Monday, January 31, 2011

Vintage Ribbon Details

I'm currently packing for a cross-country move, and in the process of packing up my collection of vintage clothes, I'm struck once again by the gorgeous details that make them unique. Vintage fashion has been a love of mine for many years; my mother and I used to go to the Vintage Expo whenever it came to Los Angeles. We loved to just browse and admire, but we also bought- who could resist? When I was younger, I often got great bargains because I was able to fit into the tiny vintage sizes that most women couldn't buy. Happily some of those treasures still fit, and I've picked up more over the years.

Some vintage garments are distinctive due to construction details like pleating, or the quality of the tailoring, or through elaborate appliqu├ęs and beading. Others, though, use simpler methods that are still striking, like contrast trim or decorative pockets, which could be easily added to home made items. I'm planning to share photos of my collection, in the hopes of providing inspiration to other home seamstresses.


Today's post features this vintage cardigan, which is a pale heathered gray accented with grosgrain ribbon in white and charcoal forming a Greek key motif, as well as grosgrain-covered buttons. I love this sweater because it's clearly vintage, but at the same time has a modern feel. Plus, the idea of a ribbon detail like this could easily be used to spice up an existing sweater (and even cover a moth hole).


The cuffs are decorated with a half-key- check out the mitered edges and pointed ends!


Nothing was overlooked- even the back of the neck was nicely finished with a point and button.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

In Progress: Granny Square Blanket

I learned how to crochet several years ago. My grandmother taught me- she loved to crochet while watching TV, and everyone in our family has at least one of her striped afghans. So far, I haven't really gone beyond scarves, although I've wanted to. When I saw this blanket at the Purl Bee, though, I just had to try and make one of my own. It's still a work in progress but I love how it's coming together!


I'm using Cascade Yarns 100% Peruvian Wool in white, light grey, medium grey, and charcoal, transitioning from light to dark and back again. Although I'd never done one before, it was easy to learn how to crochet the granny square using these instructions.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Completed: Spring Top


So, this was the view out my window on Thursday morning. Naturally, the most appropriate sewing project for a snow day is a spring top. I used this tutorial for the "Spring Ruffle Top," written by Rae of Made by Rae, but skipped the ruffles and pockets from the original. The fabric is Rambling Rose by Philip Jacobs and it's 100% cotton.


This project came out much better than the denim skirt! The cotton was much easier to work with, and the instructions were super easy to follow. This was my first time doing pleats, but they came out nicely. It is a little long, so I may end up wearing it as a cover-up more than a blouse. However, this was so easy to make, I'm thinking of doing another one, but making it shorter and adding the ruffles. The contrasting fabrics in the original are so cute, I might try that next time too!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Completed: Denim Skirt

Definitely room for improvement!

Over the weekend, I made my first garment, a denim skirt. I used BurdaStyle's Sidonie #8281, which is a simple A-line skirt, although I shortened it by a few inches. Overall, I'm not thrilled with the result, but that's mainly my fault. I've already identified a few places where I went wrong:

- Although I checked the pattern size chart, I should have measured the pattern pieces or even done a muslin, because the skirt sits lower than I'd like, and the pattern was too big in the hips- I had to take in the hips midway through making the skirt.

- The fabric I chose, a mid-weight denim with a hint of stretch, was probably not ideal for a first project as it's fairly thick and stiff. It's also a little stiff for this skirt; I think I'd prefer this style in a drapey fabric.

- I may not remember as much about sewing as I thought I did! I used an online tutorial for inserting the invisible zipper, although I didn't have an invisible zipper foot (note to self: must buy one!), and that worked OK although there is some puckering below the zipper, which you can see in the photo below. Mostly I was so eager to get started that I just jumped into it, but I probably should have given myself a refresher on basic garment construction first.


That being said, I'm still satisfied with the results. I managed to complete the skirt, it basically fits, and I do think I'll wear it. However, I'll have to be more careful next time- I just bought some gorgeous fabrics and patterns and I do not want to mess those up! Luckily, I also bought a copy of the Reader's Digest New Complete Guide to Sewing, which I used the first time I learned to sew- it's exhaustive and I'm sure I'll be referring to it a LOT!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Completed: Throw pillow


This project was a pretty simple throw pillow, it came together in an evening. I drafted a "pattern" out of an old shopping bag for an 18" square pillow with a plain front and a button closure in the back. The fabric is something I picked up at F&S Fabrics for the Home last time I was in Los Angeles, and I just love it. It goes perfectly with the other colors in our living room- the peacock blue walls, the tan couch, the dark brown and black furniture, and the orange accents. The other pillows on the couch are a blue ikat pattern that I bought a few years ago at HomeGoods.


To close it, I made two of these modified frog closures. First I made bias tape by cutting strips of fabric, folding, and pressing them, then sewing one edge closed. To make the knot, I knotted one end loosely, then pulled the other end through the loop of the knot, which kept the knot from being too bulky. I used a few hand stitches to secure the knot, then attach it to the pillow. Overall, I like how they look, although the closure is gapping a little between the knots since I didn't allow enough overlap. A few sew-on snaps should solve that, though.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Getting (re)Started

This past Christmas, I did something that was, for me, pretty rare: I stopped talking about doing something, and did it. I bought a sewing machine.

I come from a family of seamstresses and crafters. My maternal grandmother sewed, crocheted, and made mixed-media wall art and murals. My mom carried on the tradition by sewing clothing for herself during her teens and twenties, and later Halloween costumes and play dresses for me. My paternal grandmother also sewed, and used to make gorgeous hand-smocked dresses for me when I was little. Her daughters, my aunts, sew and quilt in addition to making dolls and jewelry.

In this photo from 2005 (not my best hair era), I'm wearing a dress one of my aunts made
in the 1970s from 1940s fabric and a bakelite belt buckle.

Given all that, it's not surprising that I've got the crafting bug, too. I used to make jewelry, and I've dabbled in knitting and crocheting. About six summers ago, I took a sewing class through Santa Monica College's fashion program. During that class, I learned all the basics of operating a machine, reading a pattern, and constructing a garment. Then... I went back East to college and barely sewed at all for years. Between dorm rooms and NYC apartments, there was no space to even keep a machine, let alone spread out and work on a project. Still, I missed sewing, especially when paying exorbitant tailoring bills for the simplest alterations.

This year, I finally decided that I would make space somehow and bought a sewing machine. Sadly, I've forgotten most of what I learned about sewing. With the help of the internet, though, I'm sure I can make do. I'm hoping to tailor my own clothes, as well as make clothing and home items- and I'll record my progress here!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Completed: Simple Tree Skirt

Modeled by my somehow-still-living snake plant, since the Christmas tree is long gone.

Depending on how you look at it, this project is one month late, or eleven months early. Either way, it was a quick and easy project, good for someone like me who's just getting back into sewing. Now I'm all set for next Christmas!


The skirt is composed of 16 teardrop shaped petals, sewn together with a zigzag stitch, left open at the back for convenience, and open at the center to fit the tree.

Template and how-to from Martha Stewart Crafts, available here.