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