Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 San Francisco Dickens Festival - 1870 Ensemble

Well, the San Francisco Dickens Festival was on the horizon, and I wanted a couple of new ensembles to wear!  I was leaning towards an 1850 era gown, as well as an 1870 era gown, but not only that, I wanted them both to be Christmas colors!  I will break these down into two different posts, one for each gown. 

This post will focus on my 1870 ensemble.  I pulled a couple patterns from the stash: Truly Victorian TV208 1870 Trained Skirt (view B) and Butterick 6694 (view B) for the bodice with modifications.

The invention of the first cameras, which only photographed in Black & White with shades of grey, lots of folks over the years arrived at an incorrect impression that Victorians were kind of dark and stodgy.  However, the opposite was very much the truth!  With the internet we are now able to view vintage gowns and ensembles from all over the world, and Victorians loved color, vibrancy, and fashion as much as we do today! During the 1840s there was a trend of "Mad for Plaid".  Here is a little bit of history:

The word “Tartan” is often called “Plaid” in North America, but in Scotland, a plaid is a tartan cloth slung over the shoulder as a kilt accessory, or a plain ordinary blanket, such as you might have on your bed.  The word “Plaid” is believed to have come from the Scottish Gaelic word “Plaide”, which means “blanket”.  (Thank you, Wikipedia!)

There was a resurgence of Plaid Popularity when Queen Victorian and Prince Albert purchased Balmoral in 1848. 

“Twenty years after her uncle's visit to Scotland, Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert made their first trip to the Scottish Highlands. The Queen and prince bought Balmoral Castle in 1848 and hired a local architect to re-model the estate in "Scots Baronial" style. Prince Albert personally took care of the interior design, where he made great use of tartan. He utilized the red Royal Stewart and the green Hunting Stewart tartans for carpets, while using the Dress Stewart for curtains and upholstery. The Queen designed the Victoria tartan, and Prince Albert the Balmoral, still used as a royal tartan today. (Wikipedia -”

The actual Merriam-Webster dictionary describes plaid as: A pattern on cloth of stripes with different widths that cross each other to form squares. 

So, with all this new found knowledge, I felt very comfortable in deciding on a plaid fabric, but could I take it to the next level and make it a Christmas Plaid in reds and greens?  In searching around on the internet, I found a lot of Victorian Christmas Plaid gowns, and here is just a small sampling:

These are all extant items, but I could not figure out how to add the actual links for each one.  I love the plaid boots and I would absolutely wear those today!  So, Christmas plaid was certainly a fabric option!

After perusing the internet for several days, I finally decided on a quilting fabric called "Christmas in the Ozarks".  This printed plaid is 100% cotton, and a wonderful drape, and uses true-reds, emerald greens, and a subtle gold accent.  It was perfect!  Once the fabric was selected, I was on to the pattern!

The TV 208 pattern calls for 6 2/3 yards of fabric, but it feels like a lot more than that.  I did have one issue with the pattern.  It breaks the instructions down into the two skirt designs with instructions for each.  No where that I could find in Skirt B instructions, nor any markings on the side skirt pattern piece, does it address the issue of pleating the side seams of the skirt sides.  It talks about side pleating on the apron with clearly indicated markings on the pattern piece, but not the back side pieces.  I figured it out when I sewed the two pieces together and ended up with a twelve inch gap of extra fabric on the skirt side back pieces, ripped it all out, put in three big horizontal pleats to match-up with the ones on the apron, and viola – everything matched up.  

But, that was not the end of the challenges with this skirt, oh no far, far, far from it!  Next challenge to hit was that I was running out of fabric!  I had wanted to place 10” pleated ruffles, two rows, all around the bottom of the skirt.  However, with only four yards of fabric left, I had to make some quick calculations.  One yard of 45” width will easily yield six yards of 7” wide strips for ruffles and pleats.  I used just over two yards for pleating on the apron edge, and another yard of pleating for the sleeves.  From there it was miles of ruffles all around the hem.  

Now, we are into the next challenge, while running my ruffler foot, I think it broke my sewing machine!  I shall not entertain you with paragraphs of the horror of this accident, suffice it to say that there was metal on metal where no metal should be.  So, that left the entire back hem of the skirt without a ruffle!  It looked awful, it looked unfinished, it was not what I wanted it to be after all this work.  I had some hard options to decide on at that point.  Being that if I wanted ruffles, it was going to have to be done by hand.  Those of you that know me are probably laughing right now knowing how much I hate hand sewing.  Picture if you can, hand sewing the entire hem of the skirt first, hemming the top edge of twelve yards of the 7” fabric strips, then hemming the bottom edge of that same twelve yard strip, then hand-gathering this twelve yards into a three yard length, and then finally sewing (okay “tacking” would be more accurate) that same twelve yards, now three yards of squirrely ruffles, onto the hem!  That was my life for several days.  In the end, everything was attached and was looking so pretty that I had to just stand there and appreciate the fact that I had just completed over forty-six yards of hand sewing!  

Oh, but it does not end there, no!  I had forgotten about the sawdust all over the floors at the San Francisco Dickens Festival, thereby making a four foot train truly inadvisable to wear.  So, in final, abject defeat, the night before found me pinning, tacking, and cursing the back of the skirt into a shorten bustled up format without a train.  I still plan on purchasing more fabric to finish out the pleated ruffle, but that will be for another blog story in the future.

Next up was the bodice.  It was made using a very cute little pattern by Butterick, with a few changes of course, because I like a challenge!  (Maybe one of these days I will like “easy”?)  I mixed and matched the pattern pieces to get the look I was after, which was that I wanted the bodice to look like I was wearing a vest, this was my inspiration piece:

I used my beautiful true-red, baby pin-wall corduroy (not HA, but it was so close to velvet people actually asked me what it was) for the vest section, and I used the plaid for everything else.  For the faux-vest sleeve caps, I used a matching red feather trim.  The pattern calls for loop and button closures, but I went with fourteen buttonholes.  I just moved all the buttons over to help center everything.  Also, I wanted 1870 sleeves at the 3/4 length, not the ones on this pattern.  Some of the sleeves of the 1870 were still showing a nice flare at the end, finished off with pleating, trims, and bows.  I incorporated all those details into my version.  I also used a garnet-colored beaded trim to help further suggest the illusion of a vest, in that the beaded trims goes from front to back over the shoulder, as well as all around the bottom hem of only the vest section.  One of the reasons I like this pattern are the double points at the bottom of the bodice, and that was still kind of popular around the late 1860s  and on into the 1870s, and was just a nice extra detail.  Start to finish on the bodice was
probably a week, again sewing after work a couple of hours a day and on days off.  I was happy with the way everything came together in the end, and I was able to achieve the vision of the gown I had in my head – so I will call this one a “win”!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

2014 San Francisco Dickens Festival - 1850 Ensemble

Well, the San Francisco Dickens Festival was on the horizon, and I wanted a couple of new ensembles to wear!  I was leaning towards an 1850 era gown, as well as an 1870 era gown, but not only that, I wanted them both to be Christmas colors!  I will break these down into two different posts, one for each gown. 

We are starting with the 1850 ensemble:  For this one I used Patterns for Period Impressions #411 – “Lucy” White body with Velvet Yoke and Girdle and paired that with the Truly Victorian #244 – 1859 Double

First off was finding the fabric.  I knew I wanted cotton or a breathable fabric.  After pouring over the internet for days, I finally found one that I liked.  It is a quilting fabric, 100% cotton, called “Christmas in the Ozarks” and is a true-red and emerald green printed plaid with subdued gold accents.  I loved it!

Next was deciding on the patterns.  I had a few that might work, but I really wanted a two tier skirt, so I ordered TV244 1859 Double Skirt pattern.  This skirt pattern calls for 6.5yds of fashion fabric plus 2yds of lining fabric.  Well, I decided I wanted to line the entire skirt!  So, I had 6.5yds in fashion fabric and 8.5 in lining for a total of 15yds!  I lined it with a lightweight satin, as I wanted the “swooshy” sound, I know, I made that word up!  Well, with the swooshy, comes the weight, so next time, no lining unless it is a super-lightweight fabric that needs the body and structure! 

The pattern is pretty straight forward, and exactly what you expect from Truly Victorian in regards to quality.  One thought for consideration, I would probably add an extra panel to the top skirt for added fullness, as well as shorten the top skirt by four inches.  Something in the proportions looked slightly off to me, so I shortened the top skirt.  The bottom skirt has a 225" circumference.

Start to finish for the skirt, or cutting to fitting, was probably six hours.  I very much like the way it turned out and I got my swooshy sounds!

Removed the two rows of black ribbon
Next up was the “Waist” or blouse.  SF Dickens is notorious for being very warm, even in December, so I wanted to go with something lightweight, not a bodice – more a blouse.  I had found the PPI #411 a while ago, and this was perfect for what I wanted.  This pattern is based on an actually fashion plate from Petersen’s May 1861 and is a short sleeved Civil War era pattern.  To help tie in the Christmas colors I used a beautiful true-red baby pin-wall corduroy, which was so fine it was almost like velvet!  For the blouse itself, I used light-weight white striped cotton.  As anyone that has worked with PPI patterns knows, there is a minimum of instructions, and it helps if you have a good knowledge of sewing in general.  The blouse came together quickly and easily and has four buttons down the back.  The tricky part, again for me, was the layers of gathered lace for the sleeves and the yoke.  There was a typo, or at least to me there was.  It called for 4.25yrds of “1/2” gathered lace, nope, should have been “1 ½” in width, plus another 3.5yrds of 2” lace for a total of 7.75 yrds, but I think I used closer to eight.  With a 4 to 1 ratio, that means I started with thirty-two yards of flat lace that had to be gathered!  I made all my gathered lace using a ruffler foot.  Once the lace was tacked on and sewn, I decided to go with a decorative “Greek Key” machine embroidery stitch in place of the ¼” ribbon.  I went around the corduroy sleeve edges, girdle, and the yoke with a red threaded top stitch, then back around with a black threaded machine embroidery stitch for the sleeves and girdle only.  Lastly, for the girdle, I used a vintage, black-beaded decorative piece front and center for visual impact.
Machine embroidered "Greek Key"  

Start to finish for the blouse, yoke, and girdle took probably ten days sewing after work.  I would set a goal each day of what I had to get done to stay on track.

Lastly was trimming.  I tried matching reds, greens, and even white, but did not like any of them, so black it was.  I had originally sewn two rows of 1” black satin ribbon around the bottom edge of the top skirt, and then decided I did not like it, and ripped it all off leaving only the fringe.  Too much black!  It was suppose to be a bright and Christmassy gown! 

Final accessories were a long black cape (stored in coat check), a black fur muff, vintage beaded necklace, and a vintage straw hat with red feathers!  It was a very comfortable, cool, and Christmassy ensemble to wear for my first day at Dickens! 
The skirt looks funny as it is pushed against something,
but it was the proper bell shape!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Late 18th Century Ensemble - Butterick #3640 "Making History" OOP

This was my first foray into late 18th Century attire.  I must admit that I was a bit intimidated.  Where to begin or even how to begin were just a few of the stumbling blocks, but I needed something to wear to the upcoming San Diego Costumer Guilds “18th Century Picnic”, so a commitment I did make. 

Like many of us, I started poking around on my own 18th Century Pinterest board for ideas, both for research and inspiration.  The volume of information on Pinterest in general is a tad overwhelming, so I began with just narrowing it down to the style of gown I was going to make – mainly, what I am going to call, a “Caraco” style.  There are a few of these Caraco style gowns out there, not many, but enough so that I felt comfortable using this pattern as my starting point. 

My goal in sewing is to make something to the best of my ability that I am proud to wear.  Something that reflects my original inspiration of the era.  Is it always “Historically Accurate/HA” or “Period Correct” – no, but, it is as close as I can make it.  I set myself very high standards, in that if it is going to take me days and or weeks to create, if I am going to give up days of my life, it had better be as great as I can make it.  I do not sew to impress anyone or to measure up to any persons expectations or restrictions except my own.  When I am done, I want the garment to speak for itself.

This era was always my most intimidating for a few of reasons, one being the amount of fabric needed, the correct type of fabrics and trims, the amount of hand-sewing involved, and even the technical aspects of the historical garments themselves. 

After looking around at research, fabrics, and patterns, I was ready to make that first fabric cut.  I had purchased a pair of huge curtains a few months ago, 10’ x 15’ for each one.  Over nine yards of fabric for each curtain, and wasn't that a lot of fun to try washing!  It was a beautiful red and gold striped cotton.  There were several documented gowns in stripes, and with that I set the pattern pieces and started cutting.  Worse case, I figured if I made a mistake, I had a whole other curtain I could start over with as backup!  The fabric is a medium weight decorator cotton and has a good drape to it.   I made “Gown A”, and just squeaked out the 9 1/2yds needed with a little bit left for self fabric trims.

The petticoat went together quickly and was actually a lot of fun. You will need pocket hoops for this look, and the pattern does compensate for them.  I elected to utilize the existing curtain seams and simply had to figure out seam placements.  Lots of fast pleating for the front and back panels.  I used grosgrain ribbon for the waist ties, so it would not slip once fastened.  The petticoat took all of maybe two hours.

So, on to the actual Caraco.  The bodice front is “pieced”, meaning on each side of the front opening there are TWO pieces of fabric, as opposed to the HA “ONE” piece.  Also, the pattern itself is of  Modern Design, as the cut of the sleeves clearly indicate. (Thank you to the ladies that helped me learn to see this pattern in a more realistic manner, in that it has a great look, but not exactly HA)  I did find several examples of “Front Closing and Pieced Bodice” historical garments, and this is my Pinterest Link: 

I wanted to make sure that I was actually seeing a seam line, and not a channel groove for boning.  So, I went into each picture to see if I could trace it back to it’s original location.  My favorite to use is at The Met, as it has an absolutely amazing “zoom” feature that lets you get right down to the seam line, and the clarity is amazing.  To see what I am talking about, try this link, click on the photo, to bring it up in a new page, and zoom into the seam line: 

Once I had several confirmed originals, I felt better about the pattern as a whole, in that it gave me the “Look” I was going for, and the “Look” was Historically based.  I also poked around these originals and noted that oftentimes the sleeves were not lined, so I did not line my sleeves, only the body of the Caraco is lined with a dark red cotton.  The lining is boned throughout and at the front closures. There was a lot of hand sewing involved, and for me that was painful, both literally (finger pokes) and figuratively (would it never end)!  So, I would pop “Dangerous Liaisons” with Glenn Close or “Marie Antoinette” with Kristen Dunst  into the DVD player to help keep me inspired and entertained.  (side note: have you ever noticed the tennis shoes in the shoe scene for MA? LOL).  The Caraco took less than ten days, as I would work a few hours each day.  The yards of 1” pleating all around the waistline was worthy of a glass of wine or two, as were the fourteen pairs of size 3 hooks and eyes all hand sewn.  Lastly, as with most things we make, the sewing is the easy part, it’s the fitting that can really get you!  Fitting my self is a challenge at best, but I finally pulled the external and internal fabrics into some semblance of a fit that I was happy with. 

My "Painted" photo
Next up was decorating!  The fun part of every sewing project that makes all the pain and toil worthwhile.  I wanted to keep it simple.  I knew I was going to an outdoor picnic, and I did not have a lot of fabric from the first curtain left over, so just a couple of yards of 1” ruching was used for neckline and sleeves over a 2" black netting.   All hand-pinked, but machine sewn, and thank heavens for the ruffler foot!  I also made a self-fabric “choker”, and finished off with black 2” grosgrain ribbon as a bow for the center front, and as a sash.  The red wide-brimmed hat was a great find, as was the black swans down feathers for decorating the hat.  I had the medium-sized “big hair” at only 7” high and used that to anchor the three hat pins that kept the hat on my head!  Jewelry included a pair of sterling silver drop earrings of pear shaped garnets and marcasite chips, a vintage sterling silver sash pin,  plus a wind-up 1” skeleton watch on a vintage pin at the waist front. 

Frilly Pocket Hoops

Lastly, here is the link to the “Pocket Hoops” that I made for this ensemble:

I have three more late 18th century ensembles on the construction schedule for the upcoming months, and will post notes as I progress through them.  Thank you for stopping by to read up on this.  Feel free to “join” this page for future posts!   

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sewing for the Seventeenth Century - Costume Connection #1702 Cavalier Woman

I had planned on attending Costume College in 2013, and the theme that year was “Cavalier with a Touch of
Costume Connection #1702
Pirate”. I started doing my research and found several inspirational pieces. In talking with a friend, she let me borrow one of her patterns from “Costume Connection, Inc, Pattern #1702W – Cavalier Woman” and it would provide a good starting point, which with a few changes, would allow me to get close to what I had envisioned.

I was not able to attend CoCo as I started a new job, so this ensemble languished as a “UFO” (Un-finished-object) for far to long. I finished it up as a Challenge project for “Sewforth Nightly”.

1630-40 Cavalier Ensemble
Now, when we think “Cavalier” it usually brings to mind The Three Musketeers, and fashions of that era from 1640 to 1780, but the word “Cavalier” actually had its start from a political perspective. Cavalier was a derogatory word used by Parliamentarian to describe a supporter of King Charles I and his son Charles II during the English Civil War. Cavaliers were also known as “Royalist”. The French word “Chevalier”, the Spanish word “Caballero, and the English “Cavalier” are all words used to describe a “Horseman”. In researching all over the internet, the times frame of “Cavalier” seems to span from 1625 to as late as 1780, depending on which website you are reading. So, I am going to go with 1625-1660 as the Cavalier period, for this piece, based on what I could decipher. As far as I can determine, this pattern falls into the 1630-1640 “Cavalier” time period.

The pattern is pretty straight forward. There are fifteen pattern pieces throughout. There is a bodice, stomacher, skirt, and waist tie as individual pieces. I also added a V-neck chemisette, but that is not included in the pattern. Check your measurements against the pattern sizing for best fit. From what I can surmise, the sizing is pretty much accurate. I did leave off the collar and sleeves as shown in the pattern, as well as the stomacher ties and boning in the bodice.

3/4 Sleeve I liked Better

The bodice is lined and is very easy to sew together. The stomacher is basic, as is the skirt and tie. When I 

changed out the sleeve, that is when things started to get interesting. Originally I wanted big, wide-open slashed sleeves, but once I got to that point and tried it on, I did not like it. So I went back and reworked the end of sleeves to create a bit of a cuff that could be turned back, and I like that much better. I then decided to add the big lace under sleeves. The under sleeves are lace and are attached to the bodice at the armholes. They are not part of a separate chemise. While lace looks like it should be light and airy, sometimes it is very much the opposite. So, by keeping the lace coverings on the arms only, and not the whole body, it was my intent to keep this bodice as cool to wear as possible. The chemisette is made of a three piece pattern, nothing too difficult, and is based off a vintage piece I have. Some of my inspirational pictures show a lace insert inside the bodice, so this is my interpretation.

Bodice front with stomacher

The stomacher, which is boned, was supposed to be tied in, but I did not like that idea. I attached it to the bodice on one side and used a few H&E to anchor in the other side. The waist tie will also work to hold it in place properly, and if I have any problems with it when I wear it, I can use a well placed safety pin or two.

Lastly, the fabrics: The bodice is lined with medium weight white cotton, but the yellow gold satin is polyester. When I purchased it a few years ago at the Tustin Antique Swapmeet, I was hopeful it might be silk, but a quick burn test proved otherwise. This entire yellow gold ensemble is made from one of two 9x12 curtains. Both curtains cost me $5 total. The lace sleeves were also curtains. The stomacher is a small piece of a 1970s tapestry fabric, and is very heavy duty and stiff just by itself. I picked up two yards of this vintage tapestry for $2 total. The cotton lining was from my stash and was bought for $1, and the lace was $2py and I probably used two yards worth. All told costs, for this ensemble with notions, were less than $15. I loved how the satin and the tapestry just came together on this project. Lastly, while most times I use natural fabrics, I have to say that the feel of this satin is wonderful, not as stiff as a heavy Taffeta or Duchess Satin, but not as light as a Crepe De Chine, but something in between. It has such great body and movement, plus it has a matte finish on one side (which is the side I used for this ensemble), but the

Turned back cuff w/iridescent fabric
 inside is iridescent! The cuffs are turned back to see the iridescent side and flashes copper in the light. Enjoy!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Short Sleeved Civil War Ensemble - Patterns for Period Impressions #410

Patterns for Period Impressions #410  

The Huntington Beach Civil War event was coming up in three weeks time, and I wanted a new Civil War ensemble. I had attended this event in the past, and knew it could get warm, so I wanted something light and airy. The fabric selection was easy, cotton, in both a floral and a plain white. I decided to go with the Patterns for Period Impressions #410 “ Short Sleeve Body with Velvet Braces”. This pattern is based on an actual fashion plate from Peterson’s January 1864.

Peterson's 1864 Fashion Plate
 While a lot of folks might argue short sleeves are not “period” correct, I did find several references to them, they are out there, you just have to look. When you know it is going to be a warm day, short sleeves just make sense. I decided on a plain striped white cotton for the “Body”, or blouse. I then matched that up with a cotton that had a white background with small florals throughout for the skirt. I further decided instead of velvet, I was going to go with matching skirt fabric for the braces. I had my inspiration ideas, fabrics, and patterns. I was ready to go.

Double Knife Pleated Skirt Front
The body/blouse pattern is extremely easy, only five pattern pieces, perfect for a beginning sewer. I did lengthen the sleeves, as I have long arms, and I wanted them to be elbow length. The sizing is blousy, not fitted, and from that I would say that the overall pattern sizing was exactly correct, no adjustments needed. This blouse has a small standup collar with drop shoulder seams. I would suggest one thing. The pattern called for “same fabric” interfacing, and I swapped mine out for a medium bodied iron-on interfacing to help give it a little more structure. Lastly, there are only eight buttons. I opted to go with some buttons that were a little fancier, in that they looked like white pearl buttons set round with nail-heads or even marcasite chips, which I thought was a nice vintage look. From first cut to final fitting was only five hours.

The skirt was just four panels of 45”W x 49”L with a placket added for the back opening and a waistband. It really was not enough fabric, but that was all I had, so I needed to make it work. On this skirt I did experiment a little, I went with a double Knife Pleat on the front of the skirt to help create a bit of a flat panel on the front for the braces to lay against. The sides and back used a tight gather stitch all the way around to fit into the waistband. I did not line it, as it was almost a sheer weight fabric. First cut to final fitting was probably close to four hours, give or take a little.

Now, the “Braces” or “Suspenders” were a lot more challenging. Hard to believe, but those little buggers took me almost seven hours to finish! Only two pattern pieces, but what made it challenging was the length of the lace. One side is 3” the other side is 2”, but because of how narrow the fabric was in some places, it was constantly catching the opposite side lace in the sewing. Also, I used a flat lace that I had to convert into a gathered lace, and that just takes time, as I did not have a foot attachment for this sewing machine. So, all the gathering was created by using a baste stitch then hand gathered. From there the lace was all pined down, here, there, and everywhere, to get the proper look. I used what I had in my stash, but I would certainly suggest purchasing pre-gathered lace for this project. The pattern calls for 3.5 yrds of 2” lace and 5.5 yrds of 3” lace, and I ended up using 20+ yrds of flat. Once I got all the pieces together, it was easy to fit them and sew them all together to create the final piece. I did sew the front of the braces to the front waistband of the skirt to help anchor them properly, and I used safety pins for the shoulders and back waistband. In summary, I very much liked this pattern. It is easy to make and can be dressed up or made simple.

My friend, Gina L, used the same blouse/body pattern for her ensemble and dressed it up quite beautifully.  One thing I will be adding in the future will be a small Corselette or Swiss Waist to be worn over the skirt, but under the braces.  I think I will like the lines better with that small addition.   Enjoy!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

18th Century Pocket-Hoop Panniers

These pocket-hoop panniers are my first step towards my 18th century ensembles, which will be coming up in the weeks ahead. I needed the proper underlying support garments for correct measurement and draping. The pocket-hoop panniers were popular in the mid to late 18th century, 1760-1780, and were a modified form of the required undergarments to create the proper silhouette that Marie Antoinette made famous during that timeframe.

These panniers were made from “Patterns for Period Impressions #512” and were super easy to construct. I added the additional lace and ruching, which added a few extra hours, but a person could easily construct these in three to four hours, start to finish, if you simply wanted the basic outlines as stated in the pattern.

I used a very heavy white Cotton Percale (or Percalcos), which is a closely woven plain-weave fabric. The term refers to the weave of the fabric, and not it’s content. Percale is noticeably tighter, usually 200 threads per inch or higher, than most bed sheets, which is what this fabric was originally. I knew that the constant pressure of the semi-circular hoops could possibly push threw lighter and finer fabrics, and I wanted to guard against that if at all possible, so I
selected a stronger fabric to begin with. I wrap a medium weight rubber band lightly around the hoops to help take pressure off the fabric when I store it. Also, while they state “pocket hoops”, I do not plan on using them as “pockets”. I think the weight of a modern day wallet, cellphone, and keys would pull the pockets off sides, and/or wear a hole. I do not wish to get to the end of the day and not be able to find my keys! Lastly, I think these pocket hoops will do well for ladies shorter styled bodice garments or full length garments made of lighter weight fabrics.

I love being able to take flat linear fabrics and be able to sew it into a 3-D item like a gown or such – it’s like magic! One day the fabric is laying on my table, the next day that same fabric is hanging on my mannequin looking like something completely different than the day before, and the next day I am running down the stairs in a new frock I made myself! Magic!

I decided early on that I wanted to add lace and trimmings to my panniers, because I like things to be pretty and feminine. I also thought that the extra lace would help soften the line edge of the hoops, and the same for the ruching at the top. The cutting out and sewing are very straight forward, and the instructions, while a little confusing at first, eventually begins to come together to form a three dimensional object. One thing I did change, I used white ¼” plumbers tubing instead of the called for four yards of steel hooping, you could probably get away with ½” diameter tubing if you made your channels a little wider. I bought it at Home Depot for $8.

The lace was sewn on at initial construction. The ribbon flowers and bows, plus the matching ribbon ruching, were all sewn on by hand. I very much like the way it came out and am looking forward to wearing it soon!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

17 hours of My Life - Regency Bonnet

I recently attended a Regency Event and was so enthralled with all the ladies lovely Poke Bonnets that I thought to give it a try myself.  I wanted something that was Neutral in color, but that utilized texture and some muted color contrast to give it visual interest.  With these thoughts and supporting materials in hand, I endeavored to begin my first ever Poke Bonnet.

A good friend, Ms Cat Frasier, and most excellent maker of Lady’s Hats, offered to give some informal instruction to our efforts  A day was set, and another good friend, Ms Gina L, picked me, my machine, and materials up, and drove us both over to Ms Frasier’s for our day of sewing.  I was very excited, as this was my very first group sewing event!  Most of my sewing is done in the quite of my home, so it was such fun to enjoy the company of my fellow seamstresses in our journey to create the perfect bonnet.
Still two seperate pieces and flower was just for show.

In my naïveté, I thought that I should be able to complete my bonnet, start to finish, in one day.  While things did progress as quickly as possible, the cutting of the pattern into buckram, batting, fashion fabrics, and linings, the sewing of wire to the required edgings to form the frame, the sewing of the fashion fabric pieces, the tacking down, and the myriad amounts of hand-sewing, for a beginner, a Poke Bonnet does provide some levels of difficulty.  Whilst in my heart, I dreamed of finishing my bonnet on that same day, after five hours of effort, I was only approximately one-third of the way thru to completion.  So, our day of sewing instruction ended, with tips how to finish out my bonnet.

At home I worked on the interior gathering for the underside of the brim.  Such a simple looking thing, and yet, looks can be so deceiving.  The cutting, seams, gathering, and attaching to the underside of the brim, probably took another five hours and many countless finger pokes – I began to think that was why they called it a “Poke Bonnet”!

Followed by more hand-sewing of all fabric edges to the buckram frame, which was another three hours, as hand sewing is not my forte by any means.

Next, my dearest friend, Ms Gina L took pity on my soul and came early before an event we were to attend to help me with the final assembly.  I was thirteen hours into this creative effort and was very unsure how to next proceed.  I did not want to accidently ruin my efforts at this point due to my negligence of how next to proceed.  Prevailing upon my friends’ good nature, she did show me what needed to be done next, and we were able to reach a true stopping point after only an hour of effort that left me confident of what I needed to do to finish my bonnet!

The next day found me finishing the last bit of structural hand-sewing after only an hour!  Now, I was onto the fun part – the decorating!  Heaven help me, but I succumbed to the easy way – I cheated and used a glue gun!  Forgive me, I know, after all that hand-sewing, but I simply did not think that I could take anymore torturous hand sewing.  I ran another hour to glue in the interior lining.  
Side view of the finished Poke Bonnet!

In regards to the decorating, I used an embroidered piece of white muslin for the side wall of the crown, you will notice the lovely circular pattern throughout, and this was my “texture” for visual interest.  Next, I used a cream colored cotton sateen for all other areas, this was my “muted” color contrast, the white against the cream – simple and elegant.  I then used some vintage Ivory lace for the crown decoration and bonnet ties.  In this I layered on a white circular patterned lace, to reflect the circular texture of the white muslin, with a bit of a shine to reflect the cream sateen.  Lastly, I used a gathered row of the Ivory lace on the top side of the brim to help cover up my tack sewing for the gathering on the underside of the brim.   And then, it was done!

Under-brim shirring was challenging.

It is not perfect, but I will not tell you it’s flaws.  With a few well place feathers, I think I can get away with the illusion.   My goal for this bonnet is that with future Regency gowns, I can simply make some ribbon of the left over fabric and craft a hat band to bring the gown colors into the hat, plus add in some contrasting colored feathers, so each gown will go well with the bonnet!

I would also like to thank Ms Cat Frasier, Ms Gina L, and Ms Val L, for their encouragement and support, for which I would not have been able to finish this project.  Secondly, my respect for all ladies, and gentlemen, that create hats for a living has increased exponentially after having attempted making one of my own.  The experts make it look so easy, but it is not.  Their effortless creations are only that much more appreciated for having attempted it myself, so I "tip my hat", or bonnet if you will, to all of those that inspire us.   
Now, I will say that my hat sewing abilities were sorely tested in this endeavor, and I am not a fast hand-sewer, so I am sure many of you will succeed at a much faster pace than I, and I think that the next time around even I will be able to improve on my seventeen hours of effort with hopefully better results. I used the Lynn McMasters Regency Bonnet Pattern.  However, for a first time beginners effort, I am very much pleased with the overall effect! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Simple is as Simple does - Butterick 6074

This project started out with a vintage 1986 “Liberty of London” queen sized (90x102) cotton sheet, new still in package.  What I loved about it was the pattern was printed on the diagonal to the grain of the fabric.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it was going to be a Regency day dress.   I had the Butterick 6074 in my stash, and thought this would be a great pattern to try with this fabric.  I made up the View A pattern and modified the sleeves to elbow length, as I am not a fan of the short puffy ones.   I used almost every inch of this sheet.  The contrasting puffy sleeve cap and the bust insert were also part of the original sheet, and I simply incorporated the contrasting fabric into my dress as well.  I like the way it turned out.  I did not have any major problems with construction or fitting.  (Some sort of period undergarment is going to make this dress look better than a modern bra.)  It has the period correct neckline and bustline drawstring, plus it gives instructions to use a “corded” hemline, which I thought was pretty cool, and uses French Seams!  It also has the little spiky sleeve cap detail, which is what sold me on the pattern to begin with!  The dress calls for full lining, but I only did the bodice, which you have to do, as that provides the drawstring casing for the neckline.  The bustline casing is a little different, in that the pattern calls for a hand-sewn, criss-crossed casing that sits inside the bustline insert.  I was a little confused as to how far around this casing was suppose to extend, as the pattern illustration only shows it in the front, but I ended up sewing in my own casing all the way around, front to back, and this greatly improved the overall fit and look.  Start to finish was probably about seven hours. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2014 Victorian High Tea at The Bayview or Technology Meets Tradition at The Palms

I live in a very old building, which dates back to the late 1880’s known then as “The Bayview Hotel”.  Supposedly, Josephine and Wyatt Earp lived in this building for a short while after they left Tombstone.  It is now known as "The Palms Hotel".

I had always planned on having a “Victorian Tea” at my apartment in this old building, I thought it would be great fun to try to recreate an event that might have actually happened in this building so many decades ago.

So, I started planning.  I knew it was going to a small event, as my apartment is small, but I wanted it to be a “High Tea”, and that was where I began.

It took me almost four months to accumulate all the Sterling Silver-plate pieces I wanted.  I already had my vintage china, and crystal glasses, but I wanted a vintage Sterling Silver-plate tea service from the 1880’s!  After much searching, bidding, and bargaining, I finally found some pieces that I pulled together to make a great looking set!  I set the date, and sent out my invitations.

Then I was on to the food selection and preparation.  This is where Modern Technology meets Victorian Tea.  My smart phone was an integral part of my entire process.  From placing bids online for my tea items, to paying for them, to finding the stores I needed to purchase certain ingredients, to mapping out my travel arrangements to get there!  My phone was like a personal assistant to me through the entire process and made it so much easier and fun!  Right down to helping me with the menu selection and recipes, all via my phone.  I did a phone search for recipes for “Easy and Great Tea Sandwiches”, and “Mock Devonshire Cream”, “ Charlotte Russe”, and worked directly from my phone with these recipes.  My phone was always just at my fingertips when I needed it, anytime day or night. 

The table linens, china, silverware, and crystal were all set the night prior to the tea.  This allowed me to focus on food prep the morning of the tea.  The morning of the tea was a flurry of activity pulling the last few items together.  Then I had to get dressed in full Victorian Bustle Gown attire before my guests arrived, and present this elegant looking table with a calm demeanor as if everything had magically appeared with the help of a full kitchen staff, when it was really just me!

 I used my 1930’s Vintage China, Ruby Royal by Noritake, as I could not find a full set of china going all the way back to 1880s, so this looked great and went with my color scheme of Burgundy and Gold.  I also used a vintage silverware set from the 1950s, by WM Rogers called Magnolia.  Next, I used modern date Waterford-Marquis tall crystal water glasses called Brookside.  The table linens were a mix of vintage and newer, the runner is quite old, but the Waterford napkins are modern.  The candlesticks are Tiffany and Company purchase at my local Thrift Store, and were a great find.  The flower vase is Waterford, and I found it at a Vintage Flea Market. 

The silverplate I purchased was all thrifted.  The most expensive pieces were the three piece tea service and I purchased that for $17 at my local thrift shop, it was 75% off day, so it was great buy!  The bottom of the sugar bowl and creamer are stamped "1856"!  Everything came seriously tarnished.  I looked for smooth restorable surfaces, no dents, no rust, no corrosion, as I knew I was going to try restore each piece.  After four months, I finally had everything I needed.  The week prior to the tea I began the restoration process, and it took three days.  I used my phone for information on how to restore without damaging the silver and it came up with a video I watched that showed how hot water, tinfoil, water softener, and salt could restore a lot of silver quickly and easily.  I was very skeptical, but I pulled all the ingredients together and began my science project, and low and behold it Worked!  Almost a third of all my pieces came up shiny and perfect!  So quick and easy it was amazing!  I had also used my phone to find online a “shine and silver re-plate” product.  It came with one of those “dunk” solutions which eats a thin layer of silver off to clean your pieces.  So, the next night I tried the remaining two-thirds pieces, and it worked on another third of them.  Unfortunately, it also ate through the last layer of silver on several pieces, so while it helped, it also created more work.  The third and final night was polishing and replating night for all the remaining pieces.  I had found a product called “Liquid Silver” by Medallion Care online with good reviews, so I ordered it online using my smart phone.  I was not expecting much, and so I was pleasantly surprised by the results!  Everything came out beautifully!  In the entire process, I only lost one piece that I could not restore, and I was more than happy with the final results! 

The table was beautifully set; it had sparkle and shine just as I had hoped it would!  The food looked delicious, and everything was in readiness for the first guest to arrive – for a few hours it was like stepping back in time, it was a Magical Victorian Tea!

Victorian High Tea at The Palms

Sparkling Muscato Rose

Orange-Cranberry Scones
Lingonberry Scones
Mock Devonshire Cream
Lemon Curd
Strawberry Preserves

Thai Pepper Chicken on Romaine
Chicken Salad with Apple Slices on Mini Ciabatta
Cucumber with Cream Cheese and Mandarin Oranges on White
Ham and Swiss Cheese on Russian

Charlotte Russe
Chocolate Covered Jumbo Strawberries
Marble Pound Cake
Shortbread Cookies
Chocolate Straws