When I visited my dad in Michigan in January I found myself with not a lot to do. I had seriously injured my hamstring while ice skating and it was snowing so driving wasn’t an option. I was starting to get a case of cabin fever so I decided to dig through the drawers and closets to see what I might discover.

I found a bag of patterns in the closet. Some were things I had sewn when I was in high school. Some were dresses my mother had sewn for herself at some point in her life. Needless to say none were my current size. I found some fabric that wouldn’t have been my first choice for just about anything but the rose and grey colors were good and the print was fairly small. I picked the dress pattern with the least alteration needed and began to measure and make the changes I hoped would create a dress/long open top that would fit me. I took the waist darts out and moved them to try to make it large enough for me around the waist. My other issue was a sewing machine that had only basic stitches. This meant I had to use an overcast  stitch on my ravelly seams. And the needle could have been a little newer so the inside of the dress was a mess. Once I took everything home it was better with new needles and a serger.

It has some nice details that you can’t see with this print. The collar is nice and large and could stand up if I used a thicker interfacing. The sleeve is not set in and makes a quick sew.

Collar could stand up

No set in sleeve

As you can see this first effort ended up being too big around the waist and looks pretty dowdy. I already feel most vintage looks dowdy on me as I become vintage.

Dowdy Dress

But now that I have a shape on a dress form I can start to play around and make changes to turn it into something a little more stylish. (I hope). My first step is to add some darts to the bodice so it is not so huge. I also noticed I am longer waisted than this dress form. Not sure how to fix that on the form.

I pin up my first change to the hemline. Oops a little too revealing. I would have to find another dress or leggings to wear under this one.

I set the opening a little lower and I am in business.

Lower opening

Now for my favorite part! I dig through the button tins – most of them from my mother’s stash and select some. I don’t pick my absolute favorites because I am not sure I will actually ever wear this dress (if I do I will share). I was also delighted to figure out how to use the buttonhole setting on my new machine. It was actually a joy instead of a pain to do buttonholes.

Final with buttons

And the best part is finishing a project that was clogging my flow. I put it on for Easter but couldn’t style it quite right to be comfortable wearing it. Will I ever wear it? Still not sure.

Can’t quite figure out how to pull off wearing it.

Do you sew vintage patterns? If so what do you find to be your biggest hurdle?

Re sole

Re sole

The REI member coupon for 20% off came in the mail which meant it was time for me to get my yearly pair of utility shoes. Having spent years on my feet caring for plants this was my yearly splurge and when you put on that new pair of shoes you feel like your feet are brand new. Joyous style for me.

This year when I was shopping I noticed one of the filters was could the shoe be resoled. What an old but newly novel concept! Don’t get new shoes, resole your old ones. Unfortunately there were only two styles advertised as having the ability to be resoled. Neither of them were of the heavy duty style I needed although I was tempted to try the Ahnu but settled on the Salomon because my hiking boots made by them are very supportive.

As you can see I have not put much effort yet into stylish hiking clothes but at least I am not in black.

My husband seems to be able to pull it off much better than I. These photos were taken in the Yakima Canyon in April. The wildflowers are small but perfect. I saw these beautiful violets and believe they are called sagebrush violets.

Do you have a favorite yearly ritual?

The crap up

The crap up

Today I want to share with you the steps needed to create your own pattern for a handbag.I recently decided to begin to create handbags made from re purposed fabric. I had seen some messenger style bags in the store recently that I like. My goal was to create something similar with a little more style. And of course to eventually create more of them out of fabric and ex clothing that is destined for the rag pile.

While I was creating I was listening to  a book called “The Achievement Habit” by Bernard Roth. He suggested that when you have an idea you start working on it without caring if the outcome is perfect. He suggested making a prototype (a muslin in sewing) or a “crap up” .His theory was that calling it something different would help prevent the perfectionism that can take over and that leads to project abandonment. I like that concept and this is my new name for my muslins – my crap ups. It also makes the initial creation process faster.

Step 1: Have an idea. For most of us this is the easy part. We see something we like and think “Oh I could make that,” My inspiration came wandering the aisles at a department store and seeing the piles of bags.

Step 2: Sketch it out. Think about how big you really want it to be, what shape you want it to have, do you want zippers or snaps or a strap or……….. Lots of design decisions begin here and may or may not stay in the final plan.

sketch of purse idea

Sketching your thoughts will be the first step

Step 3: Begin to create the pattern pieces. This is like geometry from high school. You have to think about how the different shapes will come together to create your design. It is fun because at this point anything is possible. To start I drew a square with the sizes I wanted the final bag to be. I then marked them on the square.  I drew the shape I wanted and refined it until it was the size and the shape I wanted. At this point I made some changes. My first idea of bag size seemed too big when I held it up to my body so I made it smaller. Also at this point don’t worry about seam allowances just finished size.

Step 4: Look at other items you have around the house to see how they are put together. I knew I didn’t want a flat bag so I looked at some grocery bags and other items I have around the house to see how they are put together. There were many choices. I chose the one I could visualize best for this bag – a side band that is sewn around the edges of the front and back to give it shape and depth. At this point I sketched pockets on the inside and outside of the bag in desired locations. I thought about how to attach the strap and close the purse. What would make it practical.

Step 5: Finalize the pattern pieces remembering to add seam allowances. I chose 1/2″ so there would be less to trim.

Step 6: Choose your materials. Since this is a muslin or prototype or “crap up”, I chose some upholstery fabric left over from a chair I recovered many years ago, some felt from a costume project and for the lining a muslin curtain we didn’t use in a house we recently sold.

fabrics for the prototype bag

Use inexpensive materials for your muslin or crap up

Step 7: Cut them out and try to figure out what order to sew them in. This again tested my brain. I ended up sewing the pockets on the lining with the middle felt attached. This made it easier for me to see this as one piece – the lining. Three pieces was too much. High school geometry was more than 40 years ago. The tricky part for me was how would the lining and the structure and the outside fabric go together? I put them together every which way but really couldn’t see how it would work without actually starting to put it together. I machine basted the pieces together and at the very end saw how the flap would come over and be completed. At my final stitching I managed to break a machine needle  Stopping and taking the time to put in a heavier needle might have helped me complete this project the same day I started. Instead I lacked the patience, broke a needle and stalled out for two more days.

Lack of patience caused this broken needle

thick fabric needed a different needle

Thick fabric needed a different needle

Step 8: Refine and adjust and try again. My final project is too bulky so I will use a thinner interfacing next time – or a thinner fashion fabric. I also want a zippered pouch front and back. I will do another crap up  before I use my final fabric.

Almost Done

I can hide my bag here and the burglars won’t find it

Messenger bag in use

Muffin top is a choice

Muffin top is a choice

It is tempting to try to wear things that fit last fall after an active summer and before the holiday eating bonus that happens from Halloween through New Year’s. But unless you are more disciplined than me that will result in muffin top!
I used to say that it was great to be over 50 because muffin tops are expected! However expected they may be, they are avoidable.
This morning I put on my tightest pair of jeans just to make sure I could still get them zipped. Yes they zipped but……….. look at that fabulous bulge. (I believe the last time we embraced that was when we were 2). If I choose to wear these jeans and this outfit today I will be too self-conscious to take the jacket off if I get warm. Not a great outfit choice even if it looks good. After looking at my photos it is obvious the short sleeved t shirt – in addition to being too thin of a fabric – is too small. Guess what I need to add to my make it/buy it list – longer short sleeve tops in my basic colors made of thicker fabric in a larger size.

The immediate solutions to this problem would be:

  • Wear a larger size jean so the bulge disappears
  • Put on a heavier knit top that is not quite so form fitting. (this is the one I chose)
  • Or you embrace it as you did when you were 2 as a beautiful part of your body!

As you can see in the pictures as I tried these solutions it looks like I and my muffin top shrank.

How do you reconcile changing body size in your wardrobe?

Too tight clothes result in muffint op
Do I want the world to see this?