Thursday, March 1, 2018

February: Under

For the Historical Sew Monthly, the February challenge was Under: Make something that goes under the other layers.

I originally planned to sew a new set of stays using the brand new American Duchess pattern, but then I decided to start a diet, and so I'm going to hold off on any fitted undergarments until my measurements are a little more consistent. However, there are plenty of non-fitted undergarments to sew, and I managed to have quite a lot of fun this month!

My big project was a new false rump. Some of you may remember that I sewed one a little over two years ago, but that there were clearly some problems with it. It was 100% polyester first of all, between the synthetic fabric and the polyfil stuffing, but I was also never fully satisfied with how it looked. I referenced a number of 18th century bums, looked at patterns that others had shared, and still didn't like how it looked on me. I think part of the problem was definitely in the materials, since polyester just acts a little bit differently than natural fibers, but I think the biggest problem was my expectations warring with reality. The rump I sewed in early 2016 was crescent shaped, and although it was based off of a number of extant examples, the overall look I wanted from the entire outfit probably would have been better achieved with a split, more pillowed, rump.

Every good project starts with some research and planning!

So, after receiving the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking for Christmas (thanks Mom and Dad!!!), I decided that I would make a new false rump, this time following the pattern in the book. I've had some fabric set aside for an Italian gown for a while now, so I figured that I might as well drape it over a false rump! Because Lauren and Abby did such a good job, the instructions and pattern in the book are super easy to follow. I cut out the two pillows and sewed up their sides, and then cut and hemmed the panel of fabric.

I often just use pins instead of marking chalk/pencil/etc. I find that they're easier to alter, and I would have to pin anyway to prevent the fabric from slipping when I cut, so I might as well just save myself some time

Each side cut out and ready to go

The pillows sewn together

By this point in my life, I've spent a lot of time looking at extant false rumps, and there are some that have an extra panel of fabric down the back, like half of a petticoat, and there are some that are only the pillow itself. I wasn't able to find an answer to why that extra fabric was sometimes there and sometimes not through all of my research, so I paid a visit to the Milliner's Shop to pick their brains, and they had the same answer I did: We're not sure! However, they had some of the same hypotheses that I did, and so we talked them over a little. Maybe the extra fabric helps to keep the rump in place (my polyester one certainly slid around, but I had blamed that mostly on the fabric). Maybe it kept the false rump from going up too high when you sit down. Or, maybe it keeps potentially sharp feathers from poking you! I would love to be able to fully research this, probably starting with analyzing the stuffing of extant rumps and making a chart to see if there's any correlation between which ones have extra fabric and which ones don't. However, I have a number of other projects that I have to get to before that, and some of those are long-reaching research projects for work, so it might be awhile...

The skirt on its own...

...and with the pillows sewn on!

Anyway, once I had the rump sewn together, it was time to add the stuffing! I really wanted to use cork, because I thought that would be super cool, but I don't drink nearly enough wine for that to be feasible. I don't have easy access to feathers, but all I had to do was wander across the street and ask for some wool! The Weavers were incredible kind, and gave me two pounds of washed wool, which I then got to card! However, I didn't have wool cards, and as cool as it would be to own some, I didn't want to spend over $100 on them at this point in my life. Luckily, wire animal brushes are a really good substitute, and they only cost me $4 at Wal-Mart. :)

One of the many Leicester Longwool sheep at Colonial Williamsburg, and a good source of wool!

Dog brushes with some un-cared wool

It's a good day at work when you get to sew a false rump!
(And don't worry, I wasn't using the modern brushes in front of guests. We were having a slow morning, so I was able to do some of the carding then)

Carded wool for the stuffing!

I enjoyed carding the wool, stuffed the pillows with it, and immediately tried it on. So, I now pose the eternal question to all of you:

Does this make my butt look big?

(I hope so!)

The Challenge: Under
Material: Cotton fabric, wool stuffing
Pattern: from the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking!
Year: 1770's-1790's
Notions: Linen thread, twill tape
How historically accurate is it? 100%, or as close as anything made in 2018 can be to 100% accurate. It's entirely handsewn with all natural fibers. I carded the wool myself, and I know the sheep it came from!
Hours to complete: About 4 hours to sew everything, and probably around another 4 hours to card all of the wool.
First worn: Not yet, just to try on, but hopefully with a new Italian gown in the near future!
Total cost: ~$5, I already had most of the materials or was able to get them for free/cheap.

Even though the false rump was the main attraction for this month's challenge, I also sewed another new pair of garters. During the first half of February, I went through training to become a nationally certified interpreter (yay!), and part of the certification required a small interpretive program that we each presented to be graded on. For my interpretation, I decided to talk about self-expression in 18th century fashion, since that's pretty much my favorite topic. I mentioned a lot of different ways one could express personal views in the late 18th century, but it should come as no shock that garters received the most attention. I brought in some earlier pairs of garters that I had made, but decided that I also wanted to make a pair that would help connect the subject matter to a modern audience. In the 21st century many people wear t-shirts or hats that come right out and say what they support, be it a political idea, religious affiliation, or love for a sports team. Since I see so many people wearing garments supporting various teams every day, and because I really like hockey, I decided to embroider a pair of garters that mixed 18th century fashion with 21st century expression. I present...

Game Day Garters!

I've had this idea for a while now, so it was fun to finally execute it. The St. Louis Blues are one of my favorite hockey teams, and since my garters are always covered by my petticoats, this will be a great way to cheer them on, even when I have to work during some of their games. If this wasn't such a niche market I would start a company making Game Day Garters, but if you're interested in a customized pair, just let me know!

I made a pair for the Toronto Maple Leafs while watching their Next Century Game in January, although I will probably make another pair in the future that I don't freehand entirely while I'm distracted so that they can be a bit neater and better planned out. On both sets of garters I've included the phrase that the club has been using recently; the Blues have been using #AllTogetherNow as one of their tags on social media this season, and the Leafs had the featured phrase over a doorway, and somewhere there is a spectacular photo of it, although I have been having trouble relocating the image...

Why it's important to draft before embroidering... this could have been wayyy more centered, and a lot better proportioned

I still really love the words though, and I am looking forward to making my next set of Leafs Garters!

 Bonus Photos!
My parents came to visit me for my birthday/my mom's birthday, and they stayed in an 18th century house! This was a fantastic photo opportunity, so we got a few neat shots of me tying my garters, reminiscent of some 18th century paintings and images.

Stay tuned for more historical sewing projects! Coming up, there's the challenge for March, which focuses on comfort around the home, and I'm pretty excited about what I'll be making. I also received a commission with some super awesome fabric, and so I'll be posting that with permission at some point as well. If anyone has any suggestions for what I should sew in the upcoming months, just let me know, because there are still a few months that I have absolutely no clue what I'll be doing! And, if you want to follow along with the Historical Sew Monthly, or join in and do some of the challenges yourself, you can find all of the information on that here.

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!