Sewing With Grandma

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The last two weeks have been filled with a lot fabric scraps and thread. My ongoing program to teach high school students how craft for charity has started sewing simple patchwork blankets. The idea was to get each student to sew simple quilt blocks of four squares and then sew everyone’s squares together to create a series of kennel blankets for the local humane society. I had no idea this project would stir so many emotions.

As I was cutting out squares for my students to sew, I found myself using my grandma’s block templates, seam allowance bar, and scissors. The memories came flooding back – summer at grandma’s where we learned how to sew. Grandma showing me how to hold a needle and how to pinch the fabric to make uniform stitches. Those wonderful memories made me dig through some of her old quilt patterns and I pulled one in particular.

Initially, I thought I would trace and cut the pattern pieces for students who exhibited higher level sewing skills. I sewed the first few blocks to remind myself how to work the pattern, but it quickly turned into something else. I realized I had inadvertently started this project two days before my grandma’s birthday. Perhaps it was subconscious action or kismet, but I could feel her with me. I ended up sewing every block and eventually pieced together an entire throw size blanket. The process was deeply cathartic.

Every skill she ever taught me came back, even though its been many years since I’ve sewn a quilt. I ended up with a beautiful little blanket that reminds me grandma is never really that far away.

The cat has already claimed it.

As for my students, they are learning quickly and we will be piecing together our first blankets next week. I made another blanket as a model for my students and even this project stirred some wonderful memories and sitting and sewing with my grandma. I can only hope my students feel the same kind of warmth – our little group has accomplished so much and we are all connected by what we’ve learned from one another.

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c.b.w. 2017

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Knitting A Scrap Yarn and Flannel Blanket

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Over the summer, I started two scrap yarn knitting projects as a means to clear out my growing stash of leftover yarn, (see Knitting With Scrap Yarn). The first blanket turned out great and my little dog is snuggling up in it every night.

The start of the school year pushed my second project, the Maxi Cosi Blanket, to the sidelines for a spell, but I’ve finally finished it. In many ways, I think it turned out better than the first. The smaller size gave me a great opportunity to experiment with a new finishing technique for knitted blankets.

After blocking the blanket came out at 25″ x 27″. This turned out to be a perfect size for a little corner of the bed where my cat likes to sleep. She’s already claimed it as her own!

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The yarn came from four different partial skeins leftover from two hats, a scarf, a cowl, and a pair of socks. I let the amount of yarn dictate stripe size, however I was careful with the oatmeal color so I could carry it all the way through end to end, (I only came up 3 rows short, which I supplemented with a cream-colored yarn scrap I thankfully had stashed!).

For finishing, I decided to add a flannel backing. I saw the technique on Pinterest and knew I had to try it. Luckily, my local craft store was having a sale on flannel fabric and it just so happened to have the perfect print. It was meant to be!

flannel-backing

To attach the flannel and keep it from “tenting,” I employed an old quilting technique (thanks for reminding me, mom!) of using yarn ties. Once again, I went to my leftover yarn stash and found a great partial skein of variegated woodsy colors.

The grid  of the knitted pattern made it easy to space yarn ties about 2″ apart. First, I tacked the flannel to the blanket using safety pins to mark where the ties would go. I worked from the center out to the edges. Second, I loaded a yarn needle with a double-strand segment of yarn. I came up through the bottom (the flannel side) and back down through the top (the knitted side), making as small a stitch as possible in the garter stitch sections of the blanket. This hid the yarn tie on the front and added the tie detail to the flannel backing. Lastly, I tied each section and clipped the ends.

To secure the edges, I sewed a basic blanket stitch using DMC pearl cotton embroidery thread. This thread is thick and sturdy, which makes it perfect for stitching together folded flannel and worsted weight knitted yarn.

blanket-stitch-detail

The result is a smooth edge that is decorative and not bulky. The edges are fully secure and the stitch adds to the rustic quality of the pattern and flannel print.

Not bad for scrap yarn, eh? See what’s hiding in your leftover yarn stash – it’s amazing what you can make with even the smallest scraps of yarn!

Happy Knitting!

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c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Garden Party

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Vintage Barbie restoration doesn’t always involves a long process. One of my first vintage fashion purchases was Garden Party (#931, 1962-63), minus the accessories. The dress alone, in good condition, can run anywhere from $15-30, which is again a bit out of this collector’s price range.

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Instead, I found a Garden Party dress that was in pretty good shape aside from a few stains, some wrinkles, and one loose stitch. I figured if I could get those stains out, it would be a total bargain at only $8.

The Before Look:

The front and back of the dress suffered from typical yellow age stains. The entire dress was covered, but it’s more noticeable on the lace layers in the skirt and along the bodice dart seams.

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Seller’s Photo (caller5547)

Aside from the stains, the dress looks like it’s been crammed in a box for years. The wrinkles change the entire shape of the dress (it’s supposed to poof out in a super cute way!).

I was lucky to find a TLC dress with the pink bow still in place. Most played-with Garden Party dresses are missing this little detail. However, the bow on my dress is dangling by a single stitch.

The Fix List:

The Stains:

The stains may have covered the entire dress, but they weren’t severe. I went with my go-to process of soaking the dress in a mixture of 3 cups water, 1 tbs baking soda, and 1 tbs peroxide. After  a single soak of 2 hours, I set the dress in direct sunlight to dry. That was all it took! The stains were completely gone, leaving the dress a bright white and brilliant pink.

The Bow:

The pink bow was hanging on by one thread of the original stitch. I simply added a couple reinforced stitches through the center fold of the bow (to hide the stitches) to secure it back into place. Done!

The Wrinkles:

A steam iron on the cotton setting quickly fixed the wrinkles crimping the skirt and bodice. Ironing Barbie clothes can be tricky. The tip of the iron is your best friend. The skirt usually fits around the narrow end of the ironing board – all you have to do is carefully work your way around one section at a time. The bodice is best approached from the top of the neckline – point the tip of the iron towards the waist hemline and iron one small section at a time.

The After Look:

Aside from the ease of restoration, I bought this dress specifically for my vintage Midge doll. I though she’d look adorable in it and she does! Once again, a little TLC can turn a down and out vintage dress into something beautiful.

Garden Party Midge

 

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c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Suburban Shopper

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8d857822cbed851a0f1189ae12cc5911One of the more popular and sought after vintage Barbie Fashions is Suburban Shopper (#969, 1959-1964). The dress alone in good condition can run about $25 and up. Add in the accessories (phone, hat, shopping basket, necklace and shoes) and the price jumps to $50 or even $100. For a budget conscious collector such as myself, these prices are far beyond what I will spend!

So off I went in search of a TLC Suburban Shopper. It was clear from the start, that I’d have to let go of the accessories – they are hard to find and often expensive.

Instead, I focused on finding a TLC dress. Seeing as this is a popular fashion that was in production for five years, finding it isn’t too difficult. However, it can be pricey because there is a strong demand for this particular fashion. I ended up finding one in pretty rough shape for the bargain price of $5. Let the TLC games, begin!

The front of the dress was covered in brown age stains and a couple of unidentified dark spots on the white stripes (of course!).

Suburban Shopper Front_Before

To make matters worse, the stitches of a bad previous repair job can be seen along the bodice dart seams and the skirt/bodice seam.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_Before

The back of the dress is just as bad as the front. Dark stains (likely rust) hover around the zipper.

Suburban Shopper Back_Before

It only gets worse on the inside of the dress. One of the straps has fallen victim to a bad repair job. A wad of stitches going every which way actually shortens the strap to an ill-fitting length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_Before

The bodice/skirt seam was also “repaired” with another wad of stitching. The stitching is so bulky, the waist doesn’t fit on the doll – one side shifts up at an angle.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_Before

It’s as bad as it looks! However, some needle and thread, along with a good washing turned this disaster of a dress into something really special.

The Brown Age Stains

Luckily, the brown stains covering most of the dress came out with just a basic treatment. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and peroxide for two hours. Then, I laid it out to dry in direct sunlight. I repeated this process three times and the stains completely disappeared. All that was left behind were the darker spots.

The Dark Spots

It’s usually not recommend to use bleach on vintage fabrics, but the dark spots were pretty stubborn. Seeing as they were on the white stripes, (and I’d only be out $5 if this didn’t work!), I decided to chance a bleach treatment. I dabbed each spot with a Q-tip lightly loaded with diluted bleach.

I repeated the process until the spots started to lighten, all the while careful not to bleed the bleach onto the blue stripes. After the last dabbing, I gave it a good rinse and dried the dress in direct sunlight.  By some miracle, the spots were completely gone!

Bodice Dart “Repair”

To fix the previous poor repair, I carefully removed the stitches with a seam ripper. I found a small hole in the bodice dart and also realized one bodice dart was shorter than the other. Both problems were solved with a simple straight stitch along the dart seam, plus a few extra stitches to even out the length difference.

Strap “Repair”

Ripping out the previous repair stitches was quite the chore. Removing a “pile” of stitches poses the risk of accidentally tearing the fabric – especially on more fragile vintage fabric. I took my time and removed one layer of stitches at a time.

Once the stitches were gone, I could actually see the original sew line of factory stitches! That made my job a lot easier. I simply lined up the the sew line to the bodice seam allowance and stitched the strap back into place.

There were some strange stitches running down the zipper flap, but I decided to leave them in as they aren’t effecting the look of the dress or the fit. They’ll just be part of this dress’s story!

Bodice/Skirt Seam “Repair”

Oh, this was a mess. The wad of stitching took more than an hour to pick out. I had to be even more careful about not tearing the fabric because of the added bonus of gathers. Gathered fabric often has a separate line of stitches aside from the seam. If this was the case, I wanted to be sure to preserve as much of the original stitches as possible.

Underneath the wad, I found a mostly intact original seam. There was just a small hole that required only a few stitches to fix. I am baffled as to why it was previously repaired with a mountain of thread!

The end result was far more than I expected for my $5 purchase. It’s amazing what a few basic sewing skills and good washing can do!

Here’s the front of the dress after repairs and a visit with a steam iron. The stains are gone and all seams are fully restored.

Suburban Shopper Front_After

The bodice looks a lot better with properly repaired darts.

Suburban Shopper Bodice_After

The back of the dress also looks pretty good!

Suburban Shopper Back_After

My repair on the strap is hard to see, just as a repair should be! No more wadded stitching and the strap is now at its correct length.

Suburban Shopper Strap_After

My repair on the waist seam blends right into the original seam. Without that wad of stitches, the waist once again fits the doll.

Suburban Shopper Skirt Seam_After

Perhaps one day I’ll piece together the accessories for my Suburban Shopper fashion, but until then I’ll just enjoy how pretty my Bubblecut Barbie looks in her restored dress.

Suburban Shopper Dress

More Vintage TLC projects are in the works. I recently got my hands on an Enchanted Evening gown (#983, 1960-63) and Movie Date (#933, 1962-63). Stay tuned for more vintage fun!

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c.b.w. 2016

Vintage TLC: Cotton Casual Dress

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Collecting vintage Barbie dolls and fashions can get very expensive, but it’s not impossible for collectors on a budget to join in the fun. All it takes is a little patience and willingness to do some restoration work on vintage items that have seen better days.

Over the summer, I picked up a few vintage Barbie dresses that were in pretty bad shape. We’re talking bad stains, tears, holes, and previous repairs that did not go well. In short, they were disasters that desperately needed some TLC. Luckily, I have plenty of TLC to give.

One of the dresses I bought is Cotton Casual #912, (1959-1962).

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This is a fairly common vintage Barbie dress, but it can still go for $25-35 if it’s in mint or near mint condition. That’s a little over my price limit, so I found one in TLC condition for $9.

Cotton Casual Front_Before

The front is in pretty sorry shape. The ribbons are frayed and no longer tied into bows and there’s a massive stain covering most of the skirt.

Then, there’s a hole in the bodice seam.

Cotton Casual Bodice Hole

The back of the dress sees a continuation of the same dark stain that plagues the front.

Cotton Casual Back_Before

On the plus side, the snaps are original and still secure, all hems have original stitching with no fraying, the gathered waist seam is intact, and the original Mattel tag is in place.

I know it looks bad, but a few little repairs transformed this dress from a stained mess to something bright and beautiful.

The Stain

This was the scariest part of the whole restoration process. The stain was dark and bled all the way through the fabric (it even went through the doubled up hem). At minimum the dress is 54 years old, so who knows what that stain is or how it got there.

I decided to try a basic stain removing sequence for vintage fabric. I soaked it in a mixture of water, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide for two hours. Then, I set it out in direct sunlight until it dried,  (sunlight and hydrogen peroxide are gentle bleaching agents). I repeated this sequence four times and managed to get the stain to lighten several shades. Still, it wasn’t enough.

Finally, I soaked it one more time in Vintage Textile Soak for four hours. Then, I laid it out to dry inside (the package instructions warn not to put items in direct sunlight after using the product). This did the trick! The stain is nearly gone and only visible if you know where to look for it.

The Bodice Seam

The hole in the bodice seam was tricky in that it reached all the way down to the gathered waist seam. Repairing it with a running stitch would mean ripping out all the original stitching along the waist seam. Instead, I decided a simple whip stitch on the bodice seam inside of the dress would fix the hole just as well.

The Ribbons

In it’s original form, the ribbons on the bodice were tied into bows. Unfortunately, the ribbons on my dress have frayed to a length much too short to retie. To fix this, I had two choices: 1. Replace the ribbons with new ones 2. Attempt to sew the ribbons to look like bows.

I ended up going with Option 2, because I believe in keeping as much as the original dress in place as possible. I shaped each ribbon into a bow and sewed the center with a reinforced stitch. It took a few tries, but the result turned out better than expected.

After some patience, creative solutions, and a steam iron, my $9 Cotton Casual looks amazing…

Here’s, the front of the dress with restored bows and a repaired bodice seam. However, the biggest difference is the absence of that bad stain.

Cotton Casual Front After

The back of the dress looks just as good. The stain is mostly gone!

Cotton Casual Back After

Who knew a little TLC could go so far … My Bubblecut Barbie is looking pretty good in her Cotton Casual dress.

Cotton Casual Doll After

This is just the beginning! The restoration process is ongoing with several other TLC vintage fashions. Stay tuned!

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c.b.w. 2016