April 9, 2015

The Virtue of the Re-do.

A while ago I was really excited about completing my first redingote pattern but the more I looked at it hanging out on my dressform, the more out-of-love I became. I was so unhappy with certain parts of it that I couldn't bring myself to finally put the buttons on and call it a day. 

So here's what we started with... 

I did really like where the buttons were placed, but to be honest I put them there to kind of hide a place where I futzed the back of the dress. The first go-round I could not get that nice little peak in the back these dresses are commonly known for. I was being incredibly lazy and did not make the best effort to make it as nice as I'd like. 

So... I decided to rip the seams open and re-do where the skirt attached to the bodice. I am also going to confess that I did not do it the correct way by sewing the skirt to the lining and then sew down the facing. It's shocking how much better things they work when they're done right. Don't tell my mother I said that.

Ta-da! Unfortunately I cannot get good pictures with this fabric, but you can see how much better the seam looks on the back, especially the nice point in the center-back. Yay! I was so much happier with how the dress was sitting. Also, I had a kind of revelation with pleating - turns out, direction does make a huge difference. Part of my other goal was fix how the fabric hung over the skirt supports and I realized the pleats really do need to go towards the center peak to create that lovely flow.

I also needed to find a way to fix the front of the dress so that everything came together smoothly and had a nice finish. I bought a lovely length of scarlet silk that will make the belt and I have some cotton muslin on the way to make an airy petticoat that seems so popular in the period fashion plates. My excitement has definitely returned with this piece and now I'm getting even more eager to wear it for the first time. I was thinking about trimmings for it, but I think beyond the red belt I'm not going to fuss with it too much. I think the striped fabric is enough. And of course a fabulous hat. 

To which I will add this fabulous hair style. Even though I was able to do a pretty good approximation of a pouf a few months ago, I still remember the nightmare that was my headache afterwards. This is a much more manageable look and something I'm able to fix up in about 20 minutes. I tell you what, though, I have no clue how these ladies lived without Aqua Net!

I'm working on a late 18th century mourning gown, as well as going back and working on my pet-en-l'air a bit more. I also have been working on my 19th century stuff, and have started with a pretty straight-forward linen pelisse. It still needs a bit of work and I need to do a pair of stays, but we'll get there. 

Until next time! 

February 15, 2015

Blowing off steam while making pretty things.

While I have been writing in earnest for a few weeks now, I have found that I have also needed the outlet my sewing room provides to give my brain a rest. It's amazing how much of a haven our sewing spaces become - letting myself be immersed in the world of thread and cloth, I believe, has made me approach my writing with a level of calm and levelheadedness. 

With that being said, I was able to complete this lovely blue petticoat for the pet-en-l'air I finished just recently. I have not hemmed the bottom as yet because I am trying to decide on the trimmings and how much they might take. I also want to make sure that I leave enough length that can be let out if I change my skirt supports in the future. Deciding and working on that should give me another couple of hours of playing one afternoon.

I asked for my pair of American Duchess 'Georgiana' shoes for Christmas for just such an outfit and I hope I can soon decide on the color I'm going to dye them so that I can sport the whole ensemble for photos one day soon.

Before then, my dressform (Esmerelda, I think) gets to look pretty wearing it around the house. Every once in a while, I forget where I might have placed her for pictures and scare the $&*! out of myself when I come across her at night and forget that she's there.

I was also able to put together, rather quickly I might say, this late 18th century version of a Redingote. I'm so excited to finally have one of my own as I've been drooling over the several pretty variations I've seen around Pinterest and other blogs. I used a pattern by Nehelenia and found it to be wonderfully easy to follow. The cut fits very well, especially in the shoulders where I usually have a bit of trouble getting things just right. I just had to adjust the sleeves as mine are pretty scrawny and I like how the fashion plates have the sleeves tight around the wrist and forearm.

 I used this wonderful woven cotton from Renaissance Fabrics (thanks to DH's Christmas gift card!) which is a perfect weight for what was meant to be a garment worn for traveling and going outside. The nature of the fabric also allowed me not to have to bother with any stiffening interlinings for the collars. I did not take any pictures of the inside, but I lined it with a fairly sturdy linen.

I really love this jacket and wish I could wear it out to the grocery store! I still have to attach the buttons on the cuffs and on the front, while also fashioning some hidden closures but that will be for another day. In all total, however, I think I will have only spent about 6 hours between cutting the fabric and sewing it all together. I have ordered a couple more Nehelenia patterns and hope I will find them just as easy to get through as this was. 

Until next time... 

January 29, 2015

Pet-en-l'air and some baskets.

Hello, all! Do not fret or be scared: this is just my typical look these days as I work through the thesis-writing stage of my degree. Every once in a while, though, I find a few hours to sneak away to my sewing room to dabble here and there; so I've been able to wrap up putting on some of the finishing touches of a Pet-en-l'air I've been working on since before Christmas. I find my mind and fingers need the break! 

My lining is actually not very pretty to look at but having tried it on, it seems to do the trick. I was once again stalking The Fashionable Past's tutorials on the construction of the gown instead of using the JP Ryan pattern instructions. I even cut some pieces differently from the actual pattern because I felt going by a different set of instructions it might be easier to follow her fabric-cutting as well. I used a pretty light linen, so next time I know to use something a bit sturdier, but it is boned down the seams to help with the overall structure.

 I have been in love with the effect of sack-back dresses for quite some time but have been incredibly wary of doing one myself. The fit that is required around the torso, combined with the following fabric all supposedly coming from one pieces of fabric was something I wasn't having fun thinking about tackling.

Since I was *just* doing the pet-en-l'air the first go-round, I decided to use a cotton fabric. For the full robe a la fran├žaise I've been looking at the cotton damask from Renaissance Fabrics, or a lovely dark gray silk. 

 I have ordered what is considered a "French Blue" silk but I tend to think of it as a slightly darker version of the famous Wedgewood blue to be the petticoat as right now I'm using my work-all linen petticoat. Though, I don't think the two look so bad together and I might use the linen from time to time.

My pleats are not perfect this go round, nor are the robings down the front. I was having a rough time of it both school-wise and in the sewing room and just wanted/needed something to show for that day, though, so I stuck the pins in and stitched the fabric down where it wanted to lay. I was much happier when I attached the pleated trim to the edge because it kind of takes the eye away from any fudges.

To really complete the look, I went ahead and finished another, much better, pair of paniers using The Dreamstress tutorial. I had the fabric pieces cut ages ago, only needing the supporting 'boning' to actually do them. For the 'boning' I went for something pretty unusual (as I have not seen it used, yet) and used 3/16" diameter steel cable from the hardware store. It's very bendy but very supportive (it's normally used to pull things and has an amazingly high rating for weight suspension), so it should be able to hold up just about anything! The dark blue ribbon I had to use annoys me to no end, but it was a fix I wasn't prepared to do at that time. And, yes, it is also wrong-side out. There are times, however, when one must simply go forward.

I have stacks of new, pretty, fun fabric from my Christmas gift-card shopping sprees that are languishing in my stash but are definitely ear-marked for particular uses. In the upcoming months, I'd like to make a riding habit and an 18th century redingote, a la Kiera Knightly in 'The Duchess'.

Until next time...

December 7, 2014

First re-enactment event

It's the night after the Big Weekend I have been prepping for for over a month and I'm still coming down off the excitement of it all. I honestly had no idea what to expect for such a thing, not really having ever attended actual events. I've been to several homesteads and museums where the docents are dressed-out, but I've never seen a battle re-enactment or what happened this past weekend in St. Augustine.

My DH kindly followed us around taking as many photos as he could before and during the parade around the old town and here is the best night shot our camera allowed him to get. It was at the end of the festivities where the regiments were firing celebratory 'shots' towards the governor's house. Any fans of Jane Austen's work could appreciate the fine figure a man makes in a red coat!

Here is the beauty all completed. I have loved this fabric ever since opening the package from Renaissance Fabrics and it only increased when I was able to parade it through St. Augustine before the parade started. It was quite warm out - especially for December - but the lightness of the cotton made it hardly noticeable. My hair and the feathers, however, were already giving me such a headache!

We arrived a little too late for me to do much with C's hair, but as hers is so difficult to convince to hold a curl, I decided some simple pins would have to do the trick. Regardless, she was probably the one who received the most attention out of all of us! By the middle of the parade, I'm sure she was convinced it had all been done in her honor.

I could happily chop my head out of all of these pictures, but for the fabulous feathers! And don't you just LOVE the red silk petticoat? I'm glad I used such full panniers and bum pillow for the outfit, as it lifted the precious fabric off the ground. And luckily, the weather had held out for a few days so the grounds were not too damp and muddy.

Here you can see the bum pillow in full effect. It definitely rounded out (ha-ha) the whole outfit and I think was necessary to showing off the knife pleats and the pointed back of the bodice.

I saw many great outfits and some excellent hats that I am now coveting, including one lady's that had a model ship on it! She ended up sporting two costumes that day, both equally complemented by such a delightful accessory. Towards the end of the night my hair left much to be desired, but that is just another area in which I hope to improve. All-in-all, I consider the night to have been a great success and look forward to many more occasions where I get to dress out in such a fabulous manner.

Up next, I have some lovely blue wool and red (cotton) velvet that I hope to make into something new and wonderful. I think I'll just make a petticoat of the wool to go with a blue and white cotton pet en l'air while the red velvet might find itself the main part of a redingote I've been desiring.

Until next time...

November 17, 2014

getting dressed

First off, let's just take a moment to admire this lovely sight... sigh. I love fabric. OK, moving on. 

I'm now onto making all the other accoutrements that go with a typical 18th century gown and the paniers are one item I've been avoiding for quite some time. It's a look that is distinct for that time period and while I personally feel I have enough natural shape to suffice I started to think that I should go ahead and go all in.

They were actually quite easy to make once I just jumped in and started going. I haunted consulted the usual places online for help and visuals. For my own inclination, I made a pair that were pretty toned-down and focused on giving me a more oblong shape (if you viewed me from above).

I had a great time parading around the house in them and only wish I had had them finished before my five year-old had gone to bed. She would have had a really good laugh just as my dearest husband did, I am amazed at the silliness of them, and yet how well they stayed put while I walked around and allowed me enough liberty of movement. I think for fun, one day I will make a pair that gives me an 8-foot span... or something equally ridiculous.

The red silk was a great choice! I finally overcame my squeamishness of cutting into so much fabric and gathered and hemmed the petticoat today. I have become, over the last few days, pretty impatient to get these things done so I will confess to machine-hemming the 5 yards of fabric. Oh, dear.

I love the vibrant color of it next to my third iteration of stays. Of course, I stupidly used a second pattern for these and now the fit has to be reworked... again. I didn't even photograph my second pair as I rushed through them and they looked wretched. I was more than happy to rip those apart and reclaim the boning materials inside. This third pair, as with the JP Ryan ones I first did, are again too short. I seem to have a freakishly long torso as even my dressform won't extend the length of it. I have worn them at work, though, and they will be tolerable for the evening of British Night Watch.

On a happier note, I LOVE how the fabric drapes over the paniers! I didn't make any seams for pockets inside the dress. I might regret this decision later but I'll have DH there to be the packhorse of my usual female detritus.

 Here we are! I am very pleased with how this is turning out. My chemise is on loan to my friend for design ideas, so rest assured I won't be wearing a t-shirt underneath. ;)

I have left enough length on the robe if I choose to pull up the skirt as usually seen in the polonaise style, but I'm also a fan of trains so I might do as my friend suggested and take a cheaper fabric and line the bottom 3 inches or so with a sort of dust ruffle on the inside hem.

I couldn't resist one more picture of the pleats close up! This chintz print, I believe, is still my favorite part of this whole project.

Until next time...

November 15, 2014

petite robe a l'anglaise and a tutorial (of a sorts)

It's now less than a month away from British Night Watch down in St. Augustine that I'll be attending with my friend from work and we're both hard at work coming up with something we can wear that will be absolutely fabulous. She's let me in on her plans and I cannot wait to see the final product come December 6th! 

I finally got off the fence about what silk I wanted as my petticoat and ordered a beautiful scarlet silk to pick all of the great reds in the chintz pattern. 

I think the two will make an awesome combination. I ordered enough yardage that I'll be able to take some to possibly do trim pieces around the bodice and sleeves but I also don't want to go too crazy! Of course, we've been talking about how the 18th century was an age of overwhelming conspicuous consumption and so maybe all of the trim wouldn't have been out of place... 

And here is Miss C's wonderful robe with chintz petticoat. She wouldn't stand still long enough for me to take pictures with it actually on her but one gets the idea. All I have left for her is a chemise and some silk-covered buttons that will hold the front together. Luckily, my talented sister-in-law made C a beautiful red wool cape with a navy blue lining that she can wear as it should be at least chilly... nowhere near as cold as I'd really like it to be! If I have time, I might try to sew her a pair of mitts that I can line. 

I also added the lace trim directly to the dress, but I'm thinking about picking it out and attaching the lace to the chemise as it would have usually been done in the good ol' days. 

The tutorial I'd like to share with you is how I covered a pair of her shoes with some of the scrap silk for her to also wear that night. It's certainly not a perfect job but if any of you ever have such an idea, here are some of the things I did to spiffy up these busted slippers. 

I figured if this idea didn't work I wasn't really losing any ground. I'm pretty sure these shoes looked like this after one afternoon of C wearing them so...yeah. 

I was going to use this type of glue that is made for fabrics hoping that it wouldn't discolor the silk too much but it actually didn't provide the immediate tackiness I needed to manipulate the fabric around the shoe. And to be honest, the glue did discolor the silk pretty badly so I decided to try my glue gun, which worked like a dream. The glue dried quickly and firmly, as well as not leaving any discoloration behind. How I went so many years without a glue gun, I have no idea! 

This was actually much easier than I thought it would be. It was very much a case of being patient (I generally have none... or less than none) and working with the fabric here and there. In a few key areas I had to snip the fabric so it wouldn't bunch too badly and I could smooth it over the outside.

I found it easiest to glue in place the bottom edge of the fabric and wait to pull the remaining fabric tight towards the inside of the shoe.

These two little shoes took me a little over an hour to complete which I felt was a great use of time and scraps. I'm debating about snipping off the black bows and getting some jewels to mimic shoe buckles of the period, as well as adding a pretty ribbon where the elastic is, but as these will hardly be seen I guess I won't go overboard.

They're certainly not perfect but they are functional and I was able to add another trick to the mental toolbox. I'm so excited to have her wear them for British Night Watch. 

Until next time!

October 29, 2014

Williamsburg, Virginia Chintz Dress

I mentioned a while back that I have plans to attend an annual event in St. Augustine that features historians and reenactors of the British colonial period in the 18th century. Some groups have strict regulations on dress, but as we are going as 'loners', of a sorts, we have both decided to go a little beyond the norm and choose fabrics and dresses that would have been more representative of the upper echelons of society.

With that in mind, I decided to pick a fairly flamboyant print that was representative of those seen during the 18th century, both in Europe and in the colonies - though perhaps fewer would have been able to have access to these fabulous prints.

The fabric can be found at Renaissance Fabrics and is a lovely, soft cotton that drapes so well. I think the $11/yard is incredibly reasonable, considering some quilter's cottons have reached the $13/yd mark! What is so nice about the people at Renaissance Fabrics, is that they have produced a few other prints that are in the historical record.

And being that the print is bold enough, I decided to go with the robe a l'anglaise with the 'regular' back. I've been considering pulling up the skirt in what is technically termed a retroussee, but is most often associated with the la polonaise gowns of a contemporary period. I've yet to pick out a coordinating silk for the petticoat and trimmings. With the multitude of colors on the dress, however, I certainly have no shortage of options.

So far I'm leaning to a dark, sapphire blue silk. I think it will be so lovely! For now, though, it sits on my dress form and has to wait for me to make up my mind...

Until next time...