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Jul 30, 2011

It's a Sign! or "Superstitious Sewing"

Readers, are you superstitious?  I'm not, I mean, not particularly.  But sometimes uncanny, synchronistic occurances do take place and who am I to say they aren't a sign from the great beyond and I don't mean the Bronx.

Not an hour ago I was heading home from the flea market, where I had gone to hunt for some last-minute trinkets for Cathy's strapless cocktail dress photo shoot -- I'm not sure when this photo shoot is going to take place, mind you; strapless or no, I don't think Cathy is up for temperatures in the upper eighties.

Anyway, after picking up a few baubles I'll share with you in a minute, just outside the flea market entrance, someone --  no doubt a flea market vendor -- had disposed of a moldy old Depression-era breakfront that looked to be missing a few drawers; truly a hunk of junk, just sitting there on the curb.  On the shelves were piles of -- I can think of no better word -- crap: everything from not particularly old brassieres to empty candy boxes.

Digging among the detritus -- I couldn't resist -- what did I discover but a vintage tulle petticoat!

I brought it home and took a closer look.  It was damp and a little dingy, but it had a Carolyn Schnurer label.

For those of you who don't recognize the name Carolyn Schnurer (I didn't), she was a contemporary of Claire McCardell and an important postwar designer based in New York City.  She designed the "Rice Bowl dress," which is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute collection.

She also designed some commercial sewing patterns, like this halter dress.

Something else really cool about this nylon petticoat is that safety-pinned to it is a piece of blue lace trim, undoubtedly the "something blue" a bride would have worn on her wedding day.

So now, superstitious friends, I ask you: just what do you think this all means?

a) I should hunker down and make a crinoline for Cathy's strapless cocktail dress given that I already have all the necessary materials to do so, and the pattern cries out for one.

b) I should disinfect this mildewy Carolyn Shnurer original and have Cathy wear that for her photo shoot.

c) Wedding bells are imminent for one -- or more -- of my beloved MPB followers!  Is it YOU?

Perhaps what you're really thinking is that I need to stop rooting around in the trash, and I should probably disinfect myself, and soon.  But seriously, don't you think it's odd I should find this tulle petticoat just now?  I mean, what's the probability?

Anyway, there's so much to tell about the cocktail dress that I think I'm going to have to break it up into two posts, so if you were hoping I was finally going to be talking about menswear this weekend, you're in for a disappointment and if you want to unsubscribe, I'll understand.

Before I left for vacation, I bought two yards of black grosgrain ribbon (seen here with a black flower I picked up in a beauty supply store for $1).

I hope you will agree that with the summery rose print, which has only a smidge of black in it, though there is some, the contrast is too severe.  Ix-nay on the ack-blay.

Yesterday I returned to Daytona trimming on 39th St., and bought green ribbon:

This might work for a box of Fanny Farmer chocolates, but I don't like it for Cathy.  I also bought pink ribbon, which I'll spare you (think Sandra Dee).  No, I think we're going to go with no ribbon.  Sorry, ribbon fans!

(I did find plenty of cheap, vintage bling at the flea market, however, so don't think my cousin will be unadorned. All this for $10!)

I also bought the correct size spiral steel boning for the front bodice (for a whopping 70 cents at Steinlauf & Stoller) -- a big improvement -- and hemmed for about three hours last night if you can believe it, and I'm still not finished, though nearly.  I'll have more construction details to share tomorrow.

In closing, friends, are you superstitious about your sewing, or anything else in your lives?  Are you constantly looking -- and finding -- signs that instruct you which color trim to use, fabric to buy, or person to marry?

Do you think it would behoove me to dig out my Magic 8 ball before going one step further with this project?  Is the truth staring me in the face but I'm unable to recognize it???  Yes?  No?  It is decidedly so!?

Have a great day, everybody -- and don't forget to heed those mysterious messages!


  1. Since you've already touched it, I doubt that Cathy will kick up a fuss. Clean it as best you can. Please leave on the little bit of blue ribbon. That's my favourite part to this tale. If you want to enhance the crinoline petticoat, add a fresh layer of tulle to give it more oomph.

    You do find the most amazing things.

  2. I agree with Tory, you should clean up and use the crinoline!

    I think you are over thinking. Just go with whatever feels right for your projects - that said, I'm surely not one to talk. I over think everything when it comes to my sewing and art!

    I agree with you on the ribbon, none of them look "right", but I LOVE the jewelry you found! I've said it before, I'm jealous that you live so close to so much great stuff. I like the quiet of the boondocks, but it stinks when it comes to shopping!

    Have a great day!

  3. What about wedding bells for YOU? Hmmmm?

    I like the black ribbon-glove-flower-shoes combo myself.

  4. First off I REALLY like the green ribbon. Second, disinfect the IS a sign...and a steal.

    I live my life in the belief that there is more going on then meets the eye. Quantum physics and all of that..small particle theory. I am a are a few blog posts about some significant 'signs' I have been given in the past few years.

    Looking forward to the photo shoot and off to do some hemming.

  5. Definitely use the newfound tulle! Love the green ribbon- Go for it!

  6. I don't sew on Sundays. It might be superstitious of me, but every single time I've done it, something goes horribly wrong and I end up spending more time ripping apart than sewing.

    Every. Single. Time.

    So I've given it up as a bad idea. Sunday is my day off from sewing now because experience has proven to me that I just shouldn't do it. Of course, my Danish grandmother's assertion that anything you sew on Sunday has to be picked out later with your nose doesn't help. ;)

    Ribbon aside, looks like you need some bow tying practice, Peter! I learned to tie perfect bows as a teenager. ;) Started with the 1/8 inch ribbon to do it, too....

  7. Disinfect and use that tulle petticoat. It is a Sign.

    I wish you could include a ribbon--I agree with your comment a few days ago that the design + fabric could use the accent. But you have to go with what you find.

    My best fiber synchronicity story: a couple of years ago it was time to get a new winter coat. The new coat is brown, while the old one was green and navy blue. I clearly needed a new scarf, the old scarf never looked right with it, so I would knit one once I found the right yarn. A few months later, for the November knitter's guild meeting, it was cold enough to break out the new coat and wear it for the first time. I won the door prize that evening--two skeins of a nice Merino wool, multicolored with a large component of the exact same brown as my new coat. If that isn't a message from the universe, I don't know what is.

  8. Maybe that blue lace trim is a sign that you should get married. I'm sure we would all enjoy the wedding tutorials... DIY dress or tuxedo...

  9. I agree with the NO on the black and green ribbons, even though it looks so pretty in the picture. Perhaps you have to be 16?
    I get signs from the universe all the time, which I have decided is really my right brain noticing stuff and bringing it to the attention of my left brain. I wonder if cream colored ribbon would work?

  10. Signs are all around us, it's up to us to pay attention!

    Sorry, but I disagree with eliminating the ribbon! I don't care either way - light or dark at this point - but it makes a statement that I think Cathy would love working.

    And since I've been at work 7 days a week lately (29 days in a row and counting...) I'm missing out on timely tending to my favorite blogs. Gotta comment on yesterday's question - God save us and help us from tacky banana hammocks, they are visually radioactive.

    Carry on....

  11. I thin the black with the rose looks amazing. That dress demands a petticoat, vintage or not.

  12. I love the vintage tulle. I would definitely use that. I've found that soaking in Dreft detergent really brightens up old things like that. It is made for getting yuck out of baby clothes. I will soak things for a couple of days in a bucket of Dreft and water. It is sold with the rest of the laundry detergent and comes in a pink box with a baby on front.

    I am so jealous of your flea market finds. No such luck finding anything that fabulous at a flea market around here.

  13. The black ribbon looks great on Cathy - or will look great on Cathy if that's not her in the photo - can't tell for sure.

    Lose the black gloves. The black ribbon makes the dress!

    Is Michael superstitious?

  14. I do think that wedding "blue" ribbon is a sign. Weddings? New York residents? What do you think it's a sign of? :-)

    From this distance, the black ribbon looks good, but in person it may be a whole different story.

  15. What DID you do with all of your time before you began to sew?

  16. I'm getting married four weeks today! I already have the 'something blue' - it's a thoughtfully integrated part of the underwear that I bought. The 'something borrowed' is currently the only issue that I have, but I can't say I'm majorly superstitious anyway.

    I'm even doing a bit of wedding sewing!

    PS. Yes, you live in New York! Maybe you should take the plunge. These pictures reduced me to tears while at work.

  17. A thinner black ribbon would be more in proportion to the amount of black in the print. Might be worth a try.

    I think the black ribbon adds a nice graphic element that would be missed if it were left out entirely.

  18. Oh yea...synchronistic experience...if your open to the Universe's voice you'll get one you need. How about a red ribbon with red rose or perhaps alittle lace around the top I think the bodice needs a little trim

  19. 1: disinfect!

    2: white ribbon!


  20. I vote yes on the ribbon trim. I think the black is very sophisticated. The pattern shows the lovely ladies wearing white gloves, not black...maybe you should give that combo a try??

  21. Love the dress, love the retro. Once Cathy has done her photo shoot, could you raise the hem to above the knee, cinch the green ribbon (or other colour) around her waist? I'd love to see you 'green' a garment.

  22. I agree with many of the others; the black ribbon makes the dress! And I love the black shoes also. I think it's the gloves that take it over the top. I would get white gloves, and stitch a band of black near the top.
    I also think that you should disinfect and use the crinoline! What a fabulous find! And the timing is interesting, considering that the Marriage Equality Act passed in New York just this week!

  23. Skip the ribbon, it's too much with a busy a pattern. Now when you make a solid floor length gown...

    Still cheering for a sheer bolero in a rose or claret. How flesh flattering would that be? Cathy is all about next season's colors, and vintage style. The jewelry you absconded with (only $10!?!) could be showcased smartly with a sheer short jacket.

    Even money she keeps the jewelry after the shoot. There's an undercurrent of shamelessness about Cathy Lane, and I can't be the only one who sees it.

  24. Is Cathy married? Is there something she is not telling you? Maybe she has a secret beau? I'm sure the tulle is a sign. Maybe you should keep it for her bridal gown?
    You should definitely make the crinoline. And what depth of pink ribbon did you try? I'm thinking a really dark, almost red ribbon might work. That shouldn't be too Sandra Dee. I don't mind the black, but agree that the black gloves are too much.

  25. Re: ribbon--if you have a red or fuschia that picks up the color of the floral print, try it out. I like the idea of the ribbon, but it's just not working with the green or black. I would also try placing it at the waist, since Cathy has a nice waist, and it would be a great place to highlight.

    Rose in SV

  26. No, I'm not superstitious but serendipitous things do sometimes happen. I think it's a sign for you to make a BIG crinoline. I like the black accessories/ribbon. That and a crinoline will give it extra oomph.

  27. I threw salt over my shoulder into somebody's face once. I'm a lot more careful with my superstitions these days.
    How about a dark pink ribbon? As dark or darker than the darkest roses? With a satin bolero in the same color? (Or did I say this once before/)

  28. I do like the ribbon, in both black and green, but it needs to be thinner and used as a trim around both the top of the bustier and the bottom of the skirt. And absolutely NO bow or flower!

    The petticoat is definitely a sign. Somebody needs to pop the question. As far as my personal belief in signs, I've noticed that my sewing goes well when a pattern and a fabric come together in my head. When I can't picture a finished product, my attempts to put something together end in disaster. Every time.

  29. Finding just the right thing in the thrift store, or on the street, happens to me all the time. I consider this to be a definite "sign" but don't know from whence it comes. I love it when it happens.
    Love the gown, with or without the ribbon. Maybe a darker green would have worked, but the jewelry will sparkle it up.
    Keep up the great blog. Just read yesterday's and the guy who took himself off the list must have no sense of humor. He can look at pattern books and GQ.

  30. I like the black ribbon, too. Dramatic. Although a red ribbon also might do the trick. Ixnay on the ovesglay, though. I enjoy the serendipitous but don't take it to the superstitious level. I hope it cools down for a Cathy photo shoot!

  31. I think the problem with the ribbon is the bow, not the ribbon. Maybe you should try a darker green. If she's going to be wearing the black shoes, then maybe you should go for the black ribbon.

  32. I will be honest, I actually don't like that particular floral print, and the ribbon is way too busy with the flowers. It needs accessories to tone it down. I think the dress in the pattern is lovely,it has a nice solid color with the ribbon accent.

    I love the design though.

  33. I thought this would be a good moment for you to add a British term to your thrifty lexicon, Peter: "skip" - the UK word for dumpster. It's so much more joyful! And foraging around for others' unconsidered cast-off trifles is more happily described in the UK as "skip-diving" than "dumpster-diving" over there, don't you think? Hope you like. ;)

  34. Lord, I don't know what this means but it's an awesome piece of history you've got there...


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