Back in the Summer of '69

If you're looking for a little inspiration for your summer sewing, take a trip with me back to the summer of '69 with this June issue of Burda Moden pattern magazine!    I have the entire year of 1969 issues, and love to look through them once in a while.

To get you in the right frame of mind, here is what was happening in 1969-
-Richard Nixon became President of the US in January.
-Apollo 11 landed on the moon in July.
-The Woodstock festival in New York had over 500,000 attendees.
-The top song of the year was "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies.
-The Brady Bunch was the most popular TV show.  
-We were watching the Love Bug and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (both released in 1968), and also Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider released later in 1969.
-The opposition to the Vietnam War increased and more and more people attended anti-war demonstrations.
This was what was going on in the US, but I have no idea what was happening in Germany.
It was innocence and innovation mixed with disillusion, but from this issue, everything was all sugar and spice, and everything nice. 

White belts and pastels.  Yummy.  Gosh I would love to have this umbrella!  It would have gone so well with my white lace up go-go boots.  (And no, I'm not joking!)

 Lavender shades and a head scarf.  She is totally groovy. But wouldn't it be hard to put the sunglasses over the scarf and around your ears? 

How about this chiffon butterfly wing dress, Mrs. Draper?

Heidi trades in her dirndl for a breezy summer high necked, pleated skirt combo.  I don't speak German, but it looks like they are blaming this one on Paris. 

The pantsuit in a pink floral.  This is groundbreaking- the January issue didn't have any pants for women at all!  So cute!  If you enlarge the photo, you'll see that they don't include all patterns in all sizes.  That pantsuit is just in size 36!

This is probably my favorite dress in this issue.  I love the asymmetrical front buttons.  Not in my size though.  Drat.  That must have been frustrating for subscribers- either that or they got very good at grading their own patterns.

My fourth grade teacher dressed just like this.  This would have been the go-to type of dress for professional women back then.

Don't forget the kinder!  Whatever happened to RicRac on everything?  And socks with sandals?  The girl in the blue pumps must be an executive now.  

And last but not least, not one, but two all white pantsuits.  Unconventional wedding attire for the time?  Or an outfit to wear to the Moon landing party you are planning in July?

I'm happy that the current Burda magazines don't have advertisements, but I have to say that some of the advertisements in these are just so fantastic and telling of the times.

Here I believe is an advertisement for three different kinds of stockings- old school with garters, thigh high, and the revolutionary waist high.  

And here must be the beginning of the disposable diaper era (which will end in about 500 years when these have finally decomposed):

An advertisement for a new type of fiber that doesn't need to be ironed?  This might be the equivalent to our Dacron Polyester.  The next decade will be flooded with polyester.

The Europeans have always been more open about sexuality than us.  This ad for deodorant shows two people not wearing any clothes.  That would have been taboo in an American magazine.

 And they've also been not afraid to show their slightly insane side, as this shampoo ad demonstrates:

I hope that you've enjoyed this blast from the past!  If you want to see more, here is a post I did about the January 1969 issue.  If you speak German and I've misinterpreted any of the pages, please let me know.

Happy Sewing!


Finding Personal Style through Sewing Trial and Error

Do you remember the first thing that you ever made?

I do, and I still have it!  It was a gathered skirt, drawstring bag and scarf made out of a green ditsy floral cotton print.  It was 1971; I was 8 years old; and it was my first 4-H project.  As I go through my closet, sorting through what to give away and what to keep, it dawns on me that I think that I'm finally figuring out my own personal style, and that it was there even with my first sewing project.

See the green and the blue in that print- that's exactly what I gravitate to now.  I wonder how much of our style is either genetically or environmentally passed down.  My Dad's favorite color was green, and my Mom's favorite color was aqua, so this print blended them together.

I have never been able to choose a favorite color myself.  I love them all.  And I've never been able to narrow down my style preferences either- I enjoy making and looking at a tailored suit as much as I enjoy making and looking at pajamas   The "making" is key- in my sewing journey, to learn as many techniques as possible, you need to make a wide variety of styles and work with a wide variety of fabrics.  But, in this journey, I've found that many of the things that I've made are not things that I end up wearing, and I would like to only make things that I will love to wear.

I've been blogging for 6 years now, and the nice thing about having this personal record is that I can look back and see things that I no longer have in my closet.  Otherwise, I'm sure that I would have long forgotten about them.  So, in my 6 years of having this blog, here are things that I've discovered about myself, and some pictures to support my conclusions:

1.  I don't like to wear structured clothes.  

Even if they fit well, I don't care for fitted clothes like jackets, close fitting skirts, pants, etc.  What does this mean for sewing?  Well, knits, knits and more knits.  I'll take a cardigan over a jacket, any day.  And I'll take a maxi skirt over a pencil skirt, any day.  And I'll take a tunic over a button front shirt, any day.

Here's an example of me in a structured vest.  I just look uncomfortable in it, like I can't wait to leave:

A structured vest that I wore once!
 And now an unstructured outfit- same pose, but more me:
Sure, I'll take a second glass of wine!

2.  I don't like to wear really bright colors that call attention, except for activewear. 

 I've got some nice bright red dresses that fit well and look nice, but I don't feel comfortable wearing them.  Just give me something more subtle that blends in.  Except for activewear- I jog (occasionally), and I like for traffic to see me, so my activewear is as bright as possible!

Here I am in a bright red dress.  Whoa, where are my sunglasses?
A red dress that was just too much!

Oh, here they are.   And now a similar dress in a more subdued burgundy.  Way more comfortable.

3.  I don't like to wear black or white on the top.

I've consistently bought white shirts that never see the light of day. An off white or ivory- yes, but a true white, no.   I will wear black leggings and yoga pants, but never black shirts or dresses.  The look is too dramatic for me.  Here's a black top on me.  I think I look about 10 years older:
Who is this person?  I don't recognize myself in this outfit!
And a softer color at the face.  Again, same pose, much better.

4.  I do like to wear abstract prints, stripes, and textures.   I generally don't care for animal prints, plaids and florals, but not always.  The florals that I do like tend to be abstract florals- some sort of geometric variation or colorway that doesn't really exist.

Here's an example of a dress that was an animal print ITY dress in black and white.  It never, ever saw the light of day in the real world.  And the black structured jacket is all wrong.  It sounded good in theory, but it just wasn't me.

And here is a striped dress with a less structured jacket.  The stripes, the color, the fabrication, is all better for me.

5.  I love to wear natural fibers- cotton, rayon, silk, linen and wool.  I gave away quite a few things made from synthetic ITY knits.  They just feel too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  I do like activewear synthetic fibers though, so go figure.  

6.  I like to wear activewear, but I don't have to sew it.    Good activewear fabric is hard to find and expensive.  I've been quite pleased with the stuff that I can get at JCP and Target.

7.  I like to wear skirts and dresses.  For work wear, I will wear a skirt or dress 9 times out of 10, even in the most dreadful weather.  They are just more comfortable to me.  If I'm going to wear pants, they need to be stretchy.  Here is a pair of straight leg woven pants in a color that's too bright for me.  Never wore them:

Straight legged pants in bright orange- what was I thinking?

And here are pants that are more like a skirt:

8.  Blues, greens, greys, pinks and purples are my go to colors.
If I could stick with this palette, I'd be smart.

Which brings me back to square one- my first 4-H Sewing project.  Blue and green! Here is my second 4-H project:
My second 4-H Project- more green and blue!

I feel like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz coming full circle.  It only took me 4 plus decades to realize what I already knew at age 8.

And as I age, and fabric and styles evolve, I'll still have to experiment to see what works and what doesn't.  But, I hopefully will make better guesses with some of this information under my belt.

Have you discovered something about your personal style through sewing?  What works and doesn't work for you?


Two Tone Maxi Dress Vogue 9104

When the latest release of Vogue patterns was posted, I was immediately drawn to this one- Vogue 9104.   The two tone soft wave effect reminded me of an ice cream sundae, an ocean wave, a sand dune.  Ahh- just so organic and relaxing.  I just couldn't wait to make it- the only question was what fabric to use?
The pattern suggested crepe de chine, broadcloth or jersey.  I chose two rayon jerseys from Fabric Mart, and ordered 3 yards of each color.  The fabric shrunk quite a bit after the first washing, and I was left with 2-1/2 yards of each. That sounds like a lot of fabric, but the dress really took the entire length of it.  I do have some bits and pieces left that I'm hoping to piece together another top.

Rayon jerseys have many pluses- they drape beautifully, they are extremely soft and silky to the touch, and are breathable.  On the minus side- they tend to grow longer as the day goes on, so you have to do something to stabilize areas like necklines and armholes, and you need to adjust the overall length.

So, for this dress, I first folded out about 4" of length from the pattern before cutting.  I removed 1" across the chest, so that it would shorten the armhole length.  I removed 2" in the main body at the shorten/length line, and I removed 1" at the lower layer hemline.  I'm 5 feet 9" and if I made this out of a woven fabric, I would have added about 3" in length, so removing 4" gives you an idea of just how much a rayon jersey will grow.  I'm even wearing 3" heels in these photos!  I honestly think that I should have shortened it another couple of inches, and may go back and re-hem it at some point so that I can wear it barefoot.

To stabilize the armhole area, I adhered a 1 cm strip of fusible interfacing around the seam line of the armhole when it was flat.  Then, instead of a facing, I just turned under the raw edges and stitched in place.  The fusible interfacing keeps the armhole from lengthening.  Very important if you don't want to show your bra.

The other change that I made to the pattern was that I chose to simplify the neckline.  It is designed for an interfaced neckband and a loop and button closure in the back.  I skipped the interfacing, and just sewed the band in a circle, so that I can pull this over my head.   It's not as high on the neck as the pattern design, but I prefer it not so high.

I actually tried it on before adding the bottom layer, and it looked good, so this pattern could easily be a shorter dress, just by removing the lower piece.  The dress has in-seam pockets as well.  Thank you, Vogue!  I love a dress with pockets!  Made from a light weight knit, this is almost a one size fits all dress.  I say "almost" because of the length. But if you are wearing a belt, you can pull up the extra length and blouse it over the belt. 

We took these pictures on a windy day- the skirt would normally hang straight down, but I kind of like the dramatic effect the wind has on it! 

I made this to wear to my daughter's college graduation party.  It was comfortable and everyone loved it.  I hope that I'll have more occasions to wear it this summer.  It seems a little dressy for every day wear, but honestly, it is so comfortable that it feels like I'm wearing pajamas.   
It would be fun to make this from some other color combinations.  Can you see it in black and white?  Or how about orange and grey? Or burgundy and lavender?  So many possibilities!  Alas, one of this style is enough for me, so I will have to wait to see what other people make and enjoy.

Happy Sewing!


Graduation Day Dress! Butterick 5884

My baby girl graduated from college!  Making her graduation dress was bittersweet to say the least.  I have three daughters and she is the youngest, so this is our last daughter to go through this life stage.  I remember my college graduation dress very well, and I wanted to make her something special that she would remember as well.

She chose the pattern and the fabric.  The pattern is Butterick 5884, from the Suzy Chin/Maggy Boutique patterns.  I love all of the Maggy London patterns, but had not made this one, so I was pretty excited that she chose it.  The fabric is a beautiful sky blue tencel challis.  It has a vibrant color and beautiful drape.

What you can't see from the pattern illustration is that the lining of the bodice is actually fitted, and that brings the outer fabric in so that the neckline doesn't gape.  It's brilliantly drafted, and the front just hugs the chest perfectly.

The back on the other hand was perhaps not drafted as well, as when she first tried it on, there was so much extra fabric at the upper back, that it made her look like she had a hunchback.  I think that if I had made the version with the sleeves, that this extra fabric would have been pulled sideways to the arms, but the sleeveless version doesn't have anything to pull this extra fabric out of the way.   So I removed about 1-1/2" at the back neck edge on each side, tapering down to nothing at the waist.  That took out 3" of the upper back, and now it fits beautifully.  I also shortened the skirt by 2", as girls her age usually like their skirts a little shorter.  Here it is on the dressform:

Here you can see the gathering at the shoulder seam, and how luscious this fabric is:

Since graduation day can be hot, and she was wearing a heavy polyester gown over the dress, I wanted a breathable lining.  I had a lightweight cotton voile that worked great for this.  Here it is turned wrong side out:

 Unlike some lined dresses where you don't see any seams on the inside, this one has the waist seams of the lining and the shell fabric sewn all at once, so that you do see the seam allowances.  The instructions have you leave the lining open 3" on each side of the zipper, then you tuck this under, so the seam allowances won't get caught in the zipper.

Here's momma and baby girl at her party:

And here's all three of my girls, all graduates of the University of Illinois:

Her degree is in Animal Science with a Business minor, and she is looking for a job in the dairy industry or joining the Peace Corps.  But first she's going backpacking with her best friend to Utah and California.  Then she's going to Bangladesh to work on an agricultural research project.  We are really proud of her and know that she will do amazing things!

Happy Sewing!


Standing Sewing Station

Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking?  Hmmmm...  It's easy for me not to smoke, but what do you do when most of your favorite things are traditionally done while sitting?
Let me introduce you to (drumroll...)  my Standing Sewing Station! 

For the past year or so, I've been having back pain that was exasperated by sitting.  If I would sit for even 30 minutes at my desk, I would stand up feeling really stiff with a sore back.   I didn't have a terrible case, but bad enough that I knew I needed to change something.   I tried so many chairs- I switched from a regular office chair, to a exercise ball, to an exercise ball on a pedestal, back to a different office chair.

Nothing helped!  Whatever chair I was using, I still had the problem.  I saw a spine specialist- she told me that I was getting old, and I just have to accept the reality that I will have aches and pains.  Really?  I'm 52, in relatively good shape, and you are telling me that I'm "old" and this is normal?  Well, that really ticked me off, and I just started researching on my own. Sometimes you just have to take matters into your own hands.

I started reading about standing computer stations, and since I do spend a good chunk of my day at the computer, I decided to try one out.  First, I just rigged up something temporary with plastic crates and footstools.  After a week, the pain was completely gone!  No joke. 

Standing desks can be pricey, so rather than buy one, I decided to construct a more permanent version.  I sent my daughter, who lives in Chicago, to IKEA with the shopping list to build this $22 standing desk.  I had her get enough supplies to make two- one for my computer, and one for my sewing machine!  They have the side tables in all kinds of fun colors, but I decided on black.  I don't spend long amounts of time sitting at the sewing machine, but I figure that every bit that I don't sit might help in the long run. 

I will admit that it did take some time to get used to it.  My legs started feeling a little wobbly at first, but it didn''t take too long to get up to speed.  I started this in late January, and am standing whenever I use my computer at home now.   Standing all day is not good for you either, but I have a regular sitting desk at the school that I work at, and I spend most evenings sitting watching TV, so I'm still getting in plenty of sitting.

For sewing, it definitely takes more coordination, as you are effectively relying on one leg to steady yourself, and the other to run the foot pedal.  You can see here that my cord is just barely long enough to still rest on the floor.   If I were to need to do some sewing that requires more precision, I would definitely take it off the table and sit down.  But for the majority of my sewing, standing is just fine.  We didn't need the shelf part of the standing desk plan for the sewing machine, just the side table.  The height is absolutely perfect for me when I am standing.  I have a very clear view of the area right under the presser foot, without having to bend forward at all.

My serger doesn't have a long enough cord to sit on the table, so I have it sitting on 10" high storage container.   It's not my dream solution, but it will work until I can find a 10" high table that is sturdier.  My husband found a extra large computer mouse pad that fits underneath of it and helps stop it from traveling.  This is important.  Otherwise, the container will just slide once the serger starts up.

I've gotten a lot of very interesting information from the Katy Says blog about body alignment and prevention of back pain.  I purchased two of her books- Alignment Matters and Move your DNA, and had several light bulb moments from each of things that I was doing that could be potentially damaging in the long run.  I highly recommend checking it out if you are anyone you know has back pain issues.

My lesson learned- if you have back pain, don't stop sewing, start standing!

Happy Sewing!