Patriotic Protest Pantsuit

Ever since I got into sewing with vintage patterns I’ve been fascinated with the tunic pantsuits that seemed to be a part of every casual wear pattern in the 70s. I was born in 1973 and while I don’t exactly remember these garments from my childhood, they can be found all over my family photos and media from my toddler years. img_6576I’ve had a plan to sew my own version just for kicks for at least a year and a half. I decided to use Simplicity 5556, also from 1973, after making two versions of the dress from that pattern. Somewhere along the line I acquired a huge and cheap piece of blue and white double knit perfect for this project. I just needed to get around to sewing it.

In the run up to the election I was tentatively swept up in “pantsuit fever”. Despited my dearest hopes, I had my misgivings on how the election would really go. I considered trying to sew the pantsuit in time for Election Day. It would have been a crush but I could have done it. A friend suggested that I could wait and have it ready for The Inauguration. Since I was worried how I would feel if I burned the oil and it all went pear shaped, I took her suggestion.

And, as we know all now, it most certainly went pear shaped.

As soon as the Women’s March was announced, I considered going to Washington DC. In the end, I stayed and marched in Atlanta with old and dear friends who happened to be in town for the American Library Association convention. This was the time to make my pantsuit.

Since I had used part of the pattern before I felt like I had a decent chance of success without a mockup. I was a little concerned about the fit of the pants though. I measured my rise versus that of the pattern. It seemed like it would work and the tunic would come to the tops of my thighs anyway.img_2159It went together pretty quickly but it was looking pretty blah. I decided it needed a little jazz so I used my newly learned double needle trick to topstitch the neckline, all the hems and the tie belt with red thread. img_2160The pattern suggested that you could add a crease to the pants. I thought this would help tailor my look. To really accentuate the crease, and make life easier after washing, I sewed the pleat in, also in red. The only real problem was that somehow I managed to get one leg an inch shorter than the other! I’m not really sure how that happened. Maybe I am out of alignment these days? I’ve never noticed this on any other garments though. How odd. I had to make do since I didn’t quite have the extra inch to spare on the shorter leg. See if you can guess which one it was!img_2163In the end I wore my pantsuit with my 1976 bicentennial liberty bell pimp chain and a button I received with an Etsy purchase the day before the march. It was tucked in with a vintage pattern purchase. The button had clearly seen better days and its original pinback had been replaced with a safety pin. It reads “I Support America”. When I found it in my package, I really did not know what spirit the button was sent in but I took at as an omen and wore it.img_2208The day of the march it poured. We had scary storms and thunder so intense it knocked pictures off my neighbors’ walls. The start of the march was pushed back by 30 minutes. I debated on wearing my pantsuit in the pouring rain. I certainly gave up on any effort with my hair. I pushed the meetup time with my friends back and somehow, we managed to avoid the worst of the rain. Then the rain stopped. It was gray but we were ready. The estimate was 60,000 people marching, many of whom had come in the worst of the weather to get there. I certainly don’t blame people for not being sure. The storms that morning were downright frightening. I can only image how many people we might have had on a bright sunny day.img_2162I think in some ways my bling, button and pantsuit kind of confused my fellow marchers. I didn’t have a pink pussy hat or a protest sign. I could see how my oddly aggressive groovy patriotic garb might not “read”. Even if it didn’t resonate for others, it reminded me of everything that was a new step forward in 1973, everyone who had fought before and how we have to keep fighting. It was also really comfortable. Never hurts to have a comfy outfit for a protest!

As great as the Women’s March was, it was only one event. The hard work of fighting for and keeping rights was and is on going and is done generally without regard to glamour. But if you can make it a little glamorous by marching with friends in a handmade double knit pantsuit, it’s just that much better.

Setsubun Festival in Kyoto

On our current trip to Japan (we are in Tokyo for a few more days) we were in Kyoto for Setsubun, the day before the beginning of Spring in Japan. This holiday is always celebrated on February 3rd and is related to the Lunar New Year although Japan generally celebrates the New Year on the western calendar.

Setsubun is all about getting rid of the evils of the previous year and loading up on new luck for the coming year. Events are held at Shinto shrines all over Japan. The spot to be in Kyoto seemed to be at Yasaka Shrine (also a big tourist spot) so we headed there.

The throwing and eating of roasted soybeans is a central feature of Setsubun. At appointed times, priests, local maiko from Gion and probably some special civic guests get on the shrine’s stage and throw envelopes of beans into the assembled crowd. You eat one bean for each year of your age plus one in order to assure good luck for the year. img_2340

img_2334When we got to the shrine were was a good crowd. People were buying good luck amulets and other offerings. We thought you could only get beans buy catching them but it also turns out you could make a donation and buy yourself some luck for 300 yen ($3ish). In addition to the beans you got a kind of raffle ticket. img_2333You took the raffle ticket to another station and pulled out a number that corresponded to prizes that were being given out at yet another tent. Everyone won something.

img_2335Brownlee and I each bought two envelopes of beans so we got two prizes. I was the big winner with my small bottle of Cap Ace sake and insulated lunch bag. Brownlee won a can of Cocktail Friend (some of juice mixer) and a small box of plastic wrap! They even put your prizes in cute carrier bags featuring an illustration of a maiko tossing the beans.img_2338After receiving our prizes we queued up for the bean throwing. Three maiko did a lovely set of dances while accompanied by three geisha on shamisen before the tossing began. Once the beans were in the air, things got pretty rough (for Japan). I almost had my glasses knocked off. Older Japanese are pretty serious about grabbing their luck! We both managed to catch an envelope of beans. Mine literally hit me in the face.img_2347After all beans were thrown, we found a spot to sit down. We made ourselves little cocktails from our prizes and consumed our luck. Hoping for the best in the Year of the Rooster.

 

Last Sew, First Sew

While it’s kind of hard for me to believe, we’re almost done with the first month of 2017. I’ve already completed a couple of simple projects so here they are.

My last sew of 2016 was another Simplicity 2154. I cut this out before Christmas but didn’t manage to get it sewn. I finished it and also wore it on New Year’s Eve. The fabric is a cute cotton lawn type from Joann.

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In 2017, I’m continuing my work on understanding knits. I decided to take a private lesson with Mary Abreu of Confessions of a Craft Addict. Mary came over and together we worked on the Montlake Tee from Straight Stitch Designs.

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Here’s my first attempt. It looks kind of frumpy and that is not helped by the fact that I am braless in this photo. I can’t say I was super excited abut how this pattern fits. That was supposed to be an elbow length sleeve for example. But I learned a lot of things! For example, Mary taught me about reinforcing the shoulder seams with fusible interfacing or clear elastic. This keeps your shoulder seams from pulling and drooping as you wear the shirt.

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We also talked about neckline finishes. This one got a little wonky but it still looks pretty decent.

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Finally we talked and sewed with the magic double needle. Double needle topstitching is just the best thing. It works very easily on my Bernina 710 and gives a great finish. I just need to be sure that I have two spools of whatever color thread I want to use. My machine can also accommodate triple needle stitching and using the multiple needles for decorative stitches. I want to experiment more with these sometime.

Later that evening, I decided to go ahead and knock out another Montlake tee while the new techniques were fresh in my mind. I used a small knit remnant that I had. Since my piece of fabric was small, it dictated the length of the shirt. I also went down a size in the shoulders and bust.

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I managed to improve my neckline finish on the 2nd go.

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This version has a cleaner look although I’m still not sure the fit is where I’d ideally want it. I made both shirts from knits that were heavier than what I would normally prefer if I bought a tee shirt. I prefer my knits quite thin. This could have an effect on my perceptions also.

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I wore the tee the next day with my dress slacks from Talbots and my new flats from B.A.I.T.

In addition to these tee shirts, I made my Uncle’s Christmas present, another “Hawaiian” shirt from Simplicity 3852. This is my 3rd time making him this shirt. It’s kind of a tradition now.

img_2154img_2155The fabric is a premium quilting cotton from Joann. It reminds me of illustrations by Ernst Haeckel. img_2156

I also finished a flannel robe from vintage Simplicity 8510 but I don’t have a photo of it. I really like that robe pattern. I am thinking of doing a version in Liberty lawn for the summertime.

 

 

Christmas Sneaking! aka Wizard Robes

In the run up to Christmas, when we were all exchanging wish lists and making inquiries, I found out that my sister-in-law had begun reading Harry Potter to my niece, age 8. My nephew, age 5, while a little young for the series, had heard some of the tales and demanded to hear more. We were told that both were thrilled with all things Hogwarts and that a little magic under the tree would be very appreciated. Since, I’m sort of known for my Wizard Robes, I decided that it was only logical that I sew wizard robes for my niece and nephew for Christmas.

I was able to make both robes from two different colors of very similar poly satin from my stash. It’s not really kid friendly fabric but I figured that by the time the robes are totally destroyed they will either have outgrown them and need new ones, or perhaps ceased to care about Hogwarts (unlikely). I also used some metallic trim that I think I got at a yard sale? Who knows, but again, stuff that was perfect for this project and nothing else.

I used the kid sized version of the Simplicity pattern I used for my robes. This pattern sews very fast but is fabric intensive. img_1992Somewhere along the line, I decided that if was making wizard robes, then I was going all the way and having them delivered via Owl Post. I wrapped the robes in cut up brown paper grocery bags and tied them with string. I was very careful to make sure that the bags had no logos or any printing on them anywhere in order not to break the illusion. I actually argued with my mom on the necessity of this!img_2038After Christmas dinner, I slipped outside and left the two packages on the walk. I made a bunch of random noises on my phone from the kitchen. At that point, my husband, who was in on the ploy, said he thought he heard something at the door. My sister-in-law, who was not fully clued in, brushed him off but he convinced her and the kids to go check. They brought in the packages and immediately opened them while vibrating with glee and delight. img_2040They were all completely surprised! I played along and never said anything about making the robes, although all the adults knew. I think that my niece might have figured part of it out because later I was handed a “letter” via owl post from the headmaster saying that I would be going to Hogwarts. After that, I was handed another letter with my shopping list, which was copied directly from the book. img_2051My husband got a letter saying that he was only a muggle! img_2069Even a few days later my nephew was still talking about how mysterious it all was and the robes were still being worn all day. +10 to Slytherin (that’s where I’m always sorted)!img_2045

 

 

 

2016 Sewing Roundup, Part 1: Vintage Pledge

It’s New Years Day. Some of my decorations are down. I’ve spent my day relatively hangover free in my pajamas. Soon I will be eating cornbread, black eyed peas and collards, the traditional southern New Year’s meal. Tomorrow it’s back to reality but today is for relaxing, prepping and taking stock.

I’m pretty shocked how much sewing I actually accomplished for the Vintage Pledge! My 2016 goals were are follows:

  • Sew five different vintage (not repro) patterns
  • Make one item from vintage fabric
  • Sew my vintage UFOs from 2015

And here are my final tallies:

  • Sewed eight different vintage (not repro) patterns / one repro pattern
  • Made two garments from vintage fabric
  • Sewed two of my vintage UFOs from 2015 (I think there is only one left!)

In the end, I made 13 dresses, 3 blouses, 1 kid’s jacket and 2 hats. That is only what applied to the Vintage Pledge! I also made a couple of other garments and historical gear that I will cover in Part 2.

So what were all these things?

Kid’s Jacket for a little girl named George from vintage 70s George Washington fabric and a modern Burda pattern.george coatSimplicity Dress from 197370s heart dress on formBoth views of Simplicity 3010 from 1959IMG_9953IMG_9977Simplicity 4777 from 1963IMG_0587Simplicity 9562 from 1981IMG_0390Simplicity 5940 from 1965img_1249A Star Wars Patio Dress based off of Simplicity 594014522035_10210701382035386_897108728_oA vintage Princess Daisy Cosplay from based on Simplicity 3442img_1064A vintage Pokeman trainer / Aqua Scout Uniform from Patt-O-Rama 8311 and an 80s garrison cap tutorial. I’m here with my whole troop.68004821-mechanicalmasquerade2016-83McCalls 3053 from 1953, a 2015 UFO which was also a fail dress.img_1305Simplicity 6243 from 1965, a 2015 UFO made from a vintage sheetimg_1612A formal version of Simplicity 6243img_1506Mod Christmas dress from Simplicity 8844 from 1970img_1893Hat from McCall’s 8452 from 1966img_1900Three blouses from Simplicity Retro 2154IMG_9875IMG_0105christmas-blouse-pussy-bow

I’m surprised at my totals. I was really prolific in 2016. I had no idea!

2016 Christmas Decorations

It’s December 31st, and very uncharacteristically for us, the Christmas decorations have already started coming down. I am a big believer that the decorations should stay up until the twelfth night (i.e. The 12 days of Christmas). Unfortunately though, that usually turns into the 12th week after Christmas. We are having work done on the house starting January 2nd so really getting the decorations down is much more of a priority this season.

We have a big open house on Christmas Eve so decorating is a serious deal. I grew up always having a fake tree. My husband would never permit that. He also loves bringing nature inside so we always decorate with natural roping and boughs. Yes, it does make a mess but it is so pretty and smells great.

We are huge enthusiasts of the Charlie Brown approach to tree selection. We cut a tree at a tree farm. We are always looking for a large, untrimmed tree. Why buy a real tree if it looks like a Lego? The past several years we have ended up with cedars. I always just let the tree speak to me. Usually they just say “Oh hai!”I made all the stockings. My mom’s old stocking is missing so she got a new one this year. Kim stayed with us last year but didn’t have her own personalized stocking so hers is new this year too. Slothy Claws visited us in his sleigh. It took him a really long time to fill the stockings which is why he was still with us Christmas morning. Mine and Brownlee’s stocking need an update. I was really into kitschy Elvis when I made mine but I’m not so much anyone. These stocking can go to the old stocking graveyard with the one for my old cat Pixie who has since passed on. My Uncle Ronnie did the painting in the background. It hung in my grandparents house when I was little. I called it the bottle men painting. Other decorated spots around the house…  Do you like our fire?

  
  

We had to break into our bedroom right before Christmas. The old latch had slipped and despite our best efforts, we just had to hulk it. This was my rig to keep the door closed during the open house.  Finally, in honor of this brilliant post from Vintage Everyday, here I am in my Wizard Robes posing next to the tree on Christmas morning.

Mod Christmas Dress

The past couple of years I’ve been really good about making a Christmas dress. I decided this year I wanted to go a totally different direction than just making a dress in a Christmas fabric. I’m attending a couple of 60s themed costumed based events in 2017 (Costume College and Anachrocon) so I decided to make an outfit that I could wear both for Christmas and in the future. I opted to be a swinging Mod elf.

These two photos were my basic inspiration:

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I loved the look of the big tie and the jockey style cap. I figured the iconic 60s shift dress would also be fairly fast, easy and fabric friendly to whip up. I was sort of right.

I started first with the Jockey Cap. I used McCalls 8452 – Hat Wardrobe, View D from 1966.

I bought merino wool blend felt from Joann. The merino wool felt selection at the closest Joann is really small but luckily of the very limited color selection they had exactly what I wanted – red and green.

The hat went together really fast. I lined the hat with red and green reindeer print cotton that I had left over from some Christmas crafting of the past. I lined the felt with fusible interfacing which was probably a mistake. It bucked when I ironed my seams. I used red topstitch thread to give it a nice finished look and added a two tone felt pom-pom.

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For the dress I choose Simplicity 8844 from 1970. I used a lightweight cotton twill from Joann in red for the dress and white for the collar, pockets and sleeve cuffs. The tie fabric is the suitably groovy Moda Ho! Ho! Ho! Snowflake Bulbs Snow White.

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Despite this being a half sized pattern, the dress was way too long at the waist and put the hip in the completely long place. I shortened the dress almost 3 inches at the waist shortening line. I also had to add a half inch to all the side seams. I had already set the sleeves when I figured out that they were completely too tight. I ended up resewing them with a 1/4 inch seam allowance but they really could have used more. The fit on this pattern was just not ideal generally. Also, despite my shorting efforts, the dress was still too long on its original wearing.

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I wore two of my new Christmas brooches from Deer Arrow. I tried to do a mod eye makeup look but it was kind of mess. I just don’t have enough lid to get the fake doe eye from than era.

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The fishnets are from We Love Colors and the shoes are Mildred in Poppy Red from B.A.I.T.img_1898

Everyone loved my hat but I’m not sure this outfit was a complete success. One comment I received was that I had kind of a “fast food” feel. That had already kind of crossed my mind so once it was said I couldn’t forget it. I later wore just the dress with black knee high boots (no hat or tie) to a Christmas themed rock show. In the bathroom line one girl said I looked like Little Orphan Annie, another reference that I had inadvertently made. I forgot what my response was but the girl then asked me what I was going for. When I replied “Christmas” she seemed confused.

Post-Christmas my original thought was to swap out the tie and hat for something not Christmas so I’d already have something in the bag for my 60s events. I think I can address some of the previous issues by seriously shortening the dress and by making a really smart fabric choice for the new hat and tie. Maybe then it will look a little less like I should be asking if you wanted fries.

Oh well.

Ho! Ho!