Thursday, March 26, 2015

Side Panel Smocked Dress, a Gail Doane class

As you know from the last post, I recently had the privilege of taking a class in the United States from Gail Doane. A week of good food, great friends and fun sewing. This year I will be finishing all three projects.

Project #2 is Gail Doane's Side Panel Smocked Dress.

This project is not for the faint hearted. The smocking in this project needs be to completed before the Double Scallop Trim A-line Dress can be constructed meaning it was, at the time (and really still is), beyond my skill set. One of the other participants, Lisa, volunteered to smock mine when the class was announced. At the time I was moving from France to Germany and everything was in upheaval. I of course said YES...please! Oh I am so glad I did.

Here is completed project #2. The front: 

And the back:

Here is a close up of Lisa's wonderful smocking. I embroidered the little bullion roses.
My dress is in a different color variation than the one one on Gail's blog. You can see hers at Lulu & Annie. As you page down past the dress you will see that there is a matching coat in wool that goes with it. It is in a partial stage of completion and is next on the list to be completed. This is a generous size 4 so hopefully it will fit Grace next year.

If you take this class, heads up that you not start the smocking the night before. It takes a good while to complete as there are rows and rows of back smocking you do not see. To sew this outfit you really need to have all the smocking done to make this dress in class. 


Once in class and once I realized just how much work the smocking had been, truly I had no idea, a gift was in order. There is a variation of the Paisley Bird jacket and Matching Dress from Gail. (she has an Etsy shop you can buy the kit for the one on the blog) Not shown in that post is a variation Gail made, shown below made from vintage mother of pearl buttons from Gail's stash.  
How cute is that???? 

Since coming back to Germany I have been wrist deep in other peoples old buttons searching for the right buttons to make this variation. The search has been fruitful. The hardest part was finding the heart shaped buttons. Gail's are Mother of Pearl. I can't find that, as a matter of a fact large heart shaped buttons of any sort in white are really hard to come by. I did find them in a plastic. I bought all 12 of them. 
I think they are a pretty good match with the mother of pearl mixture. So here is my gift to Lisa. Hopefully she makes the jacket. I have a set for myself, just in case I want to make the jacket and two other sets that go out in the post soon to one of the other women from the class. Several others want buttons too so the search for large white shaped buttons continues as does the search for vintage mother of pearl buttons.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Scottie Dog Button is it Bakelite or Milk Glass?

Sometimes being wrist deep in someone else's old buttons yields some interesting results and fun buttons you were not searching for to begin with. Case in point, I found this button:
The Scottie dog button is appears it could be made of Milk Glass. At first I thought it might be Bakelite, but searches of the button sent me back to milk glass as you will see below. 

So what is Milk Glass?

According to Wikipedia. "Milk Glass is an opaque or translucent milky white or colored glass, brown or pressed into a wide variety of shapes." First made in Venice, its colors included brown, which is the color of my button.

How does that differ from Bakelite?

Again, from Wikipedia, Bakelite/Baekelite is an early plastic. "It is a thermosetting phenol or polyoxybenzlmethylenglycolanhydride formed from an elimination reaction of phenol with formaldehyde." It was first developed in the early 1900s. 

Sounds like something that killed people when they made it doesn't it? Or maybe just preserved them.

Both have similar weights. Bakelite has some interesting testing one can do. My favorite was rubbing to heat it and check for the smell of formaldehyde, yummy...

Could be Celluloid as a possibility, but there appears to be a weight factor. My button feels like the weight of glass. Done to both Milk Glass and Bakelite, there is some sort of smoothing that was done to the sides from the mold press. Knowing what to look for I see the same thing on the button below.

So, why am I thinking this is Milk Glass? Searching the internet, I found this exact button but painted on the web. Here is the photo of a sale that was completed in 2011. Sale price, highest bidder, $2.99.

Here is mine and the one from side by side
Now mine is not painted, but would both Milk Glass and Bakelite have the exact same molds? The jury is out as to which it is, but it sure is a fun novelty button. So, who really cares? What ever it is, I need to think of a good use for it now. I could paint it.

In the same wrist deep search I found these as well:
You are looking at two buttons with one of them flipped so you can see the back. They appear to be plastic buttons, but I love the hole placements and the whole modern decade look theme. One can have fun with colorful thread attaching these to something.

The rest of my finds were shell and a few glass buttons. I found some good, didn't buy the bad and enjoyed getting my wrists dirty.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Double Scallop Trim A-Line Dress, a Gail Doane class

I recently had the privilege of taking a class in the United States from Gail Doane. One week of good food, great friends and fun sewing. Who could ask for more? This year I decided that I am going to finish all three projects so they came back in my suitcase to Berlin.

Here is completed project #1. The front: 
And here is the back:
It is Gail's Double Scallop Trim A-line Dress. This one is the green and pink variation. You can see it in another color in her blog Lulu & Annie. Truth be told, I don't particularly like smocking. I would rather be cutting up broken vintage things and playing with lace bits given the choice. 

But surrounded by a small group of great friends and encouragement, I was able to finish the smocking portion of the front panel in about 3-4 hours. I would have been faster but I am not a night person and that slowed me down. Showing my dirty laundry, you can see my rows are not quite even. 
The engineer in me is not pleased with that little part, but overall the dress is cute, cute, cute. It is easy to make and the scallops made by the ruler used was great fun. The double piping is really easy to do as well. Gail shows how it is done in her blog. I made a size 4 and shortly it will be off in the post to Grace, a girlfriend's grand daughter.

Next up to be completed: Side Panel Smocked Dress. I am working on the embroidery and once that is done the sleeves go on, buttons are added and it will be completed as well. It has a matching coat so it has to wait for the coat to join it. As it is a generous size 4 I bet it fits Grace next year.

Monday, March 16, 2015

So, What Does One Find in Germany VS France?

How to be creative in a new country? Good question, and one that I have been struggling with since moving here in January. It is interesting the differences in what is available vintage between the two countries, France and Germany.  Vintage lace bits can be found, but on the most part are priced 10 times more expensive than France. Remember I am located in Berlin so it is a mix of western and old east. French lace bits are more delicate whereas Germany has things with more structure. Think here, but not limited to crochet vs bobbin lace. It does not mean bobbin lace can't be found, quite the contrary, it can, just at a price. Crochet is much cheaper here. Almost a stereotype, but not quite. It is just different and has to do with fashion and household taste.

Case in point. I found this at a second hand church based shop:
The Battenburg lace is modern and the center portion is a cotton/linen interior. It could have been made in China, but the way the fabric center was attached says maybe different. First the color of the interior looks to be something that would match a German home. It is that love of Orange, second is the workmanship of how the fabric was attached. 
I have seen so many China made items but this one screamed made at home, at least the center was attached in Germany. Too bad I already removed the centers from the small ones. The workmanship was horrible. The Chinese ones I have seen have been, sorry to say, better. The lace tape is different from the Chinese ones I have seen as well, but my vote is that the Battenburg was done in China and possibly the orange was done here by someone who does not sew well. I love these since the smaller ones have so many uses. The set consisted of the large one and 5 little rounds. Once the lovely orange center is removed, here is of the small ones: 
Think of the uses! I love broaches and above is one of them I have found. I think it is beautiful.

Other finds are vintage buttons: 
Mother of Pearl based buttons are not inexpensive, but the variety is a nice find in both vintage and modern. 

I love old broaches and jewelry and buy them when I find them. Orphaned earrings are the best as you can get usable pearls and such out of them for pennies. I mean who buys just one earring? Other finds are charms and metal buttons. Metal buttons due to Trachen (think Munich and Oktoberfest) German wear. Horn buttons are also available.
The big surprise was to find Dorset buttons. Why here and why are they everywhere? I feel research coming on.The bigger question is now that I bought them, what am I going to do with them?
Next up, fabric finds. Stay tuned. But before you go, here is one of the things I am working on right now.
I bit off quite a bit on this one. The hand sewing required is amazing but I am loving the look so far. Oh and here was the original picture of the lace finds in Brittany France:

Monday, March 9, 2015

Zwirnerei Sachdenring thread from Glauchau Germany

I am fascinated by vintage things. No surprise here I know. While at the flea market in Dresden one of the sellers had a package of thread in assorted shades of brown and one gray color. 
Looking at the company name, I had never heard of it so in typical "me" form, I bought the pack of thread. What is it and can I use it in my future work? No matter, the price was right and if it isn't usable, well that's ok, they are pretty.

Looking further at the package to top had this information:
On investigation, a couple words were not in my German vocabulary it is a pack of 6 balls of thread each being 5 meters long in length and 8 ply. It looks like it is multiple threads twisted in a pair or 4 threads each, hence the twist name.

On the bottom is this:

 Wonderful! I have the town name and could look it up to see what happened to the company

I went to the internet. What I found is sort of what I knew and is sad. After the wall fell, many East German companies could not compete with the West and jobs were lost as plants closed down. I remember reading about it in the newspapers. In my search I found out, according to the Archivwesen website that the company SEV Zwirnerei Sachdenring in Glauchau Germany was in operation between the years 1895 and 1991. The plant manufactured thread for the repair of clothing. I really never realized that one bought thread to repair clothing. I knew you could buy yarn to repair sweaters but it never occurred to me that one could buy thread for the expressed purpose of repair. Isn't that what regular thread is for?

It is sad to think that a company that survived WWI and WWII would go out of business a about two years after the wall fell. I found myself feeling for those who lost jobs. It seemed everything East was not wanted and instead everything West was what everyone from the East wanted to buy. I suppose too that the colors of the thread, 5 shades of brown and one shade of a darker grey, were not exactly useful with the influx of fashion from the West. Besides, who wants to repair clothes anyway?

Most exciting, even though sad, is that a "face" can be put on this factory. In my search to find out about this factory I found a website by Andre Joosse. His website is worth spending some time looking at. He travels into abandoned places, Urban Exploration as it is called and photographs them.

 Now I have a face to the name on my thread. You can see pictures of what is left of the Zwirnerei Sachdenring factory in Glauchau Germany built in 1895 here. The factory was abandoned in 1993, two years after the Archivwesen shows it went out of business.