Monday, August 21, 2017

Day 21: UFO

For those of you who are unaware, in the sewing community the term 'UFO' usually refers to "UnFinished Object(s)". Although today also would have been a good day for a space theme, seeing as we had a solar eclipse!

I'm usually not one to have many UFOs lying about, because I'm usually sewing something with a deadline in mind, and I like to sew in my free time. However, I currently have two UFOs in my sewing [bed]room. The first is a set of regency short stays that I can't sew while I'm immersed in the 18th century, and the second is a gown I'm replicating.

The front of the gown - sorry it's a little wrinkled!
The back of the bodice - I just have to hem a few edges!

While I'm not certain how soon I'll finish the short stays, I'm planning on finishing the gown pretty soon. I just have to finish a few edges and sew a stomacher and petticoat, and I'm ready to go!

The front detail (which also needs to be hemmed)
The sleeves, which are finished, and which I absolutely love!

The gown itself comes from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion, and is taken from the quilted white gown from Snowshill Manor. However, since I wanted something that would show a little less dirt, I decided to make the gown in a brown silk that I found on sale. It will still be warm in the autumn and winter, but I won't have to worry as much about leaving the house in it! However, I am considering eventually sewing another one out of pre-quilted white cotton, so that it will be quilted and white, but a little bit easier to clean.

My drafted pattern pieces, as well as the gown I'm copying

I started this project last summer, drafting the pattern from the book, and I cut out the fabric in the fall. Hopefully I'll have it finished with a post on the completed gown soon!

A throwback to the window seat in my last dorm with the flowers I loved, and the day when I actually put needle to fabric and started sewing this gown!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Day 20: Not in a Million Years

There are very few things that I won't sew, but I always said that the 20th century was far too modern for my taste... and then I sewed a bunch of 1950's dresses. Then I said that I would never use synthetic fibers again, and I also said that anything pre-1955 couldn't possibly be flattering to me and... I sewed a dress for the Christmas Eve service that completely ignored both those declarations!

It started out when I decided I wanted one of the red dresses from the movie "White Christmas", but then realized that those might be a little over-the-top for a Christmas Eve service. So, I reevaluated my options, and decided to sew something inspired by them instead. I used Vogue pattern 2401, which is from a 1952 dress, and pulled some fabric in the most Christmas-y of colors!

Tigger helps me cut out the fabric, "What? You want me to move? But I'm holding down the pattern pieces!"

I only had two days to work, since I got started on December 23rd, but luckily the dress came together quickly!

The bodice looks like a crop top from a Barbie doll I had!

Dusty Rose kept me company while I hemmed and finished the edges. My cats are the best part of sewing at home!

The finished product on the dressform - having a dressform definitely made this project a lot easier!

I tried it on, did my hair, and then headed to church!

You can't wear a vintage dress without a vintage coat!

I'm really pleased with how it came out, and with how easy it was to sew! So, even though I swore off the 20th century entirely, I expect that I'll soon be adding a few more garments to the already sizable pile of "modern" clothing that I own.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Day 19: Ornament

This is the first post for this month that I really struggled with. I don't do a lot of ornamentation because so many of the things I make and wear aren't displaying that sort of wealth or that type of life style. However, I realized that there is one way I like to ornament my ensembles, and that's with a hat that makes a statement. Usually, that means a market bonnet!

I know that I've posted about market bonnets before, but I wanted to highlight the many different ways that they can be ornamented.

Plain black silk goes with pretty much every wardrobe - even in the 21st century!

While black was certainly the most common color, every now and then it's nice to be a little bit flashier - I trimmed this red silk market bonnet with scalloped while silk and a bow with pinked edges!

Here's another market bonnet that I made, this time a standard black bonnet with a pretty teal bow and scalloped trim!

And one of my more recent projects, a white market bonnet that I added scalloped green silk to this summer for a friend!

Market bonnets are a great statement piece for any wardrobe, and there are endless ways to ornament them! They're one of my favorite things to sew, and if you want one for yourself, send me an email and let me know (

Friday, August 18, 2017

Day 18: Fave Friday - Favorite Tool

            I don’t use a lot of tools in my daily sewing. Mostly, I work with a needle, thread, and a pair of scissors. Sometimes I use a cloth measuring tape, and every now and then I use marking chalk or a pencil. However, I do have one extra tool that I absolutely love – beeswax.
            When I was younger and just starting to sew, my Grandma gave me a sewing box for my birthday, and passed down some of her sewing kit to me. (You can see the pink-polka-dotted box if you look at my desk on Day 15!) One of the items in the kit was a cake of beeswax. I had no clue what it was, let alone what to do with it, and when I inquired I was informed it was so I could tell people to mind their own beeswax! I didn’t quite get the joke, but I carried it with me in my sewing box anyway.
            Once I started sewing all of my 18th century clothing by hand, and doing a lot more research, I discovered that it was helpful to run thread through a cake of beeswax before sewing with it, and once I tried it I couldn’t go back. The thread goes through so much easier, and it tangles a lot less. I also really like using beeswax, because it’s like incorporating a bit of my Grandma’s sewing into my own projects when I wax my thread with the cake that she gave me.

            You can get beeswax in all different forms; Jo-Ann Fabric sells it in tins, and I’ve bought some in Colonial Williamsburg in different animal shapes. I highly recommend adding beeswax to your sewing kit, even if you only hand sew every now and then – it really makes a difference!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Day 17: Written Source

In college, I was in a reenacting club, called the College Company. We were the best sorts of nerdy, which means that there was an abundance of inside jokes involving hilarious primary sources. One the best ones was over a "pantsless flaming shots party". While men's military fashion is not usually what I discuss, this source was too good to not post about!

And here's the article information from JSTOR, in case anyone wants to read the rest of it!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Day 16: Small Project

            If you’ve clicked back through my blog, or been following me for a little while, you have probably seen my post on garters. In essence, garters are a great part of 18th century material culture, because they could show off a lot of personality, as well as carrying important messages. Since I do most of my 18th century sewing at work, I like to work on projects that show a side of historical people most visitors wouldn’t have considered otherwise, and garters are a great way to do that.

            This month, I’ve taken a saying from an extant pair of garters, halte la, on ne passe pas (stop here, do not go further), and mixed it with a design found on other sets of garters from the period.

            It’s a nice way to work on my embroidery skills while also sharing a small peek into the personalities of the past. In 200 years, historians might find a Grumpy Cat t-shirt and wonder if its owner was particularly anti-social, or simply had a sense of humor. This is the same question we get to ask today when we look at garters like these, and it’s exciting for me to be able to connect the past to the present in such a vivid way.

I don't have a lot of information about these individual garters. I know they were used in a museum exhibition showing underclothes and accessories from 1812, but I also know that this style was seen as early as the 1770's. Furthermore, one of my colleagues who speaks French much better than I do pointed out that "la" should have an accent to indicate its use as a place and not an article. I don't know if this was optional in 18th century French, or if these were perhaps made/decorated by a young lady who was just learning French. After all, you can buy lots of shirts that say "amour" and "bonjour" on them today, why wouldn't French, the language of diplomacy, be just as popular for ornamentation in the 18th century?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day 15: Workspace

            When I went apartment hunting, I had a few requirements. The place had to have a washer and dryer, the sink needed a garbage disposal, and there had to be an airy floor plan with lots of natural light. I also needed to be able to picture myself sewing there. The week before graduation I found a desk at a thrift store that I’m pretty sure was originally used in a hospital, and was also ridiculously heavy. With the help of two of my friends we moved it to the storage unit I had rented for the month, and after graduation we moved it into my new apartment, which met all of my requirements.
            The second I saw the desk I knew it would be great for sewing, with a sturdy work surface and a nice cutting space, as well as ample storage. I don’t have my own sewing room yet, but it occupies the sewing section of my bedroom, and is lit by the sunshine lamp my parents gave me for Christmas.

            I completed my sewing space by framing some postcards I had purchased in Bath, England, at the Fashion Museum there, as well as some fitting reproductions of World War II propaganda from the Imperial War Museum in London and a print picked up from a Colonial Williamsburg sale. I also hung a bulletin board so that I could pin up inspiration, primary sources, to-do lists, and fabric swatches, and my sewing books are lined up neatly between homemade seashell bookends.

Gowns from the Fashion Museum in Bath
My sewing books, sandwiched between seashells from Myrtle Beach collected post-graduation
My favorite print from the CW sale

            My fabric stash is in a tote in my closet, and my mannequin sits opposite my desk, easy to drape projects around.

            It might not be the giant sewing space with a full wall of windows I think of when I picture my ideal home, but for my first apartment I’m incredibly pleased!