Thursday, January 30, 2014

HSF '14: Falling off the wagon (already)

During last year's HSF, I contracted 6 "plagues" in under 2 months (I had a cold, two stomach flus, tonsilitis, and two other illnesses I can't recall, just that I spent most of January and February in bed) and my sewing fell by the wayside something awful. I've never been that sick that often in my whole life. Excepting a sinus cold in August, I haven't been since, either (knock on wood!). This year was going to be different, I said. This year I was going to finish all the projects on time, AND finish all of last year's too.

Winter, however, does not like me much. I feel fine, but the last two weeks have just been a series of minor obstacles, and so my project for #2: Innovation will not be ready. Sadface.

I had initially planned to make a corset with a separating busk as the innovation. They were a great invention after the one-piece hard busks down a lady's front, enabling her to get dressed more easily by herself (I suspect this was not the reason of their invention, but in our modern world of not living with extra hands to help us get dressed, they are wonderful). All of my current corsets do not fit me ideally. My first one fits the best, front and back lacing, if just a touch too long - the front bones dig into the tops of my legs when I sit down. Whatever boning was used in them is easily bent at that point. The lady who made that corset got her hands up against my waist a year later and told me that my ribcage is sized more proportionately for someone 4-5" taller than I am.

I'm telling you, I was meant to be tall.

My second one was purchased online, and is a very nicely made corset. Nice thick, sturdy fabric, spiral steel boning, good lacing, not too long over the hip. Buuut it doesn't fit right. I can't really buy "off the rack". My waist and hips are one size, and my bust is a full size smaller. I have a belly pooch that resists reshaping very stubbornly. I broke a rib some 8 years ago. I have a lower back injury that has never fully healed, partly because I keep re-injuring it. I've bought corsets according to every guideline with which to do so - by waist measurement. But since my waist is bigger than my chest, I always end up too roomy in the chest. Even after I took this corset apart a bit to bring in the bust, it flattens me out far too much, and pulls too hard over the hips. I was quite uncomfortable by the end of the day at WorldCon.

I really need a custom made corset and really can't afford to get one unless I make it myself. I don't want to compress my body too much; it's just too uncomfortable. It needs to be just small enough to fit snugly and give the proper shape under my gowns.

I had such grand plans. I bought a couple busks close to 10 years ago and have been meaning to make one for nearly as long (I made a corset in 2005, more to say that I did, and have made mostly stays ever since). I first drafted up a scaled corset from Frances Grimble's Fashions of the Guilded Age Vol 1, and then bought a commercial pattern since it was extremely similar and had the added bonus of being a single layer. I whipped up a quick mock-up and was going to go ahead with the corset when I realized that my busk was too long.

Nooooooooo :(

There was no time to order supplies (Fashions' corset is for a spoon busk, and it's quite short, so maybe that would help at least keep the busk from sticking straight out from the pooch? Thank goodness belly pooch is very Victorian!). It was under a week before the deadline, which also happened to fall on the same day as a local convention, so there wasn't enough time to go through the mock-up process with a new pattern.

Then I was going to make open drawers - what another great invention! Drawers weren't common for women (if at all) until the Regency era, and after spending an hour outside at New Year's in -25 and losing feeling in my legs, I had a great feeling that I would have been more comfortable in flannel drawers and two petticoats and skirts. No matter what though, I wanted a pair of drawers that I could wear under other eras. Sure, they're not period for Elizabethan or Georgian, but who's going to be inspecting under my skirts? I am much more comfortable while wearing a split-leg garment of some kind.

Fate conspired against me again. For the fourth time in under 3 years, I am being sprayed for bedbugs. I don't have them, never have in all of these sprays, but it means that everything I own must be packed up and moved away from the walls. So while I haven't been packing and moving anything and have been sulking instead, February is pretty much a write-off in terms of sewing. I look at my projects and think "what's the point, it all has to be packed up anyway". It's not just the spray, it's the re-inspection two weeks later. There is extremely little point in putting my residence back in order when I'll just have to re-do it.

On the upside, it'll give me a chance to find my embroidery hoop and go through the old VHS tapes I've stuffed into a back corner of the storage closet. But Innovation is off the table for now, and Pink is not looking fantastic either, especially since I can't find my pinking shears.

Have a picture or two of my cat being oh-so-helpful for making it to the end of the post :) I nearly had a heart attack seeing the bustle move out of the corner of my eye until I realized it had grown a tail.

Monday, January 27, 2014

HSF #25: One Metre: Green Neckerchief

One advantage to completing last year's challenges for the Historical Sew Fortnightly is that I can pick and choose which ones to complete based on the needs of my wardrobe and what I'm in interested in working on at the moment. I still feel like a dirty, dirty cheater for doing it this way, but at least it's getting my wardrobe up to snuff in a roundabout fashion ;)

I knew I needed a neckerchief or fichu to fill in the neckline of my pink gown, and for a time I waffled on whether or not I wanted to have a coloured one or wait until I could get some white linen. I did some poking around on the internet and decided that a coloured one would be fine. Lucky for me I had some hanky-weight linen I got for a steal at last year's sale in a pretty green. I just wish it was suitable for a shift too! It was a dream to sew!

The Challenge: #25: One Metre
Fabric: linen
Pattern: none; It is roughly 1m on all sides.
Year: 1775ish (does a hemmed square of fabric really have a year?)
Notions: Thread
How historically accurate is it?: 95%! The thread is polyester lol.
Hours to complete: 3.
First worn: Not yet.
Total cost: $2

Fills in the neck nicely :)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

HSF #24: Re-Do: A pink robe a la anglaise en forreau

The theme of the 24th challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly was "Re-do" - re-do a previous theme. I chose to repeat a VERY recent one (of the ones I've completed so far, anyway), mostly because I absolutely could not have done this without the internet holding my hand through it.

I chose to "re-do" the Gratitude challenge.

When I decided to commit to a Georgian, I had intended to use a length of lovely green linen to make a robe a la anglaise with an en forreau back. When I finally dug it out of a box (ahhh moving), there wasn't nearly as much of it as I remembered. I had made a little note with the measurements but it got lost in the move. Not that it mattered - there simply wasn't enough. I recall it being an odd width, but even if it was 60" wide, it's only 2.5m long. Not enough for a full gown. Nuts! I'd so had my heart set on it.

Just prior to finding this out, I'd gone to the annual New Year's Day sale at Fabricland where I scored 6m of pink linen/cotton blend for around $4.50/m (regular $14). I was quite pleased! I know it's not strictly period, but I had intended to make undergarments with it - pocket hoops and a petticoat at the very least. But after I rediscovered that the green linen was insufficient, my plans changed.

So now I'd decided on making a pink linen/cotton robe a la anglaise en forreau - phew, what a mouthful. I was utterly terrified to start. What if I made a mistake somewhere? What if I ruined my gown and/or fabric? Aiiieee!!

Take a deep breath, self. You can do this. While I still have a hundred and one things to learn, I'm moving up towards "advanced" seamstressing. I can do this.

But I really could not have done it without Katherine's wonderful and extremely detailed tutorial. I started with a pattern (Reconstructing History #822) to give me basic shapes to start with and made a muslin first. I had to grade the seams out a bit to accommodate my shape and trim away a lot of the neckline and shorten it a bit at the waist, but despite that, I really only had to make minor changes. I transferred my changes to the paper, accounted for seams, and moved onto a lining. A bit more fitting to fiddle with (mostly opening the neckline more, front and back). Finally, I was satisfied with the fit and it was time to move onto the fabric.


I did make one mistake in cutting the back, which was easily fixed and I amazingly did not full-on panic about considering how scared I was to start. You can see the fix I made in these progress pics on my LiveJournal. I also ended up with the neckline a bit too wide, but as I won't be wearing this without some sort of neckline filler and I'm planning on trimming it anyway, it should be OK.

The Challenge: #24: Re-do. I redid #23 Gratitude, with huge huge thanks to Katherine's tutorials on anglaise, sleeves and francaise (binding).
Fabric: 55% Linen/45% cotton, white linen/cotton for the bodice lining and what I believe is cotton for sleeve lining.
Pattern: RH #822 with modifications, sleeve drafted from Costume Close-up.
Year: 1775-ish
Notions: cotton thread, poly twill tape for petticoat ties.
How historically accurate is it? Pretty darn close; perhaps around 80%. I ended up handsewing nearly the entire thing except for skirt and bodice lining seams. Everything else (hems, any visible stitching, and the sleeves) are hand-done.
Hours to complete: around 15-20 hours, I think, not including mock-up time. I wasn't keeping super-close track.
First worn: Just for pictures.
Total cost: $30 for pink fabric, linings were leftovers from other projects, thread randomly appeared in my stash, tape was perhaps $2. Max $40.

Sleeves set in by hand even though the strap is cut as one with the bodice.

The left back shoulder ended up being a little too short so I patched it. Probably could have covered it with the facing, but oh well.

My "oops" with the skirt is nearly completely hidden :)

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Adventures in: Pattern Drafting

It's been a whirlwind year, friends. I have always been scared to not use a pattern to make any textiles, especially when I was young and sewing was a skill I had yet to truly acquire. Learning how to sew from Japanese pattern books was a great start - the fashion style I was working on was achieved through several basic shapes, and the books showed you how to modify given patterns included into the shapes needed. Sometimes those basic shapes were drafted out fully as well (which helped when I purchased one second-hand and received no pattern sheet). It taught me a lot.

So did Jen's video on apportioning scales, to be used with The Edwardian Modiste and The Voice of Fashion (and a few other books). I think they are amazing things and I don't know why more books and scales aren't produced like this. You would get a good fit nearly every time, no matter what size or shape you were! How wonderful! But you do have to put a lot of work into it to start with, and in our modern consumerism and busy personal lives, I fear only the truly dedicated would use them (probably myself included... I am awfully lazy sometimes). Alas.

Pattern drafting is SO not news to historical costumers. What few commercially patterns are available are pretty much exclusively from small pattern companies. Very few of us are able to walk into any craft or fabric store and purchase one on a lark. Sometimes we don't have time to wait to receive a pattern in the mail, or we don't want to spend as much on shipping as the pattern itself. I've been using Reconstructing History's 822 (Robe Anglaise) to construct my newest dress, but in the end I'm using it more for general shapes without having to work on drafting one myself, which I'm still very much learning. I was also pleased to realize that I'm a very close size to Gown #3 in Costume Close-Up by Linda Baumgarten, which I could use again to get general shapes down.

Let me tell you, friends. 18th century clothing construction is not an exact science. It is art. I would certain recommend RH's pattern as a good place to start, as it fit me rather well with very little adjustment and I consider myself to be "oddly shaped", and the JP Ryan one is highly praised by others. But you really, really need to take the time to fit and make mock-ups. You really can't open the package and start sewing.

I'm sure that's not news to some of you, and it certainly wasn't to me either, especially since this is a new era for me and I have come so far since I started over 10 years ago, I want to do things "right". The pattern that came with RH822 is, for me, not appropriate. It may work in an earlier setting, I'm not sure. My primary interest is the last 30 years or so of the 18th century, which appears to require narrower sleeves than the given pattern would make up. I first attempted to pinch in the pattern and recut my mock-ups, but before I even stitched them up, I carefully slipped one on. And hated it. It was too tight in the arm hole but still too loose through the arm and elbow. Rubbish. I didn't want to spend the time adjusting the pattern, since I don't really know where to start, even, and decided to instead scale up the sleeve pattern from Gown #3.

This worked for me, mostly. I don't really know anything about drafting patterns beyond what I've picked up by constant reading and staring at diagrams.

First, I traced the pattern onto a small piece of paper, touching two points to a side. I figured out what the scale I wanted to use was and made all the important calculations.

Then I made the important lines. French curves or a tailor's or quilting curve would be of great benefit in getting some of the curved lines. Mine ended up as near perfect matches.

Hey look, a pattern!

Then I cut it out and taped it edge-to-edge in a tube to slip onto my arm. It was fine in the armpit but too narrow through the meat of the arm. I had to split the pattern and add a little extra width, then taped it and tried again. The final adjustment was to take a small amount out of the wrist edge to narrow it further.

Then I cut out new fabric mock-ups. It was quite late by then, so I hand-basted them together and then pulled out my first mock-up to attach them and see the fit. The photos are a little hard to see; I attempted to correct them but dark fabric + nighttime indoor photography = poor photos.

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And they were nearly perfect. I've already cut, made up and attached them to the dress (which is very nearly finished!) so they will have to suffice for now. The only changes I would make would to change the angle around the sleeve head a bit and perhaps use a slightly larger scale for more volume around the arm as I haven't tried them on over a shift yet since I still don't have one. I am really pleased with the results though! The changes are minor and I can correct them for a later dress :3

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HSF #23: Generosity & Gratitude: Late-1700s Underpinnings.

I made a two-fer for this challenge. Gotta have the right support to make the dress look good :)

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First up, a false rump loosely based on a few I've seen on other blogs, but largely in part to Kendra's fantastic article on skirt support:

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It sits a little differently on me. My mannequin is much smaller than me and has no bum.

Second, a 1700s petticoat. I'm attributing it to the lovely tutorials by Katherine and A Fashionable Frolick this time around. Back in 2004 I made a Butterick version of a robe a la anglaise and realized that my visible petticoat was too sheer and anything else beneath it would be seen through it (I made it for Halloween, and that is very frequently winter in my area, so underthings were necessary), sending me on a trawl of the internet to find out what a "regular" petticoat would look like. I eventually came to the conclusion (somehow) that it would be exactly like the visible petticoat. I can't remember if either of these sites were involved in that particular tidbit, but they are now.

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Back view over rump.

This one was a bit harder, because I sold that costume and its petticoats last year, so I could only test the false rump with an Elizabethan petticoat, since I wanted this petticoat to be levelled at the waist, but I wasn't 100% sold on the shape of the rump without a proper petticoat to put over it... I ended up making the rump smaller before sealing it up and starting on the petticoat, but I'm not entirely happy with the shape of either. They will suffice for now.

The Challenge: #23: Generosity & Gratitude
Fabric: Mystery (stash); possibly poplin (slightly stretchy) and denim-look cotton
Pattern: none
Year: second half of the 18th century
Notions: grosgrain ribbon, thread, bias tape, poly fiberfill stuffing
How historically accurate is it? In shape only. I hand-stitched most of the petticoat but otherwise all machine done.
Hours to complete: Perhaps around 8 hours for both?
First worn: not yet
Total cost: All stash! I did pay for the materials at some point, so I'd guess around $20 max.

HSF '14 #1: Make Do and Mend: The Finishing Touches

I had grand plans (after a fashion) of getting everything out of my "nearly finished - no, really" pile for this challenge. I have so many skirts that I've had to wear pinned in place, and nearly as many almost-finished-except-for-hemming-and-closures. I was going to fix all that!

Life gets in the way, as it does. I got inspired to work on a challenge or two from last year that I've been wanting to work on for over a year. The temperature dropped into the -40 range so I decided to cancel some plans and took the self-imposed-purgatory chance to clean up my apartment a bit more (I moved over 2 months ago...) and sort through some fabric. Then my friend had an extra ticket for Justin Timberlake, and on that same night, I got a notice that I was going to be inspected for bedbugs (for those keeping track at home, it is my fourth rodeo with bedbugs in three years. Yep.) so all of my to-do pile got put back into the box from whence it came.

But! During the Ridiculously Cold Weekend, I did finish a to-do project. Three years ago, I attended an SCA Coronation feast. I had worked really hard to get an outfit ready for the event, and I recall the temperature having been in the Ridiculously Cold range (a normal occurance in January, sadly) and the day of the event, it was quite pleasant out, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark (-3C or so). Not warm enough to go without a coat, by a long shot, but I had no other outerwear. And so, this cloak was born. And then it languished in the Pile, when all it needed was to have a closure put on, the turning seam closed, and closing up the holes at the front corners. I'm pleased to say that it is finally done!

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Creepy mannequin head added to show off the hood shape.

I just have no idea if it's any good in the weather. Perhaps I'll run to the corner store on a day when it's not Ridiculously Cold and see how it goes.

The Challenge: #1: Make Do and Mend
Fabric: Wool, poly fleece
Pattern: Butterick 4419 with modifications
Year: The pattern appears to be late-1800s but could work for a variety of eras.
Notions: Thread, large hook and eye
How historically accurate is it?: Not terribly. The shape and wool outer are certainly period, but polyester fleece lining, not so much.
Hours to complete: Probably around 5. It should not have taken me 3 years to put on a hook and eye, but I swear every time I went to do it, either the cloak was mislaid, or the hook and eye was...
First worn: Not yet.
Total cost: I remember getting the wool at a mega-bargain but it's been so long I don't recall by how much! Perhaps $20 CDN total.

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Seriously... 3 years to do this.

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Side-back. The hood doesn't stick up that much normally, it's the Creepy Head...

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Complete with 3-year-old wrinkles and cat fur!
(What is it about UFOs that draws cats to use them as nests?)

Road to Costume College 2018

Gosh, where did the first half of the year go? (I know where, winter was unusually long and dark and cold, and it's effect lasted longer...