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. 

How to turn a cheap blouse into a 1920s dress.

Firstly, I apologise for the extremely long break in posts - one excuse is being busy with events and making kit, the other being just too lazy to update...
But I will update you all on everything I've made since last July.

Let's get down to business on my most recent make - a 1920s dress. For Christmas I received Costume in Detail: Women's Dress 1730-1930.  When I was flicking through it, I fell in love with one of the 1920s dresses. Now, due to my shape I tend to avoid the 1920s altogether, but it looked so simple to make as it gave measurements, and my Grandma had given me some old sheets to use for toiles - the striped ones being too good for such a purpose. 

Looking at the design, the bodice of the dress is essentially a blouse worn back to front. I popped into my local supermarket and picked up a cheap blouse (a size bigger than I normally would have) costing me £4. When I got home, I cut off the collar, shortened the sleeves (going by the measurements in the book), shortened the length (going by the book), re-cut the neckline, and took out the darts. This fitted just how it should and I didn't have to make any complicated measurements or drawings.

I was then able to unpick the blouse so I would have my pattern pieces. I kept one sleeve, the pieces with the button holes on (I will cut off the buttons on the other piece before chucking it out!), and the back piece (now the front) which I cut in half so it can be cut on the fold.

I cut the pieces out of the fashion fabric, adding on an inch for the seam allowance, 1.5" to the hem, and an extra two inches for the centre back. I then reinforced the neckline by stitching along it 1/2" from the edge before sewing the side seams and shoulder. To neaten the seams, I folded each one over individually and stitched.

Next came the sleeves. Sew and neaten the side seam and then the cuff. For some reason the sleeve didn't fit in the armhole as neatly as it did on the blouse - there was more fabric - so I just added an inverted box pleat which did the trick and looks fine. The armhole seam allowance was trimmed to half and then zig zag stitched. For the centre backs, fold over an inch (right sides together) then fold over again. Stitch down at the top, trim seam allowance and then turn right side out. Iron the centre back flat down the length of the bodice.

For the neckline, I made a facing - a scrap of fabric with some iron on Vilene.The top edge matched the neckline of the bodice. The pieces were stitched right sides together, trimmed, and the curve clipped before being turned the right way and ironed flat. I then stitched the neckline to hold it in place, a few millimetres in from the edge should do it.

Then it was time for the piping, this was along the bottom edge. I have never sewn piping on a machine, so I did by hand and it didn't take too long either! I had allowed myself 1/2" for the channel. I marked this on the bodice (starting an inch up from the hem) and sewed the channel as I held the piping into place, adding extra stitched as the ends to stop it from sliding about.

Time for the two skirts. I followed the measurements in the book for these too. The longest measured 20" and the shortest at 14" (although mine is slightly shorter than that as I didn't want to waste fabric). As for the width, I used two widths of the sheet, but I would recommend anything from double the hem measurement on your bodice to allow for gathers.

I stitched the side seams, and neatened them, and then the hem. I then placed the two skirt together along the top and stitched them together 1/2" from the edge. To allow for ease when putting the dress on, I cut a slit 4" long in the centre of one of the halves of the skirt - this would be the centre back. I stay-stitched 1/4" from the edge and then bound it with some cotton tape. As for the gathers - the back half of the skirt is now essentially in two pieces. Gather each piece (from the side seam to the back) and pin to the bodice arranging the the gathers evenly and then stitch into place. Do the same for the front half of the skirt, gathering, and stitching it to the front half of the bodice. Once this is done, zig zag stitch the seam allowance and iron upwards into the bodice.

For the buttons, I used thirteen 1/2" self-cover buttons (according to the book), but ordinary buttons will also suffice if they match well. As for the button holes - the first measured 1" from the top edge and the rest from then on measured 1 1/4". This may be different for others depending on their size.

Next comes the belt loops. I used some leftover fabric/Vilene from the facing and cut two pieces 1" wide by 2" long. I ironed the long edges into the middle before folding the top and bottom edges and hand sewing them to the side seams, 2" from the piping. This is to hold a ribbon into place - anything from 1.5 - 2" wide.

Lastly came the lace. The original dress has a 2" wide lace, fortunately I had some in my sewing box which pretty much matches the original. This was sewn around the collar and to the inside of the sleeves.