Friday, April 20, 2018

A Riding Habit for a Female Paul Revere

Velvet. Prior to this project I had no particular feelings about it. It was pretty, nothing more, nothing less. After this project however, well, I'm gonna have to think real hard before I decide to sew with it again! It's slippy, slidey, and easily destroyed with an iron. Now, prior to my latest velvet project, I knew all this in theory, but theory didn't help me when it came to actually sewing it. Though, to be fair, the theory might have been helpful had I actually paid more attention to it and acted accordingly while constructing my sister's velvet-lined jacket. But did I do that? No. No, I did not.

*Ahem*, now that you've heard the tale of my velvet woes, lets get on with this story and talk about the fun stuff, the entire reason I was sewing with velvet - an 18th century riding costume for my little sister. A much more interesting subject than my rant against velvet.

Two weeks ago, while in costume, my little sister stood up in front of her classmates, their parents, and grandparents, and presented the crowd with the fascinating true story of a brave young woman who played her part in the American Revolution - Sybil Ludington.

'“Listen my children and you shall hear of a lovely feminine Paul Revere.” Thus begins the poem written many years ago about me. I defied many ideas of how a girl of my age should behave.  My family wanted to support my father in any way we could. There was a time that included a 40 mile ride through the countryside to warn of a British attack during the American Revolution. This midnight ride would later influence people to hail me as a “feminine Paul Revere.”'
~ My Little Sister, in her paper about Sybil Ludington

In the weeks leading up to her presentation, my sister spent hours researching and planning her presentation about Miss Ludington - and "commissioned" me to make her costume. 

 She wanted an 18th century riding habit, preferably in dark blue to resemble the uniforms worn by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Once this was decided, I dug through my stash to find a suitable fabric for the project. A quick search revealed 4 yards of a wool/synthetic blend suiting the perfect weight for this project. There was only one problem, it was beige, not blue. So, an afternoon spent dying fabric was an order.

We used a bottle of blue dye and bottle of black dye to get the color my sister wanted. She stood at the hot stove for an hour, stirring the fabric in a large pot of dye. In the end we had 4 yards of dark blue fabric, ready to become a riding habit!

With fabric in hand, I began looking at paintings and pictures of 1770's riding habits, and formulated a plan for my sister's. She would need a petticoat (skirt), a coat, a waistcoat, and a riding shirt. Oh, and she wanted a tricorn hat too. 

I already had a pattern for the tricorn hat, McCalls M7705, so I decided to start with that. I made it out of wool felt from Joann's and was surprised by how quick and easy it was to make. It came together in about half an hour one evening!

Tricorn hat done, I moved on to the next part of the outfit - the petticoat. This too was easy to make. No pattern needed! 18th century petticoats consist of two widths of fabric pleated match the waist measurement. Quick and simple. For maximum historical accuracy, these widths of fabric would be pleated and sewn onto linen tapes, which would be tied around the waist. For ease of wearing however, I pleated my sister's petticoat onto a fabric waistband, which fastened at the side with a hook and bar. After all, this riding habit is meant to be a historically inspired costume, not an entirely accurate historical reproduction.

With the petticoat finished, it was time for what I believed would be the most complicated part of the costume - the coat. And this coat certainly certainly had its challenges, though they weren't the ones I was expecting!

 When I got around to making the coat I was running short on time and fabric. I had one afternoon to get it made, so I picked the simplest pattern I could find, McCalls 8701. The pattern called for 2.5 yards of fabric, and I just barely had two, but I was going to make it work!

I managed to squeeze all the pattern pieces on to the two yards of fabric, no problem. Then I decided to make the cuffs and line the front to the coat (which would be turned back so it could be seen) in navy velvet, as I happened to have some in my stash. That's where all the trouble started.

Even with a copious amount of pins and a walking foot, the velvet would not stay lined up with the outer fabric! It slipped and slid everywhere, making the seams very hard to sew. After a lot of frustration and a bit of seam ripping, I resorted to hand basting. Now, with velvet you should always hand baste. I knew this, but I was in a hurry so I attempted to skip it. Bad, bad idea. 

The hand basting made the rest of the sewing go quite a bit smoother, but the original wonky seams weren't the end of my problems. Oh no, it got worse. 
Once the main fabric was sewn to the velvet, I decided to press the front edge of the coat. I thought I was being responsible. I made sure not to apply the iron directly to the velvet. Rather, I pressed on the main fabric side, with the velvet face down on the ironing board. Still, I completely crushed the velvet. Horribly, irreparably, crushed it. 

Lesson learned, never get the iron anywhere close to velvet, unless you have a velvet board. (Which I clearly don't have.) So I had to do more seam ripping and re-cut the front lining. More time wasted. But that wasn't the worst of it. No, I was all out of velvet, that was the worst of it. Thankfully, at this point my mom saved me by volunteering to run into town and get another half yard of velvet. While she was gone, I ripped the destroyed velvet out of the coat (Thankfully it was only the lining on one side of the coat, not both.), and proceeded to sew the sleeves without incident. 

When my mom returned, I cut out the new front lining panel, sewed it in, and finished the coat. Then breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was done! And it looked just the way I'd hoped it would! Now there were only two pieces of this costume left to figure out - the waistcoat and riding shirt.

My mom came to the rescue yet again, with a satin blouse that would work in place of a riding shirt. One less thing I had to sew! At this point, that was a good thing! Now all I had left to make was the waistcoat. So, the night before my sister's presentation, I looking through my patterns and found McCall's 6937.

The pattern was exactly my sister's size and the vest was just the shape we needed. I only had to make a couple slight adjustments to the neckline and hem, so it would look more 18th century and less 1980's.

I found a remnant of pale green/gray upholstry fabric in my stash that was just big enough for the waistcoat. Thus, the morning of my sister's presentation, I got up early and whipped up this final component of her Sybil Ludington costume, and she was set.

Her costume was ready. Her paper was done. All that was left to do now was deliver her presentation - and she did that fabulously!

She got up in front of the room, wearing her 18th century riding habit (with uncrushed velvet trim!), and read her paper with passion and inflection! She brilliantly conveyed to the room the bravery of a 16 year old girl, who rode to warn her neighbours of a British attack during the American Revolution - and I am incredibly proud of her!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Victoire Sundress - In Hopes of Summer.

The weather here keeps flirting with spring - it's snowing one day, then 80 degrees the next! Literally. It makes it a challenge to get dressed in the morning - you never know if you're going to be freezing or sweating! I love spring, it's one of my favorite seasons, but  I'm done with the cold - warm - snow - hot - cold again  pattern we've had this year. At this point I am dreaming of summer; warmth, sun, green trees, sundresses - and hopefully more predictable weather! So, this week, in hopes that the weather will take a hint, I made a sundress. A real, honest-to-goodness sundress that looks cute, can be dressed up for formal occasions or dressed down for everyday wear, and will keep me comfortable on hot days.

While scrolling through Facebook a couple weeks ago, I saw a post that piqued my interest. Laela Jeyne Patterns was in need of testers for their new La Femme pattern collection. As I'm always interested in testing new PDF patterns, I decided to check out the new designs. I looked through a page of pretty dress, shirt, and swimsuit patterns and immediately one pattern caught my eye. The Victoire dress

The Victoire Dress is a button front sundress that can be made either mini or tea length, and has inseam pockets! The pockets excited me, but they weren't what really interested me in his pattern. No, what really drew me to this dress was the bodice. The bodice is made up of a midriff piece and shaped cup pieces. This is a look I really like, but have never been able to make for myself. For a design like this you really need the bodice to fit you exactly. If the cups are too large or too small, the bodice will be uncomfortable and not look right at all, that is if it's even wearable!

Most patterns are drafted with a single bust cup size in mind - and it's never mine. The Victoire dress, however, is different. The pattern includes 5 different cup sizes; A, B, C, D, and E/DD! So you can make a bodice with cups that will fit and look good on you, without having to do any massive pattern altering. This, this, is the reason I decided to test the Victoire Dress. I really needed a cupped bodice pattern in my collection that would actually fit me, and the Victoire looked like the perfect one!   

Once I was accepted to test the pattern, I looked through my fabric stash to find a suitable material. I quickly unearthed this pretty floral, light and drapey, polyester blend fabric I bought at Wal-Mart last month. It was a fabric I liked and would be happy to wear, but one I wouldn't be heartbroken over wasting if this dress didn't turn out the way I hoped it would. At this point I was still a little skeptical, not sure if the cupped bodice design would actually fit me the way it was supposed to. Well, I needn't have worried.

I made a quick mock-up of the bodice to test out the cup size I thought I needed. All looked good, so I plunged ahead and cut out my dress, then sewed it together the next afternoon. Once the dress was mostly done, just needing buttons, buttonholes, and a hem, I tried it on, pinning it together the front. Did it fit? Did it look good?

It fit!! It actually fit well and was flattering!! At this point I excitedly picked out the perfect buttons from my stash and finished the dress!

I had a new sundress, now I just needed a hot, sunny day to wear it. The weather obliged. Last Thursday the temps soured to 80 degrees, so I happily wore my new dress all day, and was very comfortable.

With the side seam pockets, included in the pattern, I had a place to store my phone and pocket knife. This made the dress very convenient to wear. For just a little extra convenience and comfort, I sewed bra cups into the the dress bodice, between the lining and the outer layer. Thus, I don't have to wear this dress with an uncomfortable strapless bra! In my book, that's a win! 

Now, the pattern doesn't include instructions for how to install bra cups in your bodice, but it's pretty simple to figure out yourself.

If you're interested in having a cupped bodice dress pattern to add to your collection, I encourage you to check out the Victoire Dress! It's on sale until this Friday for only $7!

And hopefully, if you make yourself a sundress from this pattern, your weather will actually cooperate so you can wear it! Here, it doesn't seem like that will be the case anytime soon. After our one day of heat last week, it got cold again. And it actually snowed again yesterday. One day, hopefully, spring will actually, really truely, come - but I am slowly losing hope in that!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

A Dress of Sheets, Scallops, and Spring.

Have you ever puzzled over a design for weeks, tried to figure out what patterns you could possibly use to make it, only to discover you've had the perfect pattern in your stash all along and your mental struggle was needless? That is exactly what happened with me and this dress.

But the story doesn't start with the dress design, or the way I agonized over what patterns I might use to recreate it. Oh no, the story starts with the fabric, which began its life as a bedsheet.

This twin size soft floral cotton flat sheet jumped right off the thrift store shelves and insisted on coming home with me. Well, maybe not quiet, but pretty much. I found this Ralph Lauren sheet in a pile of other sheets. It was soft, yet crisp, 100% cotton, great quality and pretty much brand new - no signs of wear or use at all. Immediately I knew it needed to be a dress and there was no way I was leaving it at the thrift store! Thus, I acquired the fabric, and began the fun task of figuring out the design of my new dress.

As the sheet was a rather crisp fabric, with very little drape, I knew my dress design needed to be rather structured. I also wanted it to have a vintage feel and feminine details. It wasn't long before I happened across the perfect inspirational design on Pinterest - a 1940's pattern for a button up wrap dress..

This design immediately caught my eye, and I knew it was exactly what my floral sheet needed to become. I just needed to figure out what pattern I could adapt to use for this project. Well, that appeared to be easier said than done. I had no similar patterns in my stash and neither the Simplicity, McCall's, Butterick, Burda, nor Vogue pattern books at Joann's yielded anything promising. The sheet was in danger of languishing in my stash for a loooooong time, just waiting for the right pattern to appear, when I discovered I'd actually had the perfect pattern all along - Simplicity 1460

A few weeks ago I used this pattern to make myself a blouse. It turned out fabulous, and fit wonderfully! So, once the blouse was done, I started thinking about what else I wanted to make from the pattern. Immediately my floral sheet 1940's dress idea came to mind. By just continuing the angle of the V-neck all the way to the waistline, I was able to quickly and easily draft the wrap bodice I wanted. I love the scalloped detail of the neckline of this pattern, so I continued the scallops (in a pattern of larger and smaller scallops) down the bodice and onto the skirt as well.

With just a little bit of careful measuring, and more tracing of scallops I was able to extend the blouse peplum pattern into skirt pattern to match my new wrap bodice pattern. (How many times is it acceptable to say "pattern" in one sentence??) Once that was done, I drafted waistband, to mimic my inspiration picture, and new facings for both the bodice and skirt (all my pattern changes had rendered the original facings completely useless). Then I was ready to sew!

To show off all the scallops I so carefully traced and cut out, I decided to apply blue piping to the front edges of both the bodice and the skirt, and around the waistband too for good measure. This was the one part of dress construction that took the longest - but it was so worth it! Look at how nicely those scallops pop on the finished dress!

Ok, those white flakes? Yeah, that's snow. The second weekend of April, and we got snow!
Once all the piping was done, the dress went together quickly - until it was time to pick out buttons. I had a card beautiful green buttons that were absolutely perfect for this dress, but, unfortunately, I only had 3 of them. This dress needed at least 4 buttons. So, I searched my button stash for something else, but nothing, nothing, matched the dress as well as those three green buttons. Eventually I decided, darnit, I was going to use those green buttons! After a bit more thinking, I figured out the perfect solution. Three would be enough for the bodice of the dress, I just needed to find a different button to use on the waistband. Nail polish to the rescue!

In my button stash I found a large wooden buttons, just the size I needed for the waistband. Then, I dug through my highschool nail polish collection (good thing I haven't thrown it away) and found the perfect shade of green to match my existing buttons. In under 5 minutes I had a green button for the  waistband, and my button dilemma was solved!

Once the last button was attached, I put on the dress and was immediately excited - it had turned out exactly as I hoped it would!

Attempting to relish the fact that it's snowing, in April, while I'm wearing a spring dress.
The stiff sheet fabric holds the shape of the dress perfectly, and hardly wrinkles at all, making this dress very easy and comfortable to wear!

The scallops, piping, and wrap design are fun, feminine, vintage details that add visual interest, so this simple dress can't be called boring!

Cute, comfortable, vintage inspired, and easy to make (with pockets too, of course!), what more could I want from a dress? Honestly, I don't know. I think this dress is pretty awesome, and I plan on making it again, once I find the perfect fabric, or sheet, to do so!

Thanks for reading, and have a happy spring! I hope yours is warmer than ours has been!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Making the 1888 Ladies Kitchen Apron

The Historical Sew Monthly challenge for March? Comfort at home. Make something to wear around the (historical) house. I was stumped on what to make. None of my planned historical sewing projects really fit that theme. The one that could have fit the theme would have been a massive undertaking, which I really didn't have time to do. So, I started brainstorming.

I quickly dismissed most of my ideas as they would either take too much time or require materials I didn't have on hand. Eventually, after considering all my options, I settled on a project. Something quite simple, very practical, and incredibly "homey". An item that I did need in my collection of historical clothing, but I'd never bothered to make for my self. An apron.

Once that was decided, I was faced with another decision - what type of apron would I make? A half apron? A full apron? What fabric would I use? After mulling this over in the back of my mind for a while, and looking at all sorts of pictures on Pinterest, I finally figured it out. 

In my fabric stash I found 4 yards of blue calico, on Pinterest I found an 1888 Ladies Kitchen Apron pattern. So, I put the two together.

The national garment cutter book of diagrams (1888)

Ladies' Kitchen Apron 1888
I pulled out some clear plastic and my 1" gridboard to size up the pattern. That went surprisingly quick and easy!

Once I cut out my pattern, I pinned together the darts and seams. This essentially gave me half a plastic apron, which I proceeded to fit to myself by pinning the center front of the apron to the center front of my shirt and adjusting things as necessary. I cut and pinned the plastic, adding width and length where needed, until that half of an apron fit me reasonably well. 

After that was done, I plunged right in, cut out my fabric, and made my apron. Typically I make mockups of all my historical sewing projects, but I decided the apron was simple enough, it wouldn't be necessary this time. Thankfully, I was mostly right.

I bound the pockets and straps in homemade striped bias binding, sewed the apron together, dressed up in my 1890's clothes, then tried it on.

It fit! Well, almost, the waistband was actually a little too short. Thankfully, that was easy enough to extend, and doesn't affect the functionality of the apron at all.

Now, after only one evening and one afternoon of work, I have an easily washable garment. It's perfect for protecting my less washable historical clothing from dirt and grease while I go about day-to-day activities - and it works for protecting my modern clothes too! While it's not the most exciting of projects, I certainly needed this apron, and this month's challenge was just the push I needed to make it! 

Ladies Kitchen Apron

Challenge: Comfort at Home 

Material: Cotton calico and a striped cotton for making bias tape.

Pattern: Sized up from an image of an 1888 Ladies kitchen apron pattern I found online.

Year: 1888, but I will wear it with my 1890s outfits.

Notions: thread and homemade bias tape.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate, the construction is all by machine, which is fine for this era. The pattern on the fabric is questionable, so let's say 90%

Time: About 5 hours. 2 for patterning, 3 for sewing.

First Worn: 3/31, for pictures.

Cost: All stash, so $0!