Thursday, January 8, 2015

Half a Year's Plans: My Goals for The Historical Monthly

I'm down for the Historical Monthly Challenge (formerly Fortnightly) again this year--I found the motivation to share my finished project by a deadline kept me on track on a couple pieces that could easily have been UFOs otherwise.  

As always, best-laid plans might go completely awash, be abandoned, or be ditched in favor of bright, shiny, sparkly ideas.  I've thought out the first half of the year:

  • January – Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.
    • Ugh.  A shift.  I really need to make at least one new shift.  The trouble? I don't wannnnna. I find them so boring.  My other option is a false rump--which I also need.  My current version is (don't tell, this is so embarrassing) made from an old towel.
  • February – Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.
    • I could a) finish the early 1940s dress I barely started a couple years ago (given the state of complete incompletion and the fact that I'd have to restart a few parts, I think it would count!) or b) start on the basic late 18th century gown I've been planning and have the fabric for.
  • March – Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.
    • No question, a dress for The Toddler.  I have plenty of fabric choices in my stash and a pattern already procured.
  • April – War & Peace: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.
    • This is a toughie--I'm  not sure what direction I'll go on this one.  If I can digress for a moment, there are so many moments in fashion that have been linked to a political or cultural moment--war included--that I personally feel are not so clean-cut and incorporate pre-existing moves in fashion (including hemlines during WWII and the Empire style gown post-French Revolution, in case you're wondering).  So if I hold myself to my "research the phenomenon, question everything" standard, this could get interesting!
  • May – Practicality:  Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone,even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.
    • I knew right away what I wanted to do with this challenge--a simple 1930s skirt for...well, anything.  With a simple blouse and sweater, it's the housekeeping outfit; a nicer blouse and heels, and it can go to church or nicer events.  Is there anything more practical than that?  I already have so much practical 18th century stuff--but tend toward the pretties for other periods.
  • June – Out of Your Comfort Zone: Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before. 
    • Deep breath--I keep promising myself I'll dive into later period corsets.  I even have a pattern already.  Is it time to take the plunge?
I'm excited to get started--ok, I'm not excited about that shift.  At all.  Time to force myself to cut out some linen.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Year in Review: Stuff I Made in 2014

First of all, how about a New Year's Resolution?  In digging up pictures of this year's work, I was forced to reckon with the fact that I am CRAP at getting pictures of my work.  Seriously. They're all candids that people snap of me when I'm not looking.

Like this one:

Yeah, that's me scowling at some dishwater.  I don't recall what the water did to offend me, but I look pretty miffed.  

I held onto the photo, though, because it showed Something I Made in 2014--the fluffly white cotton cap.  It also highlights my really, big...accomplishment in learning to dress my hair 18th century style.

Handsewn cap

Experiments in Large Hair and Cat Photobombs
 Another shot from the same event (in which we lucky ladies get to cook in a marvelously appointed rebuilt 18th century kitchen) that shows the back of the sky blue gown:

Though I made the gown over a year ago, I managed to fix some nagging issues with it so that it fits well and I can wear it happily.

The kitchen shots also capture my new apron in action.  I am pretty pleased with this useful little item:

Probably my second-favorite project of the year was my new stays:

which have been years in the making as I went through several "good but not perfect" iterations before I found my stays soulmate.

The big project of the year for me was the pink caraco ensemble I made with matching silk hat, and this whole shebang tops my list of favorite projects this year.  From research to final completion to the glorious fluffy funness of wearing something Borderline Obnoxiously Pink, I loved this project:

I also have zilch for pictures aside from these two--the one above caught by the Chicago Tribune, the other by a fellow reenactor:

Finally, I made a 1930s gown in December as a birthday gift to myself:

So, lesson learned--I need to make time to get photos of my favorite projects.  Part of the experience is wearing and sharing the garments we make--I need to embrace that!

Looking back, it looks like not a whole lot, especially if I start the (noxious, dangerous, evil) comparison game, but then I think about everything that filled the hours between sewing--I went back to work at a job I'm passionate about, I chased a toddler and learned more about princesses than I ever wanted to know, I laughed and played and researched and generally nerded it up with my reenacting friends, I even managed to make it to a couple swing dances--and I think shoot dang! This was a pretty good year!  Here's to 2015

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Emerald Gown Steps Out: A Brief Tableau

I was one lucky skunk and got to go to a fantastic swing dance with the Husband last weekend:

It was great, in fact, that I utterly failed to get pictures at the event.  

Fortunately, I made the Husband snap a few before we headed out the door, so you can see how the gown looks on a person.  On a me, to be precise:

A word of admission--the photos above were cropped. Here's how things actually went down:

Toddler: Hey, mom, nice dress.
Me: Thanks!

Toddler: Yay! Mommy likes her dress, too!  Maybe now she'll read me this book.
Me: Not yet, tiny person.

Toddler: But wait, the world pretty much revolves around me...
Uh-oh, Daddy's really dressed up, too...

Toddler: What the cheese, are you guys ditching me tonight?

Indeed, we were ditching The Toddler.  Fret not, she had a lovely evening with her favorite sitter.

Friday, December 19, 2014

All That Glitters: A 1930s Emerald Green Evening Gown

For the Historical Fortnightly All That Glitters Challenge:

 I had originally taken a somewhat broad approach to defining "All That Glitters" by drawing glittering out into! I had planned a 1930s silk evening gown with no glittery sparkle, per se, but plenty of silky shimmer.  I have a holiday swing dance to attend, and the thought of a shiny new dress was too tempting to pass up.  Plus it was my 30th birthday this month--what better gift than a shimmering 1930s something?

Then things took a slight turn, and my dress ended up with some glittery bling after all.

What the item is: 1930s evening gown with slightly shortened hem for maximum danceability
The Challenge: All That Glitters
Fabric: Emerald green silk charmeuse

Pattern: EvaDress E30 5918 :
Year: 1931
Notions: Thread and, afterthought, a paste buckle (more on that below)
How historically accurate is it? Eh...decent? The fabric and pattern are correct, and I utilized techniques as specified by the (original) pattern instructions from cutting through seam finishing and hand-completed hems.
Hours to complete: 10 +
First worn: For a Snow Ball swing dance--tomorrow!
Total cost: Under $100--I splurged on silk and got a decent deal, but that stuff ain't cheap on a good day.

Felicity models the dress in initial completion:

So, how did it go together?  My favorite part was probably the gathered shoulder bit:

which is done pretty much first thing and gives such an exciting tease as to what the final piece will look like!  The instructions call for twisting the shoulder as well, but a) I was unclear on exactly what the instructions were saying to do and b) I really liked the soft drape of the shoulders as they stood, so I skipped this.

For the main body of the gown, the construction techniques rely on one big trick for impact--a lapped seam joining the unusually shaped bodice and skirt together.  Lapped seams are tricky, and silk charmeuse is tricky, and together they are...well, tricky.

Two rounds of basting (once to turn under the raw edge, the other to make an initial join) and veerrrrry slow and careful stitching yielded a lapped seam I was....ok with.  It's not perfect.  But it'll do.

The finish work is mainly by hand--the instructions, to my surprise, did not indicate to face the arm, neckline, or back, but to instead turn and hem, which I did.  I'm not fully convinced this was the best option, and if I every do a re-do on this pattern, I think I'll consider facing these edges, or at the least the neckline.

As to how well I like it...

I tried it on and was, well, blah about it.  It wasn't the dress--as far as it was *supposed* to look, it was near perfect.

It was me.

I am not the willowy-thin pixie of the pattern cover--and the bodice of the gown had an unfortunate tendency to just kind of hang off my bust and create a rather dumpy look on me.  I had taken in the seams from the muslin I'd made, but even when the gown fit properly, it still didn't really suit me.

I decided to play around with it a little, and attempt some waist definition.  I settled on a self-belt--I am unsure if this is correct to the period for an evening gown and this type of pattern or not, though other 1930s patterns I've made did include self-belts.

And I added a little crystal slide buckle to the belt--All That Glitters, indeed.

A note to those making this dress--the pattern as it stands will yield a dress that is short on an average-height woman.  I chose to keep the original length because I was making a dress to dance in, but if you want a traditional full-length evening gown, you will need to add a few inches to the hemline.

Dancing (and, hopefully, pictures!) tomorrow!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Up-cycled Stockings--The Kind to Hang By The Chimney With Care

Taking a short break from the historical--though not completely, since re-using old things is about as historical a practice as you can come up with--for a quick holiday craft tutorial.

I'd seen and coveted knit, especially cable-knit, stockings from various retailers but the prices were more than I wanted to pay for a holiday decoration.  Cue a trip to the thrift store, where the aisles of gently worn sweaters called my name.

Turns out, it's exceptionally easy to turn an old sweater into a nearly-new Christmas stocking.

First, the sweaters.  I selected three sweaters in cable knits I liked, all in shades of ivory.  We have a three-person family; I got three sweaters.  It's theoretically possible to get more than one stocking per sweater, especially if you can find large men's sweaters, but I didn't find any big ones in patterns and colors I liked. (Hint--if you like taupe and beige, there will be plenty of men's sweaters for you to play with.)

Then, the crafting begins!

I used a stocking I already had and liked the shape of to cut my sweaters.  Simple--I just laid the stocking over the sweater (just the sweater, as it was, no cutting, turning, or manipulation required) and cut around it, giving myself about a 3/4 inch seam allowance.

You get two pieces, like this:

I just pinned right sides together and stitched it up on the machine.

Turned right side out, it's a stocking!  I trimmed corners and any edges that looked bulky, but for the most part I left a very large seam allowance.  Knits tend to ravel and I didn't want to deal with a hole in my Christmas sock.

I finished the top of this simple stocking with a basic hem:

You can also make a simple cuff.  I left one stocking extra long, sewed it up as normal, then cut the excess from the top:

Pinned it inside and stitched:


Then folded it over the main part of the stocking:

One of my sweaters was a mock turtleneck, so I left the ribbed neck in place when I cut out the stocking:

And just folded it over to make a cuff.

All three stockings, ready for hanging!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Planning a Foray to the 1930s

Despite my usual historical focus firmly rooted in the late 18th century, I do enjoy a bit of time traveling now and again.

I've planned a couple of fancy holiday shindigs this year, and decided I'd very much like a new gown.  And there really isn't any point in ever making anything modern when one can dash off to another time there?

There probably is.

At any rate, I finally settled on this 1931 pattern from EvaDress:

And took a bit of a risk on this very green silk:

Depending on which monitor, it varies from deep emerald to bright emerald green.  I'm hoping it's on the deeper side in person, but I'm all right with it either way.  I wanted a saturated jewel tone--though many 1930s evening gowns employ pastels and shades of white, they also can veer a touch toward the look of lingerie.  To modern eyes, bright or deep tones can counteract that effect.  In short, since I'm wearing this around modern people, not necessarily at historical events, I want to make sure the look says "eveningwear" not "nightgown."  

If all goes well, this will be my final entry into the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014 and will be worn for a "Snow Ball" in December and a New Year's Eve fete at our house.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The AccountabilliBuddy Post: Winter Projects

Ah, that time of year when the leaves turn and the brisk fall breezes whip through the air...or it drops to single digits and dumps snow on you.


In either case, it's time to start thinking about winter projects.  If I wait until winter truly sets in, I get behind, waiting on supplies to arrive, or dip into Frosty Ennui in the wake of post-Christmas let-down.

So--the things I need to do and want to do:

1) Fix the sky blue gown.  I finally got the bodice fitted properly (which was a deceptively easy fix), but the hem is still my slapdash, make-it-work machined job and it's too long.  Re-hemming is on the docket.

2) Toddler dress.  I have the Larkin and Smith pattern and a stash of linen in various colors, and I'm looking forward to making something miniature.

3) I want to make a 1920s or 1930s evening gown because I very much want to host a Jazz Age Shindig at our house.  We'll see if either one happens.

4) And of course, all the Christmas crafts.  Don't be alarmed if this space is overtaken by Pinterest-inspired Christmas crap in the next few weeks.

5) In my dream world, I'd start on a riding habit.  We'll see, friends.  We'll see.

Ask me sometime around January how all this is going, mkay?