Yeah! I Made It Myself

First off is Yeah! I Made It Myself, by Eithne Farry, which has been languishing under a pile of language-related books I have to review for I don't know how long. Since I came back from London, at the very least. Which is a shame, because it's a charming book.

I fell into immediate sympathy with the author, who declares (in the first fifty pages) her love for bias tape, sewing with furnishing fabric, and bright colo[u]rs.

But, be aware this is much more of a punk-rock, you-go-girlfriend-type book than a Martha Stewart "here are my 105 downloadable templates" type book. Most of the measurements given are approximate; the "diagrams" are done in what looks like magic marker. If you need constant reassurance that you are "doing it right", this is not the book for you; if you want to feel as if any way you do it is right (within reason), jump right in.

This book would be a perfect present for a teen friend who wants to sew but is put off by the embellished-quilted-vest crowd you see on a lot "traditional" sewing books … just keep an eye on your curtains.

99 Ways ... Scarf

The other book that's up for review today is 99 Ways To Cut, Sew, Tie & Rock Your Scarf I was really looking forward to this one, because I'm always interested in ways to make clothing-type stuff from things that aren't necessarily fabric (although of course with scarves it's changing one clothing-type thing into another clothing-type thing, or, in this case, 99 other clothing-type things).

All of the 99 versions in this book have women's names, and, believe it or not, my copy fell open to "Erin" … which is a balloon skirt. Not an auspicious start, although your opinion of balloon skirts may differ from mine. (My opinion is I hate 'em.) I think this was a sign that I'm not the intended audience for this book: first off, I don't really ever "rock" anything I'm wearing — I prefer to "power-pop" my clothing, the choruses are better — also I'm not a big fan of the halter top, versions of which I would estimate take up a good quarter of the "99 ways". One other reason why I figured I wasn't the audience for this book: none of the illustrated models are wearing eyeglasses! (Sunglasses don't count.)

However, if you are a halter-top fan, and you have been looking for a good quick balloon-skirt pattern, this book is totally for you. The instructions are clear and easy to follow and there's a great glossary of terms at the end. And even if you don't want 47 scarf-based tops that you can't wear a bra under, the "Jolene" kimono-style jacket is really lovely.

Again, though, this is a sewing book for non-sewers: almost every project can be made without a machine, and the emphasis is heavily on "find the scarf (preferably in a thrift store) today, wear it out tonight."

I actually got two copies of this, so if you want one, here's how to get it: be the first person to tell me where I can buy two more yards of this cotton poplin camouflage fabric:

green camo fabric

I had just enough for a skirt … I thought. Then I saw that I'd dropped the center-back pattern piece on the floor. D'oh! So help me out, and get a free book! Email or comments are both fine ways to enter. If you leave a comment, though, make sure I can reach you to get an address for the sending of your prize!

Linktastic Friday No. 4

Vogue 5161

Candy at Contentment Farm has a bunch of patterns up on eBay right now, including the one above. Don't you love the soft pleats on the skirt?

Eirlys sends dice-shaped tape measures, guaranteed to make sewing more of a crapshoot than it already is.

Totally make-you-want-to-learn-to-knit vintage patterns for short-sleeved cardigans at Little Grey Bungalow. [from Sewretro List]

Paper wedding dresses that look as if you can actually dance in them (instead of standing very very still so as not to spill dress-melting champagne on oneself). [From Lisa at Miss Helene's, who also reminded me about the Duck Tape Prom Dress contest.]

And speaking of paper dresses, Theresa found a link to a paper Warhol soup-can dress. It's long sold, but the lovely folks at Memphis Vintage left the image up for us to wonder at. Thanks!

If you're not signed up for the Museum at FIT's email notifications, you might want to … they have some really interesting exhibitions (Madame Grés!) coming up.

I hate (and I mean HATE) St. Patrick's Day (when your name is Erin you hate St. Patrick's Day — damn it, I'm Scots, doesn't that count for anything? Keep your green-beery hands to yourself!) but Mary Beth (of The Lazy Milliner) sent this, which is both St. Patrick's-Day themed and Obama-related. Just don't spill beer on it, okay?

Brenda (at Cast On, A Podcast for Knitters) sends this link to an exhibition on homemaking at Cornell. She points out the boggling fact that the Home Ec department used to RENT ORPHANS for the students to "practice" mothering. Rent-an-orphan. The world is always weirder than you think it is.

While you're thanking your lucky stars you're not a rentable orphan, check out this 1930s video about the fashions of the year 2000, sent by Leia. Weirdly enough, there's no mention of Prada OR Marc Jacobs.

I know nothing about this; I haven't even visited the link. But it was pitched to me as the "First Fashion Blog in Uzbekistan", and I'm afraid that if I visit it, it will turn out to be a parody site, and I want to Believe. Let it be Uzbekistan: fashion forward! (And not a bunch of bored college kids auditioning for The Onion.)

Marion sent a link to Spoonflower, which had a survey up (closed now, I'm sorry!) about what kind of on-demand fabric printing you might want, at what price. Needless to say, this URL is on my watchlist. If any of you feel so inclined, you might want to email them and tell 'em you want it too!

Jen (at MOMSpatterns) sent this vintage-patterns-themed bracelet (from Etsy seller The Other Sister).

I know I've mentioned REMO t-shirts before, but now they have this offer where you can get a free t-shirt!

REMO General Store

You DO still have to pay shipping (from AUSTRALIA) but their t-shirts are so wonderful; they have really good women's sizes, and they wash beautifully … I'm even wearing one right now!

And one last thing before I forget, this has nothing to do with dresses, but it's the funniest thing I've read all week: Paul Ford does six-word reviews of ALL 763 SXSW mp3s. And I mean "laugh-out-loud" funny. (See how linktastic Friday lets me thwart the constraints of this medium?)

And that's all for this linktastic Friday. If you're going to send me a link (which I encourage!) and you want me to link your name to a site, make sure to include your URL … if you're sending me a link to Your Own Stuff, that's fine, but make sure you tell me that. Also, I (and my inbox) greatly prefer LINKS to large images, rather than the images themselves …

Enjoy your weekend …

Aye, Kalumba!

Liberty Kalumba

Ebay seller laluthan has, by some arcane process, not only managed to turn up tons of the (discontinued) Liberty twill, but also has some of my favorite, favorite patterns available right now, including the "Kalumba" print, above.

So far, I've bought this in orange (twice), green/lavender (once), blue (in silk! I can't bear to cut into it!), and now, the brown/teal here.

The first time I bought some Kalumba (orange #1) I made it into a very simple and comfortable A-line skirt. Unfortunately, I endowed it with insufficient pockets, which FILLS me with remorse every time I pull it out of the closet. (I was so young then, so unworldly! I thought all I needed was my ID, twenty bucks, and a lip balm!) Now that I'm older and wiser and carry too many personal electronic devices, I need more pockets, so I plan to make MORE Kalumba skirts. Maybe I'll even make one in each colorway, and wear them all the time, like Diana Vreeland wearing the same Balenciaga shift dress (but in different fabrics) every day.

I recommend laluthan highly — her stuff is gorgeous, comes quickly, and she's very good about shipping overseas (fast, too!). And last time I ordered from her she threw in a little scrap of blue twill Kalumba, just because … which is going to make a perfect waistband facing on one of these skirts.

And thank you all, so much, for your sympathetic comments on yesterday's post. Dad never did quite figure out exactly what "that blog thing" was for, but now I think he probably gets it. Obviously, the blog is "for" proving how kind people on the internet can be; I consider it now established beyond all doubt.

the first dress and the last dress

first dress

This probably wasn't the first dress I ever wore — I was more than a year old here, at my brother's christening — but it's the first dress I remember, in that weird kind of remembering that is nine-tenths composed of other people telling you what you should remember.

My grandmother made that dress, and I couldn't tell you if she knitted it or crocheted it. (My money's on crochet, though.) It has green velvet ribbons, which you can't see in the picture, and it's upstairs right now, in a box. I have a niece coming in August; maybe a year and a bit from now she'll wear it.


This is the last dress I made. Once Dad told me he liked a red bandanna skirt I had made, so I felt as if he would have approved of the black bandanna fabric. I was glad I had the fabric already; I hated the thought of going out and buying fabric for this last dress. Nothing would have been right; how could it have been? Besides, it was the just right weight for Florida in March, and when I lost it during "Be Not Afraid," the drops just beaded up and rolled off.

I used this pattern, for the first time. I went slow, much slower than usual for a first-time-through. I'd measure something and forget the number before I even put the ruler down. I had to move the little speed slider on my sewing machine from "jackrabbit" back down to "turtle." I kept sticking myself with pins.

I even tore the fabric of the bodice, ripping out stitches at the waist seam, but for once I didn't swear and throw it onto the "fix someday" pile; I just dug out some fusible interfacing and reinforced the tear. A little zig-zag stitching and a bit of cheating up when I redid that seam, and no one could have possibly spotted it, not even Dad, who could see a smudge or a nick or a speck of dirt from a hundred yards out.

As always, I made some changes to the pattern. I changed the front and back gathers on the bodice for darts, so as not to have to wear a belt (a blousy bodice looks awful without a belt, and my Good Black Belt is AWOL, as usual). I added deep pockets to the front seams — deeper than usual, as I wanted to be able to carry a full pack of tissues, maybe even two. I didn't want to have to carry a shoulder bag and then have it keep bumping into people when I hugged them. Dad had five sisters; I'm one of fifteen cousins; and friends were coming from all over: there was going to be a lot of hugging.

I know I'll wear this again — Dad was most emphatically NOT in favor of things that you could only use once — but I hope it's a long time before I need to wear it again. I might still want to have two packs of tissues in my pockets for a while, though. Just in case.

I'm going to miss you, Dad.


Thomas Albert McKean, 1944-2008.

Linktastic Friday No. 4

Simplicity 2070

So I was thinking about not doing Linktastic Friday today, and posting the dress I made for last weekend's American Crossword Puzzle Tournament instead, but I'd have to IRON that dress and that seems just too overwhelming this morning. So maybe Monday you'll get to see that dress.

I am disappointed, though, that by NOT putting off Linktastic Friday I don't get to say "Linktastic Friday falls on a Monday this week" because that pokes my funnybone. (Don't worry, I'm sure I'll re-use that joke at a later date.)

But, without further ado: on to the links!

The image above is a really nice shirtdress in a larger size from Born Too Late Vintage … thanks to Marge for the link!

I don't remember where I found this link to Uniform Studio, so if it came from you, please take credit in the comments. I really like this aesthetic (which may surprise some of you — although who doesn't want to dress as if they're sweetly androgynous operatives from the future?). Check out, especially, the "gathered line dress". Wonderful.

Robin sent me the link to this beautiful and very, very, very expensive architecturally-themed fabric collection from Finland. (42 euros! = oh noes!)

And while we're drooling over expensive fabric, Kristin sent me a link to Waechter's Silk Shop, which is based in the US and has Liberty at $36/yd. (Mostly the florals, though.) Jane Ellen sent a link to Peggy Anne's which is selling some of the more classic florals at $29-something a yard.

Also, Heather found this yellow-and-gray newspaper-printed stretch knit at Fashion Fabrics Club. Or maybe you want a dress-form print silk hankie in the same colors? (Sent by brokentemple — but snap that one up quick if you want it, it's a Buy-It-Now).

Have you all seen this shoe-storage wheel? Sent in my sister, who knows me too well … and speaking of shoes, last week's tape-measure lamp reminded Kate-in-England of these shoes. Pinstripes and tape-measure cockades, oh my!

Gretchen sent this link to a dress made from 41 pairs of recycled Levi's 501s. It's *amazing*, and exactly what I would wear to a Costume Institute Ball honoring Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein. (Scroll down past the scary baseball-jacket Pierrot costume to get to the jeans dress.)

Liana draws a paper doll every day. Some of them are dresses. Works for me!

Cranky Librarian T-Shirts (and other stuff). Makes me want to be a librarian even more, so I can have a license-plate cover that says "I am a librarian … and I WILL shush your ass." Sent by Paula, who has a blog about those loop-loom potholders. Awesome.

Some company called Mippin (it's official: the internet has now completely run out of domain names) has done some fancy scraping to make this blog work on your mobile phone. I think. I haven't tested it, but the mobile url is supposedly Feel free to try it out, it doesn't cost me anything (it may cost you, depending on your mobile web-access plan). Blogread responsibly!

Janet at Lanetz Living is off skiing in Colorado, but she's having a sale at her site while she's gone: 20% off, just use the coupon code "ski20" when you check out. (That's why the internet is the best; how could you have a sale at your brick-and-mortar store and be off skiing at the same time?)

And I *thought* I'd posted about this before, but I can't find it, so here it is again:

Simplicity 2070

Thanks to Eirlys (who does not even live in the US) for finding this at Antique Dress. Too bad it costs … wait for it … $ 1,485.

That's it for this Linktastic Friday! More links next week …

I think I'll move to Australia.

pink and green vintage shantung

Lesley sent me the link to this dress, on Ebay Australia. I love Ebay Australia; even though the shipping can get ridiculous. I think I just like answering the question "Where did you get THAT?" by saying "Australia!"

(My favorite geek t-shirt comes from Australia, now that I think about it …)

This dress is up to about AU$27, and is about B33/W30. And here's what it looks like full view:

pink and green vintage shantung

This is such a perfect spring-y Easter-y dress. And I really want some spring-y, Easter-y weather so I can wear something like this … the weather was warm (50 degrees!) where I was the past few days so now I am all about the shirtdresses (even though I'm back in Chicago where it's freezing again). Expect numbers 4 and 5 in the series shortly.

Of course if I DID move to Australia, I'd be settling in for winter now. Hmmm. Maybe I'll stay in Chicago …

Guest HOW-TO: Petticoats and Crinolines and Slips, Oh My!

ebay item 8305987417

[pattern from Lanetz Living]

La BellaDonna left a really helpful comment about slips and crinolines and petticoats on the Shirtwaist #2 post the other day, and on the off-chance some of you missed it, I thought I should elevate it to Full Post Status. (You should really read the comments if you can, they're always awesome, because you all rock!)

So, LBD writes:

For the ladies who are dubious about wearing a complete crinoline under their full skirts, I would point out there is an Easy Cheat™:

Use the skirt part of the pattern you're making up to draft a petticoat. It's not as scary as "draft" makes it sound: just make sure the finished "petticoat" is a couple of inches shorter than the finished dress will be, and experiment with putting ruffles on the "petticoat" until you reach your desired degree of "pouf." You don't even have to make yourself crazy with shortening the petticoat and then sewing the ruffle onto the hem; just topstitch the ruffle onto the finished "petticoat" so that the bottom of the ruffle is even with the "petticoat" hem. If you want more fullness higher up, put another ruffle higher up on the "petticoat;" it should overlap the lower ruffle, but not cover it completely. For a gathered skirt pattern being made into a petticoat, you can make a casing and run the elastic through at the waist; for a gored skirt, or something fitted, you can put in a placket and a hook and eye (or just overlap it a bit and put on the hook and eye!). Let the petticoat sit a little BELOW the waist of your skirt, to cut down on bulk at your waistline (this means the petticoat skirt waist will actually be BIGGER than the waist of the dress, so that the petticoat sits lower down on your torso than the dress waist does.) You can experiment with making ruffles out of the "petticoat" fabric; you can try ruffling up some good stiff nylon net (about 7-9" wide for a good finished ruffle), in which case you WILL want that petticoat fabric between you and the nylon of the ruffle; maybe another layer of fabric over that, to protect the skirt from the nylon. Dubious about nylon? Stitch a band of horsehair (woven nylon strip, made from nylon horses, designed to Stiffen Stuff) behind the hem of the ruffle. Horsehair is washable and is easy to work with; just top stitch it on the underside of the ruffle. If the dress fabric is lightweight, and you have enough, you could even make one ruffle out of the dress fabric! For instance, a yellow print dress might have a plain yellow "petticoat," with: a plain yellow ruffle; or a nylon net ruffle; or a white eyelet ruffle; or a lace ruffle; or a yellow print ruffle. Or all of them, if you want a Really Full Petticoat (with a Really Mixed Look). A print corduroy dress might have the petticoat in one color of the print, and the edge of the ruffle could be bound in the corduroy. (You might want to bind it using corduroy cut on the weft, since corduroy cut on the bias can get weird.) (N.B.: A Really Full Ruffle is generally considered to be the finished width times 3; if your skirt hem is 100 inches, that means a 300-inch strip of fabric gathered back down to 100 inches. A ruffle two and a half times the finished width, or 250 inches, is OK for a not-too-full ruffle that's been backed with horsehair. But I'd recommend the Three Times suggestion. My own preference for a finished ruffle length is 7-9"; your mileage, and your height, may vary. But it's a size to start with. And I completely agree with the zigzag-over-dental floss-or-buttonhole thread-method of gathering chunks of fabric. Mark your ruffle in quarters (that is, half-way, and half-way again) BEFORE gathering; mark your "petticoat" in quarters; match up the quarters to make sure you haven't gathered too much petticoat ruffle in one spot and not another. Don't take out the gathering thread! Leave it in! Topstitch the ruffle on a couple of times so it's nice and secure. DO remember to preshrink your petticoat fabric!!

Remember: YOU'RE IN CHARGE. You can do it ANY WAY YOU WANT. Red silk taffeta petticoat with black lace ruffles? Check. Plaid flannel petticoat with eyelet ruffles? Check. Pink gingham petticoat with dotted swiss ruffles? Check. It is a GREAT way to use up some of those weird chunks of fabric that find their way into every stash. Nobody needs to know that you have a gold damask petticoat under that grey wool shirtdress. On the other hand, how cool if you do?

A concrete reason to buy an abstract dress

red abstract plaid

Cherie at Shrimpton Couture sent me a link this weekend to a different dress (a wonderful red and white seersucker with some great piecing … but which is already on layaway, and I figured, hey, who needs to be taunted more on a Monday than Monday already taunts people), but, in checking out THAT dress, this one caught my eye.

I love abstract plaids for so many reasons. First of all, plaid is cheerful. I think "cheerfulness" should be a strongly motivating force behind all clothing decisions. Also, abstract, free-form plaids don't need to be matched as carefully as "real" plaids. And the last, and probably most important reason, is that if I were to spill something (preferably something in the red-orange family of foods and/or beverages) plaids like the one on this dress wouldn't show it! That's a big plus for plaid, I think.

This dress is a nice coated cotton, with ORIGINAL BELT, lined (!) and it's $125 at Shrimpton Couture. (measurements 36-28-38)