Category Archives: Sewing

Halloween: Vintage Style

IMG_5691_editWell hi there, friends!

I come to you today with a fabulously exciting collaboration between the prolific milliner Tanith Rowan and I.  I stumbled upon Tanith’s blog in late July and became enamored with her monthly Whimsy project and stunning handmade hats. She announced in her newsletter an idea for creating a set of vintage-inspired Halloween costumes and I jumped at the chance to be a part of it. We exchanged general ideas and set about sketching in the beginning of August. In all, we both came up with 10-12 individual designs and then we narrowed down to 3 for production. And that narrowing was no easy feat. I would happily make every one of Tanith’s designs. Oh and her fashion sketching? Puts mine to shame, folks.

Tiny sidenote – as you look at these, bear in mind the fact that the garments were all sewn in a 32 square foot space. On my kitchen table. If you think you can’t sew because you don’t have room – don’t let it stop you. It can be annoying, but it’s possible and remarkable fun.

1950’s Spider

spidersketchFirst up – a 50’s sheath dress and gathered overskirt with a wide brimmed sun hat. Tanith’s take on the hat is a stroke of genius. Inside the brim, she hand cut felt spiders and hid them between the sheer layers, so they are only visible when the light shines through the brim in the right way.

IMG_0965 IMG_0984For the dress, I used Gertie’s Tiki Dress pattern from her book and made it up in dark grey bengaline. I didn’t gather the skirt as she instructs, though.  I just used the simple pencil skirt instead. Of all the pieces for this project, I expected to have the most trouble and be the most frustrated by this one, just because of the complex nature of the construction and it being my first time using boning in a garment. It went together smoothly, to my great surprise. I even lined it! The “web” overskirt is self-drafted and made of creamy sheer. It’s loosely gathered using a technique I used last year to make an Anthropologie inspired duvet cover.

IMG_0976 IMG_09681930’s Cat

catsketchNext, a 30’s day outfit with a long skirt, bow-tied blouse and short cropped jacket. Tanith’s hat is a crown of fur with a knit fabric carefully gathered across the center and two velvet ears on the edge. By the way – a note about Tanith’s remarkable hat designs: she knows what a hat needs to help it stay on all day. For this hat, she built in a plaited bandeau that wraps around the back of your head to keep it in place. My hair mostly covers it in these photos, but trust me, it’s there.

IMG_1014The skirt here is Wearing History’s 1930’s Bias Skirt pattern. I tried the print at home version and have never been so impressed with a print at home pattern. Lauren took great pains to make the matching of the pieces easy and she succeeded. If you were on the fence about trying any of her patterns, I highly recommend them (and no, she did not ask nor pay me to say it).

The blouse is Gertie’s Bow Tied Blouse (from the book above) made in cotton dotted Swiss. For some reason, this one item was the hardest and most frustrating to complete. I wish the pattern pieces from the New Book for Better Sewing were numbered or lettered somehow because I spent a whole hour convinced I did not have the pattern piece for the collar. It’s called a Collar Band in the pattern and it confused the heck out of me. The directions for sewing are a bit vague, too. If you are not an experienced sewer, they will be hard to follow. Anyway – the back is closed with 5 bound buttonholes and finished with vintage buttons. Gertie’s bound buttonhole instructions are my favorite bar none. If you are looking to attempt them, check out her tutorial in this book. In the end, I’m quite pleased with the result and will be making the blouse again.

The jacket is self-drafted with a big wide collar to give a proper backdrop for the bow on the blouse. The jacket fabric is vintage gray wool a friend gave me and it was perfect for this use. It’s been waiting on my fabric shelf for just such a project.

Of the three outfits, this is my favorite. And as Tanith said in her post, I love them all!

IMG_1027 IMG_1026 IMG_10421940’s Bat

batsketchThe final outfit is a 40’s batwing suit made of houndstooth brocade. Tanith’s beautiful rendition of this hat blew me away from the moment I unpacked it. It’s another example of her thoughtful practical-ness, too. Inside, there are two elastic loops you bobby-pin to secure it.

IMG_1090I initially intended to add directional quilting as you can see from the sketch, but when I found the houndstooth fabric, the quilting seemed like it would interfere. This design also has a back closure and no, the back closure theme was not intentional. The lines of both designs just seemed to fit with what we were going for. The pattern used for this outfit is Simplicity 1706 from the 40s. The buttons are another set of vintage beauties waiting for the right project to come along.

IMG_1059 IMG_1054 IMG_1046I am so honored to have worked with Tanith on this endeavor. She is a lovely person full of ingenuity, talent and brilliance. Make sure you go check out her post on this project over at her blog and while you’re at it, look at her Whimsy project, too!

Also, I’d like to extend my sincere gratitude to my dear friend Mrs. T who kindly dropped everything to take off on a photoshoot adventure with me at a moment’s notice. She snapped all the photos here and did a truly wonderful job. I love you, dearie.


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Kitty Clutch Tutorial

My dear friend Kate of Scathingly Brilliant is vacationing in Disneyland this week and in place of her regularly scheduled postings, she has a week full of DIYs. Today’s tutorial was created by yours truly. Hop over and take a peek! :D

4/1/14 Edit:

I’m adding the files for download here for you too:




Filed under How to, Sewing

CSSA: Skirt Finished!

Well, the skirt is finished! This week, I hemmed up the bottom using the machine rolled hem method from Casey’s Hem Post. Before I settled on this method, I sewed that famed horsehair braid on the hem. It really IS magic stuff. It gave the hem a life of its own, pushing it out in lovely curves all around. But alas, it didn’t seem right for the lightweight fabric I’m using, so I removed it and went for the machine rolled hem instead. Behold the beautifulness of a completely hemmed skirt!

Have a look at the skirt laid flat. It’s an honest to goodness circle!

Up next, those scalloped suspenders – at the finish of which I promise I’ll model the ensemble!



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CSSA: Zipper and Waistband

Well, I’m making progress with my circle skirt! All caught up with the instructions and waiting to learn how to use the horsehair braid to hem the bottom. This week, I sewed in the zipper (vintage metal – my favorite!) decided on my waistband shape and drafted, interfaced and sewed it on.

Oh – you will notice that I’m not using the fabric from my supplies post. I discovered that the lovely plaid I was going to use for this wasn’t quite enough. I only had 3 1/2 yards and needed 4. So, I raided my fabric stash and came up with just the right amount of this cherry red cotton pique. Happy ending!

[Please excuse the bad lighting in that photo. It’s been raining here for more than a week and picture taking is difficult!]

Of course, as soon as I finished the waistband, I tried it on. Goodness gracious, I’ve never been so thrilled to wear a skirt in my life. The fabric flows from the waist in such a beautiful way, it’s like magic. And the swirling! I twirled and swirled in this for a good ten minutes before I was content. Every girl needs one of these skirts. It comes under the heading of Mandatory Morale Booster.I think I miscalculated in my measurements because I don’t have the overlap at the back of the waistband for the closure. It’ll be all right though, I’ll just sew the hook and eyes close to the edge and make it line up.

A little touch of gingham ribbon on the inside of the waistband here.

Up next:

Scalloped suspenders! I’m working on the measurements for these now. These will be checked and double checked for perfection! I’m leaning towards using big covered buttons to attach them. What do you think – is there something better?


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Circle Skirt Sew Along

Over at Elegant Musings, Casey is hosting her second sew along: making a circle skirt. I’m thrilled to be playing along this time because I was truly sad I couldn’t participate when she hosted her Swing Dress Sew-along earlier this year. College obligations took center stage then, but I am happily liberated from them now!

Because I have recently become enamored with Pinterest (thanks to the ever lovely Kate), I created a board of inspiration for my skirt here. From this, I determined my skirt must have two key features: a high waistband (possibly with matching suspenders) and pockets (if I end up doing the suspenders, these would be inside pockets).

The supplies for my skirt have been acquired: fabric, zipper, horsehair braid and Petersham ribbon. I followed Casey’s link and bought the horsehair braid and Petersham ribbon from A Fashionable Stitch. I’m thrilled with the purchase and highly recommend checking out the shop. My fabric is a 54″ plaid twill.

The other part of the sewalong is making a petticoat, a skill I have wished I add to my arsenal of sewing knowledge for ages. My selections for this were limited to what my local Joann’s had, so it will be plain black net.

Up next is drafting the pattern!


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Scallop Waist Skirt

I just finished making up Chie’s Scallop Waist Skirt from Grosgrain’s glorious Free Pattern Month. It’s a half circle skirt, perfect for dancing because it swings and twirls like a dream. The pattern is very straightforward and easy to work with, if you follow the instructions and actually listen to Chie’s directions. I neglected to do this because I got too cocky for my own good and I ended up making a right mess of my first attempt. But in the end, success prevailed and my new skirt is finished!

What I did wrong:

1. For my first try, I allowed Adobe Reader to print the pattern “Fit to page,” which shrunk everything…A LOT. This is why Chie so brilliantly includes a simple square in the pattern marked “5 inch Square” – so you can measure it, before you piece the pattern together, and be sure everything is the right size. Don’t neglect this!

2. For my second try, I believe I cut the waistband a size or two larger than the skirt. It seemed like it would be fine and I could just sew it to the skirt and then cut off the extra. Trouble with that idea is, the scallops are perfectly measured to match up at the zipper. So, when I lopped off one end of the waistband, it threw off the matching at the back. Lesson learned: check and double check everything.

3. I wrecked the first zipper when I tried to put it in the skirt. That’s why the zipper is white. I had a tan one and it matched great, but after I wrecked it, I wanted to force myself to put a zipper in correctly (just to prove I can do it!). Instead of running to Joann’s at 7pm, I utilized a white zipper from my stash. It doesn’t match, no. But I wasn’t about to be beat by an invisible zipper.

What I did right:

1. I lengthened the skirt about 2″ because I’m something of a tall person. I’ll add another 2″ when I make the skirt again, because this length is as short as I like to go.

2. The fabric I chose was a stroke of luck – it’s a lightweight suiting fabric with a lovely drape. Make sure you choose a fabric light enough to do justice to the swingy-ness of this skirt when you make it.


I love the way the scallops contrast against the blouse! And of course the incredible genius of the half circle skirt is enough to take any sewing fanatic’s breath away. I think I’ll make this in navy blue and bright red next. And then maybe hunter green!

Outfit details:

Sweater: Old Navy

Skirt: Made by me from Chie’s Pattern

Shoes: Melissa + Alexandre Herchcovitch Troupe Wedges from ASOS –> These are my first Melissa shoes and my new favorites. So comfortable, so cute and they smell like bubble gum!


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Oh, Culottes

Scratch the skinny jeans and sweatpants, I’ve discovered a garment that beats them both in style and comfort. Culottes (also known as split skirt and not to be confused with British undergarments) are long trousers created from enough fabric to make a full skirt, thus endowing them with the look of a skirt, but maintaining the freedom of trousers. After purchasing my first pair from J. Peterman earlier this year and falling head over heels for the cut and feel, I set about finding a vintage sewing pattern so I could make my own.

Enter: Simplicity 3637

After acquiring a textured pink linen from the Red Tag rack in Joann’s, I whipped up a pair of these in 4 days – just in time for more dancing.I figured the pattern illustration was exaggerating the hip-line fullness of the drape. I don’t think you could achieve that huge poofie look without a culotte crinoline (which I’m not even certain exists!). The only adjustments I made to the pattern were sewing down the waist gathers about 3 1/2 inches from the waistband and lengthening the waistband a bit. For some reason, when I cut the waistband piece, it was 2 inches too short for the culottes. I just cut a small length of fabric, sewed it to one end and cut it where it needed to be. I sewed the gathers down because I wanted the culottes to have a flatter appearance through the waist and hips, like my J. Peterman pair. It’s possible that leaving out this top-stitching would garner a fuller look, if this is what you’re after. Believe me though, these are plenty full – it’s just like wearing a skirt.

The pretty button is only there to cover up my sloppy quick handsewing from the clasp. This pattern has a neat way of sewing the zipper in this lapped fashion. It’s super easy to understand and make work. I must admit, creating and wearing these made me insanely happy. My mom even teases me about my culotte obsession now, I’ve gone on about it so much. So, you won’t be surprised to learn that I bought this:Oh, yes.


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