Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Historical Sew Fortnightly

The Dreamstress is hosting The Historical Sew Fortnightly event this year.  It sounds like a fabulously fun, and motivating group sew.  I've fallen hard off of the sewing truck these past couple of months.  I do have an excuse...a legitimate one...we are trying to sell our house.  But, I've felt a giant hole in my life because of it...a huge lack of creativity is taking it's toll on me and making me feel a bit depressed.  One can only do so much living vicariously through other seamstresses before one goes mad with an itch that can't be scratched.  I simply must sew something historical.  

Obviously, because of my present circumstances, I won't be able to make a huge mess.  So, large projects are out of the question.  But, The Dreamstress has made the categories for this group sew-along broad enough that I'm sure I can find something small to do, that can be packed away quickly if someone wants to view our house at the last minute.  I'm also working on  a non-existent budget, so I will be only tackling projects that can be done with my current stash, or that can be bought with a $25 dollar gift card I have to Joanne's Fabric store.  Not much...but something is better than nothing.  I love that this event allows for smaller projects as well as large one, and it's always motivating working along side others.  I hope you will join in on the fun!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Christmas Baby

A beautiful short film/reading posted by Toast. I just had to share it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Merry Christmas

Every Christmas season, I am drawn to two songs that I simply can't listen to enough.  One is "The Holly and the Ivy" and the other is "Greensleeves." (Which is really the Celtic version...the Christmas version would be called "What Child Is This.")  I found a couple of YouTube videos, and thought I would post them for your listening pleasure.  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

"The Holly and the Ivy"


Friday, December 7, 2012

All I want for Christmas... my two front teeth!

Another one bites the dust!

Sorry for the redundant post, but the Christmas season is upon us, and we are still waiting for our house to sell.  A contract on my house is all I want for Christmas, to be sure!  I haven't been able to do any sewing.  My fingers itch to create something...anything. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Something's Missing

An epic moment happened at our house tonight...

Looks like the Toothfairy will be stopping over!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Sweet Note

Last Thursday, I was having a very bad day.  Then, one of my 5th grade Theater Club students came up to me and handed me this note (and a hug).  Suddenly, the day wasn't so bad.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

1884 Gown: Steampunk Version

Wow...what a crazy few weeks it has been!  I'm so sorry for my long blogging absence.  We decided to put our house on the market, and for anyone that's ever bought or sold a house, you know the stress that brings.  

As you can imagine, I haven't been able to do any kind of sewing.  The Steampunk tea was this past Sunday, but my 1884 ensemble wasn't complete by still isn't.  The Gypsy Jacket isn't any further along than it was in the last post.  Between Realtors showing our house, and us looking for a new one, I haven't had the time to work on it, nor have I wanted to make a mess.

I did manage to make what I did have done work...or at least I think it worked.  I'll let you be the judge.

The party was fun, quirky and relaxing...great tea, costumes and a gathering of like-minded friends always is, isn't it.

Natalie's outfit was amazing.  But really now, should I have expected anything less from her?  There are many more photos of the event on her blog.  There are even a couple of the back side of my case you are curious as to how the bustle looked.

Carson was even brave enough to venture into the world of steampunk.  He wasn't supposed to be the only male there, but it turned out that he was.  Poor guy.  I hope we weren't too hard on him.  I think he might have liked all of the female attention.

My outfit consisted of all of my 1884 ensemble that was complete, plus my Regency habit shirt standing in for my unfinished Gypsy Jacket. 

 I accessorized with some chunky, Gothic style, leather boots, and a loose belt carrying all of my most necessary items (journal, sword, telescope and, of course, the elixir of immortality - of which I was charged to protect with my life, traveling through time if need be. Carson's job was to hunt me down, and to steal the secret recipe...I didn't go down without a fight...doesn't he look pure evil!)

We also had a steamship pinata...a very solidly made (my fault) steamship pinata.  SEVERAL attempts, and two sticks (because one broke) later, it finally busted open to reveal its bounty of candy.  

To catch a glimpse of the hilarity, check out Natalie giving the horrible thing its death blow.  
*Notice the exhaustion.*

Prayers and thoughts sent our way are greatly appreciated.  We've found a new (old) house that we love, and the offer we put on it has been accepted...but with the condition that we sell and close on our house first, by December 31st.  We need to find a buyer soon.  Once everything has settled down, I'm sure I'll be able to return to the Gypsie Jacket, and to life as I like it...predictable.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

1884 Gown: Gypsy Jacket Mock-up

If you are new to my 1884 project, you can catch up by reading the previous posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.

In The Wonderful World of Ladies' Fashion: 1850-1920, my inspiration jacket can only be viewed from the front.  But the description is fairly clear.  Here it is again, in case you have forgotten: 

"Costume of golden brown, dahlia or plum colored repped wool.  False skirt covered with a pleated skirt.  Tablier draped in a shawl point, and raised very high near the hips.  At the back is a small pouf coquettishly draped.  Gypsy jacket.  The fronts open widely, and are fastened only at the neck.  They are trimmed by a small round cord forming brandebourgs.  Buttons terminate each one of these.  The side forms of the back are slightly extended, and fasten over the box-pleated back in the same manner.  Red velvet collar, cuffs and Swiss belt."

I LOVE that it's called a "Gypsy Jacket."  I'm am more than a little bit in love with any kind of Bohemian style.  Again, I am not following the color scheme, but the front of the jacket is exactly what I want.  The back, however, is a little mysterious to me.  What do they mean, "The side forms of the back are slightly extended, and fasten over the box-pleated back in the same manner?"  What exactly are side forms?  Anyway, I'm only interested in making box pleats, so I guess it doesn't matter in the end...but I'm still curious.  

I used the Truly Victorian French Vest Pattern as a guide, but then altered the front.  I don't want the sort of wide at the top, narrow at the bottom look that the front of the French vest gives...I want the opposite. I want the look of the 1884 fashion plate that was my inspiration.  Another similar jacket, of a later date, can be found on the Met site, HERE.  My only hang up on this style is how open and loose it seems on the Met dress, but how tight and fitted it is in my original inspiration plate...yet both jackets obviously only close at the neck.  Is the original fashion plate an ideal look?  Is it impossible to keep the jacket from hanging open and loose?  Or is there a period correct way to keep this jacket fitted to the body?  Thoughts, anyone?  I know I saw one jacket, HERE that was buttoned to the plastron...that obviously would work, but I really don't want to do that.  HERE's another one that fastens at the neck and hangs open.  Is it just me, or does this jacket look like it might be fastened with hooks-and-eyes to the waist/belt/sash?  Anyone know anything about this?  I would prefer my jacket to stay snug.

My mock-up is a bit loose and wrinkly on the dress form, but on me, it's not so bad.  I also think that has something to do with the cheap cotton used in the mock-up.  The wool, and crisp lining will be a bit more stiff and drape better.

All of my wool and lining are now cut out. I haven't decided yet on the method of construction that I will use.  I need to research that a little bit more.  Did they do a sack lining?  But, then what about the box pleats on the back? I don't think that would work, would it?  I'm tempted to use late 18th/early 19th century seam construction techniques, because that's what I know.  But, the proper thing to do would be to put it together in 1880's fashion, right?  I seem to have so many questions running through my head today...more questions than answers.  I hope you have some answers for me.  I have yet to even begin on the sleeves (oh, dread!), and of course there are embellishments to come later.  I better quicken my pace...only 3 weeks until the Steampunk/Halloween party.  I'm sooooo excited about punking out this outfit!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

1884 Gown: Vest and Interchangeable Plastron - Part 2

Part two is focused on the plastron.  I have to admit that while working on this, I was having horrible flash-backs to the late 1980's (not 1880's), of those awful 'dickies' or mock-turtleneck shirts that I was forced to wear as a child.  Even as a kid I didn't like them, and I still don't, apparently, because I am wrinkling my nose at the thought of them as I type.  Because of this, I have to admit I'm finding it very hard to like this plastron.  They just look so much alike, those 'dickies' and plastrons, darn it!  Why?!

Here it is in all of its un-tucked glory.  It certainly doesn't look like much, does it...pathetic little thing.  My plastron, per original inspiration image, isn't nearly as lacy or frilly as the ones I saw in "Fashions of the Guilded Age."  I made a base lining first out of cotton, using the princess seams on my vest as a guide, and I ended up putting in a couple of darts on this lining.  Then I draped and pinned the silk into pleats over the lining, basting all edges once I had the look I wanted.  I tacked down the inner most fold of each pleat along the waistline, so that it wouldn't balloon out and poof up too much. Then, I hemmed the sides and bottom, and attached the collar.  It was as easy as that.'ve been extremely busy lately, and recovering from several illnesses that hit me all at once, and I just couldn't bring myself to put buttons and button holes ALL the way up BOTH sides of the plastron.  So, please forgive me for going the lazy (wo)man's route instead.  I put a button on each bottom corner, attaching the plastron to the vest in only these two places, in order to provide some sort of stability. Then I sewed on bias tape at each side, to pull in the smallest part of the waist, and tied them together in the back.  I figured this should hold the plastron in place, but, if it doesn't, then I will suck it up and do buttons.

The collar is simple, clasped on with a large hook and eye at the back.  Blah...there's that mock-turtleneck thought again...or a bib...*gag*!  Sorry...  I'm sure it will look lovely with the jacket over it, but seriously folks...yuck!

Anyway, once it's tucked in, and the Swiss waist is put on, I guess it isn't too terrible, right?!

It might be a while before I post again, at least about this project.  I want to ask Natalie to help me fit my jacket, and I plan on making a mock-up first. 

I'm loving the gorgeous Autumn weather we are having right now.  All of the windows in our house are open, and a light breeze is playing with the curtains.  I'm off now to enjoy what's left of this beautiful day, and to plant a few Fall perennials in the garden.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

1884 Gown: Vest and Interchangeable Plastron - Part 1

I am making this a two part post.  In this post, you will be seeing the vest, and in the next, the Plastron.

Here is a close-up view of my original fashion plate inspiration.  There is really not much to be seen of the shirtwaist or vest or whatever it is under the jacket.  It's really a huge guess.  But I did a little research, and I found out that most of these sort of decorative 'shirts' were really interchangeable plastrons, like this beautiful one from the Met Museum.  (This example is dated 1887, three years after my gown.) They were worn over, or attached to, simple vests that are not seen because they are worn under the jacket.

Natalie let me borrow her copies of "Fashions of the Gilded Age: Volumes 1 & 2." Edited and with Additional Material by Frances Grimble.  (Books may be found  HERE for purchase.)  In Volume 1, there are some examples of these vests with interchangeable plastrons, from the year 1879...five years before my gown.  So, I know I'm doing the right thing.  The real question is, how were they made.

Well, in "Fashions of the Gilded Age" a scaled pattern and description is available, and basically the vest is more-or-less a high-necked, sleeveless, button-down blouse...short in the back, and long in the front.  See my horrible sketch above, that is lacking all seam lines.

 The plastron is then made separately, with a collar, and is attached to the vest, down the sides, with buttons.  Buttons, buttons, everywhere for this project.  It's a good thing I can use a machine to make the button holes.  But still...I had to hand sew on 21 of them just for my vest alone.  That's not including the ones needed to attached the plastron.  The vest/plastron in "Fashions of the Gilded Age," because it is an earlier version than mine, is extremely frilly, with layers of tulle, lace and bows.  Mine will be a bit more simple than that.  I'm using the same purple silk I used for my corset, and I will be pleating the silk onto a base fabric made of cotton, sort of like my sketch above.

Here's my vest.  Very plain and unadorned, made from cotton.  I used the Truly Victorian French Vest Bodice pattern as a guide to get the seams and size correct.  What I love about this pattern is that it is made so that you can use one size of pattern for the back pieces and another size for the front to get a more accurate fit.  I still had to take in the darts to fit it to me, but other than that, it was perfect. 

I altered it, by cutting off the tail/peplum in the back, and gently curved that down to meet the longer front area.

 This is the best I could do, and I hope my interpretation is correct.  

It won't be seen anyway, since it will be covered by the plastron in the front, tucked into the skirt, and covered by the jacket everywhere else.  But, I still like to know that it is done correctly.  Oh, and the buttons... They are a mismatched bunch of small plastic buttons, probably made within the past 50 years, but they are what I had on hand, and again...since no one will see them...oh well.

Hopefully, by the end of next weekend, I will have the plastron finished.

Friday, September 7, 2012

1884 Gown: Draped Over-skirt and Swiss Belt

I know I said the blouse (or what I now know is called a shirtwaist) was next up, but I decided to finish the skirt first, so that I could have more time to do a little more research.  I've learned that there is something called a Plastron, that was very common during the time, and I might be leaning toward making one instead of a shirtwaist.  More on this later.

And here, at last, is the finished skirt.  The draped over-skirt pattern from Truly Victorian was easy to read, and to put together.  The only problem, was that I wanted the pleats to be higher up on the hip than the pattern called for.  The pattern also didn't have the narrow v-shape in the front that my original inspiration image did.  Actually, I found that as I was altering the skirt, the higher up I made the pleats on the side, the less of a v-shape I got out of my fabric.  Ultimately, I should have used a longer piece of fabric to achieve the deep v-shape  But I was concerned about not having enough fabric left over for my jacket, so, in the end, I sacrificed the long v-point.  I'm content with how the front of it looks though.

I drafted the Swiss Waist, using a brown cotton velvet, and a cotton duck for the lining, to give it strength.  

The original inspiration image didn't have any view of the back of the skirt, and the description was minimal.  So, I was totally guessing at how to 'puff up' the back.  I found THIS image (which is dated as 1888, but I'm looks earlier to me) and it became my new inspiration for my over-skirt.  The above pic is what the back of the skirt looks like straight out of the pattern.

But, playing around with it a bit, I was able to do this to it.  I'm not sure which I like better.  Do you have a preference?

Monday, September 3, 2012

1884 Gown: Pleated Under-Skirt REVISED

After looking for more 1880's inspiration, it seems that going with a yoked underskirt would, after all, have been the best route.  There were several extant gowns I found where the yoke was showing under the over-skirt.  Visible yokes weren't an issue apparently.  See THIS BEAUTY for example (isn't she gorgeous!)  Also, some pleats were sewn down, similar to what I'm doing with my skirt, all the way around the skirt, stitches being very visible. This being my first trip into the 1880's, I still have a lot to learn.  That's what makes it so exciting though, doesn't it!?

Anyway, after ironing 3 TIMES, going extremely heavy on the starch, and tacking down the pleats at hip level (as suggested by Natalie), this is what the skirt now looks like. (Sorry for the low quality pictures, my basement is kind of dark, and I didn't want to haul it upstairs.  Every time you move it, the skirt wrinkles. Blah!)

Better, but still not perfect.  One reader thoughtfully suggested I use more fabric.  After all, kilts use a TON of fabric, and hold their pleats just fine.  I like this suggestion, and would have thought it a solution, if I didn't already know how much fabric I've used... 5 yards of 56" fabric folks... and EXTREMELY deep (as in folded back in on itself) box pleats.  Which, leads me to believe that it's the fabric I'm using.  Never use synthetic fabrics, even if they are blended with naturals (like silk.) 

 Lesson learned.

I Think I'm In Love!

I think I'm in love...
...with this gown!

I was researching gowns from the second bustle era, to help me with my current project, and I stumbled upon this gown from The Met Museum site, dated 1885-1888.

Isn't it gorgeous!  I literally gasped when I saw it...the color, the texture, the (dare I say it) pleated skirt, with smocking, the removable pin-tucked neckline, interchangeable belt...and the asymmetrical draped over-skirt is to die for! I think I will file it away for a future dream project.  It might be my piece-de-resistance!

p.s. - the pictures aren't click-able links. please use the Met Museum link posted above to access the original photo source.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

1884 Gown: Pleated Underskirt

In case you need to catch up on my 1884 project, here are the links to all other stages:

Remember the inspiration image?  Well, in the description that accompanied it, the underskirt is said to have been pleated.  It didn't say what kind of pleats. 

They look like box pleats to me, but they could also be deep knife pleats as well, I suppose.  I tried both, and the box pleat won out for the fabric I'm using.  I draped my own underskirt, no pattern used.  I originally thought I would make a kind of yoke, and attach the silk pleats to the bottom of that, but then I realized that the over-skirt will be draped really high up on the hip, and the yoke would show.  So, pleats from waist to hem was the only way to go.

  Pleats.....I loath them.  They might look like something an innocent little school girl would wear.  But I'm convinced they are the Devil's handiwork.  They are pure evil!  They don't look all that bad at the top, close to the waist, but the further down you go, the worse they look.

Or perhaps the fabric I am using (silk/polyester blend) is to blame for my pleat woes?! It wrinkles where it shouldn't, and yet barely holds the shape of the pleat.  It's alive, and it's laughing at me.  I spent almost an hour ironing these pleats into place, and yet they still look sloppy.  
It's also a strange thing to have pleats draped over a curved (bustled) figure.  Pleats are meant to lay flat and look perfect.  Obviously that doesn't happen over a curved surface, they open up.  I think the magazine sketch that is my inspiration, is a bit deceiving.  Surely the pleats in their skirt didn't really look that precise...did they... I'm trying to console myself, if you haven't noticed.  I DO like the look of the skirt, just NOT the messy appearance.  Any suggestions?

Next up: The silk blouse (a.k.a. vest) and a brown velvet Swiss waist.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

1884 Gown: Bustled Petticoat

...or otherwise titled "I like big butts, and I cannot lie."  Sorry...but I've had that song in my head the entire time I've been working on this thing.  Seriously though, I'm loving the bustled look, and this is only the petticoat!  I can't wait to see what the skirts are going to look like...I'm a little giddy about this!

Once again, I used a Truly Victorian Pattern.  It's a later bustle period petticoat, with an optional ruffled overlay (which I chose not to use.) 

The only bias tape I had was grey.  But, since no one will see this part of the petticoat under the skirt, then it doesn't really matter does it.  The fabric is linen...cotton would have probably been more period correct, but linen is what I had on hand.

 I chose to pleat the bottom half, because that is what I'm planning on doing to the underskirt, and I wanted a similar structure to support the underskirt.  I gathered the upper portion of the petticoat into the waistband, but I kept the gathers toward the sides, or the hip area, because I wanted the front to be as flat as possible...reducing the bulk.

 All of the TRUE undergarments are now finished.  Next up: The silk, striped, underskirt!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

1884 Gown: Finished Corset

I want to apologize for being so slow to post lately.  Between school starting, and me and Jane both having really bad colds (mine developed into Sinusitis and Bronchitis...of which I am still battling), all sewing and any superfluous activities have been put on hold.  But, I did manage to finish the last little bit of the Victorian corset I am making for my 1884 ensemble (part 1 and part 2). 

I am pleased with the way it turned out.  The Truly Victorian Pattern that I used was very simple and the instructions were clear.  The only problem I have with it (the corset, not the pattern), is that the silk habotai that I used doesn't seem to be very strong at the seams.  It's already pulling and at the brink of tearing in some tight spots. 
Also, I've been counting calories, and swimming 5 days a week for the past month, which means I've lost some weight since I made the original mock up...12 lbs. to be exact (thank you!)  And while I'm not complaining about the weight loss, it means that the corset now does not fit like it did in the beginning.  I don't have that much room in the back to tighten the laces if I lose anymore. Unfortunately for me, the weight loss seems to have occurred mostly in my chest. (Why does this always happen!) The gussets are now a little loose. :(

It's a comfortable corset.  I do have one question though...myself being new to the Victorian style corset...for those of you out there that are experience with front fastening, metal busk style do you easily fasten the metal busk?  Every time I manage to get one part of the busk fastened and move on to another, the first one slips out again.  So, I'm moving back and forth between fastenings, with not any real progress. Annoying. 

Next up (if I can kill this respiratory infection): The petticoat...already half finished.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Jane is growing up way too fast. 
This morning was the first day of Kindergarten.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

1884 Gown: Fabric and Beginning Stages of the Corset

The fabrics are in for my  1884 Gown and Underpinnings.  For my corset outer fabric, and for the 'vest' or blouse that goes under the jacket, I've chosen a silk habotai from Dharma Trading.  The silk came in white, so I died it what was supposed to be a lilac color.  As you can see in the above picture, it's much darker than what I would consider lilac.  It's almost plum colored.  By itself on film, it looks sort of blue-ish, so I've paired it in this picture with a true royal blue, so that you can see the difference.


 Here's the layout of the corset lining, in white linen.  Set out like this, it seems a mile long.


 And here is the corset's surprisingly simple.  And it didn't take long to make, since I'm using the machine.  There are a few wrinkles, etc, but I'm sure those will disappear when the boning, and other layers of fabric, go in.  Once it's finished, I will post a picture of it on me.

And here's the layout of the silk fabric, flat-lined with a cotton duck.   All of the boning, lacing, grommets and the busk are ready to go.  I'm hoping to get a good deal of it put together tomorrow.  And although I don't have any pictures, the bustled petticoat is cut out and ready to be sewn together.  I won't be making a proper Victorian chemise, maybe later.  For now, I'm going to just use my Regency era shift.

And now for the luscious, yummy part...the fabric for the under-skirt, over-skirt, and jacket.  I ordered a grey and taupe silk-poly blend for the underskirt.  YES, I know pure silk would have been more accurate, but I had to go with cheaper fabric in the end.  The same goes for the over-skirt and jacket a grey, taupe and white, check instead of a stripe...the original would have been pure wool, but mine is a wool blend of some sort.  Honestly though, I really can hardly tell the difference.  Both fabrics feel divine, and look the part.  I ordered both from Fashion Fabric Club.

I really like the way both fabrics drape.  I can already tell, just from playing around with the fabric, that 1884 is going to be a fabulous look.