Sunday, 26 April 2020

Miscellaneous sewing

There's not a lot to report this week, as my sewing has mostly been scrubs. So far I've completed two sets, complete with scrubs caps made with matching fabric on one side, and a jollier print on the other. They are not especially hard to sew, but it's not interesting work. And while undeniably necessary and useful, they don't look terribly exciting, either.

The first two sets

On the plus side, these were made from stashed fabric, so can be added to the Stashometer totals (which have also been updated to include the Ditto Fabrics yardage).

15 metres in credit - but not for long

Up until now I have been using old bedsheets, and one thing I have noticed is that these blunt sewing machine needles really quickly. I'll be glad to make the rest from the 'proper' fabric, which has recently arrived. There was far too much to pre-wash in the washing machine, so it had to be done in the bath, instead.

The ducks are helping

For the good of my mental health, I have decided to intersperse scrubs-making with a bit of my usual sewing, in this case my April dress for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month.

My April dress

The fabric was a remnant, and there is only enough for the short-sleeved version of the dress. So far I have cut everything out (including an added in-seam pocket because - pockets), and made up the bodice apart from the side seams.

Progress so far

I'm also engaged in one of my habitual dressmaking dilemmas: agonising over buttons.

The four possible choices

I really like the two-tone pink (second down), but while it looks striking close-up, it rather vanishes into the fabric at a distance. In fact, only the green stands out.

Spot the buttons

Fortunately I've still got a lot to do, so I can leave that decision for a while.

Sunday, 19 April 2020

The 1874 project

Vintage and historical sewing are both paused for a while, as a friend has asked me to join her in a group currently making scrubs and other items for our local NHS trust. This is proving trickier than I'd expected, mentally rather than in terms of the actual making, and I was hugely relieved to find from this post on the Sewcialists website that I'm not alone in this regard.

What I wish I was sewing this month . . .

. . . and what I'm actually sewing

So, in part to remind myself that this too will pass, I thought that this week I would properly explain my 1874 project. I've briefly described the background to it (at the bottom of a long post), but here's the detail of exactly what's involved.

I'm planning to make this outfit.

The 1874 project in a nutshell

I know that this illustration dates from 1874, April 1874 to be precise, because it is part of this pattern which was in that month's issue of the Journal des Dames et des Demoiselles.

Showing another of the garments on the pattern

I blogged about the pattern four years ago, and even traced off the pieces for the jacket. The sleeve pieces, and how they fitted together, were fairly clear.

Upper sleeve, under sleeve, cuff and straps

The bodice was harder to understand, not helped by the fact that I only had the front view to go from.

Bodice pieces

Shortly after this, I applied to do my Masters, and the pattern was forgotten. When I first had the idea to pick it up again, I turned to the internet to try to understand what the back might look like. Initially found myself entirely lost in a muddle of Early Bustle, Late Bustle and Natural Form eras, but eventually I realised that I was starting to be able to tell them apart - yay! Then one evening, I was doing more research (aka browsing fashion plate images on Pinterest and idly scrolling though the ‘More like this’ option) and found . . .


This image of an 1874 fashion plate had been posted by Isabella in her (now sadly no longer updated) All The Pretty Dresses blog. Curiously though, it's not from the Journal des Dames et des Demoiselles, but from Le Moniteur de la Mode. It is exactly the same pattern, however. The purple skirt just visible on the right is the one shown in the photograph of the pattern above, and the green and brown ensemble is also on the pattern sheet.

Clearly the same drawing

I wonder if it was wholescale plagiarism, or if there was some connection between the two publications?

It will be some time before I tackle this pattern, however. I have no clothing from this era, so I need to make the whole lot. I am working from the inside out, so that each item I make has the correct garments underneath it. The full set will consist of:
- chemise (already made)
- drawers (already made)
- corset
- bustle cage
- petticoats
- skirt
- overskirt
- jacket (or 'casaque' as it is called on the pattern).

I might also make a corset cover if I think the outfit needs one, and I also hope to make the hat, and ideally a parasol as well. The chemise, drawers and corset are all from the Laughing Moon Mercantile pattern number 100 - Ladies' Victorian Underwear. For everything else apart from the jacket (and probably for some of the construction details of that), my starting point will be this book.

Izabela makes beautiful costumes (you can see examples of her work here), and the book is packed with useful information - I've already used some of her helpful tips while making my corset mockup.

I must admit that I'm not sure what I'll do with this outfit once I've completed it, but it will be a long time before I have to think about that!

Sunday, 12 April 2020

I finished a thing!

Normally I wouldn't get this excited about finishing a dress, but these are not normal times. I was chatting to my friend F the other night* and we both agreed that our concentration levels are hopelessly low at present. So I'm taking the completion of any task, no matter how basic, as a win.

Woohoo - a finished dress!

This is my second dress made from Vogue 2787. I decided that I wanted to finish it before I started my April projects, as it has been on a hanger on the door of my workroom for ages. I thought it had been there since last year, but actually I started it in August 2018!

The pattern

Its previous appearance on the blog

After I made the front I sewed the centre back, shoulder and side seams, and that was as far as it got. Amazingly, I hadn't lost the facing pieces in the intervening 18 months, so the next thing was to sew those together and attach the facing.

With side seams, and pinned-on facing

After that, all that was needed was the zip (hand-picked, as ever), the sleeve and skirt hems, making and attaching the shoulder pads, and the buttons at the back neck. Far and away the trickiest thing was selecting the buttons. Buttons of any yellow apart from an exact match - which of course I didn't have - looked dreadful, so I experimented with picking out the other colours in the fabric.

Possible button choices

In the end, I settled on the vintage red set on the left.

The buttons in situ - with matching earrings

The soft cotton that I used this time is a far more appropriate fabric choice for this pattern than the crisper cotton I used previously; the gathered sections drape much better.

Showing the gathered sections at the neck and hip.

Sadly, because this was finishing off a dress already cut out, there's no impact on the Stashometer. However, the shoulder pads were covered with lining fabric taken from my 'lining offcuts' stash, and the seams beneath the armholes (the weakest point of this dress) were reinforced with tape from my 'leftover bits of tape and binding' box. Even though I'm a firm believer in wasting as little as possible, sometimes in the past it has seemed a bit daft to keep all these odds and ends when I live so close to a fabric shop and can 'just pop out' for anything I need. Suddenly however it doesn't seem so silly any more!

Home-made covered shoulder pad

Tape to stop the side seam from tearing below the armhole

I'm really pleased with how this dress turned out, and so glad that I finally finished it. I'm looking forward to it getting lots of wear when I can get out and about, and might even manage to get some pictures of it somewhere other than in front of a yellow wall!

Blending in

* - Not in person, obviously. When we stopped to think about it, we realised that our socialising mostly consists of me going round to her house for a good natter and a couple of glasses of wine followed by copious cups of tea - all of which we could easily replicate over the phone. Sadly what I can't do is play with her cat; but he does recognise my voice over the phone, and miaows a greeting to me!

Missing this handsome chap!

Sunday, 5 April 2020

Historical Sew Monthly - Go Green Glow-Up - part 1

I'm carrying on with two of the elements of last month's HSM contribution - working with something I have already made, and corsetry.

The next part of my 1874 ensemble is the corset, and I'm making it for the November challenge; Go Green Glow-Up. This is defined as "Be environmentally friendly and celebrate how your making skills have ‘glowed-up’ as you’ve used and practiced them by taking apart an early make of yours that no-longer represents your making skills, and re-making it so you’d be proud to use it. It can be as elaborate as a total re-make, or as simple as getting the ribbons or buttons you didn’t have time to source at first.".

I'm actually taking apart something I completed seven years ago! This corset was my contribution to the Historical Sew Fortnightly (as it was then) Lace and lacings challenge way back in June 2013, but I had actually started in in November 2009, on a short course.

The 2013 corset

This course was the first time I’d tried corset-making. We used the Laughing Moon Doré corset pattern, but adapted to make a modern overbust corset with a modesty panel.

Back view showing the modesty panel

All in all it is a strange hybrid, I suspect more intended to be worn as a fashion garment than as a historical corset. It was only years later, when I bought the pattern in an attempt to actually finish the thing, that I discovered that the version we had started on the course was missing many of boning channels. I added these, but the end result was very messy as it meant that some channels were under the waist tape, and some were over it.

Boning channel chaos

As boned bodices and pseudo-corsets are not really 'me', the end result has languished unworn in my wardrobe for almost seven years. It no longer fits me, even if I did want to wear it. My 1911 corset was made between starting and completing this project, and I did start a third one, but then Things Happened, and it was abandoned.

In the meantime, I have read so much about corsetry in other people's blogs that I feel I understand the subject much better. So when I started my 1874 project it seemed like a good opportunity to try making the Doré corset properly. And once I saw the November challenge, I decided to dismantle the unworn purple corset and reuse the busk and bones.

I had kept the pattern pieces which the course tutor had provided, and could even remember where they were! Although they were supposedly based on our measurements, when I compared them to the Doré pattern I discovered that they were exactly the same apart from extension for overbust. So I was surprised how well the original corset had fitted me, given that I have a short torso. I redrafted the pattern to my new size, took off ½" from the bodice length, and added ½" at the bottom so that the busk and bones will still fit. I have a long crotch depth anyway (basically, my waist is in the wrong place between my bust and hips!) so this won't be a problem.

I then made a mockup in calico, and even reused some of the old bone casing tape for the curved boning channels. The pattern needs a few minor tweaks, but overall I'm pretty happy with it.

The mockup worn over my chemise

Side and back views, with pinned-on lacing strips

I have ordered some coutil, and while I wait for that to arrive, I shall make a start on my April dress for the Vintage Sew A Dress A Month. It's also one of my #UseNine2020 choices.

Butterick 2535, from 1943