Thursday, August 24, 2017

HSM '15 #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone:1840's Dress, Part 3

Part One (Introduction), Part Two (Bodice and partial sleeves)

December 2015

Well friends, I did finish my dress in time for the challenge it was made for, aside from closures. I started to put them on and then my thread simply would not behave and tangled constantly, no matter how much I waxed it. So I put them on a bit later. I still have to make the thread loops for the sleeve buttons and attach them, and I also want to remove the skirt and reattach it on a band like the instructions say to, as it's sliiiightly too long where it is, attached to the bottom of the bodice. It sat on my dress form for months, because it was too hot all summer to put it on!

August 24, 2017

When Costume College was starting to approach at a much faster rate than it seemed in November, I knew I wanted to bring this gown with me. It was nearly finished! I only needed a waist closure, sleeve buttons, and to hopefully fix the skirt (as above, remove it from the edge of the waist, attach it to a band, and reattach it behind). I know I was anxious when I decided to do it, though I can't remember the exact date. I sat down with Riverdale on Netflix and a seam ripper, and started to go. It took a long time to pull it out, but pull it out I did, and reattached it to a bit of twill tape that had once been a drawstring in a hoody. I had almost thrown it out, but realized in time that it was a great bit of twill tape!

Once it was back on, it still seemed a bit long, but I also had no easy way to get into it by myself to check. I decided to leave it alone, and it came with me to Costume College. Once there, I attached a skirt hook and bar, the vintage glass buttons for the sleeves, and thread loops. I hated the loops immediately and cut them off, and attached hook and eyes under the button instead. Then I prayed it would all come together.

And it did! I wore a pair of modern heels with this, not more than 2" (they are my regular shoes for my old lady feet!), the corded petticoat (unstarched), and two 18th century petticoats - one chambray, one poly taffeta. The hem barely skimmed the floor. And it was just lovely. The shape was nice and soft, I loved the feeling of all my skirts swinging around my legs, and I got a lot of lovely compliments on it :D Most people were intrigued by the asymmetrical pleating over the bodice. My knitted pineapple reticule was the perfect accessory, and I got a lot of compliments on it too.

Perhaps the best compliment I received was when Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing spotted me in the lobby, and I spotted her spotting me, and we had a lovely conversation about the construction of the dress (tiny fangirl squeeing -- I used her cartridge pleating tutorial when I did up the skirt!)

This dress was time-consuming, and the result is lovely. The only changes I made were to shorten the skirt a few inches (that I would have cut off anyway) and to move the shoulder seam towards the back. The only other thing I would change would be to get a little chemisette together to fill in the neckline, and to either balance the skirt differently so it doesn't gap at the back, or move the back closures to eliminate that.

Lumpy butt brought to you by my partner-in-crime trying to hide the gapping at the skirt.

The Challenge: 2015 #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone

Material: Cottons for gown and lining/facings

Pattern: Butterick 5832

Year: 1835-1840 (as per extant garment) (Thanks to Liz who found it!)

Notions: thread, hook & eye, vintage glass buttons, a bit of plastic boning, a scrap of poly taffeta and cotton yarn

How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably? I machined a lot of what wouldn't be visible, materials are plausible (except for the obvious man-made ones, and hand-finished anything that would show on the outside.

Hours to complete: I lost count. A lot. The sleeves had to be mostly hand sewn, I remember spending almost a week on them.

First worn: July 28, 2017 (Friday of Costume College)

Total cost: Dress fabric was from my mum's stash, taffeta was a remnant scrap, yarn was from my aunt's stash, glass buttons were salvaged from a long-ago garment by my gramma. Hooks & eyes, and the cotton broadcloth I used as lining/hem facing cost roughly $4 Cdn. To buy all new, I would expect to spend $80-100 Cdn.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Road to Costume College 2017

I mentioned earlier this year that I got a steal on a seat sale, so I am headed to Costume College in LA in just over a week! Alas, I am not able to complete my Big Project, namely due to lack of appropriate hooping materials. I thought I would still work on the skirt while I waited for the right materials, but while I KNOW I pulled it out of the UFO box, I can't find it (and this was months ago, and I STILL can't find it), so I've put it aside for now.

But I've come up with new plans and have finally gotten them going. I'll do a more detailed write-up (I hope) later, but for now, please enjoy my Instagram photos :)

The first time I made these stays, I punched the grommet holes in the CF boning channel, and I used to punch upside down which destroyed the grommets. Had to cut new fronts and do it over...

I made this pair of petticoats back in April. The taffeta one definitely needs a ruffle, and the floral one still needs a hem :) (and maybe a ruffle)

After finishing the stays (erm, for various values of "finishing"), I've spent all of my spare time this past week working on this gorgeous thing! It was finally ready to put all together so I could see how it's looking, and it looks AMAZING. It still needs some work but my fingers need a break!

#teagown is done! It just needs trimming and im still undecided on darts lol #finished #victorian #yegsew

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I also made a tea gown for lazy Sunday wear :) I'm debating putting darts in - without them, they fit my non-corseted body perfectly.

If you're going to Costume College, let's meet up! I'd love to see you in person! (And if you see me, please say hi! I'll try to do the same :) )

Friday, April 21, 2017


This is going to be a personal sort of post, so do please feel free to skip.

I mentioned in previous posts that I've been struggling with anxiety for the last little while, and that I've been working with pros to manage it. And I am -- since my last post I've been seeing a specialist in the type of techniques my doctor recommended, and I have made a lot of progress. After crying most of my body weight in tears, of course, because anxiety is hard, admitting you need help is hard, finding and reaching out and accepting help is hard, and then doing all the work is HARD! But I also know that I can no longer struggle along on my own, and I also cannot put the burden of my many anxiety-monsters on my loved ones. They love me and support me and let me know that of course I can lean on them -- and I do, but with the fact that the work is hard, not the burden of helping me do the work.

One of the things I struggle the most with is something I call "the but whyyyyys" (you have to draw the whyyyyyyy out, it's important to mimic that annoying sort of "but I don't WANNA" toddlers have), and I know for a fact that many of you, nebulous readers, do too. Jennifer Rosbrugh of recently shared this article she wrote in 2013 on her Facebook page, and the timing was very handy. Some of the loudest "but whyyyyys" is that I have nowhere to wear the pieces I create, I have so little drive to wear them despite that, and no desire to sew pieces for other people, that why do I even bother with sewing costumes at all? What is the point of having fabric and dreaming about outfits and rarely creating them with these other factors? I've been arguing with myself for over a year, consciously, about that, and the only answer I can come up with is: Because I want to. I WANT to, and that's enough to DO.

There's so many little voices like that that chip away at my confidence. When I can successfully push past them, I am so pleased with my creations, and maybe equally pleased with the fact that I did it. I quieted the But Whyyyys enough and just CREATED, and it was an amazing feeling. But they always creep back in. And that's how I end up not making anything, or making something so late that I'm still sewing late into the night the day before I want to wear it. I have such a myriad of projects I want to work on that when I argue with the But Whyyyyys, I get paralysed with indecision and end up doing nothing.

I talked about this recently with my therapist, and she asked if I had a blog. I do -- hi! I've missed you. Writing is another creative outfit I don't indulge in as much as I would want to (they are their own set of But Whyyyyys that we haven't poked at yet), and that's part of why I wanted to write this post. I have been working -- slowly. The beginning of the year was, frankly, kind of terrible. I sometimes feel bad for saying that, when my brand of "terrible" is not as bad as it could be, has been, or IS for some people. But it is my reality, and it is terrible. The bad news of the world (so... much... bad... news...), working on my anxiety (you guys, it's really hard -- did you know you can hold anxiety in different parts of your body? I hold mine in my hands, which may tie into why they But Whyyyyys have so much traction), my cat's health (thankfully his diabetes is in remission! But I still think of him as a diabetic cat and am trying to maintain routines), the fact that somehow I became really really busy? I was measuring my free time in blocks of 2 hours or less. I did not enjoy it. When everything came to a head at the end of March and it was all over, I was so profoundly relieved. Maybe I could reclaim some sewing time, a big fluffy Victorian gown is not going to sew itself!

But then my work-life took a vastly different direction in a very, very short period of time and threw my brain into disarray again. We are talking a period of 4-48 hours, as the crow flies. I am happy to say that I've taken on a new role at my workplace, which I am excited to do, and the changes to my routine are minimal.

But the Victorian gown as I envisioned it is probably not happening. I couldn't get my chosen hooping material to work, and I am currently unable to get my second choice. What I wanted to work on more than anything was not what I "should" be working on, so I eventually called it quits and just started working on it. I've almost completed two petticoats so far:

They just need hems and trims! Good work, me :)

I also spent some time last week going over my Costume College registration packet and deciding on the classes I wanted to apply for, a couple of which will dictate my costume choices. I have some new plans to put into place.

And course I also need to somehow get along with the But Whyyyyys. Silencing them doesn't work, but perhaps listening to them will. Not actioning, just listening. Right now they're trying the "maybe you should just drop out of costuming entirely" tactic, and I did listen for a few minutes before thinking "wait a minute!" So many things are hard in life, that are also worth the rewards. And this... this I daresay is one of them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

HSM '17: #1 Firsts & Lasts: Mid-Victorian Chemise & Drawers

As part of my Big Project this year, I knew I needed to start from the skin out (except for the corset), so obviously it would be a chemise right off the bat. My Big Project is aimed to have a date of 1867 (ish), and I have never heard of pre-bustle-era combinations*, so separate chemise and drawers were in order.

*Are they out there? I didn't (and haven't) look, either. I knew I would get too bogged down in "research" to actually start sewing, which does not fit into my goal of "sew more" this year!

Long-time readers will know how much I like to waffle on fabric choices... (Not.) I thought cotton would be the order of the day, given the time frame. But I don't have much in the way of cottons. The only underwear-suitable pieces I have are a 4-yard length of Indian muslin (seen here, on the Regency muslin gown) and a 2-yard length of 3.5oz linen (left over from here). After I had already decided to use the muslin, I did find a few examples at the Met of linen chemises, which is great! But since my selections were so limited, I thought I'd better use the linen to make drawers, as the muslin is SO light, I wasn't sure it would stand up to the kind of use drawers would see. Then I ended up using cotton for the drawers too. Ah well.

Then I just had to sit down, pin it out and cut my fabric. Terrifying! Aside from a few creases where it had been folded up since September 2014, it was fine, and it was a dream to sew. I did most of the long seams and interior work by machine (on my 1956 straight-stitch Singer, Beatrice; a straight-stitch machine would have been unlikely but not impossible), but all of the stitching that would carry to the outside of the fabric was done by hand.

My new #chemise is soooo #sheer! Its gonna be great for summer! #victorian #sewing #historical #yegsew

A photo posted by totchipanda (@totchipanda) on

There's only a couple things I would change. I used Simplicity 2890, the same pattern I used for my corset, and for the drawers. Very similar items are found to be drafted in Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol 1, which are taken from period sources, so I took some of the headache out by using a commercial pattern. But I forgot the Golden Rule -- measure measure measure!! I cut a size 14, and only realized too late that it was MUCH too big. I shortened the back yokes to a 10, but I had already sewn the fronts and trimmed the seams. I had to try and make those work. The other thing I would change is to stitch the side seams and flat-fell them, and then cut the armhole facings as a single piece, front and back, press the edges under and attach it by hand. I'm reasonably sure that this is a feature that would make changing the facings easy, but the pattern has you attach a facing to each side and then stitch and fell it into the side seam. This made the sewing of the sleeve and sides easier, but makes it impractical to changing the facing out should it be needed, and creates bulk on the seam. My fabric is VERY light, and the seam is bulky. I would not want to attempt it with heavier fabric.

Finally, I sat down with a cup of tea and a documentary about volcanoes, and got my hem stitched. The final touch was a button. It's decorative, though one could possibly make it a functional feature. I got out my Gramma's button bin and searched the trays for a nice button that was either a lonesome, or one of only a few. I found this metal-shanked glass button -- probably not very period, but very lovely in its own way.

And that's it! I won't be taking any pictures of me wearing it without either something underneath or the other bits on top, it's sooooo sheer. But it's also super light, and that will be great for summer :)

The drawers were fairly straightforward, though the hem directions didn't make a lot of sense. Making the pintucks was pretty easy, as the way it's stitched you can use the last pintuck as a guide for the next one. I seamed the legs first before doing the open crotch seams, turning the seam allowances to the outside as per Elizabeth Stewart Clark's guide for making drawers. I probably should have followed those directions for making a waistband, the one included with the Simplicity pattern is very tight on me. But I also haven't tried it on in the morning, and my one test with a corset just blended all of the compression around my waist together. I will have to give them a test run before too long! I pulled the fabric out as an option for making the cage hoop with, but I went with a different fabric, and I also like the idea of fun underwear :) My undies won't see the same extensive use as historical ones, so I felt comfortable going with this.

The last thing needed was a button -- this plastic lonesome from the bin -- and a buttonhole, which I opted to work by hand. It was my very first one ever! I used upholstery thread and embroidery floss. The brown mark is from the Frixion pen I used to mark the hole placement, it will come out easily :)

The Challenge: #1 Firsts & Lasts
Fabric/Materials: 100% cottons
Pattern: Simplicity 2890, drawers with some guidance from the Sewing Academy
Year: 1860s
Notions: thread, buttons, lace
How historically accurate is it? The patterns are taken from extant garments, the fabrics are plausible. The threads are a mix of poly and cotton. Most of the stitching was done on my 1956 straight-stitch-only Singer (Beatrice), which is not overly likely but not impossible either.
Hours to complete: 10
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: The muslin was left over from another project but cost me $5 US / yard, and I used 3 yards. The cotton for the drawers was free-to-me but new material would cost upwards of $10-$20 depending on sales. Perhaps $40-$50 for a new project.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

HSF '14 #9: White: Japanese Hakama* and Tabi socks

(*as opposed to other kinds of hakama? I don't know)

For once, I didn't have grand plans for this challenge. I knew I was making this cosplay in February (0f 2014), and yet I put it off and put it off, and then next thing I know it's May and I had about 2 weeks before it needed to be done. For a moment I panicked over what to make for the challenge that would be easy to make alongside the costume, and then realized that one major component of the costume was white, and also very historical. I can submit it for the challenge! Awesome!

Admittedly I didn't do a lot of research. In my younger days, I did a lot more reading and spent an embarrassing-to-admit amount of time steeped in Japanese culture from a great distance, and absorbed a lot of information through a variety of sources. Hakama have been used in Japan for probably centuries. They started as a skirt-like garment that at some point gained split legs for horse-riding. They are basically 8 panels of fabric woven 14" or so wide, folded back and pleated to a much smaller waist measurement and attached to long bands that tie around the waist. At some point in semi-recent history, the back gained a stiffened board. My costume is based on an anime series that is set in 1867, so I also set out to recreate the look, if not a strictly historical garment.

Bottom right. Image ©Idea Factory

Made of heavy white cotton twill, the front has six pleats, the innermost two stacked to look like one. I had to play with the back pleats, two stacked to look like one, for HOURS trying to get the visible pleat in the center and also make the back a narrow enough width. I started out with it at 15" (too big), got it down to 9" (too small), and finally finished at 13" (just right).

2017 Update: Somehow, three years and three wears later, I still haven't managed to get any pictures of this costume! It's RIDICULOUSLY comfortable, the hakama are like wearing a skirt, full and airy about the legs, but still split for the comfort of pants. I have a post about the full costume upcoming!

The Challenge:#9 Black & White
Fabric: 100% cotton twill
Pattern: self-drafted, with guides from And Sewing is Half the Battle (English) and (Japanese, lots of pictures)
Year: 1867
Notions: thread, interfacing for the back board
How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably.
Hours to complete: 14 or so (more than one went into the back pleats...)
First worn: May 2014
Total cost: $40

Tabi Socks

I wasn't sure about the tabi socks; I thought for SURE I'd end up sewing a small U into a pair of modern socks to get the split-toe look. You can get two kinds of tabi in Japan - traditional non-stretchy socks that close up the back with flat hooks, or stretchy knit ones with a separate toe. But I finished the main part of the costume with a few days to spare, so I took the pattern in Make Your Own Japanese Clothes and enlarged it as per the directions, and made up a quick pair in a light cotton. They could probably use some tweaking in terms of fit, but they were satisfactory enough for a cosplay that I went ahead to make the final pair. They are made of a lighter twill from my stash with the heavier twill sole cut from the hakama fabric, and lined with the same fabric I used for the yukata. The fabrics were all scraps from other projects, making this a very economical project.

2017 Update: I've never worn the socks with the costume. Both cons I wore this to, they are summer cons. By the time I get everything on, including a wig, my feet being covered by socks is the last thing I wanted to experience.

The Challenge: #9 Black & White
Fabric: 100% cottons
Pattern: Make Your Own Japanese Clothes
Year: 1867 (ish -- very big ish)
Notions: thread, a bit of Velcro
How historically accurate is it?: Not really sure, I think these would not look out of place in history, but they're pretty modern otherwise.
Hours to complete: 2
First worn: Never
Total cost: Free! Cut from scraps from the hakama and yukata :) Very little fabric is needed, so new materials would be minor in cost.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

HSF '13 #18: Re-make, Re-Use, & Re-fashion: The Inspiration

Part of my 2017 goals that I didn't mention was that I want to clear out my backlog of posts! There aren't a great many, but my draft folder is taunting me. Here is the first.

Summer, 2013

The Historical Fortnightly's 18th challenge is due on September 9. This one of the only challenges I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and possibly the first one that might be done on time. (hahaha that didn't happen!)

Some 8 12 years ago, when I began to express interest in making and wearing Victorian clothing, my mom gave me this gown. She'd made it in the late 80's or very very early 90s (certainly prior to 1991) and had never worn it herself, or only worn it a couple of times. She commented that she'd made a bustle pad to wear with it; I remember the pad very well, as it made an excellent pillow that my siblings and I all fought over the chance to nap on it. She gave it to me with the hope that it would fit me, or if not, that I could remake it so that it would.

It didn't fit me. I've gained weight since then, and it still doesn't fit me. I had only been seriously sewing for a couple of years at that point, and I had no faith at all in my ability to alter it so it would fit me. Now, nearly 14 years and several outfits later, I think I can do it.

I'm not really sure what to do with it, though. There's something about it that's so quintessentially '80s. The jacket is made from a thin poly lining, and what I'm pretty sure is poly "silk". The skirt is the same poly "silk". The skirt's overlayers and the jacket's "blouse" are embroidered net over lining. It was hard to photograph, but the back part of the skirt's overlayers had two layers of net/lining. I don't know what pattern was used, if any. My mom is a much better patternist than I. The shoulder seams are placed squarely on top of the shoulder, and not behind as was period.

After I ripped it apart, the skirt was made from a continuous loop of fabric, gathered along one selvedge, giving me a large 4 yard piece. When I thought about it a little more, I remembered some dresses from The Voice of Fashion and Edwardian Modiste that have lace or net overlays on bodices. If I use the lining material as the basis for the dress, the "silk" for the outer dress, and some of the net as an overlay, I could probably get a lovely gown out of it :)

2017 Update: I'm not sure where the fabrics from this dress ended up when I moved in November 2013, and I still don't have a solid plan. I'm pretty sure I didn't keep the bodice as trying to recut it and account for the shoulder seams was too much work, though a part of me regrets that decision. I could have used the smaller pieces for something, surely! The other part of me is yelling to declutter and good riddance! It's a struggle sometimes...

Monday, January 2, 2017

Looking Forward

Last year I didn't write or post a "this is what I want to accomplish this year" list. I think I knew somehow that the year was going to be really hard. I struggled a lot with anxiety (A LOT), and I'm still having trouble dealing with it. Don't worry, I'm working with professionals on a game plan :) This year I want to make more time for sewing and things that bring me joy. And it seems that the repetitiveness of certain things help soothe the anxiety (like baking! Making bread is fantastic for working out some tension!) so the rituals surrounding sewing can only be good for me :)

My biggest project for the year will be an 1867 ballgown to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary. Luckily a few of the challenges for this year's Historical Sew Monthly line up with that challenge, plus I'd really like to participate for an entire year.

One of my inspiration images!

January: Firsts & Lasts: Already started! A mid-1860s chemise :)
February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion: I wonder if the base skirt of my ballgown will count? I sewed it up years ago but now I need to re-make it. Perhaps an elliptical hoop with salvaged boning from a modern hoop skirt.
March: The Great Outdoors: mid-18th century riding habit. Again. IT SHALL BE DONE.
April: Circles, Squares & Rectangles: A petticoat for a 1780s gown or the riding habit skirt, depending. Maybe both!
May: Literature: I'm not sure that I have a favourite historical literary character, but I'm sure I can come up with something. (In general I can't read actual historical fiction. The language norms just bypass my entire brain. I don't know how many times I read one page in Persuasion until I gave up and went on to the next one, but it was definitely more than three.)
June: Metallics: This one will be tricksy D: I haven't got an idea yet. I do have a yard and a half of gilded linen though.
July: Fashion Plate: I have a plan! I need a loooot of red soutache :D I don't know if this will get done, I may be frantically completing outfits for Costume College!
August: Ridiculous: Oh gosh, where can one start?
September: Seen Onscreen: If I am very very lucky, I can pick up some beautiful red silk in LA and recreate Caroline's beautiful red dress in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice (say what you will about the movie, that dress is stunning!) Failing that, a recreation of Jane's adorable Spencer jacket from Austenland.
October: Out of Your Comfort Zone: There's many things I could do for this one, many things are out of my comfort zone!
November: HSF Inspiration: I really love the idea of this one. And there is a LOT of beautiful pieces made over the last 4 years (almost 5 by the time this rolls around) to choose from. I will probably choose something small, as this is during National Novel Writing Month.
December: Go Wild: I have a bit of beaver pelt rescued from a coat (I think) that I got from my aunt's estate. It's destined for a muff cover.

I'm also considering addressing my everyday wardrobe. I've been finding some of the things I've had for the last few years are no longer comfortable to wear. But I need to give this some serious thought. I really like vintage styles, but I really don't have the energy or patience to dedicate time to also creating vintage hair and make-up and accessories to go with outfits. I might get there some day, but right now it's enough that I can drag myself out of bed to feed my cat. Plus the added bonus of living in a place with very distinct seasons, necessitating multiple collections. Summer clothes really don't work in winter! I should probably start with looking at capsule wardrobes. This is a relatively low priority though.

Add in my usual con circuit, plus the additional pieces I need for Costume College, and I should have a very productive year!

HSM '15 #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone:1840's Dress, Part 3

Part One (Introduction) , Part Two (Bodice and partial sleeves) December 2015 Well friends, I did finish my dress in time for the challe...