November 10, 2012

Halfway There

I'd hoped to be done with the new corset tonight, but given the rather small amount of time I've had to work on it I'd say I'm lucky to have gotten as far as I have. 

I've got the main assembly finished, and I've got about half of the boning channels stitched.  I still have to sew the rest of the boning channels, cut/tip/insert the boning, apply the binding, set the grommets and add some lace at the top.  Eventually I'll do some flossing, but something tells me that with a little more than a week 'till final dress and no actual dress started yet, flossing is the last thing on the to be done list!

November 9, 2012

American Duchess 23Skidoo!

My lovely friend Lauren is at it again!  She's created a fabulous new 1920's shoe that is ADORABLE and super versatile.  I have several pairs of American Duchess shoes, and they're all lovely and very comfortable.  The new 23Skidoo is available in a white colorway and a brown and white version.  I'm of a mind to get the white and customize it with some crazy color or another!

Through the 19th you can get your 23Skidoos for the low pre-order price of just $99.  As usual, she needs to meet a minimum order number so that she can actually get the shoes made, so get your order in now to ensure you get your shoes! 

November 8, 2012

Fine Coutil and New Corset

I am still finishing up the details on my repro drawers pattern and instructions, but in the meantime I've fallen head over heels into the Oh Crap Dickens is Around the Corner and I Haven't Finished Anything Yet freakout.  One of the things on this years list of to-dos is a new corset, so that's what I'm up to tonight.  I spent an hour at work using the laser to cut out all the pieces, and now it's time to get sewin'!

Fun/pretty cotton fabric for lining is mandatory in my sewing room!

I'm using a BEAUTIFUL pale blue German coutil from Farthingales.  It's so light and thin, but incredibly dense and strong at the same time.  The herringbone pattern is the finest I've ever seen! 

Dime included for scale.  Look how tiny the herringbone weave is!!!

I can't wait to see how this stuff handles.  With luck, I'll be done by tomorrow night and able to start breaking it in at workshops this weekend.

November 1, 2012

Antique Undies Up Close and Personal

So you're back to see all the teeny tiny details of someone's 100+ year old chonies eh?  Well, you're in luck.   Fair warning, this is a very picture heavy post!  You can click each photo to see it larger.

Laid flat.  Of course, it wasn't until I was writing this
that I noticed they were inside out in this photo!

Aaaand we're right side out again.  Good.

These are open crotch, straight legged drawers complete with pintucks and eyelet trim.  I picked them up from an antique store last year.  As you'll see, every seam is finished in some way or another, making these washable and durable.   They are fitted with darts and a drawstring, and tie in the back.

The most obviously pretty details are the pintucks and eyelet trim.  Both were sewn prior to stitching up the inner seam of each leg. The pintucks are each about 1/8” wide, and are sewn in two clusters of four pintucks each. Within each cluster they have about 1/8” of space showing between them. The two clusters have about ½” of space showing between them. 

Crooked pintucks!

I was happy to note that while the drawers were obviously sewn with great care and good workmanship, the pintucks are not perfectly even! I am obviously not the only person in the world that can't get those motherf***ers straight. 

The eyelet trim appears to be machine made.  Even so, it's far more perfect and beautiful than the crappy eyelet you can get at most fabric stores today.  It's slightly gathered to fit the bottom of each leg opening.  As mentioned above, the eyelet was sewn on prior to each leg being sewn up.

Inside join where eyelet meets leg

On the inside, the seam where the eyelet meets the leg is covered by a narrow strip of cotton.  This strip is cut on the straight of grain and is topstitched just 1/16" away from each edge.  The two rows of stitching are visible on the outside of the leg as well. 

Outside join where eyelet meets leg

I'm still wrapping my head around how that was done so perfectly, but anyways, moving on!

As you can see from the beginnings of my pattern here,  there are two "gussets" at the inner parts of each leg.  I can't decide exactly what to call them; if the two legs were fully sewn together rather than being open I would certainly call them gussets, but maybe they're more accurately just pieced in fabric.  The ones on the front of each leg are triangular, as seen above.

The extra bit at the back of each leg is shaped like a long, skinny trapezoid.  Each of these is sewn to the main leg using a tiny tiny felled seam.

The seam in the foreground is the outside view;
the one in the back is the inside one.

Each flat felled seam is only 1/8" wide!  As with the pintucks and trim, these "gusset-whatevers" were sewn to the leg piece while it was still flat, prior to the inner leg seam being sewn up.

Inside view of side dart

Inside view of back darts

Darts!  There are 12 darts in total on these drawers; one on each side, and five on either side of the back opening.  Each dart is about 4 1/4" long.   The back ones overlap a little; the way that they overlap tells us that the backmost one was sewn first, then the rest from back to front.  Each of the back darts is pressed towards the front; the ones at each side are pressed to the back. 

Side dart, outside view

Back darts, outside view

It's a bit hard to see in these photos, but after being pressed to the side each dart was topstitched down.  The stitching is 1/16" in from the seam of each dart. 

The inside seam of each leg is sewn up with a French seam.  Why a French seam when felled seams were used earlier?  I don't know, but perhaps it cut down on bulk in areas where multiple seams met.  In any case, as you can see above, these seams are where the only really noticeable  damage is.  French seams are not as strong as flat felled!


There's a facing appled to the inner edge of each leg to finish the raw edge.  The facing was cut on the straight of grain.  It was sewn along the front edge, then turned to the back, the edge folded under and topstitched.  The photo above left is the inside of the facing, while the one on the right is how the finished edge looks from the outside.   The finished width of the facing is 1/2".

Just noticed as I'm writing this- for whatever reason, the facing was cut in two strips and the two sewn together before it was sewn to the leg as described above.  Seems like more work that way, but perhaps there wasn't a lot of fabric to begin with?

The two legs are only attached to each other for a few inches along the top edge.  They are overlapped about ½” and stitched down for about four inches. Below that, each leg is separate. 

The stitching and overlap look perfectly aligned from the front, but from the inside you can see it got a little wonky!

The waist is finished with a facing that does double duty as a casing for a drawstring. 

The facing/casing is cut on the bias, which is a good thing since all those darts give the back edge a wicked curve!  From the bit that has come loose on the end, you can see that the facing/casing is a bias strip folded in half, sewn to the right side of the drawers, then flipped to the inside and topstitched.   The ends were merely folded in; they were not stitched down.

 Up 'till today, I had assumed the drawstring was a simple cotton cord.  I hadn't bothered to even look at it.  When I finally did, I realized that it was really a length of 1/2" wide cotton twill tape!  Apparently twill tape will roll up into a cord-like shape when washed and left to its own devices. 

For those of you who made it to the end, congratulations!  You now know way too much about someone's old underwear.  If you wish to know still more, stay tuned.  I'll have a pattern and detailed instructions just as soon as I finish my next repro pair.

October 31, 2012

Stalling and Spitting

I'll have a post up showing all the pretty details of the antique drawers tomorrow.  In the meantime, here's what my first pair of repro drawers looks like behind the original-

My first attempt was made from muslin, and while it worked it was a pain in the butt to sew all the tiny details with.  I'm making a second repro pair right now with fabric that behaves better.  When that's done, I'll be able to post a step by step tutorial on how to make your own!

In the meantime, I have to deal with this-

Urgh.  My iron is on its last legs and is protesting by spitting all over everything.  Who's got recommendations for a new one?

October 23, 2012

Room to Sew

I was unexpectedly sent to Texas for work for the last five days, so I haven't gotten as far on the Victorian drawers as I'd like.  However, I do still have something to show off!

Publicly displaying the shameful photo of my utterly wrecked sewing room two weeks ago was just the kick in the butt I needed to clean it up.  Behold!

The photos are a bit funny looking b/c I took them using a panoramic photo app that stitches regular photos together to form one long one.  It's hard to take decent pictures of a small room!  I made some alterations to my room layout that I hope will help me keep it nice and pretty in the future.

I sneakily moved one of my unused treadle sewing machines out to the living room to free up some space.  Since I also cleaned and reorganized the living room, Boyfriend has diplomatically elected to ignore the fact that my sewing items are slowly taking over the house.

My old stash bins were so large that fabric would get sucked into their depths, never to be seen again.  To fix that issue, I bought smaller bins and gave away the gianormous ones.  I also sorted through my fabric stash and pulled out nearly all the synthetic stuff.  I haven't really sewn with synthetics for years, so there was a lot of perfectly serviceable fabric just sitting around going to waste.  That pile went off to a good home, leaving me with more space for all the natural fabrics that I use on a regular basis.  The rest of the stash got sorted by fabric type and stored in the smaller clear bins.  Now I can easily put my hands on the exact fabric I need, without digging through piles of stuff!

To combat the UFO pile, I've put each in-progress item in its own drawer.  It ensures that all the little odds and ends for each project are kept together so they can't wander off, and it forces me to finish a project before starting three more.  When the drawers are full, I've got to finish something to make room for the next thing I want to make.

My ironing/cutting table was too short for me, leading to a lot of bending and stooping that only ended in pain.  Boyfriend cobbled together some leg extenders for me, so now the table stands at the correct height.  They may not be fancy, but they work!

I also put a shelf above my ironing table, complete with a bar for hanging clothes to steam.  The shelf will be super useful for storing all the pressing aids I want to make.  Underneath the shelf I installed three small lights to help me see my projects on the table.

One of those cheap shoe caddies hangs from the inside of my closet door, giving me a place to stash all the costuming accessories that I can never seem to find.  Now if I need a fan, a hanky or my spats I know right where to look.  The rest of the closet is organized as well, with a rack for Boyfriend's cravats, shelves for hats and my American Duchess shoe collection, and bins for my gloves and wigs.  My costumes are finally hung properly, rather than being piled in various corners of the room. 

In short, I have no excuse to avoid sewing anymore.  This week, expect posts on those drawers I've been talking about, plus a corset and the beginnings of my Dickens Faire dress!

October 16, 2012

Are Your Knickers Fancy?

  I've always thought of Victorian drawers as being super simple items of clothing- two tubes of fabric with a crotch curve cut out, gathered at the waist with a drawstring or band.    Hell, I've whipped up a pair in less than an hour before.  Slap some lace on the bottom of the legs if you're feelin' fancy and there ya go.  Surely all drawers are pretty much the same, right?

Yeah, I was wrong.  Last year I picked up a pretty pair of antique drawers in great condition.  While my boyfriend tried to get over the fact that I would pay money for the equivalent of someone's old panties, I ignored him and got busy examining my new acquisition.  At first glance, they looked pretty similar to every other pair of drawers in existence.  But upon closer inspection, WHOA.  A lot of work has gone into these things!  French seams, tiny pintucks, darts galore (zomg whoever made this LOVED darts), taped seams, facings, crotch gussets, the works.  Someone put some serious effort into their undies!

  I'll show you all the pretty details on the original later this week, but in the meantime I've been taking a pattern from the darn thing so that I can make my own pair.  Right now it's looking fairly similar to every other drawers pattern ever, but I wanted to show y'all that I was actually working on something, and this is all I've got at the moment!

Tune in next time for an in-depth analysis of someone's 100+ year old chonies.

You weirdo.

October 4, 2012

Make Your Own Custom Hoop With Me!

Need a hoop skirt for Dickens Faire, Halloween, reenactments or just because?  Can't find one with the proper shape?  Want to make your own hoop skirt but too nervous to try it on your own?  Come make one with me!

I'm teaching a Make Your Own Custom Hoop Skirt workshop at TechShop Menlo Park on Saturday, October 20th at 10:00am.  I'll walk you through the whole process of drafting a pair of hoops that are shaped and sized exactly as you desire, then help you turn your paper pattern into fabric and steel reality.  By 5:00pm you'll swish out the door in your very own custom drafted and sewn hoops!

The nitty gritty details-
  • You don't have to have passed the usual TechShop safety courses to take this class, but you do need to know how to turn on a sewing machine and sew a straight line. (Pretty sure everyone reading this can do that!)
  • We will provide all the tools and materials you'll need, including sewing machines, steel hoopwire, fabric (it'll be white), etc.  All you need to bring is your own lunch, or I you prefer I can point you to some good grub nearby.
  • The actual class will be 6 hours long, but there's a one hour break so you can go get lunch, so the grand total shows as 7 hours.
  • We'll be making round style hoops.  You can customize the width, length and shape (cone shaped, U-shaped, funky wobbly shaped, etc) but this method will not work for bustles, panniers or elliptical hoops.  
  • We need a minimum of 3 students to go ahead with the class, so don't wait, sign up now! 

My fabulously drawn example of some of the styles of hoops you could make.  
I have a hankering to make that third pair!

I'm so excited to teach this class and I hope to see you there!  Much love to anyone who wants to boost the signal by telling your friends or linking to this post :)

October 3, 2012

Excuses, Awards and Teasers

I haven't sewn a thing for myself in a while, because this is what my sewing room looks like:

Mind you, that's after I removed the ironing table, two mannequins and a vintage treadle machine.  Sigh.  I'm going to wade in and start shoveling right after I post this, but first a few other tidbits.

The lovely Angela of The Merry Dressmaker has awarded me the Liebster Blog Award!  This award is meant to shine a light and show some love to awesome blogs with smaller followings that you might not have heard of yet.

Rules as follows:

a) Add the award icon to your blog! (Check)
b) Link to your awarder to say "Thank You" (Check)

c) And most importantly, award/present five (5) of your favorite bloggers with less than 200 followers with the award! 
(Yup, on it)

I'm cheating a bit, as one of my choices is the same as hers, and another just got the award today from someone else, but rules are made to be broken!  So without further ado...

Serendipitous Stitchery- My dear Miss Waterman makes drop dead gorgeous Regency stuff.  She's also awesome and snarky and I love her.  Hey Waterman, post more!  (I know, pot, kettle, black)

The Pragmatic Costumer- Someone beat me to it, but I've just fallen in love with this blog.   She caught my eye with a fabulous post that every beginner costumer should read, then reeled me in with a post on how wearing a corset affects your body and silhouette that made me want to link to it all over teh interwebs.

Life is too short for normal clothes- She's making a repro of THAT dress from THAT portrait of Eleanor of Toledo.  Now that's my kind of crazy.

Idlewild IllustrĂ©- I just happened upon this one recently.  I love her Titanic gown, and she does some lovely paintings as well.

Idle Hands-  Cheating, as she was awarded in the same round as me (SHHHHH).  I've been stalking this blog for the lowdown on recovering parasols.  With a few more posts, I miiiight be brave enough to tackle it!

Ladies, I'm not holding you to the whole pass it along thing; I'm just happy to share some great blogs!

And finally, there's fabulous news ahead for those of you in need of some custom hoops for Halloween or Dickens.  Stay tuned!

August 25, 2012

Titanic Gown

So remember these?

As previously mentioned, I bought a couple ok lots of saris and dupattas in my quest to find a few that were crying out to be made into 1912 Titanic gowns.

This dupatta was one of my first purchases, and despite its tendency to get snagged on its own fabulous metal tambour embroidery I really wanted to use it.  I knew it was destined to be an overlay on the final dress, so I started draping it and a few salvaged scraps of sari borders on my mannequin to get some ideas...

Meanwhile I also thought a lot about the basic shape of the gown that would go under the dupatta fabric.  For some reason I find I really like the look of hobble skirts, but that fashion was right out as this was to be worn to a PEERS dance event.  I also loved the trained style of many teens dresses, but trains have a tendency to get stepped on when worn on a dance floor.  Then I saw this Paul Poiret evening dress at the KCI and had a sudden brainstorm.  At the bottom front the skirt silhouette appears to narrow, similar to a hobble skirt.  However, there is clearly a bunch of extra fabric at the back of the skirt that flows into a train.  Now it's entirely possible that the skirt is perfectly normal and it just looks like it narrows at the base due to the way it was arranged on the mannequin, but it gave me an idea.  

I draped a mockup of the skirt that was very fitted at the top, flowed into a wide curve over the hips, then swooped back at the bottom.  From the front, it appears to be similar to a hobble skirt.  The illusion holds so long as the skirt is viewed straight on.

But in the back, there's a bunch of extra fabric that's tamed by two large fitted inverted pleats that are stitched down to mid-butt level.  From there, the fabric is released and falls to the floor and into a very short train. The stitched down pleats ensure that the skirt holds the lovely fitted shape at the waist and over the hips, while below that the extra fabric ensures that one's legs have enough freedom to comfortably waltz.

It's weird and I don't have the slightest bit of proof that it's historical.  It's also pretty and makes me happy so I don't care.  And it's danceable! 

The pattern that resulted from this strange mishmash of styles looks somewhat odd.  It lacks the train and the angled waistline that I added to the real skirt, but it clearly shows the unusual shape of the skirt panels. 

I must have been feeling brave when I picked out fabric to compliment the dupatta, because I chose to use a pale gold silk charmeuse!  I was absolutely seduced by its rich, soft, slippery silkiness.  Problem is, there's a big learning curve when sewing such a finicky fabric.  I scoured my books and the internet for tips and practiced stitching on lots of scraps before I was brave enough to attempt the skirt.  

I ended up hand basting my seams first, used a fresh super sharp thin needle and set my stitch length to slightly shorter than normal and sewed slowly and carefully.  It was frustrating and I still got some slight puckering on some seams, but all in all I'd call the experience a win :)

Before hemming to length

I'll have to apologize, because I don't seem to have a single picture of the draping, patterning, fitting or stitching of the bodice.  I also don't remember much about the process, because this dress was made back March/April!  You'll have to settle for this- I draped a short waisted bodice with a generously curved bustline.  I used some coutil scraps as an interlining to give it some support, and also boned the heck out of it.  I joined it to the skirt messily (oh noes, exposed seams!) because I planned to cover the join with a waistband.  Inside I added a waist stay to take the strain off the rest of the gown; this helped ensure that the bodice wouldn't be pulled down by the weight of the skirt (snagged that idea from this Diary of a Mantua Maker post).  In any case, here's what I ended up with-

Oh hai va voomy curves!  It's certainly no Camille Clifford, but it was a bit curvier than I'd expected, especially as many teens dresses are somewhat less shapely.  At this point the gown shape was looking as though it belonged to a slightly earlier era, but I knew that the overlay would tone it down enough.  

There was a horrible horizontal wrinkle just under the waistline that was likely caused by the fact that the boning in the bodice stopped at the waist.  I should have let the boning continue a few inches into the skirt, but since that was all going to be covered up anyways I wasn't too worried!

The border you see along the top of the bodice was a scrap of beautiful tambour embroidery work rescued from a sari that was too damaged for anything else.  While my piece was relatively intact, the weight of the heavy metal embroidery was already threatening to tear the delicate sari fabric into shreds.  I had to stitch around every motif to attach it to the dress in a way that would support the whole thing.  

Oooooh, sparkly!

With the base gown done I started to play around with draping the dupatta over it to see how to best display the beautiful embroidery.

Once I settled on a version I liked I tacked the fabric down around the waist, cut the upper section free and mucked around with it some more until I had passable gauzy oversleeves.  I didn't end up with quite enough fabric to cover the back, but I didn't mind too much.  I added a sash of bronze silk taffeta and called it good!

All my photos from PEERS Titanic Ball are fuzzy, but I ended up wearing this again to Gaskells with several other lovely ladies sporting 1912 styles.  Of course we all had to pose for more pictures! 

Photo courtesy of the lovely American Duchess

Silver and gold sparkly ladies! ( and a bit o'goofiness)
Photo courtesy of the lovely American Duchess
It was fabulous to see so many great gowns and chat about the trials and travails of tacking a new time period.  The dress was perfect on the dance floor and the tiny train only got slightly trod on.  During the second break I escaped the dance floor and took off the ill-fitting corset and discovered that the dress fit fine without it, thought it was a bit tight in the waist. All in all I'd call the project a success, and I'm looking forward to exploring the era a bit more (especially as I scored a darling teens day dress off of ebay that I'd love to recreate!).