Saturday, November 10, 2012

Can this Pet be saved?

No, this is not about an animal!  I was going to Costume College for the first time in 2009 and the theme was court of Marie Antoinette.  I needed to whip up a few items to wear and as usual when in a hurry, things don't turn out the way you planned.  I had this amazing fabric about four years before on clearance in a small shop in Springfield, Oregon and it was just shy of 4yards.  I didn't have a clear plan in mind, however, I think stripey Pets were in the back of my mind.  A few years after, I had purchased the Rocking Horse Farms Pet en l'air pattern and so I made it up.  I had hoped to find a black on black stripe to use as a petticoat with it, but couldn't locate any in time.  I loved the pink fabric of the petticoat in the first picture, but it didn't go so well with the Pet.  I had no idea what CoCo was like and didn't know how good the costumes should be.  I didn't even know how much costume was worn, and the gal I emailed during the registration process said a lot didn't even wear costume, so I only brought a couple things and didn't worry too much about making them nice.  Well, as those of you who have been there know, that isn't a good plan.  If I go again, I will know better.  So here is the Pet in it it's first incarnation:

I didn't like the way the bows pulled the bottom together and it didn't lie right over the small hip pad with hoop.  I really have to explore how to get a pannier look for the large woman that doesn't make me look like a frigate in full sail.

I added a stomacher with gold fabric covered buttons:

I needed to improve the drape of the pleats in the back, they were stitched down but still didn't have the right look.  I added lacing strips in the back to adjust the fit and ultimately they improved to the lie of the whole jacket.

So now the look is greatly improved with a petticoat of the perfect fabric.  I finally found it last year in Seattle at that fabric store that begins with a J.  I am much happier with it now and it looks much better on.  The darling stripey fabric deserved a second try.

I really love the box pleated ruffle at the hem.  I had thought about adding a little touch of gold at the hem or elsewhere.  I really don't like the idea of doo-dadding up the skirt.  So perhaps a touch at the sleeve, a ruffled cuff of gold peaking out.  Or some type of fichu that adds a little golden touch. 
So as to the pattern.  It was fairly easy to work with, the sizing seemed to run true. I used the Queen size 24-26.  It is designed to fit a bust up to 48", however, it is loose so fits larger busts.  The addition of the stomacher added greatly to the circumference, so the back lacing was needed to tame it.  It also improved the fit.  I might use the pattern again.  I did get satisfactory results without too much extra adjustment.  I think I might be even happier if I
draped my own. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

23 Skidoo Shoes

That clever girl has done it again, fabulous shoes, and a darling photo shoot to launch them.  I must admit, I am seriously contemplating getting the all white and dying with some Navy color.  You see, several years back I went to Costume College in LA and bought bags, and bags, and bags, and....of fabric on the bus field trip to the garment/fashion district.  The local girls were laughing at me.  Well, how often do they think an Oregon girl is gonna get down there?  I had to buy a lot, you all understand, don't you?  So any way, I bought some pretty navy shantung fabric and in the vendors room, I purchased several of Decades of Style's 20's pattens in the vendor room.  The designer of these patterns, is a lovely gal, tall and svelte, and drafts patterns beautifully!  So now I should get some shoes to make it all work, shouldn't I?  So family take note, in case you are wondering what I would like for oh, Christmas, Birthday, Ground Hog Day, Any Day!  Pretty much anything in the Duchess's shop!


I am going to join in the fun I have been reading on several of the costume blogs I follow; and join the curtain-along.  I was at Lowe's today and bought one of each colorway.  I have a striped black on black petticoat, and my quilted yellow petticoat which would be darling with a caraco jacket in black.  I will either make other jackets or petticoats out of the other two colors, I haven't decided yet.  It will be a bit before I can start on the projects.  I need to get moving on an outfit for the San Francisco Dickens Fair.  I suddenly found out day before yesterday, that I am going for the first weekend in December.  So look for posts about Victorian dress soon.  If you want to join in the fun, see Jen Thompson's blog:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Frugal Finds

When I was a child, I abhorred thrift shops.  The odor made me want to toss cookies and there was such a stigma to shopping there, at least in the middle class California neighborhood I grew up in.  There was no cachet to second hand clothes, no vintage shops, it was all about new.  I even loathed hand me down clothes from friends of the family.  My poor mom would sometimes try to tempt me with high quality items from the children of friends of hers, she could rarely get me to wear them.  Hand-me-down was more common then, clothes were not quite at the throw away state they have now achieved.  Other than film and photo, how are people to know what we wore in the last couple decades as there will be few extant pieces left?  I shudder to think what they will look like in 50-150 years.  So even though I just shared my childhood prejudices, I have to say that I loved to dress up in my aunt's old clothes and gaze at outfits from the past that belonged to grannies, great aunties and such.  I wish I had some of those bouffant 50's petticoats and beaded sweater sets that I trashed playing in during my childhood in the 60's. 

Flash forward to now, it is a completely different picture.  I adore thrift store shopping.  Don't get me wrong, I still don't like the smell, but better thrift shops don't have such a musty-moldy scent.  Lo and behold, it is now cool to buy in thrift shops.  Second hand buys come with labels like "retro" and "vintage" and we ooh and ahh over people's clever buys. 

We have several local places, my favorite the the St Vincent de Paul.  I have found the most amazing stuff there.  I go on a regular basis to poke around.  Now each year in the fall they have their collectible sale weekend, each year I miss it because of work or out of town, and each year I swear I will go next year.  Based on the goodies I find in the store after that weekend, it must be great!  Well this year was no exception, I had to work and forgot it was time, however, the Monday following I was off work and drove to my mechanic's shop which is right after the store.  I saw the notice and thought, "darn, I missed it again."  Well, I had a little time so I went in and Score! 

I found three items I love in the china section.  One was a teapot in Price's "Cottage Ware."  For $9.  I think I paid more than that for the one I bought when I lived in England some 30 years ago.  That one has a broken lid, courtesy of many moves in my early years.  I had tried to repair it, very inexpertly I might add.  Well now I have an intact replacement.  I might just swap this one's lid with my original and then think of something else to do with the extra.  The next was a super cute English China milk jug for $9.  Have I mentioned that I have a positive weakness for china?  I especially love:  Tea pots, Tea cups, and Pitchers.  So to complete my happiness I found a tea cup for my collection.  A delicate white with silver trim, featuring white roses with a blush of pink, from Edelstein in Bavaria, Germany.  Here is a picture so you can enjoy them with me.

Then I found a mink fur capelet in excellent condition.  I believe style wise it probably dates from the early 60's, certainly no earlier than the late 50's.  I don't remember seeing women wear these in the late 60's or 70's.  Of course, by then it was very un "PC" to wear furs.  I remember coming out of the San Francisco Opera house around 1969-1970 with my mom and there was a lady in a sable fur coat.  An animal right activist was screaming at her and one of the things the activist screamed was, "how do you think the animal feels who's coat your wearing?"  To which Sable Coat Lady replied, "Why Darling, they don't feel a thing, they are absolutely dead."  She put a slight drawl into the word darling.  Sable Lady had a point, it was a pretty silly thing for activist lady to say.  I absolutely decline to go into the ethics of wearing furs, suffice it to say, once we have made a garment out of an animal, we best use it well and so I buy and recycle furs.  Often I will recut and salvage damaged pieces but this one will remain intact.  The fur is still silky soft and there is no damage anywhere.  The tag inside reads "The Harris Company" which I read on line was a well known maker of coats from Minnesota.  There is no sign of wear or stain, the fur is not hardened or suffering in any way.  It must have been stored properly.  I have got to make some padded hangers for this and the mint condition mink stole I bought last year, and muslin bags.  I don't need to worry about storage as my walk-in closet in my bedroom for some reason is always cool, even on 100+ degree days.  The capelet is design to fit over the shoulders with a little cut out on each side in from for your arms.  The shawl collar comes down to bottom edge in front creating little pockets that you can put your hands in to stay warm and keep it on your shoulders.  A simple, clever, lovely design. 

I need a couple dresses worthy of these furs.  I have been collecting the vintage patterns the big 5 have been re-issuing lately.  What style do you think with this fur?

Quilted Petticoat in an afternoon

Planning for an event this spring, I wanted to have something warm.  We were going to a rendezvous near Mount Shasta in California and I knew some days could be chilly.  I have long wanted a quilted petticoat and plan to make one the old-fashioned way some day.  I actually love quilting.  I find it restful.  Naturally I didn't have time for that this spring, so I decided to cheat.  I found a pretty twin size quilt in pale yellow at TJ Max for about $29.  I bought some bias binding in yellow and tootled on home from town to get started.  The quilting was acceptable for the period, tulip shapes and leaves.  I cut off the border from all sides as I didn't like the way that would look in the petticoat, it really would have screamed bed spread.  That still left a goodly portion and I liked the way there was cording in the edge at the top and bottom after the border was cut off, I felt it would weight the hem nicely.  So I cut a section out of the middle and then used the two remaining rectangles.  I flipped one piece around so that their patterns were running in the same direction and joined their sides together leaving an 8" section unsewn at the top for pocket slits.  After joining both sides, I flat felled the seams with twill tape so that no raw edges would be exposed with batting spilling out.  I bound the edge of the pocket slit with narrow double fold bias tape and the hem with wide double fold.  I wanted to control the bulk somewhat so I pleated down the waist leaving the center front flat for about 8".  To get the pleats to lie well, I topstitched them down about 3".  Then I bound the waist with wide double fold bias leaving it open at the ends for a casing.  I can then run a tape through the casing to tie the skirt on.  I prefer to run it through the front half of the waist and then bring each side through the back casing and around again to the front so I only have to tie once.  I find that is the best for me and feels comfortable and stays snug all day.  I find the tie twice skirts not so comfortable.  Either way is correct to period so I guess it is a personal choice and I am sure there were many other ways as well.  Here are photos showing some of the construction:

Here is a close view of some of the quilting design
 I was quite pleased with the resultant petticoat.  I was a little nervous that I might look like a walking bed.  When one is generously proportioned, one must be careful not to resemble furniture! 
I had some lovely fabric in my stash that I had picked up a while back in Portland.  I do most of my fabric shopping there.  We have nothing here locally but that store that starts with a J and there isn't much selection there.  My family have learned to plan a day without me when we are in Portland so that I can fabric shop in peace.  Some times my girls enjoy a fabric day, but even they don't have the longevity required for serious fabric shopping.  Only my little Amy understands, she is as much a fabraholic as I.  Amy is my oldest daughter's best friend, they have been together since grasshopper days.  We sewed all together when they were younger and I taught her some, she went on to be a design major at Oregon State and I am very proud of her.  Which is not to say I am not proud of my own two girls, I will brag endlessly about them I am sure in days to come.  Sufficient unto the day, as they say, is the brag thereof. 
Well, enough of this digression.  In my stash I had a lovely Indienne print in yellows, rusts and such that would compliment the pale yellow nicely.  I had recently purchased Period Impressions 1760-1770 Jacket patten and was dying to try it.  I cut size 28 which put it in the 3X size range.  I did find a flaw in the drafting of my pattern where the jacket front does not properly meet the jacket back at the neckline.  This was easily corrected by adding a slight curve out and extending the shoulder area somewhat.  I found this when I made my muslin, at first I thought you should ease the two together, however, they cannot do so and the neckline ends up wrong.  The pattern needed to be corrected.  If someone knows who makes these maybe you can let them know that the Queen pattern is not right.  I could only find vendors who sell the patterns, not who designs them on line.  I wish at the price you pay for these patterns they could be more careful.  The jacket went together easily, however, you need to correct the bottom edge after assembly, the pieces do lay properly when they are trimmed to an even curve.  I fastened the front with hooks and eyes, but wanted to add more for security's sake and interest.  I find that busty gals seem to have hooks and eyes part ways easily in the wearing.  If you have some tips for avoiding this problem, I'd love to hear them.  I have tried several, reversing the direction every other hook and such, nothing seems to work unless you have an additional fastening.  So I use the hooks and eyes now to take the main stress of closing and a light addition on top to help the hooks stay fastened, such as ties or lacing.  I did a decorative cross lacing on the front of this jacket, using a jewelry bail for pendants, to lace through-
I have been pleased over all with the results from this pattern and would make the jacket again.  They do have a couple of their other patterns in this size, I hope they will extend the range on more of their patterns.  In a couple afternoons, I had a comfortable and pretty new outfit.



 So what does a girl do with all the free time she ends up having by making things so easily?  Why add a hat to the ensemble, ofcourse!  I reworked a cheap hat from the dollar store to have a low crown and used the braid I took out to cover a wire in the brim so I could get a nice shape and put on some ribbon trim.

So go forth my children and quilt (kinda) yourself a petticoat in an afternoon!

Uniquely Me or Not?

When the time came that I could finally purchase a dressmaker's form, I researched and thought the best for my purposes was the uniquely you.  I just fit the parameters for their largest size.  When it came, I really should have sent it back.  One foot of the stand was not threaded so I couldn't use it properly.  The upper torso was within the size I needed but the lower half was not.  I thought I could work with it and did some padding on the lower half and worked out the sizing for the upper half by fitting the cover.  It never was quite right.  The upper half kept coming out too large and the lower was too small.  I looked and looked to see if anything might work better.  One plus size form by Dritz would fit my measurements, however, I felt I would probably have ended up in a similar circumstance.  Just getting the right girth is not enough, it has to roll where I do and curve as I do.  I did make a duct tape double years ago and didn't like working with it.  Too many problems to go into now.  Here I am a couple years down the road from purchasing my UY, and it mostly has just taken up space in my sewing room.  I looked at fabulous fit's kit and thought about getting it, but felt is was silly to spend that much making something work which cost enough that it ought to have been right from the start.  So I guess so far it had been uniquely not me!

Well today I thought I needed to get a grip on the situation.  Sadly I now am a little larger than a couple years ago, but at least the upper torso is closer to my size.  So I sat down with some high density foam squares and a little polyester stuffing and set about making it work.  I operated on the idea that if a company could make little foam additives for forms, I could make bigger ones.  With scissors and bread knife, I hacked away and made the rolls on my sides, the bumps on my hips and the tummy.  I used a little hot glue to hold things in place and one of my old bras to get the breasts right.  Now it was starting to get closer to my size and shape.  It seems crazy to me that they make these forms in such straight lines.  People, especially women are rarely flat and straight! 

Now I had the under-structure close to size, I made it a little larger than me so that things would compress as the form is originally intended to do, I started reworking the cover.  The upper torso needed only a little adjustment, but I needed to add a wedge into the lower portion.  I did the several bastings, try ons and re-stitching, to get it right and then completed the final stitching just inside the last bast line.  After all the manipulation her hem was a bit raggedy, so I thought I would bind it with bias tape.  The only thing I had wide enough was some left over red blanket binding.  I figured, what the heck, why not perk her up.  So I put a line of red bias tape around her waist for marking purposes and topped her off with a red bow!  I wrestled the cover back on and tugged it in place and Voila!  Margueritte is born!  I feel that any girl who is all about fashion and hangs around mostly only wearing a few ribbons and a bow, must be french! 

So then came the moment of truth, I measured her and we matched, our rolls were similar and when I put my clothes on her, they fit!  Pretty close to the way they do on me!  I found an old stand for a large floor fan and she fits well onto that.  So finally after two years and a lot of thought and work, I have Margueritte-Uniquely Me? Yes!!

Manufacturers please take note:  there are a lot of us out there plus size!  Why on earth can you not make us a dress form?  It really isn't all that difficult is it?  There must be something out there or how do they design for plus size stores?  Also, put some curves on these things, I mean really, most folks, even if not over weight, have tummys and such. 

So now I have a form I can use for initial fitting.  I doubt that it is so close I can fit solely to the form, final fitting will still have to be on me.  I can also adjust her to my height for hemming easily, and since her lower torso now bumps out in front and back as I do, the garment will hang similar to the way it does on me.  I can also get a good idea of how I will look in the completed outfit.  This is important since some looks are really bad in large sizes.

Margueritte will be modeling some completed work in my next couple of posts.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Needle In My Hand

I PRAY that, risen from the dead, 
I may in glory stand— 
A crown, perhaps, upon my head, 
But a needle in my hand. 

I 've never learned to sing or play,          
So let no harp be mine; 
From birth unto my dying day, 
Plain sewing 's been my line. 

Therefore, accustomed to the end 
To plying useful stitches,   
I 'll be content if asked to mend 
The little angels' breeches.

Eugene Field. 1850–1895

 I remember seeing the first stanza of this poem about 30 years ago, and I have loved it ever since.  I intend to write about many things, however, my main focus will be on sewing and embroidery.  I especially love costuming and do many time frames depending on which group I am playing with at the moment.  As I have grown older and wider, (I wish I could have put wiser instead there!)  I have found that there is not much out there in the way of help for the large size costumer, despite the fact that such a large percentage of us are in the plus range.  So I will be exploring what are the best period and vintage looks for plus size gals.   Which patterns I have the best experiences with and which draft up in size best. 

I will post past costumes and current projects as the days go along.  I sometimes slope/drape my own patterns and have been frustrated trying to find patterns that fit, especially since I am in the 3X size range and short as well.  I find that most patterns that claim they are in plus sizes only go as far as an American fashion size 18 = pattern size 20.  Betzina and Rowley have been designing some wonderful plus patterns that actually go to a fashion size 6X for the big pattern companies and I have made some things I truly love from their patterns.

I have been sewing for decades, had a costume business for several years, studied design, tailoring and embroidery once upon a time, long, long ago. In the practical world I have worked for almost 3 decades as a registered nurse; while raising two girls as a single mom.

As I thought and thought what to call my blog, many things crossed my mind.  I had some high brow french terms, titles specific to certain time periods and places, tricky plays on words to do with stitchery and none seemed to fit.  I didn't want to be locked to time or mood, but roam all my wide interests.  At rock bottom who I am is an American Country Girl, and proud of it.  So most of all I wanted this in my blog.  Then one day I was taking down pictures to paint and redecorate and I held my framed sampler in my hand.  It was a design purchased by my mom for me when I was about 8 years old and she taught me how to stitch it.  I have kept it ever since and it was my first true embroidery.  Samplers are known to many cultures, however, this is a type of stitchery that Americans made their own.  So my blog title comes from my sampler, made so many years ago.  I will leave it to my readers to agree or not as time goes on if I really do "Know my Stitches."