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.