Friday, July 29, 2011

Reading List Part Two: So You Want to Learn Some History

Tiny babies with giant bread!
These are the sources I turn to in my quest to learn more about domestic history.  This is an incredibly incomplete list and contains no truly academic writings, journals, theoretical texts, etc.  There are even some TV shows.  I know, I know, they should take my grad student card away.


Susannah at CargoCultCraft spent a year on her Fashion on the Ration project, buying and making clothes within the constraints that British families faced in 1941.  She's collected both the original government restrictions and information on how home seamstresses managed, from paring down patterns to take up less fabric to remaking worn-out men's clothes into women's.  This is one of those things that I was terribly curious about and elated to find out that someone else had already done the research (literally!)!

Shelley at New Vintage Lady makes vintage garments with a focus on drafting or altering plus-size patterns!  Her blog has lots of tutorials, and the 'foundation garments' and 'sleepwear' sections of her website contain some very useful information on making these overlooked items (not to mention her blog, which is a veritable wealth of inspiration for the "stout" figure).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reading List Part One: So You Want to Learn to Sew

Oh, Natalie, my Russian taskmistress.

Here are some books to get you started.  (Note: these books will skew toward the pattern drafting side of things, since that's my primary interest, and also not terribly easy to just pick up on your own.)  We'll start useful and move on to the more "historical" texts in Part Three.  Most everything here is in the intermediate range; I sewed amateurishly for almost six years before finally getting serious about it, so it's been quite a while since I looked at the books for absolute beginners--though The Sew Everything Workshop looks like a good all-around start, if you're at the what-is-this-dial-on-my-sewing-machine stage of things.  If you're a bit farther along, try these books:

Modern Sewing Texts:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Renaming Blog "Some Things I Have Won"

I'm pleased to say that Charlotte from Sew Far Sew Good has tagged me for the One Lovely Blog Award!  Thank you, dear.  She has a lovely blog with an emphasis on deliberate sewing--making what you really need, when you really need it.

The done thing seems to be to post five facts about oneself and then tag someone else, so here goes:

  1. One of my undergraduate degrees is in ancient languages.  My Egyptian is still pretty good but my Sumerian and Akkadian are fading fast!  If you ever watch The Mummy with me, be prepared for a lot of critical commentary about everything they got wrong (backwards hieroglyphs, improbable geography, at least one completely anachronistic codex, etc.)
  2. I love showtunes and often put on musicals or their soundtracks (Hair, Gypsy, Cabaret, Jesus Christ Superstar) while I sew.  (I also sing--not always on key.  I should probably apologize to my downstairs neighbors.)
  3. My favorite part of making biscuits and pie crusts is rubbing the butter and flour between my fingers to make a crumb.  It's like mud pies, seriously, getting to dig your hands right into a bowl full of food.  Just wash them first, obviously.
  4. Dear Partner and I live on the third floor of a Victorian house, in what was once servant's quarters.  There are all these tiny hobbit doors that open onto cabinets, and a regular-person door next to the fridge that opens out onto air.  I believe this is called "charm."  Oh, and the bedroom has an elaborate Oriental rug painted onto the floor--very cool.
  5. I am taller than Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and Rita Hayworth.

And I'd like to pass this along to Unsung Sewing Patterns, one of my favorite blogs ever; and Medieval Threads, which I just discovered but have been busily reading.  I love sewing blogs with a historical focus--they combine my two favorite things!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Drafting The Sweetheart Dress: in Pictures

The first step--the one not pictured here--is drafting the pattern itself.  I use Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray (which you'll hear more about in coming days I'm sure), along with a tall stack of newspaper, a sharp pencil, felt-tip pen, measuring tape, and a battered green ruler.  This system has always served me well.

Next: a muslin!  I leave the seam allowances off the pattern, trace each piece onto the fabric (an old polyester sheet from the Salvation Army) in black pen, and then cut an inch outside the tracing.  That way I have a neat seam-line when I go to assemble the muslin (as Tasia recommends but less work).

Friday, July 22, 2011

Tutorial: Drafting a Pencil Skirt, Part Four

Are you sure you want to proceed, knowing the
poor orphaned patterns you'll leave in your wake?
This is Part Four of a four-part series on drafting your own pencil skirt pattern.  (See Parts One, Two, and Three.)

Phew, the home stretch.  From here, you've got a finished pattern--the rest is just formalities.

Step Seven: Seams Require Allowances

Seam allowances!  Most commercial patterns call for five eighths of an inch (or so I am told); this is what I use, because all the books say to.  I hear that some extraordinarily confident people use half, or even a quarter of an inch; and when working with a brand new (un-muslin-ed) pattern that might need adjusting, it's smart to go for a full inch.  You decide.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

What I've Been Up To Lately

In no particular order:

  • Drafting a dress with long sleeves, sweetheart neckline, and six-gored skirt.  Dress Pattern Designing by Natalie Bray is never far from my elbow.  I've just finished the muslin, and it's amazing in the back, neckline, and shoulders, but has a few problems in the lower armscye.  You know how Victorian and Edwardian women needed special garments to do their hair, because the sleeves of their dresses were so tight they couldn't raise their arms above their heads?  This dress has that problem.  I'm taking pictures of the drafting process, so I'll throw them up next week to show you how I solve it.
  • Making an apron.  So incidentally, I had no idea my local Joann's carried quilting cottons--I mean, I knew they must, I'd just never seen them--until I wandered into a secluded corner and discovered a rainbow of colors.  It's easy to see how they could seduce newcomers to sewing.  I certainly bought a few back in college when I had no idea what I was doing.  Anyway, I didn't see anything garment suitable (not least because I'm not a fan of busy prints) but I picked up the perfect fabric for a double-sided apron: one side robots, one side skulls.  It's going to be so awesome.
  • I've also got an old cotton sheet from the Salvation Army that I'm planning to turn into winter underthings: a chemise dress, and a pair of pettipants (bloomers?) if there's any left over.  It is cold in upstate New York; I need to get ready for winter.
  • Making another Summerberry Crumble Pie!  This time with peaches and blueberries.  Also, if we're going to get prosaic about it, cleaning my kitchen.  I have written poems to the weird smells in my kitchen.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Tutorial: Drafting a Pencil Skirt, Part Three

Just leave this pattern on the shelf--
lonely, heartsick, its purpose unfulfilled.
This is Part Three of a four-part series on drafting your own pencil skirt pattern.  (See Parts OneTwo, and Four.)

Step Five: Waistband?

When it comes to the waistband, you've got options.  If you have a tried-and-true waistband from another pattern, just throw a seam allowance along the top edge of your skirt and use that.  If, like me, you are too cheap to buy patterns when you can just draw a rectangle, you can draft your own waistband.  I constantly refer to the waistbands chapter of this book, which describes several very useful ways of making and attaching a waistband.  I won't go into too much detail about it, but here's what my waistband pattern looks like:

Monday, July 18, 2011

In Which, Having Invented Sleeves, I Impersonate A Flamingo

Note to self: do not wear black in hundred-degree Kentucky weather.

(If you can't see the sweat beading up on my neck, it's not because it isn't there.)

Dress: A simple black chemise dress in cotton lawn with short sleeves, slightly gathered portrait neckline, and self-sash.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tutorial: Drafting a Pencil Skirt, Part Two

This pattern will be so sad that you
don't need it any more. :(
This is Part Two of a four-part series on drafting your own pencil skirt pattern.  (See Parts One, Three, and Four.)

Step Four: Goodness Gracious Darts

Fabric grain is a pain in the ass.  If your waist and hip measurements are within a few inches of each other, you don't need to worry about this; but if the difference is any greater, the waist-to-hip section of your skirt pattern is going to start to look pretty diagonal.  And diagonal is bad.  Diagonal means bias, and bias means stretch, and stretch means the side seams of your skirt are going to be unstable.  Unstable is bad!  Unstable looks like this:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tutorial: Drafting a Pencil Skirt, Part One

You don't need this anymore!
Don't you feel independent?
This is Part One of a four-part series on drafting your own pencil skirt pattern. (See Parts Two, Three, and Four.)

It's not that hard! Really. While a circle or A-line four-gore skirt may be simpler to fit, the classic pencil skirt is just as easy to construct, especially when you know it inside and out because you've drafted the pattern yourself. Furthermore, it's a great one to make yourself because it's so fitted--why wrestle with a pattern made for somebody else's smaller hips and bigger butt when you can take careful measurements and make one that fits you perfectly?

This pattern is unlined--I just wear a slip with mine and wash the slip instead, which means I can make my skirts out of whatever fabric I like and I never have to dry-clean (score!). I love them in any kind of wool, heavy linens, cottons, or cotton-linen blends, anything that stays where you put it and is fairly thick and opaque. I've never attached this skirt to a bodice, but I imagine it would work quite well as the bottom half of a wiggle dress, Joan Holloway style. I put a zipper up the back seam of mine--metal looks especially vintage--but you can move the zipper to the side or insert a button placket instead (though that's a bit too complicated for this tutorial).

Note: Don't worry about seam allowances until the very end, when we'll add them to all seam lines.

Step Zero: Gather Your Materials

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sailor Shorts: Kentucky Edition

HELLO EVERYONE.  I'm in Kentucky visiting my family, so today's photos are from a (relatively) exotic locale: my dad's garden!

I found Queen Anne's Lace!  It is my favorite flower because it sounds fancy but is kind of a weed.

Shorts: adapted from my Sailor Pants pattern--high waisted, with five belt loops and a button placket down the left side.  That's right.  I invented buttons for these shorts.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Movies You Ought To See: His Girl Friday (& some thoughts on history)

His Girl Friday (1940).  Rosalind Russell attempts to escape the newspaper business by marrying a sweet but simple insurance salesman, played by Ralph Bellamy, but her ex-husband (and ex-boss) Cary Grant isn't about to let that happen.

The really wonderful thing about His Girl Friday is that, appearances to the contrary, it is not a love story about Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant: it's a love story about Rosalind Russell and the newspaper business.  For the middle hour of the movie, Grant is offscreen trying to get Bellamy thrown in jail.  That's a whole hour where all we see is the fast-talking and talented Ms. Russell quipping with hardened newspapermen, interviewing murderers, comforting maligned and helpless women, and tackling police wardens for a story (literally tackling, it's brilliant).  No wonder that at the end of the movie she finds she can't give it up, even for the love of a good man.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I Cleaned My Sewing Room You Guys

For the first time ever, the floor is not covered in fabric scraps and trailing bits of thread, my feet are not printed with textile dust, and I can see where everything is!  It's amazing!  It's a pretty nice little space, too--we had originally planned to use it as an office (hence the vestigial printer) but since I write best stretched out on a couch and dear partner likes her little desk in the living room better, it has slowly morphed into a sewing room.  It has its charms--good light in the afternoon and evening, a couch (not pictured) to sit on while I do handwork, the Door Into Nowhere (one of several in our weird Victorian-servants-quarters apartment).  And, of course, the fact of having an entire dedicated room for my sewing is still a wonderful novelty.

It also has its little quirks: the rickety makeshift desk; the very hard, very cold floor; the door that blows closed and sticks in the jamb whenever there's the slightest draft so that on at least one memorable occasion I have had to shout for dear partner to come and let me out.