Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Welcome to the (18)60's!

This year started out a bit differently than most - instead of sewing something from the 18th century, I welcomed 2019 by making something from the 1860's!

One of my friends suggested that we go ice skating in 19th century clothing, and I loved that idea! However, my Civil War corset was no longer fit properly to me, my gown was made of polyester, and I didn't have a hoop skirt... so, I decided to make an entire 1860's ensemble. Long story short, I made a giant hoop skirt (and matching ballgown), which, while completely awesome, ended up being impractical for ice skating.

The hoop skirt still in progress... it only got bigger! 

I was going for a look like this one, so I drew scale lines and used math to make my own... I should have chosen a smaller model...

Luckily, the friend who suggested ice skating in 19th century clothing also has a ton of Civil War gowns, and was able to loan me one, with a smaller hoop skirt, so all I needed to bring for myself was my new corset. And my corset is my favorite part!

Yay for fellow nerd friends!

I've been wanting to try out a Redthreaded pattern for a while now, and so this was the perfect opportunity. I downloaded the 1860's Gored Corset pattern, and everything came together really quickly! The pattern was easy to follow, and using steel boning from Burnley and Trowbridge meant that I didn't have to cut any metal.

I am thrilled with how well the corset fits, and it was extremely comfortable for ice skating too! Now I just need to fix up the rest of my 1860's kit, and find some more excuses to wear it!

I apparently make a lot of weird faces while talking, but I loved this hat that my friend let me borrow when I got cold!

A Move

Good morning everyone!

A little while ago, I created a new blog, but I realized that I never made it easy to navigate to from this blog. My new page is under the name I'll be using for all of my sewing moving forward, 

I will still be posting here for a little while, so all updates will go to both blogs for now, but I will eventually be moving to just posting sewing updates on my new page. Hopefully this will make things easier for everyone - I will be doing the same thing with my Instagram, so all my profiles will have the same name:

Again, I will still be posting on both places for the time being, and you'll be able to see all the posts I've made here, even after the move is completed. Thank you all so much for following me for as long as you have, and hopefully you enjoy my future content!

Monday, March 25, 2019

A (Late) Year in Review

Hello again, blogosphere! It may not seem like it from the complete lack of posts, but I've been a very busy seamstress. I'm still not great about getting pictures of what I actually make, but I thought that I would try and compile some of the past year's projects into one post while I work on another big post for the month of March (I sewed multiple gowns this month alone!)

One of the things that I've started doing over the last few years is keeping a list on my computer of everything I sew. It gives me a sense of accomplishment to add things to the list, and if I ever feel like I'm not sewing enough, or I'm not where I want to be, I can look at the list and feel a lot better about my skills! This is my list from 2018... all 31 items.

Pink Striped Floral Jacket and Petticoat
Striped Linen Gown
Penguins Outfit (Yellow Jacket, Black Silk Petticoat)
Batwing Jacket
False Rump
White Linen Cap
Mary's Gown
Harry Potter Knit Dress
Trailing Vines Red Gown and Petticoat
Fourth of July Knit Dress
Fox Skirt
Harry Potter Cotton Dress
Lemonade Dress
Cactus Maxi Dress
Brain Hat
Short Red Wool Capelet
Silk Gauze Cap
Red Silk Breast-Knot
Changeable Silk Petticoat
Changeable Silk Breast-Knot
Green Wool Jacket
Market Bonnet (Commission)
Market Bonnet (Michelle)
Market Wallet
1943 Dress

Some of these things were small and quick to make (like the knots), while some took much longer (like the Trailing Vines Gown with its matching petticoat and what felt like miles of trim). The biggest thing for me with keeping this list however, is being able to see what I've learned, or what skills I've become comfortable with.

I sewed a lot of modern stuff last year - my new serger made that possible and fun, and I got better at working with knits. I started using more silk and wool, investing in the clothing that I wear every day, and becoming more accurate in my representation of the 18th century. I also made progress on building a wardrobe that is a lot more interchangeable/mix-and-match (I love my changeable silk petticoat!), and I took on more commissions too!

But I know that you came here to see pretty things, so without further ado, here are some pictures from this past year!

My floral stripe ensemble, worn earlier this month with a new mull apron. This outfit has been made and reworked a few times over the course of the year, but I'm finally happy with it now!

My striped linen gown, perfect for a hot Virginia summer!

My Garden Party outfit from last May, with a petticoat that I've gotten lots of use out of, and done up in the colors of one of my favorite hockey teams

My "Batwing" Jacket, named after the fabric that it's made out of. I added box-pleated trim around the neckline, and now this is one of my favorite jackets, a good go-to on any day, since the trim dresses it up a little, but it's still a casual jacket

Of course I made more garters this year! In addition to being practical, they're a good way to show off a bit more personality... but only to the people you choose to show!

My banyan, perfect for lounging around the house...

...or getting ready for work!

My false rump has sadly not gotten much use yet, but I'm hopeful that some of my future projects will be accentuated by a bigger derrière! (I might also modify the stuffing a bit, I was initially worried about the pillows collapsing under the weight of the skirts, but now I find they might need to be slightly flatter)

I finally sewed a cap that I like! This linen cap is perfect for every day wear, and the ruffle behaves after being washed, which is a definite bonus :)

My wonderful friend Mary knitted me incredible 18th century wool stockings, and so I made her a gown out of one of my favorite fabrics, then added silk gauze ruffles to the sleeves. She's also modeling her black silk bonnet that I made for her!

I made a number of knit dresses this summer, as they were easy to whip up with my serger, and this one has definitely been a conversation starter...

After all, most people around here love Harry Potter!

Back to the 18th century, I made a gown and matching petticoat out of the Trailing Vines fabric, and wore it as one of my first Governor's Palace outfits! (After all, once you're cleared to give tours of your favorite building, you clearly need a whole new section of your wardrobe!)

For those of you curious about my knitwear, this is how I made most of my dresses - a little quick draping on my dress form, and then less than an hour later I have a dress just like the Harry Potter one! (This sundress actually came first, and was made on July 3rd, to be worn on the 4th. I think it's my favorite modern creation from this year!)

This dress is being affectionately called my "Lemonade Dress", but I want to alter it slightly before I'll be completely pleased with it. The original pattern called for it to be a bit lower-cut than I was comfortable with, and I don't really have the bust to support the alterations I chose to combat the cut, so hopefully I'll be able to alter this again before the warmer weather hits. I still absolutely love the fabric and the skirt though, and the dress was perfect for a day of sightseeing in Boston last July!

Another knit creation, my first maxi dress went pretty well! I think I'll be using a little less fabric in the next one, as it didn't need to be gathered quite so much, but overall I am very pleased with my Cacti Dress

Towards the end of the year I started to focus more on accessories, and I just had to make the Brain Hat from the new American Duchess book. I wore it for Halloween (along with my Batwing Jacket), and even though very few people got the joke, those who did appreciated it!
If you were wondering where this "Brain Hat" could be found in the 18th century, here's a painting of Charlotte Grote, done by Sir Joshua Reynolds, and she has a fantastic hat!

I know my face looks concerned, but don't worry! I love my plush wool capelet! (I'm just telling everyone about Lord Dunmore removing the gunpower at the end of a Palace tour)

The hood is lined in a changeable silk that you'll see again on a petticoat and breastknot. This short cape is the perfect length to keep me warm, but not leave my arms immobile!

I am very proud of the work I did on this silk gauze cap, but as so often happens when sewing 18th century caps, I didn't like how it looked on my head once I finished it... I guess I just need to find a way of dressing my hair to make it more flattering!

For Veteran's Day this year I really wanted to wear poppies, but since I had to work, I chose to make a red silk breastknot styled off of some common ones from the 18th century that I thought kind of looked like poppies. My outfit was also red, white, and blue!

One of my friends in college made a changeable silk petticoat, and I was in love with it for years before finally making one of my own. Yes, silk petticoats do not come cheap - this one had at least $50 worth of materials - but I can wear this with almost everything that I've made, and in just a few short months I've already gotten my money's worth out of this... in fact, I might make another one this year! Here I've paired it with my Trailing Vines gown, and a breastknot made from a little bit of the leftover material.
***The silk isn't actually ombre, it has a blue warp and red weft which shimmers as I move, the photo simply captured it at a moment where it looks like a blue to purple ombre - a testament to how pretty and changeable it is!***

On Christmas I debuted my new green wool jacket! My petticoat was red, so everyone in my family was well dressed for the holiday!
One thing that I love about this jacket is the fabric itself. It's kind of hard to see, but hopefully it's noticeable on the sleeve here - there are stripes woven into the wool! I got this fantastic material from someone who had purchased it from a tailor's estate sale, and even though there wasn't much of it, I am thrilled to have gotten a jacket out of $4 of such beautiful wool!
Right at the end of the year, I managed to rip through the pocket I'd been wearing every day since 2017, and I also wore out the first pocket I ever made... which meant it was time for me to end the year on a much more practical project, and make a new pocket.

I sewed it out of some ticking I got at Fort Fred earlier in the year, and completed it in just one day, on the porch of the Raleigh Tavern

I also made some bonnets on commission last year...

...if you're interested in one for yourself, just let me know!

The last thing I have to show off is my 1943 dress, sewn specially for a program I was honored to be a part of, called "Un-Colonial Christmas". I played Lois, a young woman working at a USO in Williamsburg during World War II. I used a Butterick pattern from that year, and discovered the joys of trying to track down accurate 20th century materials! The program was fantastic, and I plan to wear the dress in my every day life as well!

There are a few things I don't yet have pictures of, but I hope this makes up for the radio silence over the last few months. I'm home sick today, so I'm going to get started on drafting my next few posts - I've already made 17 things these past 3 months of 2019!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

May: Specific to a Time [of Day or Year]

May's challenge originally gave me pause, since making some form of evening wear was the obvious path to take, but I didn't want to spend money on silk right after completing a challenge with silk. It didn't take long to figure out an alternate plan though! Instead of focusing on a time of day, I instead thought about the times of year, and here in the tidewater part of Virginia, summer immediately springs to mind. For those of you who haven't visited south-eastern Virginia in the summer (or spring or fall or sometimes winter), it is very warm and extremely humid. I'm almost always cold, so I like the heat, but the humidity can be pretty rough some days.

This problem isn't new at all. In the 18th century the weather was much the same, and people in colonial Virginia were looking for ways to cope. We have a great letter written by a traveler in the 1730's, telling friends back in England what to expect from a Virginia summer: "In summertime even the gentry go many in white Holland [linen] waistcoats and drawers and a thin cap on their heads and thread stockings. The ladies stright-laced in thin silk or linen. In winter [they dress] mostly as in England and affect London dress and ways." For a Virginia society that was often considered to be 'more English than anyone in England', 18th century Virginians were willing to deviate from their standard dress to be comfortable in the heat, and they did so in a way that stood out to those who visited them.

White linen is by far the easiest way to stay cool in the summer; it's breathable, doesn't trap the heat, and can cover your skin to prevent sunburn. So, I made a new linen gown to wear this summer! It's an unlined round gown, which means that there is only one layer and no extra petticoats required, for maximum coolness in the summer. I've worn it to work a few times already, and I can attest that it is indeed very comfortable on days when it's over 90 degrees out. Happy beginning of the summer season everyone!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

April: Buttons and Fastenings

April's challenge was buttons and fastenings, and at first I was completely stumped by that prompt! Ladies' clothing in the 18th century doesn't have cool fastenings, or at least not ones that are both functional and pretty! I contemplated sewing a riding habit, and making death's head buttons to go on it, but I don't really need another riding habit, or anything else with buttons. I started looking at different extant garments in online collections, and kept finding myself drawn to yellow silk jackets and gowns - then inspiration struck! I could make a yellow silk jacket with a stomacher, which functions as the fastener, since it keeps the jacket closed.

The stomacher goes on first, pinned to the stays, and then the jacket pins closed to the edges
 I quickly realized that I could expand this project. After all, one of the things that I'm most passionate about is self expression through historical fashions, and this was a great interpretive opportunity. If I added black bows to the stomacher and paired it with a black petticoat, I could talk about how fashion is interpreted in both the 18th and the 21st century, and hopefully draw parallels between the two.

In the 18th century, after the American Revolution, black was often seen as a color that showed support for the new American government. We may wear red, white, and blue to be patriotic today, but black would have also been recognized as a patriotic color in the late 1770's through the 1790's. So, in the 18th century, my black petticoat shows that I am most definitely not a loyalist!

It's only fitting that I began this project while watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs!
In the 21st century, my outfit can be interpreted a little differently. Specific colors and color pairings in clothing today often represent support for a specific team or school, and I wanted my new jacket and petticoat to do that too. Even though I live in Virginia now, I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and all of Pittsburgh's teams have the same color scheme: black and yellow (gold). As someone who loves hockey, I can dress like a bumblebee to show my support for the Penguins!

The entire outfit is silk, and the jacket is lined with linen. I won't be able to wear it every day at work, although I should be able to wear it on days at the Capitol or the Palace, when I can be a little bit fancier. I was very fortunate however to be presented with an opportunity to wear my new ensemble almost right away! Colonial Williamsburg hosts a spring garden party every year that is an incredible event, and one of my friends invited me to go with her! I finished my jacket and petticoat in time, and also helped two of my friends pattern and sew new gowns to wear as well!

I even got to wear a wig to the party! And it had a bird in it!

The garden party was wonderful, and the fireworks at the end were fantastic!
For the actual construction of the garments, I didn't do anything too fancy. I leaned pretty heavily on the J. P. Ryan Ladies' Jacket pattern, as well as a few extant garments in the V&A and the Met in order to draft my pattern, and simply added bows to the stomacher. I did have to hem all of the ribbon by hand, as you simply can't find good, wide, taffeta ribbon anymore, even though it was available in the 18th century.

The ribbons decreased in size as they went down the stomacher, which looks great, but takes some planning!
The petticoat was also pretty simple, I sewed a standard petticoat and then added ribbon I had cut from the same silk, with the edges pinked, and then gathered.

April was such a nice month that I could sew outside most days!

Pinked and gathered trim...

...courtesy of my awesome pinking shears!
 I was delighted to meet a few people at the Garden Party who recognized my outfit's nod to Pennsylvania, and it was a lot of fun to dive in to discussions about the evolution of color and self expression over the last 250 years of fashion!

Talking about fashion history while sewing at work is obviously one of my favorite things!
I am eventually planning to sew some matching garters for this ensemble, but until then I will simply say... Let's go Pens!