Thursday, December 31, 2015

A New Year's Soft Crown Bonnet

Since I don't have access to most of my sewing supplies for now, I decided to work on something quick and fun for the holidays.  That quick, fun thing ended up being a soft-crown spoon bonnet that popped up on ebay a couple days ago, right after I picked up a remnant that was the exact same color.
From tbtfan on ebay
It seemed to be a later-war, or immediately post-war bonnet, since it lacked a bavolet.  I've seen soft crown bonnets in the 1850s all the way through the late 60's when full bonnets went out of fashion altogether.  I tried to adhere to the original when making mine (although the seller didn't help me out much by mounting the bonnet correctly on the mannequin head), but I changed a few features to make it more adaptable; I replaced the gathered decoration at the neck with a bavolet and made the brim larger and more noticeably spoon-shaped.  I've found that a higher bonnet flatters my face more.
This is the closest to the actual color of the silk

It's not identical, but I like how mine turned out - I've never been sold on the soft crown style but I love the gentle curve of the shirred crown.  It looks very neoclassical.  I also love the five puffs up the side, it's a simple but striking trim!
I added a bonnet veil for an extra spooky-scary affect
For the brim I used Past Reflections's spoon bonnet pattern, which I swear by.  I then cut 5 pieces of millinery wire, using my gray bonnet as a template for how long they needed to be to comfortably reach from the base of the brim to the nape of the neck.  I cut out a piece of fabric, hand-sewed five small channels in it, inserted the wire, basted the piece on to the frame, gathered a strip of fabric and mounted it over the crown, added a bavolet (which should have been lined with net, but all I had on me was silk organza), lined it and trimmed it.  Honestly the most time-consuming part was hemming the ribbon, and it was on a selvage anyways.

All it needs is flowers, a profusion under the brim and a big cluster of velvet ones on the top (the ones I had on there are actually a hairpiece/pin that I pinned on temporarily.)  Since I'm leaving for vacation soon I didn't have the time or energy to order some, and I won't have any events to wear it to in the near future anyways.

Every hat that I make I get more confidence in my millenarial abilities, so I look forward to making a lot of them in the future!

Friday, December 11, 2015

A ruffly jacket!

I've always really liked the Colonial Williamsburg prints, so this year I sprung for a bit of their trailing vines (?) print, enough to make a jacket for myself that I could mix and match with my petticoats.
I wanted to make a slightly later style (early 1780s) than what I usually do; I think that the narrow seamed back is a very flattering style, and I like the longer sleeves.  The skirt is just as full as it would be if this were a gown, which meant that I had to apply (a lot) more trim than I expected.  Some day I'll add narrow trim up the center and around the neck, but I'm really loving how it is now.  At least, how it will be once I get that tuck in the elbow.
 It's hard to see in this picture, but the back is quartered.
And a big ol' breast knot slapped on it, too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Or, the 1-hour reticule, made during the busiest week of the semester.
I attended a truly lovely Jane Austen Society of North America event last week, and decided that I needed something new and spiffy for it, since I was wearing my old yellow and green gown.  My original idea was to make a ruffled chemisette, but I couldn't fine any documentation for using whiteworked broderie and I didn't have time to hem several yards of muslin.  So instead I whipped up a little reticule out of silk taffeta and silk satin ribbon, using silk buttonhole twist for the embroidery (it was all that I had on hand at the time.)
There are innumerable surviving reticules of this approximate form and function in museum collections, spanning essentially the first half of the nineteenth century.

Here's the specific extant example I took the pattern from, using the very advanced technique of 'sizing up the image, putting my fabric on my laptop monitor and sketching it on.'

It isn't as ornate as the original, and I wish I could have had the time to add the sequin wreath and the tassels.  But It was a fine holder for my ID, phone and other necessaries, and it was a brilliant little party overall.
As an ex posto facto apology for not having a lot of pictures, here's me, indulging my urge to put my newly made breast knot on my head.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

A Few Basic Undergarments

I've realized that I have something of a dearth of basic eighteenth century garments.  I've made myself a proper shift using my best stitches, and a basic underpetticoat - just a rectangle pleated and attached to a waistband.  For my shift I'm indebted to the Danish Natmuseet for their pattern, which I used as a general guideline.  I cut the neckline a little large, so I ran a tape drawstring through it - not the most common neckline treatment in the eighteenth century, but not unusual.
I'm working on a couple other pretties - hopefully they'll be ready in the next week or so.  Teaser shots!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Petticoats &etc

For the past few weeks I have been working on my 18th century wardrobe- not necessarily glamorous items, but necessary ones; kerchiefs, shifts, rumps, etcetera.  I also made a few petticoats, just to enlarge my wardrobe a little.  I thought I ought to update you all on some of the prettier pieces!

 They're really wrinkled!  But the left one is a striped silk taffeta from Burnley and Trowbridge, the right is a silk gauze made from Vogue organza.
 For my gauze petticoat, I just hemmed a long strip of organza, whip-gathered it and stitched it to the body of the petticoat.  It looks lovely over my peacock blue petticoat, which I once again made from work fabric (I really used my discount vigorously.)

I got a pretty pair of Dunmores!  They're so comfy.
Dark blue crossed with emerald green.
I'm hoping to have some more basics done in the next couple of weeks for my fall events.  In the meantime, more mending, more hemming, more sewing adventures!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Silk Damask, circa 1845

I rarely make pieces without a certain event to wear it to in mind, but when I saw this fabric at work - a crisp silk damask probably intended for use in a high quality lining - it reminded me so strongly of the 1840s that I had to make an exception.
This dress is entirely hand sewn, made from silk damask lined with cotton, sewn with silk and cotton thread. It took me about two weeks, and most of that was honestly in wrangling the bias decoration on the skirt.  The pattern is based on Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, which worked wonderfully and with few alterations, except for the reeeally long, wide sleeves.  I wish that I'd done the gathering before I assembled the bodice, as it definitely would have helped it look neater- that being said, for not having any instructions outside of Janet Arnold, I think it turned out alright.  I just wish that I could have fit the back a bit better and evened out the hem at the front.  Next time I wear this I'll add some lace at the collar and, if needed, make a pelerine from the leftover fabric!
I decided on a simple style to let the fabric speak for itself - a standard gathered fan-front and a large bias strip on the skirt, which was a pretty common period decoration.  Next time I wear this I'll add matching bias strips to the ends of the sleeves as well.

I wish I was able to show you pictures of me wearing this on the beautiful North Shore, but unfortunately it was raining pretty hard by the time I left for dance.  But my dog stood in as a prop for added visual interest.

Hopefully I'll be able to take, and post, more pictures (including detail shots) this week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Shoemaking Experiment

A year or two ago, I would not have had the confidence, or even the desire, to make my own period shoes.  But I have been inspired by the hugely talented shoemakers in the hobby to give the trade a try, especially since Robert Land, the shoemaker who constructed the 19th century boots that I always lusted after, has recently closed up shop.
I based my shoes on several extant pairs from the Met.  I knew I wanted fabric uppers with no toe foxing, so I used red wool gaberdine lined with stiff cotton canvas.  The heel foxing is kid leather, the sole is 10 oz sole/saddle leather from ebay.  I did not use entirely period-correct construction techniques, partially out of laziness and partially because I didn't want to put the work into something that I knew would not turn out particularly stellar.  I used Every Woman Her Own Shoe-Maker as a guide, but my primary instructional source was from The Graceful Lady.  Without her step-by-step instructions I would have been completely and utterly lost, especially when it came to treating the soles!
So here is my first, modest attempt at making shoes.  If nothing else, it's a nice pair to wear at an event when it's muddy and I don't want to ruin my good leather boots.  I have a lot of ideas for how I can improve my next pair, which I intend to be a pair of light pink satin dancing slippers.
 As you can see, the soles need a better dye than I gave them!
The most difficult part of the process was obtaining an appropriately sized straight last, which I found on ebay after some digging.   Also, putting the holes in the sole with an improperly sized awl (thank goodness I found a narrower one.)
Anyways, I'd recommend this shoe as a nice pet project for anyone with some time on their hands (90% of these were constructed on the train to work) and very strong wrists.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A lawn cap

Hello!  I am still here and still sewing, although the rest of my life is eating away at my sewing time.  
I've needed something to do with my hands on the way to work, so I've been working on little things, including this muslin cap made from B&T's muslin.   I have learned so much about sewing in the past year and none of my caps reflect that, so it was about time I whipped up another.
My stitching has improved a little.
Please excuse the messy humidity hair.

A clue about what I'm currently working on:  In my lap right now I'm cradling a large, surprisingly heavy antique wood last.  Somebody in the mid-19th century must have worn size 10, and that makes me feel a little better about myself.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Douglas Day 3: Douglas Harder

As you all know, I'm especially sentimentally attached to the late Senator Stephen Douglas.  Today, on the anniversary of his death, the SAD Association (of which I am now honorarily a part) held a wreath laying at his tomb in Bronzeville.  It's a beautiful park by the freeway, a few hundred meters from the lake, beautifully kept up and, of course, historically significant.
I thought that today would be as good as any to take my long-suffering friend to yet another (that's 3 so far!) Douglas-related event.
I present, Douglas day 3, which features a lot more official networking than the first two.
Awkward selfie? Awkward selfie.
 I wore the blue skirt from my ballgown over my white organdy graduation gown (which still miraculously fits!)  In addition, I made a pretty simple swiss waist; black silk taffeta with box pleated trim and a band of narrow velvet.  Unfortunately my bonnet ties are obscuring it but I was really pleased with how it turned out.
It was loosely based on this original from The Clothing Project on tumblr:
I altered my bodice pattern, shortening it and creating two deep points.  I wish I had taken the time to consolidate both bust darts into one princess seam like the original, and also wish that I could have added straps (I gave up halfway through pleating the trim for one.)
 I had my shawl and parasol and C had her chantilly lace shawl, so we made a very fine pair!  The SAD association president told us that we looked like we belonged in an impressionistic painting.
So here is to the memory of the late Senator Douglas.  I hope his past will help advance my future!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

An early 1870s gown

Or - An Unstoppable Force meets an Undoable Project
A few weeks ago a good friend of mine from outside the historical costuming community commissioned me to make a ruffly 1870s gown, and since I anticipated having a lot of free time over the summer, I agreed.  The only problem was that she lives halfway across the country and I have never sewn for anybody else in my life!

I'm not usually very fond of lots of trim and flounces but I found myself very taken with the ruffles (which almost compensates for how little I enjoyed sewing them on) and found an easier way to put them on.  One edge of each ruffle is selvage, the other is bound, the binding fabric folded down and encased between the two running stitches.  It's a few less steps than hemming one side, binding, sewing down the binding, gathering and applying.  I used some modern methods in the construction of this garment to expedite the process, as exact historical accuracy was not a huge concern.

Since the dress isn't made for me, it doesn't fit me correctly.  I just wanted to give a general idea of how it looks.

Here's my best Toulmouche impression!

I used Janet Arnold's 1870 pattern as a base and various different original garments for style inspiration.  The silk fabric is from Renaissance Fabric (I'm definitely getting myself some!) and the lining is quilter's cotton from Hancock's.  The whole garment took about a month, working off and on.

I sent the wearer a bodice mockup and made adjustments, and I hope I didn't over-compensate.  I also wish that I had shortened the sleeve caps a little, because they are a little awkward-sitting.  I also wish that I'd stiffened the hem of the underskirt like the original pattern prescribes, because at the moment it gets a little deflated (keep in mind, I'm not wearing any petticoats for these pictures.)  Since this dress was for someone else I didn't want to cut too many corners, though, so I'm really quite pleased with the extent to which everything was finished and neatly put together.  Through my tumblr sewing blog I was also able to give day-by-day updates of the dress being built, which was a lot of fun and, I think, helped the process by confirming that I was actually working on the garment!  We sent a lot of messages to each other regarding how we wanted the finished product to go together.

I hope you all have a lovely summer!  I have some fun projects coming down the pike that I can't wait to share with you all.

Update:  On the recipient!
All credit to L.R.