Fun with Vintage Piping on New Jammies

I have a couple of TNT sleepwear patterns, but I was hankering for something new for my “easy and cheap” jammies project. I chose McCall’s 7297 because I like the close-fitting top, and I thought the cute neckline detail would give me a chance to use some vintage piping from my grandmother’s stash. Plus, Joann had a $1.99 special on McCall’s patterns – must be thrifty! I had everything else for the project in stash, including four yards of 100% cotton jersey in sky blue.

My grandmother’s favorite color was hot pink. She had hot pink tiles in her kitchen and bathroom and an oriental rug prominently featuring hot pink. I inherited that rug, but I had to get rid of it when I realized the color was the exact shade of Pepto-Bismol.

We found a small stash in her home when she died – a few patterns, some thread and needles, a baby-food jar full of buttons, and a few odd trims, like iron-on hem tape. We also found a couple of packages of piping, including one in hot pink, natch:

 

Three yards for 19 cents was quite a bargain! I love the offer to send 3 labels and 15 cents to Wright’s in Massachusetts to get a bag of trimmings for doll clothes. I wonder what would happen if I tried that now?

I walked the pattern with a measuring tape, and I thought I had just enough to add piping to the neckline and cuffs (wrists and ankles) of the PJs. I sandwiched it with some fleece binding for extra comfiness. I got the top done and went on to the pants. Oh no!

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Six inches too short for the second pants cuff! CRAP!

The vintage piping is color #67, Rose, 100% cotton. Wright’s does not make this color anymore, but it offers something similar, color #1232, Berry Sorbet, a bit more purply than the original. And it’s a cotton-poly blend. Boo.

I toyed with the idea of buying some cording and a fat quarter of quilting fabric in as close a color as I could find, and making my own piping for that second leg. But what a chore for one pant leg!

Then I wondered if a vintage store near me, the English Building Market, would have something similar. I’ve had fun looking through their antique buttons and I’ve bought old zippers and trims there before – could lightning strike twice? Behold!

 

The original cost 15 cents for 4 yards. The vintage shop sold it to me for $1 (I think a new package of 2.5 yards costs around $2). It’s the right color but uses slightly smaller cording than the original from my grandmother. I don’t think it’s noticeable. Can you tell on the pants which is the larger?

This piping was even older than my grandmother’s, to judge the packaging. You can get a bag of trims for doll’s clothes for 10 cents! They also call the fabric nainsook, which I had never heard of. The dictionary says nainsook is a fine, soft cotton fabric, originally from South Asia. Cool!

And I love how these old-timey packages would have a picture of the moldy founder of the company – like, “If some old white dude’s face is on the label, it’s got to be good!” Later Wright’s put a model “of a certain age” on the label, Notice her blouse uses no trims of any kind that you can see, but she does look like she knows her way around a sewing machine.

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And now there’s no model at all. Double boo. Maybe if I send them a picture of me in my new jammies, they’ll make me a cover girl?

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I wouldn’t count on it. Nonetheless, here I am in my finished project. Note the geeky owl-face slippers.

Jammies are a great project for beginning sewists because they’re relatively loose-fitting and they require few complex construction techniques. This pattern, for example, has an elastic waist and no buttons. You can use nice soft cotton that’s easy to work with. And if they’re not perfect, you can still wear them. For example, I goofed a bit on the legs and there are a couple of small tucks in the fabric where the cuffs went in. So what? Also, the topstitching at the neckline’s a bit wavy. Who cares?

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The Penguin Meets the Joker in a Fabulous Shirt

Finished my “Joker” shirt from Oki Style. Behold:

I need to get my husband to get some pictures of me modeling it.

I think it’s not as penguin-like as I had feared, with the addition of the black collar. I think it will be a very sharp look with a pencil skirt or cigarette pants.

The shirt is not really hard to make, it’s just very different from any shirt you ever had. The pleats and darts are symmetrical, but the hemline is not. And the wrap-around yoke-raglan sleeve combo is a strange shape. It all goes together very well though. This is close-fitting, but you can manipulate the darts and pleats to adjust for fit. I took in the massive center-back pleat a bit, so it doesn’t come to  sharp point at the yoke. I can live with that.

As per usual with indie designers, I dislike that the pattern does not include bust point, waistline or center front markings. Also, I kind of wish that the sleeves had a cuff or other detail – the plain fold-and-topstitch treatment is a little “meh” for such a cool shirt. I might add some black cuffs. We’ll see how it wears.

The Penguin Strikes Again?

The Joker shirt from Oki Style has such interesting seams that I thought I’d color-block it a bit to showcase the design. Crisp white shirting with black accents seemed like a great idea, for looks and wearability. But as I sewed up the unusual yoke-sleeve pieces together, I worry that I have gone wrong

Will I look like a penguin?

As you can see, the front is all white, with the black starting at the shoulder. The back has this color-blocked detail in the yoke, training into the sleeves. The final look is not unlike penguin wings.

I haven’t sewn on the collar yet – it’s a standard pointed collar with collar stand. I was thinking I would make it black to draw the color into the front of the shirt and create one line in the back, but maybe now I will make it white. The shirt will end up with a “business in the front, party in the back” look, though.

Also, the sleeves have no cuffs, and I was thinking of making black cuffs just to complete the look. What do you think?

Baby Showers

I spent the afternoon at a baby shower for a friend. Is there any thing more “Distaff Side” than a baby shower?

Cucumber sandwiches? Check.

Mini pastries? Check.

Fancy teas served in real teacups, with saucers? Check.

I spent a lot of time figuring out what to wear. The mother-to-be is about 15 years younger than I am, so I fell into the trap of decisions – do I dress younger, to fit in better with the 30-something friends, or do I dress a bit older, to blend in with the moms and aunts? Also, it’s an artsy crowd, so I needed to avoid anything normcore.

I went for a “High School Art Teacher” look, with a Babette asymmetical white blouse, my wide-leg black jeans from Simplicity 3688 and my red bomber jacket from Simplicity 8174. I wore Cole Haan booties and this big heavy necklace made of some iridescent stones. The necklace was a big hit. You know you hit at least one right note when some Art History Ph.D. asks you where you got your necklace.

If I am close to the mother-to-be, I will sew up a little gift or even a small quilt. I am not that close to this friend, and I wasn’t sure how well “handmade” would go over with her anyway, so I bought something from her registry – this “Boppy” pillow thing. Whatever is it for? I couldn’t say.

It was a nice party. Thankfully, it was not one of those showers were everyone sits around for an hour watching the mom-to-be open presents. Rather, there was a little speech by the grandmothers-to-be, and otherwise we all mingled and snacked. I met a lot of fascinating people. It was fun to be among all women, of different generations, bumping in to one another and finding common ground.

I don’t have kids, so I don’t get the cultural parts of motherhood. One of the grandmothers-to-be speech was about this greeting card that she got back when she was pregnant with the expectant father. The card depicts an illustration from The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Turns out, the other grandmother-to-be got a photo album with the same image when she was pregnant. And two women among the guests got the same album when they were pregnant. Of course, this album was purchased as a gift for the shower. (Image: source)

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Everyone held this story up as proof of some cosmic connection we all have. The way I figure it, if you’re an artsy type, you’ll buy your cards and gifts at art museums, and art museums probably have a few staple cards they’ve sold  forever, based on items in their collections. So when you have a bunch of artsy people together, voila! Coincidences!

I bought my card at Walgreen’s, so what does that say about me?

Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

I flirted with but ultimately rejected the idea of doing the National Novel-Writing Month challenge again. NaNoWriMo (as it’s very geekily called) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during November. That’s about 1,670 words a day, or about 5 to 7 pages, depending on how you write.

I completed the challenge, writing 50,000 or more words, in November 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each of those years, I followed professional writing disciplines, such as outlining the plot and completing character studies. In 2014, I volunteered as my region’s coordinator for the program, so I gave pep talks, set up “write-ins” at area libraries, fielded questions, held hands, and organized parties for the kick-off and the completion celebration.

I ended up with three very rough first drafts of novels, since 50,000 words is really more novella length – not enough for the complexity of my stories. I tried writing mainstream fiction, each based on a “big” concept or theme, such as sovereignty over one’s body, or technology’s tendency to disenfranchise people who don’t get it. Yeah, pretty heady concepts, and pretty pretentious, looking back on it.

I gave myself a break last year because of work pressures, and told myself I would instead work on revising the most promising of the three novels. Rereading the manuscripts, I was by turns delighted and horrified by what I’d written. I couldn’t really make headway on the best of the lot, so I set the whole thing aside for another day.

I have since tried “The Artist’s Way” to reconnect with my desire to write, but a roadblock proves immovable so far.

The work pressure is off this year, but I find myself unenthusiastic about trying again:

  • I don’t need a fourth unfinished half-assed novel in my life. I am afraid of failure and always driven to achieve things. Getting the “yay” moment at 50,000 words is nice, but it’s not enough for me anymore.
  • I’d rather spend my time doing other things, such as sewing, taking care of my health, and building my career.
  • The effort is not that great for me, since I can write very quickly and my long commute affords plenty of time. But the project took me away from my husband a lot in November; he resented it, and I felt guilty.
  • I never connected well with anyone in my community like I thought I would. I was hoping to make friends, or at least a colleague I could bounce things off of, but that didn’t happen. This sounds awful, but the people I met were all weird and I didn’t want to spend time with them. They probably regarded me as some entitled snob, which is true enough.
  • The NaNo crowd skews heavily toward genre fiction. I’m not putting genre fiction down, it’s just hard to relate to someone who’s writing what they hope is the next Twilight or Star Trek series while you’re exploring more down-to-earth themes.
  • My new job is more challenging than my old job, where I had lots of time to screw around. Many a time when I was supposed to be working at my old job, I’d be writing my novels instead. A couple times in 2015 I wrote during my lunch break on my personal laptop, but it was a weird thing to do in my office environment and it made me uncomfortable.
  • Part of me feels I need to get over this silly dream and just focus on my career anyway. I’m 47, for chrissakes.

I sometimes miss writing (but hey, I have this blog for that). I toyed with “pantsing” it, that is, writing a novel by the seat of my pants – no outline, no characters, no theme. But my control-freak mind would be most unhappy. I also toyed with the idea of doing something goofy, like fan fiction, just to do it – try something different, get out of the ol’ comfort zone.

Part of me feels sorry that I am passing this by. I really do want to write and to publish one good book in my lifetime. That may not happen for a variety of reasons, but if I don’t do the work in the first place, that will always be reason #1. Corny motivational sayings such as “winners are losers who gave it one more try” and “it’s never too late” are all true. Also, there is never a perfect time, let alone a good time, to do the work. You do it because you need to. You make the time for it. You sacrifice and scrimp and sow resentment if you have to.

There’s nothing magical about National Novel-writing Month. It’s just a month, just a goal, just a structured community to participate. I can do it any time. So why don’t I?

Getting Started on the Fall Wardrobe Plan

Using my magic quadrant for sewing planning, I came up with some priorities for my fall sewing time, by considering the ease or difficulty of each project and the cost involved, and factored in things I “need” vs. things I “want.”

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I decided to start with “cheap and easy,” and something I needed, which left me with a cardigan or a sweatshirt. I tossed a coin and got the sweatshirt. I have all the materials and pattern in hand – two yards of bright red 100% cotton sweatshirt fleece, a sport-style nylon zipper and Kwik Sew 3452.

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This pattern is copyrighted 2007 and I believe it’s out of print, but you can get it online. A fellow member of PatternReview.com sent it to me for free, when I put a request out there for something like it. This pattern calls for a stretch fleece, but I prefer 100% cotton, and the fabric I have stretches enough according to the envelope guide. It’s a bit close-fitting, so I graded out a size in hips, to be safe.

I am copying an old sweatshirt I bought at a cheap tourist shop on Cape Cod years ago. It’s a half-zip pullover style with a kangaroo pouch and a collar, not a hood. There was NO pattern exactly like this anywhere, and this pattern is not exactly right. It doesn’t have a kangaroo pouch, just  fold-over pockets for the full-zip version, view A.

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Simplicity 8174 to the rescue! I bought this pattern for the bomber jacket (which is AMAZING, by the way – I made it in cranberry red ultrasuede earlier this year). I couldn’t help but notice that the jersey dress has a kangaroo pocket, and I was happy that it sized up well with the Kwik Sew sweatshirt.

Now I need to decide if I will use my sewing machine or serger for this job. The pattern calls for 1/4 inch seam allowances, since it assumes you’ll either serge it or use an overlock stitch on a sewing machine. I don’t have any red serger thread. Do I spring for it, or do I keep the spirit of “cheap and easy” by using my sewing machine?

Sari Refashion Completed!

Here’s my completed project for the second round of the PatternReview.com Sewing Bee: New Look 6498 done up in a refashioned sari. I got it in India in April (more here about this).

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I am standing all dramatic like this to accentuate the sleeves. The theme of the second round was “Fabulous Sleeves.” I don’t know how fabulous these are – certainly they were not as creatively done as many other entries into the contest – but they are voluminous and eye-catching. They’re twice as wide and about 50% longer than the pattern called for. They’re done up with a simple gathering stitch and attached to the sleeves – no fancy needlework required. I did my usual full-bicep adjustment to accommodate my dinner lady arms, but I did only a 3/4 inch instead of a full inch because I wanted the sleeves a bit close-fitting, in keeping with the style of the blouse worn under a sari.

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 I am delighted with how the bust turned out. When I made a muslin of this in April, I ran into a big fit problem with the bust. It was too high and too low at the same time. Yeah – no problem! That is, the waistband sat about a quarter of the way up my bust instead of just under the bust, and the neckline was too low and a bit too revealing.

The only way to fix this was to get the bust to fit perfectly. I lengthened the bodice 1.5 inches all around so that the waistband would hit right under my bust. Then I redrafted the neckline a bit so that it was not quite so low-cut. Finally, I took in the waistband 1/2 inch on each side so it was more close-fitting. The bust fits perfectly now!

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My dog, Jake, likes to photobomb pictures.

The sari is very gauzy and hard to work with. I finished the inside with French seams everywhere I could, and I used fusible stay tape and transparent dissolving stabilizer instead of interfacing for the neckband and waistband.

Here are pictures of the inside on my dressform. You can see how transparent it is. The traditional sari is draped and wrapped and pleated many times so that air moves through it yet it covers completely. I wanted to stay true to the spirit of the sari, so I didn’t line it. This might have been a mistake as far as the contest goes – I think that lined dresses are expected – but that’s not what I wanted. I wear it with a long princess-seamed slip I bought at a vintage shop years ago.

I only wish that I had made this earlier in the year, so I could have enjoyed it this summer. It’s getting autumnal very fast in Connecticut, so this may have to sit in the closet unworn for a while.