Thursday, September 25, 2008

1830s Dress Progress

The Wives & Daughters Picnic is quickly approaching on Saturday the 27th.
So as usual, the flurry of thread and needle is causing hurtful fingers as I push, ever so much, into a very tightly woven silk taffeta.

Here are a few in-progress pictures I took a few days ago.

This is the finished LARGE sleeve just pinned to the armhole. The sleeves will be the last thing to attach to the bodice, followed by the neckline lace, then it will be completely finished.

From the fashion plate, the skirt trim is made up of a large continuous line of deep, jagged points with shorter points filling in the arches. What time it took to fiddle with the fabric and pencil lines to come to this pattern design!

They were sewn on last weekend. From handling the skirt since, the sharp points have a tendency to curl out. It almost looks like I took scissors to the skirt hem with a vengeance.

Here is the skirt pin-pleated on my dressform.

The center back panels were cartridge pleated to fit the very center back of the bodice.

The skirt is now attached to the bodice and the front pleated drape (bertha) is pinned in place, ready for tacking.

I've really toyed with the name of this color of the fabric and concluded that it is perfect Dark Mark or Slytherin Green. I know Slytherin greens can be a bit more kelly, but this apple green silk is a sage shot with a yellow gold that gives it just that sheen. And in the Harry Potter movies when we see the Dark Mark, it is a gold/green color. That IS my fabric.

So who knows? Perhaps I can bully this costume up with black accessories (e.g. belt, jewelry, hat, cape) and be a Slytherin witch for some future Harry Potter event.

For now, however, it will be elegant and darling and very proper while visiting Molly Gibson and her step-sister Cynthia.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cute Defeats Pretty

Last night Jeff and I made it over to the Great Kern County Fair to check out my entries and see the sights (read: livestock, furry animals, craft work and crazy/weird people).

First stop: Building 4 and the Needlearts Show. The number of entries for the general sewing category were really down from last year. This year I entered into the Professional category under the classes of Costume (1876 White & Pink Evening Gown (a' la Wedding Cake Dress) and 1806 Green Silk Ball Gown), Men's (Green Wool Regency Tailcoat), and Miscellaneous (Ivory Corset and Regency Straw & Silk Bonnet).

Well, I discovered I won one 1st Place and three 3rd Place ribbons. Ok. So what beat me out? I'm curious.

First, here are my two dresses entered in the Costume Class. The 1876 Evening Gown ending up placing 3rd. (Huh?)

The Regency gown, although I'm very pleased that it was displayed on a rare dressform, did not place. (I think it probably would have won 4th since I didn't see any other costumes for Professional.)

You want to know what beat out my lovely Wedding Cake Gown?


Ok, so they are a bit adorable. Wrapped around toddlers, they would win anybody over.

So just goes to show that not everyone can see the amount of work that goes into reproducing historical clothes/costumes. Or appreciate the work. So maybe next year I need to make a cute turn-of-the-20th-century Dorothy costume or something from the American Girls series....

The first place ended up on my Victorian Corset. I'm proud of that. Although, that was a last minute entry: "Oh, why not put the corset in. Just for fun."

And my (finally) finished Regency bonnet I started at Costume College several years ago and finished trimming last month received 3rd place.

Jeff's very nice Regency tailcoat also received 3rd place.

What was disappointing however, was that we could not find the first OR second place winners in the Men's category. We looked forever for them. Hmmm...

I really debated putting the coat into Costume or Men's but went with the Men's so as to not compete so much with myself with the gowns. Again, no appreciation for historical sewing. I'm thinking this did not get a higher place as it is not a "modern" garment but simply a man's wool tailcoat.

So the lesson (if there is one), is: if you want to compete in the fair with your historical sewing, only enter them in the costume category; for there is the only chance for the judges to appreciate your work. Stick with modern clothes for other categories.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sara's New Project - Regency Gown - Progress

Well, it has taken a little longer than I was expecting to get to the point I am at with my dress, but I am feeling very confident that it will be completed tomorrow as there is not much left to do (except for some finishing touches that will be done before the Jane Austen Evening 2009).

I took a couple of days off last week from sewing after spending two full days on the weekend sewing the mock-up. I was a little burned out and felt like I needed a little recovery time before getting right back into it.

Things went decently smoothly for the most part, but I did end up taking out and redoing more seams than I would have liked but I'm sure it was less than if I hadn't done the mock-up initially.

I opted not to do a mock-up of the sleeves and then later wished I had. Mainly because I changed the design of the sleeves once I decided to add trim to the dress. I wasn't originally going to add any trim but thought that some would be nice. So I was going to add it to the waist and the sleeves.

It took a bit of thinking as to how to add it to the sleeves. Should I add multiple lines of trim (like my other Regency dress)? Should I make a "V" shape with the trim? Just one line? What is too much and what is too little?

Well, after much thought, I opted for the one line of the 3 trims with the bottom part of the sleeve pleated inward towards the trim and covering the bottom of it. (It looks very similar to the dress I am modeling this after). One of the finishing touches I will be adding later will be a button on either side of the trim on the sleeve like the model dress.

The bodice took a decent amount of tweaking to get it to lay correctly and to not be able to notice the front opening line. Even thought it's not perfect, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

Last Friday night, the motor on my sewing machine decided to quit so I was a little stranded. I wasn't planning on spending much time this weekend sewing as my brother-in-law was in town from Guam (he's a JAG Office in the Navy and stationed over there, was in Rhode Island for some training and on his way back home but was able to schedule a 2-day lay-over to come home for a bit - we surprised my in-laws with his return and it was very fun) and we wanted to spend time with him.

I was debating buying a new machine or going to get it fixed. Well, I told my mother-in-law what happened and she was kind enough to let me borrow her machine. It's a White and from the 80s. It's all metal too, unlike my machine which is practically all plastic. My machine was given to me and I was very happy to receive it as I wasn't doing much sewing at the time so I didn't want to invest a lot of money into one when I needed one.

I started using the new machine and boy what a difference that machine is from mine. It's wonderful. It's very quiet, unlike mine, and the fabric feeds into it so smoothly and effortlessly. I don't think I've ever used such a good machine before. It also didn't make my fabric pucker on the long side seams of the skirt which my machine had a tendency to do (I ended up ripping out the seams and re-sewing the majority of them so they would lie smoother).

Honestly, I never knew that it was the machine that had to do with this puckering. I always thought that type of fabric just had a tendency to do it, which always made me weary to sew with it because I thought that made the outfit look cheaply made. But once I saw how this machine handled the fabric I realized what the real issue was.

So with the new machine, I was ready to get back to work on Sunday night. I have spent every last spare minute I have working on this dress and trying to finish it as soon as possible so that I'm not stressing the day before or the day of the event (which is this Saturday), especially as there are many other last minute party details to be thinking of.

Today I finished hand sewing all the closures on the bodice and the skirt. It was a bit tedious and I'm very thankful it is over. I used two hooks and bars and many snaps. I had intended to use more hooks and eyes, but after sewing on one and seeing that the fabric didn't lay like I wanted to, I resorted to all snaps and I am very happy with them now.

Now, all I have left to finish is the hem and tacking on the trim to the waist.

Like I said, the dress is not perfect, but I have learned through the process of making it and I am not as intimidated to look at a dress and try to figure out how to mimic it. Overall, I am very pleased with the dress and look forward to debuting it at my sister's birthday party this Saturday.

Here are some pictures of the mock-up and almost finished product:

Saturday, September 13, 2008

This month's sewing project - 1830s

The Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild is hosting a Wives & Daughter's Picnic at the end of September, and I am excited to be going up to the San Francisco area to attend. Plus it's another good excuse to make something new!

So my current project is a new day dress in apple green silk taffeta. I know, not a great picnic fabric, but the fabric is so fabulous and I (1) wanted a silk dress and (2) needed a color to go with both my 1830s bonnets.

I bought two hats this year from Atelier Mela at Costume College. One was a tall 1830s bonnet made from brown and mauve straws. Let me tell you: it was hard to find a matching (in historical clothes matching way) fabric color for a gown. But this is what I found:

Apple Green Silk Taffeta -

I pulled out my French Fashions of the Romantic Era (Dover) to find a design.

I have a white straw bonnet just like this one in the plate but with pink and blue plaid ribbons. I can wear it with the green silk dress but will wear the newer brown and pink straw to the Picnic.

Here is an early 1830s silhouette of my corded petticoat, plain petticoat and corset cover with sleeve supports. The sleeve is from Jean Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage & Screen.

My mentor, Michelle, did a quick fit of my bodice that I mocked-up from the Truly Victorian Romantic Era Dress pattern. I first used the TV sleeve pattern and adjusted it for the fashion plate design.

This is my pattern and mock-up of that first attempt.

The band was too wide, and the top puff is just not "puffy" enough for my taste and to match the plate. So I scrapped the TV beret sleeve and went with the one from Jean Hunnisett.

More photos will be posted as I finish the sewing on this dress. Now to figure out my hair...

Sewing for others

Last month I was recovering from Costume College and the last push on getting the eBook ready for publication, so my sewing was limited. Or was it?

I had promised my husband a new Civil War shirt as his historical shirts are now getting more worn out than his modern clothes and they are having to be replaced. So that got done.

Then a few months ago my friend and mentor, Michelle, and I came up with the idea of a great birthday gift for our friend Becky. Becky's turning a special age next week and celebrating with a fun costume party (of course).

Well, we decided to pull in some more friends and make Becky a whole new Civil War outfit complete with undergarments and accessories! But to do all of them in time for the Huntington Beach event over Labor Day weekend.

So I busied myself with making a new corset and a new apron for her. Here she is opening the corset.

Here is the new apron.

Becky also received a new chemise, drawers, sheer dress of bodice and skirt, reticule with her character's initials and a braided hairpiece. She was all set!

It was a memorable birthday gift and one Becky will use for some time - especially for summer events.

Happy Birthday Becky (aka Violet Johnson)!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sara's New Project - Regency Gown

Well, you may be wondering what in the world I'm doing when I haven't even come close to finishing my husband's Civil War Outfit or my Civil War Outfit but, yes, I am starting a new project already. However, I'm only doing this because I have an event (my sister's birthday party actually) where I wanted to wear a Regency dress (I figured it would be more maneuverable in small spaces than an 1860s gown).

A little while back, Jennifer suggested that instead of making a completely new dress, that I should just adjust the one I wore to Jane Austen 2008 and where that one again. It would save me time and it would help improve my skills in making adjustments.

I thought that was a great idea. The only problem was that I needed more fabric to add two panels to the back of the gown to give it more fullness. I've seen that fabric a lot at my local fabric store so I didn't think it would really be an issue.

Yesterday, I started gently ripping apart the dress: detaching the bodice from the skirt and taking out the side seams. Then, I went to the fabric store, with a swatch and the SKU # in hand. But low-and-behold, they don't carry it any more. They have the exact same print just in a darker blue. But, of course, that won't do. The manager said she would look into it and see if she could find it for me but that she wouldn't get back to me until Monday.

Instead of being defeated, I decided I would make that new gown after all, but with the suggestions Jennifer gave in my Guinea Pig Review. I am using the same pattern to get the general pattern pieces and sizes, but after that, it's my imagination and some handy pictures I took of a Regency gown in England.

I spent a good amount of time looking at the pictures I had and visualizing exactly what new pattern pieces I would need to make from scratch and how I should go about the construction of the garment. In a sense, I threw out the instructions that came with the pattern and came up with my own.

After figuring out most of how I should do it, I went to the drawing board and traced out my patterns onto banner (or butcher) paper with the adjustments I thought I would need.

I extended the back panel so that it could be gathered to get the fullness I wanted. I also decided that I would need to cut this piece on the fold instead of as two separate pieces. I'm doing this because I am not having a back opening on the dress. Instead I will have a side/front opening that will be concealed. I got this idea from the pictures I had. Before I saw that dress, I had never seen a dress with that type of opening and I knew that I would want to make a dress like that someday.

After that, I traced and adjusted the bodice pieces, making the back piece be on the fold as well and the front piece be two pieces instead. I also extended the bodice front pieces a lot in order to allow for gathering that I wanted to do as well as to add a modesty-type panel on one side.

Then I created a skirt placket panel piece based on Jennifer's instructions in her Modern Sewing Techniques for Historical Sewing Construction eBook. From it I was able to figure out exactly what size I need the pattern piece to be as well as how to attach it to my skirt opening.

Next, I cut out all my pattern pieces in muslin for my mock-up. Then it was the arduous task of putting everything together. I started with the bodice and I had to take it apart quite a few times before I got it just as I wanted.

One good tip I learned from looking at one of Jennifer's mock-ups is to leave your seam allowances on the outside of your garment. Do not sew a seam and then turn your garment right side out. This will allow you to take in seams easier because you can grab the seam, pin it, and sew it to the right place.

Then I moved on to the skirt, including adding the skirt placket which turned out very nice and definitely gave it a good finishing touch. I made gathering stitches in the back so I could gather it easily.

I then attached the bodice to the skirt and tried it all on together. It looks very nice so far and I am pretty pleased with the outcome. These pictures may not look that great to you but, remember, they are just of a mock-up and not the finished garment.

I did not bother with the sleeves on the mock-up as I have already made those sleeves and know they fit just fine.

I also made sure to wear the undergarments I will be wearing with this dress during all of my fittings to make sure everything fit well. (I had to make a few adjustments to my undergarments as they weren't quite fitting right and I made sure to finish those adjustments last night and this morning before I tried on my dress.)

Now that I've finished the mock-up, I feel pretty confident about moving on to the actual dress.

There are a few adjustments that I am going to make still but I am not going to bother with them on the mock-up as they are pretty straight-forward (like making the back of my bodice a little shorter - which has been marked on the mock-up with erasable fabric pen).

Well, I have less than 2 weeks to get this done. I'm hopefully by next Sunday all the major construction at least will be finished, if not the whole thing.

I'll keep you posted and definitely show you the finished product.