watch on TV.


And here I am in the dress. If I make it again (after reducing the stash, of course) I think I'll make it in charmeuse, just to add to the fun. I think the fluidity of charmeuse in this design would be stunning.
All in all, this was a good experience and now I know how to tackle the fit problems I've had with Vogue re-issues. 





In a side note, I've now reduced my stash by 10 yards of fabric! Next up...a sun dress.