Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly #7: Accesories

After receiving the fabric I bought online, I set to work right away. Here is my post that I used for inspiration.

A friend of mine had already drafted a wonderful pattern for a drawn bonnet, so I didn't have to do any kind of mock-up. It actually went together really well, but I did have a lot of trouble with the white dupioni lining completely fraying apart, especially on the grain for some reason. The back seam where the crown piece attaches was the worst.

I did, from experience, know that the crown piece was just a little bit small, so I went ahead and enlarged it just a little to accommodate more seam allowances. I also had to sew that bit by hand, because of how badly the lining had frayed. Next time, I will just spend the extra money to use silk taffeta; the quality has proved to be amazing and completely worth it. Actually, I had to sew it twice because the first time I winged it, and the crown didn't line up. The second time I drew up the gathers and actually measured *gasp*! I'm more of a measure once, cut twice kind of seamstress.

The plastic boning is a little bit funny; first, it wouldn't stop coiling back into it's original roll, then I pinned it inside out to sew the crown on and left it overnight. It completely lost it's shape, but now it's pretty pliable. Goes to show how flimsy plastic boning is, especially to support a garment.
It looks like a lampshade at this point.

One secret to plastic boning: if you use the hand crank on the side of your sewing machine, you can stitch right through it. It makes your needle dull, but it's pretty important to be able to sew them in for this particular project, otherwise the fabric wouldn't stay gathered up right to the edge.

The crown piece probably could have used some buckram to help it lay more flat.

Now, I'm trying to decide if I want flowers on the inside of the brim, or not.

What the item is: Drawn Bonnet

The Challenge: Accessorise

Fabric: Silk taffeta, lined with dupioni

Pattern: Made from a friend's, which she drafted herself

Year: 1850-1860

Notions: Thread, plastic boning, faux flowers, ribbon, lace

How historically accurate is it? Not particularly; with the plastic boning, it's not really shapeable. I'm going with 40%. Not historically accurate materials, except for the main fabric, but it looks accurate enough. I was hoping it would turn out a little higher at the top, like in 1860's fashion plates, but the outcome is more of in the shape of 1840s and 50s round.

Hours to complete: 12-13

First worn: Not yet

Total cost: Around $35

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge #8: Heirlooms and Heritage Inspiration

This month's sewing challenge guidelines is "sew something that reflects on family heritage, or use an heirloom, or make a new heirloom." Or something along those lines. My family is rich with history, and also in stories and heritage. No heirlooms to speak of, but what to pick? Who to choose? How do I make an item that has to do with any of this?

My great great great great great great great great great (9 greats) grandfather's name was Samuel Howe. He was born in Massachusetts in 1642, and in 1702 he deeded some property to his son David.  I am a direct descendant of Samuel's other son Nehemiah, but David went on to build the Wayside Inn. The Wayside Inn is the current oldest inn in America, and is still open to the public. In 1862, Henry Longfellow, the famous poet, visited the Wayside Inn and wrote a series of poems about the inn and it's visitors. Someday, I hope to see the inn for myself.

Grist Mill, which is part of the Wayside Inn estate.

Even though Howe is part of my family's name, I have found no evidence that I am in any way related to Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine. Pity, that would have been nice for the upcoming sewing challenge.

I am also a descendant of Benjamin Russell. With his partner, Caleb Purrington, he painted what is thought to be the longest painting in the world, called Whaling Voyage Round the World. It is 8 1/2 feet tall, and 1,275 feet long! That is comparable to the Empire State building, or the Statue of Liberty stacked up 4 times!

Just a small snippet of the panorama

Jemima Sawtelle's (or Sartelle) story is pretty interesting. In 1755, she was married and had 5 sons and 2 daughters. I am unsure of the daughter's age, but I'm guessing they were older than the sons. The sons were all under 8 years old. This was also the year that France and Britain were warring over the possession of Canada. Indians came down from Canada and kidnapped her and her children and took her with them to Canada. Her husband Caleb was scalped. Eventually, after being separated from her sons for years, she was sold to a kind family who helped reunite her with her family, and they moved back to the homestead they had left behind. She also remarried an Indian.

Even with all this information, what am I going to do with it? How am I supposed to sew something that might reflect on any of these stories? Ideas are much appreciated, but my brain is somewhere along the lines of farming. I come from a long line of farmers, which is almost double irony because my dad is a Farmers Insurance agent. Go figure.

Monday, July 20, 2015

How to Scale Up a Diagram

Since I received Janet Arnold's books for my birthday, I've started scaling up some of the patterns so I can actually use them. They're all on a diagram, and each tiny square = 1''. Of course, I doubt I'll ever get around to making some of these things, but I like to hang on to the finished patterns.

Many ladies like to go to a print shop and print the patterns up to scale, but I've been doing mine at home. It takes a bit of time, but not a lot, and it isn't that hard. The books themselves suggest to draw out a grid on paper and then transfer it, but I tried that and it takes forever just to draw out the grid! I think I spent an hour using that method just for the front bodice piece. The method below is my own.

You will need:

-A fairly large quilting mat.
-A long ruler; I use a quilting ruler that is 18''x3''. A yardstick could potentially work, but a normal 12'' ruler would be too short.
-A roll of see-through plastic tablecloth; the kind that is used for parties and cut to the table size, then thrown away afterwords. It is imperative that it is see-through, that is what makes this process so easy!*
-A couple weights, or anything heavy that happens to be nearby (a candle, the Bible, a mug of coffee, which wasn't a good idea....)
-A permanent marker, and a normal old pen
-The pattern you wish to scale up!

My adorable dog, who likes to supervise.

*Now I am going to talk about how much I love this stuff. I bought a big roll at Zurchers for around $10, and it is the best thing ever! Not only can it be manipulated like fabric on a dress form, but it is see-through, which is a great advantage in doing scaling work. It also stores better than paper, which creases and rips. This doesn't really rip, but it can stretch if pulled too much. I actually tried to sew with it like a mock up, but the feed-dogs on my machine didn't like that.

Before I begin, there are certain pieces which I don't bother with. Usually, this means skirts, especially if they are just rectangles sewn together. Even if it has a train or the like, I know that it probably wouldn't be the right length anyway, so I just go ahead and mark the circumference and occasionally length of the skirt somewhere on one of the other pattern pieces.  Complicated draping on bustle skirts might be the main exception, or some of the really fitted skirts in the 2nd volume.

To start, spread out your plastic roll onto the mat and put a couple weights on the corners. Match up the edge of the plastic so that it doesn't butt up directly to that line but a little past it.

If there are any straight lines on the grain of the fabric, like center front or back, start there and use your ruler to keep it neat. You'll work off of this line. Use the normal pen, because later we'll use the permanent marker to darken the final lines. The particular pattern I'm scaling today is a 1770-1780 bodice. Most of the dress in the 1700's are pretty easy, because the very front is straight. However, the front on this one isn't on the grain, so I'm going to start on the bottom.

To draw the rest of the confusing curves, there are a couple different ways to do it. 1, mark it slowly square by square, or 2, mark dots every so often and connect them with a smooth curve. Below, I'm doing a little of both at the same time.

I usually pay attention on the grid to where the lines go through the square. Mentally, I'll mark it either as 1/4'', a hair to either side of that, or right from corner to corner, etc. Take advantage of the little dots within each square inch on the mat.

Here, I've come to where I'd rather not mark out every single line, so carefully counting out the squares I made a reference point at center front. I'm just going to 'wing it', so to speak. Isn't my way of drafting great? Maybe that's why I have to spend so much time mocking up...

Good enough, says the sewing demon within me.

On all the lines that are straight, but aren't on the grain, I like to work completely around it until the end, and then use the ruler to connect them.

Outline the finished product in permanent marker so that any lines that you may have had to fiddle with to get straight don't mess you up later.

Remember, the Janet Arnold patterns don't have seam allowances included, so when cutting out the pattern to store, allow a couple inches all the way around for some flat drafting. Of course, I should take my own advice, since I messed up and there wasn't any on the side seam in the end. Don't forget to also add grain arrows to keep it all neat! To store them, pin all the pieces together and date them so they don't get mixed up.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Birthday Gifts, and Other Stuff

My 17th birthday was last week, and all kinds of good things happened!

Let me just say, my family knows me well.....

It's a good thing I got these, because I considered checking them out from the library and reporting them 'lost'.....

Camille bought me this beautiful brooch; it's called a micro-mosaic. They are period, but I'm afraid to say that silver was not particularly popular during the mid 19th-century. No matter; there's no way I'm not wearing this beauty with my white dress!

My parents totally surprised me by taking me to the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. It isn't really a festival, and not all of it is actually Shakespeare, but they put on amazing musicals in an outdoor amphitheater. It was really neat, and I was completely surprised. Especially when we got lost and ended up in a neighborhood on the edge of the desert, and I still didn't know where we were going.

Unfortunately, pictures during the performance were prohibited, but the singing in particular was phenomonal. And yes, we saw the Secret Garden. In comparison with the book, not my favorite rendition as they chose to focus more on the father and his grief in his deceased wife than between Mary and Colin in the garden, but still very enjoyable.

And....look what finally arrived! It took a little under two weeks.

It looks like a small amount all folded up, but it is beautiful! I started on the bonnet right away, which is made of the turquoise. Out of the two fabrics, the turquoise is my favorite. Photos don't do it justice, because it has a greenish-iridescence I wasn't expecting. It's quite a bit darker than in the pictures. The red doesn't have that same quality. 

The texture also wasn't what I was expecting; it isn't quite as slippery as I thought it would be. Then again, I've only worked with polyester stuff, which is terrible in that respect. On the fabric website, which is, they mention to order extra fabric to allow for some error in the fabric. I didn't think much of it, but there are a couple flaws. Not purposeful, like in dupioni, and they don't show very well. I would never avoid ordering from them again, and I don't plan on cutting around them because of how small they are. It's a little above my finger, in between the stitching lines, which are the casings for the boning in the bonnet.

Last thought: it doesn't fray nearly as much as dupioni. That is what it's lined with, and it's driving me crazy. Touch it, and it frays.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Inspiration for #7: Accesories

It was a little overwhelming, trying to decide exactly what I would do, because I am in need of basically every kind of accesory out there. My new, higher fashion white sheer has absolutely nothing to go with it. I have no shoes, gloves, bonnet, belt, purse, hankerchief, earrings, brooch, etc. etc. I could go on, but will spare you. Because of wearing only white, everyone thinks I'm getting married.

So, I kind of just picked one and ran with it. Bonnet. There. That's good. A friend of mine drafted a pattern for a drawn bonnet, which is just a style of bonnet that has canes sewn in to draw up the fabric to shape. Using actual cane isn't high on my priority list, so I'll be using plastic boning. Don't gag on me, I know, but it still works and no one will know...except you.

I have a partially completed drawn bonnet, but decided to recycle the bones from it because I didn't care for the color (cream).

Hours and hours I spent, looking over colors and trying to decide what color scheme to go for. It was agonizing, and anyone who knows me will know how terribly indecisive I am. I finally settled on turquoise and red, although afterwards I wondered if I should have been better about picking colors directly across the color wheel.

The turquoise is for the bonnet, and the red is for another upcoming project...

I haven't decided yet (again) on how exactly I'll decorate it, but I have no idea how much fabric I'll have left over. All I know is that it will only lace up the back, and not the front and back, because there are only so many eyelets I will willingly agree to handsew.

Now, the excruciating wait until the fabric arrives from Thailand....

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Corset Cover

There is one part of my white dress which I did not show any of, and that was the corset cover. There are a couple options for lining something made of sheer, and those are usually a half-high lining that can be either semi-attached or fully detached. The only reason I opted for a fully detached lining was for easier washing purposes. It's funny; my grandma thought I had sewn a new outfit, until I said some about all this being only my undergarments...

Detached lining, corset cover, they're all the same, other than all the picture's I've seen of corset covers they are usually pretty fancy. I left the cover until after the dress was done, which only left me a couple days to finish it. It's about as plain as it can be, but the fit is pretty good.

I bought the higher-grade muslin at Joanns thinking that would help the quality of the overall garment; I was sorely mistaken. I am not happy at all with the fabric, which feels exactly like the same $1 a yard stuff that I only use for mockups.
The first version of this corset cover had piped armscye's, but they were too tight. So I ripped off the piping and enlarged the armscye and sewed the sleeve back on without the piping. Shame on me, I know, but no one will ever see it.

Overall, I like the it, and it functions all right, but it is in need of some boning. Sometimes, it doesn't want to stay down, and will ride up after a while and cause funny lumps under the dress. This particular detached lining will probably eventually be replaced by a nicer, maybe fancier, one.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Updated Old Brown Dress

You remember this dress? This was the first dress I made for Camille. The fabric is really heavy, and I have no idea why she wanted long sleeves in the first place. Because most of the Civil War events are in the summer, she gets really hot.

Well, after making this dress, which has short sleeves, the brown dress got laid aside. Now, the plaid dress is faded beyond all reason from multiple washings.

I am in love with the yoked bodice, and didn't want to see it not getting used, soooo....

Now it looks even better than before! Plus, she has her new stays on. I ripped the old sleeves off and lopped off the length, instead of using new fabric. I don't know why, but I felt the urge to hand sew the whole sleeve. 

Some hair flipping action:

And then she didn't want to take it off. 

This will be her second year owning this dress, and I'm really excited about how it's holding up, and how it currently fits.