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Friday, April 29, 2011

Quick Mens Shirt Refashion:Peasant Tunic

I'm sure some of you might think this shirt looked fine before but for some reason I hardly ever wear button down shirts. This was a men's shirt I bought at the thrift shop. It was from the Liberty of London line that Target released last year and I  loved the fabric and wanted to make it wearable. Here is a quick tutorial to make a mens shirt feminine.

Also sew the shirt placket down on both sides so it doesn't open anymore.

Don't sew the elastic yet. Just mark  the sewing line for it.

Leave a small gap to pull elastic through. You can figure out how long to make the elastic. Pull the elastic through with a safety pin and sew the ends together.

Don't make the elastic too tight! Pull the elastic as you sew it. These stitches look really messy but you won't really notice them once the elastic is all gathered.

Leave a gap in the casing here to to thread your arm elastic through then sew the elastic together.

As you can see it's a feminine and easy to throw on top now! 

However, to improve the fit I would suggest taking in and narrowing the area around the sleeve and side seam a little bit next time before you sew the elastic down. I was too lazy to remove all those zig zag stitches to take off the elastic so this will have to do. This would also be a cut top do make for a little girl.
Well I HATED how this looked on me so I took the whole thing apart and took in the side seams and made the armhole smaller.

 So here is the FINAL result. I just couldn't let this beautiful Liberty fabric go to waste so I just kept plugging away!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Slipcovered Piano Bench Before and After

Before we moved here we lived in an old Spanish style house. It was dark inside with dark wood ceilings and curved walls and black wrought iron balconies and decks. It was a a bachelor party house before we had bought and came equipped with the required jacuzzi and wet bar in the den. It was about as different from this light filled old fashioned house as you could get. We had it furnished in a sort of Euro-Regal boudoir style if you could call it that. I had put Venetian marble plaster on the walls and even had made red velvet swag curtains. Sort of like a fancy Italian restaurant. It was probably pretty tacky now that I think of it. Isn't it funny how our tastes can change so completely?
When we moved I wanted to sell everything and start over because it wasn't really me but Richard loved the furniture and rugs and didn't want to part with them so I have been gradually lightening things up on my own. One thing that will probably always stay put is this red piano we bought off Craigslist in Los Angeles. Apparently this piano has a colorful history and once belonged to the estate of Marlene Dietrich and was sold to an Iranian antiques dealer by Ms. Dietrich's daughter . It was then bought by us from said dealer. Well, that was the story he told us and it does have some cigarrette burns on it so SOMEONE had a good time with it!
The chair is an old French piece which is very pretty but is just too fancy and busy with the rug and yellow flowered curtains.

I didn't take pictures of the sewing process but slipcovers are actually pretty simple. I think a beginner could probably tackle this project. You drape the fabric directly to the furniture and pin it to the seams and trace the seams with chalk. Then you add the seam allowance and cut the pieces. For the skirt on the piano bench you double the width and gather. I made some piping and added that , making the project a bit more complicated.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Humble Housedress

Growing up in the 70's and 80's my mother would often talk about the way housewives from her mother's generation were treated unfairly and how the only job my grandmother could get outside of the home was that of a waitress. Mom had books like The Cinderella Complex on her nightstand and early editions of Cosmopolitan magazine.

 In the seventies and eighties it was considered old fashioned to be domestic and cooking, cleaning and sewing were reminders of a time when women didn't have many choices and were forced to take home economics classes in high school. Sadly enough, today you will be lucky to still find a school that has sewing on the curriculum. Most of these programs have been cut and I have just found out that our local community college is also cutting its clothing construction course. Society at large in this era preached for women to get out of the house and pursue more satisfying work. Sewing machines were left in closets to gather dust and the housedress was a relic of an earlier time when most women didn't have a choice but to be housewives.Young women wanted to be like Mary Tyler Moore with her stylish pantsuits and scarves, making her way in what used to be a mans world.
It would be awhile before businesswomen like Martha Stewart would usher in the return of the domestic  arts and actually make domestic pursuits fashionable again.
  My image of the housewife was formed by TV shows like The Brady Bunch and I certainly never saw Carol Brady in a housedress. She didn't need one when she had Alice to do all the cleaning for her! Someone who DID wear house dresses was the busybody Mrs. Roper from Three's Company, always getting into the business of the cool liberated folks downstairs! So my association with the housedress was that of the Mu- Mu, which I forever associate with Mrs. Roper. Who would have thought the Mu mu style would make a comeback as you can see below?

Mrs Roper, everyone's favorite busybody.

A fashionable version of the mu-mu or caftan.

  Women can now pick and choose their lifestyles and we have those earlier feminists to thank for that, even if they did tip to the other side of the pendulum. I actually feel fortunate that I can afford to be a stay at home mom. The modern DIY movement  has readopted practices from our self-sufficient grandparents like sewing, canning, and maintaining food gardens. The return to ways of the past are a reaction to our consumerist and disposable culture where things are discarded without a thought of the work that may have been put into making them. Of course, many people never stopped doing these things in the first place but now they seem to be fashionable again, to look at all the books on self-sufficient living in any bookstore.
So what about the poor misundertood housedress? It actually never went away and designers like Diane Von Furstenburg adapted the style for the modern woman.  Her wrap dress was actually a housedress in disguise for the modern woman, being utilitarian, closing with a wrap tie, and comfortable enough to wear while doing things around the house.

The classic Diane Von Furstenburg wrap dress, first designed in 1975 and still being made by her today, as well as being widely copied.

My version of the wrap dress sewn from Burda Pattern 7828

 On the other hand, some housedresses from the 60's or later morphed into the shapeless style worn by Mrs. Roper or became the zippered robe. Positively depressing darling !
 Housedress patterns from the past are still relatively easy to find and would be a fun venture into the realm of vintage sewing since many of them have a pretty simple construction compared to the complicated day and evening dress patterns of the time. Below are some examples of housedress patterns from the forties through the fifties :

Isn't it funny how these patterns were considered only suitable for wearing at home back when they were released while if you would wear one out now you would be considered dressed up? In our super casual culture today where people wear flannel pajamas to the grocery store these are positively elegant!
So of the five housedress patterns shown, which is YOUR favorite?

 Well, I wouldn't go this far...

And here I am in the dress I chose to make, Simplicity 2171 from 1947.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Collette Patterns : So Cute!

I have been reading about Colette Patterns on other blogs for awhile now and I can't believe I have never checked them out until now. They have a really vintage and feminine feel and I can't wait to try them. Here are some styles I would love to try . If you haven't already noticed the models are rather curvy for modeling standards but it's perhaps a smart marketing move because most women can see what the dress will more closely look like on themselves.  Let's face it, even mediocre styles can look great on someone with the long, lean proportions of most models. I love the set designs and styling too.

 Beignet Skirt

Ceylon Dress

Chantilly Dress

Crepe Dress

Friday, April 22, 2011

Hiking the back mountain

The past few days I actually put all my sewing things in the dining room away to do Spring Cleaning and get ready to spend some quality time with friends and family. My good friend was flying in with her family from North Carolina to stay with us for two days. It's been a busy few days .We went to the Santa Barbara Zoo, played on the beach, went hiking up on the mountain behind the orange groves, had a cookout while the kids roasted marshmallows and the grownups enjoyed some wine. Today I took all four of my kids and some of their friends to a tour of the UCLA campus down in Los Angeles followed by lunch with my best friend and her daughter. There were 10 of us in all ! On the way home we stopped at the Malibu Surfrider beach to watch the surfers. It was an end to a perfect few days. 
I hope all of you have a joyous and blessed Easter .

 Girls on the hike. 

What's a California ranch without some rusted out clunkers on it?

An orange tree. But you probably know that.

This tree grows blood oranges, so sweet and delicious, but messy.

The view from the top of the hill. The valley below was once trekked by the Spanish Missionaries who would walk from the Mission San Fernando to the east of us to the Mission San Buenaventura, near the ocean to the west of here. They built all of the missions to be within a days walk of one another.
A mystery fruit. Can anyone identify this?

 Trekking along...
and hitching a ride down with Daddy.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Clutter Monster

Yikes !! That baby is about to have an avalanche of stuff fall on her! Do you have a dumping ground like this at your house? This is mine. Actually I have another one upstairs in my back room but I choose not to photograph that one. This is supposed to be a pantry. Some of the things I got rid that didn't belong here were an unused breast milk pump, a Pac- Man lunchbox from 1982 I was saving for my kids which they never used, lamp shades, medicines, old vitamins, placemats, a deflated exercise ball, a broken iron, and a 20+ set of cooking books from the Grand Diplome Cooking Course that my mom bought me when I was a teenager and I can't bear to unload.

This is how much better it looked after only  half an hour.
My Grandmother once said.." If you are feeling depressed, clean out a closet."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Making A First Communion Dress: Simplicity 3984

First of all let me introduce you properly to Miss L. Here she is at almost two years old. She has been a diva since day one.. Oy Vey!

And here she is "in character" for her role as Amber in the musical Hair Spray. The makeup was only for the play. Don't start thinking I'm one of those moms from Toddlers and Tiaras now! For those of you not in the know it's a reality show that chronicles the lives of pint sized beauty queens and their perversely controlling stage moms who live vicariously through their little ones. Someone please call child protective services on these moms already! Can putting pounds of makeup and hairspray on a two year and then sending her down a runway to be judged on her "beauty" be considered child abuse?  Did I mention I hate child beauty pageants? As an aside, the dress is something I whipped up for her from a McCalls pattern. The fabric was only one dollar a yard. Love that. I never did get to hemming the lace .
So I have been working out the design for my Miss L's First Communion Dress. Is there a word for a mini- bridezilla? I can't believe how bossy this kid has gotten about this dress design and how all over the place she is... Clients, I'll tell you !! Oh yes, this is my eight year old I'm talking about here. Isn't it me who is supposed to be the boss? Well, here are a couple ideas she likes..

As you can imagine, I'm not too thrilled about doing all those pick ups and I was hoping to make something a bit more classic maybe. Here is another choice:

 This is just like a miniature wedding gown... hours of draping on that skirt there.
What happened to simple First Communion dresses like this?
So we made a compromise and have agreed on this one..

 Simplicity 3984
I will be changing it a bit but it will look similar to the pink dress on the bottom right drawing. I'm almost halfway done. The hardest part so far has been  making the petticoat. Those of you who sew vintage , do you have a hard time making petticoats? I've cut yards and yards of tulle layers and I still need to tack them to the slip. We are doing the dress in silk shantung with silk organza roses and sash. 
Stay tuned..

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