Friday, August 12, 2016

Thoroughly Modern Stacy... By the Seaside

It should come as no surprise by now that I love most historical clothing much more than I love almost anything modern. So, when I heard that the cricket club I'm in was going to have a beach match in modern swimwear, I was momentarily upset. I don't really like most modern swimwear, and I really didn't like the idea of playing a sport while wearing a swimsuit. But then, I had a realization! I finally had an excuse to sew a historical beach outfit!

Since going to the seaside in special clothing has been gaining in popularity over time, I decided to step out of the 18th century, and into the modern world of the Victorian Era. Other than a few 1950's dresses and a couple 21st century things, this would be the most modern historical outfit I had ever sewn! I made the decision early on to let myself have fun with this project, and so I didn't obsess over every historical detail.

First, I found some examples of swimwear from the 1890's-1920's that I really liked, and started figuring out how I would roughly draft a pattern. I selected a style that had both a dress and bloomers, with the intention of wearing just the dress around town sometimes as well. I chose to heavily base my final design off of a knitted cotton outfit from 1915, although I believe the original featured a wrap skirt instead of a full dress.

I estimated that I would need about 3 yards of knit cotton fabric, and I just barely had enough! (If you want to make this yourself, it's very easy and straightforward, but please buy at least 3.5 yards - you'll thank me when you have to arrange your pattern pieces and cut it out!) I also bought white bias tape to trim the neck and hem, and I purchased white piping to accentuate the waist.

I took measurements of myself and drafted a simple pattern. I learned that I don't really have a good grasp on my true size - I overestimated everything - and later got to take the dress in quite a bit. The only thing I didn't draft myself were the sleeves, for which I used one of my trusted patterns, Simplicity 4055. However, I simply pinned those in starting at the bottom, and then gathered the five inches at the top, while leaving the bottoms of the sleeves ungathered and unbound, with just a simple hem.

My sketches and original estimations for the outfit

The body, legs, and waist band pieces (this is not how they were placed for cutting)

The dress went together very easily, and the pants were done in less than an hour. Overall, I would say this project took about 5 to 7 hours, most of which was spent drafting and remeasuring myself.

Adding piping...

...adding more piping...

...and adding more piping!
This was over some gathers I made to fit the bodice a bit better.

The dress before sleeves and hemming (with flash to show how blue it is)

The back with buttons

The first time I wore my new bathing costume was to the cricket match, which turned out to be more of an excuse to talk about history on the beach - aka a perfect evening. I even skipped a stone properly for the first time in my life!

At the beach!

Enjoying the water

Properly wading into the water


Monday, August 1, 2016

A Jacket and a Holiday

I posted a bit ago and mentioned that I bought new fabrics during a sale at Mary Dickinson's. Well, I have already made a new jacket with one of the fabrics that I bought!

I wanted to make a swallowtail jacket, so I used the JP Ryan jacket patterns and did view D with a modified front that pins closed like view A.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of the construction, because I sewed the entire jacket in one day during work, and therefore couldn't take my phone out to snap any documentation. I cut out the fabric the night before, and after leaving work the next day I put on the recently finished jacket and wore it to a cricket match.

Then, on the Fourth of July, I paired my new blue and white jacket with a red petticoat, a white apron, and a red silk market bonnet that I whipped up that morning and trimmed with a white ribbon for a most patriotic look. Even though I had the day off, I went into work to compete in the annual Independence Day tug-of-war. I was on the Patriot's side, and we won two out of three times!

I'll try to do another post on market bonnets soon, hopefully with all of the documentation that they deserve - they seem to be coming into fashion in the reenactment community, and I want to have one easy reference to send anyone with questions to! I have been sewing a lot of market bonnets recently, both for myself and as commissioned work, so if anyone is interested in buying one, please feel free to contact me! (I've been charging about half of the going rate on Etsy, so it's a good deal, and they're entirely hand sewn!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Stays! (a.k.a. Another Reason Why I Love My Job)

So, I get to sew at work, and I get to talk about history all day - I officially have the best job ever!

Because of this, I have been working on quite a few projects this summer, and I am very pleased with everything I've been turning out. The first thing I sewed, and what I most desperately needed, was a new set of stays. As you could probably tell from my last post, my old set has become far too worn, the boning has entirely shaped itself to my body, and after losing a bit of weight they're just too big. So, I was ready to make another set!

Working on my stays while talking to a young visitor (not pictured)
I decided to make strapless stays this time, so that I wouldn't have to worry about the neckline of my gowns, and since I loved my last JP Ryan pattern so much I decided to order another. I chose light blue linen and a white linen lining from my favorite linen source, and I ordered leather binding and linen cord from Burnley and Trowbridge. I considered using metal boning, but decided to work with big zip ties again, as I have repeatedly been told how much like baleen they are (also, they're very cheap to buy!) I think I might use metal boning in my next set though, or perhaps try it out when I finally make my regency stays...

My linen cord, leather binding, and the linen thread that I used (thanks to some generous friends for the thread!)
I lengthened the pattern slightly, and then cut out all of my pieces from the lining material. I don't have a particularly long torso, but I've found that most stays seem to be a little shorter on me than I would like, and they are both more flattering and comfortable if I extend them by an inch or two. I really just eyeballed how much longer they needed to be by holding up my slashed pieces to my body, and then once I sewed the lining I checked the fit.

The patterned slashed and lengthened
All ready to be cut out from the lining
I should note that I deviated from the pattern instructions a little by sewing the lining first. However, I wanted to test the fit before cutting out my blue linen, and I personally like have a lining that is slightly more independent from the other fabric. It doesn't affect the fit or the look of the stays, and I think it makes it easier to air them out.

Stays aren't really difficult to sew, there's just a lot of sewing involved. I sewed all of the pieces together, and then traced the lines for the boning channels onto the lining. That was probably the hardest part of the whole process for me, because by the end of that step it was getting a little difficult to see all of my lines as I was sewing.

Pieces sewn together...
...and ironed...
...with the channels marked...

...ready to be sewn...
...and ready to be filled!
After that, I cut and inserted the boning, and basted across the bottom to close it up. Always, always, always cut your boning a little bit shorter than you think you need to! It doesn't need to be straining against the binding! (I have a bad habit of doing this, and then having to reopen the binding to trim down the bones that are poking through/poking me.)

The zip ties that I use
The left side has boning inserted, the right side still needs boning

Fully boned, with a few poking out to show trimmed ends
Finally, I made the eyelets and bound the bottom in kid leather. I think I will eventually bind the top and sides in leather too, but I was so excited to wear them that I stopped after just doing the bottom.

I couldn't be more pleased with how they turned out! It took about 55 hours of work from start to finish, and every stitch is hand sewn. I really enjoyed having them as a tool to encourage discussion about stays with visitors, and to be able to inform people that stays, and corsets too, shouldn't be uncomfortable if you're wearing them properly! My new favorite part of my interpretation goes something like this: "If you have a pair of shoes that hurt your feet, how often do you wear them? If you don't wear uncomfortable shoes repeatedly, do you think that anyone would have worn stays or corsets for a few hundred years if they were uncomfortable?" This also works when people ask me if I'm hot in my clothing - yes, I'm a bit warm, but they are too, because the heat index is 109! But there's logic in wearing linens and cottons, and in keeping the sun off!

Anyway, I would highly recommend the JP Ryan Strapless Stays pattern, and I am extremely pleased with my new set of late 18th century stays!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Busy Spring!

This spring has been incredible! I have had so many wonderful opportunities, and I am really enjoying being a part of the historical reenactment community. There have been a ton of events that I've had the privilege to attend, and many of them inspired the outfits I've been posting about recently. So, because I want to encourage everyone to go to more awesome events and support historic sites, and also because I want to share more pretty pictures, here's an update on my spring!

Things really got started for me in March, with Military Through the Ages (MTA). This is an event that is hosted by Jamestown every year, and is a ton of fun. It's a timeline event, which means that it's open to all sorts of period portrayals, and it's neat to see so many different impressions all in one place.

I attended the event with the College Company, part of the 7th Virginia Regiment. They're a great group to hang out with, and it was a lot of fun to be in our camp. However, there were also sutlers at the event, and so I got to shop as well! I've been working to expand my kit in a practical way, so I bought a horn spoon, some scissors from Burnley and Trowbridge, and a little knife. So far, the scissors have been my most-used accessory, as having historical scissors allows me to sew more at events!

By far one of the best purchases I have ever made!

The weekend after MTA was Scotchtown! This is an event put on by Patrick Henry's Scotchtown, and allows visitors to the house to see a little bit of everything reenacting has to offer! Outside, some of the guys were doing military drills and firing demonstrations. Inside the house, two of my friends and I worked on our sewing in the parlor. We then decided it would be fun to be characters from history, so I became Patrick Henry's oldest daughter, Fiona was my sister, and our other friend played a family friend. There was a man portraying Patrick Henry talking to guests in another room, so after giving him a small heads-up that we were now his children, we spent a good deal of the afternoon acting out various scenes from 1776, much to the delight of Scotchtown's visitors! This was, without a doubt, one of my favorite moments in interpretation so far!

A cute family photo
We spent part of the afternoon cooking, and even though our colonial cookery needs some work, it was an incredible experience to work in an 18th century kitchen, and prepare food on the same table that was used to cook the Henry family dinners!

After Scotchtown we took a little break, and then jumped back into things with the Fort Frederick Market Fair! For someone who loves both shopping and history, this was an awesome event. There were so many sutlers in attendance, and I loved looking at all of their wares! Because I didn't want to be too impulsive, I made a list before going of the things I needed, and gave myself a budget for each item. I stayed under budget, and I got everything I needed!

I bought the twill tape for my new petticoat first thing in the morning from a blanket sale, and that was my only impulse buy of the day. I then shopped around, eventually buying a new straw hat, a great little basket to hold my sewing and other supplies, an awl, two thread winders, and a pair of earrings. The straw hat came from Burnley and Trowbridge, the awl came from Royal Blue Traders (I have just discovered them, and I am completely enamored), and the earrings came from one of my favorite sutlers, K. Walters at the Sign of the Gray Horse.

It was important for me to buy things like the basket, thread winders, and earrings, because I need things to have and use at my new job - with Colonial Williamsburg! That's right, my dreams are all coming true, because on March 15th I was hired to work as an Orientation Interpreter with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation! I start on May 23rd, and I couldn't be more excited!

There was a historical grocer at Fort Fred, and even though I didn't buy any of his wares, I really enjoyed learning more about the things he had on display. Dobyns and Martin has an awesome interpretation, and Mr. Dobyns was so nice!
The weekend after Fort Fred, I got to put all of my new materials to good use! That Friday was the last day of classes for everyone, so after bidding goodbye to all of our professors we jumped in the car and headed up to Mount Vernon for the National Event they were hosting! I was very excited for the event, but I was not excited to be sleeping outside for two nights. I've camped out a few times before - my first time was when I was very little, and my Uncle Doug set up a tent in the backyard for us when I came to visit. Then I camped out in my best friend's backyard a few times in the same manner. The only true camping I had done was when I went to the beach with the same friend and we stayed in a tent, but there were showers on-site. There were no showers at Mount Vernon. However, I did get a tent to myself, because I was the only girl who stayed the night!

As much as I hated sleeping outside (it was cold and it rained the second night), the event was incredible. I got to see my friends from the 7th VA again, as well as getting to socialize with the German Regiment. The skirmish in the morning was well done, and in the midst of the fighting, I saw a familiar face! In the generals standing behind the Continental line, there was a man who could only be the Marquis de Lafayette! After the skirmish, my friends and I introduced ourselves, and took a couple of pictures. We went to hear him speak later on, and he was a fantastic Lafayette.

Isn't he a great Lafayette?
The day ended for the public with a battle, and even though the Continental line won in the morning, the Red Coats won in the afternoon. I got a lot of sewing done during the day, including sewing black silk ribbons from Burnley and Trowbridge onto my new hat! In the evening, we all ate dinner, and then enjoyed the food and drink Mount Vernon set out for us as we sang songs and had fun. I was sad to leave the reenactment the next morning, but I was very happy to go home and take a warm shower!

I love this photo!

Sewing the ribbons onto my hat while the soldiers prepare for battle
A few of us hanging out beside the 7th VA's dining fly - they had the sweetest strawberries I've ever tasted!
Finally, one last event before heading home for a week - a cricket match! I've been attending the practices of the Capital Cricket Club in CW for a few weeks now, and I'm really enjoying playing a sport (incredible, I know)! So, I was very excited for the opportunity to spend a Saturday playing cricket with so many wonderful friends in 18th Century clothing at Bacon's Castle. The morning started with a ferry ride across the James River, which was fun, and once we arrived we split into teams. I was playing for Governor Berkeley's team, and I am proud to announce that we beat Bacon's Rebels! While I enjoy every event, it was nice to do something in kit that didn't revolve around the military, and this event really gave me the chance to socialize with everyone. There was even a brief moment of dancing in the middle of the day, which is one of my favorite colonial past times, and was a definite highlight of the weekend.

A moment of play, while my team was fielding - I'm on the far right

Keeping score while my team was striking; we ended up scoring over 100 points!

I am so blessed to have had such a fantastic spring, and I am looking forward to a great summer!


I intended to publish the above post much earlier, but I was waiting to get all of the photos before I could publish it! However, in the meantime, I've had a few more exciting events, so I thought that I would share those as well in this post.

At the end of finals, Colonial Williamsburg had a sale on a few fabrics, so I ran down the street to Mary Dickson's store and purchased a few yards of lovely cottons to make some new jackets out of!

"Serpentine Vines" and "Wythe House Midnight"

After taking all of my finals, moving out of my on-campus apartment and into a house in Williamsburg, I drove back home to PA in my new car! I got to visit with my parents and some friends for a few days, as well as making a trip up to Massachusetts to visit some of my extended family. But, nine days after leaving Virginia, I was back in Williamsburg, and ready to start working!

I absolutely love my job. My coworkers are the best people on the planet, I get to work in buildings that many of my heroes spent time in, and I get to talk to wonderful people about my favorite subjects.

I also get to wear pretty clothes and sew at work! The stays on my lap are almost complete, so expect a post about them soon!

Finally, since I'm essentially a Virginia resident for the rest of my life now (one of my friends has even been trying to get me to get a VA driver's license already), I have really been enjoying getting to know the people in my community, and not just the people on campus. I'm ecstatic to be playing cricket with the Capitol Cricket Club, and I love going to English Country Dance meetings every week.

This Monday's costumed cricket match at Basset Hall - my team won by three points, and it was a great game! In this photo I have just sent the ball flying, and the fielders are running to catch it while I'm ready to run for the other wicket.

I couldn't be happier to be in Williamsburg, surrounded by history, and getting to spend my life with incredible people doing my favorite things.

I love this picture from Mount Vernon, and wanted to slip it in this post too! My friend Jack is trying to get more reenactors to go barefoot whenever possible, and I just love the way we look in our civilian clothes approaching the soldiers and walking towards Washington's home.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

I Finally Sewed a Realistic Outfit

I desperately want to experience 18th century life. However, I'm more into the balls and silk gowns than the washing and cooking. So, as a result of that, I have a lot of upperclass clothing, but nothing I can get dirty. This is problematic, because I am in William and Mary's reenacting club, the College Company, and my impression is that of a camp follower - definitely not a lady from the gentry class!

When I made the blue striped gown over the summer, I intended that to be my reenactment dress. And it has been for most of the year, but I still felt a little overdressed at some events, and I was still hesitant to get it dirty - it was a replica, after all!

So, I knew that I needed to make something even more casual - a shortgown.

Over spring break, my mom and I spent a Mother-Daughter Day together shopping, and we revisited Verna's Fabrics, the same store that I bought the material for my Dolley Madison dress from. I was initially shopping for some cotton with sewing themed prints so that I could make modern clothes that express my love for being a seamstress, but I was also keeping an eye out for anything I could use for a historical project. I found two great cotton prints (I've already used one of them, I'll post about them when I've finished both projects), as well as a nice white cotton with a small purple design that I'll be turning into another Regency gown. At the far end of the store, after our cart was pretty full, I saw a barrel with rolls of fabric sticking out of it. The fabric was soft and in a lot of pretty colors, and the sign above read 'Homespun'. I was ecstatic. This was just what I needed! So, I grabbed a roll of the prettiest purple fabric, and bought enough to make a shortgown.

The gorgeous fabric with some pins and markings, ready to be cut.

I am very fortunate to have such great friends, because when I got back to school, my wonderful friend Fiona, from Ruffles, Not Rifles offered to help me pattern and drape it! We spent a fun Sunday afternoon cutting it out and getting the back pleats right, and then I started sewing! We looked at Costume Close Up for references, but shortgowns are easy to pattern because they're just rectangles and straight lines. It went very quickly, which was good - it meant I still had time to sew a petticoat and an apron before the National Event at Mount Vernon!

Starting to cut it out...
...Fiona cutting it so I can take pictures...
(These pictures were taken the last week of April - our apartment is just really proud of our Christmas decorations)
...and the basic shape of a shortgown! The bit on the side that sticks out from the curve allows for a pleat.

I tried it on immediately after cutting to make sure that it would fit
and then Fiona draped the pleats on me so that it was a little more fitted!
These are the pleats from the back, pinned in place.

The basic shortgown, all pinned and ready to be sewn!

I still had some leftover white linen from my shift laying around, so I turned that into an apron. Then, using some 'larkspur blue' linen that I got from a sale on, I whipped up a petticoat. I was especially in need of a new petticoat to wear with my shortgown, since my other petticoats are all made out of questionable materials... To make my petticoat even more special, I used twill tape from the Fort Frederick Market Fair that I attended a few weeks ago! The color is an almost perfect match!

The outfit came together in about four days, and I got to wear it for the reenactment this past weekend! Unfortunately, it was a little cold, so all of the finished pictures I have also feature my cape, but I'll post more of just the new outfit soon.

This is me and my friend Morgan - the shortgown had just lost a pin, so it's gaping a little, but I fixed it soon after. My new apron, as well as my mitts from my lovely roommate, and my new market bonnet are also featured here!
I re-pinned my shortgown, just in time to meet General Lafayette! He was wonderful!
This is one of my favorite pictures from the event on Saturday. Claire and I hadn't realized that we matched, or that this picture was even being taken!

I'll put together a post soon about the events of April and May, because there sure have been a lot of them! I'll add in pictures that better show off my new clothes then. As always, if you have any questions please feel free to contact me. Happy sewing!