Saturday, January 31, 2015

Vintage WWII Era Slip

The Sew Monthly Challenge for January is Foundations. The first item that came to mind was a badly  needed 18th century shift. After all, shifts are foundational for wearing and preparing the outer garments. Alas I've been very much under the weather for the last two months so I tried to think of something a bit less aggressive, although a shift sounds perfect in that all I need to do is hand sew it...lots of hand sewing. In my convalescence, I had plenty of time for that. But I coughed a lot in December and January (bronchitis) which left my sides I don't like to move a whole lot, much less get on the ground to cut my fabric. Cutting out a shift is a lot of floor work...after lifting a heavy bolt of linen off the top shelf of the upstairs fabric stash closet.  Then it would take all month to sew. Oh no, I was not up to that in early January.
After quite a bit of thinking, and researching, I decided to make a vintage slip.  That would be a lot less fabric. I had all the supplies at home. I could quickly whip that up on the sewing machine.  Also a slip, for me, would definitely meet the Foundation Challenge. I have always worn slips under my dresses because my mom and her mom always told me that I *had* to wear a slip when wearing any dress, for modesty purposes. That thought has stuck with me so that now I would feel most improperly dressed without a slip under my dress. Also I'm sure that like the 18th century, a modern slip protects the outer garment from oils and such from the skin, helping to preserve the garment, etc.  So yes, slips are foundational!
Also I needed a vintage slip to wear with the WWII era dress I made last spring. Incidentally, I wore a similar embroidered eyelet slip with my dress for the photos in the previous link. I had purchased that slip cheaply years ago and love it and want more. One thing I don't like about that slip though, is that it has elastic in the back of the bodice. However the slip I found that is quite similar (and linked below) was otherwise similar. Win, win!
As I did my research, I decided to ask my mother-in-law advice for the missing information I couldn't find.  She was a little girl during WWII and had three older sisters. She confirmed that my pattern (for free here) was a good choice, and that eyelet cotton was indeed available.
The reason why I classify this as a WWII era slip, is because it comes just below the knee, just like the requirements of dresses in that era. Also the skirt is not ultra-full (like the 1950's) or cut on the bias (like the 1930's). It looks very much like the WWII era dresses which had strict fabric requirements due to war time rationing, which I wrote about here.  
Her information supported that the dating on this listing was most likely properly dated! I love these two vintage slips with the different types of lace and original labels.
I also found these images, as well as these.
Last week I printed out the e-pattern. I was not up to climbing up and down the stairs so my daughter retrieved the 29 pages of the pattern for me. I was worried about putting this together.  I spent most of the afternoon figuring out how the pages go together, and it went much easier than I thought. I figured out a system of laying out the papers, positioning them properly, and taping them together.  I wasn't certain which line to cut out though.  It looked like I was a medium for the bust and a large for the waist and hips. (Measurements are given at the link for the pattern. Scroll down for all the blog comments for interesting and helpful details about the pattern.)  Oh dear, I don't like trying to figure out how to reckon those differences. I don't know anything about that stuff.  Furthermore, I forgot that our printer's color ink was low, so the colored lines for the different sizes were off, then with a size lines and cutting lines all blurring together to my muddled eye, I decided to just cut around the largest size and hope for the best.  I've learned how to drape in the 18th century manner. Why not use some of those ideas? I figured that being a slip, and the fact that ease was built into garments by WWII, I should be safe.


I was tired after all that putting together and cutting of the e-pattern,  so I finally set to work cutting  out the fabric and stitching it together today.  As I sewed each section, I held it to me for a "fitting" of sorts and everything was good. The dart for the bodice was way off for me. I decided to fiddle with it, pinning the excess to stitch down and that worked!


Piece by piece everything nicely worked together for me. Then I dug around my lace stash and found this eyelet lace...and some white satin ribbon...Fun, fun! Reminds me a little bit of one of the vintage ones pictured here.

Threading the ribbon through the eyelet lace.

At the end I slipped it over my head and it fits!
In fact, I am so pleased with this slip, that I'm going to make more for both me and my daughter to wear with modern dresses! I haven't been a fan of modern slips for years but I've always liked these vintage ones. Double win, win!


Front view...


Close-up of the bodice...


Closse-up of the hem...


Back of the slip...


Close-up of the back...


And now for the HSM details!
HSF 2015

The Challenge:
January – Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.

100% cotton eyelet border fabric 

vintage e-pattern available for free here

WWII era

eyelet lace, ribbon, thread

How historically accurate is it?
About 90%. I'm not sure if there was eyelet *border* fabric, but eyelet fabric was definitely used. Nor am I sure if the eyelet lace with ribbon is exactly accurate.

Hours to complete:
About a day.

First worn:
Not yet.

Total cost:
Free for me, since I have had everything in the stash for years. However it only took 1 yard of eyelet border fabric, which must have cost about $3, lace-$2, ribbon-$2, thread-$1, total-$8 

I have also entered the Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge, which I posted about here. So here is my first vintage pattern completion for the year! Triple win, win!

Monday, January 26, 2015

18th Century and WWII Stitching Currently in Progress

I am currently working on two historic sewing projects. For my quiet time during my convalescence (about to start Volume III of my journaI of conversations with my family), I have been working on a darling little 18th century needlecase.  If you'd like to see how far I've gotten, then check my companion facebook page that features my historic sewing.

During my more active moments, I've been working on my WWII project. I've researched extant images on-line and even e-mailed my mother-in-law who kindly shared her memories of clothing she and her sisters wore while growing up during WWII.  I've located a free e-pattern that  my mother-in-law approved! I dug out appropriate fabric from my fabric stash. I've printed out, taped together and cut out my e-pattern. It's laid out on the fabric now and I have just enough! I hope to start sewing this item together Tuesday or Wednesday, and start sharing progress photos on my facebook page. When I complete the project I'll share the big reveal here with details of the project!

My plan is to continue this plan, post works-in-progress photos on my facebook page as I work, then posting the big reveal on my blog, since the blog is sometimes quiet about my sewing, even though I am actually stitching!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Papyrus Masks

Have you heard of the papyrus mask that is currently being unveiled?

Many of us know of the richly ornamented pharoah masks of the kings of Egypt. Lesser known sorts who were mummified could only afford papyrus masks, which are currently being very carefully peeled away to an amazing assortment of papers such as...the Gospel of  Mark, copies of Homer's incredible stories (you know Homer from Greece who is credited for some of the first great pieces of literature, the Iliad and the Odyssey, upon which later works were inspired.) and even personal letters.
Dissenters take huge issue of this mask even being unveiled, or peeled away and stripped of its layers. For the record, I want to note that museums always have this dilemma when they receive a new to them object of antiquity. With great debate among their own staff the curators ponder the following:
  • Should we leave it alone to learn from how it looked when it was discovered?
  • Should we restore it to its former condition to learn from that angle?
  • Should we pick it apart and learn from what is underneath...then we can leave future similar finds intact?
My kids and I learned all about the job of museum curators in making these decisions, and how they go about this process in great depth through behind-the-scenes tours, some public and some private, into the job of the curator at Colonial Williamsburg which caused us to truly appreciate their job. As a result, I'm in full support of the papyrus unmasking!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Tamales, a Christmas Eve Tradition....and for New Year's Too

Tamales are a huge Christmas tradition in San Antonio, the town where I grew up. It was a tradition in my family to buy tamales from HEB for both Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. (I've even had homemade tamales from various friends, one of which was jalepeno tamales from Panama....though she neglected to tell me about all those jalepenos! Where is a flour tortilla to take away the heat!) 

Then we moved to Virginia where flavors are sort of, well...bland. When Christmas came, we were hungry for tamales, but I didn't want to make them because they are so much work. However things weren't quite the same that first year in Virginia without tamales.

The following Christmas I found a Paula Deen Christmas issue magazine 2008 at the check out of the grocery store. I've never been a huge fan of the recipes (though she seems to be a lot of fun and I love her decorating style!) because she just cooks with too much butter, lard and sugar, which I know is a Southern thing but I try to eat healthier while keeping all the flavors! However this issue promised to be a collector's issue. I wondered why and picked it up. She had a huge section on her visit to Colonial Williamsburg, having tea with Patrick Henry(wow!), with cooking spreads on her working with an 18th century cook and a modern cook at one of the CWF chefs with recipes...and more! Wow! That was definitely worth buying, so I did! When I got home I found a Mexican section with Chicken Tomatillo Tamales that looked really good which surprised me because she's a Southern gal (and queen, without a doubt and that is a positive comment full of respect!) and Tex Mex is sooo different from Southern. In fact, Tex Mex is different from Mexican, but this recipe definitely looked Tex Mex to me (and not Mexican-it took moving to Virginia to realize the difference but now I know! lol) 

So I made my first ever tamales that Christmas of 2009! I had meant for my kids to help me, but we had had a blizzard. A blizzard (20" of snow in NoVA! That is unheard of. Little did we know we'd get another 30" before the winter season was over!) and these Texas kids were having fun exploring all the possibilities of sledding down the hill next to our house, which was hilarious since we didn't have any sleds! It was quite the lesson in physics!

Meanwhile I labored over tamales, listened to Christmas music and took mini-breaks to do a bit of my own experimental sledding! Anyway there is my Paula Deen magazine opened up in front of me with the great picture tutorial of how to spread and wrap! I could keep an eye on the kids outside the dining room window (top right of this photo) and the kitchen windows. Too fun! What a cozy Christmas!  



They were a hit! So I made them again the next Christmas one night while watching "Christmas in Connecticut," which I thought was funny since it's about a lady who writes gourmet cooking and homekeeping articles for a major publication, all based on her family farm in Connecticut...except she was a single lady living in New York City who couldn't cook. She got all her recipes from her Uncle Felix. Somehow I felt a connection...

See, I'm using the same Paula Deen magazine again, opened up before me. I'm so impressed with this issue. I took more step by step photos this time. In the tub on the right I have the corn husks soaking. I grab one, spread on the masa (far left), then add some filling (second from left), then wrap and place in the red plate (far left). 










Another year of homemade tamales. Another hit! Happy, happy family!

One year I finally corraled my kids to help and they had fun, whipping them out in an afternoon!



Now we have a new tradition...the kids help me make tamales! (Except for this last Christmas because of my being under the weather. I'm still on voice rest.)

Anyway tamales come in a variety of flavors based on the filling ingredient which can be either pork, beef, or chicken. It can even be a dessert! At one San Antonio restaurant we were given white chocolate vanilla bean "tamales" wrapped inside a cornhusk!

I do plan to expeiment with other meats, but so far I am quite happy with these Chicken Tomatillo recipes, even though I have ammended her recipe.

I usually have left over filling that I freeze and save for flautas! This makes so many tamales that we certainly don't need them all at once for our family. So I usually pack up half in a gallon sized freezer bag and save for New Years.

Chicken Tomatillo Tamales

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
2 T corn oil
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 c chopped cooked dark meat chicken (that has been boiled with seasonings: salt and garlic) 
2 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese
5 t cumin, divided4 t ancho chili powder, divided
4.5 t salt, divided
chipotle pepper powder to taste
2 c  corn oil
6 c masa harina
1 package dried corn husks, separated and soaked

In a large pot, cover tomatillos with water seasoned with salt and garlic. Bring to boil. Boil for 8-10 minutes or until tender. Drain tomatillos, reserving 1.5 c of cooking water.
In a skillet heat 2T corn oil. Saute onions and garlic until softened.

Puree tomatillos. Pour into large bowl. Add onion, garlic, chicken, cheese, 3t cumin, 2t chili powder, salt to taste, chipotle powder to taste. Set aside.

Now time to make the masa. Combine masa, corn oil, 3 t salt, 2 t cumin, 2t chili powder, some chipotle powder to taste. Gradually stir in 1.5 c of reserved tomatillo cooking water, beating until smooth.

The rest of the process is rather standard, so now I'm going to turn you over to Son of the South, who not only uses corn oil instead of shortening like me, but also has step by step details on each part of the tamale making process.   

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow Outside...and in the Kitchen

We had a weather forecast for a trace of snow. That was good because I had a 10:30am doctor appointment, because although I feel better (see December posts) I don't feel better. I am breathless when I talk. Waking up in the mornings are hard for me, and I'm too breathless if I get too active, so I slept in to  9am and woke up to this! Well actually a bit more than this.  


At 9am it was 22 degrees with heavily falling snow. By 1pm when I took this picture (finally home from the doctor after precarious driving on untreated roads) it was a sunny 30 degrees and the snow had started to melt. 


The outside snow reminded me of this Pfefferneuse that my son baked for me last night. (I wrote about the history of pfefferneuse along with some recipes here.)


Meanwhile I am not allowed to talk or even whisper for the next 3-5 days since talking exacerbates some inflamation. I also got some other meds, so here's hoping to finally feeling better soon!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Olympian Louis Zamperini, Unbroken, and the Rose Bowl Parade

Last spring a friend lent  me a New York Times bestseller to read written by Laura Hildebrand, called Unbroken which told the story of Louis Zamperini.  Zamperini grew up in an Italian family in California and was quite the troublemaker. To avoid being caught by authorities, he learned to run fast. His older brother encouraged him to turn his life around and make use of his speed in track, which eventually took him to the 1936 Berlin Olympics where his lightening speed made him the fastest American in his event. The elusive Olympic medal beckoned to him for a hopeful 1940 Tokyo Olympics where victory was certain for this man whose speed became reknown and unbelieveably faster each year.
But as we all know, war descended in 1939. Zamperini traded in his running shoes for military gear, when he enlisted in the Army Air Corps as a bombadier. Between missions he continued to run and amazingly increase his time.
In 1943 his plane crashed at sea. Only he and two other crew members survived the crash. One of them died after 33 days drifting at sea. Whereas he insisted on the morbidness of the situation, the more positive Zamperini and pilot Russell Phillips surived 47 days, finally driftin on a Japanese  occupied island.
Zamperini and Phillips finished out the war as POWs. Zamperini was especially abusively targeted by a certain Japanese beast who the POWs nicknamed the Bird. (Since the Bird knew some English, they didn't dare call him what they really thought.) The Bird was intensely disliked and feared by both POWs and fellow Japanese alike. Endurance. Bravery. Courage. Somehow they survived to the end of the war.
Obviously post traumatic stress hindered their return to America in what they hoped would be a normal life as each fell in love with lovely young ladies whom they married as they began new lives. Understandably, certain triggers impede life, such as being served rice for dinner. (As I recall from the book, they could never bring themselves to eat rice again as it was associated with their POW days and the brutish torture they endured.)
Even more hindering to life, was Zamperini's constant nightmares and fall to alcoholism which led to his abusing his wife. Then one day he and his wife attended a Billy Graham Crusade in Los Angeles where he became a born-again Christian. As incredible as his story of survival in his growing up years and then WWII was, a miracle unfolded as he learned about love and forgiveness in his new life as a Christian.
Zamperini not only devoted his life to Christ but also committed to sharing his faith, with encouragement from Billy Graham. Amazingly he returned to Japan to seek out his previous captors who were interrned in a war crimes prison to tell them he forgave them. As a result, many of his former captors became saved. However the Bird who had most tortured him was not there, because he had disappeared to escape war crime trials.
In 1998 Zamperini was invited to the Nagano Winter Olympics to carry the Olympic torch, not far from one of his former prison camps. I remember watching these Olympics with my kids, since I'm always caught up in the spirit of competition, the history of the games, and the human interest stories of past and present athletes. Here is the link to the CBS documentary (host of the television coverage of the Nagano Olympics) of Zamperini's life, which shows the entire story of his life, far more than the present movie, Unbroken. Included is actual photograhy and video clips of his running days, his Olympic 1936 run, the WWII sites he was at, and his torch run at Nagano.  While there, he tried to meet with the Bird, with whom he wanted to share forgiveness. However the Bird refused to meet with Zamperini, although the Bird did grant an interview with CBS which is included in the previous link, along with details of the torture Zamperini endured at the hands of the Bird.
In 2011, Zamperini wrote his autobiography Devil at My Heels: A Heroic Olympian's Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in WWII.   Due to public dubiousness at the claims he  made at surviving such horrific torture, acclaimed author Laura Hildebrand (who wrote Seabiscuit) undertook to write Zamperini's biography and research his claims.  The result is the New York Times Bestseller, Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption. Her research verified his claims.
On Christmas Day, Unbroken premiered as a movie, which unfortunately left out the most important part of his story, that of redemption.
In May 2014, the Pasadena Rose Bowl Committee decided to honor Louis Zamperini in the 2015 Rose Parade. He was invited to be the Grand Marshal. His life became the theme of the parade: Inspring Stories. 
Zamperini lived his entire life, apart from the war, in the nearby city of Torrance and loved the Rose Bowl Parade, as many of the locals do. With great anticipation he looked forward to both the premiere of the movie and being Grand Marshal of the parade.
Unfortunately, Zamperini passed away in July 2014 at the age of  97. However his memory lives on. The Rose Bowl Parade beautifully honored Zamperini's legacy today. Zamperini was poignantly remembered by his alma mater, the USC Trojans, by a riderless horse, a symbol of a fallen soldier. Zamperini's family rode in the Grand Marshal car (which was expected to be a 1936 Packard). Behind the family was a beautiful float built by Zamperini's hometown of Torrance which not only fully honored his memory with floral reproductions of his running shoes, his WWII plane,  WWII medals and a floral photographic scrapbook page of his life in the Olympics and with Billy Graham along with many other memories. Titled "A Race Well Run" it appropriately won one of the top prizes.
I've always enjoyed the Rose Bowl Parade, but this year's parade is definitely my favorite. The book was most difficult to read, yet my life was touched.  If you've not read Unbroken by Laura Hildebrand yet, I highly recommend it for your 2015 must read list! =)