1940s · Commission · Finished! · Modern Sewing · Pattern · Vintage

The Starella Sisters Make Their Debut

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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!)

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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.

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

 

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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).

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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!

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Contemporary Pattern · Entertaining · Finished! · Holidays · Home Dec · Modern Sewing

A Shakespearean Halloween

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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!).

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

Dress · Finished! · Modern Sewing · Pattern · Personal

Forays into Special Occasion Sewing

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Finished! · Home Dec · Modern Sewing

Home Dec Sewing!

First off, thank you so much everyone for your lovely comments on my last post about our new place! As promised, here’s a look at some of the home decorating projects I’ve been working on. Since all of them involve square or rectangular pieces of fabric and were fairly straightforward to construct, I decided to combine them all into one post.

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The first thing I made for our new place (and on the day of the housewarming party, no less!) were pillows for the couch. The two tan ones came with the couch, but I wanted some other pillows, as well. I didn’t use a pattern at all for these, just cut out squares of fabric based on the dimensions of the pillow form.

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I also made a quilted wall hanging for the kitchen using a neat fabric panel I found on Etsy.

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Next up were Union Jack quilted coasters! I used this fabric from Riley Blake’s British Invasion collection. Interested in making your own quilted coasters? I have a tutorial here!

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Finally, though not a sewing project per se (more like a stapling project), I tried my hand at upholstery and reupholstered my old vintage vanity bench. I really wished I had taken a before picture, but alas, I was too staple-happy to remember to do so, and I did this project on the day of our housewarming party, as well (nothing like procrastination!). I’m really glad I got it done that day, though, as it was a really big hit at the party and people loved sitting on it.

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I want to make some new pillows for the bedroom, as well and maybe reupholster my sewing chair, but those will be future projects. 😉

 

1930s · Finished! · Vintage

1930s Beach Pajamas!

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I hosted a little vintage beach gathering here in Portland yesterday, and finished a pair of reproduction 1930s beach pajamas to wear just in the nick of time! For those not aware, beach pajamas were the original version of resort wear, worn by the fashionable set on the beach during the day and to a cocktail party in the evening. They became more widespread in the 1930s with their popularization among the Hollywood elite, and home seamstresses could make their own versions with the patterns that were released. Beach pajamas were either one or two pieces (sometimes with matching jacket) and featured  characteristically wide pants legs.

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My beach pajamas are made from a border print 1950s red and white rayon that I got from this awesome Etsy shop (I seriously can’t recommend her enough, she even threw in free button cards with my order!). I ended up combining 2 modern patterns for my beach pajamas, as a) original beach pajama patterns are notoriously expensive (seriously, the cheapest ones I could find started at $125 and even then, I would need to significantly grade them up) and b) I wasn’t too fond of any of the reproduction ones out there. After looking at dozens upon dozens of images of original beach pajamas, I settled upon the pants from New Look 6291 and Bodice D from New Look 6966, which when combined, were eerily reminiscent of this original beach pajamas pattern. Luckily, I made a muslin (I was too scared to just cut into vintage rayon fabric without doing so first!) and there weren’t too many changes to be made – the back piece wasn’t quite wide enough, and the waistline wasn’t high enough. I also fully lined these in a a linen-rayon blend, and despite the extra work that was, it was the right decision, as the vintage fabric was a bit sheer.

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Unfortunately, I didn’t have an original pair of beach pajamas to examine (those are also notoriously expensive, averaging around $300 a pair), so I’m not quite sure if what I did construction-wise was totally period-correct. I did what I thought made sense, although I ended up having to make 4 darts (2 in front and 2 in back) to get the bodice to match the pants along the waistline seam. Luckily, I don’t think anybody will be examining the innards of these, although I did come home with an odd orange stain on the midriff lining (no idea how that got there!).

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Readers, these are so insanely comfortable to wear! Seriously, I can see why these were so popular back in the day. I also got so many lovely compliments from fellow beach-goers  once person even told me that I looked like “one of those sexy pin-up models from the 50s!” Not quite the era I was going for, but a compliment I’ll take, nonetheless. And, despite the challenges I had during construction, I am so tickled that I finally made a pair of these. I’m looking forward to many lazy summer days lounging about in them while reading a good novel.

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I also had some leftover striped fabric from the fabric’s border, so I used that to make a matching headband. Yeah, I know, I’m an overachiever.

Hope everyone else had a lovely weekend!

Finished! · Modern Sewing

The Cute as a Button Skirt

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We’ve been experiencing a bit of a heat wave in Portland this week, and so I’m frantically whipping up summer-appropriate clothes (almost all of the summer dresses I brought with me last year when I moved down here no longer fit. Silly weight gain!).

Pardon my squinting, it was like a million (okay 90) degrees outside.
Pardon my squinting, it was like a million (okay 90) degrees

This skirt was not a planned project at all, but a result of wandering into the Joann Fabrics clearance aisle (always dangerous for me!). Now, I do try to shop local as much as I can, but when doing commissions (which was the reason for this Joann’s trip), I find it more cost-effective for both me and the customer to use Joann’s since they have amazing coupons. Anyways, I happened upon this fabric on a bolt in the clearance aisle for $5 a yard. There was about 2 yards left on the bolt, perfect for a skirt. Best part? The skirt has a button print motif AND is blue and orange, which reminds me of my bestie as those are her favorite colors.

You have to look closely, but those circles are totes printed buttons.
You have to look closely, but those circles are totes printed buttons.

I used my typical “this is a gathered skirt so I’m just going to rip rectangles out of the fabric” pattern, which isn’t really a pattern at all. I love these skirts, as they go together with hardly any effort. That being said, I did do a slipstitch for the hem, as I didn’t quite have the correct shade of orange thread to match the fabric (this was definitely a stashbuster project when it came to notions).

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Anyone else doing fun summer sewing?

Finished! · Modern Sewing

Black & White Polka Dot Top

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Modern tops that fit are sorely lacking in my wardrobe (I’ve had a bit of a weight gain since moving to Portland, but that’s a whole ‘nother post), and so when I saw this pattern in the Simplicity catalog on a recent fabric shopping trip, I knew it would be a great staple to have. I made version E almost exactly (sans the black strip down the middle), but I did decide to fully line it (polyester chiffon is so sheer, who knew!), which the pattern doesn’t call for. Including a lining made this project take twice as long as it should have, but you can’t really see my undergarments through it, so mission accomplished.

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I also made my own bias tape out of the lining fabric to finish the raw edges of the armholes ( I like to use self-fabric bias tape whenever possible, as it wears better with the garment, uses up more of the project fabric, and you can cut it to any width you need, as opposed to the packaged stuff).

 

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The top is closed with a button-fastening at center back, which makes it super easy to wear.  I also made my first thread loop (there’s no buttonhole! Yay!), which was way easier than I thought it would be. The pattern also has great instructions on how to do this, along with a diagram, which was super helpful. That being said, the back is a bit saggy, and I don’t know if that’s due to the pattern design, or my button choice being too heavy. In any event, it’s still very comfortable and versatile to wear, especially when making friends with neighborhood cats (this one happened to only have 3 legs, but she was such a sweetie!).

Me and Montage

All in all, I’m quite pleased with how this project turned out and will definitely be making another! Do you have a go-to top pattern? Let me know down in the comments!