Blogging · Holidays · Musings

Farewell 2014, Hello 2015!

Happy New Year, everyone! I seemed to have fallen off the blogging bandwagon a bit towards the end of last year, but 2014 was such a monumental year in terms of sewing/crafting/personal stuff, that I thought it would be a good idea to take a trip down memory lane:

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  • Finally, in December, I crafted and sewed a ton of Christmas stuff (I made both the wreath and all the stockings in the photo) , but ran out of time to share these with you all due to quite a few social engagements and an increasingly hectic work schedule.

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So, what’s in store for me in 2015? A return to historic sewing, more cat-themed craziness, and traveling! I’ll be attending a historic women’s fashion conference in April (!), so there will be lots of sewing in preparation for that, and we may end up going to Europe this summer . I also want to focus on sewing more everyday, usable items for my modern wardrobe, and expand some of my vintage closet to be more useful as well (I have some fabulous dresses in there, but many I have only worn on a handful of occasions, or they were a one-off for a special event). 2015 promises to be a creative and crafty year, and I can’t wait!

 

1850s sewing · Blogging · Contemporary Pattern · Finished! · Holidays · Modern Sewing · Musings · Pattern · Personal · Reenacting · Reenactments · Regency era costuming · Vintage

2012 – Sewing Year in Review

I thought it would be fun to do a sewing year in review, and when I saw the Top 5 of 2012 idea  on Kim-ing (who in turn got it from Crafting a Rainbow) I knew that would be a perfect way to reflect on my sewing projects from this year! So, here we go . . .

Top 5 Favorites

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1. Red suspender skirt. I wore this one twice. Once at the 1938 picnic, and then again for my vintage photoshoot. I’ve always wanted a suspender skirt, and to have one in red that I made myself from a vintage pattern just puts a smile on my face.

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2. Graduation dress for Lauren. This was my first modern dress commission, and I’m so pleased with how it came out. Best of all, Lauren loves it and says she got so many compliments during her party, so yay!

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3. Regency short stays. So proud of myself for venturing into another era in terms of costuming, and I love that I used all natural, nerdy historic textiles for this one and made my own hand-made eyelets.

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4. A frock for the end of summer. I love this little dress, and when I wore it downtown this past summer, I got so many lovely compliments.

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5. My sheer-yoked Macaron. Love this cute little dress and I can’t wait to have another occasion to wear it to.

Top 5 Sewing Fails

1. Rachel Berry Halloween dress. You think I would have started this one sooner, but no. In my defense, I was still adjusting to working full-time.

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2. Speaking of work, my next sewing fail is the skirt I made for work. I’ve only worn it once as the fabric has stretched (that’s what you get for using a cheap poly-blend that’s on sale).

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3. Mid-19th century corset I made this past summer. I used cheap cotton sateen from Joanns and some of the bones were too long, so they kept popping out (despite the fact that I used cotton twill tape to bind it).

4. Not altering that red vintage dress in time to wear for my Christmas party. The bodice is a bit too big and will need a bit of work, so I wore a polka-dot dress instead.

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5. My Regency dress for Bastille Day. I wore this one once and it looks like I’m being choked.

Top 5 Lessons Learned

1. I don’t need to have a new dress for every reenactment. This used to be a huge thing for me, and I would stress myself out the week before a reenactment to finish a new dress. I’ve learned this year that well put-together, historically accurate dresses (like my green wool fan-front) are worth the effort and will get more wear then something hastily thrown together.

2. You can’t care somebody into caring or love somebody loving. Not sewing related, I know, but it’s one of the huge lessons that I learned in 2012.

3. On a similar note, sometimes it’s best to let things go and do what’s best for you. I know that sounds selfish, and maybe it is, but, at the end of the day, you only get one life. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t give up your dreams for a boy. 😉

4. Ok, back to sewing now. I’ve also learned that I have too much fabric and will never have time to sew it all into fabulous things. I’ll probably be giving a lot of it away at some point . . .

5. Sorry! I can’t think of another lesson I’ve learned (I’ll blame it on the 3-day sinus headache I’ve had). If/when I do, I’ll add it to the comments, okay? Okay. 🙂

Top 5 Blogs/Bloggers that Inspire

1. The Fashionable Past by Katherine C-G. Katherine is an amazing costumer and I’m continually inspired by her productivity level!

2. Gertie’s New Blog For Better Sewing. Basically, this is my dream. Blog takes off and you get a book deal. Oh, and Gertie is also on sewing tv shows and wears fabulous repro vintage items that she’s sewn herself.

3. Vixen Vintage. I had the privelege of getting to meet Solanah this past summer at the 1938 picnic and she is every bit as fabulous in-person as she is on her blog. Solanah dresses vintage every day and she’s been one of my big style inspirations since I started getting into vintage style back in 2009.

4. Elegant Musings. I just adore Casey (in a fellow seamstress, vintage-enthusiast way).

5. And, finally, My Friends Are Married. Not necessarily a sewing blog (ok, it’s not at all a sewing blog), but it’s so hysterical and makes me not feel so bad about being single. 😉

Top 5 Goals for the New Year

1. Finish my UFOs! This includes the Rachel Berry Halloween dress, which is currently still in pieces.

2. Host a giveaway.

3. Wear more vintage and sew more with vintage patterns. I sorta got my feet wet (so to speak) with the suspender skirt, but I have a plethora of vintage patterns in my stash that I would love to use.

4. Write/film more tutorials. I have a ton of ideas for hair tutorials, which I’m really hoping to get filmed in 2013.

5. Move out of my parents house! 😉

Finally, this will be my last post of 2012 (fitting, don’t ya think?), as I’ll be taking a bit of a blogging break. If all goes to plan, I should be back next year (which is also coincidentally next week) with a giveaway! Until then, Happy New Year!

Holidays · Musings · Vintage

Why I won’t be making my Christmas party dress this year . . .

. . .  aka, why is it so hard to find red fabric without spandex!?

So, I’m having another Christmas party this year! Luckily, I have a co-hostess this time, so it should be a bit less work. With the activities planned out and food in the works, I started planning the most an important part of the event, which is my outift. I had high hopes of a red lace dress, like the one Chuck wears in the Pushing Daisies promos:

Luckily, Gertie has recreated this look, so I read through some of her posts about the process, which were incredibly helpful, especially this one about sewing with lace fabric.

Unfortunately, $150/yard red chantilly lace really isn’t in my budget right now (I would like to eventually move out of my parents house), so I started looking for alternatives after all of the affordable lace I could find was white, black, or cream. At first I thought I would do a vintage-inspired velvet wiggle dress, but all of the red velvet I found had spandex or something else stretchy in it. So, then I thought red wool, but that only comes in maroon or with some orange mixed in it, so there went my Joan Holloway plan:

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Basically, I spent an hour looking at fabric and at the end wanted to rip my hair out.

It seems like good quality, affordable red fabric (without spandex!) is almost impossible to find these days. Which is really sad, because red is my favorite color. It could also just be that I’m shopping too early for red fabric and that come December more of it will be in stock. But, considering how long it’s taking me to complete sewing projects, that’s not really a risk I’m willing to take right now. 😉

Anyways, this story has a happy ending as, in the end, I turned to Etsy for a vintage Christmas dress, and I now have this little number on its way to me! The best part is that there’s lace on the bottom of the skirt, just like the original dress I wanted to make.

I went to the post office after work today, eagerly hoping it would be there for me to try on, but it wasn’t. Of course, my mother gave me the “do-you-really-expect-a-package-that-was-mailed-yesterday-to-be-here-today” look. So, maybe tomorrow. 😉

Holidays · Modern Sewing · Musings · Personal

Another Rachel Berry Halloween Dress

First off, my sincerest apologies for such a long absence! Life has been crazy, made more so recently by the fact that my southern grandma has moved in. She’s an amazing woman, who was was born on a farm in Louisiana during the 1920s, grew up during the Great Depression, became a Rosie the Riveter during WWII and settled down and raised a family during the 50s and 60s. She’s basically experienced all of 20th century history and is such a priceless antique! 🙂

Anyways, Halloween is around the corner, and I’m finally starting on my dress. I’ve decided to go as Rachel Berry again this year (you may recall, I was her last year, as well), after seeing this little number:

I mean, she’s wearing a witch’s hat, how could I not!?

Anyways, after searching for quite a while for the perfect black and white striped fabric (most of them are home-dec weight), I finally found this! I just ordered it yesterday, and am hoping to get it in the mail soon!  In the mean time, I mocked up the bodice using Vogue 8723. I was very fortunate that it mostly fit (I just had to take some width out of the bodice). It’s a pretty standard, boring bodice mock-up, so no photos of that. 😉

What about you, readers? Anyone sewing their own Halloween costume?

corset · In-Progress · Musings · Pattern · Puget Sound Ladies Costume Society · Regency era costuming · Underpinnings

Regency short stays are totally the sports bra of the 19th century

I’m buried beneath a pile of costume sewing here at Chez Anna. This Sunday is the Puget Sound Ladies Costume Society Bastille Day Picnic, the weekend after that is my first Civil War reenactment (hard to believe, but I really haven’t been to one of these before), and then 3 weeks after that is the weekend extravaganza known as Brigade Encampment.

So, Bastille Day Picnic. Originally, I had grand plans of making a whole 18th century wardrobe and wearing a Chemise a la Reine (for those interested, you can read more about this garment here), but I realized this past weekend that I only had a week to put an outfit together, and a Chemise a la Reine was just not gonna happen. I mean, I’m a crazy costumer, but I’m not *that* much of a crazy costumer. 😉 Instead, I decided to go with a Regency outfit, since a) the clothes are incredibly simple, b) I already have all of the materials needed for an outfit, so this would be a great stash-busting project and c) I’ve been watching a lot of Jane Austen costume dramas lately.

Anyways, yesterday I went over to Nona‘s and we did a ton of sewing on our Regency costumes, since both of us are new to this era. I started the short stays this past weekend, and almost finished them yesterday, except for the eyelets (which will be done by hand). I’m using the now out-of-print Simplicity 4052. I read a lot of reviews about this pattern before I started sewing and heard that because it’s a Simplicity version of this pattern from Sense and Sensibility, it runs big and to cut out a smaller size. Well, I cut out my regular size 12 (after doing a quick tissue-fitting) and it fits totally fine. I didn’t have any issues at all with the dreaded 4″ of ease that everybody claimed it would have.

The eyelets will go between the binding, and the bone (which is actually just a cable tie I used in a pinch).

 So, the short stays are made from 3 layers: the outer fabric is cotton sateen, the interlining is cottom duck, and the lining is pima cotton. The trickiest (actually, it wasn’t tricky, just tedious) part was sewing in the gussets. that, and sewing so many layers of fabric together (especially the cotton duck, which, if you’ve ever worked with it, it’s like tent fabric). I’m used to my machine being pretty loud when sewing, but it was especially loud when working on these yesterday, and Nona asked me if my machine always made that noise when I use it, so I’ve decided to nickname my sewing machine “the clunker.” 😉

Luckily, there wasn’t too much machine sewing, as I spent most of my time hand-sewing the binding to the inside of the lining, using a whipstitch:

I tried these on today, and the fit is so interesting – they’re like a sports bra with the comfy shape (no belly constricting!) AND a push-up bra, since and they push the bust up to give the fashionable Regency “shelf” look where your boobs are basically under your chin. An added benefit is that since there’s so many layers and they’re so stiff, I’m pretty sure they have bullet-proof functions, as well. Pretty important if you’re in a duel with Aaron Burr.

Yeah, I totally just made an Alexander Hamilton duel joke. 😉

1860s · Musings

Things I learned from watching Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

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Sewing progress has been slow and tedious over here at Chez Anna (more about that later this week), so I took a break yesterday (with my fake auntie!) to go see a very interesting film that’s just come out, Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. The history lessons I learned from this were astounding, that I just had to share!

  • Abe Lincoln’s mom died from a vampire bite. Thus, he became a vampire hunter.
  • Before she was married, Mary Todd did her own shopping. At the general store. In a ballgown.
  • People in Springfield in the 1830s were wearing clothing styles of the 1850s. They were *that* fashion-forward. 😉
  • Abe & Mary Todd only had 1 son, Willie…. He was, of course, killed by a vampire, which is why Mary Todd fled the White House.
  •  After Mary Todd fled the White House, she went to the Battle of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, so that she could personally kill the vampire that had killed her son. Also, she was never crazy or fat, but quite sane and thin, despite being married to a vampire killer.
  • Oh, and all of the Confederates were vampires. Every single one. Thus, all of the silver in the Union had to be confiscated in order to make weapons to destroy them.

Anyways, despite lots of a few historical inaccuracies, I actually really liked the film. It was incredibly entertaining to see our 16th president hunt vampires by twirling around an axe, and a nice change of pace from all the genteel Jane Austen costume dramas I’ve been watching lately (and if you’re a fan of costume dramas, too, then you must check this out. Trust me, you won’t regret it). 😉

Musings · Thrifting · Tips

Sewing on a Budget

Happy Monday, readers! This is a post that I’ve been contemplating for a while, as  sewing can definitely be an expensive hobby and it seems that fabric and notions are increasingly getting more expensive.

So, whether you’re a (relatively) poor college student (like me!) or just on a budget, here are some tips I’ve found help to make sewing a less costly endeavor.

  • Buy the highest-quality fabrics and notions you can afford. Well-made, natural fiber fabrics are worth the investment (and sometimes they needn’t be expensive, especially if you thrift) and will last longer than cheaply-made synthetic fibers.
  • Thrift whenever you can – It’s amazing what people give away to a thrift store sometimes, huh? But I’ve found amazing fabrics (like some great wool pieces, polished cotton, and fabulous printed cottons) and vintage patterns for under $1. Considering what some etsy sellers are charging for vintage patterns, buying from the thrift store can definitely save you a pretty penny, as well as shipping costs (you might have to pay sales tax in your area, but even a 9% sales tax on a $1 pattern is cheaper than any shipping costs). One caveat, however: thrift stores are very hit and miss. Somedays you’ll find amazing stuff, and other days you’ll come away with nothing. Don’t be discouraged, though, and realize that thrifting does require an investment of time. I recommend finding out when your local thrift store puts out there new merchandise, and then plan to visit your thrift store on that day. Also, many thrift stores will have weekly sales, so take advantage of those.
  • If you’re going to make a mock-up or test garment, use old sheets rather than muslin. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen the command “make a mock-up first!” in a sewing book, I’d be rich (okay, I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d definitely have enough to buy a candy bar). And while I think that it’s great advice, I don’t always make a muslin. Sometimes after I’ve made the garment I wish that I had, and, well, that’s sewing karma for you. That being said, mock-ups are great ways to try out your patterns, but rather than paying $2 a yard for several yards muslin to do so, you can go to the thrift store and get a sheet for that amount and use that to mock-up. Added bonus? You’re also being environmentally friendly by reusing something, rather than buying new.
  • Shop your stash first before buying anything new. You would think that if you’re sewing on a budget, you wouldn’t have a massive stash of fabric piled up in your closet. Wrong (at least in my case). There will be cases, of course, when nothing in your stash will work for the project you’re contemplating and you’ll need to purchase something else.
  • Trade fabric and patterns with your sewing friends. Exchanges like these are great ways to get new-to-you items in your stash for no money at all.
  • Sign up for coupons from the big fabric chains. Places like Joann’s and Hancock Fabrics have a program where you can sign up to get their mailers and they’ll send you coupons about every 2 weeks. Joanns also puts coupons in the Sunday paper, which you can use in conjunction with your mailer coupons for added savings!

Anyways, I hope these tips have been helpful! If you have any money-saving tips when it comes to sewing, please do feel free to leave them in the comments!

Edwardian/Teens · Musings

Titanic Tea dress musings

Readers, I have no idea what direction to go in when it comes to my dress for the Titanic tea. Granted, it’s still a month and a half away, and I’m still working on underpinnings, but being me, I like to know what I’m going to work on. So, it’s with this thought in mind that I’ve decided to do some “thinking out loud” (via the internet) in the hopes that getting all of the confuddling dress thoughts out of my head and articulated into words will help me make a decision.

So, my first thought was to reproduce a dress from the film (the 1997) version. This is my favorite movie of all time, not just becuase of Leo Dicaprio, but also because of the costumes, (unplausible but lovely) storyline, set, and music.

Anyways, I’ve always loved this yellow dress Rose wears, but then I thought that I didn’t want to do all of that embroidery around the bodice (what can I say, I’m a gal that likes a quick sewing project).

Then I thought that this dress would be fun to wear, and appropriate, too, since Rose wears it during tea and I’m going to a tea, but then I thought “where am I going to find lace like that at an affordable price for a struggling college student?”

Then I *briefly* considered recreating the navy blue satin and velvet dress, but this one has been so overdone that that discouraged me. What can I say, I’m an individual (which is why I’m considering reproducing the lesser-known costumes from a blockbuster movie).

So, with the Titanic movie costume choices all fraught with some issues, I decided to turn instead to another one of my favorite Edwardian costume dramas, Downton Abbey!

I love this lavendar stiped dress that Lady Mary wears in the first season, and it looks simple enough. I’m just worried about it looking too “old lady” or “school marm,” especially with the lace that is tacked to the front.

I also like her jaunty little “walking into town” outfit (complete with a fabulously-trimmed hat!). I’m just worried about this being too many pieces (3 altogether) to get done in the amount of time I have.

Velvet, striped silk, and lace - oh my!

Finally, I looked at some original dresses from The Met, and I fell in love with this striped ensemble (it dates from 1913-1917, but I think that’s close enough). I’m just having problems finding a striped fabric that’s comparable with this one, so I may just have to go with what I can find that’s close enough.

Now, I realize that taste and preferences in dress style are all subjective things, but what I’m looking for mainly in doing this reproduction is something that is both cost-effective and not too complicated to make, but that also looks nice. If I keep that criteria in mind, I should (hopefully) be good. 🙂

Contemporary Pattern · Modern Sewing · Musings

Saturday Morning Sewing

 

Yeah, I did just post a picture of me in my scottie dog pajamas and messy bedhead bun on the internet . . .

In terms of my creative process, Saturday mornings are often a rejuvinating period for me. The school week is over, I normally had a relaxing Friday night, and Saturday mornings are spent sleeping in and then waking up to do some sewing. It helps that here in the Pacific NW, Saturday mornings from 8 to 12:30 PBS runs sewing shows, most of which are incredibly inspiring in terms of both getting me to sew, and provind me with new project ideas (not that I need any more projects, mind you, but still). Normally I start watching around 9, when It’s Sew Easy comes on (prior to that, it’s just old lady quilting shows), followed by Sew it All. Usually, I’ll watch Sewing with Nancy afterwards and sometimes Martha’s Sewing Room (since she shows a lot of vintage garments), but the majority of the shows after that are old lady quilt shows, which I don’t really watch, with one exception: for lols, I’ll finish my Saturday morning sewing show marathon with Quilt in a Day. I rarely, if ever, quilt, but Eleanor Burns is such a crazy cool old quilt lady. Seriously, even if you don’t sew, I would recommend watching an episode of Quilt in a Day sometime. It’s hilariously entertaining (as well as informative!), and I hope I’m that vibrant when I’m her age.

So, that’s a typical Saturday morning for me. This morning I started watching my sewing shows while working on a new skirt (Simplicity 2512) which I cut out last year, but didn’t start sewing until last week. I plan on leaving the house to run some errands including a run to the post office, grocery shopping, and some thrifting. But, with 3 days off from school, I definitely plan on getting some major sewing done, including the skirt mentioned above and finishing the mock-up of my modern dress commission. I may also eke out a new tote bag, but we’ll see how that goes.

So, with that in mind, I’m looking forward to a long weekend of stitching, but I am curious: are weekends more productive for you in terms of sewing? And, if there are sewing shows in your area, do they inspire you to create?

Let me know what you think down in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll be entertainting myself with some sewing shows. And get dressed and brush my hair. Eventually. 😉