Sunday, January 26, 2020

A 1970s Linen Vest

I've mentioned before how I dislike the cold the older I get. Ohio doesn't get very severe winters, especially this far south, but it does get cold. I began to think about adding vests to my wardrobe since keeping my core warm is one of my greatest priorities lately. I've never much liked vests, but there's a first time for everything. I was prepared to re-evaluate this potentially useful garment.

I had a few patterns in my stash for vests. The one I liked best was included in a Simplicity pattern, published 1976. One afternoon I cut took it out, ironed the pattern pieces flat (they were still in quite good shape!) and cut out a vest. Only one instruction sheet was included in the pattern, the other lost to time and use somewhere between now and 1976. However, the instructions were complete enough to see how this vest was put together - fully bag lined, turned through the shoulder seams, pressed, topstitched and fastened with buttons. The vest is fitted with darts at the side bust, side fronts, back waist and back neck. With the lining layer, that's a lot of darts.

I used a firmly woven cotton for the lining and some brown and white linen for the outer layer. The linen, left over from my 18th century petticoat, was very wiggly so I did something I normally do not do, and I interfaced the shit out of it. I interfaced where each dart was sewn to prevent stretching, interfaced the front openings and stabilized the waist. Whew. I love how the linen came out in the final garment but dang. A lot of work for such a simple thing!

I used the machine to make machine done buttonholes, so besides hand stitching the lining closed at the shoulders, this is a completely machine sewn garment.

I made it exactly to the pattern and the fit is okay. I didn't expect it to be perfect, and there are a few things I'll change if I make another (deepen the darts below the bustline, mainly, take in the side seams just a hair) but I really was shocked at how well it came out. I love wearing it and even made of linen and cotton as it is, it's really surprising how warm it is. I didn't notice til I took it off after my first wearing and immediately felt cold.

I did make another vest almost immediately! But for the next one I modified this base pattern and made a long, loose vest, based on another 1970's pattern. Then I had fabric left over from that vest so I made matching pants, from this pattern. And I loved the resulting pants so much that I have some railroad stripe denim on my cutting table for another pair this week. 😂 But that will be for another post, since this one is already quite long enough!



Monday, January 13, 2020

Rosie's Toadstool Village

The past few days have brought warm rain, letting me have the opportunity to open the windows and air the house. Today the sun peeked out and it was the perfect opportunity to get some pictures of a project that has been dear to Rosie's heart for awhile. I feel bad that I didn't get it done sooner but better late than never!

This is the Toadstool Village pattern by Twig & Tale and I believe I purchased the pattern last March, when it was on a sale. Every so often Rosie would ask when we would make it and somehow we never did get it started. I decided that was going to change, though, so last week we finally printed the pattern, taped it together and Rose selected the fabrics of her choice for the top of the mushroom caps. Then it was sewing time!

The original pattern makes a lovely, soft stuffed toy, but Rose expressed disappointment when I told her that the finished toadstools cannot be opened to use as houses for her tiny dolls and animals. I thought I would try to figure out a way that they can be opened, so this is what I came up with. 

I cut out the pattern pieces as called for, and also cut out the walls pattern piece out of fusible foam and lining material. I cut an additional base out of lining material. I cut the outer base from thick wool. 

I fused the foam to the lining and sewed it into the body of the house with a narrow seam allowance which I then trimmed off quite close. The outer layer of the body, cut of linen-look cotton, I sewed as normal. I then sewed the foam-lining and the outer body together, right sides together, around the top edge, and the seam was trimmed, turned and pressed. I pinned all layers together and basted them around the bottom of the house body. I then sewed the house body to the wool base, right sides together. 

Once that was done, I took the base lining piece and turned up the seam allowance and pressed it to the wrong side. To cover the seam between the wool base and the house body, I pinned on the base lining and slip stitched it by hand, covering the seams. I left a small opening and filled the area between the wool and lining base with some dry beans, for weight, and then finished slip stitching the lining to the base. 

The fusible foam worked perfectly for creating semi-rigid walls that are still soft. The toadstools can (and have!) deal with plenty of crushing but they spring back into shape right away. The caps are made as the pattern directions call and just laid on top of the house for the roof - no stitching to the house! For the doorways, I cut shapes and finished them with blanket stitching. Now Rosie can easily put her toys inside!

I did all the embroidery after the sewing was done. This took a few days but the girls played with the toadstools intensely all during that time, so I worked on each one individually. Even Benjamin, 5, and Malachi, almost 11, like playing with these! I am so thrilled to see my kids enjoying these so much. 

Rosie and I made a playmat out of some silver and gold shimmery fabric, cut to the shape of a birch leaf. Two layers are simply sewn together and turned right sides out and topstitched. It makes the perfect little play area to set up the village. We made a pond-shaped playmat out of two silver circles cut from the fabric, and that is where the acorn-turtle and the walnut-turtle live together happily (their names are Arnold and Daisy). 

My fingers need a break now. . .my embroidery is not the best but it sure uses a lot of muscles. 😁 Carpal tunnel is real. . .

Much love to you all,


Monday, January 6, 2020

Details of a 1968 Hobbit Dress

Happy New Year, my loves! I know I am a bit relieved that the holiday season is over and a fresh,  new year has started. I hope that you all are likewise rejuvenated at the prospect of a new beginning and that you all can take time this year to enjoy moments of beauty, to love others fully, and love yourself just as you are, right here, right now.

I love the tall, quiet peace of these pine woods.

I've been rereading the works of JRR Tolkien, as I sometimes do, and have also been working my way through watching the Peter Jackson movie adaptions again (extended version only! 😁) It's been slow going since I often fall asleep at night before getting very far in my book and usually the kids prefer to watch something different on tv. But! Slow progress is still progress. After Christmas I felt the desire to work on a small, not-important sewing project. I have a basket in my sewing room with several WIP's and pulled out a hobbit shift I had made over two years ago. In fact, I think that that hobbit shift was one of the first sewing projects I ever made in my new sewing room. With visions of Shire-folk in my head I felt a bit excited about putting together the rest of the outfit.

In-progress, after sewing on the front panel. I had to refine the fit through the sides
since the pattern came out a lot larger than the size printed on the cover!

When I made my first Hobbit outfit, over seven years ago (!) I studied the movie costumes really closely and tried to replicate the movie version as best as I could. While I was really happy with my finished hobbit outfit, it was definitely a recognizeable costume and although I did wear it a few times for different events, it didn't do much but collect dust before I finally sold it off after losing baby weight.

Grey lace on dark blue wool.
This time, I felt I really wanted something that was not a costume. I don't go to many events and besides Halloween, there really isn't any occasion for me to wear a movie-version Hobbit costume. While I used to wear historic or costumey clothes on an everyday basis I definitely don't do that anymore.

Fitting with side bust darts was challenging. . .princess
seams are definitely easier!

I went through my pattern collection and found a pattern for a dress I got at Goodwill two summers ago. I had never made it up, but it was the right size and the basic design of a fitted, slightly high waisted bodice with a moderately full skirt would work really well for a Hobbit-inspired dress. The more I thought about it, the more everything fell easily into place. I would make a 1968 Hobbit Dress, that could be worn as a costume or for modern wear. (Ok, when I say modern, I don't mean what's fashionable in 2020 - I gravitate towards styles from the 60s, 70s and 80s so a 1968 pattern definitely fits into my modern wardrobe).

Will use again. :D

I made up the sleeveless version of the dress in the last few days before the New Year. It's a darted-to-fit bodice with darts at the back waist, front waist and side bust. This is different from the cut of the movie bodices, which seem to be mostly fitted with princess seams. The only modification I made to the pattern was to lengthen the waist by 1.5", to accommodate an embroidered panel I have saved for just this purpose for several years. I made the bodice in dark blue superfine wool and applied the interfaced embroidered panel to the center front. To cover the raw edges of the panel, I hand stitched on blue strips of linen cut from one of Benjamin's old shirts. The bodice was bag lined with plain cotton and the armhole edges, front neckline and front panel was trimmed with hand stitched cotton lace trim. I had a little of the lace left over after this was done so I stitched it to the back bodice since the back was quite plain.

Adding the trim. . .

Finished bodice before the waistband was sewn on!

A remnant of mustard yellow calico in my stash was perfect for the skirt, which is cut from rectangular panels and pleated at the side waists. The back opens with a placket. The length of the skirt is bit shorter than  my previous hobbit costume, since it seems that during the period my pattern was published, skirts came in 3 lengths - above knee, just below knee, or full length. For this skirt, I went with just below the knee. The excess fabric (about 7"!) is turned up in a very wide hem and hand stitched to finish.

Finished dress inside view.

For the second skirt layer, I made a full length petticoat. Originally I planned to make this of green check cotton but the material that had been sitting in my stash for years was too thin, too old and too fragile to work very well. Halfway into the construction of it I decided I didn't want to put work into something that would not last very long so I put it aside. I took out a blue chambray tablecloth I got at a garage sale last year and it was just enough for a full length peasant skirt, which will work well under the jumper-dress for a Hobbit look or can be worn on its own for modern wear. It's a nice, basic skirt. I used every bit of the tablecloth for the skirt and didn't have any extra for a hem so I faced the hem with lightweight cotton canvas, to give the flounce a bit of body.

Underskirt hem.

The shift, of course, was already done but I did replace the neckline drawstring with narrow elastic, just because elastic is so much easier! Of course, this dress can be worn with any kind of peasant-style blouse and I have a few in my current wardrobe that will work just as well as this one.

Quasi-18th-century-ish shifty thing.

The apron is a very basic waist apron. I had a large quantity of this minty green check cotton at one point but could only find a small piece of it, so I used all of that small piece for the apron and ties. I had *just* enough of the trim to go around the apron. I thought the trim worked quite well with the embroidered panel on the dress, although it is perhaps a bit matchy-matchy, but I think it definitely gives a 1960s-does-Hobbit vibe. The trim is pieced in six places but darn it, it works and I don't think the joins are noticeable enough to make much of a difference. This is one thing I probably will not wear unless I am actually dressing as a Hobbit. I don't wear aprons much in modern life so this is one thing that is costume specific.

Hobbits like bright colors! :D

Last of all I took a cape I made several years ago and redid it to go with both this outfit and any other outfit that calls for a cape. The original cape was based on a half circle and never quite fit the wearers neck, no matter who wore it. I cut a bigger neckline, shaped the shoulders with darts, and cut a collar from the old ties and neckband. To close the cape I added a large hook and eye and a loop and buttons, for decoration. The buttons are wood and they don't match, but I think that adds to a bit of rustic, Hobbit-y charm, right? 😁

My goal was to get the outfit completed before January 3rd, which was Tolkiens birthday. I did get it done, though I was stitching hooks onto the dress that night as I watched The Two Towers.

As soon as the weather is nice enough for outside pictures, I will post some of the completed outfit- in the meantime, I will definitely enjoy wearing all these pieces (except the apron, ha) in different combinations as I go about my everyday life.

Have a blessed January!