Shopping Post Election : Bring Your Own Bag

What to do when you have a case of the blahs after being sidelined by illness (shingles), dog problems (anxiety and panic attacks), post-election blues (he won), and can’t muster up the will or desire to finish making a simple pair of pants started in October?

Scrap it!  At least for now, and start afresh.

from pants to bag

The election on November 8 impacted my state of California in the following ways:

California was one of four states that voted to legalize recreational marijuana use.  That brings the total to 8 states where recreational marijuana use is legal. About half of the states have decriminalized medical marijuana use.

The ballot measure to repeal the death penalty failed, and the proposition to speed up the death penalty passed.  Since the death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, thirteen men have been executed, after being on Death Row for up to 24 years.  The last execution was in 2006.

Another measure on the ballot that passed by 52% bans single use plastic bags. Customers will be charged 10 cents for a paper bag, and 15 cents for a slighter thicker reusable plastic bag.

That adds up when doing grocery shopping every week. I’m bringing my own!  I gathered up my store bought ones which I think are made from polyethylene (whatever that is).

I also decided to make a tote/shopping bag from a canvas or twill scrap of fabric bought for 50 cents at the thrift store and denim cut from a pair of old jeans.

Shopping Bag Ribbon on Denim Pocket

I looked at two bags I had for construction details – one is a heavier tote bag and the other is lightweight and folds up to a small size.

2 Sample Bags

I made my bag without a bottom seam like both of my sample bags.

I sewed french seams on the side seams.

Box Corner and French Seams

I sewed box corners like the ones on my Queen Mary tote bag.  I don’t think they worked out quite right, and the bottom of the bag is a little narrow.

I used denim for a pocket and the straps.  I changed to a heavyweight denim needle, and used gold thread on the bag to match the jeans.  The hardest part of this project was sewing through the layers of the denim straps where they attach to the bag.  My machine was groaning! I had to turn the wheel by hand to get through the tough spots.

Shopping Bag Inside top

Shopping Bag Pocket Side

Shopping Bag Plain Side

Shopping Bag in Use

No, I don’t live on donuts and potato chips.  The photo is for illustrative purposes only.

I would also like to make a thin roll-up bag like the German bag pictured.  I’ve used that one quite a bit.

I’m happy I got through this project.  Something simple, fast, and useful was just what I needed to help beat my doldrums.

 

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A Simple Dress Refashion

I bought a long dress from the thrift store even though I knew it was too tight for me in the bodice.  The waist and hips were plenty roomy.  The dress is rayon with a small rose print on a black background.

The style featured ties emerging from the side seams below the bust further emphasizing the too tight fit in that area.

I was being a little dramatic making it look like I popped the button in the photo!

Rose Print Dress Before

When I bought the dress I thought I would make it into a skirt, but I really preferred to have a dress.  I don’t have enough dresses, and need more for the ease of wearing – no matching of a top and bottom needed – and hopefully figure lengthening properties.

What to do?

I made three little changes that made a big difference!

I hemmed the dress at knee length.

I removed the side ties, sewed them together, and made a belt to be worn at the natural waist.

Bodice Close-up

I cut the neckline lower into a v-shape removing the top button.  That gave me more “give” across the bust, and suddenly the bodice fit.  I also wore a different bra that helped the fit, and I might have lost a few pounds, but not many as both before and after photos were taken in the same month.

I was going to make inseam pockets with the leftover fabric,  but was having a really hard time unpicking the seam, so I ended up scrapping that idea.

Rose Shirtdress After

Rose Shirtdress Back

Just a few little changes, and my figure looks much more balanced.  Wouldn’t you agree?

shirtdress-beforeafter-800x800

 

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The Dress Doctor Part 2

Last week, I reviewed the book I bought at an estate sale,  “The Dress Doctor” by Edith Head.  Miss Head won 8 Oscars for costume design, and dressed most of the leading ladies in Hollywood movies in the 1930s through the 1960s.

This week I’m going to get personal, and show some fashion examples from my own life.

Prescriptions for Dressing drawing by Edith Head

At the end of the book, Miss Head offers her prescriptions for dressing for everything from sports to housework.  (Sorry Mrs. Cleaver, high heels are not appropriate for doing the dishes).

Pictured above is her prescription written in 1959 for dressing for amusement parks. Let’s see how our clothes stacked up some years later, in the mid 1960s at Disneyland in Anaheim, California.

Disneyland in the mid 1960's

Pretty much spot on! My mother and I, the towheaded girl, and the hand-on- head woman are all wearing what could be described as sport dresses or simple street dresses. I’m not sure about the redheaded woman – could she be wearing shorts? The pig is dressed up a bit more but is still within the rules as hats and gloves are optional, assuming that the dress code for males is the same.

Within about five years of this date, the dividing line for which clothes are appropriate for school, work, and play had blurred and changed. The fashion prescriptions of Miss Head, which had been the norms of society, would be discarded by young and old alike as a new casual style of dress took over.

My Favorite Guinea Pig drawing by Edith Head

Miss Head advises to experiment with clothes, and to be objective when trying on an outfit. “If it were possible to have a Polaroid camera along, snap your own picture and develop it at once, you’d make fewer mistakes”.  Just imagine lugging a big Polaroid camera into the dressing room, snapping a shot, waving the picture, and waiting for it to develop!  Of course this wasn’t practical, but this advice certainly works in the age of the “selfie”.

I fit Edith’s Head category of “too short” and her advice to my figure type is to use one color, never cut the body line, omit belts or use narrow belts, avoid a too-long dress length, and keep the silhouette slim and simple.

I decided to try my own experimenting in a department store dressing room.  It’s the store with the big balloons.  I’m keeping in mind Miss Head’s advice to accentuate my good points, and camouflage my figure faults.

Now, I wouldn’t ordinarily post unflattering photos of myself as I have a feminine sense of vanity about my appearance.

1960's tot admires her bracelet

And I know the importance of the right accessory.

1960's little girl loves her new bracelet

You’re never too young or too old to develop your own style!

Back to my experiment:  Here I try on a tent or trapeze shaped dress. The fabric is linen which is what I liked about it.

dressing room unflattering tent dress

trying on linen tent dress

 

 

 

 

 

All wrong! Too long for me, and even though the dress is so big and baggy it still manages to cling in an unflattering way to my high hip or haunches. Maybe I could wear this shape if the dress was belted, and hit just above the knee.  I find that waist definition is important for my figure.

Next I try on a knit top with a draped neckline, and a gathered skirt.  Better!

Polyester Outfit in Dressing Room

Cons: they are both polyester, the skirt is unlined and doesn’t have pockets, gathered skirt adds bulk to waistline, top is wrong length to wear untucked.

Pros:  draped neckline on top is flattering, like the deep blue color of the top, skirt will go with all solid colored knit tops.

I didn’t buy any of these pieces.  I feel fortunate that I have sewing skills, and can make/alter a garment to be more to my liking.  As I’ve gotten older and  the letters in my closet have changed from S to L, I find that the fit is “off” on most of the clothes I try on.

One of my favorite stories from the book is about the clothes for Connie Stevens, who was playing a small town girl in the movie “Rock-a-Bye Baby”.  Her co-star, Jerry Lewis, suggested that since her character didn’t need fancy clothes, she could just go the the store and buy something to wear.  When Jerry was shown the result of her shopping trip he said to Miss Head, “Make ’em!”  Apparently, the clothes weren’t very flattering, even to a young, slim starlet.

“Ready-made clothes are made to fit anyone and each individual has figure differences.  In making your own clothes, you can adjust to those figure differences, play up your good points, see that the waist fits at the waist, the shoulders are exactly the right width, the darts in the right place.”

“Clothes are the way you present yourself to the world; they affect the way the world feels and thinks about you; subconsciously they effect the way you feel and think about yourself.”

According to Miss Head, the most essential thing that clothes should do for you is to make you feel comfortable and assured.  Now that’s a prescription that never goes out of style!

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The Dress Doctor by Edith Head

I noticed a book at an estate sale with a dress form on the cover, picked it up, and discovered I had a first edition copy dated 1959 of the book “The Dress Doctor” by Edith Head.  I bought it!

I got a good deal. The book is selling on Amazon for $61 and up.  The 2011 reissue is not the original book, but a very abridged version.  However, many libraries have a copy.

I remember watching Oscar telecasts as a little girl with my mother, and  hearing Edith Head’s name being called as a nominee in the costume design category.  Miss Head was nominated 35 times in her career, and won 8 Academy Awards, 6 of them in the 1950s.

In the book, she tells of being a French and art teacher at the Hollywood School for Girls in the 1920s, where her pupils included the de Mille daughters.  Some days they would shut down school, and go to Paramount to watch Mr. De Mille direct a scene.  Evidently, Miss Head found the movie business to her liking; during  summer vacation she answered an ad for a sketch artist at Paramount. Even though she couldn’t draw,  she got the job by bringing to the interview other students’ drawings from the art school she was attending.

The doctor hangs up her shingle drawing

She began designing for silent pictures and westerns.  Her first  design that garnered attention was the sarong dress designed for Dorothy Lamour in the 1930s.

In 1949, a category for costume design was added to the Academy Awards, and Miss Head received her first nomination.  She didn’t win until the next year, for “The Heiress”, in which she designed  clothes whose purpose was to make Olivia de Havilland look plain and unattractive.  Up until 1968, the Academy awarded two costume design Oscars, one for color, and one for black and white.  Six of Miss Head’s wins were for black and white pictures, including “All About Eve” in 1951 and “Roman Holiday” in 1954.

Edith Head worked with all the top female stars of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, and in the book describes costume fitting sessions with Clara Bow, Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Barbara Stanwyck, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, and many others, and offers little anecdotes about their personalities.  Nothing snarky here – all the best stories were doubtless omitted as a dress doctor has an oath of confidentiality  to consider.

Miss Head worked on some of the greatest classic movies and my all-time favorites: dressing Bette Davis in “All About Eve”, Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday, Grace Kelly in “Rear Window”, Kim Novak in “Vertigo” and Tippi Hedren in “The Birds”.

In the book, fashion advice is also given to the ordinary woman.  Miss Head appeared on a radio show with Art Linkletter in the the 1940s where she gave fashion pointers to the women in the audience.    I thought it very quaint to give fashion advice without any visuals, but then I remembered that the designer Mr. Blackwell, best known for his “worst dressed” annual lists, had a radio talk show broadcast from Los Angeles in the 1970s in which he did the same thing.

The show with Art Linkletter made it to television in 1952.  It was a fun show: contests to shop and select accessories, fashions shows, and a staple of women’s daytime entertainment: the makeover.

What Clothes Can Do for You drawing by Edith Head

My favorite part of the book is the section on what clothes can do for you.

“You are a woman with weapons, why not use them?  Why be a sheep when you can be a self?”

“Everyone has a day’s work, a career, in home, office or wherever, and why not express your individuality?  See how you can best dress for the day’s work to give yourself assurance.  Life is competitive; clothes gird us for the competition.”

Miss Head sums up her advice in three rules:

  1.  Be dressed for what you are doing.
  2.  Have the right accessories.
  3.  Don’t wear your clothes too tight.  A dress should be tight enough to show you’re a woman and loose enough to prove you’re a lady.

How do you think that advice holds up in the 21st Century?

Next week, in the The Dress Doctor Part 2, I will apply some of her concepts to myself, past and present.

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Refashion with McCalls 7131

It’s hot and I need fashion relief.

I bought this long rayon skirt at the thrift store.  I love the print, and it was even pretty worn as is (or as was).

Long Skirt Before Pic

The skirt had 3 panels on each side, and a wide, shirred elastic waist.

Long Skirt showing seaming

inside out with seams showing

I wanted to make a fun, weekend look, but instead of hemming the skirt to knee length I decided to try something different.

Enter McCalls 7131.  Yes, I have finally become a culottes convert.  A cool and loose item of clothing halfway between shorts and a skirt (with pockets) suddenly seemed just what I needed this summer.

McCalls7131

By putting the pattern at the bottom of the skirt, and making the short version, I had just enough fabric to cut out my pieces.  I used the top third of the skirt to make the pockets.

Culottes pattern with pleating lines marked

dotted lines showing pleat markings

This pattern isn’t based on a circle skirt like some culottes patterns.  Instead it has box pleats in the front, and an elastic waist only in the back.  The center inverted box pleat is stitched down partway, and forms the “camouflage” pleat hiding the center front seam so that the culottes look more like a skirt.

Center Inverted Pleat I bypassed the waistband instructions as I had unpicked the original elastic waist to sew back onto my culottes.  I wanted the back to look like a skirt, too, so I also added pleats to the back, including the center “camouflage” pleat.  I think it’s odd that the pattern only had that center box pleat in the front.  I didn’t make a mock-up of this pattern or compare the crotch curve to a previous pattern, but luckily it worked out well.  I assumed that culottes would have a lowered crotch to look more like a skirt, and would be easy to fit.

Waistband of Culottes

I made a size 14, and the waist would have been way too big if the front wasn’t also elasticized.  I had to stretch the original waistband mightily to make it fit!

These are being worn! Not just on weekends, but to the office, too.

Culottes Refashion

Culottes Back

These culottes catch every breeze, and I don’t have to worry about wearing a slip or chafing.

Every make I’ve seen of culottes on sewing blogs has a reveal shot showing that it’s not a skirt.

Should I do it?

I couldn’t resist.

Culottes Reveal Shot

 

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Plain Grey Tee

What to do when I want to make some tees and don’t have any knit fabric in my stash?  Find a tee shirt in a thrift store, the bigger the better, and use the fabric.  A men’s 3X size certainly fit the bill.  It was massive!

I partly used the pattern and instructions for the  Kirsten Kimono tee, (free when you subscribe to the newsletter), but I also used an existing tee to get the right fit and I cut the same neckline as that tee.  I was going to make the size M but it turns out I’m more of a size L.  I added a 1/2 inch inch seam allowance to the pattern.

cutting out from 3X tee

I used the original bottom hem of the tee, and double needle hemmed the kimono sleeves.  I unpicked the ribbed neck from the original tee, shortened it, and sewed it to my new tee.

Grey tee on hanger

This might become my new favorite tee.

Close up of Grey Tee

I didn’t have any twill tape or knit tape to reinforce the neckline or shoulders, so I might have a problem with these areas getting stretched out of shape.

Grey Tee with shorts

 

I also experimented with a thrifted big white tee.  I made the fit relaxed but not oversized.  Again, I unpicked the original ribbed neck, resized it, and stitched it to my new neckline.  The join is a bit awkward at the back of the neck.  Maybe I should try to reposition it next time.

white tee on hanger

This time I also unpicked and reused the long reinforcing strip made from the same knit fabric as the shirt by sewing it to the neck and shoulders.

reinforced neck and shoulder

I tried out a different technique and made a wavy lettuce hem.  I sewed a very close, wide zigzag on a double thickness of fabric while stretching the fabric, and then trimmed close to the stitching on the inside.  I used this tutorial on lettuce hems published on Craftsy.

wavy lettuce hem

White Lettuce Tee

If you’d like more information and ideas on sewing knits take a look at my “learn to sew knits” board on Pinterest.

More experimenting with thrifted tees to follow!

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Crazy Quilt Coverlet

It’s not a quilt, and it’s not exactly crazy, but I did find a use for this beautiful fabric, thrifted for $1, from my stash.  The fabric is textured with surface stitching like a quilt, but is not pieced.

Crazy Quilt Fabric (800x600)

I paired it with every last bit of a pale green fabric I had, and a cotton eyelet trim that had been given to me.  I used french seams throughout so all of the raw edges are enclosed.

Spring Coverlet on Line

Folded Coverlet

Coverlet on bed

coverlet on bed2

It’s so feminine and fresh for spring and summer.  I love it!

I also finished the flower basket embroidery on my muslin cloth.  This was also an item from the thrift store.  Instead of matching colors from my existing floss, I bought DMC #8 perle cotton after I looked closely and realized it was used in the one stitched corner. Perle cotton is a lustrous, twisted non-divisible thread. It was worth the extra expense because it’s so beautiful, and a joy to work with.

DMC perle cotton #8

I put tissue paper over the fabric, snapped on the top hoop, and then tore back the tissue paper to protect the fabric from the hoop.

tissue paper with hoop

I used a running stitch, satin stitch, and many lazy daisy stitches. So many petals and yet the flowers didn’t come alive until the french knots were added.

flowers with french knots

french knot detail

Unlike the rest of the stitches, I need to sit at a table to form the french knots.  I made 3 twists around the needle.  I brushed up on tips on this stitch because they can be tricky.  In the past, I’ve had french knots go through the fabric or be loose and sloppy.  These look good!

working on french knots

I embroidered the three unstitched corners.  My work is on the left and the original completed flower basket is on the right.  I did a good job matching threads, although the brown and light lavender are a shade different.

2 stitchers comparison

I’ll put it away for now, with plans to add to it later.  I want to get back to my summer clothes sewing.

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