Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Week of Overall Making

David is one of those guys who is hard on his clothes. And he also rarely ever buys clothes. We have been married for over four years and in that time I can only remember him buying new clothes three times. On those rare, great, breathtaking occasions he wearily went to Farm and Fleet and, after looking at all they had to offer and after great thought and mental anguish he purchased the inevitable overalls and plaid shirts. He has a suit, which he never wears, and otherwise his monotonous attire has been the overalls and button shirt look.
He is, as I have said, very hard on his clothes. I hated it when he bought overalls since they faded very quickly and soon developed holes in the knees and the back pockets, where he keeps his wallet. I was forever patching and mending them. The buttonholes always stretched out or tore and it drove me crazy figuring out how to sew them smaller and tighter. His plaid shirts likewise soon wore out. I told him it was because he only had two or three, and that if he had more and wore the ones he had less, they would last longer. He didn't go for that. He could only wear one shirt at a time, he said, and no matter what shirts they were, they would wear. Besides, he pointed out, shirts in his size are expensive (he wears a Tall size, which is hard to come by).
I decided to learn how to make classic button-down shirts. I took a pattern off of his favorite green flannel shirt (A happy, yet olden-day purchase from the ubiquitous Farm and Fleet) and made two in plaid flannel shirting from Jo Anns. He wore them, but complained they were too loose. So I made more mid-19th century style shirts. The plain, square-cut style. He wore those without complaint, except with each new shirt he'd tell me to make the next one longer.

With some garage sale and thrift store finds, his shirt wardrobe at the beginning of this year seemed well rounded out. He had a nice variety of button shirts in various colors and plaids. I turned my attention to overalls.
I made him a green corderoy set a few months ago as a practice run on mid-19th century style overalls since he decided he wanted to dress more old-fashioned for everyday wear. He loves them and wears them all the time and so far, they are holding up really well. They still look new. But he needs a few more pairs to round out his trouser department so I have been working on some twill overalls for him this week. They are the same mid-19th century style as his corderoy ones. To add durability, I topstitched all the seams. The tan overalls are machine topstitched but I decided to hand topstitch his blue twill ones, just in case he wants to wear them for an earlier impression. And besides, I like how hand topstitching looks. :) Even so, I was very disgusted with the length of his legs by the time I finished topstitching the leg seams yesterday - it took two and a half hours! I'm still not quite done, but hope to have them finished so he can wear a new pair to church on Sunday.

And lest you think I have done no feminine sewing at all lately, here are some pictures of some recent projects (from the end of January).

First, here is my new covered cage! :) I had decided to make a new one for this reenacting season since my Kay Kit cage bit the dust. I calculated the cost of materials for a new one, in the design I wanted, at around $50. Not bad. But after thinking some more I realized I could recycle the steels from the dilapidated cage and put them into casings for my new one. (the steels in the uncovered cage had the covering coming off of them, but that would make no difference in a covered cage). Then I realized I had some fabric sitting by, unused. So the cage ended up costing nothing to make. I used Simplicity 7216 for the skirt portion, cutting the length off quite a bit above the original hem line. (The finished length measurement on this particular pattern is REALLY long - cages should end about mid calf length or a bit below to prevent tripping!) I used cotton canvas for the inside casings - I paid no heed to the casing lines on the pattern and just drew my own on - and after that it was just a matter of threading the seven steels into the casings and closing up the openings.
The finished cage gave a nice circumference and shape, but it was a bit flat in the back. My last cage was also a bit flat in the back. I decided to make a "bum pad" to help give a bit more "oomph" to the back. I made a slightly crescent shaped pillow and stuffed it with filling from an unused feather pillow in our possession. I sewed on twill tape ties and tried it on beneath the cage and - it worked! It gives a nice back thrust. I tried it on without the cage and it will work wonderfully with plain petticoats for occasions when I do not need to wear a cage. I love eras where it is desirable and pretty to have a big bum. :) Finally, here is a new slat bonnet. I had only a very small amount of this fabric left from making Judah's quilt, so the crown area is pieced in 3 places. The bias cut ruffle around the edge is pieced in 12 places! Still, it is hard to tell where the piecing is. The dark color and print help to hide the joins. It is a basic style but I wanted to pretty it up a bit, thus the bias ruching. The fullness in the ruching is very minimal - just 25% bigger than the edge of the sunbonnet - but it still fulled up nicely, thanks to the bias cut of the fabric. I have so much left to do for our reenacting season. And I'm already burned out on mid-19th century sewing. I'm in a regency mood again! And I need to make some 18th century petticoats so I can get started on my 1780's/1790's gowns. :P
In the meantime, I think I'll go have a nice hot cup of coffee, season the steaks for dinner and let them chill for the next hour and then go for a walk with the boys to the end of the drive and back (quite a distance, really!) since spring is coming! And the snow is nearly gone. We will be out just in time to see the sun set.


  1. Your top-stitching looks oh so neat and tidy! I need to get mine to look like yours :D

    I love your new slat bonnet! That ruffle is the perfect finishing touch! I need to make a bum roll too as I think I really need the extra oomph back there too :D


  2. I really love reading about your period sewing! It makes me drool and wish I still had somewhere to wear it myself, therefore an excuse to make it! But I've got two dresses in storage I can't seem to let go of 'just in case' I get the opportunity to do living history again.

    For now, I'll just live vicariously through you!

  3. Loving the pink plaid bum pad! Did you use a pattern, or just make it up?

  4. The new cage and bum pad are so pretty! I like the choice of pink plaid. I have a sort of similar print, it's a little bigger, in wool that is to be Maria's coat next winter.
    Anthony is very like David with his clothes. When he buys new pants, it is to Kmart for Dickies. I purchase shirts for him at Goodwill. I drug him with me once and it was so painful for both of us that now, I buy the shirts, take them home for his inspection/trying, and if he doesn't like them I return them. Goodwill is only 2 blocks away so it's easy. I just got him some new church pants there. I spent almost an hour hunting through them before selecting four pairs. He is so particular about his pants-NO pleats, certain colours, pockets in certain places, etc. After all that he only kept one pair. Grr. I have though of sewing for him, but the thought is not appealing to me. I should get over it and do it.
    Anyway sorry for the long ramble.

    Spring? There is still 15" of snow here with more on the way!

  5. Long live the renaissance figure! Skinny is over-rated...

  6. Looks fantastic, Sarah! What can I say -- you always do such beautiful work. Be warned about that bum pad; it really changes the way your skirt hangs in the back (at least, in my experience) so make sure your back hem doesn't ride up too much. Still, I love how the bum pad shapes out the skirt -- my first hoop had a pad.

    I still don't know how you find the time to do all you do. You need to do a daily meme, like Mrs. G, so we can see just how you fit in all that sewing. ;)

  7. Dear Sarah,
    That pink covered cage and bum pad are just plain happy.

    Very best,
    Natalie in Ky, who is still loving the snow

  8. Very nice :-) You're projects are always so wonderful.

  9. You. are. amazing! lol
    Great post, I just came back from my first major re-enactment, and now I'm ready for more! There are alot of sewing projects I still want to do, and you've inspired for me to start right away!
    ps) I love the regency era as well!


  10. Ooooo, how I love your sewing! The bonnets, and bum pad, and cage, and dresses, and...Well, you get the picture. ;)

    Have a blessed day!

  11. Thanks! :)

    Chandra, I used a drawing of a bum pad in Costume in Detail to go off of when I made this one. I think the one I copied the shape from is from the late 18th century, but it works really well for the mid-19th century dresses I've tried it with too (and 1830's). I really am happy I finally have made one!

    Emily, I can SO sympthaize! Our husbands sound uncannily similar. :) We have received some more snow too, not much (maybe 2" or so) but it has been a consistent amount. . .as soon as the first layers melt, another comes to take its place.

    Amy, thank you for the tip about the skirt backs riding up. I hadn't really thought of that but I have to remake all my current dresses anyway, so will be sure to check the length when I reset the skirts!

    Kathy - AMEN! :D

    Mia, reenacting can be such an addicting hobby, sewing-wise! :) You are a fabulous seamstress and I am looking forward to seeing future reenacting projects from you!!!! I'm glad you had fun at your first major event! Our season doesn't start here until April, and I am getting eager to "be out" again. :)


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!