Saturday, December 30, 2017


When I saw Fresh Frippery's post on a group of dresses made with IKEA's Ljusoga bedsheets, I knew I needed to get in on this gorgeous fabric! Shortly after, I had sold my old phone and had a little extra cash, so I bought the king-sized set and waited for inspiration to strike.

I can't remember if inspiration struck so much as that I wanted to get going on this project. The Modern Mantua-Maker's stunning Italian gown was definitely one inspiration, as was the Italian gown pattern in the An Agreeable Tyrant catalog. As much as I love the pleated back gowns, I wanted to try a new style, and the quarter-backed Italian gowns were all the rage this past year. So that's what I decided to do.

I started with petticoats, as I usually do. I hand-sewed the printed one, and machined the white taffeta one. I also misjudged skirt lengths and got not enough of the taffeta, so it is extra short! I've since added a ruffle that I can't decide if it looks silly or not.

White poly taffeta (front view).

Worn over the white one (back view).

Then it was time to make the dress. I again used Reconstructing History's 822 pattern as a base, and then modified it heavily using the gown pattern on Page 39 of Patterns of Fashion 1.

Original pattern in pale green, finished (mostly) pattern in dark green.

My mock-up was OK...

Aside from the stays issue. The grey cover shows where the stomacher-front stays hit on my body. I didn't want that much showing over top, so that's when I decided I needed a new pair of stays!

I'd made a custom draft from Stays & Corsets, but was really disappointed with the fit (the draft has you take off a minimal amount of circumference, resulting in a snug t-shirt fit and not a supportive garment). I'll write more about them in another post, but I ended up making the 1780s stays from a pattern originally provided by, which I believe is a straight-up draft from Corsets and Crinolines. It is no longer available there.

And I was really glad I did, because the new one changed the shape of my bust! My original pair flattened my bust and pushed it up, this one pushes it more forward. This was the shape I wanted for this gown. I did have to add some width and height at the CF neckline to ensure overlap and modesty, but that was an easy fix. Then it was time to forge ahead!

According to the date stamps on my photos, this dress got picked up again roughly 2.5 weeks before Costume College. Nothing like the last minute to get started. Here's the finished back on July 11:

And my first on-me fitting with the proper bits on July 13:

I'm putting this unflattering photo in because of that whole "myth of perfection" series that ran around the blogosphere last year. Welcome to what I look like when I sew on days where the temperature reached +30C. For comparison, as I write this it's -35C, and I look much the same ;)

I was pleased with the fit, and the amount of overlap I had at CF. I ended up cutting a lot of it off, but I was grateful for it.

By July 15, the bodice had sleeves, so I moved on to the skirt. I used the POF gown again, cutting my panels the full height of the diagram, and shaped the front top edge before pleating. I used a full width of the duvet cover, and a little extra (which I machined on with cotton thread; by then I just didn't want to do another long plain seam; and also had to piece a tiny corner on at the bottom where it met the skirt). I cut and hemmed slits for pocket access and hemmed the front edges (thought I had while stitching the hem: were silk selvedges nice in the 1700s, and you wouldn't need to hem them? Brilliant!). Then I pleated forever, having to redo it at least once. I split the center back to accomodate the point at the back, but stitched it back up a couple inches. I had two layers of pins going on to keep everything in place, and semi live-blogged about the process on Instagram:

Getting there... #18thcentury #handsewn #duvetcover #pinsforever

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A note on the back construction: I used a technique previously known as "weird running whip stitch thingy" (Stay-ing Alive) or "the stitch with no name" (Burnley & Trowbridge; link goes to a YouTube video of how to do it) and is now known as the English Stitch (The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking). I LOVE this stitch, it makes a neat, tiny seam that is very secure, and gets your back sewn together with one pass of the needle. Very efficient!

I finished the bulk of the work in a week! I sewed mostly in the evenings after work, for 3-4 hours at a time, while watching RuPaul's Drag Race or Star Trek: Deep Space Nine on Netflix, and the skirt was completed on July 15 by 6pm. My fingers hurt (really need to focus on proper thimble usage) and I was so proud of what I'd accomplished.

The petticoat and gown got hemmed a few days later, and I despaired on trimming. By this time, talk was going around the blogosphere about "millinery", a term I'd only heard applied to hats before but seems to have meant all the little finishing touches (so, kinda like a hat) like ruffles and accessories. I made a couple of little ruffles to go into the elbows of this gown but did not have the brain power to suss out a neckline treatment. So I cut a length of scrap taffeta with pinking shears and tied it into a bow to pin to the neckline, and cut a triangle of voile to use as a neckerchief and fill the neckline in. (I needed it anyway, the straps I added to the stays were totally visible on my shoulders.)

A few hours before the gala, I took a quick peek into the dealers hall, where a booth was set up with almost every kind of trim anyone could want. I picked out a pleated organza (certainly poly) and turquoise velvet ribbon and rushed upstairs to start sewing it on.

All in all, I'm really happy with this dress! It was definitely a challenging project, but it suited where I am in my sewing journey, and I'm looking forward to the next one.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Curtain-Along Gown

Back in 2013, I was utterly charmed by the curtain-along gown, hosted by Festive Attyre. It was so neat to see everyone in their gowns, how widely the print could be used across the decades! It wasn't until I saw Amanda's dress-in-a-day gown, however, (which I found months after the dress was posted) that I decided I need to join in. I kept an eye on Amazon and finally picked up some curtain panels, 3 cream and 1 black. (I'm still on the hunt for 2 more black panels, just so you know...)

#curtainalong gown is nearly finished! Just needs a hem :)

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I don't remember the timeline on this anymore. I started sewing it while I was watching The Amazing Race on cable TV, intending to hand-sew the entire thing -- my first 100% handsewn gown -- and see how long it would take. I'm pretty sure it was 2014, with a push of finishing in 2015, where it sat without a hem for another 2 years. I initially wasn't going to take it to Costume College, feeling that I didn't have time to finish the hemming, but I did end up taking it, and hemming it on Thursday in between my limited class and the opening of registration. I wore it on Saturday of Costume College.

Because it's been so long since I started, I'm not really sure what some of my thought processes were. My petticoat was weirdly long, puddling on the floor at my feet. When I tried it on over a bum pad, the back length was fine, but the front was still too long. I pinned it up and gave it a really fast hem, trying to angle in nearly 4" of fabric at center front. (I need to take that out and do it properly!)

The cat liked it though. Hiding under skirts is his favourite!

The gown hem is also much deeper at front than sides or back, but because it's open, it was a lot easier to do.

I had fitted it over a pair of stays with a stomacher. I used the Reconstructing History pattern as the bodice base, with guidance from The Fashionable Past for construction, and Gown #3 in Costume Close-up for the sleeve, trimming, and skirt tying-up placement. The trim was cut with pinking shears and gathered by hand before being applied.

And how long did it take to hand-sew? Not that long. I can't even estimate for this one since it took so long to do it, but my recent hand-sewn gown was done (sans petticoat) in a week of mostly 3-4 hour chunks.

The Facts:

100% cotton

Pattern: Started out in life as Reconstructing History 822

Year: 1770-ish

Notions: cotton thread

How historically accurate is it? I would probably pass in-period

Hours to complete: at a guess, 30-40.

First worn: July 29, 2017 at Costume College

Total cost: $50 CDN

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Costume College 2017: The Recap

Content note: anxiety & related ramblings

Many months later, I want to share my experiences at Costume College this past summer. I wrote it awhile ago and have just been procrastinating on getting it edited and picture-fied. The weather here is sitting at a balmy -32C, so what better time to share a trip to southern California in July? ;)

I was a big nervous ball of energy leading up to Costume College this year! I didn't finish everything I wanted to bring, and I had to be OK with that, but what I did bring was great! About a week before we left, Nicole had decided not to wear any costumes at all. Since we had planned to wear Sarah and Jareth for the gala, this now meant I didn't have to bring Jareth (or a wig). In light of my wanting to keep luggage as light as possible, and bring as many overlapping outfits as I could, I had a few days to think about what my outfit plans were. In the end, I brought every 18th century piece I had, mid-Victorian (because petticoats), and the tea gown (because petticoats!). I tried to accessorize as much as possible, again overlapping as much as I could. At the last minute, I tossed in a knitted shawl, thinking it would probably be extra weight.

The cat definitely would have been extra weight. He did not get packed.

Wednesday was travel day. There were four of us on the same flght, but as we'd booked separately, we were all over the plane. I went to pick up Nicole at 5am, but had to go back home for my sunglasses! I nearly left them behind, but hello, California in July. I need to protect my eyes. Luckily we live close together. California seemed very hot to me, with its low 90s and 88% humidity. Edmonton is comparatively very dry, and I met many people over the weekend who were from the Carolinas and Virginia who were so kind in agreeing that it was hot... for me. I resolved to stay inside as much as possible and thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor pool at sunset. We made a trip to a nearby Target to pick up sandwich makings and breakfast materials and snacks, and we got super distracted by all the fun socks for sale. Target, we miss you. We didn't know the hotel had a very local shuttle, so we walked there and took an Uber back, and I managed to burn one shoulder on the walk. Curse you, Canadian tan!

the view from our room. Nice :)

On Thursday, my travelling companions headed to Universal Studios, while I had a limited class in the morning: Riding Habits with the JP Ryan (omgomgomg). I opted not to dress up though I had to bring the bits and bobs necessary for fitting (shift, stays, a petticoat, and either a habit shirt or fitted dress shirt). The class went very well! First we all had to be remeasured for waist length, as nearly all of us had measured wrong. We got a pattern with personalized suggestions on where to make alterations, and she showed us how to adjust the patterns for that. I made all of my adjustments to the front, since that is where my squish factor is. I was the first person to finish my waistcoat mock-up, since it turns out that I'm really a very average size, except for the squish! As I worked on the jacket, I stayed dressed in my bits and bobs, and thought boy, this was actually not bad (temperature, comfort, feeling like I belonged... take your pick). I was comfortable in all of the layers.

After the class, I went back to the room for lunch and to do some sewing until it was time to go back down for the opening of registration. I watched Forensic Files and stitched for like 4 hours, it was wonderful :) I'd started a cap to go with my 18th c. dresses before I left, found I had left the ruffle at home (dang it, I was so sure I'd packed it...), and quickly tried on my curtain-along gown to mark the hem and hem it. I originally hadn't planned to bring it, but the rearrangement of my costume plans meant I now had space in "the schedule" for it, but it needed a hem! The petticoat was weirdly long, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I made it. The back was fine over the bum roll, but the front was almost 4" too long. It got the world's fastest and most awkward hem.

The other Big Events on Thursday were the opening of Registration at 7, where there were limited numbers of limited classes available to try and get into (I really wanted to do the fabric district tour on Monday, but had forgotten it on my form), and the pool party. I had waited to eat dinner partly because of nerves and partly because I had no idea when my roommates would be back, and I wanted to eat with them if they hadn't done so yet. They arrived around 7:30 I think? I had terrible wi-fi connection for the first couple days and no cell service, we nearly missed each other! So we got changed for the pool party first and then went to eat, returning as the party was winding down. Oops. But I found my heretofore online-only friend Sara as we'd planned to wear Star Trek TOS skants together, and we had a lovely conversation for our first meeting :D

I loooove the "spiral" design.

Friday was mostly a "take in all the sights" day. The marketplace didn't open until after the social in the evening, which was fine. I went to a number of unlimited classes, first supporting NutMeg Sews in her presentation on costuming our living history site, Fort Edmonton Park :D I was wearing the Butterick 1840s dress, which I'd finally put the last bits on (posts here!) and finally gotten to wear. I got many lovely compliments on it. Most were intrigued by the asymmetrical pleating on the bodice. Perhaps the best compliment I got was from Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing, who said (somewhat paraphrased) that I looked like a movie star ;) (What she said was that I reminded her of the actress who played Jane Eyre in the 2006 version, and had really nailed the look, so yay me!)

The social was... overwhelming, for this socially anxious introvert. I wore the Star Trek skant again as that had been my planned social outfit and I didn't have anything else. I did one tour of the room and then hid in the hallway. Maybe because we'd missed the beginning again because we'd gone for dinner and then gotten distracted by the dead mall the restaurant was in, but I heard other people say that they find the social the most anxiety-inducing event too. Ah well. There were some seriously amazing outfits there!

I found the cap ruffle in my luggage earlier in the day (I knew I'd packed it!), and had to attach it and the muslin cuffs to my gown for the next day. Before bed, I put my hair into rags to ensure I had Big Hair the next day. Ready!

On Saturday I got myself laced into stays and put on all of the layers for my curtain-along gown, including the linen neckerchief I made ages ago, and the mitts that Asa (Fashion Through History) had made for me. I felt pretty amazing :D I was also very comfortable! The only time I felt overly warm was when I'd gone into an area that wasn't as well-air-conditioned as some of the rooms, and that lasted all of 20 minutes. The curtain-along host, Jen Thompson, found me in the afternoon, and as I walked out of a room, someone said "there's another one of you 5 meters that way" but I never found them while we were dressed in the same fabric. (There was actually two others! One can be seen here on Jen's Instagram, and the other here on American Duchess.)

I found some trim in the marketplace that was perfect for the trimming I had in mind for the IKEA gown, right around the time I was going to go upstairs and get undressed for a couple hours anyway, so I spent another happy and slightly rushed couple hours attaching it and chatting with my other roommate while she got ready for the gala. I went for dinner with a beautifully costumed group of people (omg they looked so amazing) and then we went back for the gala. I mostly stood in the hallway with one of my travelling companions, just admiring everyone, who all looked amazing. I can't even begin to describe the amount of amazingness in that room.

The finished IKEA gown!

The #yegsewistinla contigent at #costumecollege2017 😁 love these ladies!

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On Sunday I wore a teagown. I wore leggings and a camisole, no corset, and one petticoat, and was ridiculously comfortable all day. Except -- I was also cold! When I went up to my room for lunch, I also retrieved that shawl that I had brought but hadn't expected to need. I also had my last limited class, reverse applique sewing with The Lady Detalle. Before it started, I had a last burst of anxiety that my handsewing skills wouldn't be up to the task, but it was just fine :) I got pretty far, but I started with an easy template, a "C".

#ootd #costumecollege2017 #victorian #trulyvictorian #teagown

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On Monday, we piled into the bus to head to the garment district. It was AH-MAZING. Many people had told me to go to Home Fabrics for silk, and they were not joking. The whole store was just incredible, racks and racks and racks of gorgeous fabric, and on two floors. I made a purchase that we left with the bus, and then went to explore with a small group (we totaled 7). At one point we split up, and I went to the millinery store, where I got 20 yards of bonnet straw and a cute little tricorn hat, and at another store I picked up some large hook and eyes to use on my eventual riding habit. Then I bought more silk at Home Fabrics, and hit the wall. There was so much to see and look at and try to find, and we only looked at a small portion of stores in one tiny corner of the district! It was really warm too, though it didn't feel as oppressive as it had the day we arrived, and even though I slathered myself in only SPF 30 sunscreen, I didn't burn at all.

Our trip home on Tuesday was delayed by several hours, so we got the dubious pleasure of spending 6 or 7 hours in LAX, but even that was not enough to dampen the amazing weekend we had at Costume College, and we spent a lot of time planning for next year. I can hardly wait!

Plus we got to see this enormous airplane!:

I am so grateful for the people I went with and the people I met, and especially the people who went out of their way to keep me company at various points throughout the weekend. I hope I didn't impose on you all too much. I had such a wonderful weekend, anxiety and all, and it was your amazingness that made it amazing!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

HSM '15 #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone:1840's Dress, Part 3

Part One (Introduction), Part Two (Bodice and partial sleeves)

December 2015

Well friends, I did finish my dress in time for the challenge it was made for, aside from closures. I started to put them on and then my thread simply would not behave and tangled constantly, no matter how much I waxed it. So I put them on a bit later. I still have to make the thread loops for the sleeve buttons and attach them, and I also want to remove the skirt and reattach it on a band like the instructions say to, as it's sliiiightly too long where it is, attached to the bottom of the bodice. It sat on my dress form for months, because it was too hot all summer to put it on!

August 24, 2017

When Costume College was starting to approach at a much faster rate than it seemed in November, I knew I wanted to bring this gown with me. It was nearly finished! I only needed a waist closure, sleeve buttons, and to hopefully fix the skirt (as above, remove it from the edge of the waist, attach it to a band, and reattach it behind). I know I was anxious when I decided to do it, though I can't remember the exact date. I sat down with Riverdale on Netflix and a seam ripper, and started to go. It took a long time to pull it out, but pull it out I did, and reattached it to a bit of twill tape that had once been a drawstring in a hoody. I had almost thrown it out, but realized in time that it was a great bit of twill tape!

Once it was back on, it still seemed a bit long, but I also had no easy way to get into it by myself to check. I decided to leave it alone, and it came with me to Costume College. Once there, I attached a skirt hook and bar, the vintage glass buttons for the sleeves, and thread loops. I hated the loops immediately and cut them off, and attached hook and eyes under the button instead. Then I prayed it would all come together.

And it did! I wore a pair of modern heels with this, not more than 2" (they are my regular shoes for my old lady feet!), the corded petticoat (unstarched), and two 18th century petticoats - one chambray, one poly taffeta. The hem barely skimmed the floor. And it was just lovely. The shape was nice and soft, I loved the feeling of all my skirts swinging around my legs, and I got a lot of lovely compliments on it :D Most people were intrigued by the asymmetrical pleating over the bodice. My knitted pineapple reticule was the perfect accessory, and I got a lot of compliments on it too.

Perhaps the best compliment I received was when Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing spotted me in the lobby, and I spotted her spotting me, and we had a lovely conversation about the construction of the dress (tiny fangirl squeeing -- I used her cartridge pleating tutorial when I did up the skirt!)

This dress was time-consuming, and the result is lovely. The only changes I made were to shorten the skirt a few inches (that I would have cut off anyway) and to move the shoulder seam towards the back. The only other thing I would change would be to get a little chemisette together to fill in the neckline, and to either balance the skirt differently so it doesn't gap at the back, or move the back closures to eliminate that.

Lumpy butt brought to you by my partner-in-crime trying to hide the gapping at the skirt.

The Challenge: 2015 #6: Out of Your Comfort Zone

Material: Cottons for gown and lining/facings

Pattern: Butterick 5832

Year: 1835-1840 (as per extant garment) (Thanks to Liz who found it!)

Notions: thread, hook & eye, vintage glass buttons, a bit of plastic boning, a scrap of poly taffeta and cotton yarn

How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably? I machined a lot of what wouldn't be visible, materials are plausible (except for the obvious man-made ones, and hand-finished anything that would show on the outside.

Hours to complete: I lost count. A lot. The sleeves had to be mostly hand sewn, I remember spending almost a week on them.

First worn: July 28, 2017 (Friday of Costume College)

Total cost: Dress fabric was from my mum's stash, taffeta was a remnant scrap, yarn was from my aunt's stash, glass buttons were salvaged from a long-ago garment by my gramma. Hooks & eyes, and the cotton broadcloth I used as lining/hem facing cost roughly $4 Cdn. To buy all new, I would expect to spend $80-100 Cdn.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Road to Costume College 2017

I mentioned earlier this year that I got a steal on a seat sale, so I am headed to Costume College in LA in just over a week! Alas, I am not able to complete my Big Project, namely due to lack of appropriate hooping materials. I thought I would still work on the skirt while I waited for the right materials, but while I KNOW I pulled it out of the UFO box, I can't find it (and this was months ago, and I STILL can't find it), so I've put it aside for now.

But I've come up with new plans and have finally gotten them going. I'll do a more detailed write-up (I hope) later, but for now, please enjoy my Instagram photos :)

The first time I made these stays, I punched the grommet holes in the CF boning channel, and I used to punch upside down which destroyed the grommets. Had to cut new fronts and do it over...

I made this pair of petticoats back in April. The taffeta one definitely needs a ruffle, and the floral one still needs a hem :) (and maybe a ruffle)

After finishing the stays (erm, for various values of "finishing"), I've spent all of my spare time this past week working on this gorgeous thing! It was finally ready to put all together so I could see how it's looking, and it looks AMAZING. It still needs some work but my fingers need a break!

#teagown is done! It just needs trimming and im still undecided on darts lol #finished #victorian #yegsew

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I also made a tea gown for lazy Sunday wear :) I'm debating putting darts in - without them, they fit my non-corseted body perfectly.

If you're going to Costume College, let's meet up! I'd love to see you in person! (And if you see me, please say hi! I'll try to do the same :) )

Friday, April 21, 2017


This is going to be a personal sort of post, so do please feel free to skip.

I mentioned in previous posts that I've been struggling with anxiety for the last little while, and that I've been working with pros to manage it. And I am -- since my last post I've been seeing a specialist in the type of techniques my doctor recommended, and I have made a lot of progress. After crying most of my body weight in tears, of course, because anxiety is hard, admitting you need help is hard, finding and reaching out and accepting help is hard, and then doing all the work is HARD! But I also know that I can no longer struggle along on my own, and I also cannot put the burden of my many anxiety-monsters on my loved ones. They love me and support me and let me know that of course I can lean on them -- and I do, but with the fact that the work is hard, not the burden of helping me do the work.

One of the things I struggle the most with is something I call "the but whyyyyys" (you have to draw the whyyyyyyy out, it's important to mimic that annoying sort of "but I don't WANNA" toddlers have), and I know for a fact that many of you, nebulous readers, do too. Jennifer Rosbrugh of recently shared this article she wrote in 2013 on her Facebook page, and the timing was very handy. Some of the loudest "but whyyyyys" is that I have nowhere to wear the pieces I create, I have so little drive to wear them despite that, and no desire to sew pieces for other people, that why do I even bother with sewing costumes at all? What is the point of having fabric and dreaming about outfits and rarely creating them with these other factors? I've been arguing with myself for over a year, consciously, about that, and the only answer I can come up with is: Because I want to. I WANT to, and that's enough to DO.

There's so many little voices like that that chip away at my confidence. When I can successfully push past them, I am so pleased with my creations, and maybe equally pleased with the fact that I did it. I quieted the But Whyyyys enough and just CREATED, and it was an amazing feeling. But they always creep back in. And that's how I end up not making anything, or making something so late that I'm still sewing late into the night the day before I want to wear it. I have such a myriad of projects I want to work on that when I argue with the But Whyyyyys, I get paralysed with indecision and end up doing nothing.

I talked about this recently with my therapist, and she asked if I had a blog. I do -- hi! I've missed you. Writing is another creative outfit I don't indulge in as much as I would want to (they are their own set of But Whyyyyys that we haven't poked at yet), and that's part of why I wanted to write this post. I have been working -- slowly. The beginning of the year was, frankly, kind of terrible. I sometimes feel bad for saying that, when my brand of "terrible" is not as bad as it could be, has been, or IS for some people. But it is my reality, and it is terrible. The bad news of the world (so... much... bad... news...), working on my anxiety (you guys, it's really hard -- did you know you can hold anxiety in different parts of your body? I hold mine in my hands, which may tie into why they But Whyyyyys have so much traction), my cat's health (thankfully his diabetes is in remission! But I still think of him as a diabetic cat and am trying to maintain routines), the fact that somehow I became really really busy? I was measuring my free time in blocks of 2 hours or less. I did not enjoy it. When everything came to a head at the end of March and it was all over, I was so profoundly relieved. Maybe I could reclaim some sewing time, a big fluffy Victorian gown is not going to sew itself!

But then my work-life took a vastly different direction in a very, very short period of time and threw my brain into disarray again. We are talking a period of 4-48 hours, as the crow flies. I am happy to say that I've taken on a new role at my workplace, which I am excited to do, and the changes to my routine are minimal.

But the Victorian gown as I envisioned it is probably not happening. I couldn't get my chosen hooping material to work, and I am currently unable to get my second choice. What I wanted to work on more than anything was not what I "should" be working on, so I eventually called it quits and just started working on it. I've almost completed two petticoats so far:

They just need hems and trims! Good work, me :)

I also spent some time last week going over my Costume College registration packet and deciding on the classes I wanted to apply for, a couple of which will dictate my costume choices. I have some new plans to put into place.

And course I also need to somehow get along with the But Whyyyyys. Silencing them doesn't work, but perhaps listening to them will. Not actioning, just listening. Right now they're trying the "maybe you should just drop out of costuming entirely" tactic, and I did listen for a few minutes before thinking "wait a minute!" So many things are hard in life, that are also worth the rewards. And this... this I daresay is one of them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

HSM '17: #1 Firsts & Lasts: Mid-Victorian Chemise & Drawers

As part of my Big Project this year, I knew I needed to start from the skin out (except for the corset), so obviously it would be a chemise right off the bat. My Big Project is aimed to have a date of 1867 (ish), and I have never heard of pre-bustle-era combinations*, so separate chemise and drawers were in order.

*Are they out there? I didn't (and haven't) look, either. I knew I would get too bogged down in "research" to actually start sewing, which does not fit into my goal of "sew more" this year!

Long-time readers will know how much I like to waffle on fabric choices... (Not.) I thought cotton would be the order of the day, given the time frame. But I don't have much in the way of cottons. The only underwear-suitable pieces I have are a 4-yard length of Indian muslin (seen here, on the Regency muslin gown) and a 2-yard length of 3.5oz linen (left over from here). After I had already decided to use the muslin, I did find a few examples at the Met of linen chemises, which is great! But since my selections were so limited, I thought I'd better use the linen to make drawers, as the muslin is SO light, I wasn't sure it would stand up to the kind of use drawers would see. Then I ended up using cotton for the drawers too. Ah well.

Then I just had to sit down, pin it out and cut my fabric. Terrifying! Aside from a few creases where it had been folded up since September 2014, it was fine, and it was a dream to sew. I did most of the long seams and interior work by machine (on my 1956 straight-stitch Singer, Beatrice; a straight-stitch machine would have been unlikely but not impossible), but all of the stitching that would carry to the outside of the fabric was done by hand.

My new #chemise is soooo #sheer! Its gonna be great for summer! #victorian #sewing #historical #yegsew

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There's only a couple things I would change. I used Simplicity 2890, the same pattern I used for my corset, and for the drawers. Very similar items are found to be drafted in Fashions of the Gilded Age Vol 1, which are taken from period sources, so I took some of the headache out by using a commercial pattern. But I forgot the Golden Rule -- measure measure measure!! I cut a size 14, and only realized too late that it was MUCH too big. I shortened the back yokes to a 10, but I had already sewn the fronts and trimmed the seams. I had to try and make those work. The other thing I would change is to stitch the side seams and flat-fell them, and then cut the armhole facings as a single piece, front and back, press the edges under and attach it by hand. I'm reasonably sure that this is a feature that would make changing the facings easy, but the pattern has you attach a facing to each side and then stitch and fell it into the side seam. This made the sewing of the sleeve and sides easier, but makes it impractical to changing the facing out should it be needed, and creates bulk on the seam. My fabric is VERY light, and the seam is bulky. I would not want to attempt it with heavier fabric.

Finally, I sat down with a cup of tea and a documentary about volcanoes, and got my hem stitched. The final touch was a button. It's decorative, though one could possibly make it a functional feature. I got out my Gramma's button bin and searched the trays for a nice button that was either a lonesome, or one of only a few. I found this metal-shanked glass button -- probably not very period, but very lovely in its own way.

And that's it! I won't be taking any pictures of me wearing it without either something underneath or the other bits on top, it's sooooo sheer. But it's also super light, and that will be great for summer :)

The drawers were fairly straightforward, though the hem directions didn't make a lot of sense. Making the pintucks was pretty easy, as the way it's stitched you can use the last pintuck as a guide for the next one. I seamed the legs first before doing the open crotch seams, turning the seam allowances to the outside as per Elizabeth Stewart Clark's guide for making drawers. I probably should have followed those directions for making a waistband, the one included with the Simplicity pattern is very tight on me. But I also haven't tried it on in the morning, and my one test with a corset just blended all of the compression around my waist together. I will have to give them a test run before too long! I pulled the fabric out as an option for making the cage hoop with, but I went with a different fabric, and I also like the idea of fun underwear :) My undies won't see the same extensive use as historical ones, so I felt comfortable going with this.

The last thing needed was a button -- this plastic lonesome from the bin -- and a buttonhole, which I opted to work by hand. It was my very first one ever! I used upholstery thread and embroidery floss. The brown mark is from the Frixion pen I used to mark the hole placement, it will come out easily :)

The Challenge: #1 Firsts & Lasts
Fabric/Materials: 100% cottons
Pattern: Simplicity 2890, drawers with some guidance from the Sewing Academy
Year: 1860s
Notions: thread, buttons, lace
How historically accurate is it? The patterns are taken from extant garments, the fabrics are plausible. The threads are a mix of poly and cotton. Most of the stitching was done on my 1956 straight-stitch-only Singer (Beatrice), which is not overly likely but not impossible either.
Hours to complete: 10
First worn: Not yet!
Total cost: The muslin was left over from another project but cost me $5 US / yard, and I used 3 yards. The cotton for the drawers was free-to-me but new material would cost upwards of $10-$20 depending on sales. Perhaps $40-$50 for a new project.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

HSF '14 #9: White: Japanese Hakama* and Tabi socks

(*as opposed to other kinds of hakama? I don't know)

For once, I didn't have grand plans for this challenge. I knew I was making this cosplay in February (0f 2014), and yet I put it off and put it off, and then next thing I know it's May and I had about 2 weeks before it needed to be done. For a moment I panicked over what to make for the challenge that would be easy to make alongside the costume, and then realized that one major component of the costume was white, and also very historical. I can submit it for the challenge! Awesome!

Admittedly I didn't do a lot of research. In my younger days, I did a lot more reading and spent an embarrassing-to-admit amount of time steeped in Japanese culture from a great distance, and absorbed a lot of information through a variety of sources. Hakama have been used in Japan for probably centuries. They started as a skirt-like garment that at some point gained split legs for horse-riding. They are basically 8 panels of fabric woven 14" or so wide, folded back and pleated to a much smaller waist measurement and attached to long bands that tie around the waist. At some point in semi-recent history, the back gained a stiffened board. My costume is based on an anime series that is set in 1867, so I also set out to recreate the look, if not a strictly historical garment.

Bottom right. Image ©Idea Factory

Made of heavy white cotton twill, the front has six pleats, the innermost two stacked to look like one. I had to play with the back pleats, two stacked to look like one, for HOURS trying to get the visible pleat in the center and also make the back a narrow enough width. I started out with it at 15" (too big), got it down to 9" (too small), and finally finished at 13" (just right).

2017 Update: Somehow, three years and three wears later, I still haven't managed to get any pictures of this costume! It's RIDICULOUSLY comfortable, the hakama are like wearing a skirt, full and airy about the legs, but still split for the comfort of pants. I have a post about the full costume upcoming!

The Challenge:#9 Black & White
Fabric: 100% cotton twill
Pattern: self-drafted, with guides from And Sewing is Half the Battle (English) and (Japanese, lots of pictures)
Year: 1867
Notions: thread, interfacing for the back board
How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably.
Hours to complete: 14 or so (more than one went into the back pleats...)
First worn: May 2014
Total cost: $40

Tabi Socks

I wasn't sure about the tabi socks; I thought for SURE I'd end up sewing a small U into a pair of modern socks to get the split-toe look. You can get two kinds of tabi in Japan - traditional non-stretchy socks that close up the back with flat hooks, or stretchy knit ones with a separate toe. But I finished the main part of the costume with a few days to spare, so I took the pattern in Make Your Own Japanese Clothes and enlarged it as per the directions, and made up a quick pair in a light cotton. They could probably use some tweaking in terms of fit, but they were satisfactory enough for a cosplay that I went ahead to make the final pair. They are made of a lighter twill from my stash with the heavier twill sole cut from the hakama fabric, and lined with the same fabric I used for the yukata. The fabrics were all scraps from other projects, making this a very economical project.

2017 Update: I've never worn the socks with the costume. Both cons I wore this to, they are summer cons. By the time I get everything on, including a wig, my feet being covered by socks is the last thing I wanted to experience.

The Challenge: #9 Black & White
Fabric: 100% cottons
Pattern: Make Your Own Japanese Clothes
Year: 1867 (ish -- very big ish)
Notions: thread, a bit of Velcro
How historically accurate is it?: Not really sure, I think these would not look out of place in history, but they're pretty modern otherwise.
Hours to complete: 2
First worn: Never
Total cost: Free! Cut from scraps from the hakama and yukata :) Very little fabric is needed, so new materials would be minor in cost.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

HSF '13 #18: Re-make, Re-Use, & Re-fashion: The Inspiration

Part of my 2017 goals that I didn't mention was that I want to clear out my backlog of posts! There aren't a great many, but my draft folder is taunting me. Here is the first.

Summer, 2013

The Historical Fortnightly's 18th challenge is due on September 9. This one of the only challenges I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and possibly the first one that might be done on time. (hahaha that didn't happen!)

Some 8 12 years ago, when I began to express interest in making and wearing Victorian clothing, my mom gave me this gown. She'd made it in the late 80's or very very early 90s (certainly prior to 1991) and had never worn it herself, or only worn it a couple of times. She commented that she'd made a bustle pad to wear with it; I remember the pad very well, as it made an excellent pillow that my siblings and I all fought over the chance to nap on it. She gave it to me with the hope that it would fit me, or if not, that I could remake it so that it would.

It didn't fit me. I've gained weight since then, and it still doesn't fit me. I had only been seriously sewing for a couple of years at that point, and I had no faith at all in my ability to alter it so it would fit me. Now, nearly 14 years and several outfits later, I think I can do it.

I'm not really sure what to do with it, though. There's something about it that's so quintessentially '80s. The jacket is made from a thin poly lining, and what I'm pretty sure is poly "silk". The skirt is the same poly "silk". The skirt's overlayers and the jacket's "blouse" are embroidered net over lining. It was hard to photograph, but the back part of the skirt's overlayers had two layers of net/lining. I don't know what pattern was used, if any. My mom is a much better patternist than I. The shoulder seams are placed squarely on top of the shoulder, and not behind as was period.

After I ripped it apart, the skirt was made from a continuous loop of fabric, gathered along one selvedge, giving me a large 4 yard piece. When I thought about it a little more, I remembered some dresses from The Voice of Fashion and Edwardian Modiste that have lace or net overlays on bodices. If I use the lining material as the basis for the dress, the "silk" for the outer dress, and some of the net as an overlay, I could probably get a lovely gown out of it :)

2017 Update: I'm not sure where the fabrics from this dress ended up when I moved in November 2013, and I still don't have a solid plan. I'm pretty sure I didn't keep the bodice as trying to recut it and account for the shoulder seams was too much work, though a part of me regrets that decision. I could have used the smaller pieces for something, surely! The other part of me is yelling to declutter and good riddance! It's a struggle sometimes...

Monday, January 2, 2017

Looking Forward

Last year I didn't write or post a "this is what I want to accomplish this year" list. I think I knew somehow that the year was going to be really hard. I struggled a lot with anxiety (A LOT), and I'm still having trouble dealing with it. Don't worry, I'm working with professionals on a game plan :) This year I want to make more time for sewing and things that bring me joy. And it seems that the repetitiveness of certain things help soothe the anxiety (like baking! Making bread is fantastic for working out some tension!) so the rituals surrounding sewing can only be good for me :)

My biggest project for the year will be an 1867 ballgown to celebrate Canada's 150th anniversary. Luckily a few of the challenges for this year's Historical Sew Monthly line up with that challenge, plus I'd really like to participate for an entire year.

One of my inspiration images!

January: Firsts & Lasts: Already started! A mid-1860s chemise :)
February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion: I wonder if the base skirt of my ballgown will count? I sewed it up years ago but now I need to re-make it. Perhaps an elliptical hoop with salvaged boning from a modern hoop skirt.
March: The Great Outdoors: mid-18th century riding habit. Again. IT SHALL BE DONE.
April: Circles, Squares & Rectangles: A petticoat for a 1780s gown or the riding habit skirt, depending. Maybe both!
May: Literature: I'm not sure that I have a favourite historical literary character, but I'm sure I can come up with something. (In general I can't read actual historical fiction. The language norms just bypass my entire brain. I don't know how many times I read one page in Persuasion until I gave up and went on to the next one, but it was definitely more than three.)
June: Metallics: This one will be tricksy D: I haven't got an idea yet. I do have a yard and a half of gilded linen though.
July: Fashion Plate: I have a plan! I need a loooot of red soutache :D I don't know if this will get done, I may be frantically completing outfits for Costume College!
August: Ridiculous: Oh gosh, where can one start?
September: Seen Onscreen: If I am very very lucky, I can pick up some beautiful red silk in LA and recreate Caroline's beautiful red dress in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice (say what you will about the movie, that dress is stunning!) Failing that, a recreation of Jane's adorable Spencer jacket from Austenland.
October: Out of Your Comfort Zone: There's many things I could do for this one, many things are out of my comfort zone!
November: HSF Inspiration: I really love the idea of this one. And there is a LOT of beautiful pieces made over the last 4 years (almost 5 by the time this rolls around) to choose from. I will probably choose something small, as this is during National Novel Writing Month.
December: Go Wild: I have a bit of beaver pelt rescued from a coat (I think) that I got from my aunt's estate. It's destined for a muff cover.

I'm also considering addressing my everyday wardrobe. I've been finding some of the things I've had for the last few years are no longer comfortable to wear. But I need to give this some serious thought. I really like vintage styles, but I really don't have the energy or patience to dedicate time to also creating vintage hair and make-up and accessories to go with outfits. I might get there some day, but right now it's enough that I can drag myself out of bed to feed my cat. Plus the added bonus of living in a place with very distinct seasons, necessitating multiple collections. Summer clothes really don't work in winter! I should probably start with looking at capsule wardrobes. This is a relatively low priority though.

Add in my usual con circuit, plus the additional pieces I need for Costume College, and I should have a very productive year!

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...