Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pirate UFO

For this week's Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge, we were supposed to complete a "unfinished object".  I have a number of UFO's in my sewing bin, but the project that I most wanted to finish was a pirate costume that I started six years ago.  I was originally making this to wear to the a Pirates of the Caribbean premiere, and I was SO in love with my design concept, but then I got pregnant and this project was placed on hold due to my growing belly.  But every year or two, I start thinking about how much fun it would be to wear a pirate costume to faire.  I've dragged it out several times over the years and made attempts to work on it some more, but unfortunately, I never can seem to make much headway.

And once again, life has thrown up roadblocks on this project, and I didn't get as far as I had hoped.  But I did finish the petticoat, so that's better than nothing.  I keep reminding myself that this is an unfinished OBJECT challenge, not an unfinished OUTFIT challenge, so I'm counting this as a minor victory anyway.

The petticoat is made out of some machine embroidered voile that I bought on clearance for next to nothing.  It's not authentic, but I thought it was reminiscent of the beautiful embroidered petticoats from the 18th c.  The construction is based on petticoats like the ones covered in this tutorial.  The only thing creative about this whole project is that I spent a lot of time distressing it so that it looks worn and old.  I dyed and splattered the hem with a mixture of brown and dark green dye.  Then I ripped holes all along the bottom and tried to fray the bottom edge.  I also stitched up some of the rips with some hand-spun yarn, and I added a few patches here and there with scraps of striped fabric.

I'm going to continue working on the jacket over the next few weeks, and I hope to have the whole outfit done in time  for the embellish challenge.  I've changed up the jacket design quite a bit from my original sketch - the big frockcoat looked great in the drawing, but when it started coming together, I discovered it was much less flattering in real life.  I'm still not 100% sure what the jacket will look like when I'm done, but hopefully I'll figure something out this month.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

a dress for the Titanic

I was so thrilled to discover that he next challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly corresponded perfectly with the DFWCG trip to the Titanic Artifacts exhibit at the Ft. Worth Museum of Science and History.  So my entry to the centennial challenge is a complete 1913 outfit based on this reproduction dress pattern from Past Patterns, which is listed for the years 1911-1914.

I enjoyed working with this pattern, and I am very pleased with the way the dress turned out.  One of my friends recently asked me if I would recommend this pattern to others, and I would have to answer that with a conditional yes.  If you are comfortable making a dress with no instructions, you are good at resizing, and you just want some basic pattern shapes to get you started, then this is a really nice authentic historical pattern.  I love the shape of the skirts, and there are very few pieces in this dress, so it goes together quite quickly.  There were a few odd areas, like the fact that the bodice is HUGE!  I had to take 4" out of the circumference of the bodice, and took another 3" off the length.  The skirt runs a little short too, so if you are tall, you'll want to add quite a bit to the hem. The only other major change that I made was substituting a shawl collar for the ruffled one just to make it more tailored looking.  But other than those small alterations, I thought the pattern came together very well.

But... and this is a pretty big "but"... there are NO helpful instructions on this thing at all, and you need to be somewhat familiar with 1910's construction methods or you will be completely lost.  It took me 2 days of head-scratching and theorizing to figure out how to close the dress, and I'm still not sure I did it correctly.  I finally went with a center-back closure with snaps that opened from mid-back to the hips, because that is the only way you could have the collar connect across the back (unless there is a split in the collar, which would just be weird).

Also, it helps to know that 1910's dresses often used lapped and top-stitched seams, and the center-front panel of the skirt and the lower sleeves on this dress are both joined this way.  The edge of one piece gets folded under and ironed, then you place it over the next piece and stitch them together from the top, which makes a decorative flap of fabric that looks like a tuck.  It's a fun little detail, but I only knew to do it like this thanks to another antique 1910's pattern that I made up that had much better instructions.   Anyway, if you decide to give this pattern a try, these are the two best tips that I can give you, and hopefully the rest is more straightforward.

My favorite part of this project was making the hat.  I wish I could show or tell you more about how I reshaped it, but I didn't take any in-progress photos because it looked like a such complete hot mess until the very last minute that I was convinced that it was going to be a failure.  But mostly, I just wet the hat and then kept stretching and ironing and re-steaming it over my generic hat block until I eventually bent it to my will.  I was too lazy to go by gelatin to make proper sizing for it, so once it was shaped and dried, I painted a few coats of fabric stiffener on it, and that worked great too.  I love these mid-teens hats that are more vertical vs. the wide-brimmed variety that you more typically see from the early 1910's, so I had a blast making this one. I totally love the weird asymmetry and crazy plumes shooting off in odd directions (here's a great collection of examples). Although the dress could pass for a wide variety of years in the early 'teens, the hat style is very 1913, so I thought it would be a nice finishing touch for the SHF challenge.

This was a 100% stash project, which was fun and very satisfying.  I only spent $1 on a bit of interfacing for the collar, and everything else came from odds and ends that I've had hanging my sewing room for years and years.  My dress fabric came from estate sales - I think it was $5 for a large trash bag completely filled with fabric.  I picked out two shorter lengths of fabric that I couldn't do much with on their own, but when combined together, I had just enough for this dress.  The burgundy velvet came from an old bedskirt, and the tassels were freebies from my husband's work.  I bought the wool hat blank on clearance from Target last year (I still can't figure out how on earth you were supposed to wear a floppy, wide-brimmed blank as a modern hat!), and the feather, shoe buckles, and eyelet dickey were all odds and ends from the Antique Elegance show that I picked up with no specific project in mind, but they were too cheap to pass up.  Lately I've been trying really hard to not buy fabric or other costuming materials unless I have an actual project in mind for it, but this outfit totally justified collecting a bunch of random materials "just in case" from time to time too.  I have decided that 2013 is going to be the "year of the stash" for me, and this was a great project to get the ball rolling.

So that's about it.  You can see more photos of all of the fabulous 1910's ladies and gents from the DFWCG on flickr, and here are a few more shots of my dress for good measure.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

a natural form corset

So I'm sure most of you know about the very cool Historical Sew Fortnightly project that is going on in 2013.   I wasn't sure if I should join this one because my project calendar is already packed to the brim, but it just looks like so much fun that I can't resist!  I know I won't be able to do all of them, but if a project that I already have planned happens to correspond with a challenge, then I figured I might as well join the party!

So luckily, the first challenge happened to line up perfectly with a goal that I had already set for myself for the last week of 2012:

 #0 (the bonus challenge): Starting Simple - due 31 December NZT.  Finish a project, make a very simple garment, or something you have made before.  

I'm not sure if a corset counts as "very simple", but it was something that I had made before and I knew I could knock one out before the New Year.  I also have several new Victorian dresses that I am wanting to make in 2013, so it seemed like it would be a good idea to get the corset out of the way early so I could focus on the dresses when I am back at work and have less time on my hands.

So I looked at a variety of patterns of corsets from the years 1875-1885(ish) and made paper mockups to compare the shapes and see which one I liked the best. The paper mockup on the far left is a 1877 corset from a de Gracieuse pattern diagram. It makes a pretty shape, but it was way too high-waisted to work on my body.  The middle one was the 1880's corset from Corsets and Crinolines, but I decided against this one because it didn't seem very curvy.  The one on the right is the 1880's "exotic" corset from the book Corsets.  I loved how curvy this one was, so I decided to give it a try.

I enlarged the pattern to 113% so it would come closer to fitting my waist measurement, but I didn't make any other changes to the bust/waist/hip proportions, and I followed the pattern as precisely as possible.  However, I am tall and pretty long-waisted, so I had to add 2" onto the torso to make the bust hit me in the right place.  I also had to remove 2" from the bottom edge in front because it was so long over my belly that it buckled when I sat down.  I'm guessing that this corset was meant for a lady with a higher waistline than mine, but I don't like having the tightest part of the waist hit at my ribs, so I deiced it was worth making some adjustments.  

Even though I didn't change any proportions other than the length, I was surprised at how non-curvy my corset turned out when compared to my paper version.  To be honest, I'm a little boggled by it considering how little I changed the pattern. The only thing that I can guess is that the extra length makes the curves less apparent, or maybe I'm just not busty enough to fill out the top as intended.  But even though this corset didn't turn out exactly how I had hoped it would, I still think it'll work fine for my projects this year.  The shape will be nice and smooth for natural form styles, and it also reminds me of the long and lean corsets from the 1890's like the one on the right.  It'll be a good foundation garment to have in my closet.

My corset is made with silk brocade and coutil treated as one layer, and the spiral steel boning is held under tapes on the inside.  The original corset was boned with cane, so I left off some of the boning channels on my version since the steel is so much stronger.  However, the missing boning caused the top to wrinkle under the bust a little, so I added cording in that area like the example from Corsets and Crinolines to add a bit more support.  I still need to add flossing, but I'm going to put that off for sometime further down the road.  Maybe that can even be my entry for challenge #4 - Embellish!