Saturday, February 28, 2009

18th C Fly Fringe - How To

For those of you who love 18th Century fashion (or are starting to skirt around the petticoats and the Francaises, like me) I've just discovered an amazing tutorial on how to MAKE fly fringe! You know, that small trim on the edges of late 18th C. trimmings that has tiny threads cut to make bits of fringe.

Well, check out the instructions over at Fancy Girl. (Click on Fancy Work then Fly Fringe.)
Here is a photo of her hand-made trim:

Wow! Thanks Vivien.
Now for the patience, hours and yards of silk floss to make my very own.

How cool is that??

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Colors Anyone?

I do a lot of searching on eBay for antique garments. Mostly I see what's out there to study historical fashion design and materials. And occasionally I will bid on something.

But I've noticed lately (and I've been searching eBay for years) that most of the late Victorian bodices for auction are primarily black or dark colors. And the Edwardian items are primarily white.

Now, I'm not a textile conservator, so I'm wondering if black garments have survived because they are so prevalent in existence or if the colored dyes used back then destroyed the fabric in garments to not have them survive to reach us now.

I know color existed. Just look at all the delightful historical costume books and museum websites out there. And you *can* find the green dress or blue coat or the hot pink ball gown. However, I find it interesting that the Victorian black and Edwardian white is dominant in surviving clothing.

Does this then give us a bias thinking that many women wore black before 1900 and afterwards wore white? Does this have anything to do with Queen Victorian dying in 1901 (who wore black since 1861 when Albert died)?

How do we break out of this bias and be willing to attempt a brightly colored gown?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Colonial Times

This past weekend I just finished the HBO mini-series John Adams.


The art direction was amazing, the acting superb, the costumes gritty and real, and I was left with wanting more.

Life was breathed into the people we study as our Founding Fathers. The trials and joys experienced in 18th Century life was on full display.

Beautifully done. No wonder it's won so many awards and nominations.

Now to find my way to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia to study more of this fascinating time of American history.

Has anyone been there? Any recommendations on where to stay or what to do?

19th Century Paper Dolls blog

Today I stumbled upon this delightful blog of an artist that creates 2-D fashions of the past to be used with paperdolls. She pens terrific sketches and gives marvelous ideas to those of us who create 19th Century fashion in 3-D format.

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 :)!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rained Out - Hoop Project

Due to the cold WET storm that was due to blow in this weekend, the HCA board voted to cancel our attendance at Knott's. Our group can handle cold, but rain and wind not so much.

However, today is nice and sunny here and the clouds are gone. But that was the thing - the rain was due all day Friday (set-up time) and another storm expected to arrive on Sunday (tear-down time). Yesterday was indeed quite wet and cool.

So to prevent pneumonia and other sicknesses for everyone, I've remained here at home sleeping in, doing random house cleaning, pulling weeds around the roses and sago palm, sewing and writing for Cloak & Corset.

With all the debate this week to cancel or not, I decided to plough ahead and finish my small hoop. I used the Laughing Moon Hoops & Bustles pattern, view A but left off the top two rows.

In the photos I have my bustle pad tied under the hoop to kick it out a bit in back.

( You can see the hoop angling up to the right (left in photo) which clearly shows off my higher right hip.)
Here's my basic round navy skirt over the small hoop and one plain petticoat. Man, I need another shorter petticoat with a couple of wide, stiff ruffles near the bottom now.

Overall not a bad look. I needed/wanted a smaller hoop for my widow's dress to reflect her lower station. However, I'll need to add that new petticoat to my Cutting Table list. The hoop itself was a day project. (How come I put it off for so long when it's really quite simple?!)

I cut the size 26 at the hem for a finished (according to the pattern chart) 88" and tapered to a size 18 at the waist. Well, the lower hoop row came out only 84" finished. So indeed, it is a small hoop - smaller than I wanted as I would have liked to err on the larger side of 90" instead of smaller. Oh well. Petticoat City here I come by way of Starch Creek....

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Quick & Easy Reticule

For the Jane Austen Evening this year, I was fortunate enough to not be scrambling around the night before trying to get both my husband's outfit and my outfit finished (unlike last year!). This year, Jeremiah wore the same outfit from last year and I wore a dress I had made back in September for my sister's 30th birthday party. (I did intend to add a few decorative touches to my dress before this event, but I just didn't get around to it and I did not want to stress myself out over it, so I put it off for next time.)

The morning of the event, I gathered all our clothes together and put everything by the door as we would be dressing at my sister's before the dance. As I was gathering everything, I realized that I did not have a reticule to go with my outfit (it's hard to go anywhere without a purse; I just feel naked without it, plus I needed a place to hide my camera and chapstick).

So, I decided that while Jeremiah was fixing my sister's computer at her place before the event, I would borrow her sewing machine to make a quick reticule to go with my outfit.

I looked through some scraps of fabric and found one that, although the colors did not match my dress at all, would do just fine (especially since it was already pre-washed and ready to go).

I used the pattern and instructions from the Modern Sewing Techniques for Historical Clothing Construction eBook (part of the new Accessories section). It was called a Quick & Easy Reticule. And it was.

I cut out the pieces at my place before we left and then did the rest in the little bit of time I had before we needed to start getting ready for the evening. The only thing I adjusted from the pattern was to add a layer of interfacing to give a little more sturdiness to my fabric. I also only added one side of the drawstring as the cording I had was pretty thick and two would not have fit inthe openings I had created. Other than that, the instructions were easy to follow and the reticule worked out very nicely for the entire evening.

If you want more great tips and sewing instructions like this Quick & Easy Reticule, make sure to check out the Modern Sewing Techniques for Historical Clothing Construction eBook today!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jane Austen Evening 2009

The Jane Austen Evening this year was on January 17th. Although it was quite different from last year, in the sense that we had a much smaller group in attendance for our party, it was still a lot of fun.
We arrived a few minutes late but got right into the dances (after a couple of trips back to the car for forgotten items - like batteries for the camera).

About 1/2 hour after we arrived, and after 2 trecks back to the car, we were walking back from the car for the third time and my husband's shoe fell apart! The soul was detaching from the rest of the shoe as, we then discovered, it had only been originally attached with glue.

After much debate between ourselves as to what to do, with GPS in hand, we borrowed my sister's car and headed out towards WalMart with the intention of "borrowing" a hammer with which to apply a nail.

After being led to a WalMart that is still being built, our trustly GPS led us to a different one only a few miles from it. I'm sure we got lots of looks as we strode inside adorning our period-wear, but that's when you just don't care.

I went straight for the shoe department to see if there were any kits available while Jeremiah went to the hardware department. The shoe repair kits needed a minimum of 24 hours after applying the glue before you were supposed to use the shoe...that just wouldn't do.

I joined Jeremiah where he was looking at some Super Glue. We found the cheapest pack they had (4 tubes for $1!) and opened it right then and there (there was no point in leaving until we found our solution).

I applied the glue liberally, and it started to ooz over the side of the shoe. Jeremiah quickly put the shoe on the ground and placed his foot inside to apply pressure. After a minute or so he tried lifting his foot but it was sticking to the ground! Luckily, with a little wiggling, we manage to get his shoe unattached from the WalMart floor but there is now some of this shoe residue permanently attached. :)

The glue seemed to do the trick! We quickly paid for the glue and made our way make to the dance hall so we could enjoy the rest of the evening dancing. And we did! The last 1 1/2 hours went by so quickly but we really had a lot of fun.

One of the positives about Jeremiah's shoe falling apart was that we could actually take the time to enjoy watching others dance and to take pictures of everyone dancing. That was something we missed out on last year as we were dancing almost every dance and that made picture-taking difficult.

So enjoy the pictures below from the Evening and enjoy the short video of my sister and me dancing the famous dance that Mr. Darcy and Lizzy danced for the first time in Pride & Prejudice, Mr. Beveridge's Maggot.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sometimes I hate reality decisions

Looking at the two projects I want completed for the Fort Knott's event next weekend (14th & 15th), I've reached that point that something has to give. I can sew fast but reality will throw things in the way that make me reconsider priorities.

1) I need to finish my paletot (it's still chilly here in So. Cal in February). The construction itself is so not hard - pretty easy anyway - but the hand couched trim is taking time. I've completed the trim on both sleeves and will be putting the rest of the jacket together today. But the couched trim on the hem is a minimum of 12 hours (estimated from the time it took for the sleeves).

Here's one completed sleeve with trim. The trim pattern is a Greek key taken from Godey's January 1860. I used the oh-so-modern technique of enlarging the pattern on my computer printer/copier and transferring to tracing paper.

2) And I would really like to complete the 90" smaller hoop I've talked about to wear under my widow's dress. It would be better for the character and more period appropriate than my larger 115" one that I usually wear.

So, the reality plan: sew up the paletot as it is right now. Finish with hand buttonholes, covered buttons and fringe trim applied to the bodice. Then sew up the 90" hoop. Then come back to the paletot (possibly after the Knott's event) to finish applying the trim to the hem.

Paletot Fitting

Ugh.. the unfitted muslin

For my gray wool paletot (early 1860s style jacket) I drafted up the pattern from my black sheer widow's dress bodice. I knew pattern shapes for long, half-fitted (period term) paletot but ended up with some crazy sharp turns at the waistline and strong bias skirt edges.

After I sewed up the muslin and dressed my dressform with hoop and skirt and paletot muslin, I promptly took a break. Oh no - it really didn't fit. Or rather, the bodice back part did, the front seemed way too big (no shaping at all) and the lower part was too tight over the hoop. sigh...

On my break I studied a massive amount of CDV's and orginal articles (over 1000!) brought to me by my friend Bridget.

(One a funny side note - I found one, just one, CDV of a woman (clearly female) with a side-part hairstyle. Now, that was a man's favored hair parting, but if I wanted to stand out in my Civil War group I have proof that at least one woman who did it.)

Anyway, I changed my trim options several times (remember I have 4" rayon fringe and rattail cord to play with). I found NO original paletots photographed or in CDVs that had fringe along the hemline. Sleeves, yes. Bodice, yes. Hem, no.

After an hour of studying I decided to go tackle the fitting.
Tools: scissors, pins and extra muslin pieces, oh and colored pens and a pencil.

Here are the final fitted shots:

Look at the front - you can see space between the waist and the sleeve - excellent!

Side view:

Fitted back and hem lengthened:
I'm was much more excited about this garment after I successfully fitted the muslin. I then tore apart my mock-up and used it as my new pattern (transferring the muslin markings to paper).

More later...