Friday, March 28, 2014

Larkspur Bookmark

Here is a picture of the bookmark I made for my grandma's birthday. I started way back in January, but I took a big break during February, so it is hard to estimate how much time it took. A lot, though! It is amazing how time-consuming something so tiny is.....

Thursday, March 27, 2014

American Victorian Costume in Early Photographs, by Priscilla Harris Dalrymple

This book is an awesome resource for CDV's, beginning in the 1840's and going up through the 1890's. The pictures are really great, with equal amounts of men, women, and children photo's. I was very surprised to see that some of the pictures are very sweet; it gives a very real sense that people did actually have lives back then.  And all of the kids were so cute! Most of the kids actually smiled.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What Is a CDV?

As I have been doing more research, I have been hearing the term 'CDV' a lot. I was reading an article to Mom when she voiced the question, "What is a CDV?" I didn't know.
So I looked it up. It is an abbreviation for carte de visite, which is a kind of picture that was patented by some Frenchman.
CDV's were the method the actual printing of the photo; each photo was very small, but most are incredibly clear. I know the one of the little girl's is rather blurry, but it was too cute not to post!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Ball Dress Bodice

Finally, I'm getting around to this!
For Camille and I's ball bodice's, I ordered the Truly Victorian 1860's ball gown bodice. I really wanted the ruffly berthe (pronounced 'bertha'; a berthe is a detachable piece on a dress, although mine is not really detachable).
Camille really wanted the flat berthe, although in the end, we didn't have time and she went without one.
Mine I started as soon as I could. The pattern was interesting; it used a lot of measurements that I wouldn't have guessed.
Even though it was supposed to be helpful, the first problem on the mock up was it was absolutely too large. It gaped horridly in the back. So I ripped it apart and made it a size smaller. And then again. By then, it was starting to fit everywhere else except at the top. I asked Lizzie to help me out, because I was having problems elsewhere as well. I probably should have cut the front piece a size larger, as Lizzie confirmed. It was too small in the bust area.
Part of my problems was it might have been that I didn't want the dress off the shoulder, but that is what the pattern is for. So the shoulders I played around with to death until I got them right.
So as I recall, to the mock up we added some to the side seams to make the front larger, I chopped away some of the bottom edge of the back, the armholes were cut larger, and the top front seam taken in to prevent gaping in the front.
However, even with these adjustments when I pieced it all together, it still wasn't right. I don't remember everything I actually did to fix it, but I cut a lot away from the finished fabric and wish I had figured out how to fix the mock up. It was frustrating.
Just because I am lazy, I did one dart on each side, instead of two, like in the above picture.
The back is one of my favorite parts; it's so cool! Sadly, (I really hate this), I don't have pictures of it. I took my dress over to Lizzie's and she very kindly sewed eyelets for me. I tried, but they always turned out G-shaped instead of round. It looks so cool all laced up!
The berthe turned out to be easier and harder than I thought. First off, I pinned it to Lucille, my dress form, over the bodice, which was loosely pinned on. I really liked that, and could adjust the bottom row of gathers how I wanted it. However, the problem was that I wanted it to sort of not puff up in the front, and that required less on the shoulders, and then that made it hard to raise my arms. It's hard to describe how I actually ended up doing it, but it all came out.
And I had way less problems with Camille's dress, although hers took longer and the neckline on hers gaped. I think next year I will make a tucker and add a berthe. And her dress will need to be lengthened, and a petticoat added. Poor thing; she was so self-conscious about the rings of her hoop showing.
I have no idea why my bodice is wrinkling so badly in the front in both pictures; it is way not too tight, like wrinkled bodice's usually are. I could add another dart, actually. Maybe it just needs an ironing....

Friday, March 21, 2014

English Women's Clothing in the Nineteenth Century, by C. Willet Cunnington

This book is by far my absolute favorite for historical research; really interesting to read, including insight as to the mentality of the women in each decade throughout the 1800's.
Very detailed in everything; undergarments, hairstyles, fashion plates, popular colors, even popular trim in each section of the Victorian era. I love exactly how detailed it is about everything; it gives descriptions of different kinds of dresses, year by year, with a larger explanation every ten years to give a broader view.
The fashion plates are my favorite; I could look through this book all day! I really would love to own it sometime.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

12 Tips When Making Your Mock Up

For some people, this may seem like a ridiculous question, but I had no idea what a mock up was when I first started costuming. That is probably why none of them turned out just right.

When I make costumes, and I'll say I'm doing the mock up, some people give me rather blank stares and have absolutely no idea what I am talking about.

Basically, a mock up is a test of whatever pattern you are using to make sure it fits before you cut into your 'final' fabric. Some people swear by muslin, but I prefer using an old sheet or whatever cotton fabric I know I won't want. You piece together your sheet after cutting out the pieces, and then try it on and tweak it to make it fit. Here are some pictures I took of myself when I was trying to determine what to change. You may notice how in the pictures, I sewed up the back and pinned in the front, even though in the end it would be a back closing dress:

Thankfully the first costume I made in which I thought I knew what I was doing but really had no clue, it turned out to fit me pretty well. Sadly, the I made four costumes before I even heard what a mock up was. The first three were loose enough that it didn't matter, but I tried to make a tight fitting dress and it was much much too tight, so I only wore it once.

That same tight dress I came back to and  made a mock up in the same size as before, and I was surprised to find it fit perfectly. What I had done wrong was I made it completely, and then tried it on. It came down too low, so it seemed like a good idea to simple take it in in the shoulders. That was the worst mistake ever. The finished garment the armholes were so tight from where I took it in, and the front bunched horribly because the bust seams, which curved with me and would have fit fine, had been pulled up too much by the adjustment and the whole thing wrinkled up. I wish I had some better before and after pictures.

Here are some tips I have found very useful when making a mock up:

1. When sewing the pieces together, use the largest stitch available. That way, when you tweak it, you can easily rip all the pieces apart and use that as your pattern instead of the tissue and then have to remark the changes from your mock up to the actual fabric.

2. Use a different color thread from the mock up fabric you are using; seeing the seams is easier when there is a contrast.

3. Before putting on the mock up, make sure you wear whatever undergarments you will be wearing when it is finished. Also put on a tight-fitting tank top.

4. When trying on the mock up, put it on inside out. You can then pull in seams where it is needed just by pinching them to whatever size you need, then pinning them (be careful not to poke yourself!). 

5. When I put it on, I have found that I like to pin the mock up to my tank top at the side seams and the center front. If I'm working with darts or gathers,  then I can do it evenly.

6. If the pattern you are using has darts, don't cut into them for the mock up! Instead, mark where they will be on the mock up, then pin them in. You don't really need to stitch them in on the mock up.

7. On one of the back closing dresses that I made, I found it was helpful to baste up the back exactly how it would be when I was done, then keep the front open (there was a center front seam). Then I pinned the front with a half inch seam, like how it would be done when it was finished.

8. Don't be afraid to cut into that mock up! I have found that lots of patterns make the arm hole too small, so on the mock up I'll cut into the back part of the armhole quite a bit.

9. Also don't be afraid to mark your mock up! On the last pattern I did, I got tired of making notes, so I took a marker and wrote all my changes on the mock up, then took it off and took it in in some places. 

10. Not all the pieces from your pattern need to be turned into a mock up. I usually leave out the sleeves, and making an entire skirt for a costume usually takes more time than it is worth. I only add the sleeves if I think there is a chance they won't work, such as if the sleeves are particularly tight, or in the last case, the mock up sleeves were way too small.

11. If your first mock up is a complete flunk, such as it is too small or it is way too large, cut another one in a different size! I have one friend that drafts her own patterns, and does many, many mock ups on just one part of the pattern. She likes to make sure it is perfect; then the piecing together process goes much faster. On the other hand, I have a friend that always does only one. She slashes into that thing, and is really more of a measure once cut twice person. In her case, it takes more time for her to complete the garment, because she needs to make more changes to the actual finished product.

12. One of my friends really likes to really only focus on one side of the pattern. It really works well; she makes both sides of the mock up, but only makes changes to one side. In this way, it saves time and you don't have to get both sides perfectly the same. If you try this, make sure you pin your mock up to a tank top to make sure it doesn't slip around and the  front stays in the front.