Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Kaftan Top

Happy fall! Today is the first day of autumn and the overcast skies and 60 degree temperature certainly is appropriate to welcome in this new season. I put this shirt on this morning and realized I had lost most of my pictures of it. Last week I was at the lake with Malachi and when I pulled out my phone to take a picture of a fish he caught, my phone dropped forever into the dark water below the dock and so, most of my pictures were lost! Including the ones of this shirt, and the process of making it. 😑 A huge thank you to Judah for taking new pictures today. I don't have any of the construction process, but since there is no shaping except a neckhole, it's pretty darn straightforward!

So this spring I got a few yards of black knit fabric from Wal Mart and used some of it to make a cropped t shirt. I discovered that this thin, drapey material did not work well for a t-shirt and put the rest of the yardage up, waiting for inspiration to strike. It took a few months but at last I was inspired to make a rectangular kaftan top, after finding one at Goodwill that I loved and wore to death. I used the dimensions from that Goodwill shirt to cut this one. It's basically just a big rectangle with the 6" around the edges cut into a fringe, and a neckline cut and bound in the middle of the rectangle. To keep the sides together, I sewed up about 5" from the waistline towards the armpit on each side. That's it!

While the rectangle was laid out on my floor in my sewing room, it looked very plain. I had recently been reading about reverse tie-dye and decided to try to pretty up my fabric with some designs using bleach. I had no idea how it would work, or even if it would work but if it failed I was only out a few dollars worth of fabric. I figured I'd at least try!

To make the designs on the shirt I used a fork and a cotton ball, dipped in bleach. It took a few minutes but I was thrilled to see the black fabric start to turn a peachy pink beneath the dye and soon I had gone a little over board decorating my fabric. 😂 Still, when the sides were sewn up and I was able to try it on I was ridiculously thrilled with the result! This loose, drapey, airy shirt has been a favorite since I made it. 

60 degrees is a little cool for it today, but it still works. When it gets cooler I can wear it with a long sleeved t shirt underneath. I was so happy to find something to make with my black material. although I do still have some left. No idea what to make with it - I guess I'll need to wait for inspiration to strike again! 


I hope you all have a blessed first day of autumn. It the most magical time of year, the most beautiful, the most filled with deep joy. Love to you all!


Wednesday, September 19, 2018

18th Century Childrens Dresses

September is whirling by! The mornings are quite cool now and one day this week we woke up to the lawn littered with golden leaves. Rosie goes out to collect large bouquets of them and brings them in to put into a big ceramic mug as decoration. No matter that each day the leaves become brittle and dry - each morning there are more to collect! It is truly a wonderful time of year; the prettiest season of all!

Lately I have been outside with the two littlest as much as I can. Not much sewing has been done lately but I sure do have plans! Just need to find the time. . .😏 Before autumn gets too well underway I want to make coats for the babies using the Twig and Tale Animal Coat pattern, and yesterday I got some 10 oz indigo denim to make the Persephone Pants as my first attempt at anything like jeans.

But first, I really need to get some of my past projects blogged about. Last weekend I moved everything out of my sewing room so I could paint it, and after finding them folded up on my ironing board I realized I never did iron and put away the dresses I made for Benjamin and Anne to wear to the Battle of Blue Licks.

These dresses were fun to make, although, due to not having a lot of time to make them I wasn't able to hand sew them as I ought to have. I resorted to my long-used method of sewing everything visible by hand and using the machine to sew all the hidden seams. Normally this works out ok, but the construction just IS NOT the same, especially after what I learned making my own 18th century dress. But for little kids who don't hold still long enough to examine any element of their clothing very closely, these will be fine. Plus, I used cotton for both gowns, pulled from my stash, and since that isn't the most accurate fiber choice in the first place I felt less bad about sewing them in a not-very-period-correct manner.

It was a little difficult to find many examples of extant childrens dresses to go off of. There are two patterns that I know of for childrens and girls dresses; the Mills Farm Child & Girls 18th Century Gown and the Larkin & Smith 18th Century Girls Gown. I have neither pattern and did not have time to order one and wait for it to arrive before the event we went to. So I looked at some images of original dresses, like this one from the Met Museum: (circa 1740, so a little early for my target range)
I opted to leave off the leading strings on my gowns. 

You can see here that the point is not attached at the front but kinda floats over the skirt. 
There were also some extant examples of gowns made without a front point; constructed with a round waist. This one from the National Trust Collections is circa 1770, closer to my target range, and has tucks, back lacing, and a round, straight waist.

The children's section of the 18th Century Notebook was also very helpful to me as I looked at as many originals as I could. 

The bodices all appear to be very similar to women's bodices, fitted with the shaping in the side seams, narrow shoulder straps, and elbow length sleeves fitted to the arm and with minimal fullness at the head. Children's dresses differ from women's in that they lace up the back, rather than opening at the front. 

With that in mind, I had Anne stand for a draping session and though she complained and wiggled and shifted her shoulders and hopped on one foot constantly, at last we managed to eek out a decent enough pattern for a basic bodice. It came out a little big, but I was hoping it would since she grows like a weed and I want this dress to fit next spring when we will have more events to attend! We ended up with a 3 piece pattern: a front bodice, a back bodice and a shoulder strap. Later, I made a pattern for a basic sleeve based on her measurements, rather than draping. 

For her dress, I used a length of green-blue striped cotton that I got at a fabric sale earlier this spring. Actually, the sale I went to was giving away all wool and "homespun" cotton lengths, so this fabric was basically free! I used about 2.5 yards for this dress. Going off of the image of a childs open robe as illustrated in Costume in Detail, I decided to make Anne's dress as an open robe with a matching petticoat. 
The Fruit Barrow, 1779
For Benjamin's dress, I used a remnant of blue and white check cotton from my stash. To make his a little different from Annes dress I made the waist straight. His skirt had to be pieced to make the little bit of fabric I had work for the style, but it's not very noticeable in the finished garment. I used the same pattern that I had draped for Anne as they are nearly the same size in the torso, but I squared out the waist a bit instead of making it narrower at the waistline. It just barely fit him, but next spring I can make him "big boy" clothes since he will be 5, and Rosie will be big enough to wear this blue dress. I didn't take the pictures of his dress until just a few days ago, so there is a mend in the skirt where he stepped on it and tore it. It did NOT have the mend originally. . .but I kind of like how it looks! It adds to an authentic, this-really-is-worn-for-everyday-life sort of feel.

So there are the first proper 18th century childrens dresses I've made! If you don't count the Boone Frocks, but those are basically glorified shifts. 😝

I hope you all are enjoying this last bit of summer!


Friday, September 7, 2018

Making a Handkerchief Halter & New Pants

It's the end of a very long, exhausting week and it's raining and I'm covered in poison ivy (despite eradicating all that I find, I seem to always get it each time I mow my yard). It's been fun this week with the excitement of the fair after a summer of getting ready and the boys did very well in their project areas (Judah 1st place, Malachi 2nd, and David 1st with 4th overall placement in the STEM project area) but I am ready for a weekend with nothing going on! 

I have a lot of projects to blog about but I figured I ought to do this one while it is still slightly possible to need to wear summer clothes. It's still hot here but getting much cooler in the mornings and evenings. This entire summer was one of the hottest ones I've ever experienced and one of the rainiest!

Anyway, sometime over the summer I picked up a pants pattern at Wal Mart; Simplicity 8389 to be exact. I liked the straight, wide legs and the comfortable elasticized waist and the front pleats. I don't find patterns from "the Big 3" to be very inspired but once in a while they work just fine for a plain, basic design! While I love my Arenite pants, the close fitting ankle was just too hot to wear over the summer. I don't wear shorts often (getting a bad case of poison ivy on ones butt is a strong deterrent 😅) so a loose open ankle pant seemed to be the answer. 

I made my first pair of these pants in a pink striped textured cotton (possibly a cotton/linen blend) I got at a fabric sale in the spring where a local quilting group was selling off the large collection of one of their members who had sadly passed away. I made them straight from the pattern with the only adjustment being the length. I'm not terribly tall (5' 5"at my last measuring 😄) so everything is just a little bit long on me. The pants have a partially fitted waistband with elastic at the side fronts and back, pleats at the front, in seam pockets and lovely, long loose legs! I put these on as soon as I was finished and have worn them frequently since. They go with everything and are suitable for all my activities!

This summer I liked wearing these with halter tops since it was so muggy and hot. I had a big stack of handkerchiefs that the boys used to use for toy parachutes but have since abandoned to use up. This is how I made all my handkerchief tops - this method worked well for me and is so quick and easy! This method makes a double layer top which I prefer, since these aren't worn with a bra.

Ok, so first I squared up a handkerchief by cutting off all the edges and tearing them straight. It's amazing how OFF grain some of these prints can be. Oh well, better to be on grain than have a perfectly straight print, when it comes to these garments! The I folded the handkerchief in half, forming a triangle, and sewed around the raw edges, stopping about 2" from the corner to allow for turning.

After that, I turned and pressed the triangle, tucking in the raw edges of that 2" left for turning. To secure everything and make it nice and tidy I topstitched all around the edges.

Time to make the top neckline! I turned down the top point of the triangle til it measured about 7" across. I then sewed along this fold, and trimmed away the point of fabric.

To finish the raw trimmed edge, I zig zag stitched over it and topstitched the neckline again, parallel to the first line of stitching. The handkerchief portion was now done!

To make the ties, I cut strips of black knit fabric and sewed them into tubes, turned them right sides out and pressed them. I attached a tie at each corner of the neckline and each side of the waist.


This is a great type of top for super hot days, to wear around the house or yard. I sure got a lot of wear out of mine! And I may squeeze in a few more wearings before the weather turns too cold.

My favorite part of this outfit is the hair decoration Malachi made for me out of a bluejay feather he found and an old beaded bracelet. I love the things my boys make! I'm so proud of them and their creativity and deep appreciation of nature.


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Making my 1770's English Gown

It's been over a month now since I completed this dress and it's about time I get it properly blogged about so I can consider it officially completed. 😁 While this dress turned out to be a very basic, plain, common example of a dress from the era I learned so much while making it. For quite a few years I've wanted to make a dress from the Revolutionary War era and have researched extant examples, looked at paintings and illustrations, read accounts, joined Facebook groups dedicated to the recreation of styles from this era, read a lot of books and tried to prepare myself mentally for someday making this. But still, when it came down to actually making it I still felt woefully unprepared! I feel much more confident now and know that the next dress I make from this period (whenever that may be) will be a smoother process and come out better!

Most of my in-progress pictures I took on my phone as I hand sewed this gown over a period of about a week sometime in mid July. So, those pictures are not the best quality but hopefully give a decent look at how I went about constructing this. I followed the wonderful tutorial from The Fashionable Past quite closely. The dress in the tutorial is made, of course, with robings and a stomacher and mine is closed in the front but otherwise I followed the instructions as well as I could. While they didn't make a lot of sense when I read through them before starting, by the time I got to the end of construction they made a LOT more sense! For additional immediate guide and help, I also had my copies of Costume in Detail and the AD 18th Century Dressmaking open and in front of me the whole time. 

Stitching the lining together.
The first thing I did was to drape a basic lining pattern. This took a few tries but I ended up with a shape I was happy with. The finished pattern I made has a back, a front, and a shoulder strap. Once that was done, I cut my lining out of some medium weight linen and laid out the back lining to cut the main back fabric piece, as per the instructions at The Fashionable Past. 

Cutting out the back panel.
I now wish I had narrowed the extra material at the back a bit. The instructions call for placing the lining about 5" from the folded edge, to give you a total of 10" of extra fabric to make the characteristic back pleats of the gown. I found this amount of material to be a little much. Even making my pleats as deep as I possibly could, my back pleats still came out a lot wider than I wanted them to. Next time, I may try placing the lining 3.5" from the folded edge for a total of 7" extra width. I think that would make pleats more to my preferred look. 

The back panel cut and pinned into place on the back lining!
After that, I pleated the skirt portion of the back panel and stitched it to the lining at the waistline. On the outside, the main fabric at the waistline was turned under and stitched down over the pleats, enveloping them between the lining and main fabric. Then, it was time for the back pleats! These I eyeballed until they looked ok and then stitched down with a spaced backstitch. 

And with that, the back panel was completed! 

After that it was time to add on the side front skirt panels. I sewed these to the back panels, leaving the selvedge as a natural finish. The selvedge is fuzzy, but, oh well! 

After that, the side front panels were pleated to the waistline and stitched to the lining. 

The front bodice pieces were then mounted to the lining by turning all the seam allowances in and pressing them down, and then placing the front bodices on top of the lining, overlapping the back bodice at the side seams and lapping over the top of the pleats. The front bodices were stitched to the lining with a spaced backstitch down the side seam, along the waist line, up the center front and around the neckline. 

And with that, the bodice portion was done!

Time to move on to the sleeves! For these I used the elbow length sleeve I draped for my early 1800's round gown, modifying the sleeve head a little to fit into the armscye of the 1770's bodice. I cut the pattern from my linen and used a mantua maker seam to sew them together and hemmed the edge with a narrow hem. I used the sleeve setting tutorial on The Fashionable Past to set them and to my happiness, they set quite easily! Basically, the bottom half of the sleeve is set in the normal way and the top half is smoothly pinned, and possibly pleated the back shoulder, to the shoulder strap. The lining is stitched to this top half of the sleeve, and then the shoulder straps, seam allowances pressed under, are placed on top, covering all the raw edges, and then stitched down to secure it. 

Before straps are placed.
After straps are placed and stitched down.
And with that, the dress was complete! Well, all except for the hem anyway!

I asked about a proper hem length on the 18th Century dress group on Facebook. Hems in this period and especially for my social class/impression were quite a bit shorter than other periods. Ankles could be flashed! Shoes and stockings, if worn, were certainly visible. I hemmed my petticoat to go to a few inches above my ankle bones and the gown was hemmed to be just barely longer than the petticoat. This seems to be a good length for me after having had the chance to wear this at Blue Licks a few weeks ago. It is easy to wear both with shoes and also going barefoot, for carrying around a large-ish small child and for chasing kids up and down hills. 
These shoes are black leather tie shoes from Fugawee - I got them last winter
for an incredible deal on eBay (I think $60?) and they were a half size too small. 
All winter I wore them around the house from time to time, soaked them in hot water a few times
and wore them with thick socks til the shoes were dry and had to reglue both heels. They fit
like a glove now, though! I still prefer to be without shoes but at least I have proper
ones for when I need them. 
After my dress was done Judah took some photos for me at a nearby nature area. After wearing this dress a little, I have a few things I'm not totally happy with. #1 the fabric is linen and so, stretches. The sleeves loosened up some with wearing and the bodice stretched enough where I had to overlap it more than I wanted to to get it to fit. #2, the curved bustline of my mid 1770s stays and the straight fronts of my bodice do not play well together. I get bad wrinkling across the front torso when I do any amount of bending or lifting. It is helped a little with pinning to the stays and at the base of the point, but not much. So, my options to fix this are to curve the center front of the bodice to match the curve of the stays, curve the side seams of the dress to pull the center front in where it needs to be smoothly fitted, or to just wear it and not give a crap about the wrinkling. For this particular dress I will probably just leave it for now. Eventually, I may make it into a dress with robings and a stomacher since that would probably be easier to get to fit smoothly but for now. . .eh, it's fine. And with a big neckerchief, no one can really tell anyway!

So, there is my first proper 18th century dress! While I made a 1780's dress a number of years ago, it was definitely a rushed project and not constructed with proper techniques. So I feel that this dress is, indeed, my first serious attempt at this era. I am so looking forward to wearing it to many events and getting a lot of wear and tear on it while doing what I love!