Sunday, March 30, 2014

HSF '14: #6: Fairytale: Beauty and the Bees-t

While I was angsting about the lack of ability to get the dress pattern I wanted, I posted to the Facebook event in the hopes that someone might have a better idea where to find the kind of information I was hoping for. I got a link to a really fabulous page of fashions! I was particularly taken with the houndstooth dress in the second-last picture. So adorable!

My chosen fairytale was, as I mentioned previously, initially going to be a Disney-inspired Tudor Snow White, but that was very ambitious in terms of time and money. Then I remembered that I had a better inspiration - one of my favourite fairytales, Beauty and the Beast, and also a novel I wrote in 2012. I set it in 1940-1943 England, where my "Beauty" was sent to the countryside to live with her aunt and uncle to escape the Blitz, and meets her "Beast", a fairy-enchanted werewolf. I was torn between a few scenes, waffling between one where she meets him for the first time, or perhaps when they attended a dance in Southampton. I thought I would keep my options open, and see what the internet might be able to bring to me.

But then, when I was typing up my last entry, I decided to try googling again. I really wanted to keep the aesthetic of the 1940s even if I couldn't have a truly authentic piece for lack of the pattern. I would have been happy with even some pattern diagrams to at least get the seam-placements right. I found a dress or two that I liked well enough to attempt, plus I already had a pattern that was similar that I had made up before and really liked. And then, via Google and Pinterest, the perfect webpage dropped into my lap.

Behold, Very Easy 1939 Dirndl Dress Pattern. While from a year before my heroine went to the country, she is precisely the kind of character to re-wear things a year or two out of fashion, especially a piece she made herself. (Check out the rest of the blog too, there's some other adorable vintage patterns I'm excited to try out at some point in the future!)

My next google search took me to try and find a collection of novelty prints from the 1940s. Since I just got 50+lbs of fabric (I think it's a lot closer to 80lbs, actually; I weighed my second haul and it was less than I took the first time and came in at 30lbs!) from my mum, I was just hoping to find "close enough". I settled on this adorable garden flowers and bees print. (For reference, here is the page I looked for fabric inspiration.)

I'm still fighting with myself on motivation, even though I feel so much better than I did a month ago, so it took me some time to finally sit down and do this. And because February was so short, I forgot I had a little extra time! Even so, it took an extra day or two to get the fabric washed, and then waiting for it to dry since the dryer wasn't working so good and it came out wet..

This project really took too long for a dress that is basically rectangles. When I measured myself against the given measurements, 9" for a bodice seemed quite short, so I added 2" which then ended up being 2" too many! I'm not overly happy with the dart placement or overall fit, but since I spend a large portion of summer lounging around the house, this should make a fantastic house-dress!

I don't know why it doesn't close on my mannequin... her bust is smaller than mine!

It's very high on the back, and beneath the arm, which might be alleviated by fitting over proper undergarments or by cutting an armhole, though the pattern is intended to have a selvedge edge all the way around.

The Challenge: #6 Fairytale
Fabric: 100% cotton
Pattern: Very Easy 1939 Dirndl Dress Pattern
Year: 1939
Notions: Thread, buttons, hook and eye, snaps
How historically accurate is it? Pattern, check! Fabric content, check! Fabric pattern, poly thread, construction techniques... less check.
Hours to complete: 6+ (Could probably get it down to a few hours if one has clean selvedges)
First worn: Not yet (it's -13C still! Brrrrr)
Total cost: Free!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March "What's in the hopper?"

I am still struggling with issues related to motivation, and partly feeling like I shouldn't be using my sewing machine after 9pm but that's when I'm most productive (it's like this while writing too). My building is very quiet and I don't want to disturb my neighbours. Clearly I need more hand-sewing projects ;) This will be a little bit of a stream-of-consciousness post, so I apologize if it gets a little rambly.


I've got a Regency spencer in the works that just needs a few finishing touches. It will be an entry for one of last year's challenges :D It mainly needs buttons. I had a moment this afternoon as I went "AHHHH I HAVE NOT BUTTONS" and then remembered I had a large tray full of buttons? It has nothing that I want to use, however. So that's still on the table.

The next challenge due is Fairytale, to use one's favourite fairytale as inspiration. At first I wanted to do a Tudor Snow White as I had a dream about it a few years ago and it would be utterly stunning if I could pull it off. Then I decided that it was A: too ambitious, given my track record, B: too expensive, and C: Where would I wear it? So instead, I chose to toot my own horn a little, and do a take on Beauty and the Beast, from a novel I wrote in 2012 for NaNoWriMo. I set it in 1940's England, so it would absolutely fit within this year's timeline. But I'm in the middle of Very Big Things (tm) (and also, not really, but Big Enough (tm)) that prevent me from purchasing the pattern I wanted to get to make it. I'm still searching and Googling my heart out, trying to find a way to alter a modern pattern into a "good enough" situation. Historical accuracy has never been my focus, and even though I've been sewing for close to 20 years, pattern manipulation is still a point I need a lot of work on.

Oh gosh, in the midst of writing this, I found a great pattern for free. That's very exciting! Expect a post on that soon!

I've got several of the next few challenges planned too, right up through mid-summer :D A little cap, a UFO, a riding habit, and a new corset are all on my plate for the future.


I'm starting to realize that it's about 6 weeks until my first major con of the year, and it's primarily a cosplay con. I have one costume in the works for that, but I need to decide on another one to make.

My mum recently decided to clean out some of her fabric stash, so she gave my sisters and I permission to haul away anything she didn't want :D There were some fabrics that had been purchased while my sisters were children (they are in their 20s now) that she never got around to making garments for them. While I think my stepdad was hoping for more fabric to leave, we still left - all three of us - with at least 50lbs of fabric each. My sister's little 2-door Yaris was so full! I need to start cataloging my new stash and deciding on projects :) My Very Big Things (tm) are also currently preventing me from being able to wash it, and there's quite a few cottons in there that need to be washed first (not to mention some of them were stored in cardboard boxes in a basement for who knows how long). I'm quite excited to dig in.

Which does make me wonder, a bit, about how much historical accuracy I want to pursue. Some of the prints are very modern but would make utterly adorable Regency gowns, or short gowns, or Victorian pieces. How much do I want to adhere to "the rules"? It's never been my focus - some of my earliest forays into historical costuming were through the SCA, and 16-year-old me was just horrified that anyone would be heavily criticized for not strictly adhering to "historically accurate" clothing. Thirty-plus year old me knows this is not strictly the case, but it's still something I struggle to wrap my mind around. Sure, that lovely Indian-inspired print is gorgeous, but it's not "accurate enough". How much do I care? On one hand, I care a lot! On the other, screw that noise! I need to find a balance in my mind where I am happy with fabric and prints vs. being "accurate".

Hi Mum... this wool is very lovely.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

HSF '14: #5: Bodice: Complete!

Gosh, I can't tell you how pleased I am that this is completed. I'm really glad I decided on this one, and I'm REALLY glad I saw it through to the end! And it is done! I still have to do all the trimming, but I could absolutely put this on right now and go to a ball this very moment, no pinning of anything to keep anything in place!

The construction process was the same as all the other Truly Victorian bodices I've made; in fact, I have made this pattern before. I was confident in the fit, so I just went ahead and made the entire bodice. You can see in the back photo, under the left arm, that there is a small amount of staining. I'm not sure what made it or where it came from, but it should get lost once I finish trimming it too.

The Challenge: #5 Bodice
Fabric: 100% Polyester, 100% Cotton for interlining, either 100% cotton or a cotton/poly blend for lining
Pattern: Truly Victorian #416 1875 Ballgown Bodice
Year: 1875
Notions: thread, vintage buttons, plastic boning
How historically accurate is it?: The shape is, but that's about it lol
Hours to complete: 20-ish based on previous bodice constructions
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: Minimal; probably around $10. Everything was from the stash :)

Setting up the buttonholes.

Uh oh, one of these things is not like the other...
(It got ripped out and re-sewn.)

A brave solider died for the cause!
Amazingly, I didn't break the needle on it!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

HSF '14: #5: Bodice: Inspiration and Progress

With just a few days left before the next HSF challenge is due, I thought I would share some of my processes and inspirations.

For this particular challenge, I had the most perfectest item in mind to make. I spoke about it in last year's #10: Literary inspiration post, which was more side-related to that project. To recap, I was reading Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, and in Soulless, Alexia went out for an evening in a cream ballgown with raspberry trim. As I was in the middle of constructing a cream-coloured dress and had planned for raspberry accents when I had time, this was very fortuitous, as it gave me another option to make for the skirts.

One reason that I am enjoying participating in the HSF so much is that it gives me focus. I'm one of those people who works much better with deadlines, and I think it is great to be working on projects even when I don't have a particular NEED for those projects. I usually end up frantically sewing late into the night and waking up early to finish a costume, usually to just a wearable state (most of my skirts don't have closures, for example; they all close with safety pins). It's nice to work with a deadline but not have a specific need. This bodice challenge will be one that I likely won't 100% finish it (I'll consider it a win if I can get it to "wearable"; it definitely won't be trimmed!) but it will be a lot easier to complete it when I do need it with most of the work done already.

Photo by A. Yoner.
Big Valley, AB, Canada

In 2011, when I made the original outfit, I ended up making a favourite, Truly Victorian's 1884 French Vest Bodice. It was another event that I was frantically sewing for - I had spent the day before hand-sewing a hat and by the time I got home, my fingers were so sore that I put on 16 out of 20 buttons, and there was no way I was going to be able to stitch the pleats in place. I sewed the last of the buttons in the car, and the pleats were pinned into place. I've since sewn those down, but the skirts still lack closures...

And looking at it now, the fit is not great. I hadn't yet figured out that I needed to take out some inches in the chest, and at least part of it is the wrong size. I'm not sure yet if I'll ever take it apart and try to correct those issues. It's gonna be a lot of work. I have not worn it since 2012, and while I don't want to retire the outfit, I'm not sure when I'll wear it again.

Anyway, this challenge is PERFECT. I've been wanting to make a matching ballgown bodice since I made it. I didn't have a lot of fabric left - one piece 22" by 66", to be precise. I had JUST BARELY enough to make the main pieces. There is not enough left over to make sleeves, so this will be a sleeveless bodice.

That dark shadow in the corner is from the rather large amount of fabric my mum gave me :3

Of course, I had to second guess myself a lot first. Even though I'd planned this since the challenge was announced, at the start of the week I started wondering what else I could make that wouldn't take a lot of effort. When I made the original gown, I was timing myself on the construction so that I would have a better idea on the amount of time and effort spent. The skirts - the base, the pleated ruffle, and the overskirt - all took less time than one bodice. The French vest bodice was about 20 hours of work; that's a lot to spend on something, even over a couple weeks. But I was really stuck on the idea of "bodice", and after considering and rejecting several ideas, I decided that this one really was the one that needed to happen.

It took a little Tetris-ing, but I got all of the main pieces laid out. Sweeeet. This pattern has the corrected chest, and I also made changes to the armhole. My first ballgown bodice, in tangerine taffeta, did not have the armhole corrected and I find it sits somewhat oddly on my shoulders, mainly that it doesn't. It should hopefully be good now. I am confident enough in the pattern to just jump in with both feet. I have the outer layers basted and constructed and boned; now I just need to decide what to line it with :)

Mum... can I start pulling out all those pins you just put in?

And after I had laid out my fashion fabric, I discovered something. I always thought I had just managed to drop an unusual amount of pins, but it turns out that if I leave the pin dish on the floor, my cat will steal pins out of it and then chase them around a bit. I think he likes the way the pin causes the ball to skitter unevenly. So I've been good about picking it up once I'm done with it. After I'd pinned out the fashion fabric, I left it on the floor to retrieve a drink, and turned back to find him pulling pins out of the fabric! He pulled out half a dozen, just like that! He's thankfully shown no interest in actually eating them, just pulling them out and chasing them! What a silly kitty!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

HSF'14: #4 Under It All: A 1700s Chemise

There really isn't a lot to say about this, so here it is :) I picked up the fabric right before I visited the Harry Potter Exhibition, so I carried 5yds of linen around in my bag for several hours. Turns out 5 yards of 3.5oz linen doesn't weigh a whole lot as I barely noticed the extra weight lol. It was washed the next day, and I began work on the shift the day after (ahhh long weekends!) and finished most of it. But then the next day was the follow-up for the bedbugs so everything got packed away again, and then I was hit with my seasonal depression. It took a week and a half more before I could finally convince myself to put all the boxes away, and only then did I finish the shift. Luckily, I pushed hard enough on the first day that all I had left to do was trim and fell the side and sleeve seams, and hem it. That was it. It was a very quick garment to make, easily do-able in one day (by machine, anyway). The only thing I would change is perhaps to make the neckline a liiiittle bit narrower; I had not planned to put a drawstring into it, but once I had it ready to try on, it was quickly apparent that it was necessary.

The Challenge: #4 Under It All
Fabric: 100% Linen
Pattern: Drafted from
Year: 1760s-1780s
Notions: Thread and some ribbon
How historically accurate is it?* In materials and general shape and patterning Poly thread and poly ribbon, machine stitched.
Hours to complete: 8-10.
First worn: Not yet.
Total cost: $15

Further resources:

Construction from
Research and construction from

*I decided that I found this category the hardest to fill out, as what makes something historically accurate to me may not qualify sufficiently for someone else, and I feel it is a little arbitrary for that reason. No one is grading me on these items, so I have decided to avoid a "grade" and will focus instead on the elements that make it historical.

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...