Saturday, February 18, 2017

My First Historical Sewing Workshop!

Last weekend I attended the Mitts, Muffs, & Hoods workshop in Savage, Maryland.  I carpooled up with Melissa and Elyse, who both work at Colonial Williamsburg (and I'm just now realizing I didn't get pictures with either of them!  Shoot).  I had a lovely time!  I got to make new friends and hang out with fellow historical costumers I hadn't seen in almost a year.  Plus I learned some new information about staying warm in the 18th Century, as well as new sewing techniques to make my winter accessories more historically accurate.

It was also fun to join others dressed in 18th Century clothing and hand-sewing using 18th Century methods!


My table-mates for the day - Taylor and Carolyn:


Carolyn was also the keynote speaker, and looked fantastic in her Italian gown!


She talked about the various garments women of three different economic and social classes wore to keep themselves warm in 18th Century winters.  She had many examples in portraits and fashion plates - as well as some extant garments in museums - in a Powerpoint presentation.


It was very informative and interesting.

Next, Vicki presented the Mitts portion of the workshop:



She had brought samples of three different sizes of a pattern for us to try on, as well as some finished mitts she had made.  I was especially taken with this embroidered linen pair:


After we each chose a size to make, and Vicki gave us guidelines for any alterations we might need to make, we got to work cutting.  Taylor and I opted to lay ours out on the floor, as table space was limited:


Vicki walked us through her detailed, step-by-step instructions with Powerpoint slides in addition to the printed directions in our handout packets.

Halfway through the Mitts portion of the day, we broke for lunch.  Did I mention they fed us really well all day long?  There were pastries, coffee, and tea for breakfast, a variety of sandwiches and veggies with fresh apples cider for lunch:


And dinner (which I did not take a picture of) was pasta and cooked veggies.  It was all very tasty, and there were desserts on top of all this!  Pregnant Chelsea likes to snack all day long, so this was pretty much heaven for me.  :p

After Mitts, we moved on to Hoods.  Ruth presented:


She had provided two patterns for each of us - a small, close-fitting hood and a larger, more fashionable version.  Both are meant to be a distinct garment, separate from a cloak (in fact, they can each be worn under a hooded cloak for an extra layer of warmth.)  She also provided a fitting muslin of the smaller hood for everyone:

We all try on our hoods.
She helped people with fitting, as the smaller of the two hoods is meant to be worn very close to the head, being a practical garment intended to keep the ears warm.

I chose to make the larger, fashionable hood.  I was enchanted with its over-the-top-ness.  Ruth had a sample she had made that we could try on:


The front edge can be folded back to show the contrasting lining around the face, and the drawstring at the neck can be drawn up for a closer fit.  I also loved the little cape/peplum option.

Finally, Sarah presented Muffs!


This was where we all got to have a lot of fun with trims and embellishments!  Check out this example:  

I think this one was Vicki's.
Sarah walked us through the construction of a basic muff base and a removable, embellished cover.  She talked about historically accurate options for filling the base, such as wool roving and down.  One thing I learned was that often the muff bases were just a flat "pillow" that you could roll up to slide inside a cover, which makes it more versatile if you have muff covers of different sizes.  Also, a flat pillow takes up less space in storage than a round base.  

I had brought my muff base (stuffed with very period-inaccurate poly-fil) and the first cover I had made for it, and I had originally intended to just make a new cover for it.  But now I want to make the flat pillow style, stuffed with wool roving!  A couple of the participants had brought wool that they were either selling or giving away, so I got enough to make myself a new muff base.

I will blog about all of my projects from the weekend separately, as soon as they're finished!  That's right, I didn't complete a single project all day.  I was very productive, though!  They are all in various stages of completion.  

Here are some aerial shots of the participants hard at work:  




This building - Carroll Baldwin Hall - was built in the 1920s as the Town Hall (I believe), and has a very lovely Colonial-revival style.  I loved the big windows that let in so much natural light!


Here is the whole group outside the hall:


Oh, and here is the maternity outfit I ended up throwing together (Taylor was kind enough to take some photos for me):




As you can see, my petticoat gaped a bit at the pocket slits - which made getting into my pocket a bit easier, actually!  If I had had time, I would have made an apron to cover the front and sides so you wouldn't notice, but oh well.  As it was, I barely had time to throw together a stomacher for my Green Jacket.  I ended up just making the shell of one, slipping my newly-made block-printed stomacher inside, and stitching the top closed!  :p  But it worked.  And I've already blogged about my maternity stays and how comfortable they are.  I seriously might start wearing them as a daily thing!  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Gold Galleon Gown - Planning Stages

This may be another case of me being way too ambitious with my costuming plans, but hey - nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  And so I am endeavoring to make - in just over a month - my very first Francaise gown!  *excited/nervous squealing*

I hope to have it done in time to wear to the annual Francaise Dinner in March.  I had so much fun last year, and it'll be more difficult to attend next year when I will have an almost-one-year-old.  Plus I want to wear my maternity stays again.  (And give myself incentive to finish them properly.)  :p  But since I am pregnant, I cannot wear the gown I wore last year.  However, because a robe a la Francaise has internal ties at the center back, I figure it has some flexibility in the fit!  I shall endeavor to make it large enough to fit me now, but not so large that it doesn't fit me again after the baby comes.  Wish me luck!

The idea for this particular gown came about in August 2015 when I visited a very upscale thrift store called The Velvet Shoestring in Williamsburg.  I went because I had been told that they occasionally carry fabric, and I was curious.  Well, I didn't find any fabric, per se, but I did find six matching curtain panels that turned out to be 100% silk!  Needless to say I bought them all.  And they have been calling out to me to make them into a Francaise gown ever since, but I've been too intimidated by the prospect to get started.  However, now is the time!

Aren't they beautiful?



I know silk shantung is not historically accurate to the 18th Century, but I'm going to pretend it's taffeta.  It has such a lovely drape and sheen, and that color!  It's hard to capture in photos, but it's a gorgeous gold color.  I can just imagine how rich and decadent I'll feel wearing it!

For those who are curious, I paid $14.50 for each panel (though they might have been priced at $29 for a set of two; I don't remember) for a total of $92.22 with tax.  The panels were 50 x 84", but when I recently unpicked the hems on all four sides of one, the final measurement ended up being 52 x 92".  This gives me a total of 15 1/3 yards of 52" wide silk!  At $6/yard, I'd say that's a steal.

Also, bonus:


They're lined in 100% cotton!  And it's high-quality, too.  Check this out:


My hand doesn't even show through!  And it has just a hint of sheen on the right side, too.  So this will work very well for the lining of my Francaise, as well.  I have 14 yards total, since the lining is shorter than the outer fabric, but still!  14 yards of good polished cotton, essentially free!  I foresee it becoming the lining for many future gowns.

But back to the Francaise (which I've just now dubbed the Gold Galleon Gown).  Since this is my first attempt, I will be using a pattern.  Specifically, the J.P. Ryan Pet en L'air pattern.  I started with a mock-up, as instructed, and tried it on Elsa wearing my maternity stays over a padded belly approximating my current baby bump:

The stays are a bit off-center in these photos.  Pay them no mind.
Clearly the bodice needs some adjustment.  In the finished garment, these ties would be tightened to achieve the proper fit:


As you can see, I didn't even bother tying them because the fabric was already taut in between.  To create more room for pregnant me, I folded the bodice at the center back:


And cut a slit up the middle:


I ended the slit level with the tops of the bones, and zig-zagged the top inch or so to keep it from fraying:


Now I tried it on Elsa again, actually tying the ties this time:


And I got the center front edges to overlap enough to pin them together!


Fit looks good:


But I'm not going to rely on my dress form for fit.  I took the mock-up and the stays off of Elsa and put them both on myself:


Still a pretty good fit!  The wrinkles are mostly from holding my arms out to hold the camera.  I'm calling it good, as the center front edges will lace closed and be covered by the stomacher on the finished gown.  So that's another area where I have room to grow.

I took off the mock-up and laid it on my cutting table with the ties still tied, and measured the gap between the two fabric edges at the bottom edge:



To be generous, I'm going to give it a full two inches when I cut out the lining.  That's next!  I just wanted to share my excitement about this planned gown.  I don't think I've done anything of such an ambitious scale since my wedding dress!  Certainly that was the last time I worked with such a large amount of silk fabric.  But the creative juices are definitely flowing again.  Stay tuned for more progress!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Maternity Stays - Nearly Finished

I'm sure everyone is interested in how my maternity stays came out - particularly if you've been following me on Instagram.  I am happy to say that I wore them this weekend and they worked beautifully!  They are not 100% finished, as they do not yet have binding and I'm missing a few bones here and there, but they were wearable for one day.

I did quite a bit of research on these stays, which you can see on my Pinterest board of 18th Century Maternity wear.  I also found the photos that Wm. Booth, Draper recently shared on Facebook to be helpful for the construction process.

I followed this excellent tutorial by The Mantua Maker at Midnight, although I changed the order of the steps slightly.  I cut out my coutil first:


I had originally adjusted the side seams of my pattern to take in room at the bust, so for my maternity stays I added that room back in.  I also gave myself more seam allowance at this seam, since it would have eyelets going up 3/4 of the way:


I added the same 1" of extra seam allowance to the center front edges, to accommodate the lacing there, as well:


I had to cut my linen fashion fabric out separately, as I was working with very small scraps leftover from another project.  I used one layer of the coutil I had already cut as my new pattern pieces:


Here I have the three layers (two layers coutil and one layer linen) basted together along the seam lines:


Now I started with the boning channels at the edges that would have lacing.  Following to the tutorial, I trimmed away one layer of coutil to reduce bulk, and pressed the fold at the basting line:


I trimmed away the excess seam allowance below the dots marking the start of the tabs that would flare out over my hips, and cut in to the basting line at the dot:


I used the original commercial pattern (Simplicity 3635) pieces as a guide for the first boning channel on the side front and side back pieces:



I then realized that the channels would extend down beyond the turned-over seam allowances into the tabs, which meant that the bones would need to go between the front two layers of coutil, and not between the second and third layers as they would at the center front and center back edges.  Therefore I trimmed away another layer of coutil to further reduce bulk at the side edges.


I did the same with the front and back pieces, but only trimmed away one layer of coutil as the tutorial instructed.  I then went out-of-order and stitched all of the boning channels (on the machine, to save time) before working the eyelets.  I adjusted the boning pattern to account for the eyelets at the side seams, and marked the eyelets at all lacing edges for a spiral-lacing pattern:


Here are all my pieces with the boning channels sewn and the eyelets marked:


It was at this point that I stopped to count up all of the eyelets that I was going to need to sew.  I do not have an eyelet attachment for my sewing machine, so these would need to be worked by hand.  All sixty-six of them.  This was on Thursday, and the event to which I intended to wear the stays was on Saturday.  I documented my progress on Instagram, under the hashtag #neverendingeyelets.

But at last they were done!  And of course I was leaving for Maryland the next day.  :p  Fortunately I wasn't leaving until the evening, so I was able to complete the next step - stitching together the pieces - again by hand.

I carpooled with two other ladies from Williamsburg on up to Maryland, so I was able to get a bit of work done in the car.  Namely, I laced up the center back with the lacing cord that I had stolen from my Regency Stays.  This took some work, because I had made my eyelets incredibly tiny, and they needed to be opened up more with my awl before I could thread the lacing through.  But I finished up just as it was getting too dark to see.  Then at the hotel, I set out to finish the stays to a wearable point.  Here is where I started:


I needed to add all the boning, and finish lacing up the rest of the edges.  I have no photos of this work, but I used zip ties from the hardware store for the boning.  I cut them to size with my Super Shears, rounding down the sharp edges with a heavy-duty nail file.  I boned every other channel, for the most part.  The center back pieces are probably the most heavily-boned, but I found that I had made a mistake by fully constructing the stays before some of the bones were inserted, and the seams closed off the edges of a few I needed to get into.  So I left those out.

I cut more cording and quickly finished the ends by wrapping them tightly with thread and coating that with clear nail polish.  Normally I would use Fray Check, but I couldn't find mine when I was packing.  Nail polish works just as well.  :)

Once the ends dried I was able to fully lace up my stays and try them on for the first time!  Very exciting.  It was also nearly 1:00 AM.  :p  They had better fit, because I was out of time!  The good news is, they did!  And I could get into and out of them by myself, thanks to the front-lacing feature.  Now I never want to wear back-lacing stays again!

I have no photos of me wearing them (yet) but here they are after a full day of being worn:


They have slightly formed to my shape, at least at the front and side fronts:


They will look much better after they have binding and welting on the seams.  I did stitch a quick basting line around the bottoms of the tabs to keep the bones from slipping out of those channels, and dabbed a bit of clear nail polish at the tops of the slits in between tabs, to keep the fabric from fraying too badly before I get the binding attached.


So you can see how they look in action, I took a couple of quick shots of Elsa wearing them over a makeshift pregnancy bump:


This is approximately how they fit on me.



I wrapped the long end of the front lacing around my waist, tying the end where it overlaps.  This knot can slip along the cord if I need to adjust the front lacing at all.  The two ends of the side lacing edges got tied together in front.


I found the stays very comfortable for all-day wear!  They provide good support at the bust, and do not compress the belly at all.  There is still a lot of room to grow in them, too.  I can let out the front and sides while keeping the back lacing right where it is, which is helpful for dressing myself.  I am calling this venture a definite success!  And I look forward to wearing them two or three more times before the baby is born, so stay tuned for more adventures in 18th Century maternity clothing!