Monday, July 29, 2013

HSF Challenge #15 - White ~ 1910's Petticoat and Chemise

It's a cold July morning and I'm sitting here in a flannel nightshirt with a cup of steamy tea, trying to stop shivering and looking up fashions of the year 1916. It's a pleasant way to spend the little hour or so that I have after David leaves for work and before the children wake up. While I'm loving the airy, frilly summer frocks, after this morning something in heavier material may be preferable - like wool. I'm loving this suspender skirt from Past Patterns.

I might have to actually get this pattern. I can see it being very cute in something like lightweight wool, or corderoy or a heavy cotton twill. I'd try to make a similar style myself but do you think I can find any other diagrams, or patterns, or advertisements, or illustrations, or photographs, or extant garment example, of this type of skirt? No. All I have to go off of is this little illustration. So the pattern would be useful to have. 

But first - one needs the right undergarments, of course. I finished my petticoat on Saturday by adding a simple placket and a band at the waist. My 1917 book The Complete Dressmaker was helpful in instructions on how to make the placket and the waistband (just straight strips of fabric really. . .very simple.) I added a buttonhole at the waist and another one in the center of the placket and dug out two tiny antique china buttons from the stash to fasten them with. I really like these little buttons. Original buttons or good reproductions really helps things look real. 

After that I realized I still did not have a chemise. I remember being frustrated when researching this period earlier this year because it is hard to know exactly how the undergarments were worn. How were they layered? In the online 1919 book Garments for Girls, instructions are given for an "envelope chemise", which is described as being a combination of corset cover and drawers. So that would indicate they were worn over the corset, right? But what about a brassiere? Over or under? And what goes under the corset? Below is a photo of a c. 1915 chemise that was sold on Etsy (the listing is no longer up, so I wasn't able to see more photos of this garment, sadly!) 

I decided to make a plain chemise instead of a combination. I did not have a pattern or any real idea of how they should be cut, but decided to use the top portion of the diagram given in Garments for Girls for the envelope chemise, for the top portion of my chemise. I used my brassiere as a guide for the neckline and armholes and cut a wide tank-top shape. 

I used an old 1860's petticoat of soft cotton muslin for the chemise and the panels were not quite long enough to cut the full length I needed. I added a little flounce at the bottom of the chemise to extend the length. I wanted to know how the scalloping stitch would look on a 100% cotton fabric so I scalloped the edges of the armholes, neckline and the hem with the stitch. It worked much better on this fabric and I was very pleased with the little touch of femininity the scalloped edges lend to the finished garment. 

The last thing to do was to work eyelets along the neckline for the ribbon drawstring. I made 40 of them,  by hand, Saturday evening while David and I watched The King's Speech. (btw - that is like the best movie, ever.) The ribbon was threaded through them and the chemise finished! Finally a proper chemise!

Yesterday David took some photos. It is hard to see detail in these since everything is white but they give a general idea of the overall silhouette the foundation garments provide for the (hopefully soon forthcoming) outer clothes. 

For these pictures I am wearing the antique brassiere (or what I think is probably a brassiere) that I found at an antique mall back in the winter. You can see the support it provides is quite different from the one I made, though both shapes are probably okay for the time period. The original one provides little lift, but it does offer a bit of support without being stiff or unnatural and it keeps everything neat and contained. I really need to make a reproduction of this! It's so simply made. 

In my 1917 dressmaking book I did find a description for a "circular flounce" as "a flounce cut to fit the skirt at about the knee, but which flares into a circle at the foot of the skirt". This describes the flounce on this petticoat quite well! 

I still need to make some drawers but I need to do more research before deciding which style to make. Below you can see the chemise, since you can't really see it with the brassiere/petticoat on over top! It could stand to be a tad longer but I had fabric limitations!

I need to get to work on regency outfits for my little boys, but I really do want to make another 19-teens garment for the next challenge, which is "Separates". I would like to make a simple shirtwaist, but we'll see. I am not sure what kind of fabric I would like to make it in, though one can never go wrong with a simple light white blouse, right? It goes with anything! There are very thorough instructions on how to both draft and construct a basic shirtwaist in Garments for Girls


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Recreating an Antique 1910's (?) Petticoat

Well, dear readers, back in January I made a 1910's corset and brassiere for a Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge. At that time I was gung-ho for a 1910's outfit and began the process of taking a pattern off an original petticoat that was gifted to me by Natalie. But, as it usually seems, life got in the way, my interest was diverted to other things and I never actually finished it.

I have lately been pretty interested in the 1920's again. I really like the transitional styles of the very early 20's. Anyway, I decided to finish this petticoat since it will work just as well under a late 'teens/early 20's dress as it would beneath an earlier style gown from the earlier 'teens.

I decided to start fresh and take the pattern anew, after examining the petticoat and taking some measurements and looking at construction techniques. These first photos are pictures of the original petticoat. Above you can see photos of the front and of the back. Here you can see the waistband, which looks like it is just a wide piece of twill tape folded in half and topstitched to the waist.

There is a center back opening with a slashed placket. There is no button at the waistband here; I am not sure how it originally fastened.

The inside of the placket has one buttonhole and one tiny button.

The seams were interesting. I at first thought they were french seams, but it appears they are not. It looks like the seams were folded under twice (like a hem) and then stitched down close to the fold. One side of the seam looks like this, with a line of stitching above the folded edge. The other side of the seam has just the line of stitching, looking much like a french seam from that side.

The circular flounce is definitely the most eye catching part of this petticoat! Sooooo much lace insertion! And whitework!

The overall cut of the petticoat is quite simple. The main body of the petticoat is made of shaped panels, or gores. There is one wide front gore that covers nearly all of the front. Then there are two side gores and one skinny back gore. The bottom is a knee-high circular flounce. Having tried on the petticoat before, I know the fit is good for me already, so I was good to go for taking the pattern!

My method of taking patterns isn't very professional, but it works (at least for me.) I have a big roll of wide brown paper I got at Menards, and I spread out a large section on the floor, on top of a carpet. (A solid wood floor would not work so well; I need to be able to stick pins into the carpet below the paper!) Then I begin to carefully spread out the garment, making sure the grain stays straight, and pin it directly to the paper and the carpet below the paper by sticking in pins along the seams, like this:

After one section has been pinned (in this case, the front gore), it is easy to pull out the pins and remove the garment from the paper. The little holes left by the pins are the lines of the pattern! After that, it is a process of connecting the dots:

And adding seam allowance:

I then double check measurements such as seam length, hem circumference, etc. Where anything is "off" I smooth it out. For pieces that are symmetrical (like the front gore and back gore and the flounce) I only pattern one half of the piece, so the center line can be placed on the fold when cutting out fabric for the reproduction. It's hard to see the lines, but here is what the finished pattern looked like before cutting it out.

And the pattern pieces all cut out and ready to go! (forgive the matchbox cars - but the paper wanted to curl and the cars were handy and so. . .I used them.

To make my reproduction petticoat (and I use the term lightly. . .this is not an exact copy of anything but the pattern!) I used some light weight white fabric David brought home from the thrift store a few weeks ago. He thought it was 100% cotton but I will confess to you, having now worked with it, I believe it is a piece cut from a large sheet and I really think there is some poly content. It is nice fabric, but it "slides" like poly/cotton is wont to do. But it was 50 cents and there was just enough fabric for this petticoat so, I used it.

I cut out all my pieces. One front gore, two side gores, and one back gore. Two flounces. Due to the width of the fabric I had to cut my back gore in 2 pieces, making a center back seam.

I sewed all the main body pieces together using small french seams. I decided to not try the interesting seaming method of the original because my fabric wasn't behaving. (this is why 100% natural fabrics are best! I'd love to try this petticoat pattern out in a lovely cotton lawn sometime.)

I sewed the two flounce pieces together using french seams.

At that point I wasn't sure how to proceed. The original petticoat has the flounce attached to the petticoat via insertion, and the whole flounce is intersected and crossed by lace insertion. I didn't have any lace on hand to do any insertion with and honestly, just sewing the flounce to the main body looked bad (I pinned it to see.) Many undergarments of this era were highly decorated. No lace. . .what about embroidery?

I am *not* an embroiderer at all so I decided to try out machine stitching in place of hand embroidery. I know ready made trims at this time in history could be machined, so I was not too concerned about the authenticity/lack thereof.

Now, my machine is super basic. It is the cheapest Singer model you can get at Jo Anns. Nothing special. But it works great for what I need, which is mostly basic straight stitch. It does have a few other decorative stitches though that I hadn't really tried to understand before, such as a scallop. I remember using this stitch the dolly boots I made for Anne's doll back at Christmastime. I wondered if it would work as an embroidering stitch. I decided to try it.

I overlapped the raw hem of the main body onto the flounce by about 3/8". I set my stitch length and width and started chugging along.

It worked!

Now granted, the scallops came out a bit puckery. I think this is due to the fact that my only needles at present are "heavy duty" needles and they are ill suited to piercing the tight weave of this poly/cotton sheet fabric. But I was still happy with how it looked. It looked decorated.

Because just one line of scallops weren't enough to make much a visual impact, I added a few more. Then I scalloped in several rows around the bottom hem of the flounce, to match. Then I scalloped down the sides of each gore. Then it took a long time to carefully clip away the fabric below the bottom line of scallops on both the flounce hem, and the hem of the main body. But finally it all was done.

And so here is the petticoat so far!

And the back:

The lines of scallops don't align perfectly with each other. I think this is because the hems are shaped - not straight lines. But from a distance it looks good and it feels more 19-teens-era-decorated-undies to me now than simple-quick-and-plain-costumers-make-do.

I still need to put in the back placket and sew on the waistband. But it will be done for the challenge tomorrow, I promise!

And oh! In other news, I have put my pattern blog back online again. It's been offline while I updated it and rearranged it. I still have lots to add to it but for now, it's back!  I added a new costume gallery and lots of my favorite links and my friend Christina is working on something for the blog that I think will be pretty awesome when its done!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The 1860's at David Davis Mansion

David attended a little living history this past weekend and on Saturday afternoon I brought the children out to visit him. I like doing events this way; it is much easier for me to dress the children at home and bring them out for a little while than to set up camp and stay the entire weekend. When your children are small and you are less than passionate about being at an event, this is a good arrangement.

David Davis was an Illinois judge and a friend of Abraham Lincoln. His estate has been preserved and the c. 1870's home he built for his wife still stands, lavish and exquisite in the slightly gaudy Victorian way. The living history has been held on the grounds the past few summers and it is a really nice location for an event.

The kids were happy to run around and played with several other children who were there. The only bad thing was the weather, with the heat index towards 100 and high humidity. I felt like I was breathing in steam.

I mentioned being less than passionate, and I was. Borderline apathetic with slight hostility? I don't know. Perhaps it stemmed from being sorta depressed I was not at the Louisville Jane Austen Festival, which was taking place the same weekend. It's one of those "us vs. them" sort of things. I blame David since he and the Civil War is "us" and me and any other era is "them"; at least, it seems to be that way when I think of it. Probably stemming from many years of forcing myself to go to 1860's events and wearing myself out. I hate feeling restless at an event but I was. I was able to talk to some people I hadn't seen for a while but otherwise the whole event felt flat. I was happy to go home. Satisfied with the few photos I took of the kids. I did enjoy touring the mansion, which was air-conditioned.

I  really hate feeling this way. On one hand I feel snobbish that I don't enjoy the event when so many people have put so much work and time into preparing it. On the other hand, I don't want to pretend to be happy with something I am not happy with. The problem isn't really the event, it's me. It's because I went knowing I wouldn't really like it, and so it's my own fault I was less than satisfied. I went knowing the only thing I would have to do with our group is to walk around and follow my kids and make small talk with people.

I have found I have to look at events like these this way: I go to talk to people, not to have an experience. I go to educate others, if I can, by how I appear and how I can converse with them - not to educate myself or have a "magic moment". I go to make my kids happy and to give myself a chance to see them dressed up in their period clothes so I can take pictures. I like taking pictures at events. It's farby to whip out the digital camera, but when a lot of other things may be farby, well,  I don't mind the camera so much.

I know this whole post will sound redundant since I've talked about this before but I guess I have not come to any sort of permanent conclusion about mainstream Civil War reenactments yet. Or even progressive reenactments. They all usually feel like a lot more work than they are worth.

Maybe I shouldn't be a reenactor.

I think that might be it. I love research. I love the history of the various eras I dabble in. I love reading as much as I can about those eras. I love the process of creating clothing from those eras. I love wearing the clothes and seeing my family wear them! But I don't like reenacting.

You know what I like? Dressing up and going out to a pretty place for photo shoots, having a good time with friends while we do that and if some sort of museum or antique shop or historic site is convenient to go to whilst in costume that is fantastic. I love that!

Maybe I am becoming more of a costumer instead of a reenactor. I find I am more in line with the costuming philosophy than the reenactors philosophy. But then I feel like I am "lowering" myself by being a costumer instead of a reenactor. Then I feel snobbish that I feel that way, because really, costuming and reenacting are really two totally different things, though some people definitely successfully combine the two.
This one cracks me up. . .they definitely look snobbish. . .
Well, the main point of my going to the mansion was to see Blake in the new sack coat I made for him. I didn't actually get to see him, since he left before I got there because the heat was so oppressive, but here is a picture of him and his wife by the front door. He looks really good and I had a lot of fun making his sack coat. I'll have a post about that a little later.

Now back to modern life and the county 4-H fair. Maybe I can squeeze in a sewing project this week for the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge "White". I have a few ideas.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Last of the Faire Photos!

Before it gets too ridiculously late to post the remaining photos from the Olde English Faire, here is a post with some of my favorites from the day. I can't believe it was over a month ago! What a great day we had. I can't wait until next year!

Here is Baby Anne, just before we left in the morning. It was very chilly when we woke up and I was tempted to put Malachi's old wool gown on her, but decided against it at the last minute - which I am glad of as the day got very, very hot. She is quite sensitive to heat but her linen clothes kept her cool and breezy. Linen is really the Perfect Fabric. Wool is Perfect, too, but we shall just conclude that there are two variant levels of Perfection and Wool and Linen top the lists.

The week before the Faire I made the boys each a new linen shirt and a linen coif. Their coifs were made of a 1 piece pattern, with the fold being placed on top of the head. They were very simple to make although I do not like the finished shape as much as the 2 piece coif the baby wore.

Of course, on our way to the Faire we discovered Malachi had left his coif at home. I had brought along a few of Anne's gauzy cloth diapers (the kind we use mostly for towels or burp cloths) and experimented with tying one on his head a la kerchief. He was not pleased.

David and Judah each got a straw hat from the craft store. They wetted them and shaped them to their desire, based on a few images of medieval folk wearing straw hats from Karen Larsatter's site. They were very proud to have made these and the shady brims kept them from being sunburned. It's great to see them take an interest in making part of their own attire.

There were lots of activities at the Faire and demonstrations that the boys were excited to watch. The Knights from Full Metal Jousting were again in attendance and their two performances were the highlights of the day.

We had very close seating.

I have to just take a moment here to say how impressed I was with these guys. It was the same last year. These men travel far from home to perform all over the place and they get hot, sweaty and very tired. They are at risk for getting hurt just because of what they do (imagine being knocked from your horse by your opponent!) yet they have always been extremely courteous, kind and very generous to the people who come out to see them.

In between performances the children and I sat on the lawn between the arena and the area where their horses were picketed. One of the knights came out and brought his horse over to us and asked me if the children would like to pet the horse. He stayed with us until it was time for him to go into the arena and prepare for the tournament.

Just that simple act of kindness towards my children. . .it really impressed me. These guys are so down to earth, humble and kind even if they *are* popular t.v. characters! Not to mention some of them are, um, reeeeeaaaalllyyyy good looking. Doesn't he look a bit Aragorn-ish here?

Because the day was so hot the boys loved the water mister. Even David walked through it with Anne in his arms!

Malachi went through it time after time and quickly became soaked to the skin. He seemed to think it was very sensible. He reeked of damp wool the remainder of the day. Damp wool is an acquired smell.

Little David, now almost-7 years old, was very excited that a few gentleman had set up some chess boards and were playing that fascinating game. One of the gentleman invited David to play, so he bent over the board, moving his pieces and speculating aloud about the best move he could make.

He isn't very good at the game (yet - he is learning quickly about strategy!) but his opponent was very helpful and instructional and the game lasted much longer than it might have.

We visited the merchants. Some sold goods such as knives, "medieval-esque" clothing, toys and candy. Some sold services such as henna artists and hair braiders. Some sold food. Here Anne visits with a gentleman who was selling bird whistles while inside the tent David bought wooden swords for the boys. The bird whistle man said the baby was good for business, since she would lure in potential customers.

The swords were a good idea. The boys were most pleased. Of course, they broke all of them over the next few days but the were good fun while they lasted.

Even Anne was intrigued. A little sword-maiden in the making? Perhaps we should have named her Eowyn. I was very seriously considering naming her "Theoden" before I found out she was a girl.

I made a new veil for the occasion, this one out of very lightweight cotton voile from Dharma Trading Company. It was left over from a different project and I had just enough for the veil which is cut as a wide rectangle. I love how it floated and it breathed so well. I attached it to my coif using straight pins. (Need to make a new coif. This one kept wanting to slip off my head!) Cotton lawn is suggested by Sarah Thursfield in The Medeival Tailor's Assistant for "best" headdresses. It is certain that a very lightweight cotton does work very nicely. The handkerchief linen from is nice, too, but is still a bit heavier and coarser than this cotton voile. Here you can see the veil doubles as a convenient nursing cover (though I am not prudish about using covers most of the time. . .)

I made this side by side comparison for fun. Here I am last year at the Faire, 5 weeks away from delivery. David took a new picture this year in the same spot, with me and my little girl! While I have to say I prefer this year to last year (since I am so glad she is here!) last year she was certainly easier to carry around and she didn't squirm and shriek and yank my hair.

We watched the archers. Judah lamented the fact that he had picked out a sword and wished he had got a bow and arrows, instead.

There were quite a few of them, all lined up in a row and WHING - all their arrows went flying at once towards the targets.

It reminded me of the tale Robin Hood and how he participated in an archery tournament under a false name and people found out his identity just because of how well he could perform.

I took surprisingly few pictures of David. I do like this one of him, though.

Malachi then broke his sword. Probably due to him whacking it swiftly and passionately upon a large tree.

David tried to fix it but soon gave up the task as hopeless.

I like this one of Judah for no reason other than I like it. He wasn't feel the greatest but he steadfastly declared he was fine and didn't want to go home and no, he wasn't too hot in his wool tunic.

The baby became more and more tired as the day wore on. In late afternoon she was in overdrive. She was so determined to *not* fall asleep.

After the final tournament it began to storm. It was a quickly passing, gentle, cooling sort of storm. We left the Faire and went to a nearby park where in leafy wealth the woods spread in beautiful shade. The grass was glistening with rain and a few droplets were still falling when we found a little shelter and brought our little picnic to it. The baby had, of course, fallen asleep the moment she was put into her carseat.

Sausage, cheese, bread and grapes. Grapes are, of course, not the most authentic choice as they are not in season. But they can be easily eaten with little mess so they are ideal as finger foods for little boys. Plus they were on sale.

The boys ate and then ran off to explore a bit. Malachi took his shoes off.

We found a grassy lane. A doe and two fawns crossed it while we watched, and then a red fox scampered off after them. We tried to get a picture, but they were too quick.

A leaf Judah found that he thought "pretty".

Here is a better picture of the veil. You can also see the fitting issues I experienced with my kirtle, which will need to be addressed before I need to wear this again. It doesn't really support at all and is much too loose around the midriff area. It will need to be picked apart from the hips up and refitted, and the sleeves sewn back in. Not a huge job, but one I am loathe to tackle.

One last picture of Malachi and I as the rain started to fall again. We had been going in circles but when the rain became heavier we knew it was time to go. But we will come there again.