Monday, December 28, 2015

A Christmas Trip to Norway, via Union Station in Washington DC

Yesterday we went to Washington DC for one of our favorite Christmas trips, a visit to the gifts from Norway at Union Station. Norway decks the halls of Union Station with more than boughs of holly.

After ice skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, we walked to Union Station where we were greeted by the gorgeously lit and enormous wreaths of Union Station. Here is a page of photos of the hanging of the wreaths.



As we approached the station, I found the 32 foot tall Norwegian tree. This year the tree is decorated to represent Norwegian music. There is information about that here, with sound clips. We decided this was the prettiest tree we had seen while in Washington DC.

Each year, beginning in 1997, the Norwegian Embassy gifts a tree to Union Station to symbolize their friendship with America, kindly thanking us for helping them during and after WWII!



The Norwegian Embassy not only gifts us a spectacular tree, but also an incredible train display!  Running across various tracks in different directions were "handmade replicas" of actual trains from Norway, "set in a Norwegian landscape of mountains and fjords."  (


















Since Union Station is currently undergoing renovations, the displays are limited. A few years ago we got to see two train displays that the Norwegian Embassy had put on display, from 1950's to a mountain scene. The charm of these train displays has always beckoned us for visits. We hadn't been able to return for a few years, to our great disappointment, so this was at the top of our list this year. In fact, the trains were our first stop, followed by the ice skating, then the return trip where we discovered the tree!


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Vintage Christmas Baking, Recipes

After an enormously busy month, I finally began Christmas baking today! I confess my heart wasn't in it at first because I'm tired. However once I pushed myself to get started, it became so much fun that I pushed myself to see how  much I could actually bake. After all my family has been patiently waiting to have the traditional favorites to enjoy.

One of the family favorites is fruitcake, the dessert of ill repute! However we love it! I use a recipe my mom always used, one from a vintage Borden cookbook. I bet it's in this cookbook. Today you can see it on the Borden website here. Just looking at the ingredients brings back sweet memories. I know, I know. The fruit and peels have a bad reputation but they are good in this recipe. When I open the mincemeat jar the room suddenly smells of Christmas. I think I want another jar to make a mincemeat pie. My mom used to make that for every Thanksgiving and Christmas too. This fruitcake is also moist. We don't start eating it until Christmas Eve. I've made some "traditional" fruitcake in the past, making my own mincemeat and fruit mix, but they were awful. I keep coming back to this faithful, easy and delicious recipe.     

I also made bark. In my busy-ness I forgot to add the sprinkles until the chocolate had set. So I put the baking sheets of bark into a warm oven for a few minutes to remelt the chocolate. Then I added the sprinkles so they would set into the chocolate. I think I have enough sprinkles for next year too. Once these pastel ones are used up I'd like to find some red and green ones. I first had this salty/sweet snack in college. When it was first offered to me I thought my friend was crazy. But to be polite I took a taste and I've been hooked ever since. This year I found Ghiradelli candy melts so I thought I'd try them. It's still setting up.
Then I made some fudge. The simple kind. Why go to more work when simply is decadent...and fast?! In my version, though, I use regular sweetened condensed milk instead of fat free.
Also different from the original recipe is that I add chopped macadamia nuts to it once the chips are melted. I love the texture! 

I also made magic cookie bars and pumpkin bread. The bread is going to be part of breakfast on Christmas morning. We'll see how much more I'll do tomorrow. Then I'll save the rest for next week to bake.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

1957 Christmas Party Dress

I have been inspired by Katrina of Edelweiss Patterns because every year she sews 2 vintage Christmas dresses, one for her and one for her mother.

One of the items on my dream list has been a 1950's Christmas party dress. I settled on this Vintage Vogue pattern from 1957. I did a bit of quick last minute shopping at JoAnn where the options led me to a red satin. As I pulled that from the shelf, I noticed tucked behind it a changeable red/black silk taffeta called Iridescent Red Tango. All 5 yards of 60" fabric and required notions came to a mere $25! 

Laying out the pattern was not as easy as the directions implied. After playing around with various arrangements I settled with these layouts, done in 3 sets, based on how I had to lay out the selvages.

In this photo the fold is on the right and selvage is on the left.
Here I brought the selvages to the middle which left the folds on each side.
Finally I put the fold at the top with the selvages on each side. 101_1417
Bodice before the facing was added...
Bodice done...
Now for the various interesting skirt pieces.
One corner had to overlap with another (in the third layout shown above) so I pieced the missing part which is now mostly hidden by the hem.
As I sewed my dress, I matched the directions from the Vogue pattern to my Couture Sewing Techniques book. Since it is my goal to improve my sewing skills and to do more couture type work, I tried to apply every technique I could.


Edges of the seams were often overcast by hand in couture houses, however the author admitted that in these days of modern  machinery, couture houses often save time (for a cheaper price) by overcasting them by machine. Thus I did what I've always done since I started sewing in the 5th grade. I overcast with a simple machine zig zag stitch. I had no idea that was a couture technique I've been doing.
Finally the skirt is done and ready to be attached to the bodice...
I had difficulty keeping the points of the gore, so I sewed those sections by hand, which is how a couture house would have done it. Couture houses do more hand sewing than machine sewing so they have more control for fine detail. It certainly works better for me too! I admire those who can do everything so beautifully by machine. However I am happy to do hand work and am glad to find that the couture book gives me "permission" and moral support to do so! I feel like I am with kindred spirits!
Another couture technique is to hand pick a zipper, which I did here. I learned how to do this years ago when my mom shared the technique that she had just learned from her Aunt Laura, the one I've mentioned before who used to sew her own clothes and work as an executive secretary in Manhattan years ago. I can't help but conjure up couture  images of her in New York City!
Only a bit of hand work is left.
After finishing the edge of the hem, I sewed a basting stitch to guide me to place an even hem. Since I am tall, and had to shorten some of the length because somehow my skirt pieces were of different lengths when I sewed them together, I lost a bit of length. Therefore I preferred to keep as much length as possible, so I made a smaller hem than was recommended by both my pattern and couture book. I hemmed my skirt by hand with a blind hem stitch.
Hem from the outside while in the process of hand sewing...
Finished hem from the inside...
Finished hem from the outside...
I was hemming miles of this skirt all day long. Thankfully it was finally ready in time for me to get ready for the party! I tried it on with my 1950's petticoat but it was horribly bulky. No matter. I decided to go with a more contemporary look for my 1957 dress. Later I'll work on my petticoat to refine the silhouette. That will be one of my sewing goals for 2016!


At the Country Club...


Pattern: Vintage Vogue 1172

Fabric-Red/Black Changeable Silk Taffeta from JoAnn

Notions-Thread, Zipper

How Long did it Take to Make?-1 week

Cost-$25 (all items were on half price)