Another Job for the Distaff Side!

Want to feel like a kid again?

Here’s a pro tip from me to you: Spending more time with your parents will make you feel older, not younger.

My mother is recovering from knee replacement surgery, so I took a few days to help her out – shopping, getting meals, cleaning, keeping her company, that kind of thing.

Definitely a job for the distaff side!

Each day began by observing the neighborhood squirrels at the feeder.

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My dad’s favorite squirrel

My parents don’t like to keep a lot of food in the house for some reason. They prefer to go to the grocery store every day. Here’s a typical haul – some Boursin-stuffed chicken breasts and other fixings for dinner, blueberries to make muffins for breakfast the next day, and – via last-minute text request – a giant bag of Cheetos.

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Food for the ‘rents

I found myself eating dinner at 5 p.m. My mother was very taken with my “recipe” for green beans:

  • Buy a bag of pre-trimmed green beans
  • Steam in the microwave for 4-5 minutes
  • Drain
  • Toss with salt, pepper, olive oil and juice from half a lemon

Although she told me that I shouldn’t cook with any salt from then on. There’s absolutely no real health reason for the fatwa on salt – my mother just thinks it’s unhealthy.

After dinner, we had a rousing game of Scrabble while a John Wayne movie played on TV.

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Scrabble excitement

I thought I would make use of the time by working on some sewing projects. One day I combined a trip to the fish market with a shopping trip for sewing supplies.

“You were gone a while,” my mother said when I returned.

“Sorry – did you need me?” I said.

“No, I just wondered where you went.”

I was gone maybe 90 minutes. Gee, why don’t I feel like I am 16 again?

It was fun to set up my machine on my grandmother’s old sewing table.

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New machine, old sewing table

The dining room has plenty of space for this, but it was a disruption in the flow of things. My parents’ cats gave me dirty looks. My dad kept reminding me to unplug the iron. I didn’t get much done and had to drop out of the Refashion Runway competition. I couldn’t find much to refashion anyway – the theme was “fake fur” and people need that stuff at this time of year. Oh well.

My parents live in New Hampshire, so I took off for about an hour one day to hear Bernie Sanders speak:

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That tiny old man at the podium is Bernie Sanders, honest!

That same day someone from Sanders’ campaign came to the door and my father had fun telling the guy off: “Everyone who likes your guy is already downtown listening to him speak!” 

On Sunday I had a rare treat. My parents still get a newspaper delivered daily. On Sundays, the paper includes full-color comics.

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Newspaper comics – memories of childhood

Bonus: a guy I went to high school with has a son who’s old enough to get married. The wedding announcement was in the paper.

After three days of this I started looking forward to my 5 p.m. dinner, some Cheetos in front of the TV, and the squirrel show every morning. One day a scandal erupted when some pigeons ate the squirrels’ corn.

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Thieving pigeons!

Every day I tackled a cleaning project. “Everything’s gone downhill since your mother’s been laid up,” my dad said after I spent 2 hours on the bathroom.

I told him that he needed to help out more. Distaff side, my ass.

I left them after four days with a freezer full of spaghetti sauce, chicken, soup and muffins. My sister also has also been helping out with meals, cleaning, doctor’s appointments and the rest. We have a good laugh about it all.

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The daily text affirmation

I know that taking care of parents is something we all have to do sooner or later. I am grateful that I have the kind of relationship with them that they I can help them – for sure they helped me for many years! This was a relatively minor event – my mother will recover and go on with her life. The day will come when it’s not such an easy job. I am glad I had the chance to prepare for it a bit.

But I left the visit feeling old and feeble. My knee makes a crunching sound when I walk. That can’t be good. I have my mother’s thighs – I guess I have her knees, too.

Refashion Runway Project 2: 1970s

I took inspiration from my 1976 first-grade class picture to create a modern look with a 1970s twist, using all refashioned and upcycled materials. To check out other refashions, and to vote for your faves, visit The Renegade Seamstress Refashion Runway Season 5.

70s refashion before (3)

The 1970s were not a pretty decade style-wise – in fact, a true 1970s look should feel a bit sleazy and unappealing. So I tried to make something true to the era yet wearable for today.

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70s style complete with boots, cheap jewelry and hoop earrings

I worked with these raw materials: old jeans from my husband, a vintage men’s shirt and old kitchen curtains with crochet edging.

70s refashion before (2)

Let’s start with the top! The colors exactly match the dress in my class picture, so I had to go for it. Also, paisleys were such a huge motif  from that era in fashion. If you find any ugly wide neckties from the mid-1970s, I bet you $1 in 1970s money (about $6.60 in today’s money) that paisleys swirl around someplace on it.

This shirt is very well made, with flat-felled seams, darts and nice wide facings at the center front. But… it’s made of that notorious spun polyester fabric that disintegrates into fluff instead of unravels at the raw edges.

To make this man’s shirt more feminine, I started by cutting off the button and buttonhole plackets and unpicking the collar, then cutting down the center front on an angle using New Look 6498’s bodice pattern piece.

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Bodice restyle

I harvested the crochet edge from these old kitchen curtains and sewed them to the raw center fronts, then sewed up the middle to join the design into something new. The lacy detail is a bit see-through – just enough for an adult look without being too much. The crochet makes a little collar at the back neckline – cute!

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The sleeves needed help too. Puffy sleeves were in during the mid 1970s, so I cut off the cuff and sleeve plackets, folded over a generous edge, and made an elastic casing with about an inch for a hem. The elastic allows the sleeves to fit more closely with the volume I wanted for a 1970s look.

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Elastic casing with a hem for the sleeve

Finished design:

70s 4

 

The skirt is a throwback to my youth as well. Skirts made from old jeans were all the rage back then. If you don’t believe me, visit any vintage store or trawl eBay and you’ll see tons of these skirts.

To be authentic, I needed to start with men’s jeans. That was the style back in the day – you’d make a skirt from your boyfriend’s old jeans. In this case, my husband supplied these jeans that had seen better days.

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Hubby’s old jeans with legs trimmed to prepare for transformation to a skirt

Making a skirt is pretty easy. Start by cutting off the legs at the length you want. Cut an inch or two longer than the intended finished length to allow for a hem, but leave enough length in the legs to use the leg fabric as center front and back pieces.

Next, cut off both inseams to the crotch line, then unpick a couple of inches front and back – be sure to leave the fly area in the front intact.

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Inseams unpicked and ready for transformation

Next, prepare the leg pieces you trimmed off. Cut them apart at the inseam so they are one nice flat piece and position one in the front and one in the back of the skirt – there will be a lot of fabric overlapping – don’t worry you will trim that off later. The unpicked bit of the front and back crotch should fold flat on top and overlap a bit  (if they are still curling a bit, unpick a bit more until they’re flat).

Pin at the crotch points and all along the wedges.

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Don’t worry if the hem is a bit uneven – you’ll fix that later.

Now sew down the wedge pieces. I just sewed the wedge underlapping the sides because I like the raw edge look. Also, I was going to embroider it and didn’t want any bulk. After the wedges were in place, I trimmed the excess fabric from the wrong side. If you want to get all fancy, you could trim the wedges down first and sew them to the side pieces with a flat-felled seam.

Then try on the skirt and decide on a hem length. It’s best if you can get a friend to help you mark the length so it’s even all around. Turn and topstitch your hem, and you have a skirt!

To make this skirt go with the top and to add more design elements, I decided to embroider the wedge in a 1970s style motif using colors from the top. I started by running a line of embroidery alongside the seam where the wedges meet the front and back.

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Embroidery 70s style

Then I added lines above and below that line – eight lines of embroidery in all. Make sure you have enough thread to spare before you tackle this!

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Looks cute on too and coordinates with the top, a belt with a big ol’ silver buckle and boots:

70s 5

70s 2

 

It’s been fun! What’s your favorite decade for fashion?

Refashion Runway Goes to the 70s

The 1970s were an ugly decade. Let’s face it. There’s not much to root for. But for this week of Refashion Runway, we have to go there. Luckily, I have two advantages:

  1. I was born in 1970, so I have some first-hand memories of the decade’s style and values.

Exhibit A:

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Me, 1976

2. My husband is a pack rat and has been storing ugly 70s clothes in our attic closet since we moved into this house 18 years ago.

Exhibit B:

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Mystery bags of moldy couture

Let’s get going!

These bags held so many treasures it’s hard to know where to start.

Should it be the plaid pants?

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Hard to tell where the bedspread ends and the pants begin

How about the Anderson Little brand (read: cheap-ass) polyester double-knit sportcoats?

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Salmon pink.
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Classic plaid

Note the demi lining (also poly, natch) – would not be able to stand a whole lining because in poly double knit you sweat. Like. A. Pig.

This leather shirt is actually beautifully made and possibly valuable as it came from Saks Fifth Avenue.

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Leather shirt

I played around with it, but regrettably there’s not much material to work with. I am going to see what it’s worth on the resale market.

And finally, the jackpot:

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Nothing says 70s like paisleys

The color story of this paisley print creepily reminds me of my school picture from 1977. I have to use it! No excuses!

It’s a man’s shirt, so I will need to feminize it a bit. I have some lace and crochet trims to play with from these old pillowcases and curtains. And I am going to make a 70s style denim skirt from a pair of my husband’s old jeans.

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Raw materials

So that’s the plan. The outfit is due Friday.

If you haven’t checked out last week’s fabulous entries, please visit The Renegade Seamstress and vote for me if you think I’m worthy. Thanks!

Refashion Runway Challenge One: Statement Sleeves

I just love a high-contrast look to jackets, so when the first-round challenge of Refashion Runway Season 5 was “statement sleeves,” I knew I had a great opportunity to create some drama!

Jacket front with sleeve contrast
My jacket refashioned from a friend’s old dress

My jacket started life as a dress that a friend gave me. She didn’t like it, but she thought the linen-cotton blend fabric was nice and the print was cool. She gave me a challenge to refashion it. Challenge accepted! Here’s the before look – big, boxy and shapeless:

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Old dress ready for new look
The fabric is rather stiff, so I began by washing and drying the dress a few times to change the fabric’s hand – it’s softer now but still crisp enough for a jacket.
I started by cutting the dress straight up the front and unpicking the neck facing.
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Unpicking and creating the blank slate
The front was turned and topstitched to create a self-facing. Then I created a pleat at the center back to take up some of the fullness, so it would fit better.
I trimmed about 8 inches off the bottom to create a more pleasing length, leaving side vents about an inch long just for style. I used the fabric from the bottom to create the collar and pockets – nice big pockets perfect for holding a phone and keys.
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Collar drafting

I drafted the collar just by measuring the new neckline and tracing off a collar from an RTW shirt to get the basic shape, then adding a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I cut the same in red so that the collar is two-tone.

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The red contrast came from a rain jacket with a broken zipper that I bought at Goodwill/ I was delighted to find something in a red with blue undertones:

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Raincoat – ready for some refashion fun!

I love the combo of red, white and blue – red is my favorite color and it it always delivers a nice pop!

I cut off the jacket’s cuffs to reuse them in the new jacket.

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Cuffs ready for refashioning

I tried several ways to work these in to the blue and white jacket, but nothing was gelling – I didn’t want them to look tacked-on but rather integrated into the jacket as an essential piece of the design. So I instead used the red as a contrast in the cuff. I sewed the cuffs so that they can be worn turned back for max drama or turned in for just a peek of color.

Jacket without sleeve contrast
Jacket without the peek of red

To continue the theme to another part of the jacket, I thought to add a button feature to the collar so that I can wear a bit of the red exposed or not, depending on my mood.

Here’s a flat view of the jacket, with the center-back pleat and my label showing.

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Flat view

And here’s the back view – love the cuffs!

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Back view

Voting is supposed to start today. Please visit The Renegade Seamstress for a look at all the entries, and if you like what I’ve done, I’d love your vote!

 

Refashion Runway, Here I Come!

Refashioning or upcycling textiles into new designs has been really fun and satisfying, so I resolved to push myself more in 2020. Here’s a gallery of projects from the past couple of years:

I didn’t have to wait long. I was chosen to compete on “Refashion Runway” – a friendly sewing competition sponsored by Beth Huntington, aka “The Renegade Seamstress.”

Yikes! There are 15 contestants who have put up some fabulous looks using textiles that had a previous life. Here’s a rundown of the competitors with some of their choice refashioned looks. I am so impressed with how these sewers combine textiles and shapes to create something super cool.

While I am no slouch in the sewing department, my refashioned looks have been a bit, shall I say, basic? I have upcycled and refashioned mostly large flat pieces of fabric, such as a sari, a blanket and not one, but two tablecloths. My most ambitious project was creating a nightgown out of an old bathrobe, and while I like how this project turned out, it’s not exactly a garment I wear on the street. In public. Or even in a photo on this blog.

So, I gotta step it up.

The first project, which starts January 18th, is “Statement Sleeves.” We were given the basic challenge parameters in advance, so we could start planning. There are few guidelines for each challenge; we’re meant to interpret it for ourselves. I assume this challenge means we need to create a big, showy sleeve in an refashioned garment. Statement sleeves broke through as a trend a few years ago as a kind of antidote to the sleeveless look of the early 2010s. It’s still going strong, to judge from all the ruffles, puffs, pleats, cutouts and other sleeve designs you see out there.

I really like a dramatic cuff on a sleeve, so that’s my jumping-off point.

RuPaul

In my closet, several misfit discarded garments wait for their chance to shine. That’s your cue, awkward linen dress!

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Awkward linen dress from a friend … can you carry the water?

My friend Emmeline gave me this dress last summer. She wore it once but found it … just … not … her cup o’tea. But the fabric was nice, so she gave it to me with encouragement to refashion it.

The first thing I did was to wash and machine dry it with other laundry three times to soften the linen-cotton blend up and to let any shrinking get nice and shrunken. Trying it on, you no doubt notice a few pros and cons:

Pros:

  • I like a high-contrast print, which this for sure provides in navy and white.
  • It’s big and long enough to give me some fabric to work with.
  • There are no darts or zippers and few seams to complicate a refashion project.
  • The hem and sleeve hems are split, offering some design change opportunities.

Cons:

  • I am not crazy about the “junior high school art teacher” swishy brushstroke motif.
  • It has no lining, and the “wrong side” of the fabric looks pretty bad, as the navy bleeds through.
  • The neckline is awkwardly proportioned and has a crummy facing.
  • The fabric remains a bit stiff and ungainly despite three journeys in the washing machine and dryer.

Clearly, this is not going to work as a dress, no matter how it’s refashioned.

My big idea is to turn it into a duster-style jacket. I think I will cut it right up the middle, self-face the raw edges, recut the neckline and add some darts for shaping, front and back. Maybe a contrasting lining? It will need some help as the wrong side will be on display even more as a jacket.

But what about the sleeves? That’s the whole point of the challenge. I am thinking a cuff – in the same contrast as the lining – with some accent hardware or other bling to edge this look up a bit.

I had nothing suitable in my closet of misfit garments, so it was off to Goodwill to see what they had.

Score!

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Goodwill raincoat for $9.89 – 10% off

This red rain jacket has a lot to work with as it’s fully lined. The zipper was broken, which is probably why someone donated it. And it has a cute drawstring in the hood, which can be repurposed easily.

Red is my favorite color! And the contrast with navy and white will look chic (I hope).

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Raincoat – ready for some refashion fun!

I have a good week to play around with my ideas before the contest starts. Wish me luck!

Me Made May Week 3

Hi everyone – here are some quick Me Made May looks from week 3. So far, I have worn at least one Me-Made garment each day, sometimes head-to-toe looks. I am delighted that I have come this far, and I am confident I can finish out the month.

First, the rest of the looks from last week’s vacation, where the temperatures soared into the low 90s after starting the week in the 50s:

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Blouse from La Mia Boutique July/Aug 2018 and Maria Denmark Yasmin Yoke Skirt
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Lounging my the pool in the Tunic with Roll-up Sleeves from “Happy Homemade Sew Chic”
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Headed to a botanical garden in my poppy print top from Simplicity 1202 and Yasmin skirt
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The denim Yasmin skirt again, worn with an upcycled tablecloth top from Happy Homemade Sew Chic’s Tunic with Lace
Brown Hotel
Dinner with my hubby in my Jalie drop-pocket cardigan and RTW dress

I went to the office yesterday and decided to dress up since I needed to get my head back in the game:

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Sewaholic Cordova jacket, Style Arc Creative Cate top and RTW pants in my office’s fancy elevator.

And then a couple of work-at-home days with suitably casual looks:

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The tunic top again, this time with the Seamwork Moji pants
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Planting spring flowers in a top from New Look 6330.

I notice that a few of my me-made items are nearing their expiration dates. This New Look top, for example, didn’t come out right and hasn’t worn well. The neckline is ripply and the hem is wonky. I wear it for things like exercising and working outdoors. Also, let’s face it, my upcycled tablecloth-turned-top is pretty funky (as was intended) but not a great look for me.

Likewise, that Cordova jacket is on its last legs. The zipper area is all rippled – I am not sure why but I suspect that the interfacing shrank when I had the jacket cleaned. It was always a little big, but it seems to be getting bigger as the years go by. I really need to make a new jacket for work.

 

A Winning Upcycle Project

I won second place in the PatternReview.com 2018 Upcycle Contest for my Hudson’s Bay knock-off coat! Woot!

I am pretty amazed. This was not the most creative upcycle, but it was pretty striking graphically, I guess. Or maybe my funny story about it charmed everyone.

Here’s another funny thing. When I mentioned to my mom that I entered this contest, she said she remembered the blanket from my college days. A few days later, this picture arrived in the mail.

EPSON MFP image

 

Yep there I am, and there the blanket is, looking very 1990 or so.

Remember how cameras back then gave you red eyes? Lovely!

I can’t believe how bad those bangs look. I must have cut them myself.

Also, I am wearing a black Swatch, an oversized sweatshirt and faded mom jeans. Sexy!

I cropped pictures of the other dorm-mates out, since I can’t remember their names. So sad! It was only 30 years ago…

Soooo…. old…..

But I have a cute coat!