The VIntage VIP Poodle skirt

The Facts
Fabric: The most amazing piece of pre-printed vintage fabric (almost) ever!
Pattern: None
Year: Most likely mid to late 50′s
Notions: 1 zipper, I hook-n-eye, 8 buttons from stash for grey sweater
Time to complete: 1.5 hours
First worn: April 2012
Wear again? Yes but most likely without petticoat

Total Cost: NOTHING…although the sweaters worn with it came to a total of $15.99

This could have EASILY been used for the VIP challenge – this is a VERY PRECIOUS piece of fabric, I think I found it at the Peddlar’s Fair in Martinez years ago and might have paid $5. I liked the printed poodles on it at the time and thought maybe I’d use it for curtains or appliques…didn’t really know. It sat in a box (away from the sun, thank goodness) for years. One day I pulled it out, needing to decide whether to keep it or throw it away and I saw this:

This small white mark, near the selvedge..and there were two of them marking the middle of the poodles…I had someone grab one end of the fabric and hold the whole thing out and it hit me – this was a piece of pre-printed goods meant to make a CIRCLE SKIRT with poodles galore! SILVER poodles, with lime green bows and butterflies, how AWESOME is that!???! That’s when this went into the Revered pile, not to be touched until….

Now. Now it’s been transformed into all it’s fifties poodle glory : ) If you go by the technical definition of a circle skirt then this isn’t technically a circle skirt since there are gathers at the waist. Why? Because the basic skirt was HUGE. Here it is with the side seams stitched up and a preliminary hem cut, on a 5 foot round table:

If I were to have no gathers then the skirt would either be A) dragging on the floor or B) meant for a 48″ waist. So there are gathers : ) I made this backwards – after sewing the side seams together I measured from the bottom of the poodles, which was about 6″, and then cut the hem. Once that was done I measured from the hem UP and cut out the waist. It was VERY important that the full pattern of the poodles be kept intact as well as having a good even hem.

Now you can see the poodle glory : ) And that is one full skirt, let me assure you…

This was my original idea for this skirt – a nice crisp white blouse with green earrings and a silver belt. Believe it or not I do have my petticoat on underneath and I felt like I was about 5 feet wide. I also felt kind of blah. I had cut this out, including a cute little grey sweater (remodeled from a $3 silk/cashmere find from Salvation Army!) when it was about 68 degrees. While taking pictures today it hit 90. I had ditched the idea of the sweaters until I looked at these photos and then felt like I really did need to suck it up and change the look.

Silver sweater, black camisole, same silver belt and shoes, and a vintage green rhinestone pin and earrings from my grandmother and I’m feeling better…except for the sweat dripping down my neck and back : )

And now we’ve got the cashmere/silk sweater re-do with the black camisole and black belt. Still sweating but this is much more “me” than the white shirt. The “halos” in the photo are the result of near direct sun shining on the outdoor studio my daughter set up for a photo project for school. She was nice enough to take these photos for me at the end of a long, hot day for her. She says its called the “Madonna effect” and rattled off a way I could fix it in the Bridge section of Photoshop that made my eyes roll into the back of my head. I’ll just take the halo for now : )

Finally, when I could feel the sweat soaking through my waistband, I decided to ditch the petticoat and see how the skirt did on its own. I like it : ) I would totally wear this to work, on BART, without hesitation!

And since this is a circular skirt there was twirling…

And while I love those silvery Kazz-inspired shoes, at some point I’m going to need to be practical so I found a pair of lime green flip-flops to match the lime green polish my daughter brought me special for today.

I am SO glad I finally go to make this skirt! I used it as a table cloth for my blog here. As I was ironing the skirt to wear today my mother told me she met my aunt (and then my father) through her Girl Scout troop in about 1948. My future grandmother came to teach the girls how to make circle skirts and after they measured their waists it came time to figure out how big a circle to cut, she had to do the math for each girl since they were too young to have learned fractions yet! I’m sure she’d like this skirt today, not so sure she’d care for green nail polish but you never know…

So thanks to a circle skirt my parents met, I came along, my Grandma Bertha taught me how to sew and here we are! Big circle of life.

The “Japanese Tea Garden 1966” outift

My mother and me

Fabrics: Black and white gingham from another project, white quilters cotton from stash, 1 icky red sweater from Salvation Army
Patterns: Shirt – New York Pattern 1779; Skirt – Simplicity 4013; Sweater – self drafted Year: 1950′s
Notions: Interfacing and 5 buttons for blouse: 1 zipper and cotton/poly lining for skirt
Time to complete: Skirt – 3 hours; Shirt – 2 hours, Sweater – 1 hour.
First worn: For this photo
Wear again? Yes!

Total Cost: ~
$6 for skirt, $6 for sweater

The theme for this week was to make an outfit inspired by a photo of ourselves as a kid.

THAT was a toughie : ) Fortunately my mother not only has a pretty complete photo album from my early years but is blessed with a memory for details. I actually found a couple of photographs with clothing that didn’t completely turn my stomach so I felt like I had SCORED!

In the end I decided on the photo of me, my mother and my middle sister as a baby in the Japanese Tea Garden here in San Francisco. My “lightbulb” moment was to re-create that image today as best we could : )

So here we are in 1966, March 9 to be exact (it’s on the back of the photo not from memory!). I have NO recollection of the dress or the day but I like the black/white/red combo. My mother says my grandmother bought me that dress from a very nice kids store in Claremont. She also distinctly remembers the outfit she was wearing – the blouse was pink with orange trim which matched the pants. And she LOVED those glasses which I’m sorry to say we used for dress-up a few years later and managed to mangle in the back yard. Sorry Mom!

My version took the black and white gingham idea and blew the squares up. I had bought the gingham last year with the intent to do a Peggy dress from “Mad Men” but never got there. No problem, this was perfect. Until I went to cut it out. The three hours of construction time included an hour spent running up to Joann’s to show them how they incorrectly cut the fabric (they cut both layers at once thereby shorting me 3 inches of pattern on one half, instead of cutting along the woven line in a single layer.) I had to BUY an entire length so I’d have enough to match the lines whereas if they’d cut the fabric correctly I would have been fine. Harrumph…but oh well…

I also didn’t pay attention to ALL the pattern as I first assembled the skirt front and ended up with this:


If you look at the left side of the photo as compared to the right you’ll see the lines mis-aligned perfectly. The right side is fine : )

Took that side out, re-pinned and stitched and we were good to go. I underlined the gingham since its pretty sheer and I didn’t want to HAVE to wear a slip in the summer. I was also able to do the high waisted scallped version this time <insert squeal of delight here>

I did not want the large collar of the original dress – I learned my lesson about those collars in my Laura Ashley stage in the 80′s. One good breeze and those things fly into your face leaving a perfect impression of your fabulous red lipstick on the center front, never to come out. Besides, I’m past the Laura Ashely thing now and wanted something I’d actually wear. Enter the fabulous shirt pattern. I had ZERO issues putting this together, other than a cat laying on the pieces and refusing to move. I will probably make three or four more of these and shorten the sleeves a little but other than that, it’s perfect!

The sad red sweater was a Salvation Army find the same night I found the blue sweater with the beaded snowflake that I used in the re-fashion challenge here. That big turtleneck piece? You’ll see that again sometime this year, I have plans for it : ) Once again I used the sweater for fabric, completey re-cut it and used binding off another sad red sweater to finish off the front.

I convinced my mother to find clothes in her wardrobe this last week that could come close to what she wore back in 1966. THEN I convinced her to get up REALLY early on Saturday morning, do full hair and make-up and drive out to Golden Gate Park in the city to visit the Academy of Sciences (where she could see her favorite penguins get breakfast) and then try to find the spot the original picture was taken. Isn’t my mother a good sport?We’re pretty sure we got it right : ) They’ve removed the bamboo fencing but this stone lantern was the only one that could have had a picture taken next to it from the right angle.

And even though I’m not six I had to twirl like I was : )

You can also see I made sure all those lines lined up perfectly and that high waistline works. Even though my mom said it reminded her of a tablecloth this is going to be in heavy rotation this summer : )

This also helped create a nifty mother-daughter moment for us this last weekend so it was an extra special challenge that went from “What in the world and I going to do?” to creating a really great memory. I’m pretty sure this will end up in my parent’s Christmas card this year…

The “Golden Gate Bridge” outfit

San Francisco, open your golden gate…

Fabrics: Silk, twill and cotton for corset from stash, silk organza for blouse from stash, stretch cotton sateen, sparkly silver tulle
Patterns: All self-drafted
Year: Now but with a nod to The Bridge : )
Notions: One wool hat on headband from stash, plastic I-beam from Dad’s stash, 1 yard of 3″ elastic, 38 grommets, 8 yards lacing, 1 snap, re-prints of vintage postcards for hat decorations, LOTS of thread
Time to complete: Corset ~9 hours, Skirt 1 hour, Blouse 1 1/2 hours, Hat 3 hours including building a bridge : )
First worn: For this photo
Wear again? Yes!
Total Cost:
Corset $18 for grommets, pre-cut boning to save my sanity and lacing; $8 for skirt fabric and elastic

After an uncharacteristically unfocused week last week I had a SCHEDULE this week! I knew I wanted to make the hat and corset the centerpieces of my homage to the Golden Gate Bridge. After all, we’re coming up on the 75th anniversary of that bridge opening at the end of May, and since I was born and lived part of my childhood in The City it just seemed “right”.

I didn’t originally plan to make a corset, I had started out trying to engineer some cute suspenders in orange to look like the towers but was QUICKLY reminded that suspenders and my boobs just aren’t the best of friends. (Not to mention orange and I are SO not friends.) I was going to look more like a Sleazy Stripper than a Jaunty Chick so that plan was nixed. Then I was going to do just a simple waist cincher but as I cut the pieces out I decided to do more of a vest and then top stitch the pieces to look like the bridge cabling. I started out making a mock-up, figuring I could get to my girlfriends house at least twice during the week to trouble shoot and fit.

Then came Monday. As I basted the corset pieces together my machine started making funny noises and as I came to the final piece, it stopped. I was pretty sure it was the brushes so I called my Dad and ran the machine over to him. An hour later he had confirmed my diagnosis, found the pieces in his stash for my bridge project and I went home with the assurance he would have the machine fixed in a day or two. I ate a cupcake and slid into bed. Two hours later my Abigail chicken died. It was one messed up Monday.

I focused on the hat. Push come to shove I figured I could always just wear my hat. Sometimes you go with what life throws at you and the hat would be my lemonade. But my Dad being the Awesome Person he is not only fixed my one machine but dug out my second machine that had stopped working a couple of years ago and fixed THAT as well! He then handed me a can of as-close-to-the-bridge-color-as-possible spray paint so I could have an Awesome Hat : )

The Awesome Hat : )

This is also my nod to Beach Blanket Babylon, another San Francisco Institution : ) I’ve highlighted some of the City’s famous landmarks here – Sutro Tower, the TransAmerica Pyramid, the Palace of Fine Arts, Chinatown, the Ferry Building and a small Cable Car. And the Golden Gate bridge half hidden in a cloud of foggy silver tulle, just like it is in real life!

The Bridge

When I brought the machine home Wednesday evening I got right to work. I had the whole front put together and top stitched by bed time. Thursday I finished off most of the back. Friday we did the shoulder fitting and design and changed out the center back pieces. I fit the lining in, boned it all and finished off the neck and hem edges. I made the black wiggle skirt that I talked about in last weeks post in 2 episodes of “The Big Bang Theory”. It has one seam in the center back, 4 darts and NO zipper! I stitched on 3″ elastic for the waist band and made sure I could shimmy into it with no zipper before I closed everything up and hemmed it!

Corset detail

The blouse was originally going to be a long sheer jacket but lack of fabric led to shirt. I would have let it stay untucked but the wind was fierce when we went to take pictures so I minimized the amount of “stuff” I had to worry about by tucking it in : ) I LOVE LOVE LOVE the corset/vest and will probably wear it to work one day. It has a couple small fit issues that I can fix with a minimum of fuss. The inside isn’t as pretty as I would normally make but this week done really is beautiful. I also discovered that I’ve gone from a 38DD bra to a 36D and need to re-draft my waist cincher pattern thanks to riding my bike to BART everyday so yeah : ) The back of this IS beautiful:

Here is me being silly –

The city skyline is j u s t behind me…

And here is the full shot of the top image.

And just in case you wonder what the lyrics are to the “San Francisco” song, here you go : )

San Francisco, open your Golden Gate
You’ll let nobody wait outside your door
San Francisco, here is your wanderin’ one
Saying I’ll wander no more.

Other places only make me love you best
Tell me you’re the one in all the golden west
San Francisco, I’m coming home again
Never to roam again…

San Francisco, right when I arrive
I really come alive…
And you will laugh to see me,
Perpendicular, hanging on a cable car

San Francisco, let me beat my feet
Up and down Market Street
I’m gonna climb Nob Hill, just to watch it get dark
From The Top of the Mark

There’s Brooklyn Bridge, London Bridge,
And the Bridge of San Louis Rey
But the only bridge, that’s a real gone bridge,
Is the bridge across the bay

San Francisco, I’m coming home again,
Never to roam again, by gum San Francisco,
I don’t mean Frisco
San Francisco, here I come!

This is my Love Letter to my city of birth by the bay. I hope I’ve done it justice : )

The “No Brain(er)” dress

Fabrics: Silky print bought at Britex months ago, black from stash
Patterns: Simplicity 1685
Year: 1945 (but originally 1944!)
Notions: Interfacing, 1 zipper, 3 buttons
Time to complete: 4 hours over 6 days!
First worn: For this photo
Wear again? Maybe…probably
Total Cost:
Don’t remember now, but certainly less than $30

After the amount of sewing I found myself doing the last few challenges I MADE myself promise myself that I would do ONE! and only ONE!! piece this week. Even better, I got this pattern last week at the Swap Mena hosted for us local stitcher/blogger types and it even says “Simple to Make” in flowy script between the 2 women on the envelope. SIMPLE, the theme of the week!

I chose this fabric out of many “specials” that I had – partly because most of the rest could dress a sparkly drag queen and partly because I really love this print. I bought it intending to make a blouse to go with the super tight black wiggle skirt that is dying to be brought to life on my table : ) Because this is a war-time design its fabric requirements are minimal so with careful cutting I was able to get the dress out of that which was originally meant for a top.

And then the fun began…

Like that red dress I made for the red Valentine challenge this “should” have gone together quickly. I could name this dress the “Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda” dress. This is a sample of the week:

Sunday – Get super efficient after doing my 2 blog posts and cut dress out, takes 45 minutes. Celebrate with a cupcake and go to bed.

Monday – stitch the 2 shoulder seams and decide to overlock all seams. Notice there is green thread on the overlock left from last weeks green skirt (which I have worn twice and is now my new favorite skirt!), wander out to find black thread, get distracted by something shiny. Go to bed.

Tuesday – Finally find black threads, change out overlock, finish shoulder seams, notice I need to do facings next. Dig out interfacing, cut one piece out, go eat half a cupcake, come back to finish and can’t find interfacing. Go to bed.

Wednesday – Hold very cute orange cat for the first 45 minutes of dedicated sewing time, go to sew on facings and discover clever instructions telling you to cut another piece for left side from right side piece by folding one edge down…spend another 45 minutes looking for scissors and interfacing. Go to bed.

Thursday – Get ready to put zipper in, can’t find zipper that I pulled out of the drawer Sunday in a fit of organization. Go to bed.

By Friday evening it finally occurred to me that I needed to be done in TWO days to take pics and Saturday AND Sunday were so completely booked that some kind of breakdown would surely result if I attempted that much fun. I jammed some stitching in Saturday am, reneging on going to the Flea Market at Rossmoor with my grandmother, stuffed the dress in a bag and took it to my next two events on the off chance I’d be able to do some handwork. Yeah…that didn’t happen.

Sunday morning, wake up at 4 am, not enough awake to actually just get out of bed and sew, but enough to try to solve the same problem over and over and over again…no brain, no pain…


By the skin of my teeth I finished, and with a little help from Angie cheering me on and digging out the blind hem foot while something shiny held my limited attention span. My daughter was off filming today so I had to rope in a friend to do pics. The weather could best be described as blustery and within SECONDS of stepping outside this silky fabric was full of static and clung to every curve, blip, dimple and crevice it could find. I had static spray that just couldn’t overcome the forces of nature.

The other “force of nature” to overcome was the boobage. This pattern “should” have been big enough, and had I had time I “might” have made a quick muslin and added a quarter inch or so to each side, the girls were definitely pushing the limits of ease! On top of that the original pattern called for 4 buttons, which would have put the fourth somewhere uncomfortably close to my arm pit. I deleted the fourth, stitched everything closed instead of the innocent looking buttonholes they suggested and then apparently couldn’t measure correctly since that lower button is just a tad low. Easy fix but one of those things I “should” have caught. The little gap at the top where the black doesn’t quite meet the print is a goof, there is a snap there that came unsnapped and we didn’t catch it. I ended up restitching the neck line, the original was so tight I felt choked. In the future I’ll just sew it a half-inch out from the original stitching line.

I took a cue from Kazz and put on almost all my red bakelite bracelets! They never get worn all at once, my forearms are only so big, and she rocks that whole “bracelets to the elbow” thing! I bought them with the idea to wear as many as possible like Diane Vreeland used to do so why not now!!

What “should” have been, what “could” have been a very simple and straight forward project met an amazing array of distractions. The best thing I can say is it is DONE and when everything is all put together it’s not bad. Losing another 10 pounds would be good too : )

The other thing I noticed is that there are clues here as to my next week’s project…which is on the table as we speak…

Maybe this coming week will have fewer magpie-like distractions : )