Wednesday, August 29, 2012

August Regency Project - Drawstring Gown, Pt. 2

With just a few days to finish this dress before the deadline, I dove headlong into making this gown yesterday. I didn't get very far. I thought that patterning the bodice would be pretty easy. I was wrong.
I started out with the pattern I made for the bodice of the bodiced petticoat. I thought I could redraw the seams a bit and have something workable. But for some reason it didn't work out that way. I had to go through four or five mock ups before I had a pattern that fit me how I wanted it to.

So last night all I was really able to do was to cut out the pieces of the bodice. I decided, as you may have noticed, to NOT use the white linen blend fabric. It just seemed a tad heavy to me so I decided to use the rest of the fabric left from my Hobbit shift. There was an entire nine yard length of fabric when I purchased it so there was plenty left to make a regency gown!

The only thing I don't like about this fabric is that it is a crinkly gauzy fabric. When I press it with starch it flattens out nicely but still, I think the finished dress will have a "rustic" quality. But it's better than the heavier linen blend stuff, I think, and will make very nice drawstring channels. :)

Today I have been able to sew the bodice together. I cut the lining of white cotton (a white cotton sheet, actually!) and treated the layers as one for the back and sides. The seam allowances were turned over and slip stitched down for a firm finish. Then the lining at the front was hemmed at top and bottom and front opening and is left loose from the outer bodice since it will close seperately.

The outer bodice front pieces are cut extra long and will be drawn up with a drawstring. Here you can see where I've pinned it to approximate the look it will have when drawn up. And excuse the red scratch on my neck. That is what comes of fitting onself and wiggling in and out of mock ups held together with pins. :P
The lining flaps look super tight here but I intend to close them edge-to-edge with hook and eyes (pins are probably more period correct, but since I have a nursing infant I want to avoid poking her when I hold her!)
I am really happy with how it is coming out so far! I hope I can find time this afternoon to finish the neckline around the straps (the straps form the back neckline as well, and sadly I have no picture to share of the uber-cool diamond back since my camera batteries died a sudden and dismal death). Then the skirt will be next, full pleated in the back and stitched flat in the front, which will be drawn up with drawstrings for a little fullness there.

I will save the sleeves for last. Those will probably be the most difficult part of this dress due to the cut of the back armscye.


Monday, August 27, 2012

August Regency Project - Linen Gown, Pt. 1

I felt vaguely guilty last month for missing the monthly regency project challenge. I had my newborn baby girl on my hands so I thought that was good enough excuse to miss it. But I didn't want to miss the August challenge. And now I am realizing with a jolt that August is very nearly over and I still have not even really thought about a regency project for this month.
Judah expresses shock and horror that I haven't started my regency project for this month yet.
(Okay, not really, he was just being dramatic and silly during our (very wet and muddy) living history event this weekend. )

That must be remedied. This months project won't be fancy or involve too much work but it will get done. After looking back on the list of projects I so enthusiastically wrote out earlier this spring of things I wanted to make for the regency costume challenge I was feeling quite uninspired by every thing I have left on that list. So I decided to make the dress since when all else fails, a new dress still makes me feel good when I put it on.

It won't be the filmy, floaty, sheer white gown I envisioned back in the merry month of May. I haven't purchased fabric for that and there is no time to order it for this month. I will still likely make the filmy dress someday but this month I am going for something more practical. After all, the items I planned to make were to represent what an average woman of average means may have worn day to day during the early 19th century in this pioneering area of the country.
Filmy white gown from V & A

For that, I plan to change up the style slightly. Instead of the V&A dress style (which I still adore!) I will make something more along the lines of the Past Patterns Lewis and Clark gown. The front opening will be perfect for nursing and this dress is just adorable. I have seen the pattern made up several times and it always look great on the person wearing it! The cut of the back is just pure awesomeness. And so practical for doing work! The cut of the sleeve is great for that.
I love the bonnet in this illustration for the Lewis and Clark gown. Maybe I will make one like it for next month.

The fabric I am using is a medium weight linen blend fabric I got at the thrift store over a year ago. I suspect it is a blend since it doesn't wrinkle as easily as pure linen. Maybe a linen/rayon blend? It is more drapey than a linen/cotton blend. It feels very much like the linen/rayon blends that Jo Anns sells. It is not pure white but is more of a cream or eggshell color. It has a woven stripe in it. I feel vaguely guilty about using a linen blend instead of pure linen but because time is short and money is tight I am going to just use it anyway. . .after all, it will look good and honestly, who is going to cut a piece of fabric off my dress and burn it to discern the fiber content?

My only concern is the drawstring closure. I like tidy, neat little drawstring channels and cords. Bulky drawstring channels are nasty. Because the fabric is not super lightweight I am afraid the the drawstring channels will bunch up unattractively. Do I live with it and use drawstrings anyway? Or should I make a fitted waistband for the dress instead and gather the neckline to a bound edge and close the front of the dress with either pins or hook and eyes?

Of course, if I make the bodice with minimal gathers and making the channels fit rather tight to the drawstring cord the drawstring method of closure may work well too. I will have to experiment.


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Sidetrip to the 60's - Black Lawn Gown

#1: The spacebar on the keyboard gets stuck every other punch. The baby spit up on it. So if there are multiple wordsspelledalltogetherlikethis that is why.

#2: Since we are attending an 1862 event this weekend I decided to postpone making the Hobbit bodice until next week. This week I made up the black lawn I was supposed to have turned into a dress while I was still pregnant. Yeah. I procrastinate.

#3: The baby turned 1 month old this past week. Where does time go? She looks so much like Malachi did at this age. Her eyes are getting bluer every day, much to the disappointment of David, who hoped she'd have brown eyes, like him. It seems blue eyes are dominant in our family. Her hair is still dark though. And I think she is just beautiful with her big blueberry eyes!

The black lawn is from Fashion Fabrics Club and the style I chose is pretty basic for the era. The bodice has gathers at the shoulder and waist, over a fitted lining. The sleeves are full at the wrist and fitted at the shoulder. There is a teeny sleeve cap with a ruffled edge at the top of the full sleeves. The skirt is about         180" at the hem is cartridge pleated to the waistband. I chose a V neckline (definitely more flattering to me than a high round neckline) and edged it with a lace frill instead of a collar.

I like it. I'm not that excited about it but I haven't been super excited about 60's fashions for a while. The fashion of the decade gets old after 14 years of study. It will work well for this weekend and that is what matters.

But I DO really like how the sheer shawl I made earlier this summer looks with it. I love the fluffy ruffles and the cheerful colors and how they look with the more somber black gown. 

And I like the shape my bum pad gives the back of the skirt. Yay for fluffy Victorian bums!

I will be back next week with the Hobbit bodice once again foremost in my mind, sewing-wise. 


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hobbit Skirts. And an Apron.

Well folks, I did get both petticoats finished this week. And the apron. I feel superwomanish. Nevermind the  5 loads of laundry still waiting to be washed. . .what mattereth that when the Hobbit Frock is nearing completion, pray?
It's very. . .brown. But we'll get some color going on in the bodice!

So, the skirts are done. The first one is made from a light brown Egyptian cotton bedsheet that has seen better days. I cut out the worn parts and what was left was sufficient for a nice petticoat. It is about 130" around at the hem and is just two rectangles with a hemmed placket in the back. Super simple as far as skirts go. I machine gathered the top to a plain waistband that buttons in the back.

The second skirt is of a lightweight (although somewhat scratchy) brown wool. Also about 130" at the hem. To reduce waistline bulk I cartridge pleated it as I would a mid-19th century style skirt. It also closes with a single button at the back waistband. I'm so glad I decided to use the Egyptian cotton for the longest petticoat. It feels so good against my skin while this wool would have been rather itchy!

Then the apron. Ah. The apron. It was difficult for me to decide to actually use this "mystery" fabric. I wavered back and forth between in and a darker blue-green woven checked sheer cotton. My personal tastes strongly desired the blue-green cotton for both the color and the fiber content but in the end, David aided me in my decision making process by informing me that the lighter, brighter green was more "Hobbity".
It's just one long rectangle gathered to a plain waistband that ties in the back. You just cannot get more simple than that!

 Now that all the easy stuff is out of the way I can focus on the more difficult cut, construction and fit of the bodice. I think I'll use my 18th century stays pattern as a starting point and will heavily quilt the lining to help it hold its shape. Possibly bone the seams? I guess we'll see what works and what doesn't!

And for those of you who remember my darling Susan and the sad situation of her loosing her babies earlier this year, here is a picture that brings a very fine sort of closure to that heartbreak. Susan is a mother once more with Gilbert the Esteemed Papa and their 5 infant kitties are as fat and healthy and fuzzy as could be desired. Susan is very happy, with that blissed out look that I feel when my own babe is cuddling and nursing. I didn't want her to get pregnant again until later this fall but, as they say, life finds a way. Mama and babies doing perfectly! Gilbert has licked two of them on the head. He doesn't seem quite so apathetic as I had thought he would be.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Hobbit Shift

"Nonetheless, ease and peace had left this people still curiously tough. They were, if it came to it, difficult to daunt or to kill; and they were, perhaps, so unwearingly fond of good things not least because they could, when put to it, do without them, and could survive rough handling by grief, foe or weather in a way that astonished those who did not know them well. . ." 
~ Fellowship of The Ring

Besides several wrap style diaper covers this is my first real sewing project to finish since the baby arrived. Life is getting back to normal. We are getting into a routine. Yay! It is definitely possible to eke out an hour of sewing time in the afternoon or evening while the babe naps and the older children are occupied with other things. It is nice to have that "me time". It keeps me happy and creative and sane. Everyone benefits by it.

So, we have the hobbit shift done. I wasn't sure whether to call it a smock or a shift or a chemise but I thought that shift might be most appropriate since the hobbit costumes in LOtR are influenced by 18th century fashion.

It was incredibly weird working on something that is not really historical. Usually, with all my non-modern sewing projects, I have a visual example of a real original to look at and use as my guideline for cut, construction, appropriate fabric, fit, etc. With a movie costume like this all I have are a very few blurry screencaps and what details I can catch on t.v. as the scenes flash by. It's hard. It's depressing to have so little to go on.

So I decided to just go with 18th century style cut as much as possible, deviating from history where necessary to create a "hobbit look". To that end, I decided to not use a raglan sleeve cut for the shift but to use the more period appropriate square cut style with underarm gussets instead. The fabric is the lightweight gauzy cotton seen in my last post which is intended to look more rustic and hobbity. The period choice would have been a lightweight linen. The neckline of my shift is fuller than period shifts but this is to create the look seen in the movie. The sleeves are not terribly full and could potentially pass as 18th century but I used elastic in the cuffs instead of a drawstring so that they would stay up on my arm better.

The main seams are sewn on the machine with cotton thread but all stitching that can be seen from the outside was done by hand. I wish now I had cut the shift to be a bit longer, to hit below the knee instead of above it, but all in all I am happy with how this came out and no one will be able to tell how long or short the shift is once the entire outfit is finished and on the body.

This week I hope to get the petticoats done. Possibly the apron as well but I'm not going to plan too much or I will be disappointed if I don't get everything accomplished. The day promises to be cool and rainy - a perfect day for brewing hot tea and sitting down to sew!


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Concerning Hobbits:

*EDIT 8-16-12* I just came across this site, Costuming Lavenda, which has an incredible breakdown of Hobbit dress styles from both the LOtR hobbits and the new Hobbit movie hobbits. Awesome illustrated examples with "documentation" from the movies!!! How cool is that?! Check it out!

Okay, so is anyone else totally geeked out excited about the new Hobbit movie coming out later this year? David and I have been eagerly awaiting it ever since we heard it was in production. For a long time we have planned David's 28th birthday party around the debut of the movie and for a long time I have planned to make Hobbit costumes we can wear to the theater when it comes out. For obvious reasons I've had to put the construction of my own costume on hold but now that my figure is (somewhat) normal once more it is time to get serious about this.
Layers of Skirts - cotton underskirt, wool overskirt and "mystery fabric" apron -

Plus, watching LOtR over and over to catch what details can be caught of hobbit costumes (and hearing the wails of small boys who erupt into passionate anger when the pause button is hit yet another time so you can look more closely at relevant scenes with pretty costumes) is an activity very convenient to a new mother, who is supposed to spend the majority of her time taking it easy and nursing a frequently hungry baby.
Lightweight gauzy cotton for shift

Over the weekend I went to the thrift store and found some deals. With stuff from the stash to round things out I think I have what I need to start working on my hobbit frock.
Wool and cotton for bodice, possible trim? Other laces may be used instead.

I have no idea how long it will take me to get this done. Hopefully not too long. The only part that should hold any sort of difficulty is the fitted bodice and I think I have the construction of that all mentally sorted out. So we'll see what the children allow me to get done over the next week or so.
Basic Hobbit Frock with double skirts, apron, and elbow length shift. 

Below are the notes I jotted while watching the first part of Fellowship of the Ring. They mostly pertain to the daily life scenes, not the party scene. And the list is by no means exhaustive but its a starting point.

Elements of Female Hobbit Outfit:


  • Style - Full bodice with gathers (drawstring?) at neckline. Line of gathers/drawstring appears to be most often set an inch or so below the edge of the neckline so as to form a small ruffle at the edge of the neckline. Neckline appears to be squared in visual examples. Sleeves appear to be raglan style but may be set in style. Sleeves appear to be either short sleeves gathered to fit (drawstring?) at the hem, with or without a substantial flounce below the hem or elbow length sleeves, with or without a substantial flounce below the hem. 
  • Fabrics - observed visual examples appeared to include solid colored fabrics, small prints, small checks/plaid and woven designs (tone on tone). 
  • Colors - observed colors included medium brown, white, light tan, light yellow, light gray, light blue, cream.


  • Style - Plain rectangular construction skirt. Skirts most often appear to be quite plain. Two skirts may be worn. Observed examples of double skirts appeared to have the lower skirt worn just above the ankle and the upper skirt worn just below the knee. Some skirts appeared to be shorter, perhaps mid-calf length to just below knee length. Skirt appear to be pleated wtih very small pleats or cartridge gathered to a pain rectangular waistband. Skirts appear to fasten at center back. 
  • Fabrics - fabrics appeared to be fairly substantial. Possible fabrics for a similar visual effect may include wool, linen or heavier cottons (quilting weight or heavier). Skirts appeared to be solid colored, plaid, striped or printed. 
  • Colors - Apparent colors included light tan, dark brown, a print appearing to be brown and cream, moss green, teal, dark orange/peach, mustard  yellow, medium brown, blue, rust red. 


  • Style - Fitted sleeveless bodice, fitting quite snug to the figure. Back lacing closure. Cut without darts. Shaped pieces, including center front panel, side front, and back pieces. Shoulder straps may or may not be cut seperately from bodice and later sewn on. Some shoulder straps appear to be cut wide at the shoulder to form a type of "cap" at the shoulder. Necklines on bodice cut to be lower than the neckline of shift/chemise. Neckline shapes include squared, scooped, sweetheart and arched (the arch swooping upwards towards the throat). Often the center front panel is of a contrasting fabric than the rest of the bodice. Wide array of possibilities for trimmings, including embroidery, false lacing at front panel (one example had what apepared to be a lattice effect with strips of ribbon crisscrossing the center front panel), applique, bands of trim at top of panel, etc. 
  • Fabrics - Fabrics appear to be fairly substantial, to support the figure. Wool, linen and heavier cottons would all work well to give a similar visual effect. Fabrics appear to be solid, striped or check/plaid, with the stripes and checks sometimes being cut on the bias for an interesting visual effect. Sometimes various fabrics are used in one single bodice for a very colorful and whimsical appearance. 
  • Colors - Green, dark red, dark brown, red-brown, dark teal, mustard yellow, blue


  • Style - Simple waist apron with back tie fastening. Aprons appear to be gathered to waistband. Examples appear to go from back hip, across front, to back hip. Hem length is shorter than skirts.
  • Fabrics - Fabrics appear to be similar to skirt fabrics, perhaps a bit lighter in weight. A medium to lightweight cotton or linen would work well, as would a lightweight wool. Aprons appear to be solid colored although at least one example appeared to be checked and another striped. 
  • Colors - white, cream, red/white check, light green, light blue, gray


  • Style - triangular garment worn tucked in at the bodice neckline. The garment falls over the shoulders and the point lies over the bodice in the back. The length of the point appears to be varied, some reaching the waist and others reaching "bra band length". 
  • Fabrics - Lighter to medium weight fabrics. Similar to apron fabrics. Appear to be solid colored or textured/woven patterned fabrics. 
  • Colors - blue-green, light brown, light blue


  • Straw hat - in at least two scenes a straw hat on a female hobbit was obserbable. In one scene, the hat is seen from the back, appearing to be a medium sized straw hat with a brim large enough for shading the neck and face but not overly large. A dark colored band was around the crown of the hat for decoration. In another scene, a closer view of a straw hat shows a medium sized hat with a rather open weave, lacey looking brim. Hats appear to be quite "rustic" in appearance. 
  • Mob Cap - in one scene a light colored (light blue?) mob cap was observable. It appeared to be worn by an older female hobbit. The crown fit the head rather snugly (the top was not "poufy") and the flounce draped down around the ears. 


  • Hair arranged 'up' - Curly hair (all hobbits) arranged in a high bun towards the top of the head, low pigtails, hair arranged low (perhaps braided?) and then flipped up onto the head and pinned into place. 
  • Hair arranged 'down' - hair loose and flowing in the back but the front sides pulled up and tied wtih a ribbon.