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!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Year in Review

Happy holidays, friends! I love doing the year in review, looking back on the things I made and remembering the pieces I forgot, so here it is!

There really isn't a lot. This was a very rough year, dealing with my mental and physical health, my cat's health, all the bad news of the world (so... much... bad... news...), struggling to make my budget work, and the death of a beloved aunt. I tried to participate in the Historical Sew Monthly, and I only got to 4 challenges (with some plans for others). I made more things than I blogged about, so here is the complete list.

HSM 1: late 1830s cap

Regency drop-front gown, petticoat, and vest

Green wool spencer

HSM 2: Market Hat

HSM 4: 1838-1840 Honeycomb Shawl from The Workwoman's Guide

Jareth the Goblin King (Ball) from Labyrinth


Blue Natural-form skirt

Natural Form petticoat

Fuu from Magic Knight Rayearth

Photo by Dorothy Tse

Scarlet's Cape (plus some work on the shirt)

Chihiro's Bathhouse uniform from Spirited Away

Sophie Hatter from Howl's Moving Castle (Unfinished)

Black Regency drop-front gown (unfinished)

Miramar tunic

HSM 10: 1795 Cotton Open-Robe from Patterns of Fashion

Ceinture a la victime

HSM 11: Many-era seamed Stockings

Summer house-dress

And of course some yarn-based projects! I made a hood, some mitts, a scarf, slippers, dance socks, a baby blanket, and a hat. I try to keep my Ravelry page up-to-date :)

I have BIG PLANS to be more productive next year! In early November, my friend NutMeg caught a seat sale and mentioned it in time for Nicole and I (and another friend) to jump on, so I'm going to LA for Costume College!! I'm so excited, I've wanted to go for years! I had already planned to work on a Big Project for Canada's 150th birthday this upcoming year, and it will make a fantastic gala gown too. I have to make pretty much everything from the skin out, so I'm starting the year with underwear :)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Regency Gown 3 Ways & The Myth of Perfection

Earlier this year I made a white Regency gown out of an IKEA curtain, and accessorized it with a dark green vest for the February ball.

For the October balls, even though I had started a ballgown some time last year, I decided not to finish it (partly because of a health issue, which I'll get into below, and partly because I was working on the open robe, which was my preferred option to wear) and instead wore my white gown again both days. On the first day I wore with the open robe:

And on the second day, I made a long red ribbon to wear wrapped around my torso:

The ribbon was 3 width-of-fabric rips 3" wide. I hemmed each length with the narrow hemmer foot for my machine, which was an exercise in both patience and frustration, and then French-seamed the lengths together. I took inspiration from this post by Cassidy on lesser-known Regency accessories, especially the first one, the Ceinture à la Victime. Family history as told by my maternal grandmother is that one of her distant relatives escaped the Revolution in France, though it was not talked about (even her own grandmother didn't like to speak of it, though she would have been around 100 years removed from it). I don't know if I believe it, but it does make a neat little point in my mind to connect with the past. Nevertheless, the ribbon-wrapping was very prominent for many years beyond the Revolution (see Cassidy's post for more!), so I felt comfortable with accessorizing with it. More than one person commented on the fact that it looked like a completely different gown. Mission accomplished!

On the myth of perfectionism: last year, this post by Wearing History made quite a few waves in the blog circle, and for a good reason. We all focus so much on perfection, when even historical sources show, sometimes, that things were not made "perfectly". I do admire those who strive for "perfection", though the term is, to me, a moving target, and different to each person. What is perfect to us now may not be so later in our journey, and we should be forgiving of ourselves at our current stage. So many times, when I am reading, the author will say something about their creation that I would not have noticed at all had they not said something. It is so true that we are our own worst critics, being so intimately familiar with our creations. But sometimes, even other creators who know you and your work do not pick up on those things that we perceive as flaws.

With that in mind, when I posted the picture of my gown and Ceinture à la Victime ribbon on Facebook, I did not comment on what I thought was wrong with everything in the picture. I have a lock of hair across my forehead that got put back later and was not photographed. I probably had threads hanging out of my ribbon because the narrow hem foot and I do not get along, and Jenny started being cranky partway through the stitching. My shift sleeve is sticking out under the gown sleeve, which I only noticed in the photograph! I'd also lost the ribbon for lacing my stays closed, and replaced it with a dark pink one, which is totally visible beneath the sheerness of the dress, and also only noticed that when I was uploading this photo. Oops.

As for not finishing the other gown, early in October my lower back seized up on me, requiring numerous visits to my health providers to help put it back to rights. As I do most of my sewing on the living room floor, cutting out the skirts of my gown was not an option. It happened approximately 2 weeks before both of these photos were taken, and I'm happy to say that after much work my back is better. I'm still not 100%, but at least I don't feel like a sneeze will set it off again :)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

HSM '16: 10: Historical Heroes: Regency Open Robe

I had this fabric set aside for a specific project, and when it became time once again for the Regency ball(s) in Edmonton, it was also time to make it! It also happens to coincide perfectly with this month's HSM theme. Huzzah!

I've been wanting an open robe for awhile, after seeing some lovely versions around the internet and in person. My partner-in-crime Nicole made a beautiful one out of embroidered sari fabric last year:

And it's been on the to-do list ever since. I didn't have a pattern in mind at first, but as I spent more time working with patterns and drafting with them, I decided to make the open robe in Patterns of Fashion 1.

POF1 was one of the first historical costume sources I ever saw, so you could say that Janet Arnold is a historical hero :3 I still plan to make the gown that I first fell in love with. Some more of my historical heroes are the creators who stitch everything by hand, so aside from a few seams, this was constructed that way.

At the beginning of October, I started planning. I would use Laughing Moon 126 as the base of my robe. The pattern in POF was pretty close to my measurements, which made it easy to work with. I left the back alone, narrowed the straps a little, and modified the front to have a lower profile and more curved shape. Then I laid out my fabric and my pattern pieces and did some measuring, took a deep breath and started to cut. I had 4 metres of fabric, JUST enough to get the robe and sleeves cut out. For the sleeve, I used the sleeve from the swallowtail jacket in Costume Close-up, with some modifications. More on those later.

I didn't lay out my pattern quite right. The back side seams were off, so that made my pleats off :( But I had NO room for modifications, so I made it work. The lining was made from linen. I constructed all the long seams by machine, but most of the robe was stitched by hand. I polled my Facebook for options to make the front out of a different fabric. I had thought gold or green, to pick up in the boteh designs, but one lovely person suggested peacock blue or teal, and I just happened to have a scrap of teal JUST big enough. I wasn't sure on it at first, but forged ahead. Now I think it's the perfect accent.

It took a long time to get everything stitched down. By which I mean, it took half a season of Jessica Jones + a couple of movies. The pleats were draped on the mannequin and adjusted a million times. Sleeves had to be stitched in by hand because of the pleats. I didn't have closures done before the ball, so it was pinned closed, and I marked the overlap at the end of the night to add those later.


I had to put the sleeves in before I could totally finish the pleats over the shoulder. I only had enough fabric left to make them 3/4 length, and it was about this time that I noticed that the print was directional. So half of my robe is upside down! Oh well. Then the modifications I made to the pattern made it fit the armhole perfectly, buuuut it was too tight on the arm. It was hard to get the robe to sit right when the sleeves wouldn't rotate around my arm easily, but of course I discovered this after I'd already put them in. There's a 2" strip with a pointed end fitted in at the seam. I don't know if I like the shape (the front seam especially could use some tailoring), but as it was approximately 4 hours before the ball when I finished this, I chose not to worry about it. When I was at the ball, I didn't give it a single thought. I could move my arms, which was fantastic for playing cards.

At the end of the night, my lovely friends took some pictures (and I took some pictures of them). This was when I noticed that the front piece has a beautiful shape. I think I might take this pattern and use it for another dream gown...

Photo from University of Vermont.

The Challenge: #10 Heroes
Who your hero is and how the costume applies to them: Janet Arnold should be obvious! Also dedicated to long-time costumers who sew things by hand, share their processes, and have been inspiring me for far longer than they may know :) (in particular Katherine C-G and Jen Thompson. Links go to the gowns that inspire me!)
Fabric: cotton, linen, polyester
Pattern: Patterns of Fashion 1, Laughing Moon #126
Year: 1795ish
Notions: thread
How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably! The long back seam, lining, and side-back seams were done by machine, everything else stitched by hand. Poly sure wasn't period, and printed cotton would be a stretch for an evening robe, I think, but it looks fabulous!
Hours to complete: a season of Jessica Jones and 2 movies
First worn: October 22
Total cost: Free-to-me! For new materials at non-sale prices I would expect to pay $60-$80 for a cotton robe, and upwards of $120-$140 for a silk one.

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...