Sew Americana 2019

It’s officially a tradition now: this is the third year I’ve participated in the Sew American Blog Tour, hosted by Wild + Wanderful!

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I love, love, love the 4th of July. So you don’t have to ask me twice to sew up a little something new to wear that’s red, white, and blue!

A few weeks ago, I tried out one of the new Patterns by Gertie (she just switched from the Butterick line to the Simplicity line, so this one of the first Simplicity patterns of hers), Simplicity 8873. It has a high, squared-neck and shoulder ties (the vintage inspiration for the dress came from a black dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Sabrina), and gathered skirt or circle skirt options.

Here was my first go at the pattern:

Simplicity 8873

I loved it.

It has four cup sizes included, so I feel like that helped in getting me a pretty darn good fit on the first try. It’s not perfect, but it is quite good. Also, I typically have to remove length between the shoulders and the high bust line, but I didn’t have to do that with this pattern because of the adjustable straps. Win.

This black and white version had the gathered skirt and no trim, so for my next go I wanted to try the trim version and the circle skirt. And I had the most absolutely perfect fabric on hand from Boho Fabrics! Check out the final result:

Simplicity 8873

Is this a dress for a 4th of July picnic, or what?!

Simplicity 8873

I will admit that it didn’t turn out exactly as I had envisioned. For some reason, I thought it was a flared skirt more like the Night and Day Dress, so I planned on doing some fun matching with the rows of checks along the center seam, to make that nice little chevron effect on the front center. . . except there is no center seam, which I discovered in my sleepy haze of cutting. The front is cut on the fold, for a circle skirt.

So, while I intended to cut the skirt panels on the bias, instead, I cut the bodice on the bias, which really does give a nice effect anyway. I love that about plaids, it’s fun to play with the bias.

Pause for fabric debate: Is it gingham, or is it plaid? You tell me! I really don’t know. Gingham is supposed to be just white and one contrasting color, but my fabric is three colors . . . but the symmetry and checks lends itself to gingham . . . additionally, a true plaid would have a more intricate design to it . . . I kinda want to call it gingham.

Sooo, yeah.

Here’s a close up on that ricrac that’s sewn in between the bodice and the facings, it’s such a fun touch!

Simplicity 8873

Add hat from Goodwill, and this vintage basket purse and I cannot wait for our annual 4th of July Party!

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to take a look at the other stops in the Sew Americana Blog Tour— these ladies blew it out of the water!



And, as for me, here’s what I’m up to lately:
Watching
: Jane the Virgin! We’re midway through the season! Thursday mornings are coffee, snuggles, and me watching last night’s episode!
Reading: I just finished the Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton. I’ve read all of hers and recommend her, but this one was probably my favorite of hers. Moving on to the Handmaiden’s Tale, simply because I don’t think I’ll ever have the chance to watch the show, but I do think the concept sounds like a good read.
Making/Sewing: I have one last Jane Set jumpsuit in my sewing room, waiting to be hemmed. It’s cowgirl themed, it’s way over the top, and I cannot wait to wear it this weekend at a car show!
Listening: I just finished the podcast Root of Evil. Very good and weird. I’m usually not a true crime podcast listener (because it makes me feel sad), but this one was done by the family of the probable killer of the Black Dahlia, and is about their whole family history over the past few generations since the murder. It’s out there. And not for listening when kids are around. I had to walk around with earbuds in all day.

Thanks for stopping!

xoxo,

Molly


Sew Me Another: Retro Swimsuit Inspiration

For a girl who doesn’t like getting her head wet, I’ve sewn and bought a lot of swimsuits over the past three years. Sixteen, to be exact. I Mari Kondo-ed them in January, so I know. That doesn’t even include my collection of vintage swimsuits. I have no idea what my problem is with swimwear. I think it’s the optimist in me. Because I spend 3/4 of the year freezing cold. Swimwear makes me think of sunshine and it makes me happy when skies are grey (which is a lot). I’m pretty lucky to live in a great spot for beach time— I have three beautiful options just minutes from my house, including Lake Superior. I speak for most Northlanders when I say being on Lake Superior in the summertime is the reason we put up with living on Lake Superior in the wintertime.

See, I digress already, dreaming about summer!

In my new suit.

The point is, I hate swimming, love swimwear, and am absolutely freaking obsessed with my newest swimsuit.

Boho Fabrics (shop here, FB group here), sent this adorable retro polka-dotted heart swim fabric my way, all bundled with the elastic and lining too. I always jump at an opportunity to sew swim, but when I saw these hearts, I had to have them.

Queue my anxiety over choosing the perfect retro pattern to do the hearts justice.

I knew right off the bat that the Hello Sailor swim bottoms, from Patterns for Pirates, would be a perfect match. They’re high-waisted, and I’ve sewn them plenty of times, so I know they’re a good fit. I’ve done the basic, color-blocked, and skirted versions, but had never done the rouched option.

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Better do the rouched option this time. ;)

The top is what gave me grief. I couldn’t find a pattern I liked. One that was retro enough and that I liked enough to spend money on. The Bombshell Swimsuit pattern from Closet Case Patterns was recommended to me A LOT, so I’ll pass that rec on to you, but it wasn’t what I wanted for this one.

Finally, I came across Simplicity 1426.

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If you’ve followed my sewing, you know that paper patterns from the Big 4 are not really my thing. If you know about vintage swimsuits, you know that this pattern was actually drafted for cotton wovens. But, it was the only thing I could find that I liked, so I went for it! It’s a pattern that’s been out for a long time, so I’ve seen it a lot, especially view C (because how cute is that one?!). I decided to do view A, which is what she’s wearing in the picture.

Simplicity 1426 is a reproduction of an original 1950s pattern. Today, your swimsuit is made from nylon spandex. In the 1950s, spandex was not quite yet invented (it was invented in 1959). Nylon was invented in the early 1950s, and used in swimwear, but probably not common for the home sewist (and without spandex, it’s limiting anyway). Instead, swimwear was made with cottons, like how this pattern was drafted (which is a step up from the wool and sweater-like fabric used earlier in the century). Often suits would have shirring (rows of elastic sewn into the fabric) in the back or sides, to offer some level of stretchiness . Zippers and button closures were common too. I have suits from the 60s and 70s that were still made that way, with zippers and rouching. But trends moved fast in the 1960s and you can already see a wider variety throughout that decade, including suits that look much more like what we’d wear today too, in terms of construction. Thus ends swimsuit briefing.

The point is, that this may look like a swimsuit pattern, but it wasn’t designed to use swimsuit fabric. So, I had to make a couple changes:

—Sized down two sizes
—Added cups
—Elastic sewn into the seams along the inside of the bust pieces
—Drafted a new back piece, and sewed elastic into that seam too
—New bottom band, with wide elastic encased inside for support

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The top, I constructed the same way as per the pattern, with the exception of ending the straps at the side, instead of extending them to the go across the top of the back piece.

I’m head over heels how everything turned out.

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Eeeek, I just love hearts instead of normal polka-dots! Especially with the heart-shaped sunglasses I got last year on Amazon, haha.

Retro Swimsuit

Look how cute that side rouching is on the bottoms! I wish I would have sewn up that option before. It’s absolutely my favorite.

Retro Swimsuit

I’m super glad I had those swim cups on hand, and honestly, this really wouldn’t have worked out with out them.

Retro Swimsuit

I used Savage Seamless Paper for my backdrop, for those of you asking . . . I picked one up this fall for indoor sewing photos this winter. I really like them. This is the 53 inches (just wide enough for one person, don’t go any smaller). I really want a pink one next!

So there we have it! What are your swim plans for the summer?! It’s time to start sewing! <3

Thanks for stopping, and here’s my week in review over here:




Watching: Umbrella Academy! Loving it so far!
Reading: This cookbook, Delish: Eat Every Day Like it’s the Weekend. My whole family is swooning over this cookbook. The boys are literally flipping through it right now saying, “yummy, yummy, ucky, ucky, yummy . . .” as they turn pages.
Making/Sewing: Now that this suit is over, and my Jane Set muslin is done, it’s time for my next Jane Set, and one of Gertie’s new patterns for Simplicity too!
Listening: To too much 1A, haha. It’s probably my favorite weekday show on NPR. 1:00 rolls around, and I’m all, “shhh, my show is on!!”. It’s a lot of current events stuff, but some fun stuff too. They had one recently on raising boys, and on skin care, which convinced me to buying into the whole K-Beauty thing over at Soko Glam (link will give you 20% off, FYI). So I now have a 10 step skin care routine. Thanks, 1A, haha.

Retro swimsuit sewing

Miss Motorhead 2019

I had a burst of make-it-happen, build-it-they-will-come energy back in January. I wanted a local pin-up contest. Or at least a contest I didn’t have to drive over three and a half hours to get to. And so I did some research on the local car shows, picked two and emailed them, giving them this whole spiel about pin-up contests, what they are, what they’re like, and why their show would benefit from one. Pin-up contests haven’t really made it into the car show culture up here in the Northland yet. Friends of mine further into the mid-midwest seem to have a bounty of pin-up activities.

Personally, I blame our snow.

One of the car shows got back to me, and basically said, "great, do it.” They gave me the go ahead on January 31st, just seven weeks out from the car show.

I had an oh-crap-what-did-I-do, now-I-have-to-plan-this-thing moment.

Ha!

Motorhead Madness is an indoor car show up here in Duluth. This was their 51st year! I was able to check out the event on Friday during set up, and then again Saturday morning, both times wearing dresses I made from patterns by Gertie Hirsch.

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Okay, I had to do a plug for those freshly-sewn dresses. Now back to the story!

I did some preliminary planning, and chatted with a gal I met on Facebook, Beth, who organizes contests in the Wausau, WI area. She was super supportive, and assured me that I had this, despite the ticking clock.

Beth was just the first in a series of amazingly supportive women who kept saying yes to me. They were excited about the contest, about what I was doing, and about being a part of it all. I’m unbelievably thankful for every single woman who showed me the love over the past month. Beth, the twenty-one girls who signed-up, Lela of Lela Wright Make Up and Hair Artistry, Christi of Grinkie Girls Photography, the friends who came to cheer everyone on, and the friends who cheered me on from a far.

Now that it’s over, it’s easy for me to focus on all of these wonderful people that made it a success. But it is worth mentioning that it didn’t come together like magic. I heard a lot of “no” along the way too. From photographers, from sponsors, from the newspaper, from the tv station. I’m going to be honest and tell you that even the Motorhead Madness coordinator was surprised at our success (she told me during set-up that she had thought I’d only get 3-5 people to sign up). So it’s not to say that it was smooth sailing. Direct quote from a local shall-not-be-named body positive photographer, that I asked to help get the word out: “I just don’t get pin-up”. (I would have been less offended had she just told me “no”, haha).

But, that probably makes me even more thankful for the people that did give the show all their support from the get-go.

And truthfully, I’m still a little floored that this event happened at all. A pin-up contest isn’t a pin-up contest unless you have contestants. And though I was hopeful about it all,. I was amazed every time a new person signed up. Somehow, I managed to get 18 contestants (my goal was 15, my maximum was 20) and at one point, I even had 21, though those other three had to drop for personal reasons. Eighteen the first year, when this isn’t even a “thing” in our area is pretty darn awesome.

Duluth Pin-up contest, Miss Motorhead Madness

Personally, I took to the stage as the emcee for the event.

Shirley Shasta pin-up contest

Round one, the contests do pin-up poses while their song plays and I read a short bio on each of them (where they’re from, celebrity crush, pin-up inspiration, life motto, etc).

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Shout out to my BFF sailor girl here, Daisha. <3

Round two, the gals each picked a random question and answered it.

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Then I hurried back stage to help my SIL tally scores, and we announced the winners!

Simple, right?

Then why is it so nerve-wracking as a contestant?!

Ha!

Duluth Pin-up contest, Miss Motorhead Madness

I will say this is the hardest thing about pin-up contests, to me. The fact that not everyone wins, haha. Which sounds a little cheesy, but really. Every girl put themselves out there, and I was so proud of all of of them, and just wanted them all to win. Maybe next time ;)

Here’s your 2019 winners, Miss Peachy Keen (Miss Betty Bubbles), Miss Classy Chassis (Miss Betty Van Blonde), and Miss Motorhead (Vivian Von Sweets).

Duluth Pin-up contest, Miss Motorhead Madness

You should have seen the dance Vivian here did when she won the title. She’s the blur on the left, haha.

Duluth Pin-up contest, Miss Motorhead Madness

Her mother was heard after the contest saying, “I hope we didn’t create a monster” haha!!

Thank you, Lela, for sending me this montage of the many phases of VIvian Von Sweet’s joy.

Thank you, Lela, for sending me this montage of the many phases of VIvian Von Sweet’s joy.

The crowd was FANTASTIC. I know we impressed a lot of people, and have more people on board for next year in all areas, from marketing to contestants. The show organizers were surprised at the crowd and said we need more room next time! (Yaaaasss!)

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These are my local, Poplar mom’s group girls. They blew me out of the water when they signed up for my crazy idea and they absolutely gave it their all.

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This is my favorite picture from the whole day. I love these ladies.

Duluth Pin-up contest, Miss Motorhead Madness

After the contest was over and we cleared out, I called my husband the moment I had a chance, in a fit of post-performance anxiety, “Was it okay, did I do okay?” Pretty par for the course for me, if it’s not a heavily rehearsed production. The contestants did wonderful, but I was anxious about my side of things. It got very hectic for me that last hour, and the whole contest was a blur. Overall, for the first year, I’m really please with how everything went. And I’m ready to make it even better next year.

Duluth Pin-up contest, Miss Motorhead Madness

One of the best things that came out of this was meeting Becky, aka Brody Bombshell. This girl is a true pin-up (no, for real, check her out!), and she was 100% on board with helping to make this happen, and keeping the pin-up ball rolling here in the Twin Ports.

Enter the Border Town Betties, a pin-up social group for the Twin Ports. My goal is to have an event a month; organize photo shoots, contests, events like hair and make-up demos, socials like bunco, etc. Like the page to keep up on our happenings, if you’re local.

Thanks for popping on and checking out Miss Motorhead 2019 <3

Candid shot here, brought to you by Christi!

Candid shot here, brought to you by Christi!

Novelty Border Prints :: John Wolf Poodles

Eek! I went a little crazy buying border prints at the beginning of the year and it’s time to start showing them off. First up is this print poodle by John Wolfe. It’s fairly common in terms of vintage novelty prints, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.

John Wolf Poodle Border Print Skirt Vintage

I was able to pick up 2 yards, 10 inches of this fabric for a super good deal on Etsy, and sewed it up into a gathered skirt myself. Kind of a junky picture, but you can see here that the poodles ran on one side of the selvage and a coordinating stripe ran on the opposite selvage. I was able to use that upper stripe as my waistband.

John Wolf border print poodles

This gem can be found in multiple colorways— a lighter blue, a black and blue, a pink, a green, or this tan colorway that I own. I am actually a big fan of the tan, but the black and blue one has gotta be my favorite.

John Wolf Textiles was initially registered as a designer of home interior fabrics, in the early 1940s. They’re well known for their border prints, commonly featuring animals, pastoral and city scenes, and still lifes. They were probably more geared towards with curtains, to be honest. But by the late 1950s, at least, their designs were also being used for clothing.

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I’ve noticed that people really like to subscribe prints like this to the 1950s as much as possible . . . but lots of them are actually from the early 60s. I know for sure this one was available in the early 60s, because I’ve seen a Lana Lobell ad featuring a dress made from this fabric!

Lana Lobell 1960s John Wolf Poodle Skirt

I LOVE how they used that extra selvage stripe down the center of the bodice. You can actually find this same dress was sold at Sears and JC Penneys, in addition to Lana Lobell’s. Zoom in on that description there— they sold the black/blue, the tan, and the green colorways. But the kicker here— the commercially produced dresses actually had buttons sewn onto the eyes of the dogs!

Lana Lobell's John Wolf Poodle Skirt

Just $3.99— it’s a steal of a deal ;)

This is a great example of how common it was for fabrics and designs to not be exclusive. All three stores carried this dress, PLUS any home sewist could purchase this fabric as well. Today, it’s not quite so easy to buy the same fabrics that you see used commercially. Sometimes I see something in our local boutique that is made from the same fabric that I’ve seen at a small on-line fabric shop. Or, some fabric shops carry ends of the roll from designers, so it’s not to say that you can’t come across commercially used fabric, but I’ll tell you it’s much harder, and you can’t count on it. There was a time when you could see a dress at a department store, and then walk directly over to the fabric section and buy the exact same fabric easy-peasy.

John Wolf Poodle Border Print Skirt Vintage

I stitched the skirt using vintage methods- complete with sewing the waistband and the hem by hand. So, it may just be a gathered skirt, but I’ll tell you I definitely took my time to get it right. I’ve been reading about vintage methods, so the skirt was a good easy project to practice those handstitches on! Heidi had to get in on the photo action too . . . I would flip if I could find a vintage collie fabric . . . all that love for Lassie, there’s got to be one out there!

John Wolf Poodle Border Print Skirt Vintage

A few more novelty prints are coming your way soon, but there will probably be a pin-up related interlude first. I’m organizing my first pin-up contest this weekend, and I’m excited to show it off!

Here’s my week in review:

Reading: my first issue of Vintage Trailer Magazine!
Watching: Two episodes left to go on You! After being a huge Gossip Girl fan, watching Penn Badgley in this role is playing my mind. I’m over here like, “Dan, how could you?! Go find Serena, this is getting out of hand.”
Making/Sewing: The Jane Set from Charm Patterns— Gertie is hosting a sew along, but I’ve been creeping away on my muslin for a little bit here. The top is done!
Listening: I caught up on the America Life’s episode from last week. It was actually a replay of a 2006 episode, but it gave me all the feels. Seriously, bawling. I highly recommend you go back and listen to it. Episode 317: Unconditional Love. As a parent, and as someone who’s worked in an adolescent group home, it totally hit home. The intro was great too: early in the 20th century, a mother’s love was considered dangerous… the government even printed pamphlets about the dangers of mothers holding their babies. Seriously.

xo,

Molly

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Vintage Label Spotlight: Leslie Fay

My sewing room has kind of been taken over lately. I still call it my “sewing room”, but it’s being slowly taken over by vintage apparel and accessories, haha! I spend a stupid amount of time reorganizing it. But, if we’re talking like Marie Kondo, pretty much everything in there brings me joy, so it’s worth it.

I thought it would be fun to start sharing some of what I have. I love researching the labels and styles of the garments I find. You can learn a lot from the construction of the garments, and I think it’s fun to look more into the history of clothes.

I figured I might as well pick one of my favorite dresses to start out, so here is this gorgeous floral Leslie Fay from the 1950s!

vintage 1950s dress Leslie Fay

The pleating at the top of the skirt is gorgeous, and the bodice is rather unique. It’s subtle and hard to see with the floral print, but there’s this pleating and bow on the bodice.

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Leslie Fay was founded by Fred Pomerantz. During World War II, he had produced uniforms for the Women’s Army Corp. In the 1940s, the Works Progress Administration gave a grant to conduct a study on women’s sizing. Over 15,000 women were measured to try to create a standard for women’s garment sizes. These measurements were given to producers like Pomerantz to ensure they would create uniforms that fit.

Vintage Leslie Fay 1950s dress label

Vintage Leslie Fay 1950s dress label

After the war, Pomerantz decided to use these measurements and create his own line of women’s clothing. Thus, Leslie Fay, named after Pomerantz’s daughter, was founded in 1947.

As a side note, all those measurements from the WPA? And the sizing standard they produced? It was kind of a mess. Because—surprise!— the female form is pretty darn complex, and there’s not much to be said for “standard” sizing. They identified at least five body shapes (instead of just the hour-glass shape that manufacturers were previously working off of) and created a three-part system, involving height, upper body, and girth. It was not at all practical for manufacturing clothes.

Leslie Fay Ad from 1949

Leslie Fay Ad from 1949

Anyway, back to Leslie Fay! They went public in 1952 and Fred’s son, John, took over in 1972. It seems like those were all pretty good years for Leslie Fay. They were popular and well-represented in the department stores.

Then the tumultuous 80s and 90s hit, and Leslie Fay had a lot of ups and downs. As other large manufactures started to use computers in the 80s, Leslie Fay didn’t keep up with technology. Similarly, they didn’t keep up with trends, and found that consumers were now thinking of them as “matronly” and out of style. I found this Leslie Fay at Goodwill, and understood that concept, ha!

1980s Vintage Leslie Fay Dress

But, Leslie Fay responded with gusto, hired new designers, installed over 500 boutiques within department stores, and tripled their profits in 10 years. Which was then followed by more ups and downs with the economy, dress sales, and again with the “old-fashioned” image. Annnnd then, it was reveled that the CFO had been doctoring the books from 1990-1992, unbeknownst to Pomerantz. Leslie Fay entered bankruptcy as a result. However, they did manage to remain open, emerge from chapter 11, reorganize, and turn themselves around. In 1999, the company obtained the license to the Liz Claiborne Dresses and Elisabeth Dresses labels. There were a lot more business/stock related ups and downs, but that’s the gist of it, ha!

So that’s that! I hope you enjoyed learning a little more about the Leslie Fay! I’m going to keep on with a little mini-series here on different labels from my vintage closet, so watch for more in the future!

xoxo

Molly

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There's a new Travel Trailer in Town

Mike and I picked up an early Christmas present last month: a canned ham travel trailer! I saw it advertised as an “unknown 1959 camper” on Facebook Marketplace on a Friday afternoon. I knew instantly by the pictures that it was a really good potential buy, regardless of what brand it turned out to be. There was so much originality! Before I even told MIke about it, I reached out to the seller, trying to mask my desperation and and urgency. I was basically all, “We’ll come over and see it RIGHT NOW.” Haha. Super smooth.

Mike went down on Saturday morning, after some cryptic messaging with the seller. It was about 50/50 whether he was going check out a really cool camper or possibly meet up with a mobster/drug dealer/serial killer. You just never know.

Lucky for us, the camper was real.

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Happy surprise!

It turned into the entire weekend- driving back and forth twice, picking up new tires, changing the tires, so Mike could drive it home. My role in all of this was kid control and research. We bought the thing still not knowing what it was.

I did have a super cool clue though! Across the back of the trailer, you could make out the words “Traveltown Rent-a-Trailer Madison, WIS AL 7-1137”

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I found some Traveltown ads from 1959 and 1960 in the Wisconsin State Journal. Traveltown also had Avis Rent-a-Car and for moving, Rent-a-Truck.

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Hey! That’s looks just like our camper!

That big ole “W” on the front made me think it was a Winnebago. Check out these comparisons.

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And . . .

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Finally Mike gets the thing home, and I see that ours is a “V” on the front instead of a “W”. So no go on the Winnebago. Which was a shame. Because I was already looking forward to calling her “Winnie”.

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I bring out the dreaded paint stripper, and set to work on the trailer hitch. The first two letters of the serial number were “TB”.

TRAILBLAZER!

We have a winner!

Trailblazers were made here in Wisconsin, in Spencer, from 1959 to 1972. Spencer Sports Products also manufactured Pathfinders. Due to two fires at the plant, there’s not a whole lot of official information on either of the brands. Adding mystery to it all, ours doesn’t look anything like any Trailblazer I’ve seen. But we do have a few theories on that: since ours is a 1959, which is also the year they first started producing the trailers, it could be likely that they made this one as a copy of the popular models, like Winnebagos, before starting to produce their own style. Or, since this one was owned by Traveltown, maybe it was a special order, made to their specifications? I also kind of wondered if there was a more direct link between Traveltown and the Spencer plant, in terms of partnership. I found it interesting that I found just one other Traveltown, in San Antonio, Texas, and the other main plant for Trailblazers was also in Texas (in Forth Worth). Also, they did make very few Trailblazers in the year 1959. From my understanding, there was a fire the previous year, and they got a late start producing, so there really wasn’t all that much action that first year of production (later on as the popularity caught on, they would make up to 8 trailers in a day!). There is no known rhyme or reason to the serial numbers on the Trailblazers, other than “TB” was for Trailblazers in Wisconsin, and “TT” was for those made in the Texas plant. But, regardless, this camper is a perfect example of the canned hams of the late 1950s.

Original paint job . . . original, working windows and that great jalousie door. The awesome original Formica . . . the list goes on and on.

I think it’s funny, someone commented on the seller’s ad, basically saying that the camper wasn’t even worth $100. That man is not my kind of people. To a lot of people, I’m sure it doesn’t look like much. But there is so much that’s original in this trailer, it makes my heart happy.

We won’t be doing as much work to this one as we did the Shasta. The front inner panel needs some help due to water damage. We’ll clean up the outside and repaint. A new door over the closet. Maybe add an outlet or two. And I’ll re-do curtains and cushions. Check out the vintage fabric I already picked up!

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That plaid is such a great match for the Formica!

The Shasta isn’t going anywhere. As Mike said, “I’ve put more work into the Shasta that I have my own kids”. She’ll be for Mike and I to take to vintage car and camper shows. The Trailblazer is going to be our family camper. We won’t be putting anywhere near as much work into it as we did the Shasta, so it’ll be a little more kid-friendly. Not to mention, bigger for our family of five! I mean, “bigger” is relative . . . she’s still only 15 feet long!

I can’t wait to get her out in the spring and update you all on our progress! She’s going to be a GREAT camper for our family, and she’s such a cool piece of travel trailer history. If you know anything else about Trailblazers, Traveltown, or the Spencer plant, I’d love to hear it so comment below or shoot me an email!

xoxo

Molly

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Confessions of a Reformed Sewaholic

Hi, I'm Molly. It’s been six weeks and 1 day since my last sewing project. I’m a sewaholic.

I made at least 130 apparel items for myself in 2018. I’ve gone on benders of one new clothing item a day for 10-12 days at a time. I’ve said “yes” to testing patterns that I didn’t need . I’ve said “yes” to testing fabric that I knew I’d never wear after I was done taking promotional pictures. I sewed things quickly and poorly just for the sake of finishing it. I’ve promoted fabrics and patterns I didn’t especially care for.

And what did it get me?

Burnt out. Drained. A closet full of clothes I’d never wear. And a feeling that I’d been wasteful: wasteful of my time, of my money, and of our earth’s resources (the environmental impact of textile production and waste is a HUGE problem).

And to add fuel to the fire, I read this book:

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (Amazon affiliate link!)

Whether you buy clothes or make clothes I highly recommend this book. You don’t even have to be interested in clothes or fashion. But, if you wear any clothes at all, I think it’s important to think more about your consumption- where do your clothes come from and where do they go when you’re done with them? This book delves into how the fabrics are made, who’s sewing them (despite all of our technological advances, yes, there is still a person who is sewing your clothes), who’s designing them, how they’re manufactured and distributed, and what happens to your Goodwill donations.

LA fast fashion

I started reading the book back in October, right at the same time I traveled to Los Angeles. Downtown is flooded with stores like this, displaying fast trends at insanely low prices.

It was the perfect backdrop to everything Overdressed was talking about: how our cultural consumption of clothes has changed. Clothing has become a disposal good, quantity over quality. We’re willing to pay less and less, and have sacrificed quality clothing made in way that’s sustainable for our world.

If I’m going to be honest, I’ll tell you that it left me a little depressed about my closet. And the fabric in my sewing room. I realized that even though sewing my own clothes does a lot of good, there were still some major problems with my clothing habits.

in short, I was my own producer of fast fashion. I was substituting quantity for quality in my own work. I was spending my time and money to make things that I didn’t even plan on wearing more than one or two times. Just like the consumer who buys something they don’t need because it was “too good of a deal to pass up”, I was accepting strike-off fabric (free fabric from fabric stores in exchange for me sewing it up and supplying them with advertising), because it was “too good of a deal to pass up” (even if I didn’t like it, and it just meant more clothes in my closet that I wasn’t wearing).

Cue the guilt (I’m very prone to guilt, haha).

I gradually started to step away from the pattern and fabric groups I sewed for (even the ones I truly loved). My heart wasn’t in it any more, and it felt ridiculously wasteful to keep doing it (again, in terms of time, money, and planet Earth). But by stepping away from those groups, I also realized something else.

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By saying “yes” to so many pattern and fabric groups, I was essentially saying “no” to all of my own projects and ideas and creative goals. The time I wanted to learn new techniques or sew up patterns just for fun and not because I had to. I was rushing to do everything for them, and it was taking away from me being able to do anything for me.

Obviously, this wasn’t their fault. I’m the one that couldn’t stop saying “yes” to every sweater, brushed poly print, or dress pattern that offered itself to me. I’ve sewn for SO MANY talented, sweet, motivated women. And I loved supporting them and their dreams. But now it’s time to work on me and my own goals.

World domination.

Just kidding.

But I wouldn’t mind learning to hand pick stitch my zippers or use horsehair braid (no horses are harmed in the making of modern-day horsehair braid).

So, I took a break from sewing. It’s been six weeks and one day. The longest time I’ve gone without sewing anything since I started sewing obsessively three years ago. During the past six weeks (and one day), I’ve thought a lot about what I DO want to sew and I’ve made some changes to my closet and my mindset.

  • There are some vintage patterns calling my name upstairs.

  • I got Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing for Christmas, and I’m SO excited to learn some new vintage and couture sewing techniques, not to mention give some of her patterns a try (the tie blouse is top of my list!).

  • I stopped buy fabric from my regular shops and started searching our local thrift shops for fabric, so I can sew more sustainably.

  • I did another closet destash, and sold off some of my me-made goods that I don’t wear.

  • When I did “need” to buy a few items last month, I chose to do so from Pact Organic, for 100% certified organic cotton staples made in fair trade factories.

I’ve had a few sewing friends reach out and say that they missed seeing my sews, or that they hoped I got my “sewjo” back. But I’m super happy to be where I’m at, and I’m so excited about these changes. I know that stepping back from pattern testing and fabric samples was right for me. I’m looking forward to thinking more critically about the items I sew and enjoying more time sewing them.

I do 100% recommend Overdressed (and I hope I didn’t get too preachy about it!)— let me know if you’ve read it or if you end up picking it up! I’d love to hear what you think.

xoxo,

Molly

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Happy {Blog} Birthday!

Today marks the two year anniversary of Middle River Studio! Lest I forget my own blog birthday, I have a SquareSpace bill to remind me, ha! Thanks, SquareSpace.

I have to say, after two years, I still have no idea what I’m doing here.

No, really.

Two years ago, I wanted a place to dump all of my sewing projects. To show them off and share them, and for my own pride and joy. Also, I thought I would be using the e-commerce feature to be selling my goods.

In those two years, it’s been a lot of posts on “here’s my finished project, here’s what I did, this fabric, this pattern, la la, la”. I pretty much quit selling my handmade clothes. But I also tried a lot of different things out too, trying to figure out what I really wanted to be talking about and what I really wanted to do here in cyberspace: I did little tutorials on sewing projects, I did some crafty things, I shared our Shasta camper project, and I did some posts on events I did this year, like the pin-up contest and going to New York and LA for fashion week.

And I’ve brainstormed about a hundred things I want to do here.

In the past few months, I’ve seriously considered relaunching with some specific handmade goods for sale. As in so serious that I ordered all new tags and branding items. Annnnnd now I’ve back tracked on that. I’ve had SO many ideas on challenges or features or monthly projects. Maybe my problem is that I want to do everything.

Do I need to focus in one area? A lot of blog experts would say yes. I guess that’s not me though. This started as a sewing blog, and is really more like a lifestyle blog, containing anything I want to talk about, ha. It continues to grow and change as I continue to grow and change.

And I have some fun ideas for 2019. I can’t wait to get going on them all.

Thank you for being here. Seriously. When people say they miss me blogging, or miss seeing my sewing posts, that warms my heart in so many ways. I’m over here working and posting away, and even though my analytics tell me there’s someone on the other side, it sometimes feels like it’s just me. But there’s YOU! Here scrolling through what I write. And I appreciate that in so many ways. Thank you for popping on during my sporadic posting.

Happy birthday to Middle River Studio! I can’t wait to share what’s next (I’ll give you a hint: there’s more vintage stuff, some very specific sewing, and a “new” camper on the way!).

xoxo

Molly

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