Friday, November 22, 2013

HSF #24 Redo, Part the First: Literature and a late 18th Century Linen Petticoat

From out Challenger: This one is super easy. Pick any previous challenge and re-do it (or do it for the first time).

There are a couple of challenges that I missed along the way, and I'm using this challenge as a catch up to get them done.  First up is #10, Literature, which was originally due May 20th.

Fabric: 3 yards of 54" wide 4.7 oz weight linen
Pattern: mostly followed Katherine's tutorial
Year: mid- to late- 18th century
Notions: polyester thread, cotton twill tape for ties
How historically accurate is it? 9/10
Hours to complete: 3
First worn: over a pair of jeans so I could run into my honey's office and say "Look what I did!"
Total cost: fabric runs about $8/yd, so that plus notions, plus dye and we're up to about $32.

From our ChallengerIn this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favourite historical literary character as you imagine them.

I was reading through a copy of Sally Wister's Journal (available here), which is the account of a young woman living in New England in 1777/78.  I was terribly amused at the line : She is much mortified to have Captain Dandridge find her wearing her greenish "skirt and dark short gown.  Provoking."

I kept trying to think of what the late 18th century equivalent of the sweat pants and ratty tee shirt must have been and was inspired to add something along those lines to my own wardrobe.  I had three yards of purple linen leftover from my 1870s Linen Walking Skirt that I decided to bend to my will.  I wanted to avoid having multiple items in my wardrobe being too obviously out of the same material, so I hemmed up the raw edge and tossed the material into the wash with a stupid dose of bleach.  The dye came our fairly well, leaving me with a light mustardy looking cloth that I then dyed with an amalgamation of Dharma's Fiber Reactive Dyes in Avocado, Blueberry and Dark Green.  This resulted in a lovely spruce color.

Could not replicate this color again if I tried, which is sad, as it was very pretty.

I made a bit of an error in the cutting and ended up having to repair a bit right there in the center front.  I'm not too worried, though, as it just adds a bit of authenticity to this being my "around the house" clothes. 

The fabric being 54" wide, I simply cut the 3 yards into two panels with 12" piece left over for another day. The selvedge was used as my side seams, which mean no seam finishing necessary.  Combine that with machine sewing throughout and the whole thing went together rather quickly.

My intent was to use this petticoat as a foundation under the quilted petticoat, to give it a bit more oomph, but I love the color so much, I may end up switching them around from time to time.   As such I left the hem on this a little long, so that I can wear it higher on the waist if it's an undergarment, or down low if it's meant to be seen.

HSF 25: One Meter Challenge, A Regency Bib Apron

Right about the time this challenge was announced, I happened upon this fantatic window pane cotton in the clearance pile at my local Jo Ann's.  

It was so light and gauzy, with that fantastic woven design to it, I just knew I'd be able to find something to do with it.  Aprons seem to have been everywhere lately and so I chose to challenge myself to make one out of one meter of fabric, and NOTHING else.  There were so many times where I was tempted to do something else  add a bit of embroidery, bind with ribbon or use twill tape for ties.  Having this hard limit actually helped me narrow down what I was doing.  A handy thing in a hobby with infinite possibilities. I did the math and cut myself off 39.3 inches of the 54 inch wide fabric first thing and put the rest of the bolt away
(yeah, I'll admit it.  I bought the whole bolt).

Thanks to Bethany of Diary of a Seamstress for the lead on this painting by Georg Friedrich Kersting, ca. 1814.  Note the full length front and shoulder straps to hold it in place.

Shoulder straps crossing in the back mean that I neither have to fuss with a bulky tie at the base of my neck 
(that inevitably tangles in hair or snags on my necklace), nor need I struggle to pull a strap over my head, upsetting my hair/makeup/turbin.  The straps are looped around the waist ties, but not anchored to them. This way, I can make the space super large for taking on/off without having to adjust the straps.

The directional design to the fabric made me want to avoid using it on the bias, so instead I played around with little gathering stitches at different intervals until I found a pattern that I liked.  According to comments on the HSF Facebook page, this technique is known as counterchange smocking.

The pattern was created by using a stitch to gather two corners of successive squares together on what I had deemed the "back" side of the fabric.  Then I'd skip a corner, then gather the next two.  when one row was done, I'd move down two rows and repeat the process, off-setting the gathering stitches by one width.  This resulted in the bubbled up wavy pattern that you see on the "right" side of the fabric.  The whole bib was then backed with another piece of fabric to hide the stitches.  

Here, have a visual demonstrating that process:

The waistband is two rectangles with all four edges turned under, between which I sandwiched the bottom of the bib, the top of the apron skirt, and the two waist ties.  Since the fabric is so thin, this didn't end up bulky at all.

My leftover fabric, minus the bits I cut off when fitting the straps and ties in finishing.  Pretty thorough use of that meter.

Just the Facts:
Fabric: 1 meter (39.3 inches) of 57 inch wide woven cotton gauze
Pattern: Modeled after one done up by Across the Ages, with minor alterations.
Year: 1820s
Notions: white silk thread, because I realized at a late hour that I was out of white cotton and I wanted to use something natural so that, should I ever stain this, I could dye it another color to hide it.
How historically accurate is it? Entirely hand sewn of 100% cotton, I'm giving this A.
Hours to complete: 10-12. It's hard to say as the project folded up nicely into a quart size baggie to be carried around for something to keep my hands busy when away from home.
First worn: not yet, but part of my sewing goals for 2014 is to have more "everyday" historical wear instead of all ballgowns and fancy dress, so that's going to fit right in with it.
Total cost: Fabric was on clearance for $8/yd, so even with taxes and thread, we're looking at less than $10 US total.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween Cosplay: Jessica Rabbit

I'm pretty sure this costume started out as a joke about my bff V's endless legs.  She eventually bought into the idea and a new cosplay was born.  We choose NOT to make an attempt at recreating the character's frankly ludicrous proportions, as I wanted it to be flattering to V's body as is, not a boobs joke.

We chose a supportive and formed strapless bra and whatever that gives V in the chest is what she's going to have.
This project was my first experience with draping.  I started by taking V's measurements in the bra, then putting the bra on a dress form and doing the pining there.  Note to self, straight pins are easier on the dress form, but transferring that mockup to a warm body without injury to one or both parties is nigh on impossible. 
We traded the stick pins out for safety pins as I adjusted the fit on V's body.  I used a sharpie to trace all of the dart and seam lines, then the pins were removed and a line of best fit was drawn in before the mockup was loosely assembled with a basting stitch on the machine.
Basting the mockup to the bra cups for a final fitting.

I ended up shifting the darts over the bra cup a bit so that the darts above and below the breast would be along the same line.  I tried to leave a 1" seam allowance on all edges for wiggle room, but I ended up not having that in all places. Luckily, the 1/2" that I'm wanting to have on the final pattern was available and the rest of the seams were trimmed to match that. The dress will close at center back with a zipper, over the bra closure. The seams for this were folded back and stitched down and a small dart/box pleat was placed at the bottom of the zipper space so that the entire back can be cut from one piece.


For fabrics, my honey picked out a sparkly red stretch that was just perfect.  I was really glad not to have to bother with sewing through sequins and V was infinitely glad I talked myself out of the red glitter pleather (Gods, would that have been stuffy).  This way, the sparkle will go all the way into the seams without broken pieces or missing sequins. The fabric is also pretty forgiving when it comes to depth perception, so V ought to be able to go without any torso shaping garments. Yay for comfort.

I'd left the red fabric hanging on a hanger for about a month so that whatever damage gravity is going to do can be done with (also as a motivation/reminder to be getting on with the project).  This had the added bonus of relaxing out the folds from spending two years in storage.  I was terrified of the thought of trying to iron the fabric, or even apply steam to those wafer thin shiny plastic disks.  Luckily, gravity did the trick and the folds are gone.  I'm thinking (hoping?) that the difference in stretch between lining and fashion layer won't be an issue as the only places where the fabrics will be sewn together will be around the top of the bra, along the right side seam at the slit, and along the hem.
The dress is lined with a simple lavender polyester lining that I pulled out of the discount pile at one of the store in New York's fashion district.  The bolt had been standing near a window long enough that one end suffered from sun discoloration.  But for <$2/yd, their loss was my gain.  The narrow panels of the dress made it super easy to work around the damaged bits.

We had to get some sheer-to-waist panty hose, as that thigh slit is pretty deep.  The gloves were white nylon and picked up at the party store for around $10.  I lucked out and had a pair of red heels that fit collecting dust in the closet.

V as Jessica Rabbit, with her roommate dressed up as Roger.

Wigs don't last terribly long with this one, I'm afraid.  But Roger loves his carrot cake enough not to mind.
Overall, I think the dress looked fairly nice.  I underestimated how much the red fabric would stretch and, as a result, the back closure was a little loose.  V could only hook the bra on the first set of hooks and said that it made the whole thing feel a bit insecure.  I went back and ripped out the stitches that attached the dress to the bra strap in the back and am deepening the back darts.  This should allow her to hook it on the tightest setting and feel a bit more secure.  I love that her roommate latched onto the notion of playing Roger, as I thought this was a fantastic costume for pairs when the woman is significantly taller than the man.  He even brought a carrot cake!

HSF #23: Generosity and Gratitude - the 1770s Stays

Historical Sew Fortnightly's Challenge #23: Generosity and Gratitude, Due November 18

From our Challenger: Celebrate the generosity of spirit and willingness to help others that makes the historical sewing community great, and give credit and thanks to those who have contributed to our collective knowledge without expecting payment in return. Make anything that fits the general HSF guidelines, and utilizes research, patterns, and tutorials that have been made available for free. Be sure to acknowledge all the sources that have helped you to create your item.

Well, I've been working on a pair of late 18th century stays since the spring and when this challenge was announced, I just knew that I had to apply these to it.  I already had a collection of articles and websites that I was using to get started. Actually, it was this challenge that was partially responsible for inspiring me to start blogging about costuming, so thank you to Leimomi for the nudge in the right direction.  I rely so heavily on the knowledge and experience of those willing to take the time to tell the internet about their costuming, I thought it was about time I make an effort at paying it forward.

Yikes!  Those can't be mine.  I don't know where they came from.

I'll start by offering a super huge THANK YOU to the following people for what
- sasosiserinde also used the same pattern I was using and it was nice to see it put together. The little notes one where she ran into problems with working directly from the pattern were helpful when I was getting ready to do the same steps. - Some useful construction notes.
- There is a SUPER detailed set of instructions on that cover the process from start to finish. I found this site most helpful when I was making adjustments to the pattern pieces to get a fit that would work better for my body.
- Brocade Goddess has an excellent follow along to someone's recreation project. Super detailed and with lot of notes as to why things needed to be done a certain way, or of a certain material. Might have been the post that convinced me that I just wasn't interested in binding my stays with leather, after all.
- Isis Wardrobe did some lovely embroidery that I think I'll try to imitate at some point, as I forgot to sew ribbon/bias over my construction seams before sewing on the binding and I'd really like to do something to hide that machine top-stitching.
- Festive Attyre has a very useful article on the placement of spiral lacing that let me just outright ignore the instructions and lacing guide that came in the pattern. Having the math concepts for eyelet placement really appealed to my scientist brain.
- I also found this article by Sidney Eileen to be helpful in figuring out what to do with my laces, once I'd gotten them into place.

The pattern: Simplicity 3635.  I was having trouble figuring out where to start when it came to drafting my own pattern, and so I dug through the drawer and found that I had acquired this one at some point along the line.  I figured it would be a good launching point for having pattern pieces on about the right scale and shape.

The construction instructions started getting frustrating, though, and before long, I'd put those back into the envelope and just used the resources I had found online and in a few books.  The only downside to this step was that, without the happy reminders of 5/8" seam allowances, I reverted back to sewing 1/2" as that's what the rest of my historical patterns from non-mainstream sources use, as well as what I default to when drafting something of my own.  Whoops!  This resulted in a little bit of wrinkling when I tried to make my support with its 5/8" seams line up with the lining and outer layers with their 1/2" seams.  I wasn't going to get too worked up about, first pair and all.  But still.  Learn from my fail.  When I'd first started sewing historical garments and had to get used to the 1/2" allowance, I took myself a small strip of electrical tape and marked the proper point on my sewing machine table so that I'd have an easy visual reminder when sewing.  Would have been handy if I'd done that this time.

One continuous line of lacing with ribbon.  I've since replaced the ribbon with two shoe strings anchored at the top and bottom.  With the plastic tips on them, I can leave the top and bottom few holes laced before slipping the stays on over my head and reaching around behind me to finish he lacing.  It takes a bit of finagling, but once I got the feel for it, it wasn't too bad.  The pattern had the lacing stop several inches from the bottom, but when I did that and tried them on, they felt really insecure.  Probably a product of being a bit too big.  I figure I'll give them a few trial runs laced as is, and if I decide later to end the lacing sooner, it's no big deal to go back in and insert another eye between two others.


The eyelet holes were put in by hand with an awl and edged with a thick silk thread.  I'm pretty sure the last time I tried to do this on a corset, I used sewing thread.  No wonder it took forever.  I timed myself and it took me less than five minutes per eyelet, which I thought was doing pretty good.

So in summary,

The Challenge: Generosity and Gratitude
Fabric: Cotton canvas and a mid-weight linen for sandwiching the boning.  Grey linen for the fashion layer and white cotton muslin for lining.
Pattern: Simplicity 3635
Year: 1770s, or 'round-a-bout
Notions: polyester thread for the construction, silk thread for the binding and eyelet holes, reed for the boning, shoes stings for the lacing.
How historically accurate is it?  Points off for cotton layers and machine stitching, so let's give it a 9/10.
Hours to complete: TOO long for a first attempt.  The boning channels alone were a tremendous time suck, as was the binding, but there's not really a good way around that last one.  I did get to sew the front side of the top binding down by machine, so that helped, but all the rest of it had to be done by hand.  Everybody was right, binding tabs leads to swearing.
First worn: Needs a top or dress to wear over it before it'll be fit for wearing.
Total cost: Mostly made from leftover bits of fabric, and the reed was much less expensive than the steel boning would have been (and omg, would that have been heavy), so I'll estimate it $35.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

HSF #21: Color Challenge - Green

From our Challenger: Make a historical garment or accessory in any shade of green from palest spring green through to darkest pine green, and from barely-there eu de nil, to vibrant chartreuse.  (due October 21)

Well, so much for getting this done by the 21st, but with a Halloween party to host, the Masquerade entry for challenge 22 had to take priority.  Now that the Halloween is over, though, I've had the chance to go back and finish up this entry.

It seems like the 1920s have been all the rage lately.  In fact, the bid parties for the 2016 World Con (hopefully to be held here in Kansas City), have embraced a Speak Easy sort of theme.  I've spent the better part of the last year thinking about prohibition and the roaring twenties, and I felt that it was high time I made myself a 20s outfit.  Now, this decade didn't hold a lot of great options for a lady of my size, so I went into this project looking for something that was more fun than flattering.  I picked up a copy of Folkwear #264: the Monte Carlo dress for a different project and thought I'd try my hand at making one for myself. 

I pulled from the stash a synthetic olive leopard print charmeuse and when I couldn't stop laughing upon picturing the finished project, I knew that I had to go with it.

Did you know that you can make a skirt with 8 sides?  I do now.  The pattern came in an XL, but had to be sized up for my own shape.  Unfortunately, my pear-shaped body just isn't going to be displayed at it's best in this thing. 
The concept for the dress itself is fairly straight forward, but I wasn't super impressed with how it went together.  The pattern calls for separate small rectangular pieces of fabric to make the straps, but instructions have them placed so that the seam is facing the side and totally visible.  Using self fabric for the straps also left them looking weird and puffy.  I ended up scraping their plan and instead using a black velvet that was first sewed into a tube and then placed so that the seam is on the center underside of the strap. 

I also used the pattern pieces for the facings as a guide for cutting a full lining for the bodice of the dress.  That charmeuse is pretty unforgiving on the bumps and a lining was necessary.  It turned out to be a good thing, too, as the finished dress fit pretty unflatteringly over the hips.  (I think the problem here is that I up-sized the top and bottom unequally and, where I thought I was gathering the skirt to fit the bodice, it was actually the other way around, which made the dress cinch tight under the hips.)  I was able to cinch up the outer layer with some ruching up the side seams and then tack it to the lining. 

I suppose that overall, I like this well enough.  It'll be fun and I'm not looking to grace any magazine covers in it.  I do think I'm probably going to go back and make up the tunic that comes with the pattern in a black velvet burnout of some sort, to give myself a bit more coverage and add some business back up in the shoulder area so I don't feel quite so bottom-heavy.  I've also thinking of adding a bit of sparkle to the bodice with beading or rhinestones, but have put that off until I can garner up a bit more of an opinion about just what I want to use.  For now, I'll have to get myself a super long string of black pearls or cut glass beads and call it good.  Luckily, the person I originally bought this pattern for is tall and slender, and I think the cut will flatter her quite nicely.

Just the facts:

The Challenge: #21 Color Challenge, Green
Fabric: Olive green leopard print synthetic charmeuse, black polyester lining, scraps of black silk velvet
Pattern: Folkwear 264 Monte Carlo Dress
Year: 1920s
Notions: Olive green polyester thread,
How historically accurate is it?  Meh, C+
Hours to complete: About six.
First worn: There's a Monte Carlo themed masquerade coming up in December that I'm saving this one for.
Total cost: $15 for the pattern and about $20 for the fabrics.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

HSF Challenge #22: Masquerade

Oh, was this my kind of challenge.

From our challenger: Create something inspired by historical fancy dress and masquerade that takes you out of reality, in to another world (purely historical, fantasy, steampunk etc are all allowed).

I decided to finally get around to finishing that Queen of Hearts costume that I've been working on in fits and starts since last winter.  Some of the undergarments were completed back as part of challenges 3 and 4, but I got distracted by other projects for Costume Con and it was set aside.  I wanted to go with a classic interpretation of the character and, to me, that means the old school Disney version:

The decision to use the silhouette from the 1860s was largely based on the skirt.  I had just made up the Walking Cage Crinoline from Truly Victorian and I used that as my starting point.  The whole costume ended up as a mashup of patterns from the 1850s-1870s. 

Hmm... Victorian Harley Quinn?

I really wanted to hit the little details that make this costume come alive, so having the heart bloomers and a lace hemmed petticoat was important to me. 

I couldn't find a heart printed fabric that would work, so I ended up using a stencil and fabric acrylics to make my own.  The bloomers were made out of a layer of painted kona cotton over a layer of white rayon (gotta keep it opaque if I'm going to be flashing people my drawers) and were made using Simplicity 9769 The Fashion Historian - Drawers.


The petticoat was made of white kona cotton using the Free Hoop Petticoat Diagram from Truly Victorian.  The same heart eyelet lace that I used on the bloomers runs the hem of the petticoat.

The underskirt, made from Truly Victorian's 1869 Grand Parlor Skirt and modified to have a hem parallel to the floor.  The front panel actually wasn't as hard to make up as I thought it'd be.   I traced the center front pattern piece onto brown paper, then drew in the pieces, cut them out and traced those onto new paper, adding in a seam allowance to the center front and diagonal lines between color blocks.  I did end up adjusting the way the front panel fits into the waist band as the intended darts kinda made the top bit a bit wonky.  But what couldn't be tweaked was easily hidden by the overskirt.


I have been itching to try my hand at cartridge pleating ever since I learned what it was.  This was one of those cases where, once you knew what it was, you'd see it EVERYWHERE!  The velvet of the overskirt was pleated onto a piece of 2" wide petersham ribbon I found in the upholstery section.  Sturdy stuff without, adding a lot of bulk.

The bodice was a Frankensteining of two Truly Victorian patterns: 1872 Vest Basque and 1875 Ball Gown Basque.  I wanted to pair the neckline from the ballgown with the sleeves from the vested bodice.  About the only thing that these patterns had in common was the basque back, and that was the first thing I drafted out of them.  Just to give you an idea of what a horrible idea this was, take a look at my first mock up:

Urgh.  I don't know if there was a better way to have gone about this, but I really wanted to avoid having to buy additional patterns if at all possible.  Luckily, much was fixed by extending the bodice up higher on my shoulder.  The sleeve fit better when the armhole was enlarged and the gathering to fit was much smoother when done in the velvet.

The crowns were made of craft foam wrapped around a round cardboard base, then covered with layers of gold acrylic paint.  Small ribbon loops were glued to the inside of the base and the crowns were worn on headbands to keep the tiny crowns in place.  The scepters are just dowel rods hot glued into a hollow paper heart found at the local craft store, then painted with shimmery acrylic paints.

In summary, just the facts, as best as I can recall them:

The Challenge: #22 Masquerade
Year: 1850-70s
How historically accurate is it?  Not terribly.  May 25%
Hours to complete: I could not even begin to imagine.  Certainly 60+.
First worn: to our Halloween party
Total Cost:  Over $300, at the very least.

Fabric/Pattern/Notions split up by component.
Bodice: Black and red silk/rayon velvet, cotton canvas interlining, black polyester lining for the sleeves.  TV 405 1872 Vest Basque and TV 416 1865 Ball Gown Basque.  Hook-and-eye tape (best invention ever), cotton eyelet lace collar, black taffeta piping (over cotton cord) and spiral steel boning encased in commercial bias tape.
Underskirt: Black and gold crepe back polyester satin.  TV 202 1869 Grand Parlor Skirt.  Black shoestring for the drawstring closure.
Overskirt: Black and red silk/rayon velvet.  No pattern, as it was just draped on the dress form.  White faux fur trim, petersham ribbon waistband, and hook closure.
Bloomers: White kona cotton painted with acrylic hearts  and white rayon.  Simplicity 9769 Drawers.  Heart eyelet lace and cotton twill tape ties.
Petticoat: White kona cotton.  Truly Victorian free hoop petticoat pattern. Heart eyelet lace.

And to make this into a proper couples' costume:

My Honey, as the King of Hearts

So very dapper.

Proof that his costume really is pink.  Sorry Honey!
 The King's robes were made of synthetic pink velour made up in a modified version of Butterick 3648: Dickens Victorian Christmas Robe, trimmed with the faux fur and close with safety pins (because I ran out of time to get proper hook-and-eye closures put in.  The collar is just a layer of  heavy interfacing sandwiched between two layers of cotton and trimmed with white cotton piping.  I claim no responsibility for that monstrosity of facial hair.