Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What's On The Cutting Table - Men's Civil War Civilian Outfit

Back in August, I started the steps towards making a Civil War Civilian outfit for my husband by finding and purchasing patterns. After I came to conclusion that I would not have the outfit finished in time for the Huntington Beach Park Event on Labor Day Weekend, I kind of put off the project as the next event we would be attending wasn't until February 2009. (Plus, I was in the middle of planning my sister's 30th birthday party and then the holidays started up).

So in December and January, I started to get things back into motion by making copies of all my pattern pieces and cutting out the mulsin for my mock-ups. I got a little deterred when I started to make the mock-up for the shirt. After reading through the instructions, I realized that they wanted me to hand sew just about every seam! Now, there's nothing wrong with hand-sewing, but when time is of the essence, it is definitely not for me.

That little set-back did not help me mentally push through this project and I, again, put it off for a bit. After a little while of tyring to mull over my dilemma, I decided to go forward with the waistcoat and the pants mock-ups to at least feel some sense of accomplishment. I finished the waistcoat in a few hours and that really helped my confidence and mindset (it's amazing how that can affect your sewing progress when they are in the right place!).

In the middle of all this, I started to have some problems with my machine but got it to work well enough after applying some oil. Then, Jennifer and I had our annual business meeting so my sewing had to be delayed for a bit.
Jennifer told me that there was a Simplicity pattern she had used before for a simple shirt but she was pretty sure it had been discontinued. We talked about modifying the Regency shirt we already have to "make it work" for just this one event as it was starting to be debatable as to whether or not I would even have time to sew these three garments.

The Monday after this weekend, I had more sewing machine problems and ended up buying a new machine. The next day, I took a trip to JoAnns and found a much easier shirt pattern that, although not for the right time period, would work well enough once modified a bit. I also found all the fabric that I needed for each piece - and I'm very excited about the fabric for the waistcoat!

I sat down with my new machine, finished the pants mock-up and hammered through the shirt mock-up. Now it was time for fitting.
The shirt fit well. The vest fit well, except it needed to be taken in just a bit on the sides. The pants...well, they were about two inches too small. And that is why you make a mock-up first! I can't even imagine what I would have done if I had just made the pants out of my fashion fabric without having done a mock-up first.

Last week, my sister-in-law, who is visiting from Guam while my brother-in-law is on a ship in the Pacific somewhere, was kind enough to lend me a hand and add width to my copied pattern pieces for the pants to make them big enough. (My husband also lent his hands by cutting out all the fabric for the shirt.)

I made the waistcoat in a day, except for the buttons and buttonholes.

I then moved on to the shirt and made that in another day and a half.

And then I started on the pants. Once I got them to the place where they were done enough to be tried on, I went ahead and had Jeremiah try them on just to make sure they fit.

But alas! Now they were too big. I guess I was over-zealous in estimating how much to add to the pattern pieces. Because of how the pockets were situated so closely to the seams, I debated starting over from scratch, which means I would have to go out and buy new fabric, wash it, cut it, finish the edges on some of the pieces as there is no lining to hide them, and so on. I really just couldn't fathom doing all those steps again.

So, after a slight breakdown and a nice hot shower, I composed myself, ate some of our favorite pizza (as this was supposed to be a fun pizza and a movie night for us but of course I had to just try on the pants "really quickly" before we got started), and figured out how to make the existing pants work.

The pants aren't perfect according to the pattern and the instructions because of this little fumble, but they work and I think they still look good. Unless you were looking at them really closely and new what they were supposed to look like, I don't think you could really tell that they were not made exactly right.

(Just needs two hooks and bars and the bottom cuffs hemed!)

So with that said, the pants and the outfit are complete! Eventually, I will remake those pants to the correct size and make the period-correct shirt, but for now, this will work just fine.

Next, the frock coat...but that will have to wait for another day (and maybe until after I complete some clothes for myself :)!


AlohaAroha said...

This is really exciting - and inspirational! I really want to make some period clothes for Mr Dreamy but have been a little nervous about tackling it. I can't wait to see a picture of these on your DH!

Sara said...

Thank you! I'm so happy to be able to inspire someone else. I totally understand being nervous to tackle something new like this (this was only my second menswear outfit - the first was Regency). Making Mock-ups first really help and finding patterns that aren't too difficult to follow, which can be a task in and of itself. Look for my earlier posts about this outfit to see the patterns I used. The shirt pattern changed to Simplicity #2895 - I modified the collar to make it look more like the right time-period. Once I complete all those finishing touches, I will definitely be posting a picture of him in it!

If you want more inspiration and sewing tips/help, make sure to visit and sign up to be a C&C member (it's free) and you'll get lots of great information from both Jennifer and myself - the next eZine issue goes out this morning! And we have scheduled two issues to be about menswear this year - so you won't want to miss those.

If you have any questions about making an outfit for your Mr. Dreamy, let me know either through this blog or through Cloak & Corset. I'd love to help point you in the right direction as best I can.

Happy Sewing!

Robin's Egg Bleu said...

I have had grand plans for this same started on the vest and haven't bothered to get around to the pants, they seem so complicated. I know that once I've done them all future pant projects will be easier, but I just can't bring myself to start something I just KNOW I will wind up having to rip apart and start over!

You did a fabulous job!

Sara said...

The pants can be a little tricky, but that's where making a mock-up proves so useful. With it, you can test out the instructions and pattern (Tip: As I went through the instructions while making the mock-up and I figured out what to do in each step, I wrote in notes to myself in pencil on the instructions when they weren't totally clear - this really helped when I went back to make the pants the second time through as I no longer had to guess at what I was supposed to do next.)

The mock-up also lets you develop the skills you need specifically to make that garment. I encourage you to take out your muslin, cut out the pattern pieces, and at least make the mock-up. Working on your mock-up is so freeing because you know it's okay if you do something wrong and have to redo it as it won't ruin your fashion fabric.

Once you complete it, you will feel much more confident moving on to the real thing.

Keep me updated on your progress - I'd love to know how you do with it!

Happy Sewing!

Anonymous said...

I love it ! Very creative ! That's actually really cool Thanks.