Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell 2016

Once again I remember I have a blog.

I haven't shared any quilts for a long time...because I haven't made too many recently!  I made two quilts this year; rather, I finished one that I started in 2015 and I made just one quilt from start to finish in 2016.  They both stayed in my sewing room closet for a few months.  And then....I took them to be quilted on a real longarm quilting machine.

What a difference that longarm makes!

The first one is the one I started in 2015 and then finished this spring. It is my third (and final?) black and white quilt.   Obviously I added in a bit of red on this one and love how it looks.  This has long been one of my favorite color combinations.
I don't have the measurements for this one's what I like to call a "large throw" size.  I sized it so it would be just the right size for me.  I'm very average height, about five foot six, so it's approximately that long.  Here's a closeup of the quilting:
So much better than plain old straight-line quilting!

Next up, the Wild Horses quilt.  Named after one of my favorite songs.  Yes, sometimes quilts need names. Some of you may recognize those Cotton + Steel prints, designed by the fabulous Melody Miller (see my post about my typewriter quilt from 2013).

Doesn't that look lovely?  Serendipity gave me the ideal craft-show spot to display a quilt earlier this month at Lucky Star Market in Ames.  We were in a new location this year (ISU Research Park) and I got a fabulous booth location!  As luck would have it, I had some quilts to's a closeup of the quilting:

My photos may not do the quilting justice, but my fellow quilters will understand the huge difference between longarm quilting and quilting it on a regular sewing machine.  I'm hooked.  I'm hoping to make more quilts in the new year!  And that's as close to a resolution as I am going to get.

Thanks for following along with my sporadic posts.  For those of you I have met in person at markets & events, thank you for your support of my little handmade business.  Online readers and etsy customers, many thanks to you as well.  I look forward to more handmade projects and vintage finds in the new year.  In light of many events that have occurred in 2016, I find it more important than ever to carve out a happy place for oneself amidst all the bad stuff in the "real world."  May you find your happiness in 2017.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Estate sale treasure: patterns!

I've been so busy enjoying the last days of summer break, I've neglected the blog lately.  This morning I went to an estate sale in nearby Pleasantville and scored some sweet vintage patterns!  They were sold as a lot (39 in all), an I scooped them up after looking at just a few.  Lots of goodies in the box so thought I would share:

Most were from the early 1970s and in excellent condition:

There was even a fun his & hers necktie pattern, copyright 1972:

I was more than happy with the 70s patterns, but lo and behold, there were two extra-special treats nestled in the box:
This "housedress" pattern is circa 1948.  I've never seen it before so even more fun!  Forties patterns are getting a bit more scarce, so this was a great find.  Almost as good as...
This darling DuBarry pattern is copyright 1940.  I was thrilled to find it because I haven't had any DuBarry patterns in my collection yet.  The instructions are missing, but all the pattern pieces are present.  This is a "housecoat" or "housedress" if you can believe that?  Today, when people find it acceptable to go out in public in their pajamas, this is almost formalwear!

All of the above patterns are (or will be very soon) available in my etsy shop.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Window Work

Last week a good friend who is also an amazing artist generously shared some of her window collection with me.  They are some of the best salvaged windows I've come across and very inspiring so thought I'd share:
I love old-fashioned windows with panes like this one.  The moment I saw this window I knew what I would do with it--and I love that quick flash of inspiration.  The lovely pink floral background is a lotka paper that I've also been using in some journals and it is a dream to work with.  I think it sets off this window perfectly. This window measures 24 inches wide by 23.75 inches long.

Next up is likely the largest window I've ever done, at 57" tall and 23.75' wide.

Love the black window frame--not something you come across too often!  I think it's perfect with the book pages background.  Very happy with how both of these turned out!

On a side note, I'm often asked what kind of glue I use on these window collages.  I've used a few different kinds but a couple of years ago I discovered Martha Stewart Decoupage Glue at Michael's and it is my favorite.  Easy to apply and dries nice and clear without brushstrokes.  Gel medium and Mod Podge also work fine, but I love Martha's glue best!

Both of these will be available in my booth this Saturday morning at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market.  You can find me on 4th Street north of Court Avenue;if you're there, stop by and say hello!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Forties Finds: More Vintage Pattern Loveliness

Hello!  Blogging definitely takes a backseat in the summer, but a few sweet patterns from the 1940s that recently found their way into my hands inspired me to share.  These are harder to come by and so therefore all the more precious.  Here's one that would be perfect for summer:
This is Simplicity 2511, copyright 1948.  The envelope has long since come apart, but the illustration is still beautiful.  I love version 1, don't you?  So sweet and flattering.  Amazingly, this pattern is complete and the tissue is in great condition, despite the poor condition of the envelope.

Next, Simplicity 3088, copyright 1949.  The "one-piece dress" would be nice for summer; I love sleeveless when it's hot.  Notice the pin-tuck front on the bodice.  I can't imagine sewing that, but it sure is pretty!  I was surprised at the good condition of this pattern, despite it's age.  A lucky find!

Last, Simplicity 3087, also copyright 1949; a classic, chic look--the bolero jacket and pencil skirt.  Version 2 looks like something that Joan Crawford would have worn.

As you see, all three of these are Simplicity patterns--those seem to be the most abundant of old patterns available online.  My only complaint about them is that Simplicity didn't always include a copyright date on their patterns until later on.  However, that information is usually available on the vintage pattern wiki, and I'm getting pretty good at guessing the date within a year or two just by looking at the original price and the company logo.

These three are all available in my etsy shop if you're a fan of 40s fashions!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Everyday Aprons & Such: Grandma's Duster

A couple of weeks ago I was sorting through various boxes of stuff in preparation for our garage sale. I had several boxes in my storage corner of the basement that haven't been unpacked since we moved last year and I couldn't remember what was in the boxes--so really, rather like Christmas to open them and find things I'd forgotten about!  Or been searching for and couldn't this, for instance:
This snap-front smock apron belonged to my Grandma Price and I recall her wearing it in the 70s and 80s. She always referred to it as her "duster."  Anyone else ever heard an apron called that?  I never gave it much thought when I was a kid.  Now that I think about it, it seems rather charming and very Grandma-like.  I think that she had someone make it for her; my grandmother didn't sew, but she would have a lady she knew sew things for her: she'd pick out the material and pattern and take them to Goldie's house for her to make.  I can vaguely remember going to Goldie's house with my grandma.

Coincidentally, this morning I decided it was time to actually use one of the many, many patterns I've accumulated and felt the urge to make another apron.  I recently picked up some of the retro/repro Simplicity patterns when they were on sale at Joann's:
I'm going to make version B in that orange floral fabric (from Joann's);  I really like full aprons best because I'm pretty messy! I wear aprons when washing dishes as well as when cooking--I tend to get water everywhere for some reason.  While I was pressing Grandma's duster to snap pictures, I looked more closely at the different versions of this 1970s pattern and noticed that version D is remarkably similar to the duster.
Not long after I picked up this repro pattern, I happened to get the original vintage pattern, from 1979, as part of a lot I purchased on ebay:
I could probably fit into a size small apron, but I like aprons to have a bit of wiggle room--so this one is for sale on my etsy shop if you'd like it for yourself.   It's uncut and still factory folded.

Seeing Grandma's duster again reminded me of how meticulous she was in her housekeeping and how she took the time to teach me everyday household tasks--the correct way to make the bed (something she strongly felt had to be done on a daily basis), how to fold linens, how to peel potatoes, and all sorts of various little things that she thought a girl ought to know.  I suspect she also feared that my mother, her daughter, wouldn't teach me these things, due to my mom's great lack of interest in housekeeping, cooking, etc.  My grandma was a farm wife for many years and she knew the "right" way to run a household.  If you do it the right way, running a household can certainly be a full-time job.

Recently I cleaned out my stash of thrifted fabrics and realized I have two complete sets of cloth napkins that I haven't used at all, so I decided we could start using cloth napkins--better for the environment AND cheaper than paper napkins.  I've even been ironing the cloth napkins before folding them and putting them away.  I can't help but think that Grandma would be really proud of me for that.  She had a spare bedroom in the farmhouse solely devoted to ironing.  Monday was wash day and on Tuesdays, she ironed.  I don't have a dedicated ironing day and I'm sure I never will, but when I press those napkins (sometimes while wearing an apron--how domestic is that!)I know I'm doing something that would make my grandma happy--and in turn, thinking of her makes me happy, too.  She's been gone for just over twenty years, but I remember the useful things she taught me and enjoy using things that belonged to her every day.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beginning A Quilt: First Steps

It's been quite a while since I started a new quilt.  Though I often buy yardage with the vague notion that it will be the inspiration for a quilt, I think that is really just an excuse for buying fabric!  Recently, I bought some Cotton + Steel prints at Quilting Connection in Ames and realized that I still had some of my very favorite typewriter fabric from Melody Miller's Ruby Star Rising collection in my stash.  I had a hunch that her new C + S prints would work perfectly with the older prints and guess what?  I was right.
How very thoughtful of Miss Miller to coordinate her collections!  I was also thrilled that she did those typewriters in black and white.  Because as we all know, one can simply never have enough typewriter fabric.....
When I saw the bright magenta & metallic silver print I thought I would just use the pink typewriters with them; but the green and pink together in the letter print on the left would work with both the aqua and the pink typewriters.  Serendipity.

I dug through my cubbies of fabric to unearth my cherished pink & aqua typewriters and delightedly piled them on my cutting table.  I am very good at making piles of fabric.  Not always so good at following through with the actual sewing!  This morning I took the time to make a "starter" quilt block and a few notes so I wouldn't forget my ideas.  Here's the block:
I tend to get tired of making the same block over and over, which is why many of my quilts are created with the improv-piecing method.  Also, I think many modern fabrics are too gorgeous to be cut up into little tiny pieces.  But these prints work well in blocks and this block is simple so they'll be quick to make. Once I start on a quilt, I do like to finish it sooner rather than later!

Putting the pink and aqua typewriters together on the cutting table brought back fond memories of one of the first quilts I made in 2013, and I don't think I ever got around to sharing it here before.  It was also one of the first quilts that I sold, but I did have a couple pictures left of the top:
I was, and still am, proud of this one.  Simple but sweet.  Really helped me hone my quarter-inch seam allowance skills--very important in making a quilt!  My quarter-inch piecing foot helps a lot with that too--but this quilt was made without one so it was more of a challenge for me as a newbie quilter.

I'll try to post the progress of this quilt as more blocks get made.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Summer Styles from the 70s

Hello there!  It's been a couple weeks; seems that the lure of the swimming pool on a hot sunny afternoon is more tempting than sitting inside....

...but I did take some time to sit down and sort through more vintage patterns (which ones to keep, which ones to sell) and found some stellar summer styles from the 1970s.  Now, the 70s often get overlooked in terms of fashion, but I find that many of the patterns from the 70s offer very wearable style.  Here are a few that I would totally love to make and wear:
First up, McCall's #5548 from 1977.  I like all of the tops and dresses in this pattern, although version A is a bit too long for me in the humid Iowa summer: experience with long dresses in the summer proves that sweat running down my legs is not a feeling I enjoy.  But the shorter sundress and the strappy tops?  Perfection! This one is a keeper and I'm planning to try versions D and F.

Next, a couple of sweet Simplicity patterns from the early 70s:

 Simplicity #9863, copyright 1972.  I like all four versions, although I think I'm a little too old for a sailor dress, so I'd choose versions 1 and 2.  Both are charming and look cool and comfortable for a hot summer evening.  Sadly, this pattern is not my size--but maybe it's yours, and if you'd like to own it, you can find it in my etsy shop (uncut and factory folded!)

Next, this fantastic hoodie dress: Simplicity #9305, from 1971--although I don't think it looks dated one bit.

The shorter length would make a perfect cover-up for summer days at the pool.  You could make up the longer version for the winter months.  This pattern is also available in my etsy shop.   I'm going to try to find a similar pattern in my size to make for myself!

Now, for those of you who have jobs where you can't wear yoga pants or swimsuit cover-ups, here is a good option for work, Butterick #3080:
I like the sleeveless top and skirt combo quite a bit; the cardigan option is nice if you work in a place with ice-cold air conditioning.  I find skirts cooler and more comfortable when the weather is warm.  Not sure exactly what year this pattern was published, but my guess is circa 1974.

For you sporty types, here's a cute look from McCall's:
Oh, the pantskirt.  I've come across quite a few of these online and have several in my stash, and most of them look a bit silly by today's standards.  But I think this one is cute and it's nice to preserve one's modesty--there's far too little of that these days.

Happy summer to you!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Fifties Favorites: Mid-Century Movie Star Style

I've scored some pretty sweet patterns in the last month and wanted to share some of my favorites.  I've always adored 50s fashions, being a big fan of full skirts.  They're comfortable and flattering; they just make you feel pretty, don't you think?  (Disclaimer: lest you get the impression that I spend my days wearing skirts, I admit that most of the time I wear old jeans or yoga pants when I'm working at home.  However, sometimes I work at school and so I will use that as an opportunity to wear a skirt.  The other day I actually had on a dress (a Gap dress found at Goodwill for $5) and my son asked, "Why are you dressed like that?"  But I digress.  On to the patterns!)

This 1955 McCall's pattern showcases both the full skirt as well as the slim or pencil skirt look that we associate with the fifties; two fabulous looks in one pattern!
McCall's #3460, copyright 1955
This pattern envelope reminds me of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.  That wonderful film was released in 1953 and surely had some influence on fashions in the years that followed.

 Here's a pencil skirt again, this time paired with a cardigan for another classic look, in Butterick 7900: 

No copyright dates on the Buttericks, but a couple of sources put this pattern as "circa 1956" which looks about right to me.
Classic style!  This cardigan and skirt look never goes out of style, now does it?  At least not in my book! But of course I have long since stopped caring about current trends (many of them are ridiculous-looking anyway) in favor of what is comfortable and flattering for me.  Also, notice the lady on the left of the envelope here: I think she looks a lot like Lauren Bacall.

And speaking of movie stars, next up is McCall's # 3242, published in 1955.

When I first saw this, I immediately thought of Katharine Hepburn.  This jacket, especially the plaid version, looks like something Kate would have worn.  With slacks, of course.  So very practical and sensible--exactly her style.  I also love that this one has a stamp from Younkers department store.  Those of you in the Des Moines area know Younkers.  I remember my mom taking me to the flagship downtown store for the first time when I was a little girl; I was impressed with a store that had more than one level and enjoyed riding the "electric stairs."  Sadly, the building burned two years ago and I still feel a bit sad whenever I see that corner of Walnut Street.  It was such an iconic part of downtown Des Moines.

Next, McCall's 3902, copyright 1956.

Doesn't it make you think of the slumber-party scene from Grease? Look at the kitten-heel slippers the gals are wearing.  Who wears heels with a bathrobe?  Love it!

Friday, May 13, 2016

What are you looking at: VOGUE

There's just something about the Vogue patterns...the sophistication of the designs and the envelope illustrations.  I absolutely love them.  Thought I'd share a few recent finds:
I found this one on etsy and I actually plan to use this pattern.  It's already cut, so no guilt there.  And no zippers to intimidate me either, just button & loop closures.  The only question: which fabric would be just right?
I found this Vogue Paris Original, #2576, at a thrift store a couple of days ago.  It's a nice thrift store, but not one I stop at often.  One of the little voices in my head suggested I stop there and I'm SO glad I did!  This pattern is uncut and still factory folded.  And the Paris Originals aren't as common; this is only the second one I've ever gotten my hands on.  This one was likely published in 1971; it was featured in the Vogue Pattern Catalog that year, and the next couple of years.  I'm not so crazy about that polka-dotted polyester version on the envelope, but just look at the drawing and you can see that the possibilities are endless.  By the way, according to the back of the envelope, this is an "at-home" dress.  (Did women actually wear long dresses around the house in 1971?)  Anyway, this one is now up for sale because I am not a pattern size 8 by any stretch of the if you are, and you're interested in making this fabulous dress to wear around your house, you can find it on my etsy shop.

I've bought a couple of lots of patterns on ebay and there have been some true gems among them.  I have to say that there are few things I enjoy as much as sorting through an entire box of vintage patterns.  Seriously. And this one is just absolutely lovely:
Clearly I have no intention of (attempting) to sew this pattern, for two reasons: 1.  It's unprinted pattern, from the late forties, and I feel certain I would not have very good luck using an unprinted pattern.  I need some guidance on my pattern pieces.  2.  I can only imagine what sort of a disaster I would make trying to create all those tucks and other decorative what-nots on this blouse.  But it sure is pretty to look at and admire, isn't it?  So I'm going to frame it and hang it up in my sewing room, where I will enjoy it very much.

Now, I have one more very special, very Vogue find to share.  I still can't believe my luck, because I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never find one of these at a price that was realistic....

.........yes, it's the book:  Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing.   Copyright 1952.
It's even a first edition/first printing! Honestly, I hadn't heard of it until a few years ago when a customer who buys journals from me, and sewing-book journals in particular, asked me to keep an eye out for it.  So I lodged that into my brain, and whenever I was scouting for old books hither and yon, I'd look for this book.  And I would never, ever find it.  At the beginning of the year, I started to read sewing blogs to motivate myself to attempt sewing clothes and quickly discovered Gertie's Blog for Better Sewing, which of course was inspired by the classic Vogue book.  So then I started to covet a copy for myself. (That is the problem with the internet, isn't it?  It makes us covet stuff.  Or is that just me?) I've been collecting sewing books as well as patterns for the last few years and this is THE sewing book.  As someone who is obsessed by both books and sewing, clearly it was important that I own a copy.  My first few online searches were heartily disappointing: not only were there very few copies available, but they were all around $200.  Now, I am a thrifty gal and I'm just not willing to pay that much for an old book--because as wonderful as this is, it's still actually just an old book, now isn't it?  Yes, it is.  But I kept looking every now and then, and then one day on I came across it listed for $45.  Normally, I wouldn't pay that much for a book, but...I truly felt that was a deal too good to pass up.  In addition, it was being sold by a Friends of the Library group and I like the idea of helping libraries.  A couple of clicks and a few days later it arrived at my house and it continues to make me quite happy.  And that's what it's all about, after all!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

What Should I do with Sunbonnet Sue?

In 2014 I shared a few of the quilts that I have from my mother's family.  When I wrote about rescuing quilt blocks earlier this week, it reminded me of this quilt:
My great-grandmother might have made this quilt.  My mom wasn't sure so we will just assume that she did, because my grandmother didn't sew.  Anyway, you can see that this quilt has some damage.  Most of it is towards the top of the quilt:
However, there are some holes as well as some mended/darned areas throughout:
There's a patch on the bottom corner:
My original idea was to take the top apart, get rid of the yellow sashing & border, and make a new quilt.  Now that I've seen the condition of the white fabric with the appliqued Sues, I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to simply cut around the Sues and go from there?  The Sues are in good condition and I'd like to save them.  The way this quilt is now, it will just remain safely tucked away in a tote in my sewing room closet and that seems like a shame.  If I salvage the good parts, it could be a new quilt that could be used or even a few pillows too.  I like the idea of working on something that my great-grandmother made; she died when I was only four so I really don't remember her at all.

So what would YOU do with this quilt?  I'd love to hear some other ideas!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Rescued Blocks

Today was a beautiful spring day, so I took a lovely drive north to Story City and Antiques Iowa, where I have a booth.  I made quick work of re-stocking then meandered through part of the mall to see if there was anything that really needed to come with me.  Naturally, there was.  However, I exercised extreme discipline and only purchased a few select items, including these two quilt blocks:
I love Dresden Plate quilt blocks, but I don't think I could make them myself.  So it was serendipity that I found these; my plan is to make them into pillow covers.  They're 17 inches square, perfect for a 16 inch pillow.  When I was taking these pictures, it reminded me that I already had some other quilt blocks I'd rescued last summer at the Valley Junction Antiques Jamboree; there were 12 of them sold as a lot and some of the prints were so pretty that I couldn't resist.  Here are a few of them:

These blocks are hand-stitched.  There is a variety of fabrics, as you can see--I think some are feed sacks and some from old shirts; I don't think this quilter went to JoAnn's and bought yardage, it seems apparent to me that this is the real deal from back when most quilts were made from old clothes and other fabric scraps. And when I see quilt blocks for sale, I feel a little sad, because I always feel certain that the quilter never got the chance to finish the quilt.  Obviously, it's my job to finish it for her.   I think I can get these 12 blocks made into quilt over the summer....

And speaking of rescues, my sewing machine is back where it belongs today.   In February, I took it in for service because the needle position was stuck on the left side.  That issue was fixed the same day.  When I brought it home, thread was getting stuck in the bobbin like nobody's back to the shop. Because sewing machine repair places guarantee their work with a 90-day warranty.  Apparently that also means that "warranty work" might take nearly 90 days.  And here's the kicker: now it only sews a straight stitch!  BUT, that's okay, because that's all I need to make a quilt, right?  And also because I'm not going to let it out of the house again!

Happy stitching!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Thrifted Fabric Sewing

As you may recall, I found a bunch of vintage fabric at a local thrift store earlier this month....

I got busy right away getting it washed, folded, and put away so it would be ready to go when the mood struck.  Last week I tried a modern shirt pattern with some of the vintage polyester: 
I chose version E, and added some length to it so it would be tunic-length ....
I think it turned out fine, but it's rather big for me and I think polyester might not have been the best choice for this pattern (and no doubt why it wasn't one of the recommended fabrics!).  However, it was good practice on neck and armhole facings.  Whether or not I'll actually wear this is debatable.  

This weekend was warm and sunny, which put me in the mood for sewing something summery: 
I love tank tops and wear them all the time when the weather is warm.  This one was created from Simplicity #9930, copyright 1972: 
You can see that version 2 has a very low scoop neck.  So I will simply turn it around and wear it backwards!  There were no facings for the neck and armholes on this so they turned out a bit wobbly, but for a summer tank I won't worry too much about that.  This will work for workout wear and as a swimsuit cover-up.  Here's that low scoop: 
This stripe isn't something I would normally choose, but it's good to have a little variety in my often-monotonous wardrobe.  This project provided more practice in sewing with knits, too.  End result: not perfect, but totally wearable = success!