Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Making Progress

I'm still a bit behind on my challenge work and dead in the water on all the other sewing I had hoped to accomplish this past month. Job searching and the accompanying anxiety about not having a job yet have been taking up a lot of my time and draining my motivation. Good news finally came today however. I'm going to be a jeweler's apprentice at Jared The Galleria of Jewelry! It's a really exciting opportunity to learn a new skill set, though I've already been warned I'll be more of a secretary for the first few months - logging repair and custom orders into the computer, answering phones etc... but I do get to polish rings right away!

Even with the lack of motivation lately I've made a good bit of progress on my challenge sewing. I've completely given up on Art for right now, I have a dress half finished but I'm just not feeling it at the moment so it's on the back burner for a while. I'll hopefully come back to it at some point (there's always the re-do challenge) and even if I don't missing one challenge out of the year is still doing really good considering I had completely dropped out by this point last year!

As for the current challenge, #12 Shape and Support, I'm more than halfway done with my piece. I debated back and forth for a while on what exactly I wanted to make. I was thinking of making a regency corset since I had been toying with the idea of making a regency gown for the Politics challenge. The regency dress never came to be, and as I thought about it more I realized I really should make an Edwardian corset. I already have some Edwardian costume pieces and every time I model them for photographs I lament not having the proper undergarments to give them the right shape. I even had a Truly Victorian pattern for a 1903 corset already, sitting around unused for probably more than a year by now!

Because of my previous jobless state I dug through my stash to find as much of the materials I would need as possible. I had just barely enough black cotton twill left to squeeze the pattern onto. I didn't want a black corset though, so I dug through for a suitable fashion fabric. There were several choices I considered, but after tearing myself away from the pretty bits of cloth and really thinking about the historical accuracy of the fabrics at hand I chose a pale blue, purple, and white polka dotted fabric.

The reasons I chose this fabric were first and foremost that it is a cotton fabric (already washed even!) and thus more historically accurate than the synthetic fabrics I had also pulled out. Probably the second biggest reason for choosing it was the white background. The Victorians might have loved bright and daring colors for everything including corsets, but by-and-large most of the Edwardian corset examples I've seen have been white or another very pale shade of tan or yellow or beige. Not to say colored corsets didn't exist then, but I can't really recall any examples I've seen recently. I did find a few subtly pattern examples so I feel confidant that my polka dot pattern isn't too far out of the realm of possibility. The polka dot pattern has been around since long before the Edwardian era though I'm not so sure about my pattern since there is a small ring of purple around each blue dot, but that's getting really nit-picky and I don't usually bother being quite that fastidious in my costuming.

I flat lined each panel of the corset using a roll-pinning technique some of the corset makers I follow on Tumblr have been talking about to hopefully reduce any wrinkles in the finished product. It was then constructed as a single layer corset which the pattern said was most typical of the era. I flat-felled all of my seams for strength though the pattern called for just leaving them as they were. I've been on a year long crusade against leaving ragged edges in my sewing however, and flat-felling was a technique that existed in the time period so I went with it. I hate ragged edges!

I'm currently in the middle of adding the boning channels as you can see in the picture above. Each side is ready to have the busk inserted as well. I scavenged a busk off an older ill-fitting corset and found some half-inch wide bones that I'll insert behind the busk as it's a bit on the bendy side and this is supposed to be a straight-front corset. I have almost the right amount of bones on hand already though there was going to be some creative sizing going on. I was going to make due with the lower quality eyelets I have in the stash, but now that I'm already behind a bit and I've got a source of income again I might order the correct size bones and some stronger grommets and finish the corset once the order comes in. I'd rather have a quality product after putting in all this work anyway.

In the meantime I've already got my project for the next challenge, under $10, all planned out! Going through my pattern stash looking for the corset pattern earlier I also came across a reprint of a vintage Vogue pattern I had picked up on a whim during a sale last year. The pattern dates to 1940 so it quickly got forgotten since 1940 was not in the definition of historical last year. The dates have been expanded just a bit for this year's challenges however, so the pattern will work wonderfully!

I'm going to be making just the dress, the bolero isn't quite my cup of tea. The dress calls for 2 3/4 yards fabric and as luck would have it I have two lengths of fabric to choose from that I picked up last year for $3 a yard. The first fabric is a navy blue cotton/poly blend suiting fabric with a very subtle silver pinstripe. The second fabric is a gorgeous red cotton sateen. Both fabrics were proving incredibly hard to photograph at night in my not so brightly lit apartment so here are photos of both fabrics with and without flash. Neither picture shows the fabrics quite right unfortunately.

The pinstripe fabric was my first thought for the dress since I thought a solid color might be too plain, but now I'm leaning toward the red. The red is a nicer fabric to work with, 100% cotton, and the pinstripe is just so dark. A nice red dress could be really stunning! The only problem with the red is that I'm just shy of 2 1/2 yards of it. I think I'll be able to finagle it though. There is a belt included in the yardage that is separate from the dress and I could drop completely, or make out of a contrasting fabric. I also think I want to shorten the skirt just a couple inches. I have the pattern pieces for it cut out and they fall down to my ankle and even after hemming I think they could lose two inches or so easily. There's also a pattern piece that is for making these tedious looking self-bound button holes that I would have no problem forgoing and just making regular button holes. Also 2 1/2 yards worth of fabric leaves me with $2.50 for buttons as opposed to $1.75 if I used 2 3/4 yards. So you'll probably be seeing a bright red dress from me pretty soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Politics of Fashion

This has been the most difficult move I've ever made. It was determined to throw every obstacle in my way that it could. Despite having to make several more trips between states than we had planned on I managed to complete my entry for challenge #11 just in time. I went to pick up my camera to photograph it and it wouldn't turn on at all. Dead battery. Looking around the mess of half empty boxes I realized I had absolutely no idea where the charger for it might have ended up. There were still half a dozen boxes sitting in the car that we hadn't even unloaded! I gave up for the time being and decided to search for the charger once everything was finally unloaded.

The evening after, still unable to find my camera charger, I sat down to at least type up some of the blog post so I could add the pictures in later. The power cord to my computer started to smoke, giving off an acrid smell. Burnt out completely, and I only had ten percent battery left on my laptop. I was able to find a fairly cheap replacement online but I would have to wait for it to be delivered. Luckily I stumbled upon my camera charger a couple days later. The power cord for my laptop arrived right on schedule and I could finally try and write about my entry!

Since I was in the middle of moving I picked what I thought would be a fairly simple yet still very interesting entry. I've been rather enamoured with the Wild West ever since I was a little girl reading Little House on the Prairie and the rest of the books in that series. Recently I acquired a book called Cowgirls: Women of the Wild West. It was all about women who made new and better lives for themselves out west, starting at about the 1880's and working it's way up to more modern times.

Out west women were a little more freed from the restrictive gender roles of traditional Victorian society. It was a hard and dangerous life but many women made quite a name for themselves. At first most women remained in the traditional types of clothing that women in the east and in Europe were wearing. In a world where every pair of hands was needed to carve a living out of the wilderness women were wrangling cattle and working the ranch in long skirts, corsets, and high heeled shoes. 

It was still traditional at first for women to ride side saddle and they still wore long riding habits to do so. Some women were not happy with this arrangement however. The long skirt of most riding habits would catch easily on brush and a side saddle was not a steady perch if one wanted to rope a steer or herd cattle as many women did. One female rancher lamented that she could not ride a high spirited bronco on a side saddle. Women began to challenge traditions and ride astride, but this brought up the problem of how to do so in a skirt. 

One of the first solutions to this dilemma was a split riding skirt. It was a long skirt that was split in the middle like pants. There would be a flap over the front that could be buttoned to cover the split, making it look like a regular skirt so a woman could walk about looking proper after dismounting her horse. The book has an interesting passage on these split skirts and why I felt they would be proper for the Political challenge.

On the advice of the ranch manager, Evelyn Cameron sent away to a well-known Chicago firm for what was called a California riding costume, which cost her one hundred dollars. The skirt was long but split like pants to allow her to ride like a man. When she rode the forty-eight miles from her ranch into Miles City, Montana in her California riding habit, folks were shocked. "It created a small sensation," Cameron said. "so great at first was the prejudice against any divided garment in Montana that a warning was given me to abstain from riding on the streets of Miles City lest I might be arrested!"

Thoroughly fascinated by these skirts now I set out to figure out how they were made. At first I thought that they were basically baggy pants with a separate panel that buttoned over the front, but it seemed a bit impractical to just have a loose bit of fabric flapping around as you rode. Folkwear carries a pattern for them but I didn't have time to order it and wait for shipping. The description gave me a clue about a better construction method however. The pattern said it had a front closure that buttoned one way for a skirt and the other for pants. After studying the line drawing of the pattern for a bit I figured out about how it should go together. A picture from the book was my inspiration for a fairly plain model of skirt.

The description of this skirt says it is a heavy twill style that was popular in the 1890's. Though I would have loved to make a flashier version with fringe and other embellishments as became popular amongst rodeo girls later on, I was on a tight budget. The simple version would have to do.

Unable to find any twill in the fabric store with more than a yard left on the bolt I settled for a similar fabric called cornstalk rodeo. Pretty perfect for this project after all! It's a poly/cotton blend but it's fairly impossible for me to find accurate fabrics in the store any more and there was no time to order online. It has the proper weight and color that I wanted at least.

And here is the split skirt with the split covered up. I accidentally drafted my pattern just a touch too large for me, but I'd rather too large than too small! The front panel is an extension of the right pantleg. When buttoned to the row of buttons on the left, it covers the split to make a skirt. 

Flip the panel over to the row of buttons on the right side and the split is revealed with the extra fabric safely fastened down. There is a small placket under the left row of buttons for getting in and out of the skirt.

The back has two large double box pleats to disguise the split as best as possible. All the seams are sewn flat-felled for extra strength to hold up to the rigors of riding. I even placed a small pocket in the right side seam.

And here's a side view with the front flap completely unbuttoned. All in all it was quite the brain teaser trying to figure out the patterning for this skirt! It came out better than I could have hoped for but still in need of a bit of tweaking, but first drafts rarely come out perfect anyway. It's always a lot of fun trying out something a bit different from the normal skirts and blouses I usually make, and especially such an interesting bit of history!

The split skirts were not relegated completely to the wild west and wild women however. By the 1900's they were fairly normal wear for a ranch woman and had even made their way back east. I've seen examples of very similar front buttoning skirts used as part of a bicycling outfit after the turn of the century.

The Challenge: #11 The Politics of Fashion

Fabric: 4 yards Rodeo cotton/poly blend

Pattern: Self-drafted

Year: 1890's

Notions: 6 large buttons, 2 hooks and eyes, thread

How Historically Accurate is it? Around 60%, fairly accurate pattern and construction but inaccurate materials.

Hours to Complete: 5 or 6

First Worn: Just for pictures

Total Cost: $26

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Catching Up

I've fallen a bit behind on my sewing lately but I've finally found a bit of time to catch back up. I'm in the middle of planning to move back to my home state currently and while our apartment search has finally come to an end the packing is about to begin in earnest. I have a day or two of free time to try and get a couple projects finished and I finally managed to complete my entry for the Black and White challenge.

I had decided on making a simple project for the challenge knowing my time was limited but it still managed to get away from me in the end. I finally finished my Edwardian princess slip however. I will hopefully get a chance to make an Edwardian corset soon and then I'll have an almost complete set of Edwardian undergarments.

I found some lovely cotton lace to use for the insertions and a midweight linen for the fabric. The linen is rather stiff at the moment but will hopefully soften up with a few more washings.

The neckline need a little fixing, it gaps a little but I think cutting it a little lower will fix the problem. Other than that minor issue I couldn't be happier with it.

The Challenge: #9 Black and White

Fabric: 3 yards Linen

Pattern: Self-drafted

Year: 1900's

Notions: 5 yards Lace, Buttons, Thread

How Historically Accurate is it? It's based off my best guess at a period pattern with correct materials and construction method so I'll give it 80%

Hours to Complete: 5 or 6

First Worn: Not yet

Total Cost: Around $25

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gibson Girl Blouse

Just managed to sneak one more project into the UFO deadline! Several months ago I started working on a Gibson Girl Blouse using a pattern from Folkwear. I got as far as cutting all the pattern pieces out of the fabric and then got stalled about the time I needed to start making the pintucks and lace insertions. I think I got a bit intimidated by them, and then other projects came along and the blouse got buried and forgotten about.

I'm fairly lucky that the blouse is one of the very few projects that has ended up in my UFO pile. I'm actually incredibly surprised at myself that I don't have a big UFO pile! I think I tend to just not start a project at all rather than start it and then abandon it. Either way I decided the blouse needed to be finished for the challenge.

When I cut the pattern pieces out I didn't have an Edwardian corset so I cut it to my natural measurements planning to use it in my everyday wardrobe. I still don't have an Edwardian corset, but even uncorsetted I think I could have gone down a size in the pattern. The blouse is so drapey and soft that it's not too obvious, it's mostly just from the back that it looks a tad too large for me.

This is probably one of the most comfortable blouses I've ever worn though! It's made out of a very fine linen/rayon blend. It's a little thin for winter wear but I bet it will be perfect come the fall. It should even be comfortable in the summer despite being black. I'm planning on making a few more variations on this blouse soon.

It looks quite nice untucked for modern wear, though it is a bit short in the back. The pattern included a historically accurate back length and a modern back length so of course I went with the historically accurate one for this version. I'll probably try out the modern length for future incarnations.

Once I finally got around to starting the pintucks I found them not nearly as intimidating as I had thought. I had a few problems with them ended up a little wrinkly but more practice will probably smooth them out in the future. The amount of time they consumed was really the worst part about them. I think I spent longer on the pintucks than the entire blouse construction even though there's just one little panel of them!

The Challenge: #8 UFO

Fabric: Maybe 2 yards of a linen/rayon blend

Pattern: Folkwear Gibson Girl Blouse

Year: 1900's

Notions:Eight buttons, one hook and eye, thread

How Historically Accurate is it? The only inaccurate material is the lace insertions made from nylon and I'm never sure how accurate Folkwear is so we'll call it close to 85%

Hours to Complete: 7

First Worn: Tuesday

Total Cost: I think the fabric goes for around $10 a yard, the buttons were a couple dollars and so was the lace so maybe $25-$30

UPDATE: Since the blouse is a bit too large for me I'm putting it up for sale in my new etsy store Costumes by Ophelia.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Finished 1880's Gown!

Way back in February I had been planning for a completed 1880's ensemble. My ideas were vague and unsatisfying, and the month passed with no progress. Inspiration struck at the beginning of March and with the Bodice challenge looming I thought this would be the chance to get the project finished. Alas, inspiration was there but motivation was still lacking. I struggled through completing the bodice and then immediately had to abandon the project in favor of my fairytale dress. That brings us up to April and the UFO/PHD challenge, a perfect excuse to finally finish.

I had been planning on trying to set up a professional photoshoot once I had a couple of complete ensembles. The fairytale challenge provided me with the first one. In order to finish the 1880's ensemble I just had to bite the bullet and set the date, forcing myself to finish it by then. I find that I work a lot better with concrete deadlines, thus my love for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. I planned a photoshoot for Easter morning and we ended up with some lovely weather. I recruited a friend to wear the fairytale ensemble for me and we headed out to Lynch park which some of you might remember from my Ophelia photoshoot.

Some of my favorite photos from the day were candid shots of me walking around the park. The dress looks gorgeous in motion. I didn't realize the wind had knocked my hat sideways though!

Even just barely into spring Lynch park is gorgeous and green and just the absolute perfect setting for just about anything! My only complaint was that the bright sunlight left me with some harsh lighting in some of the photographs and that the brocade fabric continues to be irritatingly hard to capture on film.

Even more gorgeous than the green park with its Romanesque architecture was the ocean glittering in the sun! The dress itself seemed to capture the colors of the scenery.

It was super windy by the water but it helps show off the movement of the fabric so well! I wasn't so sure about the panel of brocade fabric in the train but I've come to love it more and more. It was a design idea based off of an historical example but put into practice due to necessity - I didn't have enough of the blue to make the train! An unfortunate risk of working from stash fabrics only, but I ended up loving the result.

My underskirt ended up a tad bit shorter than I would have liked but a ruffle will fix that right up and make it even more period accurate!

The hat was intended to be finished for the tops and toes challenge as a second entry, but since I finished it a few days late I just rolled it on over into the UFO challenge.

Since we took the photos on Easter Sunday I added a cute little pom-pom bunny to my hat! He's plausibly historically accurate at the very best, but too cute to resist.

I'm just absolutely in love with this dress! The day of the photoshoot was the first time I actually wore all of the pieces together, and I'm just so excited to finally have a full Victorian ensemble. I feel like I've been working my way up to this dress for years, dreaming and longing but always holding back for some reason whether lack of time or money or confidence in my own skill. Now that it's here and finished I finally feel like the historical seamstress I've been longing to be!

The Challenge: #8 UFO

(I'm including just the skirts and the hat in this information, the Bodice was for another challenge and it's details can be found there)

Fabric: Approximately 5 or 6 yards of blue cotton, 7 yards of brocade mystery upholstery fabric, and a 1/2 yard of buckram for the hat

Pattern: Truly Victorian TV261-R Four Gore Underskirt, TV361 Butterfly Train and TV550 Buckram Hat Frame

Year: 1885

Notions: Hooks and Eyes, Trim, Fabric Roses, Feathers, Wire, Thread

How Historically Accurate is it? The dress without the hat is maybe 85% accurate, I was running out of time with the hat and pulled out the hot glue gun so it's more like 50%, correct materials and shape but modern method of construction

Hours to Complete: Around 10

First Worn: Easter Sunday

Total Cost: The Brocade fabric has been in the stash for over three years so free! The blue cotton was $3 a yard purchased back in December so around $15 - $20 though I kind of count it as stash. The only materials I purchased specifically for this challenge were the buckram, trim, and feathers for the hat which cost me about $15.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Walk Softly and Wear a Big Hat

Part one of what I'm hoping will be two entries for the Tops and Toes challenge was a fairly simple hat re-make with big impact. To complete my Fairytale Edwardian ensemble I was dreaming of a huge hat. I bought felt and wire and all the trimmings fully expecting to struggle through trying to make up my own pattern. An impromptu trip to the mall provided me with a much easier alternative however. I walked into a clothing store and there on the display right in the doorway was a small straw boater style hat that had the perfect base shape.

I forgot to take a picture before I started covering it in the black felt, but you get the basic idea of the original hat here.

I went quick n' dirty with this remake as I was falling slowly behind on sewing my dress. I glued the felt to the crown of the hat and used some decorative trim to hide the raw edges. I sandwiched two large circles of felt together and sewed around the edges to create the brim. I pleated some purple satin over the bottom of the brim as decoration and to help tie the hat into the full outfit. There's wire in the edge of the brim to keep it held out but the base hat provides the rest of the support.

The brim is attached to the hat on the inside where I attached it to the brim tape of the original hat. Since the flowers and feathers I planned to add would hide where the brim attached to the crown I didn't bother sewing it down on that side, it holds together quite nicely without it.

I chose the small white flowers because they reminded me of the cascading decorations Geisha sometimes wear in their hair. I wanted to tie the Japanese influence into all of the costume. I tried to place them to cascade over the edge gracefully, and they do to a certain degree but I could have gone even further I think.

I chose the orchids mostly because of the stunning shade of purple and because of how high quality they were. Most flowers my local craft stores carry are the very cheap, very obviously fake kind. These flowers you can barely tell are fake at first glance. I paid a pretty penny for them but I think it was definitely worth it!

In the end I couldn't be more pleased with the hat! I got so many compliments when I wore it to the opening. Now I just need more excuses to wear it out!

The Challenge: #7 Tops & Toes

Fabric: Less than a yard of black felt, 1/2 yard purple satin

Pattern: None

Year: 1910's

Notions: Trim, Flowers, Feathers, Wire, Thread

How Historically Accurate is it? Only aesthetically, materials and methods are all modern.

Hours to Complete: Maybe 4 or 5

First Worn: To a gallery opening April 2nd

Total Cost: $12 for the base hat, $5 each for felt, satin and trim, $25 for flowers and the feathers were stash so that brings us to $52 (yikes, I thought this was one of my cheaper projects!)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fairytale In Motion

As promised here's a bunch of pictures of the Fairytale dress from the event I work it to. You even get a sneak peek of my entry for the next challenge tops and toes!