The day of the Book fair… and the floral dress.

To say that I have been looking forward to Canberra Lifeline’s bi-annual bookfair is an understatement- I adore this bookfair because I always manage to find an assortment of the unusual, eclectic, rare and interesting. In the past this has included vintage cookbooks (such as Fannie Farmer’s hefty tome), sewing resources and vintage everything-else.

Just in time… I finished McCalls pattern ┬áin the vintage floral fabric I recently picked up at a thrift shop. I was drawn to the 50s style pink roses, I don’t think the fabric is cotton, maybe a synthetic of some sort which frayed fairly easily. Fortunately the pattern construction utilised french seams and was very neatly finished on the inside (no pinking shears). I also used black satin bias binding.

Without further ado, I bring you the book fair dress which I plan to wear with a thick McCardell style belt for interest (though the design does have an elastic waist for at home and weekend-in-the-garden wear). Total construction time (over intervals of house work, child care and “life”) about 2 hours.


Darling husband and I joined the queue for the book fair an hour and a half before the book fair opened. All I can say is the enthusiasm was well worth it as I scored a first edition of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, the Burdastyle Sewing Handbook (all of which I had actively previously looked for or considered ordering online). I also succumbed and bought some of the Singer library sewing books which whilst they are not particularly “cool” seem very useful as a resource.

I think my favourite random find however was a Met Museum book “Jacqueline Kennedy: the White House Years”- if you enjoy vintage fashion or just fashion, you must locate this book! The pictures and prose are nothing short of awesome!Image

So very McCardellesque… and midcentury bakery

There is one universal truth that needs to be widely acknowledged: the “domestic goddess” is a myth and has been created by generations of advertising to keep us feeling guilty or striving to attain that not-a-hair-out-of-place apron clad image. With lipstick on.

I deduced this yesterday after chasing my beloved toddler around the house whilst he had whisk clenched between his teeth. And he ran gleefully. Managing to have dinner bought and ready to throw in the oven (a customised bought-at-store pizza) and wine- was a feat not dissimilar to the crossing of the Rubicon. And the whole time I felt horribly guilty that I hadn’t managed to do most of the things on my on-leave list. Though I really can’t complain as every moment with my son, whilst exhausting at times, has been an utter joy- lots of giggles, tickles, cuddles and laughing.


To assauge my guilty lousy-housewife feelings, I decided that today I would bake a 50s chocolate cake. I had read about a rather unusual recipe at the following midcentury cooking blog. Did I mention the mystery ingredient was tinned tomato soup?? Today, it seemed was the day, The trick was to mix everything and get it all in the oven before my husband even left for work.

choc cake

In the pan it doesn’t look any different from any other chocolate cake batter. I added the tomato soup last and didn’t notice any horrible horrible smells, though I admit I was hesitant to lick the batter from the spoon!

So, given my recent deduction about the myth of the Domestic Goddess, it really is o surprise that I love the fashion and style of Claire McCardell. McCardell, who is often considered as sort of anti-Dior was really doing what Dior was doing but in a different way- both designers wanted to make women look and feel beautiful. McCardell just pitched her designs at women in the home (if you haven’t ever seen the infamous Popover dress, here it is) while Dior was all about constructing the form with corsets and corselets in the ilk of his feminine ideal.

Who did women of the time really want to be? Did they want to be trying so hard to look like a swan with that serene, slightly disinterested gaze and wistful smile sported so often by the prolific and loved 50s model, Dovima? Or did they want to wake up in the morning, put the coffee on and feel somewhat NORMAL as they grabbed a go to dress that flattered them somewhat as they went through their day trying to sane with life’s demands? Well, as a time poor mummy, I obviously fall into the latter category. I often don’t have time to wear make up at home, I haven’t really done my nails since my son was born but I still enjoy clothes. I need easy wash, easy wear. This was so much of what McCardell was about and it seems her philosophy is still relevant today.

Today’s pattern is Vogue 5044, not a McCardell deisgn but almost identical to a dress that she produced in the 1953 which differed only be the inclusion of slash pockets at the hip (featured on page 110 of Yohannan and Nolf’s book “Claire McCardell: redefining Modernism”. The pattern was produced by Vogue in 1960, by which time McCardell’s designs had obviously had time to gel in the psyche of popular culture. I often thing that pattern companies tend to cater for interests rather than create the demand. But that theme is pretty consistent with other known published thesis on popular culture…

Anyway, enjoy. There is a cake coolling and a little boy who wants to play…!

Vogue 5044.. clean lines

Vogue 5044.. clean lines, version A mimics McCardell’s work

Sunday bathtime… a mummy blogs and a seamstress dreams

My son is having a bath. Thank you husband for bestowing me with this precious twenty minutes. I have after so many months been determined to blog… well here I am at last! I find so much inspiration in other sewing and vintage fashion blogs, its wonderful to be able to share some of my musings.

G shorts

It seems like the sewing projects have been moving pretty quickly, most probably because I am picking the quick and easy over the gorgeous and time consuming. I was particularly pleased with my last two completed projects: (1) a pair of Summer shorts (elasticised waist- yeah I said quick and easy) for Little prince, but honestly I really love how they worked out in this gorgeous remnant of Indonesian cotton; and (2) I made both versions A and E/F of new Look 6345 and version E/F (shorter length, no tabs) has become a staple go to of my mummy-on-the run wardrobe. I love that its feminine and floral and I can throw on a tshirt and wear it in flats or heels (for work). I was less enamoured with version A, though both fit comfortably below the waist. Definitely recommend version E/F, might make again…

skirt at Floradenew look 6245

Now I have a week’s leave ahead of me, (yee-haw)! Whilst I will be looking after Little Prince, I have three projects on the horizon (1) McCalls M6354, a simple Summer dress to make up in a retro rose cotton that I found for a song at a thrift shop (gorgeous gorgeous design); (2) New Look 6940 and (3) M6354 in a stylized Octopus print that I’d like to wear to my sons second birthday party in the top variation… (we are doing a pirate and princesses theme)… Oh, and I am making him another pair of shorts for his party in something suitably pirate-ish!

I have already started New Look 6940. I love the style which is reminiscent of the Seraphine dress that sold out after Kate Middleton wore it… the style is flattering and I have been so pleased with my progress with it that I hurried out today and bought some more stretchy knit in black, (the blue was a mystery fabric gift from fabricmart last year).

This is a particularly exciting garment for me because it is my first foray into the world of knits, which I admit I have been reluctant to dip my toe into! However, this pattern seems relatively fast and easy and I have really enjoyed playing around with my elna and its little discs (cams). For anyone who loves the elna SU and wants to try sewing with knits, CAM 142 does a beautiful job, particularly considering its not a serger- just don’t forget to do a tension swatch!

So.. what have you been sewing???

Inspired by Kate Middleton's Seraphine dress- made from a mystery knit I received from fabricmart in the US

Inspired by Kate Middleton’s Seraphine dress- made from a mystery knit I received from fabricmart in the US

For elna SU devotees, I used cam 142 (stretch knit stitch)... this image shows the seam on the wrong and right side... pretty pleased

For elna SU devotees, I used cam 142 (stretch knit stitch)… this image shows the seam on the wrong and right side… pretty pleased with the neat look on the “right” side

Next blog post, I shall continue my love affair with Claire McCardell fashion and style…