Three posts, and I’m already diverging from what this blog was intended to be. Oh well. These things happen. I present to you “Modern Dress in Blue”, inspired by years of heavy soaking wet denim.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to sit in the soak zone at Sea World, hit Splash Mountain at Disneyland… if it gets me soaking wet, I’m there! But I also love jeans. And if you’ve ever worn soaking wet jeans, you know, they get heavy. And not just like, “Hm. This is uncomfortable.” It’s more like, “AHHHH, the sheer weight of the water is pulling my pants down, and why can’t I move my legs???” It feels like you’re in a bad dream and something is chasing you, you just can’t move your legs, no matter how hard you try. So as I sat in front of a sewing machine stitching up a rose-print black dress (pictures on their way, I just need to find an appropriate vintage setting for said pictures), I thought, “I should just make a light cotton dress to wear, something that would dry quickly and easily.
I also wanted to make a fishy dress to wear to aquariums and Sea World and other such places, and out of this, my soak zone friendly dress was created. It was originally knee-length with an off-the-shoulder ruffle, but then I ditched the ruffle and replaced it with thick straps (you can’t really tell from the pictures, but the straps fold in the back like a kimono. This happened because I took the scrap fabric from the sides of my A-line skirt and used those as my straps. Also, it creates kind of a faux-sweetheart neckline). Then I shortened it, because, let’s face it, the print is slightly overwhelming when it covers your entire body.
This is also my first dress sans-pattern, thanks to the dress form my best friend Mandi got me! Let me tell you, it is soooooo much easier when you don’t have to pin it together on your own person and then try to remove it without stabbing yourself. Also, while I still suffer from pucker zipper, I managed to hide the zipper better this time. Note to self: Crazy prints hide zippers that pucker. You’re too distracted by orange sharks!!!
Overall, I like this dress. Two people actually complimented me on the dress, and Cisco says another woman said she wished she had this dress as she walked by us, but I didn’t hear it. Still, I trust him.
Of course, the greatest test was sitting in the soak zone. I got wet, and by the time the show was over, I was dry, which is pretty darn impressive! Way to go, shark dress. Way to go.
So this is a dual post, of something I finished in December but only just got to posting. In fact, I have three new dresses to post too, but for now, these are the pictures I have, so let’s stick with, MY PANTS! And my sweater. Pants first, they take less time.
SIMPLICITY LIES. They say 12. They do not mean size twelve. They mean, “This only fits anorexic twelve year olds.” At least this pattern didn’t fit me, so I had to modify it, which I realized I am incredibly bad at. Probably didn’t help that this was my first foray into machine sewing in about 4 years, so I had to keep redoing seams over and over. In any case, after a lot of hard work, I finished the pants, which hit me right at the start of the rib cage, which is perfect for the thing I really wanted to highlight here, the sweater!
The sweater is made from a real vintage pattern I found online from a website in New Zealand (little plug, http://www.vintagepurls.co.nz/), and unfortunately I did not recognize the yarn weight or the needle size, so it was all about math and reworking the fair isle pattern to fit my new reduced number of stitches. The puffy sleeves took the longest, to be sure! Especially because the sweater itself hits so high, and I have arms which are long and awkward (I do believe I was made to brachiate through life), the sleeves took more yarn and more time than the rest of the sweater!
The sweater seemed to go over well at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA (Dear Deceptive Boyfriend, I have since realized Perris and Paris have little in common), where they were doing a night-photoshoot of all their Pacific Electric streetcars. For those of you who know my dearest darling Cisco, you know he loves streetcars, so we showed up in vintage clothes for this event, and ended up being the only ones who did so. So now he and I are on the cameras of photographers all across SoCal, and I got my first foray into the life of a model. My cheeks hurt by the end–now I know why they all look so angry! It hurts to smile for long shutter exposures OVER and OVER again. Of course, my fantasy-oriented brain turned me into Heidi Klum and I managed to survive the ordeal by being a perky little fashion-opinionated German woman in the deepest recesses of my mind. So the event was great!
Well, hello again, ladies and gentlemen. This is another piece that I finished more recently; this time, knitwear, not sewing. Allow me to set the scene for you:
The room is dark, musty, and smells of Army. It’s the smell of TA-50 that hasn’t seen the light of day in months, the smell of old ponchos and rucksacks… all of a sudden, there’s a gleam! A shimmer! I see the tiniest bit of light in a drawer in the bottom of the archives at the Fort MacArthur Museum (located on Gaffey Street in San Pedro, CA, stop on by!). Cisco, by my side, kneels to the drawer and pulls out a giant piece of cardboard that is shining and golden and lovely… a sheet of paper atop the carboard reads, “KNIT YOUR BIT! Our Boys Need Sox!” Poor spelling aside, I snatch the pattern up and read it… it’s easy enough, why, this vest is all in garter stitch! The neck band is just square! It should take me two weeks, TOPS. Cisco smiles and declares that he’s seen this vest in a picture somewhere… somewhere…
I copy down the pattern as he engages in a search through binders and binders of photographs from the glory days of the Fort, and sure enough, he returns to me with an image, an image of a man wearing a sweatervest over his mustards and smiling broadly atop The Breakers Hotel in Long Beach. Then I look closely. It is not the same sweater. There’s a three inch rib border, increases, ribbing along the V-neck and the sleeves, it’s done with only one strand of worsted and smaller needles… sure, it’s prettier than the one described in the Knit Your Bit pattern, but it was going to take much longer. Some housewife on the homefront put her heart and soul into making that soldier atop The Breakers look snazzy, and I felt compelled to do the same.
In the end, my project, predicted to take two weeks, took me about 4 months, though admittedly there were quite a few weeks where I was so sick of stockinette that I didn’t pick up my needles, so I guess in man-hours it took about a month. You have no IDEA how long 22 inches is until you do it twice in the most boring stitch pattern of all time. Plus, I kept second guessing myself, which meant I’d have to go back and frog inches off, and there was the occaisional dropped stitch at the worst possible time (always followed by my desperate search for a crochet hook, which wiggled its way into the seat cushions between drops), but in the end, there it was, in all it’s glory. A replica of that much more beautiful and much more complicated sweatervest (not like it was cable-knit and fair-isle, but it’s much more complicated than Cast On 100, knit 22 inches, repeat on reverse) has been completed.
In the end, I’m glad I made it. And now I have a waiting list three deep for more, but I think I’m going to take some time and do a few “me” projects before I get started on those. But eventually I’ll hit Joann’s for more olive drab wool, and eventually these sweatervests, lost in the records of history, will be seen on re-enactors far and wide! And my dearest darlingest Cisco will be the trend-setter for it all. He says he’s incredibly happy with it, that it keeps him warm, and that it fits well, so all in all, this was a positive experience in my book.
Thanks for reading!
Next Projects In Line:
Blue Sweater circa 1943
Brown pants circa 1942
“Katherine Hepburn” style green blouse, circa 1942
Brown skirt circa 1942
Stockings circa 1941
Rosey dress circa 1947
This dress was my first foray into vintage dress making. I never thought it would be so different from modern sewing, but boy, was it!
I made this for the 55th Anniversary of Disneyland, my favorite place on the whole planet. My friend Juliette arranged for a few of us to go in 1950’s attire, so all these pictures were taken in the sweltering heat that was July 17, 1955/2010. I chose a lemon yellow gingham (I really do wish you could see the checks on the dress), because when I think 1950’s, I think pastels and sunny colors. The skirt is absolutely huge and took way too many yards of fabric (the exact number escapes me, but I did have to go back and by a second helping), which really isn’t too odd for the 1950’s, since women were showing off the lack of rationing.