Saturday, August 31, 2013

Experiments in Underwear

I haven't been able to go out yet to buy specific panty fabric, or even a double needle (though I did get a pack of ball point ones at Wal Mart on my quick errand trip yesterday.) David is away for the weekend and rather than drag all 4 kids with me to Jo Anns (my oldest informed he would rather die than have to suffer the agony of going there) I decided to work on some practice underwear with stuff I already had here.

My problem is, I have no jersey. I don't sew with it. I have cottons, wools, linens and even some silks. But hardly anything modern and definitely nothing stretchy. So I decided to try an old t shirt and ended up experimenting with several cut-down garments made of knit fabric.

Panties #1:

These were the first panties I tried. I selected my size based on my hip measurement and cut out the pattern from Cloth Habit. I sewed them up exactly according to the pattern and these were the result. I loved them. The fabric was a t shirt I hardly ever wear though I loved the fabric and the print and the little sparkly rhinestones embedded in the cloth.

How did they work out? 

They didn't. Well, okay. They fit. Sort of. But just barely. They stretched and. . .stayed stretched. I like firm fitting undergarments and these weren't doing it. And the crutch area was really really long. So to make them fit I had to pull them high, which looked ridiculous and was uncomfortable. If I wore them comfortably on my hips the crutch sagged down and that wasn't comfortable either. This was probably due to a combination of my fabric stretching as well as a really long crutch area on the pattern itself.

Panties #2:

I decided that since the jersey t shirt I used for my first pair did not work well I needed to use a really lightweight, very stretchy fabric that would spring back to its natural shape after being stretched. I didn't have any t shirts like that, but I did have a dress that I have only worn a few times. It's not a very flattering cut but I love the fabric. The only downfall is that it is not a natural fiber. However, I decided to try it. For the pattern I modified the size I cut for trial #1 by shortening the crutch area by 1.5" and also shaving some width off the sides by slicing and overlapping the pattern in the middle. I also decided to use my own measurements for the elastic for the waistband and legs instead of the measurements provided in the pattern. Since my lace is very stretchy, these measurements were significantly smaller than the ones provided in the pattern.

How did they work out? 

These were almost perfect! I loved the fit. The only thing I wanted to change was the tightness of the leg. They felt a bit loose in the back. I also wanted to add a smidge more coverage to the back. Though these are a conservative style it is a common feature of these "boyshorts" to only cover about half your rear. I decided I could live with that, for these pair, but wanted to add more coverage to any future pairs. Otherwise I loved these. The fabric was perfect. Still, they are a bit too "fancy" for my liking for plain old everyday wear.

Panties #3:

I decided I wanted to try cotton jersey again. After all, that is what I normally wear on a day to day basis. It's comfortable and washes well and breathes. I used a sleeveless t shirt of David's to try these. It is a lighter weight jersey than the t shirt I used for my first attempt. I modified my pattern from #2 to add a bit more coverage in the back and to decrease the width of the leg a tad, in the back.

How did they work out? 

These came out very tolerably. They fit tighter than the ones above, but I think that is because this jersey does not stretch as much as the fabric I used for #2 and it is heavier than the fabric as well. They still fit, but if I make more in jersey like this I will add a bit of width to account for less stretch of the fabric. The "gathering" at the leg openings and waist is more noticeable in this fabric since the lace is much lighter in weight than the fabric. Still, I am very pleased with these and will definitely wear them. And yes, I picked the lace off the #1 pair and reused it for these. I couldn't bear to waste my pretty lace, even if it was only 50 cents a yard.

Panties #4:

These I made from more of David's grey t shirt. I wanted to try a different style for variety so used an old pair of store bought panties for a pattern, as per the tutorial on Come and See the Seitz. I cut these all in one piece and added a lining to the middle with another layer of jersey. Then I sewed on the lace and sewed up the sides. This went very quickly and these probably took about 15 minutes to make start to finish.

How did they work out? 

The fit is really great with these though I would like a slightly higher waistline and a narrower crutch. I like the fact there is no seam going down the center front or center back. When worn, these look nearly the same as the panties from the Cloth Habit pattern. The elastic gathers more fabric in, so it looks puckery when the panties are laid out flat but since the lace has a lot more stretchiness than the jersey, it all smooths out to a very good fit once on the body.


I really need a good lightweight jersey. I would also like to make a few more sets in fancier fabric, since it just feels so nice. Maybe I will transition from practical mama panties into something more delicate and feminine. But in the meantime I will be looking for nice very light jersey when I go out! I hope to hit the Labor Day sales at Jo Anns tomorrow evening so perhaps I will find something useful there.

Out of the three fabrics I tried for the experimental panties, I definitely liked the way the slinky dress fabric worked the best. It works well with the elastic and has a good stretch recovery. I wish I could find natural fabric that behaves the same way.

One thing is for sure: this is fun! After my initial frustration/disappointment/anger/despair/weeping/wailing over the first pair, I found I really enjoyed the process of making these. They go together so quickly and its nice to be able to control the fit instead of having to make do with something off the rack. I may even try stretch lace sometime! Who knows!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Stretch Lace! Modern Panty-Sewing, Here We Come

I just got my package in for some stretch lace I ordered from Lace Heaven. I am so excited to use these lovely colors. Pretty! Now to find some cute fabrics to go with them. That's where I will get confused and frustrated. I don't think I'll try stretch lace or mesh or anything weird like that, but cotton jersey is weird and modern enough.

I've decided to try to make my own modern underwear. I hate paying so much for new ones and the cheaper ones fall apart and are not comfortable. Not to mention they are ugly anyhow. So we'll give this go. I plan to use the free pattern from Cloth Habit and may also try the panty tutorial from Come and See the Seitz.

After corsets and drawers and chemises and hoop skirts, a 2-piece panty pattern shouldn't be too hard, right?

I'm terrified.

But we'll plow on. I need to overcome my fear of knit fabrics and ball point needles. I. Will. Do. This.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Baby Hobbit Dresses

September is approaching, and with it, of course, the beauteous autumn. And Bilbo Baggins' birthday! We had so much fun celebrating Second Breakfast last year and I can't wait to do it again this year.

I recently received an inquiry about a baby hobbit dress so I whipped these two little frocks up over the last few days. One is in gold and green. . .

. . .and one in blue, with green and yellow.

Both are available in my shop. Plans for more, in different sizes and color themes - these are a little addicting!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blue Gingham 1930's Bias Dress from Vera Venus

Well, the dress is done. I finished it yesterday and though I am still not perfectly satisfied with how it fits, it's wearable. And now I know what adjustments I will need to make for the next one - thank you all for your great suggestions and advice!

Anyway, I have wanted to make this dress all summer. I came across the fabulous free pattern for a 1930's bias dress on Vera Venus's website a few months ago. I desperately wanted to make it so immediately printed out the pattern.

I have also been trying to loose weight this summer. I have never really lost all the weight I gained with 4 pregnancies. I never gained a huge amount, but still, it adds up. At my heaviest a few years ago I was in the 160's. . .and I was so unhappy with my appearance as well as my lack of energy. I was so depressed. With exercising and eating better I got down to about 150. . .and stayed there for a long time. Then there was another renewal of effort and I was down to the low 140's. . .then I got pregnant with Anne. I did not gain much with her and most of it came off immediately after she was born, but still, I was stuck in the mid 140's. This summer I was determined to get into the 130's and so this dress was my incentive! I told myself I could make it once I was on that last stretch to the pre-baby 120's.

This dress was probably not the best way to reward myself for reaching that weight loss goal. It is clingy and the shape you have is the shape the dress has. It doesn't hide a thing! Especially the remnants of the baby pooch. I hate the baby pooch. But I think that since I made this dress with less ease than it really needs, it will look a lot better once I do loose these last 10 pounds or so and once the baby is weaned.

Anyway, I was thrilled to finally be able to make this dress last week!

The pattern from Vera Venus went together really well. It only comes in one size but it was close enough as it was to fit really well from the pattern. I only had to make a few adjustments. I shortened the bodice a bit by raising the shoulders. I made a full bust adjustment and then added a bit of width to the hips. That's it! I was really surprised and pleased I didn't have to do more to it. Although now, I think adding a bit more width to the torso would not have been amiss. But this is one of the first bias garments I've ever sewn and the fitting of bias things is still very new to me.

I made it up in a lightweight blue and white gingham my friend Jackie gave to me. It is semi sheer so underneath I have to wear a full slip.

All the seams are finished, either by french seams or with zig zag and topstitching. The armhole seams are hemmed beneath the arm and then faux french seamed by hand along the seam between the sleeve and armscye.

I bound the neckline instead of facing it - I don't like bothering with facings. I also made no openings so the dress slips on over the head. It is easier than fussing with a zipper or a snap placket in the side seam.

The sleeve hems and skirt hem were stitched by hand.

The changes I will make for next time:

Lengthen the bodice by about 1.5", tapering to the side seam.

Add a bit more length to the skirt to make it mid-calf length.

Add a bit more width to the torso/hips (though hopefully that won't be an issue once I meet my next weight goal!)

Try a different sleeve style. I love these little fluted sleeves for summertime but I can see this dress with long sleeves or elbow length sleeves for cooler weather. Such a versatile, easy wearing style! It lends itself to a variety of occasions, depending on the fabric used.

Though I am most comfortable wearing this dress with no accessories, I did put on some shoes and a new (thrifted) hat and the pearl necklace and earrings David gave me for Christmas a few years ago. And red lipstick!

I think I prefer plain, though, with my fiddle. I felt very O Brother Where Art Thou-sy.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bias Fitting Advice Needed - Help Me, I'm Wrinkling

Okay readers, I need advice!

I am working on a 1930's style bias cut dress (more on that to come soon) and *thought* I had the fitting issues worked out. Yet now that I'm sewing the actual dress together I am noticing some wrinkling at the seam between the bust and the torso. Eeeek!!

When I move, these wrinkles shift. Is this due to poor cutting? Fabric? (it's quite lightweight gingham) or poor fitting? Or all three? I made this seam line hit at what I thought was the exact point of the bottom of the bra, but now that I try the dress on, this seam has seemed to shift upwards a bit. Hmmm. . .I wonder if my bra straps need to be shortened.

How do I fix this? Or should I just plow ahead and finish the darn thing and be wrinkly? And try again in a different fabric?

Ugh. I love how bias dresses look and how they feel on the body but I do NOT like sewing them. . . .


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Galesburg Heritage Days 2013

Our first year at the rendezvous was very pleasant, although perhaps not altogether successful. Because, you see, it seemed that we spent most of our time on the Civil War side anyhow; due to the fact that most of our friends were over there and, well, so we were over there too.

It was still very exciting to dress up in our early 19th century attire. The children were happy and adorable in their new clothes and David stalked around in his tailcoat and breeches, receiving many compliments and being often asked for photographs. He enjoyed that, I think.

And also the fact he was wearing linen while all his other friends were in layers of wool. From what I saw he was the only gentleman present in early 19th century dress; most of the others wore earlier or later period garments.

The weather was perfect. It was quite mild (for August) and sunny.

There were plenty of shady spots to retire to when the sun became a bit too warm and since we were by the water the air was cool and fresh.

I remember going to this event back in 2004 for the first time. 9 years ago! I never would have guessed then that 9 years later I would still be going and I would be married with 4 children. . .

The only outfit that caused me some frustration was Anne's. Despite putting another tuck in Malachi's old dress it was still a bit too long for her. And, well, Malachi was two and a half when he wore this and Anne is barely 13 months.

Since she is starting to walk this was problematic for her as she kept treading upon the hem. I really ought to have made her a new dress but I just did not have any time at all. Still, I feel guilty about not providing her with clothes suitable to her needs.

We picnicked by the playground where the boys expelled some of their energy. It was all I could do to convince them to shove a hasty bite in their mouth before they resumed their play.

Anne sat with David and I and methodically ate. And ate. And ate. And ate. Sausage and cheese and bread and ripe peaches, which she then doused with a healthy amount of water (soaking herself, and her clothes, in the process).

And after that, she nursed. . .and then refused to take a nap. Therefore I carried her in my arms and slowly walked up and down the camps with my friend Peter while David stayed with the boys. When she was nearly asleep I stepped squarely upon a wasp and was stung in the arch of my foot. I gasped and shuddered and said to Peter, "Peter, I think I've been stung." Therefore Anne awoke and was determined to remain awake for the rest of the day.

The remainder of the event was passed in pleasant company. David's sister came down from Iowa to visit us, along with her husband and two of her children. The boys were thrilled to see their cousins and Anne happily ate the food they gave her.

Anne, having smashed several bananas into her clothes after the aforementioned dousing of herself in water, of necessity had to be stripped and washed and her clothes rinsed and wrung. So she sported her necklace and her diaper covered with a linen cloth and was supremely happy in her scanty attire.
She was SO tired. . .but so determined to stay awake!
The boys were allowed to pick one thing they wanted from the merchants area. They all got bows and arrows.

Malachi especially enjoyed his and I kept having to enforce the rule that no, he could not aim at people. or goods in the merchant tents. We found an open grassy area where he shot and retrieved his arrow to his hearts content.

David and Judah enjoyed making loud noise with the sliding whistles their aunt got for them.

There were activities for the children, including a candy cannon. . .

. . .and a sack race.

In the evening, we headed once again to the Civil War camp for the dance. David and I took turns watching the children so the other could dance. The boys ran off onto the battlefield and played with their bows and arrows and the baby finally succumbed to her weariness of the day and fell asleep at last.

The dance was on the street. It is one of my favorite parts of the event. The dim evening shades, the shadowy people in the fringe of lamp light. The fiddler fiddling and the people dancing, feet stomping in time and whirls of skirts and bright flashes of laughing eyes. For me it is one of the best moments; the coming together of all kinds of people from all walks of life, bound together by a common love of their heritage and a plain old fashioned desire for a good time with good company.

And it was!

On a different and selfish note, I was really happy with how my hair came out. I have had the worst luck with regency hair styles. My hair is either too long or too short, or it won't hold a curl, or it just looks frizzy and bad.

I began planning my hair a few weeks in advance. I wanted curls around my face with a neatly braided chignon smoothly knotted in the back. Not so difficult, right?

Well, it seemed it would be. I have had great luck with pin curls in the past but even so, they loosen and flop over the course of a day. Especially in humidity. In the past I've tried to preserve the pin curls with the use of pomade or styling gel but it just ends up making my hair feel nasty and it still doesn't hold the curl very well.

So a few weeks ago I had the brilliant thought - you know what? My hair is naturally curly. So let's unleash the Natural Curl. To that end I stopped washing my hair. I dabbled in the Curly Girl hair philosophy a few years ago and saw great results at that time. No frizz! Lotsa curl. So I gave my hair one good final shampoo to strip everything out of it, and then I stopped washing it.

I also gave myself a hair cut. Pretty much just a trim, since I'm trying to grow my hair longer and its just below shoulder length right now. I layered the ends and then dealt with my growing-out bangs. I trimmed them up evenly, to about earlobe length.

My hair immediately started getting curlier and the frizz disappeared. It took over a week to get rid of that nasty dirty-hair feeling but by the time of the event my hair was good to go! That morning I got up and took my regular shower (not shampooing my hair in the shower, but rinsing conditioner through it) and let my hair damp dry. I scrunched my hair in my hands to make it as curly as possible. I got the kids up, bathed them, got them dressed, got them breakfast and made a cup of tea. By then I was ready to dress and do my hair.

I left my hair down around my face and it was curly enough as it was. The back hair I put into a low chignon. I really wanted to use the hair extension I got so I cut off a portion of it and braided it and wound it into a bun to pin at the back, but it ended up looking odd. .. and you could see the weaving strip at the top of the hair, which was totally not cool. So I unbraided it and just sort of pinned the length into a curly mass at the back of my head, and it mingled with my own curls. I was really happy with how it came out. Little David told me "your hair is camoflauged mommy!" so I think the hair piece really worked well!

To finish it off I twisted a piece of blue-green fabric around my head (we won't discuss the fiber content. . .) and pinned it in place. My sister gave me a pretty blue and green brooch for Christmas so on impulse I pinned that to the bandeau. And that was it! My hair stayed perfectly in place all day and my curls didn't droop at all and it was all good and wonderful and I was very very happy.

Me and Petey-Boy
And seriously, someone called me "Empress Josephine." I will love that guy forever.

I wore my cream checked gauze drawstring dress that I made last summer. It was very cool and comfortable. Underneath I wore a bodiced petticoat, my shift and my stays. And that's it! Gotta love this period. I wore red leather pointy toe shoes at the beginning of the day but soon discarded them and went around barefoot. It was too nice to wear shoes, and I'm a country girl.

And now, one last thing before we go. . .THE BUSK.

I use a paint stick for my busk. For some reason this busk snapped in half at about rib level when I bent over to pick the baby up. Therefore for half of the event I had pretty much no bust support. I felt very self conscious and awkward, so later in the day I had David run me to Wal Mart where we got a new paint stick and I whittled it to size in the car. Instant relief and improvement of appearance! See:

So yes. The busk is so very, very, very important to get a good look, especially for ladies who are perhaps endowed by their Creator with certain unspeakable attributes. . .the busk keeps it all up and in and minimizes things. For someone who normally wears DD, this is good.

So I'll conclude this ridiculously long post. . .I LOVE DRESSING REGENCY!!!


Friday, August 16, 2013

A Blue Linen Regency Skeleton Suit

My beautiful boy is 4 years old. I cannot describe how much I love this little fella. He delights me and amazes me with his personality, his plain common sense and his deep maturity. Is he only 4? He acts as though he possesses a spirit much older. His eyes are wide and far seeing. He has a beautiful soul.

For his regency outfit I wanted a distinct "little boy" style. I was very tempted to make a frock and matching pantalette's/drawers but at 4 Malachi is a bit too old for that. Together we looked at our inspiration images and Malachi decided he wanted a skeleton suit, which consists of a little jacket or bodice buttoned to trousers. The original suit Malachi liked was blue, with a very plain long sleeved, boat-necked bodice and broadfall trousers.

I used the blue linen to make some loose fitting trousers with a deep hem and an easy fitting waistband. I have no idea if it is period correct or not but I took a cue from the 1860's and made a little convenience slit in the front seam, so Malachi can use the potty without having to unbutton all those buttons around his waist. That is the only thing I don't like about button suits - they're awkward that way.
a huge thanks to my friend Jackie for all these silver buttons. A vintage 1950's find at a second hand sale - and there were exactly the right amount to make this suit.
I had a small bit of the linen left over and though I was going to make a long sleeved yellow linen jacket to go with the trousers, Malachi decided he wanted a matching jacket of the blue linen. I did not have enough to make a long sleeved bodice, but I did have just enough to make a short sleeved one. There are examples of short sleeved skeleton suits from this period so it is a nice period correct option, especially for summertime.

For the bodice I used the Sense and Sensibility Girls's Regency Gown pattern. It has the 3 piece back and the neckline I wanted, so I decided to go for it, changing the opening to a front opening - and it came out brilliantly! The sleeves were copied from several sleeve styles from the late 18th/early 19th c. in Patterns of Fashion 1. I made it up unlined, with facings at the front opening, and finished all the seams with hand felled seams.

The little shirt was a bit of a puzzle to figure out. In many paintings from the era one sees little boys wearing ruffled collar shirts. Some of the shirts appear to be regular men's-style shirts with ruffles at the collar and no collar button, others have plain collars and yet others appear to have shaped collars with ruffled edges. It's hard to know what artistic license was taken and usually impossible to see seam lines in paintings.

In the end, I made a little square cut shirt with a ruffle in place of a collar. An original c. 1800-1825 boys shirt from Augusta Auctions was made the same way, only with long sleeves instead of short ones. The neck was left to fall open. I'm not sure how I feel about the collar on this shirt since it seems a bit too full and clownish. I will probably make another shirt when I make the long sleeved yellow jacket.

Malachi was very happy with his finished outfit and immediately demanded that I take pictures of him in it. He appraised his reflection critically in the mirror and then delivered his verdict; "Oh Mommy, it looks so healthy."

Considering boys in the earlier 18th century wore restrictive clothing and these little skeleton suits were considered free and healthy for boys to wear, he is not far off on his remark, though it still puzzles me how he thought to use that word in this instance.

Tomorrow is the big day! The boys have been eagerly looking forward to it the past few weeks. I am looking forward to it, too, and quite content to think that now, at last, I have a Regency Family.