Farewell 2014, Hello 2015!

Happy New Year, everyone! I seemed to have fallen off the blogging bandwagon a bit towards the end of last year, but 2014 was such a monumental year in terms of sewing/crafting/personal stuff, that I thought it would be a good idea to take a trip down memory lane:











  • Finally, in December, I crafted and sewed a ton of Christmas stuff (I made both the wreath and all the stockings in the photo) , but ran out of time to share these with you all due to quite a few social engagements and an increasingly hectic work schedule.


So, what’s in store for me in 2015? A return to historic sewing, more cat-themed craziness, and traveling! I’ll be attending a historic women’s fashion conference in April (!), so there will be lots of sewing in preparation for that, and we may end up going to Europe this summer . I also want to focus on sewing more everyday, usable items for my modern wardrobe, and expand some of my vintage closet to be more useful as well (I have some fabulous dresses in there, but many I have only worn on a handful of occasions, or they were a one-off for a special event). 2015 promises to be a creative and crafty year, and I can’t wait!


The Starella Sisters Make Their Debut


Readers, I’m super excited to share with you my latest commissioned project – pin-up girl dance costumes!

You see, two of my vintage model friends, Sanjna and Pearl, recently formed a vintage dance duo, The Starella Sisters (which is a combination of their last names). They had their debut performance this past weekend at the CD release party for the Jenny Finn Orchestra.The girls did a coordinated dance to the song Chinatown My Chinatown (which you can listen to here) complete with parasols and the Charleston. The venue for this was perfect, The Secret Society, which is located in an old Victorian building and has the feel of a 1920s speakeasy (yes, I was in heaven). British Boyfriend (TM) and I made a date of it, and met a very lovely woman named Tina who told us about her Scottish husband and adorable fluffy cat named Sebastian (Hi, Tina!)



The costumes are an altered version of Butterick 6019, which is one of the patterns by Gertie. I shortened both the wrap skirt length and made the bodice a separate bralette top, per the girls’ request. This project actually involved a number of new sewing techniques for me, including sewing pom-pom trim on (not difficult at all, just something I’ve never done before) and shirring the side back bodice pieces with elastic thread in the bobbin. I’d seen this technique done once before on an episode of The Great British Sewing Bee, so I already knew that I’d have to wind the bobbin by hand (you don’t want this stuff to stretch before it’s sewn!). What I wasn’t prepared for was how much elastic thread this project would use! I used up my entire 11 yard spool of Gutermann elastic thread (yes, it comes on 11 yard spools) and had to re-wind the bobbin 3 or 4 times, which I guess makes sense as you sew lines on the side back pieces 1/4″ apart. The end result was fabulous, though, and really provides a great deal of movement and adjustment, which was perfect for this project.


Don’t worry, I tacked the seams down and clipped the threads!



The fabric is a vibrant magenta brocade with a fire-breathing dragon motif on it. I love how the finished outfits turned out, but this fabric was both difficult and time-consuming to work with as it frayed horribly (in fact, I’m still finding threads all over the apartment!) and I had to use a press cloth any time I needed to iron a seam, as the polyester content meant direct contact with the iron would melt it. I fully lined both garments to both hide the unseemly fraying seams and add durability (I knew the girls would be moving around a lot in them, so I wanted the garments to be able to hold up).


Post performance costume change (I did not make these dresses!)

The Starella Sisters have another performance planned next month for the holidays and they’ve asked me to be their official costume designer (!) so I’ll have another couple commissions in the works to share with you guys. Stay tuned for that!

A Shakespearean Halloween


Happy (Belated) Halloween, everyone! Peter and I threw our Halloween party the day-of, after having to postpone due to several unforeseen circumstances last weekend . First, the oven caught on fire Saturday morning while I was baking a cake (it sounds worse than it was – part of the protective coating on the heating element that sits on the bottom of the oven was exposed, and started sparking). Luckily, we caught it early so there wasn’t too much damage, but it was finally fixed on Thursday (Peter and I have both been working longer hours this week). Then on Saturday afternoon, Portland had a pretty bad windstorm and we lost power until early Sunday AM. We made the decision to postpone after the oven fire, and we were very glad we did when the power went out (although it would have added to the spooky element!).


Anyways, I love throwing parties and getting my Martha Stewart on, and this event was no exception. I don’t know how I originally conceived of the Shakespeare theme (there are a lot of spooky elements in his works, especially Macbeth), but once we had that as the theme, I ran with it. The food was so much fun to plan, and we named the dishes after puns on Shakespeare plays. We served:

  • Much Ado About Nutella Cookies
  • Hamlet and Cheese Tart
  • King Pear Cake with A Midsummer Night’s Cream
  • To Pea or Not to Pea Salad

I also made apple cider with shrunken apple heads, and we had a basket of Shakespearean insult cards guests could pull out and read to one another, which was super fun!


As for costumes, I originally was going to make reproduction Elizabethan clothing for both Peter and I, but I quickly realized the time and budget constraints we were working with, and scrapped that idea. Instead, Peter wore his “You Discussed Me” Shakespeare T-shirt, and I whipped up a hostess apron just in time. I saw this purple spider web fabric at Mill End last month, and loved it so much that I had to go back and buy a yard. I used one of my favorite apron patterns, McCall’s 6177, which is sadly out-of-print now and no longer on their website.


I also made an adorable witchy woman table runner to adorn the drinks table. I had so much fun putting this together, mainly because it was a super quick and easy project, and those striped witch legs with the point shoes amuse me to no end. The pattern I used was Simplicity 1343, “Autumn Table Accessories,” which also comes with patterns for other table runners, leaf placemats, and fabric pumpkins. Since my table is longer than the one on the pattern envelope, I ended up lengthening my pattern piece, which meant that I didn’t have enough fabric to do a backing (the main plaid fabric was from the stash and was originally supposed to be an 1860s pinner apron). This ended up being fine, as I just hemmed the raw edges. I also omitted the buckles on the shoes, preferring instead to do some faux socks using ruched trim (which is the same trim I used on the apron, as well!).

I’ve also been decorating for fall around the apartment, and thought I would share a few of my home dec pics, as I did a lot of DIY crafting!

Manle 1

The mantle is absolutely my favorite, I love having a fireplace to decorate this time of year. I made the “Happy Halloween sign” out of scrapbook paper, as well as the wreath. Originally, I was going to make this wreath from Martha Stewart using scrapbook paper instead of cutting up an old book (the horror!), but the paper I chose ended up being too blah. Luckily, I bought some faux leaves and those ended up being perfect to glue over the paper leaves British Boyfriend (TM) helped me cut out. I then glued these to a ready-made styrofoam wreath form that I had wrapped an autumnal ribbon around.

Front door

I also found the perfect wreath for our black front door. Isn’t it darling!? I love that it’s more a general fall wreath, so I can continue to use it throughout November.

Well, that’s it for now, kittens. I hope everyone had a happy (and safe!) Halloween!


A jump, skip, and a blog hop

Puddle jumping, 1960

I’ve been nominated by the lovely Kirsten of Fifty Two Fancies for the sewing blog hop that is going around. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, please go do so! She is a very talented seamstress based in New Zealand, and I love seeing her creations every week. Alright, on to the questions!

Why do I blog?

What a timely question! I’ve been lacking blogging motivation as of late, so answering such an introspective question about why I blog has been helpful with that. I guess the answer is that I’ve been helped out so much myself through reading other sewing blogs that I really wanted to pay it forward. I started this blog back in 2010, with the focus primarily on historic costuming, as that was the main kind of sewing I was doing at the time. There’s so many great historic costuming blogs out there, but so few featured reproduction projects from the 1850s (my primary era of living history interpretation), so I really wanted to fill in that gap. These days, historic costuming takes up the smallest amount of my sewing time, but I continue to sew (more vintage and modern things) and I love to share those projects with fellow bloggers all over the world.

What is my writing process?

Haphazard, lol. My posts are based on what I’m stitching/wearing at the time (or want to stitch/wear!), so that really informs the content. Typically, I come up with a title, and then a base outline of what I want to say. I’ll type up some of the content, and then it’s usually at this point that I get writer’s block, so I’ll go through and edit my pictures for the post. That normally gives me some more content to work with. After I have a draft post finished, I tend to save it and then look at it the next day with fresh eyes before it’s published.

How do I differ from other sewing blogs?

I think the breadth of how many different eras and types of projects I take on makes me stand out in the sewing blogesphere. Very few historic costuming bloggers also do vintage and modern sewing, and very few modern sewing blogs also feature historic costuming. That, and I have British Boyfriend (TM).

A current WIP is…

. . .  a witch table runner for my upcoming Halloween party this weekend! She has striped black and orange socks, and I so can’t wait to show you guys. :)


Thanks again to Kirsten for nominating me for this blog hop, and if you have a sewing blog and would like to participate, I heartily nominate YOU!


Vintage Saturday: 1950s Umbrella Dress in Montenegro


During our time in Dubrovnik, we took a side-trip to Montenegro, which is just over the Croatian border (for you James Bond fans, this is where Casino Royale took place). I wore this adorable (if I do say so myself!) 1950s umbrella print dress, which ended up being perfect for the occasion. It was acquired in August and worn only once before, to our housewarming party. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get photos of it then, as I was frantically running around making appetizers and sewing pillows!


I believe the fabric is a linen rayon blend; regardless, it’s incredibly breezy and lovely to wear. The bodice is cut on the bias, which allows for greater movement, and the sleeves have a really great tie detail (unfortunately, every time I wear this dress I need help with the sleeve ties!). I paired it with a floppy straw hat, which was a lucky find in Dubrovnik’s Old Town the day before (silly me forgot to pack her hat).


The dress photos were snapped at the villa we were staying in shortly before we left for Montenegro. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of me in it there, but I did get some scenery photos of Montenegro, and it’s just GORGEOUS.



Before we left, we ate lunch at a restaurant right next to the sea, and met this adorable one-eyed restaurant kitty. Peter tried to sneak her some food, but I don’t know if the one-eyed thing meant she couldn’t see it. At least living at a seafood restaurant means she’s well-fed!


Speaking of kitties, it seems Pugsley has come down with a bit of a kitty cold as well as having Giardia, a water parasite. It’s been poop-a-palooza here, and we’re really hoping the medicine that he’s on starts to take effect soon, although, luckily, he does seem to be getting over the cold. In the meantime, we’ve learned a ton about kitty care and gone through a ridiculous amount of paper towels! Anyways, I’m planning on doing a ton of autumn crafting this weekend, and also have a design consult meeting for a potential (very exciting!) commission! Hope everyone else is having a great weekend!

Forays into Special Occasion Sewing


Most people that don’t sew have a mistaken notion that sewing your own clothes is a money-saver. Holy Hannah, is that far from the truth! Case in point: the dress I made for Peter’s sister’s wedding. It would have been much cheaper (and time-efficient) to buy something from Modcloth, which I did consider. Unfortunately, it takes like 10 days for anything they ship to me to reach my front step, and then there’s always a risk that once it does show up, it won’t fit. So, I decided that sewing a dress would probably be my best bet.


I knew I wanted to wear a fancy wrap dress in a shade of blue, and after looking at numerous patterns, I chose Butterick 5983, which has a lovely wrap dress bodice that is pleated at the shoulders. Luckily, I made a muslin mock-up first, as there were several alterations that needed to be done. First, I shortened the length of the circle skirt about 9 inches, so that it was knee-length, rather than tea-length. I also pinched in the shoulder seam, as it was too full for my shoulders. As for fabric, I used a gorgeous Kenneth Cole blue cotton sateen that I got locally at Mill End Fabrics. I love this fabric, it has a great satin feel to it, but because it’s a cotton, is way easier to work with. I also bought several yards of lace fabric to create an overlay over the sateen, but when I got the fabric home and saw the two together in non-fluorescent light, they just didn’t work together, so I had to scrap that idea. Hopefully, I can use the lace for another project, as it’s really lovely.


The back closes with a hand-pricked lapped zipper (somehow I didn’t get a photo of that, sorry!). I didn’t do this to be fancy, but rather, because somehow I’ve managed to lose both of my zipper feet for my machine (this is one of the reasons I hate moving, people). I’m sure it’s somewhere in the sewing/craft stuff, but in the rush to get this dress done, I really didn’t have the time it would take to thoroughly look for it, so hand-pricked zipper it was! This was my first time using this technique, and I actually really like it! I found I got way more control with hand-sewing it (the zipper pull is always getting in the way when I insert zippers by machine), and it also looks neater than my machine-sewn zippers.


Despite being sick as a dog on the day of the wedding, I had a great time and got so many lovely compliments from everyone on the dress (which they couldn’t believe I had made myself!). It definitely made the hectic last-minute sewing worth it. The wedding ceremony took place at the Sponza Palace, a 16th-century building in Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Afterwards, we walked out to the harbor and took a boat ride around one of the small islands, before reaching shore again for the reception at The Grand Villa Argentina. The wedding ceremony and reception were absolutely gorgeous, and I’m so grateful that I was able to attend!


In which I return after a month with a cat


In Dubrovnik!

Oh, hello there! Remember me, that quirky, vintage-loving seamstress lady that blogs like once a month? Well, I’m back! I’ve actually been doing a crazy amount of sewing this past month, but have been too busy to blog about it. British Boyfriend (TM) and I went to Croatia in the middle of September for a week for his sister’s wedding and a much-needed vacation, which was lovely and fabulous, but involved a lot of sewing prep and packing. Oh, and then I got sick while I was there, and brought my cold home with me. So, last week I was recovering from icky cold and jet lag, and then this week, we adopted a cat. Yes, a cat. After years of sewing, I’m finally a real seamstress!


Anyways, his name is Pugsley, and he’s the sweetest orange and white kitty I’ve ever met. I’ve been wanting a furry creature for a while, and our trip to Croatia really cemented the need for a cat. They have so many felines crawling about (it’s right along the sea, so there are a ton of seafood restaurants), but they’re all feral, so petting was not allowed. When we got back to Portland, I decided to take a look at the humane society, and see what cats were available, and we ended up adopting Pugsley from the Multnomah County Animal Shelter (I fell in love after I saw his photo). If you’re in the Portland area and able to adopt a pet, I would highly recommend checking out them or the Oregon Humane Society, which currently has a plethora of kittens available. They do amazing work.

Besides cat-rearing, I have a couple trip-related posts having to do with sewing and vintage I’m hoping to get up over next couple of days, as well as some autumnal sewing and home dec projects in the works (we’re throwing our first Halloween party at the end of the month!). I’m also (slowly) getting caught up on all the lovely blogs I follow, and it’s so neat to see everyone’s fall projects. I have to say that winter is normally my favorite season, but for some reason, I’ve been really looking forward to autumn this year.