Sunday, November 14, 2010

2nd annual Georgian Picnic


We had our 2nd annual Georgian Picnic for the DFWCG yesterday, and just like the first one, it was a delightful event, and one of the highlights of my year.  Thank-you to everybody who came out for it!  I had a blast catching up with old friends and making new ones as well.  I am one happy little costumer now.  :)


Even though I had a year to plan for this event, I procrastinated until the week before the party to make my costume, so I decided to dig out my Regency 2.0 dress (a.k.a. the Cremesicle gown) that I started last summer and finish that one.  I don't think this is the most flattering dress on me (the phrase "trussed up like a Christmas turkey" kept coming to mind), but it sure is fun to wear.  I've always liked the look of Regency military-style spencer jackets combined with uber-girly ruffs and bonnets (two good examples in this blog), so I decided to go all out with it and tell my modern "less is more" sensibilities to take a hike.   I recently watched Bright Star too, which is probably why I was more willing to go with the Regency foofy madness - my dress reminded me a lot of the one Fanny wears at the beginning of that move.  But with that being said, I might take it down a notch or two when I wear this outfit again in the future.  I think it would be a lot more attractive with a different hat and hair, and maybe leaving off the the ruff (although I do love a good ruff!)

Anyhoo, I'm especially happy with the way the spencer jacket turned out.  I made with with some gorgeous bright orange and burgundy shot silk taffeta, which was a nightmare to work with due to wrinkles, water spots, and grain issues... but it sure is purdy to look at.  ;)  I  used the pelisse pattern from Patterns of Fashion for the bodice, and I just improvised on the little peplum and decorative tabs.  I think I'm most proud of the collar though, which I carefully tailored using hair canvas and pad stitching, thanks to the fabulous tutorial on Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing (thanks Gertie!).  It made a world of difference in the way it looked, and was surprisingly fun to do.  I'm looking forward to doing more tailored pieces in the future, and I think I'm going to shoot for an 18th c. redingote with a huge collar for next year's picnic.

I ran out of time and didn't get a chance to finish the bodice of the white underdress, but a friend of mine on LiveJournal pointed out this cool example of a spencer worn with a skirt instead of a full dress, so that made me feel a little bit better about it.  The fabric is vintage sheer striped cotton that I bought at an estate sale last year, and I am looking forward to finishing it so I can wear the dress alone some too.

I won't spam you too much with pictures here, but you can see my whole set on Flickr.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween fun!

Mike and I were invited to an Alice in Wonderland party for Halloween this year, so we decided to go as the semi-obscure characters of the Walrus and the Carpenter.  I don't think anybody at the party had a clue who we were supposed to be, but we had a lot of fun anyway!

the Walrus and the Carpenter

I made my pants from some super-fab estate sale plaid wool, and I used one of the Martha McCain civil war era pants patterns (Simplicity 5023).  I loved that pattern and I had a blast making them! It was such a nice change of pace from complicated girl stuff. The rest of my costume was all scavenged from things around the house or from Dallas Vintage.  I actually made a square paper hat like the one in the original illustrations too, but I decided that we were going to confuse people enough as is without throwing another bizarre costume element into the mix!


Mike just wore his old Victorian costume with the addition of whiskers that I made by cutting pieces off a $5 old man wig, and the tusks are plastic window blinds that I cut into the right shape. He thought the little round John Lennon glasses would add a funny finishing touch (goo goo g'joob!)


I didn't take a ton of pictures, but you can see the rest here if you want. We had a lot of fun dressing up this year, and thanks again to Kaycee for inviting us! :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

another site update

I wanted to tell you all that I just posted a new page for my Regency jumper that I made earlier this summer.  I think a lot of people have already seen these pictures elsewhere, but maybe not everybody.  It feels good to finally get these costumes webbed.  Now if I could just find the time to take pictures of all my new undies sometime.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

site update for Edwardian

For the past two weekends, I've attended events where I was able to wear my 1911 day dress that I made for the Suffragette Picnic earlier this summer.  I never was completely happy with the pics from the first event (mostly because I was wearing a modern bra that time, which ruins the silhouette of the bust), so I was thrilled to get anther shot a getting photos of this outfit.  You can now find a few of my favorite pictures on the gallery section of my website.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


My "look what I found at the estate sale!!!!" posts are probably boring as all get out for you guys to read, but I love playing show and tell, and it helps me remember what I bought and when and how much it cost.  So anyhoo... after a bit of a dry spell, I've had some really good luck estate shopping these past two weeks.  Wanna see what I got?

First of all, I picked up 17 new old patterns from the late 60's through the 70's.  This isn't my favorite era of retro fashions, but I have to admit, they are starting to grow on me - mostly because I can see great possibilities for garments that could work in my everyday wardrobe. For example, I love the clean lines in these 2 patterns from 1970.  With the right fabrics, they would look so chic and modern!

1970 - Simplicity 8742

1970 - McCall's 2468

All the patterns were $.50, which made them cheap enough that I could buy a few just to marvel at how hideous 70's fashions could be!

I also picked up some fabric yardage for $.50 a cut.  In addition to a few basics, I found these fabulous prints that I can't wait to use with my vintage patterns.  My favorite is the green and white daisies on terrycloth.  I have no idea what I'll ever do with it, but it is so over the top crazy that I'm determined to make something fabulous someday!  I also love the small scale print on blue, and although there isn't a lot of it, I think it would make a sweet little 40's blouse, or maybe trim on a dress.


At another sale, I picked up some great lace and collars for $1 apiece.  There is 10 yards of the wide eyelet trim, so I am already daydreaming about pretty Victorian or Edwardian undies.


Next, I got a few women's magazines dating from 1900 - 1924.  They have some nice fashion plates, but the articles and embroidery diagrams are the best part.  My favorite article teaches you how to make fabric flowers.  I plan on scanning and posting the instructions for anybody who wants to give them a try (as soon as I can unearth my scanner). 


And saving the best for last, here is my super-fab $2 coat.  I lovelovelove this coat, and it has a real fur collar and is in perfect condition!  I love it so much, I've been wearing it around the house on this 100 degree summer day!

I've been having a blast searching for estate sale treasures lately, and I am going to be SO sad when I have to go back to work again and miss out on all the early sales!  If any of you in the DFW area are interested in estate sale shopping, you might want to join the 24/7 Estate Sale mailing list.  Just be sure that you leave some of the good stuff for me!  ;)

Monday, July 12, 2010

building a straw braid bonnet

Last year, I bought 10 yards of beautiful 1 1/2 wide straw braid at an estate sale, and I've been dying to do something with it.  Since I've been working on Regency costumes lately, I decided to try my hand at making a stovepipe bonnet with a small brim, like these examples that I found in period illustrations and in the movie, Northanger Abbey.  It seemed like a good starter project since the shapes are quite simple, and it wouldn't take as much braid as one of the wider brimmed hats.

To begin, I made a mockup out of paper.  I traced around a slightly flared plastic pot for the crown, and I made a cone with a flare that I liked for the brim, then measured out from the middle point to draw the inside and outside edges of the brim.  I also cut out a circle for the top of the crown, but I didn't even need it in the end.

Next, I took the paper brim template, wet the braid, and then started pinning it directly to the paper.  I made each row of the braid overlap the top half of the previous row, and I used the zig-zag designs in the braid to keep it somewhat even.  I think most people start with the top of braid hats and work their way down instead of working up, but I wasn't sure how far my braid would go, so I figured it would be better to make the hat shorter if I needed to vs. not having enough for the brim.  

After the entire brim section was pinned plus a little extra starting up the crown, I started hand-sewing the rows together using strong, golden-yellow thread that is used for jeans.  I used basic basting stitches in the middle of the braid, and I would remove one pin at a time from the paper and move the template out of the way for the part I was working on so I could sew the braid without catching the paper.  

After the brim was all basted together, I put the crown template into the opening, and started pinning the braid to that section.  

Once the sides of the crown were all basted together, I removed the paper template, and then started folding the top row to the inside to make the flat section at the top of the hat.

To make the braid lay flat while working in toward the center, I had to pinch little tucks in the inside part of the braid and then sew these tucks down.  On the right of the picture above, you can see what it looks like with the tucks, and on the left side you can see how the braid tends to poke up without them.

When the hat was basted together, I re-wet it, then turned the entire thing inside out.  I sewed the flat edge of the rows to the layer beneath with tighter whipstitches to hold it all together better.  In the picture above, I have the top of the crown and the top few rows sewn down.  I think you can see how it looks tighter and more solid than the bottom parts.

When I was done, I flipped the hat right-side-out, and it looked like this.  It was still wet at this point, so I pinned the back of the brim up and let it dry upside down so the brim could flare out more naturally in the front (you can see that it gets very flat when sitting on the table).

When it was dry, I removed the pins from the back, and it held its shape with no problem.  Then I sewed on a simple ribbon band with a few loops on each side of the head.  I also went back and tacked down the scalloped edge of the braid around the top of the crown to soften the edge and keep the pointy bits from sticking out so much.

And here you can see the finished product with my new Regency dress!  

I considered sewing the braid to a buckram and wired base, but I liked how light and open and airy the braid looked on its own.  The hat is pretty flexible still, but it holds its shape wonderfully and is very cool and comfortable to wear.   And just FYI, I ended up using about 9 yards of braid when I was done.  

Of course, finding vintage straw braid like this was a HUGE stroke of luck, and I doubt that I'll ever find anything quite like it again.  I looked around online a little to see if anybody sold wide, decorative straw braid, but I didn't come up with much.  It is possible that you could take apart another hat though and reuse the braid if you like the "rustic" look of this type of open braid.  About halfway down this page, you can see a natural open weave hat that might give you a somewhat similar look, or you could always use the more common solid braids too.

All in all, it was a very fun and surprisingly easy project.  I hope this little tutorial will inspire others to give straw braid millinery a try!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

40's blouse for 4th of July

I recently found this wonderful vintage fabric in a local antique shop, so I decided that I needed a red, white, and blue blouse for Mike's family's 4th of July party.  Don't you think the leaves look a bit like fireworks?  I made it with an Advance pattern from 1947.  It went together great with no alterations necessary - I just left the pocket off since it seemed fairly pointless.  I also used a cool new trick that I learned from Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing (which I adore, BTW!).  Since the fabric was semi-sheer, I used a flesh-colored silk organza for the interfacing, which kept the faced areas from having pattern bleed-through or being brighter white than the rest of the shirt.  I'll definitely be using that technique for now on!  

Saturday, June 19, 2010

summery seventies top

I've made a vow to start using the vintage patterns in my collection to make things that I can wear in everyday life... and if I'm honest with myself, that means I should focus on simple separates vs. dressy dresses.  I usually wouldn't look twice at a pattern from the 70's, but this McCall's top from 1975 seemed so incredibly modern that I thought it would be fun to give it a try.  It also worked out great because I had less than a yard of this cheery vintage floral print, and this is about the only garment that I could find that would make use of such a small piece. 

This shirt was super easy to make and only took a few hours to complete.  I think it would especially be cute in the longer length as a dress, so I might have to try another one at some point in the future.  The only change that I made was raising the placement of the belt by an inch or two, which I kind of regret now because it looks like a maternity blouse!  But it is incredibly cool and comfortable, so I'm sure it will get lots of wear around the house this summer.  


Thursday, June 17, 2010

more patterns in the archive

1919 - McCall 9060

I have updated my pattern archive with my children's patterns, and a few other recent purchases.  The pattern you see here is one of my favorites.  I'm dying to make this outfit for my son... and of course, a matching late-1910's costume for myself!

I've also started using some of these patterns for fast and frivolous summer sewing projects, so hopefully I'll have some fun new garments to show you all soon.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

hat decorations

After reshaping my beachcomber hat into a more suitable shape, the last step was just to decorate it.  I looked through some of my books of Edwardian fashion plates and decided to do a cluster of roses on one side with a fabric band that was loosely inspired by the hats from this 1909 Mode Illustree picture.

I am a big believer in hot-glue millinery, so all of the decorations were quickly added just hours before the event started.  I glued strips of silk to the crown first to create the band, then added heirloom-style silk roses that I bought on sale at Michael's.  I filled in the gaps around the flowers with smaller strips and loops of silk.   



I also made two super-long hat pins by sharpening the ends of some spring steel rods, which you can buy at hobby shops that cater to the model airplane crowd.  Then I just superglued a few glass beads to the other end.

Unfortunately, I didn't look in a mirror when putting my hat on at the suffragette event, so the flowers were too far to the side and back for my taste.  But it still looked great for side-view pictures, and overall, I was very pleased with the way it turned out.  I hope this tutorial gives you a few ideas to help you with your next millinery project!

suffragette recap

I had a wonderful time at the suffragette event last weekend!  We had 12 ladies in attendance (including the wee ones) who were wearing a wonderful range of fashions dating from the early 1900's up to the early 20's.  We did a little shopping at the farmer's market (yay cookies!) and then came back and shared a yummy light picnic lunch.  I really enjoyed chatting with everybody and taking lots of pictures in our beautiful setting.  And I had a blast making the banners and poster and researching some of the writings of the suffragettes.  This was definitely a theme that was right up my alley!  I'll be posting more about my dress and hat this week, but for now, here are my pictures from the event.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

reshaping a beachcomber

My original plan was to make a 1910's hat for my suffragette costume out of straw braid, but I ended up running short on time, so I decided to go with a tried and true method instead.  These cheap beachcomber hats can be found at Party City for $4.99, and there's usually a good variety to the size and color as well.  The one that I picked out was a medium size.

The first step is weaving the extra straw back into the hat (or you could cut it off if you aren't feeling that ambitious).  It took me about an hour and a half to do it, but it was strangely satisfying work!  My best advice is to trim the ends of the straw so they are blunt instead of pointy, and to weave the parts on the flat of the brim before you do the edges.

Next, I wet the hat and weighed down the brim with a bunch of bowls so that it would lay flat.  Then I placed a large bowl on the crown plus a bit more weight to push it down.  These hats are like Chinese handcuffs in the way they are woven - if you push down on them, they get wider, which works wonderfully for making the wide crowns that are so characteristic for the hats from this period.   

I left it like this to dry overnight, and now it holds its new shape.  Easy peasey!  

The crown is a good bit wider than my head now, so I sewed a strip of fabric to the inside with a drawstring that ties in the middle.  This helps to stabilize the hat so it doesn't bobble around so much, and by adjusting how tightly I tie the cord, I can adjust how high it sits on my head.  

Once the straw is shaped, you can cover it with fabric, like I did for my black 1910's hat.  I made that one with a beachcomber too, but I shaped the brim up by tying rubber bands around it instead of laying it out flat.  You can also paint or dye these hats, but I think I'm going to leave my straw plain since a rustic look seems appropriate for a summer picnic.  

Here's a crappy picture of it on my head so you can get a feeling for the scale, but you'll have to wait until this weekend to see the decorated finished product!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

suffragette ribbon

I painted a suffragette ribbon today.  It is based on the one found here, but I omitted the shadow on the letters to make it easier to paint.  If any of y'all want ribbons like this, you can either paint them there (I'm making a stencil to speed up the process), or I'll make one for you ahead of time and have it ready for you.  Just let me know!  Of course, feel free to make your own in a different style too.  I think some variety would be cool!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

the pros and cons of perfectionism

So in my last post, I was angsting about the darker green trim.  Even though all of you good readers, my husband, and my mom all told me that the green was great and I was crazy for worrying about it, I knew it wasn't going to make me happy.  I just had to go with my gut on this one.  But unfortunately, the bright-white stripes in my fabric didn't match the off-white of my silk.  Oh noes!  So silly me, I threw it in the wash with a few cups of coffee and didn't bother to finish the edges of my pieces first.  How bad could it be?

Uhhh... bad.

This has to be the frayingest fabric that I've ever had the joy of working with.  It frayed through my 5/8" selvage and beyond.  I was so upset on Friday that I was seriously considering ditching the whole project, but by Saturday my stubborn nature had taken over, so I gave it one more try.  

I was able to fix the skirt by trimming off the tangled mess and turning the seams into French seams, so that wasn't too big of a deal (but my skirt inset is on the wrong side now - oops!)  But the bodice was more problematic.  I tried trimming the selvage down and assembling it with smaller seams, but it didn't fit anymore.  So I took the little bit of fabric that was remaining and cut all new bodice pieces, even though this meant that I had to carefully piece a few sections because my remaining scraps were so small.  

All this silliness cost me a day's worth of work, but now that the dress is assembled, I am SO glad I did it.  I looooove the white trim.  It looks so much more delicate and soft than the green did.  Seeing this dress come together is making me absolutely giddy.  I still need to make the undersleeves and dicky and mount it all to the underbodice, but I still have 2 weeks to do that, so I should be fine.  

Friday, May 14, 2010

color indecision

The dress is going together now, but I'm having second thoughts about my trim color.  I found some silk shantung in a darker pewter green color, and I've spent the past few days cutting bias strips, carefully basting it to the edges, making buttons, and twisting cord out of embroidery floss.  But now that it's coming together, I don't think I like it.  It almost overpowers the delicate green of the main fabric.  Now I'm wondering if I should switch the green trim out for off-white, like I had in my design sketch.  

So what do y'all think about the darker green trim - yea or nay?  It would cost a couple hours of work to  change it, but nothing too serious.   I'm about to hit the point of no return though, so I have to decide by tomorrow. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

an interesting fashion statement

I worked on my new 1910's corset last week, and although I still need to add the garters and bottom edge binding, it was finally done enough to try it on.  Quite an interesting fashion statement over my work clothes, don'cha think?