Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Pink Gown

Well, I finished it last night, in time for New Years Eve. Or, more correctly, New Years Eve night since I don't think I'll wear it until later this evening.

Did you know New Years Eve is a popular time for women to have babies around here? On the news there was a special report about how many women have scheduled inductions for this day! Anyway. . .

This dress was inspired by the one Lizzie wears in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice. I always admired her pink gown and when I found the fabric for mine I immediately thought of hers! My fabric is just a plain cotton print (from Wal-Mart, they are getting rid of their fabric department in a few weeks so lots of things are on sale) and Lizzie's dress appears to be a sheer fabric but oh well, it at least is similar in color!

I used the long sleeve variation of the ELC drawstring dress. I think I'm getting the hang of putting these gowns together since this one only took me three days to get done. One day for cutting out the fabric and sewing together the bodice, one day for sewing and setting the sleeves and seaming the skirt, and one day for attaching the skirt and putting in the waist drawstring and the hem.

I made this dress with pleats and I made the train a teeny bit longer. I had more fabric to play with than I did with my striped dress so I was able to cut a more generous length for the skirt.
The one thing that bothers me now is the neckline. On Lizzie's dress she appears to have lace trim around the neckline of her dress. I have some off white cotton lace that would look nice on the neckline of my gown but I'm not sure if lace trim is period correct. Does anyone know? I know for 1860's things lace was most often used on an accessory item like a removable collar or undersleeve cuffs rather than being sewn directly to the garment itself. I honestly have no idea if the same is true for regency era gowns or not.

Anyway, since this dress is done now I have to focus on making new curtains for the boys room! I found some really nice drapey dark blue fabric at Wal-Mart on clearance for long curtains for their windows and got six yards. Their curtains will take a little more than two yards since the material is 60" wide so I have enough left to do something with. I think I'd like to try to make a gown like the one Elinor wears in the 1995 Sense and Sensibility, the plain blue one. The fabric I have feels and looks like a linen although I'm sure, based on a burn test and based on feel, that it is definitely a blend with some synthetic fiber. But for around the house wear I suppose that would be okay. I have no where to wear my regency gowns to as far as living history goes and no one besides my husband cares about what fibers I use in my sewing!

Happy New Years Eve!



Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Afternoon Sewing

Christmas is nearly a week gone - already. We still have a few decorations up but our Christmas tree was taken down a few days ago, when it was sixty degrees outside and our windows were open, to air the house - and a wild gust of wind knocked down our poor tree! We had a tornado warning. In December. Odd.

David moved his field desk to the empty spot the Christmas tree left, by our southerly window where we get light nearly all day long. He put my little rocker to one side, and his Big Rocker to the other. It makes a cozy place to sit in the afternoons to sew or read and will be a pleasant place to nurse the baby. The field desk has handy drawers and cubby holes and the lamp fits neatly on top. A very nice arrangement, altogether.

Life has been pretty quiet since Christmas. I think the end of a year is always a bit sad. So many lovely things happened this year to reflect upon and it seems the months went by ever so fast. We moved to a lovely new home, we were blessed richly with the tiny new wee one that is not yet here, the boys grew and learned so much, bringing so much happiness to the lives of David and I. I can't imagine them any sweeter or more joyful to be around than they are right now!

So, life has been quiet as we ponder these things.
And I sew. It is something that does not require much physical activity and as I think I may be considered "great with child" presently, I do not feel so guilty not doing as much as I am used to. This afternoon I worked more on the long sleeve regency gown that could, I suppose, be called shockingly pink. It is almost done and I hope to finish it this evening, in time for New Years Eve tomorrow!

A beautiful rest of the year to you all,



Monday, December 22, 2008

Regency Drawstring Dress, Completed!

With the sun peeking out today upon a cold, frozen, icy world David condescended to take a few photos of my new gown so I could share them with you all. Forgive the glare and odd lighting. The light from outside was very harsh and the flash we used was the best we could do, without the pictures coming out horribly dark or ghostly white.
I wore this dress again today to my doctors appointment. The good news is that I am feeling much better and my blood pressure, which was high at my last appointment (thus my reason for homely confinement) was down. I'm still supposed to lay low until the baby comes but at least I am no longer threatened by the prospect of hospitalization until then. I'd much rather be at home doing very little than in the hospital doing absolutely nothing.

And my contractions slowed down. So, it appears the baby will be a little while in coming, yet.

Anyway, on to the dress!
I think this is only the second adult sized dress I have ever made completely by hand. I sewed all the seams with the tiniest running stitch I could manage and all the seams are finished by felling on the inside. I was going to try french seams for the sleeves but made felled seams before I remembered I was going to try french. Oh well! The seam finish makes the dress smooth and neat on the inside and only itty bitty indentations in the fabric mark the felled seams on the outside.

It took me a while to decide how to attach the skirt. At first I pleated the back excess into a 4" length but when I sewed it to the skirt the pleats didn't hang evenly. So, I took off the skirt again and just gathered the back.
I used one row of gathering stitches then turned under the seam allowance of the back bodice and laid it over the gathering stitches and prick stitched it to the bodice. The rest of the skirt, which fit the bodice smoothly (no gathers) I just sewed right sides together. Once that was finished I bound the seam allowance.
In the front, the bound seam allowance was pressed up and the top edge stitched to the bodice to create a casing for the waist drawstring. The drawstring emerges from the inside of the gown at the side seams and is threaded on each side through fabric loops at the back bodice before being tied to fit at the center back. This makes the gown extremely forgiving in the area of fit, and easy to get on and off.
The skirt is a few inches longer in the back (with the excess length being treated at the waist, rather than the hem). This creates a very elegant silhouette, I think! I just love the trained skirts of the early regency period! This particular one is so slight that it does not in any way impede my movement or household activities.
I didn't have to add any width to the skirt in the front. The little bit of fullness created by the waist drawstring at the front creates plenty of room for my baby bump. It was nice to not have to alter a pattern for pregnancy!
The only thing I did have to alter, actually, was the cup size of the bodice front. After measuring myself and deciding what size to cut, I cut out my regular cup size but found that made the waistline too low. I had to recut it to be a cup size smaller so the waist would hit in the right spot. This was the only alteration I had to do. It is so nice to work with patterns that fit so well and require such little fitting. Sense and Sensibility patterns have always been so nice to work with in my experience!

Now that I have this one done, I can't wait to start on the next one! I have the fabric for it (dusky watermelon colored cotton with dark pink/red print) and want to make it in long sleeves this time. So fun.

Wee ones are awakening from their naps, so I must go for now. Have a lovely evening, dear ladies! (and any gentlemen who might happen to stop by, as well!)



Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Regency Drawstring Dress, Progress Pics

After watching Sense and Sensibility a week or so ago, I engulfed myself fully into the task (the pleasant task, to be sure) of making a gown similar to the ones worn in the movie. I am using a bluish-gray-purple striped shirting cotton and Sense and Sensibility's Elegant Lady's Closet e-pattern.
The most time-consuming and tedious part, so far, was printing out the pages of pattern pieces and taping them together. (not an easy feat when you have two toddlers who very much enjoy the rustly sounds of paper and who very, VERY much enjoy the sounds of tearing paper). Since my machine doesn't work right now I'm sewing it all by hand. It is taking me a bit longer to do this than if I had a machine but I am very excited about creating this gown the way it originally would have been put together!

So far the pattern has been absolutely wonderful to work with. The pieces fit together perfectly and the instructions are clear and illustrated. I finished the bodice yesterday and plan on starting on the skirt this evening if I have time. I'm still not completely sure how I will gather and attach the skirt at the back and I'm not sure exactly how to make the casing for the drawstring at the waist (which will depend upon which method I use for attaching the skirt) but those things tend to work themselves out so I'm trying not to worry too much about it right now.
I did make a few changes because I only had a little over 3 yards of this material and the pattern called for more than that. To make my fabric amount work, I had to cut the bodice back so there was a seam up the center back and I had to cut the straps of the bodice seperately instead of in one piece with the bodice front. I think these changes are okay since in Janet Arnold's book she illustrates a few surviving gowns from this same period that have center back seams and seperate shoulder straps. I barely had enough fabric left to cut the skirt long enough but I was able to squeeze out the full length measurement plus a scanty 1" extra for a tiny turned hem at the bottom. The dress is interesting to me because it has an inner closure that you fasten before you draw up the drawstrings in the gown. This little inner front bodice is described as smoothing the lines of your stays so they will not show through your gown when you are wearing it. I made this inner lining of heavy green linen since the pattern called for a somewhat stiff, heavy fabric. I think next time I make this dress I will alter the shape of the lining pieces so that will fit me better. Right now the lining kind of gapes a bit at the waistline because I am not flat from the raised waist to the high point of the bust. But redrawing the slant of the front edge should cure that, I think. When I wear this dress I will have to pin the lining with more overlap at the bottom edge than at the top but that is something I can live with.

Hopefully this dress will be finished within the week!



Friday, December 5, 2008

Wee Things, Mid-19th Century Style

It is perhaps a wishful whim of mine, but I do want to bring Baby home in period attire. How this will work in very cold temperatures I do not know. How I will safely buckle the little one in the carseat with long skirts in the way I do not know. But, anway, Baby shall have a tiny set of mid-19th century things to wear, whether at the hospital or at home.

I usually machine sew the inner, long seams on my repro clothing, including baby items. The things I finish by hand usually include hems, trim attachment, finishing piping and finishing seams on the inside. I wanted to use the same method for the baby clothes I'm making my yet-unseen little stranger but my sewing machine is giving me fits right now. So, it appears I will have to make everything by hand.

I had hoped by now to have pictures to share but I don't (yet!). I do however have some pictures of a recent little outfit I made, very similar in style to what I'm making now, for a customer last month.

The gown has a plain jewel neckline finished with piping, plain coat sleeves finished with a bias band, and a slightly gathered waist, also finished with piping. The bodice and sleeves are lined with cotton but the skirt is unlined. For interest, I added a little bias band on each side of the bodice and finished them off with a ruched row of cotton lace. I think I made the skirt about 30" long if I remember right.


Very plain garment made with raglan-set sleeves and a plain long skirt with drawstrings at the waist and neck. The back is open to a few inches below the waist. Made of plain white cotton with all seams felled. I really love this garment since it prevents me from having to make a seperate shirt and petticoat and everything stays neatly in place.

Also very plain, I made these about the same shape as woman's drawers of the period but they are differently proportioned since they are for an infant. I personally confess to using elastic in the waistbands of my babies drawers but for these I made a drawstring. (which I've also done, but not found as easy to use as elastic when it comes to emergency diaper-changes).

So, these garments along with an infant sacque in white wool, a wee baby bonnet and white wool hood will form the new ones layette. And there is something terribly romantic about sewing your baby clothes by hand. Wasn't it in Anne's House of Dreams where the passage is written about Anne sewing all her baby clothes by hand when she was expecting her first, little Joy, who lived but one day?

At any rate, I must get busy. . .