Monday, October 27, 2008

1820's Gown and Other Random Items

What happens when passion, inspiration and practical application all meet - crash - head on?

A new dress, of course! :) (to the right: original gown from Vintage Textile that first inspired my gown)

I have been plotting an 1820's gown these past two weeks now. David bought some some cotton print a few months ago that he originally intended for a Civil War style gown and my original intention was to make a modified 1850's fan front dress with it to wear to pre-war events. (one gets tired of making regular gathered bodices, you know?) However, now that I have two very servicable and fairly new cotton gowns and a silk and a wool gown I really don't *need* another reenacting gown and so David consented to my making an 1820's gown out of said fabric. He is becoming very interested in developing his pre-war impression and is even enthusiastic about this new dress-in-the-works.

My love affair with the 1820's springs from my deep love for New Salem, IL. I recently reread my dear book, Lincoln's New Salem, and the more I read the more I realized how much more opportunity American's had for making something for themselves while they sojourned on this earth. Back then, it was possible for almost anyone to do anything. I think of Lincoln, who learned the practice of surveying over the period of a few months, and was so good at what he did that he was often requested to resolve disputes about boundaries between neighbors!

I have such a huge amount to say about this dress - all the reasonings and speculations and decisions on styles. I want this dress to be accurate to the mid-late 1820's period and something a pioneer lady might have worn when she first came to the very unsettled and wild country of what is now the Sangamon and Menard counties.

One initial problem was the fabric I am using. Although the print seems pretty passable I wondered about the use of a printed cotton that early in the pioneer period. I honestly think wool or linsey-woolsey would be a better, more practical choice but the only linsey-woolsey fabric I could find was $28/yard.

I told David. At first he asked me what linsey-woolsey was. He then looked at me queerly. "You'd rather spend $28 a yard on linsey-woolsey than get some really nice silk for a dress?"

Oh dear. Yes.

Maybe someday. Of course it is foolish to spend so much on fabric for a dress that doesn't even really have a purpose beyond clothing my body for normal, every-day wear. We don't do 1820's events and sadly we don't live close enough to New Salem to even volunteer there regularly. We really, really want to - but so far that is still in our future. And New Salem is mainly 1830's, anyway.

Anyway, to cut short what could be a very long post, I am using my cotton fabric for the gown and used the lining pieces from the pelisse-robe in Janet Arnolds Patterns of Fashion 1 for my bodice. I have the muslin fitted and the material is ready to be cut out. (I have planned on cutting it out every day the past three days but have been busy with other things! Alas!) The pictures in this post are random photos of extant dresses I found while browsing the internet that inspire, one way or another, my finished dress design.

Goal: To have this dress done before Nov. 2nd, when I hope to wear it to a potluck supper we are going to for our Civil War reenacting group.

I think the next few posts will be very 1820's indeed. Besides making the gown, I also need to make a bodiced petticoat to go over my short stays and shift. I want to sew it all by hand but think in order to meet my deadline I will have to machine sew the inner seams and just use hand finishing on the exposed seams. It is a painful decision but a practical one.

And for the guess-which-one-is-false post I posted a few posts below, I have updated that with what is really true and which one isn't.
Glorious autumn day to all! We are supposed to get snow today!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Piecing and Quilting

Last night I finished piecing little David's quilt just (barely) in time for his 2nd birthday, which is tomorrow! I am so glad to have the piecing done at last and can't wait to finish the entire thing so it can be used. I sewed it all by hand and feel really fulfilled in seeing this take shape before my eyes. I seem to be slowly weaning myself from the machine. You just have so much more control over your seams and matching up points when you hand sew, plus you can take it with you anywhere.

I began this quilt top about two and a half years ago when I was 8 weeks pregnant with my little son. At the time I was fairly despondent as I had recently lost my first baby and was worried about loosing the new precious little life I carried within me. My mother had me pick out some fabric and bought it for me and told me to make a quilt for the baby. How wise she was! It was just what I needed to get my mind off the unpleasant possibility of miscarriage and looking forward to the joys of a new little one. Since I didn't know at the time if I was having a girl or a boy I chose colors that could be either-or.

The quilt is shown on our big bed but it is only a twin size. At least, I think it is a twin size. Does anyone know the standard dimensions for a twin size quilt? And should I use a printed fabric for the backing or white? And should it be tied or quilted? I am not sure what would be the best to do!

Of course, now that THIS quilt top is done, I am planning out another one for me and David using all my horded dress scraps. My goal is to use up all my scraps and to get the top pieced before the new baby arrives. Problem: I am using the Drunkard's Path block and I did the math yesterday and I have to cut out 1,302 pieces before I can even start the piecing. How long will THAT take me? I guess now that the boys are napping I better start!



Friday, October 3, 2008

Dressed For the Photographer

Well, not quite yet! I still need to finish the skirt (which I have to have done by tomorrow!) but this is the dress I am planning to wear when we get our period photo taken. I initially thought I did not have to have it done until our final event this year which is still two weeks away but on Tuesday night I found out that we are going to a living history tomorrow and I wanted a nice gown to wear. So, I buckled down on Wednesday and dove into making this dress at last. I've had the wool since very early this year! The stripes are not as small as pinstripes but from a distance they do blend in nicely with the fabric to be a silvery-black shimmer. I do like this fabric a lot!

The bodice is done, except for the hooks. Black hooks are impossible to find locally anymore! And of course, as you can see, it needs a collar and some undersleeves. I'm using my lace trimmed collar and undersleeves for now and they are as I write this soaking hastily in a bowl of detergent. I wore my silk dress with these undersleeves and collar on Sunday and they were a big grungy on account of being worn the entire day!
I originally wanted to make this dress with a small jacket over top of it but after looking into this style more, I found that most often a dress was trimmed to look like there was a jacket being worn. Well, that made things a lot easier! I used my basic fitted bodice pattern and lengthened the front a bit to make a shallow point and I added a peplum/postillion to the back. This was a lot of fun since I have never made this style before. I spent a while trying to decide on an appropriate sleeve but at last went with a two-piece coat sleeve and trimmed it with green/blue silk. I used the same silk to trim the bodice, and plain blue for the bow at the neck. I really want a nice brooch so that is on my Christmas wish-list. :)
I have also been working on a little girls dress for a young lady in our reenacting group. I was quite stuck on what size to make so at last sized up the pattern I used for the boys and I am anxious for tomorrow as the moment of revelation. Will the dress fit?
I used a heavy pink striped seersucker for the dress. It is not the best choice since although seersucker was used for clothing during the 1860's, it is not documented to have been used for dresses. It is, however, a fabric I had plenty of and since I do not know if this dress will fit yet or not I thought it would be all right to go ahead and use it. If it does fit, I can make another dress from a more appropriate fabric. It is a very thick fabric and has very nice body to it. And a big thank-you to Mrs. G for the pretty pink silk ribbon trim at the sleeves!
I actually broke down and did buttonholes on this dress, instead of taking the easy way out and using hook and eyes. I hate making buttonholes. And now I am refreshed as to my reasons why! :)
It is COLD. Hope you all are keeping nice and warm!