An 1893 Hunting Suit, from Harper’s Bazaar

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Many years ago, I bought a book of plates from Harper’s Bazaar.  If you’re a costumer, you probably know the one, put out by Dover, big thick thing with a slightly weird shade of brown cover, full of designs from 1869 through 1899.  One in particular that caught my eye was this plate, from fall 1893:  FB_IMG_1510952779432

“Lady’s Hunting Costume”  I am a country girl, and grew up shooting and hunting, and this plate just enchanted me.  Here was a very proper lady all dressed in the proper costume for hunting,and she’s got her own shotgun, AND a shotgun shell belt!  She’s not some flighty lady who only sits inside and drinks tea, she goes out and has fun in the great outdoors!

So I dreamed about this ensemble for years.  In 2012 I posted this picture on Facebook, saying I hoped to make it soon.  I finally bought the wool in spring of 2016, but stalled.  It had to be perfect, and I didn’t feel my tailoring was up to snuff yet.  Finally, this year, my husband told me to just make it for the State Make it with Wool contest.  So now I had a deadline, two months out.

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Leor Helped Warm up my Wool

I dug out my wool, pulled down my slopers, and started drafting.

For the skirt, I simply cut off my favorite skirt pattern at a length that would just hit the top of my calves when finished, and took just a little bit of fullness out of the center back.

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I omitted my standard haircloth interlining, and simply lined the skirt with sateen (so as not to bind on the wool knickers), and faced the hem with a deep twill cotton facing.  I decided to machine stitch the hem, as this needs to be a durable skirt rather than fancy, and machine stitched hems were surprisingly common in the 1890’s.

This is where I discovered the need for a walking foot.  I did not own a walking foot.  Had my fabric been a herringbone tweed rather than a plaid, it probably would have been fine, but there was a definite jog in the hem right at the three rows of topstitching.  So I ordered in a walking foot, and tore out the hem and redid it.  So much better!

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Walking Foot in Use, Topstitching

The moral of this story is that walking feet are the most awesome thing, and you all need one too.  I used it for almost the whole rest of this ensemble.

The bodice was pretty easy and straight forward to draft, and not too terribly difficult to put together.  I used my skirt pattern again for the peplum, and lined up the front left bodice overlay with the edge of the front panel.  It worked amazingly well that way.  The left bodice and right lining button together at center front, and take most of the strain of the  closure, while the overlay on the left side is an extension of the right bodice and just hooks over at the waist and shoulder.

I used a sleeve lining from a shirtwaist to make the actual sleeves (just the right shape), and fussed around with my standup collar pattern to make the opening at the right place.

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I moved the pocket from the right breast to the right hip, because a pocket on your chest right where you will shoulder your gun is an exceedingly bad idea, but pockets are always awesome.  (I also have a hidden large pocket in the skirt, right between right side and right back.  Pockets!)

I bound all the edges of the bodice, peplum, and the inside of the collar with bias made from the plaid.  Because I am insane, I pattern matched it.  It was also mostly cut from scraps, because why cut bias out of good large pieces you could use for something else when you have scraps?

So then, pants. Knickers. Jodpurs.

My wonderful friend Marna of The Domestic Lady’s Dressmaker helped me with the pants, sending me instructions for drafting my own to size from Edwardian Ladies’ Tailoring: The Twentieth Century System of Ladies’ Garment Cutting (1910), by J C Hopkins.  (I know it is from the 1910’s, but it was that or basically a drawers pattern with the crotch sewn shut, which would not be that fantastic for actually doing daring things in, and I have also seen riding pants patterns for women similar from the 90’s.)

So that all turned my brain inside out.  All the points in the draft seemed to be pretty arbitrarily named, A, B, 1, 4, etc., BUT.  The first and only mockup fit really well!

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Tada! Mockup Accomplished.

So the pants went together well, with a regular placket and waistband like a skirt. I made them of the same wool as the rest of the ensemble.

The last step was the leggings, or spats, or gaiters, however you want to call them.  My husband had promised to help me with this project, so…. heeheehee.

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Duct Tape Fixes Everything!

See, the gaiters have to fit over the pants at the top, but they have to fit snugly to the legs, so the best way to accomplish making a pattern is to put on your shoes, stockings, and pants, slip on a trash bag, and tape up your leg!  This is easier if your husband is willing to tape you up.  I drew a line for the center front seam, and very very very carefully cut myself out.  I was then able to cut apart the taped pieces into my pattern pieces, and trace and add seam allowances.

Then it was an entire evening of buttonholes, and another entire evening of buttons to finish!  The next morning was Nebraska Make it With Wool!

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This is my friend Alyssa.  During the same time as I was making this hunting suit, she was working on this lovely ensemble, which is a different color copy of a suit in the Platte County Museum in Columbus.  She learned how to draft her own patterns and use a lot of Victorian sewing techniques in making this dress, and I am very proud of her.  She won the senior division of the Make it With Wool Contest.

I styled my hunting suit as a hiking suit for the competition, because my cartridge belt wasn’t done yet (I had an awesome guy in a local leather shop make one for me.), and carried a walking stick.  My hat came to me as a ratty old thing, but I cleaned it, steamed it into shape again, and put new feathers on as the old ones were completely falling apart.  I used two pheasant feathers given me by my friend Lisa. Really, this would make an awesome Victorian hiking costume as well.  I earned first in the adult division at Make it With Wool!

Of course no historical ensemble is complete without a quality photoshoot.  (Also I need proper photos to send to nationals.)  So, yesterday, my husband and I went out to do just that.  My friend Ross lent me his absolutely amazing 1877 English Pape 16 gauge side by side shotgun.  It is fully engraved, with Damascus barrels.  I really don’t know if I’ve ever held a more beautiful gun.  He also lent me a pheasant rooster he shot on Thanksgiving day with that very gun, (and promptly froze), to use as a prop.  My dad tagged along for the photoshoot as well, to help carry things.

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I never felt restrained by this ensemble as well.  I was able to move just as comfortably as in a t-shirt and jeans.  Actually, I have greater range of motion in these pants than in my favorite pair of jeans, and a well-fitted sleeve is a joy to wear.

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“I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” –Annie Oakley

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We took some hiking photos as well, for some variety.

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I will close by saying that this is probably my favorite ensemble to date (of course, I say that almost every time I finish something), and this ensemble has really shown me how no seamstress stands alone.  From Marna, who helped me with resources for the knicker pants pattern and taught me how to draft my own patterns; my mom who encouraged me and went with me on several Hobby Lobby trips for thread, fabric, and buttons, and also last year told me about the garage sale where I found the hat (and the 1840’s dress!); my husband who put up with my sewing mess, taped up my gaiters pattern, made my walking stick and also came with me to Make it With Wool even though I know he would be bored and gave him a free pass to skip out; to the Leather Shack in Central City for the awesome belt; Lisa who gave me pheasant feathers; Ross who lent me a beautiful historical gun for the photoshoot; my dad who tagged along and lugged things out into the back pasture for photos, and all my friends who encourage me whenever I embark on crazy sewing adventures.  For all your love and support, I am eternally thankful.  None of my endeavors would be possible without all of you.

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“God intended women to be outside as well as men, and they do not know what they are missing when they stay cooped up in the house.” –Annie Oakley

 

 

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Published in: on November 27, 2017 at 5:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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Costume College 2017!

What a week!  I am mostly recovered now, and my thoughts on the week are more or less settled.  It was a lovely time, with lovely people in lovely clothes at a lovely location.  Short version, the end.

Long version:

This was my first year teaching.  How crazy and insane is that?  This was also the first year with all-day Thursday workshops, and I ended up being one of the first teachers for the first Thursday workshops.  Yikes!

I taught “Understructures of the Victorian Skirt” as a workshop on Thursday to four students.  We got a good start on our skirts, with everyone at least getting their panels all flatlined and interlined.

Laying out Fabric

Laying out Fabric

So that was all day Thursday.  In the evening, there was the pool party.  It was Disney themed, but I didn’t feel like making anything new, so I wore my Birka Viking clothes, because Vikings–> Lords of the Sea–> Water–> Pool Party!

I'm a pretty Viking Princess!

I’m a pretty Viking Princess!

At the pool party, I met this really fantastic group of ladies, who also did not follow the Disney theme.

Vintage Star Trek!

Vintage Star Trek!

These girls are all my heroes forever.

Friday, it was hit the ground running for classes and classes!

First up, was my lecture on Victorian Knitting.  I think it was overall well received.  I really like knitwear, so this was a good time for me to share my love of wool!

Victorian Knitting

Victorian Knitting

There is a disturbing lack of knitwear in this photo, but trust me, I brought such as I have so far and would fit in my suitcase.  (Photo taken by my friend Kristina, who I finally met in person at CoCo!)

After the Knitwear class, I had a quick lunch, and ran off to my Nålbinding class.  As usual, all my students were brilliant and were able to pick it up.  I’m always very pleased with my nålbinding students.

With no time for a proper supper, it was time for the Friday night social!  (I ate something, I just can’t remember what.)

The theme was “Our Favorite Spies”.  It was so much fun to see all the spies from pop culture and history in the great hall, as well as the other characters, historical, non-historical, and more.

I wore my soutache walking suit, which still doesn’t have a blog post of its own.  I’ve mostly been gleaning photos that other people took of it from Costume College also, because I didn’t take a lot of photos, and the lighting wasn’t awesome in the public photo space.

Soutache!

Soutache!

I will never not love the back of this bodice.

I will never not love the back of this bodice.

I really kindof wish now I had made it into Shotwell booth to get a professional photo taken, not that that would help me for the blog here and now…  Oh well.

Saturday, I didn’t dress up!  For real.  I decided that for my whirlwind schedule, it would be better to be comfy and easily able to maneuver through groups of other people.

First up, I had a wonderful Victorian purse class with Lynn McMasters.  I made an acceptable purse in the end. However, as all good projects will do, it taught me more about what not to do and what to do differently than I got right the first go.

Purse!

Purse!

After my purse class I had approximately 15 minutes to run to teach my lecture on the Understructures of Victorian Skirts.  It was really well received.  I am so happy that I was able to demystify aspects of the Victorian skirt making process and the supports built in for so many people.  I may do a blog post sometime in the future.

I then went to my velvet millinery leaf class with Lynn McMasters (again!).  She is such a delightful and knowledgeable lady.  I made three serviceable leaves, and got to take home a silicone stamp for making more.  Now I’ll have to watch for the remnant sale on Silk Baron to get more velvet for more leaves!

Velvet Leaves!

Velvet Leaves!

Then it was time to get ready for the Gala!

This dress will get its own blog post soon enough, I hope.  It’s my favorite thing I’ve made to date.  Raspberry silk taffeta, lined with black cotton sateen, trimmed with black silk net, antique silk lace, and antique jet beaded motifs.  I felt incredibly regal wearing it.

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown Back

1893 Raspberry Silk Evening Gown Back

There were so many other awesome dresses at the Gala.  Here are just a few of my favorites:

Pinks!

Pinks!

(Taylor and I both had pink dresses inspired by Worth gowns.  PINK!)

Rebecca's Gorgeous Blue Gown

Rebecca’s Gorgeous Blue Gown

Stripey Goodness

Stripey Goodness

I was seriously impressed with the stripe placement and fit of this gown, made by Jessica.

Lovely 1830's

Lovely 1830’s

I wish I knew who this delightful young lady is.  She really knew her stuff, and did a wonderful job on her 1830’s gown.  Her buckle is antique!

The Fluffy Skirt Gang

The Fluffy Skirt Gang

Flemish?

Flemish?

I always really like seeing well done clothing from the lower classes of history.  It wasn’t all glitz and jewels, it was actually mostly sturdy wools and linens, in case we’ve forgotten.  But that didn’t mean people were sloppy or ill-dressed either.

Gorgeous 60's Gown

Gorgeous 60’s Gown

So I’ve never liked the fashion of the 60’s.  Never, until Costume College this year.  There was so much of it so well done, that I was warming to it.  When I saw this dress though, worn so well by the other Kelsey, it completely won me over.  It’s kinda like you see random abandoned bits of 60’s furniture in your grandparents’ basements, and think “ugh, how could anyone like this?”  Then you see a room done well all in 60’s and suddenly, you understand why it was a thing.  Kelsey showed me exactly how and why 60’s fashion was a thing.

Roomies!

Roomies!

Sunday was a lazy day for me.  I went to only two classes, one on Byzantine Clothing, and one on kilts.  I did dress up, but in stuff I wear all the time at Stuhr.  As such, it’s comfortable for me to wear, and actually only took 10 minutes to dress in.

1890's Waist and Skirt

1890’s Waist and Skirt

1890's Waist and Skirt

1890’s Waist and Skirt

Monday, before I went to the airport, was fabric district day!

Home Fabrics, Land of Silk

Home Fabrics, Land of Silk

First stop was Home Fabrics.  It’s a wonderland.  I restrained myself pretty well, considering most of the silk on the second floor was only $6 a yard.  I got enough blue plaid for another silk shirtwaist, and some pink stripe and green stripe for a couple of Gibson Girl style vests for myself and a friend.  (She gets the pink!)

The second stop was a trim store.  I was looking for some specific trim for a 90’s wrapper, but they didn’t really have it.  They had some that looked similar, but it was pretty plasticy.  Maybe I’ll just have to be insane and weave some.

Trims Galore!

Trims Galore!

The final stop was B. Black and Sons.  They have been one of my favorite places to order from online for years– I used to order whole bolts of wool flannel when I was doing Viking orders.  It was a magical kingdom of wool, wool, and more wool.  I really love wool.  I didn’t buy any wool though, because I might have a glut of it at home.  Just maybe.

B. Black and Sons

B. Black and Sons

Fun fact: B. Black and Sons was founded the same year my house was built.  Also, all those movie posters are movies and shows they have provided wool for.  (I told them they need to find a poster for The Originals.)

Then it was time to go to the airport and fly home.  Travel went well, everything arrived mostly undamaged at the airport in Omaha, and I flopped into bed incredibly late.  (I’m always very afraid of my luggage not arriving.)

Costume College Haul

Costume College Haul

I got a nice little variety of items to bring home.  The fashion plates were a steal, actually– I got them two for one at the very end of the day in the Costume College Marketplace.

I hope you enjoyed all my pictures and tales of my shenanigans!  Until the next time I’m actually able to put down the sewing and write!

Published in: on August 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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An Original 1840’s Front Opening Fan Front Dress

This summer, I was very happily minding the shop one day, when my mom told me she had been at a garage sale that morning, and they had some antique underwear and hats there.  As I collect antique underwear, I didn’t want to miss out, so as soon as I closed the shop, I picked her up, and off we went!

We started out the sale by inspecting and acquiring a very large box of vintage hats, mostly from the 50’s and 60’s.  In the garage, I found an excellent bearskin muff and a white silk turn of the century graduation style dress.  There were a few antique nightgowns on the rack, but nothing that special.  About then, the lady asked if I liked old clothes, and told me she had more inside.  Oooooooooh.

The moment I stepped into the room, I saw it.  Hanging on the wall in unassuming plainness, but undeniable.  I didn’t want to act too excited there, so I added it to my pile, and got a box of antique underwear, and a black lace dress from about 1907, and a few other random things from the room.  I left shirtwaists and camisoles, and it was sad, but I had limited funds.

But this.  This was worth it.  I now have a front opening fan-front 1840’s dress.

 

1840's Front Opening Fan-Front Dress

1840’s Front Opening Fan-Front Dress

There are not many of these around.  I couldn’t find any on pinterest, and found only a few on a google search.  I found this purple silk one in a google search, and that’s about it.  I suspect that is because a fan front style is easier to sew with a single piece than with an opening right down the middle of it.

The dress is sewn of lightweight black wool, with a fan front and front opening, and a smaller fan in back.  It is somewhat smaller than my dress form, as you can see.

1840's Wool Dress Back

1840’s Wool Dress Back

Back of 1840's Dress Flat

Back of 1840’s Dress Flat

Front of 1840's Dress Flat

Front of 1840’s Dress Flat

The front opening closes with hooks and eyes.  It’s really neat and tidy, and if everything is hooked up, you can barely see the closure.  The edges just butt right up to each other.

1840's Dress Closure

1840’s Dress Closure

The hooks on the bodice are sewn in between the layers, except for one that apparently ripped out at some point and was sewn back on.  Ooops!

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Bodice Hooks

Pocket!

Pocket!

There is a pocket sewn into the right front, right at the edge of the narrow front panel.  It’s faced with dress fabric, but the pocket itself is made of cotton.  (Top of the pocket is at the right in the above picture.)  The picture below shows the inside of the skirt, with the pocket.  As you can see, the front panel of the skirt was pieced, right at the top!  Meanwhile, the top edge of the skirt is overcast and folded over before being pleated and set to a cotton waistband/ binding.

Pocket on Inside, Plus Piecing

Pocket on Inside, Plus Piecing

The skirt is sewn straight across the waistline of this dress, and the waist seam ends a little past the front of the side seam.  It appears that the waist would have hooked straight across on a waistband, then the bodice closed over.  You can see the piecing in the front panel here.

Front Skirt Panel of 1840's Dress

Front Skirt Panel of 1840’s Dress

Back of Waistband

Back of Waistband

The skirt pleats are very even, and yes, those are boning channels above!

1840's Skirt Facing

1840’s Skirt Facing

The skirt has a very deep facing of polished cotton, and there is horsehair braid sandwiched between the facing and the skirt fabric, extending about 1/8″, to prevent wear to the hem.  There is a tuck about 1″ deep above the facing, which accounts for the stitching line you see in the above photo.  Most of the skirt seams are very narrow, with selvedge sewn to selvedge, except for this one, which is the narrow front panel seam.  Its one cut edge is whip stitched to prevent fraying.

Inside Back of 1840's Dress Bodice

Inside Back of 1840’s Dress Bodice

The lining is made of a heavy rough linen.  Heavy fabrics were often used as linings to support the bodice and prevent warping or stretching.  The back lining has pieces carefully patched in right at the shoulder.  Apparently, her piece of fabric wasn’t quite large enough in the right ways.  The shoulder seam is very neatly whip stitched to finish the edge.

Pieced Back Lining

Pieced Back Lining

Front Boning Channel with Baleen

Front Boning Channel with Baleen

Yep!  One of the original baleen stays!  You’ll notice there are diagonal lines sewn with a running stitch through the lining in both the front and back.  This prevents the fan front (and back) from collapsing outward and looking slouchy or untidy.  Even after all these years, the dress is well-shaped, thanks to the careful thought that went into constructing it.

Basically Shoulder Pleats

Basically Shoulder Pleats

The diagonal stitching lines are down under the diagonal lines in the bodice, essentially creating diagonal pleats in the bodice.  The running stitches hold it in place, and are hidden completely on the outside of the dress.

Diagonal Stitching Line

Diagonal Stitching Line

Our original seamstress didn’t care how nice her stitches were if no one else could see them!

The Stitching from the Outside

The Stitching from the Outside

Let’s take a moment to admire her piping, however.  See how tiny and neat it is?

Lovely 1840's Piping!

Lovely 1840’s Piping!

For the collar, there is piping, horsehair braid, AND a tiny silk ruffle.  The tiny plain ruffle makes my friend Kay think this is a mourning dress, but I’m still undecided.  I tend to think this was simply a best dress, with a little bit of fancy trim around the collar.

1840's Collar Treatments Galore!

1840’s Collar Treatments Galore!

Front Collar Treatment

Front Collar Treatment

In the front of the collar, the lining snakes its way out of the piping binding, and becomes the faced front hook and eye closure, while the collar treatment continues on and becomes the front fashion fabric opening, with the hooks at the neck and down at the fan.  Very nice way of solving that problem!

Now, let’s talk sleeves:

1840's Dress Sleeve

1840’s Dress Sleeve

The sleeve is moderately full, but not so full that it is gathered or pleated into the armscye.  It is pleated neatly into a narrow cuff, and the front edge has fullness pleated into the elbow, to allow for freedom of movement.  As you can see, the sleeves are pieced, both exactly symmetrically.

1840's Sleeve Cuff

1840’s Sleeve Cuff

The sleeve cuff has a narrow band of silk velvet ribbon sewn on as trim, with a hook and thread eye closing each sleeve.  The velvet is worn threadbare, enough so one can see it was simply tacked on with a double running stitch, with the threads hidden in the pile of the velvet originally.

1840's Sleeve Cuff and Lining

1840’s Sleeve Cuff and Lining

The sleeve lining is pieced, and has some shattering up by the elbow.  My guess is that the fabric wore thin there from movement.

1840's Dress Armscye

1840’s Dress Armscye

The armscye is trimmed close and whip stitched all around.  I think the cord up there is made of linen, but I’m not entirely sure of its purpose.  Perhaps it had something to do with hanging the dress when not worn.

Front of 1840's Dress Flat

Front of 1840’s Dress Flat

I’m still ridiculously pleased with this piece of history, and it is on my reproduction list, as soon as I have time.  I’m sure I will learn even more about how it was made when I begin the process of reproducing it.  In the meantime, it is safely packed away in an archival box, away from sunlight and bugs.  (It is no longer hanging on a wire hanger in an old house.)

Thanks for reading, and as always, I’m very happy to answer questions!

 

An 1890’s Housedress, Workdress, Frontier Town Dress… Thing

You can’t just wear a prairie dress in town on the 1890’s frontier!  So I made a dress to wear in town, or at least in one of the houses in town.

I originally had the idea that I would make a work dress.  A plain, no-frills work dress that someone might wear to do housework, cook, and clean.  I  bought a piece of appropriately historic calico at, of all places, Walmart– and it was a vermiculated pink floral!  So I had to work with it, and make whatever dress design I came up with from that!

Patterns and Fabric

Patterns and Fabric

I’ve put off finishing this post for a very long time.  Mainly, because I don’t love the finished dress.  I finished it in early June for 2015, and could never quite write this post.  Partially, I was really busy that summer, painting our house.  Partially, I wasn’t very pleased with the finished dress.  Oh, it fits, and it looks nice, and I enjoy wearing it, but I have never had a dress fight me the way this one did before.  Every step of construction, I had to fix things, change things, or I made really stupid mistakes.

First off, I put off learning how to draft my own historical slopers (pattern bases made to your measurements) in favor of the Past Patterns Day Dress Pattern shown above.  While I usually love Past Patterns, I must say I do not recommend this pattern.  I do not.  There is a lot wrong with it, in terms of seams, and I had to change a lot.

Then, I looked and looked and couldn’t find a single original one-piece day dress with a point in the center front waist.  So that had to be whacked off straight.  Then the darts were not in the right place.  Also, the armscyes were weird (never fixed that, because I didn’t realize just how weird they were until the sleeves were on), and the neckline was too high in front and too low in back.  (So now after finishing the dress, I had to recut the neckline in front and make a new collar, and isn’t that just a fantastic thing to have to do?)  Then, the skirt should not be a gathered skirt in the 1890’s (or really in the 1880’s either), so I had to draft my own gored skirt to use instead.  It really looks lovely on the envelope, but it’s a bad choice.

That was basically the cutting out bit.  When I was sewing it together, pieces didn’t match quite right, and then I put my back skirt panels in wrong, and wondered why I had so much extra fabric… and cut the excess off.  Oooops.  I didn’t have enough to cut two more back panels out, so I had to piece things in at the top of the back panels, hoping most of the piecing would be hidden by the pleats.  Le sigh.  I did put in a dog-leg closure for the skirt, and it lays very nicely, and the hem has a facing of the same fabric as the dress.  I didn’t have any cotton in an acceptable print for a contrast facing, as was most common.

 

But, I persevered and got it done, and I’ve worn it at Stuhr Museum quite a few times!  (And it has two huge pockets right under the back skirt panels, so at least that is a win!)

In the Milisen House at Stuhr Museum

In the Milisen House at Stuhr Museum

Better Photo, at Costume College

Better Photo, at Costume College

Back of 1890's Dress

Back of 1890’s Dress

I should note that I actually hand-sewed all of the buttonholes on the bodice.  In one evening.  I feel so accomplished still.

So there’s my 1890’s Day Dress.  Very simple looking, very horrible to put together, but very fun to wear, at least now I’ve fixed the collar.

As usual, questions are welcome!

Published in: on October 1, 2016 at 7:21 pm  Comments (6)  
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Ageless Patterns 1889 Cooking Apron

Ageless Patterns 1767

1899 Cooking Apron from Ageless Patterns

Last Christmas time, Kay at Stuhr Museum lent me this apron pattern.  I had just made a white apron from the National Garment cutter, and she thought I should make another apron for wear at Stuhr.

Who doesn’t need another apron?  Really.  Aprons are pretty necessary when you’re in the past.

So I held onto it for a while, waiting for the right fabric to show up, because cambric, much less figured cambric, isn’t really available anymore.  Around January, I bought some Civil War print calico from my friend Christine, and she included a two yard piece of some fantastic dark blue and white print that would be appropriate for the 1890’s.  I didn’t even think of putting the two together until late March.  Silly me.  As you can see, the description of the original apron says “Figured Cambric with a Navy Blue Ground is the material of which this apron is made.  The edges are piped with Red…”

Once I finally decided the fabric should become the apron, I had a bit of a problem.  The pattern calls for 3 1/2 yards of 32″ wide fabric, and I had two yards of 45″.  I decided the only way to make it work was to cut it on the cross grain, which is not recommended.  (That makes the garment less likely to wear well.)  But I did it.  And, it ended up about 6″ shorter than I would have liked.  I had to cut the flounce for the bottom mostly in extremely short sections, but I got it all!

Leftover Fabric Pieces

This is all the fabric that was left.

So, the front of the bib has a little section that is piped, which also makes the front a bit stiffer.  I learned that one should wait until you attach the shoulder straps to pipe the top edge.

1889 Cooking Apron

Piped Front Section

The pattern calls for this bit to be embroidered as well, but I decided this was really enough.

The rest of the apron went together fairly smoothly, but I’ll mention a few key bits:

Like most patterns from Ageless Patterns, there isn’t a lot of instructions. There’s just one size, not specified, which seems to be about mine. (34″ bust, 26″ waist. ) I made my apron shorter than I would have liked, due to fabric restrictions.

The amount of piping required is not specified either. I think I used about 8-9 yards, which is a lot. I had to make more several times because I kept underestimating how much I really needed.

The pattern pieces go together well, but judging by how they do, I think you could take off the 5/8″ seam allowance and sew the pieces together with a 1/2″ seam allowance and be fine. Coincidentally, this makes the pieces fit within the original specification for fabric width. (32″).

The front panel of the apron is gathered.  This is achieved by sewing a casing on the inside with two channels, and running tapes through and tying them at each end.  This makes the front very adjustable, so this apron might be a good bet for maternity or for wear by different people IF you also add extra buttonholes to the belt.  My belt is maxed out.  I gave it a buttonhole, but mostly because I was supposed to.

1889 Cooking Apron

Gathers on Inside

1889 Cooking Apron

Front of Belt. I really like little china buttons.

I used little china buttons with pie crust edges for my apron, because I like them, and a while back I got a pile of them for cheap on Etsy.  I need to look for some a little large though, for aprons and such.

The side seam, which you should align with the side middle of the belt, is the seam where the back panels of the skirt attach to the rest of the apron.  NOT the vertical darts which appear to be side seams on the main front piece.  If you sew the apron with the dart aligned as side seam, the whole thing pulls funny around the hips.  I had to take it apart and redo.

1889 Cooking Apron

The whole apron from the front, before buttons. Fun little gathered pocket!

1889 Cooking Apron Back

This was figuring out the straps before doing buttonholes and buttons.

1889 Cooking Apron Back Closure

Lots of china buttons.

Overall, this is a good apron pattern, even if all the piping is a bit fussy.  8/10, would make again.  (But would probably make the yet-unreviewed Garment Cutter apron first– it gets a 9.)

Thanks for reading, and as always, let me know if you have any questions!

Published in: on April 23, 2016 at 12:58 pm  Comments (2)  
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An 1869-1870 Work Dress

Some time ago, I was asked to help at Rock Creek Station for the Oregon Trail Day that is put on for 4th graders studying Nebraska History.  Rock Creek Station is a place where there was a bridge over a river for travelers on the Oregon trail, was a Pony Express Station for a time, a stage coach station for a while, and of course, where Wild Bill Hickok killed his first man.

I did not have a dress both appropriate to the era of the Oregon Trail and suitable for working outside demonstrating spinning and weaving, so I decided to make one.  (Both of the dresses I have appropriate for the range of years the Oregon Trail was in use are fancy.)  My friend Marna very kindly drafted a pattern for me off an original dress she had, and I proceeded to scale it up to my size (the original wearer was very short– maybe 4’8″), and adjust it to fit.  I also ordered in a dark calico with a bright paisley pattern appropriate to the 1860’s.  I decided to go with a more 1860’s aesthetic over all, rather than 1870’s, so I would be able to wear it at Stuhr Museum in the 1860’s cabin as well.

Basically, I sewed it with Victorian speed sewing techniques– which you’ll have to take my word for, because I didn’t really take pictures as I went.  The neck, sleeves, and cuffs are piped, and the cuffs are sewn in such a way that the facing flips to the outside, finishing the edge and making a decorative band all at once.  The flounce on the skirt is sewn with a bias band on the outside, machine stitched down, finishing the seam and creating reinforcement all at once.  The hem is machine done– pretty much everything but the neckline facing and hooks and eyes are done by machine.  This is how the original was done– as soon as our ancestors had sewing machines, they used them as much as they could!

1860's Dress Collar

The Collar

Oh yeah– I made a bonnet too.  It’s appropriately historically awful, but a real wonderful thing to have on your head in the sun.  Verdict: these may look rather horrible, but they need to come back.  This one is corded in bands, and then starched within an inch of its life.  Starch is an absolute must.

The Ugly 1860's Corded Bonnet

The Ugly Bonnet

I didn’t get many pictures when I was at Rock Creek Station back in September, but I did go out with my husband later and get some really good photos at the park.

All Ready for Work, 1860's Dress

All Ready for Work

But I'm Reading Tennyson Instead

But I’m Reading Tennyson Instead

I wore my sontag too, for pictures, and a plain pleated apron.  The apron has a good deal of grime already worn into the bottom of the hem.

I picked Tennyson’s Poems to carry as a prop because I read a book in high school about a pioneer girl in Nebraska, and she memorized a poem by Tennyson– “The Eagle”.  It seemed appropriate.

Oh, Tennyson. . . 1860's Work Dress

Oh, Tennyson. . .

I'm reading about Lady Claire, I think. 1860's Work Dress

I’m reading about Lady Claire, I think.

A Good Close Shot to Show the Pleats

A Good Close Shot to Show the Pleats

Relaxing in the Leaves

Relaxing in the Leaves

Side View, 1860's Work Dress

Side View

Back View, 1860's Work Dress

Back View

This is where I pause to enumerate my historical undies, because almost none of them are correct for this time, but I made it work.  1860’s Chemise and Drawers, 1890’s Corded Corset, 1840’s Bustle Pad, 1840’s starched petticoats.  I really long for a small hoop, after my day at Rock Creek.

The Park is Alive, With the Sound of Music!

The Park is Alive, With the Sound of Music!

Running Through the Greenwood

Running Through the Greenwood

My dear husband had me running and running all over to get a good shot of me running.  I usually look ridiculous when I run.  I am just not a runner.  But I like this shot.  It shows how much mobility you do have in a corset and long skirt.

It just so happened that this fit into the Heirlooms and Heritage Challenge for The Historical Sew Monthly, so here are the details!

What the item is: Late 1860’s Work Dress

The Challenge: Heirlooms and Heritage

Pattern: Drafted off an original in the collection of Marna Davis, greatly enlarged because the original was for a tiny lady.

Year: 1868-ish.

Fabric: 7 yards of cotton calico.

Notions: Thread, hooks and eyes.

How historically accurate is it? I did everything the way the original was made. This is probably 95%, accounting for fabric made in a modern way.

Hours to complete: 20

First worn: For an Oregon Trail day at Rock Creek Station, doing spinning and weaving demos for fourth graders.

Total cost: $36 for fabric, $5 for hooks and eyes. $41 total.

This is a heritage piece because Rock Creek Station and the Oregon Trail are a big part of my state’s (Nebraska) history. Also, my dad’s ancestors came to Nebraska in the 1850’s, so it is possible one of them might have worn such a dress.

And for the bonnet, which fit under the Brown Challenge:

What the item is: Corded Bonnet

The Challenge: Brown

Fabric: 100% cotton fabric, 1 yard

Pattern: The Godey’s 1850’s corded bonnet pattern, plus tips from the Sewing Academy and my own alterations from pictures of originals of the 1860’s.

Year: 1860’s

Notions: Thread, twill tape, starch.

How historically accurate is it? 85% I don’t know. It’s the right shape, but the fabric is a little iffy. But it was $3 a yard at Walmart so. . .

Hours to complete: Five. There is lots of cording. Then it took 7 hours to dry after starching.

First worn: For an Oregon Trail day at Rock Creek Station, at which I taught fourth graders about spinning and weaving.

Total cost: $6, if I bought it all for project. Some was stash.

Running Towards the Camera

Running Towards the Camera

Thanks for reading, and as always, let me know if you have any questions!

 

A Psychadelic Viking Tunic

I am so far behind on blogging.  My husband and I closed on our house on May 7th, and we’ve been painting ever since.  I just got back from Costume College, and while I promise I’ll have a post on that soon, I feel like I need to wrap up my loose ends on my Historical Sew Monthly projects.  So without further ado, here is the Birka Viking Tunic I made for my husband!

Birka Viking Tunic

Birka Viking Tunic

And here are the Historical Sew Monthly Facts!

What the item is (and how it is a product of war or a lengthy period of peace): A Viking Tunic and Undertunic from the Swedish Trading Island of Birka. The Viking Age is often regarded as an era of war and conflict, but in the eastern Viking world, it was a time of peace and trading. Viking Traders often travelled to Constantinople to trade furs for silks and other goods. Many varied items from many cultures have been found at Birka, including Chinese silk, a Bhuddha figure, Christian crosses, and a ring with an Arabic inscription.

The Challenge: April: War and Peace.

Fabric: Overtunic: 100% linen in a pink and green herringbone. Undertunic: 100% linen.

Pattern: Widely accepted theorized Birka Tunic pattern, based on grave finds.

Year: 900’s.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate is it? Well, it is dyed linen. There are some finds of dyed linen from the Viking Age, but linen doesn’t survive well in graves. I know it is possible to get these colors on linen using Viking Age dyes, but it would be extremely expensive. As this is a tunic for a wealthy trader, I think that is acceptable. Really, I used the pink and green herringbone because WHO COULD PASS THAT UP? The cut is definitely right with what we know. About 70%.

Hours to complete: I cut this out last fall. Really only about 5 though. It still needs trim but I’m calling it wearable right now.

First worn: For pictures.

Total cost: $40? Ish? Can’t recall what the herringbone cost but it was not terribly expensive.

And here are a few other pictures.  I don’t have any construction pictures of this one because I didn’t think to take any.

Side View

Side View

He Made that Seax

He Made that Seax

Isn’t that a pretty seax?  He made it.  My husband is so talented!

Birka Pouch

Birka Pouch

He made that pouch too.  He’s very artistic.

So there you have it!  I just really love this fabric.  I have an apron dress made of the same fabric that I need to finish weaving trim for.  Hopefully I’ll get that done before Hostfest this year.  I’m currently working on some really complicated wool trim in pink and green for this tunic which should be done by then as well.

Published in: on August 5, 2015 at 6:51 pm  Comments (2)  

An 1840’s Summer Dress

This year, as I have told you before, I am participating in the Historical Sew Monthly.  The challenge for March was “Stashbusting”, meaning you had to use ONLY items from your stash.  I took that to mean items which I have had for a year or more.  Right away, I knew what I wanted to make!

Last year, I was at Hancock Fabrics getting some muslin or something, and as is my habit I was browsing the economy fabric section when a bolt of fabric caught my eye.  100% cotton in a charming print that just looked like it stepped out of the 1840’s, only $3 a yard regular price!  To make things even better, I had a coupon for 50% off any piece of fabric at regular price!  So I went home with 8 yards and only a vague idea of an 1840’s dress.

I commenced to research, and after a long stint of gazing at original dresses on Pinterest and comparing them to original patterns, I bought the Laughing Moon 114 Mercantile Fan Front Dress pattern.  I had everything together and I had a plan!  Except then we moved, and life got really busy, and the fabric just sat on my shelf, and waited.

Fabric and a Pattern

Fabric and a Pattern

So when I heard the challenge for March was “Stashbusting”, I knew I had to pull that fabric out and start that dress

But first I had to find that ONE dress that inspired me, that I wanted to take cues from and design features from to make the perfect dress,

Original 1840's Dress

Original 1840’s Dress

This dress, in a private collection and pictured on an auction site, fit the bill nicely.  I loved the opening at the front neck, and the little ruffles on the mancherons.  I was less a fan of the poofy lower sleeves though.  I absolutely LOVED the flat pleating for the fan front.  It just seemed more my speed than the frilly smocking at the front of many fan front dresses.

So then I had a plan.  Now I just had to put it into effect.

First, as all good seamstresses should, I made a mockup.  I traced and cut the pattern to the size suggested on the pattern envelope, only to find it was far too large in the waist.  This is why you always make a mock-up!  I was able to take in the darts on the final lining then, and properly fit the bodice to the lining.  I also boned the darts with spiral steel boning, because I feel it is closest to whalebone, having carefully felt the flex of the real thing on an antique once before.  (Cutting out the dress was only interesting in that I had to cut the right and left bias sleeves the opposite directions.)

Fan Front in the Making

Fan Front in the Making

Pleating the fan front was far easier than I thought it would be, and it went together nicely.  You can see the beginning of the partial front opening here too.

Next step was to put the whole bodice together.  This involved far more piping then I ever thought it would.  I had to make more.  First time I’ve ever had to make more piping.  My last two dresses with piping I had feet and feet left over.  (This time I piped the shoulder seams, the armscyes, the ends of the mancherons (short sleeves) above the ruffle, the long seam on the sleeves, the neckline, and the bottom edge.)

Piping Bodice Edge

Piping Bodice Edge

To finish the seams, since the bodice fabric was applied to the lining and then sewn together, I sewed bias strips over the seams.  Not the fastest way to finish seams but definitely very neat!

Finishing Seams

Finishing Seams

Finally, I had the bodice together, less sleeves.  Time for a fitting!

Fitting Selfie

Fitting Selfie

Yep.  Seems close!  (Actually, this picture is prior to the piping, it seems.  I tested the fit before and after, and after sleeves.)

So then, sleeves.  First step was to make the mancherons.

Mancherons!

Mancherons!

Let me take just a moment to talk about mancherons.  If you look up mancheron, you will see that it is either a sleeve used as a charge in French heraldry, or that it is an ornamental trimming on the upper part of a sleeve.  The latter definition more aptly applies here.  In the late 1830’s it was the style to either “band down” the great big poofiness at the tops of the puffed sleeves or to have a narrow upper sleeve connected to a poofy lower sleeve.  By the 1840’s this upper sleeve seems to have detached itself and become its own entity, known as the Mancheron.  Mancherons were a thing through much of the 1840’s, with many variations, though they were mostly (but not always) tight around the sleeve.  They were a place where one could add more lace or trim, and sometimes confined a more poofy lower sleeve.

I decided to add a little ruffle and more piping to mine, like in the original dress that inspired me, but I decided against the zig-zag lower edge.  I lined my mancherons with white muslin to enclose the piping and ruffle edge, and everything looked nice!

Now the actual sleeves.  I basted down the piping, and sewed my seams with the recommended seam allowance, and WOW!  They were way too big and just not flattering!  So I pinned them on my arm to get an idea for the tightness and took them way in, and WOW!  They were just too tight!  (I was doing this to just one sleeve.  Get one side right then copy onto the other side.)  So I let out the seam a measly 1/8″ and they were just right.  (And Goldilocks smiled at the sleeves and decided to keep them for herself.)  Every adjustment on these sleeves meant ripping off the piping again too.  Of course all this adjusting meant that my sleeves were just that much smaller than the mancherons, so I basted them together, easing the mancherons to the sleeve.  Good thing they were cut on the bias!

With my sleeves assembled, I sewed them into the strangely shaped armscyes of my bodice, using a zipper foot because of the piping.  It all went together smoothly, relatively.  Time for a fitting!  Well, I had to let out the back closure just a bit because sleeves change a lot of things, but it was all good!  So now, the skirt.

First I sewed my skirt seams.

Find the Seam

Find the Seam

I used mad pattern matching skills.  I had to take a very narrow seam on the edges of the fabric, as otherwise I would have lost quite a bit of the width of my fabric.  My skirt was three panels 60 inches wide, and either I would have had a lot of seam finishing, or I could make a careful narrow seam.  As the fabric had a very firm but not bulky woven selvedge, I went with a narrow seam.  It was barely 1/4″.  (In my defense, many original dresses have very narrow skirt seams as well.)

I had been fussing a bit over how to do the pleats on the skirt. The top edge of the skirt was straight, and the pattern recommended pleating it and sewing it to the waistline of the dress.  But I wanted the pleats to fan out from the point of the bodice like in so many extant dresses.  Then, I saw a wonderful video from Historical Sewing (http://historicalsewing.com/)  in which Jennifer was explaining how she intended to get her cartridge-pleated skirt to follow the bottom edge of her 1840’s bodice. (I’m not copying her, I swear!)  (You can find her video here: https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=879267112131364&theater )  So, I followed Jennifer’s lead and pressed down the top edge of my skirt for the cartridge pleats, pressing the top fold deeper at the front where the front point was.  I measured how deep the point was below the waist line and made my fold that much deeper in the center, but the width was an exercise in “That looks about right”.  I did have the points for the side seams marked into the skirt, so I was just right, actually.

Stitching the Cartridge Pleats

Stitching the Cartridge Pleats

I ended up doing three rows of stitching for my cartridge pleats.  It took me about four evening to get them all done.

Then came the fun part– gathering up the pleats and attaching the skirt to the bodice!

Stitching Pleats Down

Stitching Pleats Down

Before I stitched the pleats down, I gathered them up, laid the skirt flat with the hem level, and held up the bodice to make sure the top edge was right– it was perfect!  So I started sewing the pleats down, one at a time.  As you can see, I made my pleats quite small and close together.  I counted and I had about 25 per inch in the back half and 20 per inch in the front half.  I had the same amount of fullness in the skirt all around, but there was more distance for the same number of pleat in the front due to the slope of the bodice point.

After stitching them down on the inside, I blind stitched every other pleat to the piping on the outside for a perfect effect.

All Stitched Down

All Stitched Down

This section took me about 5 hours, from gathering to skirt all the way on.

Now, I am a chicken, and I never hem skirts until I have them attached to my waistband because I am afraid I will make them the right length, so I measured and pressed the hem, using a different dress I knew was the right length and is worn over the same petticoats as a guide.  I laid them on the floor one on top of the other.  Simple but effective.  I opted to make this dress half an inch longer than the other dress.  At this point, it was Tuesday morning, and it was the final day of the Stashbusting challenge, so I had to hurry!  I sewed up the deep hem, sewed on hooks and made thread eyes, and finished the cuffs of the sleeves.  (They ended in little slits with hooks at the bottom so I can open them if needed and get my hand through when putting on the dress.)  As soon as my husband got home from work, I pressed the whole dress, got dressed, grabbed my handmade 1830’s-1840’s shoes and an old book for a prop, and we walked to the park to take photos!

(Let me just say here that my dear husband, Philip Patton is a wonderful photographer, and all of the photos that follow are his work and copyrighted by him.)

Perfect Hour of Sunset

Perfect Hour of Sunset

This was the first photo we took.  Up to this point, I had not seen myself in the dress, as I had put on the undergarments upstairs and the dress downstairs, where there was no mirror.  I was very pleased to see a nearly perfect 1840’s bell-shape silhouette!

Back

Back

Side

Side

I am wearing under this dress my 1830’s bloomers, my old 1840’s chemise from my first year of college (The 1830’s chemise has poofy sleeves which  won’t fit under the tight sleeves of this dress.), my old Silverado Bust Gore Corset I made when I was 16 going on 17 (still fits, but then again that is after I stopped growing), my tucked petticoat with lace, my corded petticoat, and my flounced crinoline and organdy petticoat.  No corset cover.  The bodice doesn’t really require one.

Ankles!

Ankles!

Also, my mustard stockings.  You can also see my handmade shoes in action here.

So Romantic

So Romantic

Looking at the Book

Looking at the Book

Hi!

Sigh…

I Feel Lovely

I Feel Lovely

It was the hardest thing to keep those little sections of hair over my ears.  I could hardly stand it.

Golden Light

Golden Light

Bodice Front Detail

Bodice Front Detail

Piping!

Piping!

Piping and Pleats!

Piping and Pleats!

Reading the Psalm Book

Reading the Psalm Book

This is a very sweet old Swedish Psalm Book I have, published in 1884.  (Yep, too late for this dress!)  It has in it the standard Scripture and Hymns for every Sunday of the year.  I just so happened to open it right up to the reading for Easter in this photo.

Also, these are my favorite sleeves I’ve yet done, I think.  I love everything about them!

So, as this is for the Historical Sew Monthly, I suppose I should give you the facts!

Challenge #3, Stashbusting!

What the item is: An 1840’s Summer Dress

The Challenge: Stashbusting!

Fabric: Lightweight 100% Cotton Print

Stashed for how long?: About a year.

Pattern: Laughing Moon Fan Front Dress, altered to my own liking.

Year: 1840’s.

Notions: Thread, hooks, spiral steel boning.

How historically accurate is it? I did a LOT of handsewing on this dress. A lot more than I typically do. The print I think is close enough, and I was inspired for the bodice pleats and frills on the sleeves by an original dress. I did use a machine for the long seams, though. 85-90%?

Hours to complete: Considering I spent about 5 hours on just attaching the skirt to the bodice, I don’t even want to know. I would guess 40+.

First worn: For pictures!

Total cost: Drumroll…. At $1.50 a yard for the fabric, the pattern cost more than everything else combined. $35 total. Ish.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them and answer!  Thanks for reading!

 

A Sontag, or a Historical Shawl

For the second challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly, “Blue”, I decided to knit a blue Sontag, or shawl.

Actually, I decided to knit a blue sontag, then realized it fit perfectly into the February challenge!  That’s the way it went.  Really, I had no idea what to make otherwise, other than a fuzzy idea about a blue work shirt for my husband.  I’m still working on the shirt.  (Yep, making a shirt too.  He is going to need one for blacksmithing at Stuhr Museum this summer.)

Sontag

Sontag

There is not really a definition of “Sontag” anywhere to be found, but they are generally known as a long slim shawl that overlaps in front and ties in back.  This prevents the struggle of dealing with the ends of a shawl, and keeps it in place while one is working.  Sontags are somewhat related to bosom friends but a bit more aesthetically pleasing, at least to my eye.

I of course knit mine, and chose a pattern that was no-frills and no-fuss, but still feminine and pretty.  I did not use a historical pattern, but one the same shape.  I knit my sontag from the Marianne Dashwood Shawl from Jane Austen Knits Magazine, with three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool.  (Not the most accurate choice, but it was that or buy new yarn.  I own a yarn shop.  I shouldn’t have to buy new yarn.  At least it has the right hand and look.)

Sontag Back

Sontag Back

So without further ado, here are the challenge details!

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge Blue

What the item is: A Blue Sontag

The Challenge: Blue!

Fabric: Knit from three skeins of Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Woad. (45% wool, 35% silk, 20% nylon)

Pattern: Marianne Dashwood Shawl from Jane Austen Knits

Year: 19th Century in general.

Notions: None.

How historically accurate is it? A Sontag is a historically correct type of shawl for much of the 19th century, but this is not a specific pattern from any historical time frame, rather just a pattern designed in the style of. The yarn is not right by content, but the look is just right. It looks like a homespun yarn and has the right body when knit up, and I didn’t have to order something special in. I’d say maybe 50% accuracy, giving myself points for the right shape. I hope to wear this on chilly days when I’m working at Stuhr Museum this spring and summer, and also with my brown 1830’s dress.

Hours to complete: Yikes. 30? All I know is that I spent an entire event working on it trying to finish it and couldn’t.

First worn: As a modern piece in my yarn shop. It works well with a fitted modern shirt too!

 

 

Please comment below if you have any questions!

Published in: on February 16, 2015 at 7:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Late 1880’s- Early 1890’s Corset from the Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum

This year, I am participating in The Historical Sew Monthly, formerly The Historical Sew Fortnightly.  I am going to do my best to finish each project on time and also actually blog about said projects.  So far, here is the post about the January Challenge, Foundations, still in January, the month the first challenge is due!  Huzzah!

The first challenge for the Historical Sew Monthly this year is Foundations.  I was at a bit of a loss as to what I wanted to do at first.  I mean, there are a lot of options, it’s hard to narrow one down.  Well, in the last week of December, the wonderful Marna Davis posted in the Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook group that she had found a corded work corset at the Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum (http://www.ctokmuseum.org/) where she volunteers and had drafted a pattern from it.  She believed the corset to come from the time of the famous land rush, and was willing to make the pattern available to us for a corset sew-along.  As I am hoping to work at Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer this summer in the Railroad Towne, along with my husband, I jumped on it.  I thought a corded work corset would be just the thing!

Original 1890's Corded Corset

Original 1890’s Corded Corset

The original corset is made of a fine tan cotton twill and had measurements of 30″-24″-29″, without the two inch lacing gap, or spring, in the back.  Thus it would fit someone with measurements of about 32″-26″-31″.  This was not a corset designed for tight lacing and making a super fashionable silhouette.  This was a corset designed for comfort and ease of wearing while doing one’s daily work.  Also, amazingly, I only had to slightly enlarge the bust and slightly take in the waist for the pattern to fit me.  Otherwise, I made everything to the same dimensions.  The original corset only has two steel bones, one on either side of the back by the lacing, and a steel busk.  Otherwise, all stiffening in the corset is done with rows of sewn-in cording.  When I made my corset, I used the same number of rows of cording in each section as the original, since I was almost the same size.

The first step was finding the fabric.  I managed to find a fine tan herringbone twill that fit the bill almost perfectly.  It was sturdy and had almost no stretch.  I also ordered in a separating busk and corset lacing.  (I was out of both items.)  I had some cotton yarn that was relegated for the cording, and I ordered in some safety buckles for the shoulder straps.

Then I cut it out and got to work!

Inserting the Busk

Inserting the Busk

The first step is always inserting the busk.  Awesome little antique bone awl given to me by my friend Cyndi.

Then it was on to the first set of cording.  I stitched it in with a zipper foot, one row at a time.

First Set of Cording

First Set of Cording

You can see I had a little bit of shrinkage and some fabric from the inner layer to cut off.  You can also see the waist tape I put in to avoid stretching out the waist.

Side Panel and Its Cording

Side Panel and Its Cording

I sewed the side panels on, each layer individually so the seam would be enclosed and neatly finished.  I then sewed in the eight rows of cording in the side front panel, not forgetting the stay tape.

Front Half

Front Half

Front Half is Done!

Then I started on the back.

Back Panels with Lacing Eyes

Back Panels with Lacing Eyes

First I sewed the boning channels, then inserted the grommets and the bones, and sewed in the four rows of cording on each back piece.  There was not a lot of cording shrinkage with only four rows of cording– at least not nearly as much as with eight rows.

Back Half

Back Half

I then sewed the side backs to the backs the same as with the front half.  Time for cording!

Back Half, with Cording

Back Half, with Cording

It was at this point that I realize I had forgotten the waist tape in the back half.  Phooey.  There was no way I was ripping things out at this point, so I just decided to soldier on!

Halves Together

Halves Together

I then made a flat-felled seam to sew the halves (quarters?) together, felling to the front to allow these tabs to lie flat towards the back.  “But wait!” you ask, “What are those tabs for?”  Well, the original corset has them, and they are a bit of a mystery.  I am going to use them to buckle on a skirt-supporting bum roll or very small bustle.  Even working ladies like to be somewhat fashionable!

Strap Placement Binding and Strap

Strap Placement Binding and Strap

The next step was to bind the edge of the corset where the strap attached and attach the strap.  The next step was positively evil.  I had to bind the corset with twill tape.  Now you might think you could just sew the tape on all in one fell swoop by machine, but you would think wrong.  I couldn’t manage to catch both layers of the twill tape while also catching the corset layer.  It was always just two of three.  Not always the same two of three.  If I ever do this again, I am going to stitch the twill tape onto just one side of the corset edge, and then handtack it down on the other side.

Binding

Binding

But in the end, it all looked pretty good!

Completed Corset Sans Buckles

Completed Corset Sans Buckles

In the meantime, I had received a notification that the company I had ordered the buckles from did not have those buckles anymore.  So I ordered new ones in.  It took a little longer to get them in, but I was finally able to attach them last night and put the last final touch, a narrow lace edging, on.  Yay!

But the proof is in the pudding, and no matter how good a corset looks on a sewing table, you don’t know how good it is until you have tried it on.  So this evening, we had a mini photo shoot to show how it fits and looks on a body!

Finished 1890's Work Corset

Finished 1890’s Work Corset

Front View 1890's Work Corset

Front View 1890’s Work Corset

(Um yeah, that photo is a bit dorky.)

Strap Detail

Strap Detail

Fun fact: I made that chemise in high school.  Really.  And it fits just as badly now as it did then.  The arm holes are cut way too high. I need to make a new one.

So here are my pertinent Historical Sew Monthly details!

1890’s Corded Work Corset:  A Study in Tan and Cream

The Challenge: Challenge Number 1, Foundations

Fabric: 100% cotton twill.

Pattern: Pattern drafted from original corded work corset, supplied by Marna Davis.

Year: Late 1880’s to Early 1890’s.

Notions: Steel Bones, separating busk, cotton yarn, cotton twill tape, cotton corset lacing, #00 grommets, thread, lace.

How historically accurate is it?  I’d say 98%.  I used historical sewing techniques, a pattern taken from an original, and historical fabrics.  The only majorly wrong thing is that the lace is polyester.  I could have sworn it was cotton, and it feels like cotton, but there on the spool it says “100% polyester”.

Hours to complete:  It would have been 8 if I had gotten the binding right on the first try.  As it was, 12-14.

First worn:  For photos.

Total cost:  $30, counting the value of the bones and twill tape I had in stash.

 

Questions?  Comments?  I’d love to answer them!  Just drop me a note below!  Happy sewing!

Published in: on January 29, 2015 at 9:48 pm  Comments (6)  
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