Monday, December 23, 2013

A Hobbit Christmas Dress for Anne

For Christmas Sunday Anne wore her new Christmas dress to church and some what unwilling allowed me to take a few photos to share. She is now 17 months old and standing still for pictures is utterly distasteful to her. Still, we managed a few decent ones.

After planning a fluffy princess style dress, I changed my plans last minute to a Hobbit style dress in wools and linens. The reason? Pure practicality. Before these pictures were taken the dress had already endured a full frontal dousing with milk, smeared oatmeal and smashed banana. Also a cookie or two which left chocolate streaks on both dress and baby. (You can still see tenants of cookie on her face...but the dress hides it all!) Wool is a go to fabric for garments that see hard use...and a 17 month old baby us definitely hard on clothes! 

All the fabrics came from my stash so the dress cost me nothing to make. The bodice is of heavy green wool coating with a faux inset of red wool bunting. The sleeves are yellow linen. The underskirt is black linen with a woven stripe and the overskirt s silvery grey wool suiting. I wasn't sure at first how all the colors would work together but now I really like the whimsical effect. 

I used the Sense and Sensibility Girls Regency Gown Pattern for the bodice. A size 2 now! Anne is growing. The skirts are rectangular panels and the sleeves loose elbow length puffs.

The bodice is decorated with rows of antique lace and green silk ribbon. It looked rather plain so I worked a bit of simple free hand embroidery along the edges of the faux inset. My embroidery is crude at best (let's call it folky, shall we?) But it definitely helped dress up the bodice just enough to make it festive.

The little cap (Anne calls it a bunnit) was a last minute addition. It is made of black cotton velvet and lined in black linen with grosgrain ties. I embroidered it differently than I did the dress as I did not want the two items to appear as though they were intentionally made to go together.

I am not sure if Hobbits celebrate Christmas but if they do, I think Anne would fit in quite well. Hobbits are fond of bright colors (chiefly green and yellow) and Anne's dress has both.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Sneak Peek!

I can't believe Christmas is almost here! My sewing has pretty much been at a standstill for the last month but I have been working on a special Christmas dress for my Anne-girl. I am nearly finished with it and hope to get some photos of her in it quite soon. In the meantime here is a little preview. I hope you all are having a wonderful and happy Christmas season.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Green Plaid 1860's Dress for Winter Quarters

Last week we had the opportunity to attend an event at a local park and I was quite excited about going! However, I was sorely disappointed when I tried on my dresses and found that they no longer fit very well - I have lost some weight with this pregnancy so far (due to extreme morning sickness) and decided I needed to make a new gown!

The problem was the time - I had about three days in which to get one made! (Lesson: Never wait til a few days before an event to try on your outfit!) I made a complete mess of my sewing room in my chaos and stress to churn this dress out but I did get it done the morning of the event and was so glad to have a nicely fitting, warm wool dress to wear to the living history.

It is a very simple dress. I had much grander plans for this fabric when I first bought it but one must adjust their priorities when time is short. I draped a new bodice pattern and the only extra effort I put into the bodice was the design of the sleeves.

I took a basic coat sleeve and slashed and spread one side of it to gather into the piped seam between the front and back sleeve. It is a subtle style but does seem fancier, somehow, than a plain sleeve.

Tucks to create faux curved back "seams" on the bodice back, and a full pleated skirt. The waistband is topstitched to the bodice on the top and piped at the bottom edge and the skirt top edge whip stitched to the bodice just inside the piping.

I put a hem facing of scrap cotton on the skirt - which I was very glad of! It was quite muddy and my hem was filthy by the end of the event. Thankfully a gentle wash got out the dirt on the fashion fabric and the hem facing took the majority of wear and staining! I was so glad I did take the extra time to put it in.

Darted bodice. It was fun to match the plaid. I made a quick white collar to baste in at the neck and wore my mourning brooch. Grampie has been gone now for just over six months, so my period of mourning is over. . .though I do not think I will ever *not* be in some degree of mourning for him. I wore my necklace of black glass beads for these photos though I did not wear the necklace to the event last week.

It was nice to get back into historic sewing. I've taken an (unplanned!) break from sewing for a while now and it was good to get the creative juices flowing again, even if I *did* have a very short deadline!


Monday, October 7, 2013

1776 Half-Boned Stays!

Last week I finally finished stitching in the lining on my stays and now they are done!

And then - try on time. While I did make a few mock ups before cutting out the final stays, you never really know for sure how a corset will fit until it is all done and you can lace it up for real.

I was quite amazed at how much shaping these give, considering there only four pieces to the torso (two fronts and two backs). The direction of the boning certainly aids enormously in molding the torso to the proper shape. If I would make these again I'd go for a bit more waist reduction as these do not reduce all that much, but they are a vast improvement over my last stays.

Here is a view of the back. I did not have a cord that was long enough so the last few eyelets are unlaced.

The binding job did not come out very well. I think a thinner material and narrower binding would have helped give a neater appearance. But overall, I am really pleased with how these turned out. Now if only I had everything else I need to finish off a late 18th century impression. . .I think I should start with a proper shift! And petticoats. But I may wait til after the new baby is born before starting on that.

In the meantime I can work on a hobbit outfit for the next movie coming out in December. Though my son Judah did tell me that "you look like a Hobbit, Mommy" when I tried on the stays. The costumes from the The Hobbit do seem to reflect more of an 18th century look than the ones from Lord of the Rings.


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

8th Anniversary at Starved Rock

September 30th was our 8th wedding anniversary and David and I spent the day at Starved Rock. I packed a basket with a picnic lunch and we ate at noon by the river, but all the other hours of the day we spent plunged into the woods.

It was a day of dreamful beauty for me. It seemed every turn in the trail led to another scene more beautiful than the last; the afternoon sun was drowsy and warm and the woods full of the dropping of acorns and quick dashings of chipmunks and fat grey squirrels.

We stood on high overlooks above the river and went down to explore deep canyons. David found shallow caves hollowed from the rock.

I felt as if I had stepped back in time or even to a different world. Can you imagine Gollum swimming here in the forbidden pool? Or finding yourself stumbling into the hidden valley of Rivendell?

We decided to dress 1840's-ish for our outing. I wanted an opportunity to wear my dress again, as I haven't worn it since I made it for Christmas nearly two years ago! David looked very dashing in his black frock suit and plaid waistcoat. He is starting to grow a beard again.

Though after lunch, his coat and hat came off and I cast away my shoes and stockings.

We both agreed our favorite places were the canyons. We were able to visit four of them. Someday we will go back and see the rest. These photos are of Wildcat Canyon, which we reached by way of a very steep wooden stair. Despite the drought, there were still pools of water and the rocks were damp with growing green things.

We ended our day by stopping in late at a little locally owned Italian restaurant and eating far too much homemade pasta and sausages and bread and fried mushrooms. No room for dessert and we both had to ask to have our leftovers boxed up to take home! The portions at Caponi's are enormous. If any of you are ever in the itty bitty out of the way town of Toluca, IL. . .go there. Just do it.

I can't believe we have been married for 8 years! When I think back to our beginning and remember how young we were, how we barely knew each other, how we had absolutely nothing when we started out, and then I look at what we have now, it amazes me. God surely works all things together for good! Our adventure together has had its many ups and downs. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible we have managed to stay together - we are both so headstrong and opinionated and independent! - but I see God's hand continually molding and changing us. Chiseling raw rock into perfectly fitted pieces as we learn to let go of ourselves and strive to serve the other. He has blessed us so much.


P.S. - my stays are *almost* done - just have to finish whipping in the lining! I WILL finish them before I get a baby bump! Haha. I am so pleased with how they have come out.

Friday, September 27, 2013

1776 Stays Progress - Boning and Binding

Not much new to report. I am very close to finishing the stays. I have all the vertical boning in and have started sewing on the binding. Before putting on the binding I tried the stays on and was dismayed to see there wasn't much lacing gap in the back. I picked apart the side seams, shaved off some width, and resewed them. Now there will be more of a gap and if the stays stretch a bit after wear, it won't be so big of a deal.

I made my binding of some plain blue cotton cloth. I contemplated using strips of leather cut from automotive cloths, as per the suggestion in Mara Riley's stay sewing booklet, but I decided I'd rather use something washable. The binding on the tabs has not gone smoothly, but it gets the job done.

Once I finish the binding all that is left to do is to add the horizontal bones, whip in the lining, and make the eyelets for the shoulder straps. It won't take long at all, but I'm just not motivated at the moment. We'll see how much I get done tomorrow.


Monday, September 23, 2013

1776 Stays Progress - Sewing the Shell

Over the weekend I was able to get all the boning channels marked and sewn, the eyelets worked and the pieces sewn together. I was unsure whether or not I ought to cut the tabs at the bottom, but finally decided to do so since when I try these on, once the boning is in, the tabs will be necessary in order to flare out over the hips. The stays simply do not fit if the tabs are not cut. For now the bottom of the tabs are loosely whip stitched together to prevent them from fraying. Hopefully they will stay intact well enough until the binding is put on!

I first sewed the backs, following the original boning diagram as closely as possible. The horizontal bone will be put in later and attached to the inside of the stays before the lining is put in. I used a basic running stitch, as small as I could manage, to sew the channels.

Then I sewed the two front pieces together. This was the first time I made a seam like this and at first I was really worried about it pulling apart. But this resulted in a quite a sturdy, strong seam that I think will hold up very nicely! The seam allowances were pressed under, then the two pieces laid on top of each other and whip stitched together. Later I will whip stitch the seam allowances down to the interlining to keep them flat, before I sew in the lining.

Then I marked and sewed the channels in the front. This only took a little over a day to do, though my fingers were quite sore by the time the last channel was sewn in! As for the back I followed the boning diagram as closely as I could, though I did omit a few bones just because I did not have enough room to put them in. A bone will go down into each tab and most of the tabs will also have a short bone through the center. This will prevent the stays from digging in at the waist. There will also be two horizontal bones across the chest. One just below the neckline and the other going from armpit to armpit. These will be sewn in after the vertical bones are put in.

I then sewed the backs to the front using the same seam as I used for the center front, and here they are so far! Finally starting to look like stays!

The next thing to do is to cut the neckline down a tad (it seems stays of this era were quite low-cut, though the backs remained cut high) and put in the bones. Then try on the stays and fit the shoulder straps, sew them on, then binding. And finally, sewing and putting in the lining. Will they be done by the 30th? I hope so! I think I can do it!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Starting my 1770's Stays

Well, it's not much, but it's a start! I finalized my pattern from my mock up, have the top 3 layers of my stays cut out and basted together and am ready to start sewing boning channels.

I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately. Homeschooling two 1st grade boys and doing pre-K with Malachi requires so much dedication, planning, patience and flexibility and has been so tiring lately. It is fun - delightful at times! - yet at other times it is frustrating and I feel like packing them all off to public school. This week has been a low point. It's a constant effort at times to just persevere and get through the daily school schedule, especially now, with being rather sick and very tired due to early pregnancy, and also caring for an absolutely delightful, beautiful and strong willed 14 month old baby girl who has decided lately that she must be held almost constantly and she has to empty the bookshelves, tear apart workbooks and eat crayons whenever I am not looking.
the pieces look a bit distorted because the trunk they are on has ridges on top.  They will look much better once boned and sewn together! The tabs will not be cut until after the boning is in and the edge is ready for binding.

So though I do not have much to show yet with these stays, I am very happy with what I have been able to do. Research and sewing is refreshing and helps me relax and refocus after an intense day with my children.

The pattern is the 1776 stays from Corsets and Crinolines. They are incredible simple in shape - just a front piece and a back piece, and a shoulder strap - and the boning gives the shape to the finished stays. I used my old pattern as a starting point but had to drastically change it to get the right look. These stays will have a much lower waistline (my last ones tabbed out at about rib level!) and a narrower torso with a more conical shape.

I decided to hand stitch these and to make visible boning channels. There are several extant examples of half boned stays with visible channels and I am considering quilting or doing some sort of fancy stitch in between the bones. I would really like to cord the empty spaces between the bones for additional support but I haven't been able to find an original example from this time period that combines both boning and cording - does anyone know if such a thing was done?

The inside two layers are white cotton/linen blend fabric repurposed from some curtains my mom gave me and the outer layer a dull green cotton with a woven stripe. Not fancy and perhaps not the best/most authentic fabric choice but I want to use what I already have and not have to purchase new materials. Since these are, after all, just for fun.

Next up is marking and sewing the boning channels. That may take awhile, though I am hopeful I can make good progress in the next few evenings. We are rewatching the PBS show Colonial House and its nice to have handwork to do while watching something on tv.

I really really really want to get these done by the 30th, but we'll see! Hopefully I will still fit into them by then! ;)