Thursday, May 26, 2016

Lost dress categories

As I was folding my laundry this morning, one of the garments I didn't fold was a simple dress that needed to be ironed. As I looked at the dress
I realized that my reading entirely too many vintage sewing books made me categorize the dress as a "wash dress".

When I first came across the term wash dress I had mistakenly thought it was a dress one wore to do laundry. As I saw the term more often I came to realize that a wash dress is one that washes easily and can be ironed simply. A dress with no tricky parts to iron in those pre-spandex days was called a wash dress. Again and again I found dress drafts for dresses and night gowns that were praised for how easy they were to iron. The blue dress in the photo above is a wash dress because once you remove the belt you can just lay it flat and iron it is under five minutes.

There are other dress categories that no longer exist.
Afternoon dress
This is a dress that you might wear to a dressed up event in the afternoon. Often they  were sheer dresses worn over solid colored full slips. Afternoon dresses are sort of similar to today's cocktail dresses. You saw this term from the 1930's though the early 1960's. An afternoon dress is a later iteration of the tea dress worn by a woman as she served tea to her visitors.The dresses were developed in the 1700's so women could have a few hours freed from their corsets. The dresses were meant to be worn loose, uncorseted but still proper enough to wear with company around.

Porch dress
In the early part of the last century one did the hard physical labor of running a household, laundry, washing the floor and the like in the early part of the day.After you did the gross and sweaty work, you would change your dress and put on a nicer dress to sit on the porch and either visit with friends as they passed by or do things like peel vegetables as you sat on your porch. You could look presentable and visit. Porch dresses were in particular made  for young women of marriageable age.I have seen this term used mostly in the 1920's and 30's.

Patio dress
Clearly this term is found only in the 1950's and 60's the great patio era.  A patio dress might be a cotton halter dress with a bandanna print, something a bit festive but still casual. It's the dress one might wear to host a casual back yard party. 

Our lives are simpler now in many ways. Advancement in textile technology means that lycra and knitwear make ironing less of an issue. I am one of the few people I know who irons regularly  Advances in washing machines mean that getting a "good" dress dirty is less of an issue than it was in the past.  many of the rules about what is appropriate to wear at which moment of the day have relaxed as well. 

Hostess gown
This is the evening version of a tea gown. It was a dress meant to be worn sans girdle by a woman giving a dinner party.These seemed to have developed during WWII when servants were harder for middle class and upper middle class families to hire. If your hostess was also cooking and serving the meal, it made it easier to be a charming hostess if she had a bit of freedom of movement as she served. Some of these dresses were  bathrobe /evening gown hybrids, some tended to pull from he language of "exotic' clothing like kimonos and kaftans, some played off of the language of glam pajamas.

But here I am, typing this post as I wear a wash dress, a sibling of the dress pictures above.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

A walk home

from a sewing lesson.

At first I thought that I would just take photos of water towers as I walked home.

But then as I walked up Broadway, the glimpses of the setting sun at each cross street was too compelling to continue looking at the water towers.

The buildings on the east side of Broadway glowed from the setting sun.

As I walked the color of the sky intensified. I stood in the middle of the crosswalk to get these shots. 

Luckily no cars ran the red light as I was taking these photos.

Little bits of sewing

Navah is one of the few people here in New York who knows me from childhood. She and her husband were several years younger than my parents. They were the cool grownups in my childhood memories. 
I am wearing the blindingly white tights, Navah is wearing a cool peasant inspired maxi dress 

Navah has been needle pointing tallit bags for her husband, her son and her grandchildren. I would guess that the first of the bags was in the planning stages when the above photo was taken.( This was the great hey-day of needlepoint. My own adventures in needlepoint began right around this time.

 For the last several years I have been providing the lettering for Navah's tallit bags.

This time after completing her bag Navah asked me to also construct the bag. While I had done lots of needlepoint from the ages of 11 to 18 or so, finishing off needlepoint was not something I had done before.

I found several sites that explained how to finish the piece off and create the bag, they all seemed to suggest using piping. Making piping was also new to me.

I used heavy yarn as the filler for the piping and some suiting that I had made a skirt out of a few years ago as the outer fabric for the piping.Piping is actually a less terrifying enterprise than I had thought it would be. Here is the bag complete.
And here is another shot of the piping because I am so tickled that I could actually do it.

I also repaired and cleaned an ark curtain from my synagogue yesterday. The piece was designed and made about 25 years ago by two women I really admire, one of whom was my calligraphy teacher, and was made in memory of a dear friend.

The piece is problematic in a variety of ways. there were some tears that needed to be fixed and it was quite filthy.

I figured that I would clean the piece by putting it in my dryer with a damp towel. The schmutz all ends up on the towel and the piece ends up clean.

I first did the mending that had to get done.

I discovered much to my chagrin that there wasn't quite enough seam allowance between the underlay and overlay of the appliqued  Ultrasuede. I did the best that I could. i also noticed that the sewing machine that was used to sew this piece HATED working with Ultrasuede. There were lots of skipped stitches.

The piece is now hanging up in it's place. I can say that it is clean. I am not so happy with the results. I weighted the piece a bit and perhaps the magic of gravity will do it's job.

I also have had a dress itching my my head for the past couple of months.. I had purchased a cool Missoni type knit that was mused by the dress designer Shoshannah. I wanted to make it into a dress.

I got a little playful during the process and ended up with this.
I think I had seen some Missoni dresses that played with the directions of the knit. I may add a bit more to the short side of the hem.

It's one of those dresses that sits on the fence between looking cool and arty and a crazy mess.   I will see what it feels like on.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Food Friday- we do need to eat around here

Roasted Brussels sprouts make me regret all of my decades of Brussels Sprouts hate. These are cooked in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Herbes de Provence and lots of freshly ground black pepper. There are also some mushrooms tossed in the pan. 

This ugly looking stuff in a bowl is magic in the form of sour dough. My friend Alan is serious about creating an actual sour dough. My version, is as one might expect, a little less exact. When I make a bread dough I leave part of it to hang out in the fridge as a sloppy wet dough. I have been pulling out some to do my weekday baking and adding a bit more water and flour to the bowl that stays in the fridge. It bubbles and grows and has been the leavening agent for three batches of bread this week,

I have been loving the best bread baking flour ever.
We purchased it in the frum market in Boro Park.I love how it is packaged in a plain brown paper bag. it has tons of gluten and creates a nice muscular dough.

I did add a smidge (less than 1/2 a teaspoon) of yeast to this batch of challah dough. Alan, ever the wise teacher reminded me that the oil and the extra sweetening in challah make the rise a bit too much work for just the sour dough starter, so the yeast is necessary.

And from ugly beginnings one gets...

We are eating beef tonight. A coffee and spice rub keeps in the juices.
The charcoal like lumps of flesh are now sliced and warming in a mustard and maple sauce.
Tonight's guest is a cousin from one of the branches of the family we didn't speak to for decades. Emily is moving upstate from Brooklyn.  Last night Emily asked me a question that sent me down the genealogical research rabbit hole. Emily had asked me for the address where her grandmother and my mother lived in Brooklyn so she could visit the ancestral home before she moved.

Emily's question spurred me to look up some documents that I had never seen before. That was a gift because we now know the name of my great grandmother's mother, I also revisited some other documents and some bits of the past are now hanging together with far more clarity.

Emily also helped me to understand how my grandparents could  met, they lived a couple of blocks from one another on the Lower East Side. They also may have been relatives but I am on my way to figuring out exactly how. As always this sort of research always raises more questions than it answers. 

Before Passover every square inch of my fridge was accounted for. I forced that poor fridge to take in much more food than it was ever designed to hold. Since Passover ended my fridge has become a cavernous thing that has mostly been empty. 

While it has been nice to admire all of that spare cold real estate, the reality is that with kid #3 home from college it was time to get back to Costco and fill those empty larders.

I had asked my youngest to come with. He graciously agreed. I was about to hail a taxi to get us there quickly but my son suggested that we walk. Yesterday was a gorgeous day. It seemed like a great way to spend time with my son. On our way to the park we passed the beautifully planted NYCHA project. 

The projects are at their best during the fall and the spring. No I am not being ironic when I talk about the beauty of the projects. They have the best stand of tress outside of the parks.

Walking through Central Park made the mundane task of buying groceries into something quite special.

 My son really didn't want to be photographed so I have just a sliver of him here so you know that I am not making this whole adventure up.

Central Park is not actual nature left to it's own devices but was designed as an artifice to give pleasure to city residents.

Here is a little waterfall.The northern end of the park is deliberately a bit wild. It feels like you are miles from the city even though the nearest avenue is just a few minutes away walking. We had to direct two different tourists during our walk.

Marsh-grass always reminds me of home.

The park was created to create charming things to look at. 

It succeeds in the mission. 

We got out of the park at Malcolm X Blvd and 110th Street and then continued our way both north and east until we got to Costco.

Our larder is now full.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Out of my wheelhouse

Ella goes to my shul. She is a terrific sensible and funny kid.  I made her tallit for her bat-mitzvah, and when she was younger I repaired her beloved stuffed bunny.

Ella is graduating from high school in a few weeks. She is going to two proms and is attending a family wedding. Ella fell in love with a dress on Etsy. The seller asked that the buyers send their measurements in because the dress would be made to measure. Ella asked me to help her take her measurements. I did. 

The dress Ella wanted came in a rose print on ivory chiffon. It was no longer available. Ella chose a celadon green instead. 

A few weeks later, the dress arrived. Ella's mom got in touch with me. She asked me if I  could make the dress work.

The color wasn't celadon, but more of a dreary grey. I have seen exactly that color of grey on the faces of people with terminal cancer. The color was depressing and the fit was really off. The neckline stood far away from Ella's body showing much too much skin and looking dowdy at the same time

My first task was to play with the fit of the bodice. My alteration skills are what my son's special ed teachers used to describe as "developing".  I hid gathers that pulled the bodice towards the body.

Once I had improved the fit, we then had to address the unfortunate color. Ella and I discussed sever possible options. She loved the idea of adding faceted glass beads in bronze to the neckline. I thought that a bit of a darker color close to Ella's skin would help matters a great deal.

I put Ella to work stringing the beads and then I sewed the beads to the neckline. Once that task was complete the dress was less bleak but still to depressed to wear to a prom.

Ella came over this afternoon for our next work session.

She loved the idea of hot-melt crystals. We attached a bunch, but then Ella asked if we could also use the teeny gold sequins she had seen in my stash. All of the bits of glimmer helped a whole lot.

One thing that really bothered me about the dress was that the waistband was just a little too skimpy and out of proportion. I MacIvered a gold sash out of some pleated gold fabric. Ella had been lobbying for a ruffle so more of the gold fabric was turned into a ruffle.

Ella needed a big blingy necklace to wear with the dress and I had just the thing.

Weirdly all of the bling that we added and the necklace seem to make the dress read as greenish rather than just death grey.

Yes, the dress does need to be professionally pressed. But it is better, lots better than it was. The dress looks particularly beautiful in low light when the crystals and the sequins bounce the light back to the viewer.

Friday, May 13, 2016

It's my birthday!!!

And my sons cooked dinner. 

So I'm not posting about what I'm cooking. 

Yesterday our sainted cleaning lady (She puts up with the fact that we are messy with grace) brought me these beautiful roses.
When I went into the kitchen this morning to make my coffee, I saw that my husband (so NOT a morning person) had gotten up early and bought me these wonderful flowers.
I have been having a delightful day full of greetings thanks to the joys of social media, from the boy who sat next to me in first grade, from my friend Rachel who I met when I was three, from relatives that were on the "good list" my whole life and even from the relatives that we didn't speak to for decades. I have loved how technology has made it easy to feel love from across the years and from all over the world. I am so glad to be living right now.

My college buddy Curtis asked for proof of my age and I offer it in the form of these photos.
I do remember being jealous that my older sisters could sport pigtails. I was wearing the dreaded pixi cut, adored by mothers, hated by their daughters.

I remember wearing every garment in the photo except for my plaid shorts,

The stroller photo was taken in Rockport. My sisters in their adorable sun-suits embroidered with vegetables and embellished with blue rickrack. I am in a gender neutral vaguely nautical sun-suit. I don't have any actual memories of being in the stroller. I do have memories of looking at the photo as a small child and remembering that I had fond feelings towards that stroller.