Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sewing Vintage Modern - Book Review and Giveaway

So, a copy of Sewing Vintage Modern made its way onto my bookshelf recently.  Have you seen it yet?

The back of the book reads:  "Vintage Looks Meet Modern Fashion," which is pretty accurate.  The book gives a nice overview of fashion history from the to the 1980s (God, the 80s are vintage already; I'm old!), with notes on influential designers and fashion trends, and great drawings of clothes and accessories.

The book includes 5 master patterns (printed on double-sided, trace-your-own-and-add-seam-allowance Burda sheets.  There's a lot on each sheet, but it's not like the newer magazines; you can actually see what you want to trace.

The master patterns are then turned into 19 different looks, as follows:

Pattern #1, a dress, is used for both the 1920s drop-waisted dress and the 1960s Jackie-inspired sheath.

Pattern #2, a man's shirt, is a 1940s button-down shirt with chest pockets, a 1960s tuxedo shirt with ruffles and hidden buttons, and a 1960s jacket.

Pattern #3, another dress, is used for a multitude of looks: a 1950s full-skirted dress, a 1980s bustier dres, a bodice for another dress, and 5 different tops.

Pattern #4, a shift dress, is also the bones for a 1970s bell-sleeved top and a pussy-bow blouse.

The last pattern, #5, is for pants - everything from stirrups to pajama bottoms to bell-bottoms.

The most valuable part of the book, to me, is that it's more or less a mini course on adapting a master pattern to suit your needs.  Each look from a master pattern is broken down completely - how to re-draw each pattern piece, with instructions on measurements and truing up the pieces, is fully explained and illustrated.

If you don't know how to turn a one-piece, darted bodice into a princess-seamed bodice, you will.

The patterns run from sizes 0 - 14, or European sizes 32 - 46.   I wish the size range had been a little more generous, or that there had been instructions on how to adapt patterns to your size, not just to the specific look.  (The largest size measures 41 x 34 x 43, and face it, there's a lot of 34" waists out there on women who don't fall into a full plus-size category; I'm built more or less on the lines of a fire hydrant myself, so I know of what I speak).

The book also says that vintage looks are "modernized and reinterpreted for today’s sewing enthusiasts."  Therein lies the other rub for me.

I like vintage.  I like real vintage.  The things I like about real vintage are the details, the complicated sewing, the weird pattern pieces (gussets, anybody?) - the things that you don't find in most modern patterns.  These patterns allude to the original, but they are definitely directed to a younger sewist who isn't into true vintage.  Or at least not yet.

And there's nothing wrong with that.  This is a very good book with a target audience who unfortunately  is not me.  The things that hvae been left out of these "reinterpreted" patterns are the things I like best about vintage.

This would be a great book for someone not too new to sewing, but who hasn't experimented much with reworking patterns.  The book has a conversational tone and the directions on how to adapt patterns aren't intimidating at all - everything is explained well, and in a manner that's much more user-friendly than textbook.  

All that being said, I still give this book a pretty high rating, but I think it'll do better out there in the world with one of you than remaining on my shelves.

Please leave a comment telling me why you deserve this book, and you'll be entered to win my copy.  I'll do a random drawing next Sunday, January 6th, and announce the winner here on the blog.  U.S. only, please.

I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season and getting some sewing done; I'm certainly trying to, though I keep getting distracted.

Happy new year, everyone!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Merry Christmas to Me

Back on December 2nd, I ordered a few StyleArc patterns.  I hadn't intended to, but every review I've seen has been positive, and there have been glowing comments about them from people who don't tend to glow.  So, I thought, why not?  Give a new pattern company a shot; maybe it'll break me out of the sewing slump I've been in lately.

And I waited.  On December 12th, I got a ship notice.  (I'd really hoped they were on their way by then).

And I waited.  Today, December 28th, I came home after work and just happened to see something in the recycling bin on my porch that didn't look right.  Of course it didn't look right, it was a white plastic airmail envelope containing my StyleArc patterns.

Which for some reason the mailman deposited into the recycle bin when he couldn't manage to fold it and shove it through the mail slot.

Anybody want to guess what I might be doing this weekend?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Solstice Dress

First of all, happy holidays to all - whatever you're celebrating or not celebrating.

It's been rather celebratory around here, and one of the things I'm happiest about is that I finally finished my Solstice dress.  I started it last year with the intention of wearing it to my office's holiday party, got bogged down in a few details and then decided they didn't deserve it anyway.  

This year, they still didn't deserve it, but we had made dinner plans for the holiday that required a special dress, and I decided to finally get in there and finish this.

Which basically entailed hemming it.  Why did I think for the last year I had loads to do on this when all I really couldn't decide was how far below or above knee to do it?  When I generally always stick to the same length for this type of dress anyway?

Friday was pretty quiet; I had to work the entire day (to make up for having Christmas Eve off and the glory of a 4 day weekend).  We meant to go to the craft show closing party, but got too comfortable on the couch.  I did a little sewing later, which felt pretty festive to me.

Saturday we ran a few errands, loaded out the leftover craft show items (not as many as expected - this year was a definite improvement over last year) and came home to rest up for dinner.

The last of my aunt's estate is being cleared up, and while she changed things at the literal last moment so that all I ended up with was the contents of her apartment, I was the beneficiary of a very small life insurance policy.

Very small.  Not life-changing; not even month-changing.  So I took a good portion of it and splurged on our favorite French restaurant's Christmas dinner.  A meal that would have sent my aunt into shock for many reasons, and which made me enjoy it all the more.

Five courses, with wine pairings.  We walked in hungry, and rolled out several hours later thinking we might never want to see food - or drink - again.  Of course that wasn't the case, but it was a nice thought for a while.

Here's the menu, just to pass on Christmas thoughts of gluttony:

5 oysters served with preserved lemon cream and chives.

Seared foie gras, served on Burgundy spice bread with candied orange peel and arugula puree.

Butter-poached lobster with grilled white asparagus, black trumpet mushrooms and American sauce (basically lobster stock with tomato and other yummy stuff).

6 oz. filet mignon (was supposed to be venison loin, but the meat delivery failed to appear; wonder if the reindeer had anything to do with that?) with Bordelaise sauce, chanterelle mushrooms, brussel sprouts and potato croquettes.

Buche de Noel made with chocolate cake, hazelnut pastry cream, a tiny meringue mushroom and pistachio ice cream with white chocolate shavings.

Remember, each of these courses had a wine pairing.  We were okay until dessert, which was a struggle except that it was so good.  Then they brought espresso, which helped, and finally, with the bill (thank you, Aunt Betty), two house made chocolates.

Which we could not eat.  But they went well with Sunday's breakfast.
On Sunday evening, further festivation occurred.  Some neighborhood friends were having a performance of Dickens' Christmas Carol at their house - a one man show by a local actor.  We attended that, ate, drank and made merry, and finished the evening by listening to carols on their victrola, including a 1909 version of Silent Night in German.

For Christmas Eve, we visited Mario's family in NJ for a full Feast of Seven Fishes.  By this point, we're beginning to feel a bit like Weebles, but we did ourselves proud anyway.

Tonight is our Christmas, home alone, with yet another glorious meal.  (We don't do gifts for Christmas, since we don't need much and tend to get what we need during the year anyway, but for the last 5 or so years we've hunkered down at home on Christmas day and made ourselves something excessive.)  Tonight's meal is duck legs cooked in Belgian beer with onion, garlic and dried apricots, served over rice.  With wine.  Because we can.

I'm glad I wore the Solstice dress while I could still get it zipped.  

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Gift finds its Home

Remember back in October, when I went to the homesteading workshop in NY?  

Well, one of the stockings I made this season got sent to Jenna, the ambitious, hard-working and hard-headed young writer and farmer who hosted us.  

She wrote a post on her blog, Cold Antler Farm, thanking her readers for their cards and gifts, and posted a photo of my stocking. Please check out her post to see Maude, her grumpy sheep who inspired the sheep on the stocking.  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

That 70s Jacket

I'm still sorting through all the rubble we brought home from my aunt's apartment.  There were knicknacks galore, a good bit of costume jewelry and very little clothing.  Most of what was left was really worn, not even worthy of the thrift store.  A few of her cotton blouses I threw into my scrap bag to be taken apart for other projects.  Only one or two things are worth mentioning, and I'm showing one of them here, not because I've listed in my Etsy shop (which I have) but because I feel the need to share the 1970s technicolor glory of this piece.

My aunt knitted, crocheted and sewed, and she made this jacket herself.  I seem to recall that there were coordinating pants, though I've blocked out whether they were pink or orange.  Probably pink, because she was a redhead and occasionally stood up to her (redheaded) mother who said redheads couldn't wear pink.  Of course, she was in her 40s when she made this, which shows that you're never done trying to prove your mother wrong.  

She didn't wear it too often; whether that meant she really only made it to spite her mom, or because because my mom (who was her cousin), tormented her like they were 10 years old, I don't know.  There's certainly no photographic evidence of her wearing it, which is a shame.  I do remember seeing her in it a few times; I also remember my mom making her cry by singing "I'd rather be dead than a redhead."  Only your nearest and dearest can drive you that crazy, right?

It's made from that wonderful/awful 1970s spongy doubleknit.  The zigzag texture carries through to the inside; of course, that fabric was more plastic than fabric, so I'm not surprised. 

From our point of view, it's a nice bit of sewing.  The inside is finished with a red knit binding at the back neck and red lace hem tape.  All seams are zigzagged, which is the best her machine could do at that time.  The pattern matching on the center front and pockets is perfect.  The lapels are interfaced with muslin, and the collar, although freakishly 70s wide, is well done.  The gold metal buttons are better than most of what I see now.

I wish I had more examples of her work.  I know she made massive wardrobes for my Crissy dolls when I was a kid, but those got given away with the dolls, and I only have scraps of the fabric left (because she always gave me the leftover fabric in case I wanted to do things with it).  

Everyone gave her grief for this jacket, yet it was one of the few self-made things she kept in her closet.  For more than 40 years.  

It makes me wonder what it meant to her.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Is it Wrong?

That the look of this machine makes me palpitate . . . just a little?

I've got a nice new(ish) Singer that runs well, does pretty much everything I ask of it.

I've got a Featherweight downstairs in the dining room that needs a going over but otherwise would probably do everything I asked of it.

So why does the combination of the two - nice new machine, loads of stitches, but that sleek black paint job and the fiddly gold bits - make me just a tiny bit dizzy?

For the curious, the acquisitive, here's a link to the Singer site.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Almost Ready

So when I left work last Thursday, I had 44 pieces finished and waiting for the craft show.

I had off Friday.

When I went back to work Monday morning, there were  67 pieces finished and waiting to be priced and tagged and inventoried.  I got that done last night, and tonight, I set up my little corner of the gallery where the show will take place.  Being early has its privileges; I scored a table end, with a nice bit of wall overhead that will be taken advantage of before I'm done with it.

It was warm in Santa's little sweatshop this past weekend, yes it was.  But it was productive, as well.

I wish I didn't put this work off until the last minute, because I do enjoy making things, I just don't feel like working on those particular projects until I have to, and then I realize it's nearly too late and hey, I'm actually having fun with it and now it's almost over.
The continued challenge of working with recycled fabrics and remnants is trying to find enough of any one fabric, or finding several that coordinate (or fight nicely) to make up a specific piece.  Some of the most rewarding time spent in the workroom is laying out bits and pieces from various old projects or things I've pulled from the donation bag, walking down memory lane while piecing together something new.

Not all of the photos here are my stuff, obviously.  I'm only the top photo, and it only looks a little minimal because half my stuff is reserved for the second show on Saturday afternoon (which means I'll only look minimal at this show for the members-only opening night, which is usually lighter than public opening, on Saturday - and by then, I'll have added all the stuff that didn't sell on Saturday afternoon.  Unless - if the sewing gods are smiling - it all sells.
Fat chance.  It's the holiday season.  The sewing gods are snarky at the best of times.  At the holidays?  They're just like the rest of us: grumpy, possibly a bit hung over, a little sleep deprived, stressed and probably pissed at their co-worker sewing gods for being such godawful elves.

In non-craft show (and shopping) news, I somehow wandered onto the Style Arc pattern site the other evening and bought myself some patterns.  I'm still not sure how that happened, but if I'm going to pay hideous Australian shipping rates, I might as well justify them by buying a few patterns, right?  Dress, jacket and pants coming my way, along with a free top pattern.

To be sewn in January, when I have a brain again and the sewing gods have gone to the Bahamas, to recover.  I'll be recovering at home, with my stash and some new patterns.