Friday, September 17, 2010

Ireland and Mildred Pierce

I haven't posted in awhile because I haven't had anything fun and finished to show off. I did indeed finish the top I wrote about in my last post, however the days I wore it were so ungodly hot and sweaty there was no chance of getting a decent photograph of it modeled.

The tides have turned, however, and Fall is in the air. I recently finished a sweater that I started in the heat of August and polished off as September started cooling down. Just in time, too. Because next week, we leave for a vacation we've been planning since the Spring, to Ireland.

I love this sweater. It's a pattern that a woman designed based on her friend's vintage sweater. If you're on Ravelry, the pattern is called Caitlin's Cardi. I call it my Mildred Pierce cardigan because of the 40s style sleeve caps that remind me of Joan Crawford. In fact, I haven't yet decided how comfortable I actually feel wearing such prominent sleeves, but I'll give it a try. (And yes, the astute cat lover will note the painfully ugly cat post in the background.)

The pattern also reminds me quite a bit of a pattern in a 1950 knitting book by Bear Brand Fashions, volume 341. It's called Westport.

See the resemblance? Actually my version looks quite a bit like this one, as I modified the pattern to give it full-length sleeves and I did the body in stockinette instead of the slipped stitch pattern it called for. I swear, I have the inability to knit a pattern exactly as written.

I love vintage knitting patterns but haven't actually knit very many of them. There are a lot of modern touches that I love in new knitting patterns (working in the round when possible, charted patterns, concise language). Let's face it, a lot of vintage knitting patterns are really tedious.  Plus there's an almost endless number of new patterns that have a vintage appeal to keep my fingers busy. So I admit, I do a lot more oogling of vintage knitting patterns than actually knitting of them. (Though okay, I do a fair share of knitting of them too... I guess that happens when you're an obsessive knitter and something you don't knit as often as something else you do knit still happens pretty frequently when you knit all the freaking time.)

Anyway, my emerald green sweater will accompany me to the Emerald Isle. I can't wait!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Invisible zipper triumph

I've been procrastinating on the blouse project I mentioned in my last post. I'm working on a slightly modified version of one of the tops in the vintage pattern Simplicity 3963. Just a simple little shell. I'm really trying to expand my sewing skills, so I decided I'd use this project to help conquer my fear of zippers. The last zipper I remember installing was in a pencil skirt I made about 7 years ago. Before that... might have been a dress I made in high school once summer when I was visiting my grandma. Clearly, I haven't had a lot of practice with zippers.

I've been picking the brain of my friend Heidi all week about zippers. She is a class A (as well as classy) seamstress and always has a good answer for my elementary questions. I read up a lot online about invisible zippers, which is what I decided I wanted to install in this top. It seemed daunting but I was ready to go for it. Having basted both seams and pinned the first side of the zipper in place, and after psyching myself up for the task, I sat down at my sewing machine only to discover that what I thought was an invisible zipper foot was a buttonhole foot. (I have sewn buttonholes recently, so I have no idea what I was thinking.) Drat.

Heidi assured me that if I were careful, I could still use my regular zipper foot to sew in an invisible zipper. I initially thought that sounded scarier than I was willing to attempt, but two days later and I was getting antsy. Goodness knows I'm used to having a million projects going at any given moment, but this one has been taking up the entire dining room table and damnit, it's hot here. I could use another sleeveless shirt.

So for about the fifth time I read through these instructions for inserting an invisible zipper and then used my Google fu for one more attempt to find a tutorial to help elucidate the process. Now, I'm not usually a big fan of video tutorials. In fact if you want the truth, I find it rather annoying that that days, half the time I want something written out I have to watch a video instead. But in this case, it ended up being this video that finally pulled everything together for me.

And I present you with my first invisible zipper.

And I'm completely happy with it! I didn't even end up with a bubble or gap at the bottom, either. I'm not fussy about the inside of my garments at all, so when I realized that on one of the sides my stitches were a little far away from the zipper coils for a couple of inches, I simply went over that area again, closer. No one will ever see the original stitches, anyway.

So perhaps this is a drop in the bucket for the more experienced sewers out there, but this was a big triumph for me. Now I don't have to be scared of patterns with zippers! (And I grudgingly admit... for all my worry, that was a lot less annoying than sewing umpteen buttonholes.)

But I know, I know, screw the zipper, you're really wondering about that chicken fabric, aren't you?

It's a feedsack that I bought awhile back. Feedsacks are often very expensive for the (almost non-existent) yardage you get, and when they are inexpensive they're often in poor condition. But I don't mind minor flaws, so you can see the lightest bit of yellowing in a few spots on this one (and it actually shows up more in the photo than in person). I  just love the patterns on feedsacks so much that on a rare occasion it's worth it to splurge a little for a great one. I definitely thought this qualified as a great one. Imagine a farmer's wife in 1940 trying to get enough feedsacks in this fabric to make herself a dress!

I bought this one fully intact (i.e. it was still an actual sack) so I had to unzip the seams along the side. You can see the holes along the selvedge on the bottom right side. I opted to use bias tape around the neckline and armholes instead of facings (because I like the way it looks, and maybe more importantly because I hate facings, and not in a fear-of-the-unknown kind of a hate, more like a I-really-really-hate-facings kind of hate), so I have a little bit of this awesome fabric left. I need to come up with something really small for the leftovers. I might be able to cobble together enough for a contrasting collar or pockets on something.

Hopefully I'll finish this over the weekend!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hello, world!

How nice to see you again. Yes that's right, I've started up a new blog. I tired of about a year ago for no particular reason, so I wanted to give it a go with a new start that focuses on all of my interests, not just knitting (though there will be plenty of knitting, too!).

So let's have at it.

Say... what's that up in my header? A vintage sewing pattern, that's what.

Don't you just love vintage sewing patterns? For the most part they're really not much different than modern sewing patterns in terms of usability, but what a feast for the eyes. And of course, I love holding a piece of history in my hands. I particularly love if the pattern has little notes or scribbles, faded pen or tailor's chalk or other signs that someone actually made something from the pattern at some point. I think that's just the best.

I love the dresses shown in this Simplicity pattern from the 1950s. I admit, I love dresses in theory way more than I love to actually wear them (jeans/overalls/trousers/capris are much more my speed), but that doesn't stop me from collecting vintage dress patterns. I'm thinking someday I'll make a blouse from the top half of the pattern, instead.

I'm actually working on a blouse from Simplicity 3963 right now.

Now, the pattern is a little small but even someone with modest sewing skills such as myself can handle a little bit of alteration on something as relatively basic as this top. I'm lengthening it by 2" and making it a little bigger. Everything has gone smoothly so far and I hope to be sharing the finished blouse once I get the zipper in. Granted, this is the first year I've done much sewing in eons and I can't even recall the last zipper I installed.

Hopefully there won't be too much swearing involved.  (I make no promises. Dainty is not my middle name. Ask my mom.)
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