Thursday, March 5, 2015

Nehelenia Patterns: 1790s Redingote Pattern

This outfit was made using Nehelenia Patterns 1790s Redingote pattern, Wingeo #126 for hip and butt additions and a modified cloak pattern (I only had enough excess fabric after making the redingote to sort of cobble together a cloak; so I don't feel comfortable enough to review the cloak pattern itself).

A few friends and I got together for a spa weekend at Colonial Williamsburg and I needed something warm to wear to a Saturday night dinner at a tavern in town. I didn't own any winter 18th century outfits prior to making this, and I get cold. Easily. And given the sort of winter we've been having I wanted to be prepared for the cold. Many people recommended just wearing a wool cloak over a pre existing outfit but I didn't think that would be sufficient for me. I cannot stress this enough: I get really really REALLY cold. So if you reel in horror at the weight of the fabric I used to line my redingote just know: I get really really REALLY cold. The weight of my fabric might be all wrong for the style/era but I apologize for nothing.

My good friend Kat was kind enough to lend me her hat.
It later tried to eat me.

TIME: 15 hours. On the whole, this took me a lot less time than I had expected it too. I think a major part of this is I now have a dedicated workspace for sewing. I don't have to put one thing away to work on something else. Nor do I have to pack everything up when the time comes to have dinner (it was that, or eat dinner on a sewing project at the apartment. Never seemed worth the risk). And with years and consistent projects I am getting just a wee bit faster at this.

Things that added time to this project were having to go back and trim down the seams on the lining wool (to eliminate the huge bumps and bulges it caused in certain areas) and making my own fringe (I made fringe!). I really liked the idea of having some black fringe detail, and what I saw in the store just didn't look right. The wool has a wooly(?) look to it, and premade stuff just looked too crisp and modern to me for this project. It was very easy to make the fringe, and if anyone needs I can explain it.

Here's the thickness of the wool I used as fashion fabric and the wool I used to line the bodice. The fashion fabric is "suiting" wool and the lining "coating" wool.

The coating wool made huge lumps near the seams.

I have to go back and make my petticoat smaller. I did a major screw up when calculating my pleats for the petticoat, and it was far too big on me. I had to safety pin it to my stays to keep it frolm falling off. OPPS!

ALTERATIONS: The sleeves were very tight, so I had to add to the side of them to accommodate the thicker fabric I was using. Something that I did not realize when beginning is the pattern does not start out to be a double breasted coat. I was fine with a single row of buttons, but it's something to keep in mind when making it. The illustration on the pattern shows it as double, so I either made it up wrong and it somehow worked or they assume you know how to do this, or I missed instructions on how to.

EASE OF INSTRUCTIONS: I would not suggest this pattern for a beginner. It would have overwhelmed me. Some things were not  marked on the pattern pieces itself, and there are no illustrations with the pattern. I always prefer some drawings in the event that I just cannot figure out what the pattern is telling me to do.

I have to say that even though I had to add to the sleeves so they fit, those puppies went in INSANELY well. It took only one try with each sleeve (both with the lining and fashion fabric). I'll usually get one right and it takes ten thousand attempts on the other. But these sleeves are golden, which is even more amazing when you realize they aren't gathered at all (gathered sleeves always being the easier type of sleeve for me to handle).

WINGEO #216 - The three support items that make up this pattern are both fast and easy. I have made all three, and with machine sewing they all go together in less than an hour each. The Nehelenia Pattern called for "hip pads also known as a bum roll". Since the pattern shows a bum roll, hip pads and a rump all as separate items, I made up all three. The bum roll did not work at all. It added volume in the front where the bodice and petticoat need to lay flat. I think that piece would work better for a chemise a la reine. The false rump didn't give me enough voulme on the side. By process of elimination I went with the hip pads.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Simplicity 2589

Yet another project made from out of print patterns. These just very recently went out of print, and you can still snag them for about $5 each. I *highly* encourage anyone that even thinks they might one day remotely consider making this dress to get them.

I'll start with the outer layer of the costume (it's part I like best). It was a fun gown to wear, and I can see the allure of making more after spending a day in one.


TIME: Roughly 35 hours for all outer layer items. My arch nemesis, hand sewing, was required for certain parts of this costume. The hems and fore sleeves required the most hand sewing, and it was necessary for all that cartridge pleating on the green portion of the dress. I hand sewed the hems because machine stitching would have been EXTREMELY visible on this fabric, and while I am not a purist by any means, I was trying to obtain a certain level of correct with my appearance.

This time also includes the hundreds of pearls, "jewels" and gold trim detail attached to to the dress and French hood. Those things were also hand sewn down. In retrospect I should have done the pearls before I added the felt backing to the forepart, but I wanted to make sure I had something finished I could wear vs. an embellished portion of a costume with nothing else attached to it. There is a small but growing benefit of the mass amounts of hand sewing I've been doing: getting better and ever so slightly faster.

Look at those tidy, tiny stitches!

ALTERATIONS: I did make a few.

The forepart directions called for a ribbon waistband. It just didn't seem like a substantial enough way to secure so much fabric to me. So I made the skirt with a normal waist band.

I had to change the shoulder straps to this gown. If I had followed the pattern markings, the gown would have slipped off my shoulders. Seriously. I had to remove about two inches off the straps to get the gown to sit where it wouldn't fall off. I'm not the most busty of ladies, so I'm sure that had something to do with it. Also, since this is a pattern made for a large commercial company, I'm sure they go by the "easier to take in than let out" motto. This changed how the sleeves were attached. I have to gather the fabric to get them to fit the opening. I have no idea if gathered sleeves are period correct or not, but I am not skilled enough to fool around with pattern scaling.

After some advice and research, I change the placement of the veil on the hood. The pattern called for it to be attached at the bottom part of the hood. It didn't seem right. It would have looked deflated. So it was moved to the top of the hood and flowed much better.
I did not use the gingham for the cartridge pleating. I marked my fabric with a chalk pencil and made the pleats that way. I didn't have any gingham on hand and I didn't feel like buying any.
The length of this dress had to be shortened. I'm 5'3" and I would have been tripping all over.

EASE OF INSTRUCTIONS: Very good instructions are included in this pattern. I had a bit of trouble with the steps involving how to turn under the fabric to create the pleating in the front. I'm not sure if how I did it was actually what I was supposed to do, or it just worked out for me.

FUN FACT: it is entirely possible to ride an elephant while wearing this dress.

My "sewing room" is in a fair state of chaos right now, but I'm hoping that once trim is down and the closet installed, I can unpack this costume and share more detailed photos of it.

Friday, October 17, 2014

a sewing room of my very own

In very exciting news, my husband and I recently purchased our very first home (yay!). We had outgrown our one bedroom apartment a while ago, and had started the official house hunt last spring.

The house needed to have space enough to accommodate both of our hobbies. My husband is actually a professional model maker, and that has spilled over into his home life of building hundreds of little things that for some reason need lots of big things to make them. Which is sort of funny because I make life sized things, and the machines to do that are quite small.

We made an agreement that he would take over the basement as his work space of any house we did buy, and lucky for him (and me) the basement of our new home is the full length and width of the house. So he has plenty of room.

Which means I get to have an ENTIRE ROOM just for me! Very very very excited about this! My old craft area was a corner and a dining room table. The prior owners of our home had enclosed the carport between the main house and the garage and used it as a dining room. Since the kitchen is an eat in, and there's only the two of us, we don't need to dedicate that much space to food.

The room is a little narrow (11 feet across) but very deep.


What? A window for natural light?
Enjoying that they just put up some plywood over
 the old window and painted it.
Of course, since it's just an old carport there's no closet to speak of, and the walls are brick. I think that's kind of fun, giving it a warehouse/industrial feel to it. The carpets are gross (they don't look that bad in photos, but they are). The plan is to put down some faux wood flooring. I had thought about finishing the walls, but I think I'll loose too much space. The back wall in the second photo has an outlet about every foot or so; I'm thinking a L shaped desk for the sewing machine and serger.
Along a side wall I think something like this Stolmen system from Ikea would be great for costumes.

Plus an additional full length bar for more dresses.
I admit I am slightly hesitant about the everything exposed to everyone look, but some curtains would easily solve that problem. Storage would be needed for stuff like books, hats, and patterns. Again Ikea would come to the rescue with those cube shelves they sell.
The husband has promised to put together a cutting table for me (more Ikea shelves with a butchers block secured on top). I usually like dark wood and colors, but for sewing/crafting, I really think white and light is the way to go.

Odds are my space will look like a show room until the first project. Then it'll look like a nightmare. But a roomy, all mine nightmare. That I don't have to put away or clean up to eat dinner. 

shoe time!

American Duchess is having another shoe give away! Check it out for your chance to win!

Thursday, October 16, 2014


The gown was completely finished and on time! Horray!
It was a great day at the fair (our original planned day had been rained out). I was very pleased with how the dress turned out, and will do a write up about the construction later. I thought I would finally share a photo of myself wearing something. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Anne Boleyn Dress: COST

About four months ago six friends and I all decided to get together and go to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire as the six wives of Henry VIII. I nabbed Anne Boleyn as fast as I could.
This was a VERY big project for me. I have never done anything Tudor before. I researched what I could about Anne's style (her favorite color was green, her favorite gem were pearls, her style was "simple"). Unfortunately there don't seem to be any contemporary portraits of her.

I followed my usual style of using a commercial pattern. I'm just not at drafting skill yet. I used Simplicity 2589 and the companion undergarment pattern for everything except stays. For the stays I used the Elizabethan corset generator.  The Simplicity patterns are out of print, but still available for purchase on their site, as well as all over ebay and etsy.

Let me say now that this is probably the MOST expensive outfit I have yet made. I couldn't give the exact cost, but I will break it down as best I can. Amounts are approximate:
$80 - 9 yards of green velvet (purchased on super sale at Joann's, this color is no longer available there. I know I used the rare an elusive 60% off coupon for this purchase)
$5 - felt
$40 - gold and black silk for the forepart and foresleeves. (I ordered too much and have a bunch of left over)
$20 - faux pearls. I started pearling with a necklace I had purchased years ago that fell apart and I never restrung. Once I ran out I purchased 99 cent strands from Micheal's crafts in similar size and color.
$20 - bracelets taken apart for the black "jewels" on the neckline and foresleeves
$40 - cotton for the farthingale, inner sleeves, shift, bum roll
$15 - faux fur

This does not include some supplies I already had on hand. I have a never ending roll of twill tape I purchased from Jomars. I used it for bone casing. I think I paid $3 for the whole roll, and easily have another 500 yards on the roll after this project. I had fill for the bum roll (left over from the 1857 day dress bum pad). Hoop steel and connectors left over from my civil war ventures, as well as zip ties from 18th century projects Thread and notions also were on hand. The patterns had been purchased while they were still in print for $1 each.

All this put this project at about the $220 mark. If I had to pick up the supplies I didn't have on hand it would have probably cost about $250. Some of the cost does come down to my fabric choices. There are cheaper (and less annoying) fabrics than velvet and silk. I didn't need to embellish the dress. Nor did I need faux fur on the turn backs. I also didn't "need" to make this dress, so it's all relative!

More to come at a later time, hopefully with pictures!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

wonky pattern matching is wonky

I've tried to pattern match this fabric on the back and side backs, and it continues to foil me. This is my best attempt thus far, and I'm still fairly displeased with it. I have, however, run out of fabric for these excessive attempts. So I have to accept this as is.

The right side back and back match fairly well.  My mess ups are far more obvious on the left side back. I'm hoping a lot of moving about will prevent anyone noticing it in person. I thought it would be easier to match since the pattern is not anywhere near as busy as others I have done in the past. HA! Oh well. At least my skirt panels match up!