Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June's Finds

This month, I went to a couple of estate sales and yard sales. I thought you all might like to see what I picked up. Get excited!

Yippee! - (source)

It all started when I found an estate sale listed on Craigslist, described as a "mid-century time capsule." How could I resist! It was held on a Friday and a Saturday, so, since my current work schedule is M-F, I was only able to go for the second day of the sale (once I'm done with training at my new job, I'll likely have a Sunday through Thursday work week, though!). I'd had a nagging feeling that all the really great stuff would get snapped up before I could get there on the second day, so my estate sale buddy and I showed up right when the doors opened on Saturday morning. 
My suspicions were somewhat correct, as the selection was a bit picked over and the woman in charge let me know that someone had bought all of the sewing supplies on Friday. Understandable, I suppose. The house itself was fun to check out, though, as the kitchen appeared to have been untouched since the 1960s, at the latest (why didn't I get a photo!). As I investigated the bedrooms,  I found these cute napkins that I just had to buy, tucked away in a box of old curtains. They came with this booklet describing all the fancy ways to fold the napkins into animals and other fun shapes, like they do at nice restaurants. I'm not a huge collector of vintage linens, but, at $3 for the set of four, I couldn't pass these up.

Pretty "Vera" floral napkins, with folding instructions
While we were out and about that Saturday, we saw a sign for another estate sale nearby and found a yard sale across the street when we pulled up to the house - double whammy!

The house where the estate sale was being held was rather interesting. There were many rooms, including two kitchens, a back, windowless den/room filled to the brim with Christmas decorations, and a lovely little greenhouse/enclosed porch off of a bedroom. While rummaging in the laundry room, I found a bin of sewing supplies and a couple worn and torn, unremarkable 1970s sewing patterns. I managed to dig this bodkin out of the bin and bring it home, complete with original packaging. It seems like a pretty useful tool to have in one's sewing kit and ended up costing something like 50cents.


When we checked out the yard sale across the street, much to my surprise, I found some pretty linens, scarves, and fabric, and my shopping buddy found some cute little lanterns. I ended up bringing home this cheerful floral fabric, with a bright pink, blue, orange, and green print on a white background - four yards for $1! I'd originally thought it was some kind of linen or linen-like blend because of its stiffness, but after laundering it, it feels like soft cotton, and has a little more drape to it. I've really been wanting a bright floral - I'm hoping it'll get used for a sundress sometime soon.

pretty floral cotton

After our yard sale and estate sale success that morning, we were still hungry for more, so we ventured out to downtown Leesburg to hit up some antique stores.  When we stopped by my favorite, Black Shutter Antiques, I snapped up this cute 1960 Simplicity dress pattern for $5 (not the best bargain I've ever seen, but still a good price!). I love the sweet, simple neckline on the dress.

1960 Simplicity 3340

The straight skirt view paired with the coordinating jacket instantly made me think of Emma Stone's character in The Help when she goes to her job interview. Her outfit is a bit different, but there's nothing cuter than a matching dress and jacket like this! I have quite a bit of brown tweed from a past yard sale that I could use to achieve a similar look. We'll see how I feel come autumn.
Skeeter Phelan lands a job at the Jackson Journal

Skeeter Phelan lands a job at the Jackson Journal by carolatthemovies featuring flat leather boots

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hemming & Hawing

Remember how I told you all that I'd temporarily abandoned the in-progress Milly silk wedding guest dress I'd been working on? Well, it had been living in the "ehh" pile for a little while, until this past weekend, when I was suddenly and inexplicably inspired to finish the dang thing. I went with black for the bodice, as you can see - had I already shared that?

Check it out!

I was rather smug and quite pleased with myself (look at me, I'm finishing this dress now, even though my deadline isn't for another month!) until I finished pressing the hem, that is. This silk is so freakin' bouncy and buoyant and light and perky that it will not make a nice crease to save its life (yes, its life - I'm about to go at it with shrub trimmers just so I can force it to submit - Ah-HAH! I win!). I'm not used to working with silk but that perkiness was not an issue until I decided to hand-stitch a 3-inch hem - WTH? Also, though you can't see the actual thread on the right side of the hem from my stitching, you can see little dents from it. Damned shiny, sensitive silk. :( It doesn't look horrible IRL, but it makes me feel like foolish riff-raff who neither understands how nor deserves to work with nice material. Meh. (maybe that's a little dramatic, but let's just say I feel slightly discouraged.)


sad, blobby hem

I can't figure out what to do to get the hem under control. I keep debating whether I should just rip it out and make a smaller, tiny hem (which could still have a weird bubbly effect, too), try to rip it all or partially apart and add some kind of weight or horsehair braid in the hem to help keep it flat/crisp, or just keep pressing it over and over until it finally submits. Any recommendations would be appreciated, though I am quite reluctant (meaning 97% unlikely) to do anything requiring me to take out the hem I've sewn.

One kind-of-positive thing about this hem situation is that the bouncy bulk down there kind of helps to keep the skirt a little fuller and swishier almost like a weak horsehair braid, which is nice.

Also, a full post on this dress will be done after I wear it to the wedding in early August so I can include pictures of me actually wearing it and looking halfway decent. Despite my complaining, I do like this dress (though it has more flaws than just the hem and Tom says it makes me look a little sock-hop-ish, haha) and I am looking forward to wearing it, even if I can't get the dumb hem fixed. I opted to use a thrifted black belt at the waist, instead of  making a pink belt/band, so it'll look something like this. Yay!


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vintage or not?

Let's just say that dating "vintage" finds is something I'm still learning.

I generally rely on my instincts + the color scheme and content of an item + any unique/particularly vintage details + whatever else I notice...?  Oh, and if the seller has identified the decade the item is from, and written it on a little tag, that helps too. :)

Other than that, where you're shopping definitely affects the potential difficulty level of dating any items you find. If you're at an antique store, it's reasonable to expect that the clothing and other items you look at are vintage (though there can always be exceptions). At a thrift store, though, you can't really know what to expect when you pull something off the rack. It could be anything from a crusty sweatshirt from 1996, to a brand new dress from Old Navy, to a hidden vintage gem.

On a recent Goodwill trip, I picked up a sweater that seemed like it could be vintage, but it was hard to say. It definitely had a retro look to it, it smelled old (but that could just have been from hanging out with old stuff at Goodwill), the style of the tag seemed old but new at the same time, and some of the details on the sweater seemed to indicate that it was vintage.

mystery sweater

Here she is. This sweater is a deep, bright orange color (not quite as neon as this picture makes it look), and with the contrasting off-white collar and button placket, I first thought, "is this some '70s does '40s-inspired thing?" And then I started to think... "maybe it's just some '70s thing...or '80s?" I was all over the place. The tag says it's cashmere and it fit well, so I decided to bring it home, regardless.

This thing totally un-buttons all the way!

The cut and structure of the sweater, apart from the color scheme, are what had me thinking it was vintage-y. The larger section of fitted ribbing at the hips/below the waist and the almost 3/4 length sleeves seemed rather retro to me, too. Also, the decorative top-stitching along the collar and placket, along with the fact that the buttons down the front are completely functional, not just for decoration, had me leaning toward calling this a vintage piece.

random back shot

Just under the collar, in the corner of the button placket by the opening edge (near the top button), there's a little hook attached that fastens to a little white loop on the edge of the under-placket to keep that corner tucked neatly down at the neckline (make sense? no?). Here's a picture.

Hook is at the left arrow, loop is at the right arrow. -- It's still basically impossible to see here. Why was this part so difficult to photograph!

I only ever seem to see such helpful (but not completely necessary) hooks&eyes like this on garments that are vintage. Perhaps I'd be more accustomed to seeing them on the RTW pieces in my wardrobe if it was made up of nicer pieces and not mainly just cheap dresses from Target - sigh. Well, in addition to this handy little detail, the whole sweater seemed well made in general, so this could just be a nice piece and not actually vintage. Is this gratuitous little hook&eye considered a high-end or couture detail? Hmm...

check the tag (got a little lazy with the photo editing at this point :-/)

Anyway, I decided the only way to know for sure whether this was a vintage piece or not would be to take a closer look at it and maybe do a little Googling on the tag info. You can't quite see it here, but the tag reads "An original Milly of New York," which seemed like a retro style tag, if not actually old. The piece that threw me off was the little "M" tag right under the Milly tag. This looked completely modern to me, from the font to the fact that it's just a Medium and not some numerical size. Also, I think this baby was made in China, according to the tag.

more collar/button/hook&eye action

When I Googled "an original Milly of New York," I'd fully expected to see a link to a company that had been in business at least as early as the 1970s. What I did not expect (but ended up doing) was to find a company that was supposedly established in 2000 whose products are sold at such fine retailers as Bloomingdale's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. There's a bit of confusion, though, as I also found links to Milly pieces for sale on Etsy that were dated to the 1960s and 1980s, obviously earlier than 2000.

Also, what exactly qualifies as vintage?? If this is from Milly, which was supposedly established in 2000, does 12 years make something....almost vintage? I think I remember seeing a rule on Etsy that in order to sell something as "vintage" on their site, it must from at least 20 years ago. Well, 12 is close to 20...kind of.

Another thing...? Milly sounds awfully familiar. Could it be related to the spotted silk I'm using for my wedding guest dress?

The jury is still out on this, but I'm leaning towards saying this sweater is modern, not vintage, based on the company info I found when Googling -- but really, who knew it could be such a mysterious question!?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sewing is good for you!

I've told you about my new job at a custom t-shirt company. Well, during the first week of training, we got to go onto the website and play around in the design lab where customers create the designs they want printed on t-shirts. Once we'd played around for a few minutes and created our designs, we shared them with the training class and then got to place the order fo' free!

I thought you'd all appreciate the shirt I came up with. :)

front design

Made from scratch by yours truly! Cool, eh?

The phrase "sewing is good for you" just popped into my head when they told us to design a shirt for ourselves. I knew I wanted to create something sewing related and the only other thing I could think of was "Keep Calm and Sew On," which seems kinda overdone. I like that the shirt I came up with isn't overly specific (like "Sue loves sewing!") but is definitely something that no one else has in their closet. Yay!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hooray for a hundred!

Almost exactly five months ago, I decided to take the plunge and started my very own sewing blog. I was nervous at the beginning and struggled a little bit to find my voice, but now I'm here and I can't really remember what my life was like without it. :)

I must say I'm quite surprised and grateful now to be celebrating having reached 100 followers - yay!

I just want to say a quick THANK YOU!!! blogland, the online sewing community, anyone who reads this, my mom, and the world in general. Thanks!! I really appreciate the comments you all make on my posts and the support and advice you've shared with me. I've loved "meeting" everyone who stops by my little neck of the internet woods!
Now, I'm planning to host my first giveaway to celebrate very soon. I'm thinking something a little bit vintage-y, but more on that in a bit! As I've mentioned, I'm still adjusting to my life/schedule with the new job, so sewing and blogging time are more scarce than I've been used to...but stick with me, it's coming. Promise!

In other news, here's another look at the top I'm working on lately. I've had to give it a little break for a couple days (not quite the same as throwing it in the "ehh" pile, more to prevent that from happening! -- absence makes the heart grow fonder?), but am now thinking I'll revisit those sloppily finished armholes and apply a bit of homemade bias tape to finish them nicely. I've also got some adjusting to do to the back to improve the fit before it can be worn.

You'll just have to take my word for it that this collar is not crooked in real life!
I've had a few comments on the fabric used for this project. I was lucky enough to have picked it up at the estate sale I visited back in April. It was hanging out in a huge bag of misc. fabric, along with the plaid I used for my Estate Sale Dress. I believe this teal-y/green-ish floral print is cotton...and perhaps from the 60s/70s? (based on the color scheme in the print), but that's about all the info I've got on it. There's no writing or marking in the selvage, so I don't have any more clues.

I can share my inspiration, though! 

As soon as I saw it, I was inspired by the collar on this cute dress from Does anyone know if there's a specific name for this type of collar? Is it just a pointed collar? Anyway, I just had to give it a try and I'm rather pleased with the results. What do you think?

Oh, and here's a quick little explanation on how I put them together, in case you were wondering.
I just made four of these little pieces, sewed them together wrong side to wrong side, like I was making two little pillows. I turned 'em right side out, made sure the corners were nice and pointy, and stitched them onto the shirt, just inside the neckline, so that the notch where the green arrow is was just peeking out over the neckline to the outside of the shirt.

sorry if this is blurry!!

Then, since I'd left the little side by the dotted red line open in order to flip it right side out, I turned that under and stitched where the red line is, attaching that whole back edge of the collar to the outside of the shirt, over the shoulder. I've seen this done a lot in RTW collared tops, and it's a shortcut I thought was worth taking!

That all seems rather wordy and in need of photos to clarify, which I can go into should anyone be interested. It was a very simple little project to make the collar pieces, so if you're thinking of trying out making up a collar, just go for it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

A little update & a sneaky peek

Thanks for all of your kind words of encouragement about my new job!
It's off to a good start, so far. I'll be in training for the next 8 weeks (wow - overwhelming), then I'll be going on vacation and hoping all of the stuff I've learned doesn't fall out of my brain as I lounge on the beach. Once I get back, I think I'll be set loose to actually do my job for real, with some coaching - here's hoping it goes well!

This has felt like a super busy week. I'm sapped of energy from focusing on learning so much new stuff all day at work (and stressing that I'm not getting every single thing!) - it's like being back in school. I'll admit feeling a bit out of my element from this career change, but I suppose that's pretty normal. I'm still trying to adjust to having a new routine, so my sewing has been somewhat sporadic.

Here's a sneak peek at what's been hanging out on my sewing table.

sneak peek!

This WIP is another estate sale project; the pattern and fabric are both April estate sale finds.  The pattern is the sleeveless, v-neck version of  this vintage McCall blouse, with some adjustments (like a collar I just made up). I wasn't feeling the whole making facings thing, even just with bias tape, so I ended up fiddling with finishing the arm holes and neckline just by turning 'em under and stitching - weak, I know. It doesn't look super awesome, so I might end up spiffing it up a bit later. Like I said, work on this has been sporadic, so I'm just kind of winging it. I cant seem to get the fit right, no matter what I pinch or tuck or take in. I've been recklessly altering and chopping away, taking lame shortcuts and hoping for something wearable. I'll let you know if/how it turns out.

As for my wedding guest dress in pink/black/spotted silk, it's currently looking something like this.

mysterious, partially completed blob, sitting in my sewing room

my "ehh, I'll work on this later" pile.

Sometimes I get bored with things and throw them aside part way through. I'll finish it eventually - promise!