The Sewist

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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Got Gimp?
(And that's not Gump.)

We're not talking Forest Gump, but gimp, a rayon-covered crochet thread. You've seen it in purses. Compared to regular sewing thread, gimp looks thick and hearty. Like it wouldn't snap if you pulled on it. That's why it's such a great material for handbags and clutches which can get a lot of wear and tear. As much as you've seen gimp in accessories, you'd be hard-pressed to find it in a hand-craft store such as Michael's, Hobby Lobby even a Jo-Ann Superstore. It just isn't readily available to the home hobbyist. I've found my gimp (mostly the vintage variety) on eBay. Spools and spools of the stuff from the 1930s. Here's a contemporary source of the thread. Apparently you can dye it. I had no idea. I've made (and unmade) an 1930s purse from my gimp. It was really pretty, but I wasn't getting the gauge I wanted so I undid my work. It's still sitting in my closet waiting for another project. Next time I might try a hat, perhaps from a pattern such as the one above. It wouldn't long even though you're working with a small hook. Little projects like hats go quickly.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Erma in Ermine
in Uganda?

I couldn't resist the alliterative loveliness of this ermine cocktail hat. While it does look like the mannequin is wearing a huge Dunkin Donuts frosted sugar pastry tied on with a black velvet ribbon, I still like it. I'd wear this, although quite honestly, I think it might bobble or even fall off if I were attempt to dance in it. The reason I bring that up is swinglindy is the highest bidder at the moment for this cute topper. I cannot see anyone swing-dancing in this chapeau. Perhaps doing a modest foxtrot or even balboa but nothing with or dips or that little white fur baby will end up on the floor, getting dirty! I think this hat is better for watching dancing. I'd wear this hat with a sumptous matching winter white wool suit and matching platform shoes. Just so I don't look like a snowy playground I'd throw in some dark accents: black fishnet shoes and jewelry and perhaps black and white platforms. Of course, what would be really be hoot would be to wear this demure ensemble to a nightclub, then in the middle of the evening, shake off the jacket to reveal a very funny black and white t-shirt and start kicking up a storm on the dance floor (minus fur baby). Right now I'm fancying a retro-themed "Just One More Row" knitting tee from White Lies Designs.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Signed and Delivered:
An Easy Newsboy Cap

It always strikes me a bit ironic that you see hats with old-fashioned names or even occupations. Like this newsboy cap. When was the last time you even saw a boy delivering the newspaper? It's a been a long while for me. My brothers delivered the Chicago Tribune out of the side of the family van more than a few years ago. I cannot recall the exact attire they wore, but they most certainly did not wear anything like this. Not even an extra-large tip at Christmas time would have dissuaded them or my mom yelling, "You're going to catch a cold without a hat!" Boys, and men for that matter, do not respond to such idle threats. That's not to say this cute cap isn't worth wearing. I'd wear it. What I really like about it it how easy it would be to make. Something you could make in an afternoon out of whatever skeins of yarn in you've got in your stash. I'd do it, but I think I need to purchase this issue of Crochet Today. And I better do soon before it dissappears from the newsstands.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

In Search

I visited Hancock Fabrics yesterday to buy Vogue hat patterns, since there were $3.88 apiece, a bargain since they regularly sell for $20+. So I went with a list of patterns I really wanted, hoping and praying that there would be some for making hats. But when I checked the store's huge filing cabinets, there were NO Vogue hat patterns to be found. Not one. They were just cleared out. This frequently happens when there's a sale on Vogue Patterns. The ones for sewing chapeaux are gone faster than an old-fashioned Concorde jet taking off from O'Hare Airport. As popular as these instructions are, where are the finished hats in real-life? No where. I have a sneaky suspicion that members of the Red Hat Society are snapping up these hot commodities so regular folk who want to stitch cute cocktail hats and fedoras in other colors cannot, and that would include me. I wanted to make the adorable brimmed number (made in up in fuschia in the second image from the top). I guess I will have to wait until there's another sale. Next time I'm going to wait at the store door and make a mad dash for you-know-where the moment the price drops. But all is not lost: I managed to walk out of Hancock's with Vogue 2907 (Alice + Olive pants), Vogue 8307 (designer knock-off jacket) Very Easy Vogue 8278 (dress), and New Look 6571 (quickie assymetrical knit skirt). Those purchases should keep me happy for a while, don't you think?
(By the way, I won't be posting much in the next few days, since I will busy blogging over here for the week. Rest assured I will be moderating comments here at the Sewist (I actually figured how to do that last week, and released to the world more than a few kind remarks that had been hibernating for several months. Sorry about that. Please do continue to leave notes. I promise to get to them faster now.)

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Friday, February 16, 2007


In many offices across the world, the last day of the workweek is a casual one. Jeans, sneakers, and denim shirts are all allowed. Somehow, the office environment remains very serious, although the entire staff looks like they work at Ace Hardware. I wonder if attitudes would change considerably, if you were required to wear a hat on Friday? Not just a cap, but not a bonafide hat - a fedora, a cocktail hat or even something like the topper pictured above? Everyone would be laughing like they'd had a chocolate martini or two without imbibing an ounce of alcohol!
All kidding aside, I really do adore the '30s hat pictured above. It kind of reminds me of this one. I like how it's kind of pointy at the tip; it makes me think of a chapeau a gremlin might wear. It's even emerald green.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Don't Turn
Bad Stuff

It's a hard lesson to learn. I know. We've been taught since were like 36-months-old to organize our Legos, Lincoln Logs, and Crayola crayons and to throw away what we don't need or use. I'm all for being able to walk through my living room and not trip over boxes or toys or even my cat. Oh, that's right I don't have a feline anymore. Never mind. Anyhow, I've read and underlined key parts of David Allen's Getting Things Done, but if I followed his philosophy absolutely, I'd rarely get good stuff. David is all about editing and re-editing and ditching and forgoing stuff you're never going to use. If your best friend's Aunt Jeanine wanted to give all the sewing supplies she's acquired since she was 16, David might suggest saying, "Thanks, but no thanks."
But I'm not like that. If you want to give me your old Singer sewing machine, wood spools, tangled rickrack, even bad 1980s sewing patterns, I will take them. If you want to dump your old aquarium, Childcraft books, and tiny fake Christmas trees from years past, I will gladly accept those too because you just never know what gems lurk in the junk. I recently was given more knitting needles than I know what to do in this lifetime, but I found unused cable holders and a hairpin lace loom in the lot, things I might actually use at some point.
So if you have to form a conga line from your front door to the trash can besides the garage, graciously receive all donations. If you say "no" even once, that person won't give you stuff ever again. He or she will just think, "The Sewist? She turned down all those rubber stamps I tried to give her last year. She probably won't want these old hats."
So if you're wondering if I was given the hat pattern above, I wasn't. But I did get some similar freebies a few years ago, when I got to excavate a seamstress' estate before her belongings were sold in a sale.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Pillow Art

There was a time when I was nuts for embroidery. There was even a brief nano-second when I was so crazed for authentic 40s-era fabric that I was spend an embarrassing amount of time on eBay trolling for the stuff. Now I'm stuck with at least one unfinished, hand-stitched baby blanket that was supposed to be a gift for my sister's baby. That child is now two years old. Oops.
I also have quite the treasure trove of World War II fabrics that were going to be made up into playsuits and culotte dresses for swing-dancing. I'm still lindy-hopping, but those fabrics (especially one incredible tiger-lily rayon) are still sitting in boxes waiting for some ACTION.
Despite those unused acquisitions, I cannot resist eBay if only to look. So you can imagine this hat-themed pillow caught my eye because I love vintage chapeaux. At first I though it was an antique, but it's not. The artist used a Vogart-type pattern and hand-tinted the color; she must have dived into her quilting remnants for the applique. If I ever get around to finishing up the Depression-Era "Daisies Never Tell" pillow case I bought at an estate sale a couple of years ago, I swear I'll make my own pillow covering. First, I'd enlarge an image from a Dover Book on 1930s fashion. Then I'd ink the picture onto paper with a special transfer pen and iron that drawing onto linen. I'd unearth an old floral print from my stash, cut out a piece and adhere it to the textile with Steam-A-Seam.
Still with me? Then I'd scribble away with my Pentel Fabricfun Pastel Dye Sticks. I'd finish up on a Viking embroidery machine. If you ever do this, let me know!

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Monday, February 12, 2007


To put it mildly, I'm obsessed with vintage sweater dress patterns. I'm trolling eBay at all hours gazing at old knitting and crochet patterns from the 1940s through the 1970s. But not just any pattern will do, I'm just interested in dresses from those eras. Forget socks, cardigans, ponchos and scarves. Only full-body coverage will do. I'm sure this knit dress fixation has something to do with all the sub-zero temperatures we had this past week. I want stylish attire that stops the cold faster than a hot blast from a brick pizza oven. I'm tired of wearing quadruple layers of clothes that make me look like the Michelin Man. I'm a woman for heaven's sake! How can I look cute, warm and slim? The answer: a well-made knit wool dress. I'd still have to wear a slip and tights, but that's fine. At least I could move without feeling like I've got terry cloth towels swathed around my legs. I think this 1950 Minerva pattern fits the bill. Nice thick yarn, most certainly inpenetrable. See how the collar buttons up nicely? A frigid draft couldn't wiggle its way through that neckline even if it tried. And those ribbed pockets would be the perfect place to park my gloves. The skirt length also looks just about right. Long enough to cover the gams, but not graze salty sidewalks. What's more, the belt would remind me not to over-indulge in Ghirardelli's Hot Chocolate, Italian wedding soup or a frosty glass of beer. The hat with bows is a nice finishing touch although on a day colder than Barlow, Alaska, I might trade it in for something else.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

In Silhouette

Maybe you have a shadow portrait of yourself as a child somewhere in your plastic Container Store boxes. I know I do. I think it's from my pageboy era when I didn't mind having bangs and I did anything my mother asked and pictures were probably like $5 a piece. Anyhow, I was walking down Central Street in Evanston when I saw a sign for silhouette artist Sally Newcomb in the window. I was intrigued. Instantly, I had this image of myself sitting for Sally wearing a 1930s-era tyrolean hat that I bought at Silver Moon when it was located on Halsted Street in Chicago (it's now on North Avenue in Bucktown). What a cool cut-out (not cut-up) that would be! Then I conjured another image of myself in a magificent full-skirted 1950s dress and vampy stiletto shoes, looking like a graphic element on a pink-and-black powder puff box or a doo-wop album. I even thought of donning a contemporary earflap hat. As it is, I can't make up my mind. It's worst than a half-hour in front of the menu of favorite-restaurant-of-the-moment, Tre Kronor: the deep-dish smoked salmon quiche, French toast, Swedish pancakes or just a cup of clam chowder? It's hard to decide. That's why I need your help (not with the food, the attire for my appointment with Ms. Newcomb). Pretty please with turbinado sugar on top take this poll! (By the way, the sheet music pictured above can be found here.)

What shall I wear for my shadow portrait (also known as a silhouette)?
a 1930s tyrolean hat
a 1950s dress
Depression-era platform shoes
contemporary earflap hat
none of the above
all of the above
Free polls from

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


This cloche has a very Gatsby-esque look about it. I keep imagining a young Mia Farrow wearing this cloche, along with a dropped-waist chiffon dress and a pair of Mary Janes. I could also picture it with a delicate hair-pin lace blue and pink 1940s bed jacket, jeans and a pair of wedgies. As it is, this charming accessory is priced at $190. I'd have to think thrice before spending that on this hat even though it is lovely and it actually looks like it might fit, unlike many 1920s-era toppers that I find I swear were only worn by Tiny Tim's wife. What if I buy a reel of vintage horsehair trim? Couldn't I make a look-a-like chapeau on my sewing machine? Just drop the feed dogs, coil the trim, and straight-stitch away, right? Of course, you need a real hardy needle that won't break for this to work. Am I crazy for believing this is the hard part? Or is there an easier way to make a hat out of horsehair trim? Please tell me because I want to know. That way I can stock up on millinery knick-knacks on the next Midwest Vintage Clothing, Jewelry and Textile Show and Sale (Gosh, that was a mouthful. Worst than a tongue twister!). Here's another view. Check out the bows in the back. Makes you look good coming and going!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hat Check

It's hard to believe that it is below zero outside. The sun is shining, the sky clear and there's nary a snowflake in the air. Yet it's so cold gloves won't help you after a few minutes outside, the sparrows don't want to make small talk outside my window and I refuse to even think about taking down my Christmas tree or do laundry until the weather gets a little bit warmer. If I do have to step outdoors, I want to be wearing a beret like the one above, only in mohair. And I'd add a rabbit-fur scarf, maybe even a face mask, even if that looks a little scary.
But no earmuffs! That would look retarded, even if that's perhaps what Ugly Betty might wear on her way to work. If I need to wear something over my ears, I'd wear a cable bucket hat like the one below, although I think I'd need getting it off because my hands would be frozen. I'd feel like a 5-year-old asking for help but I wouldn't care as long as I'm inside a building where it's warmer than the Lincoln Park Conservatory and I could unthaw next to a radiator for a few minutes. What do you think? Which hat would you wear on a day so chilly even the polar bear swim club meet gets cancelled?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Cover Girl

Could the starbust on the side of Sienna Miller's cloche be a third eye? I think so. Whatever it is, the embellished hole is handy for sizing up paparazzi or looking for a cab on the sly. If she turned it around completely so the embellishment is opposite her nose, than Sienna could say she has an eye in the back of her head. In any event a hat like is perfect for those days when you don't feel like using Aveda's Pure Abundance Potion to pouf up your locks. Plop it on and go. As I studied this hat further, it occurred to me just how easy it would be recreate it. Find a felt hood at a millinery store online or do a fly-by into New York City and drop into Manny's. You wouldn't even have to block this baby. Just cut it into the proper shape. Whip out the BeDazzler and go crazy recreating Mrs. Sun and save yourself at least a million dollars! Besides, your chapeau will look much better and more original than the actress whose first name is either for a certain town in Italy or a yellowish-brown paint pigment.