Monday, October 16, 2017

The Burton Dress: Take 2

This past weekend a friend hosted a big bustle birthday party, and I was excited to put my most seasonal of bustle gowns back on. Except when I tried on the bodice and discovered it was a wee bit too small.

Luckily (several years after making the original) I still had some orange and black striped fabric in stash. It was *just* enough to put a new bodice together as long as the collar and cuffs were a different fabric. I guess never getting around to adding more ruffles on the skirt paid off (although this fabric seems to be a staple Halloween fabric at Joann Fabrics, so I could still add).

The whole outfit is made from Truly Victorian patterns. The bodice is the 1872 vest basque (TV405), the over skirt is the bustled apron overskirt (TV305) and the underskirt is the 1870 train skirt (TV208). Plus the appropriate undies.

Redoing the bodice took about 8 hours total, including cutting out and serging the pieces (I know using a serger is not historically accurate, but I never claim to be). I did not bag line the bodice because I like having easy access to the seams in the event I need to take in or let out a bodice. This was the first time I successfully did the cuffs, but discovered they were a bit floppy. If I ever do them again I would use a stiffer fabric as my interfacing. I ended up safety pinning them to the sleeves for this event. 

I know the dress would never pass as an authentic Victorian gown, but I can't help but love wearing it. If I put a bustle on in October, this is the one my heart is drawn to.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Ode To Pattern Makers

Normally my finished outfit posts are about which pattern I used, and how long it took, and what (if anything) gave me issues. This is not a normal post. This is a post, and a project, that made me appreciate the pattern makers of the world all the more.

I've always preferred having a pattern to drafting. A good pattern is always worth the $20+ I'm usually charged. I have no real sewing training. I've never attended school for it. I was taught how to sew a straight line on a machine. Everything after that has been trial and error, youtube videos and glorious instructions written by those who know there are people like me in the world.

My latest project really reminded me of all of that.

I decided to attempt making an "inspired by" outfit based off a dress Miss Fisher wears in Season 1 Episode 1. It's not one of her more famous looks, but there's something about it I just really liked. Plus, it looked ideal for outside in July.

Finding any straight on shots of this dress was impossible.
I had to compile photos to see the whole look.

I knew I wouldn't find a pattern for it. It has a lot of design elements that I wager would drive a pattern maker insane if they tried to do a multi size pattern with directions to please the masses. I thought to myself "I've done some 1920s. I'm confident I've got a good grasp of it. I've got a dress form. I've got muslin." What else did I need?

Sanity. I needed sanity to step in and say "this dress has way more going on that it first looks. Step away, have a strong drink and talk to more experienced people about this."

Did I do that? Eventually. I also repeated some of the steps (mostly the strong drink one). I tried draping and drafting on my own. I walk in to my sewing room thinking I had some idea of how a flat piece of paper is transferred to fabric and suddenly made to be worn on a 3D person. I left questioning what dark sorcery had ever possessed the human soul who invented clothing that was more than a rectangle with a hole cut out for a head to pop through.

Before time became critical, before it became an all night sewing spree right before the event, I stopped. I confessed to the project, my cat, my liquor cabinet, myself and the world that I just did not have a damn clue as to what I was doing. NOT A DAMN CLUE. I was pretty sure I had never touched fabric before this. I had obviously purchased fabric solely for Spud to sit on because after what I had experienced, I certainly wasn't someone who knew how to sew with it.

The only proper use for fabric.
I still really wanted to make this dress, but I knew I could not figure it out. Not in the time I had. Maybe not ever on my own. I meekly made it to the internet and asked for help. I knew I needed it.

Luckily a friend was able to step in and help. Lara of Lara Corsets was kind enough to invite me over to show me a thing or two or a billion. Making the journey to her house, she patiently showed me how to lay the fabric on a dress form, where to snip, how the fabric wants to move, and a lot of the other basics of draping a pattern. We gabbed for a bit, but eventually got down to serious work. Due to time restrictions, we were only able to work together long enough to get the top potion of the dress done.
They look simple, but left to my own machinations I would not have developed these shapes.
Figuring out most everything from the waist up took us around 4 hours. 4 HOURS. Minimum wage varies, but it's between $8-10 an hour. Just a portion of the dress and I've already went well beyond my normal price point for a pattern.

With the top portion figured out I was able to work the rest out on my own. I'm not entirely thrilled with the skirt that I did and I plan to go back and redo it (although I'm not sure how yet). I'm most likely going to find a pattern for a skirt I like and attach it.

So I say to the pattern makers: THANK YOU. I cannot express how much I appreciate your hard work. I hope my purchasing allows you to stay in business and continue to make my sewing life easy. I love that you give me the basics I need to put together something personalized. I love that you've worked out the bust darts, the waist seams, and the shoulders and everything else that goes into a pattern. I know every body is different, and you've somehow found a way to make a product that any human can take and tweak to make it fit themselves. You are worth that $20+ and more.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

gathering supplies and organizing

I haven't had much time for sewing lately. We've had several parties at my house, and my sewing room is converted into a dining area whenever the guest list passes 6 adults. Since a few parties were back to back weekends, it seemed useless to pack stuff up to unload it for a day or two and then do it all over again.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been working on sewing related stuff!

I've been on the hunt for a sewing desk (I currently use a folding table). I think I will be going with Ikea's Hemnes desk with the add on. It's got lots of spots to put useful things that you need at arms reach when sewing. Plus the space designed for a monitor looks like a great spot to mount an iPad and watch shows while sewing.

My "to do" list is small this year, but some of the projects make up for it by being complicated. Keeping the lessons I learned with my stash only sewing, I've planned out my projects out far more thoroughly (but I get to buy fabric again, and I have been loving it!).

The next project to be completed is a Victorian gown for a friend's party. It has a secondary theme of  "by the seaside", so I went on the hunt for inspiration. I found this and loved it:

I have to redo my bustle cage for this project (as it's in sad shape after years of abuse).  I'm on the fence about the bodice, as it looks a little young to me. I might change the neckline a bit so I don't look like a mid-30s woman trying to wear a teenager's outfit. The neckline issue might all be in my head, but if I'm going to put in hours worth of work, I want to be happy when wearing it. I found my striped fabric, a VERY breathable cotton. I just need to get the solid blue and start working.
Breathable cotton is just what 90 degree temps call for.

After that it'll be time to work on my next 1920s dress. Looking to Miss Fisher, I finally settled on making an inspired by gown from Season 1 Episode 1.


more YES.
I used this outfit as my much needed excuse to order the American Duchess Tango boots and found fabric that is a great color match. I have the base of the hat being shaped for me that I will then color and decorate myself.

Finding an exact fabric match to Miss Fisher was probably impossible.
But I'm really happy with what I did get.

Last of the recent fabric purchases, and I continue my dance with Regency fashion. I felt like I landed on the right approach with my riding habit last year. Hang the delicate whites and innocent looks and go for the colors I know and always wear. I absolutely love my jewelry set from InTheLongRun so I wanted to find something that worked with it. Digging around on etsy, I found a black silk sari with embroidery that had small pops of color.

The contrast really makes me happy (as does wearing black). I still have to pick a dress design (something that can be both day and evening? Is that possible?). I'd also like to get my hands on a coral tiara of some kind to finish off the jewelry set.

But what I'd really love to do is get some sewing time in...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tailor's Guide Riding Habit

My first project for 2017 is the Tailor's Guide Riding Habit. It's based off of the Snowshill Manor riding habit (also found in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion). Even though I do own the book, I'm a patterns sort of girl and found it well worth the money to pay someone else to scale up for me.

I treated myself to red wool from Military Heritage. It was a little on the expensive side, but what a dream to work with! The color is fabulous. The wool is deliciously warm. Shipping was fast. When I can afford to, I will be ordering from them again. The black wool accents are leftover pieces from a past project.

We both made up the same pattern!

SPECIAL NOTES: The pattern is for the jacket only! There were a few minor issues with the pattern that may have thrown me off in the past. (1) The cuff pattern piece calls for 4 of the fabric and 2 of the lining to be cut. It's actually 2 of interfacing, NOT lining. (2) The pattern markings to match up pieces are drawn on the outside of the pattern piece vs. the inside. If you cut the pattern out, you loose those markings unless you draw them onto your piece first. (3) The sleeves are TIGHT. Super tight. I made mine out of a size small, and I'm planning to go back and use the medium. I don't have large arms by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe super tight sleeves are historically accurate but I like more motion than a T Rex has. It's also possible the thickness of my wool contributed to the tightness, but I remain suspicious that the sleeves would have still been tight.

This pattern comes in sizes small, medium, large, and XL. I took a chance and just made up the size small because my measurements were very close to the highest measurements given for that size. I would suggest a mock up for this pattern if you have the time.

Despite these few bumps, I would recommend this pattern! It went together very well, and I loved how the pattern pieces had the seam allowances marked on them. The instructions were very clear and I didn't find myself confused over anything in particular.

TIME: I failed at tracking my time. Grabbing an hour here and there when I could, I manage to get the jacket done within 3 weeks. The petticoat was completed in a single evening.

PETTICOAT: I made mine using some help from tutorials from American Duchess and Koshka the Cat. To be able to pleat the waistband, I did a strip of cotton at the top. The wool would have added far too much bulk. You can see a bit of the black cotton in the above photo where I am sitting enjoying some wine. I wish I had done that with the lining of the jacket skirt. Live and learn! The petticoat is worn over pocket hoops. I had decided to make my petticoat a little on the short side. It's going to be a winter costume (all that wool would kill in warmer weather), and I anticipated showing off boots and avoiding the slush winter tends to bring.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

2016 sewing in review

It's 2017 already. Time does fly by when you've having fun. And sleep deprived.

I really had hoped to document my sewing as I went. In the end, it came down to either sewing or talking about it, so I went with actually sewing.

2016 sewing presented several challenges for me. I decided this year I would sew mostly from stash. I had a lot of changes in my weight post pregnancy to wrestle with. Most difficult was adjusting to the time limitations on my sewing (babies really don't understand the concept of a sewing marathon, nor do they care).

My very first project for the year was a bustle gown for a seaside themed party. It was made entirely from stash. I was so happy to return to sewing I was perhaps over ambitious. I love love LOVE my underskirt with all those pleats. The overskirt ended up not looking how I wanted it too, but I didn't have time to redo it (I still have ample supply of that striped fabric, so it's going to get redone eventually). I also took the opportunity to draft a shawl collar for the very first time. That was a learning curve. Due to weight loss the bodice no longer fits.

It's quite big when the dress form is set to my current measurements.

I used Truly Victorian 201, 362 and modified 403 for the bodice. The overskirt is apparently my cat's favorite place to nap (which I'd love to know how because it's been hanging in the closet...). Overall I was happy with the outfit at the time. I need to bring the waist in on the underskirt, and redo the bodice (to one that fits) and overskirt (to one I like).

My second project (and the first completely 100% totally finished staying the way it is outfit of the year) was my 1920s Miss Fisher inspired outfit. I always love wearing 1920s fashion. It's fun, it's comfortable, and it's very forgiving. I scored a straw cloche hat from Modcloth and plan to decorate it to match the outfit. I really can't wait until the weather changes and I can wear this again.

Project 3 was definitely out of my comfort zone. It was all from stash and my first step into the 1830s. This project required a lot convincing to do (I am NOT an 1830s fan, or a big sleeves fan) and a ton of searching on my part to find something I would feel comfortable in. 1830s is such a fussy, feminine era, and not my style at all. I went with a riding habit because (1) I always feel safe in black and (2) the men's inspired wear was the least girly look I could find. The bodice is a mish mash of Laughing Moon 114 and Truly Victorian 455. I used the Truly Victorian pattern for the skirt, and corded petticoat pattern from Historical Sewing. I drafted a shawl collar again, doing a little better this time around.

It rained, so we spent the picnic portion of the event at a butterfly sanctuary. In most photos I am a blur, as I activated my ninja skills to defend myself from the winged menaces.

Channeling George Sand with my look...
The hat a loan from Madame Modiste

The riding shirt is just a regency chemisette with a stock (total cheat, I know, but after all those buttons and piping I was ready to call it quits). After all that sewing the dress was TOO BIG. I was actually really happy about that, until I realized that the corded stays I made last year are now also too big. I'm not so proud I can't admit I had more fun in 1830s than I thought I would, but I have a feeling that was more to do with the company than the era. I promised my hostess that I would give it all another go if she hosted the event again and that I will remake my riding habit to fit me (and out of wool this time).

Project 4 was an ultimatum with the Regency era. I have tried and tried again to find "me" in the style, and have come up wanting. Again, it's a very feminine style that just doesn't call to me. Searching and searching, I saw an outfit with a very military inspired look. I thought to myself if this doesn't win me over, nothing will and that will be it for Regency sewing. Not only was I thrilled with the end result (now known as the Velveeta dress) but I actually have photos of me in it!


I made this hat too, and I stole the plume from my husband.
He'll never know.

With my hostess The Lady Detalle and Madame Modiste.

I used Rocking Horse Farm Regency Riding Habit for the jumper, and Laughing Moon 129 View C for the spencer. Both patterns made up quickly and easily. I didn't get the chance to make the riding shirt, so I had to keep my spencer on the whole time. I loved how it looked, so that wasn't really a complaint.

My last outfit for the year was a winter Victorian bustle, made for a holiday tea with friends. The red wool was stash. I used Truly Victorian 261, 365 and 466. I had wanted to make an outer coat and add more velvet trim for a second event I planned to wear this too, but life decided to throw a major curveball for a friend. Sewing was put on hold and that portion of this outfit will be finished another time (the coat has even been cut out!).

It might not have been the most productive year in terms of the number of costumes, but I felt like I had some major successes. I tried drafting, I stepped into a new era, I finally made friends with Regency. Pulling mostly from stash, I put more planning into each outfit. I found myself doing more trims and little details that added a lot to the overall looks.

Now, on to 2017!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Miss Fisher Inspired Outfit

My first 100% completed project of the year is my 1920s outfit inspired by one of Miss Fisher's many amazing ensembles. This amazing ensemble to be exact.

NOT my version. I wish it was.

I've drooled over almost every article of clothing Miss Fisher wears (her "muppet" pajamas being the only thing I can think of I don't like) and I paid the outrageous shipping charges to have the catalogs from the costumes exhibits sent from Australia to the US so I could drool some more. GET THOSE COSTUMES ON DISPLAY IN THE STATES ALREADY!

Ahem... sorry.

If you love Miss Fisher's clothing the way I do, those catalogs are worth every penny. Marion Boyce provides lots of useful information about the outfits (what they're made out of, lengths of fabrics used, when something came from her stash that she purchased it 20 years ago so all your hopes and dreams of finding it are crushed).

The outfit is made up of two pieces: a pinafore and a blouse. Unfortunately my budget is a little more restrictive than the show's, so I had to go with more cost friendly and locally available fabrics.

My pinafore was made from linen fabric and is a combination of two patterns mashed together. I came across a lovely vintage 1920s skirt pattern in my size and price bracket on etsy. Not only that, but it looked darn close to the details on Miss Fisher's outfit. To make the top portion of the pinafore, I used Past Patterns Flapper Combination Underwear.


Not as bad as the famous Victorian line of "assemble in the usual manner" but the instructions were on the light side. They were printed on the pattern pieces instead of a separate sheet and didn't really order the steps in which to do things. So I had to wing it. I doubt it makes a world of a difference for this project because the shapes are basic but it is something to keep in mind when shopping vintage patterns. The combo pattern also only includes the original instructions, however I think most people can work out what to do.

Kind of blah, right?

At least it had this really fun pleating detail on the side.

In hindsight I wish I had given myself the time to line up the wait of the skirt with the waist of the slip pattern a little better, but it still worked. The pinafore looks kind of sad and silly by itself. I admit at this stage I was worried/disappointed/nervous the project was not working out.

The blouse is made of a chiffon of questionable content and origin. I found it at Jomar, a discount warehouse than stocks whatever anyone sells to them. The Miss Fisher blouse has a striped print, but what I found looked good enough to me for it to work. The details around the neck, sleeves and waistband are made of the same linen that the pinafore was. The buttons are self covered. The shoulder scarf is attached with a round plastic tortoise buckle.

To make the blouse, I heavily modified my 1925 zig zag dress pattern from Decades of Style. I didn't take photos of my process, because I didn't know if it would work or not. I loved how the blouse turned out, and plan to make something up with the same format again. So I'll document it better then. I'll explain as best I can, and hopefully someone will understand me!

 I used the front, back and sleeve pieces only. On separate sheets of paper, I traced out the neckline, shoulders and sides of the front and back pattern pieces, and drew straight lines at the bottom for the new straight waistline design. I made sure the side seams were the same length. Once I had done that it was very easy to create the facing for the linen details. I just drew them out on the same pattern pieces I had just made, and cut them out after I had used the new paper pattern to cut the chiffon. I just shortened the length of the original sleeves to where I liked them.

Something that I had forgotten to do and did not notice until later was change the armscye on the front pattern piece. The original pattern calls for gathering which I did not want to do for this project. It was an easy enough fix after the fact but it's something to keep in mind if you'd like to make this outfit up using the techniques I did.

When I did the linen details, I cut two of each piece (one would show on the outside, one on the inside). Right sides together, I sewed all the details pieces together at the side and bottom seams. I ironed down the reaming seam allowances on the top ends. With right sides together, I sewed the details to the chiffon. After that I flipped the linen so that the last remaining unsewn edge was on the inside of the blouse, and could be sewn through the chiffon to the front of the facings. I opted to hand sew because I didn't want visible stitching on the front, and I am HORRIBLE at stitching in the ditch. Ultra super bad at it.

The shoulder scarf is just one long rectangle. I used a rolled hem on the edges to prevent it from unraveling everywhere. The buckle was loosely stitched in place at the should and the scarf fed through. I might stitch the scarf down or knot it to prevent it moving forward or backward.

Once the blouse was over the pinafore, I was thrilled! It looked pretty good to me.

Accessories and other details were assembled. Some worked out, others didn't.
  • I had attempted to reshape a straw hat into a cloche, but it ended up looking to much like a 1980s bucket hat. So I made a chiffon scarf and tied it into my hair (my hair is short, and works for the 20s so this was an easy option for me).
  • I owned white crochet gloves, but to work modern technology (which was needed that day) I had to remove them.
  • I couldn't wear my stockings; it was in the 90s and I was outside all day. Passing out was NOT desired.
  • My 1920s inspired shoes were purchased years ago at DSW and I love them. Unfortunately with no stockings, it was blister city on my feet. Oh well, the price one pays for fashion...
  • I found red teardrop earrings on etsy, which I thought were perfect
I didn't track my time. Working on this project was sporadic. I grabbed an hour here and there. I did the hand stitching on my lunch breaks at work. However, I did get it all done in less than a month with a young baby in the house. So I'm confident in normal time that's about two weeks of light work. And probably two days of serious sewing time.

I really look forward to wearing this one again, and making it up in a different color combo!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

return to costuming!

Hello costuming world! Long time no contact! I'm afraid I've made very little since my last post (IN AUGUST OF LAST YEAR!) and attended very few events because.....


My husband and I welcomed our first child in March. I had plans for several costumes while pregnant, but the fates conspired against me.

Several twists of costuming fate:
  • I had made a Regency ball gown from a Nehelenia pattern, but early pregnancy symptoms made it difficult to track my time/opinion of the final outfit. Not to mention making me feel ill while at the event itself. I often forget I even made it.
  • I had planned on making the Mockingbird dress worn by Sansa Stark for a Game of Thrones themed event I co-hosted in October. Turns out I did not have enough black silk to correctly fit that gown to my then size. I was able to make one of Daenerys' more flowing gowns from Season 1, but it was a sort of quick and dirty never plan to wear this again sort of dress and I'm not particularly proud of it.
    • However, I did manage to make full costumes for two friends (a Sansa and a Littlefinger) and parts of costumes for my husband and one sister (Tywin and another Daenerys).
    • If I can get the chance and round up some photos I'll post about the event itself. It was good fun and I'd love to do it again sometime (with a costume I like)
  • I made my husband a Regency suit for an outing in Baltimore. At this point I was running low on sewing energy (and energy in general) so I didn't track my time, and I wasn't that happy with the final product. I'm just not sure I like Regency enough to keep making it. I have one more outfit I plan to try and if that doesn't win me over, I'll call it quits on making Regency.
    • I did make myself a new wool spencer which turned out fairly nice, but it needs a button
  • Finally, my last plan was to make a Victorian maternity dress for two events I was attending. And then I came down with a massive upper respiratory infection that knocked me out for all but 3 days in December. So that was a huge no go. I couldn't attend the one event and the second (which allowed for any era) I ended up wearing my summer 1920s outfit to. It was the only think I had that I could fit in. 
Recently I was able to get a Victorian gown (mostly) done for a friend's annual Victorian party. I say mostly done because it lacks the finishing like buttons and trim, but it was wearable for the event, and is still on my dress form so I remember to finish it up. I did, however, totally fail at keeping track of my time. I will post about the dress soon!

Because we're still adjusting to life with the bean, we've planned to attend fewer events this year (which means less sewing in general). That doesn't mean there's nothing on my to do list though!

Some hopefully to be done projects include:
  •  a new 1920s summer outfit for the Jazz Age Lawn Party. Creating a look inspired by Miss Fisher, I've found a vintage 1920s skirt pattern and the right fabric. Now I just have to get to work.
  • an early Victorian riding habit and evening dress (not to mention the required undergarments) for an event in early October. A friend suggested I make one skirt and two bodices to help save time. GENIUS!
  • a Halloween ensemble for myself and the baby (I asked my husband if he wanted to do a group costume thing. He declined saying he'll wait to embarrass the child when he's older)
  • my last ditch attempt at a Regency dress that speaks to me
  • a Victorian dress for a Christmas event (the same annual event I missed last year, so I'd love to make something really nice to make up for my missing it)
Maybe too ambitious? I'm not sure. We'll find out!

A few other things related to costuming are going on:
  • Firstly, GET MY SEWING ROOM IN ORDER! This is an official command from me to me. It had been in order at one time. Then it became the dumping grounds for everything when we cleared out a bedroom to make space for the spawn. I'm not productive in a messy environment, so this has to change.
  • Secondly, I'm stash only sewing this year. This doesn't include things like notions, or linings. It only includes fashion fabrics. I gave myself two fabric passes, of which I've already used one (1920s inspired fabric). My most recent Victorian dress was made entirely out of stash, and a roll holding 25 yards of black taffeta I found in a corner of my sewing room can easily cover those three Victorian gowns I have planned. And probably a few other things.
  • Finally, learn to use my embroidery machine. I bought a embroidery machine over the winter from a friend for a super steal. And it's been sitting there, giving me the sad puppy eyes, wondering why I've yet to try it out let alone have it make something cool.