Sewing Simplicity 2283 While I Consider Some Changes

Received some big news a few days ago.  I will tell you more next week.  For now I am taking a little breather and doing some simple quick sewing as I try to take it all in.

Going to make Simplicity 2283, the vest, and hope that my head clears with some basic sewing. 😉

Simplicity 2283

Next Post: Tuesday, March 1, 2011: Some Big News and Hopefully a Finished Vest


Sewing Withdrawal

I’m having sewing withdrawal.

Yesterday I woke up with an overwhelming desire to buy sewing patterns.  I was sure that one of the major fabric chains would be having a sale.  A long browse through a pattern catalog and then picking over my choices – sounded like a wonderful morning.

But then there was news of a snowstorm coming.  Both my husband, a schoolteacher, and my daughter will be home with me from this Friday onward during Christmas break.   Yep, that’s two full weeks of family togetherness!  All of us packed into our little house.  (I’m already planning what great activities might be available locally – and I am going to suggest some father/daughter time.)  🙂

I have to work hard in December to finish things before the school break begins.  But this year has laid a kink in my plans.  Two snowstorms.  One this Monday, and now one today, Thursday. The snowstorm meant they will be home with me during the week I rely on to finish up holiday shopping and most importantly, wrapping without the recipients around to sneak a peek. 

That meant forget the pattern catalog browsing.  Finish the holiday shopping.  Aarrgh!  Let me tell you.  After picking up gifts stashed at the Memaw’s and then going from store to store finishing up – it is like eating too many holiday sweets – you are just done.  More than done.  A bit sick. 

It certainly cured my impulsive desire to buy tons of new patterns.

Probably for the best.

I have been pushing hard to finish Christmas and haven’t been able to sew anything.  I can’t wait to be back at my machine.  Tomorrow was to be the final day for my Stash Bash but I still have a half-basket full of things I promised myself to finish.  Can’t decide if I need to cut my losses and release the Stash Bash or to extend it and push to finish that basket. 

What do you think?  Finish up the remaining projects, or just release them and move on?

Next Post: Saturday, December 18, 2010: If I Haven’t Gone Crazy!

“Wedded Perfection:Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns” A Must See at the Cincinnati Art Museum

My daughter was off school this Friday and we took a trip to our local art museum which turned into an absolute delight.  The Cincinnati Art Museum holds a tremendous collection of textiles, most of which are not on display, but from time to time they pull out all the stops and put on an extravaganza.  This is one of those times. 

 From October 9, 2010 through January 31, 2011 they have on special exhibit a collection entitled Wedded Perfection:Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns.”  

I counted over 60 bridal gowns displayed on mannequins, many on platforms that allow viewing in the round.  None were behind glass and most included a short commentary along with a wedding day photo of the bride herself.  

As you wend your way through Eden Park this photo is on signage that directs you to the museum. This is a detail from a gown on display, a wedding dress from 1887 United States silk, beads, faux pearls. Gift of Mrs. Frances Lamson Eaton, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred W. Lamson, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Whitney Lamson, Jr., currently owned by the Cincnnati Art Museum.

Many of the gowns are Victorian hand-worked treasures crafted by seamstresses of consummate skill and displaying the sumptuous ornamentation we associate with that era.  One earlier gown is on show dating from around 1735 worn by a bride resplendent in full panniers and unexpected forest green brocade.  Then the exhibit skips over most of the eighteenth century beginning again with a breathtaking Regency 1801 white-on-white embroidered Napoleonic bridal dress.  (All those Jane Austen fans can expect their hearts to quicken with a ladylike flutter when they see this one. It is as pristine as if Elizabeth from Pride and Prejudice has stepped out of the novel before your very eyes.)  The exhibit pieces then move forward historically right up to the modern era, including a gown worn as recently as 2009 along with a stunning creation (somehow both slinky and demure,) designed and worn by Vera Wang at her own wedding.  Also in what must have been an absolute coupe for the museum, they have on loan from Queen Elizabeth II herself, a miniature of Queen Victoria in her white bridal gown that set the standard for wedding attire enduring even today.   

Since you are already in the museum, the space directly across from “Wedded Perfection” houses another special exhibit “Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman” which consists of an impressive number of portraits, all eighteenth century women who held a certain renown in their particular spheres. One gets a strong impression of eighteenth century costume and Gainsborough conveys the delicacy of the finery that even to this day evokes a certain mood of refined passion that women’s dress at the time must have meant to arouse in the viewer.  Having viewed quite a few runway shots of Spring 2010 in the past month or so, let me tell you, walking through this exhibit shows you how differently others have thought about fashion, the female form and women’s beauty.   

On a side note, the Gainsborough exhibit room has in one corner two complete women’s dresses of the period and somewhat amusingly next to one of the costumes stands a mannequin wearing eighteenth century unmentionables- a no-nonsense corset and fully extended wire panniers both constructed of perversely prosaic materials to have been worn under such gilded outergarments.

If you are passing through Cincinnati or possibly visiting relatives over the holidays, this is an incredible experience for home-sewers.  I don’t think you will ever have another chance to view at such close range over sixty custom or couture bridal gowns.  As I walked through with my little girl, I saw a lot of other mothers attending with their daughters, even if the said daughters were gray of head.  I have never seen so many people craning their necks to read all of the museum commentary and the women would often bend down and touch the picture of the bride.  This exhibit, unlike some other forms of art, really touches our personal history maybe even more deeply than it illustrates our cultural history.  

Wedded Perfection:Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns by Cynthia Amneus, Sara Long Butler, Katherine Jellison. The volume can be purchased at the Cincinnati Art Museum gift shop or online at

There is a book by the same name “Wedded Perfection: Two Centuries of Wedding Gowns” with photos of the exhibit and additional commentary.  I looked through it at the museum and the volume is wonderful. If you never find yourself in Cincinnati your library may have the book.  I encourage you to check it out if you have an interest in historic costume as do many home-sewers.  Or, if you are up for a splurge, the book can be ordered from the museum gift shop or

But if you come here for holidays, business or you live in the greater metropolitan area, I hope that you take a day and go to the Cincinnati Art Museum.  Admission is free with no extra charge for special exhibits.  Parking is not free near the museum, but there is a small free lot in the curve right before you enter the gates of the museum along with streetside parking in Mount Adams, the district in which the museum is located.  Gainesborough is through January 2, 2011 but Wedded Perfection continues until January 31st. I plan to keep returning until they take it down.

Next Post: Tuesday, November 16, 2010: Simplicity 3768 Pintuck Pleasant Blouse: Pattern Review


The Modest is Hottest Movement:Lighting a Fire under High Fashion

For most of my adult life I have heard women opine that high fashion is too extreme, that they feel both dismissed by that world and simultaneously pressured to achieve what for most of us is an impossibly slender standard.   And for most of my adult life women have seemed resigned that there wasn’t much the average woman could do about it. 

Today a refreshing change of attitude is taking place.  Women are no longer taking it on the chin.   What I can only describe as a grass roots movement is taking place in women’s interaction with the world of fashion.   And their approach is something I never would have expected.

They aren’t storming the citadel, picketing designers or burning any unmentionables.  They aren’t making huge political statements or calling for rallies.  What they are doing is much simpler and vastly more brilliant.  Without any kind of fanfare countless women are getting off the bus.

I can see it where so many are rejecting current trends looking instead for that fabulous find in vintage thrift shops.   There is a resurgence in home-sewing partly due to Project Runway and such shows that speak to so many who have dreamt of being a fashion designer.  I also think that the decreased quality control and fit displayed by current RTW has made a lot of women contend that they can do better.  And they go home, dust off their sewing machine, and honestly, many of those women are sewing better garments than are offered at the retail stores they used to frequent.  Not only is this new wave of home-sewers mimicking current fashions, but a sewing subcategory has come about – vintage sewing – where there is a deliberate adoption of fashions from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, eras whose designs are perceived as achieving that intriguing contradiction of feminine modesty and sexy allure.    

I had briefly heard about the “Modest is Hottest” movement and I was curious because it sounded like it was in accord with these other counterculture responses to fashion I now see.   That is why I was delighted when a coworker of my husband’s invited me to her “Modest is Hottest” party.  I couldn’t wait to experience firsthand what it was all about.

“Modest is Hottest” is an organization in and of itself and can be found on the web.  It has also become the slogan for a movement within Christianity and many church’s women’s ministries have their own version, which is what I attended.  So technically it wasn’t; but it was, because the message was the same.  Christian women are reaching out to other women to validate their beauty, to discuss how each woman can enhance and enjoy her attractiveness, and how to do that without sacrificing her sense of integrity or modesty.  The movement reaches out to all women, but especially to girls and young women, with the message that you don’t have to dress in an overtly sexualized manner to be a beautiful woman.    

The concept of propriety has been unfashionable for so long that it appears cutting edge to even discuss it.  Modesty is not prudishness the movement contends.  Modesty is discernment; doing the right thing at the right time.  So the movement does not ask you to reject high fashion or to eschew buying pretty clothes. What it asks is that you be discerning in how you wear your clothes, and that you demand, with your dollars, that fashion world meet your need for clothing that is lovely, commands respect and admiration, and leaves something to the imagination. Because the movement holds, if something is not left to the imagination then you won’t command respect or admiration in most public settings.    Many might dismiss this as common sense, but this message is very counter to what the media has marketed to women in that we are often told that we should command respect and admiration no matter what, even if we show up at a business meeting in our best and barest mini-dress.  Hence many women are confused about what is expected of them in various settings.  

In the past a woman who rejected negative fashion marketing pretty much had to go it alone.  If she spoke up she was considered a malcontent, an obnoxious complainer. So a lot of women did their own thing and kept quiet about it.  But now there are various groups such as thrift shoppers, go-green shoppers, home-sewers and Christian women’s ministries that are giving a voice to that discontent and coming beside those women who reject objectification.   Is this a portent of things to come?  Right now it is small, but I see it growing.  It is lighting a fire and at some point mainstream fashion designers are going to have to respond. 

Now that will be something to see. 

Will propriety come back into fashion? 

Is the vintage look returning

or is it just a passing fancy of a few?

What do you think?

Next Post: Thursday, August 19, 2010: Fashion Advice Gleaned from the Modest is Hottest Party – To be posted if I am not too gutted to even write because my darling five-year old enters kindergarten on Wednesday!

Stuff I Wish I Someone Had Told Me About Entering the County Fair

I am posting a lot about fairs lately because in late-July or early-August my sewing is taken up with the fair. Every year around this time I poke around my house looking for possible entries.  

2010 Hamilton County Fair, Ohio: Sewing Entries

I can be so focused on producing garments that I don’t always stop for appreciation. Competition adds some randomness and novelty to my sewing.  It is kind of an addictive process. 

Here is a photo of the sewing entries this year at The Hamilton County Fair in Ohio.  If you don’t want to go state, I urge you to start with your local county fair.  I enjoy competing at the fair.  But when I started I was confused by a lot of things and wish someone could have given me a heads up. 

What I Wish I Had Known My First Year Entering Competition My Local Fair


The premium guide.  Most fairs no longer print paper copies as the cost is becoming prohibitive, but you must have one to designate your entries into the correct category.  Go online.  Printing on your own dime is a bummer, but it does allow you to get the guide at a much earlier date than if you had to wait for a paper copy.

Drop-off day and pick-up day.  Fairs run on too tight a schedule for them to give on this. No entry will be accepted after drop-off day and none will be returned after pick-up day. Mark your calendar.  Competing in the fair will mean clearing your schedule for a few hours on these two days, along with your normal fair visits.

Take some small return address labels with you when you go to enter your items.  There is a tag attached to each entry.  You have to fill out each tag with category,department, etc.  Then there is a place at the bottom of the tag for your name.   You can’t imagine how many times I have been at the entry table and heard folks complain of having to write out their full address countless times in such a tiny space.   Then some old lady walks up, whips out a stack of old-fashioned stick-on address labels she bought from Current twenty-five years ago, and lickety-stick, she is back in her air-conditioned car driving away to enjoy her Sunday afternoon.   

Don’t worry that the competition is full of superhuman sewing.  This is a contest for non-professionals.  If you are proudly wearing it, then it is probably good enough for fair competition.   You never know, you could win a ribbon!

Some folks worry that their items may be stolen.  The photo below shows the fencing used in the arts and crafts building to protect the work.  My fair has an attendant in every building and the buildings are also locked during non-fair hours.   

2010 Hamilton County Ohio Fair Sewing Competition Entries. You can see the serious fencing to protect from theft.

Some fairs offer a critique sheet when you pick up your items or when they mail out prize money. Some don’t.  Mine doesn’t and I wish it did because knowing the judges’ comments would make me a better sewer. When I asked the attendant for one she looked at me like I had three heads. Don’t assume that you will receive judges feedback even if you have won a ribbon.

Yes, quite often, there is prize money.  You will not get rich on sewing for the fair but it is fun to receive your check in the mail.   Not enough funding for the vacation of a lifetime but I did use last year’s winnings to impulse buy a pair of jeans off the Target clearance rack.   No matter how small, a little splurge from one’s own winnings will be fondly remembered.

Two More General Things About the Fair Experience

The Heat. It sounds like a no-brainer, but in January when you are planning your projects, you may forget how terrible the heat can be to contend with.  Fairs are high summer events, and as my husband’s late Uncle Ep would say, the weather will be “hotter than a two-p*ckered billy goat.”  (Chock full of colorful prognostications concerning climatic conditions, this illustrious uncle missed his calling as a weatherman.  If only the censors could have withstood the abuse he would have given them, I’m sure he would have garnered quite a following as he inserted such descriptive delights into the drone about storm fronts and barometric pressures.)

Volunteers.  Most of the folks you interact with at the fair are just helping out, giving their time for no pay. It is hard to work outside in terrible heat and most fairs rely heavily on volunteers, many of whom are teens participating in Junior Fair, a program that offers leadership opportunities to young people.   Young adults cannot possibly have years of experience under their belt and they are sometimes unsure and need to check in with a fair employee before giving you an answer to your question.  All of us have been young, green and working a new job.  Be nice.

And have tons of fun. 

We always do.

Next Post: Tuesday, August 17, 2010: I’ve Been Invited to One of Those “Modest is Hottest” Events!

2010 Ohio State Fair Style Revue

2010 Ohio State Fair: The Food Highway

There aren’t many sewing events in the world.  That is why I try to time my visit to the state fair with the fashion sewing competitions, at my fair called a Style Revue.  The Style Revue is a competition where live models walk a runway displaying homesewn garments for judging.   Ohio is my home state and the runway show has both children’s and adult categories.  It isn’t a large show as there are only a few contestants; however these ladies know how to throw down when it comes to sewing.

Sunny Hickey walks the runway wearing a fur vest in the outerwear segment of the contest. 2010 Ohio State Fair Style Revue.

Seeing that fur vests were fashionable again, the seamstress pictured above pulled out some remnant fabric left over from a coat she had sewn in the seventies.  But the remnant didn’t provide enough fabric for her vest.  Undaunted she pulled out the original project and stripped it for parts!  Not only do we seamstresses never throw any fabric away, we never throw our old projects away either, because you never know when you might need them.

Karen Haldeman, Patti Hassler, Sunny Hickey and Judy Sandman await the ribbon presentation at the 2010 Ohio State Fair Style Revue.

As you can see, the garments are lovely and I am always inspired when I see other home-sewers who have honed their

Patti Hassler shows off her coat during the outerwear segment of the 2010 Ohio State Fair Style Revue.

skills to such a high level.  Unfortunately, as sewing has gone by the wayside in the world, even places like state and local fairs, which largely represent farming communities where sewing held on longest as a valued traditional skill, have seen decreased participation in all levels of needlework and crafting competitions. 

If you are a sewer or crafter I want to encourage you to visit and participate in either your county or state fair.   If you are too timid to walk the runway you can enter a project for display. 

Display case for competition fashion sewing in the Creative Arts Building 2010 Ohio State Fair.


There is usually an entry fee that covers the entry of several items, so it makes sense to enter more than one item.

Categories are listed in a document called a Premium Guide.  The Premium Guide is essential information for entering a fair competition.  However, most fairs no longer print off a gazillion copies for participants.  In order to find your categories and deadlines you will need to go online and print one off for yourself.  Do this in the spring.

State Fairs have early summer deadlines for entries.  The Ohio State Fair’s deadline is mid-June.  That means you have to have a good idea what you want to enter long before the deadline.  And it must be completed by the drop-off day, which can be pretty far ahead of the fair’s opening day.

There isn’t any manual to walk you through the process step-by-step so expect your first year to be a learning experience.

Tips for visiting your State Fair

Go online and determine price of admission and the real kicker, the cost of all day ride passes.  The fair is fun, but not cheap.

See if the fair has posted their events online.  It may take some looking for the fashion sewing competition.

Remember cash is king at these venues.  Hit your own bank’s ATM so you don’t need to hunt down a machine on the grounds or pay fees.

Only at food at the fair is so fanciful. Whoever thought to rename shepherds pie as a roast beef sundae? 2010 Ohio State Fair.

Take a gander at the fairgrounds map if it too is posted online.  Some fairs are so large that it pays to orient yourself before entering.  For example, the first year we parked in the lot farthest from the Creative Arts Building and had to book it to get there on time for the competition.  Don’t underestimate how large a state fairgrounds might be.  It will take more time than you think to walk across.

Just enjoy yourself.  There really is something for everyone. My family and I always love going.

Next Post: Thursday, August 12, 2010: Vogue 1476 Issey Miyake Coat:Pattern Review