Monday, January 18, 2010

Making an 1860's Fashion Bonnet, Pt. 1

I have been feeling driven by unseen forces to make our necessary clothing items for this years reenactment season now. For the first time since I have had children, I am taking somewhat of an interest in developing my own personal wardrobe. I have been very apathetic towards reenacting for a while, if not openly hostile. However, this year I am really excited about the season starting and since the boys are older and are behaving so well now, I think this year will go splendidly. For a long time I have wanted a fashion bonnet. Being me, of course, I didn't want to spend money on a purchased one. Even before I was married, when I really could afford a nice fashion bonnet, just spending $200+ on a bonnet went against my common sense. I tried to make my own. That failed. The one that actually seemed to suceed was sat upon at the first reenactment I wore it to by a gentleman of large and heavy countenance. It, to put it flatly, was squashed. It was a rather pretty bonnet too. Purply-silver silk with cream silk ties, and trimmed with white net and yellow roses. Alas. It had a very short life.

I have been developing my love for the Practical Sunbonnet these past years. I have made lots of sunbonnets. I've made several woolen hoods for winter time and knitted a sortie cap that, with fringe and pretty ribbons, gave a "fancier" appearance than a plain sunbonnet.

But now. The time has come to make a fashion bonnet. I really do need one to wear to different events where one would be the obvious choice of headware for a woman of the period. I dug some buckram out of my stash and raided David's toolboxes for wire and wire cutters. Using one of the first patterns I ever bought, a Millers Millinery pattern (slightly modified) I cut out the shape with buckram and covered the edges with tape enclosed wire. For lack of a Fake Head, these flowers model the buckram form for you to see:
And the front view:Once the form was finished, I breathed a sigh of relief. The form was always a terribly hard thing for me to finish in my prior attempts. I turned my thoughts to the covering. I asked my friend Amy for advice and, not really knowing what I was doing, I first covered the tip with a piece of cotton batting and then sewed on the tip covering in brown taffeta. (I've always always always wanted a brown bonnet). Then I had to decide what kind of covering I wanted on the outside - smooth, or drawn? I've always always always wanted a brown drawn bonnet. The drawing part looked so incredibly complicated, but thanks to some great informational posts about creating this style on the Sewing Academy, I cut two rectangles from the taffeta, sewed some narrow tucks into each one and started drawing the tucks over flexible, narrow reed. (A lovely gift from my friend Amy!) Forgive my hideous ironing board cover. We have hard water. I need to make a new cover. I was stunned and pleased when I had good results with it. It was exactly the look I was going for. I sewed the first drawn row around the tip. Then I started drawing up the second row. I think that was a mistake. I think I ought to have drawn up all the rows while the rectangle was still flat - not sewn to the form - because it was incredibly difficult to thread the reed through the channel while the rectangle was sewn to the form. Several times, the reed broke when I was almost done threading it and I had to take it all out and do it over again. I sweated and trembled, but at last the first rectangle was done. Here is a picture of the first rectangle-in-progress:Then I had to cut another rectangle to cover the brim area. This overlaps the other rectangle at the sides, and just meets the other rectangle at the center front, to account for the curved shape of the brim. The first row of reed I sewed along the brim line, then the rest were drawn up and tacked at the edges. Once that was done, I tacked the covering to the form in a few places. Then, gasp, the most horrid thing happened and a reed broke while I was tacking the last place down. I didn't feel like taking the reed out to replace it, so I sewed through the reed before and after the breaking point to hold it in place. I plan to cover that spot with trim, so hopefully it will not be noticeable on the finished item.

I then bound all the edges of the bonnet with bias cut from the fashion fabric. For fun, I experimented with some different trim ideas for the outside. I feel I don't want very much trim on the outside, since the drawn fabric is pretty decorative in and of itself. However, I like this trim pretty well, although in the final version it will be tacked into place a bit more thoughtfully than this appears, just being stabbed in with a pin:
Next part: Sewing in the facing and lining. Which has yet to be finished! Then the curtain, ties, and trimmings. . .

And dear readers, your opinion and taste is desired - what colors for trimming (inside the brim, flowers and such) would look well with this color brown? I desperately want yellow roses, but David doesn't think yellow and brown would look very nicely together.



Monday, January 11, 2010

18th Century Stays

My project the last few weeks has been my first set of 18th century style stays. For those of you who follow my Historical Clothing blog, you may have read a bit about these on my dress diary page. I finally finished these on Saturday. I tried them on but wasn't quite sure if the fit was right so I asked a few experienced and knowledgeable ladies their opinions. As a result, I learned these will be best suitable for the late 18th century (which is what I wanted - yay!) since they are shorter in the waist than earlier 18th century stays. I also was encouraged to take in the front width a little. My original stays did not have a center front seam, but I was able to take in the width by slashing down the center front of all layers, removing the middle two bones and thus create a seam down the middle. This took in the width about 1 and 1/4" and the fit is much better now. On my next stays, I think I will make the back longer and maybe the sides a tad longer but I think these will work well for what I want to use them for now. They are very comfortable and supportive. In these pictures the colors show up a lot lighter than they really are, but it was the only way I could get them to show any detail.
They are made with instructions and tips being taken from all sorts of places - the Marquise instructions on making 18th century stays, Mara Riley's instructions on making 18th century stays, Cherry Dawsons stay making notes, JP Ryans strapless stays pattern instructions and illustrations and descriptions of extant stays in Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail.

They are made of two middle layers of cotton canvas, an outer layer of plum colored wool, a lining layer of pink linen and are bound all around with a golden brown colored taffeta. They are boned in the half-boned style, which, although using less bones than fully boned stays, are still much stiffer and unyielding than the most highly-boned Victorian corset that I've ever made!

The back lacing is made for spiral lacing which uses a single lace. The eyelets match at the top and bottom but are offset all the way down. This is different than the cross lacing I'm used to with Victorian style corsets but - I like it!
These pictures were taken last night of my adjusted stays - I don't really care to show the pictures of them before I created the center seam since they were so awful! :) I'm sorry they are blurry and dark, but I didn't feel like taking new pictures today and having to lace up those stays all by myself. That will take some getting used to! They are shown with my regency chemise since I haven't made a proper shift yet. I will be making my shift using the instructions in the JP Ryan Basic Women's Wardrobe pattern except I think I'll make a small cuff instead of using a drawstring in the sleeve. I particularly want to make three gowns to wear with these stays. One is a Caraco Jacket and petticoat from Janet Arnolds pattern, dated 1775-1785. The second is a round gown based on Janet Arnolds pattern for a polonaise, dated 1770-1785. I plan to use the bodice pieces but will make the skirt closed with a fall front opening instead of an open skirt.
The third is a chemise a la reine, which probably won't take place for a while since wearing white is just impractical for me at this point in my life. (children think Mommy's skirt is an always-available and accomodating napkin) But still, eventually I want to make one since I've wanted one for a long time. I'm thinking it would make a nice Easter dress. I don't have a picture of it, but you can see a beautiful reproduction that first inspired me to make one at Katherine's Dress Site.

Now, since the stays are done I really need to get out of the 18th century for a little while and focus on sewing for our upcoming Civil War reenactment season. What's more - I'm even in the mood for a little mid-19th century sewing. Next up is a wool underpetticoat for me, a civilian sack coat for David and some new trousers and a new hoop skirt since my old one has bit the dust. This time I'm making a covered hoop instead of a cage. The cage was nice but it just didn't hold up to heavy wear like I needed it to plus it was a tad bigger than I wanted (my new one will be in the 90's-ish range at the bottom). It lasted me about five or six seasons so I think I got my money's worth out of it. I would like to make a new corset too but it is not as necessary as some of the other things I need to make. The older two boys need new clothes since they have outgrown last years things, but Malachi can wear Judah's gowns and petticoats from last year. I don't want to make the boys things until just before the season starts since I don't know how much they may grow between then and now. Our first event is in Keokuk, Iowa at the end of April. Not really that far away if you think about it!

So much to do!