Clothes My Mother Made Me

3 photos of Chuleenan

Over the past week, I’ve been visiting my parents, who now live in Delaware. (I was born and raised in upstate New York so I don’t really have much history with this state.) During my trip, I’ve had a chance to see each of my three sisters (no boys!), which has been great. I haven’t had a chance to do any sewing since I’ve been here. My mom has two sewing machines so I thought I might be able to sew during my visit. I did bring the skirt I started before I left. (I wrote one post about it here: Bemberg Lining for a Skirt.) But with various family members coming through at different times, I’d rather spend time with them. I did flip through many old family albums though – so instead of blogging about my skirt, I’ll post about some of the clothes my mother made me!

This brief selection includes photos taken on family trips and at our old house in Horseheads, New York. I lived there with my family from kindergarten to fourth grade, then we moved to Elmira, New York, right next to Horseheads. I lived in Elmira from fifth grade through high school. My mom sewed nearly all our clothes when I was growing up. I wore stuff she made up until seventh grade when it became uncool and I just had to have jeans from a store.

There aren’t too many photos of me by myself. My dad mostly took group shots of all four of us kids or us and my mom.

Not everyone was thrilled to be photographed in the photo below so I cropped out my sisters. We were at a flower garden somewhere. This is a dress my mom made with an elastic neckline and cap sleeves.

Garden.seated.jpg

This photo was taken at our home in Horseheads. I’m in the middle, my older sister to the left, and sister number three on the other side. My youngest sister is off-screen. I’m guessing that we’re smiling at her antics. See that door with the white metal frame in front of the wood one behind us? That was a dangerous door. One day playing hide and seek with the neighborhood kids, I ran out the front door to find a hiding place. My hand missed the metal bar in the middle and went right through the glass. My mom got a neighbor to watch my sisters and off we went to the emergency room. I sat in the backseat with a box of tissues holding a wad of them on my hand and telling my mom not to drive too fast because she didn’t have her driver’s license yet. I was seven years old and got seven stitches in my left hand – I still have a scar there – just below my middle finger.

Three sisters-horseheads

Here I am in a two-piece jumpsuit with puffy sleeves. I don’t remember this outfit but it is cute. I don’t think I’d wear a midriff-baring outfit today!

Jumpsuit - horseheads

A few summers we went to New Jersey so I’m guessing this may be New Jersey. Here I am in a swimsuit mom made.

Swimsuit-sunglasses

Christmas plaid! Clearly my mom made us a lot of dresses. I imagine with four girls those were the quickest things to make. I wore a lot more dresses back then. Now I mostly wear pants and skirts and I only wear dresses on occasion.

Christmas plaid dress

I’m guessing I was in fifth grade here – this photo of my Halloween princess outfit was taken at our home in Elmira. I remember the sewing pattern – it was likely Simplicity or Butterick. This was made with pink flannel (gotta stay warm when you trick or treat!), trimmed with gold rickrack, and tied at the waist with a gold ribbon.

Halloween-princess

Can you guess which one is me? I’m wearing the blue culottes and knee socks. My youngest sister is on the left wearing the pink barrettes and top.

Culottes - 4 sisters

Did your mother sew? Did she make clothes for you when you were growing up? Did you have any favorite outfits? Do you sew for your kids? Feel free to share links to any photos or blog posts!

The Search for Sewing Advice After Hours

Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques, Threads Magazine How-to
Colette Patterns tutorials (left), BurdaStyle techniques (top right), Threads Magazine How-to

When I made a dress from BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern, I added my own adjustment to the pattern, such as lining the bodice of the dress. Though I had made a couple lined vests for my husband and lined a jacket, I hadn’t lined the bodice of a dress before. It had seemed like a simple thing but when I began to put the lining and fashion fabric together, I got confused. It was late at night so I couldn’t stop by my local fabric store for advice. Naturally I turned on my laptop and began my search for sewing advice.

I typed “how to line a dress” in Google and got a tutorial on How to Line a Sleeveless Dress on Blithe Stitches. This post had helpful photos and clear step-by-step instructions so I could easily figure it out.

The web is a great resource for sewing advice. Many sewing enthusiasts, designers, publications, and companies have sewing tutorials on their blogs and websites. So if you ever get stuck on something, fire up your computer and start your search. You’ll be amazed at the plethora of instructions, both written and video, out there.

A few of my go-to places for instructions and tips (in no particular order) are:

Colette Patterns Tutorials — Sarai Mittnick, Colette Patterns founder and designer, author of The Colette Sewing Handbook, covers a variety of topics, ranging from working with fabric to fitting and adjustments. She has a nice explanation on installing invisible zippers.

BurdaStyle’s Techniques section — If you click on “Resources” on the home page, you’ll see a wide array of sewing techniques and tips posted by BurdaStyle, members, Burda Style magazine, and others, including advice for beginners.

Threads Magazine‘s “How To” pages include everything from garment fitting to sewing techniques but some content isn’t accessible unless you are a “Threads Insider.”  To view those tips you need to join ($32.95/year for online membership or $12.95 for print subscribers).

Where do you get your online sewing tips?

Sewing Resolutions for 2013 – Revised

Vintage hat and coat from All Things Vintage in OaklandIn January I wrote that my sewing resolutions were to sew, not buy clothes. However, since then I have bought a vintage coat, a vintage hat, and a turtleneck.

So let me revise that resolution to say that I make exceptions to vintage items and certain knit items (such as turtlenecks) that wouldn’t make.

I got this vintage hat and coat at All Things Vintage in Oakland last weekend. The wool hat from I. Magnin was such a great design, I couldn’t resist — plus it was in mint condition and reasonably priced at $21. The black wool coat has some really nice details: darts around the collar, interesting buttons, curved welted pockets, and cropped sleeves.

The label says Hart Schaffner Marx, which is in fact a menswear company that celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. (I wonder when the company stopped producing women’s garments?) The coat not only fit well but it was 50 percent off (only $37.50!) — another reason why I decided to buy it.

As for the turtleneck, well, my other black turtleneck was looking rather worn out and it was time to get a new one that didn’t sag at the neck.

To help me keep my sewing resolution, in February I finished making a dress using a pattern from the book BurdaStyle Sewing Vintage Modern. I entered BurdaStyle‘s sewing contest to give myself incentive to finish the dress and my dress was selected as a finalist. You can view the 20 finalists here and see who won (and what they won — I’m so jealous of the grand prize winner!). And if you want to find out more about my experience making the dress and photographing it, check out my February posts.

Also last month, I went to Britex Fabrics’s Presidents’ Day sale and bought a couple yards of a beautiful cotton voile from Italy. I’ll be making a lined bias cut skirt and top from that fabric. It’ll be great for the summer.

How are you doing with your sewing resolutions so far?

Repairing a Tear

When I saw this skirt by Comtoir Des Cotonniers on sale last year at A Miner Miracle Shop in San Francisco, I just had to buy it. I loved the print. Plus the proceeds go to A Miner Miracle, – a nonprofit organization that “provides professional clothing and image counseling to low-income people seeking employment.”

Everything at the shop is sold at a discount and this skirt was marked down even further. It was the last one and I think I paid about $15 for it (whatta steal!). The waist was a little big, which explains why it was still on the rack. However, it was easy to take it in a little – on either side of the six inches of elastic in the back.

But I digress – after I wore the skirt, I noticed a small tear in the back. Actually, it was more like a slice. OMG! What to do? I had already worn it and altered it so I had to fix it.

The first thing I did was use some Fray Block to prevent it from tearing any further. (Note: Fray Block is thinner than Fray Check – though you do have to run the tube under hot water before you use it.)

I was a bit sloppy with my application of Fray Block, which is indeed thin but it didn’t make the fabric really stiff, which was good.

Fusible interfacing cut into an oval

I didn’t think it would be a good idea to sew the tear because what ever stitches I made would be really obvious. So I decided to use some fusible interfacing over the tear. I had two fairly lightweight fusibles on hand and decided to go with something that was more medium weight. A really lightweight fusible could just start to rub off. The tear was in the bottom third of the skirt so my legs would be brushing up against it, especially when I sit down.

Then I cut an oval of interfacing to go over the tear.  You don’t want a rectangle because you may be able to see the corners in the  interfacing.

Ironing the fusible interfacing
The repaired tear

I turned the skirt inside out so I could steam iron the interfacing over the tear. It wasn’t perfect but it fixed the tear. And lucky for me, the pattern on the fabric is busy and bright enough that I doubt anyone will notice my repair job!

You can barely see the repair.