A Dedicated Sewing Room and The Case of the Missing Iron

A short time ago my sister was here to help me switch my bedroom and sewing room. We emptied out the former office + sewing room, scattered the boxes, sorted, made piles, re-scattered boxes and generally stashed things in any corner that was free (and some corners that weren’t). Then the room was re-painted and the bedroom moved from the other end of the hall. OK, it’s only a gap of about five feet from door to door, but it was still a complete move.

The new sewing room was now empty so the floors were swept and All Things Sewing were…honestly…stuffed willy-nilly back in. By then we were pretty tired and it was time for my sister to go. The rest was up to me to decide what went where and there wasn’t much point in her sitting around while I fiddled with where to put the filing cabinet and how to label the drawers.

This is how we left it:

And this is how it looks after I spent Saturday massaging the beast into a bit of relative calmness:

WooHoo! I can see the floor!

WooHoo! I can see the floor!

As you can see, I have to spend a bit more quality time sorting and putting away. Fabric awaits rearranging. Patterns in the filing cabinet ($9 at Goodwill – best storage deal ever) need sorting. And approximately 1300, or so it seems, little sewing toys and gadgets need a permanent home somewhere in the room.

The good news is now I can access and actually use the sewing machine once again. And I have access to the cutting table on three sides. Very helpful, that. The bad news is somewhere along the way my Rowenta iron went missing. Ironing board – check. Spare measuring cup for water to fill iron – check. Iron – ??? Well, it’s in there…somewhere.

My current project doesn’t need an iron. Since it’s meant to be a hidden pocket, a crisp pressing isn’t critical to its usefulness or success.

But I want to finish off the year and the HSM challenges by, at long last and finally, making a series of Regency items: a cloak, a gown and a bonnet. I’m fairly sure an iron will come in handy for those.

So it’s back into the dreadful mess once again. Or twice. As long at it takes. I need my iron!

By the way: The office ended up be relocated to the empty dining room, since I don’t have a dining room table or chairs. I had a built-in banquette in the old house, so no need then. And it’s just me, so I can do without the added expense. The benefit is that now my desk is surrounded by light, instead of being stuck in a corner. The kitchen is to the right, the bathroom is to the left and, in cases of writer’s block or critical brain fatigue, the sofa is about 15 feet behind me.


Late Breaking News! I found my Black and Decker collapsible travel iron, which is an excellent stand-by until the Rowenta decides to show itself again.

Black and Decker to the rescue!

Black and Decker to the rescue!


Why Do Plackets Hate Me?

I’ve made progress today. The sleeves are on the bodice. My big ol’ upper arms are comfortable in them and they don’t bind at all. I’ll post more dress photos tomorrow. But mostly I’ve spent a good deal of time today with the skirt’s center back placket…more than I’d like.

I don’t know why plackets drive me nuts, but they do. It’s not like they’re intellectually confusing or hard to understand. I’ve done them before although, admittedly, it’s been a while since I last tackled one. And that’s probably because they never come out looking good. Never. Setting in sleeves is a dream. I can do them in my sleep. And I’d rather tackle a dozen sleeves in black fabric, using black thread, at night…rather that than mess with a single placket.

The first time through was completely my error. I had a moment of visual confusion and cut the placket with the stripes running horizontally. The stripes on the skirt run vertically. As a result, the back would have ended up looking like a confusion of peppermint sticks. Fortunately, I caught it early and little harm was done other than loss of some time.

Second time around I oriented the stripes correctly and went through the application step by step. Slowly. Carefully. I reinforced the pivot point. I clipped with caution. And I still ended up with a pucker. Perhaps I should have clipped it more deeply? It’s such a silly thing, but it annoys me to no end.

At this point, my solution will be to carry my picnic basket behind me, hope my shawl is long enough, and spend a lot of time sitting beneath my parasol.

HSM #8: The Edwardian Summer Dress. And They’re Off…!

racehorse toys on Pinterest

Needless to say, after losing two days to silly upsets and disruptions I have a lot to get done in a relatively short time. Today is the 4th – the event is on the 8th. Gulp. Today calls for serious effort and no fiddling around.

Since the new pattern has both of the bodice pieces, and some others I hadn’t realized were missing, cutting the gown out went relatively quickly. I don’t have time to make a muslin, and that’s a concern. My guess is the pattern itself is forgiving enough to allow tweaks on the fly. At least it’s in my size and, given the contemporary fit, if anything I should need to take it in somewhat here and there. (She says with hope in her heart.)

The pattern I’m using has the skirt shortened in the front and falling to a mild train in the back. NO TRAIN! Not for a picnic with a fashion promenade around the gardens in the midst of it. So that was the first alter-as-you-go change. I had to choose between the hemline finishes of the two extant gowns I’m using for inspiration:

As much as I like the layered overskirt with the pleated hem underskirt, I don’t think time warrants that kind of detail at the moment. So I’m going with a plain skirt. I can always shorten the hemline and add a pleated hem underskirt later. Like on Sunday. One decision down, who knows how many to go.


It’s nearing 3:00 in the afternoon and I need time to take a break, do some hand work and read so my unhappy back can un-knot itself a bit (it does not like production sewing mode, not at all). I started this morning by layering up my dress form with all of the undergarments I’ll be wearing, then padding here and there to my dimensions. Most of the dress pieces have been cut and are ready to go. A few are awaiting final decisions.

The basic core of the bodice is done. I lined it, which isn’t part of the original pattern but made it look much nicer.

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I cut the lining so that the center back edge aligned with the back fold where the pieces overlap and, eventually, the hooks and eyes will be sewn. That hides the edge of the lining under the fabric and will also give some additional support and stability to the stress points of the hook and eye closures.

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I want the stripes oriented horizontally on center of the bodice, but I don’t have the time to start piecing. So I just made a drop panel, lined it, and sewed it to the bodice at the bottom edge. The goal here was two-fold: add a bit of support for the wide waistband that will be tacked in a peak at the center and, considering the lack of period-correct supportive undergarments available for “the girls”, give the bust an extra bit of concealment. The most vigorous sport I plan on playing is croquet, but why tempt fate (and flop)?

This leaves the upped edge of the bodice looking a bit too low, but a band of solid pink along the top will raise it to a more 1912-appropriate height.

I’m not being overly careful with matching stripes – the top shoulders aren’t even close – but serendipity smiled when it came to the center back closure. The edges overlap so that the stripe pattern is unbroken.

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And that’s where I am for now. I need to figure out how to cut the pieces that run over the shoulders to form a V in the front, which I don’t expect to be too problematic. The gathered waistband in the pattern only goes around the front half of the bodice and I’m pretty sure that’s not authentic styling, so I’m going to extend it to wrap completely around the high waist. The sleeves will get a cuff. Once those are in finished and attached to the bodice the bulk of the work is done.

Maybe I’ll have time for an underskirt with a pleated hem after all. 😉

HSM #8: We Are Not Amused – a Fairy Tale in One Part.

Once upon a time, a humble servant (aka, moi) found a pattern she believed would make a good “base” for an Enchanted Edwardian Gown. It is difficult for her to recall whether it was found in the Land of Etsy or the Land of eBay, but in one of those there lived a Retail Princess who offered the pattern at a price below that which was found in any Kingdom. Delighted to  have been so favored by the Sewing Universe, our humble servant inquired as to the health of said pattern. The (scheming) Retail Princess smiled and assured the humble servant the pattern was uncut and in excellent health, although the envelope had suffered slightly in a recent scuffle with a pair of scissors.

Antique Thai Scissors

Antique Thai Scissors

Knowing how scissors can be, feisty underlings that they are, the humble servant felt assured all was well and offered her custom to the Retail Princess. Days later, the pattern arrived by Mechanized Woodsprite Courier Services. The humble underling mended the sliced envelope with Magical Transparent Tape and set it aside.

Yesterday the sun rose and filled the Kingdom with warmth. The humble servant completed her duties in the Land of Blog and the Empire of Facebook, then gathered her fabric and the pattern envelope – eager to see the Enchanted Edwardian Gown come to life.

She shook out the yards and yards of fabric, iron them carefully, then set them aside. Next she opened the pattern envelope and – behold! – there were crinkly bits in the bottom, stuffed inside the pages of directions.

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At that, our humble servant was immediately suspicious, since crinkly bits are not commonly found in any uncut patterns in any Kingdom. So she proceeded with care, teased apart the large leaves of pattern paper and cut the pieces need for the Enchanted Gown. In the end, she discovered that the (dastardly) Retail Princess had lied. The pattern was not uncut, nor was it in good health. The front and back bodice pieces were missing.

Casting a disparaging eye over the crinkly bits, the humble servant gently opened them up, only to find oddly suspicious negative shapes. Shapes that look as those that would have surrounded front and back bodice pieces.

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By then it was too late in the day to act, so the humble servant had a large glass of wine with dinner and called it a day – after issuing multiple verbal curses and conjuring a few lightning bolts against the (truly dastardly) Retail Princess.

(found on Pinterest)

(found on Pinterest)

This morning, the humble servant worked her best magyk upon the Ether of Internet, only to find that the pattern was to be found in none of the local Kingdoms. Special Delivery via Golden Unicorn would take too long. There was nothing to do but mount her trusty steed and search the land.

Sadly, the trusty steed had gone lame in one foot and so time was needed to have the beast re-shod. Eventually, however, the humble servant was underway. To her delight – and, admittedly, more than a bit of exasperation – she discovered that the pattern in question was indeed available in a neighboring Kingdom. Having shaken the last coins from her purse, she held the precious pattern close to chest as she rode home where she decided that another large glass of wine would not be amiss with tonight’s dinner, either.

As for the Truly Dastardly Retail Princess, to her our humble servant offers a wry smile…and about 20,000 volts.

(from giphy)

(from giphy)

HSM #6 – the Edwardian-style Petticoat is Done!!



More funky photo colors from artificial light, but I don’t mind because it’s finished. Not ironed, though. If this heat keeps up it may not get ironed until November. Here are the particulars…

HSM Challenge #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone – Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before.

  • Project: An Edwardian petticoat – my first attempt at designing a historically accurate garment and my first foray into Edwardian style
  • Title: Never Let Them See You Sweat

Examples – Inspiration:

Fabric: some semi-sheer cotton from my stash, plus a cannibalized twin bed skirt from Goodwill (cotton body, cotton-poly embroidered ruffle)

Pattern: my very own, designed as I went along (so far out of my comfort zone!!)

Year: 1912-ish

Notions: thread, vintage beading lace, jacquard-woven ribbon

How historically accurate is it? I did a lot of research into the styles of petticoats that were popular at the time and I believe the shape and decoration are correct. To my knowledge, there is one (glaring) historical inaccuracy…use of the cotton-poly ruffle from the bed skirt. I purposefully made it on the short side, so I can wear it with subsequent fashions, as hemlines rose in the following years. For the same reason, the waist is raised, but not high under the bust.

Hours to complete: I’ve lost count. I ended up in the hospital in the midst of things and lost about a week. Best guess is about 20 or so hours total for the designing and the sewing (and fixing the goofs along the way).

First worn: Will be worn later this month under an Edwardian-style dress, at a garden party.

Total cost: Everything came from my stash except the ribbon, which was about $13 total for four spools.

In confess, I am inordinately proud to have pulled this off. If one goes by a regular calendar I’m finishing two days late. But I’m counting the hospital time + the 2 days before and the 4 days after…so, by my calendar, I’m a week early. 😉

HSM #6 – Sliding into Home Base

As I’m sure you all realize by now, I can be a tad delusional when it comes to estimating my sewing times. That’s because I can’t resist the urge to play and get it “just right.” And so it went with the ribbon, and even more beading lace, last night. But it was worth it.

I’d been working with the petticoat piled up in my lap, going with where my creative juices took me, placing and pinning then moving and re-pinning, changing lines and then moving them back, etc., until I was out of steam and had to go to bed. So imagine my surprise when I finally put it back on the dress form and this appeared:

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(photo taken this morning)

Woah! I have to say, it took me by surprise…because it actually looks like a petticoat. I’ve purposely made it on the short side, because I want to be able to use it for subsequent 19-teens when hemlines started rising – especially with the WWI effort to conserve fabric.

I also ended up deciding to continue the “V” shape of the beading lace on the front bodice, which extends the vertical design line visually. The dangling loop of ribbon will be cut, trimmed and end in a little bow at the base of the “V.”

The armholes need a slight trimming down, then a turned self-finish edge. Hand sewing – yay!

Better yet, because of where the upper and lower bodice ties are, I don’t need to use any hooks and eyes.

And, best of all, it fits.

HSM #6 – On the Home Stretch

Egg cooking on a sidewalk

Egg cooking on a sidewalk

not amused

(source unknown)

It is, and has been, unseasonably hot up here and will be for some time. I used to live in a place where every summer would reach 100+ degrees F and stay there for more than a week at a time…sometimes over 110. But I’ve been in the Pacific Northwest for eight years now and have become an absolute thermal wimp. It’s a bit humid, but not bad today. However, it’s 80 degrees in my kitchen right now and all I want to do is melt. Told ya – a total wimp.

Fortunately, it usually cools off well at night but my sleep has been pretty messed up ’cause I’m still too hot. Enough bad nights in a row and strange things start to seem reasonable.

1950's heat wave, NYC

1950’s heat wave, NYC

ice cold soda water ad

All of this is just a way-too-long way of saying that the petticoat isn’t done yet. I ran out of pink ribbon, so yesterday made the trip to get another spool (plus one, just in case). I hope to start finishing the armholes – the last step – this evening. In any event, I’d rather do a good job and be a tad late than rush it when I have something going that I really like.

Today I sprung for a fan that’s designed to sit in double-hung windows, like the ones I have, so I can blow the cool and moist night air from outside into the bedroom instead of warm and dry air from the rest of the house. It was on sale and I got the last one. Yay! Hopefully, my night will be filled with wonderful dreams…

giant milkshake sign

HSM #6 Update – The Deadline is Closing Fast

Bodice front with the rest of the ribbon in place.

Bodice front with the rest of the ribbon in place.

I’ve been working hard on my Edwardian petticoat – after all, the deadline is tomorrow. Eek! This is the first time I’ve designed a garment and being faced with innumerable choices slowed me down. In the end I solved my dilemma by conveniently discovering I didn’t have enough fabric left over from the bodice to make a complete skirt. That, and realizing that using a pre-made bed ruffle from Goodwill meant the cotton-poly blend would need a bit more support than the semi-sheer bodice fabric could give.

So, like all inspired types who find themselves painted into a creative corner, I punted and made up the rest as I went. And I think it’s working.

I used the remainder of the bodice fabric for the upper portion of the skirt and the cotton body of the bed skirt for the lower part. That allowed me to leave the ruffle attached and not spend time messing around with it.

But the fabrics are distinctly different, both in texture and in color…the bodice fabric is a much whiter white. I have plenty of the vintage beading lace, so I used a round to create a softer transition from one fabric to the other.

Petticoat skirt with beading lace in place.

Petticoat skirt with beading lace in place.

Of course, things being as they sometimes are, I seem to have…um…mis-measured a bit.



Fortunately, this is an easy fix. In the end, very few people will notice it…especially since it’s underwear.

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Adding beading lace to the lower ruffle, also to create a nicer look, went smoothly…mostly because I’d learned not to cut anything from the spool before it was all sewn in place.

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The end result was two even rounds of lace, ready for the ribbon.

Upper round, the transition from bodice fabric to the bed skirt cotton.

Upper round, the transition from bodice fabric to the bed skirt cotton.

The lower round, for a nicer transition to the bottom ruffle.

The lower round, for a nicer transition to the bottom ruffle.

To add a bit for heft to the upper portion of the skirt, I doubled the fabric to create a self-facing. Then I whipped it into place and sewed the center front closed up to the opening, adding a small tack at the top end to guard against any damage from tugging while pulling it on overhead.

2007-03-11 03.05.03

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At last…time to attach the bodice to the skirt. Hooray!

Now, I’m basically lazy enough to avoid duplicate steps whenever possible. It makes up for the time I lose in silly errors, like cutting the beading lace too short. When I decided to self-face the upper portion of the skirt, I deliberately placed the fold at the top edge. That way I could attach the bodice and create the base of the channel for the front drawstring closure at the same time. It gets a bit “fabric-origami-in-space” at this point, but it works.

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On your right is the bodice pinned to the skirt. Looks all wrong, doesn’t it? But on your left you can see what happens when the top edge of the petticoat is turned up. By doing it this way, the raw edge of the bodice will be enclosed in the drawstring casing and it’s all done in just two passes of the machine. I’ve used this trick before and it’s an absolute winner.

To finish, I need to complete the casing, add the last of the beading lace, thread the ribbon into place and finish the armholes. They keep changing shape slightly, and for the better, as more weight gets added to the bodice so I saved them for last. And by tomorrow evening I should have a petticoat of my own design…that actually fits. How fab is that?

Better: slow but sure.

je suis malade

Getting over this whatever-it-was is slow going. You’ve probably noticed the dearth of posts. That’s because my hand-eye coordination is still re-tuning itself. Knitting helps and I’ve been doing a lot of it. But my hand sewing is a bit too shaky for the look I’m after, although it’s improving steadily, and my machine sewing tends to drift from a straight line unless I focus every bit of energy and concentrate. Then I’m exhausted after 20 minutes and frustrated.

In general, I start my day feeling like this:

A couple enjoys an old fashioned zipline on a weekend afternoon. (1923)

A couple on an old-fashioned zipline. (1923)

It doesn’t take long before I’m feeling like this:



And by late afternoon:

Sick person going to Lourdes to take the water.

Going to Lourdes to take the water.

I try to be patient with this *tap foot, tap foot, tap foot* while my body heals. Today has been a really good day and the worst has definitely passed.

The knitting is going pretty well now. My stitches are even again. I can do math for the patterns in my head.

I’ve been hoarding collecting 1930’s prints to make a simple quilt for my bed, and I feel good enough to re-start my machine swing on that. This one will be pretty simple and I don’t need to completely finish the top to polish up my skills. Not to mention this will finally get me going on something I’ve been putting off for a long time (hard to choose a pattern, decided to go easy on myself).

In addition, I started English paper-piecing a reproduction of an 1840’s quilt. It’s going to take a while, but there is no rush – I’m just doing it because I’ve always wanted to try and now I have the patience for it. I’ve already cut the fabric hexagons for the next panel, so I think I’ll work on that for an evening or two to get my fine hand-eye motor coordination back up to snuff.

And then it’s back to business.

The top portion of my Edwardian petticoat for HSM #6 is mostly done. Happily, the worst of the fiddly bits are finished. Before all this happened I’d purchased some lovely pink jacquard-weave ribbon for the beading lace. After lace meets ribbon, I’ll start hand-finishing the armholes. Then it’s make a tube, sew on a ruffle, gather the top edge and sew the whole thing onto the bodice portion. After that it’s just a matter of using hooks-and-eyes up the front for an easy closure.

Hmmmm. Probably shouldn’t have said “easy”….