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The Mass

While Home this past weekend, my crafty sister-in-law took me down to the Value Village thrift store there, which is much bigger than the one by my house. And apparently has fewer vintage pattern aficionados haunting it, because there is a huge pattern section, and it was well-stocked with vintage. Of course, the patterns are more expensive, 99¢ rather than 49¢ for the individual patterns. And they do indulge in the obnoxious practice of bagging some of them (usually the best of the vintage, although there’s a fair bit of vintage in the individual patterns, as well).

Despite these disadvantages, I had very little restraint. Something about being home and not having the option of coming back next week.

For those who are actually interested in the nitty gritty, please flip through the gallery. For those who are merely shaking your heads in dismay at my wholesale descent into pattern-hoarding, well, my husband shares your pain. At least I didn’t buy fabric.

Now if only I can snatch a few minutes to actually sew one of these days…

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I bought fabric.

Adorable fabric.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective), it’s already been fashioned into a dress. An adorable little full-skirted sundress, in fact. Are you surprised?

Pre-stitched Sundress

We are back in our hometown for the weekend, and my hometown Sewing Friend suggested that we check out a new vintage clothing shop in her neighbourhood. So we abandoned our spouses with the children and dashed off for a few minutes of precious child-free time at Tikkityboo Vintage, a teensy tiny, exquisitely elegant little store in a sadly-dilapidated stretch of minor commercial real-estate. It’s one of those areas that looks just like that really cool, chic part of town with all the nifty boutiques, about ten years before everyone realized how nifty and chic it really is. Except in this case, it’s been like this for as long as I can remember. Which is a pity, because the other street of chic, stylish boutiques in town has long since lost most of its eclectic charm under a swarm of high-end clothing shops and hair-salons.

Amidst the racks of gorgeous (and not so gorgeous) vintage dressses, I found a lovely flocked-print circle skirt, unfortunately with a waistband that *might* have fit Tyo, and this cute little dress, which fits me just about perfectly. I’m not convinced it’s *especially* vintage—the label is Made In China and identical to something that you’d find in a modern garment, and nothing about the construction suggests any great age. But it’s cute, the fabric is adorable, and the price was low.

In need of repair.

There’s a tiny bit of discoloration on the sash that hopefully a bit of a soak with some Oxy-Clean will do away with, and it needs a touch of repair at the bottom of the bodice. And while the weather is actually fairly good for May Long*, it’s not quite strappy-sundress weather, so I won’t be wearing it right away.

But I still think it’s really, really cute, and I get to have that warm supporting-local-small-business glow, which I rarely get in my usual haunts, as I live in a fairly modern suburb that is the natural habitat of big box stores and chain everything. Unfortunately I’m not likely to have any sewing to report for several more days, unless Sewing Friend and I manage to dodge our husbands again and duck off to the fabric store…

 

*The long weekend in May in Canada is officially Victoria Day, when we celebrate the Queen’s birthday, but most people call it May Long. It’s the official (usually miserable) start of camping season, and is generally celebrated with bush parties and snowstorms.

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Kachow!

My package from ElleC, won courtesy of her first giveaway, arrived today! Woot, woot!

Score!

Three gorgeous vintage patterns, in more-or-less my size.

And, because she is awesome and doesn’t hate me nearly as much as she claims, she threw in a mess of new & vintage zippers just for fun. Just when I was thinking I needed to hit the fabric store and pick up zippers. My hero! 🙂

Also, see that pattern on the left? Simplicity 3965? Not only is it Simplicity (so I might actually know my alterations already), it’s the very same pattern the Sewaholic has made up into so many awesome versions!

Of course, from what I can tell she started with a junior petite version. I should be so lucky…

I love that the Butterick pattern comes with the opera-coat pattern, as well.

In other news, after my big score of vintage patterns the other week, I’ve been stalking the pattern section even more religiously than usual. Sadly, that lode of vintage awesome seems to have played out… I’ve picked up a few patterns since, but they’re all of the slightly-dated-but-still-potentially-usable variety.

Thrift store patterns

Including a couple of Burdas. My ongoing weakness for jacket & coat patterns is in evidence (OK, the sleeves of that Butterick jacket on the right are crazy, but I’ve been wanting a basic raglan-sleeve coat pattern for a while…). Also my weakness for romantic sundressy things. And the cape pattern? Well, I’m bound to want to sew a cape at some point, right?

McCall's 7532

Of (perhaps) slightly more interest is this 1981 pants pattern. Holy High Waists, Batman. No, I haven’t completely lost my marbles (well, maybe)—it’s a Palmer & Pletsch pattern complete with loads of fitting tips & instructions. The view on the left, I gather, is meant to represent the gingham muslin they recommend you make. Will I use it? No promises. But it was the right size and too interesting to pass up. Those ladies definitely make high-waisted look good… just not convinced that I could do the same.

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ZOMG Score!

Or, possibly, just a serious failure of judgment.

This is a first. Apparently this past weekend’s taunting envelope was actually a harbinger of things to come, rather than a cruel jest of the universe. Good things. I forgot the kids have no dance classes this week, so since we were already in the car we just had to stop by our friendly neighbourhood thrift store.

&*(&#&$&#!!!

Holy vintage patterns, Batman!

The only question is whether this means I need to go back every day this week and stalk the pattern shelf…

Yes, you saw it. There on the right, there.

Simplicity 2681. The very same pattern that taunted me with its empty envelope condition on the weekend.

Simplicity 2681 from 1958

I feel the need to emphasize, this is *not* the same pattern envelope with pattern magically restored. It is a size 14 (34″ bust), not a size 12 like the envelope-only teaser was. Not to mention the envelope’s considerably more beat-up. I’m going to suggest a new scenario: Mme X, circa 1958 (the year the pattern came out according to Vintage Pattern Wiki), picked up a pattern in her old size, 12. However, due to a slight weight gain, the pattern didn’t fit. In a desperate attempt to alter the pattern, she managed only to butcher it completely (you know we’ve all done it 😉 ) and finally, in defeat, goes out and buys the same pattern in a larger size.

I’m not sure why she held onto the original envelope, but, well, I’d be happy to hear your theories. 🙂

I like this

My fave is this Butterick sundress, though. Aside from the age old blousy-top issue. I really need to come up with a simple, fitted midriff-band-thingy I can add to patterns like these to make them wearable for me.

Simplicity 3400, from 1950

I’m also really loving the neat detail on this 1950 Simplicity blouse.

Lapse in judgment, you’re saying? What on earth are you talking about, you’re saying?

Well, look what else I got:

Oops...

I will point out, my youngest child will be nine in a few months. The largest of these patterns is a size 6 (and she’s tiny but she’s not that tiny. And, they’re so not her style). In my defense I do have littler nieces and my peers are finally moving into their reproductive phase (I’ve only been waiting for them to catch up for a decade or so), so there are likely to be plenty of other opportunities to sew for small people…

Hmm, yeah, sounds kind of hollow to me, too. But they’re soooo cute!

And, well, Strawberry Shortcake. I couldn’t resist. Be happy I didn’t bring home any of the Cabbage Patch doll clothing patterns. I know my mom still has my Cabbage Patch Kid in the basement somewhere…

Of course, then there’s the one, seriously unforgiveable splurge that I would have to agonize over if it had cost more than 49 cents.:

McCall's 4778

Now, that’s a dress that makes me want to forgive the 80s (even though it came out in 1990). It’s got a lot of features I like—princess seaming, sweetheart neckline, dropped-waist with the full skirt. It wouldn’t even be so unforgiveable a purchase, except, if you look, it’s a size-freakin-8. And I’m pretty sure it’s not drafted with typical 80s ease ;). My only hope is that Tyo will want something like it for her gr. 8 grad or something.

Yeah, not so likely.

Oh, and there were books.

Books!!

I could’ve bought at least three or four more, but I was trying to be restrained. And maybe find things that aren’t just a rehash of information I have elsewhere. And if you buy four you get the fifth one free.

So what do you think? Do I need to go back tomorrow?

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Another Thank You

Box!

Ok, this one’s been a LONG time coming.

You see, way back before Christmas, Bernie, a friend of my mom’s (my mom is my blog pimp) stopped by the blog and left me a comment that her mother had  a bunch of patterns she no longer wanted, and would I be interested.

Um.

Hell yeah?

Of course, what with distances and things like that, it made the most sense for her to drop them off at my mom’s. I picked them up over Christmas, and got—well, a little more than I bargained for. 🙂

Magazines

Aside from the patterns (we’ll get to those), there was a bag of fabric—an assortment of wool tartans, one partially assembled into a kilt) and a bunch of 80s sewing magazines—too new to really feel vintage, but too old to just chuck. Hmm.

Patterns!

The vast majority of the patterns were 80s, as well, and a fair number aren’t in my size range. But, in amidst the dross, there were gems, oh yes. (oh, and do click to see the full-size photo below)

The gems

Isn’t this a cute 50s shirtdress (top right)? Classic. It’s the right size, too—the only issue is that that blousy top and gathered skirt absolutely don’t work on my figure. /sigh. And yes, there’s several simple full-ish skirts in there (one of them twice, now that I look closer… *headdesk*) The Vogue wardrobe pattern (bottom right) I mostly like for the cap-sleeve blouse, by the way. Erm, yeah, basically identical to McCall’s 6288.

But the kicker, oh yes, the one that made my heart go pit-a-pat, was Simplicity 7376. Yeah, I’m a sucker for a sleek 70s suit jacket, but there’s a bit of extra back-story here. I found this exact same Simplicity pattern at Value Village back in the fall, and fell totally in love—and then was crushed to realize it was in a size 20. I nearly bought it anyway, just to look at. But this is so much better—it’s a size 14, a little larger than my usual 12, but much more manageable than the 20!

So thank you very much, Bernie—because that pattern alone totally made my day!

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Experimental design

A finished project for me!

OMG SHE MADE SOMETHING FOR HERSELF!

… okay, now that we’ve got that out of our systems…

I MADE SOMETHING FOR MYSELF!

Erm.

Vintage Patterns

So you may recall that I somewhat wantonly purchased a couple of 50s patterns from New Vintage Lady just before Christmas—a cute dress and a blouse that could’ve been Sencha’s grandmother. Both really adorable, and both a size or two too small.

Well, I was feeling experimental on the weekend (and in the mood for something quick that would use up scrap fabric), and somehow in the digging through of fabric and patterns I settled on this combo: Using the McCall’s 6288 (from 1945, the year my father was born) in combination with the scanty fabric remains from my Birthday Dress.

Despite the size 12 (30″ bust) of my copy of the pattern (I’m more a 14-16 in the old sizing), pattern-measurement suggested there would be enough ease in the bust and even in the waist, especially if I omitted the little tucks from the waist. So, feeling bold, I traced off the pattern and set to.

The best styling (click to see full size)

Careful pattern placement, and a certain amount of fudging, allowed me to fit both sides of the shirt on the .5m or so of actual full-width fabric I had left. I will confess, I did something I have not done, I think, EVER—I fudged the grain-line on the back piece so it would fit. I’m hoping that the fact that it’s a small blouse means the off-grain thing won’t be too noticeable—I certainly don’t notice it, but I’m sure the sewing gods are glaring down in disapproval. In hindsight, I could’ve pieced the fold-over portion of the rear button placket in from the huge LONG, THIN piece of the leftover fabric, but anyway. What’s done is done.

I opted not to be stingy with the interfacing, using it on the neck facings and the rear button placket. Not least because I think it’s a really nice way to finish facings. This is the trick that went ’round the blogosphere a while back, where you stitch interfacing and facings right sides together (right side of the interfacing being the non-fusible side) along the outside edge of the facing, and then flip and fuse them. The seam encloses and finishes the facing edge nicely. This is white Armo-weft, by the way, which is far and away my favourite interfacing—lightweight, fuses well, doesn’t shrink or bubble. I mean, there’s probably better out there, but it’s the best I’ve found from what I have available locally. You do need to use a press-cloth, even though I try to pretend you don’t.

Interfacing

Anyway, at this point I had to break for the night, and took the instructions upstairs to read over before bedtime. Erm. Me being me, they promptly evaporated, and I was left to wing the rest of the construction. A bit of a bummer since half the interest of making up a *really vintage* pattern like this is checking out the instructions. They have since resurfaced, actually just as I sat down to write this post, on the computer desk where they were hiding under my daughter’s laptop. Grr.

So, without benefit of instructions, I set to the next morning, starting with stitching the shoulders (french seam) and then the neck facings into place. I even remembered to stitch the ties in place! Of course, no sooner did I have  everything nicely understitched, but I flipped it around and discovered a) my neck-facing was showing on the outside of my back button placket rather than being sandwiched between the two folded layers (leaving an unsightly raw and flapping edge) and b) the neck was WAY too tight.

Which, I guess, was a good thing, because it motivated me to fix problem (a) before re-stitching.

Interior

I lowered the neckline by a good 1.5 cm all around, which has brought it to the point of being just-barely-wearable, although it also means that there’s not much left of my facing.

I then decided I would do french seams on the side-seams, which was also not my brightest moment ever, since they don’t play at all well with the way the sleeve is supposed to be finished. It doesn’t really show when wearing, since the fudge is all tucked in the armpit, but it’s definitely not smooth and sleek. You can see it clearly on the interior photo.

Buttonliness

I made the buttonholes using my Greist buttonholer on the White, since I wanted to try the buttonholer on a machine with drop-able feed dogs. I must admit I feel a bit daft using a buttonholer on a zig-zag machine, but anyway. The White is really growing on me as a machine—I wasn’t initially thrilled, but it’s a sturdy workhorse. It took a few samples to get the tension and stitch-width right, but once I had that figured out it made my buttonholes quickly and fairly neatly. It’s the first time I’ve used the buttonholer on such a light-weight material, and it made for a rather different experience. They’re not all perfect, especially the fifth one which I added after and of course messed up, but they’re in and functional. Incidentally, the pattern calls for four buttonholes; the location of the fifth, now that I have the instructions in front of me, calls for a snap, presumably because that would be more comfortable than a button under a waistband.

The pattern also calls for small shoulder-pads. I don’t really mind skipping those. I think I look about as square-shouldered as the envelope girls without them, thanks.

More styling

So, verdict?

Well, it fits remarkably well. The bust is a wee bit tight (especially over a padded bra) but not as bad as I had feared—a pinch test suggests there’s just under 2″ of ease, which is pretty minimal for the bust. The waist fits well, although it would be more interesting with the tucks. The darts are a smidgeon high (like maybe 1 cm) but really not bad at all.

I really wasn’t sold when I first tried it on, but after throwing it together with over half my wardrobe in a shotgun approach to styling, I think it’s growing on me. I really like it with the shrug, I think because I like the brighter colour contrast near my face. The mix of colours in the blouse kinda blends into my skin tone from a distance. I also think it might be great in a more drapy fabric—crepe or rayon or (ulp) silk. For most of my wardrobe needs it’s also a bit short. You’ll notice one way you don’t see it styled here—tucked in. I tried, honestly—with my circle skirts and my Kasia skirt. It almost worked with the Kasia, but the colours are wrong. And, well. Blouses. I have Blouse Issues.

So, all in all, it was a fun experiment. Will I wear it? I’m not convinced—but I’m not quite as skeptical as I was a few days ago, so there may be hope. Especially with my cream capris and the vintage shrug.

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Score(?)

Before I get distracted with anything else, thank you all SO much for your very kind words about our poor fish. They helped a lot, each and every one. Thank you.

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Hudson's Bay point blanket

Erm. So, I had thought my weekly thrifting-as-time-killer was a relatively harmless pastime. I mean, aside from the occasional sewing-machine acquisition. Most weeks I might spend $10, often nothing at all.

Well, this last one blew my streak.  I was being so good, too! No sewing books tempted me. The fabric section had been thoroughly re-stocked for the first time in months, but there was nothing I needed. I walked away from two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles curtain-flounce thingies as they were $4 apiece for really not very much fabric. (I gotta say, a TMNT bedsheet dress would be da bomb)

And then, on a whim, I wandered through the blanket section. I don’t usually spend much time in there, if only because it’s always full of fluffy fuzzies and hand-made quilts I’m going to want to take home if I look at, despite not actually liking patchwork very much.

And then I saw red.

Wool.

Felted.

Could it be?

I pulled it open, heart beating quickly. That weight, of heavy wool, scratchy, boiled, and felted. There it was—the wide, black stripe. And where—yes, there were the points, four narrow black lines, and right below them, the label.

I had found a genuine Husdon’s Bay Company point blanket.

Points and label

For those of you for whom what I just wrote is complete gibberish, here’s the Cliff Notes. (I’ve also touched on this topic before.) The Hudson’s Bay Company was originally a fur-trading company, founded in the late 1600s, that traded across much of the territory that is now Canada. Trading posts were the front-line of European colonization, long before anyone was farming out west; and, perhaps unusually in colonial history, the native people actually had something the Europeans wanted other than land—skilled hunters and trappers, they could produce fur, especially beaver, which was in huge demand in the European hat trade. My own husband is Métis, a group descended primarily from white fur traders who married native women during their long deployments for the fur-trade companies. Since the late 1700s, one of their signature products has been the point blanket, so-named for the black bars woven into one edge, which denote the size of the blanket (my four-point blanket is a standard double size; more points=bigger). These points were important in the weaving process, since the blankets are boiled and felted after weaving, which considerably changes the size. The blankets are top quality and very thick—almost 1cm thick. Aside from their use as blankets, one of the most popular things to do with a point blanket was to make it into a coat. At some point during their transition from fur-trade company to modern deparment store, HBC hit on the idea of manufacturing their own blanket coats.

Label closeup

Which brings in my own personal connection. Early in their marriage, my father bought my mother a professionally-manufactured Hudson’s Bay blanket coat. Which I presume left my mom tickled pink, as one of her favourite jobs at that time had been excavating Fort Carlton, an HBC fur-trading post in Saskatchwan which burnt to the ground in the late 1800s. However, it was a dress-coat, and she never wore it very much, saving it for best.

I wish I had a better picture of this coat...

Unfortunately for her (and the coat), I had no such qualms when I got my hands on it as a teenager. I wore the crap out of that coat. I wore it until it cried uncle. I wore out (and patched!) the lining. I ripped the armpits. All of which might have been fixable, but my backpacks have worn the fabric so thin in the back that it’s probably beyond saving. I’m sorry, Mom. I loved that coat. Even though it was shapeless with a waist belt (not a good look for me) and the sleeves were too short (like every other storebought coat I’ve ever owned). It was the direct inspiration for my Czarina Coat.

So, it was only natural that, when I began sewing, I should price out some Hudson’s Bay blankets, just, y’know, for someday.

Ulp.

Um.

Let’s just say the price for a new HBC blanket is, um, a LOTTA beaver pelts.

Which brings me back to my thrift store moment. My heart sank as I fumbled for the price-tag. Value Village may be a thrift store, but they know what they can charge for the good stuff, and there’s no way they’d missed how good this was. Sure enough, $69.99.

WAY more than I was planning to spend that night.

But still about a quarter of the price new.

So now I have an HBC blanket, in my favourite red and black colours.

All I need now is the perfect pattern…

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