Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Unflattering Dress

Here’s a dress I sewed up as an interim project while I was caught in a conundrum with another dress (to be explained in detail next week).  

The cotton fabric is an odd mixture of colors and patterns: an uneven pink and orange plaid-like design, framing turquoise cacti, all on a taupe background.
I can’t decide whether this represents 50s kitsch or 80s clash. Anyway, the print somehow looks cute and I like the cacti, of course.

This was a very simple dress to make, but I should have taken some time to at least think about fit. The fact that it was a wrap-front made me lazy. Or maybe the fabric’s psychedelic colors threw me off course.

The bodice is too long, which makes the waist drop too low. The skirt is too full, although it might have looked better if the fullness hit at the waist and not on the outward angle of my hip.

I managed to match the pattern perfectly at the skirt side seams, but completely ignored the neckline. I didn’t even realize the problem until I had the thing put together.
Now it’s always going to look higgledy-piggledy unless I decide to do something about that 1-inch difference between the right and left bodice fronts.

Still, it’s not too much of a disappointment since it was meant to be a house dress, and that’s what it is. I used up my cactus fabric, some lining scraps, and several yards of bias binding in an odd peach color, so this was a good stash-busting project too.
and an orangey-pink button!

Next time, I will share my perplexing project predicament.



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lost and Found - Part 7

Here at last is my final found treasure. It’s a small booklet that I found hidden between two books at an antique store. I am amazed that after 88 years, such a small, ephemeral item still survives, and in quite good condition.

This is an example of a time-honored tradition, the church cookbook. In 1925, the Phoenix Central Christian Church Women put together this booklet and sold it at 25 cents each for the church.

There are several pages of household hints, many of which were new to me.

Imagine using crystallized cyanide for ant control! And putting your ostrich plumes in the oven to get them to curl. (But watch carefully so they don’t burn!)
The advertisements are short, simple, and appealing.

Check out the gorgeous typeface for JC Penneys. And the illustration for Pilcher Optical could fit right in to Dr. Eckleburg’s billboard in The Great Gatsby.

On another page is a barber shop that offers marcelling for $1 and permanent waves for $15.

Finally we come to the recipes, and there are a lot of them. It looks as though the editor wisely decided that every submission should be included, rather than trying to select one or two from each category.
Thus there are five recipes for Gingerbread, eight for Devil’s Food Cake (!), and other similar multiples throughout the book.

It’s interesting that many recipes omit the actual cooking or baking instructions. Also, there are no oven temperatures.  A slow, moderate, or quick oven were the options, if any guidance was provided.

A recipe that no church cookbook should be without is, of course, the Bible Cake.


Another special find was inserted between the pages – a map of Phoenix dated April 1924. I find it utterly amazing to see the entire city squeezed into a tiny space that we consider a small part of the downtown area today.

The quaint charm of this map will probably be more apparent when you see the difference between Phoenix of the 1920s and Phoenix today:

The tiny black spot on the map on the left corresponds to the 1924 map above.

This amazing piece of history is the last of my found treasures, for the time being.

Have you discovered any treasures recently?


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Sometimes Nature Is Too Much Even For Me

I'm embarrassed to admit that I shrieked when this thing jumped on me.
You know, I really do my best to live in harmony with the natural world. Yes, I do have to run the air conditioner several hours a day for seven months, but I balanced that out by converting the front yard from a water-guzzling lawn to a wildlife haven filled with native desert trees and shrubs.

I like to work in the garden all day in the company of birds and bees.

I encourage our spiders, large and small, to do their work of pest control.
Crab spider?

Black Widow Spider - I've seen them kill scorpions many times their size (below)
I really have no sympathy for these - I keep getting stung!

 I rescue poor confused snakes and lizards from the pool all summer. 

I even put up with some of these pests...

But once in a while, something comes along that is too weird!
I was just walking around the back yard yesterday, minding my own business, when this thing flew right into my face. It was scary.
When I recovered my composure - and when the bug removed itself to a tree - I was able to appreciate its beauty. The body is about 1/2 inch long, and then it has those crazy red legs. It really has the most amazing colors. It likes the mesquite tree. The closest I can get to an ID is that it may be related to the Giant Mesquite Bug, Thasus neocalifornicus.


I've recovered from the shock, but honestly, I can do without any more surprises hitting me in the face for a while!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

What’s That New Machine?

So I got a serger. I’ve said all along that I didn’t need a serger/overlock, and insisted I wasn’t going to get one, and then I did anyway.

Let’s see how many different ways I can justify my purchase.

1. I’ve been leaving many of my projects incomplete because I just couldn’t face the endless miles of raw edge finishing. “If I had a serger, I’d be done by now,” was a thought that passed through my mind repeatedly.

2. Sergers in general seem terribly complicated, but the bottom-of-the-line Brother looked (relatively)straightforward and got consistently good reviews. I thought I could probably handle it.

3. After the Great Craft Room Overhaul of 2013, I sold a lot of stuff and made a bit of money, which was burning a hole in my sewing pocket. I could have splurged on more patterns and fabric (thereby RE-cluttering the room), or invested in this serger.

4. It was a Really Good Deal. Considering that I paid less than $200 for my main sewing machine, there was no way I was going to pay more than that for a serger, since it’s not a core necessity in the sewing room. But… there were refurbished Brothers out there for around $199. I told myself that if a new one went on sale for the same price as the refurbished ones, I would get it.

And you can guess what happened next. The very instant I saw the price drop to $199 on one of the sites I was monitoring, I hit BUY. (It was Amazon)

My new serger arrived, I set it up, I started using it, and nothing scary happened (yet).

For practice projects I wanted to make things that would not see the light of day, just in case. So, I now have two nightgowns, two pajama sets, and a robe, all in various knit fabrics. This allowed me to move levers around, change a couple of the threads, change the needles, figure out how the blade works, make a few stupid mistakes, and just generally get used to the machine.

 A plain and simple robe pattern looks a bit nicer with contrast trim and lace.
S7441, which I've had since the 70s.
(and have to add an inch or two every year)

 The blue pajamas above and the pink flower nightgown below are from B 5571.

The butterfly nightie is a mid-length, mid-sleeve version
of S7910 from the 1960s

I had enough small pieces of butterfly fabric left over to trim these pajamas.
B9824 was not meant to be pajamas, but it works!

I used up 12 yards from the huge stash of knits, and a lot of lace for this project, so I won back some more of my workspace.

mid-weight rayon-cotton-spandex
very lightweight textured rayon jersey
lightweight cotton knit

I learned a few lessons, but I'm sure there are many more to come.

Lesson: Don't get so excited by the speed and efficiency
of the machine that you forget to pay attention.
Here I sewed the neck band to the wrong side of the top!

Lesson: Make sure tucks and gathers are firmly in place before serging.
Here I marked the position of my tucks, pinned them in place,
 but completely lost control of them as they went through the serger.
Next time I'll stitch them in place on the sewing machine first.
My next challenge is to use the new machine to finish all those seams that are still waiting in the UFO pile.
Have you invested in any new tools recently?

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Lost and Found – Part 6

Did you think that you'd have to look at those poor wet dogs for the rest of the year? Yes, I shirked my blogging duties for quite a while.

I do have a few new things to share, but while I get organized, I will finish up my Lost and Found Series.

I have a weakness for old books – have you noticed? Children’s books and picture books are especially hard to resist.

Here are two books that I recently found. One is a grade school songbook, quite the worse for wear.
Published in 1947, it clearly belonged to Elizabeth and was very well-loved.

end papers
The best thing is that each song has little drawings with it.
[You can try click-to-enlarge, but I don't know if it will work. Picasa is being a pain right now.]


Today's other treasure is a 1952 edition of the Girl Scout Guide.
I love the illustrations that accompany the enthusiastic instructions for being a healthy person and a contributing member of society.
Pristine uniforms
No TV or computer!

So many ways to serve the community
Year-round activities
There’s not much in common between the two books, except for a certain charm and wholesomeness in the illustrations. This was still a pre-television generation - only 9% of U.S. households had them in 1950 (www.
I wonder what a modern-day kid would do if faced with the entertainment choices from the 1940s or 50s?!