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.

Monday, August 28, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 28: Museum

One of the absolute best things that has happened for historical fashion enthusiasts in the past several years is that museums are starting to put their collections online.  There really is no substitute for seeing an object in person, and even moreso if you're in a situation where you're allowed to touch and feel, but that's not always possible.  It might be geography, time, money, or any number of factors that might keep someone away from a museum, but thanks to the dual miracles of digital photography and the internet, those things are now accessible on demand.  Here are some of my favorite searchable collections, in no particular order:

The Victoria & Albert Museum, England
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California, USA
Apparently red is the museum logo color du jour...
Staten Island NY, USA

Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, Delaware, USA

There are dozens if not hundreds more, but these are just a few of the high points.  What is your favorite museum to browse online?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 27: Future Project, a "Nankeen" Riding Habit

Now that I've made one riding habit for one of my favored eras, I find myself wanting one in every period and every color...and every fabric!  Wool might be my favorite fabric but it was by no means the only choice, particularly for hot climates.

From the V&A, 1760s
This mid-18th century habit jacket at the V&A is made of fustian, which at that point in time referred to a linen-cotton blend fabric.  This one would fit a small adult or older girl; it's around 33" at the bust and 27" at the waist, so someone slim but not ridiculously tiny could easily have worn it.

RAMM Collections, 1810s
This one is for a child, made of closely woven cotton which is listed as Nankeen in the museum description

Les Arts Bibliotheque, via Scene in the Past on Flickr
Nankeen habit, alongside a rather odd-looking horse, but shown on an adult woman.  Based on the sizes here she's either very tall, or that horse isn't particularly leggy.  That's conceivable; Jackson was 15hh* which is about 5' at the shoulder, so I could see over his back by a small margin.  I'm only 5'2", so a woman of 5'4" or taller could easily look like this lady next to a small horse or a pony big enough to carry a grown-up.

1790s, Via Fox Historic Costume on Instagram--Click for more views
Be sure to click on the link in the caption for several more views!  There are no measurements listed on this one but it looks very small when photographed with a hand in the frame, and the description also mentions it being for a child.  It's also listed as being silk, which is interesting to me.  It looks really similar to the others above.

So, as much as I loooove wool, I will admit that the idea of being clothed in it from head to toe, covered from neck to wrists and beyond my ankles, during the height of summer, while sitting on a warm, furry athletic slightly less than perfectly appealing.  Plus the fact that there are limited but definite examples from multiple places and times is intriguing to me.

Obviously with the length of my to-do list, this won't be happening anytime in the next few months, or maybe even the next year.  In the meantime, definitely check out one of my favorite (maybe the only?) recreation of a habit of this type by Katherine at The Fashionable Past.  She's got some really good info and resources on her page so definitely take a look!

I aspire to this!

*For those that don't know, horses are measured in hands, which is equivalent to four inches.  Their height is taken at the shoulder, or the withers.  At this point in time, the cutoff between horse and pony is 14.2 hands, or 4'10".  If your equine is shorter than that, they're a pony.  Any taller, and they're a horse.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 26: Media

By the time I saw this movie, it was probably already 10 years old.  I was in college and in the habit of staying up after midnight to do homework after everyone else in the house had gone to bed.  I liked to have the TV on quietly as background noise.  I very clearly remember the night this movie popped up...and everything stopped.  For two hours, I was enraptured.  More than likely, no more homework got done, because I spent the whole time staring in awe at the screen.

This film, I believe, was my stepping stone between movie costuming and historical sewing.  Historical fiction in print always left me cold; I never was very good at picturing the characters in their proper environments, wearing the right clothes...but this.  Oh, this.  The world was so rich and beautiful, set off by the stunning cinematography and filled with gowns to die for.  I wanted to be part of it in a way that Jane Austen's writing never caused.  (I know...heresy! Sacrilege!)

My very first regency outfit!

Not Marianne and Elinor, but still cute!
I'm sure anyone who's seen the film will recognize the inspiration for my outfit as seen on Elinor in the movie, as well as the construction taken right from Janet Arnold.  Fortunately my sister has a great deal more good sense than Marianne Dashwood, though!

Graph Paper Dress!

I still love this fabric
Obviously I greatly favored Elinor's gowns from the movie, but they all served as a jumping off point to the deep dive into regency fashion and reenacting that has become my life.  Thanks, cast and crew of Sense & Sensibility!  I bet in 1995 if you had told me this movie would be a life-defining moment...I'd have laughed at you.  But, here we are.  I'm working on regency clothing right now!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Sourcing 101: "Where did you get that fabric?"

I decided to go back and update this post with new sources, both because it's in dire need and because the August 25 prompt for Costume Blog Writing Month (aka CoBloWriMo) is "Favorite Resource."  Well, clearly my favorite resource is the internet, and it brings me many things including documentation, inspiration, and supplies!

When it comes to buying fabric, there are two schools of thought. One is that you must see the wares in person before buying. This is great if you have brick-and-mortar locations at which to shop, or are willing to travel. Me? I'm an introvert. If I had it my way, I'd never leave the house again and all my meals, fabric, and other needs would be delivered to me by a sprite who would leave things outside the door and knock, and then leave so I didn't have to talk to him/her/it when I picked up my delivery. That's why I do the bulk of my fabric shopping online. My packages are delivered by the UPS man, not a sprite, but he does knock and then leave so I'll allow it. (He also doesn't bring me my meals, but that's another issue altogether.)

Ordering online doesn't always work out perfectly. Sometimes you don't get what you wanted, but I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford to make mistakes like that. Frankly, I know enough people who sew that I can usually unload any unfortunate buys pretty quickly, whether it means listing things on etsy or randomly shoving 8 yards of wool at my unsuspecting friends. Because ordering fabric sight unseen is something of a craps shoot, your mileage may vary. My creative process involves me buying yardage and then assigning it to a project after I have the goods in hand. It's a bit harder if you pick a project and then have to hunt for The Perfect Fabric, but that's not to say it can't be done.

Anyway, the point is that when people ask me, "where did you get that fabric," probably 75% of the time the answer is "online." Which is not helpful for people who want to find something similar. So here's a list of my favorite online vendors, with notes on what I have ordered and liked from them.

Burnley and Trowbridge
    Caters to the "historically discriminating" consumer (museums, reenactors, etc.) Rotating fabric selection, so again, if you find something you want, snap it up. I also have friends that swear by their shoes, and they carry various other reenacting and sewing essentials if you're so inclined.

Wm. Booth, Draper
    By reenactors, for reenactors. He carries the NYC police uniform wool so coveted for great menswear and uniforms, and a rotating stock of other types and colors of wools, silks, hemps, linens, and cottons. For me, as a woman/civilian, the selection is somewhat hit or miss. Last season, they didn't have anything that caught my eye. This season, I want 8 yards of everything. Go figure! They also carry notions, tools, and patterns that are worth a look.

Exclusive Silks
    When I think "silk taffeta," this is the ideal I have in mind. The lengths I've ordered have all been a great midweight taffeta, with a good, crisp hand but not stiff. I've found the colors on their website tend to run a bit lighter than the actual fabric, but I've always been happy with the quality of the taffeta, if not the color. I also get all my cotton organdy here. Their "hard finish" is SUPER stiff--like, screen door stand-up-on-its-own stiff. I like the soft finish for caps, though; crisp enough to avoid droopiness, but not so rigid that it has a personality of its own.
Silk Baron
    Good source for various types of silk, from taffeta to matka or noil, in lots of colors.Does offer swatches.
Farmhouse Fabrics
    I shop here when I have some extra pennies saved up. Heirloom quality fabrics...but with prices to match. I've gotten gorgeous swiss muslin here on sale, though, for about half the normal retail price, and they do fractional yardages, too, if you're doing a small project. Their cotton velveteen is beautiful, and this is also where I got the soutache braid for Mike's smoking cap and the trim on my asymmetrical wool 1860s dress. In short, they carry somewhat-obscure high-quality fabrics and supplies, but be ready to pay.
    99% of my linen purchases come from this site. They do free swatching, have several different weights, and tons of colors. All of my 18th and early 18th century underthings are made from 3.5oz softened white Fabrics-store linen, and all my linen 18th century petticoats are made of the 5.3oz in various colors. Relatively inexpensive as linens go, and with the free swatching you can't go wrong.

Fabric Guru
    This place sells ends of rolls and odd lots of decorator fabrics. Most of their stuff is just that--home decor. However, they do have a section for silks, and I was lucky enough to find the printed silk for my "Fancy" dress here. Also, all the curtains in my house are made from various fun prints I found at Fabric Guru. Low shipping, good prices, and you never know what you're going to find.

Dharma Trading
Thank you, Maggie, for the reminder/recommendation!
    Lots of natural fiber fabrics of various types and weights--specifically, Maggie and I have used their 56" combed cotton lawn with great success. It's a lovely fine semi-sheer with a soft hand and beautiful drape.  I've also used their Pimatex for 1860s undergarments, since Southern Belle cotton has been rarer than hen's teeth lately.  They also sell a variety of dyes, if you're in the mood for something other than white.
Shobha Imports
    The best price I've found on 100% cotton net, great for ballgown tuckers, bonnet bavolets, etc. I bought 10 yards of the stuff and am still working my way through it.

Fashion Fabrics Club
    Oh, FFC. I have a love/hate relationship with this place. On the one hand, their customer service is seriously sketchy. On the other, they do sometimes carry random obscure great finds. Like the figured silk taffeta with metallic pattern. Or tropical wool in colors other than "boring." Or wool gauze. Order if you can't find something comparable anywhere else and cross your fingers. Overall my luck has been good.
    This is the flipside from FFC. Great customer service. Sometimes their stuff ain't so great. On the other hand, their prices are pretty good, and they do swatches so you're less likely to get burned. Of course, the one time I got something I didn't like, I didn't bother to order a swatch because the sale I wanted to take advantage of was ending soon. But, if you do end up with a dud, again, great customer service, so you can return.

Heritage Trading
    Beautiful block printed and ikat cottons. Some of their shawls have potential, too. If you see something you like, buy it now because it may disappear, and in the *cough* number of years I've been watching their store, I haven't often seen repeats of merchandise. Once they've sold out of something, it's gone.

    Williamsburg has their very own line of reproduction fabric prints for the 18th or early 19th century, which you can buy directly from their site at the link above.

    Mostly they are known for their patterns, but they do also carry specialty fabrics that have been highly vetted and hand picked to be correct for the 18th century.

Renaissance Fabrics

    Beautiful fabrics, ribbons, and trims.  They'll send you swatches if you ask nicely!

Fabric Mart Fabrics

    Revolving stock of silks, wools, cottons, and linens.  Not filtered through a historical lens, so be careful with prints and patterns.  But, they run frequent and very good sales, so it's worth keeping an eye on their site!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

CoBloWriMo Day 24: Unexpected Source

I've come across a lot of really cool stuff in my search for bits and bobs useful in reenacting.  I've got a small collection of vintage or antique lace, some really nice leather gloves, and even some antique jewelry.  A lot of people find neat things at estate sales and junk shops, but I find that I rarely turn up a really good find at those kinds of places.  "Antique shops" have gotten really trendy in my area and are often crammed full of chalk painted mid century furniture and fake milk glass.  Not really my thing.

But, just like the internet is my favorite springboard for research, it's also my favorite place to shop.  And I've had really good luck over the years on eBay!  There are some really good shops, but you can hit the jackpot with random sellers, too.

Georgian brooch, meant for hair work.

With Rich's hair in it; hairwork by Lucy Cadwallader

When looking for lace and such, I have really good luck with the terms "bonnet veil" and "black chantilly."  The first one will also turn up little crochet or fringed hats for horses (it's a thing!), and black chantilly will often also bring up listings for scandalous undies, but with not too much sifting I've come up with some really good items as you can see!
Antique lace shawl

Yet another mid 19th century lace shawl
The photos of this shawl were a joke; it was a blurry cell phone picture that looked like it had been taken by a drunken chihuahua in the dark; you couldn't even tell it was a shawl.  It was some ridiculously low price, though, so I figured even if it was trashed I could cut it up for some motifs.  When it arrived, though, there was no way I was going to get scissors anywhere near it!

Priced low because of holes...which I easily mended!

Mid-19th century style; I was happy to pass this along to Ginger of Scene in the Past!
Antique veil
Ebay isn't just for collectibles and textiles, of course.  I've scored some really BIG things there, too.  As in all cases, you need to train yourself and be an informed consumer, of course.  

Genuine Hundred Oaks Elan Sidesaddle
There are lots of sidesaddles on eBay.  Some of them are antiques.  Some are imports from overseas...and not the kind from a forgotten duke's stables in England.  In this instance in particular, there are some really crappy and even dangerous "sidesaddle shaped objects" that under no circumstances ought to be put on a horse.  But sometimes, you get lucky.

My pride and joy, the pinnacle of all my eBay exploits!

THIS gorgeous lady was maybe my luckiest find ever on eBay.  It is a 20th century sidesaddle in the style of Champion & Wilton, but isn't hallmarked as such.  It's likely that a private saddler made it for a client in the same style, and let me tell you, folks.  There are a few big names in sidesaddles and C&W is one of them.  C&Ws are highly coveted.  C&Ws are also very expensive.  This one?  Less than half of what I would reasonably expect to pay for a name-brand saddle.  And COMFY.  SO comfy.  I kept it on that kitchen stool for weeks and sat on it whenever I had a chance.  This was truly a once in a lifetime type deal...I bought it sight unseen, from a listing with few pictures and minimal description.  It could have been a total dud.  But just get lucky.  Really lucky!