Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Truly Victorian Elliptical Cage Crinoline TV103

So a couple of months ago I decided I needed to have an 1860s ball gown. And the first step in realizing that dream was to make the foundation pieces. I already had an appropriate corset, so I set about making a crinoline. I chose the Truly Victorian 1865 Elliptical Cage Crinoline, or TV103 for short.

I finished with my cage crinoline a while back and finally got around to taking pictures of it. Construction notes after the pics. Click on the pics to enlarge.

I wanted a jaunty look for my crinoline. I knew right away that if I had to make it out of white everything, I would get extremely bored and resentful. It's made from striped ticking, navy grosgrain ribbons that have a thin red edge, and boning casing that I dyed red.

I wanted stripes because it was hard for me to mark the boning channels accurately across all the pieces of the bag. Believe me, I tried. I actually started this with some unbleached drill (? I think) from my stash, and though I marked the channels very carefully, they did not line up when I sewed it together. That resulted in a fit of rage and a trip to the dumpster for my first bag attempt.

I got the idea to get striped fabric so I could follow the stripes and use those for my boning channel guides. Which required painstakingly laying out the pattern pieces and pinning them together ohhhh so carefully to make sure nothing was off by more than a millimeter, but damn does it look good.

It went together pretty quickly, actually. The hardest part was measuring out the hoop steel and pinning the hoops to the ribbon supports, but my awesome man friend helped with that and thus prevented many fits of rage.

Somehow I was short several inches of boning casing so I couldn't install the fourth hoop down from the top. There is a noticeable gap there in the back but hopefully not too bad. 

Somehow the grosgrain ribbons that form the vertical supports stretched? I have no idea. The instructions call for using grosgrain ribbon, and I hadn't thought it would stretch, but apparently it did so I had to take up the length of the crinoline. I just folded up the ribbons where that fourth hoop was supposed to go and that closed up the space a bit. I still think it's longer than it's supposed to be, but oh well.

What else... Oh, I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to sew the hoops to the ribbon supports. Then I had a flash of inspiration and decided to sew the pieces together with an X inside of a box, which made it go very quickly. Like so:

I'm not sure if I've tied the back ties enough, or if they're supposed to be tied that loosely. From what I understand, they are supposed to help keep the back of the crinoline from swinging forward under the weight of skirts and petticoats, and thus maintain the elliptical shape.

Oh, I forgot to mention the bag at the bottom was very loose and floppy all around. Why do these things happen to me, I followed the pattern to the letter. Anyway, it offended my sense of order so I had to sew lots of little tucks in it to take up the slack.

The tucks aren't very noticeable and thankfully didn't mess up the amazing job I did of lining up ALL THE STRIPES across the seams.

I've had some moments of intense anxiety since I joined the Facebook group Civilian Civil War Reenactors, because the ladies there all insist that the hoops should be in proportion with a lady's height and build. This hoop measures 126" around, and I'm a mere 5' 3" so according to that reasoning this is Way Too Big for me. However, I've seen so many pictures of Victorian women wearing Big Ass Crinolines that I'm not too concerned anymore. 

Time spent making the crinoline: No idea, I never remember to track my hours. It only took two afternoons to sew all the hoops to the vertical supports though.

Cost: $12 for the pattern, $73 for boning casing and hoop wire, $43 for wire cutters--I FORGOT TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE WIRE CUTTERS. Y'all. LISTEN. That hoop wire is REALLY HARD to cut. Like, impossible. Lots of people recommend aviation snips. I say f*ck that noise. I tried aviation snips, you know what they did? This:

Cue second fit of rage. I've never met a pair of aviation snips that was worth a damn.

This is what you need, right here:

I was going to just use them and return them because, well... they were expensive. But they were worth every penny, they cut that hoop steel like it was butter, so I fell in love with them and had to keep them. 

Where was I? Oh, cost. I'm sure I spent around $30 on fabric and ribbons and dye, and another $40 on stuff from corsetmaking.com, most of which I didn't end up needing (like boning tips, boning connectors which ended up being way too big, but I did get a bunch of spring steel bc I will be needing it for bodices).

Cost: around $200. Good lord, there's a reason why I don't normally tally up my costs.

Fits of rage: Two.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Attempted recreation of the Furr Homespun Dress

I wore my pleated wrapper dress three times before washing it, and after I washed it I realized those beautiful pleats were going to make it a bitch to iron. Maybe it wouldn't have needed ironing if I'd put it in the dryer, but I was afraid the dress would shrink so I hung it dry and it was wrinkled all to hell and it was horrible to iron because manipulating all of that heavy fabric on the ironing board was really cumbersome.

So I made a second one with the gathered bodice/back style out of a lovely navy calico and it's so pretty! It should be much easier to iron, and cooler for warmer weather. The pleated back and bodice version is not only hard to iron, but those overlapping pleats make the bodice rather heavy because of the increased thickness of the fabric.

Apologies for the terrible quality of the photo. The belt is just a temporary one. I've made a matching belt. Buttons are MoP.
Around this same time, I went down an Internet wormhole starting at Pinterest, and ending with my discovery of the Furr Homespun Dress, analyzed in great detail. I'd been looking for a pattern that I could use to make a dress with 5-6 yards of fabric, as opposed to the 8 yards of fabric required for the wrapper dress. Because it can be difficult to find 8 continuous yards of fabric, and expensive, too. Plus, I had this gorgeous yellow calico that I found at Walmart for $1 a yard, and I bought all they had, which was just barely 5 yards.

I was determined to make a dress out of this fabric somehow, and when I saw that the yardage for the Furr dress was 5 3/8 of 34" wide fabric, I thought surely I could get a dress out of a scant 5 yards of 45" wide fabric.

I bought a couple of patterns: Simplicity 3723, which The Pragmatic Costumer modified so spectacularly for her 1850s dress, and McCalls 3669. In the end, I didn't want to spend time modifying these patterns to fit me (in one review I read, the McCalls 3669 was reportedly HUGE, and the Simplicity pattern needed an armscye adjustment, and then I wasn't sure if I would have to adjust the sleeve as well, and couldn't really find an answer and thought about it way too much and became overwhelmed and aaaauuuuggggghhhhh).

But, I knew that the wrapper pattern fit me quite nicely through the shoulder area, armscye, and sleeve, so I decided to spend time modifying that pattern instead.

Here's what I ended up with, followed by how I did it.

 First, I joined the front and back yokes to the front and back bodice pieces, respectively. I aligned them at the armscye. Since the bodices are gathered, the bodice pattern pieces were significantly wider than the yokes, so when I redrew the pattern I simply ended the bodices in alignment with the center front and back of the shoulder yokes.

I made the bodice much longer than my natural waistline because I wanted to drape it on my dress form to accommodate my bust. I have never tried to do a full bust adjustment. Anyway, I figured it is supposed to be gathered under the bust rather than be a really fitted bodice.

The pattern ended up looking like this:

And fitting like this!

I put a belt around it to mark where the top of the waistband would go, then adjusted the pattern again.

I laid the pattern pieces out so that the center front edges used the selvedge. I had to face the CF edges to create the placket for the buttons/buttonholes. I had to place the back bodice pattern along the selvedges as well. Unfortunately I didn't have enough fabric to lay it all out in one piece. I redrew the pagoda sleeve pattern to have straight edges, and used the cuff pattern for the bishop sleeve. Then I managed to get three widths of fabric 39-40 inches long for the skirt. I will have to face the hem of the skirt.

As you can see from the finished result at the top, it turned out QUITE nicely, if I say so myself! I am really happy with the results. It looks even better when I try it on, than it does on the dress form.

That being said, it's not perfect. The neckline got all funky when I finished it with the binding, for one thing. UGGGGHHHH.

I used binding that was cut on the cross grain, but not bias. Is that why it lays all funny? The neckline on the original dress was finished with binding that was cut on the straight of grain, so I thought I'd be fine not making bias binding. Oh well, the crochet lace trim (which I haven't applied yet) should hide it well enough (I hope).

Also, not pictured, but the back somehow sits a little higher at the waist than the front! I was really really surprised at that. Usually it's the front that is higher, because I never plan for my boobs. I really hope it isn't terribly noticeable. It looks fine from the back, and from the front, but you can see it from the side. However, if I wear an apron, it won't really be noticeable. Since all these dresses I'm making are for my volunteer work at the pioneer farm, an apron will be perfectly appropriate.

I'll probably make a million of these gathered wrapper dresses. They're just so EASY and so flattering. I'm not sure it was worth the extra work to squeeze out a dress from less yardage using my modified pattern. I think I'd rather spend the extra money on fabric and make a quick and easy wrapper dress than save a few bucks and spend more time on the modified pattern. I am happy that I went to the trouble though. I just love this yellow fabric and the color looks really good on me. :D

Monday, December 7, 2015

Victorian wrapper dress

I started volunteering at a pioneer farm in October. I already had the appropriate underpinnings (chemise, corset, petticoats) but nothing to wear them with, so I was really excited to have an excuse to venture into the Victorian period. As a child, I was obsessed with pioneers and read all of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books.

I'd been making due with some long, gathered skirts paired with a white blouse with white embroidery. It looked good, but wasn't all that comfortable to wear. Plus, I looked fat. So for the sake of my vanity, I decided I needed a dress.

I chose the Laughing Moon #120, 1840s-1860s Pleated Wrapper. Reasons for choosing it: unlined (except for the yoke), no darts to mess with, seemed straightforward and it's very pretty. The dress can be pleated or gathered; I pleated it because I used a medium-weight homespun fabric and I wasn't sure how well it would look gathered.

I was a little bit afraid that this dress would look dumpy but it doesn't. It looks amazing. I freaking love it.

The fabric is a lovely homespun plaid in shades of cream, olive, blue, and rose that had been in my mother's stash for over 20 years. I fell in love with it when I first saw it and took it for MY stash--a couple of years ago. I think it's perfect for this style of dress.

It was a bit of a challenge to find a big enough work space to lay out the pattern pieces, which are basically huge rectangles. I finally had to lay my cutting board and fabric out on my bed. My fabric is 60 inches wide; I can't remember how much of it I had, but I believe it was 5 yards. I had fabric leftover after cutting all the pieces out.

I was a bit stressed out about the pleats and transferring the markings to my fabric, and then I decided to just insert pins where the pleat markings were.

To make the pleats, I picked up one pin, brought it over to its partner and laid it on top, and pinned in place. It resulted in really beautiful, neat pleats.

The instructions said to stitch the pleats down along the waist line, but that was difficult for me, so I just stitched them down along their length. It keeps things nice and neat and looks more tailored.

I had an easy time putting this dress together, but the problems came with finishing the neckline and front. I'll edit this to show pictures of those instructions, but basically they were as follows:

1. Finish the neckline seam with piping (I didn't make piping, so I just made a strip of bias tape from the dress fabric to finish the neckline), stopping at the fold line for the front edges. The piping is long enough to extend to the front fold lines, but you are to leave it loose.

2. Fold down the top edge of the center front 5/8 inch. I'm presuming this is referring to the unpiped part of the neck line, but... How the hell do you do that? I consulted with two sewing friends and they were baffled as well. If you fold that part down, it folds down into a triangle. I ended up snipping the fabric at the edge of the piping so that I could do the fold.

3. Press the raw edge of the center front in 1/4 inch, then fold the front edge along the fold line and stitch down. That's straightforward, except... What am I supposed to do with the piping that's still dangling from the neckline? It's never resolved. I just ended up cutting it off with pinking shears.

4. Finishing the closures--it's simple enough if you want to put buttons all the way down, which I didn't. Buttons are expensive! That's a lot of buttons! I chose to go with the option of stitching down the center front from just below the waist to the hem. The instructions made zero sense to me. So the center front edges are completely finished at this point. You are supposed to overlap them at the center front line, then flip the overlap over the top of the underlap and sew along the fold line... How can that possibly look right. When you put hooks and eyes or buttons in the bodice, the front edges will overlap, but below the waist they are sewn together like a normal seam. I gave up and just plonked one edge over another and top-stitched it down.

It's not perfect--the plaids don't match up perfectly, but it's hard to tell unless you're looking closely. This isn't my fault. I marked the pattern pieces all along the edge where the cream strip in the plaid starts and stops, and I cut them out one layer of fabric at a time. But the stripes didn't match up with my markings when I laid them out on the second layer of fabric, and I have no idea why.

The hemline is shorter in the front than the back because: boobs. I hadn't thought to take that into consideration. It's really not very noticeable though, and it does make it easier to walk in the dress.

The hem was also slightly longer on one side of the front, so when I lined up the front edges to sew them together, I had to try to ease in the extra length on that side. I didn't do the best job at that, but after fussing with it for so long I finally just stopped caring and decided my next dress would be better. :D

Friday, September 25, 2015

18th Century Riding Habit Shirt

I finished my waistcoat for my pirate costume a few weeks ago and just haven't taken the time to update. I did end up putting buttonholes in it, and I am kicking myself for avoiding anything needing buttonholes in the three years since I started sewing. My sewing friends told me that buttonholes were easy, and OMG THEY WERE SO RIGHT. That little attachment is awesome and the machine does all the work. I was surprised that it was so easy to do the buttonholes through all that gimp trim, and I had no problem cutting through that either.

I made the riding habit shirt following the measurements given by Saltpetre and Pins when she was making her blouse. Aaaand I did it all by hand! (okay, I'll admit that I hemmed it by machine because by then I was so very sick of the project and ready to move on) It was very pleasant and went surprisingly quickly. There are times when I just don't want to sit at the machine, especially since the lighting in my sewing room is terrible.

It isn't perfect.
  • I believe I should have made the collar wider, so I could fold it over. I'm thinking of adding an extension to it, because when I put on the cravat, the collar gets crumpled underneath and I have to fiddle with it a lot to get it to show above the cravat. 
  • Also, I think the collar is too big. 
  • And I should have left a vent in the sides of the shirt towards the hem so that when I tied it the back and front would overlap a bit. But no one is going to see that. 
  • It's possibly too short in the back, but again, no one is going to see it.
  • I wasn't able to flat fold the seams because I'd screwed up on the width of the shirt and had to fix it by cutting off an extension I had put in it to make it wider, which turned out not to be necessary at all and would have made the shoulder seams come halfway down my arms. 
I had a stressful week trying to figure out how to attach the lace at the neckline and wrists so that the raw edges wouldn't show. In the end, I just gathered it, folded a piece of bias tape along the gathered edge to hide the raw edges, and then stitched it into place.

The lace at the neckline is modern and partially synthetic, so it's heavy and slippery. I worry that it's too much and will make the neck opening gape, but I think I could just use a brooch to hold it closed if needed. Maybe not historically accurate, but this is for a pirate costume so I think I can take some liberties.

The lace at the cuffs is vintage, and I purchased it on ebay. I worry that it's not fluffy enough at the cuffs but there's nothing I can do about it now. I am not worried about it enough to redo it at this point, and I can possibly use the leftover yardage to embellish the collar of the shirt? Again, I know it's not historically accurate but as I said, pirate costume.

Oh, and I used mother of pearl buttons at the collar and wrists. I had collected quite a few over the years, don't ask me why, and was really happy I could finally use some.


The cravat is this really cool looking synthetic paisley jaquard, but it's really thick and I think will be really hot, so I bought some dark red silk dupioni to make another one.

I would like to make a new, lighter weight petticoat to go underneath. The one I've been wearing is just so bulky. I have a pattern for a gathered skirt set on a yoke that I think I'm going to use. Not historically correct, but I think it will be very comfortable and provide the fullness I need for the skirt.

I haven't even attempted the jacket yet. Now I'm realizing it's almost October and I only have 6 weeks to make and embellish it. This sounds like a long time, but I am such a slow sewer, I'm not sure if it's enough time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

18th century riding habit -- Waistcoat

I've been working on my pirate costume for the Texas Renaissance Festival, which I will be attending with my sister in November. My goal this year was to actually put together an OUTFIT, not just pieces, and to use historically correct patterns.

So I bought the Mill Farm riding habit pattern to help me accomplish my goals. I already had stays from the Sherwood Forest Faire, which I posted about in March. But they are a little large, and I wanted to have something that fits a little better. I may still use them, and just overlap the lacing grommets at front or back. I've tried it, and it works.

But I also finished up my costume closeup stays, which I'd worked on over Christmas. When I first tried them on, they were wayyyyyy too small, because I hadn't taken into account the fact that putting all that boning in would shrink the panels. So I made a stomacher for it so I could adjust them a bit better, and now they fit, and they feel wonderfully comfortable... However. They stick out from my shoulder blades if I slouch the tiniest bit. Here are some examples:

See what I mean? I know several bloggers have made these stays, and they haven't mentioned this as a problem. If anyone reading this has experience with these stays, can you tell me what I'm doing wrong? I am slouching with a bit of exaggeration in these photos to illustrate the point I'm making, but this does seem a problem. How can I fit it? Is this just a common thing with fully boned, strapless stays?

Onto the riding habit. I made the waistcoat first, since it may be too hot to wear the jacket when I go to the fair. You never know, in early November. Could be 80 degrees, could be 45. If I have a waistcoat, I will have a workable outfit.

First came fitting the pattern to my dress form. The way I did it was by pinning the side seams of the paper pieces to the sides of my form, and then studying it to see what I'd need to do to fit it.

You can see that the main thing I needed to do was add a couple inches to either side of the center back. Oh, and I always need to take the waist up a couple of inches on every pattern.

The front was very large at the top, so I had to pinch away the excess material. I also took it in a little bit at the center back.

Sorry about the shitty pictures, but I didn't have anyone home to help me. I am wearing those blue stays underneath this. I'd actually made up the waistcoat once already at this point, and it didn't fit AT ALL NO MATTER WHAT I DID. I finally tore it up in a fit of rage and it felt AWESOME. Turns out, I didn't fit the paper pattern to my dress form after all, though I could have SWORN that I did. Maybe I just fitted it to see if I had the waist in the right place and forgot to check everything else.

I wanted it to look a bit rustic, so I used a sort of homespunny looking linen from Joann's, lined it with olive green silk from a 100% silk curtain I found at Goodwill, and trimmed it with this awesome antique gold colored gimp trim. I sewed up the vest by machine, but of course tacked all the trim on by hand which took FOREVER. I used plain gold buttons from Walmart.

I can't close the vest properly on my form because the boobs aren't in the right place.

I still haven't learned how to use my buttonhole attachment. And I don't know how to do a buttonhole stitch. I've watched YouTube videos on it a hundred thousand times and still can't manage it. So I decided to just do loops of coordinating trim to button up the vest.

I think that looks really cool. So I need to sew the button loops on, and I've been making a riding habit shirt a la American Duchess and Saltpetre and Pins, and I am sewing it by hand! All I need to do on it is put buttons on the cuffs and collar and add the lace trim. Then it will be ready to put up here. I almost have an outfit!!!!

Monday, March 30, 2015

1776 stays FINALLY DONE!!

Whew!! I spent every spare minute of the last two weeks sewing, alternating between Melissa's costume and mine. I finally finished binding my stays last Thursday, just in time for Sherwood Forest on Saturday. It was so much fun. I had a glass of mead, a shredded troll sandwich, and frozen chocolate covered cheesecake on a stick. I really wanted another glass of mead, but my allergies and sinuses were really bad, which often triggers my migraines. I already had a slight headache, and it was a super windy day with loads of dust and pollen in the air. I learned the hard way not to drink too much mead when my sinuses are acting up.

We got tons of compliments. In the previous two years, we've gotten precisely two compliments (one per year). Actually, those compliments were directed at Melissa, even though our costumes were the same (except made from different fabric) because I made them. But Melissa is beautiful and carries herself with confidence whereas I feel like a shy little mouse.

So I counted at least seven compliments this year, and many of them were from ladies who said they were experienced seamstresses. Many of them asked questions about the boning and a couple of them even called them stays, which is when you know someone knows their stuff. Others called them bodices or corsets, but I didn't care. It made all that hard, tedious work so worthwhile.

Here are a few pics.

I hate my face. Why couldn't God have blessed me with a nice jawline?
My stays...
Melissa's stays...

I love the lacing on these.
Look at that pattern matching!

A few construction notes... For each pair of stays, I used 3/16" half-oval basketry reed for the boning, and just put two in each boning channel, flat sides together. Boning channels were 1/2" wide. For the front lacing strips, I used 1/4" heavy duty steel boning. For the back lacing strips, I used regular 1/4" spring steel boning.

I bound my stays using very thin, soft, flexible leather. Melissa used narrow bias tape, but I can't remember if it was single- or double-fold. I made Melissa's stays but she did the binding on them and did a great job! She's never even done it before!

I know the edges aren't supposed to touch.

I shaved a little off the side back seam for Melissa's stays and she loved how snug they were. I accidentally cut the armholes of her stays too big. Mine felt snug but I could breath in them easily, and I wished I could have laced them tighter.

They were extremely comfortable, the reed boning held up beautifully, and the style is just gorgeous. Only two pattern pieces (okay, three if you could the shoulder strap), but I couldn't imagine achieving a better fit with a pattern that has more pieces. They can really cinch in your waist, and they make your bust area look amazing. I highly recommend the 1776 stays pattern from Corsets and Crinolines.