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! ;)


Monday, September 9, 2013

Cambie Dress in Ombre. And Tie Dye.

This dress started out as diaper linen last year. I bought a 20 yard roll from and used about half to make diapers. The rest has been used for many various things. Linings, caps, undershirts and the like. Last winter, in boredom, I dyed a 5 yard piece bright kelley green. And I never did anything with it.

Over the summer I thought it would be nice to make that bright kelley green linen into a Cambie dress. I procrastinated (as usual) and finally by the time I cut into the fabric to sew up my new gown I found out I am pregnant. 

I decided to make it anyway. To accommodate a growing bump I shortened the waistline by 2". This should fit well enough until winter, and I probably will not wear the dress again til next spring. And by then, the baby will be here. 

There was just one problem with the dress. (well, actually, there were several problems. I had to pretty much take the whole dress apart and refit it and resew it but we shall not speak of that.) The problem? The color. Bright green just doesn't do it for me. 

I got a box of dye remover and removed as much of the dye as possible. It didn't all quite come out but the dress was a much nicer color of pale green. After experimenting with ombre dying my gauze dress in the post previous, I bought a little jug of dark green dye and another of denim blue dye. 

On a whim, I decided to tie dye. I was in a slightly rebellious mood. And I wanted something very unique. I rubber-banded the heck of out of the dress in parallel rows top to bottom and began to dip it in the dye. This time, I dipped the entire garment first and then slowly raised it from the dye, and added more dye as time went on so that the bottom would be much darker than the top. 

After it had sat in the dye about a half hour I rinsed it in the shower and popped it in the wash machine, still rubber-banded. After the final rinse I snipped off the bands and voila, there was my dress. I love it!

It has a pale green undertone and the rubber banded stripes are that pale green. Then there are shades of teal and blue and green and grey. . .just the colors I like. 

There is plenty of room below the raised waist for growing Baby. It is a very comfortable style. The bodice is still a bit loose, so, thus far, I like to wear belts with it. For the pictures Judah took for me today I wore my very versatile black velveteen swiss waist snitched from my 1860's wardrobe. I was going for an 1860's-ish vibe with the dress anyhow; with full box pleated skirts and the dart fitted bodice and the visual dropped shoulder due to the cut of the sleeves. And black goes with anything. 

I wore this dress yesterday with a slightly less obnoxious belt; a simple leather one that ties round the waist. I like both looks and will experiment with more. And of course, it can be worn belt-less, too, as Baby grows.

We took the above photo at a cemetery we visited. Baby Anne toddled around, touching the rough stones, tracing the letters, looking at them curiously. 

She was not afraid. It is not a resting place of the dead so much as it is a remembrance of the living. We like cemeteries. There is so much to learn. There are so many feelings. 


Friday, September 6, 2013

An Ombre Dyed Gauze Hippie Dress

I have been going through my clothes lately, trying to weed out what I don't wear and find out what new things I need to make or purchase. I came across a little white gauze dress I made a few summers ago. I wore it a few times but it was never a staple. The fact it was white was enough to make me pass over it when selecting an outfit because, well, I have small children. Plus, the way it is cut the dress requires a strapless bra and I have never had good results with a strapless bra. You may as well wear nothing by way of support.

I was inspired this time, though, to make this over into something useable. I just finished a new dress that I want to ombre dye but I was nervous about dyeing it without practicing first. This dress was just the thing for a trial run!

I had half a bottle of RIT wine colored liquid dye. I dumped it in a plastic bucket with hot water and a cup of salt and stirred it. I wetted my dress and then dyed it by slowly lowering it into the dye.

It took about a half hour and the dress came out with four (five if you could the very top) rather distinct shades. It wasn't as dramatic a look as I had planned, but I was still very happy with how it worked and now this dress has gone from an impractical white gown to a very serviceable dark colored dress that will be cool and comfortable for the remainder of the summer.

And what better way to fix the problem of the strapless bra than to wear a blouse underneath? I don't know why I didn't think of this before. Now I feel supported and covered, which are good things! This particular blouse is from my dirndl outfit. I really like it because it stops just below the bust and is fitted there with elastic, so it doesn't ride up or cause unflattering bunching at the waistline as many blouses are prone to do.

The zipper in the back didn't dye, unfortunately. And I'm not very good at putting in zippers and was even less so back when I made this. So. . .you can see the zipper. But I've decided to not worry about it, and to just wear the dress and be happy.

Now to tackle the linen dress. I wanted to dye it in shades of blue but almost everything I make or wear is blue. . .so I think I will try green this time. Or maybe brown, though that may look rather like I just dragged my dress through the mud instead of actually dying it. Orange and cream? It would be pumpkiny and pumpkiny is good for this time of the year!


P.S. Thank you all for your really kind congratulations! You all are the best! I am due in April (I think) and so far, so good. Except names. I have one picked out for both a boy and a girl but David is being contrary and has decided he detests them. Sigh. I think after compromising with 4 I deserve at least one child to name all by myself, right?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Hobbit Costume for Expecting Mothers

I recently finished re reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I remember finding a battered old 1960's copy of Fellowship of the Ring at a thrift store one golden autumn. It was 5 cents and I bought it and thought "well, this looks interesting." And after the first chapter I was taken, hook, line and sinker. So, forever the autumn will be connected with those books and those exciting, fluttery, soaked-with-happiness feelings that come along with the deep pleasures of great literature (not unlike being in love). I love reliving those feelings every time I read these books! Though I have new and nicer copies of the trilogy now I have a sort of worshipful adoration for that falling apart paperback from the 60's. I will never get rid of it.

Whilst preparing for our Second Breakfast I have been thinking about making a new hobbit costume. I am working on making David a better hobbit outfit (though on reflection he would make an excellent Bill Ferny, wouldn't he? He just looks the part so.) and I've been dabbling with the idea of making myself a new one. However, I couldn't justify making one for myself when I have a perfectly serviceable one already and the boys need proper hobbit clothes, too. But then. . .

. . .I found out I am expecting! (yup it was a shock. . .a rather enormous one. But I'm getting used to it and am feeling rather excited now that I've had time to digest the news!)

Now, on September 22nd I am sure I will look no more pregnant that I do right now. .. namely not so. . .but by the time the Hobbit (part 2) comes out in December there will be a little belly bump and a new, looser, more comfortable hobbit outfit will not be amiss. In fact, it will be quite necessary, don't you agree?

I have had two ideas in mind for maternity wear. Here are some rough sketches:

#1 ~ Fitted Empire Bodice Outfit

This one is very much the same as the hobbit outfits seen worn by the women in Fellowship of the Ring. The only difference I made was raising the waistline to sit above the bump and making a front opening (a front opening can be seen on at least one bodice in Fellowship of the Ring). To make it more hobbit-like in appearance I though some slanting lines of trim and bold buttons would make it look less historical and more fantasy.

Underneath is the regular shift or blouse, which is adjustable and roomy enough for all of the pregnancy. And double skirts, which can be worn above the bump or made on a drawstring (or a partial drawstring, in the front waistband). An apron could be worn over it too, just tied above the bump.

#2 ~ Loose Jumper Outfit

This is a more casual outfit than the one above, I think. It is inspired by the frocks the little girls wear in The Fellowship and consists of the regular shift and a loose fitting jumper or sleeveless dress worn over it. The dress could be made with adjustable drawstrings in the front waistband as well - sort of like regency gowns, that had strings to pull up the fullness in the front. A kerchief for modesty and to make the wearer look less like an overgrown little girl and more like a woman in a comfortable outfit. An apron could also be worn with this, and a longer underskirt to peek out beneath the bottom.

Outfit #3 ~ Cold Weather Wear

This is still a very rough idea, but I plan to expand on it to make some sort of coat to wear for cold weather. Last December I wore my hobbit outfit to see An Unexpected Journey and though I took a shawl with me, I was very cold. Especially since we went Christmas shopping afterwards and there was a lot of walking on icy sidewalks and being blasted with gusty cold winds!

The coat is inspired by the jackets worn in The Hobbit and also from the 1790's style of jackets with the long fitted sleeves. This could be easily adapted from the jacket pattern I used for my 1790's jacket last winter - made in wool with a quilted lining in the bodice it would be quite cozy, I think. The quilting would firm the fabric up enough to give gentle support without needing to use boning. And with a high waistline and pleated skirts, it would keep the rest of me warm, too! This could be worn over just a shift and skirts, or over the #2 sleeveless dress outfit, or even over the bodiced #1 outfit. A warm neckerchief would be tucked into the neckline to keep the chest covered.

I have some fabrics in mind to use for an outfit. I would like to use what I have instead of having to buy new. I have a very lightweight pale pink cotton printed with darker pink sprigs that I purchased for $1 (for 5 yards!) at a flea market a few years ago. I intended to make it into a regency gown but the print is not quite right for it. But it would work well for a hobbit outfit!

I also have 5 yards of an olive and salmon striped fabric that is heavier, with texture to the stripes. I planned to make it into a 1770's style dress but I am not sure if the textured stripe is appropriate. It could work well as either a sleeveless dress or as a skirt.

I have numerous other small pieces that could work well for bodice fabrics - various colored woolens and linens, and a few plain colored yardages that work for skirts - light blue, grey-green, and yellow.

It will be fun planning this outfit and making it. I'm not sure when I will start on it but hopefully sometime soon. The boys and I just started school so my sewing time will be rather less than it has been.