Monday, October 31, 2011

Renovated Thrift Shop Dress to 1920's Dress

A few months ago I got a few bags of clothes from the thrift store during their annual fill-a-bag-for-$1 day. I got this pink dress because it is 100% linen and at the time, I figured I'd cut it up to use for linings or something for medieval, 18th century or regency stuff. However, I never used it and it has been sitting on a shelf in my sewing room since then.

A few weeks ago I was wondering what the heck to do with it when I realized I had some pink cotton gauzey fabric that was a very similar color. The fabric had also been sitting unused on my shelf for quite some time. I then had the idea to combine the two to make a 1920's style dress.

I haven't had a chance to start work on my idea until this afternoon. But today I finally took scissors to the dress and began sewing it up.

To start with, I measured from my shoulder down to where I wanted the low waist to be. For early 20's, this is not extremely low. I decided to go with 19"-20" for my length, so I pinned a row of pins across the dress to mark the low waistline:

Then I measured a center panel 12" in width, from the waist of the dress down to the hem:

Then I cut out the sides following my pinned lines:

I then cut two rectangular panels of the gauze that measured the length of the dress from the waistline to the bottom hem. This was 33". I used a full width of my fabric which is about 40" wide, for each side.

I sewed the panels to the long edges of the dress, leaving the top (waist edge) free. I then pleated the top edge of the side skirt panels to match the waist of the dress:

To keep everything tidy, I basted the edges to a piece of hem lace:

And then covered the hem lace with a faux tab belt, stitched down to cover everything.

So far, I have only sewed down one side of the faux belt. The other side is just pinned. I also pinned up the hem to just above the ankle and tried it on the see how it is looking so far. I think this is going to work!

The dress is still obviously very rough. Since this was a generic "medium" size dress it does not fit my body very well. The neckline is too wide so I plan to bring it in a little bit by making a few tiny tucks that release just above the bust. I plan to add to the sleeves to bring them down to just above the elbow, and possibly add a V shaped faux insert at the neckline so the bodice doesn't look so plain. Or maybe a collar. :) I still don't know yet!

I'll keep you posted!


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wool Quilt

Last week I cut all my wool scraps into big chunky 6" squares and sewed them all together for a quilt top for David.

He is heading out to Shiloh in early spring with his commanding officer, Major Ron. They will share a small tent and take the barest of necessities. I am worried about his being warm enough so I thought a wool quilt would help me use up my scraps and help David stay cozy during the frosty spring nights. Of course, now that he will have a heavy wool quilt to tote along the weather will be warm and lovely and he won't have need of it! Don't things always work out that way?

Beyond the mindless stitching of endless straight seams, I have been taking a break from sewing anything complicated. So far this week I have been working on arranging the boys bedroom for winter, since any painting that had to be done had to be done while it was warm enough to air the room out with the windows open. This past weekend was perfect for that, so I did my painting then. (Note: I really must paint the BACK of their bedroom door! Didn't notice that scrawl mark on the door til looking at this photo!)

I touched up the green paint on the walls, which had suffered severely from kicks from six little feet, often shod in heavy winter boots (are my boys the only boys who like to wear winter boots all year round?) and also from artistic endeavors rendered directly onto the walls with crayons, permanent markers stolen craftily from the desk in the office, chalk and ball point pens. The ball point pen marks were the worst to cover up. Ugh. Those marks show through ANYTHING! I was lucky to find a little can of matching paint in the basement so all those marks are now covered up, the holes have been filled and painted over and everything looks neat and fresh once more.

The older two boys have shared a bunkbed the past year and a half. David, who slept on the top, recently peeled paint and plaster off the ceiling. It looked very bad and dust kept sifting down from the spot he ruined. I had to paint the ceiling but lacked proper paint for that and as I currently have no extra money to buy new paint, I decided to use the leftover blue paint from our kitchen. The ceiling was duly painted. The boys craved white clouds, so I used some leftover cabinet paint to brush on some white fluffy clouds. I was afraid it would look cartoonish but in all honesty, I am pretty happy with how it came out! It gives the room a very airy, serene feel. And yes, that is a dinosaur hanging helplessly from the pull cord on their fan.

The bunk beds came apart, due to the aforementioned reason of the damaged ceiling, as well as the fact the boys have recently been enjoying wrestling matches on the top bunk and using their bed as a fortress out of which they reenact the battle of Helms Deep from Lord of the Rings. Too many times Malachi was a casualty on the Orc side of things and fell from his position of nearly scaling the fortress onto the unforgiving carpeted surface below him. David and Judah now have, what they term, "regular beds".

It was hard to fit three twin size beds into a modest sized bedroom. We have four bedrooms all together but the boys refused any notion of putting one or two of them into a different room. I had to remove their dresser to make everything fit, but now it all works very nicely, I think. David has been enjoying his bed by the sunny southern windows. Here he is reading his science book for school this year, from Sonlight Pre-K 4/5. He adores it!

The boys have grand ideas of having various airplanes and birds hang from the ceiling. I haven't got around to doing that yet,  but we did make a quilted sun yesterday to hang in the east corner of their room. They sorted through my scraps to find several fabrics in orange, yellow and red and they helped me sew it all together.

More floor space is taken up now, but the room actually seems bigger and brighter without the high heavy bunkbed in their, which inevitably blocked a window or two.

Next up - getting more coffee to warm me up on this chilly morning!


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Princeton Civil War Reenactment ~ The Last Huzzah

The last huzzah for the Civil War reenacting season. We could not have asked for a nicer weekend.

October surprised us with one last weekend of Indian Summer.

It was a very small event this year. I think a total of six or seven units were present. Very different from previous years but very nice, in its own way. It was quieter. Calmer. More peaceful.

David has, by now, reached some level of status in the medical reenacting community. He rubs shoulders with the elite and veteran surgeons and is respected in all ways. He was in his element talking with the other surgeons, sharing research, ideas and practical advice.

I am so proud of how much he has thrown himself into this impression. Back when we were married, six years ago, he was a staunch Confederate artilleryman and declared he would never don blue. Well, he has. :) And he has found his own little niche where he fits just perfectly. He is so good at what he does.

The boys were delighted to be out. They ran hither and thither, collecting sticks, rocks and acorns aplenty. Since their clothes did not have pockets, they used me as a collection receptacle. I came home with my reticule completely stuffed with various natural things.

I didn't realize how much the boys have grown over this summer. Judah just barely was able to fit into his tunic and trousers. Of all the boys, he has grown the most this summer and he will most certainly need all new clothes for next season.

David still fits into his clothes width-wise, but not height wise. He is such a skinny fellow but he has grown tall, and his wrists and ankles look gangly since trouser hems and sleeves fall short of the mark!

Malachi wore this little button suit that I made for his older brothers several years ago. Yes! He has now been breeched. :D He just barely fit into it but I was glad he got a chance to wear it. He looked so cute, in my completely biased opinion, and very grown up.

I wore my sheer bodice and swiss waist since the day was so warm. I was secretly hoping it would be cold enough for me to wear my red wool paletot that I made earlier this year and haven't had a chance to wear yet! Alas. My secret hopes were in vain.

To be completely honest, I felt rather sad at this event since my dear friend Laura recently moved out of state and I felt her absence very keenly. I will admit I indulged in some self-pity and walked the lovely tree-carpeted paths quoting melancholy poetry to myself and feeling very brave and heroic as I put on a smiling face to the world lest anyone suspect my sad misfortunes of soul.

I just feel more and more out of place as David settles more into his role as assistant surgeon. We both research together and share information to make our impressions better. The more I do this the more I see that there really is no excuse for David to bring me and the children with him. The more I feel absolutely sure that my presence in a field hospital is absolutely NOT excusable, no matter how "family friendly" our unit may be. I don't like setting up our tent alongside the "hospital tent" as if surgeons just happily drug along their families wherever they went and had their wives and children conveniently encamped with them, where just outside my tent threshold I can behold piles of fake amputated limbs and a vast array of medical tools. It just would not have happened that way. I am really not sure where I fit in or even if I fit in at all in the mainstream reenacting community. I feel like I am holding David back from improving his impression. I ruin it just by being there. I wish I had a group of like minded females who would be willing to have their own, separate, civilian area and an impression completely removed from the lame one of "visiting" their husbands while they are in the field.

At least I had my little boys to keep me company - it is impossible to indulge in self pity very much when they are so active and so busy and require so much effort to keep up with!

And it really is a very delightful thing to have such a handsome husband. It makes the battle ever so much more interesting to watch.

The boys were thrilled with the horses.

All in all it was a lovely event and a very good meal was provided in the evening. A nice way to wrap up Civil War reeancting for this year. For more pictures, you can see my album here: Shadows of the Blue and Gray.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Vintage Style Underwear ~ Part 2

The bra is done. I got bored with it yesterday so finished it up quickly before I was tempted to shove it to the bottom of my sewing drawer and forget about it.

It came out better than I thought it would. I really do like it but it's just so darn ugly. ;P I wish I had used prettier fabric. Or a different color. I forgot how much I hate white bras. But I bet I can dye this one if I want to. And now that I know how easy bras are to make, I can whip up a new one whenever I feel like it in whatever fabric I want.

I sewed the binding on:

And added the hooks:

And added the straps last.

It gives a nice shape under my dresses and tops. It is so different from my modern t-shirt bras or the stretch sports bras I usually wear. It lifts and defines each breast into a kind of cone shape, but it actually makes them appear smaller than my modern bras do - which in my case, is a good thing.

Making a bra really forced me to evaluate my body. That can be scary but now I have been reinforced strongly in my theory that I am really very terribly short waisted, and that a higher bustline like the one  my new bra gives is actually better for my shape than modern bras that give a lower, fuller, more rounded line. There is not much space between my underbust and my waist so any hanging boob flesh that obscures my mid-section just makes me look top heavy and fat all over. : / Did you know that when I wear a soft molded cup t shirt bra there is literally ***1 and 1/2 inches*** between the bottom of my bust and my actual waist???

For comparison, here is a picture of a plain sweater I like to wear. This picture is with my "best" modern bra, that is, the one that I feel is most flattering to me. It gives a pretty good lift, but a very rounded shape.

And here is the same sweater with the bra I just finished making. Definitely more pointy in shape, and my midriff area is more visible and less curvy. I doubt I will wear this bra with this sweater, though, since there is too much nipple effect going on. :P (forgive my horrible hair).

But I do like the vintagey silhouette it gives. It seems trimmer, tidier, more put-together. I am so pleased with how it works underneath this white blouse.

I got this blouse, and the silk/linen stripey skirt this summer at a fill-a-bag-for-$1 day at the thrift store. I love this blouse, but with  my modern bra, the pleated midriff section sat across the bottom of my boobs. And then the waistband of the skirt was just below that. It was ugly and horrific and dumpy. To make it work I had to pull down the blouse so the midriff section settled at the proper place, but then I had excessive boob crack issues from the neckline. Now, I don't need to tug or pull anything into place, and the midriff section sits where it is supposed to sit. And because the midriff band isn't straining to encompass boob flesh, the side zipper zips up easily and I don't feel like I'm trying to squeeze into something that is too small for me. And yeah, I gotta loose my belly pooch. ;) No, I am NOT pregnant.

Now I need to finish up my undergarments and make a real vintage style dress to go over my new bra! I'm thinking something fun and twirly and totally girly from the 1940's would be just the right thing!


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vintage Style Underwear ~ Part 1

After making my 1920's dress, I began to wonder what women in the 20's wore *under* their dresses. What did they wear by way of underwear? I began looking into it and by some chance or reason came across an old etsy listing for a 1930s era pattern for undergarments. 

The pattern was sold, but I was inspired by the pictures of the pattern envelope. Women made homemade underwear in the 30's! I have made corsets, but never a bra, so felt like I could use an interesting challenge. My hope is that this set will work for any 30's, 40's, or 50's styles I might make. It doesn't seem like underwear has changed all that much since the advent of the bra.
Lacking pattern pieces, I did what I normally do and wrapped a strip of fabric around my body and pinned and cut and pulled and tucked until I had something that fit and that resembled a bra. I carefully cut it apart and made my first pattern from that. I went through another mock up, and refined the fit a bit more and then ended up with my final pattern pieces here:
I did go with a two piece cup instead of a one piece cup fitted with a dart. I simply could not get a one piece cup with a dart to fit my shape very well and the two piece works much better. I felt safe choosing this style since this original 30's bra from etsy shows what looks like a horizontal seam across each cup.
I cut my pieces from medium weight white linen. I know the material isn't fancy or pretty, but I have a horror of working with slinky, silky, flimsy fabrics and I'm going for plain and practical. No one will ever see what I wear beneath my dresses except for my husband and any interested, likewise obsessed-with-foundation-garments costumers out there, who read this post and who find this kind of thing intriguing. ; ) Here you can see the cups being sewn together. One is pinned and has been sewn, and the other has been sewn, pressed, and topstitched.
Here are both cups finished and sewn together in the center. I finished all the seams by zig zagging the raw edges of the seam allowance and pressing them open. I topstitched them down for the smoothest line on the outside.
Another view of the cups. You can see how pointy the cups are. It is a soft point instead of a hard one (this is definitely not a "bullet bra"!) but it gives a nice, uplifted, perky shape that has not been part of my life since I gave birth to and nursed three babies. The bottom of the cups kind of act like a corset in that the bottom cup is responsible for the uplift and support. The top of the cup makes sure the girls stay where they are supposed to and don't bounce out and away!  
Then I added the back pieces, sewn to the sides.
Here the back is pinned shut.
Next I need to finish the back and add the hook and eyes. After that I will need to bind the edges and add the straps and decide if I want to pretty these up in someway, with the addition of lace or ribbon or other such feminine dainties.