Monday, August 30, 2010

Ottobre Woman: Fall

I love a good surprise. And today this shocked me by appearing in my mailbox!

I don't know how I forgot that it was "due" to arrive, but I did. (I have a theory that teenage hormones kill adult brain cells. It would explain alot about my life.)

Basically this issue is chock full of wonderful basics that are just a little bit differen than what we've seen before. No, not Milan or Paris "hot off the runway" designs. But that's just fine by me.

All of the following design peeks from inside the issue are straight from the Ottobre website! You can download the line drawing pdf there too!

First up, some snazzy jackets. Oh, how I want Fall to get here!! This green jacket is gorgeous. GORGEOUS! It's one of the smaller sized patterns, only going to a size 46. I start with a 46 for my neck/chest, so that's fine for me but it always gives me a little grumble that they don't do every pattern up to size 52. I'd even pay a couple bucks more! More patterns for all, Amen.

This magenta jacket is also very snappy for fall, and I might even be tempted to sew (for the first time ever!) with some of that new fashionably cute fleece. (This is wool, however.) Some of the fleece I saw last year was very wool-like in appearance. This pattern is size 44-52.

And isn't that model adorable? She's on the BACK COVER too! Isn't that the most awesomest thing ever?? A plus size model on a (mostly) straight size magazine cover! Well, ok, it's the back cover. But still!

This tunic is very spring/summer-like to me, but I like it anyway. And I'm glad they included it since I am such a slow sewist during the fall/winter months. I might actually finish one by spring.

I think it looks very "Sew Serendipity" (a book I've yet to make anything out of. More hours in the day please!)

I love this pink sweater/knit top. The rosebuds are a bit retro and very current fashion-wise. The neckline yoke is a nice touch too. The skirt is also in the mag; a nice, basic a-line with a waistband.

LOVE the grey dress on the right in the photo below. I will definitely be making that out of a couple of pieces of double knit I'm hoarding. (But, um, I will be lengthening mine to a schoolteacher appropriate length.)

Here's that cutie patootie model again, in two versions of the same knit top pattern. I really like them both, but I worry about the preggo look.

Sidenote...I'm rather paranoid about that preggo look anyway, because I'm hunched over a computer (or sewing machine!) all the time. I've progressed to having poor posture over the last several years! I've been doing twice daily stretches and other back/neck/shoulder exercises to realign my spine and I'm trying to be more aware of posture on a daily basis. My torso (empire line) really IS the slimmest part of me and looks nice if emphasized, so its possible I can make these cute knit tops work for me with some tweaking of the side seam shaping.

These trousers are a classic. Drat if they only go to size 46 though. There is another pair for size 40-52 that are "cropped" and I'm thinking I can just superimpose the legs of these onto those for a full length pant in my bum size.

The beautiful blue jacket on the right is the same pattern as the green one above, so it is only up to size 46, but worth a look and probably worth a grading up. Love the color of that wool. Too bad I'm too cheap to dry clean on a regular basis (plus, inconvenient much? If you live in the country or a rural area then you know what I mean! You city-dwellers think I'm off my nut right now, but that's ok.)

I'm suddenly inspired to sew again! Whew. I was worried a little when the past 2 weekends went by with empty hours and a silent Bernina.

Oh, and I am blaming Debbie Cook for a recent purchase that I'm picking up tomorrow. I won't give you any more hints, but I am So. In. Love. Can't wait to show that one!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

shhh. ebay shopping secrets inside.

Probably the most common comment or question I get from everyone on this blog is "How do you find such wonderful stuff?" Now, I can't help you with the condition or contents of your local flea market/thrift shops/estate sales. But I don't mind telling my ebay/etsy "secrets" to you! We're all family, right?

Besides, they aren't really secrets. Just techniques. First up, eBay. (I'll save Etsy for another day.)
Numero Uno: Know thy wants (and how much you're willing to pay for them.)
This might be the most important tip. Know what you want; the age, the condition, and your absolute top dollar if you had to pay for it locally, and include tax and gas to get there (and possibly lunch). Why? Because that price is your maximum bid on ebay. (It will also save you from buyer's remorse when you inadvertently get into a bidding war over something you really didn't want in the first place.)

Note the vastly different starting prices on these patterns.
Do your research before you bid!

This concept is very personal. I can't tell you what your maximum bid should be on a gorgeous vintage slip with beautiful black lace & rosebuds.

Only you can know that. Your max price might be $10. Mine might be $30. In which case, I would win. Reverse the roles, and you would win. Lots of people only look for real bargains on ebay, which is fine if that's what you set out to do. But there are some wonderful items that really do deserve more than rock bottom prices. You decide what your limit is, but at the same time, don't let something you really love get away just because it's not yard sale priced.

My gauge of price is always this: If I don't buy it, will I be up at all hours of the night thinking about how I let it get away? A 1940s Vogue pattern magazine priced at $50, no. At $20? Yes. I would be kicking myself for letting that shiny piece of history slip out of my vintage lovin fingertips.

Numero Dos: Set thy Favorites and Searches.

You might already know you can save a seller as a "favorite". Do that, for example, when you find a cool vintage pattern seller who doesn't charge an arm and a leg, combines shipping, and typically has patterns in your size. Then, while you're in the "Favorite Sellers" portion of ebay, sign up for the seller's newsletter if they have one, and also check the box that will allow ebay to email you a weekly list of "Items from your Favorites".

Ebay's weekly newsletter will email you a few items from each of your favorites, up to about five. After that, you'll have to go directly to ebay and look at your favorites page to see the rest. I don't often find patterns to purchase in this newsletter because most of my faves have a huge inventory. I usually get my pattern goodies using the next method.

The Saved Searches method is different and I think it's a hidden gem at ebay. Most people probably never pay attention the little tag that asks if you want to "save this search". But, if you regularly search for 40s vintage patterns in a size 18...and your search is regularly coming up with things you want to buy, save that search! Ebay will mail you DAILY with new listings! Woot!

Saved Searches is my secret weapon. It's great because YOU come up with the search parameters, ebay does the rest. I've purchased many things through this method, especially with "Buy it Now" on something just listed that day.

Numero Tres & Cuatro: SHIPPING & FEEDBACK.
Tips #1 & 2 are my big ones, because I think most people get hung up on one or both of them. These two are oldies but goodies. First, READ THE FEEDBACK. I'm rarely disappointed on ebay because I read feedback**, every time. If they have a negative or a neutral on their feedback page listed, click the grey or red number and ebay will take you directly to that feedback so you can see it. Sometimes the 1 negative feedback is from a moron and you can disregard it.

**Note that these days, it's becoming pretty rare for a seller to have 100% positive feedback because of ebay's new policy whereas buyers can leave negatives, but seller's can't. That's one reason I no longer sell on ebay. Read the feedback and make an informed decision. In previous years, I would never buy from someone with less than 100% but I've had to make changes in how I shop because that's harder and harder to find.

READ THE SHIPPING COSTS. It's right under the bid portion, so glance at that and decide if its fair. My rule is basically never to pay more than a suitable flat rate USPS box costs. I rarely pay more than $10 for shipping unless its really heavy/large, etc. I typically pay about $2 or less for a vintage pattern, or $5-7 for a group of patterns, or a piece or two of fabric. (Flat rate box prices can be viewed on the USPS website.

And hey, if you think the seller could ship it cheaper using a flatrate box, just ask them before you bid if that might be an option. All they can say is no. (Just so you're aware, flat rate boxes are FREE, as are Priority Rate boxes AND the labels used on them. The USPS will even ship an entire case of them to a seller's house for free. Don't let someone rip you off by charging additional handling for the cost of a priorty/flat rate box and labels.)

If you're buying more than one item from a seller, make sure they combine shipping too. Conversely, if they combine shipping and you just bought a pattern, go peruse the rest of their stuff. It's like "free shipping" on everything else in their store!

Numero Cinco: Bidding with the Big Timers.
Sigh. When it comes to something that can easily be resold, you have to deal with shop owners bidding against you. Just like you have to fight off the flea market vendors at the estate and yard sales.

Vintage patterns on ebay are often gobbled up --ironically-- by vintage pattern sellers. I recognize most of their ebay "code" names now because I buy alot, so I sort of know whose purse is deeper than mine and I can call it quits early on.

Here's the cold hard truth about this whole scenario: All's fair in love and war and ebay. They have the money, they can bid against you. Often, they have MORE money to bid than you, especially on a fabulous large lot of vintage dress patterns in YOUR size. (and if you're me, that's one of the most popular sizes, unfortunately.)

Yes, it sucks. It sucks HARD. But the good news is...they're going to be reselling those patterns individually and you might still be able to get your hot little hands on the ones you really love, in the not too distant future. You'll just be paying a little more per pattern. If you know who "they" are, I suppose you could send a friendly email and say... I want this one. Really bad. Maybe they'll let you know as soon as its ready.

Or maybe they'll say, Please stop stalking me. (To be honest, I've never done this, but I've been sorely tempted a couple of times.)

(psst...Even if you don't know who "they" are, wait a week or so and see if they leave feedback for that item. There ya go. Now you know.)

Also, pattern sellers are typically not bidding against you in the single pattern race unless its dirt cheap. I can't win against a pattern seller in a really good lot. It's almost impossible. Their disposable income for that lot is much bigger than mine. They're hoping to make back the purchase price doubled or tripled. It's just business. BUT...they're not going to pay $10-20 for a complete, pristine, WW2 vintage pattern in my size, the way I will. They can't afford to, because they can't resell it and make a profit. So the singles are a much more realistic win for me.

Do I bid on the large, wonderful lots? You bet your ass I do! :P Once in a great, great while, I'll slip by the big timers and win one too. I just won a GREAT one a few weeks ago, that I plan to share shortly. It happens, but not often.

Numero Seis: Know the Lingo.
The title of a listing is what is searchable in ebay. If you're searching vintage, VTG also works in your search. You get varied results when you search 1940 and 40. Some people list pattern/dress bust measurements in their title and some don't. Some put their items in the correct category, and some don't. In other words, try a variety of things.

There are also search terms that buyers & sellers have coined over the years, and sellers put those in their titles to help you find their items. I don't know what you want, so you're going to have to investigate that part for yourself. One example is a "cutter".

A cutter is vintage clothing that has holes or damage, but could still be used for fabric or to recreate the pattern from. So you could search dress cutter and see what pops up. Remember tip #2, when you find a search parameter that is the Holy Grail for you, save it.

Sometimes the best buys don't have any of those things though. That's because they're being sold by NEWBIES who don't know any better! Bad for them, good for us. That means, they get overlooked or lost in the shuffle. Try mispelling vintage or pattern or whatever you're looking for and see what hidden gems you find. Transposed letters are the biggest goof I see in listing titles.


It may seem like you'll never, ever find such a fabulous item in this condition anywhere on earth again, as long as you live. But trust me, it only seems that way. Nearly everything I've ever bought, wanted, ogled or had sniped away on ebay, has shown its lovely face once again at some point. Unless it's OOAK (one of a kind), there's one out there, just for you.

Waiting for you to find it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

i heart friday.

I'm still alive & kicking. The first week of school just really kick my patootie. I feel like I've been running an underwater race wearing concrete boots. Ugh.

I received some really fabulous vintage goodies in the mail this week though...I left them all wrapped up until this morning. Sort of a TGIF present to myself!

This little booklet is wonderful!

Basic sewing skills are listed with lots of illustrations. If you have (or want to bid on) a vintage pattern without instructions, this booklet could help you to a finished garment. I'll share some pictures from the inside later this weekend.

I also received this Weldon's sewing booklet/catalogue with pattern UNUSED and intact! That's pretty rare, since there was no envelope to store these patterns; they were just tucked into the center fold.

It is pristine and full of fabulous vintage illustrations of Weldon's patterns from the early 1940s, and I will likewise share more images from the contents later this weekend!

Off to school! Have a great weekend!!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sew Beautiful Blog Prize Winner!

Congratulations to....drumroll....

Comment #62!

In the interest of full disclosure, I did not count the "removed comment" when counting to 62 to find our winner. Comment #62 was left by "daycdoo", and I have your email. I will be emailing you shortly for your mailing info! Congratulations & enjoy your fabulous prize courtesy of the Martha Pullen Co. and Sew Beautiful Magazine.

Don't forget, you can still use the coupon code to the Martha Pullen Co. store! The code is BLOGTOUR and is good for 25% off your order There is no minimum order, one use per customer, and the code expires on Oct 31, 2010.

Stay tuned for....wait for it....


Thursday, August 19, 2010

louis louis.

I have been salivating over the Louis Vuitton Fall 2010 collection. Here are a few of my favorite pieces from the runway:

I loved almost the entire runway show. I'm tempted to cut my skirts a little longer now, below the knee, and I am definitely digging out all my vintage circle skirt patterns!

Then this week my fall "W" magazine came in the mail, and it features the Fall LV ad campaign! LOVE!!

How fabulous is THAT?? Wouldn't it be awesome if suddenly, women started to "dress" again??

(but maybe without the girdle!)

ps... Don't forget to enter the Sew Beautiful Blog Tour Giveaway! Tomorrow is the last day! Details in this post.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Beautiful, vintage half ebay find last month!

It's not perfect, but isn't it lovely?? Can you just imagine this under a swishy skirt?

I might have to replace the top portion with some new nylon tricot, it's a bit dingy. Well-loved and worn often, I suspect!

Wouldn't it be grand to have such lovely underthings?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lu's pink organdy heirloom dress.

This is my very favorite dress from Lu's closet.

The pictures just can't do it justice, it's such a beautiful dress and a large part of its charm is the colors and textures that I think are better displayed in person. (I also had pitiful indoor lighting today since it started to rain just as I was preparing to take pictures!)

Can you stand the cuteness that is little Lu & G-man in 2004??

(G helped make his shirt, picking out all the "Mad Scientist" machine embroidery designs from...?? Lordy I'm getting old because I can't remember the name of this embroidery design artist! Threadsketches! SUCH cute designs. Alas, my kiddos have long since outgrown her.)

The bodice of the dress is white Italian organdy, embellished with a machine embroidery design I combined using Embird. I don't remember the card with the floral oval, but the fairy alphabet was a freebie from several years ago. I don't even have it on this computer to look it up. It's saved on a backup disk somewhere...

The bodice has puffing strips and beading lace, and every seam, including sleeves, is joined with pink entredeaux.

The white organdy sleeves have a shaped lace loop, pinstitched in place by machine...

Sleeve beading and lace ruffles:

The rest of the dress is a pale pink over-embroidered organdy. I had little more than one yard of the pink, and I saved it for a few years until I had the skill to design the perfect project. The skirt is almost entirely made of the pink, except for the shaped loops in the center front; each features machine embroidered white organdy center.

I used the same design card for the florals as the bodice, and added two of the fairies from the freebie alphabet. Here is a closeup of one of the side loops. All of the fairy wings and the "wing needle work" below is stitched with silver thread:

Here is the entire skirt front, flat:

The hem has a ruffle edged in lace, joined to the skirt with pink entredeaux.

This little dress is a size 6 and was Lu's Easter dress in 2004. Lu, age 6:

And one of my favorite photos of the 3 of us, all in pink (I must have really planned that year):

I wanted to show this dress because by this point in my sewing experience, I had enough skill to tackle the machine embroidery, the lace shaping, the fancy color entredeaux and expensive organdy fabrics. Sometimes as a beginner, you just KNOW you aren't ready for a project.

I had had the pink fabric from the time Lu was a small toddler, and I kept it stored safely away until I knew I was ready. And this turned out to be the perfect project to showcase it!

I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend! I'm going to try to concentrate my next sewing adventure on fall things for ME. I'm participating in Self-Stitched September and, well, I have nothing to wear! Yikes.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


At this point I fully expect September's issue will get here before August's. And I seriously need some sewing project mojo! Back to School shenanigans have wiped me OUT.

I've avoided the Burda Style website, which has suddenly gotten incredibly difficult for me to load...even when I google it for a link to the German site, it automatically redirects me to the US non magazine related BurdaStyle site. Which I am perilously close to loathing right now.

I've been avoiding it because I didn't want to even SEE the September preview for fear I would jinx myself from ever receiving August.

However, this morning I have Cracked. Caved. Whathaveyou. Only to be confronted with this as my first peek at September:


Then... an Alice in Wonderland pictorial that I simply can't be sure is going to offer anything new:

(I hate to say it, but those trousers are pretty unflattering. I hope the pattern is for the white shirt!)

At least this plus dress looks like it has possibilities...

But this:

Seen it. A few hundred times already.

That @#$% August issue better get here quick AND it better be good enough to make up for this uninspiring peek at September.

(ps...I know that one sheath/skirt has interesting seaming, but to me it looks deceptively interesting; i.e. interesting only if you want a seamed bullseye around what is typically the most unflattering angle/proportions of a grown up woman's body. Plus, hate the Judy Jetson's cousin Jane's sleeve weirdness. I think most of the "interest" is actually grasping at Burda Style straws for ANYTHING resembling inspiration.)

I'm crabby.

Bright side? It's Saturday.

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sew Beautiful Blog Tour - Pt 5: Pintucking

If you've been following along in my sewing adventures for very long, you might remember that Sew Beautiful magazine was pivotal in my early interest in sewing. In fact, it could be said that if it weren't for the Easter issue of Sew Beautiful in 1998, I may never have found this wonderful hobby.

As a longtime subscriber & reader, I was thrilled a few months ago to be asked to participate in a special blog tour as part of Sew Beautiful's September/October issue! (Psst...To go right to the Pintucking video, scroll down this post!)

Sew Beautiful graciously asked me and several other heirloom enthusiast bloggers to join their blog tour, featuring a series of videos that the SB experts have filmed, highlighting just how attainable these beautiful techniques are. Even for beginners!

Along the tour route, you will learn all of the techniques required to complete this gorgeous camisole:

At first glance, such a lovely creation might seem overwhelming to someone unused to heirloom sewing. But the truth is, the basic techniques needed to complete this project are quite simple. You need little more than a straight stitch and zigzag stitch!

Each video "class" shares a basic technique needed to complete this pretty camisole, recreated from a vintage nightgown. SB shares the instructions and templates needed to create this camisole in their September/October issue #132.

You may click the button below to go to the very beginning of the tour, or scroll down this page to view the video for Part 5: Pintucking. And don't forget to enter my blog giveaway! SB has prepared a fabulous package of gifts for you. Detail are at the end of this post.

And now it's on with the show! The video below features Pintucking. It has been divided into 3 parts; click the links below the video to continue on to parts 2 & 3.

And don't forget to pick up the issue #132 of Sew Beautiful, for the written directions to accompany the tour videos!

And now for the really fun part! Sew Beautiful has prepared an incredibly generous giveaway for readers of my blog. Total prize value is $160! Here's what the winner will receive:
• complete kit needed to make the Vintage Inspiration camisole, from sizes XS (2-4) to 3X (26-28). This kit also includes Maline laces and Swiss beading!
• a copy of the book: Sleepwear Especially for You. This book contains the basic tank top pattern suggested in the instructions.
• a copy of the new issue of Sew Beautiful
• a June Tailor Heirloom Stitcher's Shape 'N Press board

Leave a comment on this post by Friday, August 20 at 11:59 pm to be entered for a chance to win this fabulous prize package! I will use a random number generator to choose a comment, and will announce the winner on Saturday, August 21.

Additionally, Sew Beautiful and the Martha Pullen Co. would like to give ALL of my readers a special treat! They would like to offer a discount code for the Martha Pullen store at The code is BLOGTOUR and is good for 25% off your order There is no minimum order, one use per customer, and the code expires on Oct 31, 2010.

I hope you'll join me in exploring this heirloom sewing blog tour, and in sewing this beautiful camisole. I personally think we should have a little sewalong!

And a great big thank you to Shannon Miller, Kathy Barnard, and the rest of the staff at Sew Beautiful and the Martha Pullen Co. for asking me to participate in such a wonderful event. I am honored to be included as part of such a talented group of bloggers.