Friday, September 21, 2012

Finished: Wearing History Smooth Sailing corduroy trousers

Friends, I finally sewed my very first pair of trousers!

Now, I've been talking about wanting to sew trousers for over a year. They are definitely a staple in my vintage wardrobe. Last summer I bought the pattern for the 1930s Smooth Sailing trousers and blouse from Wearing History but just could never work myself up to sew them.

As you know, this last weekend I went on a blogger adventure, and bought several lovely fabrics at Vogue Fabrics. One was a very inexpensive (less than $4 a yard!) pinwale stretch corduroy. I decided I had nothing to lose at an attempt to finally sew up trousers. Talk about motivated—I bought the fabric Saturday and finished Wednesday!

But let's point out two important facts: I don't own a serger. And I've never sewn with stretch fabric. So for my very first go at sewing with trousers I was using fabric that frayed if you sneezed near it, was stretchy and didn't press well. Did I mention that once I washed and dried the fabric, I discovered it was kooky and the wales of the corduroy were woven on the bias and not straight like normal? Crazy, huh? Fortunately, it did not end up a recipe for disaster!

trousers made by me, blouse from Nudeedudee

Due to my fray-prone fabric, I bound the exposed seams with what felt like a million miles of rayon seam binding. This alone probably took longer than all the rest of everything related to sewing up these trousers combined. Seriously, those bound seams nearly did me in. But I persevered. And how pleased am I with the crotch and inner leg seam intersection?!

(By the way, if you ever do this, just snip your notches instead of clipping them out like I did, since this make some really ugly spots when sewing over them with your binding. Whatever, it's inside my legs.)

When I was looking at this fabric at Vogue, Lauren Lladybird advised sewing a size down because of the stretch content, but since I'd never sewn this pattern and wasn't sure how they'd fit, I went with my normal size. In the end they're definitely roomy, even after trying to shrink them a tad in a hot washer and dryer.

They're the bunchiest at the level of the highest point of my bum all the way around, but you can kind of see it in the side and back views. I think if I'd used a drapey fabric this would just look nice and flowy, but since this is thick but non-drapey corduroy, the excess fabric just kind of sits there in space, standing at attention. (It feels like if I had drapery weights in my hem they'd lay better. Ha!)

The back has some pooling of fabric which I'm sure I would never in a million years have noticed if I didn't read sewing blogs.

From what I've read I'd possibly benefit from a flat seat adjustment (though I didn't think I had a flat derriere!), or changing the crochet curve (read the Coletterie pants fitting cheat sheet), or doing a fish eye dart in the pattern (read Liz's post on fish eye darts). I should mention I took in a full extra inch on each back dart when it came time to attach the waistband (probably the cause of the horizontal line towards my waistband in the above photo) because I had forgotten to stay stitch so I think the pieces stretched out a bit.

Of course, these might all be non-existent issues with fabric that drapes better, so I'm tempted to make a second pair without any more alterations in some gabardine in my stash to see the difference, then think about tweaks. (Bonus = stashbusting!)

Seriously though, I've spent way too much time contemplating my mid-section since making these trousers, so these are just little nitpicks, nothing for me to lose sleep over. I'm still quite pleased with these!

The construction was a breeze and were it not for my seemingly endless binding of all those seams, these would really have taken me no time at all! The instructions were very clear. A big A+ to Lauren at Wearing History. I can't wait to try more of her patterns.

In the end, I think the Smooth Sailing trouser pattern needs a fabric with more drape than mine. But in spite of the fit issues I mentioned, I love these trousers. The pinwale corduroy is just divine against the skin, and even though they're a little baggy, I'm going to get a lot of wear out of them. They can dress up or down since the fabric is casual but classy, so I wore them both to work and to lounge on the sofa after.

And I'm no longer scared to sew trousers. I may or may not even have danced around the house singing "Pants I made!" but you didn't hear it from me...

I'm definitely going to be sewing more vintage-styled trousers! Any pattern recommendations?

(And by the way yes, I'm definitely buying a @#?*#$&! serger.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Weekend blogger meetup (& other recent activities)

Hello! Before I get started with documenting a little adventure I had this past weekend, I wanted to say a big, huge THANK YOU for all of the wonderful comments I received on my last post. Wow. It's so nice knowing you're not alone, and all of your personal stories have been so great to read, and I hope helpful to others, too! I've been extra busy the last week and my plans to respond to each comment on my post or by email has not happened yet. We had a jam-packed weekend of activities as you'll see below, and have also been closely watching our pets, who are recovering from big dental surgery they had recently. They've had a few ups and downs, but seem to be doing well now, thank goodness.

♥  ♥  ♥

Saturday's big activities? A big, fun blogger day here in Chicago!

Lladybird, (AKA Lauren) was in town, up from Nashville, and wanted to have a blogger meetup. She put out the call, and we answered. Liz of, Meg the Grand, Nancy of Buddha Bear Studios and I met up with her for brunch and to do a little stash swapping. I wish I had taken photos (Liz has one on her roundup of the day), but the table was full of knitting and sewing pattern carnage. It was hilarious. Really, the table was piled high! We actually had to stuff things in corners of our seats and bags in order to make room for food. There was everything from 1940s dresses to clown costumes. I made out with a few Stitchcraft knitting booklets, and was able to unload several of my own vintage knitting booklets and sewing patterns (more stash out than in, yay!).

Afterward, Nancy had to part ways but Lauren, Liz, Meg and I went on a crafty shopping adventure of the first order. Mind you, this was all pre-planned by Liz. And amazingly so. She even had bottles of water for us in her car and a treat (more on that later), for when we got famished from shopping!

Where did we go? Two ginormous sewing emporiums that Liz frequents, that neither Meg nor myself (both locals) had ever been to. I admit, I do most of my fabric shopping (and really all kinds of shopping) online. Especially in large fabric stores I easily get overwhelmed. This was perfect because I was armed with sewing buddies who were able to keep me on track. And we were having so much fun I didn't even have a chance to get overwhelmed!

The first stop was Fishman's Fabrics, a 1,000 square foot shop that's been around since 1903. Mel's mother remembers her mother-in-law taking her there in the 70s or 80s. If you've go to their web site, yes, the shop really does look like that. Scary big, isn't it? Not so scary from the outside, though.

I really wasn't a very good photographer that day, so I have no shopping photos, but I did snap a few by this fabulous wall of framed photos and letters in their entrance way. Here Meg and Lauren are checking out a letter from Ann Landers...

Here it is close up. Can you imagine typing a letter to a fabric store, requesting fabric based on a swatch? My first thought was it looked like something for Cruela de Vil...

From left to right that's Meg, Lauren and Liz decked out in handmade clothing!

I loved this photo too, take a look at that skirt!

We spent a long time in Fishman's, and Liz knew we'd need some sustenance to get us through our next stop. OMG, she baked us macarons!!

Yes, that's a tupperware full of two layers of the yummies macarons EVER. She even brought along ziplocs for leftovers for each of us. Amazing!

I totally love that we munched on them in the parking lot, too. Meg has a photo of us all eating them with UPS trucks behind us. Ha!


They were so good, Meg had to have a private moment with one of hers...


And wasn't everyone dressed so cute? I loved Lauren's dress...

And look at the double scalloped hem on Liz's skirt!

After Fishman's (where we all managed to not buy anything—it is huge but quite spendy) we went on to Vogue Fabrics, where the real shopping began. Apparently by this point I was so engrossed in shopping I never took another photo, aaargh. But be sure to check out everyone else's blog for pictures. There are lots of good ones from Vogue. We all left the shop with big bags of fabric, and I think we got some pretty good deals, too!

With fabric shopping completed, we went to Loopy Yarns for a bit of yarn shopping, and then finished the day with a beer (cider for Meg and I) at Hackney's, both in Printer's Row. It was such a wonderful day! I really had a blast. It was awesome to hang out with these wonderful crafty ladies!

And while not a sewing adventure, Sunday Mel and I met Lauren and her boyfriend Landon and Liz and her husband Felix at the Vintage Garage, a vintage-oriented flea market of sorts. Once again I sucked at taking photos there, so you'll have to pop over to Liz's blog for her roundup post. We also saw Leilani the Thriftaholic there looking lovely as always. She was taking photos of the event, so be sure to check out her blog soon, she always does amazingly detailed photo posts of the markets she attends! Look for a post from me soon about breathing a bit of new life into a Danish modern bowl we bought there.

And one last activity to mention, the weekend prior was Renegade Craft Fair and the Vintage Bazaar (which did a pop-up market at Renegade), where we shopped around with Liz and Felix. A woman asked if she could take a photo of Mel and I, since Mel was carrying a bag from Krrb, which we were given when we bought a set of vintage highball glasses (I'll have to show it to you soon!). I'd never heard of Krrb before, but it's a place to help people buy/sell secondhand things local to them. I'm all for more of that.

{Source: Photo compliments of, photo by Meg Goldberg}

Well there you have it, my rather poorly-documented last couple of weekends of fun activities! I came home with several fabric goodies from Vogue on Saturday, one of which has already been sewn up into my very first pair of trousers. (Yes, already!) I hope to take photos of them soon. They definitely aren't perfect and the fabric had me running into a series of challenges along the way, but they got me over my fear of sewing pants. Yay!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Carry on

If you've been a regular to my blog for some time, you may have noticed I've done very little outfit-related posts this year. I admit it, I've had some style ennui. Seeing as this blog revolves around style in a lot of ways (though I've never considered myself a "fashion blogger" by a long shot), that's made blogging kind of difficult.

I spent a long time trying to figure out what was bothering me. In the end, I think it was a combination of things, only some of which had to do with fashion but they manifested that way in some respects.

Devoting a lot of time to our new house. Moving to a neighborhood where fashions or trends of any kind are mostly, well, absent. Having a really difficult time finding anywhere in the house or yard with suitable lighting for blog photos. Having our closest friends from Chicago move to Wales. Not having any friends to hang out with who are into vintage (note: most of this navel-gazing pre-dates getting to know the lovely Liz of, which tickles me). Working from home at least three days and not having a rip-roarin' social life leading to few opportunities to feel like I should even bother to dress up. Vintage-themed parties, events, etc? Gosh, I wish!!

And so, I think my motivation has been kind of low.

To be honest, I've had a lot of "why bother?" moments this year when it comes to my personal fashion. Who cares if I dress up vintage or not everyday? When I'm working from home, I don't get any complaints from the dog or the cat if I'm wearing jeans (albeit Freddie's of Pinewoods) and a tank top, and am wearing my hair in a messy ponytail.

I even found myself waffling a bit about my style in the last few weeks. Maybe I needed to be a little more modern, or just go a little more 50s, versus the earlier leanings I've had over the last year or two. I was lazy about setting my hair, so in a misguided attempt at hair happiness, I even went so far as to cut Bettie Page bangs again about a week ago.

A peek at our new living room color that we love... scattered light courtesy of small glass block window nooks

And then one day, I snapped out of it. I decided I needed to just carry on. 

Partially inspired by Sunni's excellent Everyday Wardrobe challenge, I decided I needed to be putting in some effort into how I looked even on days I didn't have plans (more days than not!). I decided I didn't care if I dressed like the 'odd man out' most of the time when I did go out.

And I realized I needed to just go ahead and do it for me.

I love vintage fashion. So what if I feel like an anomaly in my real life? Life can be fun that way. And it's not like before I wore vintage I fit into any molds, anyway. ;)  And so what if I'm wearing a cute outfit to sit around the house? It's not like I'm not talking about ballgowns here. I can be cute and casual at the same time.

See? These photos were taken Tuesday this week, a day I worked from home. Trousers, a blouse! Jewelry! Set hair! Lipstick, even. Yeah okay, the lippy came off before lunch and never went back on again... gotta draw the line somewhere.

I'm sharing this open, heartfelt post in the chance it might help someone else out there who has ever felt frustrated about their love of vintage-influenced fashions to know they're not alone. It's for any 40s gal who's ever wondered why they bother, for any 50s sweater girl who's just wanted to laze around in a t-shirt, for any flapper who's wondered why she was the only one flappin'.

I'm glad I went through some head-scratching moments, because I feel sure of myself in a way I didn't before. In fact, it's given me a more positive outlook on lots of other things as a result. I'm looking forward to sharing more outfit posts, planning more knitting and sewing, spending more time gathering inspiration from you, my friends, and working on trying to be fabulous in as many aspects of my life as I can.

And along the way, I know I'll just keep on carrying on with my vintage-loving self!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Simple beauty of a steek in my fair isle knit

I sat down to do a post catching you up on our painting success after my retro fail living room post, but on the camera I found photos Mel and I took a couple of weeks ago when I was cutting the armhole and neckline steeks for my current fair isle project.

So instead, I just wanted to share with you the beauty you can find (or at least I can find) in knitting photos. A simple, traditional task in a fair isle knit, cutting a bridge of stitches in your knitting to open up an armhole, neckline or cardigan front, looks so serene and pretty when followed in just a few pictures. Well okay, maybe the scissors do look a bit scary.

Armhole before the snipping begins...

Snip, snip...

Armhole after the cut....

I'm (slowly) knitting plain red sleeves (the same red as in the body), out from the armhole with shaped sleeve caps, a method outlined well in Custom Knits by Wendy Bernard. I initially planned to knit the sleeves flat two at a time, but having just done that for my Knit It In Flag Colors pullover, I needed a change. That's just too many red sleeves knit flat, two at a time! So I switched it up for this one. I'm going slowly because I haven't had much time for knitting lately (too much planning on the home decor front), and because they're kind of boring.

Sorry, not much of interest for non-knitters in this post... hm, well, here's one tidbit: that's a vintage blouse I'm wearing (probably from the 50s, and I believe home sewn), with a delightful mini strawberry and diamond print. And it's reversible to pink on the inside. How clever is that!
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