Sunday, 26 January 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - No-Buy

My first completed challenge for the 2020 Historical Sew Monthly isn't very exciting, but it's a start. As I mentioned here, this year the challenges can be done in any order. So I started with July; No-Buy. This is defined simply as "Make something without buying anything." I made a pair of drawers for my planned 1874 outfit, using stashed fabric and a pattern I already own.

As I said, unexciting

Some time ago I read a piece (which of course I can't now find, but I think it was by Jennifer Rosburgh of the excellent Historical Sewing) which mentioned that a common mistake for historical costuming newbies is to use fabric which is too stiff and heavy. This was certainly the case with the cotton I used for my Edwardian chemise and drawers. The fabric seemed light enough when I was cutting out, but the end result is definitely crisper than I would like for underwear. The 1909 slip which I made a year later from a cotton/linen blend has a lovely soft hand, and this really highlighted the issues with my first choice.

The Historical Sew Monthly is all about learning and improving, and this was definitely a lesson learned. Unfortunately most of the cotton on sale locally is craft/quilting weight, so on the rare occasions when I find anything lightweight, I snap up a few metres and stash them. I'm not sure where this fabric came from, but it is beautifully soft, and there's enough left for a matching chemise.

The pattern is Laughing Moon Mercantile number 100 - Ladies' Victorian Underwear. I bought it years ago, when I was trying to work out how to finish the Satin Corset From Hell.

The pattern

Although the pattern claims to be suitable for 1837-1899, the chemise and drawers patterns are actually from the 1880s. However after checking various of my costume books I decided that any differences from 1874 were not great enough to justify buying a new pattern.

Due to time constraints, I sewed the drawers by machine. I'm not sure how historically accurate this is for 1874, although something I read for my course* suggested that in Britain at least, sewing machines were widely used by outworkers by that date, so I don't think it's entirely improbable.

What would be improbable however is that my pintucks would ever have passed muster if I were an outworker. They didn't look too bad when I was sewing them, but once pressed, it became obvious that they are all over the place. I may tidy them up as part of one of the other challenges. Although the pattern suggests ordinary or French seams, I flat-felled the leg seams to give a smoother finish.

Very wonky pintucks

My friend F came round when I was working on these, and she was amazed by the open crotch design: basically the drawers consist of two separate legs sewn onto a waistband. I explained that this was a necessary design feature of undies worn with a corset laced over the top, and once she saw the illustration on the pattern envelope, it all became clear.

Showing the separate legs

Of course, the 'no-buy' element is reflected on the Stashometer.

Further in credit

The small print:
The Challenge: July, No-Buy
What the item is: A pair of drawers
How it fits the challenge: The fabric and notions are from my stash, and I already had the pattern
Fabric: Cotton, possibly voile
Pattern: Laughing Moon #100, Ladies' Victorian Underwear
Year:1870s-1880s
Notions: Cord for waist tie
How historically accurate is it? Given my uncertainty about the date of the pattern and machine sewing, and the unacceptably poor pintucks, I would say 75%
Hours to complete: 8
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: All from stash, but I'm estimating £7/metre for the fabric and 50p for the cord, so £14.50


* - Godley, A. (1999). Homeworking and the sewing machine in the British clothing industry 1850-1905. In Burman, B. (Ed.), The culture of sewing: Gender, consumption and home dressmaking

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

January dress finished!

An extra post this week because I've finished Butterick 5748, my January dress for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month challenge, and I've got something else to post on Sunday.

I finally finished all the hemming, and here is the end result. This is the dress without a petticoat, and just the stiffness of the cotton lining to hold the skirt out.

Demonstrating the added pocket!

The full lining did add to the sewing time, but as well as giving the dress some body it makes for a very neat interior.

In effect, it's two dresses sewn together

It makes the zip especially neat

One thing which I forgot to mention in earlier posts is that the dress back is lower than the front. I was worried that it might be too low on my short torso, so raised it by 2.5cm / 1", and was glad that I did. This is the end result.

Showing the scoop back

I do wish that I'd thought to pattern match the bodice back seam though!

And here is the dress worn with a belt, a net underskirt, my most 1960-ish shoes, and a matching cardigan.

The full look

The cardi was actually the start of this outfit. Because I am such a poor/super-slow knitter, I tend to get very excited when I come across knitwear specifically for petites. Hence I bought this cute bolero, and then realised that it went with absolutely nothing that I owned. So the obvious solution was to buy some suitable fabric - which then sat in my stash for a couple of years. However it finally all came together. It's not exactly a January outfit, but I can see it getting a lot of wear when the warmer weather comes.

Even though I went totally off-piste with the cutting layout, I didn't use any more fabric than the yardage given on the pattern envelope. Which brings me to. . . the Stashometer. Starting afresh felt like cheating, so I decided to carry over last year's deficit. Happily, all that lining means that the overall fabric use for this dress was quite high.

In credit!

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Slow going on my January dress

I had hoped to be posting about my completed January entry for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month today, but it's not quite finished. For some reason, hemming a circle skirt of thin viscose is harder, and takes longer, than hemming a circle skirt of cotton. Also, the dress is fully lined, so once I've finished that I've got the lining to hem as well - although that will be done by machine.

My pattern choice for January

Part of the reason why this dress is taking so long is that I made life harder for myself by altering the cutting layout. Like many of Butterick's other full-skirted pattern reissues, 5748 has the skirt cut at right angles to the bodice - along the fabric rather than across it.

Cutting layouts for different views and fabric widths

This wasn't a problem when I made Butterick 6582. The bold floral print looked much the same both up-and-down and sideways.

This fabric hides everything

The stash fabric I'm using for 5748 however is strongly directional.

This fabric does not

I didn't want to have the black elements of the pattern running up and down on the bodice, and sideways on the skirt, so I used an approach which was common in the 1950s.

This Weldons pattern is a good example, as it also has a full skirt - in this case it's a semi-circle.

Weldons 1606

Because the completed skirt sections would be wider than most fabrics available at the time, they are split into two pieces; the skirt and the skirt gore.

Instructions showing the pattern pieces

These are stitched together, and then the completed pieces are sewn up to make the skirt.

The skirt construction

I folded my fabric in half lengthways, and cut out the skirt front and back on the fold. Before I unpinned the pattern from the fabric, I marked where the edge of the fabric was, making an allowance for the seam. Then I used the pattern piece to cut out the extension. Naturally, I had to pattern match the join - I couldn't bring myself not to! And then, I decided to alternate between black and light grey thread on the join, to make sure that the stitches don't show. Talk about a glutton for punishment!

Attaching one of the skirt gores

Because the viscose is so thin, I used a thicker cotton for the lining than I'd normally use, to give the dress some body. I also had to patch one of the bust darts with a lighter section of the fabric, to stop one of the back circles from showing through. The only other changes I made were my usual ones of swapping the zip to the right side and adding a pocket in the left side skirt seam.

This is the dress as it currently looks. I'll post some pictures of me wearing it when I finally finish the hems! I'm hemming it with the light grey thread, and going over the stitches in the black sections with a black permanent laundry marker pen. I did the same on the hand-picked zip.

On Nancy, awaiting hemming

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Making a modern hussif - part 2

Here are the rest of the construction details of my hussif. You can read part one here.

The finished article

The inner piece was also made on a base of plain white cotton. I started off by covering the curved end in one of the two light printed cottons I'd chosen, then added sections in alternating fabrics to form the pockets. Each piece formed the top on one pocket, and the underside of the next one. The raw edge at the top of each pocket was folded over to the right side of the fabric, and covered with cream satin ribbon.

Progress shot of the pockets

I made three rectangular pockets, and then added a little curved one at the end, made from the outer fabric for contrast.

The pockets end completed

Most of the other end was covered in the spotted fabric, with a gap in the middle and a gap at the end. These would become the needlebook and the pincushion respectively. I sewed on pockets for the scissors, seam ripper and tape measure, and added straps to hold the scissors and tape measure in place. These are fastened with small press studs (snaps).

Originally the seam ripper was just going to be in a pocket, but I realised that it could slide out easily, so I added a flap to the top. This fastens with a button and elastic loop, because I was worried that the pressure of closing a press stud might crack the seam ripper. The button was an orphan in my button box, and the elastic came from the swing tag of something I'd bought - I was just about to throw it out when I realised that it was the perfect thickness!

With all the securing straps and flaps open

The far end was made into a pincushion - with a difference. My thimble was a lucky find in a workbox which I bought at auction along with a stack of vintage patterns (it was the patterns that I wanted). Initially I thought that it was a cheap metal, but when I polished it, it came up shiny and with hallmarks! These showed that it was made in 1905 by Charles Horner, and hallmarked in Chester. It's a perfect fit. As I don't want to dent or lose it, I made a pocket for it inside the pincushion.

I made the pocket out of a tube of stiffened fabric, gathered at one end and capped with a scrap of fabric. On the pincushion fabric I sewed a circle of tiny double running stich, the same size as the pocket tube. I cut the circle into eighths, being very careful not to snip through the stitching, pushed the pocket through, and overcast round the edge of the pocket and the hole.

The thimble pocket attached to the fabric for the pincushion, shown from the wrong side


Sewing the pocket in place, shown from the right side

The pincushion was then made up and stuffed, and attached to the hussif. To keep the thimble extra secure, I made a flap for the pocket, using the dark outer fabric to tie it in with the little pocket at the opposite end of the hussif.

The thimble secure in its pocket

Finally in the middle of the hussif I made a needlebook from leaves of felt, in colours to match the fabric. The bottom, blue, layer contains pins.

The tools end completed

I slip-stitched the inner and outer layers together from the pincushion end, and added the ribbon ties at the curved end. Initially I wasn't sure whether to use dark or light ribbon.

Ribbon choices

I did try sewing the two together, but the end result was too thick and stiff. In the end I chose the light ribbon.

I'm really pleased with the end result. Rolled up, it's just a nice size to carry in my hand, and it's perfect if I want to go away and take some sewing with me (and I always take sewing with me if I go away!).

End-on view of the rolled-up hussif

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Sewing goals for 2020

I may not have managed to do much sewing in 2019, but I'm hoping to make up for it in 2020.

Warning: this is going to be a long post, as I've got lots of goals to write about.

Possibly the most important one (certainly the one with an immovable completion date) is making an outfit for my graduation in March. After all, having spent three years studying and writing about vintage home dressmaking, I can't really turn up to the ceremony in something modern and shop-bought! Of course it needs to be made from a vintage pattern, and something fancier than my usual cotton print dresses.

I've chosen this 1954 Patou Vogue Paris Original pattern, which is from a large lot of patterns which I bought at auction some years ago. I never got around to blogging about the collection as a whole, but it really boosted my interest in vintage patterns.

Goal number one - Vogue 1277

This was the reason for the 9.5 metre addition to the stash on last month's London trip. Cate, who blogs as Vintage Gal, makes wonderful 1930s clothes, and does amazing tailoring, had told me about Crescent Trading near Spitalfields, so I paid them a visit. It is fabric-lover's dream shop, stacked to the rafters with wools, silks, and all sorts of other goodies besides. After a lot of deliberation I bought some beautiful superfine merino suiting in blue with a slight black speckle, which gives it depth. I also bought some fine silk twill for the lining. The jacket collar can be made from fur, which was not going to happen, or velvet. Philip Pittack at Crescent Trading told me that they didn't carry much velvet, but it turned out that what he meant was not much by their standards, so only a dozen or so colours. Happily this included a dark blue which was perfect. Then at Barnett Lawson I found some braid and velvet buttons which were an exact match. They only had six left and weren't getting any more in, but luckily six was what I needed.

Clockwise from left: suiting, buttons, velvet, silk lining

It's a very long time since I've done any tailoring, so this will be a chance to really bump up my skills.

The dress will double-up as my February entry to my second goal for 2020, taking part in the vintage dress-a-month-along organised by Renae Brock Fitzgibbon and Lizzie Violet.

Goal number two

As soon as I heard about this challenge, I thought that it would be perfect for making me actually get on with some sewing. However I didn't want it to become an excuse for buying yet more fabric. So, my plan is to use the sew-along to actually get through some of my stashes of fabric and vintage patterns - both actual vintage and reissues. I am not short of any of these items: these photos show just a selection of what I can use for inspiration!

A worryingly small section of my stash

Some possible reissue choices

Some possible vintage choices

Fortunately, I do have somewhere to start. I found that I was frequently buying fabric because I thought it would be perfect for a pattern, or vice versa, but because I didn't start the project straight away, I would forget what I’d bought it for! So when my friend F gave me this Fashion Timeline Journal last year, I used it to record all the pattern/fabric combinations I had thought of.

1930s ideas

For January I am making up Butterick 5748 in a fine viscose. It's hardly the time of year for a sleeveless dress, but I'm using it as 'pre-work' for February's challenge, trying to sort out some fit and alteration issues. More details to come when I post about the dress.

January's pattern and fabric

However, this isn't the only challenge I’m taking part in this year. When people asked what I was planning to do once I had finished my dissertation, I always replied that I wanted to get back into historical sewing. Time constraints meant that I gave it up while I was studying, and I missed it. The Wedding Gown in a Weekend event just reminded me how much I missed it. So this year I am joining the Historical Sew Monthly again, and am really excited to be doing so.

Goal number three

One problem with my previous historical sewing was that what I made was a bit random: the only complete outfits I produced were my Ottoman dance costume, my 'Fortuny' dress and shoes, and my Wiener Werkst├Ątte ensemble. However, this year the format of the Historical Sew Monthly has changed slightly. All the monthly challenges were opened at the start of the year, and can be completed in any order you choose. This is perfect for me, because while I will use some of the challenges for mending/fixing fit issues on stuff I already have, my main plan is to use them to make a complete 1874 outfit. I have nothing at all for this period, so intend to make everything, from the chemise outwards. The idea is to start with simple things which don't take much time, until my graduation outfit is done.

I chose 1874 because I own an actual pattern from that date (co-incidentally it was in the same auction lot as the 1954 Patou pattern), I blogged about it here. Though in-depth research/endless Pinterest scrolling, I managed to find the back view (thank you to Isabella of All the Pretty Dresses for posting it), so now have some idea of how the pieces fit together.

'Casaque du Printemps' - the illustration on the pattern

The jacket/casaque will be the last part of the outfit that I make, and my hope is that by the time I reach that stage my skills will have improved enough for me to tackle it, as there is only a brief description on the pattern.

So all in all, it's a very ambitious plan for the year. Wish me luck!