Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January: Mend, Reshape, Refashion

Hello everyone!

I have a big recap post for all of the sewing that I did in 2017 in the works, and a surprise that should be ready in the spring, but I have good news right this moment: I'm participating in the Historical Sew Monthly!

For those of you not familiar with this, it's a year-long challenge with a different theme for each month, and I'm so excited to be taking part in this. As much as I have enjoyed past challenges where I posted every day for a month, that just isn't sustainable for me, and I felt like my quality of writing was starting to suffer, even if my actual projects were good. This challenge will still allow me to sew at least 12 new things, but I should be much better about posting and hopefully not face any blogging burn out afterwards!

The challenge for January is Mend, Reshape, Refashion

For this challenge, I decided to mend my Wythe Jacket, since the right side of the skirt has been ripped since Independence Day. It was a five minute fix, but one I had been postponing for months. After finally accomplishing that task, I set to work on truly refashioning something. Overall I'm very pleased with the pieces in my historical wardrobe, but my most recently sewn Batwing Jacket needed a little more flair. So, for this challenge, I added pleated self-trim to the neckline! I didn't think it would make that much of a difference, but it really adds something to the jacket, and I received a bunch of compliments on it!

Material: Printed cotton chintz, replicated off of a child's gown in the Colonial Williamsburg collections. (I believe it's now discontinued, which is very sad!)
Pattern: Based off of a JP Ryan jacket pattern originally, but then I made some alterations and free-handed the trim, looking to other period garments for inspiration.
Year: 1770's-1780's
Notions: None!
How historically accurate is it? Entirely! It is completely hand sewn on reproduction fabric and is worn with all the appropriate undergarments.
Hours to Complete: For the jacket itself, probably 5 or 6, and then another 2 for the trim. However, I do interpret as I work, so it's hard to judge exact times.
First Worn: To work the day after I put the trim on :)
Total Cost: I think the fabric was on sale because it was being discontinued, and then I got an employee discount on top of that, so a rough estimate is between $12-$15.

I know now that I definitely need to add trims to more of my outfits! Usually I'm just so excited to put a piece on as soon as possible, but I'll try to practice a little patience and really add those extra details.

Pinning the pleats took the most time, but I enjoyed lining up the little purple "bats"

I stabbed myself a few times trying to tack everything down with so many pins in my hands...

But it came out nicely!

And it really adds a nice touch to the whole garment!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Better Late Than Never, September

Happy fall, y'all!

I'm sorry that I didn't post... at all... this month, but September was an unexpectedly rough month. However, I finally got photos taken of some of my latest projects, and so I can now share them with you! I made a few modern things this month, did some stash-busting, and received one of the best compliments I possibly could have. Here's (some) of my month, illustrated in sewing projects!

I'll start off with the two modern things I made this month: an elastic-waist skirt and a suspender skirt.

It's Paris! (and for some reason my computer wouldn't let me rotate this photo, sorry about that)
I had exactly one yard of this wonderful cotton print, showing a bunch of the famous sites in Paris, and I really wanted to put it to good use. So, I whipped up a cute skirt that I can wear with pretty much anything! The fabric was wide enough for me to cut it in half so that I could gather it quite a lot, giving me a very full skirt. I sewed the two yard-length pieces together, giving myself a tube with a circumference of two yards. I then wrapped a piece of elastic around my waist, marked it, and cut it to size. I turned over the upper edge of the skirt, forming a channel the same height as the elastic (mine was an inch - I think if I did this again I would use at least a two inch elastic for a bolder waistband), and then inserted the elastic into the channel, effectively gathering the waistband of the skirt. A good tip for things like this is to attach a safety pin to the end of whatever you're feeding through the channel, so that it's easier to move it through. Finally, I sewed the elastic together at the ends, and then hemmed the skirt.

I timed myself, and the entire project took exactly 20 minutes! I can't wait to wear this while traveling - I think I'll pair it with some warm tights for the autumn to start...

Next up is my new suspender skirt! I've wanted a skirt like this for years, but couldn't find one I liked that was also affordable. I got some new fabric for free, and so I decided to finally make myself a suspender skirt! I've been referring to this one as my Tim Burton/Corpse Bride skirt because of the pattern and colors, and also because I had "This is Halloween" stuck in my head the entire time I was sewing it (two. whole. hours.)

It's more purple in real-life, don't worry!

This skirt is also easy to make without a pattern. I started with a simple circle skirt, and then cut out two 2" strips of fabric for the waistband. I cut a slit down the back of the skirt for a zipper (a 9" zipper would work well), and then sewed one of the waistband strips to the skirt. I set the zipper, and tried the skirt on, measuring how long and where I wanted the suspender straps to be. I cut out two more strips of fabric to the desired length of my straps, each 4" wide. I sewed the strips into tubes, and attached them to the top of the waistband. To finish it off, I added the other waistband strip by sewing it to the top of the first one, and then whipped stitched it to the skirt on the bottom. Finally, I hemmed the skirt, and was ready to wear it!

You can cross the straps in the back or not, it's your choice! You can also sew the crossed section in place if you want to, although I didn't.
I'll pair it with a long-sleeved white shirt and black tights. Maybe I'll even add some light purple or orange as it gets closer to Halloween!

The final project I have photos of is my 18th century wool bed gown! In the 18th century, bed gowns were the equivalent of a modern sweatshirt. You wear them over your other clothes, and you can secure them with a straight pin and your apron to keep them out of the way while you're doing work.

The green neckerchief is also new, and I have a reddish-pink one to match... eventually I'll post something about the accessories I've been sewing recently!
I found the fabric at a local thrift store, and it was 3 yards for $3! It's almost pure wool, but luckily the small percentage that is synthetic isn't discernible by touch or by appearance. I'm usually a stickler about only using 100% accurate fiber content at this point in my sewing, but for something like this I was willing to make an exception.

The original, laid out on my new fabric.
Since bed gowns are pretty much a big 'T' with flared sides and gussets, this was easy enough to make, and it was even easier because I already had one that I could trace! However, if you don't have a bed gown to work off of, here are the simple measurements you need:
  • Across your shoulders, wrist to wrist. This, plus approximately 2" for hemming/finishing, is the top of your bed gown. If your arms are short enough, or your fabric is wide enough, you can make the top line up with the fold, like I did. (Ex. My fabric was 60" wide, and that is also my wingspan)
  • The base of your neck to mid-thigh/knees/where ever you want the bed gown to go down to. This is the finished length, and how far down from the top you need to measure.
  • Measure around your arm at the widest part (a) and from your wrist to your armpit (b). Add at least 2" to measurement 'a', and then divide that total by 2, giving you measurement (c). Measure 'c' inches down from the top of your fabric, and mark that at both edges of the fabric, as well as at a point 'b' inches in from each side. Connect those dots, and you have the sleeves!
  • Finally, draw a diagonal line from each armpit point to the bottom corner of your fabric. This will be the "wings" of the bed gown, so you can make these as wide or as thin as you want.
  • You'll also cut out two 4"x4" or 5"x5" squares for gussets, depending on how much movement you want in the arms.
If you look closely, you can see my markings on the fabric. (Sorry for the poor photo quality, I was sewing in the hallway of a friend's apartment when I took this.)
I sewed the sleeves and sides together first, and if you're not cutting on the top fold then you'll also sew the back together at this point. You'll also add the gussets when you sew up the sides. After putting the sides together, I cut a slit up the front as well as two inches on the either side of the center on the top fold so that the wool doesn't scratch my neck. Fold those extra two inches under diagonally, and then hem the front. You can also add a strip to reinforce the back neckline here - mine is extra big, because when you sew in front of the public they sometimes manipulate and rip your sewing on accident. After that, all that's left to do is hem the bottom edge, and you're all set to stay warm in the winter!

(This is also where those nice complements I mentioned come in - I had multiple people mistake my hand sewing for machine stitches! I was delighted, and I'm really proud of my work on this.)

My shirt says "I'm Sew Fancy", and I love it. I got it from JoAnn Fabric, and they have so many cute sewing/knitting/crafting themed shirts there! (I also have one that says "Sew Happy!")
Kirsten photographed me in my bed gown, and the photo shoot turned into a HomeSense ad haha - but look! It's so cozy!

When I showed my finished bed gown to my parents, I modeled it while wearing 21st century clothing, and my mom pointed out that it looks a lot like some of the modern sweaters that are pretty popular. So, I now have the most versatile garment that spans three centuries!

It was 81 degrees that day, but I still managed to be cold - I'm glad I had my new bed gown!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Day 31: Reflection

Writing every single day this month has definitely been an eye-opening experience. I kind of got ahead of myself and mixed some reflection in with yesterday's goals, but I'll reiterate a little of it here.

I wanted to use a cool picture of me looking into a mirror, but I don't have one of those, so here's a photo of me sewing stays while interpreting to a small child and supervising a card game - I feel like that just about sums up a normal day of sewing for me!

I like making myself go back over my work, because I learn a lot more that way. I'm hoping this will act as some encouragement to keep up more regular blogging!

I need a better photo system. I have very few good pictures of my work, and this is not good. I can't share my projects if I don't have images of them, and if the images are of poor quality then what use are they really? I don't know if this will be remedied by finding a tripod system of some sort for my phone, or saving up money for a photographer and a photoshoot, but sorting that out is on my to-do list.

Finally, having a creative community is the best. I love being able to share ideas and knowledge and just general excitement with others who make things, whether we see each other face to face or only through comments online. I plan to stay engaged, and I hope that you feel comfortable enough to reach out to say hi too!

Happy sewing! Stay tuned for more soon!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Day 30: Sewing Goals

I try hard to be modest and humble, but I am going to start off this post by bragging a bit - I'm really proud of myself! I think that sewing is one of my greatest skills, and I'm so pleased with how far I've come since I started sewing, and even in just the past two or three years! My work is at a level I used to only dream about, and I'm still enjoying it, which is even better.

However, I definitely have a few things that I want to work on in the future (and not all of them involve a needle and thread).

1. Be profitable. I love sewing, and I do it all the time, but fabric costs money, and right now I lose money on every project I do. I want to be able to make money sewing, so that I can keep sewing at the same volume I am now. I'm fixing up my Etsy store, and I am always open to commissions (my email and other contact info is in the side bar...), but I'm struggling to find interested customers. Which brings us to my second goal-

2. Be better at self-promotion. Like I said, I try to be modest, but I'm also just not really good at talking myself up. I'm not a natural born sales person, but I know I need to improve that part of myself if I want to generate any sort of business or clientele. Right now I'm working on finding more opportunities to network, and trying to put more of my stuff out there through both social media and in the real world. I still have a long way to go before I'll feel comfortable handing out business cards willy-nilly, but I know it's something I need to do if I want to keep sewing as much as I currently am.

3. Practice drafting patterns more. I've had success making clothes from patterns I altered, scaled up, or pieced together, whether they were from the Janet Arnold books or some frankensteined Simplicity patterns, but I want to improve my own drafting skills. I took a class in college on costume construction, and the part I needed the most was our sloper construction - a fitted bodice that was exactly our individual proportions that would serve as the basis for anything else we wanted to make. Although I did well on that assignment, I still have a lot to learn, and I think that if I spend some more time practicing my own pattern construction then I can only get better! A lot of the theory already makes perfect sense to me, and I find myself seeing pattern break-downs when I have ideas for new garments, so I'm hopeful that by this time next year I won't bat an eyelash at patterns drafted from scratch! Here's a little recap of what I've done, and an idea of what I'm hoping to get better at:

I took a pattern and made a good deal of alterations to it - circa January 2016

I drafted my own market bonnet pattern last year, and it's been immensely successful

Despite having never sewn anything from the early 1900's before, I drafted this bathing costume entirely on my own, without even a pattern to base it on - I wish it was a little better fitted, but I'm so pleased with it!

The calash was drafted based on an original laid out on a grid, and the caraco was from a pattern I edited

The cape was sewn from a tutorial involving some math, but I did the drafting with my mom's help (I think I was 16?), and the gown was almost entirely self drafted with some help from Fitting and Proper

This cap, from my Chocolate Girl recreation, was self-drafted

Everything I'm wearing in this photo (including my shift and stays!) was hand sewn by me, and the only thing I used a pattern for was the stays

The first gown I ever drafted - there are definitely some flaws, but I am still incredibly proud of it!

The pattern pieces I created for the Snowshill Gown, scaled up and sized from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion

My Rapunzel costume from Tangled was partially self-drafted, with modified Regency sleeves and a modified corset pattern

Even when I'm not directly drafting patterns, I've found it helpful to study them. This is one of my favorite photos of all-time, taken while I was doing research for my zone-front gown, with Tigger helping me study.

This entire gown was self-drafted and hand-sewn - I can't wait to see what comes next!

4. Blog regularly. This kind of goes along with my first two goals, but I've also found a lot of intellectual value in writing about all of my projects this month. I've had to think through them all again, and after looking back I've found new inspiration, as well as a few new ways to do things. The community of seamstresses and costumers is also a fantastic one, and I don't want to lose touch with such a great group. I intend to be a little less shy, and to comment on other's blogs (I have cherished every single comment I received this month, as well as all of the support on the facebook group - you guys are the best!). I also want to make sure that I'm keeping the people I don't get to see all the time in the loop; lots of family and friends from back home read this blog, and I think about them when I write. I want my parents to know I'm doing well (sewing is something I love to talk with my mom about, and my dad is one of my biggest supporters), I want my friends to be able to see the weird career path I've embarked on (I love seeing what they're doing with their lives!), and I want to bring a little bit of joy and learning to everyone. I definitely write some posts with certain people in mind (Lindsay, I have another garter project planned!), and I personally enjoy being able to reflect on my own work as time goes by.

          I know I mentioned it casually earlier, but I'll speak with a little more detail here: I am definitely going to be doing more monthly blogging challenges, although I won't be doing one for all thirty days of September. September is National Sewing Month, so expect something at least once a week - I'm trying to find prompt inspiration to guide me, so if you have any suggestions of things you would like to see, or if you would like to join me in my next blogging adventure, please let me know! I'm also hoping to start completing the Historical Sew Monthly challenges, and to potentially do another daily sewing challenge in October leading up to Halloween.

Hopefully you've all enjoyed the past month of blogging with me! I have one more prompt for tomorrow, and then we're headed into September. As always, if you have any questions, anything you want to see me sew/write about, or simply want to talk about sewing, just let me know!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Day 29: Ensemble

I had big plans for this post, but unfortunately a couple of things derailed it. Primarily, getting sick and not having anyone to help take photos were the biggest factors, but the rainstorm today and the fact that my outfit is mostly silk certainly didn't help either!

If you remember a few days ago, when I posted about my UFO, I said that I was hoping to get it done in the near future - the near future is now! The original gown, from Snowshill Manor, was made of white silk, but for an outfit perfect for both travel and autumn I thought that brown silk would work better (and be far more practical).

In addition to the fact that the entire outfit is made of brown silk - petticoat, stomacher, and jacket - there are many things you can add on to this outfit to make it a true ensemble, and this gown is specifically 'accessorizable' since both travel and changing weather require lots of accessories! In the photo, I've paired it with a brown felt hat that I might add trim to in the future. However, I could also also wear my calash with it, a market bonnet, a different brown calash (I have some scrap silk I'm contemplating using for that), or a hood. Additionally, I can wear a cape or a mantle with this gown, and mitts or a muff for especially cold weather. It can also be worn with or without hoops.

Essentially, I'm hoping that this outfit will be my most versatile one yet, and that there will be lots of ensemble possibilities here! As soon as the skies clear and I start to feel better I'll hunt down some friends and edit this post with some new pictures of all the different ways you can make an ensemble out of one 18th century outfit. Until then, happy sewing!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Day 28: Museum

Museums have always been a big part of my life. Museums are vacation destinations for my family, and they're somewhere that I can enjoy learning new things, usually in a way that lets me connect with the subject completely differently from what I would get through a textbook. Growing up, I wanted to teach, but I couldn't find a classroom situation that didn't involve students being there against their will. Working in a museum, I get to share the history that I love with families who are interested in it. I can ask our visitors what they're interested in, and then I can relate it to the 18th century, or I can make things from the 18th century interesting to our visitors in a whole new way.

There's a lot that can be said regarding museums and public history - I've read books and taken classes to study those subjects, I've written numerous papers and had over a hundred discussions on the best way for museums and public history sites to run themselves. I won't go into any of that here, I'm just going to say how special I think museums are, and how much I love getting to go to work at one every day.

This is the day I was hired, March 15th, 2016. I'm holding my welcome letter, and ran back to campus and showed it to all of my friends immediately after this picture was taken

This photo if from a little over a year later, on my first day as a full-time, year-round employee. I'm still just as thrilled to have my dream job!

Museums are a place where I like to celebrate my birthdays - especially here at the Wythe House, where I can be in the same house and touch the same things that the Founding Fathers and other historic individuals did.

Living history museums always seem to have a great community of people who truly love history and want to experience it and learn about it in lots of different ways - 18th century cricket and dancing are two of my favorites, although pretty much any games from the time period are fun!

In a more romantic sense, there's a certain magical, princess-esque feeling you get when you wear 18th century clothes!

There are also lots of animals, and that means baby animals too!

Museums are great places to have hands (or feet) on experiences (here I'm treading clay to help make bricks)...

...and even to taste new things, from the past! (At the Coffeehouse, you can sample 18th century sipping chocolate)

It's one of the most beautiful places on earth, and I've learned so much about nature since starting here!

I also get to sew at work, which means I can share my love of historical clothing in so many different ways with all of our visitors!

I can't imagine a better place to work, or a more special place to visit!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Day 27: Future Projects

Just the other week I was lamenting that I hardly had anything [18th century] to sew... now I have the opposite problem!

There was a fabric sale with some incredible deals the other week, and I am now prepared to make a new jacket, a caraco with matching petticoat, and two full gowns (although I might make one of those gowns into a second caraco with matching petticoat).

Aren't they all so pretty?! I think my favorite is the one in the top center, but the bottom one will be absolutely perfect for a caraco. The total price for all four new outfits will be around $50, or less than $15 each!

I also have a couple of Regency projects on the docket, although those won't happen as quickly since I can only work on them in the evenings. Keep your eyes peeled for a new set of short stays, a wool spencer, and a gown modeled after the one in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion though!

This fabric is from Verna's, which I love to visit with my Mom when I go back to PA - there's so many great finds in there!

The description of the original fabric for this gown is very similar to the fabric I already have (above), so clearly this is a good choice for a new Regency gown!

Finally, I have a few cold weather projects that I can sew, just as soon as the weather cools off and autumn begins. I have some wool that I found at a thrift store (for $3! For three yards!) to sew a petticoat with, and my parents got me some lovely sky blue wool and cinnamon brown Virginia cloth from Burnley and Trowbridge last Christmas that I'll be turning into something fun come fall. Lastly, I bought a little bit of faux fur trim a few years ago and stitched it together, but I am yet to turn it into the muff it was meant to be - hopefully that project will be completed in time for the snow!

I love the look of fur, but I could never support killing animals just for their coats, so faux fur is one of the very few modern concessions I will make in my 18th century costuming. (To quote one of my favorite movies, Christmas in Connecticut, "No one needs a mink coat except for the mink!" I do, however, need a faux fur muff, and a faux fur trimmed mantle, and...)
In addition to all of my future sewing projects, I am also hoping to undertake some more blogging projects. I haven't made any official decisions, but I have some cool prompts in the works, and some more challenges to keep me blogging through the rest of the year - so stay tuned!