My “Bring on Summer” dress

The Facts

Fabric: Turquoise, green and periwinkle print from stash, cotton/poly lining
Pattern: McCalls 9338
Year: 1998
Notions: 1 zipper from stash
Time to complete: 3 1/2 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? Yes : )

Total Cost: Free!


Everyone who was stumped raise your hands!

Hallelujah and thank goodness to Mena for doing the On Trend board for inspiration. I looked through 4 months worth of Vogue and Elle, at pics of the various shows online and still…nothing. I played around with doing something with color blocking but somehow I just couldn’t get it together.

I went to Joann’s to look at prints but frankly nothing there floated my boat. I don’t like the really big prints, most of the fabrics they had were either completely uninspiring or downright awful and I didn’t have time for any advanced kind of shopping.

I looked through my stash of stuff and this piece kept beckoning to me. Last week it was 105 degrees out, and I loved my Vacation dress, it was SO comfy that I was tempted to make another. What I really wanted was something vintage-y, that I could wear to work or to dinner, that wasn’t too fussy AND would work in warmer temps. Being able to ride my bike in it would be fabulous but not necessary.

So this is as “trendy” as I’m going to get this week : ) Comfort and necessity won out and the fact that this was free was the clincher!

As far as the construction of the dress went it was clear and straightforward. The added bonus is that it is completely lined so no slip necessary, and while I was *hoping* that I could get away with no bra like last week I wasn’t too surprised when I couldn’t. What DID surprise me was the deep plunge of the neckline! I played with taking the shoulders up but then it tightens the sleeve and back area. I will, sadly, not be able to ride my bike in this, the sleeves are just too restricting BUT where there’s a will there’s a way so we’ll just have to play with things.

Why am I on a bed? I finished up my tablesetting blog…for now…last week, and am finally able to take a good look at my yard (eek!) and spent the weekend making lists (oh so many lists) and first up was putting together the outdoor bed. The MOMENT the bedding hit it so did the animals! This is our favorite hangout during the summer months, the best place to read a book, take a nap, dream…

And my dog, who, up to now, has been VERY reticent about having her picture taken decided to become a goofball since my face wasn’t hidden behind some big black thing. I had to learn a completely new photo skill today as ALL my photographers were unavailable! Rather than skip a challenge, since I finished the dress, I decided to just set up shop in the back yard and go for it. I figured out the timer feature all by myself!  Not the greatest pics by far BUT I did it although I sorely missed my daughters help and bad jokes : )

There were a few like this, although you can see the dress pretty well and Romera looks adorable : )

I thought about doing another gif that shows her tail wagging but the last one took MANY hours and resulted in a repetitive strain injury that all my co-workers just shook their heads over (I work in Ergonomics and knew exactly what I was doing wrong but did that stop me from doing it? Noooo……) so just take my word for it : )

While this may not be as “trendy” as some it makes me happy and in the end isn’t that what any piece of clothing or outfit should do? Bring on summer!

Can you believe we’re halfway through the year?


My “Napa and the Pirates” dress

The Facts

Fabric: Vintage black and white marlin-printed cotton from stash
Pattern: Vogue 8812
Year: 1940
Notions: 1 red zipper
Time to complete: 3 1/2 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? Already have : )

Total Cost: ~4.32 for pattern

I was SO looking forward to this weeks challenge after last week! I even had a mini vacation planned out with my daughter – take a day trip on Saturday up to Napa where a friend would do our hair; have brunch or lunch, do some pics, shop in some vintage stores and maybe stay for dinner. Sunday was the annual Pirate Festival in Vallejo that is a must-attend every year if only to see old friends and buy a new mini hat : ) Oh the plans we make…

I was on top of things Sunday. Had the dress cut out and ready to sew. Monday I had another project come up that pushed everything aside so I didn’t get back to my dress until Thursday. As far as construction this pattern is a breeze. There are a few things that I changed/would change in the future. First, I lined and interlined the lower bodice pieces. Unless I missed something in the directions they only have you cut one layer of fabric which may be fine for someone with better abs : ) I like feeling secure and held in there! I shortened the skirt by 3 inches and then put in a 2″ hem so for those of you who are of”average” height check the length. This was a vintage piece of 36″ wide goods so I had NO room to mess up and those few inches made the difference between squeaking by and being comfortable with the layout.

In the future I wouldn’t gather the top piece they’re calling the “bra” all the way around, I’ll stop it at the side and finish the edge off. I see no reason to have the back pieces with the gathering since they tend to puff out and make it look like gravity has taken over more so than it really has : ) I will also get a second set of hands to help fit the top, trying to pull it around and mark it myself meant I was almost 2″ too big when I went to put in the zipper.And why a red zipper? Because I thought I had a black one and couldn’t find it Saturday morning, an hour before we were supposed to leave. I did have a red one so in it went and it’s really not the worst thing I’ve seen…lately…

We started off in downtown Napa after hair appointments. We LOVED the HUGE lights in front of the Post Office. This pic is from my daughters Instagram experiment. We had to do something when our regular camera got too hot and stopped working briefly. Why would that be?

That’s why : )

And it was still raising, it hit 105 as we were finishing up around 4 pm. Seriously, it’s only like this a handful of days each year but this was one of them.

And just let me reiterate, that was 102 IN THE SHADE, as in where I’m standing!

There is an actual river that runs through the town of Napa, it’s rather small and this time of year a bit sluggish. We went down there anyway on the off chance it was a tad cooler.

Cool (as in nifty, not temperature!) kinetic sculpture behind me, no shoes on the feet. It not only wasn’t cooler, it was probably more like 110 taking into account the reflected heat! You’ll notice I’m in the shade. We tried a couple pics in the sun but since one of my best friends’ husbands describes my skin color as “two shades darker than milk” we vampire-type girls tend to stay where its shady whenever possible.

This may be the most telling pic of the day:

We stopped in at a major celebrity chef’s home goods store and crashed in the big comfy club chairs. A picture says a thousand words…

We did *briefly* go into Chef Morimoto’s restaurant (one of the original Iron Chefs) but we took one look at the enormous ancient table for tasting parties and knew there were too many zeros to the left of the decimal point for our budget.

There were no thoughts of further meals or shopping, we beat it back to the relative comfort of the air conditioned car, passing this piece of public art:

Curious about how to do the Cha Cha Cha? You can learn right here. In the sun, and the heat…

I did say there would be pirates, right?


When my daughter was very young we worked at a fencing booth at the Renaissance Faire here in Northern California. I had my fill of breathing in clouds of dirt, fencing in 100 degree heat and giving up three months worth of my weekends so I stopped working there but we still keep in touch with the people. Every year during Father’s Day weekend a group of historical re-enacting nuts decided to put on a Pirate Festival on the edge of the Bay in Vallejo. It’s fun, irreverent and if you need to let your inner pirate self out every once in a while this is the place to do it : ) We went a-visiting.

Isn’t my parasol cute? Perfect accessory to my dress.

I promised my daughter she didn’t have to dress up (full pirate regalia is layered and then there’s all the weaponry..) and there was shade and breezes off the bay : )

This pattern gets an A+. It was comfy, moved well, once I had the top fitted just right I wore NO BRA and didn’t feel unsupported. I did wear a pair of  cotton-lycra shorts underneath in lieu of a slip. They allowed me to move and not get sticky or sweaty in places that shouldn’t be, if you know what I mean : ) I wore this dress for 2 days straight and am looking through my fabric stash for a suitable candidate to make another.

If I go on another “vacation” this is at the top of my list of things to wear!

My “Mary and Rhoda” outfits

Fabric: Green linen for Mary skirt, white w/green and blue print for Mary shirt, Purple/pink printed poly plaid for Rhoda dress from stash
Patterns:  McCall’s 3955 for Mary skirt, Simplicity 9204 for Rhoda dress and Vogue 8424 for Mary blouse
Year: 1970′s
Notions: Interfacing, 9 vintage buttons from stash for Mary shirt
Accessories: Coat from Swap last week (free!), hat from collection
Time to complete: ~7 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? I doubt it, maybe for Halloween
Total Cost: $11.45 for shirt, 13.09 for skirt, so $24.54 for all







Soooooo much inspiration, so little time : )

This took some discussion amongst friends to decide what to do. I actually put my top three choices on facebook and had people vote – it came down to Julia Child, Mary Richards and Emma Peel. Emma Peel was a very close second, the deciding factor was how much I would have to tuck and suck and corset to do her proud and in retrospect, I’m glad I went for Mary Richards.

Let me just say up front, the word of the week was “uncomfortable”. I didn’t feel good, even called in sick mid-week just to stay home to nap and do not a whole lot of anything. I didn’t start sewing until Thursday and once again my daughter needed to do photos on Saturday so there was a push Friday night to finish. I just didn’t feel good the entire time so my heart, while I REALLY wanted to do Mary proud, just wasn’t in it.

Why Mary and Rhoda? What is Mary without Rhoda : ) They were friends and I loved them equally. I did a lot of babysitting, and one family in particular liked to go out Friday nights so I would settle into their couch after the girls went to bed and watch “Mary Tyler Moore”, “Bob Newhart” and “The Tonight Show”. The first few notes of any of those theme songs takes me back instantly : )

I always wanted to be Mary, that mixture of self-assuredness and humanity wrapped up in cool Evan-Picone clothing. I figured I had a shot at actually being more like Rhoda, her being artsy and all. They were the first single women, other than “Julia” in the 60′s, that made it OK to be single and thirty. I loved Mary’s history – moved to Minneapolis to get away from the man who didn’t want to marry her, and then turned him down when he showed up to try to woo her back. She set up a new life, made new friends, got a cool ableit-under-paying job and “made it”. Interestingly the lyrics of the theme song started out questioning her whole purpose and life and then the second season they became much more positive.

How do I like the outfits? They’re ok. They’re appropriate for the time, I certainly felt a lot closer to myself as Rhoda but the fabric is an inexpensive poly print I bought to make one of the new vintage Vogue patterns out of to see if I liked not only the pattern but that much plaid on me. Can we say static city? The pattern was super easy, so if anyone wants to make it it goes together quickly. The Mary shirt has three fatal flaws, which is why it will most likely end up on ebay this Halloween season. Nothing wrong with the pattern…if you’re paying attention. First, I sewed the sleeves in precisely backwards. The left sleeve is in the right armhole and vice versa. It will be easy to change when I feel better but for now I look like a dork. Second, when I went to press the front placket down the iron “had a moment” and fried a lovely hole in the lower portion. I cut off the melted piece and replaced it but You Always Know.

The third flaw isn’t really a flaw, it’s just that ginormous collar we loved so in the 70′s. Thank goodness the fabric is soft otherwise it would be poking me in my ears.

The Mary skirt went together in a whopping 40 minutes. No seams are overlocked, not even the hem. The waistband is “faux”, just a folded over strip of fabric sewn on to look good for pictures and held together with a safety pin. Why? I like the fabric so I’ll take the waistband off, taper the seams so it’s straighter, overlock everything and put it back together correctly. Done is beautiful.

My daughter helped me with hair, we went through several translations of Mary’s hair, first trying a “rat” to give it some height and mimic her first season style. (The producers didn’t want her to be mistaken for Laura Petri so they put a fall on the back of her head and combed her bangs back. When the show became popular Mary insisted in the second season using all her own hair so its not as “big”.) Nothing like not being able to see what your daughter is doing to you:

Snookie : )

She made me Snookie, not Mary. Corrections were made : )

And because one of the most iconic things about the show is the beginning where Mary throws her hat, and because Kazz had to REALLY up the ante with the whole photoshop/gif thing last week (that dancing sequence was CRAZY AWESOME!!) I did my own hat toss scene.

There are a couple things you should check out. First is the story of Hazel Frederick, the woman scowling with the glasses and blue head scarf behind Mary. Turns out she was a pretty cool woman, read about her here. You can also read about Mary’s wardrobe here.  And here are the two versions of the theme song –

How will you make it on your own?
This world is awfully big, girl this time you’re all alone
But it’s time you started living
It’s time you let someone else do some giving
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it
You might just make it after all
You might just make it after all

Seasons 2-7:

Who can turn the world on with her smile?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile?
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all
You’re gonna make it after all

I made it! I finished the outfits, finished the challenge and got my 70′s groove on and out of my system. I can’t even tell you HOW excited I am about next weeks challenge!!

My “QE II” dress

Fabric: Purple Italian Sueded silk from stash, wool felt for hat
Patterns: Hollywood Pattern 1274 for dress, Vogue 7464 for hat
Year: 1940′s for dress from swap and vintage inspired Vogue for hat
Notions: Interfacing and three safety pins; milliner’s wire and buckram from stash
Time to complete: ~6 hours
First worn: June 2012
Wear again? Maybe, most likely the skirt and hat with different top

Total Cost: $ 7.20 for wool felt for hat

Me and the Royal Family…we go way back : )

It was just a question of WHO to use as inspiration. I know many fellow contributors will probably use Kate Middleton, but I am an original Diana fan. I was entranced when she got engaged, she was only a few years younger, and guess what the inspiration was for my first wedding? Yep. I stayed up all night to watch her wedding, named two of my cats William and Harry and many years later stayed up all night to watch her funeral. She was my generations’ JFK. I have an entire (large) box full of books, magazines and newspapers from the wedding, throughout her life and her funeral. I thought at first I’d make something based on one of her dresses but she was tall and thin and I’m…not. I am honestly shaped a little closer to the Queen and since I’ve already channeled an earlier Elizabeth (pic to come!) I thought maybe I’d do something reminiscent of a younger Elizabeth II.

I loved the purple shoes I wore with my Grandma Bertha dress and the silk that I made the belt out of was an almost perfect match and what is more royal than purple? Plus it was free and free is delightful. The only downside to “free” in this instance was the age of the fabric. I had bought it in 1993, as I left House of Fabrics to go design and teach at a junior college. It was in my “Special Projects” box, sitting on a bottom shelf under a cutting table when we had a flood at school. It was saturated with muddy water, then dried and cleaned so fortunately the dirt came out but there are bits of dye transfer from something else. I had a good sized piece, 5+ yards so I figured I could cut around the spots. I also discovered sun damage from less than fabulous storage in the intervening years, so a good 2 hours of the production time was spent cutting each piece individually. I also had two pieces, one had been cut from the main piece, so I had to carefully and thoughtfully guess which way the grain went since it has a grain like satin or corduroy and the last thing I wanted was one lighter/darker skirt panel and sleeve. I think it worked out well : )

Kazz TOTALLY upped the photoshop ante last week so I scrambled to find a suitable background! This photo from Life magazine will have to do.

As far as construction of the dress went it was straightforward. The pattern was clear, the only problem was the actual tissue. I would bet money (since I can’t find any copyright on this) that this was made during the war, probably 1943 or 44 since the tissue is SO thin that breathing on it wrong will tear it! Other than that, the only thing I changed was the peplum construction. The pattern calls for facings and I *hate* peplum facings. They require acres of hand stitching to lay right and for something like this I wanted durability. I lined the whole thing and interlined the back and left side front so it has some substance. That shadow you see in the pictures is just that, it actually lays flat really nicely. I’m not sure tucks like that are the best look for me, maybe in another 10 pounds I’ll feel more comfy in it.  I’m also being completely transparent here saying that I did NOT sew on the hooks-n-eyes the pattern called for, I just pinned myself in for now : )

And now the hat…

(Since so many people were interested in construction details of my Joan shamrock green linen hat I’m including the highlights of this hat here – if you’re not interested you can skip to the end : )

Oh the hat…It took three people with half a dozen advanced degrees a combined IQ of well over 450 to figure out the last two steps of that pattern!

The hat went together well in the beginning but it becomes some origami crane-like thing at the end and I’m still not sure I have it right! I’ve made hats from scratch before, I’m not a novice but I wanted to make THIS hat (view B) EXACTLY like the instructions said to do. I chose this pattern for two reasons – 1) It’s really cute in the picture and 2) it doesn’t ask you to buy a hat frame and just cover it like the first couple of vintage hat patterns did!

My feeling is if you’re going to put out a hat pattern then you should show the customer how to make the WHOLE thing from beginning to end. I thought at first I’d made it match the dress exactly but when I read the directions I realized I really needed the hat wool so off to Joann’s I went. The one thing I really appreciate about the pattern is it does NOT assume everyone has a hat form (but I do) and they tell you to buy a 10″ styrofoam ball and use a terry towel to steam the buckram.

So I cheated a little. Here is my form, covered first with foil and then plastic wrap. You don’t want to use just foil unless you want to pick bits out of your hat and hair and you don’t want to use just plastic wrap as it will move about like silk charmeuse, just wanting to be on the floor. Use both : )

You can buy buckram online or at a better stocked store, Stone Mountain Daughter has it in Berkeley. It’s embedded with rice starch so you just get it wet quickly, let it sit for a few minutes until it gets limp, don’t soak or wring, and stretch it on the form.

The elastic band keeps the drying buckram in place and smooth. Pins keep the elastic in place. Keep away from cats, they remove pins. Let dry overnight

Here is where Vogue and I part ways construction wise – they don’t cover the frame with anything other than the felt hat but it isn’t stitched down in very many places. I covered the part of the frame that you might see if a wind flipped up that front wool piece.

Then they don’t have you insert any wire into the edge of the frame so it holds its shape. I didn’t either, just to try the pattern out, but in the future I’d definitely change that. They also have you use grosgrain to finish off the edge, which is a traditional technique but I needed the purples to match so I cut a strip of bias and finished it that way.

The pattern tells you cut a point in the frame but then never really clarifies where the point should go so I guessed! It leaves several details unfinished, like the stitching of the main “point” that sticks up as part of the bow and how exactly they get the shape in the photo. Their line drawing doesn’t give any more clarity but all in all I’m happy with the result.

I made sure I had the requisite handbag:

I just haven’t mastered the whole shadow thing in photoshop yet : )

Here is part of my history with the Royal Family:

My Princess Diana-inpsired wedding dress and haircut…

And my Queen Elizabeth I dress from the Ermine Portrait : ) I even made a tiny one for my daughter –

See? Me and the Royal Family…we go back a ways : )