April 30, 2013

Past Patterns 703 (Civil War Corset)

Along with my new chemise, a new corset is in order! My old one was dreadful; I made it about five years ago, without a pattern, as a sort of "basic" corset that would work for multiple costume eras--and when I started doing living history events a couple of years later, decided it would have to do. Unfortunately it didn't. ;)

My friend Bethany was generous enough to loan me Past Patterns 703, which is based on an actual corset from 1863. It was quite easy to put together, although I omitted several things and changed several others. The original pattern has an extra band of horsehair around the bottom edge to help support the skirts; I left that out. It also doesn't open all the way down the back; changed that too. I think I also unwittingly omitted a bone or two (didn't make much difference as far as I'm concerned). And as I don't like busks, nor have ever used one, I made the front open with spiral lacing for easy on/off.

The outside fabric is simply thick cotton and the inside lightweight canvas; both from the stash. As per usual I used plastic cable ties (or zip ties) from the hardware store for boning; it's cheaper and more comfortable than steel, comes in different widths, and you can easily cut it to size. (A pack of 25" zip ties will easily serve me two corsets, but I was able to reuse most of the boning from my old corset in this one.) I hand-punched & stitched the lacing eyelets, and the traditional green ribbon trim is mostly salvaged from my old corset, re-pressed and turned as our historic sisters would have done.

I love how pretty historic underthings are!
All in all, I adore my new corset! It's very very comfortable, loads more comfortable than my old one (which laced further down and had more boning and less shaping). Plus it gives quite a nice, accurate shape, don't you think? The only problem is, all of my Civil War dresses were fitted on my old corset, and this new one provides such a different shape that I'm having to refit most of the bodices!

April 17, 2013

Italian Floral

One of my grandma's friends sent me this gorgeous vintage dress along with some other things. Apparently she bought the fabric in Italy and sewed the dress herself.

I wore it to church last Sunday. Since it's an early 60s style, I added my 60s-style sunglasses (from the dollar store!) and did my hair in a sort of failed-beehive-slash-french twist-updo-thingy.

I love the hip pleats!
The dress bodice is lined with interlining and has a grosgrain waist stay, plus a deep, hand-sewn hem. It's actually very similar to a vintage pattern I own:

It was so much fun! I can't wait to wear it again :)

Shoes--thrift store, $2
Sunglasses--dollar store, $1
Flannel Slip--made by me

April 9, 2013

A Cranberry Paletote and Pumpkin Muff

Yes, those are extremely long sausage curls.

I worked very hard to get these done before the Harper's Ferry event last December! The cranberry wool paletote was draped entirely by me (I love draping, it's so much fun!). Because of fabric restrictions, I had to make it mid-length instead of full-length and the two back side panels are actually a slightly different shade of wool! But I don't think you can tell unless in bright light. I based it on several fashion plates I had found along with some input from the recipient. ;)

The paletote is interlined with wool and cotton flannel scraps and lined with a silky purple mystery fabric--found at the thrift store ages ago. I trimmed the whole thing in black soutache braid to make it a bit fancier.


The pumpkin muff was drafted up precisely to match the pumpkin bonnet--lined with white silk moire, tied with pale blue ribbons at the ends. I don't think fabric muffs are accurate to the era but in this one instance I don't care. :P

See the mismatched side panels? *cringe*

April 2, 2013

Rice Pack Heating Pads

I made one of these awhile ago and somehow it turned into making one for almost everybody on the Christmas list! They're fast and addictive--and very useful. Tutorial here.

March 18, 2013

That 70's Upholstery Dress

I absolutely fell in love with this print the first time I saw it in Jo-Ann's. Yes, I am one of those guilty seamstresses who makes dresses out of quilting cotton. But it's just so pretty!!! (Actually I think it looks like upholstery fabric from the 70s but I adore it nonetheless.)

The finished product is inspired by the 'Luck Be a Lady' dress from ModCloth,

a blue flared belted dress I found on Polyvore

 and the 'Take Action' dress from Anthropologie . It has a scooped neckline, front neckline tucks, half-circle skirt and zips up the back.

I drafted the dress pattern up from scratch. First I draped a dress bodice on Marie Antoinette and transferred it to paper. Then I used this extremely helpful tutorial to swing the waist darts up to the neckline. That way I have neckline tucks instead of waist tucks. (And circle skirts are easy to draft; there are ten million tutorials for them on the internet.)

I tried my best to use professional finishing techniques and I think this dress turned out pretty well. The bodice is fully lined and topstitched around the neck and armholes, which are finished with self-bias binding. There are two pockets in the skirt and a hem facing as well. And what would a newly finished dress be without a matching belt? I used Casey's beltmaking tutorial and it turned out beautifully, and was so much fun to make! Both the buckle and belting are vintage, from the stash.

I still can't decide if I like the red belt better though!

March 11, 2013

A White Waist and Skirt, Plus Bonus Cage Crinoline

A new Civil War outfit for a little girl who has outgrown her winter dress--something a bit fancier, a bit more grown-up.

An outfit like this would have been worn by an upper or upper-middle class little girl, one whose family was in tune with all the fashions. 

Eventually I hope to add trim to the skirt, like this one!
It would not have been made in a thick cotton or calico print, but rather a fine white batiste (or sheer cotton) for the blouse and a silky, fancy dress fabric for the skirt.

I looked at several fashion plates, CDVs and read lots of threads at the Sewing Academy before designing the white waist. It's made from a thin cotton batiste (which was a simply enormous white tiered skirt that I thrifted some time ago) and the bodice is lined with plain cotton.

I used the HMP 250 dress bodice as a pattern, changing it up only slightly. It has the standard stand-up collar and button-front placket, plus the front and back bodices are gathered to a waistband. Knowing this particular little girl's tastes and fancies, I trimmed it with lace wherever I could.

The design of the sleeves was a bit of an accident. Originally I was going to make two sets of sleeves--a long, full bishop sleeve and a short puffed sleeve, to be interchangeable for different occasions. Unfortunately I ran out of fabric after cutting out the short sleeves and there was no way I could cut out two large bishop sleeves without piecing them.

So I decided on this: use the short puffed sleeve at the top, end it with a band of lace (like a cuff) and simply cut the bottom part of the sleeve as a bishop sleeve which can be tacked on or taken off as needed. Does that make sense? It's kind of hard to explain. Suffice to say, the bottom of the sleeves are detachable to make short sleeves when wanted and I believe that is a period-correct technique.

The skirt is merely pleated to a waistband--made very full, to fit over the tiny cage crinoline and starched petticoat. This fabric was actually my very first "Civil War" style dress which I made---oh, about four or five years ago! That was before I got into living history and learned what was accurate styling and what was not. Glad it can be used for something. ;) As soon as I get time I'm going to make a matching plaid jacket and hopefully trim the jacket and skirt.

On the cage crinoline: I made it completely from scratch, after looking at a lot of homemade ones on the internet. It's deceptively simple: I merely bought a pack of the longest zip ties (cable ties) you can find and duct-taped them into circles of differing sizes. (I believe the bottom rung's circumference is about 60".)


Then I covered the circles with white bias tape and made several long white strips (the vertical ones in the photo) that are handsewn to the waistband and each of the circles in turn. No biggie :) It doesn't look very big in the photo but once you put a starched petticoat and a skirt over it, you can really see the difference. It's also fun to bounce around in when dancing the polka. ;)

With starched (but wrinkled) petticoat over top--see how much it poofs out?

March 4, 2013

A Marie-Grace Christmas

Since Marie-Grace is the newest addition to the doll family here at home, I thought some Christmas presents might be appropriate.

replica of Caroline's Birthday Dress

antique book and candleholder

pearl-and-cameo necklace

Game of Graces

red silk taffeta Christmas dress, 1850s style

sleeve detail

Isn't she a beautiful doll?

She even got a new room, courtesy of some foam board and floral fabric from the stash.

(That's Great Aunt Edna over the fireplace. Great Aunt Edna is very stern.)

Methinks a background for the window is in order!

And what would Christmas be without a friend to share it with?

Addy has become our new Cecile!

Dress and necklace made by me.

chemise and lace-trimmed drawers