Archive for September, 2007

Daily Work

I like the idea of house dresses.  Not the kind the mother of one of my roommates wore, you know, those short-sleeved, gathered-to-a-yoke, snap-front, old-lady kind, but the spiffy kind they wore in the fifties.  Something to throw on and do your housework or run to the market and still look pretty.

I was looking through my grandmother’s old Workbasket magazines from the early 50’s, and came across this ad for mailorder patterns.  All the dresses in the ad were  house dresses.


I particularly like the little schematic to show you how the dress is put together.  The dress shown closeup below is my favorite, maybe because of the checked fabric and the rickrack trim.  Note that the dresses have the very useful large pockets.


The dress below is more frilly, and looks fitted but is made like a muumuu but belted to the back.  It might be possible to take a modern or retro muumuu pattern and sew in the front darts to hold the belt, and put the frills at the armholes. 

Yesterday my sister, daughter, niece,  sister-in-law, and I went to San Francisco to look for fabric.  We ended up with some nice batik, some printed cotton knit, and a few lengths of shirting fabric for me.  I was mostly looking for some heavier cotton knit fabric to make shirts for the daughter, but couldn’t find any.  To that end, today I went over to Hancock Fabrics in the next county and found some knit and some fabric for next year’s summer jumpers.  Pictures to follow after the fabric comes out of the washing machine.

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Over the years I have found several binders full of recipe clippings at yard sales and church sales.  The clippings from the 40’s and 50’s are especially interesting to look at with their colorful graphics and art work.  When my lovely elderly neighbor lady died, her daughters gave her binders to me, and we searched them in vain for the recipe for the wonderful divinity she used to give us every Christmas.  She must have had the recipe memorized or it was a regular recipe transformed by some special skill of her own.  I am now also the owner of the ancient crumbling binder of recipes that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  I love this volume because not only are there old clippings, but most of the recipes are in her own handwritting or typed in by her.  Most are recipes for cakes, tortes, and desserts, with very little attention paid to main dishes or veggies.  I think she pretty much knew how to cook meat and vegetables and did not need recipes for that.  She was from the Midwest, so there is a heavy emphasis on tortes.  Here is the recipe for an interesting one she got from a friend named Stella:

Marshmallow Ice Box Cake

Melt: 1 # Marshmallows & 1 cup milk in double boiler.  Cool.  Fold in 1 Pt. heavy cream, whipped & 1 Pint strawberries, cut.

Put in a torte pan lined with crumbs made of:  22 graham crackers, rolled, 1/4 # butter melted.

Refrigerate overnight.

Or:  Use 1/2 c. milk & 1/2 c. orange juice.  Fold in chopped pecans instead of strawberries.

What is a torte pan, I wonder?  Maybe a springform pan.

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Thread Hangers

It is no secret that I love my cone thread, but it was difficult to store.  I already have lots of thread on thread racks in the sewing room and there is just no room for another rack.  I had the cones in several shoe boxes stuffed into the corner shelf room in my room, but I had to move a lot of things out of the way to get to them.  Then, this week I read a letter somewhere (maybe Threads magazine) in which the writer described her method of using pants hangers to store the cones.   I went right out and got some nice hangers and now my cones are readily accessible and pretty to look at.


Here are a dozen cones loaded onto one hanger.


Here they are hanging in the closet.


 These are my other threads hanging from the storage cabinet doors in the sewing room.

 The shirt I am making is nearly complete.  I have the sleeves in and the collar on, just have a few seams and buttons to finish up.

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Old Cookbooks

Here are two of my favorite old cookbooks.  The first one solves the problem of what to do with leftover yolks or leftover whites.  Half the pages are white, and half the pages are yellow.  If you bake a lot, like I do, this problem will occur from time to time and it is handy having all the recipe solutions in one place.   The book dates to the late fifties but there are listings for it on ebay and other places.  I picked my copy up at the library booksale recently.


I really like recipe booklets from the WWII era with their ideas on working around rationing and shortages.  The Heinz Recipe Book is my favorite.  It contains a recipe for cooked salad dressing, something not often made these days but which was common in the days before widespread availability of commercial mayonnaise.  I have tinkered with the recipe over the years because I use it mixed half and half with mayo for salad dressings and such in order to cut down the fat content.  Here is my version:


1 tsp sugar or to taste

1 tsp salt

1 tsp prepared mustard

1 1/2 Tablespoons flour (all-purpose)

1 egg

3/4 cup milk

2 – 4 T vinegar  depending on how zippy you like it (I use apple cider vinegar)

1 T butter (I use Smart Balance margarine)

Large dash of Turmeric

Dash of Onion Powder

1. Blend sugar, salt, mustard & flour

2. Add egg, then beat until smooth

3. Add milk, mixing well, then vinegar slowly, stirring constantly.  Stir in turmeric and onion powder.

4. Cook over boiling water, stirring constantly, until thick.  I skip the over boiling water part and cook it in a teflon saucepan with constant stirring and attention.  So far so good.

5.  Remove from heat and add the butter.  Stir in.

6. Cover, cool, and store.

I mix this half and half with mayonnaise for potato salad and other savory salads.  The original recipe called for more sugar and no spices so I think you could tinker with it for fruit salads.  Also, my family is used to a somewhat vinegary potato salad, so adjust to taste.


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Another Green Shirt


I just finished another T-shirt for A in Simplicity 3759.  I really like this pattern, easy to sew and very flattering.


One of my favorite old books is this Butterick Dressmaking book from 1916.  It has chapters to explain the markings on the old patterns and some very good sewing instruction.


This picture is not the best, but you can see that the book explains construction details, in this case a cuff.  The next picture shows a pattern front for a ‘waist’.



I am glad we do not have to wear voluminous petticoats anymore, but they were certainly pretty.  I still have a length of hand embroidered lace that used to grace just such a petticoat for my grandmother.  If it ever turns up in the sewing room, I will take a picture of it.


Right now I am doing ‘paper’ sewing.   Most of the patterns you buy nowadays have multiple sizes, so I trace off the size I need onto butcher paper.  I bought a huge roll of paper at the restaurant supply store and use it for patterns.  It is strong and takes ink well.

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Sewing Again

I have started a new T-shirt top for A, but it is so hot here that I can only sit down to sew for a short time.  I also have to get started on the huge cache of fabric sample books that are stacked up in the family room.  They used to be stored in my old bedroom at my dad’s house, but during a recent cleanup there, I took them back.  I have plans to cut out the samples, which are about 15 ” x 18″ each, and sew them into a curtain for my bedroom closet.  The closet used to have sliding metal doors, which my daughter removed last summer when I was complaining about how hard it was to get to my clothes.  Since said daughter has made a beautiful quilt for our bed out of said fabric samples, if I make a curtain for the closet opening, it will match the quilt.


 This is the quilt my daughter made for her dorm room, also out of my fabric samples, and my quilt looks very similar.  Because they are all decorator and upholstery fabrics, they wear very well.

So while I haven’t been sewing much, and won’t until the weather cools off some, I have been scouting around the thrift shops.  I went back to the shop that had the great standing lamp that would make a terrific stand for my future dressform, and I checked to see if the cranky lady was at the front desk.  No, she was not, only a nice looking older man.  I approached him about the lamp and what I would be willing to pay, and lucky me, I got it for half price.  Now I just have to make the dressform some day when the girls are here to tape me into it.  Later this month I am going to be taking a fitting class at the adult ed, and I am looking forward to that.  I have decided to work on two blouse patterns, because it would be nice to have a blouse that fits correctly across the shoulders.

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