Monday, July 6, 2009

Blast from the past

Way back when I was in college, I had this brilliant idea that I should draw a set of paper dolls for my younger sisters. (I'm pretty sure it was 1999 because I remember working on them while reclining on Jean's pappasan couch.) We always had a thing for paper dolls when we were kids and I thought it would make a nifty - not to mention cheap - Christmas gift for Emily and Catherine. I ordered one of the Patterns from the Past catalogs off the internet (yes, the internet existed in 1999) and faithfully sketched as many of the historical dresses as I could, then copied them onto cardstock and colored them. I worked as a phone operator for Butler then so it was a good way to kill downtime in between calls. And while I can't draw to save my life, I can copy decently, so I was pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I always intended to keep the original drawings so that I could maybe make up another set for any future daughters I might have (and Betsy was born only three years later so that was oddly prescient) but somehow, in the five times I've moved in the last ten years, they got lost. I was pretty bummed about that because there is no way I'm investing that kind of time and energy all over again. Lucky for me, my sister Catherine decided to come for a visit, and even luckier, she brought the paper dolls with her! I figured they'd been long ago destroyed but every dress I remembered drawing was there.

I remember working particularly hard on this Civil War-era ballgown: all that ruching was crazy-difficult, not to mention all the roses. I think it turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Notice that what I'm not showing you is any of Cath's work. See, she's an art major and next to hers, my stuff looks like it was drawn by a blind monkey, or perhaps a drunk toddler. So, let's keep my ego intact and move on to the next subject.

Something I'm actually pretty skilled at is making dresses, which Cath thought would be a lark to do when she came out here. So I let her paw through my stash of vintage patterns and she found this beauty:

Which is one of the ones I swiped from my mom in the first place, so it's kind of funny that it will end up back in Rochester eventually. Anyway, after checking to make sure that all the pieces were present (they were), we headed out to JoAnn's to score some fabric. Now, JoAnn's is much maligned by serious sewers, but I've always found lots of neat-o fabric, within my price range, and the employees are for the most part helpful (the older ladies at the cutting counter love to chat about dresses). Anyway, I had a couple of coupons and Catherine couldn't decide between two different fabrics (both of which were around $3/yard). Because I am evil, I convinced her to go ahead and get both, and make up the dress in both views.

We used my awesome new rhymes-with-merger to overcast the edges of each piece, to prevent ravelling, and then stitched it up on the conventional sewing machine. I helped with some things and gave as many pointers as I could from my vast three years of sewing experience. Like, it's important to press the seams. And understitch facings. I still had her do as most of the work, though, because they're her dresses (also I am lazy). I didn't even touch the zippers. Mom will have to help with that when Cath gets back to Rochester!

Anyway, speaking of sewing, here's what I've been up to:

The pattern was yet another freebie-by-way-of Mom; the fabric is actually a vintage sheet (really!) that I picked up for $3 at a church sale (the tag - which I kept - says 'Inger McCabe Elliot for Martex', 1976. Does that ring any bells for anyone?); and the buttons came in a huge bag of vintage goodies that I got for like two bucks at the Goodwill. So the whole dress cost me almost nothing. Which is good, because I'm not totally enamored of how it came out.

I shortened the sleeves quite a bit, because elbow-length sleeves drive me batty. I should have lengthened the bodice; that high-waisted sixties look actually doesn’t work so great on a five-foot-seven gal like me. Also, I had a really hard time matching the print because it wasn’t actually a straight horizontal stripe; the bands of pattern undulate up and down like waves of grain or a field of flowers. Still, the colors make me happy (and the buttons match so perfectly I can only assume the universe intended it that way) and for a really cheap dress, it’s not so bad. I love that the sheet it was made from is that no-iron percale (basically a poly-cotton blend) so I can wear it right straight out of the laundry, which is a huge bonus for a lazy pants like myself. I wore it the other day with a white cardigan sweater ($3 at Goodwill and it’s J. Crew) and I think that helped the style a lot, so maybe I will just save it for cooler weather.

Cath and I have been having a fine time. In addition to sewing not one but two dresses, we've been to the art museum (one never realizes just how much nudity there is in art until one pays attention); traumatized my children with the movie Spirited Away; been thrift-store-shopping (Cath didn't find anything but I scored some sweet red peep-toe pumps); saw Easy Virtue (swoon); visited Mike and Mandy's new place (Miles is a fine little host); and made our contribution to the unfortunately neglected literary sub-genre of overwrought Victorian melodrama. Fun times.

I've also been papercrafting:

Next project (after Catherine goes home, which mercifully isn't for a few days yet): a set of NCIS-themed notecards. Should be interesting!

6 witty remarks on "Blast from the past"

fatty mcslowslow said...

Fun with paper dolls!
Fun with the sewing machine!
You're just too crafty...

mom said...

NCIS notecards???? Love!
Also, wow Cath, way to go on the awesome dresses, I will be glad to help you with zips.
Joni, I knew that sheet/dress rang a bell. Martex was one of the better sheet/towel companies back then, and I cleaned house for a family that had those sheets(for a king size bed). I always liked that pattern!

Molly said...

Love the dresses. Very... Oh! Vintage!! And the paper dolls. tell cath she still owes me like twenty one paper dolls.

Joni said...

Good to know... if I'm going to make clothes out of bedding, at least it's CLASSY bedding. That makes it *sooo* much less crazy.

Molly said...

What about transformers bedding? They were talking about that on the radio today.

Kristen on 3:37 PM said...

way to go! look at you being super productive! now can you come to LA and teach me how to use my rhymes-with-merger? ;)


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