Sunday, June 29, 2014

Adventures in: Bias Tape, Level 2: Make Your Own!

When I think of all the things about sewing that seem designed to frustrate me the most, bias tape always seems to top the list. I don't know why. It's easy to use, finishes edges neatly, and makes great decorative touches. I always seemed to be limited to what was in the store, none of which, of course, ever matched whatever project I was working on.

Well, no more! Learning to make bias tape was a great experience, and it's about as easy to do as it is to use. I first looked up these techniques in 2011, when I started working on an Elizabethan farthingale. I'm working on it again, for the next HSF challenge, even though a lot of things are conspiring against me! 

As always, I turn to the internet for guidance. When I first started looking at it, it was many, many moons ago. Almost in the dark ages of the internet. At least it seemed that way. Honestly I don't really remember, it was a good 6 years ago now. I found (and still use) Coletterie's fab tutorial, though I don't square off the ends, and instead just line up the straight- or cross-grain sides and sew with a narrow seam (much like this tutorial, which also has an amazing folding technique to get the strips cut. I'm gonna have to try that!) It's very important to make sure, if you're not using fabric with an easily-indentifiable right side, that your strip will end up being, well, a strip, and not a square. Not speaking from experience, or anything (ahem).

I made mine, this time, in a vaguely complicated manner. I have a cardboard cutting board with bias lines marked upon it, so I lined up a selvedge with the bias line and then made a bunch of straight marks (some of which weren't so straight), and cut them out. I started in a corner of the fabric and followed its bias to the selvedge, which was approximately 2 yards long. With 2" spacing, for a 1" finished width, I ended up with about 13 yards of tape! Wowee!

So now I had a very, very, very long strip of fabric. I don't have a bias tape maker. Luckily for me, I found this tutorial on making tape without one. It's probably even easier than using a thingamabobber.

All that's left is to pull 13 yards of bias tape through the pin and press it...

In the space of about 2 hours from when I laid out fabric to when I finished pressing, I had 13 yards of perfect bias tape. It's ready to go on my project!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

HSF 10 & 11: Art and Politics of Fashion (The inspirations)

I decided somewhat late that I was not going to participate in the Art challenge. I'd been somewhat iffy on it to start with, since my experiences with historical sewing don't tend to rest with artwork or inspirational images. But earlier this year I did find some art that would be perfect! It would go with the pink dress I finished in January.

I would need to make an apron, neckerchief, shift cuff ruffles, and a wonderfully large hat. But I lacked numerous resources this spring, not to mention my usual habit of procrastinating for far too long. And then I caught my first plague of the year (a sinus cold) and decided that I wouldn't stress myself over a challenge. Not to mention, I live on the Prairies, and while I would be able to photograph my work against a lovely field in harvest, I would have to wait until September or October to truly emulate the painting. While that was not truly a dealbreaker, I took this challenge off the table. Perhaps I will revisit it this summer.

Two weeks ago, as I was relaxing after my usual Saturday morning activities but before I felt ready to tackle the things I needed for Sunday morning, I decided that maybe I would consider working on my challenge for #11. I've had this challenge planned since forever! I'm really excited to start on it. After reading so many blogs and seeing so many lovely variations, I wanted to make my own chemise a la reine.

I hardly need to introduce this gown. There are dozens of recreations, several references images, even a few patterns, and it's been featured in a couple movies too. Sarah of Mode Historique has been posting extensively about this iconic gown since early April, and has a few delightful recreations of her own. Some of my favourite dresses have been made by Katherine of The Fashionable Past/Koska-the-Cat, Asa of Fashion Through History, and Jen of Festive Attyre.

When I was doing the initial research a few months ago, I was a little discouraged. I had the perfect fabric picked out - 4-5m of handkerchief weight linen in a pretty green that I picked up for dirt cheap at a New Year's Sale (previously seen: HSF'13: 25 One Metre). But pretty much every true "chemise a la reine" - that is, the airy dress that is essentially a giant tube and gathered around the neck (waist optional, as it can be held in and controlled with a sash) - has been of white or off-white material. While there are fashion plate examples of coloured gowns, nearly all of them have a fitted back.

I'm still really new to this era, and a lot of the construction is a mystery. How does one construct a fitted-back, gathered-front gown? Jen's black chemise gown was a great inspiration to me - fitted back, with a sense-making front closure, and added bonus, she's collected a great number of fashion plate images on Pinterest. (Side note: I am so thankful and appreciative of the hard work so many of these wonderful women have put forth before me. I've been a long-time admirer of their beautiful work, and I can only hope that someday I can give back to the community in the same way.)

Though I see in the Pinterest plates now, there are a couple examples of loose coloured gowns, I am still aiming to construct a fitted-back gown. Mostly because I have been preparing for this for several months and I am eager to work on it in the way I've planned :)

My biggest obstacle so far has been trying to decide how to pattern the front. It seems pointless to put gathers all the way under the arm, so how does one control that? I'm taking inspiration from an adorable pierrot jacket that I unfortunately can't find the reference for, which is smooth under the arms, and only the front section is gathered.

Also an inspiration is this REDONKULOUSLY cute dress at the Glasgow Museums - Collections Navigator. This type of gown was the precursor of the transitional "round" and later Regency gowns, so this kind of construction makes sense. It seems very similar to this 1786 fashion plate. I don't have enough fabric to make a separate petticote, though, so I will be making a closed-skirted, front-gathered, fitted-back "round gown".

As of this posting, however, it's only a few days until the challenge deadline, and I probably won't make it in time. You see, I just went to my grandmother's memorial, and brought a cold back with me. I feel pretty rotten, but it's only started to settle in today, so we will see how the rest of the week goes. But it's also coming up on dance-recital time, which I need a costume for, visiting my other grandparents (hopefully) whom I haven't seen since last October, and planting a forest in memory of my friend Shell, all before Sunday. One of those weeks where things are just conspiring, you know how it goes. I will get it done sometime :)

Edit 6/12/14: Wouldn't you know it, that I would find my inspiration item the day after I posted that I couldn't find it?

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...