Monday, December 29, 2014

HSF '14: Shiny 1910's Blouse

I did it!  I completed every Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge this year.  Out of over 1,000 members who started in January, I'm one of about 10 who made it the whole way through, and I couldn't be prouder.

I'd love to say that my last project of the year was something fantastic, with which I'm completely in love, but sadly, that's not the case.

For the last challenge of the year, which was called "All that Glitters", I made a 1910's blouse that I rushed on, as I needed to finish it before we went back to the states for the holidays.  And as with rush jobs, it has some flaws.  As in, the neck is too small, the sleeves are too short, the arm-holes are too tight in the front, and the front just looks huge and baggy (which may be attributed to my modern undergarments).  But it's shiny, so it fits the theme, and I don't hate it (I actually wore it Christmas Eve), it just doesn't feel right.

Ah well, lessons learned for the next time I try the pattern.


You can see that the cuffs are about twice as long as the pattern calls for.  This was my fix for the sleeves being too short.  I added a half inch to the body of the sleeves, and on paper that seemed like enough, but I really need another 1.5 inches in there.  I didn't add buttons to the cuffs (though I may in the future); the lengthened cuffs already look really modern, and I liked the look without buttons (the cuffs are stiff enough that they don't flop around).

The neckline isn't supposed to be as open as it is, there should be another inch in there somewhere. You can't actually tell, but the pattern envelope shows that you're supposed to be able to close it and add a tie of sorts, which I really can't do.  Also, another inch in the neck would mean the collar wouldn't stick straight out, but angle down a bit.  You can just see the collar sticking out along my left shoulder.

From the pattern image, you can see the closed neck up top, and how the collar is supposed to look, angling a bit towards the front instead of straight off the shoulder.  Oh well.

The Challenge: All that Glitters

Fabric: Beautiful ecru-colored cotton sateen, that has a really nice shine to it.

Pattern: Wearing History's 1910's Blouse

Year: early to mid 1910's

Notions: thread and some plastic buttons

How historically accurate is it? I'm pleased with the fabric, but no self respecting seamstress in the 1910's would have made herself a blouse that fit this badly.  So not great.

Hours to complete: Almost 20.

First worn: Christmas Eve service.

Total cost: Fabric was $25 (though I have a lot left over), and buttons were $5.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

HSF '14: Most of a 1930's Blouse

I've been wanting to try a Mrs. Depew pattern for a while now.  Sold on Etsy, the shop has some really cute patterns.  With the current challenge being called Modern History, and my making so many 30's pieces to wear in my modern life, I decided it was time to take the plunge.


And I had some success.  Mrs. Depew patterns use a method of drafting that was unfamiliar to me, and my pattern, once mocked up, seemed a bit off.  (I don't think this can be attributed to my skills, or lack thereof. As I was mocking it up, the line "They're really more like guidelines anyway" kept going through my head.  I think it applies here.)  Lines that really should be at cross angles to one another were not, and the back side seam was quite a bit longer than the front, as was the shoulder seam.  And I really wasn't sure about the pleats in the shoulder and neck.  So I made a mock-up of the bodice (minus the triangular front and after I made some logical adjustments), before I even drafted the sleeves and collar.  I used a fabric that I couldn't picture ever using for real, and was completely thrown when I liked the result.  Really liked it!


You can see the self bias facing, and what the inside of the
pleats look like.

As I was running out of time, and it's a busy time of year anyway, I decided to finish the neck and sleeve holes with bias binding, and call it done.  It is really short, the back always comes un-tucked, even from my high-waisted 30's trousers, so it really needs a sweater over it.  Which is fine by me!


The Challenge: Modern History

Fabric: A blend fabric, meant to be men's dress shirt fabric

Pattern: started with a Mrs. Depew's 1930's Blouse

Year: early to mid 1930's

Notions: just thread

How historically accurate is it? Not really; fabric is of unknown content, I'm pretty sure the stripes aren't period, and it should probably have sleeves!

Hours to complete: I didn't track this one much, but maybe 6-8

First worn: Several times since I finished about two weeks ago.  I'm absolutely in love with it!

Total cost: Definitely free.  It was given to me by a friend, who got it from her daughter, who got it as a leftover sample from her work.  So I have no idea what it would have originally cost.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

HSF '14: My First Vest

I've been wanting a sewn vest for AGES.  I don't know why I didn't ever buy one; I have three sweater vests, two of which belonged to my dad in the 1970's, and ever since I started sewing vests for Dan, I've wanted one for myself.  Because I love vests.  On men, on women, on anybody a well fitted vest is really classy and nerdy and adorable.

Tonight, after our little photo shoot, I started skipping down the hallway sing-songing "I'm gonna make so many vests, I'm gonna make so many vests".  Because now that I've finally made one, I might just have to make them all.

The theme this fortnight was Menswear, and I thought about making something for Dan, but I settled on something for me instead.  And vests are definitely menswear inspired.  I decided on 1930's as I seem to be all about the 30's this year, and I remembered seeing some that I liked.  Turned out, when I went back to find those examples, they weren't actually there.  1930's fashion was much more feminine than the 1920's, and in the end, I only found one example.  A vest included in a 1933 pattern for a 4-piece Tuxedo Ensemble.  Definitely menswear inspired.


But it pairs perfectly with my wide-legged trousers, especially as I constructed it with material I had leftover from the pants.

I did make a quick mock-up, as I wasn't using a pattern, or at least not one meant for a women's body. I've drafted several garments for Dan from Men's Garments 1830-1900, and they've all been really great, so I figured I'd just start with one of their vest patterns and see what happened.

I did have to make some modifications in the end, but as it's just a vest, using a men's pattern turned out to be a perfectly fine starting place.  And the mock-up fabric for the front panels were scraps of old jeans of Dan's, so there's just menswear all over the place.



And here's the final product:


Pretending to be Lois Lane (an excellent suggestion by Dan):

And showing off my tiny faux-pocket.

The Challenge: Menswear

Fabric: Green wool left over from my recent 1930's trousers, and brushed black cotton left over from this summer's 1930's shorts

Pattern: started with a draft from Men's Garments 1830-1900

Year: early to mid 1930's

Notions: Just 4 (unfortunately) plastic buttons

How historically accurate is it? Fine, except for the buttons.  Maybe someday I'll find some nice glass ones.

Hours to complete: 7.5 including drafting and mock-up

First worn: Tonight for photos.  But I already have several occasions I plan on wearing it.

Total cost: The green was counted in an earlier challenge, same for the black, and the buttons were $4.  So $4 (kinda).

Monday, November 17, 2014

HSF '14: Purple and Cream Corset

IT'S FINISHED!!!

And I couldn't be more happy with it (well, maybe I'm only 98% happy with it, but hardly anything is perfect).

A bit of a reminder, in case you haven't read this post or this post in awhile. I've made my first duct tape corset, my first corset without a pattern, my first corset using spiral steel boning, and my second 1880's corset (and it's leaps and bounds better than the first).

It took about two months to make, and I'm very glad to enter it into the HSF challenge: Re-Do (re-doing one of the 50 or so challenges that have come before).

Last night, when I put it on for photos, I also put on my corset from last year (which was made from a pattern) for comparison purposes.  I thought it would be interesting to see how the same body looks very different in different corsets.

I don't have a ton of photos, I always feel very awkward in photo shoots, especially when I'm in my 'underwear'.  But my blessed husband kept at it, and we got some good shots in the end.


A  note on the side shots: I'm not standing any differently, the purple one just controls my belly much better.

I can't get over the extreme curve the purple one produces at the waist.  I've always felt like I'm shaped more like the brown--much more boxy.  It's amazing what you discover when you duct tape yourself up.


Up close of the flossing:  I love the pairing of purple and cream.


Dan thought the flossing was white, and when I held up something white next to the cream, he said, "yeah, white that's been sitting next to my dad for five years while he's been smoking". Somehow I don't think naming colors at Sherwin Williams will ever be his back-up job.

Oh, and the tutorials here are excellent for beginners to flossing.

Obviously I learned a lot from my brown corset (I should really come up with names for these, instead of calling them by their colors), or I wouldn't have wanted to try again.  So what did I learn from this one?

  • I started by taking into account something Merja of Before the Automobile (at least I think it was her) wrote at one point: She doesn't try to compress either her bust or hips at all in her corsets, just her waist to get as curvy a shape as possible.  Turns out that works really well.
  • Next time, I plan to treat my top layer (the purple) and the inter layer (coutil) as one piece.  I think trying to match up two layers instead of three will go much easier when I'm putting it together, and it will hopefully eliminate much of the small wrinkles I ended up with on the purple layer (the 2% I'm dissatisfied with that I mentioned earlier. There was much shaking of fists and gnashing of teeth before I had to give up on that fight).
  • Spiral steel, while helping with the added curves, needs a wider boning channel than flat steel. Learned that one the hard way.  Definitely give yourself a couple extra millimeters/an extra 1/8" when planning your channels.  It took several hours to get the bones into mine, and my fingers are still sore.

I've got one more comparison for you.  On the left is my reaction to the purple corset photo shoot.  Not terribly enthused, but not too bad either.  On the right, is my realization that the tightness at the top of the brown corset was giving me 'armpit muffin top', otherwise known as 'chicken wing'. 


The Challenge: Re-Do

Fabric: Purple cotton I picked up awhile ago, inter layer of white coutil left over from a Regency corset, brown twill for lining that was left over from the brown corset.

Pattern: I drafted (draped?) (duct taped?) my own

Year: mid 1880's

Notions: Tons!  Spiral steel boning, flat steel boning, busk, 4mm grommets, lacing cord (which I need to replace with something better), DMC embroidery floss in ecru for the flossing.

How historically accurate is it? Thumbs up on that one.

Hours to complete: Tons! 58.25 hours if I added it up correctly.

First worn: Last night for photos.  Hopefully a lot in the future.

Total cost: Coutil and lining were budget into earlier projects, so those were "free". The amount I used of the purple, probably $2.  Bones and busk were $40.  Grommets were probably $1.50, and embroidery floss was too.  So $45 in total.  Not too bad for a corset actually.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

HSF '14: Another Pair of 1930's Trousers

This fortnight's challenge was Alternate Universe, perfect for those looking to make a costume for Halloween.  I was originally hoping to finish my 1880's corset, not for any Halloween event, but just for the alternate universe where I live in the 1880's.  But I've only managed to get the lining and half of the interlining sewn so far, so that wasn't going to happen.

Instead, I decided to whip up another pair of 1930's trousers from a length of green wool I found at a fabric market awhile back.  I'm decidedly a pants person, and I can only hope that in an alternate universe where I live in the 1930's, I'd choose to wear awesome wide-legged trousers all the time.

These went really quick because I used the same pattern as I did for my first pair, though I left off the cuffs. I think these will be worn a lot this Christmas season, as they're the perfect color and will keep my legs nice and warm.





The Challenge: Alternate Universe

Fabric: Green wool, I think 100%

Pattern: Wearing History's smooth sailing trousers.

Year: mid to late 1930's

Notions: a rather old looking metal zipper

How historically accurate is it? Just fine.

Hours to complete: 6.

First worn: Today, and hopefully a lot this Christmas season.

Total cost: $24 for the fabric and maybe $2 for the zipper.

Monday, October 20, 2014

HSF '14: 1880's Overskirt

This is a bit of a grumbly post.  I hate my camera.  I don't feel like this used to be a problem, but in the past year, no matter where or when I shoot, I can't get it to photograph colors well.  Especially red.  Everything just looks washed out.  Always. And I'm especially grumbly about this today, as my overskirt is a lovely brick red.

This color:





Keep that in mind when you see the photos down the line.






Plus, when I stepped back into the house I caught my skirt on my heel, and instead of the thread breaking like it's supposed to, the threads of my skirt broke instead, so now I have lovely pull lines emanating up the back of my skirt.  Grumble grumble grumble.  And I didn't take a photo of that to show you, as I hate my camera.

Shifting gears, I should probably tell you about the challenge.  The theme this fortnight was inspiration: Be inspired by previous challenge entries to make something of your own.  I originally wanted to get my 1880's Corset done for this one, as there have been some amazing corsets done in the past two years and I always want to improve my skills in corsetry.  But I'm no where near done, so I realized that I could finish my Overskirt, 90% of which I had done back in August.  The whole reason I'm making an 1880's walking ensemble is because I've seen some amazing examples through the HSF.  I fell in love with Kura Carpenter's stripey jacket and hat; Loren Dearborn made an adorable seaside outfit; and Anna Fura made an exquisitely matched plaid ensemble.  Pretty much anything mid-1880's that gets made for HSF, I want. So I figured it was high time to make my own.



The Challenge: Inspiration

Fabric: Lovely brick red cotton that did not photograph well

Pattern: TV382, but I didn't connect it to the underskirt like they suggest, in case I ever want to wear another overskirt with the underskirt.

Year: mid 1800's

Notions: bits of bias tape to encase the side edges

How historically accurate is it? Good enough.

Hours to complete: This wasn't supposed to be for an HSF challenge, so I didn't keep track, but maybe 8-10ish?

First worn: Today.

Total cost: I can't actually remember what I paid for the fabric, but no more than $15.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

HSF '14: Grey Mitts (or Muffatees)

I'm not a big poetry fan.  My tastes run towards Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.  And the only clothing reference I could think of in a poem had to so with my half-remembering a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker riding around in a boat with their night clothes on.

I was prepared to accept defeat on this one, but in Manchester, in one of the rooms at the Manchester Art Gallery, there was a book of poems compiled by students that accompanied the paintings in the room.  And there I found the following:

A Gloaming
John Everett Millais, 1836

If I could just paint the long fetch of the last light
the delicate thorns of the telegraph posts

fencing upon Sannick Hill      the sky's opalescence
mother of pearl with a slight golden flush

and clouds pale gongs   homecoming smell of parts
and smouldering straw and the moon

a gash into the light beyond with a rime of scarlet
along her prow.  My favourite neighbor

shelters where the burn falls
into white shell-sand.

And, recognising the knitting, asks
Is yun mammy's glivs? Yes

what's left of them, frail as spider-web,
and held together these seven years by a series

of scabby darns.  Our autumn's brief,
subtle and very dear:

the sky worn thin,
Quink-blue shadows on the hill.

If I could even get the ground right, a nacre
of gleaming gesso on which to begin.


Behold, I was saved!  I was so relieved that I forgot to take a photo of the painting the poem was accompanying. But I remember it was actually a Millais, with three peasant girls standing in a field of some sort, dressed very shabbily and looking tired.

I don't know how to knit, though I thought about learning for this challenge.  But life (and the 1880's corset) meant my priorities were elsewhere, so I quickly whipped up a pair of crocheted muffatees (an old fashioned word for fingerless gloves) instead.





The Challenge: Poetry in Motion

Fabric: About 50g of Katia Merino Tweed I had left over from another mitts project.

Pattern: These were loosely described in the book 'A Winter Gift for Ladies', published in 1848 and found here.

Year: mid 1800's

Notions: None

How historically accurate is it? Not very.  The stitch is fine, but the yarn is part acrylic so that's obviously not.

Hours to complete: maybe about 5.

First worn: Today.  It's cold here today!

Total cost: Free as it was leftover yarn, but I used about 1 skein so about $5.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Corset Progress

First mock-up is done.



And my notes look something like football plays.

As you can guess, I have a few changes to make.  Actually nothing major, just shortening the midsection and taking in some seams while letting out others.  Just enough that I have to change every piece in the corset minus the gussets.

Though I'm seriously doubting my choice in gussets for the bust area.  Below are some inspiration images to see what I'm going for.  And mine fits, it just looks SUPER weird.  While wearing it today I thought about changing it all but I'm not sure I know enough to do that without making another duct tape form, which I really don't want to do.

From the Chicago Historical Society
From the Met

Even in the inspiration images I can't really see how flat steel boning could go in without any twisting.  Maybe the trick is to use spring steel? But did that exist at the time?  Or maybe this style bust gusset is meant for ladies with a much higher bust to underbust measurement ratio than mine?

Any thoughts or hints would be most welcome.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Corset Musings

I've been working on my 1880's ensemble for a while now.  You've seen me work my way through all the bottom pieces (bustle, petticoat, skirt), but I've been really hesitant to start on the top pieces (corset, bodice) because, well, those are hard.

It's pretty easy to fit a skirt.  Waist and hips measurement check?  Okay then, good to go.  But a bodice and a corset is much harder (and I'm not just talking about my old nemesis sleeves).  A corset is a shell of yourself which has to support you and confine you while not hurting you in any way. Without resorting to spandex, that's tricky.

And, I'm doing something new.  Last year I made an 1880's corset for my somewhat-steampunk outfit, using the Truly Victorian pattern that I've had for ages.  And it was fine, though it made me more flat chested than I am in real life, and made my lower back ache after a couple hours of wear. This time I had Dan duct tape me up, to literally create a shell of myself.  Today I turned that shell into a pattern (meaning I drew some lines on it and cut it into pieces. Though to be fair, deciding where to put those lines took a lot of time and trouble.).

About half way through this process I was talking to Dan about why I was so hesitant to start, why I'm hesitant to continue, why I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing and he said something like the following. "So you're telling me that you've never done this [method of drafting] before, and much of they way you're going to construct it is different than the last one, but you're expecting this to be perfect the first time?" And my response was, "After my mock-ups, yes."

That's a problem.  My lovely husband reminded me that expectations can be set too high.  That no one ever achieves perfection, especially from a first try, and that this process is about learning, not achieving.

Anybody want to come stencil that on the wall for me?  Or tattoo it on my forearm?

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

HSF '14: A Regency Beret

This fortnightly challenge is Yellow.  And anyone who knows me knows I really don't wear yellow. At all.  Looking through my fabric, the only even-close-to-yellow fabric I own is the gold silk I made last year's Celebrate dress out of, and the same fabric I used for the lining in the Regency reticule I just made.  (I bought way too much of that fabric)

As I had a ton of the gold silk, and I had just been through the La Mode Bagatelle pattern with the reticule (which includes pieces for pretty much all Regency outfit components you could ever want), and remembered that they had a beret pattern, I decided to give that a go.  It's possible my fabric is too stiff, and I don't think I have a dress yet to wear it with, as it would be too spot on with the Celebrate dress, but I enjoyed the exercise, and now I know how big the beret will be if I ever want to make another from that pattern.


And my fabric is so stiff, my beret could
probably double as a chef's hat.

The Challenge: Yellow

Fabric: Scrap silk I had left over from last year's Celebrate! challenge

Pattern: To make things super easy I used the La Mode Bagatelle pattern

Year: early 1800's

Notions: None

How historically accurate is it? Pretty good.

Hours to complete: 3.5 (I had forgotten how tricky the stiff, tightly woven silk was to hand sew)

First worn: Not yet, but yay for another accessory!

Total cost: Free, as the fabric was from stash, but $2.50 otherwise as the silk I bought was $5 per yard.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

At the Manchester Art Gallery

Most historic costumers have heard about the Manchester Art Gallery.  The museum has a whole building dedicated to their historic costume collection.  And from what I understand, it's extensive, though the dedicated building really isn't.  But this post isn't on the Platt Hall of Costume (I'll get there later), it's on the Art Gallery proper.

While I was in Manchester, the Art Gallery had on display a collection of garments from the British Cotton Board, whose job it was to promote cotton in all industries, including fashion.  The garments on display were really interesting, though they were all from the early 1950's which isn't my era. These dresses were produced as examples only, so they were only worn at the Cotton Board's annual runway show (so once).  The accompanying text pointed out that some of the dresses look great in cotton, and some look like bed sheets. Also, they were sewn for the runway, so they definitely don't have couture finishing techniques and some even had really obvious stitching (to be fair, most looked ready to wear).  As I understand it, the Cotton Board had a hard time convincing the masses to leave their beautiful silk evening dresses behind and start wearing cotton ones instead.

First up, a cotton organdy wedding dress.  Knowing how stiff my organdy petticoat is, I really hope they used the softer version.



This "Cotton Doeskin Summer Dress" from 1953 was probably my favorite.  The sleeve construction is really interesting, and I think they put a pocket in a dart, which is always cool.



At the other end of the spectrum is this "Cotton Poplin Evening Dress" which really does look like bed sheets (it also looks really heavy) and has really obvious stitching.



And the last I'll show is this adorable 1957 summer dress made from "horizontally printed fabric". The photo of the back is out of focus, but it gives you an idea about the back neckline.  I'm guessing this fabric was printed with this specific dress in mind, but I really love how the pleating uses the fabric to its advantage.




I also, of course, explored the rest of the Gallery.  Upstairs I found several paintings of note. Including one of the most ridiculous depictions of armor I have ever seen.  Seriously--he's not actually naked and just painted grey.  I know this because his hands are a normal human color.

The Earl of Warwick's Vow by Henry Tresham (1797)

A typical Regency scene which was apparently mocked in the press.



Possibly my first Tissot (at least my first now that I'm extremely interested in the time period).  And it was AMAZING.  He truly is a wonder at depicting textiles.  Though, does anyone else see the resemblance between the violinist and the woman in front with the fan?

Hush! (also known as The Concert) by James Tissot (1875)




And several beautiful Pre-Raphaelite paintings, which made me long for some of my art history textbooks back in the US.

Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse (1896)



Work by Ford Maddox Brown (1852 - 1856)