Sunday, December 5, 2010

I Want to Sew for Me!

After finishing The Carpenter's shirt, which feels like it took ages to complete, I was feeling the need to make something for ME. I'm sure the Selfish Seamstress would approve. Not only did I want to make something for me, me, me, I wanted it to be quick. So two Sundays ago, I made a gathered skirt: I realize this is a less-than-chic look, but at the time I didn't care. I wanted something quick and I wanted it simple. Nothing simpler than a gathered skirt - I didn't even use a pattern. I cut two rectangles, 40 inches wide by 29 inches long, for the body of the skirt, and I cut another rectangle, about 5 1/4 inches wide, for the waistband. I made the waist 29 1/2 inches long and I think that has made the skirt a little too big in the waist. I need to make it a little tighter in the future. I put in a four inch hem to give the hem weight. I used a red zipper because that is what I had on hand, so I used a red button, too:
This fabric is from my stash, and I bought it at The Fabric Place in Massachuestts about six years ago. It was on the wool table, but I am pretty sure it is 100% polyester - I could tell by the odor when I ironed it with steam. No burn test necessary - there is no more distinctive smell than polyester when it is ironed!
Fortunately, it wasn't bad to work with, and it doesn't wrinkle. It got the job done for a quick project, just to satisfy my sewing soul. If I make this skirt again, I will shorten it by 2 inches for a less dowdy look, and to make it (hopefully) more vaguely rockin'.
This afternoon I wandered into the sewing studio (a/k/a the entire downstairs of my house) and I wanted to do something, but not take on a big project. So I made a muslin (gasp!) of a strapless bodice from a vintage pattern just to see how it would fit me (size 14, bust 34). Here is the front:
Here is the back:

And here are the front and back pattern pieces:

The bust fits fine, but the waist and hip area is a tad tight. I think I need to add an extra 1/2 inch in the waist/hip area to make it fit better. Here's my question: should alter the pattern at the side seams, or should I narrow the darts to add the extra 1/2 inch? Does it matter? I'm leaning towards making the darts narrower, but I don't know the "correct" way to make this alteration. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Parting Shot: For Thanksgiving, the Carpenter and I went to Williamsburg, VA. My favorite photo I took all day at historic Williamsburg - he was squirrel hunting:

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's Not So Bad

I finally, finally got the shirt done for the BF using McCalls 6044. And now that it is complete, I can say that I spent way more time agonizing over it than I did sewing it. I spent Sunday getting the collar sewn on using David Coffin's instructions in his book, Shirtmaking. At one point, I thought I had done it wrong, unsewed it, then sewed it back, and only then I discovered I did it right the first time! I really think that part of my confusion stemmed from Mr. Coffin's instructions which are so detailed, I sort of get lost about what I'm doing next. He's extremely thorough, but sometimes I just need basic, overview instructions about what we are trying to accomplish here. I will say that it resulted in the best collar I have ever sewn:
Certainly, the collar stand is way better than the ones I sewed using conventional instructions in my Amy Butler tunics:

On Sunday, I also got the buttonholes done. I took Monday off of work and finished putting the buttons on and I hemmed it. The Carpenter came over that night for dinner and he was anxious to try it on. It wasn't near as small as I feared it would be:

Hallelujah!!!! It fits perfectly as long as he doesn't move around a lot. : ) For the next shirt that I make, though, I'll probably make a bigger size since he likes his shirts loose fitting, and I'll probably go with a more traditional pattern that has a yoke. I know he likes it though, because he left wearing it!
So this was definitely a learning experience, one that I probably need to repeat soon so I don't forget all the lessons learned. But the holidays are coming up, and I've finally learned not to line up sewing projects for Christmas - I don't need that stress, since I apparently can make sewing stressful enough without a deadline!
I will say that this shirt, along with my last few dress projects, in rayon and silk, have taught me the advantages of using a rotary cutter in the cutting out process, rather than just using scissors. You can cut way more accurately with rotary cutter on the rayon and silk since the scissors distort your fabric as you cut. And the rotary cutter came in very handy for the shirt since the pattern pieces were large and mostly straight edged. Anyway, I'm getting better at using the rotary cutter on curves as well.
Parting Shot: The Carpenter's dog. I expected him to have a "manly" dog like a chocolate lab, but he loves his foo-foo dog, Lucy, who is a Pekingese:

Monday, November 1, 2010

I've Mastered Cuffs!

Well, not mastered, but I've achieved cuffs based on David Coffin's instructions in his book and video entitled, "Shirtmaking":
The first cuff took me an hour and half to make, consulting with both the book and the video; the second cuff only took 30 minutes. Hopefully, I'll remember how to do it on the next shirt. I went head and sewed on the front plackets as well and I'm pretty pleased with my matching:

REALLY pleased with the pocket which is below:

Now for the collar; there will be more reading and video watching, and while I think this will be too small for the Carpenter, this is building up my skills. If the collar goes well, I might as well put the buttons on it and hem it up. Maybe I can at least get a photo of him wearing it! It's the thought that counts, right?
On on a non-sewing note, I'm extremely thrilled to be invited to do a guest post on Seraphic's blog for single Catholic women which is published here. Seraphic is a big proponent on waiting for the right man and I couldn't agree more!
Parting Shots: The Carpenter and his brother, the Forester, chopped wood yesterday near the Nottaway River and I got to go. Here's the Nottaway - not a big river, mind you:
Here's the beginning of the cutting. I think the men just like using chain saws:
Brothers, always:

All done:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm Sorta Bummed

I think the shirt I am making for The Carpenter is going to be too small. Sigh. It has been my dream to make a traditional man's shirt and I picked two patterns to make this a reality, an easy one and a harder one. The easier one was this one, McCalls 6044: What made it the easier pattern was that it had no yokes and no sleeve placket. I figured easier was better. I used a cheap brown homespun plaid I got at Joanne's for a very good price and painstakingly cut it out, making sure to match all the fronts, the front plackets, the pocket, and even the sleeves. The sleeves, by the way, are made up of two pieces - which is definitely different. The bottom part of seam where the two sleeve pieces join is where the sleeve opening is located - normally this is where the sleeve placket would go. But since there is a seam there instead, the instructions have you just fold under the seam allowances to finish them.

I'm not completely unfamilar with shirts. I've made at least a dozen men's shirts from this Kwik Sew pattern:

This Kwik Sew pattern does have yokes (which really aren't that hard to deal with), but has no collar stand, front plackets, or cuffs. I made my first collar with a collar stand when I made the Amy Butler tunic. Really, the only thing I haven't done on a shirt is flat-felled seams, cuffs, and sleeve plackets. I pulled out David Coffin's wonderful book "Shirtmaking" which I have had for years and read up. I also rediscovered that I had his video which demonstrates his techniques from the book. (I borrowed this video so long ago from VickiW that I owe her a fortune in late fees for its return!)
I decided after reading Mr. Coffin's instructions on flat-felled seams, I was going to have to do them without the special flat-felling foot. Using the foot requires a different seam allowance for your edges. For example, the piece that folds over requires a 7/8 seam allowance and the other side requires a 1/4 seam allowance. I don't have the patience to redraw all the pattern pieces to accomodate these seam allowance changes.
So I did all my seams with the standard 5/8 seam allowance, then I trimmed one edge to about 1/4 inch, then I folded the other edge over the smaller by hand and pressed to one side. To hold the seam allowances in place while I top stitched them from the right side, I used 1/4 inch wide Steam-A-Seam which was much better than pins. I got to practice this on the shoulder seams, the sleeves seams, and the side seams. Pretty cool, although kind of time consuming. The top stitched seams looked awesome, especially since I took Mr. Coffin's advice and shortened my stitch length considerably - probably to 22 stitches to the inch. Also, on the shoulder seams and sleeve cap seams, I edge stitched them as well. This definitely made it look more ready-to-wear and provided a very strong seam.
At this point I had The Carpenter try it on and I think it is going to be too small. His chest is 39 1/2 inches, and the size chart indicates that he would be a medium, but I still think it is going to be too small. I know what I should do: finish this shirt using David Coffin's techniques on the shirt cuffs and collar, and chalk it up to a learning experience even if it doesn't fit. Learning on this shirt will make the next one (the REAL one) go so much easier. That is what my brain is telling me to do. My motivation, however, has plummeted. I hate working on garments that won't actually get worn, otherwise known as muslins. No matter how much I learn from them.
Any advice, y'all????
Parting Shot: We went to New England a few weekends ago and we had GLORIOUS autumn weather. Here is a shot somewhere off the coast of Massachusetts, between Gloucester and Rockport:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

McCalls 6123

I got sidelined on the sewing train lately; I got the foolish notion to strip the wall paper from my master bath and renovate the bathroom. The wall paper stripping nearly killed me - it was as awful as everyone had warned me about - and the exhaustion I experienced from a week of nightly wall paper stripping triggered an MS attack of biblical proportions. (I asked VickiW to shoot me, and she volunteered her husband as a excellent shot.) But I survived, and today I finally finished the McCalls 6123 dress with my Singapore Silk: How b*sty does this dress make me look? Big enough to where I am self-conscious about it!!! I really am only a B cup, but the gathers in this bodice make me look like Dolly Parton's sister. : ) The dress actually hangs straighter than this photo leads you to believe; the wind was blowing when this was taken. Here's the back:
Here's an inside shot which shows the colors a bit more true:
This dress was fun to make. I used the same fabric for the bodice as I did for the lower part of the dress, but I reversed the fabric near the hem to make it subtely different. I will say that this dress pattern is made with LOTS of ease. The smart thing to do with this pattern is to make a muslin, but do as I say and not as I do. I didn't make one. Fortunately, the finished garment measurements are printed on the envelope and pattern, and I went from that. This is how large this dress runs: I usually make a size 12; I made a size 6. Now admittedly, the 6 is a tad tight, which is what is making me look like I had breast augmentation. Next time, I'll make this in a size 8.
A couple of things about this pattern. The original instructions have you cut out the gold bands, press up one edge 3/8 of an inch and sew them to the dress pieces. I didn't have the patience for all that, so I just figured out what measurement the bands would finish at, doubled that, and added the seam allowance. Then I folded the band in half length-wise and pressed it. I figured doing it this way wouldn't add too much bulk, given that I was working with silk, and I was right. Unfortunately, my math was wrong. I should have cut out the gold bands at 2 1/4 inch for them to finish at 1/2 inch. Instead, I cut them out at 3 1/4 inch, so they finished at 1 inch. I think, though, I am happier with the gold bands being 1 inch than if they had been 1/2 inch.
Another thing: I believe the patterns for the middle front and back gold bands were wrong - I believe they should have been reversed. Pattern piece 25 should have been 26 and vice-versa. I didn't test this out, though, and I just made one long band and pinned it around the lower dress section, tucking the end into the folded edge of the opposite end. I did the same for the gold hem band.
Kay Whitt designed this pattern for McCalls and I discovered that Ms. Whitt has no interest in clothing that is "de-constructed". For example, every seam was edge stitched and then top stitched, as well. Here's a photo of the top gold band just under the bust:
And for every opening, such as the neckline and armhole, not only did you stitch the seam, but then the opening was understitched, edge stitched, and top stitched. At first I thought this was a bit of over-construction, but as I progressed, I found that all this stitching really helped hammer this silk into submission. I don't know if I would have done all this stitching had I been working with cotton, but with the silk, it was worth it.
While working on this pattern, I discovered that Kay Whitt has a book out with other patterns for skirts, dresses, and jackets, so I bought it:
I love the skirt on the cover and that is probably the first pattern from the book I'll make. (The book comes with full size tissue patterns of all the designs featured.) The patterns in the book are like the McCalls 6123 - the garments are made using different, but coordinating fabrics. This is perfect for the silks I was using, or the designer collections you find in your LQS. Every quilt store should sell this book - the clothes are way cute and are perfect for the coodinating fabrics on display. It got me thinking about those feedsack fabrics I still have - rather than trying to get one garment from one feedsack, I could take several feedsacks that coordinate and make a skirt or dress. Hmmm, more possibilities.

Also while I was working on this dress, I discovered a moth had eaten a hole in the sleeve of one of my favorite sweaters. I cut off the bottoms of both sleeves, making them three quarters length, and added half inch pink silk bands to the end of the sleeves, using Ms. Whitt's edge stitch and top stitch technique:

The colors match so well that I am thinking of cutting off the turtleneck of this sweater and making it a cardigan, trimming it in more of the silk colors I used in the dress. I could then wear the sweater with the dress, covering my voluminous bosom, and thus enabling me to wear this in public throughout the autumn. : ) We'll see.
Next up: a shirt for the Carpenter. I bought two patterns at McCalls 99 cent sale: an easy one and a harder one. I'll start with the easy one in a cheap homespun plaid I got for a song at Joanns and see where I go from there.
Parting Shot: About a month ago the Carpenter and I went to Appamattox Plantation where General Grant had his headquarters during the seige of Petersburg. The house was originally built in the 1700s and was owned by the Epps family for over 300 years. It was a beautiful day:

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sinapore Swag!

Look what I got! The Carpenter's sister and brother-in-law went to Sinapore and brought me back four gorgeous silks they bought on Arab Street:

They are sumptuous. Here is a photo where the colors are more true:
Each piece is about 2 yards, and I spent last weekend laying out various patterns to eke a dress out of the blue/gold piece. But at 2 yards, I would have barely enough for a dress even with a TNT pattern (that's for you, Anne). Prudence would dictate that any pattern I used needed a muslin, rather than just jumping into cutting all that luscious silk. I was trying to show some restraint, but as VickiW and Anne pointed out, why start now? I then thought about making a skirt from the gold charmuse and blouses from the other three fabrics, thus guaranteeing me that I would have enough fabric but that wasn't thrilling me.

The Carpenter's sister and BIL aren't sewers but they did a marvelous job of picking silks that beautifully coordinate with each other: So I looked around the internet for a possible dress pattern to use these silks in the best possible way and found this pattern:
It's McCalls 6123, and I think it is what I need. I can use most, if not all, the fabrics and not worry about yardage. After seeing this on the web, I found out that Anne had already made a muslin of it, with hilarious results (ask VickiW about it!). This pattern runs big. Real big. Fortunately, the pattern envelope provides the finished garment measurements, so I already know I won't be making my usual size 12; I'll probably be using size 8 or even size 6. Given that I know the finished measurements, I'll again throw caution to the winds and not bother with the muslin. A great project for the Labor Day weekend!

Parting Shot: A long time friend sent me this photo taken in the summer of 1981, when I was 17 and living in Saudi Arabia. It is an absolute hoot. I'm on the far left drinking the soda:

We are clearly in the middle of the desert, but I have no idea where, what we were doing, or why we were trying to look so cool. The real interesting thing is that I only recognize 2 other people in the picture. I have absolutely no idea who everyone else is. No clue. But what I DO remember is what I am wearing. I remember those exact pair of jeans (Levi's, of course). I remember the blouse (white lace with blue ribbon) and I certainly remember those white sandles which I not only wore all summer in Saudi, but all through Europe on a trip with my mother - Italy, Germany, Sweden. My grandmother used to tell me that she could always date photos by what she was wearing - she remembered her clothing more than the events! I guess I'm the same. : )

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Simplicity 2360

I finished my "real" rendition of Simplicity 2360, which is a pullover dress with an elastic waist. My muslin is in this post. Here's the pattern:A couple of things I did differently on this version: first, I made this one with short sleeves, rather than the sleeveless version, which I like, but it makes the bodice less fitted; I actually like the fit of the bodice better on the sleeveless one. Second, I narrowed the skirt pattern so that the skirt finished 2 inches less wide at the hem. Third, I made the elastic shorter, thus tightening up the waist, which was very much needed. Finally, I made no sash. Frankly, I ran out of fabric because I incorrectly sewed the bodice pieces together, and of course, I had already surged the seams. So instead of ripping out, I just cut new pieces. I think the dress needs a belt or sash, so I'll look for a suitable white fabric in my stash, or order more of this Kaffe Fassett rayon online. Right now, I'm wearing it without one:

Here's the back:

I can explain the boots! I wore this to work on Wednesday, and it was a rare rainy day - I wore boots and jean jacket with the dress, and the boots were so comfortable, I just never changed out of them into my "work" shoes.
Overall, the dress is extremely comfortable and easy to make. I was thinking of doing a fall version with three-quarter sleeves out of a wool challis, but I think it is time to put this pattern away for awhile. I like it, but enough is enough and it is time to move on!
Parting Shot: The Crab Dress on its way to the Outer Banks. We stopped in Sussex County at a Plantation home where The Carpenter had recently restored a 200 year orangery - which is basically a greenhouse for citrus trees. He did a great job, but yes, I realize I'm partial!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Crack Cookies

It has been brought to my attention that my blogging of late has been somewhat . . . sparse. Or non-existent, even. VickiW has described it as "criminal". Two things are going on: work (not only is it busy, but I spent last week in our Illinois office), and The Carpenter. Of whom I am deliriously happy. Unfortunately, my happiness is getting in the way of sewing up the real version of Simplicity 2360 with the fabulous pink Kaffe Fassett rayon I ordered. I have been working at it a little at a time, and finally tonight I got it done. I'll probably wear it tomorrow and I'll get Aimee to take a photo so I can post it here. It turned out well: I just love it when a project comes together exactly as you imagine it. (Unlike my last post. )

But to entertain you in the meantime, I absolutely must share with you the recipe for the Crack Cookies. These are just peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, but when I took them to work, my co-workers sucked them up like a Hoover Deluxe. My friend Lynne and I renamed them the "Crack Cookies" because you can't eat less than three and they are devilishly awesome. To be extra evil I shared the recipe with everyone at work:

Crack Cookies

2 sticks of butter
1 cup peanut butter (smooth or chunky, your choice)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups of self-rising flour
1 package of chocolate chips

Using a mixer, beat the butter and the peanut butter on medium speed until smooth. Beat in, a little at a time, the sugars. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth and creamy. Beat in, a little at a time, the self rising flour. Mix in the chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoons full on a cookie sheet and bake for 11 to 12 minutes at 350. When you take them out, they won't look done, but just leave them on the hot cookie sheet for 30 minutes to finish cooking and thoroughly cool.

Notes: you don't have to make these cookies all at once. The dough will last up to a week in air-tight container. If you make the cookies from chilled dough, you will probably want to increase the cooking time to about 14 minutes. I used Peter Pan creamy peanut butter because it is the best; it has more sugar in it than most peanut butters, and thus it is the most yummy. Also, I use self-rising flour because it saves me some steps of measuring, but if all you have is all purpose flour then just use that and add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt. And one last thing: these cookies are so much better the next day after you make them. That one day delay transforms them from merely peanut butter chocolate chip cookies to the Crack Cookies.

And that's how you make the Crack Cookies.

Parting Shot: The Carpenter and me at Hatteras on the ferry to Ocracoke Island. And yes, the Crab Dress went too. More photos to come.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Horrockses Mistake

When we last left off, my mojo was AWOL and I was obsessed with making a Horrockses-inspired dress. Pretty soon after, my work mojo returned, and my sewing mojo wandered back into my sewing room a/k/a the whole downstairs of my house! I then started plotting my Horrockses masterpiece which soon became my Horrockses mistake as a result of my misguided fabric choice. I started off pretty well; I chose a 1940's retro fabric with a striped motif that seemed to be a Horrockses staple. I bought all my LQS had - 5 3/4 yards and I decided to use all 5 3/4 yards on the cross-grain to create a full skirt, and use the part I lopped off for the skirt length for the sundress bodice. My mother said, "Won't those horizontal stripes make you look fat?" Oh, of course not, I thought, I'm not fat, it will be fine. Well, I was so wrong:Note that I am not modeling the dress and you only get to see this baby on a hanger, partially constructed. I got the straps pinned in place and tried it on and I looked wide as the Mississippi. You could no more get me photographed in this dress for all the world to see than you could get me to pole dance. Oh. My. God. It wasn't just the horizontal red and white stripes that made it go wrong, it was also the quilting fabric that was way too stiff for the style I had in mind. I really needed a soft, drapey cotton or rayon blend for what I was going for. I don't usually made this mistake - I'm usually pretty good about matching up a pattern with the appropriate fabric choice. I blame the anesthesia.
I learned a few things though in making this dress. I learned that gathering 5 3/4 yards of fabric requires hand basting, rather than machine basting. Trust me, it takes longer but in the long run it is easier to gather and control those gathers. And of course, I re-learned that you are never to old to make mistakes!
This whole experience made me do something I don't normally do: I went shopping for a dress. I just wanted a summer dress and I was out of energy to sew it. But of course you know what I found: cheaply made dresses that cost too much. I found one dress where I liked the style and the color, but it was crap. And still cost $ 70. That drove me back to looking at patterns and I found Simplicity 2360 which approximated the style of the crapily made dress. In addition, I saw a Ralph Lauren ad in a magazine of a dress that I wanted in a way that wasn't rational:
I can't find this dress for sale because you have to actually go to a Ralph Lauren store to find out if they will deign to let you buy it. I can't find a price on it either because if you have to ask, you can't afford it. I assume it is in the $ 500 to $ 700 price range as it is in their spring 2010 collection. And I assure you that I wouldn't pay that kind of money for a dress unless I was getting married in it.
So I am using the Ralph Lauen dress as inspiration, and I am combining it with the Simplicity pattern 2360 to come up with a summer dress. I ordered some wonderful pink Kaffe Fassett rayon fabric, but I decided to be smart about this and made a hopefully wearable muslin of this brand new pattern. I used a blue flowered rayon challis I had in my stash for several years. It was cheap, and I bought a lot of it, and made a summer dress out of half of it about six years ago. I was extra sensitive to the fact that this pattern requires very drapey fabric after the Horrockses disaster and rayon challis definitely fits the bill. I got this dress done last night and wore it to work today and Aimee took a photo:
I swear this dress is more flattering in real life than in this photo and I really like it. I like the lace, and the sash is from the prior 6 year old dress. The waist is elastic, and I've never made a dress with an elastic waist before. It was nice not having to put in a zipper. When I make this again in the pink fabric, I think I will made the elastic tighter, bringing in the waist more, and I'll make the version with short sleeves. I'll also take some of the flare out of the skirt, making it straighter and less A-line. This dress has a 30's aura about it, and without the sash, it is as comfortable as a nightgown. I'm looking forward to using the Kaffe Fassett fabric - it's rayon, but a tighter weave - no more challis for me for a while! Working with challis is like working with silk: a PITA to deal with, but lovely to wear.
Parting Shot: Also to soothe my weary soul, I made another feedsack skirt because I knew it would work. I like this one because the colors are so cheerful:

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Has Anyone Seen My Mojo?????

I had surgery on June 18th (nothing dire) and I can't believe how wiped out I have been ever since. So many thing are beyond my energy level: working, sewing, blogging, emailing, or reading. For a while there, I was concerned that my blackout on communication or any other human interaction was a symptom of laziness or selfishness or both, but now that I am coming out of my funk, I finally realized: I am profoundly exhausted. I didn't get it until now; sort of like you don't realize how bad a relationship is until you get out of it and then you look back and say to yourself, "Wow. That really sucked."

And because I have felt like hammered sh*t, I haven't sewed a stitch since VickiW's quilting birthday extravaganza. Until today. I made Mother some eyeglass cases, which I made in the simplest way possible:

Kinda pitiful, aren't they? I even used an old placemat I made years ago, so I didn't even have to fool with quilting some fabrics together. I just cut the placemat into 5.5 by 6.5 inch pieces, folded them lenghwise, sewed one side and the bottom, and turned them inside out. That was about all I could manage, and she is happy with them.

Fortunately, during my convalescence I had a book Anne got me for my birthday from the Victoria & Albert Museum during her last trip to our London office. Here's a link to the book. I poured over it for hours:
Horrockses Fashions made the-have-to-have dresses in Great Britain from 1946 to the late 50's and they are just my style. (No, I don't know how to pronounce "Horrockses" either.) When Mother and I were in London last August, we saw one of the Horrockses dresses in the V&A and she took a photo:

This is a pretty typical Horrockses dress. Bright, clear colors of all cotton, with a simple fitted bodice and a full skirt. They were all the rage in Great Britain post WWII and everyone wore them, from Princess Elizabeth (later Queen Elizabeth II) right down to the office girls who saved their shillings to buy just one. While they weren't horribly expensive, post-war Britain was pretty austere, and for a young lady who worked as a teacher or nurse, they were seen as well worth scrimping for.
The book itself isn't particularly well written, and the author focuses mostly on the Horrockses' business model and marketing techniques, repeating herself often. The best part of the book for me were the photos showing the dresses and the young women wearing them, clearly thrilled with their acquisitions. Horrockses had it's own cotton mill that produced the fabric, and some girls who couldn't afford to buy the dresses bought the fabric and then sewed their own, like Beth Hartley who provided a photo for the book taken in 1955 that shows her wearing her handmade rendition of a Horrockses dress, and she says that every time she wore it, she thought she was the "bees knees". : )
I would have preferred more information on the dresses themselves: how were they constructed, what sewing techniques were used that gave Horrockses their reputation for a quality product, and how many yards of fabric were used for those skirts?
A lot of the dresses were sundresses or strapless dresses paired with a bolero jacket. Here is a typical dress from the book:
You can see that the insert photo is the same dress that Mother took the photo of in the V&A.
Here's another. A lot of the fabrics used had a stripe motif:

The one thing I was able to do while I laid in bed was imagine my own Horrockses dress, surfing the web incessantly looking for the perfect fabric. I've decided to make a sundress, using the bodice from a pattern I have used several times before, and pair it with an impossibly voluminous skirt, which will require gathering yards and yards of fabric. Whether I can attach such a skirt to a bodice with a 28 inch waist remains to be seen. And I have a bolero pattern from a vintage Advance pattern I have used before (but I only made the dress, not the bolero). And I finally found a vintage inspired fabric from Windham Fabrics that I think will work! But when this will all actually happen is dependent on that missing mojo. If you happen to see it, send it my way.