Vintage Inspired Black Wool ¾ Circle Skirt

I’ve found it so easy to make wool circle skirts to fill out my wardrobe with warm, vintage inspired styles. I started with the brown wool ¾ circle skirt I posted about in 2017. Last year, I posted about the burgundy wool ½ circle skirt I made. In between those, in the first months of 2019, I decided to add a black ¾ circle skirt. It’s a great basic!

It really is basic: a ¾ circle skirt with side seams and a center back seam.

I used 1 ¾ yards of 60″ wide wool, a scrap of interfacing, thread, a zipper, and a few yards of hug snug for the hem. The total materials cost was about $33.

The side seams allowed for the easy addition of pockets! Here are my pockets ready to be set in. They’re made from the black wool and have serged seam allowances to keep everything tidy.

The main circle part of the skirt is set into a basic rectangle waistband. The waistband is interfaced with a strip of upholstery canvas to keep it from crumpling while being worn. Because my wool fabric is opaque I used this random geometric scrap for the interfacing.

The waistband closes at the back with a button and buttonhole above a lapped zipper. The geometric interfacing was showing when I cut my buttonhole open (top photo, below), which just wouldn’t do! To fix it, I used a black sharpie to darken the white threads that were showing (bottom photo, below). It worked like a charm!

Here’s a back view of the skirt. You can see the zipper lap and also just barely see a pocket opening on the right side.

This skirt is mostly machine sewn with the edges finished with a serger. The waistband is finished by hand. The hem is faced with black hug snug sewn by machine and then hemmed by hand for an invisible finish.

I’ve been wearing this for well over a year, but hadn’t yet found a moment to take photos. This day was perfect, as I was also documenting the completion of my sweater (a post on that will be forthcoming!). Plus, we had the most magical snowy winter woods to take these photos. It felt like Narnia!

How To Make A Gaiter Mask Out Of A T Shirt

I haven’t posted about mask making on the blog. It’s felt as though doing so would sort of confirm the situation of wearing them. Ignorance is bliss, right? Or something?

Last weekend, I was going skiing and finally decided that the masks I’d been using weren’t going to cut it for that activity. Instead, I made new gaiter style ones!

I made my new gaiter masks from old t shirts in the spirit of recycling, extending the use of clothing I already own, and using what I had on hand. I was excited, took photos of my process, and wanted to share them, hence the inspiration for finally sharing about mask making.

Gaiter masks made from old t shirts!

The (Rather Lengthy) Background

I’ve made it through the last 9 months using self-made masks with ties. Here’s a colorful assortment of my masks, made from cotton scraps of old projects, random fat quarters I had in my stash, and old sheets for most of the ties. Recycling again!

I have very few subtle masks… I made enough to wear them every day and still be able to launder them no more than every few weeks. This is only a sampling!

I have a single mask that has elastic (made specifically to match my 1834 yellow dress, because tying a mask on with 1830s hair and a bonnet just did not seem feasible!). My preference for masks with ties come from the fact that I wear glasses most of the time and don’t like the feeling of more things behind my ears. Also, it’s nice that the lower ties can double as a neck cord when needed, such as when I’m driving between errands.

But for skiing, a tie mask with a helmet was just not going to work for me. I don’t even think the ties are long enough to go over a helmet. And ties under the helmet? It would be a pain to adjust, so I wasn’t inclined to do that, either. I’ve seen people wearing the gaiter style masks for months, especially for physical activities, but I don’t like the idea of breathing through polyester and I’ve been stubborn about wearing the masks I had already made.

In my mulling over the idea of a gaiter style mask, I realized I could make my own, to whatever specifications I want! However, I didn’t have fabric yardage easily accessible that was stretchy. But then I had the thought that my donation pile had a number of t shirts that no longer fit… and that recycling them into gaiters would be a wonderful way to keep their life going!

So, without further ado… a tutorial!

The Tutorial

I started by laying one of the old t shirts out on my table. I smoothed out the layers, but didn’t worry too much about it being perfect. It’s a knit that’s been folded for quite awhile, so there were some wrinkles to contend with, as you can see.

I measured a rectangle 10″ wide by 11″ tall and cut through both layers of the shirt at the same time, leaving me with what you see below, as well as an oddly shaped scrap I’ll keep that and see what other creative uses for it I can come up with! (If you have a small-ish or large-ish head, or a t shirt that is really stretchy or really not-stretchy, you might need to adjust the measurements.)

Finishing the gaiter mask is much faster and easier if the bottom edges of the rectangles use the finished bottom edges of the t shirt as the ‘cut edge’. That means not cutting anything off that side!

Pin the vertical edges right sides together and stitch them with a straight stitch on the machine using ¼” seam allowances. (You can use a straight stitch because you’re not trying to preserve vertical stretch.)

Here’s what my gaiter looked like after sewing the sides. The fabric should make a tube!

Once turned right side out it should look something like the photo below. If you’ve used the finished t shirt edge for one side then you’re close to being done!

In my case, the t shirt I used was two layers of fabric in the front, which is why the left and right sides of the top edge in the photo below aren’t finished in the same way–they weren’t on the original t shirt either. The two layers allowed me to seam the vertical seams in a way that encased the raw edges between the double layer side of the mask. Nice!

But most t shirts are not two layers in the front, so how to finish those raw edges of the seam allowance? They won’t fray, because the fabric is knit, but if you don’t want them flapping around you can flat fell them using a zig zag stitch.

The tan and white gaiter mask below is halfway through having the seam allowances flat felled. I’ve pushed all the layers of seam allowance to one side and am using the machine to zig zag over the cut edges. It’s a little tricky to make sure that only the part you’re intending to sew gets under the presser foot of the machine, but going slowly and checking where all the layers are makes it completely do-able. (I had enough of the tan and white fabric to make this whole mask double layer, but not all t shirts have enough fabric to make that possible.)

Here is what that looks like when finished. (This gaiter also has a hem already, which is the next step!)

Finishing the top and/or bottom edges of the tube is the last step!

In the tan and white example above, the edges are already finished because I used two layers of fabric and turned them right side out before stitching the sides. To keep the layers in place I zig zag stitched near the top and bottom edges through both layers as a final step. (I used a zig zag so that the stitches would allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread.)

Back to the teal example we’ve been looking at, I simply folded up the raw edge of the fabric and top stitched over the edge with a zig zag (in the same way as for the seam allowance finish on the tan and white example). I used ½” seam allowance for the top and bottom edges. It looks like this when complete!

And that’s it! Each gaiter took me about 30 minutes to make.

Final Assessment

I wore the teal gaiter while skiing! I don’t plan to wear these every day, but for that purpose the gaiter style was great!

I did find that it tended to slip down as it absorbed the moisture of my breath, in combination with the head movement required to check behind me, etc. while skiing. Due to this, I had to pull it up somewhat regularly. I eventually tucked it into my helmet a little better and that made it stay in place. Another solution would be to take tucks in the sides to make the top circumference smaller. Or, perhaps, for next time (or for you!), make each rectangle ½” smaller across (so only 9.5″ instead of 10″) to make the gaiter a little more fitted.

The two layers of fabric on the front of my gaiter felt thick enough for virus protection while still easy to breath through. All that condensation made for a pretty damp mask after a few hours though… It was fine while I was out in the cold, but after taking it off in the car on the way home I had no desire to put it on again without a wash (though that’s true with any mask, regardless of the style)!

Whether this inspires you to make a gaiter mask or not, I hope my t shirt recycling inspires you to also consider recycling textiles (or other materials) in some way… perhaps in a way you hadn’t considered before!

Picking Peaches In Plum Pants

The first outing of my Plum Pants With Pointed Pockets was to pick peaches! This was a great socially distanced and outdoor activity that I highly enjoyed (apparently the orchards around here are seeing record turnout for pick-your-own this year due to people looking for outdoor activities).

The orchard was lovely, full of charming vistas, and it was easy to walk to the far ends of the orchard where there were few people.

Here I am, casually picking peaches in my plum pants! Lest you fear that masks were not worn on this outing, here is the photographic evidence that I did have a mask with me. I intentionally sought out areas with no other people around so that I could remove my mask for a few photos.

In addition to the fun of hunting for the best peaches on the trees, I had a peck of peaches to bring home with me at the end of the day!

These were the most delicious, sweet peaches!

I ate them plain, I blended them down to make peach puree for cocktails, I baked a peach-thyme galette, I added them to smoothies… There was a lot of peach in my life for a few weeks!

Yum! I’ll definitely be picking fresh peaches again in the future!

And I’m pleased that my Plum Pants have been worn a few times since the peach outing as well!

Plum Pants With Pointed Pockets

Last year, I happened across a lovely plum colored linen/rayon blend fabric at Joann’s that was such a perfect Quinn-color that I just couldn’t pass it up…. Accordingly, 3 yards came home with me along with the idea to make wide leg pants out of the yardage.

Trying To Determine The Design

I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted in terms of specific design details, which made the patterning and mockup process rather slow. I spent a few hours making mockups that fiddled with the width of the legs, the length of the crotch seams, and my design idea–trying to decide exactly what it is I was trying to make!

I was extremely frustrated for awhile (close to despair, as Anne of Green Gables might say) as the mockups looked like medical scrubs. The legs weren’t wide enough to look like the vision in my head at that point and I just couldn’t figure out what the details would be. I thought I wanted a non-functional wide tie at the waist, but that wasn’t looking right with the scrub looking pants. (The scrub problem was likely related to the fact that the old sheets I was using as my mockup fabric are dark grey, so the color and texture was scrub like…)

Not too long after my frustrating mockup sewing session, I was sewing something else and watching the Netflix series High Seas when I saw a pair of high waisted pants on one of the lead actresses and thought ‘That’s it!’. This particular pair of pants had details I loved: a high waist, wide legs, and pockets that added interest and vintage charm. After that, mocking up the pants and finishing the pattern was so much easier!

Getting Started

After pre-washing my fabric, I was ready to go! The basic pants are pretty straight forward with front and back pieces as well as a waistband, but they have additional pieces for the pockets as well as canvas interfacing for the waistband.

The pants are mostly machine sewn, with a bit of hand finishing on the waistband (you can see the whip stitches on the bottom of the waistband in the photo below). The exposed inside edges are either french seamed, as with the pockets (on the left in the photo below), or finished with a serger (on the right in the photo below).

The pockets and waistband facing are cut from an early mockup iteration made from repurposed sheets (yay for reusing old fabric!). I decided to use the mockup fabric for the real pants because 1) the mockup made me mad and I wanted to get back at it 2) the smooth cotton is a good facing/pocket material.

Here’s a look inside one of the pockets. It’s not likely to ever be seen (in any venue other than this!), but the top stitching along the facing edges makes me very happy.

The pants have a wide hem–2″–that is machine top stitched in place. With perfectly matching thread (that was in my stash as a gift from a friend–yay!), the topstitching blends right in.

While all of the visible stitching is done in the perfectly matching thread, I didn’t want to run out of it and so the interior seams are sewn with a more purple thread. The serging is done in brown, because that’s the closest neutral that I had cones of. It blends with the grey facings/pockets to create what appears to be an intentional ‘design choice’!

The pants close with a lapped zipper at center back.

The Zipper Saga

Oh, and that’s a story! So I bought a zipper, set it in, and was so excited!

I tried on my pants and showed them off to Mr. Q (who wasn’t particularly impressed, because vintage styles don’t really appeal to him). I went to take off the pants so I could finish them off and couldn’t get the zipper undone… I was stuck! And they’re fitted pants at the top, so it wasn’t like I could shimmy out of them. I tried to pick a few stitches, but couldn’t see what I was doing, because the zipper is at the center back, and I was afraid I’d poke myself instead of the pants, or rip a hole instead of picking stitches… I had to go back to Mr. Q and get his help seam ripping the zipper enough that I could get out of the pants! He thought it was hysterical. I don’t know that I completely agree with that… though it is more amusing after the fact.

After managing to get the pants off, I took this photo to document the debacle.

Then the offending zipper was completely removed. I reset it, thinking that I’d stitched too close to the teeth and that was the problem, and it still didn’t work (I tested it out without putting the pants on the second time!). I doubled checked that I didn’t sew too close to the teeth the second time and that didn’t seem to be the problem. I don’t know what the issue was because I’ve set many zippers and haven’t had this problem and this zipper works just fine when not attached to a garment. Horrible thing–it was sternly put away and may never be used again!

The solution was that I went out to a different store and bought a new zipper. It actually matches much better, though it is a regular zipper as opposed to an invisible one. Most importantly, it works as it’s supposed to! So all is well in the end.

Here is a view of the back of the pants, showing the new zipper, darts, interior finishing, and waistband closure.

Other Inspiration

As I was looking for inspiration for these pants, I was reminded of fabulous wide leg pants made/patterned by other wonderful bloggers. These were all indirect inspiration for my pants.

Lauren Stowell’s 1970s does 1930s Wide Leg Pants 

Caroline’s Vacation Pants (made from the pattern below)

Wearing History’s Smooth Sailing Trousers pattern

Final Thoughts

My new pants are super comfortable to wear. The fabric is stable and yet lightweight enough to flow nicely. The waistband is suitably substantial and does not crease when I sit for extended periods.

The pockets are great! They make a statement that elevates the pants to being stylish (vintage stylish, of course!) and I patterned them to be big enough to easily store my phone and other essentials–so helpful!

One final photo and story for you… I took these photos in my yard without help, so I needed to figure out a way to stabilize my camera and easily maneuver it around my yard. Prior to this, I’d clamped it to a ladder, but the ladder was heavy to move around, so for this photo session I decided to clamp my phone to my lawn mower handle. Yes–lawn mower! It worked pretty well–easy to roll around the yard, but occasionally my phone would slip and I would get a series of photos of the ground and the lawn mower handle! Any neighbors that saw me probably wondered what I was up to!

Added to the challenge was the fact that I didn’t feel like putting contacts in, so I would leave my glasses on the lawn mower, set the timer on my phone, and then run to my chosen marker to stand for the photos. I have pretty terrible eyesight, so I can’t see the timer on my phone once I stand away from it. That plus the bright sun (it was a hot day!) made for a lot of squinting. 

This outtake photo is one of the ones that didn’t make the cut (except to be amusing)–squinting as I walk back towards my lawn mower camera setup!

Fabric Stash Additions: Summer 2020

I’ve accumulated a few new fabrics over the last few months and I thought it would be fun to share them in a stash addition post!

Fabric for new sweatpants

I have a favorite pair of sweatpants that I’ve had for almost 20 years. They’ve seen a lot of wear. After 20 years, the hems are pretty worn out and they’re starting to develop holes in the fabrics near the seams. I’ve been on the lookout for similar ones to replace them for years, but the fit is hard to find: wide-ish legs with a bit of a flare, diagonal pockets, and wide hems. I’ve never come across another pair with quite the same styling. (And they’re not currently in style, being 20 years old, so that’s part of the challenge.)

While wearing them quite a bit in March and April I had the thought that “I could make myself a new pair of these pants!”

This idea was spurred in part by the lovely fleece fabrics that Blackbird Fabrics has stocked over the last eight months or so. Every time they popped up in an email I considered purchasing some, but couldn’t make up my mind about color and dragged my feet. Blackbird’s fabrics sell out quickly and I kept missing the boat with my indecision, but then they restocked the bamboo/cotton stretch fleece and matching ribbing and I decided to make a decision, go for it, and order some!

Doesn’t the fleece side of this fabric look soft? I love that new fleece feeling!

I ordered 1.5 meters of the fleece and .5 meters of the ribbing. I’m sure I’ll have leftover ribbing, as it’s only used for the band at the top of the pants, but I’ll find a use for it again someday, I hope.

Of course, right around the time I purchased my new sweatpant fabrics the weather warmed and I lost my motivation to make the pants. But the fabric isn’t going anywhere and in theory the weather is getting cooler soon, so maybe these will make it onto my sewing table sometime in the next few months.

I do congratulate myself on taking the time to take a pattern from the old pants before I lost motivation so that when I decide to move forward I’m ready to go!

Two block printed fabrics

I keep a running list of sewing projects, in order to remind myself what steps projects are at, what fabrics are marked for certain projects, and what projects I have in mind. Occasionally, while looking at this list, I get swept away with ideas for new projects.

Earlier this summer, this feeling of wanting new projects was compounded by a friend updating me on the status of her current 1830s day dress project using a lovely block print cotton. It’s been a few years since I’ve seriously looked at what’s on offer for block print cottons on places like Etsy and eBay, so I decided to check things out.

Oops! Because, of course, I found pretty things! And then my brain went into overdrive, thinking of all the amazing projects I could make with the beautiful things!

I confess that I gave in to temptation and purchased two block printed fabrics.

I feel somewhat justified in that I have very clear ideas in mind for them!

I intend for the green and red print to become a gown like this one, from about c. 1785. I have 10 yards, enough to make the dress and a matching petticoat, but I thought that someday I might also be interested in having a contrast petticoat as well.

In terms of timeline, I have no clear plans for when I might make this. I am working on stays from this period, so that will be a great help, but that’s not really a solid plan. And the stays are going slowly, as I’ve been distracted from them by other projects. So, no deadline or timeline in mind.

I also bought 9 yards of the pink print in order to make a day dress from 1843/44. But then I remembered a fabric already in my stash that would also make a lovely dress from these years (I actually posted about it in this past stash addition post in 2018–it’s the cream woven plaid). So… I’m not exactly sure which fabric I would pick for this project, though I’m leaning towards the new pink block print (whichever one I don’t pick doesn’t have a clear plan).

I have a new corded petticoat that would help with the 1840s silhouette and I already have the rest of the undergarments, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could tackle this project in the not-too-distant future. (What does that actually mean? Next year, maybe?)

Discount duchess satin

This is the standard ‘I happened upon it’ story. This blush duchess silk satin was in the discount bin at a local store.

Of all of the fabrics I’ve acquired recently, this is the one that is the most ‘stash addition’.  I don’t need the 1.5 yards that I bought for anything in particular, but I thought that for the low price it was worth picking some up.

I think it would make a gorgeous 19th century corset (like my 1880s steam molded corset, which is also made from duchess silk satin). I also have vague plans to someday make a 1920s corset/girdle and I think it might be useful for that as well.

In conclusion…

I’ve been doing well at using stash fabrics to make things recently, which is great, but I’m not sure if I’ve offset that by buying new things… Oh well! Sometimes you have to buy things when you see them!

When The Dress No Longer Fits (Mid-20th Century Edition, Part II)

…turn it into a skirt! That’s the take-away from today’s When The Dress No Longer Fits project.

This skirt started life in 2014 as a dress inspired by a 1940s Anne Adams sewing pattern. I don’t actually have the pattern, but I was inspired enough to try patterning my own version based on the pattern envelope image. You can read all about the creation of the dress in this past post.

Since this photo was taken my shape has changed, making the dress a garment that could no longer be worn.

I’ve also never worn this dress all that much. It’s easy to draw a seam along the bust, but hard to pattern it so that the stripes are straight and it actually follows a curved body comfortably. It was ok, but not the most comfortable dress I’ve ever made. And it was a lot of purple.

I have limited fabric leftovers from this dress–certainly not enough to make a whole new front bodice, which is what would be necessary– and not being completely sold on the idea of the dress as a whole, I decided to turn it into a skirt! This eliminated the bodice problem and instantly cut down on the quantity of purple in one seam-ripping swoop.

I started by removing the bodice and taking out the zipper where it crossed the waistband, as well as down into the skirt just past the seam that connects the waistband to the top of the skirt, as you can see below.

My waist is larger now than it was when I made the dress, but I was saved by the fact that the waist of the skirt had been a few inches too big when I originally made the dress. Whew!

At the time I made the dress, I’d solved the problem of the skirt being too big by adding tucks on the back. This kept me from needing to alter the side seams, which I didn’t want to do because I’d matched the stripes perfectly.

To alter the dress now, all I had to do was take out the tucks and the waist fit! (I’m reminded that I had a similar problem/good fortune while letting out the waist of my 1904 Anne of Green Gables skirt–I mentioned it in this past post. Interesting that they’re both inspired by Annes!)

Luckily, I had enough extra waistband length to accomodate letting out the tucks. It was a little annoying to do, because I had to take the waistband off entirely to reset it with the extra across the back and I had serged the skirt and waistband seam allowances together. It was a bit of extra seam ripping, but that was better than trying to piece the waistband and match the stripes.

The next step was adding a waistband facing. I used a scrap of white striped cotton for the facing. It is machine sewn on the top edge, understitched (to keep the facing from rolling out and being seen), and then hand whip stitched on the inside.

Here’s a closeup view of the waistband. I shorted the zipper so it stops below the waistband, but I did not re-sew the whole zipper length–I still didn’t want to mess up the stripe matching on the side seam!

The final step was a hook and bar to close the waistband.

Ta da! The dress is now a skirt.

I’m not completely sold on the skirt. I like it, but I don’t know if I love it.

And I still feel it’s a lot of purple.

I thought it would go with more tops in my wardrobe, but it doesn’t really. I like it with white. I think it would look nice with yellow, but the yellow top I had in mind is horizontally striped and that just seems like too much with a vertically striped purple skirt!

I think I need to try wearing it for awhile and see how I like it. I haven’t really had a chance to wear it this summer given that I haven’t been going out, or wearing real clothes (as opposed to comfy clothes) very much. So a judgement about whether I like the dress-turned-skirt is on hold. That being said, I’m still excited that at least the garment is wearable now, whereas when it was a dress it was not.

New Dotty Tap Pants

I finished a simple project!

The story behind these is that back in 2015, I made cotton tap pants to wear under my dresses and skirts in the summer. Here is the link to the original post. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been five years!

The original tap pants have been great and seen tons of wear! In fact, the original pairs are pretty much threadbare on the inseams. I’m kind of surprised they’re still holding together, as there’s not much left!

I made another pair with slight pattern tweaks about two years ago, but I felt it was time to add a few more pairs into the rotation. I found great satisfaction in the theme of all three of my older pairs having dots on them (in addition to the dots on the pairs in the original blog post, the third pair was made out of scraps left over from my Bubble Dots Skirt). So when I had this idea to make more tap pants over the winter, I was on the lookout for new dotty fabrics that I could make into shorts to stay with the theme.

I would have made multiple pairs out of the green fabric if I could, but there wasn’t much left on the bolt, so I had to pick a second fabric. The white background fabric has allium flowers printed on it. I love the round shape of allium flowers in full bloom, so this fabric was what I decided on.

After being washed a few months ago, the new fabrics sat around until April, when I was inspired to tweak my pattern (again–this is the third time) and cut out the pieces. About a month after that I finally got inspired to whip these up.

As with the other tap pants I’ve made these are entirely machine sewn with the seam allowances finished with an overlock machine. The waist is zig zagged to a bit of loop edged elastic. And really, that’s all there is to them!

Sometimes a quick project is just the thing to feel successful. And it’s great to fill a wardrobe need with handmade items, especially when they bring extra joy, as these do by continuing the dotty theme.

(Modern) Wardrobe Inventory & Musings

Have you ever inventoried your closet?

I was so intrigued by Alyssa’s post about wardrobe statistics on her blog What Would Nancy Drew Wear? that I recently decided inventory my own modern closet.

I was most curious to see how my wardrobe breaks down in terms of when my garments were obtained, the specific quantities of some types of garments (cardigans, for example–I have a lot of them), how many garments are me-made, and how my shoes fit into the picture (both modern and historical!).

Aside from counting historical shoes, this is about my modern wardrobe. Historical is a completely separate beast that I have no plans to tackle in this way. Although, now that I say that… it would be interesting to graph what years were most productive and what historical eras I have the most clothes for… I can guess at some of those, at least for the last question. I’m pretty sure that 1810s, 1860s, and 1920s are the eras I have the most clothes for… but I digress!

To illustrate my findings about my modern wardrobe, I’ve made colorful charts and graphs!

Here is the breakdown of total garments in my wardrobe. Of these, 5% are ‘me-made’, 1% are thrifted, and 96% are purchased new.

Did I have any preconceived notions about what my wardrobe contained before taking this inventory?
1-Well, I was pretty sure I have a lot of dresses, cardigans, and shoes (especially crocs).
2-I know there are some shoes I’m holding on to that I really don’t have the desire to wear anymore and should gift away, but I still included those in my total. I could (and should…) move on with those items and lower my shoe count a bit.
3-I also know that most of my wardrobe is purchased new. I try to buy garments that are well made and will last for many years. I’ve been trying to make more modern garments in the last few years, but I didn’t have a clear idea about how much of my wardrobe is made up of those items.

Ready for a few more charts?

Let’s start with this graph of my dresses-by-type.

In the last few years, I’ve started wearing dresses much more often for year-round everyday wear, but I was still surprised to see my accumulation. This is one of the categories of clothing that includes ‘me-made’ at 21%. That leaves 79% of dresses that are purchased new.

Next, a graph of my tops-by-type.

There are a lot of cardigans! I do so enjoy seeing a beautiful rainbow in my closet (and the same with my dresses!). A rainbow to choose from makes getting dressed much more enjoyable and also helps me change up a dress or skirt with different color combos. And I love a comfy, long sweater for long days at work or lounging around, so there are a number of those as well.

The knit sleeveless and knit short sleeve categories contain layering tanks and unisex tee shirts that inflate the numbers but aren’t worn as a top layer on a regular basis, so there’s that to consider.

Here are my bottoms by type.

It makes sense that I have far fewer bottoms than tops, since I tend to express myself in my tops if I’m not wearing a dress and it can be hard to find bottoms that fit my backside to waist ratio (another reason for wearing lots of dresses and skirts!).

Let’s look a little closer at the skirts, since that is the highest quantity in the bottoms category.

In addition to skirting (haha, bad pun!) the issue of bottoms fitting my backside to waist ratio, having a high number of skirts as opposed to other bottoms makes sense, as my skirts are often suited to particular seasons (unlike jeans, for example, as I wear those most of the year except when it’s very hot in the summer). So that means I need winter skirts, summer skirts, and fall/spring skirts. This is the category with the most ‘me-made’ garments, at 31%. Of the remainder, 13% are thrifted and 56% are purchased new.

Now let’s look at my shoe collection.

This includes my modern shoes divided by category and my historical/vintage shoes as one lump. Of these, 3% are ‘me-made’ (my 1914 Vernet shoes and 1920s bathing boots, if you’re curious!), 4% are thrifted, and 93% are purchased new.

Here is another way to look at my shoe types.

I’m amused that my modern and historical/vintage shoe counts are so similar! And, I have more shoes that aren’t worn regularly than I probably should have. That includes really worn out old crocs that just about have holes worn through under the ball of the foot (still useful as painting shoes, but not much else…) and shoes I’ve had for over 10 years that are styles I’m just not inclined to wear anymore but that are quality brands and in good shape, so I feel like I should want to wear them again someday…

This last graph shows how many garments were obtained in each year.

Anything I have from 2003 and earlier is lumped together. I’m pleased to see how many garments I still have in this category. For the most part, these are pretty sad in terms of wear-and-tear as well as fit, but they are still useful for around-the-house and yard work clothes and I appreciate that I am wearing them for as long as I can.

I have one final question to consider.

Was I surprised by any of my findings?
1-I was surprised by how many tops I have, but that’s partly because that includes everything from knit tank tops to layer under other tops to all lengths of sleeves for different seasons, including sweaters and coats. It’s a big category of items, so the large quantity makes sense.
2-I was amused by how evenly my types of shoes split up into the categories of modern, historical, and not-worn-often (there are more of these than I thought!).
3-There is a pretty big spike in clothes obtained since 2015. When I stop to think about this, it makes sense as my size changed around that time and many of the garments I had from the ten years prior no longer fit, so I had to update my wardrobe pretty substantially, for bottoms, dresses, and tops, especially.

Final thoughts

Thanks for sticking through my musings about my wardrobe!

Being thoughtful about my wardrobe brings joy when I can choose from a well organized rainbow for my outfit each day and contentment when I know I’m able to wear garments for a good long time.

While you may not take the time to fully inventory your wardrobe and make charts with the data (a completely reasonable decision!), I wonder if you ever consider these types of ideas?

Do you focus on thrifting, as opposed to buying new garments? Do you have a sense of what types of garments you own the most of or how long you’ve had those garments? Do you keep items that you no longer wear, or are you good about passing them on?

How I Stay Warm In Winter (Burgundy Wool ½ Circle Skirt)

It can be cold in New England during the winter and over the years I’ve lived here I’ve realized that I prefer bundling up for the cold more in skirts than pants. Wool skirts, in particular, are great for staying warm, looking put together, and warding off snow all at the same time (I even clear my driveway of snow before work wearing wool skirts and have no problem with wet clothes). However, it can be difficult to find 100% wool skirts in stores. And even if I do find them, new or thrifted, they’re not always styles I want to wear every day. So to solve that problem I’ve made a few wool skirts over the last few years to fix that hole in my wardrobe.

I have 3 wool circle skirts. The first is a brown ¾ circle skirt that I posted about in 2017. A second is a ¾ circle skirt in solid black that has yet to be photographed or blogged about despite having been completed in February 2019. The third is the burgundy ½ circle skirt this post is about!

All of these skirts are variations on circle skirts because I like that they are easy to pattern, simple to sew, flattering to wear, and have a subtle vintage look. (I greatly admire people who dress in obvious vintage every day, but I generally think I’m more of a nod-at-vintage-style person.)

I decided to make this skirt a ½ circle mostly to vary up the silhouette from my other skirts. I love the silhouette of ¾ circles (I wear a lightweight vintage petticoat with them to help maintain the silhouette and swish–I talk about that in the brown ¾ circle skirt post), but it’s nice to have something different and this skirt doesn’t need the petticoat, so that’s nice, too!

I have a vintage pattern making textbook that I use to make my circle skirt patterns: Pattern-making For Fashion Design by Helen Joseph Armstrong.  This book has updated editions and is still available, but I have the edition copyrighted in 1987. The instructions create ¼, ½, ¾ and full circle skirts for any waist measurement and are easy to adjust to any length. I also reference a yardage calculator like this to figure out how much fabric I need when making these skirts.

This burgundy skirt is made from a lovely, soft, light-to-mid-weight plain weave wool. The seams are bound with hug snug, there is a pocket on the right side, and an invisible zipper on the left side.

I thought it would be fun to use the contrasting grey hug snug color for both the binding and the hem finishing, but I found that the hem looked like a mistake when it flipped around while walking. So I covered the grey hug snug with burgundy hug snug. Now it matches and looks more intentional (as in, you just don’t notice the hem when the skirt is worn).

I really wanted to be ice skating for photos of this skirt last winter. As you’ve seen, this was successful… but it was also hysterical.

I removed my coat, was posing for photos, and it was all going fine… until I lost my balance and fell right down on my backside! I actually have a hilarious photo with my legs in the air over my head as I hit the ice (because my photographer understands that capturing these things is better than rushing to help, usually!). With all my layers to stay warm all modesty was preserved, but you’ll just have to imagine the ridiculousness because I’m not convinced that photo needs to be officially preserved for all to see on the internet. I wound up with a bruised backside, but an amusing story and photos I’m happy with!

On the staying warm front, I would like to take a moment to praise some of the other garments I’m wearing, solely because they are awesome and not because I get anything for saying nice things. The cream wool sweater is from Emmy Designs. These sweaters are a bit expensive, but amazing and completely worth the price–I consider them to be investment pieces. They’re durable, warm, wonderfully cute and vintage styled, and the waist length is perfect for wearing with skirts and dresses. I cannot recommend them enough! Plus, Emmy Designs is a small, woman-owned business! From a second small, woman-owned business, the boots I’m wearing in the one photo without ice skates are made by the Royal Vintage Shoes–soon to be rolled into American Duchess, their sister company. The boots are wonderful! Made of real leather, durable, comfortable, and so, so cute… it is impossible not to walk with confidence in these boots. Also, I find the burgundy is a neutral (who knew?) and matches most things in my closet! I added shock absorbing insoles to these boots and that makes a huge difference in the comfort for all day wear.

Those special pieces aside, I thought I would also share the layers I wear to stay warm in a skirt in the cold, just in case I can inspire you to try it, too! It might seem intimidating, but it’s really not.

My layers include: fleece lined tights (I like the Berkshire brand, because the length is nice and long so they don’t sag between the legs), another layer of old fleece lined tights that I’ve cut the tops and bottoms off of so they’re full leg length leg warmers OR polar fleece base layer ski pants, a wool skirt, a long sleeve tee shirt, a wool OR acrylic sweater (wool is ideal but sometimes those non-breathing acrylics are great for staying warm, too!), tall wool socks, and boots of some type (ankle boots, knee high boots, snow boots… I love flats but I’ve realized they really don’t keep my feet warm. Accordingly, I’ve slowly built up my boot collection so I have boots for all occasions and weather types!). Accessories include a down coat, acrylic OR cashmere scarf, cashmere lined leather gloves (or if it’s really cold and I care less about looking put-together, ski gloves), earmuffs, and an acrylic OR wool hat (I like round, beret shapes, like the burgundy wool one in this post or the grey acrylic one in this post).

This would likely be expensive if I went out and bought all of these things at once, but I have a few strategies to save money while still buying high quality items that last for years. First, I buy items such as tights when they are on sale and items such as cashmere at discount stores rather than from full price retailers. Second, I keep these garments until they are full of holes… and then I try to fix or re-use them (for example, I repaired holes in my cashmere scarf and turned old hole-y tights into leg warmers). Some things, like the fleece ski pants, I’ve had for about twenty years. (Thankfully, they still fit!) The point is that you can slowly accumulate warm items, and look for them at discounts, so that building this type of wardrobe can be economical and long-lasting.

And sure, I could wear all the same layers of tights and socks under pants, but it gets a bit tight and uncomfortable. I’d rather wear a skirt and have a great vintage shape while staying warm!

Autumn Plaid Dress

I’d like to introduce you to my Autumn Plaid Dress! This is one of the dresses that I mentioned in my end of 2018 post as something that was made but never posted about. The goal was to post about it early this year. I would say it’s now mid-year, but better late than never, right?

I made this dress at the very end of last summer. I even made sure to find time to take photos of it while the trees were still in full autumn glory! The colors in the fabric reminded me so much of autumn that I felt that photos with lovely changing leaves were essential!

This dress came about due to the intersection of inspiration and fabric. I think the inspiration came first, when I found this dress (with no further information other than the single image). I loved the irregular large scale plaid, hidden placket, shirt collar, and long sleeves. It’s just a very different plaid dress than the often some-amount-of-circle skirt and smaller scale plaid dresses I am often drawn to.

In November of 2016, I saw the perfect fabric at Blackbird Fabrics. Of course it’s long gone now, but I snapped up 1.5 meters at the time. I loved the rich autumnal colors and large scale plaid! That pop of orange is unusual and great!

After that, the fabric sat in my stash… Until last year, when I actually make time for the dress. In August, I decided that now was the time!

The first step was to figure out a pattern. The bodice started life as McCalls 7351 because I didn’t want to deal with drafting a collar or front button placket. I also thought it might be a good starting place for sleeves.

I made multiple mockups of this pattern, fiddling with the fit especially in terms of the sleeves. I wanted to have a dress I could work in, with full range of motion for my arms without feeling constricted or lifting the dress at the side seams. This is not what I got with the sleeve straight out of the envelope. It looked nice with my arms down, flat and smooth, but I had very restricted arm movement. (So I guess this pattern wasn’t the easiet starting place for sleeves… oh well!)

After finally sorting out the fit of the sleeves and body pieces, I moved on to changing the front button placket to be invisible as I really liked that feature of the inspiration dress. This tutorial from Threads Magazine was great for this pattern change. Once I understood the different parts and how the folds interacted it was easy to alter the width of each fold to make a narrower placket than the tutorial.

I drafted the skirt pattern on a dress form. I wanted to get the deep pleats and rounded silhouette of the inspiration. It was a bit tricky and required lots of fiddling, playing with pleat depths, and also playing with the angle of the pleats at the waist seam.

Armed with my pattern pieces, I sat about cutting my fabric… and realized that 1.5 meters was not enough fabric to make the dress I had patterned! Oh no! What to do?

The first thing I did was eliminated some of the fullness I put in the skirt. I was able to keep the pleats, but the hem is narrower than I’d originally patterned. (But that’s fine in the end, because I think it’s a nice shape without being too full.) Then I started very, very carefully planning where to put each of the other pieces I needed. I realized that I could use less fabric if I changed the back from the original pattern (with a yoke and bottom section with a box pleat as on a man’s dress shirt) to a simple darted one-piece back. I did some pattern piece mashing, tested the new pattern out, and was able to move forward again.

My detail-oriented brain clearly decided on symmetry of the plaid (even though the inspiration didn’t worry about that at all and that’s something I liked… I find it’s hard to break the desire for symmetry!). That meant the cutting layout needed to be very specific in order to accommodate both that and the quantity of fabric I had to work with.

I fit the skirt pieces on the yardage (with a tiny hem). Then found places for the fronts (without the placket extensions) and back. The sleeves barely fit. I could have shortened them and had plenty of fabric but I really wanted the wrist length. The collar and placket pieces were next. They got squished in between the larger pieces. Of those, only the upper collar is one piece. As you can see in the next photo, the under collar and both layers of collar stand have seams at center back (though I did manage to make them all symmetrical!). The button placket had to be seamed on and pieced horizontally and the buttonhole placket also had to be pieced on. There’s a narrow orange line near the buttonholes just across from the horizontal piecing seam where the placket extension was stitched on to the front piece.

This was absolutely a case of laying out every single piece before cutting anything! After all that, this is what I was left with for fabric scraps. I’d say that’s a pretty good use of all my fabric, wouldn’t you?

I was very amused by the fringe-y selvedge edge and wanted to incorporate it into the dress. I used those selvedges for the inner edge of my plackets. The already finished edge was stitched down but not turned under, so a little bit of the fringe pokes out when the dress is worn. I did debate if it was making the dress too home-made looking, but I think it’s subtle enough that it doesn’t have that effect.

At some point I also made space on the fabric for a belt. There was no way to make this symmetrical without a lot of piecing, given the spacing of the plaid and the placement of the plaid on the dress, so this is my nod to asymmetry. I can line up one of the orange lines somewhere, but somewhere else around my waist they don’t line up.

I finished this dress right around the time that the pre-orders from Royal Vintage Shoes were delivered last fall. I had great fun wearing this dress with my new burgundy Aspen Boots. I couldn’t resist having red winter shoes!

I love these boots! I added an insole under my heel to help cushion my feet and they are so comfortable! I can wear them standing and walking all day and not have aching feet. The low heel is flattering and snazzy without feeling like a heel. The rubber soles are great for wearing in rain and snow. They are great with pants and skirts/dresses. And they’re a fun color! I feel very confident when I wear them and get lots of compliments. Can I say anything else positive? I love these!

What else have I not mentioned about the dress?

The buttons are from my stash and are plain and dark. I was one short, so there’s a slightly different dark button at the bottom. It’s fun to have details like that on clothes you make yourself.

My fabric is a nice medium-weight twill, which makes the dress well suited to fall and winter wearing. The dark colors didn’t really speak to me to wear this spring and it’s not a summer dress, so it’s waiting for autumn to roll around again to be worn. In the meantime, I’m happy to have captured the lovely colors of the leaves with the wonderfully autumnal colors of the dress. Maybe this year I’ll take photos of it with pumpkins…!