The Sewist

I sew, knit and crochet hats. (Not all at the same time. Whaddaya think I am - a machine?)

Thursday, June 29, 2006


Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In The Loop

Friday, June 23, 2006

The cap

Don't be alarmed by the deadly gazed on the palefaced-mannequin. This is the cap I mentioned in yesterday's post. I think that this topper is a wee bit big for the mannequin. Notice too how the brim is level with the eyes. It makes for an eery effect. Personally I would have hidden the eyes while photographing this cap. Besides, aren't hats (or caps) supposed to be a little mysterious? Perhaps that's why this cap has yet to sell. Yet it has potential! It looks like it's in mint condition, no fading or holes.

If you buy it, make sure it fits and then wear it a jaunty angle, tilting over one eye. Then watch the compliments fly...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

We Have Recommendations For You

Even if you're an infrequent visitor to, you'll know that this mega-bookseller always, always has suggestions on what books to buy based on what you previously looked at on the site. So if you Vintage Knitting for Dummies, they'll suggest you might like Miniature Trains for Dummies. (By the way, I made those titles up, they don't really exist to my knowledge). Now People Magazine has gotten into the "if you like this, you might like that" act. In one of its latest issues, the rag suggested that readers might like unknown Brad Pitt look-a-like if they like the real McCoy.

I just don't buy the notion that if you like the way one thing or person looks, you'll like something very similar. I mean really. If your husband has a twin, and Heaven forbid something happens to your hubby, does that mean you and the twin (assuming he's single) are going to hit off? No way! Too many variables.

Which brings me to caps, which is what you see a lot of women wearing these days, including this girl waiting on the L platform recently. This particular cap (not a hat, mind you) is embellished with little appliques. With and People Magazine in mind, does that mean this girl in the picture would like Eugenia Kim's hats? "The Marissa" resembles her cap. Or that she might like this cute vintage 1940s red felt cap at Woodland Farms Antiques? No and no. My point is that just because you like one cap doesn't mean you'll like another. Everybody's taste is unique. Some people like new caps, and avoid vintage ones like they're pimply boys with colds. Others are willing and adventuresome enough to wear both (not at the same time - though that would be interesting to see.)

By the way, the red cap (which has a great self-fabric bow) has been sitting on the Internet shelf for at least a year. While it resembles a hunting hat, I think this cap would be striking with a pair of brown boots and a denim skirt come fall. Just think - you can buy that hat now and be ready when the leaves fall! If not, I've got other recommendations for you....

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Once More With Feeling

Also in Evanston, this teenager wears her black bubble skirt almost as a uniform. It's so much better than a pair of denim shorts. I mean if you're going to do some shopping like her, why not dress up a little? This teen even matches her flip flops to her skirt. I'm impressed!

Just so you know, I don't think bubble skirts are strictly for teenagers and Saturday shopping. I think with the right shoes and top, it can go downtown, even to work. Click Here for a grown-up version of the skirt some people love to hate. If you'd like to try your hand at duplicating this skirt (I might) check out this review.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


Talk about practical! This girl was dressed for a night-time event in the middle of a hot, humid day at Custer's Last Stand, a local festival. Still she managed to be the epitome of cool elegance with the deep v-neckline, the chunky white necklace, the black jersey dress and white sandals. She was browsing among the vintage dresses in the background. I can't imagine she found anything better than what she had on.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Rogers Park

You wouldn't guess it, but this dress is from a chain store in St. Petersburg, Russia. You can't see the detail here, but it had sequins and raw edges, making it quite contemporary. This girl wore the dress with copper sandals and necklaces. It was the perfect outfit for a hot summer day.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Signature Style

I was desperately wanting to reference this book yesterday while I was writing my post about the woman wearing the scarf outside the Loop. I just knew author Veronique Vienne had something clever to say about scarves in her book, "French Style: How to Think, Shop and Dress Like A French Woman." It had been a few years since I read this book, but I was right. There it was on page 87.
"Think of your scarf as your handwriting. Like the punctuation in a sentence, a scarf emphasizes the important details. It should act as a comma, an exclamation point, a hyphen or a dash. Don't use it to cross T's and dot your I's. Keep it loose and spirited.

The scarf on the Loop girl, I think, was an exclamation point. It was a sapphire blue, much brighter than her dark denim skirt. I thought it looked sassy and sophisticated. I think Vienne could have appreciated this woman's style. How often do you wear scarves? And how do you wear them?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Outside the Loop

Perhaps it was a conscious choice or not, but I love how the self-belt on this woman's top is tied just like her scarf. It's a subtle touch to be sure, but it just brings a symmetry to this simple outfit that makes it pleasing to the eye. And the stretch denim skirt with the slit in the back is va-voom! You can't see it here, but the slit was ever so slightly torn in the back, which made it even more sexy, especially with those peep-toe sandals.

Friday, June 16, 2006

I think both of these bubble skirts rock. Get this - they're both Simplicity patterns! Mine's 4237. I stitched up in dreamy tornado sky blue and purple knit from Mood Fabrics in New York City. I lined it with a cheapo purple knit from Jo-Ann Fabrics. This skirt is just so comfortable to wear, perfect for those hot, humid summer days that are so common here in Chicago.
Still my heart yearns for the bubbly confection on this 1958 Simplicity pattern, which can be had on eBay for eight more hours. So hurry on up! It's a size 14, bust 34. I like the layering effect in the vintage version. You can see the woman's figure beneath the bubble. And the lace is so classy. I actually bought a sheer flowery knit to make another skirt, but somehow mine's not going to resemble the 1950s dress, but honestly, a deflated balloon. I still like mine, I still need a purply top to make the outfit sizzle.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Andersonville Midsommarfest Redux

This young woman is wearing a tie-skirt. I don't know the story behind it - if she made it or she found it in a thrift-store or if a friend did the work. But you know the skirt's a conversation piece in any event. She had a guy friend with her and he was dressed just as stylishly in his trench coat. They made quite the fashion statement in a sea of people wearing t-shirts, denim jeans and flip-flops.

From the moment I saw this sweater coat I knew a) it was hand-knitted b) that it was made from Noro yarn. And I was right on both accounts. I love sweater coats; I own several. They keep you warm, and they look fantastic with jeans. I'm not sure that this particular sweater coat is being worn the best way possible. I mean this woman likely spent at least a couple of hundred dollars on skeins of Noro yarn, which is not cheap. For that kind of money why not really show this coat off? Make it the Beyonce of the ensemble - the top, jeans, even the shoes should be the back-up singers.

As it is, the white t-shirt steals the show from the coat, and draws your eye to the white socks and the tan shoes. What a shame.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Andersonville Midsommarfest

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Last Rites

Suzanne paused to sip her Starbucks mocha frappacino to stare out the store window. She seemingly gazed past the Akilah and the Bee promotion plastered on the glass, past the pansies dancing in the flowerbox next to the parking meter.

“My mom has slept with pattern instructions in her hands for as long as I can remember,” she said after a moment. “ I can even recall going into her bedroom at age 5 and asking for a glass of water late at night. There she’d be, her eyes closed and directions tucked into between her fingers, a half-smile on her face.

“Later on in high school, I had to come and buss her after parties and dances. That way she’d know I was home. One night I came home a little tipsy. I debated whether or not I should give her the usual peck on the cheek. I decided to do a quick, closed mouth kiss so she couldn’t smell my breath and dash out of the bedroom, so she wouldn’t come looking for me in the wee hours of the morning.

“Well, as usual, mom had pattern unfolded on top of her blanket. When I kissed her, she awoke, startled. ‘Oh, no, Suzanne. You weren’t supposed to see this!’ I jumped back, not expecting her to awake. I thought for certain my mother could smell the Budweisers I had been drinking. She’d ground me for a week! I wouldn’t be able to go on my high school graduation trip! I wouldn’t be able to drive! I felt weak in the knees.

Instead of fully awaking, my mother simply stirred, grinned, looked at me and impishly tucked the pattern under her blanket. Wonder of wonders, she felt asleep again.

Boy, was I relieved! Off the hook, I looked at the pattern instructions again, I couldn’t tell what she was making for me. Then I saw the pattern envelope on the carpeting - it was a Butterick Wrap and Go skirt as worn by my favorite model Jayne Modean.

My mother did end up making the skirt in a gingham print from Calico Corners for my birthday. I pretended to be completely surprised. She told me she had the oddest dream while making it. She dreamed that I read her the directions in German (her parents’ native tongue) while she was cutting out the pattern. I just laughed nervously. I actually ended up wearing that skirt quite a bit. It was a great cover-up over my bathing suit when I worked as a lifeguard at Flick Park pool.

I still had to kiss her goodnight when I came home from college. After I got my first full-time job I moved out of the house. I’d teased my mom about her night-time ritual. ‘So, mom, got any good patterns on the nightstand?” She laughed, and rattle off all the projects she was working on - a robe for my dad, half-slips for herself, and curtains for the bathroom.

I never got into sewing the way she did when I got married. I liked to read paperback novels from the library instead. But I often thought of my mother as I nodded off.

Mom continued to sew even after dad died when he was 61. It was carthatic for her She’d stitch up shorts and tops for my children, costumes for the local theater programs. I remember she took quite a lot of pride in a 1920s flapper dress she made for an Agatha Christie production.

When she started showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s, my brother Billy and I decided to put her in an assisted living facility. She insisted on bringing her patterns, although she had stopped sewing. So I boxed up her patterns - Vogue Special Design, Kwik-Sew, Stretch N’Sew - all dating back as far as the 1960s. Off to Greenside Apartments, her new home, they went. While she didn’t use her Singer anymore, she still liked to talk about sewing with her new friends. And she still liked to sleep with a pattern. But housekeeping would often find them torn to bits on the floor the next day. That distressed me. I hope she wasn’t having bad dreams!

When she had a stroke a few years later, my brother and I disagreed about what to put in her casket. I wanted to put a pattern in her hands, so it would look like she was sleeping as I remembered her. But Billy thought that was disrespectful. He thought she should only have the traditional rosary. Besides, he was embarrassed. He was afraid of what his friends would think. I told him plenty of people get buried with their favorite objects - golf clubs, knitting needles, even baseball mitts. How different would a pattern be?

In the end, my mother was buried with a rosary laced around her fingers, her hands folded over a favorite pattern of mine (Simplicity 9973). Contrary to what Billy thought, so many people who attended the wake thought the pattern was a cool gesture. It was the talk of the wake.