Saving the planet... one garment at a time!

... and one upcycle at a time... Welcome to my blog: A place to have an "over the fence conversation" about sewing, altered couture, upcycling, and all kinds of crafts using found objects, beads, ephemera and other vintage finds!


Monday, March 7, 2016

The Downton Gala presented by WMHT

What a wonderful time we had at the Downton Gala, held by WMHT at the beautifully appointed Desmond Hotel in Albany.  The evening began with champagne and picture opportunities along with an impressive silent auction.


Here is my dress – an actual photo of me, in my dress.  I must say, I felt perfectly garbed for the evening.  I also felt a little blind because I did not wear my rather contemporary glasses.  The pictures came out mostly ok anyway!



And, here is the dress I spent so much time on over the late summer and fall.  This is the dress that started it all.  So becoming on my friend, don’t you think?


And our “dates” (well, husbands) were looking dapper as well. 


The crowd came fully dressed for an evening of 20s frivolity.  Most of the gentlemen wore tuxedos and the ladies were beaded and styled to the nines.  There were some very nice displays, including some lovely frocks!





The tables were set in grand Downton style, with fresh floral arrangements and elegant candelabras.




We had a wonderful time at the Gala – and we even took home a case of wine from the silent auction!  Thanks, WMHT, for a wonderful evening prior to the stateside airing of the final episode of Downton Abbey!  Now what will I do with my Sunday evenings?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Gala Next Week

The Downton Gala is next weekend!  The dresses are pretty much complete.  Using the illustration I posted, along with the basic One-Hour Dress directions courtesy of our good historical friend, Mary Brooks Picken, here are some pictures of my dress along the way.

I trimmed the neckline with the fringe lace I showed you as one of the first trimmings I purchased for this dress.  It seemed a little too simple though, so I added some flatback black Swarovski crystals (leftovers from a tutu I made years ago for my daughter).




I added a lower lace skirt as in my illustration.


And lace sleeves which are open along the inner arm.


This buckle makes a lovely embellishment to the lace belt.


I will be styling this with a long silver and crystal necklace, a crystal headpiece, a small evening bag, opera gloves (to be worn until dinner) and 1920's style T-strap shoes.  I'll post pictures from the event of the dress in full glory.  For once, I think the dress looks better on a live person than on Betsy, my ever trusty dress form!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

More Downton Designing

Another new year for the blog!  I sometimes find it hard to believe I’ve been at this for so long.  I love producing this blog, even if it is only a sporadic thing due to my many other commitments.  Thanks for stopping in when you get a chance to see what I write, when I get a chance!

This year Downton Abbey comes to a close on Masterpiece.  Our local PBS affiliate is having a gala to celebrate the show and some friends are going to the gala with us.  I have been working on my friend’s gown for a very long time.  Chiffon fabric and hand beading make for quite a project, but I think she’ll look lovely.  Almost done with the beading and final touches. 
Now I have to figure out what to wear myself.  I love the illustration here:



I purchased the instructions, but find that the instructions are for the generic dress of the period, not specifically for this illustration.  Can I figure it out?  Yes.  Did I want to be futzing around? No.  I’m only out $7.50, but I guess I didn’t need to spend it, as I could have figured it out from the picture independently.

The body of the dress will be black slipper satin.  Here are pictures of the lace and trim. 





I also purchased opera gloves, an antique clutch and period-ish shoes… I will still need a headpiece and a coat or cloak.  This soiree is in March.  In the Northeast.  Outerwear required.  Unless we dress at the hotel, which I guess is a possibility.  I’m very excited about making this gown, and even more excited about wearing it!  Stay tuned for each step of the way, along with pictures from the gala.  Did I mention that I’m excited?


Sunday, November 22, 2015

Downton Dress V and One Hour Dress

Getting very near to completion on the Downton Dress.  Progress has been somewhat impeded by my new (but terrific) job.  Here are some pictures of the embellishments so far.  I don't want to add anything else until my friend tries it on and we get those beautiful bakelite clasps on.




 So, now completely enamored with 1920s style, I decided to give the famous "One Hour Dress" a try.  The instructions are pretty ubiquitously available online. This is a Mary Brooks Pickens design created as "a smart, up-to-the-minute dress" which could be cut out, sewn and be ready to wear within an hour!  Now, let's be real.  For the seamstress of that era, who knew exactly what she wanted to accomplish, this may have been possible.  However, I can say without a doubt, I've spent more than an hour so far.  I made my dress from a recycled bedspread.


This was a fussy, dry clean only bedspread my mom had been using just a few years ago.  I cut the dress per the measurements and instructions of Ms. Pickens.  I added a little pleat detail at the left hip.



It is coming out very nicely.  I just have to decide how to finish the sleeves and I will be done!  I admit that I took advantage of hems already placed for the bedspread.  Unfortunately, there is some sun fading on the fabric, so I will probably consider this one a wearable muslin and make more.  It was incredibly easy and fun!



A cloche hat and some period correct shoes and I'll be all set!  Have you tried the "One Hour Dress"? Please let me know about your results in the comments!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Unscheduled Maintenance

SO, Friday evening in the midst of trying to gather supplies for painting a room in our home, we receive a frantic call from the kids (not usual).  The main pipe draining the upstairs plumbing was leaking, think geyser, after every flush.  Not good.  And, of course, my beautiful sanctuary, my sewing room, is in the basement, adjacent to this pipe.

image by vectorolie, freedigitalphotos.net
A call to the city revealed that the main from the street was not clogged, so we were free to have the Roto-Rooter guy come to save the day.  This did not happen without a near melt down on my part, as the access he needed is located IN the sewing room.  I was very concerned about the possibility of water damage to my beautiful room, and to the TON of fabrics and projects which reside there peacefully waiting for my attentions.

While my room now looks as though a cyclone hit it, not a drop was spilled and the plumbing is flowing freely once more.  It will probably take a week to get everything put back where it belongs, given my limited time to spend down there.  Sometimes I think the fates conspire to keep me from completing projects… still working on the Downton Dress, still working on the window seat, with several more projects backed up in the pipeline (not the literal pipeline, but you know what I mean).  AND, we’re still working on renovating the room we were buying the paint for.  I hope your sewing is going more smoothly!  Stay tuned!

Monday, September 7, 2015

That Downton Dress - IV

The dress is now together and looking lovely.  A back drape is still to be attached, and then the embellishment process begins in earnest.  I thought you might appreciate a quick look.


I'm pretty happy with how it is coming together.  I really hope my friend likes it.  Just a little more to go and the final dress will be done.  I do love this drop waist twenties style.  I may have to make something similar for myself!


Monday, August 17, 2015

I've Got a Notion - Hand Sewing Needles

I love estate sales, yard sales and rummage sales (if you've ever read this blog before, you know this). One of the things I buy frequently at these sales is sewing baskets. Sadly, a sewist passes on, and her family has no earthly clue what to do with her things. Often, whole sewing baskets can be found in these sales, fully stocked with all sorts of great tools and notions, left just the way the owner left it.



I've acquired neatly organized baskets, and ones that look as though the grandkids just pawed through it looking for only they know what. All have their charms and treasures within. One of the things I come across most frequently and abundantly are hand sewing needles.

I will never have to purchase another hand sewing needle at a conventional modern sewing store. I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of these gems. Some will remain in their wrappers unused, and others will be used in my work. Some will be passed on to others via Etsy.


Hand sewing needles come in greater variety than the uninitiated would think. Each needle is crafted for a particular purpose. The most common is the “sharp”, used for general hand work, with a round eye, a sharp point and a medium length. Applique and crewel needles are used in embroidery and surface design. Tapestry needles are used for needlepoint and other canvas work. Betweens are hand quilting needles. Milliners needles and beading needles are very long and are usually used for decorative work. Darning needles are long with blunt points and used in fabric repair and reweaving.
And, of course there are specialty needles for upholstery and leather work.


Each needle type comes in a variety of sizes. The size is indicated by one or more numbers on the manufacturer's packaging. The general convention for sizing of needles, as with wire gauge, is that within any given class of needle the length and thickness of a needle increases as the size number decreases. When a package contains a needle count followed by two size numbers such as "20 Sharps 5/10" the second set of numbers correspond to the range of sizes of needle within the packet, in this case typically ten sharps needles of size 5 and ten of size 10 (for a total of 20 needles).

The packaging of needles is also fascinating, from ornate needle books, to advertising premiums. Some of the packages feature great artwork, which seems so grandiose when you consider that the contents are but humble sewing needles.   


I've been doing quite a lot of hand sewing lately for the Downton Dress.  Between that and my estate sale habit, I have developed a new appreciation for the hand sewing needle!