Tuesday, 3 February 2015

WAAF Skirt, or how to make a 4 panel skirt in a day.

I'm in the middle of getting kit together for my last WW2 interpretation - Womens Auxiliary Air Force.
Original at the IWM

Getting the right fabric for WAAF is really hard, the colour never seems to be quite right. Anyway, I managed to find someone selling some old Hainsworth blue-grey barathea on eBay which is lighter than Hainsworth's current range.

With this I've made a skirt. WAAF skirts are made up of four panels and they don't have a waistband, the opening is at the front and on the left as you wear it. Simple! This pattern can be used for modern skirts too! So how did I go about it?...

- 150cm fabric, any width should do.
- matching thread
- 1 x button
- 3 x hooks and eyes (you can use a zip if you are making a modern skirt).
- 1-2m Petersham ribbon (Grosgrain will also suffice), about 1.5 to 2" wide.

- Measure your waist and hips (as I wear a girdle for WW2 I made sure I wore this to get a more accurate measurement). Add a little extra for ease - if for example your hips are 35" then add an extra inch or two to allow for movement. Also measure from your waist to 3" below the knee if making a WAAF skirt, or to your desired length if making a modern skirt, and from waist to hip.
- Divide your final waist and hip measurements by four. This is then how big your skirt panels will be.
- Fold your fabric so both selvedge edges meet in the middle (or any other way you choose, whichever is more economical). This means you will cut the panels on the fold meaning you then need to half your measurements when drawing the pattern.
- From top edge, assuming it's level (or make it level) measure and draw with chalk 1/2" , this is the seam allowance to be turned over at the waist. Mark your waist measurement (half of the quartered total as previously mentioned). Use your waist-hip measurement to determine where you are to mark your hip measurement. Then from the waist seam (not including the 1/2" turnover) mark on the length.
- Draw through the waist and hip marks to connect them and continue to the chosen length. Please note, the waist and hips may not fall in a straight line, this doesn't matter just draw a straight line from the waist and there will just be extra room for your hips! Also because the line is at an angle, the length measurement will appear shorter than the one drawn on the straight, just connect these two measurements with a curve (see photo).
- Now the important measurements are drawn on (you can always measure them and double check) you need to add on seam allowance. The waist is already done. For the side seams I used 1" which allows for any alterations if needs be, and for the hem I used 2".
- Cut out the panel and repeat for the rest of the panels.

- Pin the panels together leaving a gap of 6" from the top edge on one seam. This will allow you to get in and out of the skirt! Sew the seams and then neaten them (also neaten the gap you left).
- Zig-zag stitch along the top edge to stop it from fraying.
- From the fabric, cut a placket. The finished size should be the length of your opening (so 6" in my case) and at least 3-4" wide.
 - Sew the placket onto the left side panel (see photo) leaving a 1/2" gap at the top.
- With the ribbon, neaten one end. With right sides together, pin the ribbon along the waist edge. (NB. don't pull it tight because the ribbon is straight whereas the skirt flares out). Stitch into place, neatening the other end when you get there. On the outside, top stitch along the waist edge.
- If you've allowed 2" for the hem, pin up 1" and stitch along the folded edge. Then turn it up another inch and pin in place. This is then ready to hand sew later.
- Make a button hole. I used the machine. This will go on the front panel on the left along the waist (see photo). You may need to trim the fabric in the waist if it is a little bulky!

- Trim all loose/hanging threads.
-  Hand sew the hem.
- Sew a few stitches where the ribbon meets the skirt seams, this will hold the ribbon in place.
- Sew the ends of the ribbon down. 
- Sew a button onto the placket so it matches up with the button hole.
- Sew on hooks and eyes along the opening.

Done! Any questions, then don't hesitate to ask!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

A Lace Cap

To go with my posh pet en l'air, I needed some new and suitable head wear, so I made myself a lace cap.

I managed to pick up a length (5 foot x 6 inches, and I still have a bit left over) of floral Victorian lace for £5 in a lovely vintage shop in Holt, Norfolk.

To start, cut a circle from the lace with about a 5" diameter (including a 1/2" seam allowance). You may way to put your hair up in a high bun and measure for yourself, especially for those with long hair. But mine covers my bun nicely with ample room for pinning it to my hair.

With the rest of the lace (with the end trimmed so it's straight) sew it, right side to right side, to the edge of the circle you have cut, forming 1" box pleats all the way around.

Once you have gone all the way round and have cut off any excess lace, the ends on the cap need to be neatened. I did mine by folding them into the pleats to conceal them. At this point, you may want to try on the cap to see how it lies on your head. I found mine came a bit too far forward, so a made a little pleat in the crown of the cap and stitched it in place.

Now it's time to add some ribbon for decoration. I used a lilac to match with the purple flowers on my silk brocade. First I cut a length of ribbon about 20cm long, folded it in half and sewed it to the centre back. Then I sewed more ribbon about the edge of the circle of the cap, sewing the outer edge then the inner edge. 

Et voila, a finished lace cap that can be made in an hour!

A Stunning Stomacher

Even if I say so myself! Actually, many friends have commented on how good it looks, so here it goes...

When making my posh pet en l'air, I was using the same silk throughout as I had plenty of it. So when it came to making the stomacher I wanted something with a bit of texture for it to stand out. My first idea (zig zag gathering) failed completely...twice! This meant I had to come up with a different idea. I settled for smocking.

I found the perfect pattern and instructions which meant none of the complicated and precise gathers that normal smocking requires. This is the pattern and instructions I used.

The only complicated bit was ironing the pleats. You have to have a LOT of patience and a hot iron. Oh, and LOADS of metal pins. I don't think it mentions pins, but I highly recommend pinning each individual pleat once you've ironed it otherwise they wont stay in place!

Once I had all my pleats in place and ironed to within an inch of their death, I drew around the pattern of the stomacher onto the silk then tacked down the areas I would NOT be smocking and also along the top and bottom. This meant I could take out all those pins.

The first stitches the instructions say to make, I used matching thread, and I made my rows an inch apart as I thought it would look more dainty. For the stitches to form the 'honeycomb' effect, I used gold thread to add a bit of 'bling', I'm hoping this will show up under the right lighting.

You will find that the stomacher ends up smaller than the pattern, but this is ok because it stretches to its intended size. I also found that it is far easier and neater to bind the edges when attaching the interfacing and lining as it lies better and the binding allows for it to be pinned into place.

Pet en L'air Extraordinaire!

This post is a sewing pattern review.
A few years ago,  bought a bulk amount of silk in a sale which I thought would be perfect for a posh pet en l'air (there wasn't enough for a Robe a la Francaise), and last summer I bought a few meters of some striped cotton which was perfect for a 'scummy' pet en l'air.

The only problem I faced was the pattern. I have my own copy of Janet Arnold, but there was no way I was going to be able to size it up with all those pleats in it! So I did a search of historical patterns online and came across the American ones by J.P.Ryan. I chose this one as all their patterns are taken from the Janet Arnold book and all the sizing has been done for you! A note for UK people: I have only found these patterns on American websites, or the German one Nehelenia Patterns. I bought mine from the latter as I didn't want to risk paying customs. But from either country, they cost about £20 per pattern.

The pattern itself was a dream! It recommended to make the lining first and use it as a toile - it fitted first time! I would recommend reading the instructions through slowly and carefully as it can be a little confusing when using for the first time, but that might just be me...

Now, you may be wondering how I made the decoration on my posh pet en l'air, or you've read the post about my the petticoat where I said I'd reveal all after I had finished said outfit. I like to call them silk 'intestines' or 'sausages' as essentially, that is was they look like! For the length, measure what it is you want to decorated - my pet en l'air was just under 6m - plus add any seam allowance for any piecing and for neatening either end, and add extra as it does shrink a little when gathered. The width depends on purely how puffy you want it to be - The ones on my pet en l'air and petticoat are about 4 inches, whereas the ones around my cuffs are about 1 inch. Once the strips of fabric are sewn together (if piecing) and then hemmed, it's time to start gathering! Make your first gather at the end of the strip, where the hemline is, then - depending on the size you want the puffs - gather at every inch, 2 inches, or even 3 inches, it's up to you so experiment and play around to see what you think looks nice.

When you have your finished strip of 'intestines' or 'sausages', it's time to so them to the clothes. When I was sewing mine on, I sewed a few stitches on either side of the gathers. One thing to remember is not to stretch the puffs too much as otherwise they wont be puffy! As an extra, you could stuff the puffs to make them stand out even more, but this is obviously far more time consuming.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Petticoats for Pocket Hoops

This is only a brief post to tell you the measurements for any skirt to go over pocket hoops, because of course your body shape has changed.
I've made two  - a 'scummy' one from bottle-green linen, and a 'posh' one from silk brocade. These were both made in the same way as my other C18th skirts, it's just the hem that is different. Obviously it will vary depending on your height. I'm 5'4.5" and the hem of my skirts measure 40" at the front and 43" at the sides excluding hem allowance.

You can probably see in the photo that this skirt is decorated differently to others, I will explain how I did this in a future post about my pet en l'air.

Big Hips are Fashionable!

Last September I finally plucked up the courage to make myself some C18th pocket hoops so that I could start doing some 1750s/1760s reenactment if and when required. They only took a day - or a few period drama DVDs!

To get the measurements I stood in front of my mirror with a tape measure and played about to get the size I wanted. Excluding the boning channels, there are 3 pattern pieces to the pockets - the back, the front, and the bottom.

Measurements (excluding seam allowance)
Back: 10" long x 9" wide.
Front: 19" long x 18" wide.
Bottom (a 'D' shape): 9" along the straight x 18" on the curve.

I used a striped heavy cotton (ticking) fabric as the hoops will be under a lot of pressure throughout use. First I started by turning over the edges (apart from the top of the front piece) of all the pieces twice and machine sewing them so that they were neatened - n.b. the curve was only folded over once. I the folded the top of the front pieces over an inch and folded over again, then stitched, to make a channel for the waistband.

After this, it was time for the boning channels - 3 on each pocket hoop. These were 20" long x 1" wide (the width of the boning plus seam allowance). I used the sewing machine to stitch them to the front pieces, starting and finishing about an 1.5" from the edges. The first one was stitched 7" from the top (not taking into account of seam allowance here), the third at the bottom, and the middle place half way between.

I then hand sewed, with double thread, the back pieces to the fronts along the sides - the back pieces start at the bottom of the front pieces and finish roughly in line with the boning. The bottom pieces then followed - these needed a little easing as I sewed, but weren't too hard.

Once this was done, it was time to insert the boning into the channels. I had some steel boning left over from when I made my C16th Spanish farthingale so I used this - it measured about 1/2" wide. I cut six pieces at about 17.5" long (it is recommended that when boning anything, the bones are at least 1/2" shorter than the boning channel), and protected the ends with pieces of masking tape. After inserting them into the channels, I folded under the remaining channel fabric and stitched down.

As for getting your hands in...I cut a slit in the centre of the fabric of each pocket starting about 1/2" from the bottom of the waistband channel and finishing about an inch from the edge of the first boning channel. This was bound with some matching bias binding.

Once I has threaded through some cotton twill tape, the pockets were finished!

Friday, 4 January 2013

How to make your bum look big (on purpose)

Having acquired a copy of the V&A Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail this time last year, I ended up falling in love with one of the 1880s outfits. As most people know, late C19th requires wearing a bustle...I didn't fancy making one of those. Instead I opted for a bustle pad used in the 1870s, but thought it would give a similar effect.  There was a bustle in the aforementioned book which I wanted to copy.

I actually started making the bustle pad in April, but never got round to finishing it. I started with the two bottom pads and used the pattern from my 'petal bum' to make them. The bottom one being made a bit longer and the next one half the size in length. Like the original, I machine stitched them with an inverted French seam.

When I returned to them this year, I found that the bottom one was a bit too big and over-stuffed. To rectify this, I made it slightly more square by taking the curves in by about an inch, and (of course) taking some of the stuffing out.

Another problem I encountered was that I couldn't find the left over fabric to make the rest of the pads. Fortunately, the two pads I had already made were enough padding for me and gave the right shape.
I then attached the smaller pad to the bigger one. I pinned it 1" from the top of the big one and machine stitched it in place (about 1/2") and then pinned and stitched the bottom of the small one so it wouldn't flop about (does that make sense?).

The original bustle pad had ties for the waist and hips. I used some cotton tape for this and machine stitched them to the pad.