Friday, May 30, 2008

Overskirt Pattern and Sewing

Here is the traced and trued single overskirt pattern exactly as copied from the muslin drape. I then cut off the center back panel and sliced up through the remainder for sewing/design ease and fabric width. So the entire overskirt is 5 panels.



After the base was cut out, I hand basted my critical sewing lines for easier following. These lines will have the batiste gathered to them and the pink bands and lace covering these construction stitches.


Here is the lower 3rd and partial 2nd panels with the batiste gathered onto the base. Next step is adding the lace and pink bands on the vertical lines with the horizontal lace and flowers attached later.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Iron Exploding!

So shortly after I wrote up my last post about the overskirt draping (around 11am), I locked myself in the sewing room. I turned on my iron and retrieved my washed chemise to press.

I burn out an iron about every two to three years because I use them SO much. Last week when on, the light would click on-off-on-off-on for no reason. Then the light would go off, I turned the dial to Off but then the light would come back on. Strange. I decided this iron was about dead and I needed a new one. Ok, just after I'm done with the Evening Gown in mid June.

Not a chance.

As soon as I started pressing the chemise lace a great burning smell erupted in the room. I keep scraps of muslin on my board for when the iron spits or I need to test steam or clean the plate, so I grabbed the stack and this is what happened:




The iron BURNED this cotton fabric! Whoa! Now the room really smelled like the house was on fire. Quick open the window and unplug the thing!

So much for getting right to sewing. My very next step was pressing the organdy for the overskirt. I HAD to get that done before I could move on. So a trip to Kohl's landed me another nice Rowenta Professional and got me back to sewing by 2pm. All is well again.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Overskirt draping and Bodice Fitting

I had the special pleasure last weekend of having my mentor, Michelle, be a guest in my new home and help me with my 1876 overskirt draping.

After 7 1/2 hours we got the entire overskirt draped (including all gather line markings) and the bodice (polonaise) fitted. What a task! I could not have done this step without her help. Thanks Michelle!

Sewing Tip: All historical styles start with a silhouette. Perfect it before constructing your design.

We first started with string for the overskirt panels. Then we pinned muslin over the skirt base (as I was wearing the skirt). We fiddled quite a bit with the angle of the panels and gather lines and were quite careful to match the skirt to the fashion plate. (We discovered I'm about 6" shorter between the waist and mid-thigh than how the fashion plate is drawn. Ah, the challenge of copying a picture and/or painting into real life on a different person.)




We lastly added a few of the roses I'd completed to double check our lines. This skirt has a lot of work ahead on it but will be most beautiful in the end.








After a nice lunch break, the roses came off and the bodice muslin went on. The fashion plate description says it is "a polonaise of Indian muslin." My main white fabric is a gorgeous Swiss batiste that Michelle concluded is the closest modern substitute. The bodice is elongated in front down to just above the knees to make the Bustle Era apron overskirt. After the overskirt, the bodice is going to seem easy!



Keep checking back for progress on the final stages of construction. The SDI Victorian Summer Ball is on June 14th - just a few weeks away.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mentor Assistance


I have been sewing for nearly 25 years, mostly my own clothes and the occasional home dec item such as pillowcases and window treatments.


Shortly after I began my foray into making historical costumes and clothing, I met another girl who was on the same journey. I learned so much from Michelle in those first couple of years that I have since looked to her as my mentor.

Although I did teach her more in-depth techniques in the basics of sewing, she took me to new levels in historical construction. For the past several years, Michelle and I have greatly expanded our historical sewing skills, bounced ideas off each other for the tips and tricks to historical costume sewing, taught and learned from other friends in this particular hobby, and generally progressed to become sewing masters.


Everyone needs a mentor in their certain field of study - someone who you can go to for ideas, a shoulder to cry on, viewing that new costume movie together, or just a laugh over a nice cup of tea. Mentors give you tough love and encourage you to keep going when your project seems a failure.

We all have mentors in various areas of our lives. Search them out and thank them for being there on your journey through life.


And as for sewing - keep learning all you can about many different techniques and ideas; perhaps someday YOU'LL be a mentor to someone just starting out in this fading life-skill we embrace as Clothing Construction.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Skirt Base progress

I bet you are all thinking: "Jennifer hasn't made a post lately. I hope she has made good progress on her dress."

Well you would be right.




Here is the skirt base with the finished lower apron stitched on. The back casings were pulled in tighter when the overskirt was draped over this base.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Calling all Pigs! Guinea Pigs that is.


Most of you have discovered our Guinea Pig page and have learned from Sara and Sheila's most recent sewing projects. I hope you picked up a new technique or two!

But in looking at the previous Guinea Pig's works, you might have thought to yourself - "I don't even have a garment good enough to share it with others." YES you do.

The call is out for you who are currently working on a historical costume!

Do you find yourself in the middle of the project but are stumped on a particular area, or maybe you are just struggling to finish the garment? Becoming a Cloak & Corset Guinea Pig will get you going again.

We're not looking only for finished ensembles.

If you are stuck at the pattern alteration stage or are having terrible luck getting your buttonholes right, volunteering your work-in-progress will give you access to expert personal sewing help on the garment you are working on right now.

What if you're new to historical sewing and only have a chemise finished? What if the gown is still only in your head? No worries! You can submit just the chemise for review. We can all learn how to make better undergarments - that's what forms our specific silhouette which is the foundation to a great outfit.


If you are selected as the Cloak & Corset Guinea Pig, not only will you receive sewing assistance, you will also receive a special report.

Take the challenge today! Visit our Guinea Pig page at Cloak & Corset for more information.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yea for Bias Makers


I am now a big fan of the bias tape maker!!
Oh my - what a time saver. I didn't want to buy pre-made ribbon for the pink bands on the 1876 skirt. But I knew if I cut bias strips from my pink fabric (what I wanted so the pinks would all be the same), it would take me forever to press under the seam allowances on both edges.

I was able to make yards (goodness - 10 at least) of bias strips, with both edges turned under and sharply pressed in about an hour. That includes marking and cutting the bias from the fabric too. It would take me hours to press under both edges by hand without this tool.

So if you are looking for ribbon to match your project (stuff you can stitch flat to your work) then the bias tape makers are for you. They come in different sizes: 1/4", 1/2", 3/4" and 1". Haven't seen them in any other sizes but these cover most needs. Great for finishing necklines and bodice hems too.

Lower Apron sewn


I was finally able to iron the 10 yards of gorgeous Swiss batiste I purchased from Farmhouse Fabrics and get to work on it. It is such a beautiful fabric!

Here is the lower apron all sewn down to the flat base. The ruffle at the hem is folded over, making it double rather than having a stitched hem. The fabric is opaque but sheer so the double layer on the ruffle will help hide the top of the pink pleats on the skirt base.

My next step is to sew down the pink bias "ribbons" along the rows of stitching. (This was often done in the later Victorian trimmed dresses - add trim to cover construction stitching. Great to do if your seams are less than perfect or straight!)

After the pink ribbon is on the whole apron gets stitched to the skirt base. Then the overskirt will get draped and sewn. After that I can finally get the polonaise bodice fitted.

Remember, when making Victorian (and most historical clothing), start with the skin and work out. I got bogged down in the petticoat stage because I needed to get the silhouette right before I built the skirt on top of it. SO important. Silhouettes make or break the time you are trying to recreate.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Pink Pleated Ruffles

I forgot how long it takes to pleat a width of fabric! Too long.
Well, here is the lovely pink pleated ruffle that goes along the lower edge of the front and side of the skirt. I made the entire ruffle in knife pleats all facing the same direction.

This is the ruffle pinned to the skirt base. On the left is the raw edge of the side back panel. I am basting the silk here so it is enclosed with the center back panel seam. The silk train only goes up the center back as far as the height of this ruffle for continuity. The top edge of the ruffle will be covered with the gathered overskirt.

You can see the center portion of ruffle is shorter than the side part. This is to save on fabric (costs) as the lower apron will go down farther in front and therefore the height of the pleated ruffle need not be any higher than required.
See my Flat Lining Feature Report for more information on this technique.

Train Hem Facing



To finish the train hem, I first flatlined the underlining to the pink silk. Then I cut a 6" wide (plus seam allowance) bias from the underlining to finish the raw edge. I used 6" as that is the amount of train that extends past my top (2nd) petticoat.
You can see the hem facing sewn to the train edge. The other side of the facing has already been pressed under 1/4" for tacking.


After grading and pressing, the hem facing is turned to the inside and pinned down. Those "darts" are historically accurate to "bend" the facing around the train's circular edge. In the Kyoto Fashion book there is a great 1880s train folded back for us to study the underside and its finishing.
I will add a ribbon to both the skirt train and petticoat train to tie together, so when I dance I will be able to pick up both layers and not have to fumble with getting the petticoat up too.

Friday, May 9, 2008

1876 Project - Undergarments


Here is the final chemise and corset that I finished for the gown. I decide to make a linen chemise even though this is the 1870s, my 1830s linen chemise is so comfortable that I had to make another one for Victorian wear.
The corset is off-white silk and two layers of coutil. I dug out my corset pattern from my "regular" brocade corset and took the pattern in a bit because it was closing all the way at the upper edge.











Here is the lobster tail bustle as it fits on me. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I used the Jean Hunnisett pattern but did not enlarge it. My hip measurement is bigger than her fit model so the edge of the bustle is a bit small for my back side.















You can see the 1st petticoat worn over the bustle and that I have clustered rows of ruffles at my side hip area to accomodate for the too-narrow bustle.

You can see one ruffle that goes more onto the side front than the others. Actually the top two ruffles went ALL the way around. (Lesson I learned on how to make proper undergarments for the period you are recreating.)
I ripped off the front portion of those ruffles and added them to the center back. I then cut and added a completely new ruffle to fill in the gap. You can see this as the second ruffle from the bottom and how it is a bit longer than the rest.
That middle ruffle that goes to the front was original.
I will post my 2nd petticoat photos later with my "secret" method of getting that train to hold its shape. I need to see if the train is actually supported by it and may need to adjust before the final version.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ribbon Roses progress



So, I've done lots of work on my undergarments and a bit on the skirt base. Pics will be uploaded showing this work.

For now, here are 8 completed ribbon roses and 3 more ready to sew to the crinoline. And of course I had to put the green leaves in there to see how they are all coming.

I love varigated ribbon as you can switch it around for how you want the flower to appear. The more solid pink rose on the far right is the same ribbon as the two whiter roses next to it. This will look great on the dress as they will seem more natural in variation rather than having dozens of the exact same flower.

Monday, May 5, 2008

1876 Godey's fashion plate

I thought I'd post the fashion plate of the dress I am making. It is also the Cloak & Corset logo. But here is the actual fashion plate from the periodical I own (full year 1876 Godey's Lady's Book).