Tuesday, February 27, 2018

An Early Victorian Under-Petticoat

I made this a few weeks ago for the HSM challenge for February. I need to post about it before the month is over! Thankfully there isn't a lot to say about it. It's a petticoat. ;)

This particular one is made to be worn beneath all other skirt supports. It goes on over the chemise, drawers and corset and is narrow and short. Mine is about 80" at the hem and goes to mid calf length. Since it's tucked it doesn't easily get caught between my legs when I walk. I am so glad I finally made one of these!

These are also called "modesty petticoats" in the 1860's reenacting circle but that term is a present-day one, not one that is documented to be used in period. When wearing cages or hoop skirts a little petticoat worn under the hoop does help prevent flashing your undermost undies but since I wear my chemise untucked I've never had a huge need for this petticoat for modesty reasons alone.

But an underpettioat used sensibly to help keep the much bigger skirt supporting petticoats from folding between your legs is so enormously helpful. In the past I've used modern full pleated or gathered to a waistband skirts as an under petti when needed but it was high time to make a proper one! So this months challenge to create something to wear under your historic attire was perfect for this project.

I used a big flat cotton sheet for my petticoat so the construction was very simple, especially as I used the hem on the sheet for the hem of the petticoat! I sewed the panel into a big tube and sewed tucks til I decided it looked good enough. I hemmed a little placket in the seam at the back, hand gathered the waist and whipped it to the waistband and made a buttonhole and sewed on a button. It only took a few hours and I am very happy with my finished project!

The details:

The Challenge: Under
What the item is: A short, narrow under-petticoat, sometimes called a "modest petticoat" in reenacting circles.
Material: Thrifted cotton sheet, scrap of cotton for waistband.
Pattern: Based on rectangular construction, no pattern needed.
Year: Can work for 1840's-mid 1860's
Notions: Button
How historically accurate is it? The pattern, construction and look are correct for the period though there are a few things not so accurate. These are:
1. The petticoat is made from a sheet using a full width of fabric, therefore it has only one seam instead of several seams and narrower fabric widths.
2. The sheet has a woven-in subtle stripe. Have not seen an original with a woven stripe on white fabric like this.
3. I used the existing sheet hem for the petticoat hem. While the sewing is pretty, I am fairly sure the thread content of the hem isn't 100% natural fiber. But, it saved me a lot of work so I kept it.
Hours to complete: Less than 3. This was a super quick project! Sew a tube, run some tucks, gather to a waistband.
First worn: Not yet, but will wear this will all my 1860's living history events this year!
Total cost: The sheet was about $3 from the thrift store a few months ago. Can't get much cheaper than that!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Love Day Smock Dresses

Happy Valentine's Day! It's a warm, rainy, muddy holiday for us here and my house is drowning in candy and strawberry cake and a flurry of paper hearts. ;) 

For Valentine's Day this year we went with quick, simple, easy fitting dresses. Anne drew a design on paper that she liked (surplice bodice with short sleeves and a ruffle skirt) and I was lucky enough to find a pattern on the bargain rack for a very similar dress. Simplicity's New Look 6442 was exactly what we wanted!
New Look 6442

I used size 7 for Anne and size 4 for Rose, to allow them a little extra room so they can wear these dresses through the summer. The crossover style also allows a lot of size flexibility just by moving the position of the ties or buttons. I really love this pattern and will be using it frequently!

I had just 2 yards of the heart printed cotton so we made each dress a little differently, pairing the heart fabric with a length of vintage calico I have had in my stash since before I had children! The "Peter Pan" fabric in subdued shades of pink and green and robins egg blue went surprisingly well with the bold, bright colors of the new fabric. 

Anne chose her design off the pattern cover with a contrast ruffle and Rosie was very determined to have "poggets". ;) I made Rosie's dress with the Peter Pan fabric for her skirt and from the scraps leftover from the heart fabric sewed on two deep, roomy patch pockets. There was just enough left to make a matching heart skirt for her beloved Baby Margaret plushie. 

The dresses are meant to be sewn with a self fabric lining that finishes off the bodice. For these dresses I lined the bodices and sleeves with part of a cotton sheet, trimmed off the neckline and sleeve hem seam allowances and bound the edges with the calico. Next time I may try the plain bag lining. It would certainly be quicker. The skirts are sewn with french seams and are unlined. For cooler weather they can wear leggings beneath them for warmth. 

These would also be cute in shorter lengths for tunic style dresses. Such a versatile design! It was nice to sew from a real, modern pattern again and to have it work up so well. 


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Godey's 1862 Opera Hood

Last Sunday night I cast on 90 stitches on a whim, wondering if I had enough green yarn leftover to make the contrast stripes from the 1862 Opera Hood from Godey's

I worked on it here and there over the week and since it is a basic pattern that alternates every 5 rows it was fast and mindless work. I worked on it more than doing any kind of sewing since I could put it down and pick it up whenever I needed and it made me feel like I was making progress on something! 

The instructions call for 9 finished stripes of magneta and 8 of white. For my version the green was used in place of the magneta and light grey in place of the white. All went without mishap until I was working on the 8th stripe of green. Thanks to a certain little kitty, who ruined a good few yards of this yarn early one morning by using the yarn ball as a toy, I ran completely out of yarn about 20 stitches too soon. I was determined to finish that 8th row, though, and unwilling to make the opera hood shorter than it was supposed to be. I ended up cutting off a few of the tails that I left when joining the grey to the green and piecing them to the yarn so I had enough to finish that last row. UGH. Not fun. 
Finished stripes, before blocking. 

After blocking. 
So I had only 8 stripes of green. I knit another grey stripe and so had 8 stripes of green and 8 of grey. I wished then that I had started the knitting with grey so as to have 9 stripes of grey and 8 of green. I came to the conclusion that I could add a little border to the top of the cap, to take the place of a knitted grey stripe. That way, I'd end up with 9 grey stripes. I added a shell border to the edge and I was pleased with the look. 

The last thing to do was to add ties. I hemmed the last of my light green silk into ribbon ties and fastened them to the gathered sides of the cap. I added a little bow of 3 loops at the top of the ties, as per the illustration of the similar Godey's 1858 Sortie Cap.  

Now, my finished hood does NOT perfectly represent the hood in the original pattern. For one thing, of course, the crocheted border is my own deviation from the instructions. But I found that the illustration shows 10 dark stripes and 9 light ones on the cap instead of the 9/8 it calls for in the written text. Oh well - a quirk? Perhaps the pattern assumed you would already have knit one light and dark stripe before starting to count the next 9 and 8. 

I'm still vastly pleased with my finished hood and think this is the one I will reach for most often when doing living history. It's warm, it's subdued, and it is more flattering, I think, than other styles of hoods and bonnets. 

I did discover while making this that I am knitting my stitches wrong! I have often had problems with items coming out a little bit small and now that I know I am making crossed stitches my problem is explained. 
 I hate doing full front photos since it always makes me feel awkward
and put on the spot, but I wanted to show how the hood looks from the direct front.
So often a design that looks one way from a side or back view looks so
different from the front. 
I struggled and struggled to teach myself to knit as a young teen, holing myself up in my bedroom for hours at a time and poring over a rather outdated knitting how-to book from the library. I still remember those baby blue aluminum knitting needles I bought back then! Haha. Knitting just *did not* make sense to me and it was months of trying here and there before I finally managed to figure it out. Or so I thought. I wrap my thread clockwise instead of counter clockwise, resulting in twisted stitches and garments that pull slightly and are a little small!

Good to know, though. Thanks to huge advances in information sharing since those years in the early 2000's I have a whole internet full of videos and step by step tutorials on how to make stitches the correct way. I'm very excited about making some more things and seeing how the new techniques work out for me!

My sewing this week was a bit underwhelming. Mainly patching jeans for the boys and making a set of new seersucker curtains for my 8 year olds room (and a matching pillowcase! there was just enough fabric for it). I ordered some linen for boys 1860's summer suits and that should come in this week. I have some modern stuff I want to do for daily wear which isn't as cool as historic clothing but still enjoyable to work on.