A new petticoat – and a note on red-white chintz

As mentioned in my last post, I wanted more petticoats for my 1780s dress. I know from ladies in more regional dress in the 18th century (which followed fashion quite closely), that they probably wore at least 4 petticoats 1. As I can’t really imagine fashionable ladies wearing fewer, I’d ideally have 4 for my ensemble as well. One plain linen bottom one, underneath the false rump. One simple linen one as first one over the rump, one striped linen or wool one over the rump, and a final, prettier, printed cotton one as top ‘under’ petticoat. The top petticoat was usually the prettiest, as that one might show when lifting up the skirt.

When writing the last post, I had one grey linen petticoat, which I’ll be wearing right on top of the rump. Now, I’ve also added the final, printed cotton petticoat to the list!

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It’s made the same way as my grey linen petticoat, following this tutorial.  Basically, you take a two big rectangles and sew them together on the sides leaving open a slit at the top. You then fold down the top so the hem will even out over a rump (longer in the back), and them the bottom. Then the top is pleated so each side is a little larger than the waist measurement, and you add a waistband and ties. Very simple, and nice for a quick side project, especially if you cheat and sew it by machine as I did.

 

My petticoat is made of cotton, printed with red flowers. If it looks familiar, that might be right, as it’s made from one of the new Ikea duvets.

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In the costuming community, Ikea is known for some fabrics which are based on 18th century textiles. As such, they’re actually reasonably historically accurate, though sometimes colors are slightly off, and not all of them are equally good. Plus side is also that they’re very easy to get a hold of, and often relatively cheap!

This particular line is new, and is a two-color design. The flowers are quite small, and there’s a fair bit of white space which makes it most suitable for later 18th century styles.

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The color way is what makes this a little bit unusual as a chintz reproduction. By far most chintz is multi-colored. Two-tone designs are quite a bit rarer. If there are two colors, it’s either white-black, black-white, white-blue, or white red. The white-black and blue-white combinations were often worn for mourning, especially in regional costume.

Wentke from Hindeloopen for light mourning. Cotton painted in India, 1750-1800.

Wentke (from Hindeloopen) for light mourning, in white and blue. Fries museum

The red-white chintz is often called ‘milk and blood’ in Dutch. You see it most often in the costume of Hindeloopen, where it was used specifically for bridal clothing.

Bridal Wentke from Hindeloopen. Zuiderzeemuseum.

 

Although a bit rarer, you do see ‘fashionable’ dress in white and red as well. This jacket is a very nice example.

 

Jak met lange mouwen in sits met rode bloemenranken (zogenaamd melk en bloed sits); model met maagstuk, ellebooglange mouwen en brede schootpanden die in plooien vastgenaaid zijn; sluit midden voor met koperen haken en ogen; voering in wit linnenHet maagstuk is een beetje uitgelaten bovenaan. Het sits bestaat uit niet op rapport aan elkaar genaaide fragmenten; waarschijnlijk alle van hetzelfde patroon. Het rechtervoorpand bestaat uit 12 stukken; het linker voorpand uit 10 stukken (mogelijk in beide meer stukken in de dichtgenaaide plooien. De rechterschouderpand bestaat uit 2 stukken; de rugpand heeft 7 stukken. In veel fragmenten zijn oude naaisporen die wijzen op herbruik. De voering bestaat uit stukken van verschillende witte linnenweefsels.

MoMu Antwerpen

 

All in all, the fabric is pretty close to historical, and a nice choice for a petticoat which might show on occasion!

Fries museum. Petticoat with red flowers.

Coupon of chintz, blue flowers on white ground, with the VOC (East-Indian Trading company) stamp showing. The VOC first brought Indian chintz to the Netherlands

Chintz from the Fries museum, looking quite similar to the little Ikea flowers!

 

1. [Source: Aangekleed gaat uit, streekkleding en cultuur in Noord-Holland 1750-1900.  M. Havermans-Dikstaal, 1999]

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Green skirts

I haven’t been sewing too much in the last weeks. With my stays finished, I have new things I want to start, yet the beginning of a project always takes a bit more energy. Pattern drafting especially is not something I feel like doing after work, while hand-sewing is perfect. That means projects get finished if I’m busy, but they don’t get started.

Anyway, I did visit a fabric market last Friday, and bought fabric for 2 new unplanned skirts. Skirts are my go-to project when I want to make something quick yet rewarding. I don’t have to think about them too much and they’re done within a couple of hours, yet I do get quite some wear out of them. So perfect for when I’m in a bit of a sewing lull.

Plus, they’re both green, which fits perfectly as I finished both yesterday, on St. Patrick’s day!

The first is made of a (non-wool) green/blue plaid fabric. I have 2 skirts in a similar type fabric (different colors), and wear them a lot, so this is a good addition.

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I made a circle out of this one, as it drapes quite nicely.

 

The other fabric is a wool mix (about 60% I believe), and a gorgeous light green. It’s not a flat color either, but has wonderful richness in tone.

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I had a 1,20 by 1,50 piece (remnant), so decided to make a gathered skirt as a circle would be a bit short. Cutting it in half gave me 2 75cm/150cm pieces, and tacked together it became 75×300. I cut the waistband from the side, leaving me with about 4 times my waist measurement (280cm). I pleated it up in stacked box pleats, overlapping them slightly in some places to use up all the width. (I finished these second, when the light was gone, hence the grainier pictures).

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Both skirts have a waistband and zipper. The green wool I hemmed by hand for a nice clean finish.

 

Next weekend I have some more time, so hopefully that’ll get me back to the historical projects I want to start!

Late 18th century stays

I finished my first piece for an 18th century wardrobe last weekend. Green linen front-lacing stays.

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This also means I finally have some sewing which fits in with the Historical Sew Monthly again, as the theme for Febuary is Under! So the stats:

The Challenge: Under
Material: Green & plain colored linen, leather chamois for binding
Pattern: American Duchess Simplicity front-lacing stays
Year: (the year the item represents, not the year you made it) ca. 1780s
Notions: Synthethic whalebone boning & twill tape
How historically accurate is it? Reasonably. Materials are pretty close, synthethic whalebone is obviously synthethic, but close to whalebone in behavior. The boning channels were stitched by machine, as were the seams between panels. Everything else was hand-sewn.
Hours to complete: I’m very bad at keeping track…
First worn: Today, for pictures
Total cost: Most of the materials were already in stash, so no clue…

The story & construction:

Somewhere last year I got the Simplicity patterns from their first collaboration with American Duchess. Not for any specific project, but they were on sale at that time and I figured they might come in handy at some point.

Simplicity Pattern 8162 Misses' 18th Century Undergarments

I particularly liked that they included front-lacing stays, which is convenient when one needs to dress oneself. After I made my green medieval kirtle, I had some green linen left, and decided green stays would be a nice plan.

They’re rarer than some other colors, but they definitely do exist. The only disadvantage of my green linen is that it does stain a bit, so the inside of my future 18th century clothes might turn somewhat green. I’m not too bothered by that to be honest, the outside will be fine anyway.

 

Corset Date: ca. 1780 Culture: American Medium: wool, leather, linen, reeds Dimensions: Length at CF: 14 1/4 in. (36.2 cm) Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of E. A. Meister, 1950 Accession Number: 2009.300.3100a, b

Ca. 1780 green wool stays, from the MET

 

I did the mock-up and main construction of my stays somewhere last year before the summer. They then got put on hold a bit, as I had absolutely no plans for an 18th century outfit yet, and I did have other stuff I wanted to make and also wear first.

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Planning out the boning channels

 

After the summer, I very briefly picked up the project again to do some embroidery. I was inspired by a couple of different stays which have some ‘swirly’-type embroidery on them, which I thought was very interesting. I have no idea how common this embroidery actually was, or if it was a regional thing (northern European?), but I decided to go with it.

My main inspirations were this pair for the ‘waves’:

Cotton corset (with wood  boning) 1780s–90s, European - in the Metropolitan Museum of Art costume collections. (Would be relatively easy to take a pattern from this photo!)

European, 1780s–90s, MET museum

And this one for the little ‘leafs’ on the back:

Stays - norway Fun embroidery in the back

Norwegian, from the Glomdalsmuseet

 

My interpretation:

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Swirlies on the front, leaf style in the back, both between the boning channels

 

After the embroidery, the project got put on hold again, this time for the 1660s and 1880s ensembles. Beginning of this year, after I finished my 17th century shift, it was finally time to go back to them!

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I used German synthetic whalebone.

 

I sewed in facings for the eyelets, and then the eyelets themselves. After that I covered the seams with narrow tape.

 

At this point, it was time for binding! I used leather chamois (from the local supermarket), which worked really well! A thimble was definitely good to have, but no pliers necessary and the chamois curved and stretched nicely.

 

 

 

The final step was lining the whole thing. I’m often a bit too lazy to pretty up the insides, but I hope this will increase their longevity!

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For straps, I decided to take inspiration from the new American Duchess stays pattern. It uses twill tape straps, which cross in the back and attach to hooks in the front, inspired by this original:

Stays, 1785-90, M969X.26

1785-1790. (c) McCord Museum. (And look: more twirlies!)

 

This method held appeal for several reasons. It helps you hold your shoulders back, which I can use some help with. It also gives a relatively narrow strap which lies wide on the shoulder (to the outside), good for not poking out under necklines, and it’s very easily adjustable.

I tea-dyed the tapes first, as they were bright white at first. Left original, right dyed version.

 

This is what they look like completed!

 

Some details

 

The only disadvantage of the straps is that they partly cover up the back embroidery. Ah well.

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To finish up, some more pictures of the stays on me!

In retrospect, they are just a little short on me. I didn’t make a boned mock-up, so that’s entirely my own fault. I did learn later this pattern runs a little short in general (too late, obviously), so if you’re also working on it that’s good to double check.

All in all, I’m not too bothered by it, as the shift keeps stuff in place well enough in my case.

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1660’s skirt & full ensemble pictures

The skirt for the 1660’s dress was quite a bit simpler to make than the bodice. The skirts of this period are basically rectangles pleated to fit a waistband, so no tricky patterning there. The main question was: how wide should my hem be?

I looked at some other costumers for information, as the book I based the bodice on didn’t have a matching skirt in it. Some very helpful blog posts were by the Dreamstress, Before the Automobile and Demode. From their research I found that skirts are typically between 115″ and 150″ wide, so between 2,9m and 3,8m. My problem now was that I wanted to use full widths of my fabric, and have a very full skirt. With 1,5m wide fabric, that meant choosing between a 3m or 4,5m wide hem. The 3m would probably be more historically accurate, but with my very fancy gold fabric, I didn’t want to have a relatively narrow skirt. So in the end, I went with a 4,5m wide hem. A little wide, but the fabric is quite lightweight for the period, so it doesn’t look too much to my eye.

After sewing the 3 skirt panels together, leaving a slit center back, it was time for pleating. There’s some debate on whether skirts of this period are cartridge pleated, or knife pleated. I believe the main consensus is that they’re probably very wide cartridge pleats, folded to one side so they look like knife pleats. The extra threads of the cartridge pleating hold them in place though.

I opted for slightly narrower pleats, mostly because I had to fit 4,5m to my waistband, which was quite a lot. The cartridge stitches are 1cm wide, and I made 4 rows to about 10cm deep. I cheated slightly on the markings, and omitted those. Instead, I marked my finger and then stitched the next rows in the same place by eye. Not quite as neat as marking, but a lot less work.

Black marks the width, red the height for the first row.

 

Pulling the pleats in is one of the fun bits!

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I first bound the inside of the pleats to a piece of linen tape, to hold them in place. After that the waistband was stitched on, pushing the pleats to lie (somewhat) flat towards the back.

The inside, with tape to keep the pleats in place (left), and stitching the waistband on (right)

 

The hem was faced with grey linen I had in my stash.

I have one little pieced bit of hem on my skirt, underneath the lace. This was a measuring mistake on my part, where I thought I could cut more than I could in reality. I started with two coupons of 3m of fabric, and with piecing I could leave myself with one piece of about 2m, instead of two pieces of 1m. So I chose to mend the little ‘gap’, and as it’s underneath the lace, it barely shows.

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The top part of the lace in this picture will be the hem, so all of the piecing is covered in the end.

 

All the lace was stitched on first, and then the hem facing and waistband were added. The stitching only shows on the inside where there’s a single layer of fabric. I used the same netting as for the bodice, and the scalloped trim I also put on the sleeves. The other (prettier) scalloping I used on the bodice I only had a little off, so barely enough for the bodice alone. But despite the different laces, I think it works pretty well!

There are 6 ties on the inside. 2 are actually near the front, on the sides of the ‘flat’ piece. This is the only part of the skirt to go under the bodice, and in this way you can tie that part in place, then put on the bodice, and afterwards tie the rest of the skirt. I got the idea from Demode’s blog, who in turn looked at these pictures of the Bath dress, taken by Cathy Hay. (This is why I love the online community). The other 4 ties are in the back, I made 4 so the back might overlap a bit (difficult with 2 ties center back).

Above: putting the front ties on, below is a look from the inside of the skirt.

 

I also made a bum roll to go underneath, and a grey linen petticoat, following this great tutorial. The grey linen was originally intended for something medieval, but no concrete plans. So I used most for the petticoat, and the rest to bind the hem of the skirt. Stashbusting!

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The bum roll, it’s almost a croissant!

 

The skirt finishes off the look! So some pictures of the whole dress, only lacking a chemise now.

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More pictures!

And some details

 

1660’s bodice – Finished!

The 1660’s dress is done!

Well, nearly done, because I’m skipping the lining of the bodice for now, as I also still need to make a shift, and the ball is in two weeks. First up, construction of the outer layer and the sleeves! (scroll to the end for pretty pictures).

When I left off in the previous post, the foundation of the bodice was done. The silk outer layer is attached to the foundation piece by piece, by hand. It’s also not patterned the same as the outer layer, so the first thing I did was compare where the new seams would be on the foundation pieces, and draft the pattern on top of the foundation. A lot easier than adapting the pieces first time around, as I now had the foundation to start from! I also put a cotton layer between the foundation and the silk, to get some extra ‘padding’ to hide the boning. Cotton is not period, but I didn’t have linen thin enough laying around, and my goal was that all visible parts would look period, and you can’t see this layer anyway. The original bodice did not have a layer of interfacing like this everywhere, but did have paper in places. I’ve no clue what type of paper would be best, so I used cotton.

Cutting the silk was terrifying by the way.

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The first piece that was attached was the side back piece. It was also the most difficult piece, as the foundation has a little gore between two of the tabs, yet the outer layer has not.

The book described how the outer layer was basted in place first with pad stitches, before being stitched down, so I did that for this piece. Took time, but helps in getting it to lay flat.

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After the basting, it was stitched in place around the edges and around the tabs.

Next up was the side front piece. For this one (and the others) I skipped the basting. Instead, I pinned the silk over the foundation while it was on my dummy, so it would follow the right curve. I kept most of the pins in while stitching the edges in place, which was a challenge as they were sticking out straight in the back. Yes, I pricked myself regularly.

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The edge next to the side back was cut to size (as I’d cut the pieces quite large), folded over and top stitched.

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For the front piece the process was slightly different. The sides were folded over first and stitched in place, before attaching it to the bodice.

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This is done because the lace is attached to the silk before being stitched to the bodice. I used antique metallic lace, a combination of netting and a scalloped lace. The cords are modern, but I wasn’t counting on getting lucky enough to also find golden metallic cord.

The netting was stitched on first, two rows down the center and along the edges.

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After that the scallops came on, and finally the cord was stitched along the edges. I really love the depth of combining the lace like this.

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The front piece was then attached as a whole. The back piece was stitched on much like the others, seams folded back along the side back seam and top stitched. Center back it was turned around the edge and prick stitched in place so that the space for the eyelets was secure. I forgot to take pictures at this stage….

I did take pictures of making the eyelets though! I also calculated that these took about 10 hours in total. I spaced them quite closely, as I find that eyelets spaced too far apart really look too modern.

It’s a bit of a pain to do so many.

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But so worth it.

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The top edges of the back of the bodice was finished by turning the silk in between itself and the foundation, and stitching it in place. Possible as the top of the foundation was already bound. The front wasn’t, so there the top was folded over to the inside and stitched in place there. The raw edges will eventually be covered by the lining.

Then it was time to trim the back! Again I used a combination of netting, scallops and cord. This time it was stitched on through all layers.

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Final thing on the main bodice was to bind the tabs! The original used a silk ribbon, I chose just to use strips from the silk fabric. This was my first time binding tabs, and they’re not the prettiest thing, but as they’ll be worn inside the skirt I’m okay wit that. You can also see quite clearly which side I did first (left image). I did get better (right image)!

 

Bodice done, right? Except the sleeves, which I’d put off slightly… I made a rough mock-up by making a cotton sleeve and fitting that, to see if I could use the original size sleeve without alterations. Turned out I was rather restricted in my movement, but that was wholly due to the strap being quite low on the shoulder, the sleeve was fine.

The little sleeve-wings were made first, 2 layers of linen, covered in silk, covered in netting.

The sleeves themselves are made of silk, with a cotton lining, and a layer of heavy linen partly covering the top. This linen mostly helps to fill out the cartridge pleats. The sleeves were trimmed with one side seam sewn.

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Inside stitch lines, also showing where the layer of linen stops.

 

After that came stitching the other side seam, and then the cartridge pleating, and pleating and binding the bottom. After pleating, they were attached to the bodice. The shoulder wings I attached after I did the sleeves to get the placement right, and the finial step was to trim the bottom of the sleeve.

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Almost ready to be attached! Left is already pleated, right not yet.

 

And now it’s done! This took so much hand sewing fiddling, pricking in my fingers etc. I’ts probably the most labour-intensive thing I’ve ever made, definitely the most structured. I learnt a lot making it though, and I’m really proud of how it turned out. The materials are gorgeous (still so happy with my metallic lace!), and with the heavy boned interior I think it really gets the look of the period right.

So, time for pretty pictures!

From the front:

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And a slight angle

 

I also love how the back came out.

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And some details:

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I’ve put the bodice over my new petticoat in these pictures. The skirt is also done, but deserves it’s own post (this one is getting way too long), so that’ll follow shortly!

 

 

1880s Winter bustle – pictures

Yesterday I wore my 1880’s dress for the first time, to the Midwinter Fair. It was really nice to wear, and even though it was rainy I had a good time.

Because of said rain, we only took some pictures inside. By this time my curls had started to sag a bit, but I was quite happy with how my hair turned out. Not having bangs, I flipped two curls towards the front and pinned them in place underneath the hat. Looks ridiculous without the hat, but with hat you’d never know!

 

Today it’s been snowing all day. Snow doesn’t happen that much around here, and when it does it usually disappears very quickly again. So I thought I’d take advantage, and dragged my boyfriend outdoors for a couple of minutes to take some more pictures. I didn’t curl my hair this time, too much effort, but the braid this way also works okay. And the dress looks really pretty in the snow!

 

You can’t really see it in these pictures above, but I’m wearing my winter boots with them! Very nicely warm and comfy.

 

 

Some more pictures!

 

Construction post is here!

Late 15th century burgundian gown

After making a medieval smock and kirtle, it was finally time to start on the dress that started the whole medieval journey: a silk damask burgundian gown.

This project originally started with this fabric, which I found for a bargain and couldn’t resist.

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It took a while to decide what to use it for, but eventually this painting convinced me to make a late 15th century burgundian gown.

c.1449 Late Middle Ages- Houppelande Gown

Mine will be a little narrower through the bust and sleeves and with a wider neckline, making it a bit more late 15th century.

The journey started with figuring out the layers here, and I eventually decided to make a smock, front-lacing kirtle, placket for the neckline and burgundian with black velvet collar and cuffs.

I adapted the pattern from my kirtle to make the burgundian gown. I drafted the collar following the book the Medieval tailor’s assistant, and gave a little extra space around the waist. Not too much, as I was going for a rather fitted version of the burgundian.

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Inspiration picture for the shape and pattern adaption. Bottom left shows the kirtle pattern behind the new draft of the burgundian (front). Wider shoulder with drawn-on collar, extending the line below the waist, and slightly widened on the side as well. Bottom left is fitting with sheets! 

 

The skirt was drafted following the layout kindly shared by A dressmakers’ workshop here. Basically, the front opening is put on the straight of fabric, the skirt angling away, and only the back has a wide gore. Because the way the front is cut, the fabric falls to the front and you only need the back gore. It’s quite clever, and makes for very efficient cutting.

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My cutting lay out. Front and back are facing the same way. The gore was cut on the fold of the empty part at the top. Upside down, but as you can see on the right you have to look closely to see when the fabric turns.

 

I got a bit lucky with the fabric in that the center of the pattern was close to the selvage of the fabric, so I could cut rather efficiently despite having to pattern match. I did opt to cut the back gore the other way around than the rest of the dress. You have to look quite closely to notice the pattern is upside down there, and I now have enough fabric left to make something else with the rest.

I did all the main seams by machine, and finishing by hand. When I’d put in the back gore, however, I didn’t like how it fell. I put it too far down, when it should’ve extended directly from the waist. So unpicking happened, and I moved it up a bit, which worked a lot better.

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Left was before; right after. Much better

 

After the main construction, it was part to work on the lining including the collar. I somehow got the idea to only line the top part and hem. Not the easiest thing in retrospect, but I didn’t have enough fabric to do it otherwise, so partial lining it was! The velvet for the collar was sewn to the lining, and then the whole thing was sewn onto the dress and turned inside out. Took a little fiddling, but I got it right in the end. This tutorial by Izabella from Prior Attire was very helpful!

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The collar finished, back and front. Still has some pins at this point, I later tacked the collar to the dress to help it stay flat.

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Next up: Sleeves! I adapted the sleeves from my kirtle pattern slightly, just widening it a bit in the bottom part so it would still fit over my kirtle. The bottom of the sleeves have black velvet cuffs.

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Top right shows sleeve fitting, here shown with the dress turned inside out, so you can also see where the lining stops. Bottom right is sewing on the cuffs, left the finished sleeves.

 

After the sleeves, the final thing was the hem lining. I made it about 50cm wide, which just fit out of my fabric with careful planning. I wanted it this wide so I could pull up the skirt to my belt, as walking outside in a train at events isn’t usually the best idea.

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Top: finished inserted sleeves. Bottom left: pinning down the hem facing before hand-stitching it in place. Bottom right: tucking the skirt into my belt. Doesn’t work too well yet because the belt is elastic, but shows the general idea.

 

Of course, you cannot wear a medieval burgundian gown without some sort of crazy head wear. I eventually want to make a steeple hennin with butterfly veil, but I ended up finishing my dress 3 days before an event. Because the large hennin would take more than 3 days and it’s a good plan to have a slightly more practical head wear choice as well, I made a shorter henin for the event.

The lady in yellow has the hanging part of the veil folded back up. Note the gold loops. This image is from King René's tournament book.

The crazy steeple hennin with butterfly veil. Unpractical, but fun!

Google Image Result for http://resources42.kb.nl/MIMI/MIMI_MMW_10A11/MIMI_MMW_10A11_235R_MIN_2.JPG

For now, I went for something more like this.

First up was a fillet of black velvet. Cut on the bias so it stretches around the head, this is worn as a type of head-band and serves to keep the head dress in place. It also has the very characteristic black loop over the forehead. I tried to turn a velvet tube inside-out, but my pulling thread broke half-way through so I finished the loop by hand.

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Black velvet fillet with black forehead loop.

 

The pattern for the hennin is from the Medieval tailor’s assistant again, the base made out of buckram. I covered it in black silk, with a cotton black lining (because I ran out of linen). The side edges are turned over, the top and bottom finished with binding. Velvet at the bottom, to make it grip to the fillet better. The sides were stitched together by hand. The finishing touch is a black velvet frontlet draped over the front of the hennin. I might make a veil as well in the future, but as I didn’t have the fabric yet I left it off for now.

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Making the hennin. Top shows the buckram (testing for size) and the lining before it’s stitched together. Bottom left is the finished hennin, bottom right is the complete thing modeled by my bear.

 

The finishing touch was to make a placket for the front of the dress out of black linen and silk. This was a day before the event, so I didn’t really take pictures. I ended up pinning the placket to the burgundian as that worked best, but it still wrinkled and shifted a bit. So I think I’ll be extending the placket to go around the body, as was my original plan.

I’m very happy with how the dress turned out, and although I have some small projects left to update it, it’s now wearable! I ended up using a black elastic belt while I look for a proper medieval version, but it actually looks surprisingly okay for something so modern.

Thanks to my friend Sophia for taking some pictures last weekend at Castlefest! I took down the small train for the images, but wore it up the rest of the day to prevent the people behind me from stepping on it.

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The fancy spencer

Today 200 years ago Jane Austen passed away. I originally thought of doing a post with pretty pictures of black and mourning dresses from around that period, but then I remembered I hadn’t written the blog for this red spencer yet. It’s a jacket which is inspired by one ca. 1820, so I’d say 1817 is reasonable enough as a date. As it’s also  nicer to see finished sewing then pretty pictures (no matter how much I like those), I decided it was a good moment to finally write this post. So, in honor of Jane:

This project has been a while in the making. I originally got the fabric a little over 3 years ago. When I planned to make a white-red regency dress, I also wanted to make a red spencer jacket to go with it, in the same red fabric of the dress details. That particular dress didn’t actually get made until last year, and once I knew exactly how much fabric I had left I started on the spencer. Now, nearly 1,5 year later, it’s done!

My previous spencer was dark blue wool, and quite simple. For this one, I therefore wanted something rather more fancy, and I really loved the decoration of this one from the MET. It has a sister with the same decoration, and the close-up pictures allowed me to clearly see the patterns.

My first order of business was to decide on how to recreate the decoration. I quickly decided I wanted soutache braid, as that would save me the trouble of making all that self-fabric cord. So I went looking for a suitable matching red soutache.

This took a while… I eventually found a beading store with many types of soutache though, and although the match wasn’t absolutely perfect, it was close enough to not matter.

Before starting the braiding though, I did a bit of a practise run drawing the little cord through the soutache to create the curves. I quickly ran into a problem: by drawing the soutache over the cord with my fingers, it frayed terribly. I couldn’t really see a way around this as the pattern was super curvy and I wanted the soutache to lay flat. So I decided to not use it after all (anyone ideas on what to do with 9m of red soutache?).

So: next plan. Making the cord myself after all… This took some fiddling to find the best method. My fabric is rather sturdy and not very thin, but I did want thin cords. So I didn’t put a cord inside. (I also didn’t really know how to do that at the time, but have since seen the method shown by Walking Through History which also creates lovely results. Much quicker than my way, but with a cord inside so a little thicker). Not using a cord meant stitching fabric strips into tubes by hand. I experimented a bit with different widths, and eventually settled on the thinnest still workable; 1cm wide. I also tried cutting them on the straight of grain first (much more fabric efficient), but the tube didn’t curve as nicely as when I cut them on the bias, so bias it was.

Transfering the pattern, fraying soutache, and comparison of fabric tubes. The top right image shows the same tubes as the bottom row. First is 2cm wide straight of grain; that gave wiggly curves. Second 2cm wide on the bias. Loads better, but still a bit squiggly. The third is 1cm wide on the bias, which is what I went for

 

And then came the sewing of fabric tubes. I kept a little bag with cord and thread and took it on the train with me every once in a while, and spent a fair number of evenings on the couch sewing.

Strings of cord starting to appear

 

I estimate I do about 10cm in 20 minutes, as it’s quite fiddly work. I also measured I’d need about 3,75 meters of cord for one side of the spencer. That’s about 7,5 meters of tube. At 30cm per hour. Suffice to say, this took a while. I had half of the cord done by summer last year and started to sew that part on.

 

It got taken on a couple of holidays. Below in sunny Portugal last summer, almost half way with the first side.

 

The first side was done briefly after that holiday. Slightly blurry picture because it was dark, but with the shadows it shows the relief nicely.

 

The other side took a bit longer as it took a backseat to the bustle dresses I worked on between September and May. But, eventually, it got done!

 

Once I finished the trimming, I put together the spencer quite quickly. I’d already cut all the pieces before, which really helped. I also had an photoshoot coming up where I was going to wear my red-white dress, and figured it’d be the perfect first outing for the spencer as well. Some more hasty sewing ensued, and eventually I got it done before the event!

The sleeves were the trickiest part to finish. I’d already started on their decoration as well and all the parts were cut out, but I did that over a year ago, so it took a little figuring out. My main inspiration was this spencer, also from the MET.

 

I started experimenting by twisting strips of fabric around another strip.

Experimenting to determine strip length needed. Looks very pretty no? 😉

 

I ended up using wider strips than the example and just 4 per sleeve. The strip around the arm is narrower and plain, the other strips I piped first.

Two fabric strips, piped on both sides and then turned inside out to show the right side.

 

I then twisted the piped strips around the plain one to get the twisted effect.

Sewing the twisted strips on.

 

I’m quite happy with the result, even though its a bit simpler than in the inspiration picture, and I’m happy I didn’t just do a simple plain sleeve. With how decorated the front is, it needs the slightly more fancy sleeves.

Pinning to the sleeve before setting it in.

Done!

 

I finally added a little collar. I’d originally cut this quite a bit larger but because the neckline is not all that high and I didn’t want to hide too much of the cord I narrowed it a bit.

Photoshop is good for determining shape. I wasn’t sure I even wanted a collar, but after drawing one on my picture I decided to make one after all.

Close up. Luckily the collar doesn’t hide the trim too much.

 

The spencer closes center front with hooks and eyes. The bottom is finished with a plain fabric strip, the end of the sleeves with a double row of piping.

Double piping around the sleeves.

 

I don’t yet have all the pictures from the photoshoot, so a little teaser of me wearing the spencer, seen from the back! I really love how the red-white looks with the dress, spencer and bonnet.

Picture by Martijn van Huffelen

 

 

1870s Day/dinner Bodice

After I finished my 1870’s ballgown, I started thinking on making a day bodice to go with it. A fair number of existent dresses come with a bodice for day and one for evening. This way you basically have two dresses for different occasions, but only need one skirt! As skirts take up a lot of fabric, they would also have costed quite a lot. Having two bodices means you get more use out of it. For me, making my own dresses, it means I only need to make an extra bodice to open up a whole array of occasions to wear the skirts.

An existent example of day/dinner/evening dress combinations.

 

My design for the bodice was based around a couple of things. First, I knew I wanted a low, square neckline. These are more for dinner, or visiting dresses than for outside walking. However, you can add a gilet or chemisette to fill in the neckline and still wear it outside (as shown in the first existent dress of this post). I like versatility, so wanted to go this route. Because I owned the Truly Victorian 400 pattern, that decided the shape of the front, and I also used the peplum back.

This resulted in the base bodice! I flatlined the silk in white cotton first. Then I sewed the main seams and the darts. That’s where it went slightly wrong, because I hadn’t pinned the darts properly. After sewing, it became apparent that the silk had shifted and not all fabric was caught in te darts as should be. So, out came the seam ripper, and I took them out again. To prevent this from happening again, I first basted the darts this time. This fixed the problem. You can see how far off I was in this picture, the old puncture marks are where the first dart was, while the basting is a couple of mm inside the line of where it should be…

After getting this fixed, I could put in the sleeves and finish all the edges. The center front is finished by folding over the silk to the inside, the top and bottom I finished with bias binding. This was a first for me, before I always turned over the outer fabric to the inside. However, I’ll say that the bias facing is definitely easier, as it goes along the curves way better, so I’ll probably be doing this in the future!

The finished plain bodice:

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And an inside view. All the seams are tacked in place to prevent fraying.

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For trim, I had some lace left I’d used on the over skirt. I was further inspired by this dress:

Wedding dress, English, ca. 1869-70. Two pieces. Blue silk grosgrain with white lace trimming around edge of bodice and cuffs.:

 

I really love the cuffs, which seem to be fake, made out of trim only. I ended up making my fabric trim slighlty narrower, but it was made using a similar technique. I tried out something new for this trim, so the seams on the end of the fabric wouldn’t show. Don’t know if this is period, but it does give a nice result! It is best used for narrow trim though, as it’ll eat fabric when you make it very wide.

I started cutting strips of fabric, a little over 2x as wide as my eventual trim would need to be. I wanted 3cm wide trim, so I cut 7cm strips. I then folded the strip and hemmed the edge with a narrow hem. The next step was to iron the strip flat, so that the seam was in the center. I then sewed gathers along the top and bottom edge of the strip. And the final step is to gather the strip both top and bottom!

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This trim still has a raw edge on the back, but as I’d be sewing it to the dress both top and bottom, this didn’t matter overly much. You could, in theory, turn the strip inside out before ironing and gathering. Mine were rather narrow though, so it would’ve been a bit of a pain and so I didn’t bother.

With the trim made, it was time to plan where to put it! I knew I wanted the cuffs and lace and trim around the neckline. Ideally also around the bottom, but I didn’t know if I’d have enough lace for that. I pinned the cuffs and neckline first, to see what was left.

In the end, I didn’t have enough lace to fully go around the bottom. I did really want it there as well though, if only to visually separate the bodice from the same-colored overskirt. So I ended up cutting the lace in half horizontally, and stitching the fabric trim on top to hide the edge. This makes for slighly more narrow lace at the bottom, but it worked! After pinning down everything, I spent a full day stitching it all down top and bottom. My fingers were rather sore afterwards from stitching through all those layers of densly woven silk. The result is definitely worth it though!

To finish the bodice, I covered some buttons with black silk I had a little of. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes, so the buttons are just there for visual interest. They do really add a nice touch I think!

Finished:

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And some detail shots:

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Let’s hope it stays dry this weekend, because there’s an event I’d love to wear this to. Pictures with the whole day-version of the dress will follow when that happens!

Dress Like Your Grandma

A couple of weeks ago I came across the ‘Dress Like Your Grandma’ challenge, hosted by Mrs. Hughes. The basic idea is to take a picture of your grandmother (or other relative, or general photo if you can’t find any), and to recreate the clothes in that picture.

I really liked the idea, but initially wasn’t sure if it’d fit with my schedule. At that point (first week of March) I still had the bodice for Marije, my medieval kirtle & head gear, the balayeuse for my train, a day bodice for my 1870s dress and a hat & chemisette for with that bodice on my todo list. All to be done before the 1st of May.

By the first of April though, I was running ahead of schedule for all of those things and decided to add the grandma dress to the list!

It also really helped that I had the perfect dress to recreate, and already had the pattern to make it with!

This is me in the finished dress and my grandmother side by side.

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I also already had this pattern.

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The skirt is quite different, but the top would work.

So I ordered some white cotton with black dots, and on a Sunday beginning of April went to work! I slightly forgot that my goal dress didn’t have a collar, so mine does have one.

On the plus side, it turned out very pretty and neat!

 

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I was also really happy with the typical sleeves on this pattern, as I wouldn’t know how to draft those, and they come close to the original.

 

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Other than that I slightly shortened the bodice of the pattern, and made a ‘belt’ from a strip of fabric. The skirt I completely drafted myself. It’s basically a circle skirt made of 8 panels (to fit it on the fabric), but cut with a very big hole for the waist and then gathered to fit. The bodice part is lined in white cotton to avoid see-through moments. I actually managed to finish the whole dress in a day, which made me pretty happy. It also shows that I’ve definitely gotten quicker at sewing than I was a couple of years ago!

The finished dress on my dress form:

 

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I didn’t manage to recreate the original pictures, as I didn’t have access to a studio or general ‘blocks’. Instead, I made some images in my parents back yard. In sepia, to fit the theme! This is the second one!

 

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