Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Grey Wool Spencer ~ It Has Sleeves!

Last day of the month and, as usual, I put in the finishing stitches just this morning. Despite the obnoxious visible white stitching I am really pretty happy with how this came out!

This is one of the first regency items I've made that just feels real to me. Such as, I can put it on and can move in it and forget I'm wearing it. That is what makes a garment grand to me. I like this little jacket very much and I think I'll wear it a lot. It even looks cute with jeans and without stays!

I'm working on the petticoat to go with it. I wanted a dark skirt to go with this since it is now quite cold outdoors and light colored skirts show wear and dirt more quickly. The only dark colored gown I have is the dark green cotton print I made a while ago, and since it is a later style (18-teens-ish) it has wider bishop sleeves that don't fit very well into the slim sleeves of this jacket. I picked apart my old 1860's plaid silk skirt and am remaking half of its width into a petticoat to go with the jacket. (maybe the other half will become a matching tunic top sometime in the future?)

Hopefully I will have a chance to wear it and grab some pics this weekend.


Monday, October 29, 2012

October Regency Project ~ Grey Wool Spencer

I was at pretty much a standstill for this month's regency project. Originally I planned to make a short gown/half-robe type of garment. But then I decided I'd rather use the fabric I had for that for something 1840's instead. (plan is a nursing-friendly 1840's gown for Christmas this year). 

Whilst digging through the large cupboard that holds my stash I unearthed an old suit jacket and slacks my mother in law had toted to our house once upon a time, in hopes it might fit David. David, being very picky about his attire, had scorned the suit at the time. I liked the fabric so hid it away in the stash where it hid in the darkness for an age. I found it again last week. I really liked the fabric so I told David he could either try it on and see if it fit and if he liked it or I was going to claim it. He tried it on. It was much too large in width and much too short in breadth so it became mine. It's a dark charcoal grey wool with a thin white stripe. Super nice fabric. The suit must have been rather expensive when it was new.

I decided to make another of the projects on the list I got together back in May. Using Mme. du Jard's tutorial for making a spencerino, I cut out a mock up using my regency petticoat bodice pattern as a starting point and then refined the fit til I got what I wanted:
This is not a very good picture but shows the shape of the pieces. I am using a medium weight tan and white spotted cotton for the lining.
I was able to cut all the bodice pieces from the main body of the suit jacket. I will use the jacket's sleeves for my sleeves. There is plenty of fabric in them for the sleeve pattern. 
The wool took pleats for the back "skirt" very well. There is just something about pleating nice wool that is so satisfying. Yum.

I am quite pleased with how this little jacket is turning out so far. My initial plan was to wear it over a gown but now I think I may wear it with a petticoat instead as a two piece outfit. I have an old 1860's silk skirt that contains quite a lot of fabric. It would make a nice later 1790's-ish petticoat if I let the hem out so there is sufficient length. 
The point of construction I am currently at - attaching the casing strip for the waist drawstring. 

The only thing I am not totally happy with is the very visible hand stitching in white thread. I am running really low on thread at the moment and the only color I had that would really work was the white. But, one must do what one must do. There was really no opportunity to get to the fabric store for more thread and I really had to start this if I want it done by the end of the month. . .

And to end on something totally different, I betrayed my historic-fashion loving self and gave myself bangs this weekend! I normally have no hairstyle whatsoever but the baby is now three months old and starting to entwine my hair around her hands and in between her fingers whenever she gets the chance. So of necessity I have started to do a ponytail but that gives me the appearance of baldness from the front due to an unbecomingly high forehead. Enter The Bangs. David kinda freaked out. But I assured him they would be grown out sufficiently by next reenacting season to do an appropriate 1860's hairstyle and he calmed down after that.
Ignore the really messy sewing area behind me. . .yeah. . .

Oh and I haven't forgot about finishing the sunbonnet tutorial. I will. I just haven't hemmed my ties yet! 


Friday, October 26, 2012

Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial ~ Pt. 4

Now that your brim and crown are complete, it is time to attach the curtain! This large piece shades the back of your neck and also helps protect the upper back of your dress from excessive fading when in the sun. First, press under and stitch a narrow hem all around the curved short edges and one long edge of the curtain. 

The next step is to run gathering stitches along the top, straight edge of the curtain. Pull up the threads to fit the neckline and stitch, right sides together, with bottom brim/crown:
I centered the gathering stitches on the curtain to fit the neck edge of the crown. You can do the same or gather the curtain to the bonnet brim/crown evenly all the way across. Either way is fine!
To finish off the inside seam between the curtain and the rest of the bonnet, I like to sew a strip of fabric over the seam.
 I stitch the strip to the bottom of the seam allowance, flip it up to encase the seam allowance and then turn under a tiny edge along the top of the strip. I stitch that to the brim/crown and that finishes the seam nicely. You can finish the seam between the brim and crown by binding it or overcasting, if needed. Since my fabric is not very ravelly I chose to not finish the seam at this time. Later if I find threads are coming loose I will go back and overcast the seam by hand.

The bonnet is very close to being done! The only thing left to do is to add ties.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial ~ Part 3

Time to sew the brim to the crown!

Run gathering stitches along the curved edge of the crown piece and draw them up to fit the long edge of the brim:

Pin to brim, right sides together and stitch.

Run gathering stitches along the straight bottom edge of the crown piece. Draw them up to fit your neckline. (this is best done by putting the bonnet-so-far on and drawing the neckline edge of the crown up to fit your neck - be sure to take into account the hairstyle you will be utilizing while wearing the bonnet!) For me, this measurement is approximately 7 inches.

If desired, pipe the lower edge of the crown/brim.

The bonnet is now half-complete!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial ~ Part Two

Once all your sunbonnet pieces are cut out, it is time to stiffen the brim!

As I mentioned in my last post, you can stiffen your brim with cording, slats or quilting.

Cording is very visually attractive and makes a nicely stiffened brim, once starched. The corded bonnets I have made in the past do, however, have a tendency to collapse in the rain.
One of my early attempts at a fancy corded bonnet. This worked well until the first humid day, then it wilted. The brim could have benefited from double or even triple the amount of cording. (the more cord you use, the more starch it can absorb!)

Slat bonnets hold up well in all weather but they cannot be folded back so you are left feeling like you are wearing a mailbox on your head (which is nice when you are doing, say, garden work and only have to look at what is directly in front of you).
Slat bonnets do not work well when one has only two eyes and three small boys upon which to keep those eyes.  Wearing a slat bonnet while being a mother of little ones requires extreme neck exercises during which one must jerk the head back and forth with increasing rapidity in order to know in which (usually three different) directions said small boys are currently running. I will wear a slat bonnet again when I am old and feeble and must walk with a cane. Until then, the slat bonnet has gone to the land of banishment. 
Right now quilting is my personal favorite method of stiffening since it can look as attractive as cording, leaves you with a very stiff brim that does not require starch and can be folded back when you don't need the super-powerful sun protection a large shady brim can give.

I am quilting my brim, so here is the next step once the pieces are cut out.

Unfold your brim piece and insert the rectangle of cotton batting in between the layers of fabric, placing one long edge of the batting along the fold line. Fold the other half of the brim over the batting to cover it, like so:

Now it is time to quilt! There is no right or wrong way to do this. You can quilt by hand or by machine. You can quilt in simple straight lines or do a fancy pattern with zig zags and such. For mine, I chose to quilt in diagonal lines using my presser foot as a spacing guide.

Once the brim was quilted diagonally one way, I went back and quilted it diagonally in the other direction, creating a diamond pattern. For quilted brims, it seems the closer the quilting the stiffer the brim will be.

The finished quilting:

If desired, you can pipe the long raw edge of the brim, which will be sewn to the crown in the next step. This is optional, but I personally like the finished look a piped seam gives. For mid-19th century, go with self fabric piping for the best look.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial ~ Part One

So, at last, I have gotten round to that sunbonnet tutorial I promised, oh, 3 months ago or so. The arrival of a certain little lady soon thereafter caused me to fail on that promise but she was oh, so worth it.
Anne shows off her new reproduction quilt, made by the wonderful Janice. Almost four years ago Janice made a similar quilt for Malachi. He still sleeps with it every night!
Now with her 12-pound chubby little self settled into a somewhat predictable routine of sleeping, eating, bathing and playing (i.e. staring, blinking piously and at times gurgling, chortling, snorting or saying "geeewww!" and batting her dimply little hands at various faces that peer over her, or cheeky little toys that dangle by their necks from the activity gym) I have predictable time to work on getting this tutorial out there once and for all.
And here she is showing off her eyelet baby gown, made from a thrift shop curtain.  It  finally fits, just as the weather turns too cool to wear it.
I have divided this tutorial into 5 sections, although the whole bonnet is easily made in a day.
This is the sunbonnet we will be making! The brim on this one is simply quilted with parallel lines of machine stitching that the length of the brim. 

So, for Day 1, here we are!

Day 1: Cutting Out the Sunbonnet

Materials: Approximately 1 yard of fabric, matching or coordinating thread, stiffening agent*.
Janice included a length of this pretty fabric with the baby quilt. It was the perfect choice for a sunbonnet!

Note on materials: There is quite a bit of variation in the materials you can use for a sunbonnet. For a dressier bonnet consider using sheer or semi-sheer fabric in a period style print, or with a woven check, plaid or striped design. For a sturdy "everyday" style sunbonnet, medium weight cotton in a period print, check, plaid or stripe works very well as it can be laundered as needed. But be aware; cottons fade fast with routine wear, especially when worn in the sun. Lightweight wool is another option and has many benefits; it holds its color longer than cottons, it "breathes", it is cool in hot weather and warm in cool weather and does not show wear and tear as soon as cotton may. For a hood suitable for winter wear, choose wool or silk and line the bonnet with silk or polished cotton, extending the width of the brim so you can have a turnback, showing off the lining or facing.

*These instructions are for a quilted bonnet, which uses cotton batting for the stiffening agenst inside the brim. You can, however, easily make a corded bonnet by sewing in multiple rows of narrow cotton cord into the brim (sandwich between the layers of the brim and sew close to the cord) or you can make a slat bonnet by sewing channels into the brim and then inserting thin cardboard slats to stiffen the brim.


Wash, dry and press your fabric.

The first piece to cut is the brim piece. For this, cut a rectangle 20" long x 15" wide. Fold the rectangle in half, wrong sides together and press, so that the rectangle now measures 20" long x 7.5" wide.
Here you can see the brim piece, folded and pressed. The cotton batting is the piece on the bottom.

Cut a piece of cotton batting 20" long x 7.5" wide. Set aside.

Now cut out the crown of the bonnet. Cut a rectangle 12" x 18". Press in half so the rectangle measures 12" long x 9" wide. Round off one corner of the rectangle so that you end up with an upside down "U" shaped piece.

For the bavolet (curtain), cut a strip of fabric measuring 40" long x 12" wide.
Press the bavolet in half so the rectangle measures 20" long x 12" wide. Round off one corner of the rectangle so you have a very wide U shaped piece.

There should be enough scrap left over to cut and make ties once the bonnet is complete. So save those scraps!

To be continued.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anne's 1860's Sacque

It only took a few hours to make and fits her so much better than Malachi's old coat.

She does look somewhat like a mini-Confederate soldier in her butternut and blue but we can just say that her coat is "military influenced". Which was, after all, fashionable and patriotic in the 1860's. We can conveniently ignore the fact that her daddy does a Federal impression. Or we could just say that this was really all that her mama had in the stash that could work and the similarity to Confederate military coats is just an unfortunate coincidence. Which is true.

These types of coats are really so ridiculously easy to make. Only 5 pieces - two fronts, one back, two sleeves - and they can be whipped up in under an hour.

For this one I quilted the lining and sewed it right sides together with the outer wool shell around the fronts and bottom. Turn, press and bind the neckline edge. Set in the sleeves. Add some sort of closure and that's it!

Actually, for these style coats, a closure isn't even always necessary. For hers I covered a few buttons and made it close to the waist. A simple band of trim around the edges finished it off. Under 2 hours. Handsewing and all!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Anne's 1860's Winter Hood

She has hair, but not nearly enough to keep her little head warm during gusty autumnal days. She has a decided prejudice against things that go on her head but for this I have to put my proverbial foot down and tie the strings beneath her chin, though she protesteth loud. 

She will have to put up with a great deal of things she does not like this weekend. Such as socks. And corset-boob. (who wants to suckle when right beneath is coarse and steel-reinforced fabric that thrusts the bosom up and outward into an unnatural and unappetizing position?)

But she will survive. And she will thrive. She will learn the lore of the Dark Side and become assimilated into this fine hobby we call reenacting. Her resistance is futile. 
There's a smile!

So, she will wear the hood I made for her. This is definitely the tiniest hood I have ever made. It is an uber-small version of the toddler and woman's hood I posted on my pattern blog a few years ago. For this one, I faced the brim with silk and the lining is of a blue and white print cotton. The outer layer is light brown wool. I debated on whether or not to put on silk ties but since she likes to chew whatever her mouth can reach I thought cotton tape ties would work just as well and would not be greatly harmed by gnawing.

Malachi's old woolen coat *could* work for her this weekend. It's roomy but that is okay since underneath we can pile on the layers. I may make a new coat for her though, to match the hood. Blue and brown are nice colors for her.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

1860's Button Suits So Far

Well, yesterday was not a good day. #1, it is harvest time and so the boys cannot go outside while the combine and tractor is out. Boys with lots of energy stuck within the house all day? Not such a great idea. #2, I am beginning to get really stressed out about getting these suits finished in time for next Saturday. #3, after our try-on yesterday, it looks like Judah will need a new shirt.

How CAN he grow so fast? I just draped this pattern for him a few months ago! He complained about the shirt being too tight, and it obviously is - just look at how the armscye, neck and shoulder area are pulling! I couldn't even overlap the placket as much as it needs to be. This boy has grown into a broad-shouldered, muscular creature whose figure is now far more manly than toddler-y. He cannot wear this. The sleeves are also too short. So I freaked out because now I need to drape a new pattern and make a new shirtwaist for Judah. Not that it will take a huge amount of time, but still. It's kind of disappointing. When you have a close deadline the least little thing can cause the tensed-up string to snap, you know?

Thankfully the trousers, which I draped brand-new for the occasion, fit him well. And David, although he is of a similar height, is of a slighter build, so his shirt, made from the same pattern, fits quite well with some room to grow.

I really don't know if I am going to have time to make the vests and the coats to go over these. So we may have to go with Plan B: modern thermal underwear as the initial layer and their old coats from last year as the top layer. It won't look nearly as nice as having the new vests and coats but it may be all I can do before next weekend. The baby still needs her coat and hood made if we are going to go.

I am really happy with how the convenience slits came out. Emma, thank you *so* much for your helpful information! I added a half circle "flap" to one side of the slit opening. It folds to the inside to hide the gap. Then the other side of the slit opening has the seam allowance turned to the inside and slip stitched to the lining. (the trousers are wool and I fully lined them for extra warmth as well as to extend the wearing life of the garment). It works perfectly! In fact, as soon as I finished the trousers David tried them on and immediately had to test out his convenience slit by using the bathroom. And it works! Yeah.


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Mentally Thrashing Out The Boy's Button Suit

The 1860's Boy's Button Suit.

And before I go further, I want to say that the images I have here I pulled from saved files and I honestly have no clue where they originated. I want to give credit where credit is due and don't want to violate any copyright issues, so, if you recognize a photo and have info about whose it is, please let me know!!

So anyway I am revisiting the 1860's boy's button suit. I tried this style three years ago with David and Judah. They were 2 and 3 years old at the time. They looked adorable but there was so much about the button suit to not like. The number of buttonholes! (although I have become more fond of making buttonholes since then). The lack of flexible sizing! (there's only so much bagginess you can put into a suit like this before it looks, well, bad.) The biggest problem was going potty.
This little boy's suit is quite large for him and is probably the Extreme Edge of Bagginess I would attempt at making a suit larger than needed. Any baggier and it would look way too much out of proportion!

In a button suit, the blouse has a fixed waistband. This waistband is buttoned to the waistband of the trousers all around the waist. This creates problems and frustration for little boys who need to use the bathroom and do not like mommy or daddy help when doing so. So, I ditched the button suit. I embraced the Flexible Tunic, which could be created quite large to leave plenty of growing room and could also hide an elastic waistband on the trousers so the boys could easily go potty by themselves.

But after 3 years of making tunics I have become bored with them. And I don't want to feel like I just gave up on the button suit without making it work somehow. So I'm revisiting them and am in the middle of making David and Judah each a new button suit for the always-cold and October-y Civil War reenactment we will be going to next Saturday.

The most helpful piece of information I have discovered during the last 3 years, concerning button-suits, is that some trousers in suits like these had a convenience slit in the front. I am not sure how that slit was created (is is *just* a slit in the center front crotch seam?) but I will be adding them to the trousers I'm making for my boys. For these, I will go with a normal fly opening that is sewn to the waistband at the top. I don't think I will make the fly button shut but it at least will have the nice overlapping bit that a normal fly has to avoid accidental exposure of things best left unseen. So that will take care of most of our potty issues. They will still need help, I think, if they have to completely remove their trousers but the need for that should be relatively rare compared to the need for the nice convenience slit.

To finish off the button suit I will be making waistcoats and jackets to go over the blouse. The waistcoat will be just like a man's waistcoat and will help add warmth (definitely go with more lightweight layers when it gets cold instead of one bulky, heavy garment!) and the jacket will go over all. I first planned to make a notched collar for the jackets but the more I look at images the more I see the type of jacket that buttons all the way up to the neck. It appears that this type of jacket has no collar or perhaps a very small standing band collar, and then the collar of the shirt beneath is folded out over the top of the coat neckline. I really like this look and it seems it would be warmer than a notched collar style since the entire neck and chest area will be covered.

Then, if it's *really* cold, they can wear their wool sack-style coats from last year over everything as a sort of overcoat. But hopefully it won't be that cold. I don't like cold events.
This is the look I'm going for.

It's going to be inconvenient to bring a nursing infant out anyway. I keep imagining the awkwardness of trying to unbutton my coat and push it out of the way, unfastening a dress bodice, undoing the neckline of a chemise and fiddling around to get the nursing apparatus out, all while, probably, trying to "cover up" beneath a lightweight shawl or blanket, with the baby, heavily bundled herself in a wool coat and hood and wrapped in a woolen shawl, squirms and complains about being covered up (she hates having anything over her head). . . just thinking of all that almost makes me want to stay home instead of going to the event!
This woman looks strong, confident and not ashamed of breastfeeding WITHOUT covering up! Woo-ha! She's
SO. Awesome. I love her.

But if they did it in the 1860's, we can do it too. I just keep having to tell myself that to motivate me to try. Like I said, I hate giving up on something without making it work somehow! Photo below from Breastfeeding Art.
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Lots of sewing to do!