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Unfinished Business: The Cooper Shirt

So, once upon a time, I wanted to make a shirt out of wool challis fabric for the DH (who certainly deserves all the nice shirts I can crank out, frankly, since he’s usually the one who finds the pins in the rug and rather painfully at that). And I had a couple of posts up about that.

Coop shirt 1
Coop Shirt 2
The Collar Stay Bit
Sleeves Saved by a Selvege

And finally, goodness knows, I got around to finishing it up. And what was standing in my way?

Buttonholes. I hate making them. I know there are sewists out there who have sewing machines that are particularly good at that (old Singers, for example), which they have all set up to do nothing but buttonholes and frankly, I don’t think that is a bad idea. If I lived or worked in New York City, I would go to one of the services in the Garment District and have THEM put in all my buttonholes. I went with a slightly larger button for this – ones that look like horn, since this shirt has a bit of a Western feel to it with the reindeer on it.

I think the DH looks rather fetching, don’t you (well, given that we have protected the identity of the innocent DH so that you don’t get to see his face)? The sleeves worked out splendidly, as did the collar. He’s so pleased that he was rummaging around in his closet figuring out which sportcoats he can wear this with (and came up with a brown and blue tweed, a dark blue one and a brown corduroy one. But, sadly, no plain navy tie (what man does not have a plain dark blue tie in his collection? The DH, that’s who), so that goes on the list.

Bon Appetit..

Bridging the gap

I think all of us who are female have had this experience: You see a dress or a top in a shop and fall in love with it (oh, ok, so you don’t fall in love with it, but it’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, clothing-wise) and the price is right and you try it on and it fits.

Except for one thing. The opening in the front, is, shall we say, a bit too far ‘south’ for your comfort. Now, part of the issue is that the pattern drafting software that seemingly all designers and manufacturers use has some bit of code in it that says (more…)

Anatomy of a Broken Zipper

Once upon a time, your Aunt Toby did a little thing on replacing zippers in blue jeans. This is an entirely different kettle of halupkis (as we say here at Chez Siberia): A separating zipper in a jacket. (cue the scary music)

What makes this zipper different than a jeans zipper? (more…)

Anti-scratch mitts — two ways

If you have no interest in baby clothing for any reason, you might want to move along and come back next time because this is about as niche a post as I can get. OK…

New babies have fingernails that grow like Topsy (who WAS Topsy, anyway?) and for little helpless creatures, they can scratch up their faces (and possibly their eyes, too) a lot, so many parents buy shirts and sleepers that have integrated ‘scratch mitts’ at the openings of the sleeves. Or, they get/made little mitts for the babies, or they do what we always did with the Little Siberians, which is to put socks over their hands. Now, the only problem with that is that sooner than later, you lose one or more socks and you go crazy trying to find them and since they are very small, they are easily lost. (more…)

Rash Judgements

It’s summer where we are (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere, dear reader, you know you are not but you might find this useful in any case), and trips to the lake, beach, and swimming pool are on a lot of people’s lists. Your Aunty is of an age when she remembers people slathering on iodine and baby oil, grilling themselves on the beach for hours at a time, and no one thinking anything about it. A lot of those people now look like the pair of ancient shoes and have had to have surgery for skin cancer but that is a discussion for another time.

Today is a very different day. (more…)

Not a wearable muslin

My mama (with the accent on the second syllable), who went to her reward in 2006, sewed her way through everything from baby clothing to sport coats for my father and suits for herself. She never, ever made a muslin of anything. I’m not sure if that was because she had some sort of innate sense of how big things had to be or she was just lucky. I took a sewing class in high school where I had to make a tailored jacket and she once saw me hunched over, hand-sewing hair canvas into the fronts of the jacket and steam pressing the living daylights out of the thing. She told me that she thought I was a much better seamstress than she was but she’d never go through all that to produce a jacket. (more…)


First, the apology – these photos are hovering at the “how much have you been drinking?” level. I think my camera (which has been doing yeoman service since 2002) is basically going toes up here, but I think the shots will do the job.

OK – one of Aunt Toby’s ‘things’ is that I dearly love clever things that are designed to do more than one thing. Several months ago, we got a foot stool so that our grandson could put himself at the window to watch the birds at the bird feeders. This stool, if you flip up the foot part of it, turns into a little chair that he will be able to sit down on (or climb up on ) at some time in the future. At the same furniture shop, we also saw a very very nifty high chair which turned into a rocking horse for a little person who no longer needs a high chair. I’ve also seen, over the years, baby’s cribs that turn into settees and stairs with drawers built into the risers as space saving storage. (more…)

I hate pin tucks

In our last two episodes The yoke’s on me and Vintage Sewing: Literal of Figurative I started the process of putting together what I consider to be a dress reminiscent of the period of Downton Abbey. And the description on the back of the pattern is pretty clear:

Loose-fitting dress…has square neckline, front and back yokes, front and back outside tucks, back buttoned closing, side pockets …. (more…)

Nipon Dress: The yoke’s on me

As we discussed here Vintage Sewing: Literal and Figurative, one of the design features which attracted my eye to this Nipon dress pattern from the 1970s is the square neck, which in this case, is achieved through the use of a yoke. Now, yokes come in all shapes and sizes but their primary feature/function is that they enable you to get the garment to fit in the region of the body (usually the distance between the shoulders and the top of the chest wall where the breasts ‘attach’, but yokes can be used between the waist and the hips on skirts as well) where a garment hangs and at the same time, enables you to attach to it a much larger piece of fabric (see photo below. The dress part is much larger than the yoke muslin piece..

Why do we want to do this?

Well, from a historic point of view, chopping up large lengths of fabric (which were literally bought with the sweat of numerous people’s brows) into much smaller shaped pieces of fabric was actually wasteful. People wanted to be able to use the length pretty much the way it came off the loom. The Japanese devised the kimono to be literally rectangular panels just the way they came off the loom. (more…)

Vintage Sewing: Literal or Figurative?

Photo courtesy of

The British ITV show, “Downton Abbey”, which recently finished out its second season (the clothes! The murder trial! Matthew’s fight with the rotten newspaper baron!), has sparked a lot of interest in the style of this period. For anyone questioning this, I refer them to the recent Fall/Winter 2012 shows of Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton. I’ve read several articles from UK newspapers where they detail great increases in such items as opera-length gloves, hats, and lace anything. (more…)

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