Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Society News

Feeding Time in the Garden
by Henry John Yeend King (1855-1924) British Realist

Occasionally I have a society news post to show various things happening in my life, or things I've been making or reading, as well as interesting visits, mail, shopping, or homemaking ideas.

Here is some bright fabric called Quilter's Calico. There has been some question about whether quilting cotton is suitable for dressmaking.  I have always used cotton for garment making, but it was not always called quilter's calico or Keepsake Quilting, etc.  Nowadays it is marketed as quilting fabric because there is a bigger market for quilting fabrics than for dressmaking fabric. In other words, not as many people make dresses anymore, so the manufacturers cater to the quilters, in order to sell the cotton. 

 You can use anything you like for dressmaking, including quilters cotton.  I use it almost exclusively. There IS a dressmaking fabric you can buy, but it tends to be trendy or go with the current fad in prints, and therefore, be replaced by a new fashion fad the next year. The cottons for quilting are much prettier and have been produced for so long that they are more classic and basic. 

I picked this quilters cotton because it looks like a Hawaiian quilt. The traditional quilts of Hawaii are usually one solid color, on which another solid color is placed, in a meandering design. There were so many of these at the fabric store that I found it difficult to make a decision. I wanted them all. There was pink on white, light blue on dark blue, brown on aqua, pink on brown, green on white, yellow on green, and so forth, all similar to the one pictured below.

I love taking the fabric over to the notions department and matching up trims and buttons. The fabric store happily yielded this green and magenta daisy trim that matched perfectly, and I used the lime green straight pins while I was sewing the project, just for the pleasure of it.

This is the skirt and blouse made from the fabric; a magenta background on which was printed a lime green swirly design.

Here is a closer look at the neckline where the colorful trim was placed, and the buttons.

It took about a yard and a half of the trim to cover the neckline and the sleeve hems, and I used a 40 percent discount coupon.

Above: variations of this leaf print, and a floral one that also has a number of combinations, which are found at the fabric store in the quilter's cotton section.
New Look (Simplicity)

Here is the blouse pattern I used. The neckline had to be raised several inches, so you might keep that in mind if you attempt to make it. To raise the neckline, just cut higher on the cloth, above the pattern, and add more to the back, as well, to make the shoulders match. Cut a new facing by tracing along the fabric piece.  Or, you could just practice on some old cloth, or some muslin, to make a pattern that fits.

Simplicity "New Look"

This is the skirt pattern I used, but I did not include a drawstring, as it was not necessary. It has a waistband that is easy to attach, into which you thread some wide elastic.

Here is a book I feature over at my other blog, Lovely Whatevers
 that has given me great inspiration.  When you get to Lovely Whatevers, scroll down on the sewing book post til you get to the Amazon icon with the picture of the book. Click that and it will take you to Amazon, where you can look inside the book and enjoy other pictures of the dresses.

The author has taken old fashioned, embroidered and scalloped handkerchiefs, and made dolls dresses. She includes instructions and patterns to trace.  Although she uses fashion dolls, the designs are pretty decent, and I use them for ideas for my own sewing. Here is a sneak peak at some of the fashions, which will make you want the book:

She uses the trimmed edges and the border prints for the hems and collars and sleeves, and how pretty they are!  These fashions gave me the inspiration I needed to make something similar, and I even found some handkerchief weight fabrics at Walmart with border prints that could be used the same way, with any adult size  pattern.

Handkerchief fabric for my next sewing project: a dress similar to one in the Couture Hankie book.

This fabric is handkerchief weight and  comes in a pretty aquamarine blue, a purple, yellow, orange, green, and red, with the co-ordinating fabrics in all colors, as you see on the left of the picture. Some good news: a recent WalMart sale paper I picked up in the store said that fabrics were coming back to the stores, so maybe more of you will be able to enjoy looking at fabrics that are closer to home.

 I plan to use a pattern like one of the Vogue ones below, and add sleeves. To add sleeves from another pattern, just cut out the sleeve you like, and match up the seam of the sleeve to the seem of the under arm on the dress, and then pin the center top of the sleeve where the dot is (I usually just make a little clip in the fabric at the dot, with scissors) with the shoulder seam. Use the front and back notches in the sleeves as your guide to sewing them on the dress, but don't try to match them to the dress notches. Just make them lie flat. Put a running stitch at the cap area of the sleeve to pull up into a bit of a puff .

Vogue 1171

I have not seen collars in a long time, and this one had one of those nautical like designs, so I might buy it when it goes on sale. However, I have enough old patterns now that I can easily immitate this design without having to buy a new pattern.

Here is a sample of another pattern that might work with the handkerchief fabric, putting the pretty border at the hemline, and adding sleeves. This pattern, pictured below, would probably need to have the neckline raised.
Vogue 8469, above

Here is an idea that many home sewers use to preserve and store their patterns. Cut out all the pieces separately from the big sheet they come in, and iron them on medium with no steam. Then, fold each piece with the name of the piece, such as "back" or "front", facing upward. That way, when you get into your pattern, you can easily see the name of the piece you are looking for.

Instead of trying to get all the pieces back into the pattern envelope, use a ziplock bag the size of your choice,

and put the pattern envelope facing up, with the pattern piece  label on the other side. That way, if you have a favorite sleeve you use on other patterns, it is easy to see from the other side. Sometimes the pattern envelopes get wrinkled, and you can iron them flat too, so that they look as good as new.

To choose dressmaking fabric, go to a fabric store and look at each bolt and note the feeling or mood that it gives you. What does it remind you of?  Does it make you feel happy?  Does it give you a lift in your state of mind?  I always choose pieces that remind me of something: a colorful garden, a day at the beach, a field of daisies, a season, a climate, somewhere I have visited, or just an event in the future.You should also take note of the colors which do not look good next to your skin and avoid them. Find something that you will be happy working with while sewing.

In other news,  my cousin's blog "Mrs. A."  has a very enlightening post about keeping up with housework, that would work well for anyone, which she writes about here:

Smockity Frocks  This sweet blogger had such a funny post about an apron she made, and how cheerful it made her feel.  has some free pictures you can use in your crafts.

A Vintage Girl This homemaker has done away with common jeans and is trying to dress up a little more, even at home. I agree about jeans: they were made for working in the gold mines, and yet women wear them as if they were going to be digging ditches every day. Even our country homes are so modern and convenient, that it does not require us to wear jeans day in, and day out. Besides, as I always say, jeans are so uninteresting: if you have seen one pair, you've seen them all. Dresses, on the other had have a lot more variety and color.

Romantic History  --showing history of the "wrapper" a common house coat or house dress worn inside or outside of the house but not in public. I think I need one of these for early mornings.

The Importance of Homekeeping  A pretty blog with a nice story about a Robin.

Here is a nice tutorial on icing a cake, with an added delight of how to make a layered cake in a different way.

Go to Sew Serendipity and see how this lovely lady uses bright, beautiful fabrics and prints, on her fall ensemble post.

Susan Rios has a pretty print that looks a lot like some of the fabrics available. I would certainly like to see Susan's painting, here, on a bolt of fabric. It is similar to the lovely wallpapers and tapestries that were so loved centuries ago and is similar to this quilters fabric from the fabric store:
and this, below, also from the fabric store:
This might work for a handkerchief dress design, as it seems kind of vintage.

This is one of my favorite fabrics but I have no idea what I would use it for and do not have an idea of a dress in it. The flowers are outlined in gold thread. In "real life" it is beautiful and although sold in the quilter's calico section of the store, it has the texture of upholstery fabric. Maybe it would be good for making one of those historical wrapper dresses to wear at home.


Anonymous said...


Absolutely gorgeous!!

I've just received three new dresses and one new pinafore (jumper for the North American ladies) from 'the King's Daughters'. a smart capedress in MDB, and two beautiful dresses without capes, one in SPCB and MG2. the latter two with a cafe late vest and forest green vest respectively. I was out on Tuesday attending an afternoon class and received compliments from one of the lady teachers on the SBCB dress; she thought it looked beautiful, consisting of (as do all the dresses) just simple lines; three- quarter cuffed sleeves with a bit of peak at the shoulders, full though not puffed, flattering but not taylored bodice, slightly raised waistline and three-pannel full skirt, about a centimetre from the ankle, (worn on that day with a chocolate waistcoat I already own) and a matching rouched 'cessily' from Matched with tan sandals and small leather pack, it is a lovely combination. the MG2 is also lovely, but I have to be careful with green. Wore with same sandals and powder green lace 'cessily'. the pinafore/Jumper is of a beautiful white calico with tiny white floral pattern; this will be worn with white pettiblouse and a draped summer scarf (like a dupata) around the shoulders and hanging in front to add a little contrast. For ease of care, I try to steer clear of collars and buttons, (less to maintain) with the dresses. if laundered properly, they don't need ironing, or at most, only a very little.

there is nothing more wonderful than a new dress for bringing a little cheer and colour into the life of the wearer and all that are around her!

Lydia said...

Mrs. Eliot, King's Daughters has the best hand sewn garments I have ever seen and although I am a seamstress, I would gladly order one of them just for the comfort and beauty of wearing them. I really like the fabric selection they have and the fact you do not have to use buttons and zippers , which either come off from so much use, or the zippers are hard to zip if you have no one to help you dress. The capedress was quite popular in the 1980's and even the most trendy fashion conscious women wore the style, even though they were also worn by our great grandmothers.

Janine said...

Mrs Sherman,
Are you going to make your wrapper in the civil war style, or are you going to 'modernize' it a bit? I'm interested in how you would go about changing it up ~ I've wanted *something* for evenings after a shower, and/or the early morning stroll thru my garden, but haven't come up with anything that pleased me. This looks like a great idea...

Lydia said...

I thought that fabric I picked that had the gold thread in it would make it look more like some of the wrappers of the 1950's.

Lydia said...

The wrapper was also called a tea gown. It looks like the forerunner of the house dress. My grandmother would wear a house dress when she first got up, to do her housework and chores, and fix breakfast. After that she would change into other clothes. She never went in public in the house dress.

Anonymous said...


thank you for your gratious response. TKD's dresses are indeed wonderfully comfortable and beautiful. Choose the right fabrics and combinations and they look far from 'culty' as some on the net accuse... One might pay four times the price for an identical garment at an upmarket 'country oldie worldie' boutique or 'hippy chic' boutique and get but a fraction of the workmanship and wear. I admit my dresses are zip-back, but the neck opening in all pettibolouses and dresses is just so that only a little of the zip needs to be let down; and they're eazy sew zips, so in the event that one fails, I can have it mended locally.

I adore the capedress for its simplicity and lines. The cape finishes the look and is flattering on any figure. however my choice of fabric for this latest addition is a little lairy (hubby thinks its a bit 'bright' but ah wel). For around the house, I've a series of simple scoop neck blouses from a local retailer (the simple $7 variety) which I wear with ankle-length coulottes that were made by (as TKD don't offer these in their collection). In dark navy lightweight denham they are practical but, as a divided skirt' of sorts, are far more elegant and comfortable than jeans or slacks. Worn with japanese sandals around the home in summer, this is respectable enough to open the door in, but they are for around the home only, as are two very nice wrap-around house-dresses that I've had four years of wear out of now (for around-the=-house work and exercise only.

This subject was on the radio just this afternoon and more than one lady rang up wishing she could obtain the lovely, comfortable and elegant dresses of her mother's generation (the '80's and '90's.). I had half a mind to ring, but the station does not permit product or company endorsements.

One thing that did come through loud and clear (though this was a light-hearted segment) was the universal feeling of sick-and-tiredness with the three-quarter pants, t-shirt and overshirt look (but women felt locked into wearing this sort of thing as nothing else is available and the craft of sewing, commonplace with our mothers, is now becoming a lost skill).

Keep on championing attire and home sewing, as this skill enables and empowers women to break out of the trap of store-bought drudgery or expense of the hippy/country boutique. for those physically unable to sew, you may also like to showcase the best of the net; e.g. 'King's Daughters', Lilly's', 'katies mercantile', 'Be an Example' etc.

Anonymous said...

Dear Lydia,

What a fantastic post! The Hanky dresses are so charming - I want a frock just like one of them for myself.

Hopefully collars are coming back. I didn't sew during their most recent hey-dey which must have been the late 80s and early 90s. I have picked up a couple of dress patterns on e-bay from that era.

I love that you have a pink iron!

Thanks for taking the time and effort to prepare such lovely photographs on your blog.

Kind regards,

Susan T.

Anonymous said...

I love your fabric and trim choices for the blouse and skirt combo-I would love to be able to wear something like that but I am so short I have to stick with one piece dresses.You always inspire me to enjoy life at home and also make me want to dress more feminine. As a side note I wanted to add that lately I have been very lucky to find fabric pieces at the thrift store (one was six yards of new fabric!) so when at the thrift store don't forget to look around for fabric-you never know what could be hiding in those piles of used sheets!

Lisa said...

What a nice outfit you made! It's lovely.

Karen said...

I enjoyed this Society News. It was nice to read this upbeat post today and it gave me something cheerful to think about. I like the New Look skirt pattern because it looks like something I can sew without any difficulty.

The picture of birds and roses at the top of your blog is very pretty. I like all the pictures you post there, but this one is my favorite so far.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cousin,

I found this post through the link in my stats. I came to discover you have my URL to the blog which I'm now using for *causes.*

Here is the direct link to the post you were referring to:

Looking forward to your phone call sometime.