Monday, March 31, 2008

The Excitement of Preparation

I love starting out on a new project. Some of my most productive thinking is done while ironing freshly washed fabric for the next project. It's the first real "test" of the fabric. Sure, I may have fondled it at the store or when I first took out of the package upon delivery. But prepping it takes it one step further.

Today, I washed and ironed my sari silk for the PR One Fabric Silk contest. (BTW, I'm not competitive. I join these contests for the camaraderie, learning and motivation.) The care instructions said hand wash, so I put it in the "silk hand wash" setting of my front loader, then ironed with a cool iron.

This is a good opportunity to look closely for any flaws or marks which will be taken into account during layout and cutting. It came out perfectly; this is truly scrummy fabric.

I also pulled out the instructions and pattern pieces from the envelope. This pattern was still in it's factory folds. I get mixed feelings about a vintage pattern in this almost-like-new condition. Initially, I'm in awe of it and elated at the acquisition of such a gem. But when the time comes to pulling the tissue from those perfect and tight, never-to-be-duplicated-again folds, I somehow feel like I'm desecrating something pure.

This feeling usually passes once the pattern is laid out and cutting begins. It is replaced by the excitement of speculating what the lady who originally bought this pattern had in mind for it. What fabric would she have used? I'm guessing it wasn't sari silk. Will my creation be worthy ?

Since I can't begin cutting until tomorrow when the contest begins, I think I shall let the pattern remain factory folded for one more day.

In the meantime, I returned from the new house yesterday evening. We are all so excited! My husband will be staying there during the week and will begin painting during the evenings. The carpeting has been shampooed and is ready for our things.

As much as I was sorry to leave the new house, I was keen to return to my projects. I wrote up the review for the Catwoman costume, which can be viewed on PR . I didn't take pictures of me modeling the costume; I don't want to scare my readers away just yet! The project didn't quite work for me, but that's ok.

The excitement of a new vintage pattern project always comes to my rescue.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I finished the Catwoman costume today, but ran out of daylight for pictures. When I get the photos, I'll write about the project in more detail. It's one of those projects I'm glad to see the back side of, but still feel a sense of accomplishment for seeing it through. Could've been better, could've been worse.

In the meantime, my thoughts are now on tomorrow when we close on our new house. This move has been in the pipeworks for some time now, and several weeks ago, we thought it was probably going to be called off. Because of the delay, we decided stay in our current home until the end of the school year.

There are lots reasons why I'm excited about the move. First, it will be the first time ever that my husband's job will require very little travel. Most of the time, he'll finish around 5:00 and be home by 5:30. This will be great for us as a family; the boys are so excited! Maybe the first day, I'll wear one of my 50's dresses, greet him at the door with a drink, take his briefcase and ask him about his day... wait, no. On second thought, that would freak him out and he'd think I'd done something awful...

I'm hoping that Peoria will have a slower pace of life. I really love Chicagoland. It's my home. Twice, I moved away from it, and twice I came back. But after eight years of living in rural England, I've found that I've slowed down a couple of gears. Hopefully, the lifestyle in Peoria is a relaxed one.

Now, here's what really has me jazzed. I love the new house. Apart from some very nice features and a great floor plan, I will have a.... sewing annex! Yup, not just a room, but an annex!

I really hope that I don't sound selfish or spoiled. My current sewing room is lovely and I'm fortunate to have it. But the new house has one 13' x 12' bedroom, with an attached 10' x 16' private bonus room. After we closed the deal on the house, the boys started arguing about who was going to have that room.

With the other two bedrooms equal in size, there was no way that either of them could have the bonus room bedroom. That would be incredibly unjust! What kind of respectable and loving mother would place such priviledge with one kid, and leave the other in the dust. It could be misconstrued as favoritism for which one child could send me therapy bills for the rest of life, stemming from this very moment.

The solution was simple. It would be mine. Mine. ALL MINE!!!!!!!!!!!!
The prospect of so much sewing space is daunting... a little bit. I want to really set it up well by putting a lot of thought into the layout and design. It should also look great. Boy, I hope I'm up to the job!

So tomorrow we'll be heading down for the 1:00 closing, then we will spend the weekend in the new house. We're bringing the carpet shampooer, paint color strips, the tape measure and camera.

Even though I won't actually be sewing until Monday again, my head will be spinning with the possibilities of my new space!
Oh, yeah, the house has a kitchen too.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

There's Always "The Next" Project

If you're anything like me, you're always thinking of the next project or two... or ten. It doesn't matter that you're not finished with the current project. Or that there are maybe a half dozen UFOs hanging around.

I'm easily distracted. All it takes is for something like this little blip on my current Catwoman costume to set my mind adrift, to the next project unmarred by problems.

The poly/lycra/metallic stretch fabric is lightweight and slippery. The picture shows how the inside facing caught during topstitching and "pleated". This should have been a quick, ten minute fix. However, this is no ordinary fabric: it's ANTI-FABRIC that had plotted to usurp me. I argued with it for over 45 minutes, but in the end I won.

I redid that piece of topstitching and at this point, I set down the project and wandered to my closet. My glorious closet with my luscious stash! I guestimate there's around 500 yards of fabric knocking around in there... maybe more. I was hoping to nail down what I was going to do for an upcoming sewing with silk competition, which begins April 1 on my favorite sewing forum, Pattern Review. Thus far, a clear vision has eluded me.

While the stash is substantial (at least to me), proportionately there's not a heck of a lot of silk. And what I do have is mostly dupioni. The exceptions are three yards of vintage, 100% silk tweed and just under two yards of 100% silk sari.

The tweed really needs the right pattern; something special, something vintage. That pattern is not yet in my stash.

I like my dupioni, otherwise I wouldn't have gobbled up as much on clearance as I have. But for a sewing with silk contest, I want to do something unique. Don't get me wrong, I've seen many stunning and clever things done with dupioni. I just don't seem to have that kind of knack with it yet.

So my eyes turned to the sari silk. This fabric is luscious. The drape is graceful, the texture buttery. The gold scrolls on the black background are very much to my taste. It's understated and elegant. What to do with just under two yards has been stumping me since I picked it up last summer.

I went straight to my vintage collection and began thumbing through them. Ah HA!!! I pulled the pattern out of the bin and turned it to the back, hoping that the yardage would be small enough for my silk. Imagine my smile when it was!

So it's settled then. My next project will be from vintage 1960, McCalls 5349. I'll do version B (the green one), without the overskirt. Who'd want to cover up this gorgeous fabric anyway?

In the meantime... Holy Feline Batman! Time is ticking away and I need to get back to the Catwoman costume, refreshed and with purpose!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

I'd Like to Introduce Somebody Special.

As a first order of business, I think it's only proper to make an important introduction.

This is somebody who, should you decide to visit here regularly, you will see quite often. Please meet Doris, my dress form.

Doris is my faithful companion. She only charged a nominal, one-time flat fee: her purchase price. While not an exact duplicate of my own figure, I got her proportions pretty close to my own.

She works strange hours for me. Sometimes, we get going in the morning and work straight through until the kids get home from school. Other times we start late and go into the wee hours. Sometimes we go all day non-stop.

It can be gruelling, with garments put on and off, off and on... She regularly gets stuck with pins and frequently, I'm embarrassed to admit, has to listen to my grumbling and cursing when a project isn't going well.

Apart from pretty dresses, she has to model costumes, which sometimes are for men or children. This past Halloween, poor Doris braved the humility of being transformed into a Halloween witch prop which stood at my front door to greet trick or treaters. This required having a foam wig head stuck on her neck, held in place by panty hose. Once, the dog even knocked her over.
Doris has endured all of these things gracefully and not once has she complained. She stands ready for whatever task comes next.

I've grown fond of Doris and named her after the lovely Doris Day. It only seemed fitting, given her sunny disposition and unbounding energy for our adventures. I couldn't do my work without her.
Thanks Doris!

For The Love of Retro

This is my first attempt at blogging. I'm doing it because I love vintage and retro fashion. Hopefully this space will document my hobby and will be shared with others who have similar interests. What fun is a hobby if one cannot share it?

I have no set expectations as to what exact style or form it will take, or what type of things it will include. It should just evolve as appropriate. As the title suggests, When Ladies Dressed will be a tribute to women from decades past: a time when dressing for our lifestyles was more defined. While the main focus will be on women and their roles back in the day, I'm likely prattle on about fashion, fabric, accessories, films, culture and anything (plant, animal or mineral) that is vintage or retro. (I own lava lamps, donut phones, a Mr. Peanut peanut butter maker, Creepy Crawlers, numerous cookie jars... )

There are likely a few key reasons I've developed these passions. First, I was raised by my grandparents who were frugal, Depression era survivors. I spent a lot of time as a kid in the 70's surrounded by Great Aunts and Uncles. Aunt Estelle (my grandpa's sister) was always smartly dressed and formed quite an impression on me. She took great pride in her appearance, from her perfectly coiffed hair, to the shoes on her feet. This never waivered. The last time I saw her, there she stood, a frail woman in her late 80's dressed in a suit and heels, clutching her matching purse. She had been to the hairdresser the day before.

Our house was a modest three bedroom, brick raised ranch built in 1956 in suburban Chicago. We had gray sculpted carpting, a purple sectional sofa and blonde wood end/coffee tables. Our kitchen housed a chrome legged dinette set. The table top had that formica top, which had a few chips by the time I was a kid. It wasn't damaged enough, though, to warrant throwing out. The chairs were shiny, gray and pink vinyl, trimmed with chrome studs. My grandmother served meals wearing an apron.

Gram was addicted to saving store coupons, receipts and box tops which she would trade in to grocery stores for things like dishes or novelty brand items. Remember the Kool-Aid cups from the 70's? Or the Campbell Soup Kids bowls? Yup, we had those and more.

I had little to say about what I wore and my grandmother had zero fashion sense. I was an overweight child, due to my grandparent's obsession about food (EVERYTHING on the plate had to be eaten, and the portion sizes were huge for a kid). I was pretty darn unattractive, teased and was the subject of fat jokes. I lived vicariously through Barbie and Marcia Brady!

The battle with weight is one that carried on throughout most of my adult life. Now, however, as a 41 year old wife and mother of two, my weight is the best it's ever been. Since slimming down a few years ago, I've fallen in love with clothes. It's not that I completely hated them before, (although sometimes I did) it's more like I've rediscovered them - for myself, rather than for dressing Barbie.

I love sewing clothes. Most of the things I make are from the vintage patterns I collect, or are costumes. They are things I can't really buy in the stores. I'm not a great sewist, but I'm not so bad either. The more I learn, the more I want to learn and improve. Little did I know back in the late 70's when I signed up for the Sewing Badge in Girl Scouts that I'd develop such a passion for this hobby.

These factors and others (I can't write everything at once) undoubtedly have contributed to where I'm at now. Perhaps my status as a full time housewife (or Director of Domestic Affairs, if you like), has drawn me back to the imagery of my youth, giving my vintage/retro self an outlet to emerge.

Thanks for taking a look, thanks for reading and come back any time...