Friday, January 4, 2019

Winter Riding Skirts, An Experiment

So horseback riding in the winter can be really fun and beautiful, but it can also be really physically taxing and exhausting. Even with fancy fleece breeches, my thighs often get really cold, to the point where when I shower after riding, the water hitting my feet is cold after it runs over my legs from a hot shower spigot. If I don't soak in a hot shower, I'll be chilled for hours. Not really very fun!

I'm not really sure how or when I heard about this company, but Arctic Horse out of Alaska makes all-weather riding skirts that are super cool! But they're also quite pricey, which I don't fault at all because that's definitely what they're worth in terms of materials and labor. Unfortunately, I can't shell out $300 or so for a single garment at the moment. (I spent twice that on a saddle for Duncan, but shhhh!)

Anyway, there are a few people out there that make/have made similar garments, and I figured, hey--I can do that! This is for riding astride, so it needs to split in the front and either have a split in back, or have enough fabric to cover the horse's hindquarters without bunching up or pulling the front slit open. I wanted maximum warmth factor, and a back slit seemed like it might be drafty, so I opted for a full circle. I used this website to do my math for me, and craftily got my coworker to volunteer to be my guinea pig.

Things I knew I wanted:
Decent overlap in front to prevent drafts
Maximum warmth
Adjustable fit

So first time around, I made a skirt to my coworker's measurements. It's wool coating (Fabric Mart Fabrics) with a fleece lining (JoAnn). The fabric choices are good, and the pockets worked great! I traced a pattern off an eShakti dress that I like, but I did end up setting them too low. I did my math wrong when I calculated overlap + front facing, so the overlap is bigger than I wanted, but it's also not the worst. I tried adding elastic through buttonholes in the back to make the fit adjustable, but I either would need SUPER sturdy, SUPER firm elastic to make that work, or a much less bulky selection of body fabrics. So that was a good idea in theory but not great in execution.

Pocketses! (upside down in this photo)

Super happy with how the pocket openings came out!

Cute elephant fleece lining for coworker's skirt.

Second time around, I did the math right and allowed for a wider facing in the front with a smaller overlap, and a smooth fitted back (as opposed to a bit extra for adjustability/elastic).

I also cut a separate facing following the line of the hem, so that's what the double line at the outer edge of the circle is. The skirts are cut in three pieces for each layer, with the back being a half circle and then two quarters for the front. The pockets are fleece for extra coziness, with a wool facing around the whole opening. They are set in the side seams while the pieces are all still separate, and then the skirt assembled. The lining is sewn in the same minus the pockets, and then I basted the whole shebang with wrong sides together at the waist. That way, the pockets and raw edges are completely enclosed inside the skirt.

Cute nordic print for my lining.

Instead of trying to put stretch in my waistband, I plan to put a single buttonhole on the outer closure and three buttons at separate increments to account for layering underneath the skirt. Or weight loss (I hope!) Inner closure will get a skirt hook with corresponding bars at whatever intervals will make the skirt front lay flat once the button is done up.

For coworker's skirt, I did topstitch the waistband down but decided I didn't like the look (even though my machine sewed through a billion layers of wool and fleece like a champ! I just am not used to machine top stitching in my own work and prefer a smoother look. So mine was attached by machine with right sides together, flipped to the inside, and the inner edge attached with a fell stitch.

And that's as far as I've gotten! I let both skirts hang and next will be hems. Coworker's needs the fleece trimmed and a turned (and steamed!) edge on the hem. Mine will get a facing, and I cut the fleece shorter to account for that. We'll see which goes better for me!

Once Lucie lets me have my fabric back, I'll do the hems.

Coworker's skirt hanging.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Pink Windowpane Check 1860s Day Dress

So, I took basically no photos of the making of this gown, nor did I document it...because I made it in about a week and didn't talk about it online because I wasn't sure if I'd be able to finish it or not!

Fortunately, it was a very simple dress and turned out to be perfect for the quite-warm weather we had over Memorial Day weekend this year.  The fabric is a semi-sheer cotton from Fashion Fabrics Club, and the dress is constructed with a fitted half-high lining, gathered bodice, simple coat sleeves, and a pleated skirt.  I'd love to say it's worn over perfectly period undergarments but in reality it's probably whatever chemise I could find (likely linen, regency), my Redthreaded 1860s gored corset, and cotton knit shorts, because I'm super lazy about my undies.  Sorry!  Oh, but I do have a Needle & Thread small wire hoop and two crisp cotton petticoats, so I've got that going for me.

Being so simple, the dress is really a blank canvas and the accessories do a lot to dress it up.  The belt is a length of velvet ribbon with an antique buckle from Originals by Kay, and the bonnet is a straw form from The Dressmaker's Shop.  My friend Elizabeth from That's Sew Minnesota decorated it for me and did an *amazing* job!  She used velvet millinery flowers from A Pink Swan and Timely Tresses, along with cotton net from Dharma Trading and checked ribbon from Fini Ribbon on Etsy.  The collar and cuffs are embroidered cotton lace from The Dressmaker's Shop on cotton organdy. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

Plaid Wool 1860s Day Dress

I made this dress to wear to Gettysburg Remembrance Day 2017, but then it was so cold and rainy that I got hardly any pictures of it the whole time we were there!  Fortunately it fit perfectly into my plans for Costume College, and I had a lot of fun wearing it again despite the possible pitfalls of wearing wool in July in California.  I was indoors most of the time, after all!

The gown itself went together super fast with no hiccups.  I love projects like that!  The collar and cuffs are cotton organdy with embroidered lace edging, and a velvet bow from M&J Trimming ribbon finishes things off nicely.

This is the gown where I used my modified coat sleeve hack to change up the sleeves that came with the pattern (Laughing Moon #111).  This is just one variation that you see in period sleeves--some of them are incredibly intricate!  This one was relatively simple but I love how it turned out.

Photo by Gloria from In the Long Run Designs
Featuring Samantha of The Couture Courtesan in her splendid black 1860s evening gown!

Since I didn't want to pack any bonnets for cross-country travel, I decided to make a fun, silly hair net instead.  I ordered a readymade base from Timely Tresses and decorated it with silk ribbon that I already owned, with a bow at the top and gathered loops down each side.  Again, this is on the simple side compared to some period examples but I think it gives just enough fluff to balance out a bold pattern like the big plaid.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Gold Striped Regency Gown

Photo by Gloria from In The Long Run
Like a lot of my ended-up-being-my-favorite projects, this one started mostly by accident.  I bought the fabric, a light, smooth striped cotton, several years ago from Regency Revisited, with no real plan as to what it would become.  I've offered it up for sale a few times during various periods of sewing room cleanout, but it remained stubbornly in my stash each time.

Then the V&A released this photo of a gown in their collections that previously had only had a photo of the back available. As soon as I saw those diagonal stripes on the front, I knew exactly what that fabric needed to become!

I used the Laughing Moon #126 drop-front gown pattern as a jumping-off point (which, to be fair, is how I use most patterns.)  I rotated the dart in the front bib piece so that the waist edge would be smooth and I could put a drawstring at the neck edge.  I ended up having to fudge a sleeve off a different pattern because I could NOT for the life of me find the sleeve piece in my pattern.  (I found it three months later in a perfectly sensible, obvious place, of course.)  I cut my skirt freehand and assembled everything in a period manner, ignoring the instructions almost completely.

The braided trim is extremely simple.  It's three straight-grain strips with the edges pressed under, braided together in a standard three-strand braid.  I love how it was so easy to do, but makes such an impact!

This gown's first wearing was at Jane Austen Festival in Kentucky, where it was H-O-T!  As you can see above, my enthusiasm levels were really excessive.  In all reality I had a lovely time, but it was definitely hard to feel motivated in the heat and humidity.

I also got to wear this gown at Costume College, which was much more hairdo-friendly.  I didn't bring my big bonnet to California with me, but I did add a red coral cross from Dames a la Mode to supplement the coral set that my mom helped me make.  I'm missing one bracelet in the above photo, but the set contains a necklace, earrings, and matching bracelets (and now of course a cross!)  Someday maybe I'll be able to add one of those gorgeous regency tiaras to the set, but until then, I'm super happy with how everything came out and look forward to wearing it again!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Striped Linen "Lewis & Clark" Gown from Past Patterns #031

At the William Holmes McGuffy Birthplace, Greenfield Village
For a while there it seemed like everyone and their mother had made a gown out of this pattern, and I've always loved the tiny back and unique shape of the armscye that it creates.  I also originally fell in love with this fabric from Burnley & Trowbridge, only to have it almost sell out before I could get any!  I ended up ordering a remnant and wistfully figured I could make an apron or something out of it.

Imagine my delight, then, when this lovely striped linen came back in stock!  I made sure to buy enough for a dress this time.  I deviated from the pattern a bit with the skirt--the original upon which the pattern is based had piecing and a shaped tuck in it to shorten the hem in front, but I didn't feel the need to copy that exactly.  Instead, I added three 1" tucks for decoration (and a little bit of body), and omitted any piecing.  I do want to extend the drawstring casing in the front waist--there is a LOT of linen gathered into a very small space right now and I can't actually get it as tight as I would like.  If I make the casing a little longer, the fabric will have more space and I will be able to tighten it fully.

The back of the bodice ended up being quite long on me when I made it as the pattern directed.  This final length is actually shortened--and I feel like it could still be shorter!  I already moved the skirt once, though, so I'm not terribly motivated to take it off again to move it up.  It's within the realm of acceptable which is good enough for me right now.

Fortunately if I do decide to raise the waistline, there's plenty of length in the skirt.  I certainly wouldn't want it any longer, since this is a nice sturdy dress that I can do work in!  For the event pictured, we madevarious fall-themed recipes over a fire to demonstrate historic cooking.

This is what I *actually* looked like for the whole was cold and a bit rainy, and since we were cooking I had my trusty checked apron on for almost the whole time!  But the dress served me well and I'm very happy with how it came out.  With a couple of tweaks I can see it becoming part of my regular reenacting wardrobe for a long time to come!

Friday, November 16, 2018

What I'm Working On: Larkin & Smith Gown x2

Back in 2016 I raved about the Larkin & Smith English Gown pattern, even though my first attempt ended up with some fitting issues.  They weren't super terrible, but enough that they bugged me and I sold the gown to someone presumably a little taller than I am.  Anyway, I always meant to try again, but it's only been this fall that I've finally gotten around to it.

I actually started two gowns at once, one in a luxurious maroon worsted wool from Burnley & Trowbridge, and one in a now-discontinued Williamsburg floral print cotton.

Because my last gown ended up too long in the waist because I neglected to account for the bulk of petticoats at the waist, I made both my petticoats first and did all my fittings over them.  I also took about an inch out of the bodice length right off the bat, and ended up shortening the shoulder strap as well.

My plan was to make one gown directly from the pattern, and one with a modified bodice to close in the center front.  Once I figured out the length pretty well, I cut a second muslin for my modified bodice.

Oops...cut my mockup a little too big!
Much better!!
After that, assembly is pretty straightforward!  I love the instructions, illustrations, and explanations in the pattern.  I think the back pleats are my favorite part.

Super duper glamorous fitting in the bathroom.
Then it's time to fit sleeves
Let me tell you, that is NOT easy on your own.

Then it's time for robings or shoulder straps!
I decided to add lacing to the stomacher-front gown for ease of use.  In a throwback moment to the early days of blogging and costuming online, I recalled that Jen Thompson of Festive Attyre once used lengths of ribbon to create ladder lacing on her Italian Renaissance gowns.

Jen's original idea, found on Google Images via Pinterest.
I decided that it would be quicker and more convenient to use twill tape to lace through rather than making eyelet strips and attaching them.  This also allowed me to butt the lacing right up to the edge of the bodice so that there wasn't any funky tension anywhere.  I can't document this method AT ALL (unless you count documenting it to the late 90s or early 00s as historical documentation?) so please don't think this is some great discovery of 18th century fashion.  This is just me wanting to struggle less while dressing myself in this gown!

The stomacher will pin to the bodice under the robings but over the lacing.

I think the Fitbit wristband really pulls it all together.
This is where I run out of photos, but as of this posting, I've hemmed both gowns and petticoats, finished the robings, and just have a stomacher left to make.  So close!  We'll be in Williamsburg this time next week, so A) I'd better get that stomacher done right quick! and B) I hope to take photos of the completed gowns while we're there!

Yearly post? Hope not!

Some friends and I were talking yesterday about how we missed long-format internet interaction, i.e. blogging.  I suppose I really started with LiveJournal, over a decade ago now, and I used it like an actual journal (which means my earlier entries are SUPER cringey since I was both recording my private thoughts and also a teenager...eeeek!)  But anyway, over time that platform sort of passed into the ether and blogs became the Big New Thing, but now even those have given way to Instagram and Facebook.  I love the convenience and instant engagement with both, but it's really hard to make actual *records* of things and have them be searchable afterwards.  My blog was never super popular, but at least I could go back and find my own posts on things!  I should get better at titles though.  Puns are fun but make searching archives harder!

Anyway, I've been thinking about blogging-and-or-journaling a lot lately, even before the discussion came up.  This fall I've been in a real funk and haven't felt very much like communicating at all, much less taking the time and effort to write things out--and feeling like I haven't got anything worthwhile to say anyway (thanks, depression.  You're a real pal.)  But, I really miss reading blogs and journal posts (come join us on Dreamwidth!) and the saying is something like, be the change you want to see in the world, right?  So here I am!  Blogging.  No shiny pictures or anything.  No ground-breaking, compelling research to share.  Just...trying to get some thoughts out there to knock the rust off my ol' brain.

What would you like to read about?  I've done stuff, I even have pictures...I'm just all at sea about what to post.  But I went to Jane Austen Festival in Kentucky and never said a word about that, and Costume College was really great.  My husband and I are going to Williamsburg for Thanksgiving so that would be probably fun to talk about at some point, me pick material!!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Back in the (Side) Saddle

Last November, I said goodbye to my partner in sidesaddle shenanigans, Jackson.  He had been in a health decline for a while and the winter would have been very hard on him, but it was still a hard parting.

After a year-plus off of riding aside (although not riding in general), I discovered that a different saddle from my collection fits Carter, my current lesson partner, quite well.  He practiced in it twice and then carried me around like a trooper for our barn's Halloween Fun Show!

That brief outing really kickstarted my enthusiasm again, and since then I've been thinking a lot about my next riding habit project--a "nankeen" habit for use in hot weather!

There aren't a ton of nankeen habits around, but I've found a couple of surviving ones (mostly for a small/young woman/girl) and they pop up in at least one or two fashion plates I've seen.

This 1806 plate is actually labeled as being nankeen, and I like how it's styled less formally with the open neck and colored kerchief.

This one you can't see much of but it looks like the front might be hanging open. I love the little bonnet. I can't verify the fabric on this one, it basically just says it's to be worn for riding. It's 1799; I like the idea of doing a late 90s/early 00s style, so I branched out a little in my search to see shapes from a little earlier than my usual years.

This one I love for a few reasons, number one being that horse's face. "Gettin' real sick of your shit, Mary." HA! I also really like how this seems to be a very iconic 90s shape, to my eye. That extra length and the horse make it definitely a riding dress but the rounded collar is unlike any of the other plates I've looked at. I actually feel like I've seen that neckline in other plates? But I've been staring at these plates all freakin' day and I can't tell if I'm imagining that or not. Anyone? Any ideas if there are similar lines out there somewhere?

1795 here, and the habit in back is growing on me every time I see this plate. It's got that cool transitional thing going on, with a colored waistcoat underneath and a ruffled chemisette or something instead of a shirt and stock/cravat.

This one does have the high neck and cravat thing going on and the lines look somewhat like the habit I already made, but that lower, rounded bust is really 90s and I like the buttons going up over the shoulders. 1798

This one has cool buttons too, and what looks like an easy peasy collar. 1797 on this one. The bust and waist being a little lower on this one also differentiates it from later styles.

And lastly, there's this one from Instagram:
A post shared by Fox Historic Costume (@fox_historic_costume) on

This one has really neat seam lines although I do NOT love the pleated sleeves.

So, I've got sources coming out my I just have to decide what direction I want to go!!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Modified Coat Sleeve Hack

I'm using the Laughing Moon #111 Ladies' Early 1860's Day Dress pattern as my base, which comes with a pagoda sleeve and a coat sleeve option.  I cut the coat sleeve pattern out in my size and used it as my jumping off point for a modified coat sleeve similar to this dress:
From The John Bright Collection
Be sure to click on the link for the original image page--it has a fantastic zoom function and some additional images that were absolutely vital to my noodling this process out into reality!

Lunch break proof of concept before cutting the real thing.

So the coat sleeve pattern in my size measures about 18" down the front of the arm, including seam allowances.  I measured around my wrist to find what the bottom circumference of the sleeve should be so that it would be relatively snug but still have room to slip my hand through without having to make a placket.  I came up with 9.5", then divided that in half and added 5/8" onto each edge (9.5/2 + 1.25) which gave me 6"--so each piece had to be cut six inches wide at the wrist edge.  The original sleeve front tapers a bit at the wrist, which would be easy to do--just make sure your overall circumference stays large enough for your hand.  I cut the front of the sleeve as one rectangle 6" wide and 18" long.

Sleeve pattern traced and marked where I plan to slash it.

The back of the sleeve is set smoothly to the front along the inside seam--the one that sits closest to the body when the sleeve hangs naturally from the shoulder.  So that side of the sleeve needs to be the same length as my sleeve front. 
How to add extra fullness and outside width.  Outside edge is on the right.

Traced and cut
The outside edge needs extra length to account for the pleating, so I used my base coat sleeve pattern and slashed+spread it to add extra along the outside seam, then spread it horizontally as well so that it could be pleated into the armscye.  (I traced my original pattern piece onto sturdier pattern material because I hate working with tissue.)

Pleated along one edge, smooth on the other.
Make sure you have a left and a right!  Nothing worse than realizing you've made two left sleeves...

The front piece is piped along both edges.  Then the back piece is attached along the inside edge, pleated to fit the outside edge, and sewn up into a tube.

Don't you sew in your pajamas?

Turn it right side out, et voila!  Finish the wrist edge however you like (I piped mine and finished it with a cuff) and set into your bodice as normal, pleating to fit the armscye as needed.  Congratulations; you've made an awesome modified coat sleeve!