Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Historical Sew Monthly February

Recently my coworker gave me a beautiful wool skirt she made years ago. I thought it would be a great candidate for re-making! I lost most of February to bronchitis, so I needed a pretty quick and easy project if I wanted to meet the deadline.

I plan to join in a suffragette group at this year's Costume College, and this skirt looked like it could translate well to 1916-ish.

Before: the waist is a little tight, but would work if I were lightly corseted. The skirt is a good 19th century length but a bit long for late 19-teens.


Before: a lovely hem and a very well-stitched zipper. Of course, to make this more period accurate, the zipper had to go. I hated to pick out such nice stitching!


I thought about shortening from the waist so I wouldn't lose the hem, but I loved the nifty pockets!


Finished. I just threw on a random (modern) white blouse from the closet for the photo.


The new hem is machine blind-stitched. 


I replaced the zipper with a placket, cut from waste fabric leftover from shortening. Hooks and eyes close the placket.


I might add buttons later to highlight the pockets.



The Challenge: February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion – Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning. Turn one thing into another. Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again. Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat. Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.

 Material: Wool

 Pattern: None

 Year: 1916-18

 Notions: Thread and Hooks & Eyes

 How historically accurate is it? I give it about 80%. The hem is machine stitched, and I am not sure about the inverted pleat detail, but otherwise the material and silhouette work.

 Hours to complete: 3

 First worn: Not yet.

 Total cost: Totally free.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Underwear Review: Combinations vs. Chemise & Drawers

A few months ago, I decided I needed to put a little time into making multiples of basic Victorian undies. A full weekend event would require at least three changes.

For years, I have been a die-hard Combination Underwear fan. Combos are so simple and so trim, without a lot of excess fabric everywhere. I wore chemises and drawers in my early costuming days, and I remember a lot of bunched up, wrinkled fabric under my corset, and the excess length of the chemise always wrapping itself around my legs. Ugh. The combinations were so much comfier.

TV105 - Combination Underwear

Instead of making more combos to fill out my underwear drawer, I wanted to try the chemise and drawers again, so I recently made a pair from Liz Clark's wonderful, draft-to-fit pattern. Read her post and get her free pattern here.


They are made of smooth Pima cotton broadcloth and simply trimmed with lace and a few tucks. The tucks are pretty but their real job is to give the hem weight and support so it hangs well and doesn't get all crumpled up.


Of course, with drawers, you need a chemise. I made this one a couple years ago and only wore it a couple times (because I didn't have drawers, and I didn't always want to go commando).


I made this pattern up. It is hanky-weight linen.


I finally wore these together during the long drive to Pepin a few weeks ago.

I was amazed at how much I loved this set! The drawers didn't bind or chafe, the chemise wasn't too full under the corset. The chemise's neckline yoke kept everything in place - a drawstring would have been more adjustable, but with drawstrings everything moves!

There is also the Bust Containment Effect you get with the bit of chemise above the corset's top edge. I thought my combos were containing everything just fine, and I hate having to eat my words, but the chemise did do a bit better job.

I did still have the feeling of too much chemise around my legs, but I can just make it slightly shorter in the future and I think that will solve it.

I won't be giving up my combos any time soon, but I do plan to make at least one more chemise and drawer set. Yay for lots of undie options!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Embroidered Chambray Skirt

I made this skirt for a display for work. It was a case of instantly falling in love with the fabric and needing to have it, NOW. It's cotton chambray with floral embroidery.


Making a garment as a display for work means I have to use a pattern, and a currently available pattern at that, so people can replicate the display if they want to. I chose McCall's 7439 (view D). It's a very basic gathered skirt pattern with a few options.

To avoid cutting up a lot of the embroidery, I eliminated the center back seam by cutting it on a fold instead, then moved the zipper to the left side seam. Instead of using the belt included in the pattern, I made a sash from coordinating shot cotton from the stash.


There were also huge patch pockets in the pattern. I cut them out, made them smaller, got them ready to sew. . . and then changed my mind. I might go back and add them later, I'm not sure.


I am still unsure about the length. It seems a little bit awkward to me; not quite long enough, not quite short enough. It's possible a petticoat underneath would improve the look.


Friday, February 3, 2017

Historical Sew Monthly 2017 Plans!

I am super excited to join in this year's Historical Sew Monthly! I have never participated before, and honestly I am very glad it's now Monthly instead of Fortnightly. Every two weeks is a bit daunting.

I have some ideas for the next few challenges. I am not necessarily taking "Sew" literally. For me, the challenges might include knitting, beadwork, fake hair creations, or anything else crafty that helps me in my historic dress up journey.

February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion – I would love to find a thrift store hat to reshape. Or possibly a thrifted garment to cut apart for salvage. I like being thrifty!

March: The Great Outdoors – My local group has been discussing a Victorian swim event for months. I'd like to finally make a swimming costume! And actually swim in it! (But not in March.)

April: Circles, Squares & Rectangles – I can definitely use another shift, but I will probably use this challenge for shifts and petticoats for my daughter.

After April, I really have no idea what I'll make! Of course I would love to dovetail every single challenge with dresses and events I already have going on. Each challenge is meant to be finished no more than 1 month before the challenge starts, so I have a little wiggle room if I want to complete a challenge for an event.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Historical Sew Monthly 2017 - A White Linen Collar

On a total whim a few days ago, I decided I wanted to participate in the 2017 Historical Sew Monthly.

Since it's already February, that means I am already behind in posting, but I am going to jump in with the January challenge anyway since I sewed it in January (that counts, right?)

January's challenge was Firsts & LastsCreate either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit.

I suppose technically I could use the whole new dress I made for this challenge, but I'd rather focus on just the collar.

Basted-in white collars are so, so common for 1870s and 80s, but up to now I have generally skipped them. When I was making the Plain and Sensible Dress I knew I need a few little details to keep it from being a complete snoozefest. And a collar certainly puts that finishing touch on a bodice for a very period look.

I used a collar from the Truly Victorian collars and cuffs pattern, but modified it slightly to make the points less deep, and to make it fit my dress's neckline more exactly. The fabric is hanky linen leftover from a shift.


Best part: rip it out and wash it!


I want collars for all my dresses now!


The Challenge: Firsts & Lasts – Create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit.

Material: Handkerchief weight linen/cotton blend

Pattern: Truly Victorian 104

Year: 1870s

Notions: Thread

How historically accurate is it? It has the correct look, patterning, and materials, but I haven't examined originals so I am unsure about the construction.

Hours to complete: About 30 minutes

First worn: Little House Party outing, January 20, 2017

Total cost: Literally pennies

A Plain and Simple Dress Without A Lot Of Frippery

I made this dress for the Little House Party. The idea was to have a good winter dress that was relatively plain. Don't get me wrong, I love frippery! Bows and ruffles and flowers and ribbons make my heart flutter. But I wanted something that was more sensible for everyday wear, or possibly Sunday best for someone of more limited means.

We do enough dress up events here that I knew this would get a lot of wear, and I know it will be a great wardrobe staple to fall back on.

The other idea is that this dress is a blank canvas. I have a contrasting wool for a coordinating bodice, and I have a vague idea of some cute little over-bodices to pair with this. A black lace fichu would not be out of the question either.

Enough chatter, on to pictures! These were all taken at the Hill House during our Little House weekend.


The skirt is plain, made from the same basic Peterson's skirt I used for the Green Ruffle Bustle dress. I ended up fiddling with the pattern to eliminate the (very) slight demi-train and also made it a little narrower in front. I gave the skirt a wide bias hem facing, which I eased to shape at the top and hand-hemmed.


I used the same bodice pattern as my last few dresses. I call it Bodice X. It started out as a Truly Victorian Early Bustle bodice but I put it through a lot of changes. Now I basically use it as a sloper. I am pretty pleased with the fit. There are always more tweaks I could do, but it's pretty good.


The sleeves are also an adjusted version of the same pattern. For 1870s they could be a little looser, but I like the cap shape and my arm mobility is good!


The overskirt is just made up. It has a pleated self-fabric trim around the hem. I made a self-lined tube so I wouldn't have to hem anything and used a fork to create my pleats.


The fabric is a silk and wool blend (60/40 I think) that I got from Treadle. I bought the entire bolt, maybe 8 yards, almost the day it arrived.


This is one of my hurried "just in case" shots from before we left the house that day. The colors look slightly off, but you can see the back, anyway. I might go back and fiddle with the overskirt draping some more.


A couple detail shots. Did I really have to line it in this awesome shirting stripe? Not really. Do I totally love it though? YES.

Spiral bones in the curved side back seams, white steel in the darts.


The buttons are vintage from work. I was unsure about committing to something so contrast-y, but I love the way these work. 


The buttons are functional and I machined my buttonholes.


Overall, I was super happy with how this dress turned out!

Monday, January 30, 2017

My Sister's Wedding

My sister Angela was married in July of 2016, and (as per our long-standing agreement) I sewed her wedding dress.


All the wedding day photos are from Golden Hour Photography. They did an amazing job and were very nice people to work with. I definitely recommend them!

I made my own wedding dress back in 2006, and I made one for a friend a few years later, but both were in a Victorian style, and not much different from what I would consider historic costume. So this was my first actual modern wedding dress.

A wedding dress is a Big Deal. Even if you don't buy into the Cult of Weddings, even if you are keeping it low-key and casual, even if you truly don't care about having a perfect day, the wedding dress will still always be a high-pressure zone.

Her vision for her dress was, in her words, "Plain, Plain, Plain, and Simple." Short skirt, no lace, no beads, no veil, and definitely NO frippery. The first image she sent me was this one from Pinterest:

 :

Hm.

It's a cute dress, but didn't scream "bridal." We talked a lot about her options, and eventually settled on a dress design that was still simple, but had a few more details. 



The final design featured cap sleeves, a scoop neckline, princess seaming, and skirt godets. We added a veil and sash also, and purchased a floofy petticoat at the last minute (thank you, Amazon Prime 2-day shipping!) to enhance the silhouette.

The finished look was simple, flattering, beautiful, and very "her." 

The pattern I used was New Look 6299. It had the princess seams, cap sleeves, and godets we wanted, but I had to reshape the neckline. During the planning and mockup phase, we were cautious about how low/revealing the neckline would be, so it took many tries and revisions to get it to the "just right" depth while still making the shape flattering. Also when you start cutting up a neckline, there is a lot of potential for gaping. The neckline was probably the most challenging part of the fitting. The dress is fully lined, and I didn't use interfacing anywhere but I did stay-stitch the neckline very carefully!


One thing I realized during this process is how deceptively difficult a "simple" dress can be. At first I was like, "a knee-length dress in plain white satin? How hard can that be?" But it's like simple cooking: every ingredient and every process have to be perfect, and you can tell the difference. With a knee-length hem, each stitch had to be perfect. A slightly wobbly hem would go unnoticed on a floor-length dress, but not here! And without any lace or beadwork, I couldn't cover any of my errors. In that smooth plain satin, the fit has to be perfect or it's really gonna show.

I will never underestimate a plain simple dress again. And I will never sew with polyester satin again if I can possibly help it. The fabric she chose is pretty. And it's the nice polyester; a creamy, thick duchesse satin. But it's still synthetic, and the seams look a little puffy since it's impossible to press well. I wish I could have talked her into a silk, but she just liked this one best. 

The veil:


To make this I first made the lace assembly. I had 1/8 yd of beaded lace that I snipped apart around the motifs. I used Fray-Check anywhere I had to snip across a thread.

sisters lace (2)

I took three of my lace pieces and arranged them on a piece of buckram, then stitched them down (reattaching any loose beads as I went). Then I cut, shaped, and gathered the tulle and machined it to a piece of Peltex interfacing. I laid my lace piece over the tulle and hand stitched it down, then cut away any excess interfacing.



Finally I added the clips. 


If I were doing this again, I might skip the buckram step. I'm glad I did it because it gave me more time to play with the lace design before making it permanent, but the finished product doesn't really need it. And I might cover the underside with white felt before adding the clips, just to hide the stitches and make it prettier.

Here you can see the lace piece in action!


Here is the coordinating belt/sash thing. It is made from a wide piece of ivory-color ribbon with a lace piece like the veil's, but a little larger. It doesn't show up in many of the posed pictures because the bouquet is always hiding it.


In the back of the sash is a stitched, tailored bow with long tails. The sash actually fastens with hooks and eyes just under the lace piece.


One other challenge with this project was the distance; she lives in Seattle and I am in MN. We ended up coordinating all the dress stuff with visits. During her christmas visit, we chose a pattern and fabric, then she came for our birthdays at the end of February to try the mock-up. She visited again in May for a fitting of the actual dress. Then she flew in a few days before the wedding (which was here in MN, for various reasons) for the last (just-in-case) fitting of the finished dress. Other than that, we coordinated a lot through email and Pinterest!

As a sewist, there will always be things I will nitpick over, but I think we were both happy at how her dress came out. She was such a beautiful bride! I have never been happier for her, and I am so glad to have such a great new brother-in-law.


I made my daughter's flower girl dress from white cotton eyelet, lined in white cotton lawn, with a green ribbon belt and pink flowers. Here my daughter F is carrying a basket of small bouquets to hand to the mothers of the couple. She has her own bouquet also.


The crown is made of artificial flowers. I matched our real flower colors and taped the crown together with floral tape.


I loved seeing my little girl perform her role as flower girl so well!


I also made myself a bridesmaid dress in bright pink cotton stretch sateen, from the same pattern, but without the godets for a less full skirt. I also made my sleeves slightly longer.


My sister and I made the bouquets, and all the men's boutonnieres. We were pretty pleased with ourselves!


I was so honored to be a part of my sister's special day! Wedding dresses really are a labor of love and (despite all the technical challenges!) I was so glad to be able to make this dress.