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 (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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 (5)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

A Plaid 1830 Dress!

A couple of years ago, I ordered in seven yards of silk taffeta for a dress for a customer.  It was a glorious blue and yellow plaid.  I whacked off a yard to send to them for a hat, only to be informed that they had wanted a different fabric.  Cue lots of furious rush-ordering to get the proper fabric in, and the taffeta languished on my shelf, bereft of meaning.  I offered it to several customers, with nary a taker.  None of them wanted such a loud fabric.

Then, I found this dress, made in 1830 and housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

1971.47.1ab_F

Plaid Dress

1971.47.1ab_TQL

Dress Back

Suddenly, that silk had a purpose!  It would be six months between discovering that dress and making my own, but at least I had a plan.

Fast forward to the first week of August, 2014.  I just finished moving from Minnesota back to lovely Nebraska, and was in fact still unpacking the house and starting to get burnt out by boxes.  “Hey self,” I said to myself, “how about you make that dress you’ve been wanting to make?”  So I dug out my other 1830’s pattern, that I know fits me, and a bunch of paper and mock-up muslin, and got to work!

I took flat patterning in college.  Figuring out the pleats in the bodice was not difficult, but getting the neckline sorted was another story.  I checked, and counted, and there are nine pleats in the front, with only seven going into the shoulder, and there are five pleats in the back.  So far as I can tell, in the original the pleats are an overlay blindstitched down. Easy enough, right?  Well, for starters, I had about an hour of counting and recounting pleats on zoomed-in images before I was finally satisfied that there are different numbers of pleats on the front and back at the shoulder.  At least I don’t have to line them up, right?

Secondly, I put my brown dress on the dress form and used string to mark out a tentative neckline.  Thinking it looked good, I made markings on a copy of my pattern and started cutting.  I then made a mock-up.  WRONG.

Eeek.

Mock-up number one!

Well, my pleat technique was obviously right.  (I flat patterned that.  No draping for me!  Yes, I started taking draping in college too, but I dropped that class because my schedule was too full.  I should learn how some day…)  But the neckline was too narrow, and the pleats looked too narrow because of the angle.

So I started chopping and rotating on my pattern, til I came up with a mock-up that suited me.  I never did put it completely together, because really, what’s the point?

I have clipped a pattern piece for the lining to it for safekeeping.

Random View of my Sewing and Weaving Room with the Final Mock-up In It

(For the pleated overlay, I made pieces the shape of my finished piece, then slashed them where I wanted the pleat edges to be and spread them and taped them to a new piece of paper.  It was easy.)

(I also used my final mock-up for the lining.  Waste not, want not.)

So then it was on to cutting the fabric.  Yikes.  Cutting silk is always a little nervewracking.  Cutting plaid is plenty nervewracking, even though I can do it with the best of them.  Cutting a silk plaid that you can never get more of was worse.  But I made it through!

If you look closely at the original, the two front pieces of the bodice proper are cut, well, not on the bias, but not on grain either.  Just at a pretty angle.  Well, I can do that too!

Cutting out the Bodice

Cutting out the Bodice

I cut two of these.  Yay!

The rest of the bodice pieces went easily enough, then it was time for the sleeves!

Most of the fine ladies on The Historical Sew Fortnightly had agreed with me that the sleeves on the original dress were two pieces, but then, I found a pattern in “The Workwoman’s Guide” that looked pretty darn close. Like almost identical close.

Circle Sleeve

Circle Sleeve

The instructions in “The Workwoman’s Guide” are as follows:

THE CIRCULAR LONG SLEEVE

This takes rather more of the material than the other shapes, but it is so easily cut out, and looks so well when made up, that it is allowed a place here.

For the full size it is a perfect circle, in a square of about 15 nails.  (A nail is about 2.25 inches.)

After the circle is formed, double it in half (see Fig. 8); measure at A B a sufficient width to admit of the wrist, and slit up, in a slightly curving line, from B to C for about 4 nails, to form the arm of the sleeve.   A little of the circle, from E towards B, is then sloped off to form the hollowing.

When made up, this part E is all taken up and gathered into the shoulder strap.  It is considered to hang particularly well, falling over the tight part of the sleeve (see Fig. 7).  

This seems quite a bit easier than a two-piece sleeve to me.

So, I made a tiny sleeve to test it.  It worked!  So I cut my silk.  I was pretty trusting of this pattern.

Circle Sleeves

Circle Sleeves

Close-up of the Curved Cut

Close-up of the Curved Cut

After cutting out the waistband and the skirt (one panel, full width of fabric, 90-some inches long) and TONS of bias tape in differing sizes, I was ready to sew!

First step: lots of piping.  I made piping in two sizes and it took a while.

For the back, I just basted the curved panel on, since there would be a bias strip covering the raw edge.

Back Piece Step One

Back Piece Step One

Then I hand-tacked the bias tape down on the back pieces, covering the seam.

Bias Tape on the Back

Bias Tape on the Back

Most dresses of this time frame seem to have piping on the back, but this one had a bias strip.  It makes sense, actually.

Then I pleated and tacked down the back pleats.

Back Pleats

Back Pleats

Then I sewed together the front pieces and made the pleated overlay for the front.  I sprayed my silk with a mixture of water and white vinegar to set the pleats and it worked like a charm!

Pleated Overlay

Pleated Overlay

Here you can see how well the front seam matches.  The front seam that will never be seen.

Matching Front Seam

Matching Front Seam

From this point on, I have only two construction photos, but I will still explain my process.

I sewed all bodice pieces together and did a preliminary fitting to check the neckline.  So far, so good.

Bodice Fitting

Bodice Fitting

I think I bound the top edge with piping and bias tape at this point, before I did the sleeves.  Of course, I also put piping around the armscyes.

Then I pleated and repleated and repleated the sleeves until they fit the armscyes.  Literally, I pleated them about six times.  And even though the sleeves were equal size and the armholes were equal sized and I was measuring pleats, one sleeve had to be tweaked a bit to make it fit right.  Not that you can tell from the outside.

Bodice with Sleeves

Bodice with Sleeves

See?  The bodice is all finished except for the ends of the sleeves and the hooks and eyes up the back.

After this, I hand-finished the cuffs with a narrow rolled hem and added hooks and thread eyes to close them.

Then, I made a wide waistband with large piping on each side.  I attached it to the bodice, then pleated the skirt to fit the waistband.  (I handfinished the placket and hand felled the skirt seam first.)

Then I gave the skirt a great deep hem.  I think it was 8″ .  No facing, just a deep hem.  That’s what the original seemed to have.

The last thing was the hooks and thread eyes all down the back.

Then I was done!

Of course, then I had to get all dressed up, and my husband and I went down to the park for some photos.  I brought my 1830’s shoes with me intending to wear them for the pictures, but it was pretty damp so I never did put them on,  I just held them while wearing my modern business heels.  Tee-hee.

 

1830's Dress

1830’s Dress

I really should have made the back closure a little tighter.  If I ever wear it again, I’ll add new thread eyes further in.  It kept slipping off my shoulders and slipping down.  Ooops.

1830's Dress

Back

1830's Dress

I’m holding my shoes!

Actually, holding my shoes gives a pretty good effect.

1830's Dress

Look, I have shoes that I’m not wearing!

1830's Dress

Droopy Hair

Fun fact:  I actually spent a great deal of time on my hair.  I had perfect ringlets, but as it was August in Nebraska, they fell out right away.  That was before I knew about curl papers.  Phooey.

1830's Dress

Back Detail. There is much piping!

 

1830's Dress

Happy That It’s Done!  Sad That My Hair Drooped!

The next day, after these photos were taken, I brought this dress to the Nebraska State Fair.  There I won Best in Division, Best in Show, and Best Sewn Garment!  (Lots of prizes!)  My 1830’s work dress which I have yet to show you won best garment of quilting cotton too!

Thanks for reading about my 1830’s dress, and please ask if you have any questions!

Published in: on December 4, 2014 at 10:21 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

The Making of a Pair of 1830’s Shoes

As you may know, I have been making an 1830’s dress, complete with all the undergarments, for the past few months.  I’ve had a few stalls and delays along the way, but it is all done!  I will tell you all about the dress once I have pictures of it in all it’s glory, along with the pictures of all the completed undergarments.  Wheee!!!

But first, shoes!  You can’t have a full historical costume without shoes, and quite frankly, 1830’s shoes are really darn hard to find.  I looked high and low for some shoes that would work, but all the flats available right now are either pointy-toed or extremely expensive for a shoe that still isn’t what I’m looking for.  So, last fall, I got some lightweight dark brown lambskin, since I couldn’t find kid leather at my local Tandy Leather.  It sat in my sewing room, with my fabric stash, for many months, because I just wasn’t quite brave enough to cut into it, and didn’t have a pattern.

Enter this wonderful little book:

Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker

Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker

“Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker” was written in 1856 by an anonymous lady, and details how to make your own shoes.  It contains several different styles– high boots, gaiters, and low cloth shoes.  None of them have heels, and all are made as “turn shoes”, or shoes that are sewn together inside out and turned right side out– rather like medieval shoes.  I had made a couple of pairs of Viking Shoes before, so I thought, “How hard can this be?”

The first step was to fit the pattern to my foot.  Yes, the book has a variety of sizes of patterns, but none were exactly the right size for me.

First Shoe Pattern Attempt

First Shoe Pattern Attempt

The first attempt fit, kinda, but had a few issues.  The sole was too narrow, and the upper had to be folded into pleats at the toe to fit.

Second Shoe Pattern Attempt

Second Shoe Pattern Attempt

The second one, the upper was still just a bit too large (apparently a 1/4″ seam allowance is given in the patterns in the book), but the sole was the right side, and there was no need to gather in the toe.  Yay!  I had a workable pattern!

So it was on to cutting the lining!

The Lining is Cut Out

The Lining is Cut Out

 

I cut the lining out of teal linen, and the interlining out of unbleached linen canvas.  I treated them as one layer when sewing them together.  So far, so good!

The Uppers are Cut Out

The Uppers are Cut Out

 

I then cut the lambskin uppers out.   The leather was a bit wrinkly and wavy– so it was difficult to cut out nice pieces without being wasteful.  But I did it!

Uppers Together!

Uppers Together!

 

I then stitched the uppers together (with my sewing machine and a leather needle), and bound the top edges with a grosgrain ribbon.  The book asks for galloon, but quite frankly, I don’t know what that is.  The dictionary describes it as a type of woven trim or edging, but isn’t specific.  I suppose grosgrain counts as a woven edge and trim?  As a side note, you will need at least 1/2″ grosgrain for this.  3/8″ simply will not do.  Also, if I had to do it over, I would definitely take the time to handstitch the grosgrain all around, as the machine stitching was messy, and it was difficult to keep all the layers corralled and lined up correctly.  Don’t make my mistakes!

Soles and Heel Stiffening Cut Out!

Soles and Heel Stiffening Cut Out!

The next step was to cut out the sole.  I used some lightweight veggie tanned leather, but it beats me what weight it was.  My dear husband got it for me at Tandy while I was working on the uppers.  (Then he came home and made me Swedish Pancakes for brunch!  Best Saturday EVER!)  It’s sturdy enough it will work for my soles, but not so stiff it would be impossible to work with.  These are not left or right specific soles.  Lefts and rights were known by the time this book was written in the 1830’s, but because of the way lasts were made in the 1830’s, shoes were non-specific to left or right.  However, because leather stretches, shoes would become left and right specific after they were worn.  In addition, some shoes had lacing or other decoration on one side or another, they would of course be made symmetrically and thus be specific left-rights.  Confused yet?  Good.

After all that, I was ready to punch all the holes for sewing the soles to the uppers!  But wait!  My dear husband actually punch all those tiny little holes for me with my awl, because I was helping a friend of his to cut out a Viking tunic.  Win-win.  Basically, I wet each sole down, and scored a line where I wanted the holes punched on the flesh side of the leather, then Philip laid the soles on an old board punched all the holes for me!  With a hammer!  Yay!    I also took a skiver to the edges of the heel stiffenings, so I wouldn’t have ridges that might rub against my foot.  That part wasn’t called for in the book, but it was mentioned in another shoe tutorial I read, and seemed like a good idea.

Sewing the Sole to the Upper

Sewing the Sole to the Upper

The next step was to sew the soles to the uppers.  Really, this was a lot bigger ordeal than I anticipated.  It easily took me two hours per shoe, and I could only do one shoe at a time.  I sew a lot.  I had the right glover’s needles with the sharp points that prick right through leather.  I had pre-punched holes.  It still took a lot of oomph and a lot of time.  Oh, what I wouldn’t do for my leather sewing machine to be in the same place as I am!  (I can sew through kid, lamb, or buckskin with my regular sewing machine, but not through sole leather!)

Almost Around the Shoe

Almost Around the Shoe

I do have to say, though– these little clips were just the thing for sewing leather.  I was able to completely match up the shoe all around, at least once I had stitched the back with the heel stiffening, and make sure I didn’t end up with a crooked shoe or anything weird like that.  I couldn’t use these clips in the back by the heel stiffener, but I treated that like a collar, and matched up the center, then sewed from the center out on both sides.  Easy as pie.

This was also about the point I realized that my lining seemed to have grown, and was larger than the lamb!  No fix for that now– onwards and upwards!

It's Together!

It’s Together!

Now the next step, I don’t have any pictures of.  I just don’t trust myself with Philip’s camera near water.  His camera costs much more than my first car.  Basically, you have to wet down the sole, and then turn the shoe right side out.  It’s important to get the leather wet, or it can crack as you turn it.  So I took a sponge, and started to paint water on with my sponge until my hand inside the shoe was wet.  Then it was turning time!

Hammering the Seam Flat

Hammering the Seam Flat

But wait!  First, you should hammer the seam flat, all around, in the direction the seam will be folded when the shoe is turned.  This is best done wet, and makes the shoe a lot more comfortable.

It's a Finished Shoe!  --Almost.

It’s a Finished Shoe! –Almost.

Here you see my first shoe, which later became my right shoe, all turned right side out.  But it is not done yet!  First, I had to repeat that whole sewing and turning process with the second sole.  Then I fixed the grosgrain ribbon around the top edge, and sewed on two little ties at the little front slit.  It looked weird just open, and didn’t fit as well as with it closed.   I also glued in an insole of the same teal linen with rubber cement– such insoles are important according to the shoemaking book to prevent the sweat and oils of your foot from showing through to the outside of your sole!

Finished Shoes!

Finished Shoes!

This picture was taken by my husband.  Here we have my 1830’s shoes, next to my little Swedish girl and my husband’s York Viking Chess Piece.  I’m really not sure why they were included, but it looks like they are considering conquering my shoes.

The little shoemaking book recommends blacking the edges of your soles with ink, which I may do.  It would make a nicer appearance and not show the edges of the sole.  However, I don’t have any black ink right now, and I’m a little worried of it bleeding and coming off on things in damp weather.

In conclusion, by the time I bought all the materials and book and spent 10 hours making a pair of shoes, I don’t think I saved any money at all over, say, buying a pair of shoes from American Duchess.  However, I still have enough material for about… 6 more pairs of shoes.  At least.  Especially if I make the uppers of different materials.  (They can be made of silk and heavy canvas, or linen, or cotton, or all sorts of things, and sewn to a leather sole!)  Also, I got to make them all by myself, all for myself, and being as I am, all about the process, I greatly enjoyed it.

This project was partially inspired by The Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge “Tops and Toes”.  (But I got it done almost a week late.)  Here’s the challenge details:

The Challenge: Tops and Toes!
Fabric: Lambskin, shoe sole leather, linen, and polyester ribbon.
Pattern: The cloth shoe pattern from “Every Lady Her Own Shoemaker”, altered and adjusted to fit my own feet.
Year: Mid-late 1830’s
Notions: Heavy-duty waxed thread, rubber cement.
How historically accurate is it? I would say about 80%. The style is right, they look right, they should be made of kidskin instead, probably. Lambskin was a mistake. Don’t think you can use it like I did and be fine!
Hours to complete: 11.
First worn: Haven’t been worn to an event yet.
Total cost: Well, the lamb skin was $20 and the sole leather was “I’m-not-sure”. (Hubby picked it up for me.) Plus I had to buy the book. BUT, I probably have enough left over for about 4-6 more pairs of shoes. I probably actually used about $20 worth of materials, tops. 

 

If you have questions, put them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer!

 

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 7:58 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Kelsey and Philip’s Amazing Swedish Adventure!

We’re going to folk school in Sweden for a year.  We will be attending Sätergläntan Folk School in Dalarna, where Philip will be studying blacksmithing and woodworking and I will be studying weaving and spinning.  We decided now would be a good time, as we don’t have children yet and are still young.  When we come back, we hope to open a folk school of our own, where we will have classes and workshops on traditional Scandinavian skills and crafts and dancing.  Of course, we plan to stop in Norway on the way to Sweden to visit Philip’s relatives and attend some dance events.  (I might possibly get a chance to work in a bunad shop for a week too!)

Now for the answers to the questions I know you’re asking:

Yes, this is real.

No, we don’t have all the plans made yet.

No, we don’t have our visa/all our funding/plans yet.  It’s a work in progress.  We just decided this at the end of November.  We haven’t even gotten our official acceptance to the school yet.

Yes, we are applying for grants and scholarships galore.

Yes, we are working on the Swedish language.

Even though we are saving as much money as we can, and applying for grants and scholarships, we may still need more money.  If you feel like helping us, we have a GoFundMe page set up to raise money for our trip.  Depending on how much money you give us, there are different awesome thank-you gifts like bone dice, drinking horns, and gift cards to my store!

Oh, and if you donate a lot, I’ll handknit you a pair of socks.   :)

The link is here:  http://www.gofundme.com/637l3o

If you want to donate to our cause and help our dreams come true, we would greatly appreciate it.  If you want to donate and don’t want to go through GoFundMe, just shoot me an e-mail at kelsey dot seamstress at yahoo dot com.   You’ll still get the same thank-you gifts.

Philip and Me at the Nordic Ball 2013

Philip and Me at the Nordic Ball 2013

If you can’t give us any money, we would still greatly appreciate your prayers and well wishes!  Thanks so much!  Tack så mycket!

 

Published in: on February 5, 2014 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

The Beginnings of an 1830’s Dress

A Lovely Dress from the 1830's

A Lovely Dress from the 1830’s

About a month and a half ago, in a moment of sheer madness, I decided I was going to sew another big costume.  A big costume, like my 1886 dress I made when I was 16, or my first Civil War Dress.  Maybe it was because I realized I was making far too many dresses for customers without making any for myself.  Maybe it was all the wonderful inspiration from the lovely people participating in the Historical Sew Fortnightly who were churning out lovely costumes left and right.  Maybe it was because I still have several eras I haven’t sewn dresses from.  (A friend in high school once suggested I sew a full costume for every decade of the 19th century.  I’ve still got a ways to go on that.)  Maybe it was because a friend of mine lent me a pattern for an 1830’s dress.

How’er it was, I reignited my secret love for the costumes of the 1830’s, watched “The Young Victoria” several times, read a lot of blog posts,  started doing a lot of research, and started collecting 1830’s pins on Pinterest like nobody’s business.

The first thing I had to do was pick out fabric (to keep me motivated) and make all of the undergarments.  Because, of course, you have to make all the undergarments so you can take measurements and make the dress to fit when you are done.  (Did I do this with most of my previous historical costumes?  No…  I just laced the corsets tight and hoped.  It worked most of the time.)

Does this look like old lady material to you?

Material and Pattern

My friend from the Scandinavian Sewing Group, Sarah, lent me this pattern, and I, after a lot of looking at original dresses and fabric swatches, chose a brown calico.  It was on the half-off rack at the quilt store.  I may have to go back and get more, though, since I realized when I got home the pattern calls for 7 yards of fabric, and I bought 5.  Ooops.  I’m going to be sewing the dress shown on the left, and am going for a late 1830’s look.

Of course, the 1830’s not being a popular time period to sew dresses for, paling beside the popularity of Civil War and the splendor of the bustle years, I had to search a bit for the proper corset pattern.  Past Patterns makes an 1830’s corset pattern, but I didn’t find it until after I ordered the 1800-1820 pattern from The Mantua Maker, figuring I would alter it.

Reluctant to spend money on yet another corset pattern, alter it I did.  I made the bust gussets longer and added hip gussets, and it ended up looking and fitting a lot like corsets from the 1830’s.  Also, I got rid of the shoulder straps.  The 1830’s were rather transitional as far as shoulder straps go, and I decided I just didn’t need them.  I found several examples of 1830’s corsets both with and without straps, and none of the corsets in “The Young Victoria” had straps, and they were very meticulous in recreating the costumes for that movie.

Here is an original 1830’s corset, to give you an idea of how they are supposed to look and fit:

With bonus sleeve puffs!

1830’s Corset

And here is mine all done, kindly modeled for me by the lovely Sally:

With a wooden busk!  (I thought I swore these off after the 1750's dress...)

My 1830’s Corset

Corsets never fit quite right on dress forms unless the form is made for it.  I guarantee it fits me better.  Now, this corset laces up the back, as is usual, and I learned two fun things while making the lacing!

First, metal corset eyelets were invented in 1828.  No hand-sewn eyelets!

Secondly, I knew spiral lacing was used for corsets prior to the invention of the opening front corset busk, but I had never made spiral lacing.  I always heard bad things about how hard it was to do, etc.  Well, let me tell you spiral lacing is amazing!

Dress forms don't squish.

1830’s Spiral Lacing

First of all, it is MUCH faster to lace up than cross-lacing.  Second of all, you only have to put in about half as many eyelets as usual.  I love it.  My husband did agree that having a bodkin (a large blunt needle) would help tremendously in threading the cording through the eyelets.  He might even make one for me!

I did make the corset first, but I didn’t get around to taking pictures of it until after I made the chemise.  The chemise fit nicely into project #15 of The Historical Sew Fortnightly, which was back at the end of July.  How time flies!  It took me five hours to sew, and I haven’t even added lace yet,.  That is the longest a chemise has ever taken me.  (And since I made a simpler chemise literally two days before this one that only took an hour and a half, it was really a stark contrast.)

I decided to use Simplicity 9769 for this chemise, since there is a similar one from the 1830’s in the Met.

Original 1830's Chemise

Original 1830’s Chemise

The one at the Met has a ruffle around the neckline, no lace, and does not have the center front buttons that the Simplicity pattern does, so I decided to leave out the buttons.  But I decided that lace pretty much equals ruffles, so I’m going to add lace, eventually.

My 1830's Chemise

My 1830’s Chemise

The next step was making the corded petticoat, which is done, and I will tell you all about in due time (later this evening, if I can help it.)  I am really liking this era of costuming, the pieces are all so interesting and fun to make!

Published in: on September 3, 2013 at 11:16 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Pattern Review: Simplicity 9769 Civil War Bloomers

Well, I mentioned a while back I would start writing pattern reviews, so here goes the first one!  It seems fitting that out of my long list of historical patterns I’ve sewn, that the random number selector would choose a pattern from my first foray into sewing historical costumes.

Of course, the bloomers were the last thing I made for my Civil War Dress, just a couple days before the fair, but…  I got them done!

This is what the pattern envelope looks like:

Oh-la-la!

Civil War Undies Pattern!

And here is the sketch version of the same patterns, just for comparison:

I always thought this drawn lady looked so awkward and stiff.

Sketched Undies

As with most Simplicity Civil War patterns, what you see is what you get, for the most part.  The bloomers call for 2 1/4 yards of 45″ wide fabric, (I used quilting muslin.) and eyelet lace, beading, and ribbon.  I used pre-ruffled eyelet, because that it what was easily available at Walmart at the time.  (Yes, this was ten years ago when most Walmarts still sold fabric.)  I finished them off with the beading and peach satin ribbon, which matched the beading and eyelet on the petticoat that went with this dress.   Since then, I haven’t used beading or eyelet on a single one of my costumes, not for any real reason, it was easy to do, I just haven’t felt the need to.  (I’m also not convinced of its authenticity.)

Here are my finished bloomers, with a bonus chemise!

Meet Sally.  She's a bit of a dummy since she lost her head.

1861 Bloomers

The pattern went together really easily– I remember no problems or frustrations.  The fourteen-year-old me giggled and giggled while sewing because, of course, the bloomers are bottomless, just as bloomers from the Victorian Age should be.  (Imagine trying to fish the waistband of your bloomers out from under your corset to use the facilities and the open crotch suddenly makes far more sense.)  It’s got a drawstring in the back half of the waist, which makes adjusting to fit easy while leaving the front yoke smooth and nice.

I’ve made several pairs of bloomers from the same pattern since, for various customers, and it’s my go-to pattern for bloomers.

I give this pattern 5 stars, and recommend it even for advanced beginner sewers.

Published in: on August 30, 2013 at 10:08 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

Six Flags Ignite: or “How I Sewed for 12 Hours a Day for Two Months and Survived!”

Back in February, I was contacted by the costume designer for Six Flags Chicago’s Ignite program, and asked if I could sew, oh, about 30 Victorian dresses for the first section of the performance, which was set the night of the Great Chicago fire in 1871.  Over the next few weeks, I waited with baited breath to see if this designer would get the contract, and when he did, I was finally able to start ordering in fabric and start sewing in late March!

The basic parameters were this:  The dresses needed to be “quick-change” dresses, all velcro closures, skirt and bodice, and in varying shades of cream and neutral tones, to make the wearers look like they stepped out of a sepia photograph.  They needed to have bustles built into the skirts of the dresses, and bascially reflect the styles of the 1870’s.  Once all of the casting was done, the final count was slimmed down to 21 dresses that I would have to sew, but an accident with a drunk driver (in which I could have died) close to the final deadline caused me to have to bow out on the last two, which the ladies at the costume shop at Six Flags did.  So, I sewed 19 different Victorian dresses in total.  I am going to only very briefly summarize them, because if I went into deep detail, I would most likely bore even the most avid costuming fans among you to tears.  Also, I am still waiting on the professional photos of the actresses wearing these costumes, so I only have the pictures I took in my sewing room.  Please excuse the poor lighting.

The first set of dresses I finished were for the “Vendor Girls”.  These were supposed to represent poorer working class girls selling, well, whatever vendor girls would sell on a fine summer evening in Chicago in 1871.  (And yes, everyone is fully aware that the Great Chicago Fire occurred in the fall.  It was important to the musical story line that the fire be in the summer.)

Vendor Girl Dress #1

Vendor Girl Dress #1

This is the dress for Vendor Girl #1.  It is made of off-white linen and trimmed with lace and yellow linen.   It was also the first dress I made.  I didn’t like the pattern I used for it very much, so it didn’t get used again for any of the other dresses.

Vendor Girl #2

Vendor Girl #2

This is the dress for Vendor Girl #2.  I might have gone a little bit crazy with the ruffles, but hey, it was fun!  Again, all linen.

Vendor Girl #3

Vendor Girl #3

Vendor Girl #3.  Again, very simple, 3/4 length sleeves, but this time I added buttons on top of the velcro closure and a sash, instead of ruffles or a collar.  And in the back of that sash…

Look at that bow!

Look at that bow!

I put a ginormous bow.  I used the wonderful bow making tutorial over at Historical Sewing to get me started, and let me tell you– I am now addicted to making big bows!  They are so fun and add such a wonderful pop!  Plus, they are all sewn, so they can’t come untied!  Linen dress, with a cotton sash and bow.

After the vendor girl dresses, there were the dresses for the Dance Hall Ladies.  There were supposed to be six of them, but due to the aforementioned accident, I only made five.  Here they are, in all their glory.

Dance Hall Lady #1

Dance Hall Lady #1

Dance Hall Lady #1:  This was one of the only dresses I managed to sew in only one day, cutting to finishing.  And yes, I did flatline the bodice, and finish the seams, and do my best, if my best rushed, job.  And I ruffled up about 5 yards of can-can netting for that bustle.

Dance Hall Lady #1, Back View

Dance Hall Lady #1, Back View

I adore that peplum.  I think the peplum is a far-too-often forgotten detail in Victorian clothing, but it adds just such a nice touch to this dress.

Dance Hall Lady #1, Collar Detail

Dance Hall Lady #1, Collar Detail

And the collar.  Lace!

Dance Hall Lady #2

Dance Hall Lady #2

Dance Hall Lady #2:  This dress was done on the last day of the big stretch, and was made of this material that, well, I can’t say it was my favorite.  The gold was a strange stiff grosgrain type stuff that was not much fun to sew, but did have nice body and hold its shape well, especially in the sleeves!  The green was a very thin polyester satin that was a bit slippery to sew down.

Dance Hall Lady #2, Side

Dance Hall Lady #2, Side

Sleeve Detail

Sleeve Detail

There is no netting or lining or stuffing in that sleeve.  The fabric does that on its own.  Wow!

Dance Hall Lady #3

Dance Hall Lady #3

Dance Hall Lady #3:  Again, all linen, with an apron drape on the skirt and another bodice with a peplum.  I really liked the teal striped linen, and actually have a bit leftover that might find its way into a future project.  You never know!

Dance Hall Lady #3 Side View

Dance Hall Lady #3 Side View

Dance Hall Lady #5, Side View

Dance Hall Lady #5, Side View

Dance Hall Lady #5:  Linen, white with a grey pinstripe, with lavender trim.  This dress was fun, and unusual.  It was based on an original that was all dark grey and lavender, if I remember right, and had the most unusual collar!  Of course, I had to make that collar.

Collar with Tiny Pleats

Collar with Tiny Pleats

The original also had a very strangely shaped bustle.  To add some variety, I went ahead and made that strange shaped bustle too!

The Strangest Bustle Ever

The Strangest Bustle Ever

I am really not sure I ever want to do that bustle again.

Dance Hall Lady #6

Dance Hall Lady #6

Dance Hall Lady #6:  This has got to be one of my favorite dresses.  I searched high and low for an appropriate colored lace I could use to trim this dress.  It is based on an original, but the original was dark teal satin with black lace.  Oh-la-la!  This one is the same shape, with shorter sleeves and a color change.

Back View

Back View

Two drapes over the back of the skirt, and the bodice has a tail!

Side View

Side View

Now THAT is the kind of bustle I am talking about!  I think this bustle was so successful because the fabric was light and had body, I flatlined it with netting, ruffled lots of netting to poof underneath, there were a lot of layers, and also the lace stiffened the edges.  I started with eight yards of lace, and had about… 6 inches left?

After the Dance Hall Ladies, there were the Fancy Ladies.  Three of them, in fact, and I went all out on the sumptuous fabrics and trimmings.  Everything was high fashion with these ladies!

Fancy Lady #1, Front

Fancy Lady #1, Front

Fancy Lady #1.  Rich satin, lavender brocade for the trim and drape, and of course a big bow at the waist and two smaller bows at the elbows.  This is the plainest of the three fancy lady dresses.

Fancy Lady #1, Side

Fancy Lady #1, Side

Figuring out the drape for this one was difficult.  I had a sketch that I was supposed to follow, but… it only showed the front of the dress, not how the drape was finalized in the back.  So I played until I liked it.

Fancy Lady #2

Fancy Lady #2

Fancy Lady #2.  This is the only Polonaise-style dress in the whole batch.  They take just too much darn time.  And this one had a lot of ruffles too!  And my sewing machine broke midway through.  Boo!  Then on the next dress, my ruffler foot broke.  (I can’t remember which dress that was…

Fancy Lady #2, Side View

Fancy Lady #2, Side View

See?  There are ruffles on the back of the bodice too!

Fancy Lady #3

Fancy Lady #3

Fancy Lady #3.  This was getting close to the end of the sewing rush.  This dress was made of not fewer than three fashion fabrics.  The skirt was a deep gold tucked taffeta, the bodice was a light gold satin, and the apron drape was a very soft rose charmeuse (all polyester.)

Fancy Lady #3 Side View

Fancy Lady #3 Side View

Then there were a couple of non-numbered dresses.

Mother's Dress

Mother’s Dress

The Young Mother, which had a lovely gold bodice and a cream skirt, with a ginormous bow at the neck.

Mother's Dress Side View

Mother’s Dress Side View

I Adore this Big Bow

I Adore this Big Bow

This dress was nice, to have a simpler dress for a change, right in the middle of the fancy lady dresses.  Also it is the same gold material as Dance Hall Lady #2.

Pigeon Feeder Dress

Pigeon Feeder Dress

The Pigeon Feeder.  Yep, that was her actual character name.  I wanted to make this dress quite a bit more elaborate, but it was made on the last day.  You do what you can with the time given.

Pigeon Feeder Dress, Side

Pigeon Feeder Dress, Side

It did have a nice bustle, though!  (Again, thanks to lots of ruffled netting.  I went into Hancock’s and cleaned them out, about 20 yards.  The ladies asked if that was too much, I said, probably not enough.  I used that up and bought 30 yards online.  Used all of that.  Went back to Hancock’s, bought another 20 yards… I have maybe 5 yards left right now.)

After the assorted dresses, there were the Teenage Girls and the Little Girls.  Their dresses were so fun, because they got to be super young and flirty!

Teenage Girl #1

Teenage Girl #1

Teenage Girl #1.  I made all the teenage girl dresses slightly short with a flounce at the bottom edge, to reflect the fashion of the time which had teenage girls wearing dresses shorter than adults.  Then I filled in the rest of the distance to the ground with a flounce of lace, to look like petticoats and hide their modern shoes!

Collar with Another Bow

Collar with Another Bow

I just love how sweet this bodice turned out.  It’s just lovely.

Teenage Girl #2

Teenage Girl #2

Teenage Girl #2  This dress is all linen, except for the cotton eyelet lace.

Teenage Girl #2, Side

Teenage Girl #2, Side

Teenage Girl #3

Teenage Girl #3

Teenage Girl #3.  Based on an original dress, the original was red with white trim, but I thought pink would be cute.  Also I thought that the sleeveless look could be very cute on a young girl.

Teenage Girl #3 Side View

Teenage Girl #3 Side View

I didn’t give the teenage girls very large bustles.  I thought that would be a little too adult for them.

Another Large Bow. I love making bows!

Another Large Bow. I love making bows!

We have another sash with a bow.  Bows are just adorable.

Little Girl #1

Little Girl #1

Little Girl #1.  Here I was faced with an interesting challenge.  Adult women were playing the little girls.  I needed styles that would fit an adult, but definitely look “little-girly”.  Also, I needed to reduce the bust.  I made the bodices nice and loose, and gave them full poofy skirts, with fullness all around!  And lots of bows.  This dress had six bows around the skirt edge, and a false pinafore, with bands of trim going from the sash over the shoulders and into a bow in back.

Little Girl #1, Back

Little Girl #1, Back

Lots of lace and bows are a good thing on little girl dresses!

She was so tiny the dress wouldn't close on my dress form!)

Little Girl #2

Little Girl #2.  The actress was so tiny, at 5’1″ or shorter, that the dress wouldn’t quite fit on my dress form.  The yellow around the bottom of the skirt was just on the fabric on the bolt, and was too awesome not to use!

Little Girl #2, Back

Little Girl #2, Back

Of course I gave her a bow in back…

Little Girl #2, Sleeve Detail

Little Girl #2, Sleeve Detail

And two little bows on top of the sleeves!

Little Girl #3

Little Girl #3

Little Girl #3.  For the last little girl dress, I had another conundrum.  The “little girl” was 5′ 7″!  I didn’t think I could make her very believable as a very young child, and I didn’t want to make her feel ridiculous, so I decided to go with an adolescent style.  Slightly bustled, but still short-ish, and little girly and frilly and pink.  I think I succeeded.

Little Girl #3, Side

Little Girl #3, Side

Little Girl #3, Back

Little Girl #3, Back

I actually really like how the bustling turned out.  It was cute!

So there ends my tale of sewing for Six Flags.  It was a great experience, but it will take a lot of convincing to get me to sew that many dresses on such a short deadline again.  As it was, I had to call in a friend to help on the last day of sewing!  It was very stressful, and just too many weeks of overtime sewing to really be worth it.  But, I’m finally back on my normal schedule, and able to work on my own projects on weekends and evenings again, and I would call it a success!

Thanks for reading!

Published in: on July 20, 2013 at 9:53 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

Swedish Costume from Gästrikland

Since I moved to Minnesota, I have become a member of three different Scandinavian Dance groups; the Norwegians, the Swedes, and a third group called North Star.  We mostly dance over the winter, but we do have a few summer performances as well.  I have a costume that I made this past winter that includes a dark blue wool skirt and a red wool bodice, that I wear with the old blouse and särk I made when I was thirteen and made my first folk costume, but that whole costume is just a bit too hot for summer wear.  So, I decided to make a  costume out of cotton and linen instead.

Striped Cotton

Fabric for my Folk Costume

In the 1890’s, my great-grandma Anna Andersson immigrated to America from the town of Ockelbo, in Gästrikland, Sweden.  I decided for my new summer folk costume, I decided to make something similar to what was worn in Gästrikland.  I knew that I couldn’t get the exact fabric that was specific to Anna’s town of Ockelbo, or for any town in Gästrikland, for that matter.  For starters, they are all striped wool, with very specific stripes.  I have been searching for the proper material for the Ockelbo costume for a couple of years with no luck.  So, I went to the little local fabric store and got three yards of the red with tan stripes for my dress, and one yard of the white with red stripes for the apron.

The first piece I made was the apron.  I recently got a little rigid heddle for Swedish bandweaving from Glimåkra, so I wove a six-foot tie for the apron and pleated the red and white fabric into it.

Swedish Apron

Swedish Apron

The band was woven of 16/2 Swedish linen in red and white with a pattern from an old Swedish book on bandweaving I own.

The next thing I made was the livkjol, or as that translates from Swedish, “bodice-skirt”.  It’s an old style of dress in which a sleeveless bodice is attached to the skirt.  It actually predates the folk costumes that have a bodice separate from the skirt.  There are no darts in the bodice to fit it to the waist, rather, the back pieces are cut at a sharp angle to pull the bodice waist in all the way around.  It actually does make the bodice fit well.  

After I cut the pieces for the bodice and sewed them together, I tacked the linen lining in and sewed the edges down with a hem stitch.

Hemstitching the Lining In

Hemstitching the Lining In

Lining All Sewn In

Lining All Sewn In

This is very important to prevent the lining from turning to the outside and showing while you are wearing the livkjol.

Once the bodice was done, I sewed together the skirt sections and pleated them to fit into the waistline of the bodice.  I cartridge pleated together ninety inches of material for the back half of the skirt!

The back of the bodice has a point in the top center, which is usually hidden by the neckerchief.  As near as I can tell, that fashion element must be a leftover from the 1600’s.  Of course, I’m not sure, but it’s the best guess I have.

Gästrikland Dräkt

Back Without the Neckerchief

The next piece I made was the neckerchief.  I took a large square of unbleached linen, trimmed straight along the threads, and then unraveled the the edges to make a self fringe about 5/8″ deep.

The last piece was the särk, or underdress, which I made out of half-bleached linen.  It basically looks like a Victorian nightgown, with long sleeves and a high neck and collar.  I used four antique buttons from my great-grandma Anna’s button jar for the collar and cuffs of the särk.  It is very long, almost as long as the livkjol, as was traditional.

(It is very important to note that most of the folk costume tradition in Sweden originates from the fashions of the 1830’s and 1840’s, though there are a few elements both from earlier and later in fashion history.)

All of this got done just in time for a dance performance in Peterson, Minnesota!  It was a warm day, and the costume was still a little warm to wear, but it was most definitely cooler than wearing my wool costume!  (We were dancing on asphalt in the sun– that is never very pleasant!)

After the dance, my husband, Philip, was able to take some lovely photos of my completed costume in the beautiful backyard of the lady who invited us to perform in Peterson.

Gästrikland Dräkt

Gästrikland Dräkt

(That is a very lovely spring house in the background, which has a lovely burbling spring inside it.  It was the first time I saw such a thing in real life.)

Gästrikland Dräkt

Prim and Proper

Gästrikland Dräkt

Stop to Smell the Flowers

Gästrikland Dräkt

Lovely as a Flower

Gästrikland Dräkt

Back View

Gästrikland Dräkt

My Sound of Music Moment

Gästrikland Dräkt

Spinning

The last stop in town was to take a picture by the Peterson tity sign, since my great-grandma Anna married a Peterson, so my family is the Peterson clan.

Gästrikland Dräkt

Peterson Town Sign

Thanks for reading!

Published in: on June 16, 2013 at 9:50 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers

%d bloggers like this: