Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cute Homespun Girl's Dress

During December, I was desperate for a project. All my Christmas stuff was done, and I was not looking forward to working on my corset. So I dragged Mom out to Joann's and bought stuff for a dress for Camille. That very day (I think it was the week of Christmas) I wrapped it up and gave the fabric to her as a present. Love those socks!

Camille helped me design it. My ideas and her desires didn't quite match up. I knew it would turn out cute either way. I liked the idea of a wide neckline with quite a few gathers along the top into a bias strip, but she wanted a smooth bodice. I liked the idea of short, straight sleeves and she liked short, puffed sleeves. 

I draped it all myself, except for the sleeves which came from the ball dress pattern I have.

The dress pulled together really well. No real trouble was given me, other than the fact that the wide, smooth neckline she wanted wouldn't stop gaping. I kept putting a larger and larger dart in the mockup right in the middle. In theory it should have worked, but in reality it was just altering the shape of the neckline instead of fixing the gaping. 

Finally, I just cut it out with several theory's on how to fix it:

1. Bind up the neckline anyway with piping and hope it was only gaping due to the curve being on the bias and stretching out,

2. Bind up the neckline and run a string through the piping, tying it in the back to help eliminate gaping. I was skeptical to this idea, because I didn't want it to be obvious or look like a drawstring neckline,

3. Put just a couple gathers in the very front and bind it up. 

I ended up using method #3. It worked perfectly, and when Camille tried it on for the first time, she didn't even notice until I asked her how she liked it. Win win!

I know you're probably wondering; if I started the dress in December, and finished it in February, then why oh why hasn't there been any pictures up until now? The answer: everything was going well, until she put it on for pictures and GASP. The center pleat was skewed way off center. And I didn't actually fix it up until several weeks ago, when she wanted to wear it for the first time. It was an easy solution, but it kept getting stalled.

The piping was easier than it usually is. USUALLY, I end up having to sew each strip twice because of something funky the feed dogs on my machine pulled on the bias. OR I accidentally put a stitch in the cord, and that doesn't work because it causes funny puckers, and then you have to find where that stitch is. Either I lucked out, or my new machine just works better.

This was my first time changing directions of pleats on a skirt, and also my first time putting more fabric in the back half of the skirt on purpose. Neither was particularly hard, nor did it take very much extra time. Whether both are very noticeable is yet to be determined.

I'm happy with how it turned out. The only thing I don't like is how perfectly it fits across the chest; there isn't any room for growth. That's a pretty big improvement from the long list of what I usually would do differently! Oh, I suppose I wasn't very happy with the fabric. I adore this plaid, but it was really course. 

The final consensus: she loves the wide neck and sleeves, and it made all the difference in her comfort. Plus, the fabric is a little bit lighter than the brown and pink one.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Drawstring Chemise

For those of you that don't know, whenever I finish a large sewing project, I quickly try to cram in as many small, neccesary sewing things as I can before the next inspiration comes. Once I'm into something big, I can barely sew anything else until it's finished.

In the last week I've made a bonnet, a pinafore, and this chemise:

Thankfully, whatever horrible drafting mistakes I made on the last chemise I was able to work out, into one nice-fitting one. I'm not sure exactly how accurate a drawstring neck is, but it's functional for my purposes. The only problem: the ribbon keeps getting lost in the casing when untied. Therefore, it needs to always be tied.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone Inspiration

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.

Yikes! So many options, yet making up my mind will be the challenge in itself.

First off, I only have undergarments for mid-19th century. If I do try a different era, it's gonna be undergarments, or make an entire wardrobe. Because I'm allergic to making myself another corset of any kind at the moment, and because my budget won't allow it, I'm going to just skip the idea of a very different era for now.

The first thing I thought of when I read 'different technique' was cording. Corded petticoats, corded bonnet, corded corset, etc. etc. 

1820-1830 corset

Another technique I have never tried is quilting. In a garment, anyway; does making a quilt actually count?
Quilted petticoats are so beautiful; the only problem is, quilting was done by hand. I don't know if I actually need one, at the moment, but maybe.

My sister needs a hoop skirt; most of the ones sold are not short enough, as she isn't wearing full length skirts. I've always wanted to try making a cage crinoline, and I have the instructions already. Working with mostly metal for a sewing project is definitely a first! And who wouldn't want a purple hoop skirt?

Out of all the options, I'm thinking a corded corset is what is needed the most. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly #5: Practicality

"I'm off to milk the cow and feed the chickens! Hand me that bonnet over, not that one! The yellow silk one with pink flowers and expensive lace! And because it doesn't shade my face enough, hand me that parasol while you're at it...."

Something doesn't seem right about this picture. The point I'm making is that, in modern day thinking, we don't know what is appropriate to go with what. It's not anyone's fault, we just didn't live back then, so portraying life in the 19th century is sometimes hard. If anyone from the past studied clothing in the 21st century, they would probably make the same mistakes; high heels with yoga pants, and tennis shoes to a formal dinner.

What is a work bonnet? Generally referred to as 'slat bonnets' (although they could be corded or quilted), they serve the main purpose of providing shade, and preventing sunburn. They would be quite effective, if one actually wore it....

Lovingly referred to as 'mailboxes', we have a hard time actually using them. They are very comfortable to wear, especially in 90+ degrees, and with a little more use we might get used to the closed-in feel, but for me I am always self-conscious about the way I look in it. Even though, from pictures, I actually don't mind the way it looks.

I was determined to use this fabric, so I had to piece that tiny piece at the bottom that refuses to lay flat. Below is what it looks like, without being tied...

Hard to believe it's even a bonnet, right?

What the item is (and what practical things you can do in it): Slat bonnet, used to protect your skin from the sun during hard work, when carrying a parasol isn't practical.

The Challenge: Practicality

Fabric: 1 yard leftover homespun cotton, plus 1/4 yard of leftover muslin for lining and ties

Pattern: Instructions here:

Year: Mid 19th century

Notions: Thread, white cardstock for the slats

How historically accurate is it? I would guess around 75%. I know the style is accurate, but I'm not sure what the majority of the slats would have been made out of.

Hours to complete: 4.5

First worn: For pictures, modeled by my darling sister assistant.

Total cost: $0, all from stash.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #4: War and Peace

As the Civil war in the US was dawning, cotton trading was a huge industry throughout the world, and the South was the hub of it all. The Southern states alone produced at least 2/3 of the world's cotton.

The main export was to Europe, who had no cotton-making capabilities at all but relied heavily on America for almost all of it. To quote James Henry Hammond in 1858:

"Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us, we could bring the whole world to our feet... What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years?... England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her save the South. No, you dare not to make war on cotton. No power on the earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is King"

Thus began a diplomatic approach called King Cotton. As a military strategy, the South decided to cut off all exports to Europe, in hopes of forcing them into an alliance of some sort. To begin the movement, they even burned some 2.5 million bales of cotton to create a shortage.

However, the plan mostly backfired because, in the years of cotton surplus and with mounting tension in the US, Europe had a stock that would last them until 1862. Even then, they chose to remain neutral and traded with other countries, which stepped up to meet the demand that the South could not meet while still being in a state of war.

After months and months of being soooo excited to make a dress that is perfectly fitted over my new corset, here is an 1860's cotton dress.

I'm really pleased with how it turned out. The fit is just to my liking.

When I first started looking at fabric, I wanted something really sheer. A friend gave me a swatch of her barred sheer that is a tissue weight, and I fell in love with it.

Sad to say, I couldn't find any other than what was over in Bangkok. I did not care for the way they handled things there, and someone told me that they had ordered some of the same barred sheer and said the quality was questionable. So I moved on.

After much, much, much debate, I bought dotted swiss over at Hancocks. The price was right for the 11 yards I purchased, so I was appeased a little.  I can still dream about actually make a nothing-weight dress. Someday...

The actual construction went fairly well. I fiddled with the fit enough in the mockup stage to have it down before actually starting. Even then, the total time came out around 35 hours. Only 10 were used to make the skirt. The corset cover took around 7 of that time (that is a seperate post; I don't have any pictures of it yet)

There was an online debate about the width of the skirt. The fabric came in 50'' widths (just another plus to the cost aspect, as it was advertised as 44''), so I assumed to round up to 4 panels for a total of 200''. Only after I had it mostly finished, everything except for the gauging, I realized it might be too large. Multiple women told me to take out a panel, rip it in half and then sew it back in. In the end, I opted to leave it as it was. It is pretty large, but I really like how floaty it looks.

I agonized, literally, over how to figure the dog leg closure. For those of you that don't know, a dog leg closure is where the bodice (top part) closes down the front, but the skirt closes off to the side. Somehow, they are supposed to be attached, but only in some parts and not in others. Multiple tutorials later, I still hadn't figured it out. Even though several women have excellent examples, it still wasn't clicking. So I sat down and thought. It drove me crazy, until I finally came up with a solution that was simple. Someday, I will make a tutorial.

The sleeves are a bishop sleeve that are only full at the bottom. I probably wouldn't have chosen this, except that, in photos, I love when you can see the half-high lining through the sleeves. I thought my fabric wasn't as sheer as it really turns out, my thinking was that if I made it more closer fitting at the top, it would help. In the end, I liked the look. Excuse the weird face....

The corset cover fits really well. Maybe a little too well, the armscye is a little small. While it looks good, I think I'll rip the sleeves off and make it larger so I can actually move my arms, LOL.

More pictures if it in action later!