Sunday, February 28, 2016

Preparing for Our New Arrival

Now that I am entering my third trimester, I am busily preparing for the arrival of my little one. I have loved looking at lots of pictures of Victorian babies and extant garments. I have decided against a full living history clothing approach for the child. I will make all the correct clothing and outerwear, but I will not be putting the baby in period correct pilches/nappies. Instead, I have decided that I will use modern re-usable nappies under the baby's clothing (very farby I know :-P).
I have already purchased an original infant dress from an antique store. I will try to make further garments at a later date, but as these are more complicated and fancy (the ones I like) its nice to not have the pressure of making the gown straight away.

Close up of Bodice of Original Infant Gown
Full Size Image of Original Infant Gown
Unfortunately, the best infant patterns by the Sewing Academy do not ship to Australia. The postage is also astronomical and costs more than the cost of the pattern if I purchased from other online sources. Thankfully, I was able to use two original pattern books available online for free.

Cassells Household Guide 4th Edition ca 1880 (the first edition dates to 1869).

There are also numerous original extant infant garments available to view online. I found that in the 1850-1860s there seems to be a combination of both the earlier and later designs of infant undergarments.This meant that I should be able to select instructions and diagrams from both books.

Infants undergarments are very simple, but also complicated in the tiny nature of the sewing. I will never complain about sewing gussets again since sewing one that is 1.5" square. I cheated a lot on the bonnet as I decided to machine sew the majority of the cap. I also found that extant examples from the 1850s were a lot simpler than the earlier bonnets in the Workwoman's Guide. I am very happy with how it turned out. I also added 3 pin tucks to match my nightcap and trimmed the brim with some vintage net lace. It is very cute and I already have plans to make some more caps in different designs. I just hope the baby will keep them on its head.
Infant Cap

The second item that I have made is an infant shirt. From my understanding, these function as a chemise for small infants. I like that they are short waist-ed, so they should not add to much extra bulk on top of the nappy. I used the measurements and design from Cassell's, but I did have to make the shirt smaller as I found the original measurements to be way to large for a newborn infant. For the sleeves I added the three pin tucks to match the cap and a trim of vintage eyelet lace from my stash. This was completely hand sewn. I found it very quick and calming to make and the narrow hemming is a lot softer than the machine hems on the bonnet.
Infant Shirt

Infant Shirt

Close Up of Sleeve and Gusset

On a side note, Nic and I found the most adorable 1850s infant plate in an antique shop. It has the alphabet around the rim and a transfer of a girl and boy playing hide and seek. We have hung it on the wall of the nursery, as it is too precious for our baby to actually use. 

I am having a fantastic time so far planning for our baby. I have also been busy working on the nursery. It is not perfect and I still need a crib and a change table (a friend has one for me that she is planning to sand and stain to match the room). I have also used my wedding veil for the bassinet. I love personal touches like that.

 Challenge #2 2016: Tucks and Pleats

What the item is: Mid Victorian Infant Shirt and Cap
The Challenge: Tucks and Pleats
Fabric/Materials: Cotton Voile
Pattern: Self drafted and adapted using a combination of The Workwoman's Guide (1840) and Cassells Household Guide (4th edition ca1880) as well as extant examples available online.
Year: 1850s-1860s
Notions: Cotton Thread, Vintage net lace, Vintage Eyelet lace
How historically accurate is it? Cap is about 60% as it is machine sewn, the Shirt about 90% as I had to adapt the measurements given.
Hours to complete: Approximately 3hours
First worn: It will be worn when the baby arrives in May
Total cost: $0, it is all small scraps from my stash.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Brunswick Leib Battalion Jacket Reworked for Commercial Production

For a few years the Australian Brunswick Leib Battalion Unit have been researching, discussing and trying to improve our uniforms and impressions. At the same time we were hoping to create a single pattern that could be commercially reproduced. In Australia, it is getting very expensive to have clothing made and a jacket like this involves a lot of hand sewing and has resulted in a lot of visual inconsistencies from different seamstresses. The cost is also very off-putting to new members.

Two years ago we started this project. Unfortunately, there are no original Leib Battalion Private's jackets known to exist. Most reproduction jackets are based on the artists impression of a photo of a 3rd Line Battalion Jacket in the 'Brunswick Troops 1809-15' Osprey book by Otto Von Pivka. This line drawing influenced the images in the book, and then many of the reproduction uniforms. There are now also front and back photos of this jacket provided by the German museum that bring some aspects of the line drawings accuracy into doubt. We also researched period tailoring books, similar uniforms of the time and had discussions with tailors and researchers inside and outside of Australia. The discussions lasted months and in the end we had a consensus on the following construction issues.

Photo and Line Drawing from the Osprey Book.
Front photo of the same jacket.
Rear view of the same jacket.

Officers Jacket
The first clear error in the line drawing is in the sleeves. The artist portrayed them as two piece sleeves. In itself this is uncommon in a cheap private's uniform of this time period, as it requires more fabric and more time in construction. Also the back image of the original jacket clearly shows a single seam from the underarm, identifying it as a single piece sleeve. The extant officers jacket is also only a single piece sleeve, although it does have a lot more fabric in its construction.

The next point of discussion was the back gusset. The artist has drawn it as an inserted separate piece. From a period tailoring point of view this makes no sense as it is bulky, unnecessary, fiddly and time/cost consuming to construction. Other extant examples of similar backed hussar jackets have this piece as included in the back panels as a part of the shaped construction. The original jacket seems to support this theory, but it is not 100% clear either way.

Finally, the most controversial change was to the front. At the waist, the line drawing places a crossing over point to the front of the jacket. This is something we were unable to identify in any other period tailoring. It is a waste of fabric for no purpose in a cheap private's uniform. If you look closely at the photo in the Osprey, it looks more like a crease creating shading on the fabric than an actual point. This is supported by the new photos where the buttoned side is clearly straight and the other side shows the fabric pulling with a clear shadow. 

Reworked/Completed Pattern
Sample Card for Production
Once we had these decisions made I drafted up a toile and fitted it to my father. Photos were shared and discussed until everyone involved in the discussion group at that time were happy with the new pattern.

This jacket, pattern and sample card will now make their way to an Australian Sutler who will hopefully make a decent copy that will be consistent and affordable to members needing new jackets and new members requiring uniforms. It has been a lot of work, but I do hope it helps the unit and it's members out. 

Inside of Collar
Lining of Collar
Front Braid and Tassles
Front Braid and Glass Buttons

Nic Wearing the Jacket. (Its not his size, but he volunteered to pose for the photos)

Jacket Back
Jacket Side
Shoulder Strap

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Big Announcement and A New Corset

I have been procrastinating on this post and making my new corset. I had hoped to surprise many of our friends at Ironfest in April. Unfortunately, the black powder display and encampment has been cancelled. It is very disappointing, as I have been very careful for the last 6 months with my social media accounts. Nic is very happy about the event being cancelled, as he was not too keen on me traveling 16 hours one way and camping in Autumn when I would be 8 months pregnant and due to give birth to our first baby 4 weeks later. I'm currently 25 weeks or about 6 months pregnant. Our little one is due in May (History Month).

Side View of my new corset and Bump.

I do have a number of events while pregnant and will continue to attend events and encampments while nursing. This meant that I required a multi purpose corset. I am not overly fond of making corsets and normally have my amazing friend Wendy from the Undertailor make them. She was unable to come to Adelaide, so I had to bite the bullet and make this one myself. I have been planning this corset since I found out I was pregnant at 2 weeks. So I have procrastinated a long time on this one.

I designed this corset using extant maternity and nursing corset images that I found online dating between 1840-1870. There is a pattern that can be purchased, but the design is far more regency than mid Victorian looking. From a modern mindset I may be pregnant, but I'm still trying to be fashionable (no granny undies here). I also really needed a corset. I was unable to complete it in time for the Australia Day parade and OMG my clothing was uncomfortable, cutting into my skin and my shape was awful frumpy. It was also very hit, humid and we were running late.

This is why you should not procrastinate and ALWAYS wear a corset.
I used my pre-pregnancy corset as a base pattern. I decided to split the joining seam between the side and side back panels. This allows me to adjust the width of my waistline without changing the back panels as my back size has not changed size. I also split the seam around my belly to make room for my growing bump. I then added gussets to the top of the corset. I was not keen on the laces to adjust and close the breast access for nursing, so I have just placed original fabric covered buttons on the top tape line. They are easy to shift if needed. They are also very easy to open for access, when required.
The side and side back seams were separated and laced in this design.

The front has a silt where the seam was not joined between 2 panels to make room for the bump.
To make the corset more pregnancy friendly, I have made it light weight with thinner and less boning. I added a lot of cording to make up for this. It is also only 2 layers, cotton outer and corset coutil inside.

Close up of the bump split and cording.

Close up of the flap to adjust the size and open for breastfeeding.
I do have some adjustments to make. I ran out of corset lace, so they are very short over the bump and sides. I plan to order new lace later this week. I also need to adjust the button location as it has started to gape with some recent growth.

Front View

Side View
Back View

Challenge #1 2016: Procrastination

What the item is: 1860 Gestation and Nursing Corset
The Challenge: Procrastination
Fabric/Materials: Cottton, Corset Coutil,
Pattern: Self drafted using my Undertailor Corset
Year: 1860s
Notions: Cotton Thread, Cotton Cord (for piping), Corset Lacing, Busk, Boning
How historically accurate is it? About 80%. The design features are seen in various extant examples and machines were in use, but I was unable to find any extant examples dating to 1860. Boning is steel.
Hours to complete: Approximately 30 hours
First worn: For photos 1/02/16
Total cost: I used corset supplies that I had in my stash, so I am not sure. Maybe around $100.