Mourning Dress

One of my biggest projects of 2017 was tackling a mourning outfit. Every year Heritage Square holds an event that explores Victorian mourning customs including a mock funeral procession. I really needed something I could wear to the event each year, however I’m never actually in the mock funeral. I prefer a station in one of the other areas of the museum, especially since I bring my older daughter along. So as I was researching mourning wear I had a generous time frame to pull from (1870-1920). I also wasn’t restricted to the deep mourning of the recently deceased. It was freeing and yet felt pretty overwhelming.

Since I knew I’d be tackling this project for the fall I kept a look out for fabrics and hoped that eventually the right thing would come along and help narrow down my choices. Luckily I was able to get some black cotton lace yardage in a destash for a reasonable price. Shortly afterwards I found lavender cotton sateen (no longer available) at Renaissance Fabrics and the two paired together so nicely. A half mourning dress would be perfect for our annual event!

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I spent a whole lot of time looking at pictures of extant gowns to see if anything had used black lace and lavender. I found…not many options. Information about mourning clothes seems to be a little harder to find in the Edwardian-1920s period. I probably could (and should) have done more research, but I needed to get sewing. So I found a pattern that was very similar to the gowns I liked from 1910-1912 and ran with my vision.

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I think I did pretty well. The wrap front bodice with guimpe underneath is completely period appropriate. So was the lace overlay on the skirt and a belt (with bonus heirloom buckle from my MIL!). Not an exact match to my examples, but the basic elements are the same. The one detail that might have been nice to include is the contrast trim at the neckline, but I got a little fatigued during the process. The cotton sateen also turned out a little thicker than I remembered and so I started cutting elements to decrease the bulk.

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For such a time consuming project I don’t really remember many of the details. October was kind of a whirlwind between making this dress and planning my younger daughter’s 3rd birthday party.

I decided not to line the dress because the sateen was pretty bulky. The front neck edge has a bias binding hand sewn on. The pattern (Butterick 6093) called for a side zipper and I swapped that for hook and eye. I thought about having the lace overlap in the front, but now I can’t remember why I decided against it. Maybe not enough lace fabric? Lazy? Too tired? Maybe all of the above. Butterick patterns fit me decently well so the fitting process was not too bad. I compared the shoulders to my recently completed Jennifer Lauren Laneway dress and otherwise blended sizes. I’m getting better and faster at mock ups so the process moves a little more quickly. I need to trust my gut instinct more frequently.

The guimpe was made with Wearing History’s Edwardian Era pattern. I bought it because it was one of the only patterns I could find for a guimpe and I didn’t have the brain power to figure it out for myself. I could have drafted my own and it probably would have fit better, but I was balancing too many things in my life.

Because nothing could go smoothly, the original fabric I ordered for the guimpe ended up sold out. The seller more than made up for the inconvenience, but I had hoped for something slightly more transparent. This is black wool gauze. One thing I totally didn’t see coming was how badly the gauze would combine with the underside of the sateen. The fabrics LOVE each other. So now every time I wear this ensemble I have to have my husband yank my under sleeves for me. Whoops! Thankfully once they’ve been pulled down everything fits nicely and stays put.

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And then after wearing my new dress to the museum, it got a second life as my Halloween costume. For my daughter birthday I dressed as a witch and my adorable mom dressed as a gnome. Getting to wear the dress two days in a row was fun, and adding a witch hat was super simple. I purchased one from a halloween store and covered it with lace scraps from the dress. Whew! Thank goodness I didn’t need to make a mourning dress and a costume for the same weekend!

How’s everyone settling into 2018? I’m really trying to keep a positive attitude and in a couple weeks I’m going to follow along with the Orange Theory Fitness Transformation Challenge. I’m not officially signing up because I cannot physically make it to 3 classes a week, but will aim to work out 3 days a week and to OTF 1-2 a week. I’ve been attending classes for 6 month now and have made a ton of progress on my fitness. Plus the 8 week challenge sounds fun to way to kick a few bad habits.

 

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Christmas 2017

All year I was looking forward to making the girls their Christmas dresses. Lu will be turning 6 this coming spring and she’s getting more and more into big girl clothes. She still loves dresses, but not with the same intensity as her younger years. I felt like time was running out to make pinafore dresses and this Christmas was the perfect opportunity! It was a dream project for me. They were so so so darling.

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Oh my stars! Such cuteness from my silly girls. Thankfully they both just loved their Christmas dresses. Whew!

The under dresses and pinafores were both drafted from the same pattern in Liesl Gisbon’s Building Block Dress book. The book comes with a pattern for a basic dress and the chapters are instructions on how to use that basic pattern to produce tons of different styles. It goes all the was from 6 month size to a child size 12 and I can tell I’m going to get a lot of use out of the book.

For this first try I used the basic dress which has a bodice, collar, long or short sleeves, and an a-line skirt. Charlie’s is a size 18-24 months with 2T length and Lu’s is a 3T lengthened to 5 in the bodice and 6 in the skirt. Both fit pretty well right away, but could have used a smidge more sleeve length. However I also added an elastic casing to the sleeves, so perhaps the length would have been fine with a plain hem.

I tried looking for more Christmas-y fabric online, but I never did find something that seemed right. So I went stash diving and found a remnant of the blue floral and a 4 yard cut of the green floral. It would have been nice to use the same fabric for both, but the scale of the green floral was too big for Charlie’s tiny bodice piece and I didn’t have enough of the blue for both. Oh well, similar is close enough for me! Lu wasn’t super thrilled with a dark green dress, but I sold her on the little pink and red flowers in the print.

I originally bought both prints to make myself dresses. It is from the Floratopia collection from Elizabeth Olwen for Cloud 9. I did make a dress from the blue floral, but I hated the dress and got rid of it. Now with the girl’s dresses complete I think I have enough to make myself a skirt from the green floral.

The pinafores are using the same pattern, but I split the bodice into 3 pieces and added width to the middle piece to achieve the gathered look I love many Victorian and Edwardian girls dresses. I have one saved that seems to have disappeared from the original site, but trust me that the seaming is pretty spot on. The drafting and sewing process was really tedious, but the finished pinafores were totally worth it.

The fabric was the same plain white lawn from Renaissance Fabrics that I used for my Lamplight outfit and it was just the perfect weight to float over the corduroy dresses. Sadly it looks like the fabric is sold out, but they usually get in more of it. Each pinafore is trimmed with candy cane embroidered cotton lace. I’d wanted to gather it to add fullness to the hem, but I’d only bought 4 yards last summer when I went shopping at Costume College and it wasn’t enough to gather and trim two skirts. So I used the little bit I had left over to add a shoulder flounce to each pinafore. I think it worked out just right!

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And while I still have a couple things to share from 2017, my crafting was mostly cleaned up by the end of the year. The beauty of staying home for the holidays with no house guests is we’ve had ample time to sort and clean our house. A few more areas to manage, but still it feels good to start 2018 better organized. Frankly I’m happy to see 2017 gone from our lives. We had some really good times and my husband had more steady work than he’d had in a while, but on the other side we had a lot of anxiety over a potential medical issue for our older daughter. It turned out in the end, but that was a 6 month process of appointments and missing work and stress. Both girls moved up to new schools and that has been really good, but my work has become more and more stressful with each passing year. I still enjoy it, but gosh I miss the glory days when I didn’t have to say “no” so frequently. Most of all the holidays have brought a much needed break to refresh. Happy New Year.

How my Knitting Mojo Came back

One last post before Christmas. I had planned to use this time to do some last minute sewing (altering a skirt, making pajamas, and sewing an apron), but frankly I just don’t want to. We had planned to host Christmas Eve, but plans have fallen through, so instead we’ve been baking and doing a ton of laundry, and re-doing our kids room. Bunk beds arrived earlier this week and it turns out building them and organizing a kids room is a huge time suck and also exhausting. So here I am watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation while sitting on the couch and hoping my children are going to sleep. Ahhhhhh, it feels nice.

Until a couple years ago I was solidly a sweater knitter. I used to make several a year, but then I hit that point where I had too many. Yes, too many hand knit sweaters. They felt overwhelming in a bad way. I knit a few for my girls too, but they spend so much time outside and running that 2-3 each winter are more than enough. Charlie runs so hot that she barely needs anything long sleeved. I’ve knit a few pair of socks too, but I’m not sure how much people are actually wearing the pairs I gave as gifts. My knitting hit a rut. I’ve managed to finish 10 things in 2017 when I usually make 30+.

But recently my desire to knit has kicked back on and I’ve been knitting shawl after shawl! It all started with an email from Black Trillium Fibres. I opened one of their promotional emails and a purple speckled gradient set was right there calling to me. I bought it pretty much immediately even though it was named for a Star Wars character (not a fan and don’t usually fall for the gimmick).

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When it arrived I knew I had to start knitting with it right away. I scoured Ravelry for a pattern and my stash yielded a mini skein gradient from Knitted Wit. Things rarely fall together so well in one project.

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The pattern is Passaggio from Lyrical Knits. Mary and I have been Revelry friends for years so I know her patterns are well written and sure to turn out well. Part of my knitting slump was because I was designing my own sweaters. They are gorgeous and original, but something you just want to sit back and let someone else do the math. Passaggio didn’t disappoint. It is thoughtfully laid out and just as the rows are getting really long they start to shorten again. The shape is a trapezoid that provides a nice amount of coverage to keep the chill off my shoulders without slipping off when I move. We’ve had such a warm fall that a shawl of this size can replace a sweater.

The hardest part of knitting this shawl was balancing the amount of yarn I was using. It didn’t quite work out like I’d hoped. On the right is a picture of one of the outer triangle sections. My Black Trillium gradient had 5 shades of purple while my Knitted Wit set had 6 shades of teal. It took some thinking to decide on a layout. So each side triangle has the lightest purple shade for 2 sections then each darker shade for 1 section. That allowed me to use 1 shade of teal for each eyelet row. However from the picture on the left you can see that each section is a bit of a mishmash. I started to run out of yarn. For the center section I had to use multiple shades in each section to make it work. It isn’t what I’d hoped, but it is symmetrical so it doesn’t bother me in the finished shawl.

Gosh, this is beautiful. It took me 2 months to weave in all those ends, but the finished project is so worth all the effort! Since I finished this back in October I’ve finished another shawl and have yet another on my needles. So I’m counting Passaggio as the pattern that got my knitting back on track.

And for all of you who celebrate, I hope you have a lovely Christmas! Santa is on track to visit us in about 25 hours and make two silly little girls very happy. I’m looking forward to a night away with my husband and lots of time hanging out with my sister. Maybe I’ll sew, maybe I won’t. Either is totally fine, but knitting is sure to happen!

Lamplight 2017

Well, the holidays are upon us! When we started planning Lamplight way back in June the event seemed a long way off. A whole 6 months away! Then suddenly it was Thanksgiving and dress rehearsal was a week away. It always seems to fly by in a flurry of committee meetings, rehearsals, and a whole lot of sewing.

This year I re-joined the planning committee after taking a few years off while Charlie was a wee thing. Now the girls are a little older and if I need to bring them to a meeting they can (mostly, sort of, kind of) behave. Two fellow volunteers write a new script every year and I cannot believe how well they can pull it off and find a way to showcase our very amateur acting skills.

This year we did a production of Cinderella. It was an interactive play with the guests playing a game in the first scene, making dance cards in the second scene, and dancing in the third scene. My fall has been pretty busy so I opted for a smaller role with fewer lines and an easier costume. It was a good call since I sewed my entire costume the week before the dress rehearsal.

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Pretty much as soon as we decided on Cinderella I started campaigning to be a step sister. There weren’t a ton of middle aged women roles this year, so step sister was my ticket to few lines and an opportunity to act like a fool. My fellow volunteer and friend opted to also play a step sister and it was really fun.

Right away we decided to wear our underclothes for the scene instead of making fell bustle ensemble. Thank goodness we made this call! I ordered a new corset from Redthreaded and already owned a camisole and flannel petticoat. All that I needed was a robe, corset cover, and petticoat.

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As luck would have it, the head costumer made me a robe back when I was pregnant with my older daughter. She based it on this original house dress that belongs to another volunteer. The original was on display for the holidays and while mine has no waist (due to its maternity design), you can see the resemblance!

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So all I had to make was a petticoat and corset cover. For the petticoat I was determined to use this silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics. It spoke to me. It probably looked more like my ball gown skirt for the scene, but I don’t care. I loved every second of swish through the evening. I bought 6 yards and used Butterick 3418. I used this skirt a couple times before and it is nice and basic and has a good sweep. I was even able to line up the plaid pretty well for such slippery fabric. And was just barely able to add on the pleated ruffle with the yardage I purchased! What a fabric hog of a skirt!

The corset cover is made with cotton lawn I also purchased from Renaissance Fabrics. It is one of my favorite fabrics ever. I buy it by 4 or 6 yards at a time and use it to line dresses. I used Butterick 3765 as a base, but that is more of an Edwardian pattern. To make it like this original corset cover in the Met’s collection I split the pieces at the waist line and added insertion lace to the top. Then I added darts to the bottom to make the waist more fitting. Worked like a charm! Not exact since I procrastinated, but still similar enough that it’s fine and the red ribbon at the neckline helped the look coordinate a bit.

To finish the ensemble I made a pair of fabric slippers while my friend was over visiting. Thank goodness for friends who don’t might chatting while you keep on sewing!!! I never did take a picture, but I might keep wearing them as house slippers because my feet are suddenly SO COLD.

So, that’s Lamplight 2017! And frankly, while 2017 was a pretty good year overall I’ve named it the year of minor emergencies. Much of it has kept me crafting for my sanity and I’m hoping in the next couple of weeks to share some more of my creations!

 

Washington Dress – TNT

Greetings! I’m finding myself quite recovered from the Thanksgiving holiday and am gearing up for the Christmas season. As I mentioned our lives have been quite full lately and a big chunk of my time has recently been taken up by church. I’m not here to prattle on about religion. I promise. But church is a part of my life again. Partly because the political climate makes me nervous, partly because I have two little girls and want to give them a solid religious base, and partly because I was really missing the community church brings into one’s life.

For most of October and November I’ve spent Sundays going from service, to sunday school, to grocery shopping, then back to church for New Members Class. It was exhausting, but also fulfilling and I’ve met some pretty nice and welcoming people. I had planned to make a new dress for the service when new members are introduced. The dress is even mostly put together, but well…it wasn’t quite right. I used rayon challis and it will be a lovely spring dress (maybe Easter?), but it wasn’t right for November. Plus I need to take out a huge chunk of length from the back and that means a lot of seam ripping. I just did not have the time for such an endeavor.

So I set aside the rayon dress in favor of something quick and easy, a tried and true pattern. Yep, my favorite winter dress, the Cashmerette Washington bodice with a half circle skirt. I’ve made it several times and knew I could whip one up in just a couple hours.

img_1104Tada! A nice fresh dress to kick off the winter sewing season. Soft and lovely and forgiving to wear.

I don’t really have new to add to my thoughts on the pattern. I’ve used it several times and it always works well. This time I added a touch of ruching at the bust.

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The fabric is Liberty of London Ganton Jersey in the pattern Meandering Chrysanthemum. I purchased it at The Fabric Store in LA a few month ago for what must have been a clearance price. Something like $16/yard when Liberty jersey tends to go for double the price. Usually I like a bit of lycra in my jersey, but this 100% cotton version was too nice to pass up. It reminded me of the fabric I used for my very favorite winter dress. In practice it was hard to find the grain of this jersey and I am wondering if there was a reason it was so cheap.

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I think I’ve mostly avoided the dreaded flower boob in this one. It was a close call with so many blossoms closely placed 🙂

Anyways, this dress was originally intended for Thanksgiving. I figured it would look nice for photos and also be comfortable for the 5 hour drive to Vegas and eating massive amounts of food. I was right on both accounts. I give the dress two thumbs up. It also had me feeling confident while standing in front of hundreds of people in church. Now to sew up the two more dress quantities of fabric I ordered this month. Once I pulled out my winter dresses I realized I have about 5 days worth of work clothes. Not quite as much as I’d like. Plus some of the things I packed away looks a little worse for wear after spending the summer in a plastic bin.

And if you’re interested in other sewer’s favorite patterns, I hope you’ll check out the Sewcialist’s Tried and True Month. It is really interesting to see what styles people pick to make again and again. For me, this skater dress style is now a staple of my winter wardrobe. Easy to make and easy to wear.

 

Halloween 2017

It’s been a little while since I paid a visit to this space, but I’ve been busily working away. I’ve been spending a little less time on the internet lately and a little more time sewing, knitting, and volunteering  including joining the editor pool at the Curvy Sewing Collective. We’re also well into the busy season at Heritage Square Museum. Lots of commitments to my time, but in a good way.

When it comes to Halloween I try to keep my sewing to a minimum. I’ll make one piece for each child and then buy or find the rest of the pieces. Its worked really well so far! This year both girls wanted to be fairies, or I should say that Lu wanted to be a fairy and Charlie wanted to be just like Lu. Lu picked her costume months ago so I had plenty of time to think about how I wanted to make a couple of fairy costumes.

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I spent a bunch of time looking for a fairy costume pattern, but most of the Pinterest ideas were geared more towards the occasional crafter. I just wasn’t interested in tube tops and tying a ton of tulle strips to elastic. Both of my girls love to play dress up so I decided to make something built to last rather than for one day.

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I settled on using Rae Hoekstra’s Flashback Skinny Tee for the tops and drafting my own circle skirts for the bottoms. I did not tell the girls my plan. If I had they would have thrown a fit of unhappiness. They wanted frilly collars like the fairies in their activity book. Instead we took the girls to JoAnn’s and planted them in front of the athletic sparkle fabrics. Then I gentle steered them towards two fabric that came in multiple colorways. Lu immediately latched onto pink! Charlie took some convincing, but we got her to agree to gold.

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That one trip to JoAnn’s ended up supplying everything we needed to produce two fairies. While I waited in line to get the fabric cut, my husband and the girls ended up finding the dress up clothes area and procured 2 sets of wings and 2 sequin crowns. Not a prefect match to the fabrics but they worked out perfectly. With an armful of sequins we headed to the register and all our Halloween costume shopping was complete!

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The dresses were so easy to complete. Not my finest work, but perfect for the holiday. Charlie’s also served as her birthday dress. Her birthday is right before Halloween, so we threw a costume party at the park and our newly 3 year old daughter was super happy. It was also impossible to miss them with the sun shining off all those sparkles!

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As a wonderful bonus, we had a super generous employee at the fabric cutting counter and I now have enough left over material to make the girls something else as well. I’m thinking coordinating gymnastics leotards would be super fun. Now I just have to find time to actually sew them up!

 

Operation Sister Quilts

I’ve gotta admit I’ve been feeling pretty horrible these last few days. I’ve was slammed with a sudden flu like something and then the shooting in Las Vegas hit way to close to home. It feels more and more like the world has gone mad. I don’t write this blog to get into politics, but how I feel definitely directs my posts. I’d planned to write up a project I made for myself, but instead I’m posting a project that I’ve been working on for over two years. Something warm and happy and lovely.

I’m a pretty big fan of Heather Ross prints. I keep an eye out for her prints on apparel fabric for me (exhibit 1 and exhibit 2) and when the collection is something special I buy quilting cotton too. The Tiger Lily collection came up for pre-order when I was all high on newborn baby fumes and I was inspired to make sister quilts for my tiny and tough girls. I loved the mix of ballerinas and girls climbing trees.

Now I can finally call the project a wonderful and finished success.

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These suckers were quite a bit of work. Churn dash was the only block pattern I even really considered. It just seemed to suit the fabrics so well, but trying to figure out which prints to pair took me many many evenings. Early on in the planning process I realized I didn’t have enough fabric and had to desperately email Westwood Acres Fabric to order a bit more! I also originally thought I’d make the tops with different mixes of fabric, but I couldn’t ever quite figure out how to make it work in a well balanced way. So both tops are identical.

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Well, the tops are identical except one one very special detail. I hand embroidered their names in the sashing. Even this detail took a lot of thought. Originally I’d planned to have them machine embroidered, but then I was too lazy to actual research it after my friend with an embroidery machine said her machine couldn’t handle the size of the project. The big push came when my local yarn store announced they were getting rid of embroidery floss and I made a quick run down to buy really high quality floss while I could still see the colors in person.

In fact a lot of this project was only moved along with pushes from the outside world. I kept procrastinating the next step until I couldn’t wait any longer. The sashing? Well that was motivated by my local quilting store’s going out of business sale. I shopped there pretty frequently, but the threat of having to buy sashing fabric online was nerve wrecking enough for me to drag the squares down to the nice natural lighted store before I was left guessing shades against a computer monitor!

I was so good about piecing the fronts and cutting all the strips for the binding and then the project just sat again…for months. I hit a rut in my sewing. I wanted to piece together the backs, but we were in a tight financial place and I couldn’t afford to spend money of fabric. I dug through my scrap bin and and found the leftovers from my dark green butterfly dress. It was lawn, not quilting cotton, but that’s okay! I also found left over rose print from the dress I made to wear to my bridal shower. The colors weren’t quite perfect, but with everything gathered I had just exactly enough to eek out two twin sized quilt backs. Not matching like the fronts, but similar enough.

img_0895With the fronts and backs completed all that was left was the quilting and binding, but instead of just getting it done I stuffed it all in my sewing cabinet and forgot about it. Finally in some of the hottest weather this summer I decided to pull out all the supplies and finish these suckers. With lots of swearing and sweating I managed to mostly pin the layers together with a minimum of wrinkles. Only took 4 attempts. With the home stretch in front of me I couldn’t turn back. The pair of quilts were also threatening to take over my sewing space (our kitchen table). Once I got past the horrible pinning part hand tying the quilts was hot but easy work and the bindings went on pretty easily.

These quilts are absolutely massive in their tiny toddler beds, but I hear a bunk bed is  coming this winter! My hope is these snuggly twin quilts will be just perfect for many winters to come.