Thursday, December 11, 2014

Emmett Reenactment, 2014

I have so long looked forward to this particular event! It was very enjoyable, and the weather was perfect. Here are a couple pictures of the reenactment...

Camille, learning how to make a super cute rag doll....

Someone never fails to get several photos of me playing graces at every single event...

My Grace's partner, Ruby

Camille, quilting.

One of my favorite parts of the event was watching Camille and Ruby play with the hoops and sticks (what is that called, anyway?). They looked just like they stepped out of a BBC drama! There are better pictures of them playing somewhere, I'll post those in a while.

I figured out how to use a treadle sewing machine, which was cool. It also was very eye-opening to the frustrations of not hand sewing. Using a treadle may sound like fun, but it actually is hard and I think if I actually had to use one, my toes would be broken and bruised from kicking the machine and using very unladylike language.....
The hardest part of the sewing machine is getting it to go forward. When you start pedaling (oh, you know what I mean - what is that word anyway?) on the treadle, the needle goes backwards. To switch it to forward, you use the wheel on the side to flip the gears. But turning the wheel as fast as you can while pedaling is REALLY frustrating. The worst part is you don't want to stop in the middle of a seam, because then you have to re-start on the whole turning-the-wheel process. 

Historical Sew Fortnightly (or, er, Monthly)

Over at the Dreamstress website (who does amazing work and in-depth specific research), Ms. Oakes has been hosting what she calls a 'historical sew fortnightly'. It is a historical sewing challenge in which, every other week, a new theme is declared and you have two weeks to finish it.

This year, there has been some debate as to whether or not the Historical Sew Fortnightly will continue, it being a vast amount of work to the dear soul who hosts it.

HOWEVER, it has been announced that the Historical Sew Fortnightly will continue, but the title will be changed to 'Historical Sew Monthly', as the challenges will be once a month, giving one more time to complete each challenge.

Obviously, I could have directed you to her website instead of telling you all this myself, but as you can see, I am just a little excited about it. This will be my first year participating, and I'm hoping to branch out and make more interesting clothing items since I am nearly out of the 'completing my first undergarments' realm. Just that has taken forever, since I can't seem to buck up and just buy all the muslin I needed at once.                                                                                                                                                  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Corset Frustrations....

So, while my corset is ACTUALLY done, I thought I would write about what I'm doing at the moment, trying to have it totally finished by Saturday.

I know, it looks awesome, but I'm still fiddling with the fit. It isn't snug enough in some places, so I keep shifting around more than I'd like. I had to take out the busk and cut out new pieces for the front (the pictures are not the updated version).

Lacing myself in was probably one of the most satisfying end to any sewing project ever. Even if I had to take it all apart in the front afterwards.

And no, it isn't a torture device like my dad still thinks. It feels a little weird when you cinch it tight, but not uncomfortable. Thankfully my dress still fits for the most part, but it is a little on the loose side. I guess that is the only plus to having gauging, is to be able to just pull the gauging up a little onto a tighter waistband.

The adjustments I made/still have to do is lengthen the bodice in the front, take in the seams right under my bust, take in the waist more (when cutting out the new front pieces, it somehow lost its waist-sucking power), re-attach the busk, re-sew the casings for the boning, and bind it all up and hope the fit is just right because I think I would tear out my hair if I had to rip those casings again. Sure, I can do all that in two days!

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Bride is Embellished by her Girl Friend

Well, that is how it loosely translates is what I'm guessing. This painting is in the Danish National Gallery, painted in 1859.

I just love this painting! If you look closely, both of their dresses are in perfect detail, down to which direction the pleats in the skirt go (if you need a larger image, here is where I first saw it). I also love how the bride's dress isn't perfectly smooth, but they are those kinds of wrinkes (the one's left over from when it was on the bolt that refuse to come out).

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Un-Split Drawers for Sis

I finally got around to making drawers for both Camille and I. Thankfully I only have pictures of Camille's, hers look a lot better on her than mine do. Mine look like they were designed for a hippo!

Annyway, I would have made hers a little longer, but I really wanted to use a certain piece of fabric. So I sewed a tucked strip onto the edge, and you can't even tell, really. Except that they still didn't turn out as long as I might have wanted. Oh well. They are, according to her, 'my new favorite undergarment'.

She really didn't want split drawers, and since she isn't in a corset or hoop skirt, I sewed the crotch seam closed. I used these instructions here:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Pink Wool 1862 Dress

This super cute bubble gum pink wool dress is, interestingly, gathered on the bodice. Most nice dresses made of wool and silk were darted, fitted closely to the body. But this one is gathered, and the skirt is gauged as well. This also shows that the date it was made was in the earlier 1860's, as later in the 1860's the nicer dresses were pleated to the waistband.
The coat sleeves are trimmed with with the swirly block trim to match the skirt. The hem bias binding is dark to match the trim. I'm thinking the dark buttons down the front are nonfunctional, just because of how you can't see the button holes (most functional buttons you can see the button holes behind them).
I know, they look like different dresses, but I think it has faded a lot, so the original color is a bit warped from what it used to be.

1865 Children's Red Wool Dress

It seems kind of weird that you can't tell, but this dress could be for either a boy or a girl. Small boys wore dresses until they were about six, and then they would dress more like a boy in trousers. This dress is small enough that it could be for either. To me, it looks like a boy's dress, just because of the pleats all over the place.

Long sleeves, with pleats on the armscye and the wrist. Knife pleats on the bodice, with double inverted box pleats around the skirt. Black trim on the cuffs, waistband, skirt edge, and on the shoulder edge. It's pretty cute.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Turquoise and Olive Work Dress

Mom has needed her own Civil war dress for quite a while, so combining my new book the Dressmakers Guide and the $25 gift card for Joanns I got for my birthday, I whipped up the dress in about a week. I was actually pretty slow and didn't try to work super hard, even though I had a deadline. I finished the night before, but I wasn't up til midnight!

The fabric is a turquoise and olive-colored homespun plaid from Joanns for $3 a yard. I think I used about 7 1/2 -8 yards. Somewhere in there.
Anyway, the longest part was the different mock ups. This was my first time draping a pattern, but it turned out pretty good and I managed to figure all of it out without running to Lizzie V for help!

The sleeves were a little trickier. They kept turning out huge, so finally I just cut it vertically trimming quite a bit off. I couldn't believe it, but by chance the top edge fit into the armscye so perfectly there wasn't any ease at all! (I was going for that). You can see below how the coat sleeves sort of turn toward each other.

The bodice in the front looks pretty good, I think. The back I spent a little extra time on by using a pretty nifty technique of folding the 'fashion' fabric (not the lining) over the lining into a crease, and then top stitching that crease down with tiny stitches so it looks like back is in 3 pieces. It definitely helps with the small waist look.

While that turned out cool, I really wanted a smooth back instead of a gathered back. There was quite a lot of extra ease, though, so I put a small inverted pleat at the back. That didn't do it all the way, so there are actually one pleat at each side seam, but you can't see that so much. I have plans to take out the side seams and the pleats, and spreading and cutting the back so it is smooth. But that is in the future. I have some pictures of the curved back detail, but I am having a horrible time uploading photos.

The skirt was super easy, that only took maybe 2 days, not rushing. This was my first time sewing a hem guard; I used fabric left over from a homespun apron. It was way easier to sew it this way than blind stitching it. And by the time I was done, you couldn't see the stitches on this at all, anyway. The pleats were even easier. I love plaid, it made the whole process way easier because everything is already measured out. Instead of measuring I just kept counting the squares to make them even.

And this was also my first time whip stitching to a separate band for pleats. I took me a while to figure it out, but it was pretty easy and looks nice on the inside, too. It feels way stronger than the whip stitches holding gauging, and on the gauging I sewed it to a grosgrain ribbon which will eventually give out.

Lastly, I love hooks and eyes. They were way faster to sew to the front than buttons and holes, which both need to be hand-sewn.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Cotton Thread vs. Polyester Thread: What Is the Difference?

When sewing your own historical wardrobe, something I recently learned about is it is important to sew with a natural fiber thread. Why is this? Why can't I just buy the Dual Duty that comes in the right color, instead of cotton thread which probably won't match because the color options aren't so good?

Compare the actual threads. When using the polyester thread, it seems fairly strong. If you try to break the thread, it will probably hold pretty well. I've found that if you try and cut it with your teeth, it isn't a clean break, leaving a little wisp of thread sticking out that makes threading the needle even harder.

When using cotton thread, it also seems strong enough. It might have a higher chance of breaking if you pull it, and when you cut it with your teeth, it is always a clean break. So, why would I want to sew with a thread that has a higher chance of breaking?

I have heard that polyester thread, when paired with cotton cloth, won't hold up very well. But in the long run, I think the main reason is this: if the most historically accurate way to attach skirts to a waistband is by a whipstitch with this thread, then what would happen if you stepped on the skirt by accident? If you used cotton thread, it might hold, or the thread might break. I have personally had this happen to me. It was awful; for that event, I had to put a million safety pins in, and when I got home I had to regauge that section and reattach it to the waistband.

But what if it had been polyester thread? It might have held, the thread might have broken, but another option that using cotton thread ensures won't happen is your fabric might tear. Polyester thread is so strong it might tear your fabric, and ruin the whole dress! There wouldn't be any way to salvage it if it tore along that upper folded edge.

When looking for thread to match your dress, I have heard that using white when there isn't a better color is the best option. Anything neutral, and it would probably blend in with your dress anyway. I've had better luck at Hancock's than Joann's for color choice. Look for Guterman brand; I think that is the only brand chain stores sell.

Here is an interesting post about thread quality, viewed under a microscope.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Pink Slat Bonnet

Slat bonnets are pretty much like Little House on the Prairie bonnets, except this was how they would have been constructed. This has to be one of the easiest projects I have ever done. It is not very pretty, but it isn't quite ugly either. It was meant to wear with a work dress to keep the sun off their face and neck.
I wear mine a little back off my head; I thought I would rather have something is mostly correct and wear it than something completely correct and never wear it.
The brim is stiffened with card stock cut into 1'' slats, hence slat bonnet; if it gets wet I'll need to replace them. The back is gathered in with some bias tape just tied in the back. It looks kind of weird, but it works! Camille, Mom and I can't agree on whether the fabric has tiny strawberries, rosebuds, or carrots......

Friday, May 23, 2014

Homespun Apron

I got the great idea to do a hand sewing project while on the road to California. That went alright, although I did lose a needle in the rental car that was never found......
Preparing it ahead of time, it was probably one of the easiest projects ever. I didn't finish it until we got home, but it was a nice quick project to hand sew. I really like it maybe a little too much.....I love plaid.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

1800's Fashion Timeline: 1855-1867

By this time, ladies were wearing layer upon layer of petticoats to attain an almost unattainable fullness to their skirt. It was inevitable that something must be done to help shed those layers. As soon as the wire hoop skirt was invented, ladies snatched at it and corded petticoats 'died a sudden death'.

I wouldn't say that the overall fashion changed, other than for day dresses, large sleeves with an unattached undersleeve was popular, like the ones below. The one on the bottom is shown without the undersleeves.

This ball dress to me definitely reads 1850's, but note that it is with a hoop.
In America, something called the zouve jacket became very popular. Hooray for America coming up with it's own fashions! Anyway, it was a jacket that was worn over a fitted white blouse, although it wasn't called a blouse, but a 'body'. It often had braid that was similar to the trim on military uniforms (keep in mind that 1860-1865 was the Civil war).

During the 1860's, all of the fullness was slowly moving more towards the back. This gave the ladies the appearance that they were perpetually gliding, or to me it does. It is pretty, but by the end of the hoop era (1865-67) the dresses were quite flat in  the front. Not really my favorite, but oh well. The dress below is very pretty, but see how flat it is in the front? It just doesn't look so balanced to me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Interesting 1850's Evening Dress

At first glance, I was totally awestruck by this dress. It was so absolutely beautiful! All that delicate detailing; and it is not embroidery. Here is the link to the museum it is in. Zoom in and look at how iridescent it is; the design is blue-green.
So now it begs the question: what in the world is that? Scroll down for the answer.

Beetle wings. Yep. Someone had the guts to do that. I think I would, if it turned out as lovely as that!

1800's Fashion Timeline: 1840-1855

This period of time in the fashion industry for women was rather heavy. Literally! By this time, women were trying to make there skirts as large as possible without hoop skirts. Many layers of petticoats stiffened with cording and horsehair were used. I do not like to think about how hot it must have been.

Anyway. Beginning in the 1840's, the large sleeves from the 1830's were replaced with tight-fighting sleeves. Remember, by now the waistlines had gone all the way down to the natural waist. In this age and era, no one knows where their real waist is. It is a bit ridiculous, actually. Your waist, ladies, is right at your  last rib. It is not on your hip bones, where your pants come up to. It should be the smallest place around.
The one thing that makes me think of the 1850's is ruffled skirts. This style is not limited to the 1850's, there are just a lot of fashion plates with rows and rows of ruffles. Remember: fashion plates were the cutting edge!
Another thing that was a part of the 1840's was smocked bodices, like the one below. I don't know if I have ever seen a smocked bodice in the 1850's, but the museum says the one below is from 1850. Go figure. 1850's was similar to the 1860's, in that tight bodices like the one above and the last one, with gathered bodices for work dresses.
Although skirts were certainly not limited to ruffles! This one is very nice as well.....

Monday, May 12, 2014

Museum Searching

Just thought I would make a quick note on how I search through the museum:
Go to the website and click on Search the Collections, which is under the collections category.
There will be tabs that say Who What Where When and In the Museum. Under What I click on Dresses. After that you can even click on What again and put in more specific textiles and materials. Under When I put in 1800-1900 (too bad you can't break it up at all). And sometimes I put in North American or English. French will also come up with similar styles, usually more extravagant.
Feast your eyes!

1800's Fashion Timeline: 1825-1839

I am at a bit of a loss as what to call this era, as nothing seems to have really happened. In 1837, Queen Victorian began her reign, thus beginning the Victorian era.
Anyway, I have clumped these particular years together because the fashions were somewhat alike, kind of like how there was the 'Regency' era, and the 'hoop skirt era'.
The fashions in what I will now call Late Georgian/Early Victorian were rather interesting. There is nothing particularly outstanding, and you could put the 1840's in here as well, but I find they fit in more with the early 1850's.
By now, as you will recall, we have already come through the empire-waisted dress era, and that fashion is beginning to fall by the 1820's. In 1825, they were just beginning to lengthen. Here is a good picture; you can really tell that is a transitional-type dress.

 I don't know why, but I tend to view this era as completely transitional. It just seems a little awkward to not have it below the bust, but not at the waist either. Hmm.

Anyway, by the 1830's, large sleeves were trending. Huge sleeves, actually. Large puffs at the top of a tight sleeve, or, strangely, tight at the top of the sleeve with a rather large puff from the elbow to the wrist. I think the large sleeves really made the waists look very small. And maybe it is the other variation that seems really weird to me, I don't know. There were other styles as well, and one thing that is rather interesting is there were a lot of different things that were fashionable.

For the skirt, from 1825 all the way to 1855 it only continued to get larger and larger. In the particular time that I am speaking of, skirts were still rather small. By the end of the 1830's, the waists had pretty much dropped to natural waist. At least, that is what it looks like to me. The first one looks almost more like 1840's (I don't know why, it just does). The museum says it is 1838. I was close. The third one down has those weird puffs I was talking about, but they manage to make it look not weird on a mannequin.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

1800's Fashion Timeline: 1800-1820

Oh boy, here we go!
At the turn of the century (and by that, I mean 18th century turning into the 19th century; this was called the Regency era), dresses were really simple. Waist lines were high, and continued to rise. I believe the highest ever was right around the 1810's. All the fashionable ladies wore pale colors, with thin fabrics that were sort of clingy. If you look at different paintings, you will see what I mean. The ladies in the picture below have scandalously high skirts (oh, they are showing their ankles!), but that was a fashion for evening dresses.
Here is the back of one of my favorites; the cherry embroidery is so beautiful. The cut is really....graceful. The beginning of the Regency era, the skirts were cut rather slim, but towards the end they started adding more fullness in the back, which I love.

Most BBC dramas have done a great job sticking with this, but compare the costumes in the BBC Pride and Prejudice with the costumes in the Keira Knightley version; the movie did not do a very thorough job. I'll explain in a little bit.

The costumes on this show were so amazingly accurate!
And now we have the other one....

And this dress....I don't where where it came from. In all the pictures, she looks like she isn't wearing the proper undergarments. See how the waistline goes down to her natural waist? Not cool. The other thing that bothered me about this movie was they portrayed Elizabeth like she didn't care what she looked like, but back then they would have been raised to care a great deal.