Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sew for Victory

Hello Everyone,   once again it is a cold and damp day here.   We have had 3 storms this month so far, and another 3 due over the next week. The one that set down last night has been named "Q".   (Where the temperature here is slightly above freezing, we most likely will have rain/freezing rain instead of snow, -everything is already muddy and slushy, so what's a little more?)
I have decided that the person to come up with this storm name must either be scraping at the bottom of the barrel, or   a big Star Trek fan.( i'm hoping it's the second one)
'Q' from Star Trek
Now Q was never my favorite character,  it kind of bugged me that the Q Continuum, albeit an intelligent race, could consistently screw with the humans' minds and timelines to such an extent they they thought they were having  breakdowns.  Although it  turned out that Q himself was a bit of a renegade and the rest of his race didn't approve of his theatrics,     It didn't really seem like they were interested in conquering humans, more like they were playing 'cat and mouse' games for their own amusement.  but I digress...

(a quick side note here before totally leaving the Star Trek subject - there was a way cool episode last year for American Pickers where one of their clients was none other than William Shatner, who, along with his wife, had bought a farm house in Kentucky. They wanted Mike & Frank (the pickers) to get them some specific antique items (totally cool pie safe anyone?)  with which to redecorate a home office. Love this show,  (and having the classic Star Trek connection was just like sprinkles on ice cream for me.)

So back to the main theme of this post.    Over the past week, I have come to learn that two awesome vintage blogs I read are holding sew-alongs. (one I will discuss here, and the other which is for the 60's in a separate post)

If you don't know what a sew-along is, you can think of it something like a book club, but instead of reading a book, people are sewing a garment - usually within a theme and time frame put forth by the Blogger hosting it, and its over the internet not in real time.  (yes I know the similarities to 'book club' are melting down).
 So Rochelle from Lucky Lucille started a "Sew for Victory" sew along.  This is a 40's inspired one, where you pick a garment or item from that time period to sew.  
It goes until the end of March, and she has a flickr group set up for people to join who are interested in participating.

For this project, one should take into account the thrifty mindset of a 40's gal (or guy) when preparing for this project. There was rationing going on, people were recycling for the war effort,  trying not purchasing new items, but finding new ways to re-use their old ones. "Make do and make mend."  So maybe instead of buying new fabric for your project, use some up from your stash?  Re-purpose some notions and trim  from some worn out clothes you have?

Rochelle also has several posts with ideas for 40's garments, patterns and other great 40's inspired things to get you in the right frame of mind.     I spent the past couple of days going through my pattern collection to see if I had any 40's patterns or a more modern pattern that could be modified to make a 40's look. I have a ton of patterns from 1950's-present, but luckily I found that I actually had 2 patterns, from 1947.  (which in my case would make this less of a "Sew for Victory" and more of a "Sew because We-Won-and-You-Didn't!"  (insert picture of kid sticking her tongue out here)

My two vintage 40's patterns are these:
Vogue 6511

Vogue 6231
Vogue 6511 is described as a "Two piece lounging Pyjama set" and
Vogue 6231 is a Skirt (sorry, no fancy description there)

I am tending to lean towards the first pattern as it is a beautiful look, but I really do like skirts, so maybe will do the blouse from the first and the skirt from the second.

Some issues with using vintage patterns in this project:   modern day fabric is mostly available in 54"  & 60" widths.  The yardage on the back of these is 39" and 35".  Thank goodness for the internet and quick google searches!   I found this yardage conversion chart, so that problem can easily be solved - The 4 1/2 yards of 35" fabric needed for the skirt works out to be 3 1/8 in 54".

Another issue is the waist sizes.... I've found on these as well as many of the 50's patterns that they are made for women with teeny tiny waists.   Now I don't consider myself a large person.  My waist is 29",  the largest waist size I find listed is 28", which by their imaginary person proportions has a 37" bust, and I know THAT ain't so with me!  The "ideal" for the woman back then was a small waist,  but given that patterns were supposed to be developed for real people, not ideals, were the women actually that small?    Kind of makes me feel like an amazon giantess. I will have to put my alteration skills to good use for this to 'make it work.'

A third interesting thing, and really more of an observation, was given that this time period was supposed to be one of frugality,  I find these looks seem to require large volumes of fabric.   Now one could make a hypothesis that since the patterns I'm using are post war (1947) that the country was aiming to get back to normal and going to the other extreme to convince people of that ["Go forth and buy large amounts of fabric because everything is going to be alright. No, really..."]
Or perhaps it was a subtle way of boosting the economy by getting people to spend more? Another possibility is perhaps Vogue being higher end, might be putting forth the idea that luxury = massive amounts of fabric.     I will have to research some earlier patterns from the 40's to see if it is the same with them.

Which leads me to another issue to consider.  In being thrifty minded for this project, I would like to use fabric that I already have - both of these looks call for 3- 4 yards of fabric for the lower portion (either the trousers or the skirt)     Usually when I buy fabric, if not with a specific pattern in mind, I rarely buy more than a yard or two, so the chances of my having 4 yards of anything laying around are probably not very good.....   Will have to do some creative thinking about this.

I am very much looking forward to this Sewing for Victory challenge, I will let you know how my looks are progressing. I hope that some of you will join too!

Have you done a sew-along in the past?  What for and what were the results?  Please share if you can!
Thanks for reading!


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ghosts of Sewing Projects past

 Greetings from a very soggy Cape Cod afternoon...
lately I've been in a kind of sewing funk,  I keep wanting to do some sewing, but never actually getting around to it. Whether it's the time of year, the seemingly relentless cold and snowy weather as of late.  Tasha from By Gum by Golly has a good post about  losing your sewing mojo.  I need my mojo back!  She also does a follow up post with tips to jumpstart your creative process.

Anyway, I thought I would pull up some pictures of previous sewing projects.  (these usually revolve around things for my kids)

Autumn as Fem Hungary
My daughter is into Anime.  For those of you who don't know what it is,  a simple explanation would be "Japanese style Animation" but to those into it, it ranges from a mild addiction to a full blown obsession.   (A popular example of the genre would be Pokemon, but there are literally hundreds of other programs.)   The Graphic Novels are known as Manga. People dress up as their favorite characters (called 'cosplaying') and attend Conventions                
or  sometimes just wander around in groups at the local mall or other places.  Anime Boston is the biggest convention around here, and is like Mecca that thousands of Otaku* make pilgrimages to each year.

*(Japanese for people who are obsessively interested in Anime/Manga) 

Last year, my daughter chose for her cosplaying  Fem Hungary and Fem Denmark.   These characters are derived from an Anime series called "Hetalia" the characters of which are incarnations of different countries  (so you have America, Germany, Canada, Russia, Hungary, England etc.)  and they have personalities that match what the countries would be. (Germany is strict and law abiding, Japan is mysterious and quiet, America is loud and get the picture.)  To make it more complicated (and believe me, with Anime it ALWAYS gets more complicated)   there are fan-based characters that are the opposite gender of those in the series  (most of the characters are male, so you have a whole bunch of female versions: Fem England, Fem Hungary etc)  

So Autumn chose her character inspirations and we set to sewing up the cosplay stuff.    Usually with these, there isn't any one pattern I can find that will exactly match the character, so I play around with a few different patterns to get the different elements of the outfit and morph them together.   For Fem Hungary pictured above, we used a Dorothy pattern (Wizard of Oz)  along with a pattern for a prom gown for the skirt and sleeves.  She also had a pinafore apron, but unfortunately it doesn't seem like we got it in any of the pictures.
Autumn as Fem Denmark

Here is her Fem Denmark cosplay.  There was very little sewing involved for this look (sigh).   I made the hat, Autumn made the battle-axe. The rest of the pieces were repurposed from her regular wardrobe.

 This is my son Peter, who cosplayed the year before as Russia from Hetalia.   One of the taglines from the show is "Become one with Russia" (as Russia is good at absorbing many little countries)   This tagline was also an internet meme, inspiring fan-based pictures and posters.

During the convention various and sundry women (and one big burly guy) came up and hugged Peter so they could 'become one with Russia.'  Still not sure if he planned this out.....

For his cosplay we repurposed a knee-length khaki trench coat and added dark brown blanket binding for the edging.  I cut off about an inch of the khaki fabric from the hem to make the cross strips on the chest.  The scarf was a silky poly blend in lavender.   (Peter says we should have made it longer)

One non-Anime related costume I made for Autumn was for Halloween. She planned to be a vampiress and saw a really elegant dress online she wanted to copy. This was difficult because it had these pointed wing like things that came off the bodice that seemed more or less free-floating.     The material we used was a shiny black satin, and the red lining was a silk blend.  I used a regular dress pattern for the bodice and skirt, but added the wing appurtenances by drawing my own pattern pieces and extending the front bodice sections. I used thick plastic from some laundry jugs to give them form.
She got red contacts and white powder make-up to make herself look very pale. 

(lower section of the dress)
This was the dress she found online we based the costume on

So that's my trip down memory lane for today.    I am going to go find my boxes of patterns and play with them a bit to see if I can get over my creative slump.
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Warner Cat Brooch

In the fifties the space age was upon us. To commemorate that, there were fins everywhere in design and decoration to pay homage to the rockets that would take us to explore the final frontier.

Something else that could be found in many places in the fifties: Cats...
cats eye glasses, kitty cat clocks, cat jewelry...

Secret cat plot to take over the world? Could very well be.
(quote attributed to Terry Pratchett-
Chicken Soup for the Soul)

When I was little, my grandmother gave me some costume jewelry.  Among the pieces were a couple of cat pins.    One was a flat metal Siamese looking one, looked something like the one here, but it was a gray color and not in relief.  I wore it frequently as an accessory in High School, and subsequently it got lost :(
The other one was a little bulkier and I always thought a little big to be worn regularly (being as shy as I was,  I didn't like having much attention drawn to myself either)
It measures about 2 inches, has many faceted rhinestones that make up it's body and head. A single black rhinestone for one eye and nose, Three little gold whiskers on either side of its nose, and one single whisker wrapped whimsically around the eye.   It also has a small row of clear rhinestones for the collar and one on the tip of its tail.  

So it sat in my jewelry box for the most part.... And then one day I decided to see if I could find out anything about it.   I did some descriptive searches and found that very interestingly, it was made by the Joseph Warner Jewelry company.

The J.Warner Jewelry Co. was in business between 1953 and 1971.  He did mostly rhinestone work it seems, floral, fruit, insect designs, plus a few Christmas trees. And cats, lots and lots of cats.   Because the pieces are rare and of a higher quality and fine workmanship than others of that time period, they are highly collectible.  Many of the pieces incorporate a technique called 'japanning' which is a process derived from coal tar that they blacken the metal with.  The pieces have a 'Warner' stamp on the back. (on mine it can be found in tiny letters on one of the ear welds)

Here are some other examples of his pieces that I found around the internet:
Pink Ducky (ebay)

Okay, so I lied, there are a few Duck pins too.

Cat Head pin (ebay)

Clear Rhinestone kitty

 So it seems many of the pins/brooches I found
are just of floating kitty heads, and a few that have the bodies are a single large stone, or no eyes or nose...not quite as pretty I think.

Here are some examples of his insects...
a  green butterfly, and a stunning blue beetle

Butterfly pin (ebay)


This is an example of the japanned metal on these fruit pieces:

Strawberry pin (Etsy)

and Christmas trees!

So finding the history of the pin my Grandmother gave me makes me love it even more.   Do you have a favorite jewelry item?  How did you come about it and why is it special to you?

Thanks for reading!

Note: I found information in the following sources for the history of the Joseph Warner Jewelry company:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Thinking of Spring...

Last weekend the weather was cold and dreary (yet again)    Peter & I decided to check out a few of our local haunts.... One great store is "The Watchamacallit Shop"  in Wareham, MA.  where there is a little bit of everything.

I found this beautiful  Art Deco dresser (DO WANT.. SRSLY)
*sigh* maybe some day

Peter really liked the signage:

He ended up getting several old Cadillac Advertisements to frame for his wall.
I will have to take some pictures and post when he gets them framed...

I didn't get anything here, but then on the way home we stopped at a small store that opened about a year ago in Falmouth  (Dee's Home Again).  It is one of those places I have driven past every single day on the way to work and think to myself: "Man, I gotta stop there and check it out one of these days." So nearly half a year later,  I finally did.
 It seems to be mostly home goods & furniture, but they did have some vintage clothing, and (very happily I might add) they mark down items for each month they've been in the store.    I found this:
front of dress
A beautiful vintage 60's dress, I'm guessing what must have been a bridesmaid's dress.   It is full length, heavy cotton or linen,  lined.  Soft, pale yellow in color.  There is no label on the inside, and some of the seams look hand finished, so I'm wondering if it may have been a custom job.   

and the neckline has the most beautiful bead trim....

The backside of the dress has a large bow that detaches on one side and when reattached via hook & eye conceals the top of the zipper.  The best part was that due to it having been in the store already for a few months,  it was marked down to $10!   (you can't even buy a couple yards of fabric for that little anymore, and this dress was probably made with 4 or 5 yards)
back of bodice close-up

Back of dress

I tried it on and it does seem to have been made for someone a bit more well endowed than I  (It's okay...I have long since come to terms with my body, and that I will never be a contender for a St. Pauli Girl regardless of whether I can pull off the blond braids)    

Obviously too,  wearing a full length yellow bridesmaid dress would look a little odd, even for the most confident of vintage chic people.     
So I have modifications in mind....  thinking a simple yellow sundress? I could cut it off just above the knee, have plenty of extra fabric to add a sash, some rosettes, possibly make a matching purse? Would need to take the side seams in too.   I found these pictures on the web of what it could maybe end up looking like...

Yes, dreaming of spring....  I will have to add this to my sewing projects and post pictures when I get to doing it.

Have you ever modified a vintage dress?  What were the results?  Would love for you to share!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lovely Green Velvet dress

Greetings! This is one of my favorite dresses.  I have had it since my college
days. It is a beautiful, dark olive green;   a fitted bodice with covered buttons up the front (decorative, as the actual closure is a side seam zipper)   It has a yoke neck,  (a double layer of fabric that creates a ruffle), and semi full skirt that goes just a little below the knees. A  very good friend moved into a house and found a box of old dresses in the attic. There were 4 of them, all velvet, but sadly the fabric on the others was very badly damaged.  This was the only one intact, and still it has a few issues. (I was able to use the fabric from the other ones for smaller projects like linings)

I'm not totally sure how to date this dress...  I'd like to say early 50's. It is similar of the style then, I am reminded of a dress worn by the character Myrtle Mae in one of my all time favorite movies "Harvey" with Jimmy Stewart

The label inside says "Helmer, Inc., Syracuse"  and in doing some web research I found very little. I found there was a dress shop in Syracuse around since the 30's til the mid 80's, carrying fine dresses, dry goods like gloves, hats, purses, etc.  The original location on Marshall street seems to have been demolished in 1936.  
One scanned newspaper ("The Syracuse Herald Journal" from Feb. 2, 1945)
carrying a headline 'Nazi's Report attempt to Cross River'  had a large advertisement with a list of stores staying open on a Saturday :   It lists "By Special Permission,  and in full compliance with the emergency fuel proclamation, the following stores will be open Saturday to fill your emergency shopping requirements."       Amusing that a fine ladies' dress store would be considered 'an emergency shopping need'  right along up there with canned goods and powdered milk. God only knows how difficult it is to find elbow length dress gloves to wear when the third Reich is about to invade!

 I did find one other dress on a pinterest board that looks like it could have been made from the same bolt of cloth as mine, right down to the covered buttons.    The description lists this dress as "30's dress."
But I don't think mine is that quite that old.....
One last bit of research turned up a video clip of fashion week dresses that look to come from a current fashion house or designer named Helmer.  Related?  Not sure - never heard of it before today  (and I have watched EVERY episode of Project Runway):

Below here is a full picture of my dress hanging flat.... along with a close-up of the bodice.

And a close-up of the jewelry set I wore  (early 60's Sarah Coventry)

Last but not least, the other 'accessory' in the first picture is my miniature dachshund Calvin. (Paris Hilton, eat your heart out!)  Not quite the purse dog -we tried putting him a shoulder bag, but I don't think accessories are supposed to wiggle around that much.

I apologize for the photos not being the greatest. I am still learning...

What do you think, is the dress likely older than the 50's?  
Do you have any clothes items that are a mystery to date?
Thanks for reading!