Friday, February 27, 2009

Haughty Hattiness: a Weekend Round-Up

This blog entry has several pretty 1930s images with ladies wearing hats.
Vixen Vintage waxes oh so poetic about wearing....hats.
Styling by Cody Farquhar has an 1960s image of the same.
Talk about a sassy hat: I love this one, which matches a pair of black stilettos.
And a story from Elle, about how the fashion industry is mad for hats now.

I really should do a round-up of the best hats on the catwalks, but I'm lazy, you know? Perhaps you can leave a link to the best hats you've seen to date on and off-the-runways. I'm too busy signing up for Patternreview's hat contest. I'm doing Vogue 8175!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

They Came, and didn't eat the candy: Vogue 8175*

Second time around, I had four students vs. the 9 who crowded into the Vogue Fabrics Classroom on Sunday, Feb. 15. For what lacked in human mass, we made up for in sheer number of hats, Alice, sister of Laura Proudfoot, bought a whole hatbox full of vintage chapeaux. She pulled out so many hats, I thought for sure she was a magician. How many could she possibly fit into this round cardboard the size of a floor cushion? At least five, include the saucy straw number above with its bright chartreuse vine leaves. This particular picture hat, which looks like it's from the 1940s, would be most suitable for Easter, I think. Alice also had some hats from the 1950s, and another one she made using Vogue 7476, view C, which she says, was reaaaally hard to make with lots of hand-stitching. I have a picture wearing it, but it's not very good so I skipped uploading it. Most of her finds were for a few bucks at garage sales. She'd pick up and hear, "You like that? I got more at home. They were my aunt's." Now, how often does that happen? I am not going to the right garage sales clearly.

Jenny L. Gerst had a straw hat from the 1960s or 70s (we're not sure which). She had all these ace millinery supplies, the likes of which we've never seen at Vogue Fabrics. To wit: this supremely thick millinery wire that would easily survive a gust of Chicago wind. They shoudld build locally-made umbrellas with this stuff. Plush 100 percent wool felt not seen in these parts of Illinois. Other doo-dads I know nothing about, most of which she's purchased at Judith M Millinery, a two-hour drive from the Windy City. (Incidentally, Judith M bought out Manny's Millinery after it closed.) Turns out, Jenny and I know lots of fellow milliners. Eia. Laura Hubka. Laura Whitlock.

While Jenny and Alice worked on Vogue 8175, Laura and Barbara labored over the Flirty Fedora. This was an interesting project, since the pattern was drafted for fabric with a grain. Felt doesn't have a grain which makes it so great for a beginner. Plop down. Cut. No worries about the felt going that way when it needs to go this way. Also, felt doesn't need to be lined, so Barbara and Laura skipped that part of the instructions. Laura finished her hat by the end of class. She only needs to insert her petersham ribbon inside the hat, right at the part where head meets the rought texture of the hat.

This is the last of the hat classes for Vogue 8175. But don't cry into your Pale Ale or Guinness. I'm going to teach another hat class using Vogue 8405 in March. I figure results from this workshop can either become Easter bonnets, summer hats or just something to wear during these amusing times to Costco...I hope my students eventually email pictures of themselves wearing their work. Either that I'll come after them with my terrible digital camera. That should scare them in snapping something far more flattering than my uploaded pixels. Sometimes, you just need to instill the fear of God (or my photography) to get humans to do things your way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mad Sewing Skills Can Get You Work Now*

Can you fix hems, adjust a waist in a pair of pants? Offer to work at a local tailor shop or do some work in your home. My grandmother had a sewing business in her basement. She fixed clothes like everybody's business in the basement of her Westchester, Ill. house. As a little kid, I remember a table perpetually piled with clothes waiting to be mended. My mother says she was turned off by sewing for many years by that mountain. Later on, though, when she was married and working on growing her brood, the sewing gene kicked in and she cranked out dresses, mommy-and-me bathing suits, plaid ties, hand-sewn quilts. I know it's infinitely more fun to make a dress from scratch than to take a seam ripper to a waistband, but when there's money to be made, why not? You can do it while watching Dancing with the Stars.

Small pop-and-mom textile shops need sewing operators. Solid Stone Fabrics President and CEO David Stone actually sees a return to "Made in the U.S.A" garments as Americans count their nickels and dimes figuring that what's made locally is a better deal than something from overseas. If you see a Singer or a Juki in operation anywhere in your town, chances are there are jobs.

If you can teach, head on over to Jo-Ann Fabrics, where beginning sewing classes are in demand. I'm an instructor at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston. Who would have thought that how-to classes for pajama pants would be sew (sic) popular? They are at Jo-Ann Fabrics in Schaumburg. No mammoth craft store in your 'hood? Start your own sewing tutor business.

Even better: if you can repair a sewing machine, forget the Golden Ticket, you are the ticket. People are resurrecting decades-old machines from their garages so they can do their own fixing. Even guys are getting in on the act. One man discovered a machine used for stitching sails, now he wants to use it to make awnings for his house, according to my student Laura Proudfoot, who works at a Jo-Ann Superstore. Smart guy. You too be equally clever!

Tell me what other stitchable ways you've heard or have employed to make money now.
* I found the above image by way of The Glasgow Story. As the article says, "The man appears to be either bored or comatose, and has made a poor job of buttoning the fly on his trousers!"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Lo and Behold: Apron.ology, the Magazine

It would appear that retro-style aprons are returning with a June Cleaver and "I Love Lucy" vengeance. Can scorched frying pans and pantyhose in the kitchen be far behind? I don't think so. Here's the proof in the butterscotch pudding: first, there's Apron.ology, a new magazine. This is absolutely amazing, considering periodicals have been dropping faster than flies trapped in a screened-in window. Now, this new publication is not cheap. I repeat, not cheap. I won't even say the price aloud. You could probably see a movie and buy the smallest size of popcorn for the same price. But the patterns! The photos! The sheer hilarity! All this needs to be factored in. Now, of course, I haven't bought it thus far, I'm all talk, and no traction. Still.

What else heralds the return of The Apron? The crockpot. All the blogs with slow-cooker recipes. Don't you need the garment for this kind of cookery? I think so.. thus a 1950s-style is totally appropriate since you will be chopping up Spam and Velveeta for your concoctions. These kinds of ingredients call for period-appropriate apparel, right? Even if you do wear it over your Seven for All for Mankind jeans and slinky mesh jersey tops. Anyhow, here are some aprons that you can stitch while your stew is bubbling for a few hours. Check out McCall M5825 (comes with a mitt too!) and Simplicity 3532.

Naturally, you will be using scraps for your apron, just like you might do in the kitchen. Instead of left-over celery and carrot stubs, you dive into your vintage fabric stash, as I have. The swatch you see above? The only remains for a 1950s top I attempted on my grandmother's Singer. That machine ate my fabric and any ambition I had to finish the project. I ditched the blouse, and somehow salvaged the tissue-paper thin cotton fabric. See how cute it is? Vases? Plates? Askew teapots?

I will use this to make the sample for my retro apron class at Vogue Fabrics, that is if anyone signs up for the class. So far, no one has. I'm figuring sewers are out there thrifting for aprons at the local Goodwills, Salvation Army shops and not even bothering to see what's left from quilting projects past. Sewing an apron is much more fun than discovering one that says "World's Best Dad" on it for $1.50. Really. It will do you no good to wear something like that when you're prepping a home-made pizza and you're a woman. I'm not kidding. Of course, your dog won't give you any grief (unless he or she is very smart and can read) but your kids will. What's more, they will never forget. You'll hear about it until...I don't know when.

On that note, here's a link for my apron-making classes at Vogue Fabrics next month. We'll be using Butterick 4945. For inspiration, I found this Flickr set of vintage apron patterns. For this one, you could use the inexpensive appliques for pockets. Gosh, the possibilities are more endless than snow in Chicago!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Great Hat Society, The Thursday edition

From the Sartorialist, great hat, warm and graphic scarf, a knit beret pattern (new!) at Blue Sky Alpacas, a skinny striped one for kids (a freebie) also at Blue Sky, three spots are left in the last of my 1930s hat-making class at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston this Sunday. Oh yeah - Chicago milliner Eia was featured in the latest issue of WWD (with Madonna on the cover). That's Thursday's list of hats, posted today Friday!

Monday, February 16, 2009

They Came, Cut, and Ate Oatmeal Raisin Cookies: the Vogue Fabrics Hat Workshop, no. 1

Carol Duff drove from Royal Oak, Mich. for my first hat-making class at Vogue Fabrics yesterday. Well, she was spending a couple days with her daughter, Rebecca, who also attended the workshop. So the mother-daughter came together for a little wicked weekend fun. Carol, wearing her feathered hat, arrived with enviable sewing supplies: pattern weights; sharp, spring-loaded scissors, shopping bags of wool felt not found in this part of the world: lavender, mustard, grey! The doting mother supplied Rebecca, a sewing novice, with everything she needed for her project, right down to the Schmetz universal needles.

Carol won the hat contest hands-up. She even had this most fabulous, coordinating feather boa (not pictured because it refused to cooperate with my camera). So I gave her a bag of goodies that included a vintage plastic buckle still in its original package, a zipper, Russian veiling, two faux feathers, circa 1940s, and at least two packages of new ribbon. There were a few other items, but I've since forgotten them.

Moving on:

Maria Carlos happily marking up her version of Vogue 8175 with chalk. While she hails from the Chicago area, she takes time out of her busy schedule, which including caring for her 80-something mother, to come to Vogue Fabrics and create magic. She says she sometimes she signs up for a seminar, shows up late, and stays to do her own thing in the classroom to do her own thing even though everyone else has left with a finished project or to head off to a local bar to forget their sewing troubles with a glass of Merlot (isn't this normal for most women?). Maria is also a regular at Vogue Fabrics' Monday night free sewing demos.

Another out-of-towner from Wisconsin, Stephanie Walter (far left) wires the brim of her hat. She actually checked in early for the workshop, worked non-stop through the three hours of the class. Even though there was some hand-sewing (the edge of the brim), she was the only one of the 9 students who walked out the classroom door with a finished chapeau, minus the petersham stitched inside the hat. She walked out too quickly for me to capture her work of art on my digital camera. Darn!
Maria again, testing her her hat, which initially looked like a habit-in-the-making from Doubt's costume-department. Maria is returning for next week's class ready to dive into another hat-making project. Talk about dedication!

Here's what I learned from the first class:
* Remove the pillows displayed on the wall if you want decent pictures. In nearly every photo I took, almost all students looks like they have something sticking out of the back of their heads. One student wore a great 1940s red hat trimmed with white and black petersham, but every one of those blasted pillows ruined my photos. I couldn't even crop them out. However, I will not go so far as taking down the mirror and the thread organizer. I would love to cut out a hole somewhere to make a window. Natural light, where are thee?
* Hand out name tags. It's the best way to keep Carol and Carolyn straight and from turning Henette into Henrietta.
* Not all fabric yardage is alike. I said 3/8 of a yard of fabric on my supply list, which would have been correct if the wool felt in stock weren't so narrow. Darn fabric!
* Expect to leave with a nearly full container of cookies, since it appears most women seem to watch what they eat. At least they're too busy sewing, not munching.

That is all.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Haute Happy Hats

This is a round-up of all things hatty that I've corralled since last week. Most of have a Chicago connection, a few, national, and at least one, international. None so far have any interplanetary ones, but I'm working on it.

First off, milliner Tonya Gross will preview spring collections and sell past season items at a trunk show hosted by Chicago boutique Wolfbait & B-girls Saturday, February 28, 2009.

The Millinery Arts Alliance will be having a "A Hat for All Seasons" tea next Friday afternoon,
3:00 to 5:30 p.m. at The Peninsula Chicago. Reservations are advised.

The vintage chapeau above? It's one on display at the V&A in London. I wrote up a little something on it here last week.

Finally, I'm teaching Sunday at Vogue Fabrics. We're using these two patterns: this out-of-print Vogue pattern and the Flirty Fedora. I'm finishing up a mock-up in craft felt tomorrow for my students. If it's ethical, I might actually sew up the real deal in 100 percent wool felt and enter a hat-making contest at PatternReview.

Last but not least: A Valentine's Day theme knit hat. Cute. Warm. Fitting for the snow predicted tomorrow. Our spring reprieve didn't last long. Darn!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Girdle edition: Vogue 1020, version 2.0

Vogue 1020, view C, is a dress pattern that's incredibly kind to nearly all figures. No alterations are necessary since all that side scrunching on the left side hides most evils. Short-waisted? Just yank the thing up. Long-waisted? Pull down. And, from what I understand, no full-bust adjustments (FBAs in sewing lingo) are called for either. Besides, it goes together so quickly. Really in a few hours, if you ignore the pattern's clarion call for a side zipper and just use clear elastic to gather the fabric.

You do want to use a stretchy fabric. Mine is the last of $1.29 a yard fabric. Isabella, Vogue Fabrics crackerjack sales lady in the main room, conned me into buying two panels of this stuff. Yes, conned! I was thinking view B of this same pattern but the flower print cried out for something more and I'm so glad I purchased more. Sure, this fabric would look cute in a top, but as an entire outfit, I think it's much more outstanding. I first embellished the hippeastrum with some tiny bright blue dots, also on sale at Vogue. You can see a closer look here. Extremely easy, and makes it look boutiquey!

The fabric was sheer, so I interlined it, but it got all bunchy, especially toward the hem, so I had to undo it. You can still see some of the pale pink mesh getting too friendly with the main fabric, but I'm just going to let it go. Here's what I learned from ace seamstress Mac Berg, also at Vogue's Evanston store: you need to cut the fashion fabric and the interlining as one. You can either baste the two together, or you can opt for the quick-o method. Lay down one fabric, spray it with Sulky KK2000 temporary spray adhesive, put the other fabric down, pin on tissue pattern. Cut. There will be no shifting (unless there's a politician involved), and everything will be on grain.

All in all, I'm pleased as green peas with the dress, even if I must wear a girdle (also known as a body shaper) underneath. I suppose if I had cut the dress a wee wider in the hips it wouldn't hug me so much in that area. I feel a tad bit self-conscious about the rear view, and it's given me extra incentive to add more vegetables to my diet.

Even so, I'll wear this dress. I think it would be great for Easter, weeks away. Maybe I can work on a hat to complement it. What say you?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Best of the Tablecloth Dresses

(image: Flickr)

I couldn't help but notice the cutest little girls' dress on SugarcityLynn's Sugar City Journal, which got me thinking about the topic of tablecloth dresses. How many pictures of them must be uploaded onto the Internet. So I naturally Googled the words "tablecloth dress" to see what I could find. In my quest, I found the tablecloth-turned-dress is the topic of a play: "My Life in a Tablecloth Dress." I was disappointed to find there are no reality shows on this peculiar garment and picture books for six-year-olds either. Really. What little girl doesn't want to read about the misadventures of one of her peers in a dress made from a piece of fabric that usually covers a table? I would. You know only spilled Coke, lots of ants and giggles would ensue! Oh, and perhaps a bee sting, if only for some picturesque drama!

Back to my mission. Besides the above-mentioned play, I got lots of other hits on Google. I firmly ignored ready-to-wear (so no Betsey Johnson), just one-of-kinds. Most of what bubbled to the top was....sigh...for little girls. Here's one from Flickr, another adorable jumper, and a whole slew of dresses from tableclothes on Etsy: A Waverly fabric version, and Turquoise Daisies. Still I was delighted to find some for Girls Who Happen to Have Longer Legs and Slightly Older Hearts: the Slapdash Sewist's and An Embroidered One. I love this one, minus the cleavage.

I understand the yardage from a tablecloth is limited and works best for toddler's clothing, but there are cute and stylish possibilities out there especially if you're willing to cobble together several vintage tableclothes. The outcome doesn't have to look like Dorothy arrived from Kansas either. Technically, I'm not sure how to do it, although I know I've got a torn tablecloth in my linen closet. If I didn't already have an outstanding stash collection, I'd work that cover like a Project Runway business. There you have it, I'm just saying, not doing anything because I just did a whole afternoon's worth of stitching yesterday afternoon (a bathing, a mock-up for my hat class, and hemming a dress, pictures still to come), and I cannot start anything right now.

Would you sew an adult-sized dress made from a table linen?