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  1. Sewing Redux: Simplicity 1590 & 3688

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    Why the hell doesn't Simplicity come up with nicer names for their patterns other than a bunch of boring numbers? Anyway, I digress.

    Finally, here is a redux of my latest two sewing ventures: a forties peplum blouse (1590) and skirt (3688), both Simplicity reprints.

    First up, the skirt. I am IN LOVE with this skirt. I wear it at least every other day. Being in between the sizes of Simplicity I chose to make a 14, but regretted it as it was 3 inches too big. I took in the waist but it's STILL a little too big. Oy vey! Neither these photos nor the pattern art above really does it justice.

    Other than the sizing, this skirt is perfect. It was so easy to sew up, has lovely seaming and I even deviated from the pattern to add pockets, including a pocket on the side zipper with a little Instagram advice from Naomi of Arthelia's Attic.

    The only thing I would do differently on the next one (oh, and there will be a next one!) is to not chicken out on the side fastening and do a button & hole instead of a T-bar (in fact, I find that I love button holes and may never make anything with a snap or zipper again). I used a lightweight suiting in navy and it has a lovely all-season wear. So far this is my favourite me-made wardrobe item and the most worn.

    Next up is the peplum blouse, which was the antithesis of the navy skirt, unfortunately. I'm chalking it up to trying too many new things at once, including:

    • slippery and unforgiving fabric (which shows up terribly in photos, by the way)
    • peplum
    • buttonholes (which I love, but still, it's new)
    • collars 
    I think any one of these challenges would have been fine on its own, but as a combination it was a very trying time trying to get everything on the straight and narrow.

    That peplum reaaaally got me. I should have just ignored the wording of the pattern instructions and  looked at the picture instead. It's still not 100% right - it's definitely too high up - but I can't fix it without all the ripping out showing, as you can see below.

    Also, I bit the bullet and sewed this one as a 12 instead of a 14, and it fits perfectly (if I wear a garter belt) but it makes the ties useless. The ties also highlight the fact that the peplum is sewn on too high. You can also see the snags from ripping out in this photo. Since the ties are attached on the inside I may just take them out. 

    The collar was also a big pain in the rear. Since it was my first time making a collar I got confused and actually sewed the shoulders shut without attaching the collar in between, so it was just hanging there by its basting. So once I figured out that it had to go in between, I had to do MORE ripping out (the 'ole Clover really got a workout this time around) and stitching. I think the collar is a bit too short in the back, which causes some curling of the collar. 

    I do, however, really like the buttons and buttonholes. The original pattern calls for a little bow tie too, but after I made it and held it up, I really didn't like the way it looked and left it out. I can't stand things buttoned high on my short neck (speaking of which, the pattern also called for another button, can you believe it?).

    The buttonholes were a challenge, but I'm really proud of myself. I was practicing the buttonholes and the last part of my buttonholer was just doing lazy zig-zags instead of matching the first part, so I ended up drawing the buttonholes on and manually machine stitching them. It took me 16 tries to get the perfect formula, but now I'm not scared of buttonholes anymore!

    Nothing much to say here other than I love these buttons. I think it's funny that I picked blue buttons for this blouse when my latest knitting project is also blue and dark red (and white). 

    I also declined to do a narrow hem because it was waaaay too finicky with the slippery stuff, so I did a catch hem by hand instead while bingeing on Downton Abbey. I'm also excited to sew something with set-in sleeves for my next project, as I've realized that the first two blouses I've done were kimono sleeves. 

    Well, that's all I have to say on this one! I really like the blouse and will wear it, because it's still wearable despite all of the little things I pointed out, plus no one on the street would really notice anyway. Have you made either of these garments? What were your experiences like?

    PS - thanks to my darling Ian for the photos! It was -9 (15.8 to Americans) when we were out taking these photos, and it was a wee bit chilly. 

  2. Wardrobe goals for 2014

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

    Lately I've been inspired by Tasha and Rochelle when they examined how they want to expand their wardrobes for 2014 and their sewing goals for 2014, so I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and make some goals for myself!

    More blouses
    I have plenty of winter skirts and summer dresses, but one thing I do lack all year round are some good ole blouses. I am currently sewing a 1940s button-up collared peplum top (first time doing buttonholes, collars and peplums, all in a slippery, unforgiving fabric too. WHY, PAST LAURIE, WHY?!) and have a few more tops I'd like to tackle at my sewing table:

    I've made the skirt from this group and wear it ALL THE TIME, so I want to make the blouse that goes with too.

    Do you have any blouse pattern suggestions for me? I am having a hard time finding structured blouse patterns. All of the ones I seem to find are too....well, blousey. I like ones that will accentuate my waist.

    Buy more shoes
    Yes, this is actually a goal of mine. As much as I LOVE shoes, I don't have a lot of them and the ones I do have I wear to death (I am terrified of the day that my beloved Mary Jane heels bite the dust). And when I do buy shoes, I tend to buy them cheaply (even though I know that they won't support my high arches) because I am so rough on them.
    The last time I bought new, not-on-sale shoes were my wedding shoes (and I can't wait to wear the hell out of them come November 9!)  and before that I think it was my winter boots (which were cheap because they are fashionable and unlined). There are definitely some holes in my shoe wardrobe, so on my shoe wish list for 2014:

    Warm winter boots: Sorel's Cate the Great
    I am totally going to wait until these are on sale at the end of season because even though they will last me for a decade I am still frugal. They aren't the most vintage-looking boot out there, but damn it, they're gorgeous! These would be great for snowshoeing, hiking and playing with the dog.

    This is actually knocked off the list today thanks to Brittany's Instagram sale! The ones I bought from her need a little love, but I am so excited to have some to call my very own for those days when I need to wear boots but want to wear heels.

    Sandals: Salt Water Sandals
    So this is the awkward moment where I admit that I only own one pair of sandals. For just $40, I will rectify that this spring with these beauties! I may actually splurge and get *two*.

    Icing shoes: Baylee by BAIT
    These are pretty much the most gorgeous shoes I've ever seen. In fact, I wish that I had seen them before I bought my BAIT wedding shoes (that said, I am hoping my bridesmaid with size 8 feet will snatch them up to wear :D). White shoes will only be practical for a very short time, but who cares. They're amazing and I am definitely keeping an eye on BAIT's website in hopes they go on sale.

    More accessories
    I love vintage statement accessories, but again my collection is woefully lacking. I especially love novelty brooches, and here's a few I'd love to bring into the fold.

    Another key accessory I need to invest in this year is a new pair of 1940s appropriate glasses. I don't really have anything that fits the Forties bill, and I really need to get my eyes checked. As soon as that happens, I can't wait to embrace my four-eyedness. I love wearing glasses and I think it's a great way to finish off a look, but now that my style is more 40s than 50s, I don't wear my cat eyes as often (not to mention the fact that the prescription needs updating).

    Well that's some of my wardrobe goals for this year. Do you have anything you want (or need) to add to your 2014 wardrobe?

  3. Good riddance 2013!

    Thursday, January 2, 2014

    Honestly, I am really not sad to see 2013.

    While it was a great year in some aspects - like getting engaged, working on paying off debt and some new blogging opportunities - it really sucked in others - like losing my job, losing friends and losing interest in things I love.

    I've felt very stifled and stuck in a rut lately, and I'm hoping a new year can bring a refreshed outlook on life. As one is wont to do at this time of year, I'm taking some time to regroup and take a look at what I want to focus on in 2014.

    Write more, write better

    I want to do more and better blogging, and expand my vintage/history writing to other websites, magazines and companies.

    I only posted 54 blogs in 2013, compared to 88 in the first year of Retro Reporter. While I always argue quality over quantity, I don't think my heart has been into blogging lately, and it makes me sad because I love blogging, vintage and history more than anything! I want to do it MORE but feel like I never have time, but I know I need to make time.

    I'm also struggling with compensation for blogging. While I blog here for myself and my readers, it does take time to write, take photos etc and when I do that for outside companies (either in my space or theirs) I would like to see something in return, but at the same time I don't want to feel like I'm a money grubber.  I also want to expand Retro Reporter and bring in guest bloggers of my own, but I want to compensate them - even though I make only a few cents a month via Google Ads.

    I also want to explore other writing/photography freelance opportunities, but again I have no idea where to start. I really struggle with putting myself out there and selling my talents and I know that needs to change. I already have a few ideas of what I'd like to do, which includes combining my talents with my hubby-to-be's. So stay tuned!


    I am sure this is a goal I set every year but I always seem to do good on it, so it's in there again.

    Relax: Aside from the usual medical stuff - going to the dentist, getting my eyes checked, getting a physical etc etc. - I also want to take more time to relax and do things that make me relaxed, even if it's something like doing the dishes, because I know when the dishes start to stack up I get twitchy.  

    #3goodthings: I also want to start doing the #3goodthings challenge on Instagram, where I post about what 3 good things happened that day (pretty self explanatory). I plan on getting an agenda to write in every night and post photos of my good things so I also have a hard copy to reflect on at the end of the year as well as a digital gratitude post. I'm conflicted on doing this because on one hand it's good to reflect on the good, but I don't want to be one of those people with a "my life is perfect" online persona, so expect lots of silver linings (For example, yesterday I hit a snowbank in my own driveway AND cracked my bumper getting out of said snowbank, but at least I met my new neighbour who helped me get out of trouble!)

    Lifeguarding & Teaching: I've gotten the ball rolling on getting re-certified as a lifeguard and swimming teacher. I used to do both when I was in high school, but never transferred my teaching awards to Alberta or kept up with my lifeguarding, which I really regret as it's something that would have come in handy when I was laid off.

    I don't plan to quit my job and start teaching as soon as I'm re-certified, but it is nice to have the option, especially for when I start having kids. Plus, is it ever a bad thing to know how to save someone's life? Probably not.

    Stop drinking: Now before anyone (especially my mom) freaks out and thinks I'm a closet alcoholic - I'm not. I probably averaged two drinks a week.  I just don't like the kind of person I can become when I drink. I get sleepy, which makes me grumpy, which makes me argumentative, which makes me depressed. Sometimes that doesn't happen, but most of the time it does. It's not stopping me from going out and having fun, plus I can always ensure that I'm the DD for friends. It will also save money in the long run. 

    My last drink (that I recall - it's the last one that shows up on my bank statement anyway) was a celebratory gin and tonic after the City and Memory heritage symposium this fall. Like I said, I didn't drink a lot so I haven't noticed a big difference, but I certainly do miss having a gin and tonic after work to unwind, or a Caesar with friends (luckily I've found the perfect way of asking for a virgin Caesar: with a shot of water to thin it out) but I hope that will fade in time. Instead I have a nice tea, or a pop or some sparkling juice. 
    I'm still on the fence about whether or not I will have champagne at the wedding, at least for toasts. Part of me is like "It's your wedding, live a little!" but the other part a) doesn't want to fall off the wagon and b) knows my tolerance will be so low at that point that I'll just fall over. 

    Save wisely, spend wisely

    Money has become quite the theme on this blog, so I have a number of goals under this one.

    Frugality : Being a vintage girl I am proud to say that the majority of my clothes are second hand. If I do buy new clothing, it's rarely full price (the last thing I remember paying full price for is my wedding shoes in August in Vegas) - it would either be on sale and something I've wanted for a while or as compensation for blogging.
    Now I want to expand that mindset to other things. Want a new food processor, or $200 winter boots or a vacation? We need to put that money away AHEAD of time instead of paying it (and interest!) off after. I've learned that the hard way (and my debt isn't that bad compared to some people's) and I'm not interested in continuing on that road.

    Less Waste: I want Ian and I to reduce our waste drastically in 2014. We already recycle heavily (he is a B.C. boy after all) and use reusable containers, so my goal is geared towards food waste. Primarily I want us to stop buying food that we don't eat (or make sure we eat all our food) and stop throwing out food scraps, and instead compost (we have a big compost bin in the backyard that we don't even use). I'm unsure about how the compost one will go, since we'd need another bin (we have so many bins in our kitchen) and I think it will attract our garbage loving cats and dog. Any suggestions?

    Start saving for a downpayment: As I mentioned previously I am well on my way to having my portion of the wedding saved up for, but instead of stoping my savings plan, I'm going to continue to save for our downpayment on top of my TFSA.
    I've created a payment plan so I would be credit card debt free by next December, but I'm already four months ahead of that plan, which means I can save even more money! Ideally Ian and I would like to have $25K for a downpayment and we already have $10K, so it would take me 37 months ($7,500 / $200 a month) to save up my half. BUT that $200 is based on still having credit card debt to pay off; once it's done I can split my monthly payment between the downpayment and my student loan or car loan.

    Give What I Can

    Money: I've always budgeted in my Mint for charitable contributions, but I've rarely actually doled that cash out unless I'm explicitly asked by someone on behalf of a charity. No more! I created a spreadsheet of 12 charities that are close to my heart and attached a month to them so on each first of the month I can just go into the spreadsheet and go donate (like a bill, but with tax deductible warm fuzzies after)

    Time: I also want to start giving my time, especially when I can incorporate my skills, like knitting or teaching others to knit, writing, photography, etc. The possibilities are endless! If anyone reading this works for a non-profit and thinks they can use my skills, please get in touch!

    Blood: I am a big believer in donating blood. Not only do I know a few people who have had blood transfusions, I am also a rare blood type - O+ (for those who don't know, that means I can only receive O+ or O- blood, but anyone who is Rh+  can receive my blood).
    This has nothing to do with blood, but it's just so damn weird that I had to share.
    Giving blood is relatively quick and painless if you are a healthy donor, and can be done every 56 days, meaning you can give 6 times a year! There are also very, very few health risks for donors - I happen to get a little woozy when I donate, but I think it's the fact that I get so nervous (I'm not particularly fond of needles) that I am going to faint that I almost faint. Winner, right here.

    SO there is my long-winded photo-less first post of 2014. Have you made resolutions?