viennabelle: (1841)
Today we woke up to a winter wonderland...everything has been coated by 5" of beautiful snow. Children in the neighborhood took to sledding and we enjoyed brisk walks around the neighborhood (that is, up until DH got an emergency call for work). Since all was quiet, I used the day to catch up on another UFO--my 1840s corset.

I am not going to win any workmanship awards for this corset. It isn't especially pretty. It is made with supplies on hand, completely machine sewn and I really didn't waste time trying to make it "period." Thanks to tension issues with my machine, several places where I sewed the binding on had to be oversewn. But it looks acceptable and it functions as it should: it gives me a flat front and curvy sides and back. It makes my 1840s bodice look great.
 
Click for more details and pictures... )

I also am a big fan of bulk boning. In the long run it ends up cheaper--and it allows you the convenience of custom cutting boning to the desired length. On spiral and straight steel bones, I mark the metal with a Sharpie pen, then cut it with a set of tin snips. For years I would painstakingly grind the ends smooth and dip them in tool dipping solution, but lately I've taken to setting metal tips with epoxy, then crimping them in place. Here they are setting earlier this morning.

All of that attracted attention from my cat, Muffy...who felt obliged to be exceedingly cute.
 

On other notes concerning my 1840s mourning dress...I called Thai Silk about the black crinkle crepe. It is soft, not crisp--so that was a disappointment. However, I did search online some more and found a dealer in India who indicates that his crepe has a "distinctly crisp and crimped form." It sounds perfect, so I wrote away to him to inquire if he'd sell a small quantity to me.
viennabelle: (Strawberries)
Well, it's been a while since I posted, but I've been fairly busy. So, here is a bit of a catchup post...

After my abortive attempt to make a dress for the Poe event (in under 4 hours), I took the bodice apart and added piping to it. I also took some modern crepe, starched it and sewed it on to see if it looked like the old crape. It isn't perfect, but it's as close as I can come to the real stuff, which isn't, to the best of my knowledge, made anymore.

Now, since I altered this to be front opening, I am thinking of taking more crepe, ruching it and making a placket of it over the front opening. It, of course, will mean taking the bodice apart again--but since it's really almost done, that's cool.

Meanwhile, I've been cranking through the UFO pile. First up--I made a petticoat to match this little jacket. I love the combination (I wanted also to make a matching jacket of the stuff, but the marseilles cloth I used is no longer sold).
 
Our lovely night at Gadsby's Tavern got me pulling into items I've half made for DH. I restarted work on one shirt I'd hand sewn for him...All that remains is finishing the bottom and adding one cuff. Trouble is, I can't find cuff material, so I'm thinking of cutting it from the bottom edge of the front (it can be quite narrow, so it's workable). Also, I realized that I still need to sew buttons and buttonholes for a common man's waistcoat I'd made...

To be honest, the waistcoat was big a point of personal accomplishment when I made it. I bartered with a weaver for handspun handwoven cloth. Only the lining is machine made cloth. I hand sewed it...but cutting into it to make buttonholes is a little terrifying, since the weave is a little loose. I think I will try cutting it with a chisel, which I understand keeps holes neater. Fortunately, I have a scrap to experiment with.

Last fall, I took a stays fitting class from Mark Hutter, the tailor at Colonial Williamsburg. It was insane, mad effort to size a set of stays to my body. I ended up with pieces of a late 18th century stays ready for stitching. I've tossed the item around, sewing one piece down with a fair amount of distraction. So, I decided I want to get this done. I have resewn much of that piece and completed another two pieces. Three down, seven to go. Then I tremble at the notion of boning this sucker. A 55" piece of baleen awaits my paltry carpentry skills. But now, the portability of what I'm working on appeals for the time being (and just I don't think about boning)...
 
Finally--I scored on fabric on President's Day! I got five yards of some delicious stripey silk for $35 (plus $5 shipping)!!! It is gorgeous...satiny sage green and cream. Dreamy stuff--even DH approved! However, that kind of deal comes with its own "price"--it's got this really strange iron on interfacing on the back. To boot, it's fused on it really well! DH and I managed to pry about two yards of the stuff free last night, but it was a tough effort. I think I will leave the stuff on the back of the petticoat and make the gown with the "liberated" stripey stuff. Oh, I am soooo happy about getting this!

A final note--my sewing machine seems to be getting caught up on stitches. I am getting so sick of it misbehaving. It's back to the shop--but I'm starting to think that when I get back to more profitable work, I am probably going to start saving again to get a new one.

Tomorrow: down to Richmond for my PAC. I'll sew in the car...hopefully!

viennabelle: (1841)
Saturday was an awesome day! I emailed [livejournal.com profile] bauhausfrau  on when to meet and she suggested about 12 pm. Given that it was then 9, I figured...what the heck? Why not try to make a gown. Yes, insane, I know.

Amazingly, I got the whole bodice complete and was well on my way to cutting sleeves when she arrived. She looked at my dummy, the mess surrounding me in the basement and shook her head, trying to hold back laughter. I grimaced and started to try to formulate plan B. Her old gown was out, my old gown was out...then I thought of the old calico gown she'd given me. I hastily threw it on my dummy, figured out where to shorten it, cut off the extra and stitched down brush braid. The braid was really lucky--a quick trawl through my trim tub dragged up some vintage braid I'd bought several years back--that matched the calico perfectly. The result--in half an hour I managed to finish off a really nice work dress. I helped Bauhausfrau into a fantastic dark red silk gown--a sight to behold with matching boots (Robert Land, no less!), bonnet and jacket. Then I quickly found boots & shawl, added my mourning jewelry and put up my hair. We headed off to Baltimore and met for the tea.

We met up with the lovely [livejournal.com profile] missphilomena , her mom (wearing a stunning gown as well) and a family friend.  Miss P. told us all about her classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology, shopping in NYC and how she does such amazing work so fast. She wore a tiered gown in velvet trimmed silk plaid (very apropos of the Walter Scott mania of the era) with a matching jacket. Soon she was followed by [livejournal.com profile] padawansguide  who wore her truly stupendous gathered black silk gown with a new fur-trimmed paletot. It looked fabulous. [livejournal.com profile] jennylafleur arrived about the same time, wearing a grey stripped silk dress with hand drawn bias ruffles and a terribly pretty pelerine (I think it might have been detatchable, but I couldn't tell). She was joined by two other ladies--[livejournal.com profile] sadievale  and [livejournal.com profile] girliegirl32786. I wondered if [livejournal.com profile] jennylafleur  and [livejournal.com profile] sadievale  conspired beforehand, since [livejournal.com profile] sadievale  wore a striped gown, made of a darker fabric featuring perfectly matched panels (I spent a good part of tea staring at the precision in amazement) and an exceptionally lovely cut. [livejournal.com profile] girliegirl32786 --who had travelled the day before from West VA--wore a well-fit plum wool gown with a delicate white collar and a fantastic jacquard shawl. Set in the luxurious elegance of the Harbor Court Intercontinental, we had a leisurely tea, then headed over to watch the evening's program.

The entertainments were exceptionally well performed--the organizers had outstanding taste in blending serious scholarly presentation with comedy, music and terrifyingly gripping stories. By the end, when we lined up to meet John Astin, I felt like Edgar was there in our midst, pouring all the complex emotions of his life into our presence.

Thanks to everyone, but especially [livejournal.com profile] bauhausfrau for organizing it all--it was a fantastic day!

viennabelle: (1841)
Big news yesterday: my bargain lampas arrived!


Now isn't that splurge worthy? I have a complete rationalization at hand, if not! I researched it online. It is a fabric called "Marquis" made by Scalamandre. It was sold to the trade for $626 per yard. The stuff sold to fabric stores are remnants, which sometimes can be quite large--and they average $220 per yard. So, instead of giving in to impulsiveness and spending $165, I've managed to save $3,340!  Perfect logic, right?

My other update is on the my corded petticoat. I don't think I need to insert any horsehair in it.


Yes, that really is a petticoat standing up all by itself, thanks to the miraculous powers of starch!

BTW--I also found out that Faultless will no longer make dry starch (just spray), so I went ahead ordered a stock of the stuff at the only place I could find online (McLendon Hardware). It was a little slow arriving (about a week), some was a little loose, but heck--it was dirt cheap and I will need more to get this kind of effect.

Now, must order some coutil. I need a new corset for the 1840s dress.

viennabelle: (1841)
When taking breaks from working on the corded petticoat this weekend, I did a bit of researching on the Poe era. The first inspiration I got was Edgar's Mother -in-Law & Aunt, Maria Clemm. More on Maria, fashion plates and fit concerns )

Yesterday, I threw my corded petticoat into the laundry and washed it in warm water with my sheets. To my surprise, when I pulled it out, the hemp I used leeched some kind of brown pigment onto the cotton, leaving it looking a bit like I'd been playing in a mud puddle! Fortunately, it was quickly resolved by a half hour soak in bleach. I mixed up some starch and soaked the petticoat in it in the fridge over night. Presently, it is drip drying on a rack in my bathtub. Hopefully, by the end of the afternoon it will be dry to the point where it is barely damp and ready for ironing. Good thing I work out of the home!

Thanks again for the lovely comments to my last post. I'm still undecided, but I'll know better when I iron it up.
viennabelle: (1841)
5 yards quilting cotton, 250 feet of cording, 33 channels, 1 weekend: I have a corded petticoat.

Inspired by the workshop on construction from last year's Costume College (led by Jennifer Rosbrugh), I plowed into the project.I misplaced the handout, so I just plowed into the project, using references like Katherine's (aka  [personal profile] koshka_the_cat's) stupendous handsewn petticoat (while inspired, I cannot imagine hand sewing my effort--I want to finish this project before the Poe outing). Here is what I ended up with:


My technique was pretty simple. I used two layers of plain old cheap quilting cotton, prewashed it, sewed it into a big tube, then folded the back side up into the tube, so I ended up with two layers with wrong sides facing each other. I shoved 2 cm polished hemp cord (something like what Kass sells here) down into the fold and started stitching it down with a zipper foot. To get a firmly stiff bottom, I sewed six rows in a solid coil, then I left a gap and started sewing wider spaced rows above (with one band of three tightly spaced rows for stiffness).

I left the wider gaps purposefully for sewing in horsehair, though I'm now having second thoughts. It would very period--horsehair braid was stiff and known as "crinoline"--ending up as the name for this kind of stiff petticoat. Unfortunately, modern horsehair braid is only made from nylon--it looks very close to real horsehair, but I'm wondering if it will stand up to ironing (and as I don't have any on hand, I don't exactly know how it will do). Of course, if I can get my paws on eight yards of vintage horsehair, this might be moot.

Finally, when it looked about right (it falls mid calf), I cut the inside layer, folded it over and seamed it down. Finally, I tore open one seam, gathered the top and fit it into a waistband.

The little marks are remnants of temporary marking pen marks. I still need to wash it, soak it in starch and sew on a waist fastener (buttonhole? hook?).

This was an exceptionally tedious project, but I like the results. Step 2 is complete for my 1840s mourning ensemble (nb--I made a dark insulated bonnet last year, so I consider that step 1). I still have petticoats, collars (or chemisette?) and acap to sew before taking on the dress. Or maybe I'll make the dress now anyhow.

Ok, now back to work...Yes, I did agree to work for another week.
viennabelle: (1841)

Since I'm documenting this dress project, I thought I'd link to some of the images that are inspiring me.

In looking through them, I've refined my understanding of the style of the era. I'm aiming towards a mid 1840s decade look, not too stylish, but not looking like I'm Miss Havisham, either.  One of my first inspirations was this set of fashion plates:

These (and other fashion prints online) gave me a couple of pointers. First, the two tiered skirt was definitely "in." The other thing is that the bodice was definitely down to the natural waistline, with a look that seemed like an inverted triangle. Some outfits appear to have heavy influences from 18th century fashions (look at that gold dress). Another thing I've noticed is that full, gathered sleeves point to the earliest days of the decade. By the end of the decade, I'm not seeing gathered fronts in any fashion plates. Also pelerines were still worn, though capelets are also present as well. I think these may have served practical reasons--they'd protect the clothing underneath and give a measure of warmth (which would account for why portraits of older women in the 1860s would often show them still wearing pelerines). A final thing that really surprised me was that at the beginning of the decade, I found a fashion plate showing off the shoulder dresses for day wear for adults.



My next inquiry went to what women really wore. Luckily, the daguerreotype era was from 1840-1855. So, any reproduction of that kind of photograph gives a representative image of what women would have wanted to be remembered wearing in that general era.  Here are a few that inspire:

 

Family portraits are also interesting to see the range of styles worn. This shot is dated to 1846 (clearly, spaniel curls were all the rage that year!):



Here's another group portrait from Austria that includes one woman of interest. The woman to the front far left is Constanze Mozart, the widow of the composer, apparently just two years before her death in 1842 (note that the dresses on the younger women have the higher waistlines characteristic of the early decade).



Also, the cover of this book gives a rare view to the back, showing gathering and that the collar view from the rear. Also, note the low cut dress (like the ones in the fashion plate above) on the adult woman facing the camera:



Generally, I'm getting the impression that there's sufficient historic evidence for to support a mid 1840s woman wearing a v-neck, cut to the clavicle.  Also, the gathered front seems spot-on for anywhere from young women to old. Now, to work!
viennabelle: (1841)
Well, I started with the Patterns of History pattern. I cut it out of muslin last night and thought I'd fit it. Granted, the sale pattern I bought is a size 14.  I don't think the pattern is bad (the pieces fit together ok). It just was too much of a transition to fit to my figure. So, I ended up hauling out more muslin, draping and drafting a whole new pattern. My inspiration came from a dress from the Henry Ford Museum website, seen here.  The armscye was the hardest part to drape.  The original garment--and all the others I could find from the period--had extremely dropped shoulders. All that made getting it to fit under the arm really kind of fiddly.  The result was a very tight curve under the shoulder, towards the front. I thought it was really weird, until I pinned the muslin to a tee shirt and tried it on. It worked and fit just like the photo.  Sheesh.

So, I added on seam allowances, cut out a master pattern, then cut out a paper pattern. I had some vintage glazed black cotton stashed away, so I used about a yard to cut out the pattern. Then I sewed down the darts and faced my real decision:  what fabric to use. The photo in my earlier post influenced me. I had a dress cut of an old repo roller print cotton--one of the early set of Sturbridge Village document prints cottons (Pockets and Housewives for Kent Avery) that were made about 6 years ago. I love this fabric, it's been one that's been waiting for the right project for many years (when I fell in love with it about 4 years ago, I went on a failed internet search for it, then ended up finding it on the sale rack at the local fabric store). The cool thing is that for me, it captures--though without the same great color variation--the feel of the cotton print in the photo my previous entry.

So, I measured the shoulder length and the distance of the tip of the front point from the furthest distance of the top shoulder seam. Then I cut out two rectangles of my fashion fabric with those dimensions. Then I mounted it on my lining fabric by sewing a very close seam (one that will fall well within the seam allowance when I finalize this.

Next, I have to guage several rows of the front bodice. It should be fun stuff, a pleasurable interlude. Once I have that down, I can flat line the rest of the bodice, sew piping and fix it all down. Then there are the sleeves. I want to play with gathering there, a la Hunnisett...
viennabelle: (1841)
Yes, I am on board Live Journal now.  It's time to get things together.  Life has been preoccupied by so many pressing needs, but time is starting to come to my side. So, the moment has come for a new project. DH seems relieved to see me re-engaged in something stress relieving.

So, my prospective project is for the Poe party, to be held in Baltimore in January. Poe died in 1849, so my target era is the 1840s. I could probably slip by with one of my civil war era dresses, but I feel I want to do something more representative for the period. I'm thinking possibly wool, with the characteristic low waistline of this era, the high v-neck, pointed front and possibly either a late-style pelerine or a gathered bodice.  It all has to come from the stash, so I've got to calculate just what to use.

But my biggest concern at this point is the pattern.  I have a Patterns of History 1840 dress pattern. It's ok, but it is very high waisted and doesn't have points on the bodice (figure beginning, not end of the decade). I cut it out and I think if I can get better results if cut the lining long, I can refine it and then drape the top layer on top.  I'm reading Hunnisett to get a better frame of reference (she has a pretty complete section on this era). 


One big question will be what to make this from. I feel it should be fairly somber (it is, after all, all about Poe), but I don't have any mourning material on hand that I can think of offhand. Hunnisett writes of rather amazing gathering, which looks fairly fun to accomplish.  Still, I don't know that I could do it in wool (although, granted, I do have two pieces of incredibly thin white wool which I suppose I could try dyeing to a more appropriate dark color).  Since this goes down in the category of  yet another mid-century experiment, I don't feel compelled to invest in silk--though in the period photos I've found online from this era, that fabric choice seems to predominate. 

However, first to the lining. That should get me rolling on this.

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