The “Desk Set” Christmas outfit

The Facts
: Plaid poly taffeta for dress; Burgundy wool blend and gold satin lining for coat; cotton interlining and poly lining from stash
Pattern: Simplicity 2928 and Vogue 1137
Notions: Interfacing, zipper, belting and red bakelite buckle all from stash; 4 buttons
Year: 1950′s
Time to complete
: 9  hours
First worn: December 2012
Wear again? Yes on the dress, maybe on the coat

Total Cost: Dress ~$30.00 and Coat $35.00 so a total of $65.00 plus tax

I love the movie “Desk Set”. It’s on my list of ‘must see’ movies every Christmas season, along with “Holiday Inn”, “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” (the animated one, not the Jim Carey one), “Charlie Brown’s Christmas”, “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Home Alone”. I secretly wanted to work in a Research department like the women in the movie, and the whole ‘computer’ thing never ceases to amuse : ) One of my favorite outfits has always been the very festive dress/coat combo Katherine Hepburn wears to the office party. Her version is a sage green silk wrapped around her impossibly tiny waist with a bright red coat that has a Christmas green lining so she looks like a present!

While I like the silk I was too lazy to go searching for the right color but when I found this plaid taffeta a month ago, brand new and hidden amongst some truly ugly holiday fabrics I had a hard time making a decision. I settled on this one, passing up a mulit-toned purple plaid and a green/purple plaid that I may go back for to make a fabulous 1860′s dress for Dicken’s Faire next year. For now this one makes me happy.

I chose the dress pattern for the way they manipulate the stripes/plaid. Of COURSE the pattern is a junior size (insert snorting sound here) so I needed to grade it up….way up…since I haven’t been a “junior” size in decades. The mistake I made with the muslin (yes! I made a muslin) was getting too clever for my own good. TOTAL brain fart and I adjusted the bodice so the armholes were nice and flat against my chest, like I’d do for a sleeveless dress. The problem with that little plan was when I inserted the CAREFULLY cut sleeves, so that the pattern matched up all the way across,  I COULDN’T RAISE MY ARMS : ( Couldn’t move much really… I had worked on it for about three hours to that point. I had two trains of thought on tracks so far apart it made my head spin. Thought #1 – leave them as is and fix them at some point in the future. Thought #2 – make a whole new top and take care of it NOW. I went to bed.

“We never have time to do things right but we always have time to do things over.” The next morning I bit the bullet and cut new fronts. Instead of wasting and tossing out the back pieces I carefully took the old fronts off and replaced them. It actually took me about an hour to get things back on track but it felt like half a day because of course I had lined and interlined the whole thing. Once that was fixed it took less than another hour to get the entire rest of the dress put together including those sleeves and cuffs! Then I started on the coat.

The pattern has such potential. The cover is quite charming. There are a whopping 4 pattern pieces to cut out (front, back, collar and sleeve cuffs) and the coat is “supposed” to be completely reversible. I really wanted to line it with green something but how much green anything do you suppose is left in the fabric stores a week and a half before Christmas? Not so much. Why gold? Deep sigh…I was asked to make a shroud for Ari’s coffin in Gryffindor colors. The Gryffindor lion was in the center in that gold on a burgundy background with the word “Brave” below and “Ariel” at the top. My intention was to wear the coat to the memorial to honor Ari’s love of all things Harry Potter but the shroud, while not technically challenging, was emotionally challenging and took everything I had. I didn’t get the coat any further than cut out. The lining fabric is the same fabric I used for the lion, my connection to her. I also thought I was being terribly clever, the plan being to reverse the coat for my New Years outfit. We’ll have to see, I’m not convinced it will work.

A word about this coat pattern – it it LARGE. I cut out a 16, remembering how much room I had with a similar pattern when I made my Art challenge coat. It is HUGE. And long. Again, I cut three inches off the hem before I put a 2 1/2″ hem in and I’m 5’4″, people! It was at my ANKLES and the industry thinks the average woman is 5’7″ but this would be nowhere near the length on the cover. For our taller friends (like Trish) it would probably be fabulous : )

I made the mistake of trying the coat on when all I had stitched was the shoulder, side and center back seams. Can you say sack? I decided to keep going more for curiosity sake than actual intent of wearing it. I figured I could always cut it apart and make something else. It turned out better than I thought but I’m still not convinced I’ll wear it. I still find the dress of this pattern intriguing and have plans to make it soon but will keep looking for a good, simple coat pattern.

When it came time to do pictures we were in the middle of the second of three storms. There was rain and wind, and rain being driven sideways by the wind. It was so dark all day Sunday I couldn’t get outside to do photos. The weather finally broke, and I headed downtown to take pics by the very large Christmas tree they install in our downtown plaza. The rain is no longer coming down sideways but can you tell it’s 42 degrees out? Fahrenheit, not Celsius : )

The more I wore the coat the more I liked it but those sleeve cuffs need some engineering work so they stay in place. It also needs a good press job but since I finished this challenge by the skin of my teeth, and this is just fine : ) I really LOVE the dress, it will be worn at my parents annual Christmas Eve party. If Mena doesn’t post this before I get home I’ll try to add a party pic or two!

One of the best features of the dress are the sleeve cuffs. They add that extra bit of perky to make this very festive : )

We’re not entirely sure if this is our last challenge of the year or not. I’ve had several other contributors email me to ask if I know anything (I don’t!) but I decided to go ahead and do one more before the end of the year… If Mena does another week of postings next week then you’ll see my sparkly New Years outfit : )

I wish you all a lovely Christmas, a wonderful New Year and all the Magic and Love you can handle.

My “Favorite things” outfit

The Facts
: Turquoise stretch denim and red/grey/turquoise dotty poly print : )
Pattern: Favorite shirt (New York 1779) and skirt (Simplicity 2723)
Notions: Interfacing, zipper, 5 buttons, all from stash
Year: 1940′s
Time to complete
: 4 1/2 hours
First worn: December 2012
Wear again? Yes!

Total Cost: Skirt $7.50 and Blouse $5.50 so a total of $13.00 plus tax

This week beat me up like no other. If you’ve read the post below you know how it started and by the time we reached the end I’d have to say, in all honesty, this was about on par of 9/11. When I thought about this challenge a few weeks ago I had the foresight to do something that would make me REALLY happy and be EXCEEDINGLY useful. My latest craving these days includes the turquoise/red combination, and when I saw the blouse fabric at Joann’s I yanked it off the shelf and went in search of turquoise skirt fabric. The fact that this is denim with lycra doesn’t bother me a bit. I didn’t think this out all the way so I only bought a yard of fabric, pockets would have been nice but I literally had a very small handful of pieces left when I was done cutting.

There was nothing unusual or exciting about the sewing process. I will say that I took a mental health day from work on Thursday and figured I’d get the whole outfit done until I went to cut out the shirt and remembered I took the pattern to work to copy for Barbara : ) I threw the skirt together in an hour and made the blouse Friday night, along with 3/4 of another one. In amongst all this I was working on one of THE most difficult projects…ever…but we did get a few minutes to take some pics : )

This UTTERLY ADORABLE little car is a Nash Metropolitan! I’ve seen them through the years but they shot to the front of my consciousness in “Clueless”. Christian drove a yellow one in the movie, the guy Cher has a crush on until she figures out he’s gay. Isn’t it amazing? It almost looks like it need a key in the back to wind it up : ) And yes, it has two seats and a bench in the back, perfect for a dog or two. This one is also my favorite color combination, I used to have a 56 Chevy in these colors.

So how perfect for this challenge! A new favorite outfit with an old favorite car.

The blouse is great EXCEPT that I didn’t check myself in the mirror and you can see the blouse ends over my tummy. Angie dropped off a big bag of red stuff for me to play with – shoes, belt, purse and an umbrella we didn’t need. It wasn’t raining but it was a lovely 48 degrees out, the sweater stayed on.

I did manage to laugh as Heid’s daughters were making life interesting.

Yeah, different belts, different looks.

Heidi clowning around with Miss Julia. Thank god for kids : )

I like the outfit, I love the car and I adore my friends.  I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate your comments and feedback every week. It’s been an amazing, changing, emotionally charged year. Can you believe it’s almost over? I can’t. But it will be soon. In the meantime I’m going to enjoy the company and make plans to keep in touch.

My Possibilites dress

The Facts Fabric: Purple wool from Stone Mountain & Daughter
Pattern: Decades of Style 5007
Notions: Interfacing, zipper, 2 buttons, all from stash
Year: 1950′s inspired
Time to complete
: 4 hours
First worn: December 2012
Wear again? Maybe, if and when I fix it

Total Cost: $53.15

Not long ago Stone Mountain sent out an email with a 25% off coupon in it. Since Joann’s regularly puts 40% & 50% off coupons in their mailers that may not seem like much but that is a GREAT deal for Stone Mountain! I was SO EXCITED when I headed out to shop and I had the beginnings of an idea, to make a dress to go with the fabulous vintage purple shoes I had worn with my Autumn outfit. I put a shoe in a bag to match fabric to and set out. Did I get to the store with the shoe? I did not. Did I find some fabric that would go with them? Yes I did. AND I found this fabulous pattern, newly released from Decades of Style that was included in the 25% off!! What would have been quite an expensive outfit became affordable.

I wanted to do something to honor my Grandmother, as I had done with the Mother’s Day challenge. Her favorite color was purple and somewhere I have a picture of her in the most amazing purple chiffon outfit with matching shoes so this was “supposed” to be my modern version of that outfit.

The week started out with a flooded garage (from that series of 4 storms in 4 days that gave us the great pictures last week) and I took the day off work to pull everything out, dry things off and re-pack/organize/toss. Wednesday one of the chickens was killed by a mid-afternoon raccoon attack and by Thursday I thought I was coming down with the cold du jour so I crawled onto the couch with 2 dogs and a cat and hibernated.

I didn’t start the dress until Friday when I cut out a muslin of the top. I was a little nervous how those pleated bodice panels worked but I followed the directions carefully and all went well. I figured I’d have all day Saturday to sew and wasn’t worried. I should have worried : )

Here’s what I like about the pattern:

~Easy to follow directions,

~Few pattern pieces.

~Great style.

Things I didn’t like:

~Side zipper – yes, it’s period but I don’t like them so I cut the back bodice with a center back seam rather than on the fold.

~Those skirt insets – yes, they’re half of the design elements but I just couldn’t get them to work quite right on me. I have a feeling if I either line the entire skirt with a lining fabric with some stretch everything will stay where it’s supposed to be. Either that or back the insets with some power mesh but the wool is so nice I’d really like to line it. It looks great on the mannequin but when I went to do photos I managed to pop the buttons off because I had done such a fabulous job sewing them on the begin with : )

~The neck edge facing – woke up at 4 am on Sunday trying to solve the problem of the bubbling. Figured it had to do with one side being sewn from the center back down while the other side was sewn from the center front up. That and the feed dogs of my machine need some adjusting. Did I get up at 5 am to fix it? I did not. So it’s uneven and icky. I’m over it.

This dress REALLY needs a couple things – lining and a professional press job. I was so discouraged by the time I was ready to hem it that I didn’t even want to do THAT! I forced myself to try it on (again), cut 2″ off the skirt and then put a 2 1/4″ hem in it. I pulled out my grandmothers high school graduation pin:

We found it in the corner of my grandfather’s jewelry box when we moved him into an extended care facility many years ago. My mother is sure that if he’d known about it he would have tossed it. They divorced in the mid-60′s and it was NOT amicable. We have so few things of hers that I cherish this.

I went to look for the shoes and found…one. Then I went to get a pair of earrings that would go with the pin and found…one. I couldn’t find any of my usual photographers home so was setting up to take pics with the automatic timer feature when Heidi called and was available. I hiked it up to her house with a bag of “ornaments”. My grandmother made those too : )

By the time I got to this point, with one shoe, popped button and pouffy skirt details I was SO OVER this dress that Heidi and I joked about my bad attitude. You want to see someone with some REAL style?

Miss Isabella is rockin’ the leopard pants, pink & black plaid skirt and butterfly shirt : )

Here’s the one shoe I have:

That little button in the center would go really nicely with the button detail on the pocket when I get them sewn back on and find the mate.

Honestly, this is going into the back of the closet. It has great potential, needs some work but I need to find my sewing patience before I tackle it. It shouldn’t have been *that* hard, I just wasn’t in the best place to deal with it.

To salvage the whole day I did a little photoshop project:

Yeah, I wish : )

Here’s to a MUCH better week next week. I have plans and they include YET ANOTHER fabulous vintage car!!

Ariel Rose August 19, 1998 – December 10, 2012

Ariel with Javier Lopez and Matt Cain of the SF Giants

Last night at 11:25 Ariel Rose finished her journey here on earth. She is no longer in pain, no longer struggling to breath and finally cancer free.

In 14 years this amazing girl had a larger influence on this planet than most of us can hope to have if we live to be 94. She was smart, loved her twin sister and brother and wanted to work with lions and tigers. She loved her San Francisco Giants, especially Sergio Romo. When he threw the last pitch over the plate to win the World Series this year I was at the family home. There was cheering, and then we packed the family into the car so they could race Ari to the hospital due to seizure activity. She would watch games from her hospital bed and yell at the screen while procedures were done to and around her.

She fought until her last hours, her mom snuggled up against her in bed at the hospital. When Crystal saw how hard her daughter was hanging on she held her close and told her it was ok to go now, that she’d fought long enough and they understood how tired she was. I left right after that and 40 minutes later she was gone. Shocked, stunned, grief stricken. We should not be burying a 14 year old girl but we will.

A month ago Crystal and I stood in the parking garage at Children’s and she said to me “Did you know they sell coffins at Costco?” That was the beginning of one of the strangest converstaions I hope to ever have. She asked me to make a special shroud for Ari, a gold lion on a deep red background, the colors of Gryffindor house. Ari was HUGE Harry Potter fan! She wants the word “Brave” (after Ari’s favorite movie and indomnitable spirit)  and Ari’s name. Of all the projects I’ve done in my life this will be by far the most challenging.

In Ari’s spirit you can go to either Ariel is Brave or Team Ariel on facebook and leave a comment or load a picture of you holding the “Brave” sign like she’s doing in the top photo. Until the shock wears off this is all I can post.

This photo was taken in Septmeber of this year. Romo is holding Ari as she’s being honored by the Giants before she throws out the first pitch. She was unsteady on her feet but SO happy to be there. Still, she found the crowd intimidating so Romo gave her strength.

You can read about her journey on her caringbridge page.

The Snow Queen

The Facts Fabric: 14 sweaters, all thrifted
Pattern: The amazing Katwise, as well as my own
Notions: Not a single blessed one except for thread (because I forgot to sew the buttons on!)
Year: Fantasy is timeless : )
Time to complete
: 6 hours, give or take
First worn: December 2012
Wear again? Yes, and soon!!

Total Cost: ~$23.00

Oh winter…I know you’re a necessary season but you’re just not my favorite season. It’s okay, it’s not you, it’s me : ) I just don’t like the sadness of the bare trees but I console myself with the fact that they, too, need a break and they’ll have a brand new outfit in a few months. I know it gives me a chance to get things like hard-scaping in my yard and plant bulbs but right now I’m envying the beach-going ways of our southern hemisphere sisters!

That being said, I wanted to make the most of “Winter”. Winter is cold, wet and tends towards monochromatic. I grew up with my mother referring to a certain shade of off-white as “winter white” and that was at the forefront of my brain this whole challenge. Since discovering Katwise’s designs I have been intrigued by her snowy photoshoot, she in all creams and greys. It just so happened that a trip to Salvation Army one Monday night they were having a “$2 each or 10 for $10″ sale on clothing with a certain tag color. What did I find? 10 sweaters, all in shades of off white : ) Seemed like a sign. (I did indulge in 10 more colored sweaters and am seriously contemplating a coat based on a peacock.) When I spread them out at home I realized I didn’t quite have enough so a trip into Thrift Town in the Mission in San Francisco produced another 4, including the base sweater, that made this project come together. As usual, everything was thrown into the washing machine on almost-hot and then the dryer so there are no cleaning worries in the future!

I wanted something with some kind of embroidery or trimming for the body of the jacket and I splurged on a $5 wool/nylon sweater at Thrift Town. It was perfect, except for the shape:

It was originally a dreaded turtle neck so that was the first to go, then I cut it up the center front and threw it over my Peggy dress on the mannequin and cringed. Lovely embroidery, drop shoulders, large sleeves…hello? The nineties are calling and want their sweater back! I yanked it back off, cut the sleeves off at the shoulders and re-cut the top:

Chunk kitty helped. You never know, it might try to run away… You can see I took an inch off the shoulders, cut a standard armhole and narrowed the sides. Then I re-cut the sleeves:

I shortened the sleeve about 6″ getting rid of the cuff, re-cut the sleeve in a standard set-in sleeve shape and got rid of that excess under the arm. Then I re-set the sleeves and made the skirt. I learned from my last coat that 30-some odd panels are too much, this time I made 25. The center back panel is white and the rest go from the lightest winter white to the darkest beige. I used a variety of fibers; silk, cotton, wool and a couple silk/cashmere blends. I also wanted a dress to wear under it so the base is one cotton/cashmere sweater cut diagonally (to get rid of the lunch stains that sent this to Salvation Army!) and then integrated with a couple light-weight wool sweaters into a cohesive slip-on dress, inspired by the dress Erin made. It’s warm, it’s cuddly and it demands some rockin’ accessories!

While looking through photos on Google of different versions of “Snow Queens” I noticed the one thing I like about each version, no matter the dress, were the crowns : ) I especially liked the beaded tiara a ballerina might wear:

But seriously, I’m not really a “tiara” girl. Crown maybe,  but my younger sister is the tiara girl : ) Then I remembered a little “crown” I had made for a version of “Midsummer Nights Dream” I did many years ago. The director was from Louisiana so he set the show in the south in the 50′s. Tatiana was supposed to be more like a Voodoo Priestess and her court were earthly elements. I made Tatiana a gown out of a specially dyed cotton in reds and greens with a big red macrame’d collar and a rustic crown. I still have these pieces along with the collars I made for the courtiers and Oberon’s large chest piece. While helping go through the costume collection of my friend who died a few months ago I found the chenille wig I had made for Oberon! How Barbara came to have it I have NO idea but it’s back “home” and one of these days I’ll take photos of the complete outfit.

So I had the crown and collar, all I needed to do was pull out my red suede boots, a pair of red gloves, some earrings and we were set! I also decided that since my outfit was all shades of white a certain white creature needed to be included. The morning of the photoshoot it POURED. It hasn’t rained like this in years and this was the FOURTH storm in less than a week. We took off for the Berkeley hills. I figured with the rain we’d have no fog but I was wrong : )

It rained a little but we had swirling, wonderful fog! And Miss Chloe came along because she seemed to be the perfect companion to my “Queen”.

Here we are surveying the forest, making sure all is well.

I’m feeling rather good about the weather, and since this series of storms originated in Hawaii rather than Alaska it’s 58 degrees out here. Not bad, not bad at all…

And of course there was swirling…

AND a hood:

Angie took a long shot of the two of us walking into the woods:

But of all the shots of the day this is my absolute favorite. I think it’s going to be my Christmas card this year:

You can see how wet my feet are here, and I’ve got dirt and mud all over my coat but I’ll just throw it into the wash and it’ll look great! We had one pooped pup when we got back to the car –

And just because, Angie took a picture of me picking up poop : )

For Vicki, an outtake, with me putting my heel down into a tree stump that was hollow in the center:

That’s a face : )

While winter may not be my favorite season this outfit makes it SO much better! It rarely snows here but it doesn’t sound as romantic to say “Soggy Foggy Queen” now does it?

Chloe is the dog we’re fostering, she had the eight puppies that ate my patterns and all but two have found their forever homes. When she arrived she weighed almost 20 pounds less, had lost all her fur and you could count every single one of her vertebrate and ribs.She had been bred so many times her nipples were nearly on the ground and had given everything she had to take care of her puppies. Now it’s her turn : ) Her weight is good, her fur has grown back and this was her FIRST outing to somewhere not in our neighborhood. It was a good adventure for both of us : )


My Peggy Plaid dress

The Facts Fabric: Black/white gingham, white cotton/poly for lining
Pattern: Part of Simplicity 3673, bodice from Polka dot dress, self drafted sleeves & collar
Notions: Interfacing, zipper, 12 buttons, all from stash
Year: Early 1960’s
Time to complete
: 4 1/2 hours
First worn: November 2012
Wear again? Yes

Total Cost: $15.12

Clearly I didn’t have enough fun with the black and white challenge last week!  And yes, I almost made this dress instead of everything else BUT I looked down the list of challenges and since the 60’s aren’t a particular favorite of mine, and I’ve been wanting to make this dress since the Mad Men challenge earlier this year, this became my outfit for this week. In case you need a refresher, here is my inspiration:

And here is my version:

I’m pretty happy with it : )

I started with the top I fixed/drafted for the polka dot dress. I knew the darts were in the right place and the seam was UNDER the girls. I cut the skirt of Simplicity 3673 but added that front panel, a completely separate panel from the skirt underneath. I wanted the buttons to be holding down a real panel and didn’t feel like trying to do a half under-panel. Plus, the fabric is very light-weight, it is just a cotton/poly gingham.

Each piece is flat lined and I was tempted to then fully line the bodice but honestly the whole Thanksgiving week was so full that I couldn’t bring myself to cut out one. more. piece.

I know from looking at the original sleeves were cut as part of the bodice, that’s how you get that nifty patterning there on the arm. I didn’t feel like re-creating that since that style top isn’t that comfy on me. I did a straight sleeve and tried to get clever with the cutting but didn’t think this out very well : ) I bought 3 yards of gingham and by the time I got around to cutting the sleeves I was using scraps. I did the best I could with what I had on SUNDAY morning and frankly, it’s just fine.

Sometimes I try to be too clever for my own good, over-think things and I had too many other things to do. Done is beautiful : )

The most prominent feature of this dress is that line of buttons down the front with the bow at the bottom.

I sewed the buttons on while watching “Moonrise Kingdom”. Cool movie, and I totally understand Lee’s Suzy post now : )

The one thing I missed was the bow at the TOP of the buttons. Ah well, I barely had enough fabric to make the one bow, I’ll add another when I remember to pick up some more fabric. I DID manage to match the plaid at all relevant seams and made sure the stripes all matched up down the center front.

Since Peggy’s pose was a little awkward I did a couple of “me” poses:

All in all I’m pretty happy with the dress, it fits better than I thought it might Sunday morning (remember – never try on your outfit over other clothes or make a hasty judgement before you’ve done hair and make-up!). My friend Heidi helped with photos once again and even had better pearl earrings for me.

The pearl necklace she lent me was a family piece that we designed her ENTIRE wedding dress around, from the color of the fabric (that was custom dyed to match the pearls) to the cut of the bodice. When it came time to get her dressed we couldn’t find the pearls ANYWHERE, even though every bag was emptied and searched multiple times we never found them. She ended up wearing a silver leaf necklace that complimented the trim I stitched to her corset top and was stunning. The next day she found them in a pocket in her back pack that at least three of us had searched! I was honored to have been able to feature them today : )

All in all a happy experiment. I think I’ll be wearing it to work soon!