Saturday, February 27, 2010

27 February 1956 “February Dress Challenge, and Some Recipes”

shirtwaist1 My February Dress Challenge started out by dreaming on these lovely shirtdresses. I hadn’t a pattern and after the success of the January Dress Challenge Dress, I thought I would give it another try.

brownshirt  So, starting with this men’s brown shirt I had thrifted and this lovely pink cotton fabricpinkbrownfabric I wanted to create my own design.

Would I make this dress again? Not this way. I had to pin and then take apart, rethink, cut, ponder and put it away a lot. But, I persevered. The dress itself is very comfortable and I am wearing it now as I write this. It was just the way I went about making it that I would not try again. I think I will make more such dresses, but after the struggle with this one, I have learned what I will NOT do next time.

The initial idea of taking a shirt that is already constructed and adding a pleated skirt to it became more of a chore. However, if I had a dress form, many of the mistakes and struggles would not have happened. It is rather hard pinning it to oneself and then trying to take it of again. The shirt I had to cut down and then my plans to have a zipper in front proved to look silly. In the end I had to split one of the side seams and put a zipper into the shirt and skirt of the dress. The result is nice as it zips up nice and snug and the top buttons, so overall a great dress.

pinkdress1 First I decided where I needed to cut the shirt down. Again, this would have been much easier on a dress from.

 pinkdress2Next, I took the yardage of fabric while it was still one long piece at put bias tape on the hem. I just wanted the look and I like how it adds weight to the skirt. You can see my ‘new’ machine in action here. I actually have a foot that puts bias tape on for you, but have not tried that yet. I have tried the ruffle/pleat foot and it worked really well.

pinkdress3 My original plan had me sewing the rough edge of the skirt onto the top as you would a normal dress pattern, but due to my crooked cutting and inability to get a good straight line on me (again, no dress form) I decided to put a tall waistband on the skirt. So at that point it basically was a finished skirt I could have put a zipper in and wore it with the shirt, but I had already cut the shirt and this is a Dress challenge not a skirt and blouse challenge.

So, after putting the zip in (pinned only thank goodness) I took it out and realized that I had to take out part of the side seam of the shirt. I love the look of a high-waisted skirt, but it always rolls down, so having it sewn as the actual bodice of the dress makes it stay put, which I really like.

I wanted the shirt to look part of the dress and not just a separate top, so I decided to cover the cuffs. This is what I did. pinkdress4I laid out the cuff as a pattern and cut around it (double twice and on the fold so I ended up with two equally cut cuffs.

 pinkdress5I did a roll hem as you can see here, as the edges would sew the way I was sewing it over the existing cuff.

 pinkdress6Here you can see (I hadn’t hemmed the cuff yet just did this for a picture) how it is basically an envelope of fabric that slips over the existing cuff.

 pinkdress7As I literally sewed on the outside of the fabric (where it shows) I added an additional decorative stitch (this is one of the built in stitches in my Rocketeer) just to make the showing stitch seem on purpose.

And after all that, a pocket square in the same fabric and viola’:

 pinkdressonMy version of a pattern-less shirtdress! I am sorry I look so stern in this shot, but it was a long day of sewing and hubby was luckily home to take my photo. I was happier than this photo demonstrates.

pinkdressonbwAnd here is the dress in black and white for no other reason than I like to see how 'vintage’ I look if I turn it to black and white, silly I know.

I have decided that part of my March Dress Challenge is going to be doing a duct tape dress form. I think it will make dress making much easier. The finished dress hardly looks professional, but I am proud of it considering, again, I have never been taught to sew and much of what I do is trial and error. I do learn from my mistakes MOST times, but not always.

Now for some recipes. I have a few I have done lately.

As I have been doing my Breads, I am baking my way through as many recipes as I can get my hands on deciding which will remain a part of my normal baking day and what are just for special times or not good.

I had listed a great oatmeal bread recipe before that used honey that is wonderful, but until I get my bees again and honey is not so dear I wanted another oatmeal bread recipe that did not use honey. I found this one.

1 packet yeast
2 Tbs. molasses  (You could use honey and even, I think, real maple syrup might be nice)
1 C.  rolled oats
1 Tbs. butter plus 1/2 t. for buttering pan

1 tsp. salt
1 C. unbleached flour plus 1/2 cup for kneading
1 C. whole wheat flour

In a mixing bowl, combine yeast, molasses and 1 cup warm water (wrist temperature). Let sit until yeast is bubbly (about 5 minutes). Stir in oats and butter and let sit for 5 minutes.
Add salt and flours, stirring in 1/2 cup at a time. Knead dough into a soft blob, return it to the bowl and cover bowl with a damp cloth. Let rise until double in bulk (about 30 minutes).
Punch dough down and knead until smooth, adding reserved flour as needed.
Shape into a loaf, place in a buttered loaf pan, cover again and let rise. When loaf has doubled in bulk, place in the oven and bake at 350°F.  until done (about 45 minutes). Cool on a rack for 15 minutes before slicing.

easyoatmealbread1 Here is the lovely little dough ball before it’s first rising.easyoatmealbread2 It made a nice little loaf. What I liked about this recipe was it was comparatively fast for yeast dough that must rise. I will definitely make it again and I am going to try it with real maple syrup instead of the molasses and see how it affects the chemistry of the bread. You know we New Englanders will use any excuse to put maple syrup on or in anything! Mmmm.

Now another fun ‘bread’ I made was homemade tortillas. I have had never made them before and it was really just one of those “oh, I have some ground beef and would love to have a fun Mexican dinner, but don’t want to run out and get tortilla’s ( I am a stickler with my weekly shopping trip!) These were SO easy to make, so much fun and they were 1000 times better than store bought.

Here is the very easy recipe:

Tortilla Recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar (optional)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (more for softer tortillas)
1 cup water

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and oil. Add water and mix with hands. Divide into 10 small balls. Roll each flat with rolling pin and cook on very hot ungreased griddle until lightly brown on each side.

tortillas1 Here are the little balls before I rolled them out.tortillas2 Here is one rolled out. I made them fairly thin. They roll out very easily if the rolling pin is floured. tortillas3  This is the uncooked side up while the first side is down browning. See how lovely they bubble?tortillas4 The browned side up whilst cooking. And, of course, I love my close up shots of my food.tortillas5 Just look at that lovely flourly texture. They were so good warm from the griddle. Yesterday, Hubby had one in his lunch with tuna salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms. He come home and said, “That was the BEST wrap I have EVER had”. I just love standing in my kitchen and thinking, “Hmmmm, what have I bought that I could try making?” I have to say, it’s fun! I have a lovely meat pie recipe, but I think I will share that on another post.

For those of you who follow or visit the website, I have been working on redisginng some of it and hope to upload the changes on 1 March. It will, of course, still be a work in progress and really part of the project of this year to see what I will have with it at the end of 1956. I hope to make its layout more conducive to me easily adding bits and bobs everyday. We are going to have our first APRONITE of the month and one of our fellow Apronites, Cedar, is going to be writing the first Guest Blog we are to have on Vintage Entertaining. If you have not checked out the site yet, that might be a good time to start.

Until next time, keep your Apron strings tight and your mind and hands busy!


  1. Texas Accent In SydneyFebruary 27, 2010 at 7:49 PM

    Your dress turned out pretty ... thank you for showing us ... is it hard to get in and out of with that side zip? ... with the recent talk about Lucy Ricardo moving to the country, in your black and white picture of the new dress, are you imagining yourself as one of the ladies in her neighborhood, maybe a member of the Garden Society, appearing briefly on-screen at a tea party or Open Garden Day?

  2. It is actually quite easy to get in as the front bodice has functioning buttons and the side zip makes it fit snug. My January dress challenge was also a side zip. It is often easier to zip yourself in than a back zip and I like the clean line in front and back.
    Very true, I am planning on joining our Garden Society this summer! I will definitely have at least one garden party this summer. Even my friends who think I am nuts with my fashion won't turn down an opprotunity to wear a pretty hat and guazy dress in the summer.

  3. The dress is lovely! I'm glad you could work thru it! It's so satisfying to solve puzzles like that.

    Deb in WI

  4. How clever and self-sufficient you were to decide to make your own tortillas. They look fabulous!

  5. The dress came out really nice, good job!

    I am keeping the tortilla recipe to try.


  6. I need to press it, but I wanted to get a photo so I could call it officially done. The tortillas really are easy and fun and so good.
    It is satisfying. I am sure if anyone with real sewing knowledge watched me puzzle through it or my methods they would scold, but as I have no teachers, I just keep fumbling onwards to my own set of sewing rules. At least my 'lessons' can hang neatly in my closet and add to my wardrobe. The other day I had forgot what it was like to go to some place like the Gap and paw through racks of 'mark downs' and how much I actually hated it, but some how just did it as if it was what was expected of me. I would still occasionally buy myself something a little more expensive at our lovely Anthropologie on Boylston in Boston, but even their clothes, for all their 'unique advertising' are really still not very well made and most likely pumped out in China. It seems so normal to me now how I dress and how I get my clothes.

  7. Beautiful dress, and gorgeous bread you certainly are talented! I am thrilled when I read your blog and see that you have found the time for domestic pursuits.

    I just read you post from yesterday (?) about taking a break from blogging. Just from reading your website it is evident how much your "job" has taking away from your domestic life. I do not mean that as a slight. Actually, I find it an interesting contrasting reading your blog 1955 when you were a stay-at-home homemaker, and 1956, when you are a "working gal." Your blog perfectly illustrates both sides of the fence that women face as homemakers vs. career women. Well done!

    Marjorie Price

  8. Your dress looks fab! Be proud of yourself for creating it!

  9. Marjorie-Thank you. What is amazing to me, is that were it not for 1955 I don't know that I could bake bread, clean my house, sew a dress, put on great meals, full breakfasts and still have time to blog, draw, and work on the site. I found, at least for myself, that so much of the modern world is just set up to make us lazy. There really are a LOT of hours in the day and when you USE them all instead of wasting so many of them, as I did before 1955, one really can accomplish a lot. Every day I say, "Thank you 1955".
    Oh, and I did not take it as a slight. I think were in 1956 and I were the age, childless and class I am presently, I would be JUST as busy with committee meetings, charity work etc (though I might have a 'girl' who comes in 3 days a week or something) so I do still feel I am being honest to the workload of someone in my position in 1956, though my 'work' is on the computer. And yet, this is also, as you say, a good example of how a modern woman working out of the home can begin to manage her time to be both a 'homemaker' and a 'working girl' of course, I have no boss to contend with, but I am pretty strict with myslef but I do allow coffee breaks and lunch breaks!
    Lulu-I am rather proud of it. I think with each item I make I come closer to a calling myself a seamstress.

  10. Love the dress! That pink fabric is very pretty.

  11. It turned out beautifully!

    I have a couple of side zip dresses too and they are much easier to get in and out of than back zip ones. I've only made one size zip though. Unfortunately it doesn't fit me anymore. :( But I'm still proud of it! It's a 1933 Vogue.

  12. Wow 50sGal you are a real live professional MULTI-TALENTED homemaker. Can you believe yourself?! (After watching my wonderful mother sew for us her whole life, using patterns, I can only guess at the frustrating ordeal your challenge would have been but how rewarding when conquered.)After that, baking and cooking must have been a real treat.

    I know there are a lot of hours in the day but you exceed expectations of a productive day/week/month.. You're so inspiring! Thank you for sharing. Really. (And what a lovely compliment from your hubby about his lunch.) Linda

  13. Such lovely dresses and those pastel colours are just darling.

    My MIL is a pro tailor and she always says that it is much easier to make a difficult dress from scratch than trying to reuse/change a dress. I think you should look for a dress pattern and then make it yourself from scratch next time. It sounded like a good idea with the shirt and then “just” adding the skirt, but I can imagine your trouble and great work. I think the result is fabulous though! You look SO good and definitely NOT like one who needs to loose weight. Ha, there I said it. Sorry! I mean – you have such a nice figure and the dress is so charming, it really becomes you. I adore the details with the matching cuffs and the tiny hankerchief in the pocket. It is all in the details. You can be proud of this creation. :)

    Btw: have you lost weight during the February challenge? I received the diet book 10 days ago and am reading it as often as I can find time to, so I have not participated in the challenge during February, but will start now in March, although we’re going to a hundred dinner parties, everybody is having their birthday in March, deep sigh.

    I’ve saved your tortilla recipe, why haven’t I thought of making them myself!? They look like an easy job to do and son loves them.

    Vintage entertaining – I cannot wait to read Cedar’s post! :)

    PS: I like the “You might also like” at the bottom. Now I don’t use them, because I’ve read every word you’ve written from the beginning, but newcomers might find it very useful.

    PPS: I’ve just been with son to one of many meetings about his ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and I’ve cried for almost an hour. I feel so helpless and frustrated and cannot understand him being so careless and reckless about his school, his life, his future! He is such a good boy, and everybody loves him, but he is almost 17 and has to wake up now. I don’t know what to do. Oh yes, what I will do is to buy a book about the disease and find some courses too. Ahem, this was not meant to whine to you, but to tell you that I went straight home, called my job and said I worked from home, made myself a chai-latte (WITH sugar!) and sat down and read your lovely blog- and now I feel better! I’m ready to go into ACTION! I just love your blog. :)

  14. Sanne-thank you so much. I DO need to lose weight, believe you me.I have made other dresses from patterns and March's Challenge will be made from a pattern but I am also 'throwing into the mix' with the challenge making my own dress form.
    I am so sorry about ADHD and your son. It seems such a sad disorder. I wonder what they called the disorder back in the 50's? I mean, they probably didn't know it was a specific thing, but I wonder how they treated the poor kids with it. I also wonder, do you think it is a modern disorder that some how has come about with our mix of tv, chemicals in modern food, video entertainment? I don't mean that is is NOT a disorder, but I wonder what modern societal and chemical/hormonal (from our modern foods)mixture there was that might have created the disorder in the first place. I hope you can help him. Is there a cure? I think one of our other followers has a son with it, perhpas she will read this and help shed light on how to deal or help?
    I am glad you took a day for yourself. It will be a good day, too, as today (though it is far from being done) I am going to start posting the new look to the website pages and such. Your APRONITE OF THE MONTH page is done and I hope you like it.
    So, check back later today (not sure of the time difference it is 1 March 8:30 a.m. where I am right now)to see when the new LOOK of the site begins appearing.

  15. You are the sweetest, Donna! And I shouldn't have written this, it just poured out of my heart. ADHD has always existed, but I think it wasn't considered a disease in the fifties, the kids were just irritating. Like word-blinds were considered stupid. You can inherit ADHD, you can get it from a shock or you can get it during delivery if the baby lacks oxygen for a few seconds. Son has inherited it I'm sure, he has always had it, since he was in my belly. His father and my father is much like him, but much more responsible.

    Unfortunately, medicine doesn't help him, we've tried everything right now. Next step is the book and some courses. Perhaps we will try dieting for him too, but it is tough since he is a teenager and parents are just annoying.

    I look so much forward to beeing Apronite of the Month. Here it is 1 March 3.15 p.m. So your are 7 hours behind my time. I'm going to the hair dresser now and will pick up a free magazine in the neighbouring beauty shop. Today, has been an off-day, ough! :(

  16. My dear, it's always interesting and inspiring to read what you accomplish. Especially this week while I've been down with a nasty cold.

    Do you have any "members" that might like to get together on the forums and discuss what we are all trying to accomplish, and give each other encouragement and accountability? I've gotten in the chat area several times but I can't seem to find anyone ever in there. I've not had too much luck with the forums either.

    Am I just doing it wrong? Thanks again for all you do!


  17. Catherine-I knew nothing of forums before I made one on the site. You need to go to the forums and then JOIN otherwise you cannot read and reply to the various topics and 'threads'. We have almost 80 memebers already and we discuss EVERYTHING, so many great recipe swaps and entertaining ideas etc. Not sure if you noticed but I have been redisging the site again. Just click on the forum and join and then you can click on any topic to contribute or start your own topic under whatever heading (we have headings that cooincide with all the links on the site) or click on New posts after you sign in and you can see what is going on right now and join in!

  18. 50sgal,

    I haven't yet made time to read the post but perused the pictures, and Wow, what an awesome job on the dress! I'm impressed!

  19. I absolutely ADORE that dress...sigh...I love all things 50...I'm a wanna be 50's homemaker. I'm so enjoying your blog...Wonderful resources and tons of inspiration. Keep up the great work.


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