October 28, 2011

Wrestling With Millinery

Finally!  I've had the urge to try my hand at making a hat from scratch for ages, but the closest I've gotten is gluing a handful of crap haphazardly to a cheap hat and calling it good.  Years ago I purchased Lynn McMasters Early Victorian Bonnet pattern, but I never got around to trying it until a few months ago.  Since then the project has sputtered along in fits and starts while I tried to figure out what the hell I was doing.  This hat making business is hard!

 I made a few mistakes in cutting out my buckram (note to self: read the ALL the instructions next time!) so I had to piece in some extra bits to get it right.  I learned that my machine has a love/hate relationship with sewing through buckram and over millinery wire, and my fingers have a hate/hate relationship with handsewing through buckram.  Between all the stitching holding two layers of the stuff together plus a third and fourth layer in some areas, I created... the FrankenBonnet!

The FrankenBonnet sat on a shelf for a few weeks until I got around to mulling it (mulling is the process of covering the form with flannel to smooth out all the ridges and bumps).   After covering it with one layer of flannel I could still see a lot of ridges from all the stitching, so I stuck another layer on to be safe.  I needn't have bothered, as the fashion fabric I ended up using was rather thick in its own right, but at the time I was considering covering it in a thin silk which would have shown every bump.

The hat sat around for another few weeks as I tried to figure out what to do with it.  I wanted something much plainer than what was pictured on the pattern, and I wanted it to go well with my Dickens dress without being too matchy-matchy.  A remnant of brown and black wool fabric in a donated box at work caught my eye, and I decided it was perfect.  Now to get it on the hat...

 Pinning everything inside-out to get a proper fit

Lots of pins to hold it all in place while the glue dries

Thankfully, it didn't go too terribly!  The pattern has you put trim everywhere there's a join in the fabric, so you don't have to be too neat about it.  I chose not to put trim at each seam though, so I had to make neat seams with as little bulk as possible.  I'm amazed it turned out so well!

I got a bit crazy and decided to use some of the extra evil silk gauze of evil from the lattice gown for the inside of the bonnet.  It behaved as per its usual bitchy self, but by and large I wrestled it into submission.  I gathered a loooong and wide strip of it and fitted it along the inside, stitching it down along the outer edges and a couple of inches in from the back of the hat.
 Yup, still evil.

After attaching the silk and the last piece of outer fabric, I bound the edge with a wide strip of brown silk ribbon.  I sewed it down on the outside (and wow my machine stitched through all that like butter), then flipped it over to stitch the inside by hand.  Unfortunately, you can't successfully use a straight needle on an inside curve like that, and my only curved needle was a honkin' big upholstery one that was ill-suited to making nice neat stitches.  I ended up gluing the inside edge down, which left me with an uneven edge and bits of glue showing through the thin silk.  *sigh*  I'll pull it off one of these days and redo it properly by hand, but for now I'm crunched for time and it will have to do.  At least all that gathered silk looks preeeeetty. 

I've left the inside back unfinished for now while I wait to get my wig.  I want to see how the hat sits, and whether I need to add anything back there to help it fit right.  The FrankenBonnet is still visible, and that amuses me greatly for no particular reason. 

Oh hai.

Now the fun part- trimming!  My boyfriend generously donated the first cravat I made for him to the cause, and I added a few flowers from Michaels.  I'll be adding more very soon so that the poor bonnet doesn't look quite so bare, but this is it for now. 

The little ruffle that covers the back of the neck is only half the length it should be, but I ran out of fabric, so it'll have to do.  

All in all I love it, and I can't wait to see how it looks worn with the wig!

October 14, 2011

And So it Begins...

The fabric for my Dickens dress is finally here!!!  It took its sweet time meandering across the country, pausing halfway for nearly a week in some Midwest warehouse and convincing me it had been lost en route.  But it's here, and I can finally start sewing my day dress immedia... next week.  Sigh.  That whole "responsibility" thing compels me put aside what I want to do and focus on some other stuff for the next few days.  But here's a sneak peek at the plan...

 Click to embiggen 

It's changed a wee bit since I initially drew this up, but the basic silhouette and description are the same.  The main dress fabric is a brown wool with thin stripes of blue and white, and I'll be adding three thick bands of flat trim made from a pretty blue plaid wool at the hem, with skinnier bands of flat trim to decorate the pagoda sleeves.  The piping in the bodice will also be made from the blue plaid for a bit of contrast.

The bottom left of the image seems to show the fabric closest to its true color

I can't wait to get started!

October 11, 2011

Sewing Your Custom Drafted Hoops

I showed you how to draft a custom hoop skirt pattern here.  You should have ended up with a pattern that looks something like the following image, plus a list of hoop circumferences.

Now I'll show you how to sew it up.  It's really quite simple.  Here's the quick and dirty instructions in nine easy steps, followed by the slightly more complicated process I used for mine (partially by choice, partially because I screwed up), with a few photos-

1.  Trace out your pattern on your fabric.  It's easiest if you just use one long length of fabric so you only have to make one seam.  Make sure you mark the lines where your hoops are going to go.

2.  Sew your side seams together so that you have one big tube of fabric.  You'll want to flat fell your seam or stitch down your seam allowances so that your hoop boning won't get stuck in that space between the fabric and the seam allowance.  Trust me, it's a pain in the ass if you don't.

3.  Hem the bottom edge.

4.  Make a casing for a drawstring at the top by folding the fabric over and sewing it down, leaving enough space to run your drawstring through.  Just prior to doing this, you can make two button holes at the top center front for your drawstring to pass through, or you can just leave a small gap as you're sewing the casing.  In previous projects I've entirely forgotten to do this and ended up ripping small holes in the casing to get the drawstring in.

5.  Sew lengths of bone casing or grosgrain ribbon down along the lines you drew for your hoops.  Sew along the top edge and the bottom edge of each length of casing or ribbon, leaving enough space between for your boning to go.  Be sure to leave a small gap unsewn so you have a place to insert the boning.

6.  Cut your hoop boning to size.  You found the circumference of each hoop when you were drafting the pattern; add 1" to that measurement so that you can overlap the ends of your hoops.

7.  Feed your boning through the channels you made, overlap the ends by 1" and join the together with hoop connectors.   I believe it's easiest to start with the top hoop and work your way down.

8.  Run your drawstring through the waist casing.

9.  Your fabric will probably be gathered and bunched on the hoops strangely, giving them a misshapen and lumpy appearance.  Put your hoop skirt on a mannequin or a willing assistant and adjust the gathers so that they are evenly distributed around the hoops.  This takes some fussing, but in the end you'll have a beautiful hoop skirt shaped exactly as you wish!

Of course I had to make it slightly more complicated than that. 

Step 1.  Remove cat from fabric.  De-fur as best as possible.

They're still carrying this in the utility fabric section of JoAnns if anyone is interested

I used a striped cotton pillow ticking I picked up at JoAnns.  With a coupon it came to about $3 a yard.  It's finer and more tightly woven than regular ticking, and I love the combo of florals and stripes!

Plastic covered spring steel hoop boning and hoop connectors

You'll need some sort of spring steel hoop boning.  There are several kinds, but I tend to use a medium strength variety that consists of two bands of spring steel coated in plastic.  You can find it at corsetmaking.com.  They have another kind that is similar, only coated in buckram, but I find the plastic stuff is easier to cut and is a little stronger than the buckram stuff.  1/7/18 ETA: Two or more years ago this type of boning disappeared from the market entirely due to the death of the owner of the only machine producing it. Now there's a new company called Hoopwire.com that produces the plastic coated version. At this time they do not make the buckram coated version, though I'm not a fan of trying to stuff that type into fabric channels anyway. 

I know that Farthingales has heavier duty spring steel boning, but I've never used it so I can't say much about it.  You can figure out how much you'll need by adding together all the circumference measurements you came up with when you drafted your hoops (add an extra 1" for each hoop to allow for overlap). To my displeasure, corsetmaking.com doesn't carry hoop connectors, so I purchased mine in person at Lacis.  

Awesome cheap boning cutters from Lacis.  Possibly the only thing that is cheap at Lacis.

I got my boning cutters ages ago at Laci's for the dirt cheap price of $10.  They cut through the plastic coated steel like butter, but may not be as effective on the super heavy duty stuff.  

It's easiest to use one long length of the fabric so you only have to make one seam, but that would mean I'd end up with horizontal stripes instead of the vertical ones I wanted, so I sewed multiple panels of fabric together to get one long panel of the appropriate width.  Then I followed step 2 and sewed up the sides to form a tube.  All of these seams were flat felled so that the hoop boning wouldn't catch on seam allowances later on when I fed it into the channels.

Step 3. Remove other cat from fabric.  Attempt to de-fur fabric again, give up.  Consider at least getting matching cats next time.

At least piecing is period, right?

Step 4.  I realized I hadn't paid attention to my measurements earlier and had cut my panels too short, so I pieced in extra fabric at the top to bring it back to the right length.  Again, I flat-felled all seams.

Step 5.  I used a narrow rolled hem foot to hem the bottom.  It takes a little practice to get the fabric feeding in correctly, but it makes a very pretty, very narrow turned hem.  You can see a photo of a rolled hem foot in action here.

Step 6.  I made two buttonholes near the top center front, then turned the top edge down twice and sewed it to form a casing for a drawstring.  

Step 7.  I started out using bone casing purchased from corsetmaking.com, but I ran out after the fourth hoop casing.  I grabbed some grosgrain ribbon to finish off the last four casings.  

Step 8.  Unwind all the cats from the ribbon and kick them out of the room so the last casings can be sewn on in peace.

Pleats vs gathers.  Pleats look meh, gathers win by a long shot.

Step 9.  I had decided I wanted to use some excess fabric to make a pleated trim to go around the base, but upon pleating a small scrap to test the idea I decided that it looked like crap.  I'm kinda bored of putting gathered ruffles on things, but I had to admit it looked better than the pleating, so I hemmed and gathered 6 yards of fabric and sewed it to the base.

Step 10.  Quickly open door and throw some catnip toys to the yowling furbeasts to appease them.  Shut door before they can get back in.

Step 11.  I cut my boning to size (adding 1" to allow for overlap) and started feeding it through the channels.  I started at the bottom and worked my way up, but I think it's easier to to it the other way around.  Before I inserted each hoop I stuck a bit of tape on the end to cover the rough edges so they'd glide through easier.  To join the ends I overlapped them and taped them securely.

I finished each join by using pliers to clamp metal hoop connectors tightly over the taped area.  Those suckers aren't going anywhere!  

Step 12.  I inserted the drawstring, accidentally pulled the opposite end all the way through and had to start over.  I used a 1/4" wide grosgrain ribbon I had lying around as a drawstring.  The texture of the ribbon seems to keep my bow from untying itself when I tie it tightly, but keeps it from over-tightening itself to the point that I can't get it undone when it's time to take it off.


Step 13.  I wish I'd taken a photo of the lumpy mess that was my hoop skirt directly after I finished inserting the hoops, but you'll just have to imagine.  The fabric gets all gathered up on the boning while you're stuffing it in and those gathers need to be redistributed evenly around the hoops to get a nice even shape.  It's easiest if you have a mannequin or somebody willing to wear a hoop and stand still for a while so you can work on getting those gathers distributed right.  Both my mannequins were at work when I first finished my hoop, so I very nearly had my boyfriend put it on for me.  The photos would have been hilarious ;)  Eventually I got it all sorted, and the end result is pretty damn awesome.    

There's just one part that didn't work out for me.  While I was at Lacis I found some fine silk ribbon in the exact same shade as the stripes in my fabric.  I purchased it with the intent of making little bows to adorn the top of every fifth pleat or something, but since I did a gathered ruffle rather than pleats I don't know what to do with it.  Bows look a little silly on top of the ruffle.  I'm considering using it to trim my chemise, bloomers and petticoat so that all of my underwear matches, but then I'd be tempted to make a new corset so that it would match too.  I should probably bury the ribbon somewhere deep in my stash till such crazy thoughts subside...