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Making It

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…)

Vintage Pajamas: Final

OK, so here we are, at the end. I’m very pleased with this. The rayon-poly crepe is just the right weight for this; I only wish I’d had enough for the whole thing. the bi-color front effect is very cute but I think it would look much more elegant in all one fabric. The increased back bodice piece extension did exactly what I had hoped in terms of keeping the back cross-over closed (yay, me). It’s really a very easy piece to put together and I could see someone using this for an outfit for easy summer outdoor entertaining. I give the pattern two big thumbs up!!

Pattern:Decades of Style Pattern 3001 Kitchenette Pajamas

Fabric: Rayon Polyester crepe, which I bought in Ithaca, New York at Homespun Boutique (which is just off the Commons, if you are familiar with the city). Unfortunately, they do not do business over the internet, but I recommend them highly if you are in the area (and since Ithaca is right in Upstate New York’s wonderful Finger Lakes wine country, I recommend a trip here highly too). The owner has a lovely, interesting, very well-chosen (I’m not going to use the word ‘curated’ because I really do think that refers to exhibitions and museums) selection of fabrics and yarns and I’ve found great buys there on the clearance shelf. The front of the bodice is made out of poly lining that I had in the stash.

Notions: Nothing. No buttons, snaps, zippers, or clips were used in this project.

Vintage Pajamas: Fiddly Bits at the Front — UPDATED!

Ahem. As we discussed the last time, Aunt Toby is making what is really a rather fancified housedress cum jumpsuit with the pattern (originally from 1930) shown at the top. And I ran out of fabric for the whole thing, so the front bodice is made out of rather Schiaparelli-esque pink poly lining (hey, I go with what I’ve got in the stash, ya know?). And today’s rather short report is on the front.

Now, because I’ve made the front bodice out of a lighter colored fabric (lucky you), you can see a lot better the fiddly bits in the front – reference the bicolored-version of the jumpsuit on the right hand side of the photo. Now, I’m not sure exactly why the front was designed in this way with these two rather startlingly shaped tabs hanging down and intersecting the leg portions of the jumpsuit, but they do.

As you can see from this photo (and a poorly lit photo it is; my apologies), these tabs literally go down about as far as the center front crotch seam does. If you have enough fabric to make the jumpsuit all one fabric, you just might miss the seaming, especially if you are using a print. Someone using a one-color fabric might want to emphasize the seaming with piping or contrast stitching, but I figured shocking pink against the navy blue would be startling enough. The way you put this together is this:

1) Sew the front center crotch seam.
2) Sew the back center crotch seam.
3) Put the front and back together and sew the side seams and the inner leg seams.
4) Match the center crotch seam at the top edge with the center of the front bodice piece (you did mark the center, right?). Also match all the markings, the corners and any other oddly shaped thing that is sticking out or is cut into the pattern pieces (and as you can see, there are a bunch of them but trust me, all those ‘outie’ and ‘innie’ corners do match.
5) Match the side seams on the upper bodice piece and the leg side seams.
6) Match all the other markings on the back pants pieces and the back of the bodice.
7) Start at one edge (I don’t think it matters really) and sew alllll the way around, being a mite careful at all those inner and outer corners on the tabs on the front bodice/leg meet ups. Carefully clip into the corner bits.
Press. If you want to stitch again, do so now.
Hang it up, and repeat these words, “Oh, what a good sewer I am!”

Next time: Finishing up! (Don’t forget the Rudy Vally records)

UPDATE: Number 7 above: Start at one edge and go all the way around? Well, that worked when I made the muslin out of cotton seersucker. When I tried it with this rayon poly ‘whatever it is”, it made the top layer scoot ahead and I ended up with a mess. So, I took (sigh. Frog time again) it all out and started from the center and went in one direction to the center back edge and then went back to the center and went the other way. No problems this time. See photo: See number 1? That the center seam on the pants legs and the center of the bodice front. Number two is the side seam for both the bodice and the pants, and number 3 is the center back of the right back bodice. And that’s the order I sewed in, also. Then I went back to number 1 and did the other side. Worked beautifully and I did not have any pucker or other issues.

Vintage Pajamas – Some fiddly bits

I love vintage patterns. Sometimes I think it’s because of the artwork on the envelop front but in general there seems to be a bit more romance involved in any case. And, in Aunt Toby’s ever-expanding search for something to wear while asleep and/or lounging about that is not sweatpant/athletic shorts/tee shirt, I found this reworked pattern from Decades of Style, which is called ‘Kitchenette Pajamas”. (more…)

Saved by a selvege

At this point, I’m sure that there are a few readers who are saying, “Oooooo-kay…. so what happened to the Gary Cooper shirt for the DH? By this time, he’s given up, right?”

Well, here’s the story (you knew there would have to be a story, right?). There are times, and I think other sewers have these too (at least I hope I’m not the only person who’s done this), where you’re going along — perhaps you’ve made this particular item before — and you are on auto-pilot and you get distracted and it becomes like that time you locked the car door with the keys in the ignition and the engine is running and you just put in a full tank of gas. Crud. (more…)

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