Monday, March 28, 2011

Anyone Can Sew a Vintage-Style Skirt!

Lately I've been a little obsessed with dirndl skirts.  They're so fun and girly and so completely 1950's, and best of all, easy to sew!  It's pretty much a giant rectangle.  I thought I'd put together a little tutorial for anyone who wants to follow along.  Sewers of any skill could easily make this, and it doesn't even use a pattern. 

The first thing you need to do is buy a 7" zipper and two yards of fabric.  I like cotton the best, so this would be a great time to get that quilting cotton you've always wanted to buy but were always told that it's not meant for apparel.  The bolder the print, the better.

  • Lay your fabric flat on the floor or cutting board.  With a measuring tape, mark where you want your hem to hit.  I want the final skirt to be 25", so I marked it at 27".
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  • Cut into the fabric, and then just give it a good rip.  It should tear off into two pieces.
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  • Now you're ready to start sewing.  Take your big rectangle and fold it in half, right sides together.  Pin up the seam, leaving room for a zipper.  Sew your seam.  This is now your center back.
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  • Press your center back seam open.  I trimmed the excess with pinking shears.
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  • Set your skirt aside.  It's time to start on the waistband!  Cut a strip of fabric 4" wide and the length of your waist, plus 5/8" on each side.  An easy trick if you don't know your measurements is to measure the waist of a garment that fits you well.
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  • Fold the edges in 5/8" on both sides and iron into place.
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  • Fold waistband in half and iron into place.
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  • Mark your waistband center with a pin.  Set aside for later.
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I think that's enough work for tonight.  Tomorrow, it's time for the fun part, gathering! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Closet Cleaning Etsy Sale

I cleaned out my spring clothes this morning and decided to try listing a few things on Etsy.  I'm not sure if this is going to be a one-time thing or if I'm going to actively have listings, but I thought I'd give it a shot.

You can go to the listing by clicking on the description.

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 1950's Silk Floral Watercolor Blouse                              Vintage 1960's Brown Eyelet Wiggle Dress
                                                                                            
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Vintage Lanz Pink and Black Cotton Dress                                   Vintage 1970's Rayon Floral Romper

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Vintage 1940's Rayon Floral Dress                                                  Vintage 1940's Watercolor Dress

Simple 50's Blouses

Does anyone else have trouble finding cute vintage blouses, or even patterns for vintage blouses?  I've been exhaustively looking for a simple white blouse to wear with my new printed skirts and Etsy, eBay, my favorite vintage store, and the antique mall have all left me cold.  Everything was too lacy, too high-necked, too nylon.  Sometimes "simple" is the hardest thing to find.  I come across this a lot with footwear - last year when looking for brown boots, I couldn't find a single pair that was not studded, grommeted, or covered in a million buckles.

I did find one blouse at the antique store.  This simple (yay!) black 1950's blouse for $6.  It was missing all the buttons but no problem, I sewed on pretty vintage ones I bought on Etsy.

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It's basically perfect, and when I tried it on with a few skirts, had the exact look I was going for. But, it's black. Then I had that "duh" moment where I said to myself, I could make one!  I had some plain white broadcloth (okay, it's a sheet) and although I don't have any blouse patterns, I could just use a dress pattern and cut it off at the waist.

This one had all the elements I needed - flattering neckline, darts at the bust and waist, and since it's a shift dress, no waist seam.  I chose the scoop neckline.

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I measured the black blouse, and it was just under 24" long.  So I laid out my pattern pieces, marked at 24", and cut below.

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For the back, I wanted to make a button placket instead of using a zipper, so I left a couple extra inches of fabric when I cut.

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I didn't want my markings to show through the thin fabric, so I marked them ever so lightly. This would be a good time to use tailors tacks or pins, but I really prefer the pencil method because not only is it quicker, I think I'm more accurate that way.

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Darts are done!

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I did my back darts, and then I sewed my fronts to my backs at the side and shoulder seams. Then I put together my facing pieces, and sewed those in place as well. Once I was done with my facings, I referred to my Colette Patterns Sencha blouse for how to do the button placket.

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It's super easy!  It only took a minute and my button plackets are looking good.  I love how the facing edge is hidden inside the fold of the placket.  No need to tack it down!

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I should have been done, but then I remembered something really important. Sleeve facings! Since the dress had sleeves, there was no pattern piece for a facing. Daunted by the prospect of drafting my own, I did what every lazy seamstress does - I reached for a similar Simplicity shift dress pattern and used it's facing piece. Looks like it fits!

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I would not normally machine stitch a hem, but since this blouse it meant for tucking and no one will ever see it, I skipped the blind hem. I still think it looks nice, though. A quick check of my closet reveals that most blouses were not hand-hemmed anyway.

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Lastly, it was time to do my buttonholes. I did two tests and they looked perfect. Then when I went to do them on my blouse, my machine went crazy. When I pressed the foot pedal, the cover plate started to pull up.

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I did a million more test buttonholes, and that happened every time. I have no idea what the problem is. All the settings were correct and the buttonholer was securely in place. Does anyone know what might be the cause of this?

I think it's time for me to get a new machine. Mine is great for doing the bulk of my stitching, but I hate that it doesn't have a sleeve arm, and I can't deal with a busted buttonholer. Time to start searching Craigslist! Any recommendations?

Friday, March 25, 2011

No-pattern 50's skirts and upcoming projects

It's about 30 degrees here, but I've been thinking Spring for a good month now.  Brightly colored floral dresses are slowly creeping their way back into my closet, boots are being traded for open-toe flats, and I officially retired my winter coat.  I'm cold, but I've got Spring Fever so bad I can't bear to look at dark colors, long sleeves, and wool.

Probably from 2005-2007, my summer uniform was a printed skirt, a simple tank, and my tattered Gap denim jacket I bought in high school.  I haven't taken much interest in skirts in the last few years, but recent blog posts about 50's skirts and the declaration that denim jackets are the new leather jacket (which look great but never caught on with me, too uncomfortable) has got me reconsidering.  Luckily, 50's skirts are super easy to make and don't even need a pattern, and my old Gap standby is still soft and perfectly worn in all the right places.

I was able to complete both of these in under two hours each.

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For the plaid one, I used vintage cotton sateen that came as part of a lot I won on eBay.  The strawberries were originally a 90cent tablecloth from Salvation Army.  Both have metal zippers, and it was great to finally put to use those 7" ones that always come in eBay lots that I previously had no use for.

Making a skirt like this is SO easy.  I'm serious.  The most novice sewer ever could whip one of these up.  All you need is two yards of fabric, at least 35" wide.  There's one seam, a waistband, and a zipper.  I didn't take any step-by-step photos of these, but I've got some fabric on the way that I plan on making into a skirt, so I will post a tutorial.

Speaking of fabric, Fabric.com is having a huge sale right now.  I've been coveting this eyelet for ages now, and it was finally on sale for $7, so I ordered three yards.  I plan on using it to make simple button-up blouses to wear with all my new printed skirts.

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This is Michael Miller quilting cotton, but it's going to become a skirt.  I've been dying over this skirt for years, and exhaustive Google searches of "tan + teal floral fabric" haven't turned up much.  This is the closest I could come and it's not exactly what I was looking for, but I still think it's a pretty decent match and I know it will look good with that Gap denim jacket!

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For $1.98 (!) I got three yards of this white 100% cotton with light blue dots.

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And from Etsy, the perfect pattern! I'm going to make the sleeveless/poufy skirt view. 

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Also for $1.98, I got three yards of this cheery plaid.  I found the perfect pattern on eBay and I'm currently the high bidder, so fingers crossed! 

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I feel like I got in a sewing rut there for a little bit.  I started two blouses that I was so unenthused about that I gave up before I even got to the sewing stage, and I finished a dress that wasn't exciting enough to blog about (and probably not exciting enough to wear).  Hopefully these projects will snap me out of my sewing coma.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Me-Made Mexico

Hi Everyone!  Sorry for the long hiatus but I was in Mexico all last week, and then totally overwhelmed with housework and the need to relax this weekend.

Mexico was awesome!  We went to Playa Del Carmen and stayed at La Tortuga, a boutique hotel on 10th Ave, just a block up from 5th Ave which is the shopping/dining epicenter of Playa. 

I did manage to sneak in me-made outfits on a couple of the nights.  The first night we got there, I couldn't wait to wear my favorite homemade dress.

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On Saturday, we took the ferry to Cozumel and shopped, ate, walked around, and drank lots of $1 beers.  I also wore a homemade sundress, this one is made with a New Look pattern and vintage seersucker.

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As luck would have it, the very first store I wandered into in Cozumel was a fabric store!  It was called La Parisina, and the first thing I saw when I walked in was bolts and bolts of colorful woven Mexican fabric.  I was a little overwhelmed, so all I bought was two yards of this hot pink knit.  I'm not sure what I'm going to make out of it yet.  It's a little too flimsy for a dress, but it could be cute for a skirt.

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Look how excited I am to have found a fabric store!  I wish I would have bought more, but I was feeling indecisive, and I wasn't really sure how to go about getting things cut.  My husband stepped in with some hand gestures and that definitely helped. 

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I went a little crazy with the blouse-buying in Cozumel, though.  I just can't resist the crisp white cotton and the colorful embroidery.  My favorite is the green striped one - it's so soft and perfect with jeans and leather flats.  I love the cropped one, too!  Multicolored squirrels!

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I actually did a little sewing this weekend, so I'll have an update on that a little later.  Adios!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Fraternal Twins and MMM Day 5

In the absence of sewing, I've been spending a lot of time looking on eBay and Etsy.  I was mostly looking for patterns, and I found a blouse one I loved, but when I went to purchase it, it was money order only.  What a bummer.  There's no way I'm driving to the bank on my lunch hour to get a money order.  Instead, I decided to look for some vintage blouses, and I came across this guy:

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It is the fraternal twin to my swimsuit!

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The strangest part is they aren't even the same brand!  I love it when I come across a vintage piece similar to one of my own.

Other things I did this weekend in place of sewing:
  • Spa treatments!  I got a facial, a pedicure, and my eyebrows waxed. 
  • Coffee!  I met my sister and a friend at a cafe and had coffee and caught up.
  • Cooking!  I made corned beef on Saturday (St. Patty's Day tradition) and enchiladas on Sunday.
  • Netflix!  I watched 4 episodes of Say Yes to the Dress.
  • Laundry!  I did a billion loads and I actually folded them and put them away.
I also went out on Saturday for a friend's birthday, and in honor of Me-Made March, I wore this little number I whipped up a few weeks ago.

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KIDDING! I actually cheated and did not wear something homemade, which turned out to be a really good thing.  As I was leaving the restaurant, I brushed against a corner of a booth which had really sharp wood splinters and snagged the hell out of my dress.  I'm so glad I was just wearing a cheapie thing from Target and not something I loved, because it's ruined.  I can salvage it by shortening it into a top, at least.

I also shipped off the 40's skirt I made for another blogger.  I hope she likes it!  I've never made clothes for someone else before, so it was a little nerve-wracking and definitely brought out my inner perfectionist.

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I used vintage crepe for the skirt and vintage silk for the lining, and trimmed it with white lace.  Lastly, I used a carved shell button from my collection.

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Tonight I would normally be doing tons of sewing since my husband doesn't get home until 7:30.  Instead, I am going to stop at my favorite vintage store to see if there's something I can't live without, and then I'm going to finish packing for Mexico.

A replacement for the piece I broke on my machine is already on the way from eBay, so hopefully I will be back in business when I get back from vacation!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

MMM Day 3 and 4

I was so distraught by my busted sewing machine I almost forgot to post these!

Here's day 3.  I made this dress out of a Simplicity pattern from 1948 and crepe from the 30's I purchased at an antique store in Wisconsin.  The fabric is so wonderful and feels so great against your skin.  And it's unbelievably opaque, too!  It's not lined and I'm wearing black tights and you can't even see through it.  I guess it's name is the "Princess Peach Dress" because that is what my husband was calling me all day.

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Yesterday was casual Friday, so I trotted out my one and only homemade blouse, the Colette Patterns Sencha.  I paired it with J. Crew "High Heel Flare" jeans (head to toe denim is totally back in style, I swear), a J. Crew gold and lime green chain, and brown leather oxfords I bought at Goodwill.  I think this is probably the simplest outfit I've ever worn, but I got a shocking amount of compliments.  My coworkers all loved it, even my (male) boss said something!

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I shamefully have not gotten out of loungewear yet today, despite leaving the house earlier to get my eyebrows waxed.  I have a birthday party to go to tonight, so I will have to wear one of my fancier me-made dresses! 

Have a great Saturday!

TRAGEDY

My bobbin housing got stuck in my machine and when I was trying to get it out, it BROKE.  I'm so distraught.  I have so many unfinished projects right now.  I have a blouse that only needs buttonholes and I wanted to wear it today!

SADFACE.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

MMM Day Two: Life on a Chain Dress

It's really surprising to me that this has become one of my favorite dresses I've made.  Considering how bad it started out, and that I gave up three times before I finally finished it, I can't believe it didn't end up in the garbage.  It's actually one of my most well-made dresses.  I named it the "Life on a Chain" dress after my favorite Pete Yorn song because of it's chain print.  I should have worn it to his show last weekend!  Ah, missed opportunity.

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I'm still terrible at posing.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

MMM Day One

I thought I'd start the month off with one of my favorite dresses that I made.  It's a Simplicity pattern from 1948, and the trim has tiny cents signs on it!  It's also from the 40's, bought on eBay.  The white fabric is just some rayon crepe I bought new.

I am so bad at posing.  I'll never be a teen model!

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Can't wait until it is warm enough to take pictures in the back yard!