Monday, January 29, 2018

Sontags for Little Girls

I finished these for the girls last week! I am so happy with how they came out. And I'm glad that I made mine first, to work out most of the problems I ran into. Anne's crocheted border came out far better than mine and Rosie's was the best yet. I think I finally got the hang of working crochet into the edge of knitting.

Like my sontag, these are made from the pattern at Ragged Soldier. While the original instructions call for knitting the back 18 blocks (each block being made of 5 rows of stitches), I sized the pattern down to fit a 5 year old and 2 year old by decreasing the number of blocks at the back. Anne wears about a 6 in modern sizing and making hers 13 blocks high at the back was just about right. Her sontag came out a bit big but should fit her for awhile! I knit hers with size 8 needles.

Thank you to my friend Laura for passing down this darling dress
she made for her own little girl many years ago!

Rosie's was knit 12 blocks high in the back to fit an approximate modern size 3T. Hers fits just how I wanted it. I used size 7 needles for hers. For both of the girls sontags I cast on 25 stitches. When it came time to bind off the neck I bound off the center 3 blocks to make the back neckline, instead of the 5 blocks that are bound off for an adult size.

The wool yarn is Paton's Classic Merino. Anne chose light grey with a crimson border and Rosie chose dark grey. I had just enough of the dark green left from my project to make a narrow border on hers.

These will be so nice to have for events in the spring and fall when the weather is often unpredictable and dressing in layers is very practical. For cold events these can be worn layered under a coat or jacket. 

With that, I'm determined to actually sew this week instead of just knit! ;) 


Friday, January 19, 2018

A Remade Knitted Hood & A Knitted Sontag

I made this hood over a year ago from the free pattern at Ephemeral Chaos. Due to my yarn weight or my needle size or my gauge or any combination thereof the hood came out really small. It fit my preschool daughter at the time and she initially liked it, but she has refused to wear it since then because she doesn't like the way it wraps around her neck and it tended to slide backwards off of her head. She has other bonnets that she prefers.

I decided to try to redo it and am pretty pleased with how my experiment turned out! Why waste a piece of wool knitting, right?!

Last weekend I took out the gathers at the back of the neck and the scarf ends and dyed the knitted piece on the stove. After about an hour the fibers (and my hands! haha) turned blue. My youngest children thought that was hilarious. 

I laid the piece flat to dry overnight on a towel and the next day I steam blocked it into a symmetrical shape.

The crown portion of the hood was really short. It didn't even begin to come down to my neck and actually ended right above the area the hair would be pinned into a chignon. So to add length, I sewed the short ends of the scarf portion together and then that became the curtain of the new hood. I sewed the curtain the crown, right sides together, with wool yarn in a loose whip stitch. I drew up that seam to fit the back of my head. With the front brim folded back it works quite well.

To finish the hood I added a simple crocheted loop trim to the edge in light grey and made light grey ties and a bow for the back.

Since my children somehow managed to get most of the week off of school, due to cancellations and delays, my 10 year old son was home to take a few photos of the finished hood. I am wearing it with my sacque and petti, my quilted petti and plain petticoats and my 18th century mitts and a sontag I just finished knitting from some yarn I got for Christmas! Even though these photos were taken on a day that was topped out around 10 degrees I was very comfortable while outside.

This is the sontag pattern from Ragged Soldier and it worked up really easily. I made this pattern a long time ago and it was just as easy to follow as I remembered. I did have problems finishing it but that was because I attempted the double crochet border and working the crochet stretched the edge of the knitting and made it all wavy looking. It looks horrible up close but I am not about to take it out and try to do something different. It will just exist this way! It does do a great job of keeping me warm, I must say!

I worked up the body in dark olive green wool and the border is lighter green. I do so love the colors. They remind me of lichens and moss on the rocks around here. :)

I have two more sontags for my girlies in various stages of completion. Annes is of the same light grey as the hood trim and Rosie chose dark grey for hers. It's nice to have quiet handwork to do on snowy days with the sun shining.

So to summarize:

The Challenge: #1 Mend, Reshape, Refashion

Material: Wool yarn

Pattern: Experiment at refashioned a garment knitted from the 1856 opera hood pattern available at Ephemeral Chaos.

Year: Mid-19th Century

Notions: n/a

How historically accurate is it? Hmm this is hard to answer. The hood itself, in its original state, is knitted directly from period instructions. The remade hood is my 2018 self remaking this 1856 hood into a hood that is similar to other period hoods in shape, but probably not in construction. It is passable from a distance to have the right silhouette and is made from proper materials but the construction is iffy.

Hours to Complete: A few, considering the dyeing, application of trim, etc.

First worn: For photos earlier this week. I'll probably wear it to an event in April if it is cool enough.

Total cost: For this remake, nothing.


Tuesday, January 16, 2018

January Remake Plans 1/16

I need to start writing down my sewing plans for each week. Last year I started doing that for other things in real life and it helped so much that now I am a firm believer in the benefits of lists and schedules. So this is what I want to do this week. It's not a huge list but should fill up my spare time more than adequately. ;) And since the month is already half over I really need to get started on these things!

1. Redo my blue print dress

This shouldn't be hard. I was making it a lot harder on myself by weighing all these different options for remaking it. But most of those ideas required buying more of this fabric (that is assuming the fabric store has any of this left) or taking width out of the skirt to redo the bodice. 

I was making it way too hard. 

This bodice only requires a little extra width pieced in under the arms. I don't need much extra fabric for that. Certainly not enough to justify slicing into the skirt or buying extra fabric. I decided that I wasn't going to spend any money on this remake and wasn't going to take out any of the skirt. It was so hard to get the skirt pieces matched anyway. Anyway, once that was decided things fell into place and this remake shouldn't take more than evening or two. 

My current plans are to take from the sleeves to get the little I need to piece in under the arms. The sleeves are currently gathered to a cuff but by taking off the cuff and making the sleeves into slim cut coat sleeves I will have some scraps to play with. I also need to shorten the waistline a bit. Then I can reset the skirts, reset the sleeves and my dress should be good to go!

2. Redo my boots

Do you want to see what the Fugawee Victoria boots look like after a decade of use? Like this:

I wasn't even going to bother trying to fix these up anymore and was going to just use them for a very poor, working class impression but hey, I may as well try to get another season of use out of them. They look pretty bad but I think I can clean them up nicely. The soles still look pretty good, thanks to my greatly-missed Illinois shoe repairman. (Yes, it's worth a many-hour drive to take your shoes to a good shoe shop!!!) I need to brush off the dirt, dye any bare patches, condition the leather and polish them up, put on new buttons or reattach the old ones with heavy waxed thread and finally, clean out the area where the soles are separating and reglue those spots. 

With that, they should be perfectly good for this season. After so much wear in all sorts of weather and on all sorts of terrain, they have stretched out some and I can't really make them smaller but I can wear heavier stockings for a good fit. 

If I can get those 2 projects done this week I will be well on my way to getting my to-redo list crossed off before the end of January! Here's hoping!


Saturday, January 13, 2018

18th Century Wool Mitts

I finished these mitts about a week ago, in the middle of the sub zero stretch of days that marked the start of the year. Since then we have had a few days over 50 and now we are back into the low digits with a lot of snow. While these mitts are meant for living history, I found them so warm and cozy that I've been wearing them in modern life too! 

These are straight from the American Duchess book and worked up quickly. I found the illustrations and instructions so easy to follow. I was a little worried about drafting the pattern since I usually drape, but following the steps produced a pretty good fitting pattern right off. 

I made them up in a single layer of worsted wool. They are cut on the bias to allow for stretch and are faced with scrap fabric. While the AD instructions call for silk I liked the look of linen better so that is what I used. 

My fabric was a little prone to raveling. Not too much, but enough to make me want to finish the seams. I finished the thumb seam with a little whip stitch and the long seam along the arm I felled down. 

I found that the triangular facing wasn't large enough for my liking so I made a bigger facing that goes around the whole hand opening. 

And done!

This picture shows my stays with the reshaped neckline. I think it gives a much better 18th century silhouette now! The back lacing gap is narrowing every time I try these on so I'm thinking I'll eventually have to make them a smidge narrower in the back. I REALLY don't want to do that, but know it will bother me until I do. I think I'll just take off the center back and make new lacing holes. That seems easiest and doesn't mess too badly with the side seam placement. Plus it keeps the tabs intact, which is a high priority! haha. I so hate tabs!

I'm back in the 1860's now, knitting on a few projects and redoing a few others. But I'll be back to the 18th century before too long. I think I need one more petticoat and then I'll be ready for the gown. So the hunt is on a for a few yards of linen! Preferably colored appropriately so I can use it as a visible petticoat for an open robe or shortgown or jacket. I may end up ordering from online but am looking around at the local second hand shops first to see if I can find any tablecloths or curtain panels that may do. I want to keep this outfit as inexpensive as possible! 

Stay warm!


Saturday, January 6, 2018

My Biggest Project Yet - A Confederate Majors Frock Coat

So, just because I didn't get to sew a lot for myself during December doesn't mean I wasn't busy - I was! It's taken me a few weeks to mentally recover from this project, which was actually surprisingly head-ache free. But the stress of planning it and figuring out how to make it and doing research for it was really, really heavy. Now that I'm a few weeks out from it I can look back and remember the great things about working on this. I'm super happy with how it came out, a little disappointed with a few things I wish I had done differently (there's always something!) and am so glad for the experience of making this and the mental boost it was to get it successfully done. Plus I got a new sewing machine just before starting this (my first Husqvarna!) and that made the construction of this coat so much easier than I had anticipated.

The coat isn't all that different from previous frock coats that I've made. The main difference with this one was the sleeve braid. I also wanted to make the skirts set better with more flare and I constructed the collar a bit differently. The sleeves are a little more full than the sleeves I've made on federal style frocks.
First time doing the waist buttons in the seam. I like how it looks!
The fabric is cadet grey wool from Richmond Depot and the body is quilted to an interlining of thin wool flannel. The flannel is actually from a dye job gone wrong a few years ago and is bright bubblegum pink! But it worked really well for an interlining and gave the body structure without much bulk. The lining is brown polished cotton from Needle and Thread. The silk buttonhole twist is also from Needle and Thread. I had a pattern to work from for the sleeve braid but ended up not using it as the design was a little too short to look well on the sleeve and was very unsymmetrical.

Since I had had a lot of time to think about how to make the coat the process of actually sewing it was pretty smooth. I listened to a lot of Christmas concerts on YouTube while stitching! (And some Franklin Turtle and Little Bear episodes courtesy of Rose and Benjamin). It was just mentally intimidating to actually start. I started with quilting the front bodies and then sewed the lining together sans front skirts. Then the outer shell. Then the collar, then the back pockets and then the skirts. Sleeves last. That process seemed to make the most sense to me.

The sleeves terrified me as I had no idea how I was supposed to draw out the braid design on the sleeve and apply the braid. Finally I decided to draw the design onto tissue paper, baste the tissue paper to the sleeve with contrasting thread and tear the tissue away to leave the design basted onto the sleeve. This worked really well!

Then I just had to sew on the rows, following the design of the basting. It took almost all of a day (the day before school got out for the holidays!) but I got it done. This coat has 3 rows of braid per sleeve with indicates the rank of Major.

Then the last was sewing up the sleeves, putting in the lining and setting them into the coat. This took a few tries and the sleeves still don't hang like I want them to. But I finally got them sewn in to semi satisfaction.

A few days before Christmas I had the opportunity to take some photos on a sunny day at the beautiful historic Old Methodist Church to test the fit. Whenever I make something for someone else I am on pins and needles til they can try on the finished garment. As I tell them, all I can see is how it looks when being worn. I don't know how it feels! For fitted garments the critical areas, for me anyway, are the armscyes (too tight and it's unbearably uncomfortable and too loose and you can't raise your arms freely) the neckline and the upper chest. Thankfully this coat seems to look and fit as it should.

Rosie and Malachi came along and insisted on dressing for the occasion. They love every opportunity they have to put on their historic attire! Rosie looked so cute in my yellow silk bonnet that I think she will have to wear it more often! Poor Malachi is in dire need of longer trousers!

So that was my big project for 2017! I am not sure what big projects this year will bring me but I feel better prepared to tackle anything that comes my way!


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

First Project of 2018

Happy New Year everyone! Wow, it's January and life is getting back to its normal routine with the Christmas decorations packed away and the kids back in school. We had a long, chaotic and joyful holiday season but it feels good to get back to everyday life after all the Christmas festivities. Now we are in the middle of a cold snap and my thoughts turn to spring and the start of the reenacting season. But we still have a few more months of winter to get through!

The Dreamstress recently blogged about the Historical Sew Monthly for this year and the challenges for each month are posted on the groups Facebook page. While I haven't actively participated in a while I want to make more of an effort to do so this year. It seems the challenges align pretty well with what I need or want to make, anyway, and for this month particularly the challenge is very appropriate. Re-make! I have a lot of things I need to adjust or redo. So I hope to get a lot of those out of the way before months end. These include:

1. Remaking my blue print 1860's dress in the bodice
2. Making an early 19th century shortgown from a mans striped cotton dress shirt
3. Shortening the waistlines on my two sheer 1860s dresses to a more appropriate height. Right now they are just a little too long to look right for the 60's.

I spent New Years Day redoing a bit of my 18th century stays. I found I wanted to lower the neckline a little so it took an hour to pick off the top front binding, cut down the stays and boning, rebind and reattach the lining. I think they will work better now. Maybe soon I will be ambitious enough to start the gown!

In the mean time I want to get a few accessories made. These were things I had hoped to get done during December but didn't find time to do. The first thing I have made is a cap. The pattern is one I made a few years ago but the construction methods are straight from the 1760's-1770's cap pattern in the new American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. The method was a little strange to me but after working from them it makes so much sense! Basically all the pieces of the cap are finished and then put together. It went together really quickly and I like the clean and sturdy inside finish.

My fabric is 100% cotton voile. I had either that or a heavier plain white cotton to use so I went with this. I bought this to make a sheer 1860's waist with but thankfully there is enough yardage I can do both!

The bow at the top is the 4 loop bow from the 1740's section of the AD book. It's just lightly sewn on with big stitches so it can be removed anytime without damaging the fabric of the cap.

After I made this I realized I don't know how to style my hair for the 1770's! I am so used to having a center part from 1860's reenacting (and real life! I don't really change my style at all ;)) that it feels incredibly awkward to try combed back hairstyles. I'll need to figure out what a good look is and experiment.

The only things I would do differently on this cap for next time is to make all the hems smaller and to make the ruffle a lot narrower at the top. I sort of want to go back and fix the ruffle but don't feel up to that quite yet! Since the hem edge of the ruffle is shaped I would only need to pick out the hem and carefully cut it narrower at the CF, tapering out to full width at the top sides and then rehem it. Not a big deal but one I don't want to mess with at the moment. Next up is a pair of mitts and maybe an apron and pocket. Then the gown! Slowly but surely I'll get this outfit done.