The Sewist

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Little Black Dress.

Apparently Betty Boop has one. Do you? If so, how often do you wear it? One inquiring mind (me) wants to know. Click here to take the survey! I'll keep the poll open through Aug. 28, when I'll close it. Which brings me to another bit of news: I'll be the guest blogger at Unbeige, starting tomorrow (8/24). I'll be posting there thrice daily until 9/8. That means I won't be posting here because I'll be so busy over at Unbeige. Not to worry - I'll continue to snap Seen on The Street pictures, but I won't upload them until 9/11 (I just realized that's the anniversary of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Sorry!). In any event, I could use some company over at Unbeige. Feel free to visit and leave a comment or two! And if you're visiting from Unbeige, hello and welcome!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Survey Results #4:
Y'All Are Ahead of Me!

Ninety-four of you responded to my surveymonkey poll. Thank you so much for taking time away from your super-busy lives to answer my most important question: When will you start knitting gifts for the holidays in December? A little more than 40 percent of you said you've already started. Nearly 14 percent said you'd start next month and about 18 percent of you will begin working those knitting needles in earnest in October. Furthermore, at least 6.4 percent of you will make your gifts at the last minute (Hurrah for presents stitched at the eleventh hour!) and 23.4 percent of you filled the fascinating (at least for me) field. This was my favorite response: "I don't plan to knit for the holidays. I am tired of embarrassing myself with UFOs. If something gets done, great. If not, who's to know?" As for me, I keep thinking I'd like to learn how to knit socks. That way I could make something for my seven brothers for Christmas. Since this knitting survey is now closed, anybody have anything to add to this conversation?

Monday, August 21, 2006

Sew What?
Survey Results #3

It's hard to believe we had really hot weather just two weeks ago. It was so hot...I could barely move. All the ceiling fans were to set spin hot air to the nether regions of my apartment. Everytime I got up from my chair, the cushion tried to follow, sticking to my butt. The sewing machine sat on my wood drop-leaf table looking very forlorn, the removable tray filled with bobbins sitting on the window ledge, waiting for some ACTION. I unfortunately couldn't bring myself to sit in front of my machine. Instead I worked on a crocheted cotton skirt from the Stitch N Bitch Happy Hooker.

Even though I ditched stitching on my machine, I was curious to see if other sewists felt the same way. I think y'all were too hot to even respond to my survey. I only had 22 respondents, a stark contrast to more than 100 people who filled out my now-closed hat survey. Anyhow, I asked how many of you sewed when the temperature is above 90 degrees fahrenheit.
Most of you (40.9 percent) continue to sew even if it's hotter than heck. "It's hotter than that a lot where I live," one sewer told me. Still another sewist says she/he sews six days a week. But I had to wonder about the respondent who told me "Everyday. I live in Brazil." Somehow I envision a sewist sitting in front of a sewing machine in a beachfront home, the window curtains dancing with the sea breeze She can see the thong-bikinied (is that a word?) women frolicking outside in the sand. With a wipe of the brow, she turns up the tango music playing on the radio. Then she sits down to lay in another row of stitching on her dress for tomorrow night's milonga....

Friday, August 18, 2006

Retro Glamour

I bought these two vintage Crochet hat patterns from Vintage Cat. It was difficult not to purchase both, I'd seen them before on eBay where they've been snatched up in no time by hungry bidders. It's easy to see why. The Ginger Rogers look-a-like on the 1930s pattern looks beguiling in her topper. And the woman on the 1940s version looks incredibly glamourous in her broad-brimmed show-stopper. Wouldn't you know that hat is made from straw? I thought it was cotton yarn until I read the instructions. Straw is a bit challenging to crochet with. I was trying to make a bag with it last year and the straw rebelled like a child hellbent on going to Kiddie Land - curling every which way. I could not to get it to lay flat. I wasn't sorry when I accidentally lost the purse-in-progress on the way to the train. I'd try crocheting with straw because I think it might be easier to work with for a hat. And "Ginger" in her hat (which is called "Manhattan")? It's crocheted in "Tweed Gimp." Now, I actually have some vintage gimp, but it's pale pink, not Tweed. I'm not too keen to see it on my head though, where it might look like I'm on my way to a wedding. On second thought, I might like it more with the proper antique flowers and grosgrain ribbon. Here are some contemporary sources of gimp.
As for the straw, I've seen some at Knitting Workshop. How many of you have knitted or crocheted with straw or gimp?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

On the Streets...
Grant Park Redux

These are the aforementioned promised shots leftover from The Apartment showing on Tuesday night. I had to make my close-up picture of the young girl with the bandana nice and large so if you look closely, you'll see she's got buttons on the bandana. How clever is that? And she looks so happy - I love her ear-to-ear grin...could she possibly be thrilled she's off work? That she's managed not to step in the Canadian geese poop littering the entire park grounds? Who knows. I wish could smile like that. I'm not sure her dress is vintage, it's hard to tell. But her tall friend's gauzy gown is most definitely 1950s. And it's got teeny-tiny polka dots on it. I'm a sucker for polka dots, so I find this dress most adorable. How often do you wear polka dots? Or do you find it too silly for daytime wear?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On The Streets...Grant Park
This girl and her three like-minded friends were dressed in lovely vintage dresses. I especially like this 1960-era pale blue dress. You can't see it too well here, but she's got a matching headband. Her hair is properly casual so she doesn't resemble a movie extra looking for work. And the shoes! They're not what you would expect at all, but make the whole outfit so what you would not at the Movie in the Park (according to my very informal survey, 99.99 percent of the crowd wore t-shirts) Still I have to wonder if this girl and her pals went the vintage route so they could capture some of classy clothes vibe of the movie that was shown: The Apartment (1960) directed by Billy Wilder with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. (I'll show her friends' attire in a bit). How often do you see people wearing vintage garb where you live? It's not often here in Chicago, sad to say....

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Seen On the Streets...
Division Street in Wicker Park

Monday, August 14, 2006

For the Love
of Cowboy Hats

Until I saw the hat sitting on author Debbier Stoller's head (pictured left) in real life at Arcadia Knitting I had no real interest in cowboy hats. I loved the sophisication of my fedoras, cocktail hats and caps. But a cowboy hat? I don't live in the Wild West, and I most certainly don't ride horses on a regular basis. So, no cowboy hat, thank you.

But then I saw this hat crocheted in white yarn at Arcadia. Suddenly I wanted to make one. I had vintage hat wire for the brim, all I needed was some yarn, a crochet hook, and a little cockiness to whip up this adorable topper in no time. All this cowboy hat love got me snapping pictures of women wearing the real McCoys. The one in the middle was photographed yesterday in Wicker Park, the other at the Evanston Farmers' Market. Once I finish my crocheted skirt from Stoller's book, it's onto the hat in white. Or maybe red. Or purple? Who knows until I start yarn shopping? What color would you make this hat if you were so inclined?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Hot Momma!

More photos from Stitches Midwest. I swear I have the best meetings coming in and out of the bathroom. Not just at this show, but in life in general. I think I should just park myself near the ladies' room everywhere I go, and I'll make all the right connections to be successful in life. This lady was leaving the abovementioned room as I was arriving. I oohed and aahed over her sweater. After the following exchange - "Did you make that???" "Yes, I made that." "Can I take your picture?" - I played the shutterbug, and snapped away. I got her business card: Dana Bridger Hurt, knitwear designer. I promptly visited her web site when I returned home. It turns out she was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines and learned how to knit when she was 8. How cool is that? I don't think I even approached the sewing machine at that age. I was too busy with macrame...

Saturday, August 12, 2006


I like this wrap top. I think it's the combination of the argyle and all those fall colors. I like how it's funked up on the cover of WrapStyle with an earflap hat because that's precisely how I'd wear it too. And a pair of well loved jeans! This particular argyle wrap top on the left was knitted up by the ladies at Mosaic Yarn Studio in Des Plaines, Ill. They also had this scrumptious shawl above knitted in Blueberry. It was already sold out, so I put my name on a waiting list. Now I'm a blueberry aficionado, so I figure this would be appropriate attire for raiding the freezer and eating all those frozen blue orbs just like I used to do as a kid. Then I'd have teeth to match my shawl. Ha ha.

Seen On the Street...
Rosemont L stop

This guy was on his way o work, dressed oh so cute in a Target cap, Bellagio glasses and a nicely faded but new t-shirt from South Beach in Miami, Florida. How is that at least three Chicago men I've photographed wearing hats have bought them at Target? What is it about those toppers from that store that makes them so appealing? I'm guessing it's the unbeatable prices combined with the cool designs. Here's the link to the hats section on the Target web site. Just ignore the baseball caps, and tell me what you think. One inquiring mind wants to know!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Survey Results!

In my second survey, I asked How Often Do you Wear A Cocktail Hat? More than 100 of you responded to my one-question survey. It turns out 3.7 percent of you wear one once a month, 9.3 percent wear a cocktail hat once every six months, and 18.5 percent only wear one once a year. Slightly more than 70 percent of you selected What Is A Cocktail Hat? as your response. I'm not sure if y'all were getting back at me for having a limited selection of responses. (There were a total of four choices) or if you really didn't know.

I honestly believe most educated adults know what a cocktail hat is, even if they can't articulate it. They instinctively know what one is when they see one. I think I've known what one is ever since I picked up Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines and read them on the sly in the library as a teenager. In the spirit of fairness, I could see how some adults wouldn't know what a cocktail hat is. They aren't worn often anymore.
For those not familiar with this type of a topper, I searched online for a dictionary definition of a cocktail hat. The closest I came to finding one is this. If I get more time I will check Valerie Steele's Enclopedia of Clothing and Fashion at the library. Cocktail, as an adjective, means it's suitable for wear on semiformal occasions. That doesn't tell me very much. I mean you could wear a cowboy hat to an evening soiree. Does that make a cowboy hat a cocktail hat? No way! I like what Carolyn Busch, owner of Fino Fino, has to say about cocktail hats. She says the cocktail hat was called such because it was usually worn in the evening. It is simultaneously seductive, romantic, and feminine, as Busch says.

How would you define a cocktail hat? Tell me about the very first cocktail hat you can remember.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

the Shoe
The Man

Here is a clue: this fella painted his black Chuck Taylors white.

Monday, August 07, 2006

More Chucks...

Chuck Taylor Extravaganza

Overheard on the dance floor before the dj turned up the volume on Bei Mir Bist du Schön by the Andrews Sisters:
Blackie (B): Hey, want to do dance?
Red (R) : Sure.
(The two pairs start to do a six-count lindy hop.)
B: I'm Blackie by the way. What's your name?
R: I'm Red.
B: Come here a lot?
R: While, I'm new here. I just escaped from Payless last week. I finally have a life outside of a box!
B: I was at Famous Footwear for seemed like the longest time. I hated those sales people. And all those fat people trying me on!
R: Me too. I thought my seams were going to rip and then I'd be tossed in the garbage can before my time!
B: So you're new to dancing.
R: Not too new. I've been to Big City Swing. The dance instructors there are so nice. They don't step on you too much.
B: I hear ya. Say, you know High-Tops over there?
(B points one of his shoe-ties to a pair of faded navy Chucks on the dj spinning CDs).
R: Not really well. High-Tops is an amazing dancer. She's danced with Frankie Manning! I think she's also danced with Snazzy Whites over there. He does the most amazing slides and spins. I think his soles might be chromed. There's no way he can do all those moves on this sticky floor.
B: We should tell High-Tops to throw down some talc on the floor for better traction.
R: Good idea! I'll ask her after the break.
(Conversation gets drowned out after the dj cranks up the volume.)

Saturday, August 05, 2006

This is the kind of breezy summer dress that's so easy to dress up or down. You could slip on a bolero jacket to take it inside a movie theater or big leather belt to make it even more casual ala Sienna Miller. What are the summer whites in your wardrobe? I've just finished a peasant top in an Anne Klein eyelet. Unfortunately, it's been hot to wear it just yet! You can see a picture of it here.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Smocking It

My apologies for this small image. It doesn't show the detail at all on this exquisite 1940s-era Misses' blouse pattern. For greater detail, click here.
This size 16 pattern is just $12 at I already own this particular pattern, so when I saw it again at the Woodlandfarmsantiques site, I began to wonder again: Should I give smocking a shot? I mean I've never ever tried it. Those smocked children's dresses always looked too intimidating, like they take 300 days to complete.
Then again I wouldn't make an embroidered frock for a child. If I'm going to do any kind of time-consuming hand-stitching, I'm going to do it for the person who will appreciate it the most: me. Besides, most of the patterns are too frou-frou for my taste. I wouldn't want to inflict that on any child even if those patterns are considered classic or heirloom. Most children I know who wear these smocked dresses only don them for special occasions and tear them off at the first chance for a t-shirt and shorts or something else more comfortable.

Enough of that. Back to the pattern. I'd make a short-sleeved version of it in a purty chartreuse chiffon with a flaming fuschia thread for the embroidery. The reverse, chartreuse stitching on pink, would be cute too. And I think it's a great starter pattern for some simple stitching. Just two small parts of the bodice. Easy-peasy. Right? I might prick a finger or two at most - what's a little blood for great art? How many of you like do smocking on your garments - either for yourself or loved ones? Do you do it by hand or by machine? One inquiring mind wants to know.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

You Like Me,
You Really,
Really Like Me (I think)

I'm just paraphrasing Sally Fields when she accepted her Oscar ™. I'm just thrilled y'all are coming to visit my site and I want thanks all 30 respondents for taking my first survey!

Most of you (40 percent) found out about The Sewist from another source, but lots of you (36.7 percent) discovered this blog through a referral from another site. About fifty-four percent of you have your Internet connection through a cable modem (I just got rid of mine for a cheaper DSL connection, but I digress). Nearly 67 percent of you said you haven't used the information on this site yet (that's promising though!).
Anyhow, getting back to business. I thought I'd post this lovely picture of vintage 1930s shoes I purchased at vintage show in Oak Park more than a year ago. Whatcha think? I adore the springy colors.