Saturday, January 31, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly #1: Foundations

I decided to use this first challenge to make sure I actually finished my corset. I did not start the corset just for the historical sew monthly, but I really wanted to make it my goal to  have it done this month so I would have the rest of the year to make whatever.

It only just occurred to me a couple days ago (I finished it last week).....I'M DONE! This has been the most challenging project I have ever taken on. I made a half-hearted attempt last January *wince* and then didn't try again til July when I recieved the Dressmaker's Guide. The instructions were so much more helpful than the pattern I bought from Joann's. The one-size-fits-none pattern. Ugh.

The Challenge:  #1: Foundations
Fabric: Cotton Twill
Pattern: Draped myself, using The Dressmaker's Guide for instructions
Year: Mid-Victorian; I was shooting for 1860's
Notions: Metal grommets, spring steel boning, busk, thread
How historically accurate is it? How about.....80%? I have no idea. No glaringly bad mistakes, some of my finish work probably isn't accurate. It gives me the right shape, though. The way I have the bones in the front definitely isn't; I will fix that.
Hours to complete: A million? Seriously, I have no idea. I started it six months ago, so a ton of hours.
First worn: To a reenactment back in September, when it was only half finished. Thankfully I have fixed the problems and was glad I had the experience to wear it for five hours to get an idea of what needed to be done.
Total cost: $75; that was why I was so hard on myself to get it right.
Anyway, I started with a t-shirt and duck-taped it, sort of like if you would make a dressform. Instead of taping your whole body, though, you only do from the bust to the waist. Then you cut it off and slice it in the places you want the corset seams to go. That was a great place to start, and I will definitely use that method again.

But after that everything went downhill. To sum up this experience in a nutshell....everything went wrong that could. From ordering the wrong size boning, to re-setting the busk three times, to cutting out new pieces, to messing with the fit so much I could cry (okay, maybe I did cry), to discovering that the fabric was stretching, to just about finishing and it doesn't sit straight on my back, it has NOT been, in reality show words, a surreal incredible journey. More like a walk through sewing hell. In the picture below, those small horizontal wrinkles are from the stretching.

So that is why it has taken me six months to complete. Procrastination got the better of me, and also fear of messing up to the point of completely starting over. Thankfully, it turned out better than I could have hoped for.

Sure, the bones in the front are about 1/2'' short, but it doesn't matter that much. The only thing I'm a little disappointed about is the placement of the boning in the front. I was following the seams I had, and it looked straight when laying flat. In the picture above, you can see what I mean. Of course, I'M not flat, so that doesn't work. Other than that, I am super excited to get on with my sewing life without that hanging over me.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What is a Wrapper?

Sometimes, during various research or browsing other lady's sewing blogs, I come across terms that sound weird that I have never heard of before in my life. Things like, 'wrapper', 'sontag', and 'fichu'. Huh?

In any way of speaking, there is always progression in language. New words are invented, and old ones considered irrelevant are promptly forgotten. That is the way of life.

When doing research and coming across new words, it's been really interesting to learn about various terms and what they mean.

A 'wrapper' is a handy dandy little robe. Styles vary from looking more like a dress, to an elaborate loose-fitting garment thing, to a maternity robe.

What defines a wrapper from any other dress is that they were loose-fitting or had a drawstring waist. That is how the dress look is accomplished; the drawstring waist makes it look gathered-to-fit. Some of them button from the neck all the way to the floor.
From what I can tell, wrappers could be functional as a work-type dress, depending on the style. I've seen wrappers in cotton, wool, and silk. Obviously, you might want to save your silk garments for indoors.

Wrappers were supposed to be comfortable; like a robe nowadays, no one was really supposed to see you in them, giving you liberty to wear whatever you want underneath. Some were large enough to wear a hoop skirt underneath, although that was matter of personal preference. Sort in the way that bras become tiresome to wear after a while, having something that didn't require a corset would be nice. The one below shows what they look like without any kind of drawstring or waistband.

You know, maybe I should make one. Just cause. It wouldn't be too different from a cotton work dress, but it would be something new. Not that I plan on being pregnant any time soon.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Upcoming Plans for Historical Sew Monthly, and Other Various Things.

I have several ideas as to what I might be sewing this year. The historical sew monthly is proving challenging; I have no idea what in the world I will be doing for several of them. Here is the list, and some of my ideas:

  • January – Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.
Let's see, for January I already finished my corset. Yay! Will make a post as soon as I get pictures....

  • February – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.
I'm thinking a bonnet of some kind. I have a pattern for a beautiful drawn silk bonnet that uses silk dupioni. The slubs disappear in the many folds of the fabric. Or one of those ugly slat bonnets. Ugh. 
Swiss belts are super cute. I really love the idea of this one in blue, but I don't think I should spend the money on something I have no use for at the moment:

  • March – Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.
Again, either a bonnet, or something easy like a chemise. I also have a length of dotted swiss which I might use for a white bodice. A burn test is in order....

Oh yeah, I also have all the supplies to make a corset cover/detached lining for a sheer something or another.

  • April – War & Peace: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.
This is a challenge in which I have a couple ideas, but not very good ones. I may end up skipping this one; there are several other things I need to have finished before the May reenactment.

  • May – Practicality:  Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.
I love the idea of making either a corded corset, or a corded petticoat! I don't have a particular use for them, but saving them for later costuming sounds good to me.

  • June – Out of Your Comfort Zone: Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before. 
I really would love to make something either Regency, 1840's, or Edwardian. Or maybe I could use this challenge for the corded things, if I haven't done that by then. 
The idea of using a new technique isn't exactly novel for me, it's just recognizing it isn't something I've done before will be interesting. If I have instructions it never occurs to me that I haven't done it that way before. 

  • July – Accessorize: The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.
Oh, options abound! Bonnets, belts, collars, cuffs, you name it! At the moment I have no clue exactly what it will be.

  • August – Heirlooms & Heritage: Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.
Ummmm????  Stumped. 

  • September – Colour Challenge Brown: it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.
Nothing comes to mind at the moment, but I like brown well enough to come up with something.

  • October – Sewing Secrets: Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).
All of the dresses I have are in need of pockets. That would be really handy for various cell phones and whatnot. I also do invisible hemming all the time. 

  • November – Silver Screen: Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.
Ooohhh, boy! This might be my favorite challenge to dream about. The Downton Abbey costumes never cease to stun. Deciding which one would be the hard part!

Another idea I had was to do something Gone With the Wind-inspired (heaven forbid an exact replica!)

  • December – Re-Do:  It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.
I'll use this one to finish any challenge I never decided to take on, as nothing else will be due by then.

And one last random plan:

I have been dreaming of a nice dress for forever. I really need one this year; just something cooler than my heavy cotton dress. I think I have decided to go with a barred sheer, but I would like it done by May and it doesn't fit in with any of the challenges. Here are several reference photos of ones I like:

(The one on the right, with long sleeves)