Wednesday, June 24, 2015

1840s Dress Part 2

Phew, this gown is taking a really long time! I've been really excited to work on it all month and I have been whenever I've had free time, which has been little and far between. But I've got the bodice finished except for closures and sleeves. The sleeves are generally assembled, and once those are done and making friends with the bodice, it'll be time for the skirts, and then just attach the two and poof! I'm so excited :)

I won't say a lot about this right now. I made the bias tape for the piping out of 17" of 60" wide poly taffeta I had in my stash that was the most perfect colour, and matching cotton yarn also from my stash. It is pretty much all applied by hand since I can't get my zipper foot close enough to the piping. The true colour is more a deep burgundy; I took these pictures fairly late in the day when my east-facing apartment is not well-lit, but I so wanted to share my progress. I just LOVE this dress so far. I'm working on the gathered middle part of the other sleeve as you read this :)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award

Oh goodness, what a lovely thing to log on and see that the wonderful Gina has chosen to gift me a blog award :) Urk, that sounds so self-centered and I promise I don't mean it like that! Gina is such a lovely blogger, and I am so grateful that she also reads my blog. Thank you Gina! Please do visit her blog, Beauty From Ashes!

Official Award Rules:
1.Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
2.Put the Award logo on your blog.
3.Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4.Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
5.Nominate ten blogs.

I'm going to do it a bit out of order too :)

My nominees are:

1. Asa @ Fashion Through History
2. Nessa @ Sewing Empire
3. Tina @ Tarnished Thimble
4. Tiana @ Adventures in Costuming
5. Vincent @ Mouse Borg Designs
6. Caroline @ Dressed in Time
7. Amelia @ Crafty Wench Costumes
8. Jeanette @ The Perfect Touch
9. Glennis @ The Modish Victorian
10. Peryn @ Isobel Northwode Costumes

My questions:

1. Why is your blog named what it is?
2. What made you decide to start blogging?
3. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
4. On average, how much time do you spend sewing?
5. Of your favourite eras, do you prefer having patterns pre-made or making your own?
6. Speaking of favourite eras, which one is yours and why?
7. What is the most unconventional object used in a previous project? (Either in the making of, or actually in the item)
8. Describe your ideal sewing area.
9. Care to share your favourite sewing tip/trick?
10. Coffee or tea? Plain or doctored?

And my answers:

1. What do you watch/listen to while sewing?

Movies, mostly. Neflix has been a great boon in my life, just a few button pushes and boom, hours of entertainment!

2. What costume/outfit has filled you with them most sense of accomplishment and joy?

Most recently, my sari ballgown :) I was so happy to use the sari, given to me almost 10 years ago, and turn it into something so lovely and was such a joy to wear.

3. What is your favorite fabric/trim/embellishment to work with when making an outfit?

For fabric, I've come to enjoy working with natural fibres. I haven't quite made the leap into trim or embellishment yet, beyond the occasional foray into bias tape ;)

4. Do you take a lunch/food break while sewing or sew right on through the hunger?

I try to make time for food breaks. Not eating has a long history for me of directly leading to migraines, which is much less conducive to sewing than taking half an hour to eat would be. It's still hard sometimes, just one more seam! Having to plan and make my own meals is legit my least favourite thing about living alone ;)

5. Would you rather read something Sci-Fi or a historical/classics novel?

I generally prefer sci-fi/fantasy. One of the things my brain struggles with is word-flow/speech patterns. Historical language (Shakespeare right up to oh, mid-20th-century) is very difficult for me. I can read it, and as soon as I stop, I have no idea what I just read.

6. When going out to eat at a restaurant, do you like to sit outside in the fresh air or inside the restaurant?

Patios all the way! (provided there is adequate sun-blockage. I am very pale. Random strangers on the bus have commented on my ability to turn lobster red in a short period of time)

7. What has been your most favorite historical place to visit?

I haven't been to too many, but the Alamo in San Antonio was very special. I stood in the room that the women and children had hidden in and inside the main room and pictured the events happening around me, and it was like I could feel history breathing through the walls. I'm glad I went.

8. What fills you with awe and wonder when you gaze upon it and why?

Gosh, where do I begin? There's so much to nature that I could wax rhapsodic for days (do you want to hear about the birds that live in the GINORMOUS TREE outside my apartment? How my cat tried to catch them one morning, from the wrong side of a closed widow? Summer thunderstorms? Driving in the countryside and also following the hills and valleys and thinking how once upon a time, all of this was underwater, and wondering what it looked like before roads and Europeans?), and sometimes I'll be sitting in my car and filled with awe at the scope of human invention and our ability to learn and adapt and create.

About once a week I'm still amazed that I both know how and am able to drive, taking me places around my city and province that would otherwise be very limited to me. I am so grateful every day to be where I am, even on the days when it's hard to appreciate :)

9. If you could take a time machine and visit a certain time, what era/eras would those be?

First I think I would go see what dinosaurs were really like, and then I might pop in and out of various time periods to see what those were really like :) Basically, the Doctor just needs to come get me, I'm ready any time!

10. Do you prefer to go barefoot or shod on the cool summer grass? Have you ever noticed that no matter how hot it is, that grass is always cool?

Generally barefoot. I hate hate hate wearing socks and shoes, especially in summer! But sometimes one must wear shoes. My lawn was often dry and brown, or covered in thistles, or a miasma of mosquitos and/or dog poop. And yes, I have noticed the coolness of grass. I don't know why that is, but it sure is nice on a hot day to place your feet on cool grass :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

TBT: 1884 Cream Walking Gown (2011)

Fort Edmonton Park, 2011
Photo by B. Yoner
Dogs borrowed from a passerby.


In May that year, I had gone out to get some fabric for another costume, and found some polyester silk-look fabric on sale for $2/m. TWO DOLLARS A METRE!! I promptly bought 10m of both cream and bronze, and went back for 1m of the third colourway (and wish I had bought more of all three, too). For that year's train trip, I made the bronze skirt first, the 4-gore (you're gonna see it a couple more times, too!), but I couldn't decide on a bodice style. So I started making a cream version. This time I managed to figure out the ruffle ratios, and I ADORE the look of them. I'd wanted to make TV's Wash Overskirt forever, so I finally took the opportunity to do so. The bodice is the French Vest, without a contrasting front vest. Some day I will put raspberry trim all over this puppy and make it fabulous!

Train from Stettler to Big Valley, AB, 2011
Photo by A. Elliot

This is one of my favourite outfits, despite some tweaks being needed. I need to remove the ruffle and rehem the skirt so that I don't need to wear 3" heels with it, and fix the fit of the bodice. This is where I first really noticed that the bodices would fit me well from the bust point down, and through the back, but the top of the chest seemed to have a "fallen souffle" look, where extra fabric just kind of... sat on top of my bust. We also discovered that by taking pictures in natural light filtered by a tree, my dress kind of... glows.

Big Valley, AB, 2011
Photo by A. Elliot

And of course, this is another one I was working on until the last minute. I had spent the day before the trip hand-sewing a hat while at my aunt's birthday BBQ, which took 8 hours, and since I hadn't figured out the use of a thimble, my fingers were so sore. I only managed to attach 16 buttons and gave up. The last 4 were sewn on in the car (again). The pleats on the back of the bodice were held in place with pin for a couple months, and the skirts still lack closures.

Big Valley, AB, 2011
Photos by A. Elliot

I wore this gown again in Reno for WorldCon/Renovation that year, and to a steampunk photoshoot at Fort Edmonton Park a couple months later. I was going to wear it on the train from Carson City to Virginia City in August 2011, and decided not to because my poor Canadian constitution is much more suited to surviving -40C/F than +40C! I so wish I had though, I would have looked right at home on their darling 1860s boardwalk!

Downtown Virgina City, NV, 2011

Friday, June 5, 2015

HSM '15: #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone: The 1840s (Part 1)

I was pretty excited for this challenge when it was announced. There is a lot of things in historical costuming that are out of my comfort zone! Where would I begin? The challenge description indicates a range of things to consider – a new era, new technique or skill. I had a range of options. My main era is the bustle years, but even within that there is a lot of things I've never done. My gowns are so very very plain, since I don't really think in terms of decorations. I could make a new gown and deck it out, or decorate something I've already made (which I do have plans for). The easiest would be to pick a new era – I thought maybe the 1830s, an era I have little interest in and quite frankly find intimidating, or maybe working on a proper 1893 outfit (looking at you, Doctor Who), and even now that I've started sewing for the late 1700s, there's still things in there that terrify me (like robe francaise, also on the "someday" list).

But rather than waffle forever, I'd decided relatively early before the challenge started, that I would make an 1840s day dress. There was a number of things about it that would be out of my comfort zone – a new era (inspired by the 2011 Jane Eyre, such lovely gowns!), new things to make (January's corded petticoat would be needed to go under this gown), and most importantly, a new technique, which was going to be my focus for this challenge. I plan to gauge the skirt by hand. The only other time I needed to gauge a skirt, I cheated and used some pre-threaded curtain tape, and it's really best if we just don't talk about that skirt for now. The other new-to-me technique will be using piping on the dress. I used piping for two other costumes in the last 10 years, with mediocre results. On one of them I gave up trying to feed the seams awkwardly through my machine with no adjustable zipper foot or a piping foot to help me, and set the piped sleeves in by hand (so much easier and less stressful!). I'm also considering potentially hand-sewing large portions of this dress, though I will likely construct some of the interior seams by machine.

Just adore this silhouette! (Image from Somewhere on the Internet)

My free time these days is very limited. I took on some shifts at my belly dance studio, and for the rest of June I'm dancing once a week too. That leaves me 2 evenings and 1.5 days to work on whatever it is I'm working on, including housework and other odds and ends. So I'm really quite pleased that on one of those free evenings I was full of desire to work on the dress!

I started by pulling out all of my related patterns – Butterick 5832, which is based off an extant dress. The line drawing shows a lovely shape but you can tell that the pattern picture's model is not wearing the right sorts of undergarments. (Burda's early-mid-century pattern picture is even more questionable. Cone-shaped hoops had been out of style for over 200 years!) I really liked the sleeves but I wasn't sure about the front drapery, and some people on a Facebook group I'm in opined than the bodice is cut too low (more on that in a bit). Here's where I started to waffle a bit. I looked at the diagrams in Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, The Cut of Women's Clothes, and Patterns of Fashion. I toyed with the idea of modifying a Truly Victorian bodice pattern. I compared line drawings from the books to Butterick's pattern. I googled "1840s day dress" and found some lovely examples, which led me to trawling Pinterest for an hour, and then looking at the Met's online collection for another hour, pinning more pretty dresses. I didn't even get through the whole collection, maybe the first 700 items or so (not all of them from the same time period, of course, just the same century). So much prettiness! I also went fabric-diving in my stash to see if a particular length of fabric I knew was in there was going to work for this dress, but even if it is, I don't have enough of it (4m). I did find another length (6m) that I had earmarked for this decade and forgotten about. Excellent!

My fabric looks a lot like the dress on the right.

In the end I decided to just stop waffling and use the Butterick pattern. I'd pulled the pieces for the lining out on Sunday so I already had the pattern for the mock-up ready. I cut it out and quickly sewed it up. The dress is back-opening, but for the purposes of fitting it on myself, I sewed the back closed along the seam-line and left the front open. As expected, I need to take length out of the shoulders. It fits great from bust-point to waist, where I will need to let out the darts a bit. By pulling the shoulders up 3/4", the neckline fits smooth and doesn't appear to be as low as it shows on the pattern envelope. I might need to move them back a little though, in memory they sit right on top of my shoulder. I also need open the armholes a bit; they were digging in at the front a little too much. Other than that, it's perfect. The neckline doesn't seem too low to me, either, though I didn't try it on with a shift. Even without one, this will be a cleavage-free gown.

Now I have more decisions to make, such as what to use as piping, (solid or self-fabric? If solid, what colour? Matching or contrast? What should I put in as the cord?), how much length I need in the skirt, how many petticoats I need to make, what kind of shift and chemisette to make, how much hand-sewing I want to do… So many things to decide!

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...