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!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

95th Rifles Uniform

My big project for this fall was a set of military togs for my husband, with a deadline of mid-October...which I am happy to say I met very neatly!

The trousers and tunic (aka the coat) are hand sewn from Kochan Phillips broadcloth in Bottle Green, per the uniform specifications of the Right Wing 3rd Bttn. 95th Rifles group with which we participate.  I cheated a little and used cotton thread, because I actually went and bought linen thread but the way it shredded drove me crazy.

The feathering (the white piping-look stuff) is 1/2" worsted wool tape, folded in half and sandwiched between the black broadcloth and the green lining.  The epaulet floofs (is there a technical term for those?) are made like pom-poms on a black canvas base, which was really kind of fun!

I hope he never falls into a body of water wearing this.  With all those buttons, he'd sink like a rock!

The tunic is made using Past Patterns #040:  Napoleonic Era British Foot Soldier's Jacket circa 1806-1820.  The tails are modified slightly in shape, and there are two pockets in the torso (you can see one of them--that welt right in front of and under his arm in the photo above) that are not included in the pattern.

The trousers are Laughing Moon #131, Men's Regency Trousers, with some modifications to simplify the construction--they are unlined and the fabric is very thick here, so they didn't need as many small pieces as are included in the original pattern.

It was certainly a new experience, but I'm so happy with how this turned out, and Rich assures me he is pleased with the final result, too!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Finger-Savers

Everyone who sews knows that it can be quite a perilous pastime for one's fingers.  Not only are you risking stab wounds from pins and needles alike, you also have to watch out for instances where it can be quite difficult to force a needle through many layers of fabric, or where the eye of the needle can even puncture skin as you try to push it through!  Some of us also don't really like using thimbles, or sometimes find ourselves in a situation where even a thimble can't help.  What do?!

One of my favorite tools for really tough situations like this is a pair of hemostats that I "borrowed" from my husband's hobby kit.  (He bought these for gun cleaning; I am not married to Dexter Morgan or some such thing!)

These are great for grabbing needles and really gripping them when they just don't want to cooperate.  I've used pliers before, too, but the fine tips and locking function on these really help with hand fatigue and feel way less clunky in my relatively small hands.  For less than $7 for both (and free prime shipping if you have it!), I highly recommend keeping these in your proverbial back pocket for times when you just need to give your fingers a break.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 31: Reflections

Well friends, here we are.  It's the end of August and I can happily claim that I've posted every single day this month.  That might be more than a whole year of blogging up until now!  I don't know about you, but I'm pretty happy with that.

One thing I can tell CoBloWriMo has really encouraged me to do is "just post already."  I mentioned in one of my previous posts that I tend to put things off until I'm 'ready.'  In the case of sewing, maybe that means when I feel like my skills are 'good enough,' or I've 'practiced enough' or I have a fabric that's 'right enough.'  In blogging, it's waiting until I have the right words, or good pictures, or...well, whatever.  I've really enjoyed this month of "just go do it."  It feels really good to keep accomplishing things even if they're not four thousand percent perfect.

I guess what they say is really true--perfect is the enemy of done.  Maybe when it comes to blogging the most important part for me is to just hit the post button!

I don't have a topically-appropriate photo, so have a hilarious pony picture instead!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 30: Sewing Goals

Oh lordy, so...right.  Goals.  Specifically, sewing goals.

  1. Whittle down my stash
  2. Mmm...yeah, that's pretty much it.  
I mean, I have garments I want to make and events I want to go to, but I pretty much have all the main materials to accomplish these things already in my house.  The one exception I can think of off the top of my head is some sort of substitute for nankeen, for a summer habit.  But other than that, I've got fabric coming out of my ears and inspiration up to my eyeballs.  Thanks, past self, for your excellent taste in fabric and projects!  Ready...set...go!

I don't have any sewing pics, so have a photo of the monster zucchini I grew instead!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 29: Ensemble

Okay, full disclosure: I someday hope to do a proper photo shoot of the riding habit pictured here, where I'm actually riding on an actual horse, in an actual sidesaddle.  You'd think for someone who owns five sidesaddles that this would be a no-brainer.  Unfortunately, fitting sidesaddles is a tricky business...that's a rant for another time!  Long story short: I haven't verified whether any of my saddles fit the horse I'm currently riding, and I'm not allowed to buy any more saddles until I actually own a horse.  So that might take a bit!

In any case, until then, I'm going to share the photos I do have, because this may be my favorite outfit I've ever made.

As with every new garment, I learned a ton while making it and there are things I will definitely do differently next time.  I also still want to add loops to the inside of the skirt so it can be tied up for walking, since hoisting my skirt over my arm to walk around all day got really old.

Even so, I felt like a million bucks wearing this thing, and even if I do make another (like a nankeen one for hot weather), this one is of a quality that I feel comfortable using as a part of my sidesaddle display, perhaps on a mannequin so people can look and feel without having to peer under my skirts or poke me in odd places!

Here you can see just how long the skirts are.  They're not incredibly wide, but the drape and swish is so very nice!

Honorable mentions go out to my husband, who let me borrow his shirt and cravat so I didn't have to make my own last minute, and Anna Worden Bauersmith who just happened to have this adorable straw hat on sale at the perfect time for me to swoop it up!

So, until my time and funds align to bring together a horse, a saddle, a habit, a me, and a photographer, here she is--my very first riding habit!  I can't wait to see what it looks like accessorized with a gallant steed.