Sewing Family History

In Spring of 2013 my mother-in-law gave me a maternity outfit she had made in 1963. No, I’m not pregnant, after seeing some of the garments I had made, she thought I could take it apart to make something new. I was flattered and a bit intimidated, it took me almost a year to finally start.

The fabric is a beautiful silk purchased in Hong Kong by my husband’s uncle, Dr. Tom Dooley, in 1958. Sadly, Uncle Tom passed away in 1961. It was not until 1963, while pregnant with her 7th child, my mother in law had it made into a long skirt and top to wear to the annual Christmas Gala at the Detroit Golf Club. Unfortunately she does not know much about the dressmaker, just someone working in a Detroit tailor shop, and I’m convinced that dressmaker was a genius.

What looks like a simple top and skirt is an amazing feat of engineering. I’m sure the term zero waste fashion did not exist in 1963, but this is an incredible use of almost every inch of the fabric. It was painful to take it apart, but it would be such a shame to let this beautiful fabric just sit in a box.

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The top appears almost like an envelope, it can lie flat, but in exploring it, you find folds which can open like a pleat in some areas, allowing for an expanding belly.

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The neckline appeared to have piping as a finish, but appearances can be deceiving.

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The fabric had been folded over and stitched, with a satin ribbon facing. What appeared to be piping was actually part of the whole piece of fabric.  When taking completely apart, it became obvious, the only piece cut out of the fabric was what was likely trimmed away to allow the curve of the neckline to lie smoothly.

Here is the piece from the front of the top, after all stitching was removed and showing the only cut area.  The stripe is the back side of the fabric, which my mother in law said was her favorite part.

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Detail of one of the pleats expanded.

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The side seams and armscye facing show the selvage.

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FOU WAH  Hong Kong

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The full length skirt looked to be a simple, elastic waist straight evening skirt.

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But it was also carefully engineered with the expandable pleating.

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Looking inside the skirt shows how every inch of fabric was used, selvage to selvage.

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The inside front of the skirt was stitched down at the hem for ease of walking.

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A deceptively simple garment, still in wonderful condition after more than 50 years.

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After taking it apart, there was 4 pieces of yardage. So far I have only used the fabric from the skirt, making a dress to wear to the 50th birthday party for my husband’s brother, who was in utero when my mother in law wore the original garment.

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Someday the rest of the fabric will become a jacket, but for one night, I was the favorite daughter in law.

 

Skirting the Issue

Summer sewing has kept me busy, but it is so easy to procrastinate when it comes to blogging. The opportunity to do some unselfish sewing is the motivation to get back to the blog, passing along the information on a sweet project. Project Sewn’s Skirting the Issue collects handmade skirts to provide to girls in foster care, as they head back to school in the fall. This project tugged at my heart strings, reminding me how much I loved new school clothes, in particularly skirts and dresses. Remember how special you felt in the skirts that made you want to twirl in circles?

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I didn’t have much in my stash that was little girl friendly, only this polka dot and floral that I always thought would combine well. Earlier this summer I made a skirt from the dot and a skirt from the floral. Now a little girl will have a skirt in the combination of the two.

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This butterfly print cotton may not be too fall like, but it was too cute to resist.

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And butterfly buttons!

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This was the softest pinwale corduroy. I can still remember corduroy dresses my mother made for me and my sister, they were so soft to the touch.

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Maybe I remember this dress so well because as the younger sister, I wore mine, then as we grew, I wore my sister’s.

I loved embellishing and may have gotten carried away with the ribbon and ruffles.  I hope these skirts can bring a smile to the girls who receive them. Selecting the patterns, fabric and embellishment and the time sewing was a more meaningful experience then writing a check. I even made up a couple of the designs.

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I added one last detail to the inside.

I hope anyone who has the time can create a skirt for Project Sewn and drop me line with any similar projects.

 

Fast Cars, Fast Dress

The best thing about using a pattern for the second time is skipping the fitting, it’s just cut, sew, wear. Using a pattern that is a fast sew to start with, Pattern Review’s Winter Street Dress, for a second time and you have Formula One speed sewing and a comfy, casual dress to wear to the Detroit Grand Prix.

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I found a botanical print knit too pretty to resist at Haberman Fabrics. It was slightly sheer and had a very soft drape, so I underlined it with a solid knit similar in weight.

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To help stabilize all the bodice seams I used Emma Sebrooke Fusible Stay Tape, almost everywhere. Better safe than sorry. I love this stuff.

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It’s finally warm here, so this was could be a sleeveless version, with narrow bindings to finish the neckline and armholes.

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The pattern has a tulip skirt, but the fabric had such a soft drape, I changed it to an A-line and added some length.

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This is such a comfortable, soft dress, it’s like wearing a nightgown.

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The pleats in front and back add to the comfort.

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Cutting two layers took some time, but the dress can be made in an afternoon.

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As for the race, it was a lot of fun. There was a crazy jumping truck race before the main event.

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My husband was given VIP tickets from a vendor. Yeah, right, everyone is a VIP.

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Ok, I was skeptical about what VIP meant, but it turned out we had great seats in a covered , up close to the action spot with food included and best of all, nice restrooms.

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And it really was VIP. The man standing in the photo above is my husband, the woman sitting to his left is the CEO of General Motors. Next time I will not doubt him.

My face was still red and a little swollen from a skin treatment, so I spent the day hiding behind my sunglasses and hat.

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Signature Style via Project Sewn and the Ready to Wear Fast

Why participate in challenges? A theme, some parameters and a deadline can actually encourage creativity by narrowing focus. There are endless options for pattern and fabric combinations and it is so easy to build a stash of fabrics along with a stash of patterns. Sometimes I can just wallow in the stashes, unable to make a creative decision. For this group of Project Sewn Challenges, I really gave it some thought, even making notes, on actual paper. Going back and forth on decisions, digging through what I had, while keeping in mind the commitment to the Ready to Wear Fast. I needed wearable items to help get me through the summer season. Sticking to the themes narrowed my choices by process of elimination.

The first challenge,  Leading Lady, had me buying a new pattern and new fabric for my Grace Kelly inspiration. The second, Floral Frenzy, was stash fabric, stash pattern and a project I had started almost a year ago. Third up, Going Global, was another new pattern and new fabric. The final challenge of Signature Style is, appropriately, stash fabric and stash pattern.

The fabric was purchased last summer on a trip to Montreal, a city with a European feel and a surprising number of fabric shops. I was almost out of energy, time and money when I spotted this Italian brocade through the open doorway of a store I almost passed up, the not so European sounding, Sam’s Textiles.

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It sat in the closet for almost a year, just waiting for fabric, pattern and motivation to all come together. The pattern is from Butterick 5428, a lined sheath dress with princess seam darts, which create small pleats at the waist.  I chose to make it sleeveless.

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I used a peachy pink silk organza underlining, something I would have found too intimidating to do a few years ago. I took a class called the Little Sheath Dress with Helen Haughey at the American Sewing Expo two years ago and got past some unfounded fear. I’ve been sewing since I was a kid, but have learned more in the past 4 years than the previous 40. All the wonderful blogs, online classes and in person classes are inspiring and have really improved my sewing.

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The lining is a pale pink China silk. I did a hand picked stitch for the understitching around the neckline and armscye.

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I also bagged the lining at the hem, for a clean finish inside.

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The motivation came not only from Project Sewn, but in needing a dress for an event. As a college academic adviser, the annual commencement ceremony is a working event. Any graduation ceremony has a team of people working behind the scenes to pull it off, but we are still celebrating the achievement of our students and everyone dresses a little nicer than normal. Our ceremony is held at the beautiful Detroit Opera House, which has an incredible historic interior. One of my coworkers was kind enough to snap a few pictures before the festivities started.

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The lighting is very low to help preserve the beautiful walls and my dress was a little rumpled from the rain and being at my desk for a few hours before heading to the Opera House.

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Fortunately I had another opportunity to wear it again a week later for a business celebration dinner with my husband.

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Participating in the challenges gave me 4 very wearable outfits which I love to wear because the past 5 months of the Ready to Wear Fast has helped me define my style. I used to impulse shop, but I don’t impulse sew. :)

 

Going Global for Project Sewn

Round three of Project Sewn has us searching the globe for inspiration. Mine was found in 30 year old photos from a trip to the Dominican Republic.

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Although the photos have faded, I remember lots of white flowers and bright colors in the golf resort, decorated by Dominican native, Oscar de la Renta. I just wish I still had the lace skirt I made to wear on the trip.

Searching the Mood Fabrics web site, I came across an Oscar de la Renta, red and white flower twill, reminding me of the Dominican white flowers and bright colors.

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I had ordered a few dress patterns from Vogue Patterns and thought the Very Easy Vogue 8996 would be a good match for the fabric.

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Raising the neckline to make it more work friendly, I can wear it often and will always think of the white flowers of the Dominican Republic.

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The breeze on the golf course shows my hem facing.

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I added lace to the lining to make it look like a slip and add some fullness at the hem.

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Although the pattern did not show petite adjustments, I was able to shorten the bodice and lower the front darts.

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The pattern has the pockets in the seams of the center front panel, but I moved them to the side seams.

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It is a bright an cheery dress and an easy thrown it on and you’re dressed for summer outfit.

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When I wore it to meet my husband for lunch at a golf outing, I was concerned it was too bright. The concern was unfounded. Have you seen the colors some of the golfers wear? Yikes, there is no missing them on the golf course.

 

Floral Frenzy

On to Round 2 of Project Sewn - Floral Frenzy. Floral fashion is on trend and perfect for spring.

My floral silk fabric was purchased two springs ago, at Vogue Fabrics in Chicago. Not the flagship in Evanston, but the smaller, South Loop store. On a business trip with my husband, where almost every minute was scheduled, I managed to slip away for only 30 minutes of fabric shopping. It was an quick-impulse-buy kind of visit, but I bought the floral and a coordinating silk lining.

This project has been sitting under my cutting table since last fall and having a challenge created the motivation to pull it out and get to sewing.

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The top is Simplicity 1590, a 1940s retro pattern. I basted the lining and fashion fabric together and treated it like one fabric.

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The peplum is longer and fuller in the back. Some reviews mentioned needing to shorten it in back, but the drape of the fabric looked pretty, so I left it long. In a crisper fabric, it may look better shorter.

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The skirt is something I adapted from a pattern, but recut in a heavy weight tissue and did not mark with the original pattern name and number. I’m trying to develop better habits when it comes to notating pattern changes and adaptions.

Some where between an A-line and a circle, it is enough to have swing and pretty movement when you walk. The lining is only attached at the waist and zipper, so the floaty silk moves easily.

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Finally, some spring weather to wear a flowery spring outfit.

 

 

Project Sewn – Rear Window

Have you seen the latest round of Project Sewn Challenges? I don’t often participate in contests or challenges, but the Project Sewn themes always seem to fit with my sewing style.

First up is the Leading Lady Challenge, making a look inspired by a movie’s leading lady. After seeing an exhibit of Grace Kelly’s wardrobe and costumes  at the McCord Museum in Montreal last summer, I have admired her lady like style. grace kelly

In the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock movie, Rear Window, her character worked in the fashion industry, so the fashion she wore was important to the movie. Her wardrobe was designed by Edith Head.

Her  boyfriend in the movie, played by Jimmy Stewart, was stuck in his apartment with a broken leg and spent much of his time watching the activities of his neighbors as entertainment.

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My inspiration was the day dress which, proving you can do just about anything in a dress, Grace wore while climbing the neighbors balcony.

My updated version is Vogue 8993.

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The fabric is a pale peach embroidered cotton eyelet from Mood Fabrics.

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Now I have cool and comfy summer dress inspired by Grace Kelly.

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The pattern did not include the pleats in the back, but I added them to increase the fullness of the skirt.

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My neighbors are not nearly as intriguing as Jimmy Stewart’s and not a balcony in sight.

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