Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter and Spring Holidays

via Pinterest

Wishing you and your loved ones a pleasant and beautiful weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

WIP's and a Finished Project

This week I took stock of all of the WIPs in my house.  Um...I have a lot of WIPs.  So many that I don't want to own up to the total number, so I'll just show you a couple of the sewing WIPs.

But at least I have made some progress, however s-l-o-w, on a couple of projects.  I finally tacked in the angel back on Pauloa 901A.  This is the view of the back of the dress pinned to Esme: 

And I photocopied and enlarged the Adjust-for-You dress illustrations from McCall's 8106 in order to make a dress for Prudence:

I cut a muslin of the dress and I do believe that it might actually fit with only some slight adjustments to the neckline and armscyes. I'll keep fiddling with it.

Finally, I'm proud to let you know that I actually completed something this week!  My friend Louis is super-creative, and he kindly offered to teach me to make a freshwater pearl and crystal necklace:

Well, truth be told, he did most of the wire-wrapping, but I helped!  I'm excited about learning how to wire-wrap jewelry.  It's easier than I thought, but I do need to pick up some better needle-nose pliers than those I currently have so I can continue to make jewelry.

So what are you working on this week?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Survey Says: Reader Poll Feedback

Have you been waiting to hear the results of the Serendipity Handmade reader poll from last month?  Maybe...maybe not...but here are the highlights anyway!  Thanks again to those who participated; I've been thinking long and hard about making changes to the blog as a result of your feedback. 

Question 1.  What are your favorite regular posts at Serendipity Handmade (choose up to 3):

Fortunate Finds (vintage items in my collection or that I discover at thrift stores, etc.) and updates about the various craft projects I make are the overwhelming winners here, with field trips coming in third in terms of interest.  I'm glad that you really like some the current content on this blog.

I am surprised that Madison Avenue Monday is not more popular, but it's at least as popular as sharing vintage recipes is, so I'll continue to do both.  However, MAM won't be weekly any longer.

As the Tomorrow's Vintage Collectibles series seems to be of little interest I am sending it to the Great Blog Post Farm to be put out to pasture (I promise that no harm will come to it!).

Question 2.  What topics would you like to see posts about in the future? (choose as many as you like):

I'll definitely pull more often from the top five or so topics on this list when considering future topic posts.

You handed me another surprise: I threw "vintage home decor" in there as an option and didn't expect the enthusiastic response.  So what exactly do you want to see?  Vintage photos of home decor from magazines?  Interior design advice?  Because the last time I talked about vintage design only one person left a comment.  Please give me a little more feedback on this.

Wordless Wednesday will also be heading out to pasture.

Question 3.  What types of giveaways or contests do you prefer? (choose as many as you like):

Duly noted.  I'm glad that the book giveaways have proved to be popular.

Questions 5 & 6.  How often should I post / How long should blog posts be?

These two questions are related.  Again you surprised me...some of you are perfectly fine with the current twice-per-week schedule. But just over half of you want to read this blog more often.  Yay!   So as an experiment I will shoot for three posts per week and see how that works.

Now is a good time to mention why I've only been blogging twice a week.  You probably know very well we bloggers love to get feedback for the time and effort that we put in to our blogs.  I think it is true that most bloggers thrive on comments.

According to Google, an average of 300 people visit this blog every day.  That's a lot!  There are tons of blogs to choose from on the Web, and I know that most people lead busy lives, so I am grateful for every legitimate comment that I receive on my posts.  But the sad truth is that comments have dropped off on this blog, except for those on giveaway posts.

And it's really no fun for me to write this blog if the posts that have taken a great deal of time to prepare or write receive few or no comments.  That said,  I would like to hear from you more often.  I love hearing your opinions and learning new things from all of you.  But if the status quo continues and comments don't increase here over the next couple of months I am considering putting the blog on hiatus.  Of course I hope that you all will decide to comment more....

Question 7.  How should I share additional photos?

You overwhelmingly prefer Flickr.  Guess what? I prefer Instagram!  (For those of you who want to see WIPs and craft projects that will never make it to the blog feel free to visit me there).  But I'll still be around at Flickr because it's great for storing large numbers of photos (such as for a field trip).

Following this blog:

You've probably heard that Google Friend Connect and Google Reader will cease to exist come July.  I've always hoped to offer you as many options as possible for blog following, so you can get new post notifications via Bloglovin', HelloCotton, Twitter, Facebook. Or you can simply subscribe via email.

One of my favorite online hangouts:

Pinterest.  I could spend hours there.  (Ok, sometimes I do!).  I tend to pin at least one item everyday, especially to my various fashion, photo, and tutorial, craft and DIY boards.

Do you spend a lot of time on Pinterest? You may want to check out my boards.  I currently recommend the small A Tisket, A Tasket board for Easter DIY and craft inspiration.

And that's all for today, dear readers.  Comments?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: Fluffy is the One!

What goes around comes around.... 

Chevron prints are huge in fashion this year, and I like the color contrast on this 80s sweater from 1984 (though I can do without the massive shoulder pads):

Via McCall's, Oct. 1984

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Toy Sewing Machines

Did you have a toy sewing machine as a child?  Today's sewing machines for children seem to be little more than disposable plastic junk that may or may not actually sew, but the toy sewing machines of yesterday are really a work of art.

I recently had the opportunity to see the incredible private collection of some expertly restored antique toy, portable, and cabinet sewing machines that dated from the 1850s to the 1950s. I really am amazed at the number of working sewing machines that have been produced over the years just for children to use.

This is a working antique Ideal Child's Toy Treadle Sewing Machine that dates to the late 1800s (it was probably made between 1880-1890):

The stand is only two feet high, and the base is made of cast iron. Isn't the scroll work on the treadle lovely? These toys machines were produced by several different companies in the US and Britain; this one was made in the United States and would have sold for around $5.00 in its day!   Here is a closer look, pictured with a small Mauchlin ware Clark's spool box with Clark's thread:

I can't help but show you this miniature hand crank machine (yes, it works) even though I do not have maker, model, or date information.  This is not the best photo of it, but it is the only one I have in which you can compare its size to the gentleman that is holding it!  I dub it "The Lilliputian":

However, the sewing machine that really charmed me (and made me green with envy, pun intended) was this perfect mint green Elna Junior from 1956, pictured next to its original red tin case:

The machine has all of its original parts and includes a working music box!  Can you imagine a little girl sitting down to sew while listening to the Blue Danube waltz?

Here's another view of the machine, case, and contents from a mint green model owned by the Brussels Toy Museum:

photo (c)Musée du Jouet de Bruxelles
I can't confirm this tidbit of information, but I heard that only 45,000 of these toys were made in 1956, and of course that makes them scarce today.

It took some searching but I found a You Tube video in which you can see (and hear!) a dark green Elna Junior with a working music box:

I wish that toy sewing machines were as beautifully made today; the examples I've shown you above work and are actually useful.   I don't need another sewing machine, but I'd love to have one a  mint green Elna Junior.  If you find one in good working order and want to part with it be sure to drop me a line!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: Make-It-Yourself with Wool

Yesterday's time change here in the US has brought me to my knees yet again; it's like having jet lag.  So this week's MAM is brought to you by Olympic Airways and the American Wool Council, who sponsored a design contest with a grand prize of two weeks in Greece and Spain:

From McCall's Patterns, Fall-Winter 1967.

The suit jacket reminds me a bit of this beautiful pale blue wool suit designed by Seymour Fox and photographed in Vogue around the same time period.  I wish I could have seen the winning entries!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Wee Felt Worlds: Book Review + Freebie

Have you ever tried needle-felting? I've been interested in trying out this craft for a few years but hadn't done so until I had the opportunity to take a look at Wee Felt Worlds:  Sweet Little Scenes to Needle Felt, edited by Amanda Carestio. What a fun book!

There are over 50 mini-projects to make with wool roving that are suited to both beginners and advanced needle felters. The projects have a retro, kitschy vibe and include dinosaurs, pirates, scientists, and robots.  The Deck the Halls section includes some adorable miniatures to make for Christmas.  Here are a few of the other super-cute designs:  

Little Cub's Adventure

Sweet Shoppe

Circus Maximus

I am a total newbie to this craft, and I wanted to see if I could make one of the projects using only the instructions in this book. The "Getting Started with Needle Felting" first chapter was a perfect introduction to the techniques that I needed to begin, and the suggestions for creating different shapes were very helpful.  For example, it is a lot easier to make a the base for the body of by starting with a base of fiberfill and covering it with roving. I found the instructions and diagrams to be very clear and easy to follow for a total beginner like myself.

At first I couldn't decide whether to make the dog or the cat (both pictured in the "Welcome to Our Wee Felt World" photo above)! After I started on the dog I decided to switch to the cat because it is an easier project for a total beginner.  It took me two tries to make the body (and I pricked my fingers a lot!) but in the end I combined the techniques for the two projects and even added my own embellishments in order to make this sweet little kitty:

Not too bad for a first try, right? And it was fun!  You can really let your imagination go wild with this book.


Would you like to try out a couple of the projects?  First, stop by my Scribd page and download the PDF instructions for the Big Purple Alien Blob pictured below (so cute!) to start creating your own miniature felt outer-space diorama:

Next, stop by the Lark Crafts blog for a step-by-step tutorial so you can create the mini UFO.   

If you are interested in trying out the craft of needle felting I highly recommend Wee Felt Worlds.  The projects are charming, easy, and can be used to make ornaments, magnets, toys and more.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review but as always, my opinions are my own. 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Madison Avenue Monday: The Treat is "Hours"

This week's MAM is a charming ad for Capital Airlines (now United) from Ladies Home Journal, March 1954.  Capital served the U.S. Eastern seaboard in the 1950s and 1960s.  This ad seems to suggest that a couple could hop a short Capital flight into New York to go to dinner and a show.

But the incredible evening gown, designed by Ceil Chapman, is what is most striking about this ad.  I'm sold.

And so were Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Aretha Franklin, Grace Kelly, and many others who wore her designs.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Field Trip to the Cut! Costume and Cinema Exhibit

As I mentioned in my last post, I thoroughly enjoy a good costume exhibit.  The Cut! Costume and the Cinema Exhibit at the Bowers Museum was no exception.   Most of the featured costumes were worn in period films that won their designers Academy and BAFTA awards.

Cut! is one of several traveling costume exhibits owned by Cosprop Ltd., a well-known and renowned British costumier for television, film, and theater founded by John Bright in 1965.  Do you remember the Starstruck field trip that I took you on in 2011?  The costumes in that wonderful exhibit were also owned by Cosprop.

The only complaint I have about this particular exhibition was the very low lighting.  The costumes were under spotlights against a backdrop of very, very dark gray walls. I felt like I was walking around in the dark!  Although this made for a dramatic overall presentation it was difficult to see the true color of some of the costumes; garments made in darker colors seemed to fade back into the walls and of course the lighting made it quite difficult to take decent photographs.  Please keep that in mind when you look at these photos!

Still, I enjoyed my trip.  I hope you do too.
Dress and hat worn by Emma Thompson in Howard's End (1992).

Back of the silk ball gown worn by Emmy Rossum as Christine in Phantom of the Opera (2004).

Costume worn by Kate Winslet in Sense and Sensibility (1995), one of my favorite films of all time!

Costumes worn by Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law in Sherlock Holmes (2009).

Costumes worn by Keira Knightley and an uncredited child actor in The Duchess (2008).
And yes, that muff is made of genuine fox fur.

Another dress worn by Keira Knightley in The Duchess.

Dress worn by Kate Beckinsale as Maggie Veiver in The Golden Bowl (2000).  The top layer of the silk muslin bodice on this dress was lifted off of the decayed lining of an original Edwardian garment (replaced with a new eau de nil lining). The lace at the hem is also vintage.

Evening gown worn by Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland (2004).

And finally, the absolute stand-out of the show (for me) was the gorgeous Arts and Crafts movement-inspired embroidered robe that was also worn by Kate Winslet in Finding Neverland: 

via The Bowers Museum

A few more photos from the exhibit can be seen at Flickr.  

As always I'd love to hear what you think about these costumes!  Just leave a comment.