The Story Behind The Fabric

Carolyn wasn’t a close friend but I admired her from afar for her grace, talent, and impeccable taste.  For monthly sewing guild meetings, she would arrive with the most creative and gorgeous outfits, and have in tow a few more to show that she made for her children & grandchildren.  I secretly wished she would adopt me.

Belle-Armoire-Jan-Feb 2011

In January 2011, I purchased “Belle Armoire” magazine featuring the designs of Alabama Chanin.  After reading the article and studying the fabulous garments, I became a total Natalie Chanin fan.  It wasn’t until days later when I actually continued on to page 25 and found another article showcasing an art to wear garment by Carolyn.  I had no idea (as she was not the type to brag) she was being published.  Nor did I realize she had won several design and sewing awards as well as The American Sewing Guild Creativity Contest in 2005. Yes, she was that talented.

In 2012, Carolyn lost her battle to cancer and her family donated the contents of her studio to the sewing guild.  Special pieces in her collection were passed on to her children and grandchildren, but her patterns and fabric were donated to her sewing friends.  Being late to the meeting that day, I missed so much of the lovely fabric that was being sold, but I did obtain 3 pretty pieces of fabric that I decided I would hold to make an item, or items, that Carolyn would be proud of.

So, fast forward to my last post on the 1912 dress – I used two of her fabrics to create it, and, this is also the reason I put it away for so long.  The dress came without directions or pattern layout but I was happy to see from the pieces themselves that I had just enough of the deep red silk twill for the main dress and the small section of linen would work perfectly for the center panel.  Yippee!

I used cotton in my stash to line the bodice and silk to make the bias bands, started an embroidered collar, muddled through underarm gussets, but wait….. why is there no pattern piece for the bottom hem band(?), ARGH, now you tell me, and I don’t have any more linen!  So, what I had hoped was going to be my personal thank you to Carolyn, ended up somewhat crushing my motivation.  And, the half-finished dress moved into my UFO tote for over 3 years.

Thanks to Leimomi at Historical Sewing Monthly and her perfect January challenge “Procrastination’, I felt it was time to re-visit my dress.  My linen hem doesn’t match as much as I’d like and it’s not as creative as Carolyn would have made, but I think she would be proud of it just the same.

e4016 collage

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Filed under Costumes, Pattern #4016, The 1912 Project, The Vintage Pattern Lending Library, Uncategorized

Historical Sewing Monthly 2016

January Challenge: Procrastination

Fabric: Silk for main fabric, Linen for center front and hemline, Cotton to line bodice.

Pattern: Ladies Dress from La Mode Illustree   Date:  April 7, 1912

Notions: Buttons, Grosgrain Ribbon, Cotton Crochet Collar – Still needs belt.

How Historically Accurate: Dress pattern/design is 100% accurate drafted from a vintage magazine. I’m not sure of the main fabric – it IS silk but has a twill-look weave to it. Due to time and budget constraints, I used buttons that are not necessarily accurate. The collar that is meant to be with this design is not complete (possibly the May challenge?), so I added a vintage cotton crochet collar from my stash.

Hours to Complete: Too many to calculate. This started four years ago as a project to test a pattern which had no directions or layout to go by. Fabric was purchased (so I thought) and not until the final step did I realize I needed more of the white linen fabric to finish the bottom hemline. I can’t believe how much white linen is out there and NONE matched up. Hence, with regret, this was relegated to my UFO tote. Timing wise, I would estimate 24-32 working hours.

First Worn: Not yet – this was made in the size presented in the magazine and is a bit small for me. I will probably donate this to a local theater for use in an upcoming production, or try to peel in on when I finish the proper corset for underneath.

Total Cost: Very little as fabric was purchased from an estate sale at $1 a yard.  Story in next post.

e4016 collage

 

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The Historical Sew Monthly 2016

It’s been a while since my last post.  Oh, my…. three years?!  It’s not as though I haven’t been sewing, but blogging and taking pictures has certainly not been on my radar.

Then, along comes The Historical Sew Monthly 2016, a blog/challenge I have followed since it was an Historical Sew Fortnightly 2013.  Each year I would pledge to work on a challenge, and each month another project would push said challenge to the side.  I sat back and watched in amazement as others showcased their wonderful talent and was always a bit disappointed in myself that I let yet another month go by.

Well, the call went out again and it begins with the January challenge of ‘Procrastination.’  Talk about perfect – I feel the theme is quite apropos.

So, this year I will again make my pledge, (putting it in writing may help).  I WILL finish a garment that I have been totally procrastinating with – the 1912 dress from my last post in 2012.  I think the timing is right.

HSM2016

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Filed under Pattern #4016, The 1912 Project, The Vintage Pattern Lending Library

And It All Started With A Collar

A note of thanks to The Vintage Pattern Lending Library for the inspiration to tackle garment patterns from 1912.  To commemorate the centennial of The Titanic tragedy,  The 1912 Project was born.   This endeavor has brought together delighted sewers  from all over the world, and of every skill level willing to share their knowledge and expertise for the good of the group.  It has inspired so much creativity, I am genuinely in awe of their talents.

Ladies Dress #E4016

For my next project challenge I went with Ladies Dress Pattern #4016, released April 7, 1912.  The fun part about this particular pattern is there are no directions, only pattern pieces, and a lovely cut work collar that just drew me in.  It’s been a long time since my embroidery days, but I was thrilled to take a stab at this one.

For the collar I decided to use white ecclesiastical linen and white DMC #20/32m cotton thread.  I am SO pleased with this fabric because unlike apparel linen, it is quite stiff and tightly woven.  When you put a needle through it, it snaps like twill.  The downloaded collar pattern only prints one half of the design, which I then printed again onto tracing paper.  This made the mirror image visible on the back, so taping the two together made a detail of the full collar.  Using a FriXion pen I traced the design on my linen, attached it to my stretcher bars and set to work.

Please note:  I am not an expert regarding white work embroidery.  There is such a broad spectrum of techniques including Hedebo, Aryshire, Richelieu, and Broderie Anglaise, to name a few.  Then within these techniques, there are a variety of subcategories which varied by when and the region where it was made.  I think my version is a combination of a few – mostly Broderie Anglaise, but it is what worked for me.

To begin the scallop edge, I made a knot in my thread and stuck it in my fabric about two scallops away from where I was going to start.  With tiny running stitches in the stitching area, I ran the thread to my starting point.  Working right to left, I started my button hole stitch.  I found it easiest to hold the tail thread up and out of the way with my left thumb, making my stitch through the loop, then pulling the thread taut making a nice ‘bead’ along the edge.  Pardon the lack of a manicure – too much gardening.  I need to get my hands out of the dirt and start sewing!

To finish my threads, I ended with a back stitch then stitched forward inside the open scallop design line with a running stitch until I used up the excess thread.  This gave the scallop a bit of padding, the linen some stability, and hides any threads.  This is after all, a collar and it’s nice to have the underside look as pretty as the top (yes, Toby Barton – I fully agree).

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For the eyelets, I used a DMC #20/28m which is a bit finer than what I used around the scallop edge,  I first ran a running stitch around the circle just inside the line, and then again, running up and down the opposite of my first go around.  For the smaller holes I used an awl to push a hole in the center and began my button hole stitch working right to left, right going inside the hole, and left being the traced circle.   Giving a slight pull at the end of each stitch ensured a nice round eyelet.  For the larger eyelets I cut a cross pattern within the hole, then trimmed the flaps leaving a slight opening.  Following the same method as my smaller eyelets, working from right to left, and inside to out, naturally pulled the excess fabric edge under and encased it in the underside of the buttonhole stitch – I liked the look.

For the larger, teardrop shapes I really wanted to go with the technique that Cassandra Edson used on her collar (oh, so pretty) but since my fabric is a very tight weave, I don’t think I’ll have the eye power to make it work.  I’m probably going to use the same button hole stitch throughout – the jury is still out on that one.  For now I’m going to put my collar aside to start working on the actual dress.  I’ll have to keep you posted.

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1912 Ladies Skirt #0162

As part of The 1912 Project  with the Vintage Pattern Lending Library, I selected the Ladies Skirt #0162 and I absolutely adore it.  Other than a few modifications for fit, I basically followed the directions as written and am very pleased with the results.

I’ve requested patterns via email/download for 8 1/2 x 11 sheets.  This has worked out well especially when adjusting…  I find it easy to edit as it’s already in pieces.  To accommodate my 29 inch waist, I added 2 inches to the center of both the front and back panels.  I felt this was the best solution as I was planning to narrow the side gores along the hem and didn’t want to fuss with the side dart placement.  The pattern illustration appeared to have a bit of a ‘hobble’ look, so my plan was to decrease each side gore/hem width by 8 inches starting just below the hip line and tapering the pattern to the hem line.

I tried to replicate the soutache trim as the pattern dictated.  I drew the scroll work design on my paper pattern pieces with a black sharpy marker.  I then pinned my fabric on top and used a Frixion pen to draw the design on my fabric.  I’ve been using this pen for fabric with great results.  They are sold at any office supply store, cheaper than ‘sewing’ marking tools, come in a variety of colors, and a warm iron removes the marks when done.  Be sure to test on your fabric first.  Although I’ve never encountered a problem, I’ve heard it doesn’t remove completely from some fabrics.

Soutache Marking

Soutache Marking

My soutache was 1/8 inch wide and I used about 8 yards, or 2 yards per scroll line.  There was a wonderful ‘how to’ article in Treads Magazine for applying soutache, although it was great for smaller details, not for my 2 yard continuous piece.  For my needs I found it easier to pull and twist the cord where needed, then held it in place with my thumbnail until hand stitched down.  I used tiny back stitches along the inside grove of the cord following my lines down the entire motif.   A couple of spots seemed bumpy at close view, but once complete, I pressed it, and voila’….  the little stiff spots molded into a beautiful curve.  The detail took about 3 weeks of evening sewing but I’m absolutely thrilled with the results.

Skirt Soutache

Skirt Soutache Again

Assembling the skirt went as per the directions, and for the sharply defined back pleat I went with the 1/8 inch top stitch option along the edge.  It really did crisp it up nicely.

Pleat Detail

I also changed the opening for the placket by adding a 1 inch binding to the inside portion, and a 1/2 inch binding on the back of the outer portion.  I then added 1 1/2 inch Petersham ribbon for the waistband, turned it to the inside, and stitched it down at the seams.  With the new placket in place, I had a more substantial base to apply the hook and eyes, and finally the decorative buttons.

Skirt Placket

Well, after weeks of staring at my yellow linen with red soutache, I decided to re-visit my Ladies Afternoon Tea Wrap.  I used the fabric for what was supposed to be the belt of my wrap to cover my skirt buttons.  I’m now planning to make a belt for my wrap with some of the yellow linen so I’m off to the beginning of an actual matching outfit.

Skirt Buttons

I don’t make enough buttons to warrant a professional grade button maker so I use the Dritz variety with shank backs.  I find them difficult on the thumbs when trying to actually punch the back place.  I follow the basic directions up until the pusher section – then I place the flat part at the top of a hammer (the black section – I’m sure there’s a name for it) on the pusher and press with that.  It certainly saves your thumbs when making a large amount of buttons, as is the case with this particular skirt.

The Completed Skirt:

Skirt Front

Hook & Eye View

Skirt Back

My apologies for picture placement.  No matter how I configure them, they get wonky all over the page.  There’s definitely a learning curve for this blogging thing.

Now for the review:

Description

The Vintage Pattern Lending Library, Ladies Skirt #0162, May 5, 1912

Sizing

Pattern was listed as 25 inch waist and those measurements seem to be correct.  I adjusted the pattern for a 29 inch waist, adding 2 inches each to the back and front center panels worked out perfectly.

Did it look like the photo/drawing on pattern envelope?

Yes, but the illustration appeared a bit narrower than the garment pattern pieces.  To get what I perceived as the pictured effect, I narrowed the hemline overall by 16 inches, 8 inches on each side gore panel.

Were the instructions easy to follow?

The pattern/fabric layout diagrams showed the front and back panel placed one direction and the side gores placed the other.  I made my skirt using 100% linen, so while it may not have made a difference, I still opted to place all pieces in the same direction.  My fabric was 54 inches wide so there was no additional fabric needed to adjust for the layout.  If using directional fabric, you will need to plan for this.

The seam detail sounded odd.  I thought it was meant to be a fell seam, but then not quite.  I chose to stitch a regular 3/8 inch seam, pressed the seam allowance to one side, top stitched close to the seam, and finally top stitched another 1/2 inch in.  For the closed side of the front panel I pressed the pieces to make the nice ‘L’ shape, pinned in place, and top stitched it together as above.  This may have been what the directions were calling for all along…

Though not an issue for a more advanced sewer, the back kick pleats were a tad confusing.  I was almost tempted to turn them to the outside by the directions given.  I consider myself an intermediate sewer, but I could see this presenting a problem for a beginner.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern?

On a scale of 1 to 5 – this is a FIVE – I loved it!  I especially loved the soutache trim detail.  Although it took a long time to complete, it was very rewarding to follow the 1912 illustration.  I had forgotten how relaxing and therapeutic hand work can be.

Fabric Used – Butter yellow 100% linen with red cotton/viscose soutache trim.

Pattern alterations/design changes I made

I needed an additional 4 inches for the waist which I adjusted by adding 2 inches along the entire front and back center pattern pieces.  The hip dart worked out perfectly after the adjustment, but I probably should have added 1 inch to all the pieces as I would have liked the button detail to have been a little closer to center.  I also decreased the side gores at the hemlines by 8 inches each to give the skirt a more ‘hobble’ look.  I’ve apparently been watching entirely too much Downton Abbey (if that’s possible?).

In conclusion, this was a fun pattern and I loved the soutache detail.  I’m not sure I would recommend this to a beginner, but for the intermediate to more advanced sewer, it’s a beautiful skirt.  It was so interesting to see everyone’s take on the soutache trim detail.

Next adventure – A blouse and maybe a re-visit of the Afternoon Tea Wrap to complete the look…

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A Corset For The Correct Look

Well, it’s been a while but I HAVE been busy.  Projects are complete but the sitting down to blog seems to hold me up.  Lately, tropical storm Debbie has been having her way with us and I thought this VERY rainy day would be a great time to catch up.

I have made my corset, and although it’s not officially part of the Vintage Pattern Lending Library 1912 Project, it seems to me a vital part of it none the less.  Personally, I feel creating period attire just doesn’t work if you don’t have the correct undergarments.  And although I was tempted to ‘modern up’ some of the designs we are receiving, I really wanted to stay true to the 1912 fit.

For my corset I decided to go with Ageless Patterns #1522/1910 Corset Nouveau (Bust 35.5 – Waist 23.5).

Ageless Corset Pattern

The pattern itself does NOT come with directions to speak of.  Enclosed is the pattern, a one page detail about corset construction (from Harper’s Bazar – September 19, 1897), a one paragraph sewing instruction (two if you count the French version), and a heavily photocopied illustration for some techniques.   This was fine for me as I’ve made period corsets before, but for a beginner, I would recommend ‘The Basics of Corset Building‘ by Linda Sparks as a reference.  Linda is the creator of Farthingales, the ‘go to’ place for corset supplies, classes, and wonderful online tutorials.   I absolutely love her book as it takes a beginner step by step through the building process.  Easy to read, easy to follow, I actually used her book for my first corset and still reference it when I forget a technique.

I traced out my pattern pieces from the original pattern and then adjusted the sizing accordingly for my shape.

Corset Pattern Pieces

Corset Pattern Pieces

On my first muslin I adjusted up too large and realized that I needed close to the original sizing – it seemed to make up bigger than expected.  I should have just left the bust size as is, as I did want to be laced in to a 35.5 inch bust.  I also went with lining my corset, a technique fully detailed in Linda’s book.  For all my fabric, I went with an imported coutil, a bit pricier than domestic, but worth it.  When purchasing coutil, look at the weave of the herringbone design – the tighter the weave, the more durable the coutil.  Yes, I think there is a difference, and yes, this is why a muslin is important.

Corset Outside

Corset Outside

Corset Lining

Corset Lining

Lining a corset is not difficult but is more time consuming than applying bone casings along the inside seams for your stays.  Although I went with lacing tape, usually I insert my own grommets, and cover them with stitching so as not to see the metal.  When I do set grommets, I never use hole cutting tools and always opt to use an awl instead.  The unique thing about using an awl is it pushes the threads apart rather than breaking them, keeping the integrity of the fabric intact.  Again, time consuming, but worth it.  There’s something about the process…. I guess you either love it or dread it.

Well this is my corset – sorry, but for now it’s on a display mannequin so the fit is a bit off:

Corset Front

Corset Front

Corset Back

And this is what I envision myself as looking in my corset:

Kate Winslet

I think what sold me on this particular pattern was the hip sections.  It actually seemed the closest to the one Kate Winslet wore in this scene from the movie ‘Titanic”.  I guess if Kate Winslet can pull this off, so can I (yeah, right…. as I chuckle to myself)!!

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Ribbonwork Flowers

I don’t know if it’s a costuming thing, but I’ve always been fascinated with embellishments.  Last year’s fad had flowers on all sorts of accessories.  Jacket lapels, purses, t-shirts, shoes, nothing seemed quite finished without a flower on it.  And I jumped right in and started making crafty little flowers.  They were cute and easy to make, but of course I had to take it a step further.

In my search, I came across the book ‘Ribbonwork – The Complete Guide’ by Helen Gibb, and I was hooked.  This was better than chocolate… well maybe not quite.

         

Ribbonwork is not to be confused with ribbon embroidery.  While both are surface embellishments made with ribbon, ribbon embroidery involves actually designing directly on a surface with ribbons.  Ribbonwork uses  a variety of ribbons to make flowers and leaves and then each is arranged and attached on whatever surface you choose.  Following Helen’s easy to understand guidelines I was able to work through many lovely creations.

Then, at one of my ASG meetings, a gal showed up with a gorgeous bloom that she made at a shop called ‘The Ribbonry’ in Ohio.  Well, I had to have one of these.  There was much discussion about the kits and how a few thought them pricey, but I felt they were reasonable considering silk ribbons are not cheap.  I took the plunge and purchased The Bohemian Poppy Kit in Vermilion for skill level (1) beginner, a plus for me.

       

I LOVE my flower!  It measures approximately 6 x 6, a fairly nice size.  There’s a pin on the back so it can go wherever, but I think I’m saving it for my 1912 hat.  We’ll see…..

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