April 25, 2014

A Valued Resource

 Over the years I've learned a lot by simple trial and error, and plugging away at a thing again and again until I've wrapped my brain around it.  I'm always excited to find other folks who have done the same, and choose make it a little easier for the rest of us by sharing that knowledge.  I've tried to give back by sharing some of the things I've taught myself to do on this humble blog.

I would never have figured this out on my own.

But the truth is, that know-how is hard won, and it's silly to expect that professionals and skilled amateurs will want to give away their knowledge for free all the time.  I'm more than willing to pay good money to learn new things and support the people who can teach me something new.  There's a lot of great info floating around the internet, but there's also a lot of bad info, so I'm also happy to support a source that I know to have consistently good information.

Advanced patterning, learned via Foundations Revealed.

Enter Foundation Revealed and Your Wardrobe Unlock'd.  Both are subscription sites with a wealth of how-to articles, historical research, fitting advice, pattern making instructions and so much more.  These sites have taught me so much over the years, and they are in danger of shutting down if they can't get more subscribers.  The monthly fee is quite low, and allows them to pay their writers and maintain the sites, so by signing up you are supporting your fellow costumers!  Please take a look at both FR and YWU and consider signing up.

Some of my favorite articles (some are viewable for free, others you'll need to subscribe to access)-
Y&N Diagonally Seamed Corset, Part 1 and Part 2 
Laura's Jelly Fitting Method (shows how to create realistic squishy boobs for your mannequin)
Matching Stripes in Corsetry (Ah-MAZ-ing)
A whole series of courses on bra making
CAD: Corsets are Digitized
Hats and Bonnets from Modern Hats
Draft Your Own Corset Pattern

My corset was a runner up in one of the Foundations Revealed contests.

There's so much more, so head on over and browse away!

April 21, 2014

All That Glitters

I realized last month that I didn't have the time/money to really splurge and make the intricate silk Romantic Era dress that's been lurking in my brain, and would have to change my plans a bit.  I still wanted something ridiculous and over the top though, so I raided my stash of saris for something obnoxious and awesome.  Problem is, most of the saris I have are so beautiful I'm still afraid to cut into them!  Luckily I found a pink one that I mostly like, but am not so in love with that can't hack it into bits without too much worry.

The sari was sold as "tissue silk", which sounds soft and lovely, but apparently means a loose, coarse weave with a weird stiff drape.  The weave is open enough that its effectively see-through.  It's got a floral brocade-style design woven into it that you can sometimes see in various lights.  It also looks extremely shiny in a super synthetic way, which was really off-putting when I first saw it in person.  However, it does have the most beautiful metal embroidery work on it, so I've been looking for something to do with it.

It's weirdly shiny and kinda stiff.

Despite the "silk" description I was convinced that it was entirely made out of some weird poly fabric due to the super shine and strange hand, but it turns out I was only half right.  On closer inspection it's a cross weave, with a pink synthetic thread in the warp and a silvery metal thread in the weft, which is what gives it that strange shimmer!

Threads separated

Close up of pink and silver cross weave.

I'm fairly anti-synthetic fabric when sewing for myself, but I figured I'd make an exception this once.  I can always call it my Glinda-the-good-witch-meets-the-1830's dress!  So far it's turning out well, despite the fabric handling oddly and being a general PITA to deal with.

Lining up the embroidery with the neckline.

Since the metal embroidery work is hands down the best part of this sari, I'm making sure it gets featured wherever possible.  I'm placing the bulk of the embroidery at the neckline, which was relatively easy on the back, but a little harder to get to work on the front pieces.  I managed it by criss-crossing the front, but had to change the shape of the neckline and cut the shoulders down a bit to make it work. 


I'm still working on getting the darts right.  Generally I don't cut them out like above, but I had to here b/c there was actually more of the fashion fabric to dart than the lining, and in order to get the two to play nice together it was easier to just cut it up.  The darts are also waaay too low right now, but I'm still trying to figure out how to raise them when I'm running into the embroidery on the right side.

Dart placement way too low; I've since raised it but still need to go higher.

I've still got to finish tweaking the bodice, figure the skirt out and finish solving the mystery of the pleated sleeves from that pink LACMA dress (nearly there!).  I'm also going to need a corded petticoat and some tucked petticoats, and to figure out how on earth I'm going to make a slightly shaggy mohawk into a proper 1830's hairdo.

The back is looking pretty good though!

I've got a week.  Let's do this...

April 18, 2014


I briefly set aside the Romantic stays & gown project to throw together a quickie outfit for another event.  PEERs hosted a Downton Abbey ball recently, so of course I needed something to wear! 

Not my usual ball attire.

Since Curtis and I just happen to live in what may have been the servants quarters of a 1913 house, and our friends and neighbors live a floor above us in the fancy parlor of said house, we decided to combine forces and floors to throw a pre-ball Upstairs/Downstairs Downton shindig.  We left the elegant clothes and manners to them, and prepared to attend an event dressed down for once.  There was just one issue- I only have fancy dresses!

Rummaging around online, I came across the Ladies Treasury of free patterns; specifically their 1912-1914 Ladies Custom-Drafted Skirt in 3, 5 & 7 Gores.  Following their instructions, I was able to quickly and easily draft up the 5 gore version to my measurements.  Since I found a pretty stripped cotton fabric I wanted to use, I did change the suggested grainline to run down the center of each piece so I would be able to pattern match the stripes in a more pleasing manner along the seams.

Sweet stripe
matching, yeah!

I wasn't able to start the skirt until about 10pm of the evening before the party, but I did manage to knock it all out in that one late night session.  It might have gone quicker had I not had to stare at my pattern layout for a good forty minutes trying to recall how to properly lay the pieces to ensure the stripes matched. 

I wanted the bottom edge of the skirt to stand away from my feet a bit, so I added some stiff crinoline fabric behind the wide facing I used to finish the hem.  It's actually a bit too stiff, and makes the skirt have more of an earlier line, but I still like it.    I figure this skirt could end up working as a casual skirt spanning the 1890s through the early teens, especially if I'm pretending to be behind in fashion a bit.

A 4" band of crinoline tucked 'tween the skirt edge and its facing lends support.

The back of the skirt swoops out just a bit, which I love.  Cat alert on the left!

In the rush to get it done, I didn't have time to add hooks and eyes, so the skirt back was pinned closed for the party and ball.  Once I get around to sewing them on, the closure should be nearly invisible.

I couldn't find my pin-tucked shirtwaist the day of, so I wore a striped shirt meant for a man.  With an apron over it and the sleeves rolled up, only the collar gives it away, and I don't care for this event.  With a scarf to cover my hair, I think I made quite a lovely kitchen maid!

It was pretty awesome wearing this and not having to worry about getting my nice clothes dirty.  I felt perfectly comfy bustling about the kitchen baking bread and prepping food in costume.  If I got some flour or whatever on me, no worries, it just adds to the character!

Never fear, this quickie outfit didn't derail me from my Romantic gown project.  I won't likely have the stays finished in time (let's face it, as complex as they are, I was never going to get the stays done on time).  However, I will have a ridiculously over the top 1830s gown done in time for the Gaskell ball.  Here's a few sneak peek photos to tide you over!

Corded side panel of the stays.

Testing, testing...