Happy Halloween!

Lego Costume

So on Monday, about lunchtime, my sister Kate sent me a link to the awesome Diana Eng's supercool Lego costume.

I desperately needed a costume for my son's school Halloween party THAT SAME NIGHT, so I went ahead and put one together … with a few modifications for the lazy.

First of all, you can't buy spray paint in Chicago (and I didn't have time to wait for it to dry anyway) so I ran to Home Depot and bought a roll of the widest blue painter's masking tape they had (cost me about $11). Then I hopped across the street to Party City and bought a package of plastic bowls in the same blue ($4). I taped the box completely, then I cut the holes for my head and arms. (I use an old serrated steak knife to cut cardboard.)

After trying it on to gauge proper placement, I stapled the bowls to the front of the box with an ordinary Swingline stapler (not a red one). I used a stapler because I'm sure I have a glue gun around here somewhere, but bless me if I can find it. I asked my son to bring me a real Lego block for reference, grabbed a Sharpie, and wrote LEGO on all the bowls.

The whole costume, not counting driving to the store or the time it took me to move some bikes in the garage so I could get to the right-size box, was done in about twenty minutes. Sweet! No sewing required, even!

I have to say that it was really fun to be a giant Lego. Lots of kids came up to me and said "ARE YOU A … LEGO?" (I was good and said "Yes" and not "No, I'm a banana.") I also joked that Legos are very scary to parents. They multiply and always end up underfoot …

Thanks very much to Kate for the link and to Diana (and the folks at CRAFT) for the idea!

And in unrelated news, if you want to see me wearing the yellow-bird dress, there's a picture up here.


ButterflyBlue cards

Amanda at the Etsy store butterflyblue is making these dress-patterned-themed cards and offering them to people who buy patterns from her shop (and use the code "Dressaday" when doing so).

Getting sweet handmade bonuses like this is one of my favorite things about buying from Etsy shops or on Ebay or from small websites. I love it when the packing slip is an old postcard, or a piece of construction paper rubber-stamped with the name of the store, or a cut-up magazine page, and not something printed from a laser printer straight out of Microsoft Office's "Invoice" template.

If you're looking for something to buy to get the card, may I suggest this?

Butterick 8492

Isn't this the dress the über-competent 1950s mom would wear? I think so … casual, yet trim and neat, and with that lovely collar. It would make a great summer office dress in pique — cool for the street, but easy to throw a cardigan over in the Land of Air-Conditioning. And when someone wearing this calls your full name (first, last AND middle) out across the neighborhood, you know she means business.

Was That 1996, or 1997?

brown voile dress

This is a floral voile dress I'm pretty sure I made in the summer of 1996 or possibly 1997. I made it to wear to the wedding of a friend — he's Orthodox, so the dress originally had long sleeves, and I trimmed a cream straw hat with a pink flower and brown ribbon to wear with it. (Although I cut off the sleeves after the wedding, I left the skirt very long — nearly ankle length.) I suppose I could just email and ASK "Hey, when did you guys get married?" but that would take all the fun out of trying to place the date from memory.

Here's an almost-closeup of the buttons, which are vintage pink glass:

brown voile dress 2

I think I bought this fabric at Vogue Fabrics here in Chicago, and the buttons at a much-missed vintage button shop that used to exist on Armitage, near Halsted. The pattern is, I'm fairly sure, either a New Look or a Style pattern, and if you're desperate, I could probably dig up the number without too much trouble.

I know I made this dress at least twice — the other time in a white-and-yellow daisy print quilting cotton with large green-and-white dotted dome-shaped plastic buttons. I still have the daisy dress, too … I found both of these while trying to switch my closet from summer to winter.

If you're ever called upon to date any Erin creations, you should recognize that this is firmly in my middle period: the early period (jr high/high school) was nearly exclusively cotton dresses with kimono-sleeved minimally-darted boatneck bodices attached to full gathered skirts, with inseam pockets and little, if any, waist shaping, often in shades of blue and green, and A-line long skirts with a zipper and attached waistband. I think I occasionally indulged in the heady thrills of the McCalls NYNY patterns, but not often. The middle period (of which this is a prime example) involved trying to find retro-ish current patterns to make with vintage-y details (thus the glass buttons here). Late middle period involved my first forays into vintage patterns (such as the cherry dress).

One of the quirks and/or hallmarks of middle-period Erin sewing is an abundance of collars — and making the collar in this voile was very tricky. It's so thin (and yes I wore it with a full-coverage slip that could have been a dress all by its lonesome) that the seam allowances looked far too bulky on the first go-round. I think I ended up doing three rows of very tiny machine stitches, very close together, and cutting the allowances off at the outermost row. There was probably a better way to do it, but I was also, I'm sure, pressed for time.

Late-period Erin … well, I think you can all identify late-period Erin at this point. I firmly intend for my 'late period' to last about forty more years (if I'm lucky).

captcha re-captcha'd

I'm getting slammed with stupid pharmacy comment spam (would anyone buying your possibly-contaminated drugs from scummy web pages stop please right now? You only encourage them!) so I've turned on the captcha for a day or so until they go pick on someone else.

I'm sorry to inconvenience you all, but it's hideously boring to go and delete all the spammy comments!

With any luck I can turn it off in a few days. Thanks for understanding.

More Fun With Pockets

Simplicity 3833

Many thanks to Susan, who sent me this link from SoVintage Patterns.

First off, I love the zest of the person who thought "Two pockets bad, four pockets good" over there on the right. It's nearly marsupial in its bepocketed elegance. Although if I went to Full Pocket Mania I would be worried that I'd always be patting all the pockets, like the White Rabbit seeking his watch, trying to find my cell phone when it rings. (Vibrate mode in a full skirt is not nearly as locative as you might think.)

The tulip version is pretty too, but how much better would it be if they were little alligator heads, opening their jaws to swallow your stuff? Or bird beaks? Or something else a little less pretty-pretty? Maybe flames, engulfing the pocket contents? There are lots of ways to have fun with something like this. Who says cutesy appliqué is reserved for the under-ten set?

SoVintage has this listed as $38 (!) … click on the image if you must have it.

How Many Ways?

McCalls 5274

Not only does this pattern description (from Out of the Ashes) use one of my favorite words (plastron, 'an ornamental front of a woman's bodice or shirt') but it also seems to be a dress that just cries out for multiple iterations.

Whenever I buy a new pattern (or merely think of buying a new pattern) I sit down (metaphorically) and try to work through all the different ways I'd like to make it.

This one, although I'm not sure exactly how it goes together (there's a back pattern view available but it's a bit small and I can't puzzle out the pieces) suggests to me, just to start:

— a black dress with white plastron, and vice-versa
— a blue dress with a darker blue (or maybe even a yellow) plastron
— edging the plastron with piping or rickrack
— solid dress, gingham plastron, and vice-versa
— coordinating prints of some kind
— border print along bottom of full skirt AND bottom of plastron (curved around plastron? — probably impossible)
— black silk with giant jeweled button
— white pique, edged in red/white trim at neck, sleeves, and hem, with red patterned button
— floral silk with artificial flower instead of button
— ombre fabric going from dark to light on both skirt and plastron
— print fabric to look like TV 'snow' and have button be flashing LED light (awesome, impractical)

As you can see, I like to work from the conventional to the un-. But if I find that I can only see a pattern ONE way, I try not to buy it. Why limit yourself?

Other suggestions gladly taken in the comments. (And by the way, this pattern is still available, $10, B34. Click on the image to visit the page.)

Books Books Books

The post office has delivered some fun books lately for me to share with you — I love getting review copies, especially of novels, because then reading for fun magically becomes Work with a capital W. As in, "Honey, I'd love to put away the laundry right now, but I really have to finish this book for Work. You understand, don't you?" Of course, my husband twigged to this little ruse years ago, so there's some eye-rolling involved (and if I'm eating chocolate while "Working" all bets are off) but still. It's fun.

One of the books that was sent to me was this one, Violet on the Runway, which I suppose is technically YA, although it certainly has what we used to call Adult Content. All I know is that if I had come across this when I was thirteen, I would have read it three times, and even as an adult, it was truly entertaining. The people are whole and well-rounded and I liked Violet very much, as the ugly duckling who turns out to be a swan (and who might be happier as a duckling). It was so nice to read a fashion-y book that didn't go overboard with the brand names, didn't seem like an extended game of paper dolls, and which featured people you could like and understand. An excellent book for your favorite fashion-mad teen (and if you're careful and don't get chocolate on the pages, you can read it yourself first).

Violet on the Runway

I was also sent The Collection, a novel set in part in the workrooms of Coco Chanel; kind of a The Devil Wears Prada, only with Coco as the Devil. I tend to like historical fiction, and this was a nice change from kings of the realm and so on. Unfortunately, the characters were a bit flatter than my ideal — I kept waiting for Isabelle to do something dramatic — but the plot was such that I read it all in one sitting, so that must mean *something*. (Weirdly, I also got an email blast from The New Yorker yesterday inviting me to a reading of this novel at the Eileen Fisher store in the Water Tower Mall. Is Eileen Fisher the new Chanel and nobody told me? It certainly makes a kind of sense.)

Lastly, this is probably better suited for my other blog, but Burgess Unabridged is just an adorable book, and I'm so glad that Walker has brought it back in print. Gelett Burgess was, in fact, the guy who coined the word blurb, which makes me insanely happy, in a meta kind of way, that I was able to blurb this book. (Not many people get to blurb the blurber.) Burgess Unabridged is a collection of his other neologisms, none of which ever had the success of blurb, but which make for interesting reading, nonetheless. Like the word kipe, which he defines as "A woman's glance at another woman." Leaving aside the heteronormativity of that for the moment, doesn't that word describe every two-figure illustrated pattern envelope you've ever seen? Or his word gorgule, meaning "elaborate bad taste," something we always know when we see it — and now have a handy word for. Burgess Unabridged is illustrated, too, by Herb Roth, in a kind of Aubrey Beardsley-meets-Gahan-Wilson style.

There. A little light reading for a Wednesday?

Holy Batwing

Butterick 9710

This is from Heavens To Betsy Vintage, who has a lot of really, really, lovely and fairly rare patterns at prices to match.

This one caught my eye, although I'm not sure I would buy and/or make it. Well, okay, I'm sure I would buy it given the right circumstances, and I'd probably make it, given a moment (or five hours or so) of weakness, but I'm not sure I would wear it. See how the women in the illustrations have their arms akimbo to show off the sleeviness of the dress? I'd feel compelled to stand like that THE WHOLE TIME I was wearing it, and that would make it hard to do all the things I normally do in a day, like type and drive and read and skip to the next song on my iPod. I think seeing me with my arms like that would also make everyone around me worried that I was about to bust out with their full names as a prelude to a scolding.

Also, see how the faces on the illustrations are dialed up to "manic cheerfulness," and how just plain scary that is combined with that body posture? My face is usually on the same setting so I'd look like that too — as if I were about to tell you that you need to submit to our new alien overlords AND I made your favorite chocolate pudding for dessert, and isn't that swell?

If you'd like a dress that made you look about to deliver a diatribe and/or message from Superior Beings at any particular moment, click on the image to purchase the pattern.

Isn't It Madness?

chessboard sequined dress

This may come as a shock to some of you, but I'm not a big person for musicals — for theater in general, actually. I enjoy it when I am put in the way of seeing any, but my first impulse when seeking entertainment is to reach for a book, and my second is to reach for a long, arc-y, plotty TV show (like The Wire — the hotness of Dominic West will go a long way towards warming up January here in Chicago), and my third is to watch national icons blow up in spectacular and original ways while eating popcorn. So: not so much with the musicals.

But now I think that it would be hilarious to wear something like this to an opening night for Chess, wouldn't it? Sure, I'd be flamboyantly overdressed, but I would have made an effort.

A $650, lose-ten-pounds-first kind of effort, but it would probably be worth it.

If it's worth it to you, this is up at Shrimpton Couture. I'm not sure exactly how to navigate to it, sadly. The site doesn't have individual linkable pages for each dress. But you probably won't mind browsing around, as there's a lot of other eye candy there, too, and the pictures are good!

All Paquin Bulletin

Vogue 1136

Has anyone seen this pattern? I mean, for sale, out in the wild? Mary P. was outbid — sniped, really — by just a smidgen when this was up for auction last week and she's been mourning it ever since. Leave a comment or drop an email if you have one you're willing to sell/trade.

I know it's hard to tell from the picture — and while we're here, can I just rant about sellers who show teeny-tiny pictures of patterns? A hint: if you can hold the actual object up to the computer screen, you can run the photo of it FULL SIZE, people — but it looks amazing. I'd love for Mary P. to find a copy so she can make it and send me the picture.

And in a fit of selflessness (because now you're all going to outbid me!) may I remind everyone again about eBay's Favorite Search feature? When a search comes up empty, save it, and then eBay will email you when your holy grail shows up again. At the very least, getting a dozen emails from eBay every day will test your desire for whatever the item is — I've canceled more than a few saved searches when I realized that my annoyance at dealing with the email was more than my desire for the item. (You can also get eBay searches through RSS, but I haven't done that yet. Probably should!) Saved searches are most useful when you save a very detailed search — looking for a pair of shoes or a pattern in a particular size, fabric in a particular color — so that you don't waste time looking at pages of stuff that's not quite right.

In fact, I think being able to do Boolean or regex searching is an indispensable skill in the post-eBay, post-Google age. I might just have to go volunteer to teach a couple how-to-search sessions at my son's school … although probably not using eBay as an example!