May 21, 2015

Meet a Fellow Vintage Blogger: Esther Wagner, vintage sewer extraordinaire

This month, with spring out in full force, I'm pleased as punch to bring you the third post in my recently launched vintage interview series. Today I have the great joy of sharing about Miss Esther Wagner with all of you.

If you don't know about Esther, if you're in for a wonderfully lovely treat, and if you do, you're sure to find even more to adore about this accomplished, kindhearted, incredibly talented young woman from the blog Dolly Creates.

Esther excels on the vintage sewing front, creating amazing, timelessly beautiful garment after garment using old school patterns and a gifted seamstress' eye for knowing what fabrics and embellishments to pair with what silhouettes.

I've had the pleasure of knowing Esther online for a while now and am sincerely honoured that she wanted to take part in this series. Join me, won't you, while I ask her about her blog, sewing, vintage fashion, music, cooking, her hobbies, and so much more!

For those who are new to your wonderful blog, could you please share a bit more about it with us?

Sure! I'm a Christian young lady with a passion for home skills. I love sewing, especially when I'm making a vintage or historical garment. I blog about mine (and my lovely mother's) vintage sewing creations, vintage magazines, and an occasional knit or crocheted project.

What inspired your site's charming name?

I'm so glad you asked! When I was little, I loved dolls, and had so many of them that I gained the nickname "Dolly" from my family! The name just seemed to stick all of these years, so when I started my blog a few years ago, that seemed like an appropriate title.

Whenever I visit your blog (which is often! :)), I am struck by a sense of two things first and foremost: serenity and old-fashionedness, and I say that as a wholly positive thing. What are some of the ways that you most enjoy currently bringing the past into your daily life?

Enjoying the simple things in life! Things like a walk in the garden (we call it the tour de fleur) ;), having tea-time, and playing a game together. Family has always been very important to us. Being homeschooled and having a dad who worked from the home, we have always been a very close family. We also enjoy old movies (pre-1950) and movies set in those eras.

What are some things (that you're 100% comfortable sharing) about yourself that your readers might not know yet?

I am 6' tall, the youngest of 4 siblings, and I really really don't like eggs. ;)

What is/are your favourite decades of all time from a fashion stand point?

I would have to say the 1940s are my absolute favorite. The styles are so very interesting and detailed that they have gained first place with me! I just can't get over the fact that although fabric supplies were very limited, ladies still managed to make the most gorgeous, ornate dresses! The 1930s and 1950s are both very close runners-up, however with their equally-as-gorgeous styles.

How often do you wear vintage styles?

Every day, actually! I used to love the modern fashions (chevron, infinity scarves, maxi skirts, etc), but once I discovered vintage fashions, they became my one-and-only favorite.

You are an accomplished and very creative sewer, what are some of your favourite projects that you've shared on your blog to date?

1950s "Redo" Dress

Pleated 1950s Dress

Little Black 1940s Dress

Calico Regency Gown

(Jessica's note: a photo from each of these marvelous projects appears throughout this interview post.)

When did your love of sewing take root? Did you have sewing mentors or are you self-taught?

Last March is when my love of sewing started. I discovered a couple of ladies' blogs (Lily's and Tara's) that featured vintage-style garments that they had made, and I was just in love with the styles! I made my first vintage dress that same month, which got me "hooked" on sewing for good. As for how I was taught, my mother (very patiently) taught me how to sew! She has been sewing since grade school, so she is a very amazing seamstress. I am so thankful for her, and that she was able to teach me everything I know about it!!

What advice would you give to a novice sewer who is just starting out?

Don't let the seeming difficulty of pattern-reading, zipper-installing and buttonholing overwhelm you! They're all very easy once you have had a little bit of practice! Find an easy pattern such as Vogue V9000 (you could easily put a simple gathered skirt on it for a more '40s-inspired look) or Simplicity 1692, or an easy modern pattern of your liking.

Take it one step at a time, Google the pattern you are making to find a tutorial or sew-along on someone's blog, and have fun! You will be impressed by your own skills when you're done!

You make a lot of your own clothing. What percentage (roughly) of your closet at this point in time would you say you created with your own hands?

Approximately 96%, with the other 4% being store-bought sweaters and a couple of t-shirts and old skirts for exceedingly dirty jobs (tree-felling, get the drift.). My goal when I first started sewing garments was to have a completely handmade wardrobe, and I have finally reached that point!

What are some of the benefits that you find sewing enriches your life with?

•The ability to make my garments exactly as I want them. Being 6' tall, it wasn't an easy thing to find clothing that fit the way I wanted it to! Sewing allows me to personalize every little detail, making the whole experience quite enjoyable!

•That same aspect runs into many different areas as well; I can make clothing for my future children, linens and household items all in a specific way!

Your top five favourite sewing notions, tools and/or types of fabric would be?

•My very favorite sewing tool is the Pilot Frixion Erasable Marking Pen. I used to use the water-soluble markers, but then I would always have to either spritz or wash each garment after completion before I could wear it. With these pens, the marks iron out instantly!

•I also find the Nancy Zieman Sliding Gauge to be very helpful! It is a very useful tool for measuring with that long, straight edge.

•Cotton fabric! Probably 95% of my garments are made from cotton, and I just love it! Yes, it does mean a lot of ironing, but it is the most widely available, quality fabric in my area, and it usually works quite well for most patterns.

•A serger. We are fortunate enough as to have a serger, and it is just wonderful. It's so nice to have all of your raw edges taken care of - no worries!!

•Other ladies' sewing blogs. It is immensely helpful to be able to look at what other ladies have sewn for inspiration, directions, and encouragement!

Any exciting WIP's on the go right now that you can share with us?

I am in the middle of a late 1840s-early 1850s summer day dress right now. I took a short break from it in the last week or two, but I am looking forward to finishing it! Another 1950s blouse (Simplicity 1278) out of excess fabric from a previous project. I just love that pattern!

We just got an original '30s pattern last week which I am about to start making out of a gorgeous fabric inspired by that era. I'm very excited about it!

Please tell us more about the area where you live. It always looks so tranquil and beautiful in your photos.

We live in the Midwest, in a rural area surrounded by fields, woods, and a lovely little creek. It's a very lovely area; we're away from the hustle and bustle of town, but near enough to it to shop, eat, and all that good stuff! I've lived here all my life, and I definitely love it.

Do you currently live in a vintage/heritage home? (And if not, would you like to one day?)

No, our home was built in the '70s. I would love to live in a "vintage" home, although the idea of the upkeep that comes with such a house is a little daunting! Even so, I would like to one day!

When not sewing or blogging, what are some of your favourite things to do?

Playing the piano, gardening, baking, cooking, and fishing! The county we live in is just full of lakes, so we have plenty of opportunities to fish. There's just nothing like sight-fishing some panfish on a bright, warm spring day!

Like myself, you're a big fan of cooking. Do you enjoy making vintage recipes?

Surprisingly enough, I've never made any particular vintage recipe! (Shocking!) Some of the recipes I make are from my grandmas, so they may actually qualify as "vintage," but I have yet to delve into the realm of vintage cooking. Now I'm eager to try it!

What are some of your favourite dishes (vintage or contemporary) to whip up?

Oooh, hard question! It's hard to limit it to "some." ;) Anything chocolate, whether it be cookies, cakes, pies, candies or anything! Bread. There's something about making it that is quite satisfying! Spaghetti, plus steak and onions (with mushrooms).

Music is another big passion of yours, can you tell us more about which types and/or artists speak most deeply to your soul these days?

My favorite types of music are old-fashioned hymns, classical music, and Deanna Durbin songs. Chopin is definitely my favorite classical composer; nocturnes and waltzes are my favorite pieces. They are packed with so much emotion and feeling!!

I certainly see you as such, but I'm curious, do you consider yourself to be a highly creative person?

Well, to a certain extent, yes! I am not creative in the area of art (drawing, painting); I never have been. I have absolutely no talent in that realm! It's rather amazing, especially since all of my siblings are wonderful artists! Apparently I missed inheriting that trait! But I do consider myself to be quite creative in the area of sewing and handwork.

What's one crafty/creative thing you'd like to try that you've never delved into before?

Bobbin lace. It looks immensely difficult, but I like a challenge once in a while! And the lace that you can make is stunningly gorgeous.

And last, but certainly not least, what are some of your dreams/goals - sewing, blogging or otherwise related - for the future?

•Working on my Etsy shop (also called Dolly Creates), which I just launched this month. It is devoted to handmade vintage and historical fashions for women and children.

•After I get more of an "established" wardrobe built up, I would like to focus on some sewing for my hope chest. I would love to make table linens, curtains, pillowcases, aprons, and other things for my (Lord-willing) future home. I also want to sew many more children's clothes in order that I can someday clothe my children almost entirely in handmade clothing.

•I look forward also to (Lord-willing) getting married one day, having children, and serving the Lord in whatever way He directs!

Jessica's note ~ You can also connect with Esther on Pinterest.

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I have nothing but the deepest respect for Esther and her passion for sewing, the past, domestic arts, music, and blogging. On top of being a gifted lady, she is also a truly sweet, caring, giving, smart, lovely individual and someone for whom all of our feed readers will be/are bettered by following, no matter if you're a sewer or not.

As you can see from this bevy of photos, Esther has a great knack for putting together period appropriate looks that are sure to inspire one and all, on top of sharing many helpful how-tos, ideas, resources and other can't-miss features on her fantastic blog.

Thank you so much for the beautiful interview, Esther. I truly adored getting to know you and Dolly Creates better, as I'm sure my readers did as well.

Next month, for June's vintage blogger interview, we'll be jetting back across the Atlantic to talk to one of the most stylish old school loving gals in Germany. I can hardly wait! :)

May 19, 2015

I feel the winds of change blowing (and I love it!)

Despite my darling husband sometimes playfully teasing me that the opposite is true, I am not afraid of change in the slightest and rarely shy away from it. However, that doesn't mean I necessarily go out of my way to introduce it into my life 24/7 either.

Like many of us, I have my usual routine. It isn't always perfect, and sometimes (aka, everyday!) there aren't anywhere near hours in the day, but it's mine and I can become rather steadfastly attached to it. Until, that is, I grow weary and restless with with it and certain other elements of my life (not, mind you, my “dedicated days” work schedule - that is life changingly amazing and not budging an inch any time soon!).

Ever since I came back from visiting Calgary in the fall of 2013, which was a profoundly important trip for me (as I delved into in this post), I've been doing an even greater amount of soul searching and introspective thought than ever before. I frequently feel like certain things need be altered, yet they remain exactly as they are because other bigger issues, points of stress, or worries come along and knock them squarely onto the back burner.

At this stage in my life, a few weeks before my 31st birthday, my heart and soul feel very, very open to change, as well as to both embracing new opportunities - whatever they may be - and getting in touch again with certain things that I love doing dearly, but haven't been kind enough to myself to make time for, in many instances, years now.

I realize that such statements sound a touch vague, and that's intentional. This isn't because I don't want to share the details of such with all of you, but rather because in many cases, I don't even know exactly what those changes will be yet myself. I just know, that like a runner bracing themselves on the starting line, I'm ready to burst forward and turn over a lot of new leaves - or so I hope!

{There is a certain almost palpable quality to the air when the winds of change pick up. I feel recharged thanks to it and am so excited to see where it will lead me this year and beyond. Vintage image source.}

That said, here are a few things that I'd really like, and am planning, to change in the coming months:

-Take actual days off. If we exclude days when my health keeps me bedridden and unable to do pretty much anything at all, which I don't feel should count because I have zero choice in the matter, I haven't taken a single day off this year and can (excluding our trip to Victoria last fall, which I did a lot of work related things on all the same) count on one hand the number I took last year.

Not kidding there in the slightest. And I put in long days. I mean like an average of 12 - 20+ hour workdays, which my health pays quite often, I know, but as a lifelong workaholic, it's genuinely hard for to be any other way. That said, I know, I know, I know oh-so-well that I must take days off at least once or twice a month and am going to try even harder to push myself to do so.

-And while I am, I'm going to craft. I love crafting, it's been near and dear to my heart my whole life, but you wouldn't know it from my blog. I have a dedicated craft room in our little basement that in recent times has doubled as my home office + photo studio + where I store inventory for my Etsy shop and I have not actually crafted in it, for all intents, for about 2.5 years. I literally shudder when I stop and reflect on that. I'm all for hard work, being driven, and pushing yourself, but every last one of us needs to stop and enjoy a hobby or two every now and then and I absolutely must get back to creating once more.

-I feel like some of my blog posts series and/or certain topics I cover are getting a bit staid/old (and not "old" in a good, vintage kind of way!) and aren't as popular as they once were, so I may be retiring some and/or introducing others later in the year.

-Speaking of my blog, looking ahead to late 2015 and beyond (aka, after this coming summer), I think that I'm going to scale back just a touch on my posting frequency. I madly adore writing and blogging and could do so almost everyday, but there is a great deal of behind the scenes work that goes into posting - as any frequent blogger who puts a lot of effort into their posts will quickly tell you - and in order to keep my blog and shop both going strong, I need to take a little bit of that time and apply it to other areas of my work and home life alike, as well as to those mythical days off.

-I need to spend more time outside. Sometimes that isn't possible and I fully accept that, but nothing, and I mean nothing, in the whole universe soothes my soul (as discussed in posts such as this one and this one) like connecting with nature and genuinely require that sense of serenity in my life.

-Worry less. Plain and simple. Tony recently reminded me of the importance of just going with life's natural flow and that's something I'm trying to embrace on an even deeper level these days.

-Weed out more "time sucks" from my life, be they online or off (this is something I've been doing for quite a while now, but there's always room to cut down on or entirely remove others still).

-Try a new wig. I love my current wig and it's been a very good friend to me for over 2.5 years (not literally the same wig, but the same model - I go through a new one every 3 to 6 months or so, just depending on the weather/heat and how often I wear it), but I've been jonseing for both darker and, even more so, shorter hair, so I'm planning on purchasing one soon (I hope) that fits this bill.

I've actually tried several other wigs since becoming a wig wearer due to medical hair loss in 2012, but none of them have worked well or looked flatting on me, so that's part of the reason I've stayed with my current one for so long (and why the others that didn't pan out haven't made it onto my blog). Time to at least try another wig - worst case, I'll return or resell it. No biggie - especially since I know that I can rely on my current one so long as its still being produced.

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Again, these are just a few things. The real key here is somewhat less about specifics and more about being open and ready for change. Hopefully most of it will be positive, but even if some negatives happen, I'll embrace them and hunt down the silver linings that they house, for there is one in very nearly every situation in life (that's been a guiding principle of mine ever since I was a child).

Spring, which we're about 2/3rds of the way through at this point (can that really be?!) is such an important time of rebirth and growth, and I think that is a big part of the reason why, amidst the April showers and May flowers, I've been feeling the winds of change blowing lately.

I'm really glad that they’re out in full (gale) force and hope that they'll continue to propel me forward for a long time to come!

Are you also feeling ready for change in your life this spring? What sorts of things would you like to see happen for you on that front in the weeks and months ahead?

May 17, 2015

Flickr Favourites: May 17, 2015

{WW2 ... "Lend a Hand!" ~ James Vaughan}

{Blue Telephone Woman ~ Salty Cotton}

{Lauren 2011 ~ Bliss Braoudakis}

{Cute and stripey ~ James Vaughan}

{The 1950s-blue blouson jacket ~ April-Mo}

{Eye on Cat Toy ~}

{1940s or 1950s handsome guy with great car ~ Sundogrr}

{Advance 2315 ~ Sandra Perkins}

{Apricot morning ~ Julia Khusainova}

{June, 1932 Ladies' Home Journal ~ Genibee}

{All images above are from Flickr. To learn more about a specific image, please click on its title to be taken to its respective Flickr page.} 

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Though I dubbed brown my colour of the year for 2015, and it certainly is, if it had a running mate, that title would most definitely go to blue. Specifically light/baby and sky blue. Long (okay, at least a little while :)) before they became hot hues of the moment (in no small part due to Pantone's vote of approval this season), they enraptured me with their playful elegance and feel-good lightness of being during the dark, snow capped days of winter.

By spring proper, it really was the main colour that I was thinking about. Though I don't own a lot in my wardrobe (a slightly-too-large 1950s wiggle skirt and a vintage appropriate modern cardigan are the biggies), I'm striving to find more pieces this year and beyond in this classic, upbeat shade. I love that it works wonders all spring and summer long. If one desires, it can come out to play amongst some of fall's darker hues, such as cocoa brown and stormy sky grey, as well, and naturally works a treat (to borrow one of my favourite British terms) in the chilly days of winter, where it is often partnered with white and used to represent snow, ice and the very nippy temperature itself.

To help inspire me on my quest for more baby blue, I wanted to shine the spotlight on it in this month's edition of Flickr Favourites, along with some of the other shades that it plays so wonderfully with.

Colours may come and go in vogue, but they virtually never vanish entirely. They're always around us in one capacity or another, and light blue is certainly no exception. It can be the sky we gaze upon, the hue used to celebrate the birth of a baby boy, the shade that water is depicted as in countless works of art, the tinge an iceberg takes on when floating in the bone chillingly cold sea, the colour of an Easter egg, and scores of other elements of our world, each beautiful and timeless unto itself.

I love soft blue and have no doubt that my renewed passion for it will turn into a longstanding romance of sartorial sort in large measure, but certainly in general as well. Were the springtime breeze a hue, I can't help but feel like it would be baby blue and so with that thought in mind, I'm heading outdoors today to soak up the gloriousness of mid-May, bop around town, and who knows, perhaps even chance upon a sky toned treasure in the process.

Have a beautiful and thoroughly happy Sunday, my lovely friends!