For one week, download this crochet pattern at half price for 3 variations of baby booties available in my Etsy shop. Make a moccasin, a fold-down cuff, or a popcorn cuff style - all included in the same pattern download. Slashed from $3.
Recently I've become interested in collecting vintage women's magazines - Women's Home Journal and Women's Home Companion are two I have so far. Not long ago when I was shopping at my favorite Idaho antique mall (when you move to a new place naturally you have to check out the local antique stores right away, right?) I kept my eye out for magazines like this and didn't see any - until I was just ready to check out, when I found a whole stack of them from the '40s and '50s, for only a few dollars each. Needless to say I got the whole stack.
So far I've only actually read 2 of them. They are very large, with a lot of material crammed in them, and take a while to read. Usually I go through first reading all the articles and stories, then go through again, looking at all the ads and fashion pages. I love reading the movie synopsis, and seeing stars I am familiar with in some of the ads. I wish there was still a magazine like this today! I would love to contribute some of my own fiction. I guess I was just born too late! Some of the stories I don't like, and some I do...but nothing is more annoying than to get interested in a story and it ends with a "to be continued" in an issue I don't have!
Anyway, two of my 1940s issues I have found particularly fascinating. They were both printed during the war, and the look they give into real life then is just so interesting.
The ads are almost always patriotic themed, even if it's an ad for Kleenex or diapers, and shortage is sometimes the subject of them like the one below which is an ad for something not even available to buy at the time!
On every page is encouragement and ways to help the war effort, and the value of every single woman whether it's at home or in the nurse corps or in a factory job. Even the comics often have to do with the war, usually on the home front.
Even the ads - some of them touting well-known brands of today - are valuable to gain ideas for hairstyles and fashion. Sometimes I read the glowing descriptions of some new cosmetic and wonder if it really worked that well!
Many of them are about being beautiful and attracting men, of course, but I love the simple family theme of some of them, and the determined way they encourage home economy and saving money even if you have it to spend - government propaganda to be sure, but more than that - something true and good which most Americans know nothing about in our current culture. "Use it up...Wear it out...Make it do...or Do Without" - that is thrift, and the basics of self-denial, and it should be part of every wisely-run household.
The recipes and meal ideas are touted as "low point" meals - with rationing being something completely foreign to those of us who didn't live through it. I want to try some of the recipes, though sometimes the instructions leave a lot to the know-how the cook already has.
I love to pore over the fashion pages, reading the cheerful, charming descriptions of patterns and pairings, the "new season's silhouette", and even more appreciate how often the illustrations are in color.
There are so many articles, too. Some of them I appreciate, some I don't agree with - but all of them are valuable for insights into women of that era and what they thought and the wide variety of subjects that interested them. There's an article about girls who work in a GSO club for soldiers on leave that has some good advice that I think is applicable for girls today - "'No, no,' they say to too-obvious make-up; the men prefer the natural look that a deft make-up job gives. 'Yes, yes,' to pretty feminine clothes; no man takes it as a compliment for a girl to come dancing in a sloppy sweater and saddle oxfords. But perhaps most important they rate the trim neat well-put-together look. 'Average looks, well groomed,' they say, 'win 99 to 1 over pretty-but-messy.'"
There are War Letters from the front - always so interesting and sometimes funny, and behind-the-scenes photos from movies I've seen. There are articles about everything from canning to pest control, to baby care to Women and world peace. I read an interesting one about a woman who had a home business doing the neighborhood's washing since she had the only automatic washing machine in the neighborhood. And an absolutely fascinating interview with Catherine Aubern from the French Resistance who was a modern, feminine Scarlet Pimpernel, helping to spirit away 71 prisoners, 67 of whom were under the death penalty, including her own husband not once but three times - sometimes from the Gestapo themselves. Once she rescued three men from a hospital, not even knowing their names. She went to the hospital as a visitor, changed to a professional looking outfit in the ladies' room, and went around under the very noses of the Nazi guards with a thermometer and stethoscope, checking charts until she found the men she was looking for. Then "the next job was to steal the ambulances." She and her team were successful once more. Courage and cool nerve beyond belief. Yet Catherine Aubern was quite a normal woman and mother in the beginning, who simply got tired of doing nothing.
Stories like that are thought provoking and make me wonder how many of us would rise to the challenge in a similar situation. Of course many of the quiet heroes of that era were college-age boys thrust straight into the grim realities of war. No wonder they were called the Greatest Generation.
Now I look forward to the treasure trove of reading still ahead, and just have to collect the rest of the issues!
Continuing to work on what I call my Polka Dot Project - adding polka dots to my wardrobe - I have been enjoying so much this versatile print. I used larger dots on a heavy fabric for my 1940s skirt, a delicate fabric with pin dots for my New Look dress, and now a floral-and-polka-dot cotton for a 1950s dress.
Doing them in order of era was unintentional - I should have started with a 1930s pattern!
This one was from a rare find - a complete Australian Journal pattern on Ebay in my size.
The instructions were differently worded than American patterns, and were very...skimpy...so I did a good deal of my own interpretation for this dress.
It has a sweet scalloped neckline and sleeves, but they were the biggest headache since there was no facing pattern piece and it took me a while to figure out something that worked, though I still have trouble with them laying flat around the sleeves.
The bodice also has my first try at slanted dart tucks from the side seam.
The skirt is truly a circle skirt - my crinoline isn't wide enough to show its potential.
Since I wasn't wearing it for these photos, I had the obliging mannequin "sit down" to display the width.
Instead of pleating the skirt, I took an idea from the alternate version on the pattern cover and did the back gathered, and the front darted with radiating darts. Another time I'll try the pleated version since you can't see the darts anyway!
But I never like gathered skirts on me - they just make me feel too big at the waist. So to counter that, instead of a traditional belt, I did a cummerbund style belt instead.
I paired with a vintage blouse which I think is from the 1980s, but it worked perfectly with this dress. I have had a hard time finding things to wear with it, but this one fits and displays all the cutouts perfectly, as well as tying in the flower print. The only problem was that since the dress was intended to be worn without a blouse, wearing a blouse with it made it a little snug around the arms.
The fabric is a cotton blend from a full size flat sheet I got at a thrift store. With the wide skirt, I ended up not having much more than scraps left, but it was sufficient. I did cut a few corners while making it, like just turning up and top-stitching that immense hem instead of doing it by hand, but it was still a mostly enjoyable process and I was happy with the end result.
You'll be seeing more polka dot projects throughout the summer and I keep enjoying this now-favorite print!
This month's tutorial is a project easy enough that most of you have probably no need for a tutorial, but I was in a great need for an earring organizer and was so pleased with the result of this idea that I wanted to share it with you.
After trying several ways to sort my fishhook earrings, I couldn't find anything that really worked and knew that someday - when I had time - I was going to make a real earring holder. When I recently came upon a pair of white painted wooden large picture frames at a consignment store, I realized I would finally actually bite the bullet and make the organizer.
To make similar organizers, you will need:
craft paints (optional)
staple gun OR hot glue gun
fabric cut to a little larger than the frame openings
These frames were already white painted, and had little grooves. Nothing fancy, but cute.
I could have left them as is, but decided to have fun with some cheap acrylic paint. I'm not normally good at freehand, but was pleased with the way these turned out.
I put several coats of blue in the groove on the frames, then used toothpicks to do little flower adornments, reversing the colors and using a slightly different-yet-coordinating cheerful vintage style flower design for each frame, so that they could stand alone or be used as a set.
For the back, I used some vintage feedback fabric I had on hand. I like it because it is sturdy and heavy-grained enough to hold up well under a little weight and be pierced easily by the earrings. I used a staple gun and tried two ways of fastening the fabric rectangles, stretching them taut as I worked.
(You could also use a hot glue gun to secure the fabric to the frame - a little messier to work with but it wouldn't slide around on the staples...)
For this one I tried stapling it in the groove where the picture normally sits.
That laid the fabric right up against the frame, but it was much harder to work with.
For the second one, I just laid it flat and stapled it to the back of the frame.
That was a lot easier, but then you can see some of the unfinished frame between the white paint and the fabric...no big deal for me.
And there they are! Super easy and quick - quicker if you don't paint the frames.
Ideally the fabric should be zig-zagged or some sort of fray check put around the edges, but I didn't feel like it, so there it is. I like the way they coordinate without being identical.
And they worked just great for earrings, which was the main point.
Being picture frames, you can hang them singly or together, on a wall or door as practical home decor...
Or lean them up against something so you can page through them.
I filled 'em up! And now I have all my earrings easily accessible and can see what I have at a glance. A big improvement, and one more small detail of my life organized.
Look for my new tutorials posted sometime during the first full week of every month. Hairstyles, crafts, repurposing, project journals, do-it-yourself vintage or alterations, etc.
The newest contribution to my Polka Dot Project - adding polka dots to my wardrobe - is also one of my new favorite sewing achievements.
I had made another version of this dress, and loved the fit - the tailored front, horizontal tucks, and back fullness - even though it was one of my earlier projects and had sloppy seams, a terrible zipper, and unfinished seams. So when I got 4 yards of this lovely delicate white fabric with tiny navy polka dots and open-weave stripes on Ebay, I knew it was time for a second try at this pattern now that I have more skill. (Or patience.)
It all went smoothly, once I accepted the fact that the stripes had to run horizontally instead of vertically because of the way the skirt pieces had to be cut. I don't know the fabric content - mainly cotton, I think - but it has such a sweet smell after laundering, and feels delicate without being sheer. Such a nice summer fabric. It was a pleasure to sew with.
As usual, I took a pinch out of the torso pieces, and since this one was missing the sleeve piece I substituted a similar sleeve and turned up cuff from a pattern of the same era. The skirt pleats were actually fun to make and quite easy. I folded them and pressed them, then opened it and stitched along the press line. Super easy and makes a nice straight seam, something I always have trouble with.
And another milestone on this project - my first hand-picked zipper!
Zippers are always troublesome for me, both the overlapped and invisible kind. So I decided to use this tutorial to try hand-stitching it, especially after reading other people's reviews and how much easier it was to line up horizontal lines while doing it by hand.
It actually wasn't that tedious, though it took longer than sewing a zipper by machine. If I'm not in a hurry, I'll certainly use that technique again. The control was great. The only bummer happened when I took a few stitches too close to the zipper coils and the zipper tab got caught in them. But it sure did work for lining up the stripes! If I had put an invisible zipper in those stripes would have been all over the place. :-)
Here's the inside view.
Because this fabric is so sheer, I also wanted to make a new slip to wear with it that wouldn't embarrass me if it was seen. So I whipped up this one in an hour or so.
The 1950s slip from my stand-by slip pattern is just 2 pieces, dart fitted yet pullover, and very easy since I skipped the facing instructions and did bias trim around the arm holes and a narrow hem at the neck edge. The fabric is thrifted - a smooth high quality cotton that is so nice to wear and a dense weave so it blocks more light (though I still doubled the skip layers at the skirt by wearing a half slip too). The eyelet trim was cut from vintage sheets and pillowcases and top stitched to the slip.
I added some trim at the neck too, to be a built-in modesty panel if needed.
The pretty hem ensures that if the slip ever peeks out, it won't detract from the overall outfit. (A grungy slip peeking out can ruin an otherwise elegant outfit.)
The bodice had my favorite kind of shaping - short dart tucks in the front to release the fullness, and longer darts in the back where I don't like it blousy.
I used a hem facing on the dress, and made the slip just a bit shorter than the hem facing. Besides, I needed a dressy slip, so this outfit added two staples to my wardrobe.
I paired the dress with my vintage navy heels, a hat of the same era as the dress, a narrow navy leather belt, and vintage navy rayon gloves with flared cuffs.
Comparing this dress with the first version, I can see how far I've come in less than a year. A hand-picked zipper, and patience enough to match as many stripes as possible, and French seams, and interfaced cuffs and collar! :-)
My second polka-dot project can be crossed off the list!
Item of the Week in my Etsy shop is this ready-to-sew set of pattern and cotton fabric, all cut out and marked, including interfacing and zipper, for a size 24. Half price for one week only - slashed from $12.
Also, check out my June sale! All month long you can get 20% off anything in the Crochet section with the coupon code SUMMERCROCHET20. A few examples of what you can find there and get on sale all month long are below, with their pre-sale prices.