Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Pattern dating: Sometimes you just plain need luck

There are lots of times I wish I could actually get paid to do stuff like this. I mean, I do, kind of, but, darn it--isn't there some clothing museum somewhere that needs me?

Dating patterns is an ongoing issue (well, for those of us who care). McCall['s] has been good about dating since the 1920's, and Simplicity did for a little while in the 1940's, but most patterns before the 1980's didn't have dates on the envelopes. Most postal stamps on bulk rate didn't have dates, either, and catalogs weren't meant to last forever and are kind of hard to get.

I got this on eBay. 

The style alone puts it between about 1917 and 1921 (mail-order patterns were frequently not the cutting edge of fashion). It does not have a mailer, but the collar piece has been re-cut out of newspaper and, based on the place names, it appears the pattern resided in the Chicago area--it mentions the Academy of Sciences at Lincoln Park and the Norwood M.E. Church.

This also allowed me to date it: There is a mention of rolling bandages for the Red Cross, although that could take place even in peacetime. Several events--sewing circle, PTA meeting--are expected to take place on Thursday, March 21, which narrowed down the year since March 21 won't be on a Thursday every time.
Finally, there is a partial obituary for an "Oscar W. Peter---", who was born on [month] 8, 1895. A quick Ancestry.com check turned up an Oscar W. Petersen (December 8, 1895 in Denmark - March 19, 1918 in Chicago, Illinois), and the street address matches.

So now we know: 1918, or close enough.   

I do plan to make this at some point.  I'm so far behind on projects it's laughable, but I kind of love it.  I have a fabric I like but my yardage is short and it's out of production (of course).  My hope is that if I make all the facings, collar, and cuffs, out of something else, I'll be able to squeeze the dress out of it.

DS Quilts Daisy Mae striped check in dark gray:


Vintage Pattern Dating Project on Flickr.  Please contribute, if you have a Flickr account!

Hollywood 1944 1411 Christmas dress, Part II

Cut skirt pieces last night.  The bodice doesn't fit the waistband, though, so I have to go back and figure out what happened there.  I also have to go tonight and get a little more fabric for sleeves.  Doh!  Well, that's what I get for reusing fabric.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Wing-it project: Cat bed cover

Mispickel has her own chair in the kitchen.  Theoretically, it's supposed to keep her from stealing our chairs.  That doesn't work, of course, because she's a cat and they never want anything that wasn't already yours, but she does like to sit in her own chair and watch the birds at the feeder in the backyard.  Cat television.  (She's indoor only.  The birds are in no danger, at least not from her, but they're entertaining.)

We've had an old fleece blanket folded up on the seat as a cushion, but it slides off all the time.  Sometimes she sleeps on the blanket on the floor, which seems kind of pathetic.

So, for Christmas, I got her a cat bed and then made a cover for it that could be tied to the chair to keep it in place.  It's washable, too, of course.

The step-by-step Flickr set is here.  The basic idea is to cut one circle--actually two overlapping panels--for the bottom, and then a larger circle for the top, and gather the top onto the bottom with straps set into the seam.  It took me about an hour and a half, some scrap fabric and old bias trim for the bottom and straps, and a minkee remnant from Joann's for the top.  

And, of course, it could be made without the straps if you just wanted a cover for your cat bed.

Hollywood 1944 1411 Christmas dress, Part 1.5

I flatter myself that I'm getting a little faster and less haphazard at this alteration and sewing business.  Ha, ha.

I started the Christmas dress this weekend.  It had to be graded up two sizes, have an inch of width added to the upper back, and have the bodice lengthened quite a bit (I discovered after doing a muslin). 

The concept looks like this.  I'm still debating full-length buttons versus bodice-only buttons, but I suspect it will be bodice-only as that looks a little more formal.  Ordinarily, a bodice-only-buttoning dress would then have a side zipper but I'm going to do a placket or fly in the skirt so I don't interfere with the side-seam pockets, and because the print is so dark it won't be obvious.  It will also save me fabric yardage, since I'm eking this out of pre-used fabric (I'd say channeling Scarlett O'Hara except I hate that book/movie.  Yeah, I said it).

The sleeves are going to be slightly belled and then gathered into cuffs with nonfunctional buttons.  That's not correct 1940's but I wanted a little bit more drama.  Also, I wanted more buttons.  The dress fabric is very dark and I think it needs both the extra red trim and the extra buttons--I'm planning to use plain gold--to brighten it without being really silly.

Of course, I'm a genius and I mis-cut the bodice.  It was half an inch short down both sides of the front opening.  Because I'm working with limited fabric and because sometimes I do jackass stuff like this, I totally fixed it by adding narrow strips down the front.  

This, friends and neighbors, is why dark, busy, small-scale prints are awesome.  It's even less obvious in real life.  Furthermore, it will be under the buttons.  Nobody's looking at your hackneyed piecing if you have gold buttons.

The bodice so far doesn't look like much, but it fits acceptably and I'm well on my way.

I brought the sleeve pattern to alter today at lunch, and I have to do just enough finishing that I can attach the sleeves and inset belt later.
Unfortunately, the office party is tomorrow and, even if I don't seam-finish, I doubt I can get it done by then.  I thought it was Wednesday.  Darn.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Amish hairpins: Maiden voyage

Here goes!

I obviously need some practice wrapping a braid up, but whatever.  So far, so good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


I'm old enough to remember the Cabbage Patch Wars.  Moms allegedly duking it out over stuffed dolls in toy-store aisles across the country.  I'm not sure how much of that really happened, but I do remember that Cabbage Patch Kids were really popular, really scarce, and, by some standards, really expensive.

My parents were moderates when it came to commercial toys.  They didn't like us to have a lot of toys that did everything for us, but they weren't vehemently opposed to toy fads, either.  We had Go-Bots and Transformers and a Voltron.  I had a set of Robotix.  I'm totally dating myself now, aren't I?  Ha.

But Cabbage Patch Kids were out of reach, at least during the first wave of popularity.  Mom, though, is pretty crafty, so she bought heads and made her own.

This is Patty.  Patricia Noel (I didn't know "Noelle" was the girls' version).  She was a Christmas gift in 1982.  My brother has a blond boy doll.

The teddy bear was a gift from an ex-boyfriend.  No hard feelings, though.

The heads were sold in little boxes at Toys R Us.  The store would stack the boxes in big cubes in the front of the store.  I would do almost anything now to have a picture of one of those cubes of doll heads--they were both hilarious and unspeakably creepy.

I only found out recently that Patty and Douglas are Martha Nelson Thomas Original Doll Babies, and that they're debatably the older siblings of Cabbage Patch Kids. 


I'm not ready to declare this a success yet because I've only tried it once, and once is not a good sample size, but . . . bun!

Also, do not comment on my wallpaper.  I tell myself that if I wait a little longer, Eighties retro will become a thing and it will be acceptable.

Super-messy bun, yes, but it was a first attempt and I didn't even brush my hair or put it in a ponytail first.  I just wound it up, rolled it, and skewered it with five or six of the tiny miracles that are Amish hairpins:

I'm actually afraid to try it again for fear this was a fluke and they won't actually hold that well ever again.  Seriously.  I have never been able to put my hair in a bun except with one of these:

You put your hair through, roll it up, bend the thing, and hook the ends together.  They work, but they work less well when your hair outgrows your arm length, and it's tricky to get hair rolled evenly, especially at the sides.  They pull on your hair and scalp, too, and I cannot imagine they're not ridiculously damaging.

My hair is mid-back length and moderately thick/dense--long but not exceptional--but it's also completely straight, very fine and soft, and slippery.  My friends who wear buns easily all have hair that is at least somewhat wavy or curly, and more wiry than mine.  Mine is all weight and no structure so it doesn't help support itself.  It doesn't hold a curl.  And nothing stays in--not bobby pins, not barrettes, sometimes not even ponytail holders.

I cannot be the only person in history, though, to have hair like this, and generations of pre-20th century women had to put up long hair with . . . something.  They didn't get a pass to wear long braids well into adulthood just because they had limp hair that wouldn't behave, right?  I think I might finally "get" how this worked.

If it does work as well as it appears it might, I'm going to regret that I don't need a whole lot of them because I want to make sure the company stays in business!  These are from Fischer's Wire in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I got them through--hilariously--Amazon.

More on Amish hairpins at Humblebee.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas sewing 2014

I'm hitting Full Disorganization Mode here.

I found the Christmas fabric I got on sale ages ago and made a tablecloth this weekend, but it's too dark.  The fabric is nice--dark holly print with little red berries--but it basically looks black on the table.  I have other Christmas fabric, though, so . . . moving on.

The Thanksgiving dress didn't happen.  It's still on the list but has been temporarily supplanted by:

1) New tablecloth
2) Cover for cat bed.  I got Mispickel one of those round beds with the stuffed bumper sides.  I'm going to make a cover with ties so we can tie it to her favorite chair in the kitchen, so it won't slide off all the time.  And so we don't have to wash the actual bed all the time.
3) Flannel pajamas.
4) (Are you laughing yet?) Christmas dress.  Repurposing the dark tablecloth using . . . probably Hollywood 1411 (1944-1945):

The fabric is similar to this (I don't have an actual picture.  You get an idea of the color, though):

I already have plans to do this in a brown calico with rose trim so I want to make sure I tweak it a little.  Even though it doesn't get really cold here, it's still a winter dress, so I think a higher neckline and longer sleeves are in order.  I'm not really feeling the scalloped pockets, either.  Gold buttons?

The belled sleeves aren't very properly 1940's, but they're not huge, and they look a little more festive than plain straight sleeves.

I need to grade it down one size, but that's actually easier because I don't have to do the whole skirt (I'm an 18 below the waist, so I only have to trim the pieces between the hip and waist, not resize them completely), and since I'm long-torsoed I don't have to shorten the bodice.  I can leave the upper back bodice at the larger size rather than doing a broad-back alteration, and it already has shoulder darts so I only have to resize them, not add them.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Doctor Who remnant shawl #2, half-octagon or semicircle: Part I

I'm totally winging this.  

It's a stockinette half-octagon or semicircle shawl with 5-stitch garter stitch border and knit front and back (KFB) increases.

Garter tab cast-on:
Cast on three stitches.  Knit all each row for nine additional rows.
Pick up and knit eight more stitches down the side and end of the tab (11 stitches total)

Row 1: Knit all
Row 2: K1, KFB, K2, KFB, PM, K1, PM, KFB, K2, KFB, K1 = 15 stitches
Row 3, and all WS rows: Knit 5, purl to last 5, knit 5
Row 4: K1, KFB, K3, KFB, SM, K1, SM, KFB, K3, KFB, K1 = 19 stitches
Row 6: K1, KFB, K4, KFB, SM, K1, SM, KFB, K4, KFB, K1 = 23 stitches
Row 8: K1, KFB, K5, KFB, SM, K1, SM, KFB, K5, KFB, K1 = 27 stitches
Row 9: K5, P1, PM, P1, PM, P6, SM, P1, SM, P6, PM, P1, PM, P6, PM, P1, PM, P1, K5

So, basically, on all wrong-side rows you knit 5, purl to the last 5, and then knit 5.

On every other right-side right-side row, you knit all.

On the other half of the right-side rows:
Knit 1
Knit front and back
Knit to one stitch before the first marker
Knit that stitch front and back
Slip marker
Knit stitch between markers
Slip marker
Knit the next stitch front and back
Knit to the last stitch before the next marker . . . etc.
Knit to last two stitches,
Knit front and back
Knit last stitch.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Triangular Shawl #1 Doctor Who remnants: Part IV

I have to finish weaving in the ends, but you get the idea:

Super easy: I did a garter tab cast-on, picked up an odd number of stitches, placed markers on either side of the center stitch, and did:

Right side: Knit 1, increase (KFB in this case), knit to stitch before marker, increase (pick up knitwise and knit a stitch in between), knit center stitch, increase (pick up purlwise and knit a stitch in between), knit to last two stitches, increase (KFB), knit last stitch.

Wrong side: Purl all, except knit the center stitch.

I haven't measured it, but it's probably about 24 inches from the center back down to the point.  No pattern, just whatever mix of knit and purl I felt like doing, until I ran out of those colors of yarn.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blueberry pie and quiche muffins

Predictably, I got no sewing done so, nope, no new dress for Thanksgiving.  Damn.

I did, however, make a successful blueberry pie.  Fruit pies are on the list of things that hate me, so I count this as a genuine accomplishment.  My fruit pies are notoriously weepy, and I hate making pie crust so they're always saddled with storebought crusts that taste like rawhide.  Blueberry pies, for some reason, seem to be particularly finicky.  My sister-in-law said that blueberry pie was her favorite, though, so we were determined to put on a good show.

One of my problems starting out is that I don't actually like pie crust.  It's always supposed to be flaky and buttery, and I have never in my life liked buttery, flaky, pastry.  Not croissants, not stollen, not pie crust, not phyllo, none of it.  I actually prefer the softer, semi-cookie-like crusts on Kroger's bakery pies even though they're not at all what pie crust "should" be.  I don't have time to reverse-engineer Kroger pie crusts, though, so we dug out a recipe for one that we remembered liking ten years ago.  A friend of a friend got it from his mom, who got it in her high school home economics class.

2 cups flour
1 cup shortening, chilled (we used butter-flavored Crisco)
1/4 cup tepid water
1 capful white vinegar (used a tablespoon)
1 egg
Added: Two tablespoons sugar

Cut shortening into flour (and sugar).  Add egg and . . . distribute.  The recipe wasn't clear on how to do this without overworking the rest of the dough.  Add water/vinegar until crust is just roll-able; should still be slightly crumbly.  I added very little water, though, since the crust seemed almost overly buttery already.  I ended up adding two tablespoons of flour and then rolling it and putting it in the pie plate before it got any warmer.  Rolled out two crusts.  Had a little ball left over (more about that later).

The pie filling was the basic Betty Crocker one, tweaked.  This is for a 10-inch pie plate (I used a big Pyrex one).

6 cups of blueberries (3 fresh and 3 frozen but separated, in our case)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
2 tablespoons lemon juice (will try some zest next time)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch cloves
1 tablespoon butter, cut into little bits

 Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients (include lemon zest if you're using it).  Toss berries in flour mixture and fill pie plate.  Cut strips to do a lattice top if you want.  I'm far too lazy to do a lattice and always just cut some rounds out with a bottle cap; I'm considering putting a little tiny spool handle on a bottle cap just for this purpose.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and dot with butter.  Seal edges and brush with an egg wash if you want.

Bake 35-45 minutes.  Make sure the filling is bubbling or the tapioca won't be effective.

Tips from friends suggested that my biggest problem was that I'm too impatient to let the pie cool before cutting it.  Ha.  But when I finally did cut it this time, the next day, it only wept a small, totally acceptable, amount:

That was it.  I split the difference between flour and tapioca because I was a bit worried that all-tapioca might be gummy, but all-flour might be . . . floury.  As it is, I'm A-OK with the texture of the filling, and it tastes good.  It doesn't ooze but it's not gelled, either. 

The pie crust is actually pretty good as far as the way pie crusts should be.  I don't like it, but it's a personal taste problem, not a bad-pie-crust problem.  This must be a pretty foolproof recipe because I have no idea what I'm doing where pie crusts are concerned, beyond "don't overwork them".

I had a small handful of dough left so I rolled it out, pressed it into two cups of a muffin tin, and mixed:

1 egg
1 tablespoon half-and-half
1 tablespoon shredded Cheddar
(should have added salt, but forgot)

350 for 17 minutes.

These were awesome, too.   They could have all kinds of fillings.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Unrealistic expectations

So, the idea was to spend this weekend sewing and figuring out how to make a decent blueberry pie out of frozen berries (advice on this, anyone?).  Realistically, I'll probably accomplish 1/10 of what I have in mind, but whatever.

I think I'm about ready to do another muslin of the New York 1490 Acorn Dress, and it's warm again now but the recent cold front reminded me that I need flannel pajamas, stat.  Mom has been pestering me to reduce her stash of flannel for awhile, including this holly print that she used on my Christmas quilt, and for pillowcases.

So, holly print it is:

I have a zillion pajama patterns but I'm wimping out and going with the most uninteresting.  I'm doing cuffs instead of ruffly wrists, though, because those would drive me nuts.

Butterick B4903 (2004): I think I got this at the Texas Art Asylum.

I splurged on the most squee buttons: 

I know, I know--matchy-matchy overkill.  I could have used plain white.  Whatever.  I wanted those anyway.  They might be too big, but then I'll just save them for later flannels or something, because they're adorable.  On a green nightgown?  I only need flannels a few times a year, even.  Ha.

Worse, I actually have flannel for two nightgowns.  Damn you, Joann's, and your stupid coupons:

Swirly buttons, just because:

Butterick 3960 (1975?) nightgown with round yoke:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gearing up for Thanksgiving

Not much going on here.  I subjected my coworkers to experimental cornbread yesterday for the office Thanksgiving lunch.  I think "new flannel pajamas" needs to move up the list of sewing projects.  I need to find out how to make a good blueberry pie using frozen berries.  I need to work on New York 1490.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Butterick 4948 Belle France 1983 drop-waist dress - DS Quilts 2014 Sweet Ruby Part II

I mothballed this for a little while but then I had an event to go to on Saturday and felt like I needed it.  I didn't have much left to do--some seam finishing, buttons and buttonholes, and the stripe on the skirt.

Friday, November 14, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part V: Tweaking, round . . . uh, whatever

I made a test sleeve last night and, of course, the sleeve ease was running wild:

Seriously, it has like ten tucks in it.  They're not quite leg o'mutton sleeves, but they're thinking about it.

The pattern does show tucks or gathers in the sleeve caps: One of my biggest peeves is when a pattern illustration shows a smooth sleeve cap and then the actual sleeve cap has a zillion extra inches and they expect you to miraculously "ease" all of it into the armscye and get the same results.  Right.  Even so, this pattern doesn't show that many tucks in the sleeve cap.  And my arms aren't skinny--a normal sleeve should fit, you know . . . normally.

So, recut #1.  I was kind of winging it.  I lowered the cap, took a little bit of width (only a half-inch, total) out at the armscye, and shifted the shape of the sleeve toward the front.

The second test sleeve was a lot better, both on me and in terms of approximating the pattern illustration:

The test bodice:

There is still plenty of room, and the crown of the sleeve is still pretty puffy, so I recut again and flattened the cap a bit more. 

I also did an upper-back width adjustment + neck darts on the back yoke.  The test bodice fit pretty well but with the smaller sleeves I think it will pull.

My next dilemma involves the bodice and [lack of an] inset belt.  The pattern actually has a waist seam and the "waistband" shown is an external belt (tied on the housedress, buttoned, apparently, on the sundress) over the waist seam.  I don't really like extraneous pieces like this, especially on casual dresses.  I added a half-inch of length to the bodice already.  It needs more.  The other option would be to shorten it again, and then shorten it a little more, and add an inset belt.  I don't see why a pattern should have the look of an inset belt and not actually have an inset belt, right?

Yeah, I'm leaning toward adding an inset belt.  I think I'll be happier about it in the long run.  So . . . more test muslin this weekend.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part IV: Tweaking, round III

Sorry, no pix.  It was too cold.  We're getting the heater inspected for the year today, then we can turn it on.  

The underarms were much better.  I think the bodice needs to be a little bit longer and I suspect I'll need to do an upper back adjustment for width.  I'm going to resize and cut a test skirt next to make sure about the bodice, since I'm notoriously bad at estimating these things, but it has not inset belt so I suspect it will need another half-inch of length, at least.  (Or I guess I could add an inset belt.  Hmm.  The "inset belt" in the pattern illustration is actually an external tied or buttoned belt.)  I'll do a test sleeve and if it pulls across the upper back, I'll fix that, too.  It should be easy since it has the separate yoke piece.

The fabric got here on Tuesday and it's lovely--small acorns on a rather dull brown background.  I wasn't going to do any trim but now I think it could handle some dark-brown rick-rack for detail.  We'll see.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part III: Tweaking, round II

I had a lot of stuff to do this weekend and didn't get much--any, really--sewing done.  I did run off a fast bodice muslin last night.  I think the whole thing is in pretty good shape, although I'm taking about an inch out, total, under each arm, tapering out to the waist, and 1/4 inch off of each shoulder.  Baggy underarms seem to have been a thing, midcentury?  I don't know.  I don't think this would work with the sundress version, especially.  The half-inch I already added to the length of the bodice appears to be about right.

Saturday was Pioneer Day at Jones Park and Sunday, Mom and I went to Galveston.  We went on an impromptu birding trip with a local friend after meeting, and saw a bunch of night herons, an osprey, a willet, and a rail.

I took off of work on Monday and Mom and I went "Christmas shopping", such as we ever do in our family.  I confess I'm the Queen of Amazon.com in real life, but it was an excuse to go downtown and get fancy bagels for breakfast.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part II

Listening: 1980's playlist on Spotify.

Cut and spread.  This doesn't feel like I did much--Mispickel was sitting in my lap half the time--but I guess I kind of did.  I haven't done the skirt yet.  Resizing skirts is kind of a pain, and the fit of the bodice is more important.  

I added an extra 1/2 inch length to the lower bodice but we'll see if I need it.  If it's raining again this evening I can cut a test.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New York 1490 (early 1950's?) Two-Fer, Part I

Listening: Dulcimer Potential list on Spotify.  Stuff for which I need to write tab.

Also: Up to my eyeballs in Internet mourning of Tom Magliozzi.

Yes, I have a Rust-Eze sticker on my car.  And a Car Talk Plaza "parking permit", which I'm very lucky has not been stolen by any of my friends or relatives.

So we're going to by brother and sister-in-law's for Thanksgiving and, because that online quiz I took last weeks says I'm 53% girly, I want a new dress.  Of course, around here, that never means just going out and buying a new dress.  Oh, no--there's work involved. 

New York 1490, circa, um, 1950?  Unfortunately, New York patterns weren't dated and finding information on them is difficult because most pattern companies that sold in the U.S. had offices in New York, so searching "New York patterns" or whatever brings up too many hits to be of much use.  New York patterns were made from 1932 until the early 1950's, so this would have been a very late one.  If anyone has a New York catalog that features this, let me know.

 This is an impulse project. I wanted to make the housedress at left out of brown fabric with acorns (don't ask; sometimes patterns just make demands). And you can never have too many sleeveless dresses in Houston. 

I found the fabric I wanted for the sundress (DS Quilts fall 2013 Union Station, from Joann's) . . . 

(with a million miles of medium blue rick-rack trim.  This dress will be lined in muslin)

. . . but brown fabric with acorns turned out to be elusive. I got some faux-midcentury-modern fabric but it was really too orange/rust.  I've also learned, finally, that I'm a pre-MCM girl.  I just couldn't get into this.

(OMG way too orange/rust, actually.  Okay, it's not quite that bright in real life, but it's bright enough.  It will be a quilt back or something now.)

But then brown fabric with acorns (Benartex Northern Exposure acorns in "bark" brown) fell in my lap, and it would be oh, so, autumnal for Thanksgiving, so we're back on.

I've been looking for acorn buttons online.  I haven't found any I like just right, but maybe I can make some from Fimo or something.  I could do plain cream or mottled cream and brown, but acorn buttons would be so perfect.  I'm actually investigating making silicone molds, because sometimes you have to go all-out.  Also, because I'm a crazy.

It's a size too small so I spent last night--I got home early because my awesome job gives us time off to vote--tracing the pattern pieces and drawing cut-and-spread lines.