Monday, December 29, 2008


Is it a coincidence that Best Sister Ever (along with best Brother Ever) gave me about 200 vintage patterns and most of them are her size? Just asking...

Favorites so far:
Miss Moneypenny jumper and blouse

I always loved Miss Moneypenny. She seemed to put Commander Bond in his place; I like that in a gal. A proto-feminist. All business. Maybe someday we'll see a movie where SHE gets a license to kill. And she can do everything a man does but in high heels. (A great concept, call my agent...)
I see this one in wool crepe with an English (of course) shirting. The cool striped kind.

Lolita jumper (is it just me, or is this pattern illustration ten kinds of creepy?)
Those knee socks, that school girl hair, those SHOES! Unless the wearer is 9 years old, this one is a definite DON'T. Simplicity made it up to size 16 Misses, so someone at some time thought this was appropriate for adults. The 60s were a strange time, class. The social scientist in me says that maybe someone wanted desperately to infanticize women so they would stop agitating for equal rights. Or they just had a weird Lolita thing going on. If I were 16 and had a Twiggy figure I'd make this in wool plaid. No knee socks, Go Go Boots. And fishnet hose. In for a penny...

That saucy minx in blue; doesn't she look like Doris Day? (I love her movies; she has the BEST clothes. Pattern companies- you should make a retro movie star pattern line. It could have categories like Doris, also Audrey, Katharine, Elizabeth and Marilyn... That's a million dollar idea! Call that agent back! Ari, baby, have I got a product tie in for you.) I like the use of rick rack on this one. We need more rick rack opportunities.

This one has both Dorothy Hamill and Farrah influences. I love the top with the flutter and long sleeves option - cause one sleeve isn't enough.

I know the 16 year old me would have made this pattern if I had seen it. I even had a Dorothy Hamill haircut when I was 16. I wonder if I made it now, if it might be a classic example of mutton dressed as lamb. At least views one and two. However, I reserve the right to make view 3 out of scarf print fabric. I'm not that old. Also Mr. Hunting Creek says I have been looking younger lately. I really must have his eyes checked...or maybe not. :)
Who is going to argue when he says stuff like that?
Happy Sewing!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Presents!

My family decided that there are three stages of Christmas: stage one is when you are So Excited you can't go to sleep Christmas Eve. The day seems endless and parents heartlessly send the kids to bed at the regular time. Now of course we know that they needed time to finish wrapping and assembling all the toys. My father says the three most frightening words in the English language are "some assembly required". This is from a man who assembled not one, not two, but THREE bicycles one Christmas Eve. The second stage is when you have kids yourself, so YOU are the one staying up til 2am getting everything ready. And finally, the third stage is when you have older children and get everything done ahead of time. The kids let you sleep late, so no need to get up at 6am to see what Santa brought. We are at that stage at Chez Hunting Creek, so we get to sleep late, drink coffee and open gifts in a leisurely fashion. We started Christmas Eve at my sister's house, and opened gifts there too. It's just nonstop gift opening from Christmas Eve til Inauguration day here.
Ann said she wanted to know what everyone got, so here goes:
My brother and sister, who shall henceforth be known as Best Sister Ever and Best Brother Ever, shopped Victoriously on eBay and had scored over TWO HUNDRED vintage patterns from the 1940's to the 1970's. Here is a picture of one of our favorites:

This pattern was declared by all present as the BEST. It is multi purpose: you can use it for Manson Family-style cultwear, I Dream of Jeannie fantasy wear, and I'm not even sure what the blond in the bizarre Jetson pigtails represents. Did we really dress like this in the 70's? If yes, Time has mercifully drawn a veil over the memory.
I took a picture of some of the patterns spilled out on the dining room table...but that's not even half! See picture at the top.
I also received perfume, cool new speakers for my computer so I can listen to tunes while I work, a giant bottle of Mexican Vanilla, a designer Apron, and several new books, including a biography of Colette and a memoir by Marcella Hazan. We will have another celebration with our family on January 17th when my daughter returns from her Christmas in Italy (oh the life she leads!) We will open Even More Presents then.
I hope Santa brought everything you wanted.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

All I Want For Christmas, Italian Edition

My daughter flew to London yesterday to spend the holidays with her Italian boyfriend and his family. While we will miss her terribly and will celebrate Christmas again when she returns, there are compensations (besides Christmas gifts from Italy). She will bring me Italian Sewing Magazines.
European sewistas don't use the printed paper pattern as much as we do here in North America. Instead they have magazines with patterns in them like Burda World of Fashion, Patrones, La Mia Boutique, Modellina and several others. When she was in Italy last spring she brought back an issue of La Mia Boutique,which to my surprise, also contained recipes. Bella Figura obsessed Italians can whip up cool tees with the shoulders cut out and then step in to La Cucina and whip up Bucatini con Le Sarde. I loved slipping into the fantasy that I lived that kind of life. I don't get that from my American magazines; they are much more prosaic. U.S. magazines are Balkanized into Sewing , Cooking, Gardening, etc, and they rarely mix topics.
The European magazines are also culturally revealing. Their visual language is different; you wouldn't mistake an Italian fashion shoot for an American one. And the language! They are breathless in a way that only a fashion magazine can be - that tone of awe about New Spring Looks that transcends cultures. No matter where they are from, the fashion people all seem to drink the same delusionary kool aid when it comes to discussing the importance of new sleeve silhouettes. It just sounds better in Italian.
I'm lucky, my daughter is fluent in Italian, and can translate for me (while I speak Italian at the first grade level, I can read Italian and Spanish with a little help from il dictionario). While I tell Mr Hunting Creek that the magazines are Educational, I can't say that knowing the Italian for gathering, basting and sewing invisible zippers is helpful beyond sewing. As we learned on our last trip to Italy, being able to speak sewing and cooking Italian is only marginally helpful when trying to understand the announcements over the loudspeakers in Termini.
But no matter! When she arrives with my magazines, I can pretend for a while that I am sewing in Italian and that makes even a tshirt pattern just that much more romantic.
Happy Sewing!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What NOT to Give

Occasionally people ask me for suggestions on what to get their nearest and dearest for gifts. Since I am an oldest child and full of opinions, I will share my hard earned knowledge of Gift Don'ts in the hopes of helping others.

Don't waste your precious sewing time on people who don't understand the value of hand made gifts. You know who they are. The kind of person who says when you give them handmade pajamas, "I can buy this at WalMart for $10!" Oh Really? Next year, lump of sewing coal for you! This person does not understand handmade. They do not DESERVE a handmade gift. They are the people for whom the cold impersonal Gift Card was invented.
Don't give gifts that are meant to improve the other person. This is only implies that the other person is in need of improvement. Also very few people enjoy being improved.
Examples of such gifts: Mr. Hunting Creek is a lefty and is, how shall we say, handwriting challenged. A kind person would say that this is not a flaw, but an advantage! It's like his own personal shorthand! He can make notes no one but Chloe on 24 can read! His own mother (!!!) once gave him a Calligraphy Kit. He was Not Amused. Other gifts in this category include giving expensive clothes one size too small to encourage weight loss, and diet books. Bah Humbug!

I once had a boss who read every self help book ever published. Every Christmas he would send the latest to our team as gifts. Even worse, he would write in the book, thus diminishing its resale/regifting value! If a person wants a self help book, they will buy it themselves. That's why they call them "Self Help Books" not "Somebody Else Help" Books.

Do you want to really spread Holiday Cheer?
A nicer present would be to offer to teach someone to sew, or help them sew something themselves. These would be people who have expressed a desire to learn, so you can both have fun.
For your sewing friends, you could make a sewing gift card. Or invite those friends to a sewing party at your home, with fun snacks, and all sew together and have a nice visit. You could make a nice little gift card invitation and package it with some cute notions, like pretty buttons.

Good gift example: my sister gave me some beautiful fabric and a pattern for Christmas last year. She had it all packaged together with a super cute pincushion shaped like an easy chair. This was much appreciated. (Of course I love that fabric so much I have not yet cut it, but that's not her fault.)

I have heard horror stories of mothers in law who gave Joy of Cooking to professional noncooking daughters in law, men who gave hardware store gift certificates to their nonhandy girlfriends, and all time best - a gift of cookies in which a couple had been sampled. I am not making this up.

The wrong gifts can ruin relationships. While in High school, I made a lovely shirt for my then-boyfriend. It was a thing of beauty. He gave me...a teakettle. We broke up not long after that, and I know now that our gift incompatibility was one of the reasons.
The Holiday season is fraught with Gift Pitfalls. If we have friends who don't like or understand homemade gifts, it's clear that we need to give something that they understand or make new friends.
I'm baking cookies and making ornaments today, and I know the recipients will love both things. I hope that your efforts are equally appreciated.
Happy sewing!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Art is dangerous

I wanted to personalize a gift with stencils, so I got out my book of stencils that I wanted to try. While reading the instructions for preparing the stencils in Japanese Cut and Use Stencils I noticed the following advice: prepare the stencils with boiled linseed oil and turpentine (Why not just cut them in plastic?) and they make the following casual statement, "Any excess can be wiped off with a dry rag...the rag should then be immersed in water until it can be incinerated or removed by regular garbage disposal service. Spontaneous combustion can occur if the rag is stored for later use." SPONTANEOUS COMBUSTION???!!!
This led me to think - well, what about the paper stencil that is soaked in this stuff? Won't THAT be in danger of spontaneously combusting? And who knew ordinary household items could be combined with such exciting results? My son was all in favor of finding out, but not wishing to create hazardous waste or burn down the house, I have decided to try my new Indygo Junction Asian Stencils instead.
My idea is to use my Paintstiks to stencil a design for a little bag for a gift. If I like it then maybe I'll stencil something larger, like a purse, a scarf or a tote bag, then maybe a coat, a shawl or a quilt, but baby steps... I'll try and fit it into our mad weekend of putting up the tree, decorating for Christmas, shopping, wrapping, baking, working, shipping...I need a little quiet sewing time, preferably non-flammable time.
Happy Non Combustable sewing!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Lights, Camera...

This old pattern caught my eye. The girl on the right looks JUST like Tiffany Case; to you non James Bond fans, that's Jill St John. You know, in the movie with Sean Connery as James Bond, when Oh James was a bit of a thug, before he was dappered and English gentlemanized by Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan (My favorite).
I had a dress just like this when I was in 6th grade. Mine was pink and looked just like Jill's dress (unfortunately, being only 12 at the time, I did not look like Jill St John.) Since we women have relationships with our clothes, it's not unusual that a little image can bring back memories associated with certain outfits that we loved (or hated.) I remember when I wore that pink dress, where we were (Lion Country Safari in Irvine CA) and how old I was then. My sister still complains that our mother used to dress us alike for pictures when we were little. She can describe the clothes in detail and describe exactly what she liked or disliked about every single outfit. Most women can tell you their whole life story based on their favorite outfits. We remember exactly what we were wearing on all the important days of our lives. I am sure that men don't even THINK about their clothes like that. I had a dress I used to love that I was wearing the day I got laid off from a job - I never was able to wear it again. I held it against the dress as if it were a friend that had let me down. What I should have done was wear it immediately to a happy occasion to get the bad karma off of it. Instead it hung sadly in the closet, passed over for years until I finally admitted I could never wear it again and put it in the donation box for the Salvation Army. It was like a break up. On the other hand, I will always think kindly of my wine colored Diane Von Furstenburg knock off that I wore in 1977 to get my boyfriend's attention. It was slinky in all the right places. It DID get his attention and we've been married now for 29 years. That's the power of a good dress! I still have the dress, I've never been able to part with it but I don't think Mr. Hunting Creek kept his yellow button down shirt. (I bet he could not even tell you what he was wearing)
Do you remember what you were wearing on the most memorable occasions of your life? Everyone I asked this question has told me a story about their favorite dress, or the sweater they stole from their sister, or the skirt that they had to wear to choir practice. It's because for women, they aren't JUST clothes; they are nothing less than the costumes that we wear starring in the movie of our lives.
Happy Sewing!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Cinderella Syndrome

I love reading Burda World of Fashion, and I especially love the formal wear. I have just realized that this is some kind of mental illness. I want a velvet and silk formal dress. I don't know why. I work at home. I do not lead a Gala Formalwear life. When I was down in the fabric/sewing cave this weekend with my daughter, we counted dark teal charmeuse, silver shantung, green velvet, iridescent green/turquoise velvet, red velvet, wine velveteen, forest velveteen... I could go on. For a person who works at home and wears nice t shirts and jeans every day I have an awful lot of velvet. Every year I read the Threads issue on how to sew a velvet dress with interest. I made a velvet and silk wrap for my sister and my daughter. I made velvet stockings for gifts. Everyone loved them. I know how to sew velvet: lots of basting. But I have not made one single velvet thing for myself. I want to. I have the fabric. I have the patterns. A fellow blogger called this "an irrational lust for impractical clothing". I think I will call it the Cinderella Syndrome. When I read her words I recognized myself. "I have that too!", I thought. I wonder if our irrational brain, the one that engages in magical thinking, is reasoning "If we have a formal dress, will we then start to lead that kind of formal dress kind of life? With Glass Slippers, Princes, champagne out of the aforementioned slippers, coaches, fairy godmothers?" This is the same kind of magical thinking that reasons that broken cookies have no calories, that the cute guy "forgot" our phone number, and that trickle down economics works, in spite of all rational evidence to the contrary.
If you saw my fabric stash, you'd think that I was anticipating leading a glamorous life that required many changes of velvet and silk outfits, with some beautiful jewel toned wool coating thrown in for practicality. I think my fabric could lead a more glamorous life than I do, if it were set free to find its soul mate.( This imaginary woman has unlimited time to sew and fancies chic DVF style wrap dresses for day, and velvet ballgowns for evening.) It's all potential down there. If I sew the dress, will the invitations pour in? There's only one way to find out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Stitch in Time

Have you read the new sewing magazine, Quilting Arts Stitch? I have been reading mine and have enjoyed the clean clear graphics, the no nonsense sewing advice and the full size patterns tucked into the center. I also bought it to encourage the development of more sewing magazines. There need to be MORE! There are way too many scrapbooking and quilting magazines compared to sewing. Magazine people, get with the program! And sewists, you need to do your part by buying the magazines and encouraging more new sewists. I think I'd like to try making the scarf with the disolving stabilizer. It looks like fun, and I have some vacation time and some pretty silk scraps that would be perfect for it. If I get at least one good idea out of a book or magazine the experience is worth the time spent.

We had a great Thanksgiving here. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. We cooked this year. I did a two hour turkey - you should have seen the look on the guests' faces when they arrived and I was just putting into the oven. "we'll eat at MIDNIGHT!", they cried. Actually, not, we ate at 530p, as planned. I always cook my turkeys the high heat 2 hour method as detailed in Barbara Kafka's excellent book, Roasting - A Simple Art. The turkey was moist and flavorful, and the guests were amazed. I took all the credit, but really, it's super easy.(Plus my daughter had ordered a beautiful fresh free range grass fed turkey) Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Bake turkey for two hours (mine was 15 pounds). The thermometer showed that it was done as well. It also made excellent sandwiches the next day. My son makes his with everything (including stuffing and cranberry sauce) on them. We've already eaten ours up!
I hope all of you had a great holiday.
Happy Sewing!