Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Learning Curve

Now that I have replaced my first dress with one that is more accurate I have been reviewing the rest of my wardrobe. In doing this I have been amazed at how far I have come in 3 years of sewing. My abilities, skills and knowledge have all increased. Unfortunately, I identified that I had one more dress that had issues. My second dress was a Regency Crossover Gown using the Sense and Sensibility pattern.

As you can see there was not enough fabric, making it hard to walk in and a small demo of how the skirt flies open... thankfully this is a more modest example (there have been far worse occasions).

As you can see from this photo I also had a lot of trouble fitting the crossover. One of the problems was that I had not made my stays till about a year after I made the dress (opps, big rookie mistake... always undies first).

  • Opens when walking, showing off my petticoats (Pattern flaw due to it not having shaping at the bottom of the skirt panels)
  • I had not taken my height into consideration in allocating fabric to the skirt (I have since learn't that I require more fabric due to being 6ft or 183cms, this means that the fabric grabs around my legs making it difficult to walk)
  • No lining on the bodice
  • The crossover bodice's pleats were badly fitted
  • The rear skirt pleats were fitted facing outwards, instead of inwards
  • French seems had not yet been invented
  • Sewing machines had not been invented, so machined seems should not be visible on the outside.
Unlike with my mourning dress, I would hate to just replace this dress. It has a lot of sentimental value as I was wearing it when my husband proposed to me. Thankfully, I had kept the excess fabric so I had 2m of extra fabric to address some of these issues. It will never be perfect, but I was able to address the worse of these problems. I replaced the two straight front panels with flared front panels, to provide more room for stepping. I then reused the old front panels to deepen the back of the skirt, adding to the amount of fabric at the back. I also replaced the french seems with flat fell seems and hand sewed the seems down so that no machine seems are visible.

I have also learnt the importance of toile, toile, fit, pin, fit, reping, fit. sew, refit, sew... to get a perfect fit.

I am now very happy with this dress, especially considering its age and origins.

 It is depressing to remove 3" from the bust of the bodice... I know it was too big and baggy... but still bad for the self esteem.
I think the loss was for the best, however, as it now sits nice and flat.

 The completed/repaired dress. I always look shocking in photos, especially after a long day of sewing.
 Back view showing the new pleated back.

I am also very happy to report that the dress now stays closed. To test it I wore it around the local township while shopping. I think the repairs were highly successful from the trial run. Strange thing is that not one person stared or commented on my lovely dress.... they must be getting used to seeing me garbed strangely.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

1860s Mourning Dress

For some reason unknown to me, we often get invited to participate in funeral reenactments. It was because of this that the first outfit I made when I first started sewing was a mourning dress. Unfortunately it had a lot of problems. The bodice is too big, the neckline to big and its clearly a Simplicity pattern. There was not enough fabric given to me to make a skirt, so I was given a skirt made for me very generously by one of the ladies that would help me temporarily of a polyester that works amazingly well as a microfiber cloth as I walk through my house. I have come a long way in my sewing since then and therefore decided last May that it was time to finally upgrade my mourning dress.

 My first dress.

After looking around for awhile online I finally found this dress from the Metropolitan Museum.

While I love silk  dresses, I tend to like simpler cotton dresses. There are already many women in the group I am involved with that have many beautiful silk dresses, that I find it nice to focus more on the cotton and working/middle class impressions. Although I do still like a nice dress every now and then. Either way I loved the shape and design features of this dress. 

I started making this dress in May of last year for an event. Unfortunately I started making it a week before a funeral event and I never managed to complete it in time. I was able to finish the toile, construct the bodice and attach one sleeve. It then remained on my mannequin for the next 6 months while I was occupied with my studies.

The other day I decided to sign up for the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenges. For the second fortnight the challenge is to complete a UFO. I can not think of another UFO more deserving of being completed than this one (other than Nic's 1830s frock coat.... which I'm current out of love with once again as I have to draft and fit the sleeves).

In undertaking this dress in May I was in love with the challenge of the simple yet beautiful features of the pin tucks and decorative darts. I believe that it took me about three tries with the calico to get it to a stage where I was happy. It also took a bit of work to then translate the effect correctly to the voile that is a lot softer and stretchier. I am very grateful to Jessie for all her help in getting the fitting and details perfect. I feel sometimes I must be a trial in my need to make everything perfect. I love how the Met Museum has the zoom feature on their dresses so that I can indulge in this bad/awesome habit.

It really has been easy to finish as there is not much detail left, everything was cut out and ready to sew. The only difficult part was the hanging  of the skirt from the waist with the two layers of fabric. This was overcome with a little patience and a lot of pins. The bodice and skirt on this dress are two separate pieces. I was going to make it as a one piece dress, like most originals and drawings of this period, however I noticed that on the MET photos you can see the skirt waist band and separation between the skirt and the bodice on the back view. Therefore, I made them as a two piece and added waist hooks to keep the bodice attached and sitting flat.

Unfortunately, I do not have any construction photos due to the speed that I was sewing, my lack of remembering to take photos and as I cannot find the photos I took when drafting and fitting the bodice originally.

 Close up of the front of the bodice.
The pin tucks are stitched down only on the voile. The darts are only pressed flat, as I could see no stitching on the original. The lining is in a skin tone cotton and has none of the features of the voile (It is a plain lining with normal fitting darts).
The front is closed using hooks and hand sewn cotton thread eyelets. The closure is center front with a longer waist band that closes further to the side, as on the original.

 Close up of the back of the bodice.
This was constructed the same as the front.

Close up of the sleeve. The ribbon I made using a strip of silk that I folded over and tacked down by hand. I also used silk organza to make the ruffles on the cuff.

 The front and back of me wearing the dress after finishing walking in the Australia Day Parade in Adelaide. The skirt looks too long in these photos, as I did not realise I was standing on an incline. On flat surfaces it has a 1" (3cm) clearance on the front and 1/2" (1.5cm) on the back.

The Challenge: UFO
Fabric: Black Cotton Voile, Skin Toned Homespun (lining), Black Silk Dupion (sleeve trim) and Black Silk Organza (sleeve trim)

Pattern: None - drafted and fitted from a previous fitted calico pattern.
Year: ca. 1867

Notions: steel hooks, skin toned tape for under hem

How historically accurate is it? As accurate as I know how to make it, I referenced the photos on zoom and a similar dress in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail pg 221 and photos I previously took of originals in a friends collection.

Hours to complete: about 18 hours. The original construction of the bodice 6 months ago took a lot longer as I had to get the pin tucks and visible darts correct.
First worn: today to take the completed photos

Total cost: I believe that the cottons were about $8 per meter on special and I used.... ummm about 9 meters of each as I am very tall (6 foot) and need a lot of fabric in my skirt drops.... so about $150. The threads and silks were scraps from previously finished garments.

As this dress was very quick to finish and while going through my other UFO's I found/had a moment of pure inspiration.....
To be continued......

Sunday, January 13, 2013

1830s Frock Coat - Part 2 .... The Collar

In undertaking this coat I have come to the sad realisation that I am not a tailor. Unfortunately, I have no one else to make Nic's coats for him.  I had a lot of trouble as the original pattern did not include any information on the interfacing and did not even include any facings or linings. The collar piece was also way too large on the the length and width. Once I had worked out how to construct the collar and had the patience to tweak it, I think it turned out quite well.

Thankfully, after 2 months of intermittent work, I have finally completed the collar, minus the pin prick stitching around the outside of the seam. I am still not sure if I actually want to do this. Knowing me I probably will once I am ready to work on this again.

Inside the interfacing of the collar.

The finished collar, minus hand stitching. I know it looks a little strange, but Nic is using my male form so I only had my female form available :-(. I do think that this would make an nice coat for me, too bad Nic doesn't agree.

The underside of the collar/Inside of the front of the jacket.

Odds and Ends - A New Cap and Furniture Refurbishment

I know I haven't posted much of late, but that doesn't mean I have not been busy. In the middle of last year I purchased a late Victorian folding chair. The wood was sturdy, but the fabric was a little worn. After a month of use the fabric finally gave way. We took it to an upholsterers and were astonished at the price. After some discussion we decided to repair it ourselves. The chair had some orange-brown paint on it that was scratched up. Therefore, we decided to strip it before recovering it. Thankfully we were able to get a very similar design of fabric (only the design was about an inch/3 cms smaller than the original). I was so happy with the results of my work that I also decided to recover my foot stool in the same fabric.

Our folding stool also had its fabric give way while camping in Taminick last october, so I used another fabric to recover that chair. The only difference between my work and the originals is that I sewed all the trims down, instead of using fabric glue. I believe that this gave me a far better result.

The completed chair and footstool.

Repaired camp stool.

Now on a more fun note, I have also been undertaking multiple projects to keep my motivation up. One project, that I have just completed was my first 1850/60s cap. I used the lace from an oval doily and some spare silk and ribbons to create this cap. It was fun and interesting for my first try.

 The side of my new cap.

The back of my new cap.