For the love of handmade gifts

In June 2009, I posted about a Maid of Honor dress I made into a toddler dress and matching doll dress for my best friend’s daughter (it’s roughly a size 2T). I wore the original dress in her parents’ May 2000 wedding.

Well, my little friend will turn six on June 5th. Last month, I received a text message with this photo (the one on the left) and the message “it still fits!”
Brdiesmaid Dress Remake Collage1Skinny-minny is growing like a weed, but she hasn’t gotten any bigger around in almost four years!  The pics on the right are the original photos I took before gifting it to her in 2009.

That text message made my MONTH.


Holy Masquerade, Batman!


(That’s an actual Robin quote, btw)  So, the big reveal… no one got both correct, but it would have been an impressive guess if you had–

We were the Joker and Catwoman (based on the 1966 television portrayals by Cesar Romero and Julie Newmar).  The originals:

and us, as Joker and Catwoman:

And yes, I made the costumes.  How?  It started with a trip to Goodwill where we bought:

And then a stop into the supermarket two doors down from Goodwill to buy some Rit Fabric Dye (the green dye was intended for Joker’s shirt, but we ended up not using it):

I started by washing everything, the Linen capri & blouse set and the green shirt were washed in a bath of Color Remover (which didn’t really do a thing); then I soaked the linen set in the purple dye for several hours (washing machine method).  After it dried, the color was very uneven, but I got to work anyway.

I removed the short sleeves from the linen blouse, cut long sleeves from the capri pants legs, and attached the new sleeves to the jacket.  Then I cut the bottom of the blouse off, made a pointed hem on each side in the front, and added tails to the jacket (which you cannot see in the pics, sadly)–so it looked just like The Joker’s tuxedo jacket. From the scraps of fabric I had removed from the blouse and the leftovers from the pant legs, I made a collar and lapel and attached them to finish the jacket.

THEN… sweetie went back to the supermarket to buy another box of purple dye, and we did the dye bath again, this time on the stovetop–worked great, we got a good solid cover of vibrant purple!  The only problem was, I hadn’t reinforced my seams and the linen blend raveled like crazy and I had to re-sew. every. single. seam.  Ugh.  Disaster averted–one purple Joker dinner jacket complete.  We decided the shirt wouldn’t take the dye anyway, because of the sateen finish, so we left it as is.  Same with the pants, they fit perfectly. Win! I did his makeup, which made the costume, I think:

On to Catwoman.  I cut the bottom of the dress off, removed the belt loops, and attached the “leather” belt at hip level to create the Mod-look 1960s “catsuit”.  The sleeves required slight adjustments to make it fit more closely — maybe a half hour sewing time, tops.  Add to that a pair of black leggings and boots from my closet, and I bought a long red wig at Target for $8.00, and the cat ears and mask from our theatrical shop (painted the mask with black glitter paint and it was good to go), added elbow length black satin gloves, and a necklace from my jewelry box, and voila!

To finish off the Joker costume, we purchased green hair paint and re-painted a wig from last Halloween, and bought bright purple gloves.  I cut the hem from the black dress I cut up for my Catwoman top, and tied it on him for his necktie.

Project Wardrobe, 1.2

My “1958-vintage-Mad Men-inspired” Easter dress was finished during the eleventh hour of Holy Saturday (actually around 11:30 p.m.)…

Me on Easter Sunday morning

After measuring the pattern pieces, I adjusted the bodice a little bigger (primarily because I was worried about the waist being too snug for me), as it turns out, The bodice was about two sizes too big when first assembled, so I took it apart (twice) to make it smaller and more fitted, and eventually added a small pleat at the center neckline in front (NOT part of the pattern) that mimics the soft pleats at the center of the skirt front and back to make it fit correctly. It’s a perfect fit now, but a workout for the seam ripper (and the delicate rayon challis fabric!). I also fought with the zipper. After destroying the zipper I stopped to buy on my way home from work on Friday, (I trimmed it, forgot to sew over the zip to create a new “stop”, sewed into the dress perfectly on the first try, and then unzipped it right apart!) I “made do” with a zipper I had at home, and I must have put that zipper in at least three times. Major frustration.

A cool Sunday morning; I wore it with a 3/4 sleeve cardigan

The skirt at the hem has a circumference of 99″ (251.46 cm) and I don’t own a crinoline to wear with it like the gals on the pattern cover have, so we were attempting to get a photo of me twirling in the skirt:

Trying to get a "swirling skirt" photo

Mostly I just got dizzy and a bunch of out-of-focus silly photos of myself.

Have you ever sewn with a vintage clothing pattern? How did it turn out for you?

Project Wardrobe, 1.0

When I visited Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul, MN last week, I picked up four yards of this Rayon fashion fabric at 50% off:It a soft, lush rayon, in gorgeous Amy Butler colors, and the print is Twilight Peony (that just happens to be my favorite flower!) from her Saffron colorway. It’s 56″ wide, and I happened to have this vintage 1958 Simplicity pattern at home that seemed a perfect fit:Can’t you just see Betty Draper on Mad Men wearing that blue dress to a cocktail party? If you’ve ever sewn with vintage clothing patterns, you know the sizing is much smaller than today. As in, that pattern cover says it is a size 16 Misses (I wear a few sizes smaller than that, so I thought “great, it should be just the right size for me!” Nope.). That size 16 Misses from 1958 is closer to a size 8 by today’s standards, If our sizes today were based on the same measurements as those from 1958, I would wear a 20 or 22! (If I put on a Size 20 ready made dress, it would probably fall off of me!). So, tip for using vintage patterns: MEASURE everything, more than once, and make adjustments to your pattern before cutting into your fabric.

So, I need a dress for Easter Mass. On Wednesday (yes, THIS Wednesday) I pulled out the fabric and the pattern and started cutting out a dress to make for Easter Sunday (yes, THIS Sunday). I made some good progress last night with the sewing, and I have a nearly complete bodice:and an already hemmed (love my Janome blind hem foot G!!!), ready-to-join-to-the-bodice-this-evening, skirt. The final step is putting in the zipper.
I made this my weekly goal here.Wish me luck. I did say I wanted to sew more for myself this year… This is officially the beginning of Project Wardrobe 2012.

Wedding Dress Remake

Well, bridesmaid dress, really, but that’s a “wedding dress”, right? This is the dress I wore in May 2000, as Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding:

The photos are terrible, we’ve had so much rain lately I’ve had a hard time taking nicely lit photos. Anyway…the color is a very pretty deep eggplant (not really purple, not really wine-colored, truly eggplant). An empire-style bodice and waist with a very flowy, A-line, georgette fabric skirt. Not something you would ever wear again, but we all remember them as being incredibly comfortable and fun to dance in that evening! And here is the back…plain except for a tiny bow at the zipper with long streamers hanging down.

I’ve thought many times over the past nine-years that I should donate it to one of those “prom-dresses-for-inner-city-kids” programs, or something like that, but I had an idea in the back of my mind, should they ever have a daughter….that kept me from giving it away.

Well, they did have a little girl, I blogged about her and her quilt last July. She came into the world two years ago today. This is her birthday present that I will be giving her at her party on Sunday: (You can click on my photos to enlarge them and see details better!)

This dress is a size 2T, styled much the same way as the grown-up version, including the same bodice fabric, the same lining fabric and the same skirt fabric. Even the same little bow has been transferred to the same spot on her dress.

The sleeves are a little diffrent, made from two overlapping leaf-shaped pieces, fully-lined, with a slight gather at the shoulder. I think she’ll have fun twirling around in this pretty party dress!

But, that’s not all I made. We all know kids don’t get excited about receiving clothing as presents, so I made her a kitty doll, with a dress that matches hers just perfectly:

I started with the Cat Doll pattern in the current issue of Stitch, but I actually ended up using very little of the original pattern. I changed almost everything. I know, so typical of me, huh?!

Including just using straight legs and feet, and adding a sweet pair of black Mary Janes, complete with white button closure…(and don’t you just love her striped stockings?!)

Giving the kitty a swishing, curved tail, ’cause no kitty I’ve ever met had a straight tail…

Changing the face, the shape of the head, and of course, giving her a dress that is separate from her body. She is about 18″ tall, and I need to give her a name I think, before I gift her to Addison. Anyone got any suggestions for a name that would work well with her new mom, Addison’s, name?

Wardrobe Remake

It seems everyone is trying to be a little more frugal these days, recycling… reusing… upcycling… making do… I am no exception. Add that to the fact that I have now lost over 20 pounds since January, and can’t afford a new wardrobe in each size while I am still losing weight, I’m always looking for ways of making my clothing “make-do” or “get-by”. I found this dress on the 85% off rack of a department store early this Spring…

It was with the Winter clearance, so obvisouly a leftover from lastSummer…there was an issue with the zipper and the bodice was grossly undersized for me (and probably anypne else that would wear this size) so it remained on clearance. I loved the fabric in it…and could see potential as a casual summer skirt…so…

I found a great companion fabric at JoAnn’s and whipped this up last weekend:

I’m modeling it here with a dark brown top, but I actually wore this the other day with a crisp white cotton top and got lots of compliments on my “new skirt”! The best part is, I can easily make it smaller as I continue to go down in size! I have more of these wardrobe remakes to do in the coming weeks…gotta get that Summer wardrobe ready!

On another note, I thought you might like to see a picture of our new little addition…my grand-niece, Raegan, proud new owner of the French Roses quilt I showed you here.

She looks pretty sweet…and I can’t wait to meet her!