Villainous Sewists in History

Alright.  So.  I’ve probably grabbed your attention with my title, right?  I BET YOU’RE DYING TO KNOW MORE.

So, Man Friend surprised me on my birthday with a weekend getaway in Newport, RI (which is gorgeous, by the way, and totally worth visiting). He’d planned a trip to the New Bedford Whaling Museum in nearby New Bedford, MA, since I’m crazy about whales and really enjoy national parks and historical sites.  I’ve been fascinated with the sea ever since I was a wee tot, probably because I grew up in the land-locked Midwest, and I devoured classic books of high-seas adventure–  Moby-Dick, Captains Courageous, etc. (you know the mini versions of classics for kids with an illustration on every other page?).  So I was pretty stoked to check out the museum!

Obviously, I knew there would be some sad and disturbing sights since whaling was such a violent enterprise, but I wasn’t prepared to see…

A knitting swift (for winding skeins of yarn into balls)

…knitting and sewing notions made out of whale bone!  Noooo!  They must have had 50 different knitting swifts, all made from whale bone and ivory.

Here’s a spool holder made of whale ivory.  Ahhh!  I’d never heard of ivory sewing notions.  They had quite a few pipes, canes, and walking sticks, and tons of other scrimshaw samples, which is more like what I had expected to see.

Now, I don’t want to judge generations past by today’s standards, but it’s kind of a bummer to think of a material harvested in such a vicious fashion being used for sewing supplies.  But, then again, maybe it was pragmatic to use more of the whale instead of just collecting the oil and discarding the carcass (kind of like that thing they always tell you in elementary school about how Native Americans used every part of the buffalo… is that little factoid even true?).  And I’m sure if we investigated, we’d find that many of the things we use everyday are produced in environmentally-unfriendly, if not cruel, ways.  That said, I’m pretty sure I don’t need a seam ripper made out of a walrus tusk or anything like that!

Depressed? This guy should cheer you up!  Old Neptune was part of P.T. Barnum’s New York City museum, who identified his species incorrectly and claimed that he was a gift from famous mountain man Grizzly Adams (most likely untrue).  His crazy eyes remind me of Doug the Pug!

If you ever have a chance to visit the museum, you should go.  The history of whaling is really fascinating– it’s hard to believe that a practice as dangerous, inefficient, and cruel as whaling provided light to the entire east coast of the United States.  As you can probably imagine, there are some really colorful characters and crazy stories from that time period!  Also, whaling was one of the most racially-inclusive professions at the time– because the enterprise was mainly developed by Quakers, who believed all people were equal, many freed (or escaped) slaves and Native Americans worked alongside white men on whaling crews, and could rise to the rank of captain or ship owner.  If you’re too far away to visit, here’s some great reading material:

  • Moby-Dick (although it’s incredibly long, it’s an epic tale and well-worth the time it takes to read)
  • In the Heart of the Sea (a harrowing but riveting true story of the ship wrecked by an aggressive whale, the tale that inspired Moby-Dick. It also details the fascinating history of Nantucket whaling.)
  • The Whale: In Search of the Giants of the Sea (a beautiful book about our collective love affair with whales)

Ginger Made: Chloe Dress

Why, hello, everyone, and a happy Monday to you!  Hope you all had smashing weekends!  After what feels like decades, I finally have a finished object to show you!  I guess it hasn’t been THAT long, but I spent four solid weekends working on this dress.

This is the Chloe dress from Victory Patterns.  I really like the lines of this dress– it feels very classic, but also kind of mod.  I wanted to keep things very clean and simple, but also a bit dressy, so I used silk taffeta from Mood.  I love the body and weight of taffeta– it’s so luxe!  I’ve never sewed with silk of any kind before, so it was really exciting to use something so fancy!


Silk does present a few challenges.  I hand-washed it prior to cutting out the pattern, which softened it up quite a bit, but also made it CRAZY wrinkly.  Seriously– I spent an entire evening pressing out the creases in the fabric!  Fortunately it’s not crazy slippery or unstable, so it wasn’t that difficult to sew.  It’s tough to press the seams sharply with your iron on the low silk setting– my seam allowances don’t want to lie flat, and the seams aren’t quite as smooth as I would like.  Worst of all, after the dress was assembled, I serged the seams, and the seams got so puckery and wrinkly in the back that I almost gave up and threw out the whole project!  I’m still not sure what I did wrong– I checked the tension and tested it out on scraps of taffeta with no sign of trouble, but after I had serged everything, I noticed that the seams were all bunched up and uneven.  This didn’t happen to the seams in the front, or to the separate bottom band– wha?!  It looks OK when I press it like crazy, but after wearing for a little bit (read: minutes), it wrinkles up and looks terrible.  Ugh!  Any suggestions for what I could do to fix it?  I’m planning to just rip out all the seams and restitch them, but since I’m not really sure what went wrong the first time, I’m not sure what I should avoid the next time around!  I wish the copy of Claire Shaeffer’s Fabric Sewing Guide that I ordered on Oona‘s suggestion was here already– I have a feeling it will help to clarify what’s wrong.

I can’t believe I’m showing you guys this horror. Every part of me wants to delete this picture, only look at myself from the front, and pretend like this sh*tshow isn’t happening behind me!

The dress is fully lined with silk crepe de chine, which feels amazing, but it’s a complete bear to cut and sew.  I spent FOREVER cutting out the pieces, and I have no idea if they’re on grain or not as the fabric kept shifting and wiggling, even with tissue paper and pattern weights to stabilize it.  But it feels great against the skin and is nice and light– perfect for lining a summer dress!

As far as the pattern goes, I really like how this turned out.  Everything went together smoothly and I didn’t have to make any adjustments other than lengthening the dress by 2″ (this sucker is short!).  I really should have raised the armscyes, but I didn’t notice how low they were in the muslin stage (whoops!) and I didn’t want the dress to be any shorter, so I didn’t raise it at the shoulders.  I may go back and add a little wedge of fabric under the arms.  Ha!  I guess this dress isn’t a finished object after all!

I wanted to add a little more of the contrast color to this dress, so I drafted a bottom band.  It’s really simple to do, but I would be happy to explain it in greater detail if anyone is interested.

Blast from the Past!

Heeeeeyooooooo!  How’s everybody doin’?  It feels like we’re really into summer now– how did that happen?

I think I mentioned it in my last post, but we’re moving to a new apartment this month (hoping to be totally into the new place by the end of this weekend!), so I’ve been packing and packing and digging through mountains of crap, annnnnd look what I found (no, I’m not talking about the giant bottle of vodka that went missing a few years ago… although I found that, too!)!

This quilt is a crime against humanity.

It’s baby’s first quilt!  Have I ever mentioned that my mom is good at everything?  I grew up watching her quilt, and every once in a while she used to try to teach me (that, and, oh, basically every other handicraft).  This was my feeble attempt at quilting.  It’s mostly finished, but there are chalk lines still on the fabric that I was supposed to stitch and never got around to.  I don’t really remember, but I’m sure that my mom did the bulk of the work on this thing.  Also, how much do you love the weird color scheme?  There are some mustard-y stains on this thing, which is weird, since I definitely never used it.  Blech!

But that’s not all!  Look what else I found!

My first embroidery project (also unfinished)!  It’s a dresser scarf, which is perfect if you need something to collect dust on top of your dresser.  Sigh.  It’s a little sad running into proof of your childhood’s attention span difficulties.

See the perforations in the bottom right corner of this picture?  You’re supposed to crochet lace around the edges of this using those holes (I’m not really sure how that works as I never progressed that far with my crochet skills, either). It’s actually kinda cute– I wish I had the patience to finish the embroidery!  Dresser scarves aren’t really my cup of tea, but they do make me think of my grandmother.  She always had them all around her house.

How are all your projects going?  There are so many fun sewalongs happening right now! Are any of you guys doing Sunni’s 2-in-1 Sewalong?  I really wish I was, but I’m a bit too overcommitted right now.  I’m going to live vicariously through your wrap and shirt dresses!  Are any of you guys joining in on the Hazel dress sewalong right now?  I wasn’t planning to, since I’m trying not to buy new patterns right now, but my sister sent me the PDF as a gift (thanks, sis!!) and I’m using stashed fabric, so that’s a win-win!  My muslin fit surprisingly well right off the bat– I just had to shorten the bust darts and fiddle with the straps a teensy bit.  In other news, I decided to use the Summer Spark Sewalong as the impetus to finish my Iris shorts.  I broke down and enlisted some professional help with the fitting process by taking a private sewing lesson.  Kimberli from The Sewing Studio was super helpful and kind (she’s got tons of experience, so if you have any problems you could use some expert assistance with, take a lesson from her!), and I think we have most of the kinks worked out in the muslin.  Sadly, I had to pack up my sewing stuff tonight, so it could be a few days before things are back to normal and I can start sewing again.  But I’m champing at the bit and can barely wait to finish the dress and the shorts!

Hope you’re all well!  I apologize in advance– I’m not sure when we’ll have the internet up and running in the new place, so if I’m not checking your blogs as regularly over the next little while, please forgive me.  I’ll be excited to see what you’re up to when I’m back online!

Workin’ On It: Iris Shorts

Hi, friends!  I hope you’re all well!  I’ve been having so much fun reading your comments on the Colette giveaway post (and I can’t wait to draw a winner!)!

So cute... but so tiny. 😦

Guys.  The Iris shorts have been soooo fun to put together!  I’ve been working on a muslin in every spare moment after work, and they were really looking cute!  I attached the waistband last night and… they’re way too tight to close around my waist!!  Waaaayyyy too tight.  I started muttering about the pattern drafting and stomping around the house until, just for fun, I decided to measure my waist AND… turns out I’ve added about 1 1/2″ inches to my waistline since I last measured myself.  NOOOOOOOOOO!  I guess it’s a relief that the error is on my end and not the pattern’s, but… I guess I will have to quit eating so many bagels!  So sad (I’d be lying if I said I didn’t shed a tear or two last night…).

So yeah.  I’ll be cutting out a new muslin in a larger size (just to make sure it fits!).  And word to the wise, gals– bust out that tape measure every time you start a new project!

What are you guys working on?  Any fun weekend plans?  I’ll be frantically writing tonight for my last class tomorrow, then revising like crazy for my showcase Sunday evening, so I won’t have too much time to work on the shorts.  But I should have lots more free time after this weekend!