Sunday, December 12, 2010

White Christmas - Yes, the Bing Crosby Classic!

I've been sick with a nasty cold for nearly two weeks; sewing has been slow... so I thought I'd write about my Love-Hate relationship with the movie "White Christmas" after watching it last night!

I can hear the gasps: "What? Blasphemy! How can tanybody hate even a little bit that movie!!!" Trust me, it's not all hate; I promise there really is a lot of love! Every year I am compelled to watch it for all the reasons it makes people feel warm and fuzzy. So stick with me and here it goes!! (I am not a movie critic, just a middle aged, vintage loving person!)

This movie is loaded with schmaltz and iconic imagery of Christmas. There is no movie in Hollywood history with more schmaltz and nostalgia than White Christmas! From the opening scene with the soldiers listening to Bing Crosby sing with tears in their eyes, to the look on General Waverly's face when he walks into the converted barn with everybody there to honor him and save the inn (of course Bing Crosby's uniform still fits HIM perfectly), one cannot help but me moved. And that's the core of what the movie, good ole General Waverly!

I love and adore Vera-Ellen. She was an enormous talent and glides elegantly and effortlessly in every scene in which she appears. You simply cannot take your eyes off of her with her angelic face, 21" waist and legs that I would ransom my children for! In real life this poor woman struggled with anorexia, ill health and her only child died from SIDS. She deserved so much more fame and recognition... In particular, and this is just speculation on my part... BUT has anybody else ever thought that Barbie Millicent Roberts (yes, the Barbie Doll) was modelled specifically after Vera-Ellen???

And here we go, but Rosemary Clooney bugs me. I apologize to all of the Rosemary Clooney fans who read this. Apart from her role in the scene on the train to Vermont singing "Snow" and the nightclub scene sitting at the table with Bing Crosby in that FANTASTIC blue dress, I think there are scores of others actresses who could have played her role better... like Doris Day. (Disclaimer: I love Doris Day and my dressform, Doris, is named after her).

Thank goodness Mary Wicke was cast as The General's housekeeper to off-set Clooney's boring role. Nobody does wisecracking like she does it! She is another Hollywood classic who appeared regularly throughout her career! And while we're at General Waverly's inn, does anybody else wonder where the rest of his family is besides the granddaughter? It can be assumed that perhaps his wife passed... but Waverly had at least a daughter or son who produced said granddaughter... did I miss the part that establishes who the granddaughter's parents are? Does this even really matter?

I cringe watching the two women perform the number "Sisters". Give me Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe donning top hats and red dresses any day: THAT's how you bring down the house with a dynamic female duo!... The rendition of "Sisters" was far more entertaining when performed by Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby than the two ladies.

Which of course brings me to Danny Kaye. It's hard to imagine this film WITHOUT him, yet he was not first choice!!! Word has it that this was intended to be a Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire reunion, which yes, would have been lovely! But Danny Kaye's comedic expertise is just perfect for that role and is pivitol in establishing the relationship between Wallace and Davis that began as war buddies... poignant from Kaye saving Crosby's life in the war, but adding a lighthearted punch and sense of loyalty. I only wish they didn't include that horrid number of Kaye's where he looks like a mime and the girls have the ponytails! It's so out of sync with the rest of the movie!

Danny Kaye was such a household name, he was involved in so much on the big screen, tv and behind the scenes. He was one of the classic stars born in the era where an entertainer was all encompassing: sing, dance, act and be comedic (shameless plug again for Doris Day)...

And as much as I love Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen, I really DO NOT want to hear them all sing White Christmas together at the end of the movie! Leave that to Bing Crosby and his wonderfully smooth voice that melts my heart. NOBODY should mess with that!!!

So if you can get past the bad cuts, the mime number (sorry, to call it that but it's what springs to mind for me), Rosemary Clooney (sorry again), some voids in plot and the fact that all those people in the final scene were able to just get themselves ready for a formal dress event on Christmas Eve at the drop of a hat (well, it was for General Waverly), you have a real, heart-warming classic that I JUST HAVE TO WATCH every year!!!

Hmmm.... I suddenly feel like a glass of mulled wine while listening to Bing sing White Christmas!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

3 Christmas Gifts, 2 Wool Coats and iPhone in a Pear Tree

Thanks so much for the responses on "which project next" dilemma...
...I've decided that I will make the coat. I brought the wool in for dry cleaning and picked it up yesterday. It also has me thinking of another wool coat dress combo I'd like to make for a Vogue Paris Original pattern. But the current coat is now ready to start cutting.

In the meantime, I used the waiting time (while wool was at the cleaners) and started work on a few hand-sewn Christmas gifts... aprons! As a result of my sewing kick in September and October, several of the ladies in my life made comments about them so I thought an apron would make a good gift.

The other thing that has had me slightly preoccupied is that I got a new iphone4!!! I've officially moved into the 21st century and boy is it a lot of fun! Just a while ago, I installed the "Fabric Stash" app for tracking and planning all of your stash, fabric and supplies alike. Has anybody used this? If so, I'd love to hear your review!!

Stay tuned for progress on the coat!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Next Project - Undecided About What to Make

You know how it is after finishing a big and successful project: there's a feeling of accomplishment and elation... and if you're anything like me, your sewing room/space looks like a tornado went through it.

While up in my room starting the tidying up process, I was of course distracted by the unstoppable lure of What-to-Make-Next. Patterns, fabric, creative juices flowing....Does this happen to you? (but the room still isn't tidied up!)
I've got it narrowed down to four options:

1) A 60's dress in a lightweight, black wool. This is already cut and ready to sew (intended for a specific pair of shoes!). The fabric and style is perfect for this time of year and will see me all the way through until most of spring.

2) A 40's dress that I call my "Farmer's Housewife" dress, in a very lightweight and breezy vintage cotton-blend floral. This also is already cut and ready to sew. It is a quick and cheerful project that is always a nice follow-up after a big project like the gown.

3) A Simplicty re-issue topper/coat. I bought a gorgeous wool coating last year specifically for making this coat. It's a brown/green/turquoise houndstooth from Emma One Stock. This is not yet cut like the first two options, but that's not a reason to not start it! Tis the right time of year for a new coat and if I don't make it soon, there is the danger another winter could slip by with it not made.

4) A siren dress from the early/mid-50's for a business Christmas function at the Embassy Suites. I LOVE the pattern, and it's the right occasion, BUT I'm admittedly the least enthusiastic for this possibility, and I don't have a fabric picked out for it. I just feel the function presents the right timing.
So, what do all of you ladies think? What gets your vote?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Updated Gown Pics from Cruise - McCalls 3101

As promised!!!

Next up, I'll be finishing several projects that are CUT, but not sewn! But first, I need to unpack and resume my regular, healthy eating!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Gown!

Here it is!!! The stole is almost done, but I wanted to get the gown documented... I spent today slipstitching the bodice lining into place.
I am thoroughly AMAZED that there were no major disasters making this! I will say one thing regarding fit: the waistline is a true 50's wasp waist. This is a 32B-26 1/2 W. My waist is 27" and there is NO ease whatsover.
Having said that, with all of the ruching, the waist NEEDS to be pulled taught otherwise it would look like a sack of gathering and the curves would be completely lost. Just keep that in mind if you ever decide to make this.

I will get more pictures from the cruise and promise to post them so that everybody can see the final, finished look!

Thank you all for following me on this project!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gown is Coming Together

I've been working flat out on the gown for several days now. The plants haven't been fed and the children haven't been watered. I apologize in advance for any typos or non-sensical statements!
I've got it all put together: lining facing to skirt lining; skirt lining to skirt; skirt to bodice, the zipper is in. The hemline has the hem tape sewed and is turned up ready to sew. Then the bodice lining will need to be slip stitched into place.
Skirt Facing - dupioni underlined with organza:
Skirt Facing sewn to skirt lining (18mm silk crepe). Understitiching - you can see how it prevent rolling. It also provides shape and control of fabrics:
Skirt Facing attached to Skirt Lining:"
Close up of zig-zag for sewing top of skirt facing to the lining:
There have been very few REAL problems. The zipper went in with one shot which one can only hope for when ruching is involved. Admitedly, I took time and hand basted in place first. And admitedly #2, it's a bit wonky in one spot, but the ruching disguises it so I left it! Ssshhh!
The one problem I did have was last night while trying the gown on, the ruching popped on the right seam. This was entirely my fault because earlier in the day, I was feeling cocky and clever and thought I'd try something... I seamed the zipper side from the notch side up to the top which made it too small to get over my head and even my very small bust... while wriggling and worming out, I heard a "pop". It seemed OK at the time when I inspected, but alas, it came to roost a bit later.
Ideally, I should have put binding strips to back the ruching on the inside and I'm surprised the pattern doesn't say to that. Fortunately, the fix was quick. The ruching popped at the very top so I took the stitching down 1 1/2", tied off the ends, and re-sewing the three lines of ruching stitching in that top 1 1/2".
So off to hem I go. With any luck, I'll be able to knock out the stole and pics tomorrow!

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Skirt

In the world of dresses, there are skirts... and then there are skirts.

This gown has one helluva skirt!!

It's not complicated really. It's eight gores with ruching at the top several inches. While the bodice is ruched in four places (front and back centers and both sides) the skirt is ruched at every seam, giving a swag effect.

It's simplicity makes it elegant. The elegant swags pick up the lustre and body of the shot dupioni. I know when walking in it, the movement will make it dance under the light.

I quickly pulled up the ruching and before fastening off at the top, the gathering needs to be lengthened a bit. They are a bit too tight and poofy in the pic and need to be elongated to swag. But that's just a little minor adjustment.

Next up is cutting and sewing the skirt lining from the silk crepe. I'm going to try to make headway on that this evening so that it can be sewn together tomorrow.

Finally, these are the shoes that I'll be wearing the gown! I found them earlier this year when I decided on the fabric and pattern and instantly KNEW they were perfect. They are Ellen Tracy strappy heels encrusted with coppery glitter. They'll peep out from beneath the skirt giving off a flash and sparkle!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Work on Gown Has Resumed!

*Pics at end of post! ;)

Leave it to me to start a project seven months in advance, then pick it back up two weeks before it is actually needed!!!

But that's the work-under-pressure in me. I work better under pressure; my brain snaps into gear and I get ultra focussed! Of course, now that I'm totally into this project and into the zone, everything else is being neglected. Who said I'm supposed to feed the kids?

Thankfully, when I last worked on the gown, I did make good progress. Here's what WAS done:

- All dupioni pieces cut and underlined with silk organza (excepting the two side back skirt pieces)
- Bodice constructed with gathering
- Bodice interlining constructed (made from silk/cotton batiste)
- Bodice lining cut (from 18mm silk crepe)

The first task at hand was making a correction on the bodice. The front and pieces were not lined up well at the seam. I do not know what I was thinking at the time, but rather than ripping it then and there, I proceeded to sew the three lines of gathering on that seam for the ruching. D'uh! The bottom, waistline seam was nearling an inch off between the two pieces. I guess I was thinking that I could just "lose" the differences in the seams... upon thinking more, doing that could make the waistline sit way too high...

...SO, I bucked up and decided to do it right and ripped the seam, three lines of gathering and re sewed all of it. I'm glad I did!

After that was done I felt like I was progressing forward. I sewed the bodice lining. It has lots of darts for a very fitted shape: two angled side bust darts, two waistline darts and a center bust dart that is clipped at the center. *Note, remember when sewing large, curved darts like the center one to start from the center and sew OUTWARDS to the point. ;)

I hemmed and hawed about sewing in cups instead of wearing a bra. I fiddled and fussed with the placement of them and the silk crepe shifted around frustratingly. So I admit it, I said "sod it" and started on the channels for the boning.

I used plastic featherweight boning, not the industrial strength metal stuff. The pattern calls for sewing the casings directly onto the lining, but I chose to make the interlining and sew channels. There are four channels two just to the outside of the bust/inside the side seams and two at the back waistline darts.

When sewing channels, I always start at the top and sewn down to the waist, then repeat at the other side. This prevents the fabric from twisting/pulling because the stitching is going in the same direction.

After the channels were done, I sewed the lining to the bodice at the top neckline, understitched then pinned the lining to the bodice at the sides and bottom to adjust the ruching. THEN I tried it on! I was sooo excited! It's VERY fitted but the silhouette is just stunning! AND, the edge on the neckline is just perfectly smooth with no rolling!

After that, I started sewing the seams for the skirt. Ahhhh, nice long straight seams after the detailed work on the bodice!!! I then cut the silk organza for the last two skirt pieces and pinned them on, ready to baste!

SO, I'm on a roll! Please send me positive nothing-major-will-go-wrong vibes so that I can get this finished in time!

And oh yeah, it's great to work on a project like this! It's why I love sewing!

Skirt pieces underlined in silk organza:

Inside the bodice - lining:

The Bodice all ruched up:

Boning channels - sew both edges downwards in the same direction to prevent twisting:
Interlining in silk/cotton batiste:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hiatus Over the Summer

I took a hiatus from sewing over the summer. In a good way. It was a wonderful, hot summer and I spent a lot of time outdoors swimming and entertaining visitors. Sewing always seemed to be on the back burner.

Once school resumed, I jumped back in. First project up was a 1940's sundress. It's cute, and I typed up a long post here on my blog. When I hit "publish" to my horror, the internet service went out! It's true, I tell ya! It was an area wide outage (I received a refund for that day's service)... but it was enough to dislodge me from blogging pursuits!

Then my apron kick started, documented in the pictures below.

I've got one more apron in the works in a very cute cherry fabric. After that is finished, work will resume on my vintage ball gown, where I left of back in the spring! Happy Autumn 2010!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Silk Vintage Gown is Underway!

Before I get to what I've accomplished so far, I feel I have to address the issue of what to call this gown. The pattern description is prosaic. It only reads "An evening dress in two lengths with stole." What? Well, that is what it is.... but I mean come on! Was it 5:00 and time to punch out when the person who's job it was to write patten descriptions got to this one?

Whatever the reason, it deserves more: "Elegant evening dress or gown with decadent, swagged shaped gathering over the entire sweetheart bodice. Gathering extends below the waistline into the full, billowing eight gore skirt. Wear with stole for romantic evening under the stars." Doesn't that sound better?

So onto the project itself!

After several hours of futzing with the dupioni fabric choices over several days, I finally decided on one. It wasn't the orange-shot-with-red and rose embroidery one. I was a bit disappointed, but try as I may, there was no way I was going to get the eight gores placed properly over the swagged embroidery pattern to make it match up.
I moved onto the solid dupionis and decided upon a gorgeous color described as "rust". It is in fact, a dark sandy color shot with red which gives it the all over rust shade. It is stunning. I love how it picks up the red as you/the fabric moves. This will give hopefully give the gathering great depth and show off finished gowns movement.

Also, the rust should be outstanding for a gown on an autumn Caribbean cruise.

I did not wash the dupioni because I didn't want it to lose the lustre and body. Because the gown won't be something that will be thrown into the washing machine, nor will it be worn frequently, this is not a problem. After pressing all of the yardage yesterday, I cut out all of the pieces for the gown and the stole. There wasn't enough for the skirt lining facings, but I will use a natural, tan dupioni for that.

Yesterday, I also ordered the other fabrics that I did not have in my stash. I'm splurging on a dyed silk crepe for the lining, a silk/rayon brocade for the stole lining and silk/cotton batiste for the foundation lining. While I had silk organza in my stash for the underlining, it wasn't enough so I ordered more of that too.

Today, I cut the organza underlining (that I had) and started basting it to the dupioni pieces. Because organza shifts a lot, I was very careful keeping it on grain before and during cutting. To cut, I used a rotary cutter which is a must for slippery/shifty fabrics!!! Scissors pull and distort the fabric whereas there is no interferance with the rotary.

To keep the organza and dupioni from slipping while basting together, I used a lot of pins. I'm a "pinner". I know lots of people get by without pinning or minimal pinning, but I just can't. I was pleased that the organza and dupioni matched up and sewed well. When basting underlining to fabric, according to my Vogue Sewing Book, sew all the way along one side. Stop and repeat along all sides; the stitching lines will cross at corners... i.e. do not turn the corners in one, continuous line... my pieces turned out flat with no twisting or puckering (something I worried about); I pressed when finished basting.
After the bodice pieces were underlined, I marked the darts and gathering lines. This is the wrong side, organza showing with markings:

Next, I started pinning the organza to the skirt pieces, but then it was time to start dinner! Darn! Why do people have to eat when I'm in the zone! I'm really psyched about this gown which I hope will turn out to be elegant with a fiery glow. I can't wait to work on it tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Project - Vintage Gown

I'm going to make a declaration. 2010 is starting out to be: The Year I Got My Favorite Vintage Patterns Out of My System. All of us vintage addicts have at least one or two or 20 patterns that we have to get out of our system, right? My recently finished red wool dress was one of them.

My new project is also one of them. However like a lot of these drop-dead gorgeous, vintage concoctions, it's not something you'd wear every day... or even once a year. It's a 50's formal gown in all of its opulent glory.

The good news is, I actually have occasion to wear a couple of formals this year. In the autumn, we are going on a cruise with two formal nights! Some people pooh-pooh formal evenings on cruise ships as being outdated or a chore. But oh no, not I. Not ever! It's an OPPORTUNITY to dress to the hilt and relish in the glamor of it all. There are so few occasions in which to dress formally that I will do my part to keep it alive.

So I'm going to make McCall's 3101 - in the full length version.
It's going to be in dupioni silk; I have about 10 or 12 in my stash, most with enough yardage, although I'm not quite sure which one I'll use. The one I'm currently favoring is embroidered, which means a nap layout....which means after it's all lined up to match the pattern, there may not be enough. I just pressed the pattern pieces and now have to lay them out to see if it will work. If not, I'll use a solid.

A little bit of this particular pattern's history: Original Owner only used the bodice pieces. All of the skirt pieces remain uncut. The poor bodice pieces were sliced in half, probably to lengthen, then taped back together with that horrible, old fashioned Scotch Tape which is now yellowed and brittle. I'll need to take great care with these pieces. They are fragile, but thankfully, still 100% there. I'll copy these and save with the pattern.

In the meantime, this is one of those projects that will be an adventure. It will turn out either: a) amazingly amazing, or b) an utter disaster that ends up a wadder. Feel free to take bets and stay tuned!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Apron Finished.. and Auctions! - Picture Heavy!

OK, I lied. I got some sewing in sooner than I was expecting. This was most likely motivation as a direct result of an auction that we attended yesterday. We picked up some stuff...

...define "stuff" you ask? Well, I'm both excited and embarrassed at the same time. I'll explain, but first things first:

The Apron!

It's OK. Just don't look at it closely and it's OK. It's one of those projects that started off enthusiastically enough, but as it progressed, it lost it's luster. I think it's largely due to the fabric. It's cheapo stuff. The one with the irons/butterflies/hearts/etc. is likely a cheap poly/cotton blend from the 70's. It's loosely woven and stiff which makes for unattractive stitching (that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) The solid poly/cotton weaver's cloth isn't much better although it is marginally "softer", but don't confuse it soft. Both fabrics are stiff.

Because of the poly content, the fabrics didn't press nicely. This made the narrow hemming a chore (which I normally enjoy... if you already don't like this step, forget it!) The pressing popped out in several places at first so I had to redo it and pin closer together... grrrrrr.

Then I used a maroon trim that I had in my stash. It's flat, not ruffled as the pattern indicated. Because I had said hemming issue with pressing (see above), instead of picking out the hem I slapped trim onto the bottom edge... but still, some of the original stitching shows (remember, I said don't look closely!!!)

Another little bummer was when I thought I was being clever. Operative word: thought. I didn't like how the shoulder strap was sewn to the back side of the bib. So I thought I'd tuck the straps into the seam between the front bib and facing bib. I did this and woo hoo'd myself. Then I realized the reason the pattern called for sewing it on the back was because of the trim application!!! If sandwiched between the front and facing, as I did, the trim would go behind the straps. So I had to rip the straps out and sew to the back. This wasn't major, but that's what I get for thinking! grrrrrrr.

In the end, the result isn't so bad, just don't look closely!!! This will be our secret!! Nobody but my sewing allies will know!
So, onto the auction finds that spurred my motivation:

For a total of $10, these items were sold as a lot: a) Greist Buttonholer b) another Greist Buttonholer that says "Kenmore" c) Stitch Master d) Singer Deluxe Monogrammer e) Kenmore Monogrammer and Templates (the stitching foot is missing.)

Additionally, I got a Singer Sew Handy children's sewing machine, in the original box with instruction manual. The box is a bit beat up, but nonetheless, it's the box! Also, the spool spindle and seam guide are missing, but these are easily replaced. This was $22.

Next is an old Singer 66... I haven't figured out which model 66 but based on the serial number, it was released between 1953-1955. It's in rough shape, in a blonde wood cabinet (which gave me an idea to it's age anyway)... When plugged in, the motor ran and light turned on. The cabinet has the knee pedal as well as a foot pedal. However, the belt needs replacing and who knows what else. So why buy it??? Well, it came complete with foot accessories and fabulous "Singer Gripper - An extra hand for holding material". I've really wanted one of those for a while!!! Oh, and the machine, et al cost $5. No typo, $5...

I do want to try to get the machine running, but if I'm not successful, the $5 was worth it for the Gripper and additional feet.

And now here's the embarrassing part: there were three treadles and we came home with all three. I wasn't interested in them and had no intention on bidding. But when nobody wanted them, DH was like "What? $5? You can't even buy a beer in England for that! Get them!" So it's his fault. They are in various stages of: death, delapidation, deterioation and disrepair. And that's being kind. Neverthless, each one was $5 and I felt that they need a chance at rehab and life so we'll give it a go at repairing them. I'll get pics of these soon.

We also got other non-sewing items: about a dozen Wheaton bottles (I had some as a kid), Two boxes of Berry Pink solid color marbles, shoe lasts (in eight sizes) with three stand (this was DH's purchase) and two very large bags of costume jewerly, much of it vintage. Oh, and a Sears catalog from 1975 (that was DH too).

I also bought two pairs of 1950's cat eye glasses! I'm going to get at least one filled with my own prescription! I've seen genuine frames sell for a lot of money and I got these for a total of $6.

So now with all of this vintage goodness, I can get on with my vintage sewing. This "old" stuff really does breathe "new" life into me!