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!

 

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 (3)  
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I Knit a Sweater!

Well, I knit two sweaters this past year.  The first one was a nice little cotton-linen number.  It was my first sweater ever.  (Yes, I’ve been knitting for ten years, and just finally knit a sweater.)

DSCN5081

Then for Christmas, I decided I wanted to knit at least some of my gifts.  This means I knit exactly one.  But, it was another sweater!!!

DSCN5575

This is my darling sister in law, Lauren, with the Fleurette Sweater I knit her.  You can find the pattern for free on Ravelry!  I knit it with a merino-bamboo-silk blend yarn in a deep magenta.

Later I’ll show you my latest nålbinding project, a pair of mittens.  Until then, it’s back to sewing!  It’s always all about the dresses here!

Published in: on January 3, 2013 at 11:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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