Thursday, July 17, 2008


Here are some samples of the small, evening purses and skirts I've made and sold at a local boutique here in town.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One Dress, Two Ways

Decades of Style, #4002, 1944 Housedress. I really appreciate what this one-woman company out of Berkeley is doing for vintage sewing. She selects what she feels are the most unusual patterns in her stash, the ones with the most interesting style.

After fitting my muslin, I sewed this first one in turquoise cotton eyelet "by the book." The fitting posed an interesting problem: I shortened the front and back armholes pretty significantly to make the bodice fit better. So I was expecting to have to make the sleeve cap smaller as well, to fit the new, smaller armscye. (I prefer this spelling to "armseye.") But the sleeve fit my new opening pretty well with no alteration. This means that the sleeve as printed is smaller than the armscye. (Kind of a problem!)

I don't care for the sleeve hem finish the pattern calls for: you turn up the edge 1" and handstitch in place. They are also too fluttery for me. The front band application is a little tricky. You need to watch your seam finishes when you make this garment.

The patch pockets look like handkerchiefs — cute. But these points don't like to stay up on their own, and the pattern instructions didn't call for interfacing the hem facing, which you definitely need if you want them to not flop over. I would add stay tape as well if I made this again. The suggested closure is metal snaps, which is really pretty neat. There are 8 on my dress, and they almost match my fabric, plus the conventional one at the top that's hidden by the rick rack band. You need interfacing in the front placket but the pattern instructions don't mention that.

I was going to make the dress the same way again, but I couldn't help myself and I changed the pattern. I narrowed the sleeve openings at the hem and added a hem facing, which gave me more of the results I wanted. I skipped the outside neck band and drafted a neck facing instead, which I joined to the front placket facing. I applied the rick rack at the seam lines instead. (Love those little points sticking out of the seam!) I put in side seam pockets instead of the patch pockets. The top seemed plain, so I made a bow. How-dee!

Good accessories are essential to these garments.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Sweater Embellishments

No. The ruffle so close to my neck makes me look clownish. If the neckline were dropped a bit, maybe.

Been playing with pieces of lace. Hm. It's not so great.

Added these needlepoint roses that I picked up at a estate sales somewhere. Maybe. Still not great.

Take off the lace and just keep the roses? Plain but effective. Still, it needs something.

Embellishments continue to be a challenge for me. Adding to sweaters is not coming naturally.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Score in Palm Springs

The days of winter houses filled with gently used 50s, 60s, and 70s furniture, with vulture dealers circling around them like they were roadkill, is about over in Palm Springs. Now the trend-conscious must move on to new “old” furniture, which is quite abundant here — not that that’s a put-down. It’s just that unlike many of these lemming-like LA ninnies, I actually have always liked that stuff. I just never knew where to find it, until everyone else found it out, too.

Last year we — I — had a high old time scouring the thrift stores here in Palm Springs, and came home with many good finds: 70s sewing patterns, funky fun LPs that I snagged for the cover art and verbose liner notes, several 70s bedsheets and other linens, and a great wool granny square throw (which now lives on Christiane’s bed).

This year, few funky bedsheets were in evidence anywhere, a possible consequence of the crafter movement. Grr. No sewing patterns — the Sally where I scored those last year is now a Revivals, another thrift store chain here that benefits AIDS issues in the Coachella Valley. The fun “antique mall” that was next door to it is closed (I got some stylish earrings there last year, still need to get them converted to posts).

We all had good luck at the Angel View Thrift Mart (another area chain) in Palm Desert. I got a stack of LPs (man, people around here really seemed to love Montevani and Spanish music) and some linens. Same with the one next door to it (Southwestern something). Luck began to dwindle after that, though.

We renewed our search today (spouse looking for bargain sportcoats, child looking for toys and books) after a fantastic breakfast at Louise’s Pantry in Indian Wells. Heading back toward Palm Springs, we hit St. Margaret’s Cellar, where I got a cute, gold-striped tea set made of stoneware (I think). No stamp, nothing, it’s not collectible, just adorable.

Next stop was a store that benefits the Eisenhower Medical Center and that yielded the big finds of the day. Prices were not a bargain level, but the clothing was half off. Is the repurposing craze possessing me? To wit:

A trés 70s formal gown. Floral print chiffon, surplice bodice, long sleeves gathered into cuffs that have a hook and thread bar closure. I think it’s silk, won’t know until I do a burn test. Looks like the work of a skilled dressmaker. I bet a Betty Ford-like California lady went to dinner in this, or maybe a wedding. Or appeared on Lawrence Welk. What to do with this funky fabric?? First thought was to cut it into bias strips and use it in gathers or ruffles or roll it into rosettes and apply to salvage another garment. At $15, it’s not the best deal I’ve made, but oh well.

Orange and gold brocade formal gown of 60s vintage. The way the bust darts are rotated down far into the side seams is what makes me think so. Also, this fabric has a lot of body and a loooong zipper, another hallmark of this era. Again, I think this was made for a fine lady by her dressmaker. The problem with a garment like this is the fit. It would have been a real trick to get it to fit nicely without becoming boxlike. You need excellent fitting from the bust up, or else it looks just awful. I bet this looked awful. I’m thinking, what? A bag. A fun jacket or topper. $7.

A party or wedding outfit for a very tiny woman or a child. No significant bust accommodation, so I’m guessing it was for a kid. Made of silk print chantung, it has a silk organza overlay. Gorgeous. Also the work of a dressmaker.

One flaw is the redonculously deep hem on the overlay — it’s easily 8 inches. Silly, ruins the garment. Metal zipper in a centered application, with no zipper guard to prevent the coils from scratching your back — an ugly fact of fitted garments of this era (late 50s, early 60s). Looks as though the construction involved stitching the overlay to the shell piece by piece, then joining the pieces together. Turn it into pillows? It cost $7.

Truly horrid 80s gown, albeit lined with faux China silk. The sleeves give away its decade of style.

Looks like a home sewer did this one.

One interesting thing about the construction is, the lining and shell were joined right sides together, then turned, which left clean finished seams at the back zipper and for the seam allowance on the back pieces. I like the tulip pattern of this brocade. I’m seeing a bag, a pillow embellishment, appliqué. It cost $8.

A shirtwaist dress of high quality cotton print poplin. It has self-fabric ball buttons and side seam pockets. There are no thread chains at the side waist seams, so perhaps this garment never had a belt, but it seems unlikely.
The style makes me think this is not a very vintage item (no obvious closet wear or fading) but I like the colors in the print very much. It came from Gumps (San Francisco) and it was made in Thailand.
It doesn’t quite fit me, but it cost $15. If the looming changes in my life include weight loss for 2008, I’m in business; otherwise, I’ll remake it to fit.

A lovely smock top with patch pockets from the 1950s, made from a darling conversational print! The lipstick pink, the black, the turquoise. The rooster, the sun, the cow, the barn, the pumpkin, the squirrel, the Christmas ornament. The 12 months of the year, and numerals 1-9. I love it, even though the collar and front plackets are not interfaced.
Factory made, it will still have to be treated with utmost care when I wash it. I may use it to cover my pooch when I wear my new Lucky jeans, but I’d love a pair of something more period, like toreador pants. It was a mere $2.50, the absolute bargain of this thrift run.

This was the jewel, oh man.

It’s not a vintage garment, but it is of the best quality. The label is Beatrice diBorbone, Roma, purchased from a boutique in Palm Desert. The linen dress has “crystal” straps, a hand-picked, centered zipper, and double darts at the bust. The skirt is too straight and doesn’t go over my hips. Over it goes a lovely, lovely cotton sweater bearing the same print as the linen fabric. It’s trimmed at the neck, bottom, and cuffs in the same linen, but that fabric has been pintucked. Acrylic “crystal” buttons are at the neck, bottom band and cuffs. All seams are Hong Kong finished or bound by linen strips. The bottom doesn’t go around me. The sleeve seams are dropped, and the gathering into the cuff is very unusual.
What to do? I hate to destroy the wonderful details of this garment, but modifications will be necessary if I am to wear it. Oh, there is the most wonderful green leather “cummerbund” that does not go around any bit of my torso. Again, it’s great, I’d hate to mess it up. I paid $17 to mull this over. It’s a great find.

This last piece, a men's jacket, came from a different shop. Even when I was trying it on in the store, people were remarking what a great jacket it is. It, too, is of the highest quality. Remaking it is possible, but highly labor-intensive.