Friday, March 19, 2010

A Gown and Jacket

After last months mad rush to get projects done, I have been rather indolent this month. I still have things to get done but I don’t really want to work on them. I have been having sewing burn out. The two projects I’ve managed to get done this week have taken me far longer than they should. I sew a seam one day, cut out a sleeve the next. My passion has been removed to Spring Cleaning. So the sewing machine stands quiet most of the time. I did joyfully scrub the basement floor in the laundry room today with soap and gleefully rinsed it with bucketfuls of bleach water. It smells so clean now. It made me happy.

Anyway, let me introduce you to. . .Malachi’s Leftover Outfit.

This little outfit was made using up the leftover fabric from the older boys’ tunics. The little jacket is made from scraps of the green linen, and the gathered dress is made from the (great quantity of) leftover blue and white cotton.
Not that Malachi needed a new outfit. He is already well outfitted from what Judah had last year and from the things that he himself wore last year and still fit this year. But still, who can resist making a baby dress? Especially when I stop to consider that this may well be the last year I will have a baby in dresses for a while. We currently have no new babies on the way and next year Malachi will be old enough for tunics.
I sewed him up a few new undershirts over the past week or two. His undershirts from last fall were a bit tight in the arms so these new ones were made nice and roomy. They go down to below his knees in length and I think they will last him a very long time! With his undershirt and drawers (which you can’t see, due to the length of the skirt) he is wearing a strapped petticoat I made last year for Judah. It’s a little big. I need to shorten the length of the shoulder straps but that is an easy fix. The wide waistband is roomy, and there is a lot of overlap on the back buttoned opening, so it can be made even bigger if necessary. Malachi seemed to like skirts. Floofery! Frillies! Handfuls of crisp clean cloth to grab onto and wave around! He has a separate button on petticoat that goes with this strapped petticoat. I also made that last year for Judah but honestly, we ended up hardly using it. It kept wanting to come unbuttoned from the strapped petticoat and the strapped petti gives a nice amount of “pouf” even without the extra petticoat buttoned on. The dress is a basic gathered style. I love these little dresses but feel like I’m cheating somehow when I make this style, since they are just SO easy to sew up and very quick, too. The short sleeves were cut with a curved hem and then drawn up at the shoulder. You can see his undershirt sleeve peeking out from beneath but oh well, that is a period look. :P The skirt has a 75” sweep and is gathered tightly to a 1” wide waistband that is piped on both sides. Inside the waistband is faced with white cotton. The neckline is also piped. To close the dress, there is a cloth covered button at the waist and at the neck in the back. The dress really is a bit too big, all around. But I made it that way on purpose. After three children, I have learned to make things Big. When little David was a baby I made his dresses to fit him exactly as he was a the time I was making them. He only got to wear each gown a time or two before he outgrew them, but since I didn’t have any other children to clothe I enjoyed making him new dresses before each event. When Judah came along, I began to make things a little bit big, but not too much. If they got a few months worth of wear out of them I was happy. Now with Malachi, I’ve learned. It’s Got To Be Big. The clothes I am making this spring are intended to last at least until next spring, if not longer. Hopefully.The little jacket took me the longest time to make. It is a simple style and is unlined yet it took me three weeks before I finished it. Why? I don’t know. I had just enough linen left to cut a small coat. I originally made three quarter length bell sleeves to go with it. For some reason though, the sleeve head came out too small to be set nicely into the armscye. I don’t know why this happened. But it did happen. I despaired. I went through four sleeve evolutions before I came across the KayFig pattern for a toddler dress and coat, and the little coat on the pattern cover has short ruffly sleeves! I decided that it was fate, and so I put a short ruffled sleeve on the coat.The coat was meant to almost meet in front, and it does, when laid flat, but on Malachi there was more of a gap across the chest than I had intended. I might put a concealed hook and eye at chest level, to bring the edges of the coat together in the front at that point. We’ll see. Some may think me strange, but I think I will have Malachi use this for his Easter outfit. I think it will be adorable. The boys will wear their green tunics and if I get my bum in gear I want to finish my sheer dress to wear for Easter Sunday and we can all go to church a la 1860's. I originally wanted to make a 1790’s style round gown but I just lack the motivation. I don’t have all the undies I’d need (I have the linen for my shift but haven’t even cut it out yet!) and it would just be too much, all at once. Plus if I make my sheer dress I’ll have lots of use for it after Easter is over with.
So that is the news from me to you this fine and brisk Friday afternoon. How is your day faring in your neck of the woods? (though there is a shocking lack of woods hereabouts, to be sure). Clam chowder and johnny cake for supper with homemade rhubarb pie and (not homemade) :) ice cream for dessert, to be eaten with David after the boy-O’s go to bed, while watching part 2 of Gone With the Wind. Ah. . .isn’t it pleasant to have such things to look forward to? I didn’t like Rhett Butler the first few times I saw GWTW, but he is growing on me. He is a bad man, but at least he doesn’t pretend to be otherwise! I can't stand Ashley. Poor Melanie. :(


Saturday, March 13, 2010

Remaking a Frock - 1860's Black Wool Day Dress

Two posts in one day? Rather excessive, is it not? :) However, I think some cheeriness and pleasantry is in order after the somber post below. The Lord will take care of that situation, and all I can do is content myself with prayer. And now - onto the dress!
This dress was originally made about a year and a half ago from some silver and black striped wool I got from in their $1.99/yard clearance section. The original dress you can see here: Black Wool Dress

It was made with a common pleated skirt, whipped to a seperate waistband and the bodice had a pointed front, postillion back and was trimmed up with green silk ruching and green silk covered buttons. I liked the dress, but it was a little too "fussy" for me. So when after Malachi was born I realized I really needed to refit or remake the bodice I figured I would redo the trim at that time as well.

I put off redoing the dress for a while since we moved and I had a lot of little boy clothes to make. I didn't know if I would have enough fabric left to make a whole new bodice or if I would have to redo, as best I could, the one I originally made. At last, last week, after going through four muslins to get as best a fit I could, I took the plunge.
I had just enough of the wool left to make a whole new bodice. I did have to piece in a little bit under the armscye on the back bodice piece but it is not very noticable unless you look closely. I used the same sleeves off of the old bodice and kept the sleeve trim intact. Instead of making a pointed front, I made this dress with a plain round waist and attached the skirt directly to the bodice to make a one piece dress with a dog leg opening.
I debated whether I wanted trim on the bodice at all. On the original old bodice I had ruched trimming at the armscyes which I had removed when I took the sleeves off. I decided that would look pretty across the front, and tie in the sleeves to the whole dress a bit better. When I sewed the ruching to the bodice front, there was a section of about 2-3" of untrimmed bodice between the line of sleeve ruching and the line of bodice ruching, right at the back shoulders. To fill in that area, I took the curved "false jacket" trim off the old bodice and used those strips to make some sewn flat bows, which I sewed a matching covered button to. I then tacked these to that untrimmed area to fill it in.
When I originally made the dress I was a little shocked at the vibrancy of the blue-green color. It was a little bright. Mrs. Clark at the Sewing Academy suggested that I put a line of black trim down the center of the ruching to tone it down a bit, so I did that with this trim. I used narrow black velvet ribbon and tacked it on the ruching with a large running stitch, short on the outside and long on the inside. Now that I have worn this dress for a while, I see the fit isn't perfect, but it's a lot better than the dresses I've made the last few years, which were usually made quickly without much time taken for adjusting the fit. For some reason this fabric is shiny and seems to accentuate any flaw since it reflects light. I assure you, in humble cotton, the fit looks much better. :) I think if I fine tune the darts and maybe bone them, it will look passably well.

Not the characteristic "little black dress", but I think this will be a wardrobe staple. I like this better fitting, plainer dress so much better and it will be suitable for almost any occasion. Oh, and the book is Walden by Henry David Thoreau. I am getting through it bit by bit. What a lot of food for thought it is! I am enjoying it very much.



Monday, March 8, 2010

The Elusive Yoked Pleated Tunic?

I've been working myself up into grand irritability over the weekend, looking for that dumb picture I thought I had of a yoked tunic. I never found it, although I did find more documentation for war-era and just-post-war era pleated and yoked military blouses (in fact, in 1872 the military began to issue them as regulation instead of the sack coat). Of course there is the Kentucky Confederate yoked and pleated fatigue blouse in Echoes of Glory as I mentioned in my last post. On the federal side of things, during the War, Ambrose Burnside also had this style copied and given to his men. I also found a lot of reference to late 19th century pleated and yoked tunics for little boys called "Russian Blouses", but nothing applicable to my situation.

However, a fantastic lady on the Sewing Academy posted this picture today. Is this, at last, the long elusive yoked AND pleated tunic? It sure looks like it to me. I also really like this little boys white collar. I had been wondering if white collars were ever worn with tunics, so this helps with that. I have a few white collars I started making for the boys a while ago but never finished, due to uncertainty if they were worn. I have a use for them now! Here is the whole picture: (Shawnra, I hope it's okay if I post this here!) :)
And here is a cropped view of the little boy in question. Really, is there any doubt?!I'm sure happy this morning. :) Giggling. It's awesome.



Friday, March 5, 2010

"A Severe Republican Plainness"

So said Sir Richard Burton, in describing the dress of the Federal army.
It works for tunics too. I like the phrase. It is imaginative. It is unique.

I have been madly sewing on the boys wardrobe this week. As of now, all they need is 2 more undershirts finished and their wool coats made. Then I will be done. Except for trimming, but that is extra and I will do that as I find time in between more necessary projects. And of course, if I have time, new caps for each of them would be nice. But their ones from last year still look well and will work nicely if I don't have time to make new ones right away.
The undershirts are of a soft fine white cotton and are probably the most simple garments I've ever sewn. They are cut all in one piece with the shoulders on the fold and there are but two seams, one on each side, that curves from the short sleeve, to under the arm to down to the hem. The seams are felled for neatness. I did have to hem the neckline opening by hand since I cannot manage such a fine hem using my machine, but, with about a half hour of work put into each one, the first set is done and I hope to finish the rest tonight. Little David loves his "white shirt". He has been wearing it all day!

I finished the boys second set of tunics yesterday. They are made from the same basic pattern as their blue ones but I cut off the pattern at chest level to make a yoke, and the bottom portion is a box pleated rectangle with the pleats tacked down at the waist and the tacking stitches covered by a self fabric belt. They open in the back, and are made of a semi sheer green striped cotton/linen fabric.
Now. It appears that the Yoked Tunic is a thing of mysterious origin. One does not know whether it originated in fact, or in ones head. It seems the general reigning thought from the good folks at the Sewing Academy is that yoked tunics were not worn, owing to the fact that no original yoked tunics have been documented and no original images of boys wearing yoked tunics have yet been found. Last year I saw and saved a picture of a boy wearing what looked to be a type of yoked tunic but of course, now that I actually need it I can no longer find it on the computer!
At any rate, while Yoked Tunics are perhaps a thing of questionable veracity, it IS true that yoked garments, both underwear and outerwear, were worn in the 1860's period. Yoked dresses were worn by women and girls (it appears that both small boys and girls could have worn yoked dresses) and there is a gorgeous example of a yoked jacket/blouse in the Confederate Echoes of Glory book that closely resembles the tunics I've made for my boys. It was said to have been a popular style that was widely copied by officers. And it is true that civilian clothing, especially womens and childrens, was at times made in a military style, or had a "military influence". For example, the ubiquitous Zouave Jacket. So considering that, I think a yoked tunic is plausible. But until I find some real good documentation - don't take my word for it! :)

I want to trim them up to make them a bit dressier (these being intended for Sundays) but until I get time to do so, they severely plain will remain.
I had just enough linen left to make Malachi a little unlined jacket. This green wildly sets off the boys eyes. I think I've seen enough green for a while, though!



Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Original 1860's Quilted Silk Bonnet - Yum!

Just popping in for a minute to share this gorgeous silk bonnet I saw while browsing Vintage Textile, as is my customary habit to do once every few months or so. Isn't it beautiful?! It looks fairly easy to copy too. . .
I just love the perky little flat bows at the top! So adorable!
Malachi is stricken with croup at the moment, so I must return to my poor sick little guy, but wanted to share this with other antique-fashion-lovers. :) Love,