Friday, May 23, 2014

The Derby Day That Wasn't

A couple of weekends ago, a friend of mine invited me to a Cinco de Mayo/Derby Day party at the Elks Lodge 1444. "They're going to have a Derby Hat contest!", she said. I thought, "Awesome! It will give me an opportunity to make that big, fabulous Edwardian hat I've been wanting to make, AND I'll have somewhere to wear it to!"

Now, where I live, about the only fabric and crafts stores we have are JoAnn, Michael's and Hobby Lobby. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE these places, and I am pretty sure that my paycheck alone helps keep them in business; however, they are generally lacking in "specialty" items like heavy weight buckram and millinery wire.  Since I only had a few days to create this Edwardian confection, I didn't really have time to order online. So, I had to get truly creative. After a trip to JoAnn, I came home with this:

Panacea Products Box Wire Wreath Frame Green, , hi-res
and the heaviest interfacing I could find, and these became the framework for my hat. The fabric was some that I had in my stash; an aqua satiny fabric, light green silk for the inside pleating, dark purple silk for the drape, and a pre-wired purple ribbon.  I added a few silk flowers and some purple and white ostrich feathers and viola!
I don't have any pictures of the step-by-step process, but here is the finished hat:

But...and here's the big but...I got sick that weekend, wouldn't have had the hat finished anyway because it took longer than I anticipated, and I never made it to the Derby party.  I finished the hat anyway, and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I suppose now I'll have to make an outfit to go with the hat at some point!

Summer is coming and so are the Renaissance Fairs! Part II

It's been a while since I posted last. I have been busy sewing almost nightly, but now that the nicer weather is here, I have other projects around the house and yard that I need to work on. I ended up making two different Elizabethan shifts - one with a low, square neck and one with a high neck and ruffled collar. I used the Elizabethan Smock Pattern Generator for the first shift which is here...and the smock pattern from The Tudor Tailor for the second one, although I'm sure I could have made the second type using the smock pattern generator as well. I also made a partlet. I attempted a little blackwork embroidery on the first shift and on the partlet, but I wasn't overly thrilled with the way it turned out.

I then made a coif, also from The Tudor Tailor, from linen and millinery wire, then I made a little Italian bonnet-type hat. I can either wear the coif alone or with the hat. The hat was pretty easy to make, and I drafted my own pattern.

Now I have to work on the outerwear! I can't decide if I want to make a doublet and skirt, or if I want to make a kirtle...I love all of the fancy court dresses, but I think I want to go for something more middling class.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Summer is coming and so are the Renaissance Fairs!

Why do they call them Renaissance Fairs when most people are dressed in Elizabethan era clothing? Of course, that's not always true...I have seen people wearing victorian era corsets with quasi-Medieval sleeves and skirts, Harry Potter Hogswarts robes and of course the ever popular fairy wings. So technically, they should be called "Fantasy Fairs"....but I digress...

My sons want to attend the Sterling Renaissance Fair this summer, which is about a 2-hour drive from us. Elizabethan era is not usually my favorite, but I decided that as long as I was going to the fair, I may as well be dressed properly. Yes, yes, I know my ADCD is kicking in once again (Attention Deficit Costume Disorder), and yes, I am still going to finish the 18th century jacket I started, but I have started to create an Elizabethan ensemble that I figure if I start it now, counting on my attention span, I should have it finished by the time of the fair.

As always, I start at the foundation with a "payre of bodies" and a shift - although I made the bodies first and am now working on the shift. At first I was going to try using one of the patterns in "The Tudor Tailor", but then I decided to use my Simplicity 2621 pattern, as it is a pretty good commercial pattern version of an Elizabethan pair of bodies, and it was easier for me to tweak that pattern than trying to enlarge and tweak the pattern from "The Tudor Tailor".

I always have to shorten everything because I have a VERY short waist...I ran into an issue when I had everything together and I tried it on - the top was too close together, and the bottom was too far apart, so I had to put a "piece" in the back (which you can kind of see here). It seemed to work out okay, and I'm sure it was a period practice if someone needed more room in their pair of bodies.

The lining is red linen. The outside is some kind of brocade that is either a silk blend or a silk look-alike. The binding is silk, lacing eyelets are cotton embroidery thread, and the whole thing is hand sewn.

The busk in the front is a paint stick, LOL! Eventually I will make one out of hardwood once the weather gets warmer and I can get out to the garage and my power tools!

The finished bodies on Alma, over an 18th century shift. I'll take more pictures once I finish the proper shift.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Call to Arms

I hate it when you start a project and then realize that you really need some item that would greatly assist you, so you have to stop and change gears.

Alma really needs some arms...or at least one arm. It would make fitting sleeves much easier, so I set out to search the Internet for dress form arms.

I thought about buying some, but at $50+ a pop, forget it! Then I thought about the "Duct Tape Double" approach, but I don't have anyone to wrap my arms, plus it wouldn't be flexible to put into a sleeve. I then found a website with a tutorial for making a "stuffed" arm using a sloper drafted from your arm measurements. This seemed like the best and most cost effective way to go. The website is Pandemic Apparel blogspot.

It looks like she took these instructions from a draping book in another language and states several times that it was difficult to decipher the instructions. I appreciate her efforts! I found it difficult, but not impossible, to follow along, but I think I figured it out. I am going to try to chronicle what I did here, hopefully in an easier to understand format, not only to help myself, but maybe others as well.

She made her pattern directly onto her muslin, but I opted to make a paper pattern since I didn't know what I was doing, and I figured I would need to erase a lot.  I used cm, because that's what she used, but you can use inches if you want. This is for a right arm. Just flip the pattern for a left.

You will need the following measurements:

1. Overarm length - from shoulder seam down over slightly bent elbow to wrist. (A)

2. Underarm length - from approx. underarm down inside of arm to wrist. (B)

3. Elbow to wrist. (C)

4. Shoulder seam to level of armscye (upper arm). (D)

5. Upper Arm to Elbow. (E)

6. Armhole circumference - around shoulder and underarm. (F)

7. Bicep circumference - around bent bicep, not too snugly. (G)

8. Elbow circumference - around flexed elbow. (H)

9. Wrist circumference - around where you would want the end of your sleeve to come or somewhere around your wrist bone. (I)

Start by drawing a rectangle that equals measurement (A) by 26 cm wide.

Draw horizontal lines on the rectangle at measurements (C), (D) and (E) and mark them Wrist, Upper Arm and Elbow.

Draw a center line at the 13 cm mark the length of the rectangle. At the Upper Arm line, measure up 5 cm and draw a horizontal line the width of the rectangle. From that line, measure in 5 cm from each edge and draw a vertical line up to the top of the rectangle. From the intersection of the top of the rectangle and the Center Line, measure down 7.5 cm and place a line or mark. From this mark, draw a slanted line up to meet the intersection of the top line and the vertical 5 cm line. Do this on both sides of the Center Line. These lines will make an "M" shape. Finally, measure from the top of each side of the "M" down the slanted line 4.5 cm and place a mark. If you have trouble following these written directions, just look at the next picture.

Starting at the top of rectangle and the Center Line, draw a sleeve cap or wide "bell" shape (see drawing). Using a French curve will help, or if you can draw it by eye. Make sure that the line passes through the 4.5 cm marks and where the two 5 cm marks meet. The measurement from the top of the sleeve cap to the upper arm line should equal (D).

Add 1/2" seam allowances to the rectangle.

Flip the pattern over and bring the two sides together to meet in the middle, overlapping the seam allowances. Tape temporarily in a couple of spots with scotch tape. Your pattern will now look something like this.

On the Wrist line, measure in from the left 1/2 of the measurement of (I) - For example, my wrist circumference is 16.5 cm, so I measured in 8.25 cm. Make a mark.Then take a right angle or triangle ruler, place the corner at your mark and the other end at the far right end of the elbow line. Make a line on both sides of the ruler.

At the left end of the elbow line, measure in 2 cm towards the right and make a mark. From the 2 cm mark on the elbow line, measure another 2 cm towards the right and make a mark. Measure from the first 2 cm mark to the right side of the elbow line. Place a mark at the half-way point of that measurement. Do the same with the wrist line. Measure in 2 cm from the left edge and make a mark. Measure the wrist line from the left edge to the first mark you made on the wrist line and make a mark at the half-way point of that measurement. Your marks should look about like this.

Connect the dots like this...

From the left edge of the Upper Arm line, measure in 2 cm and make a mark. Then make a mark at the Center Line. Connect the dots so that it looks like this.

Open up the pattern, and it should look like this. You may need to draw in the lines in blue, but they should be self explanatory. If not, shoot me a message. You will have to redraw some of your seam allowances on the bottom near the wrist.

Now take your pattern and trace it onto your muslin fabric, making sure to transfer all of the lines. Using black and red thread, stitch over the red lines with red and the black lines with black. I went over mine twice. Then sew the three darts - wrist, shoulder and side arm and sew the arm together along the inner sleeve seam and up the inside seam of the arm.

You then need to make a pattern for the bottom of the wrist, a pattern for the armscye and a pattern for the piece that you can use to pin the arm to your mannequin. For the wrist, I used an oval shape that I already had from a template, but you can trace a shape or draw an oval. It needs to fit the bottom of the arm. Then you need to draw a larger oval that will fit in the armscye area of the arm. Finally you need to draw a wide triangle shape to sew to the arm in order to have something to pin the arm to the mannequin with. Here is what mine look like.

Trace the small oval on some stiff cardboard. Then take a piece of muslin that is a little bigger than the oval shape and sew it up around the cardboard oval and sew that to the bottom of the arm, turning up the seam allowance on the wrist area and sewing the fabric covered oval using an overcast stitch  Sew the larger oval over the armscye area of the arm, leaving about a 2-inch section open so that you can stuff the arm. Before you sew the top part closed, sew the triangle part in between the armscye oval and the top of the shoulder of the arm.

The finished arm...

The finished arm pinned to a mannequin...

Friday, January 31, 2014

A Williamsburg Jacket

A quilted petticoat looks great with a jacket or caraco to go with it, so for my next project, I have decided to make a jacket. This combination would be something a middle class woman in the 18th century would have worn during the day.

I decided to make this jacket, which is in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, and for which there is a pattern on pgs. 39-42 of Costume Close-Up.

Lucky for me, Rebecca from Fashionable Frolick has made several versions of this jacket and very generously posted a tutorial on her blog, where she chronicles, with lots of photos, how she put this jacket together using 18th century methods.

The original jacket is made from linen, but I am making mine from some cotton I had in my fabric stash. I don't know if the fabric pattern is appropriate for the 18th century, but it looks like it could be to me.

I already enlarged the pattern from Costume Close-Up by scanning it into my computer, and then using the measurement grid on the pattern to enlarge it up to it's full size. I then cut this out of some scrap fabric in order to make a "toile", or mock-up to alter to fit me before cutting into my good fabric. 

This is where I usually choke when sewing something - the fitting part. Since I don't have any friends with the same love of historical clothing as I do, I have to fit things on myself, by myself. 

Using my mannequin, which I had tried to pad with batting to better mimic my own measurements, I fitted my mock-up over stays. Perhaps in response to my latest episode of fitting angst, a pin appeared on my Pinterest feed by Cathy Hay of Your Wardrobe Unlock'd featuring the Fabulous Fit system

This consists of a series of foam rubber pads and a stetchy cover, which is used to pad out an existing dressmaker's mannequin to more accurately represent an individual's measurements. Fabulous! I had tried doing this with batting with only so-so results, so this should be a vast improvement over what I was using. I immediately ordered it from Amazon. 

It arrived today, and I set to work padding out my mannequin. After struggling with shoving pads under the stretchy cover for 15 minutes, I finally got it to resemble my about depressing! But, that's a whole 'nother story! 

Next up, cutting the pieces from good fabric and cutting out the lining pieces.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Matlasse, Marseilles and Corded Quilting

Since the Snow Queen and Jack Frost refuse to stop tag-teaming most of the U.S. with their particular idea of "fun", I've been staying inside and hibernating. How on earth did people deal with it in the past? Well, one way was by dressing warmly, even inside, and one of these ways for women was to wear quilted skirts or petticoats.

Most of the extant ones that I have found were made from silk satin.

I wanted to make one of these, but since my silk budget had to be sacrificed for a new gas furnace, and since I've really never done any quilting, I opted for a "cheat" to get the look. 

Matelasse (mat-la-say) is a cotton fabric that is often used for upholstery or bedspreads and is readily available at my local JoAnn fabrics. This fabric was originally made to imitate Broderie de Marseille, which is a form of three-dimensional textile sculpture using plain white cloth and white cotton cording that originated in Marseille, France in the 17th century. 

This is what Matlasse fabric looks like...kind of an embossed, quilted effect...

Real Broderie de Marseille looks like this -

I used the quilted petticoat diagram on page 36 of Costume Close-Up and cut six rectangular panels. The waistband is made of cotton Osnaburg with side ties of linen tape. It's probably not 100% historically accurate, but I did use natural fibers and it is all hand-sewn using cotton thread.

I will probably dye it, although the natural color resembles this petticoat...

Or this one...