Friday, June 28, 2013

TGIF (Finished!)

This dress is finally finished! It only took me two months!

I had this partly sewn and pinned together in early May. It was on the sewing table all through the cleaning and decluttering upheaval. I refused to return it to the UFO pile, and so it sat there as a daily reminder of all my sewing projects that really needed to just get done.

Finally, an urgent need to get something else done is what finally pushed me to finish this and get it out of the way. As usual, when I finally put my mind to it, it went together quickly and left me wondering what all the procrastination was about.

It is a lovely pattern and I would definitely make it again if I didn’t have hundreds of others vying for my attention.

I simplified a couple of things and complicated a few others. The biggest complication was adding the piping along the seams of the bodice. Getting the lines to meet at a nice point in the center front took a lot of trial and error. The piping insertion is far from even, in spite of my patient basting and careful stitching.

However, I made sure that the piping matched at the back.
Notice that I was completely blind to the mismatched fabric pattern, but that piping looks solid!

A minor complication was my decision to convert from a one-piece dress to a top and skirt. It didn’t create a lot of extra work – I just cut a simple A-line and added an elastic waist – but it did use up every last iota of fabric. I would have made the top an inch or two longer if I had any extra, but I think it is wearable as is.

How did I simplify? By using this fabulous KNIT fabric! 
It’s a pique knit, the waffle-textured kind found in Polo and Lacoste shirts. I think this fabric came from Fashion Fabrics Club but it was so long ago I can’t be sure. All cotton, with just enough stretch to be comfortable, but it won’t pull out of shape. It is perfectly cool and comfortable for summer. I think this fabric came from Fashion Fabrics Club but it was so long ago I can’t be sure.
I thought I would still need the back zipper called for in the pattern because of the non-stretch piping, but I gave it the pull-over test, and sure enough, I was able to slip it on with the back seam stitched completely closed. Hooray for knits!

Now here is something amazing I found on Etsy the other day:
It looks like almost the same print, but it’s on a very different fabric. What a gorgeous dress! For sale here.

Well I’m glad I made mine and it fits nicely. And what a relief to finally get it off the sewing table and out of the way. Now, what’s next?


Friday, June 21, 2013

Lost and Found – Part 5

For those of us who are fabric hounds, finding a listing on eBay entitled “large lot vintage rayon fabric” would be a thrill. Reading further to find that the lot is from an estate and includes old dresses from the 1940s, curtains, and yardage, might winnow out the more sensible buyers, wary of mold, bedbugs, and dishonest sellers.

The ridiculously low bid for this lot easily overwhelmed the weak defenses of my common sense, and I nervously awaited the arrival of a huge carton of … what?

In fact it turned out to be just as described – a large lot of vintage rayon fabric in various forms, along with some other goodies. Of course I gave it the hot dryer treatment to kill anything that might have hitched a ride, then sorted through my new treasures.

Several of the “dresses” were actually dressing gowns.

This rayon wrap-front robe with a bias-cut skirt just needs a few seams and hems stitched and a new snap on the front. What a color combination!
The little navy robe is falling apart, but have you ever seen anything like the fabric?
I will definitely put this to reuse.
The burgundy dressing gown has a huge panel missing from the back, and the fabric shows some disintegration throughout.
Still, I’d like to try to use it in some way, maybe in a collar and cuffs that can be stabilized with fusible interfacing.

Here are two examples of actual dresses.

The pretty polka dot shirtwaist is silk. It’s in pretty good shape other than missing one sleeve and the other one hanging by a few threads. I might be able to repair this with a bit of restyling and restitching. 

The brown dress is missing most of the front (this is the back of the dress). The floral print is beautiful, and the fabric is in good condition, so I can definitely use it in other projects.

Then there are miscellaneous pieces. 

An intensely pink-on-mustard floral skirt portion of a dress

A gorgeous black floral piece of something


This tropical print was part of a bedskirt!


There were also some pieces of modern fabric. How did they get in there? (Not that I’m complaining!)
Doesn’t this look like the quintessential mid-century Hawaiian print rayon? But it’s a Cameron Industries fabric from 1993!

There were several other little beauties in the lot, and now that I’ve unearthed them all, there is hope that one day they will make it to the sewing table. At least they are hanging neatly in the closet now, instead of bunched up in a bag on the floor.


I have one or two more “Lost and Found” treasures to share with you, and then we’re back to complaining about the heat.



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blog Housekeeping

I'm still investigating the alternatives to Google Reader. I'll probably use Bloglovin for a while and see how I like it.

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Monday, June 10, 2013

Lost and Found – Part 4

My precious little pile of antique postcards was missing for several years. I had looked in every conceivable place (I thought), and finally decided they must have been inside some book or box I’d given away. It was very sad.

So I was overjoyed to discover them in an unlabeled envelope that was in a plastic photo organizer that was in a box of collage materials that was in a drawer.
[be sure to click on images to see these beauties in more detail!]

There are Christmas cards:

So much detail for such tiny pieces of paper:

And more Christmas cards:
Birds were a popular subject for all occasions, as were pansies, lovely ladies, and playful animals.

Musical instruments made an occasional appearance as well.
Many postcards had a tiny landscape included among the other images.

Most of these were actually mailed, and have illegible postmarks on their one-cent stamps. The messages are necessarily brief, and always make me wonder about the things that were left unwritten.

On a greeting sent to Miss Amy Beaumont in Portal, North Dakota, Nov. 1910:

·        Hello There – I am healing good. It is cold enough. Jo Sherman home. I have not been up that way all summer. I suppose everything is at the same. From a Friend, Albert Petersen

On a Christmas card to Miss Mabel Buchholtz in Bloomington, Illinois, Dec 21, 1921:

·        Merry Xmas and Happy New Year, From Miss Eva Tansley, Melvin Ill. (Write Soon!)

On a greeting sent to Miss Clara Vaughn of Helena, Montana, Jul 14, 1911:

·        Dear Clara, We rec’d a “Star” containing your speech and gave you credit for sending it. We are proud of your success. The babies are having measles, Miriam just over it and Oakley D just taking it. Where will you teach this fall? – Edith Lutes

Other cards must have been simply handed to the recipient, because there is no address or stamp. Simple messages are written in pencil:

·        From Grandma Robbing to Esther – Jan 1, 1912
 ·        To Carl from Mayme on his 26th birthday 1914. Wish you a Happy Birthday.

I just have two of these beautifully colored French postcards.


Finally, the star of the collection – a nine-page foldout souvenir postcard set from Cuba.

The front (above) and back (below) covers of the postcard booklet. The postage stamp was removed at some point – no doubt extremely collectible in itself.

The sender dated her luncheon at the Country Club of Havana to Jan. 31, 1926, so I can date the postcards to the 1920s or earlier.

There are actually 18 images, since each card has pictures on both sides.

I treasure this view into the old Cuba that was “The Summerland of the World” according to the little blurb in the booklet; and where “gem-like Havana” could be reached via “a delightful sea-voyage of 5 ½ hours from Key West.”

So here I have provided actual, tangible proof that there is some benefit to cleaning your room once in a while. You might find something that you thought was lost forever.



P.s. The postcards are now in a labeled box on a shelf. I’m not putting myself through that again.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Lost and Found – Part 3

Today’s treasure is a simple thing – a cookbook.

Published in 1956, it is Chinese Cooking for American Kitchens, by Calvin Lee. Young Mr. Lee took on the task of converting the recipes from his family’s restaurant to a practical cookbook for Americans. Not only that, the book contains a short history of the early introduction of Chinese food and the beginning of America’s acceptance of authentic Chinese dishes instead of bland glop like chop suey. There is even a description and definition of the Chinese name of each utensil and cooking method.

The recipes look quite good, but I probably won’t try any of them. When we cook "Chinese" food at home we usually just toss vegetables and spices in hot oil – no recipe required. But more importantly, every recipe in this book contains monosodium glutamate. If you were around in the 50s and 60s, you will recall that this was something you could buy in the grocery store under various brand names (ours was "Accent"), and it was simply a flavor enhancer. MSG was in every can of soup, every box of rice mix, every bottle of sauce. No one thought much about it when this book was written.

But back to the book – the main reason I bought it was for the pictures. Some tiny, some taking up the entire page, they are by Mabel Wong Lilienstein and they are beautiful. Each chapter has a descriptive sketch at the beginning, and then there are tiny pictures dotted throughout.

I think these little scenes are lovely, and they transform a nice cookbook into a real gem.


Thursday, June 6, 2013


It’s time for peaches here in Arizona. There are events at the local peach farms, mountains of peaches at the farmers markets, and low prices for ripe peaches at the regular grocery stores. I don’t have any peach trees here at home, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to eat them when the season rolls around.

Instead of peach pie, we’ve had two peach-filled cakes recently. The first was a very traditional Peach Upside-down Cake. These always seem risky - almost as unlikely as a soufflĂ© to come out right.
But this one turned out of its pan perfectly, due no doubt to the Piemaker's superpowers!

The second was Blackberry-Peach Cobbler Bars. They seemed more like cake than cobbler, but they were delicious. I used almonds instead of pecans for the crunchy topping, and I think you could switch out different fruits with equally good results.
These were white peaches, that’s why they are almost invisible in the cake.

What seasonal produce are you enjoying now?


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Lost and Found – Part 2

Today’s lost and found treasure is one of the ones I had completely forgotten about: sheet music from the 19-teens.

The Hawaiian theme must have been popular.

[click to see larger]
They're Wearing 'Em Higher in Hawaii - 1916
In My Dreams of Waikiki ( Maids of Honolula Danced the Hula Hula) - 1917

I am not a musician, so much of the charm of written music is probably lost on me, but sometimes I can’t resist these beautiful old booklets. I suppose I originally planned to frame these, but that obviously never happened, and they made their way to the bottom of a drawer.

A nice surprise on the back of In My Dreams of Waikiki:

The colors on the cover of Rose Waltz – mint green and red! – are gorgeous.

The combination of the river drawing, the scrolly frame, and the multiple fancy typefaces on Swanee Ripples – WOW!

 Aren’t these wonderful? The last thing I need is another vast collection, so in the future I will have to avoid the music section of antique stores!

Coming up in Lost and Found: more music, lots of books, and, of course, fabric.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Lost and Found - Part 1

Here I am! I’m back! Did you miss me? I missed all of you – I didn’t even have a chance to keep up with everyone’s blogs.

After the craft room upheaval last month, I thought I would put things away and get back to sewing. Ha! I got completely distracted by all the wonderful treasures I discovered. Some of them I had completely forgotten about, while I’d been looking for others for years and had just about given up on them.
I have just about finished scanning and photographing all these goodies and I want to share them with you.
The first treasure is something I found in a giant stack of random papers in a local antique shop. I think it’s pretty cool because of its age, and because the German is printed almost entirely in the old script.
[click to see larger images]
The Housewife
Bulletin of the Women's World in America
1904        January           1925
Happy New Year!
My grandmother came to the U.S. from Germany in the 1920s as a young woman, all by herself. She probably had culture shock and bouts of homesickness. I imagine she learned to speak English very quickly, but it would have been a great comfort to read a magazine like this.

There are photos of winter fun in Switzerland.

Short stories, serialized novels and poems (along with gorgeous nouveau style art).

Because no German lady would waste a moment in idleness, a page of “Modern Handicrafts for Spare Time” – subtitle “to pass the time on long winter evenings”.

Under “Everything for Home and Hearth”, ladies asked for their favorite books and records in German, shared recipes and stories, and one asked if other readers could send letters or cards with stamps for her son (who probably now has a priceless stamp collection!).

Here is my best effort at a translation of the almond cake recipe. It’s interesting to see how different it is from the detailed directions we are given in modern recipes.
Almond Cake
A half pound of chopped, raw (unabgezogene?) almonds are added to a mixture of 6 eggs, ½ pound of sugar, and the grated peel of a lemon, that has been beaten until foamy. Next add 2 ounces of flour, as well as the "snow" (I assume this means beaten whites) of 6 egg whites. Line a cake pan with butter, then spread finely crushed zwiebacks or toasted breadcrumbs, fill the pan with the cake batter, and bake at moderate heat for about ¾ hour.               From Mrs. Laura M., Iowa

The advertisements are mostly straightforward and understated, which surprised me. There are none of the cure-all claims one usually sees in publications even today. There is a full page dedicated to a hemorrhoid pill, but other than that, they are mostly one-column ads like the ones above.

Of course no women’s magazine would be complete without fashion, and here we have the pattern section. 

The reader could order these patterns from the magazine itself. (I wonder if anyone still has these mail order patterns stashed away somewhere.)
And that’s Die Hausfrau – January 1925!