January 28, 2013

Blue Corset UFO Complete!

I started this corset last year and wore it all during Dickens Fair with no binding or trim because I never had time to complete it.  I didn't even have proper laces on it until Kathleen gave me some a week or two in!  Thanks to The Historical Sew Fortnightly UFO Challenge, I got this off of my pile of unfinished things.  Here's the belated rundown on how it went together.

I began by custom drafting a pattern to my measurements using this free tutorial from Foundations Revealed.  I heavily altered the draft by adding lots more space in the hip, plus some extra in the top back.  You've got to have some place for the squish to go!

Mock up time!

Being in a hurry, I only made one mock up.  Based on that I altered my pieces slightly, mostly removing width on one pattern piece and adding it to another, and smoothing the top line out.  Since I've completed this corset, I've changed the pattern yet again to correct some issues that became apparent in the finished product, but I'll point those out in a bit.

The completed corset was made with some super nice German coutil from Farthingales.  It's a bit pricey, but an absolute DREAM to work with!  The fabric is very thin and lightweight, but very tightly woven and strong (important in a coutil) with a very small herringbone weave.  It's quite stiff, which makes it pretty easy to work with while sewing, plus gives the corset itself great support.  After wearing it through the run of fair, it had molded itself to me perfectly.

Fun lining, courtesy of two quilter's fat quarters

While this stuff is probably strong enough to make a single layer corset out of, I chose to use two layers of coutil and sandwich the bones in-between.  Since I'm a fan of fun or pretty insides, I used some quilter's cotton with a nice pattern for a lining.  As with most of my corsets these days, I used a laser to cut both the coutil and the lining fabrics, because I am lazy as all get out when it comes to cutting.  The corset was sewn together mostly using the method described in volutelady's post about seams on the corsetmakers livejoural board.  I use all sorts of methods depending on the corset I'm making, but this one worked just fine for this project.

The bones on either side of the laces and right next to the busk are all white flat steels, while the rest of the corset is boned in spiral steels.  The flats keep the front and back stiff and sturdy, while the spirals allow for more pronounced curve at the hip and bust.  There are a grand total of 32 bones.

My moment of DUMB.

I was incredibly stupid while rushing through making this.  For accuracy's sake, I like to draw my seam line in.  However, rather than take the time to find one of the several fabric-friendly marking devices I own, I picked up the nearest ink pen and got to work.  My reasoning was that it would be on the inside and no one would see.  Of course, hours later my iron decided to spit up a bunch of water, soaking through the corset and wetting the ink.  Long story short, the ink bleed through to the outside, and I have been kicking myself since November.  Ladies and gents, learn from my example. 

Aaaaand now we're caught up to today.  Today was spent binding the top and bottom edges, and sewing on some vintage lace.  The binding is a lovely blue silk dupioni left over from another project, and the lace was a great find at Lacis.  I machine sewed the binding to the front, then handsewed it down along the inside.  My hands are killing me!  While the strength and tight weave of this coutil is a bonus for the structure of the corset, it is a total bitch to sew by hand.

It is at least some consolation that my skills at binding edges have greatly improved!  You can also see that I'm a big fan of thin bias binding.  The finished binding is only about 3/16" wide.

The lace was more of a pain to sew on than I'd thought.  At first I just whipstitched it on on from the wrong side and flipped it to the outside, but it looked odd, so I ripped it out.  To get it to look nice, I had to put the corset on my mannequin and carefully pin the lace in place around the curves, then tuck the excess to the inside and sew it.  But finally, at 7:00pm on January 28th, it was done in time for the challenge!  (I'm ignoring the fact that the lovely lady in charge of the challenge is in New Zealand, and that the day ended for her many hours ahead of me)

I've intentionally laced it looser at the back top to
avoid overspill.  The crookedness was not intentional,
and was later fixed by my dresser boyfriend

I need a little more space in the upper back, and the bit under the arm doesn't need to dip down so far.  I've since made these changes to the pattern, so the next one will be better.  I've also taken a bit of space out of the hip, because without a skirt to fill it in there's a little extra space there.   However, I quite like the dramatic hip flare, so I may make another in the future with the same hip width just for looks.

And now for the stats:

The Challenge: #2 UFO

Fabric:  Corset made from German coutil, binding from silk dupioni and the lace is vintage machine made cotton eyelet.

Pattern: Self drafted using tutorial from Foundations Revealed.

Year: eh, 1880's?  It's certainly a lateish Victorian corset, but it wasn't created to be a specific year or decade.

Notions:  8 white spring steel bones, 24 spiral steel bones, one busk and a bunch of two piece grommets, and laces supplied by the dear Kathleen.  I suppose the cotton eyelet could go in this category as well.

How historically accurate is it?  Pretty accurate, since we can't use whalebone and such these days.  I did draft it with a touch of extra space in the ribs, which may not be entirely period, but hey, most of us started corseting in our adult years rather than as girls!

Hours to complete:  Not sure on the corset itself, but finishing the binding and lace for this challenge probably took about 3 to 4 hours.  I meant it when I said that handsewing that stuff was the devil!

First worn:  In it's partially done state it was worn for the entire run of Dickens Fair, but its first wearing when complete was tonight for photos!

Total cost:  The coutil was about $34, and the busk was something like $12.  I tend to keep steel boning and grommets on hand, so those were out of my stash.  The quilter's cotton and blue silk were in my stash too.  The lace was maybe $8.  So $54, not including the cost of the items I already had on hand.

January 26, 2013

This n' That

I've got a little bit o' this n' that to show you today.  First up, the current work in progress:

 Part of why I hadn't completed the blue corset is because I didn't know how I wanted to finish it.   Since the current Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge is to finish a UFO, I forced myself to make a choice.  The blue silk above is leftover from a previous corset, and the lace is a vintage piece I picked up at Lacis.  I haven't attached them yet, but I've been trying them next to the corset to see how they look.

 I'll use the blue silk to bind the edges, then attach the vintage lace all along the top.  I think it's going to look pretty fabulous.  Later on I might do some flossing in a blue silk to match the binding, but for now I just care about getting this off my UFO pile.  I'll have this done within the next day or two, and then I can move on to the next project.

 I've been looking at a lot of antique wooden busks on various museum sites lately.  Check out this beauty at the Winterthur Museum.  Since I've got access to scrap wood, bandsaws, sanders and lasers, I decided to try my hand at making one.  It's not very historically accurate, but I'd rather play with lasers than do hand carving right now anyways.

 In other news, I've been bad again.  After buying a gazillion saris off of eBay last year while planning my Titanic Gown, you'd think I'd have enough.  Nope!

 This beauty is destined to be a Regency dress.  It's a printed cotton sari, and it's gorgeous!  The border runs the length of the sari (5 yards), so I'll get to have a dress with a pretty bordered hem.  I haven't yet decided whether I'm going to incorporate the decorative end into the top somehow or save it for something else.

I had a nice surprise in store for me when it showed up.  The fabric is a changeable cotton!  The warp threads are a wine color, and the weft threads are orange, giving it a different appearance depending on which way you look at it.   The colors of this sari aren't nearly as bright in person as they seem on my computer screen (no idea what they look like on yours) but the color shift is still pretty noticeable.

Wine warp and orange weft gives this cotton fabric its special appearance.

I want to get started on this right away, but I'm going to be good and make my underpinnings first.  That means I'd better get my butt in gear and start researching Regency stays.

I also got a few other pretties in this order, though I haven't a clue what I'm going to do with them.  They were just so beautiful I couldn't pass them up.  First up is this crazy awesome green sari with tons of goldwork and tambour embroidery.  Seriously, it's so pretty I'm afraid to do anything with it.

Damn, right?

The last piece is this amazing skirt that is also covered in goldwork.  It's not destined for any project, as I intended to wear it a time or two before deciding what to do with it.  I've since discovered that it's waaaaaaayyy too long for me (comes up to my boobs!) so I will have to make some sort of alterations to it.  It also very much needs a vodka bath.  For now, I'm content to just look at it.

Anyways, back to work.  I really must get sewing, since all I seem to be doing is acquiring more projects!

January 24, 2013

Making a Corded Petticoat

In the middle of all the craziness that was Dickens Fair and the holidays, I got the irresistible urge to make a corded petticoat.  I am obviously not sane.  Here's how I went about it.

First off, I chose to use cotton organdy.  I've used this stuff for years as an interlining in bodices, but it's also great for petticoats!  While the cords do most of the work of making the petticoat stand out, there's no reason you can't help them along with your choice of fabric.  I got my organdy from Stone Mountain and Daughter in Berkeley.  Most of the time I've gone there they've had two kinds; one is a very fine, high quality fabric (with a price to match) that I use as an interlining for nice bodices, while the other is cheaper and perfectly fine for petticoats and such.  Beware, the cheaper one feels like rough paper and is too stiff straight off the bolt.  Once it's washed it has a much better feel to it, and it retains the perfect amount of stiffness. 

There are two main ways to hold your cords in your petticoat.  You can make a single layer petticoat with tucks to hold the cords.  Maggie's fabulous corded petticoat would be an example of this method.  When using tucks, you'll need to make your petticoat much longer to start with, as it will get shorter with every tuck sewn.  Your cords will also be spaced apart at least the width of your presser foot.  There are many beautiful examples of this technique, and I do like it.  However, for this one I really wanted the look of cords butted right up against each other, so I had to use the second method.

An example of corded tucks, using a single layer of fabric.  The
width of your presser foot dictates how close the tucks can be.

If you want your cords packed together tightly with no space between, you'll have to use two layers of fabric.  You can use two separate pieces of fabric, or you can simply fold your fabric in two, with the fold becoming your bottom hem.  I folded up the hem of my fabric about 15" and put all the cords within that space.

An example of cords sewn between two layers of fabric.
This method allows cords to be placed right next
to each other, with no space in-between.

While the above examples use fat cords (saves time, goes quicker), I wanted the look of lots of tiny rows of cording.  I've used synthetic rattail in corded corsets before, but I wanted something in a natural fiber, and something that would be relatively cheap considering I'd be using lots of it!  I ended up using Sugar 'n Cream cotton yarn after seeing Koshka's beautiful hand-sewn corded petticoat

I ended up using the whole dang thing,
and this was just a short petticoat!

I started off with a piece of fabric 100" by 45".  I sewed the two short ends together to make a tube about 99" wide, then flipped up the bottom edge about 30" with wrong sides facing together and pressed the fold.  I wanted a bit of space at the bottom before the first cord, so I stitched my first line about 1" up from the folded edge.  I then swapped to a cording/zipper foot.  I sandwiched a cord between the two layers of fabric and butted it up as closely as possible to the line of stitching.

Only two rows in, eleventy-billion to go!

I found that pushing it most of the way into place between the layers, then using my fingernail to push the cord into place from above helped quite a bit (see photos below).

Cord between two layers of fabric

Cord scooted close to finished rows

Use fingernail to snug cord right up against finished rows.

I stitched the cord in, pausing every foot or so to stuff and scoot more cord into place.  Rather than make a full row, then start over on a new one, I just kept going in a spiral fashion.  Had I ended each cord and started a new one, the petticoat would have buckled along the line where all the rows of cording ended.  Spiraling the cord also allowed to just continue sewing without pause until I felt a section was complete.

You can see where I started at the bottom and ended 25 rows later. 

I didn't really plan out a design ahead of time, so I sewed cords until I liked the result, then skipped an inch and started a new batch of cording.  I ended up with a total of 56 rows!

When I started, I was just messing around and wasn't sure if I was making a short petticoat or a longer one.  I ended up deciding on short, so I folded the excess fabric at the top over and flat felled it to the top edge of the layer I'd folded up in the beginning.  That left me with a finished length of about 20".  For the sake of being able to wear it immediately, I put an elastic waistband in.

Felled seam and elastic waistband

A short corded petticoat like this isn't exactly historical, but I thought I might use it under some knee-length skirts for now.  I may replace the elastic with a proper waistband in the future, or I may take the waist out entirely and use this as a corded flounce on a longer petticoat later.  I might also add some lace along the bottom edge.  For the time being, I think it's cute and functional as is! 

Have you made a corded petticoat?  It's a lot of work, so show off a bit and link to your creation in the comments!  

January 17, 2013

Past and Future Things

Can anyone guess what this work in progress might be?

Making things has always helped to keep me sane in rough times, so I've picked up my projects once more.  I've lots to catch up on, and lots planned for the future.  Here's a glimpse of some of the things I've been up to, and some of the things I'll be tackling soon.  I'll cover each of these in more depth later, so these are just a preview.

Like many others, I've joined The Dreamstress' The Historical Sew Fortnightly.  The holidays kept me from doing the bonus challenge, but I started early on my project for the Bi/Tri/Quadri/Quin/Sex/Septi/Octo/Nona/Centennial one.  I chose an accessory from the year 1813.  Can you guess what it is from the above in progress shot?  (And yes, I know crochet wasn't around at the time, but I didn't feel like knitting tiny stitches, so shhh!)  Last week's tragedy kept me from completing it, so I've missed the deadline, but I'll be finishing it anyways.
While we're on the subject, here's a rundown of what I'm planning to do for each of the challenges that have been announced so far (note that I will probably waffle and change at least one of the following as the deadlines near)-

Challenge #2- UFO

Everything done but the binding.

You've seen glimpses of the custom drafted corset I was sewing back in November.  Well, I finished everything but the binding.  Since I needed a corset under my Dickens clothes, I wore it as is.  Now it's time to finish it!  Binding will be a quick and easy project to complete, and I'll finally be done with this corset.  Hopefully I'll get around to writing a post on how it went together too.

Challenge #3- Under it All

Antique chonies.

When I made my repro drawers copied directly from my pair of antique split crotch undies, I learned a lot.  I want to make a second, much better pair now that I know how to do it better (I will conquer those tiny 1/8 flat felled seams and pintucks!).  I also want to finish cleaning up the pattern and adding tips about the hard bits to the instructions so that I can post them here and you can make your own!

Challenge #4- Embellish

I've been thinking of adding flossing to the corset mentioned in Challenge #2.  If not flossing, then perhaps a pretty lace overlay in strategic areas (perhaps covering the damn ink stain on the side)?

Challenge #5- Peasants and Pioneers

I'm thinking an apron, but I haven't decided what era.  Any suggestions?  Since I don't often attend events where I'd actually wear an apron, I'd like this one to be something I'd wear around the house, whether I'm in period clothes or not.

Challenge #6- Stripes

Pretty silk, but eh on the welt pockets

This one was an easy choice.  Poor Boyfriend has been waiting for me to finish his striped silk waistcoat for over a year.  Time to finish it up!

Challenge #7- Accessorize

I've got lots of choices, so it will probably come down to what tickles my fancy the most at the time I start worrying about getting this one done.  I could finally decorate one of my pairs of American Duchess shoes.  I could make some 18th century mitts.  There's a cap that I'd like to make, or I could get started on a handkerchief (can't have too many of those!).  

Challenges aside, I've got lots of other things I need/want to get done this year.  Believe it or not, the following is the short list!  I'll probably see how many of these I can shoehorn into fitting one of the challenges so that I'm not too busy.

From the Museum of London.  Beautiful!

Regency wardrobe-  A dear friend is getting married in October, and her wedding will be Regency themed!  I need a dress, which means I need underthings as well.  While I'm at it, I might as well create a whole wardrobe to have available for other events, right?   I'd like to do a few everyday dresses, plus one fancier one, but I don't have any details set in stone yet.   I do know I desperately want to make the above pelisse from the Museum of London so very badly.  I'll also be making a coat for Boyfriend (more on that soon!), plus a vest and shirt.  I don't much care to tackle the breaches, however, so we're considering getting those commissioned.  

Version 1.0- I love my skirt, but the bodice has issues.

From an album on Fancy Dress on the www.psrs-csa.org site

Lattice Gown Update-
While I love love love how the skirt of my Lattice Gown turned out, I never loved the thrown-together-at-the-last-minute, doesn't-fit-properly bodice.  The lattice midsection in the photo above is one of the contender ideas for a new bodice.  What do you think?  Too busy?  Should I leave the lattice work in the skirt, and design a fairly plain bodice?

I thought this dupatta was crying to be made into a Titanic Gown,
but it was me who ended up crying in frustration.

Titanic Dress Redo-  
I showed you my first Titanic Gown, but the second was a disaster and never got completed.  I've got some ideas on how to change it up and make it work. 

From the Met.  It looks so coooooozy.

At home gown-
I just want to wear this around the house as a robe.  Plenty of reason to make it, yes?

Found on Pinterest, but can't find where it was from.
Any leads so I can credit it?

I've got some beautiful teal wool and a mustard colored cashmere/wool blend.  Both fabrics want to be made into capes or jackets.  I'd really like to use one of them to make the cape above!

Quilted petticoat- 
I've got access to a long arm quilting machine with a frame large enough to hold a king size quilt.  There really isn't any excuse as to why I don't have a quilted petticoat yet.  

Bustle dress-
Lauren's AH-MAZE-ING bustle dress has me twitching for one.  I'm still collecting ideas and inspiration, but it'll be big, bustly and beautiful!

The 'hawk was temporary, but oh was it funny

Well not making them from scratch, but acquiring and styling them for sure.  After a year+ of hair, I got fed up and buzzed it all off again.  Funny story- I did the sides first and left the top center so that I could play around with having a mohawk for a few minutes.  While Boyfriend snapped pictures, the power went out!  With the electric clippers useless I had no way to finish the job, so I ended up keeping the 'hawk for a day.  A goofy, goofy day.  In any case, now that I have no hair again, it's time to wrangle a wig or two.

But enough about future plans.  What have I actually been doing the last two months?  I'll be writing posts to catch you up on each of these, but here's a glimpse-

Miles and miles of cording...

Posing in the Dark Garden window.  Photo courtesy
of Gordon Mackenzie.  Please take a look
at his beautiful photos on smugmug!

Corded petticoat-
Partway through Dickens I had the uncontrollable urge to make a corded petticoat.  I ended up making a short one, and it was super cute!  Making of post to come, plus I'll want another in a longer length in the future.

You really don't want to know how much time I spent
obsessing over the placement of those damn little pieces!

My First Quilt-
I know it's not historical costuming, but the quilting bug bit me and I wanna show off my first attempt.  I'm still only partway done with this, but I'll show the finished product off soon.

Fan front

Cartridge pleated skirt

Dickens Dress-
I finished this in time to wear it for the Dickens season (barely), but I actually ended up hating this.  I intend to remake it, but I'll show you both versions once the redo is done.  Until then, this little glimpse is all you get.

I made several cravats for Boyfriend as a Christmas gift.  There are two cotton and two silk ones that are perfectly nice and serviceable, and then there is a poly-something or other one in a plaid obnoxious enough that I couldn't resist.  If you've got a source for a truly hideous plaid or paisley in a lightweight natural fabric, do let me know.  I'm pretty sure he needs at least one or two more cravats that make people's eyes hurt.

Vibrating shuttle bobbin case

Vibrating shuttle placement in machine

Machine Fixin'-
This isn't so much "making" as it is "repairing shit so that I can sew things on a really cool treadle and get a workout in the process".  Remember my strange vintage New Home treadle machine with the vibrating shuttle instead of the round bobbin system most of us are familiar with?  I was never able to use it because it was missing the shuttle for the bobbin.  I finally found one, so now I'm in the process of cleaning and repairing the machine.  With luck, I'll be working on some fabulous calf muscles soon!

Well that turned out longer that expected.  I'll quit yammering and get back to sewing now.