Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Tractor Shirt

This week, it looks like my sewing plans are going to consist entirely of shirts. We are taking the boys to the inter-tribal Pow-Wow at Grand Village of the Kickapoo this weekend and I am having a lot of fun making tiny ribbon shirts for them to wear. Before starting on the shirts, however, Judah had one request for me - he wanted me to make him a "tractor shirt".

This past weekend was my 26th birthday and Judah and I browsed the fabric section of one of the local stores, birthday money from my parents in hand, while David took the other boys to look at fishing poles. Of all the children, Judah is the one who most shares my interest in fibers and fabrics and pattern and design. I found some pretty striped cotton seersucker to make another peasant dress and while I was rummaging, Judah was, too. He found some cotton printed with John Deere tractors and combines and when he asked if he could get some, well, I just couldn't say no!

We used Simplicity 4760 for the shirt pattern. It went together very quickly (the entire shirt was made yesterday between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.) and Judah immediately put it on to wear for the rest of the day. His only disappointment was that I used a tractor for the pocket instead of a combine. Otherwise, he is very happy with it and declares it his "favorite shirt".

The only change I made to the pattern was to omit the facing piece (seriously, I hate facings and none of Judah's current button up shirts have nasty facings!) on the front opening and just finished the front edges with topstitched strips instead. The seam between the collar and shirt was finished with self fabric bias tape. I didn't follow the pattern directions at all, but I think directions are sometimes much more work than the garment is worth.

Judah spent last evening in the pursuit of toad-catching and found three. This one was an especial favorite, as it was the smallest of the bunch and made a chirruping sound at times. After keeping it for an hour or so he let it go in the garden.

Now I can make ribbon shirts with a clear conscience and Judah is happy. :)


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Drawstring Peasant Dress for Baby and Beyond

I don't know about you but I heartily detest most maternity clothes I have found in the store. I am aware that there are indeed kind hearted clothing merchants who do actually sell maternity clothes that are cute and fun and flattering but usually their offered goods are out of my price range. I stick to my haunts at the local thrift stores, and, occasionally Wal Mart or K Mart or Target. I don't like spending a lot on clothes since at this point in my life a $40 blouse bought new or a $2 blouse bought at Goodwill are likely to experience the same fate. Life is rough on clothes when you have a houseful of boys.

I have made do so far this pregnancy with "normal" clothes, for the most part. (okay, I did buy ONE maternity top and wore it for Easter, did not find it flattering and it has never been worn again.) All my pre-pregnancy skirts and jeans fit if I wear them below the bump. Long, hip length tops, especially t shirts and camis, have been invaluable. I can pair them with one of my pre-pregnancy button up shirts and either wear the shirt open over the cami or tied up over the bump.

It's been harder to find dresses in my closet that will still work well for maternity, though. A lot of my dresses don't have room for bust expansion and the waistline is too low. And I hate the look and feeling of wearing a waistband right around the middle of The Bump. Above or below, totally fine, but right across the middle???? Nope can't do that.

With the little girl due in about ten weeks, more or less, I have reached the point where I think it is pointless to make something that is for "maternity only". I don't want to spend time on something that I can't wear after the baby gets here. I decided to pair two of my favorite styles, a peasant top and a peasant skirt, to make a peasant dress that will work for the remainder of the pregnancy as well as for breastfeeding. And then, when it has accomplished it's purpose (and if it is still wearable after all that), it can be worn as a "normal" dress, because the style isn't particularly maternity, or breastfeeding, or anything. It's just a simple dress that anyone could wear.

This was my first trial run with the concept. I used some rose printed cotton fabric I've had the past few years. I bought it before I started hennaing my hair so it's not something I would have chosen if I were buying new fabric, (the reds kind of clash) but since I already had it on hand I decided to use it. The bodice is just a raglan-sleeve style bodice with short sleeves. I traced a pattern off one of my favorite peasant tops in my closet and shortened the waistline so it hit a bit below bra-band level. The skirt is 3 tiered and the flat, ungathered edge of the bodice waistline is sewn to the flat, ungathered edge of the top tier. I made a casing in the seam and so the waist is drawn up with a drawstring. Another drawstring goes through the neckline binding so I can loosen the front bodice for nursing access.
Let us caress the haybale. Get your love on for the haybale. But this is probably the best picture of the overall look of the dress - it's hard to photograph a style when it's made up in such a large, busy print. 

It's a tad long, I think. . .of course, in these pictures I was in the tallish grass so on a flat surface the hem hits at the top of the foot. I may shorten it another inch or so. And the bodice does look. . . dumpy. . .but I think that is because I deliberately fitted the bodice over my "comfortable" (i.e. not "fashionable") favorite nursing bra, and added some ease since I know sizing flexibility in that area will be needed after baby arrives. But I totally love the style. It's me, it's comfortable to wear and I like being able to have a dress to choose from instead of always wearing the skirt/cami/shirt combo. I think one of these dresses in a comfy knit would be totally nice. This cotton is a bit heavy so is not the best choice for this style.

To keep the ribbon drawstrings from flying, a couple of wooden beads threaded onto the ends works wonderfully and adds to that peasanty look.
One other nice thing about having the due date creep closer and closer? It's the time of year we start sitting outside most evenings, looking at the gardens, walking down the road, talking, watching the kids (and cats!) play on the lawn, watching the sun set. It's the start of our Summer Evenings.

And one of these summer evenings, in the not-too-distant-future, we'll have a fat little baby bundle to sit outdoors with us, watching the world with wide, wondering eyes, while her brothers, learned in the lore of boyhood, will romp and scream and set up all sorts of imaginary worlds and kingdoms. And David and I will look at each other and smile and sigh, all at the same time, and say "these are the things we'll remember when we are old." It's a good time of year.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

May Regency Project: Petticoat. Finished Photos!

Thank you all, so, so much for your kind words of support and encouragement after my post yesterday. It meant so much to me to read every thing everyone shared. I bawled as every comment arrived and bawled my way through reading them but oh, a grief shared is indeed a grief lessened. I have said it before but I will say it again. You all are the best!

And it helped, I think, to be able to share with you what happened. To have these precious little ones and their little brief lives documented in written word, and with photos. It just seemed so heartless to try to push that remembrance behind me and ignore it. Now I feel like closure has been achieved, and I can move on. And Susan has been extra-cuddly and purry and affectionate and having her does help, too, so much. After all we still have each other. The Choll said something that really struck me yesterday (hope you don't mind if I share it here!)

"Grieving reminds us of what we are to one another, so I suppose there is a reason for the pain." 

That is so true. And I would rather take the sweetness of loving along with the pain of loosing than be stoic and emotionless and never experience any sort of highs or lows. Love you all. Thank you.

And so anyway, the petticoat is finished!

Final thoughts on it: I am not totally happy with it. The back fits nicely now but the front is just a little too loose. Thankfully that should be an easy fix by just unpicking the seam at the front opening and decreasing the angle of the bodice. And having a snugger fit across the bust should help with the wrinkles I am experiencing at the straps. After I make those adjustments, I think I will be very satisfied with this project. As is, it is definitely useable but until I make those changes they will bug me every time I put this on.

Here we can see the ubiquitous I-am-pregnant-so-look-at-my-belly shot: (and a side view of the petticoat as well, although that is of lesser importance, right? Because it's just so amazing and awesome to see the almost-29-week bump?? :D)

Back view. You can see that even though the skirt is fairly narrow it still has a nice fullness to it and the tucks help add a lot of body.

The only thing I would probably change next time, besides the slight fitting issues mentioned above, is the seam between the shoulder strap and the front bodice, which you can see better in this closer picture:

I think moving it down on the shoulder to just above the neckline would look a lot better. I briefly contemplated taking the skirt off, making a new bodice with the longer shoulder strap, but then discarded the idea as folly. No one will see this petticoat when it is worn and I don't think the seam placement will affect the look at all once a dress is over it. But still, something to keep in mind for next time.

I now wash my hands of this May regency project. I look forward to getting started on patterning the gown in the next week or so. But I can take my time as there is no rush for it, as long as it is done by the end of June!


Sunday, May 20, 2012

May Regency Project: Petticoat. Part 3. The Bodice.

We left off with the skirt sewn into a tube, the hem and tucks sewn, and the front placket made. After that I pleated the waist edge of the skirt to fit my underbust measurement, leaving the center few inches of the skirt flat. The pleats are small 1/2" pleats, like the original petticoat. 

And after that, with my petticoat skirts all nicely starched and laid out nicely over my ironing board, our male cat came in and sprayed a big spot on the skirt. So I had to wash it immediately and it became all winkled. So I will have to starch and iron it again, alas. Sigh.

I cut two layers for the bodice out of the white linen. Here you can see the pieces sewn together:

Each layer was sewn up separately. To finish the seam allowances, I folded them under and slip stitched them to the bodice:

Here is one layer of bodice with the seam allowances finished and the neckline seam allowance pressed down. I did the same thing with the other bodice layer:

I then matched the inner bodice layer to the outer bodice layer, wrong sides together. I pinned the layer together along the neckline and stitched through all layers to secure: (yeah, you can see my built in sewing table here - my belly is getting obnoxiously in-the-way! 12 weeks to go!)

After stitching the neckline and front opening, I pressed and pinned the seam allowances in the same manner around the armscyes. I sewed on the skirts at the waistline as well. Here is the bodice so far, with the skirts on and the armscyes still pinned (hopefully I'll get time to finish the petticoat this afternoon - it's so close to being done!):


Friday, May 18, 2012

May Regency Project: Petticoat. Part 2. The Skirt.

The petticoat is coming along quite nicely. Yesterday I was able to sew up the skirts and hopefully today or tomorrow can get the bodice done, then it will just be a matter of attach the skirts to the bodice. I am really enjoying the fact I don't have a close deadline for this project. It is so nice to work on something without being in a rush. I never take time to think much about petticoats - I mean, it's just a petticoat, right? - but it was fun thinking of the different ways I could make even a simple project look a little nicer than just being the plain "sew  fabric panels into a tube, hem, and gather to a waistband". 

Before I made the skirts, I did go ahead and trace out my bodice mock up onto paper for the final pattern. I made a few adjustments to the mock up to make it look more like my inspiration bodiced petticoat, below:

I shortened the strap and made a little strap "stub" on both front and back bodice pieces. I also curved in the bottom of the front bodice a tad more, since in the mock up the underbust fit a bit loosely and I wanted a snug fit. I also raised the neckline of the back bodice so that my chemise will not show when the petticoat is being worn. 

To make the skirts, I measured from my underbust to desired hem length (right around ankle length). I added 5" to the measurement for five 1/2" tucks at the hem. I added allowance for a 2" hem and 1/2" for the top seam allowance. I tore two panels of 45" wide fabric to that length and sewed the sides together, forming a tube. I left the selvedge edge as a natural finish. While the skirt was still flat and tubular I did the hem and the tucks. The tucks are meant to add a little body to the skirts, as well as to look pretty if a sheer gown is worn over top. 

The tucks are sewn on the machine but I did decide to do the hem by hand. A hand done hem just lays better, I think:

For the front opening, I found the center of one of the panels and cut a short slit into the top of the skirt and hemmed it all around:

The finished hem circumference is just under 90". I was afraid of this being too narrow but with the tucks, the bottom part of the skirt is quite stiff and stands out away from my legs. Come to think of it, the petticoat I made last year was also made with two panels of 45" fabric and I had no problems wearing that. The gown that will be worn over the petticoat will, however, be quite a lot more full. 

Next up is cutting out the bodice from the linen. I think I will cut two layers and sew them up separately, then press under the seam allowance at the armscyes, neckline and front opening and match the edges of both layers together and stitch through all layers at the edge to secure them to each other. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

May Regency Project: Petticoat. Part 1. Draping.

It always comes back to draping as the first thing I need to do for any project. I really wanted to use my 1780's gown pattern, slightly altered, for the bodiced petticoat but I was too lazy to dig through the drawers of patterns to find what I needed. I trace all my patterns off onto brown paper and although I label them, it takes f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to unfold each brown paper pattern piece and look at it to see what exactly it is and to eventually, hopefully, find what I am looking for.

So I decided to just drape a new pattern. I put it off for most of the day since I didn't want to actually go to the trouble of putting my stays on. (did I say I was lazy?) But I did at last and a half hour later ended up with this:

It is based on the 1798-1800 bodiced petticoat in Costume in Detail. The bodice is very simple, having a very short bodice, low neckline and shoulder straps. My version came out a bit wider in the straps and lower in the back but that will be easy to fix.
There are some wrinkles at the back here, but I think that is because this mock up fabric has ZERO stretch. In the linen I think the wrinkles will just melt away. Hope so anyway. 

I washed the fabric yesterday, both linen and lightweight cotton. I am thinking I will go with the linen for the bodice (since linen is highly moldable and will be ideal for a very fitted bodice) and the lighter cotton for the actual petticoat. I think some tucks in the petti would also be good to put in, to add some stiffness at the hem to prevent petticoat-leg-wrap.

What I like about the original petticoat is that it opens in the front with hooks and eyes. I was kind of panicking since I couldn't remember if I had ever seen an original petticoat (or illustration of one) that had a front opening. I was so glad I remembered this one! A front opening is almost necessary for breastfeeding.

Now with the pattern done the actual sewing shouldn't take long at all. I hope to have an update by the end of the week!


Monday, May 14, 2012

Civil War Gown for Lydia

Just when you think you can't take anymore of certain time period/ project, a new one pops up to refresh and renew you. Isn't it awesome how that works out? I was terribly weary of making adult 1860's clothes and when a reenacting gentleman of our acquaintance brought up the possibility of me making a dress for his daughter, I was more than happy to leap at the opportunity.

It was a quick little project to work up, but nonetheless fun. We did a quickie pattern drape last week and Lydia went through original images with me to pick out a style she liked. We decided to go for this style, but with a front opening to allow her to dress herself:

I didn't have much time to make a lot of undergarments, but I did get a chemise made (chemises are absolutely necessary!!)

And a bodiced petticoat. The petticoat likewise buttons in the front, same as the dress, to allow Lydia ease in dressing herself. The straps button the bodice so the button can be moved to make the straps longer as she grows taller. The tucks are mainly for pouf factor but can also be let out to make the skirts longer as she grows.

The dress is of a lightweight plaid cotton. Instead of hook and eyes (which don't work well unless under tension) the opening is secured with china buttons and handworked buttonholes:

The neckline is piped and finished with a removable collar, the same as a woman would have on her dress.

The skirt is gathered by hand. I attempted to do stroked gathers but the pleats would *not* lay all the same way as the fabric is springy. They just boinged back into a soft round pleat instead of laying flat.

Now with this project under my belt I can tackle my May regency costume challenge project - a bodiced petticoat for me! I really need to get cracking on diaper making but honestly, right now, a bodiced petticoat just sounds so much more alluring.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Jane Austen Regency Wardrobe Challenge

The Jane Austen Festival of Australia is, I discovered, hosting a costume challenge. I adore things that have the word "costume" in them and, most of the time, the word "challenge". BOTH costume AND challenge in a phrase? An ideal coupling, if you ask me. This is very timely for me since I have been longing for an excuse to get back into making regency items. There are two categories you can enter; one is to create a c. 1813 garment and the other is to make a "regency wardrobe". The site lists the various garments one can choose from for the wardrobe. You can enter the wardrobe challenge full time or part time. Full time is just one item per month. 

I am probably not going to be able to make it to the Jane Austen festival in Louisville, KY this summer. With David's work schedule, and finances and the fact I will be about five weeks away from my due date David feels it is wiser to stay close to home this summer. Still, I have been longing for an excuse to get back into sewing regency stuff. This challenge is just perfect and will give me a nice schedule to follow. Just one item per month is so doable and since I won't have to rush to get many projects done at once I can spend more time on the research and construction stage of each project. Hopefully this will mean a higher level of accuracy for each item. (although I am still not sure if I want to handsew everything.)

I have made a basic list with what I plan to make. This list is very flexible and may change as I research more and decide I like different styles better. But for now, this is the basic, bare-bones list. :) And I'm shooting for "around" the year 1800. The contest/challenge runs from now (May) through March of next year.

*I have saved these images from the internet and have NO IDEA, for the most part, where the images came from. So if you know please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.*

1. Drawstring/gathered gown: 
This gown is just gorgeous - and so convenient for the last few months of pregnancy as well. I think this will be my June project

2. Petticoat: (I already have one but would like to make another with fullness across the front to accomodate the baby bump)
My May project! Gotta have a petticoat before making a dress. 
3. "Spencerino", from Madame Dujards awesome tutorial, based on this original:
Most likely my July project
4. Short Gown:
October Project?

5. Linen mitts:
August - I want to handsew these so figure it will be a nice project to keep with me during the last days of pregnancy and the first weeks of new-motherhood. I can work on them anywhere!

6. Simple day cap:
I will probably make this in December, due to it's simplicity and the fact I am usually quite busy in the weeks right before Christmas

7. Sewn stockings:
Potential January project?
8. Bonnet: (this is the pattern I have but the style may, and probably will, change to something more suited for 1800)
February Project

9. Apron:
September Project
10. Open Robe:
November Project - I'd love to have this done  to wear for the holiday season.

So to all you fellow regency-lovers who haven't signed up - gosh, go sign up! :) I can't wait to see what everyone makes.