Sunday, January 19, 2020

1770's Riding Habit

I'm not precisely sure when I decided that I needed a riding habit, but once the idea was there, it needed to happen. It's been on my to-do list since at least 2015. I had a copy of the Tailor's Guide Riding Habit pattern, as well as Reconstructing History #830. I'd even gone so far as to start a waistcoat from RH830. It needed some work - the armhole was too narrow at the front of the arm, and I think I had to cut the neck down a bit. I made it out of a poly brocade and linen back, used the interfacing of my curtain-along gown tie-backs to stiffen the fronts, and got hung up on how it was lined? WAS it lined? If I didn't line it, did I just narrow hem the exposed edges? It's been sitting in the naughty pile for a looong time.

Before CoCo '17, after class descriptions were out but before I'd signed up for the riding habit class taught by JP Ryan, I decided to make a mock-up of the Tailor's Guide pattern. It was WAY too large - even without stays on, I had considerable overlap at the front, and I immediately gave up on it. I could not be bothered to try and wrap my head around it, and then signed up for the class. If I got in, great; if not, I would figure it out somehow.

Luckily, I did get into the limited class, which included personalized fitting instructions. The limited class size meant that she could spend time with each of us helping fit the patterns as we went, a very valuable experience! Myself and three others were grouped together as we all had similar and potentially time-consuming adjustments to make.

Since I am small-busted compared to my waist and hip measurements, my adjustment was to take a slice up the front pattern piece, move it out, and take the excess out as a dart through the chest. (In a perfect world, this adjustment would be halved front and back, but all my “extra” is “forward thrust”, so I only made it to the front.) For the vest, this just meant a shorter front overall, and the gap created between the two was smoothed out with a French curve. For the jacket, I repeated the adjustment, and as there is a dart across the bust, it just became smaller.

My in-class mock up went well, and I needed no special adjustments once it was sewn. When I got home, the project was placed on hold as I had no pressing event to make it for.

Finally, in spring 2018, when I knew I wanted to wear it at CoCo, it was time! I had enough of a navy wool blend in my stash for the habit, and I found a length of a grey wool blend that has been in my stash for over 10 years to make the waistcoat out of. I opted to machine sew everything together, as the directions were written for that, and also because I had to keep reminding myself - did I want it done “right” or did I want it DONE? DONE is something I struggle with a lot, so that became my mantra. DONE > “done right”.


The waistcoat is lined in a medium-weight linen, and I faced the center front edges with a strip of maybe-silk-but-probably-poly fabric that came from the uneven edges of a petticoat I made earlier in the year. I waited to put the buttons on until I had the jacket done. Because of the machine sewing, and even with some hand finishing, it was done in 2 evenings.


For the petticoat, I cut the panels as directed in the instructions, but in the future I would make it more like a regular petticoat, as it was nearly identical, but fussier. It has the sides sewn up and the halves pleated to a band, and then you must put the skirt on and pin the hem until it’s even. Since my hem is close to 120”, this was really tricky, not to mention I often sew alone!


The jacket was next, and was naturally a lot more complicated. The instructions are for bag lining, but I chose to do the backs and back linings in one, using a pretty gold-green poly lining fabric from my stash. The side backs were basted down and then the seams from the front were folded over and whipped down by hand. I put the pocket linings in backwards and didn’t realize until it was too late.

Because I was using polyester and a wool-poly blend, I was scared to use too much heat while pressing. I pressed as best as I could, and then ended up doing the running hem stitch by hand on every hem. If I make another one with this mix of fabrics, I will probably do these edges by hand.

For the multitude of buttonholes on the lapels, pocket flaps and cuffs, I did all the cuff ones (six) by hand… which took an hour each. For the lapels and pocket flaps, I had MANY MANY MORE, and DONE was better than “done right”. I got to experiment with my buttonholer, as each one was MUCH longer than the holer itself, so I didn’t even use it, and instead just used the function on the machine, tapping the bar where marked to make it run back the other way.

The sleeves are the best fitting sleeves I’ve ever made in my life, and were the easiest ones I’ve ever set. I wish I had thought to adjust the lapel before attaching it, as the shallower dart did change the length of the front and I ended up with some seriously thick seams at the neckline. I ordered buttons on Ebay, but unfortunately mis-read how many I needed, and the waistcoat has different buttons.

The last thing I needed to do was hook and eye to keep the front closed, and while I had purchased some in LA during CoCo, I couldn’t find them! I put on a few small ones, just to the lining as I didn’t want to spend time putting them in when they weren’t the ones i had specifically purchased for it, but hated how they behaved, so this is one of the first things I will fix when I get around to it.

Sexy Neck Action

The final piece I needed was a cravat. I had some nice lightweight, lightly bodied black fabric, which I have since determined is silk. One side had a piece cut out of it from the fold, which was the perfect height for a cravat. I cut another strip the same height, and whipped the selvedges together. Then I hemmed it all by hand. It is so long, but such a delightful bit of sexy neck action, and I love it.

Riding Habit In Action

I wore this at CoCo 2018 over the usual undergarments and a quilted petticoat. I had my pocket so perfectly placed that i could stick my hand straight in it through the slits. I found the jacket pockets too shallow for my modern necessities. Katie Lovely wore her Regency riding habit, and we got some photos together of our matchingks :3

Sunday, January 12, 2020

2019 Wrap Up

Hello again dear readers! I was a bit optimistic last January when I thought I would be more productive with both sewing and writing. At some point in late 2018 I gave myself permission to just... Take a break. That break ended up being a LOT longer than I thought, but it was good for me. Primarily, this is a hobby for me, and I wasn’t enjoying the self-inflicted pressure. Giving myself permission to take a break was really the hardest part. I spent a lot more time knitting, which gave my hands and brain the creativity they needed while not putting any pressure on myself to keep going. Since knitting takes so much longer to create a finished object, this was just the change of pace I needed. There is just no rushing a knitting project, your hands can only knit so fast. As the year progressed, I have more stability in my moods and life, and I’m starting to feel more up to taking on projects.

I did make a few things last year. Nothing spectacular. In fact, it was just a handful.

Transitional Short Stays

1790s White Roundgown

Cheers Photography for Regency Encounters

Larkin & Smith English Gown

White Ruffled Apron

This is the only photo I apparently have of it right now.

Black “Vigee Le Brun turban”

Regency “Moping” gown

Cheers Photography for Regency Encounters

Yep, just 6 things! But the best part was - I was really happy to make them. I made the L&S gown 100% by hand, and it was such an enjoyable sew. The roundgown was mostly machine done, to replace my old white gown that was dyed pink in 2018, and it was both fast and a delight. The apron was made the day I wanted to wear it, partly to prove it could be done - the base was made in 2018, and I put the ruffle on before running out the door.

While I was sewing the “moping” gown, I was thinking about how much I was enjoying sewing again - exactly the thing I wanted to hear myself say. I finished the gown and dropped it off to its recipient, and then ran back home to make myself the turban to wear that night. I cheated A LOT on it and it’s largely machine-done with a serged rolled hem on the ties, but it was redonk cute and I loved wearing it.

I also started and worked on a couple projects, just nothing else finished. I cut the silk for my next sacque gown, started a petticoat to go with the English gown from last year (both of which are now done), and got the tapes sewn on and down for a faux fur muff.

Most excitingly, while at the October Pride & Prejudice Ball, I met some new people who all echoed the same sentiment - “I want to dress up more, but I feel so isolated”. There are lots of historical costumers in the province, and I know of nearly a dozen in Edmonton alone! So I started a Facebook group for Albertans to find each other - Historical Costumers of Alberta. It’s intended to be more of a bridge between living history (European history in this part of Canada doesn’t really exist before 1759, and even then not until the mid-19th century; both major history parks don’t cover the periods before 1840) and the pure fantasy of steampunk and cosplay. We even had our inaugural picnic, on a blustery October day, where the dress code was “something from your closet”. I rewore my 1840s dress for the first time since CoCo 2017! (I forgot my cape and muff though, and it was very chilly)

For 2020, I started to make a list of all the things I wanted to sew now that I'm feeling ready to take it all on again, and quickly got overwhelmed with the sheer volume of plans. So instead, I want to focus more on HOW I sew. I spent the first bit of January already finishing up some UFOs, and I was taking more time to just enjoy working on them without a deadline, and so spending more time on the little details, such as basting up a hem before stitching it down. Who would ever take all that time, I thought. Y'all - I'm a convert. That was one the nicest hemming experiences I've ever had. Because the first bit was basted, the second turn-up didn't wibble at all, and there was no fighting with pins and being stabbed in weird places. I'm excited to try out new techniques this year and being more thoughtful about the HOW instead of the WHY.

That’s all for now! I hope to post again soon!

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Making a Small Bust Adjustment on Simplicity 8578 by American Duchess

I have a whole other post about how I came to sew a sacque, but this one is just going to address how I made a small bust adjustment to the Simplicity pattern.

When I was in fashion classes in high school, my teacher told us all that we should go down one size from whatever the pattern envelope says, and this one is no exception. The envelope indicates that I should pick a size 16 (38" bust, 40" finished bust), but as per my teacher, I would need to cut a 14 (38" finished bust). Since the sacque will be fitted over stays, I don't need the 2" of ease that was built into the 16, so I cut out the 14 (38" finished bust measurement).

Mock up #1 was a straight-up sew of a size 14. Fit was generally very good - the waist was fine, the full bust I could pin closed nearly 2" smaller than the pattern, and I had too much fabric at the top of the chest.

Note the wave of fabric at the top of the shoulder.

For Mock up #2, I took a tuck in the shoulder strap. There are not photos of this one, but it pulled in the underarm and raised the back neck too far. It was not good. So I went back to the internet, and found tutorials for a small bust adjustment. The one I used appears to be gone, but this tutorial by Colette Patterns gives a good tutorial. The basics, for both full and small bust adjustments, is to cut up the pattern along the center of the bust point and towards the arm, and either spread or overlap the pattern to add or remove fabric.

So for mock up #3, I tried to do just that. This pattern was a little difficult because it doesn't have a traditional bust dart. I happened to have another Simplicity pattern that was the same size, which I used to mark the bust point. The best part about using a same-brand pattern was that they put most of their markings in the same place, which made it easy to line things up. And it worked! I had good fit over the shoulder and through the bust and waist. I was really pleased with the result!

Very happy with this fit!

Alright, enough talking. Here's how to make this magical adjustment.

Materials needed:
American Duchess Simplicity 8578 Sacque Gown pattern
Optional - Another Simplicity pattern with the same FINISHED measurements as the AD pattern
A piece of tracing paper or other see-through paper strong enough to cut apart
Marking devices (pens, pencils, etc)
French curve (optional)

After you have measured yourself with your underpinnings, select the size using the FINISHED measurements. Aim for 0-1" ease if you are wearing stays. I prefer a very snug fit through the bodice.

1. Trace off a clean copy of the front pattern piece. Transfer all markings. I use artist's tracing paper, purchased at Staples. If you can, mark the bust point using another, similar pattern with the same FINISHED measurements. For me, this was a size 14 sacque, and a size 12 basic bodice. I also marked the dart, but the fit of this pattern accounts for a dart as if it was already applied, so I used it to just center the line (step 4, below) that gets drawn through the bust point. If you don't have a similar size pattern, you can mark it somewhat arbitrarily, approximately 2" below and 3/4" in from the large dot that marks the stomacher attachment.

2. Draw a line from the underarm notch through the large dot marking the side waist. Mark the seam allowance near the single notch on the front curve of the armscye.

3. Cut the side back and front apart. Set the side back aside, we'll reattach it later.

4. Draw a straight line from the small waist dot up through the bust point with a ruler.

5. Draw a perpendicular line from the bust point to the side.

6. Use a ruler to draw a line from the bust point to the armscye. Most tutorials will give this as an arbitrary measurement like 1/3 of the armhole, but I found it's roughly where the armscye starts to straighten out from the crook of the arm.

7.Cut carefully up the front line and to the armscye, stopping just a hair before the seam line. Cut into the seam allowance towards the first cut, leaving a small hinge.

8. Cut from the side to the bust point, leaving a small hinge there too.

9. Move your bust point UP and IN, overlapping the intact part of the pattern by your desired amount. Allow the side cut and armscye cut to move naturally. My overlap was 1/2" to remove 1" total out of the bust. Tape in place to keep it from shifting.

10. Tape the side cut down so that it lays flat.

11. Lay the side back piece back against your pattern, matching the armscye edge and as much body edge as you can. You will have a little gap where the side cut overlaps, just tape in a piece of scrap paper behind it.

12. Because this adjustment shortens the waist, you can either raise the side back and front piece to match the shortened part, or lower the shortened part to match the other parts if you need more length below the bust. Make sure you adjust any length below the bust point.

13. Smooth out any other curves, such as in the armscye. Adjust the waist curve if necessary.

14. Cut another mock-up and see how you did!

You may want to shorten your stomacher pieces as well, I found mine a bit too high. Next time I will take some height off the top too.

Still a touch too tall over the shoulder, but overall fit was great!

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2018 Wrap-Up

2018 was a very interesting year, and not always in a good way. My mental health took a left turn at Albequerque and I had to take a step back from just about everything. But I'm happy to say that with the support of my doctor and Team Me, I'm feeling a lot better. One my goals for 2019 is to write more, so I'm going to make more effort to post here!

Upcoming I have a bunch of project posts and a tutorial on making a small bust adjustment, but for now here is my wrap-up of 2018.

Remade/finished a riding habit shirt

Finished Market Bonnet

Victorian Wallpaper Cotton Sacque

1780s Riding Habit and Cravat

1830s Yellow Gown and Apron

1795 Redingote based on the LACMA pattern

New sleeves, rump and petticoat for the IKEA LJUSOGA Italian Gown

The World's Fluffiest Cap (from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking)

Printed English Gown (in progress)

I went to Costume College in July. It represented both a high and a low in my year. We had built in an extra day, and the group split up to do various events on that day. Nicole and I went to the California Science Museum to visit Endeavor and King Tutankhamun's tomb goods exhibit, both of which were incredible. On the Monday after we did the fabric district tour again and found some goodies. Our flight home was not delayed, and I had also booked the next day off to just stay home. Costume College was excellent, and I learned a lot of interesting things and met a lot of even more interesting people (including Katie Lovely, Caitlin, Michaela, Anne and Gwendolyn). I did not sleep well all weekend, and a couple of external things threw my brain into a downward spiral that had me seeking my doctor out at the end of August. I can't decide if I want to write more about CoCo because it's so heavily coloured by my brain being a jerk.

For 2019 my goals include sewing more just because, getting back to my "roots" as a historical costumer with bustle-era Victorian things, and improving my life in small ways. It's going to be an adventure!

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Victorian Wallpaper Cotton Sacque

I hope you're ready for a long post about a long project, readers. Grab a beverage and settle in :D

When my mum was destashing in early 2014, I grabbed this striped fabric with the specific intent to make a sacque (aka a robe a la francaise or sack). I washed it soon after, and then it sat. And sat and sat and sat and sat forever. I made pocket hoops a month later, and that's as far as the project ever got.

Within a month of Costume College 2017, I decided the time was now. I had bought a bunch of silk for a sacque in the fabric district, but I was too scared to cut into it without some experience under my figurative belt. So I felt that if I made the cotton one first, I would feel much more confident about starting the silk one! I first made a linen lining, using my modified RH 822 as the pattern. Then I cut a single panel of the cotton and started to drape it on my lining, referencing Katherine's sacque tutorials as a guide. I was pretty happy with how it looked, and then got stalled on how to do the sides over the pocket hoops. The project got put aside, and sat.

In the end I'm really glad it waited so long. The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking came out at the end of November, and I read it back to front numerous times. Especially the section about the sacque gown. The directions indicated a width of at least 80" across the back. It seemed like a lot! I was also thinking about how to arrange the pieces on my silk, and how to deal with stripes? I couldn't cut a gore off and flip it to the other side of the side skirt, with either fabric, they are both striped! How to deal with that? Then, the Simplicity pattern was announced, and I was thrilled.

It took a couple months to arrange getting the pattern, but it did happen eventually. I finally, finally got set to really, really commit to make the gown this time. 80" of fabric in the back and all. Even if the fabric reminded me a bit too much of Victorian wallpaper to "pass". Indecision is my biggest nemesis, and I just needed to Get It Done.

I started by measuring my fabric. I had 8 yards of 42" fabric. The pattern envelope indicated I would need nearly 11 yards of 45" fabric, and that didn't include a petticoat, which I wanted. I carefully saved all of my scraps to see how much I would have left, and also because I may need them. Piecing is period, after all! Another reason to keep track of how much I had! I also wanted to make note of this especially because I felt it was important for people like me who can't get silk easily or inexpensively.

I sat down one late winter's day to make a mock-up. I always cut my Big-4 patterns one size smaller than the envelope says I need, and this one was no exception. I wasn't totally happy with it - too wide across the chest, too loose shoulder-to-bust (a normal occurrence, for me). I took the excess shoulder length out in a tuck from the strap, but I disliked that even more! It was now too tight under my arm and I couldn't put my arms forward much, plus the back neck now sat really high! Ugh! I took a day and a half to read about various adjustments one can make to a pattern - the one I see most is a full-bust adjustment, but what I really needed was a small-bust adjustment. I decided to give it a try, and the short version -- it worked. Back sitting where it was supposed to, full arm motion, including forward, only a tiny bit of excess over the chest. I'll put up a post explaining how I did it, link to follow!

Mock up #1. Notice the waves of fabric over the shoulder...

SO much better!

From there it was full speed ahead! I put on some Netflix and got started. I used my initial single-width panel that had the armscyes cut out (one would be in the centre back but I would fill in whatever wasn't covered by the pleats with a scrap) and laid it out on top of the yardage. I chose to cut the back pieces as one large piece rather than 2 separate ones. The print was directional, so for the main pieces I was careful to make sure the print went in the same direction. I cut, pinned, sewed, fitted, etc, over the course of a few weeks, and I can't believe I ever thought a single 42" wide panel was enough for the back. Look at this beauty:

I used a combo of machine and hand stitching. Major seams were done by machine where the stitches wouldn't show. In a few cases, I did machine stitch visibly, knowing or intending to cover it with trim in the future. Visible stitching was done by hand. I had cut my front skirts and bodice without checking placement of the print, and got it HORRIBLY wrong. I HAD to re-cut it:

Pattern lining up FAIL 😱😱😱 I'm recutting these... #sewing #sacque

A post shared by Crystal (@totchipanda) on

I did re-use the front bodice pieces to cut my stomacher. They only fit at an angle, but I quite like the chevron effect :)

As I got towards the end of my fabric, I had to plan. I did not have enough for a full self-fabric petticoat. I cut a single panel for the petticoat and two 12" strips to have a back hem, and then I was down to 27" of fabric left. I planned 6 3" strips for the front trim, but I waited to rip them, and good thing. My petticoat ended up being too long, and I ripped 4" off the front! I trimmed that down to 3" for one of the trimming strips.

The trimming took a long time, of course. I machine-hemmed both edges with my roll-hemmer foot, a device that is still a mystery to me. It was starting to get better by the end (I made a lot of hems over the summer with this foot), but I had done it this way because I KNEW someday it would get covered by trim. I had looked at a lot of sacque gowns in museums and such while I was planning, and the cotton ones, while trimmed, always had some kind of bling on their edges. But I also knew I couldn't wait to find the perfect trim, or else the strips would never get made, so I forged ahead. It took a LONG TIME (2 seasons of Call the Midwife, in fact) to get the strips gathered up. It took the first part of Moana to get them ironed, and then some more TV (I forget which, now) to get it all attached. I couldn't quite get it gathered up at my intended ratio, but I only have about 15" left over. And it looked GREAT!

Because I was using quilting cotton, I planned the back neck to be covered in trim. The fabric was stitched and the raw edges trimmed with pinking shears. The ruffle covers it.

Then it was on to the little bits! The sleeve fluffles had been hand-hammed, but I machined the gathering lines and attached by hand. I hate how visible the stitching is, but someday I will cover it. By the time I got around to that, my hands were giving out on me; I just couldn't manage fine handwork. It had to do. I machine-gathered lace and stitched it to a bias tape, then hand-stitched it to the neckline. For the linen fluffles, I used the trusty roll-hemmer (by this time, I had made another project with it, and the stitching on these is the best yet!) and then gathered some lace and stitched it on top (again by machine). It was gathered to a bias tape, and first I had put the fluffle in backwards. It looked weird! Once I got it on the correct sleeve, it was perfect. Except I had accidentally cut the biggest size fluffle, and had to attach it very far up the sleeve to keep it at a not-ridiculous-looking length.

I realized after this photo that the fluffle was in the wrong way!

The last bit I needed for Costume College was some bows. The night before we left, I cut three strips of golden yellow poly taffeta from my partner's stash with pinking shears. They would get done in the hotel, and they did. I put one on each elbow, and three down the stomacher, just pinned in place for now. I really enjoyed wearing it. Many people complimented my fabric, and I heard one exclamation of "pretty!!". Regrettably, I did not get any full-length shots of the outfit being worn.

In the fashion district, I found some cute floral trim. I calculated how much I thought I would need (6 x 90" as an overestimation of the strip trim, which worked out to 15 yards, so I bought 20) and shortly after arriving home, started to attach it. It really adds something to the visual interest, but now I want to add more! I think the centre of the strip needs a little somethin'-somethin' too ;) Maybe in pink or purple to pull out the flowers?

And here is all of the fabric I have left. If you want lots of trim, a fully matching petticoat, etc, you will need more fabric than 8 yards (also if you are taller than me!). But if you plan carefully and keep it conservative, you can save a little on yardage.

1770's Riding Habit

I'm not precisely sure when I decided that I needed a riding habit, but once the idea was there, it needed to happen. It's been on ...