October 5, 2013

Crossing the Finish Line

Success! We'll be able to attend our friend's Regency wedding without being half-clothed. In just under two weeks, I made an entire set of duds for me (shift, corded stays, petticoat, gown, big bonnet o' awesome) and I made half of Curtis' clothes (shirt, coat, cravats). The shirt and the bonnet were half done when I started this mad rush, and a few small parts of the coat were begun, but everything else was started from scratch.

Both Curtis and Kitteh approve of the window
seating in the new sewing room.

Curtis sewed his own waistcoat, and it turned out really well!  He even tackled the welt pockets and won, though I believe there may have been a little swearing involved.  Totally understandable when working with welt pockets, really.  When he wasn't working on his vest, I unashamedly put him to work sewing on buttons to anything that needed them.  Anything to buy me a bit more time to finish everything else, right?

I don't have final photos of everything yet (too busy sewing!) but I have a smattering of in progress photos to amuse you until I get a chance to do a full photo & writeup of everything.

We called this the Redneck Regency look.

Petticoat with tucks.  Why spend
time doing unnecessary tucks on
a petticoat when you're totally
swamped?  I plead insanity.

I had to use pliers to pull the cord through the channels.  I broke
two needles in the process of cording!

Using my tailors ham to shape the sleeve cap.

It took four mockups to get a sleeve pattern I felt would work.  Lucky for me
the 3/4 length allows me to use the decorative edge of my sari in the sleeve.

Apparently I have a tendency to look
pissed when mocking up bodices at 3am.

The felines LOVE it when I trash the sewing room.

Padstitched collar.  UGH my fingers hurt just
looking at that photo.

It's not like you can just cram a coat like that in your
luggage, so guess who classed up his jeans and T-shirt with
some fine wool for the Bart ride and plane flight?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a wedding to go to!

September 22, 2013

I Like Big Hats & I Cannot Lie

The house is only half unpacked, but deadlines loom!  While I won't have time to blog everything I'm making over the next two weeks as I frantically sew, I'll probably be able to post a few quick pics as I go, then follow up later with more in-depth posting.  Since I've got a few free moments, here's what I've got so far.

Silliness in class!

To kick things off, I started with one item that was almost done so that I could feel like I was making some progress.  I started this bonnet almost two months ago in a GBACG workshop taught by Lynn McMasters.  BTW, the GBACG classes are awesome, and if you aren't checking them out you are missing a whole lot of awesome.

Covering the crown edge.
The hat is Lynn's newest Regency Bonnet Pattern, using the large brim.  While I've made buckram hats before, I learned a TON of new tips and tricks from Lynn that I'd never have figured out otherwise.

Mulling the brim and crown.

I chose a beautiful blue and gold cross woven silk taffeta for the main fabric, with a VIVID orange and gold cross woven silk taffeta for the ties.  While beautiful, the fabric is a total bitch to work with.  It shows every wrinkle and crease, and because of the two-toned weave you can't even get a pin near it without leaving very obvious marks.  I had to be careful to make sure that all the pinning and stitching was done in areas that would be covered!

Class was a blast (I love sewing in groups) but of course we weren't able to finish our hats in just one day.  I got as far as assembling the crown and brim separately, covering them in mull and getting the blue silk on.  That alone was a lot of work!

My progress by the end of class.

The above photo is where I started yesterday.  All I had to do was put bias trim on the edge of the brim, attach the brim to the crown, and make the hatband and ties.

Fitting the band.

The bias binding on the edge gave me fits.  I'll likely redo it later, with some sort of crazy vivid trim.  It still needs some froof added in the form of feathers and other adornments, but it's wearable, and that's what counts.

Binding issues aside, I'm thrilled with how it turned out.  Now to create the rest of the outfit to wear with it!

Edited to Add - I forgot to mention that this is my entry for Trystan's awesome Accessorizing Head-to-Toe Challenge.  September project is hats, and I actually finished mine before the end of the month!

September 2, 2013

Sewing Room Bliss

Almost like it was made to be right there.

I need to buckle down and complete multiple sets of clothes with looming deadlines, but there's not going to be a stitch sewn the next two weeks because I'm moving.  Despite the stress that this somewhat rushed and unplanned move will bring, I'm super happy, because LOOK AT MY NEW SEWING ROOM!!!  LOOK AT IT!!!

The lattice dress was literally the first thing I moved in and set up, just so I could take this photo.  There's much more to the room, of course, but this view is what makes it for me.  I'll happily live out of boxes for weeks, because OMG MY SEWING ROOM IS AWESOME.

August 23, 2013

A Tale of Brass and Ketchup

I'm not dead yet!  While I've got quite a bit to catch up on, I figured I'd do up a quick and dirty post on one tiny thing I actually accomplished this week.  And since I don't have the time to write a bunch of words, you get a PHOTO STORY!

This machine is in terrible shape.  But look at that cool round access plate in back!

Let's take it off!

Well shit, that looks pretty nasty and beat up.

Hmmm... all I have on hand is some chrome polish; let's see if that does anything.


Hey, this is probably steel plated with brass, yeah?  That's probably rust that got to the steel through the worn off brass, right?  Let's drown it in Evapo-Rust!

Huh, still there.  Soooo, not rust then?

Wait, if a magnet won't stick to it, it must be solid brass!  That's not rust, it's tarnish and verdigris!  We need KETCHUP!

Well that helped somewhat, but looks like there's just too much damage for ketchup to handle on it's own. 

Time to bring out the big guns.   Go, hot vinegar, go!

Excellent; now all we need is a little elbow grease!  HAHA, forget elbow grease, we have a DREMEL and POLISHING TOOLS!

Well wouldja look at that!


May 8, 2013

Paper vs Fabric


While I'm too busy sewing my @$$ off and prepping for Saturday's class to do a proper post, you can go check out what I've been up to at my day job by peeking at my Instructable on making a paper corset mockup.  For more info about the pattern this was based on, check out Jo's beautiful version of this corset at Bridges on the Body.  The paper mockup is about as far as I'm going to get for the next week or two, but rest assured I'll tell you all about all the bits and details when I can get back to the project.

Lest you think my job is all fun and games, making and writing that was the only thing that kept me sane during a week of doing stacks of paperwork and billing.


May 6, 2013

Materials for Bustle Class

Well I'm a terrible tease.  There's just a few small details left on the accessory I showed you a glimpse of in the last post, and I still haven't found the time to finish it!  In the meantime, I wanted to do a quick post on materials for the upcoming GBACG Lobster Tail Bustle class I'll be teaching this Saturday.  If you're not already signed up, what are you waiting for?

If you're taking the class and you're not sure you're getting the right materials, read on!  I'll show you what they look like below, why we're using them, and where you might find them.  I'll also mention some good alternatives, and some bad ones as well.  Ready?

First off, the 1/2" spring steel hoop boning is already included in the class, so you don't have to worry about finding it!  So moving on...

For hoop channels:
The materials list calls for six yards of either cotton twill tape or grosgrain ribbon in a 3/4" width.   In the photo below, both the top and bottom examples are cotton twill, and the grosgrain ribbon is one down from the top.  These are good choices for boning channels because they are strong and will prevent the ends of your hoop bones from poking through.  You can generally find these at most fabric stores, though sometimes they are hidden in the trim section, or they have different widths (we'll discuss widths in a minute).  Stone Mountain & Daughter mentioned that they carry these in the 3/4" width (make sure to get their coupon here), and I've also bought them from Lacis.

These aren't all the correct width; it's what was in my bin :)
Click the photo to see them close up.

Hoop Channel Alternatives:
If you're having difficulty finding cotton twill tape or grosgrain ribbon, you've got some other options. Petersham ribbon is nice and strong, plus it comes in a variety of colors and widths.  In the photo above, the blue ribbon in the middle is Petersham.  It is generally more expensive than grosgrain, but it's nice stuff.

Bone casing is the real deal!  It's a tube of very tightly woven fabric meant specifically to encase your bones and keep the ends from poking through.  It comes in black or white.  I believe the only local supplier is Lacis, but I could be wrong.  It is, of course, pricier than the other options.

Not Recommended Alternatives:
Polyester twill tape is NOT your friend.  This stuff is easily found in packages at almost any fabric store, but it shreds when you look at it!  It will not hold up to hoop steel, plus it's more difficult to sew.  I do not recommend using it.

Trust me, it won't hold up.

Bias tape is widely used for this purpose, but I don't recommend it.  It's thin, and won't hold up to hoop steel in the long run.  I do not recommend using it.

Not gonna go the distance.

Regular ribbon that is not grosgrain/petersham is too thin and will likely end in poke throughs.  I do not recommend using it.

I can't find this stuff in 3/4" width!
The above mentioned store do carry it, and I have seen these widths at many (but not all) Joanns and Hancocks.  But maybe your local store doesn't have the right width, and you can't get all the way to Berkeley, so...

We'll be using 1/2" plastic coated spring steel hoop boning.  However, even though it's sold as such, it's not really 1/2"!  It really measures something like 3/8".  I prefer using 3/4" tape to make channels for this boning because it's wide enough to give you some room for error if you sew kinda wobbly, but not so big that your bones twist around.  However, if you're confident that you can sew very closely to the edge of your tape without veering off track, you can get away with 5/8" tape.   The photos below show the hoop boning in relation to various widths of tape/ribbon.  Remember, this boning is also about 3/16" thick in addition to it's 3/8" width, so we need to leave a little extra room for that as well.

Hoop boning against 3/4" cotton twill tape.
This is the ideal width!

Hoop boning against 5/8" grosgrain ribbon.
You've got to be more accurate, but it works well.

Hoop boning against 1" cotton twill tape.
This is really too big, but you could make it work.
You'd have to make sure to not make your channels too loose.

For Waistband:
I've called for 1" wide cotton twill tape or grosgrain ribbon.  See above for sources.  Remember, you need your waist measurment + 12".

For Buckle:
I've been using D-rings with much success.  You can use any buckle you wish though!  Just make sure it fits your 1" wide waistband.

D-rings in action!
You can use a variety of fabrics, but a medium weight cotton is best.  Basically, you want something that's fairly tightly woven and won't rip under the pressure of the hoop bones.  Thick fabrics won't work well.  Your fabric doesn't have to be plain white either; go crazy with colors and patterns if that's your thing!  Remember that you're going to need some sort of marking implement (chalk, water soluble pen, whatever) that you can see on your fabric, so if you pick a dark one, you may have to find some light chalk.  If you think your fabric fabric is so crazy that it might show through your skirt, make sure you plan to wear a petticoat to conceal it.  Heck, you should be wearing a petticoat anyways!

Your bustle is going to be adjustable via lacing.  You'll want some kind of ribbon, shoelacing or whatnot to lace it up.  Just about anything goes here, but you'll want to stay within the 1/4" to 3/8" width generally. 

Well obviously.

You can find the list of tools that you need to bring on the signup page.  

I hope that helps!  Can't wait to see you all in class :)

May 2, 2013



I'm making a little accessory for one of my bustles. It's not done yet, but here's a quick peek. See you with more tomorrow!

April 22, 2013


I'm just now getting around to photographing the wrapper I started two months ago, and I figured that while I was posting about an undress garment I should show you my current set of mid-Victorian underwear all together too!

A couple of months ago I volunteered to test Laughing Moon's newest wrapper pattern.

BTW, can I take a moment to say I'm in LOVE with pattern companies that actually take the time to test their patterns and correct errors before unleashing them on the public?  I've seen "completed" patterns sold where the pieces REALLY don't fit together (seriously, how is any seamstress supposed to fit a piece 4" long to a piece 2" long smoothly with edges matching, without any gathering, pleating or magic?), patterns with nonsense instructions, drawings that don't match anything, etc.  I don't expect a pattern to fit me right out of the envelope, but if I pay money for it I do expect that it is at least basically functional.  Anyways, rant over, back to pretty things...

Like I said, I got to test out LM Pattern #118.  I pretty much finished it by the end of February and sent in my feedback, but I wanted to add some trim to it before calling it completely done.  I've really been dragging my feet on handsewing the trim though, so I haven't posted about it.  Right now the black velvet ribbon is still only pinned in place, but I wanted to show the wrapper off anyways.  Perhaps posting about it will light a fire under my ass and I'll finish it.

Please note that the copy of the pattern I was sent was an in-progress work, and that there may be differences between it and the final published version.  That's the entire point of testing it!

To our modern eyes wrappers look like a day dress, but to the Victorians they were undress clothing, so they wouldn't normally have been worn out of the house.   However, that's not to say they weren't worn in public by poorer women, or pregnant ladies, or by frontier folk.  This style has a fitted back and a loose front, comes with three different sleeve and collar choices and can be worn several different ways. 

There's a separate lining that can be left loose or darted to fit.  I chose to dart mine, but I fitted it to my non-corseted measurements so that I could wear it with or without a corset, so it's still a little loose here. 

Fitted with belt
Loose with no belt

The front can also be darted to fit, or it can be left loose and fitted with a belt when needed.  If the front was left unfitted, pregnant women could easily wear this same garment for all 9 months by simply letting the belt out as they grew.  (For those who read into such things, please note that the previous sentence about pregnant women is in no way a hint about any future children.  I'll stick to dressing my future nieces and nephews, thanks)  Leaving it loose allows me to wear it with or without a corset, so that's what I chose to do.  I also decided to leave it open below the belt to reveal my petticoat.  It could be closed all the way down, but I didn't feel like sewing that many buttonholes :)

The back fits awkwardly on my mannequin, but just fine on me.  The skirt is cartridge pleated to the back waistband.

I used the standing collar from View B and the coat sleeves from View C.  One of the things I love about the Laughing Moon patterns I've used is that there's often a lot of mix-and-matching you can do. 

I picked up some beautiful black glass buttons at an antique store in Grass Valley some months ago and decided to use them here.  I've blown out the exposure here so that you can see the intricate detail each button has.  Jet was extremely popular in Victorian times, and black glass was a cheap substitute for those who couldn't afford the real thing, so these are perfect!

There's super tiny piping around the armscye.  I LOVE me some tiny piping!

All in all, I'm very much enamored with my new wrapper.  As soon as I've got the trim finished, it will become my everyday around-the-house robe (so much cooler than modern ones!) as well as something I may wear to more rustic events.  If you're in need of a wrapper, I highly recommend the LM #118 pattern.  For more examples of what wrappers can look like, check out JoAnn's Wrappers Pinterest board.

So now that I've shown you my wrapper, what all do I have under there?  Let us peel away the layers one by one...

I used Truly Victorian's free pattern for my petticoat.  I made it with cotton organdy, which gives it loads of body and floof.  It's a total PITA to iron smooth after washing though!

I'm still getting tons of use out of my custom drafted hoop skirt.  It's survived two seasons of dancing at Dickens Fair, as well as several events.  I love the perfect bell shape it has!  For instructions on how to make your own , see my post on drafting a round hoop skirt to whatever shape and dimensions you wish, as well as the post on how to sew up your custom made hoop pattern.  If you make your own, I'd love to see pictures!

And still there's more...  Under all that there's a chemise, drawers and corset.  You've seen the blue corset in previous posts, and in all honesty it looks much better on a body than on my poor mannequin, who doesn't have the shape to fill it out.  The drawers are my reproduction of an antique pair.  Don't worry, I haven't forgotten my promise to post the pattern!

The chemise is one I made up based off of a mishmash of patterns.  It has a squarish neckline, underarm gussets and lots of tiny pintucks.  Sometimes I wish I wasn't so in love with pintucks, because they're so difficult to do.

That's all the undies I have to show you today.  But not to worry, the future holds lots of bustles and late Victorian underpinnings, plus some Regency underthings as well!