Saturday, January 19, 2019

The Impulsive Red Shirt From Impulsively Bought Fabric

I should probably not buy fabric for a while - a long while. My fabric stash has gotten huge - and I can usually find in it whatever fabric I need for a particular project. So yeah, no more buying fabric would be a good thing, a very good thing, and I'm working on it.

Back at the beginning of this week however, I slipped up and bought 5 different 2-yard cuts of knit fabric from Wal-Mart. That's right, 10 yards of new fabric came home with me, and I had no projects in mind for any of it.

I got home with my new fabric and felt a little bad - I really didn't need this new fabric. I really don't have room for any new fabric. But it was such soft fabric, such pretty fabric, and such a good deal.

Thus, that evening I did the only reasonable thing to counteract my impulsive fabric purchase - I impulsively made myself a shirt.

At 10 o'clock at night, on my way to bed, I saw the new, just washed, dried and folded, ready to be put away, fabric sitting on the table. The lightweight dark red sweater knit just seemed to call to me - "Turn me into a shirt!" And I decided that if I did go ahead and turn that one piece of fabric into a shirt, I'd feel less guilty about the whole fabric purchase - because it wouldn't all be immediately going into my stash.

Thus, I did a U-turn, and went back to my sewing room. I pulled out my self-drafted dolman T-shirt pattern, and returned to the table, ready to attack that soft red sweater knit.

My self-drafted dolman pattern has served me well ever since I made it. I've sewn it up multiple times for myself, my mom, and my sister. I've adjusted the fit, a little at a time, until it was perfect (and the current rendition of the pattern barely resembles the pattern I started with.) With seperate, slightly differently shaped, front and back pattern pieces, this pattern of mine is the perfect base for any knit dolman shirt I could ever want. I've been tempted a couple times to buy dolman patterns, but in the end I've always decided no, I have a pattern I like, and have perfected the fit on. Why would I use something else for the same style?

The purple puffed-sleeve shirt I made a year ago is definitely my most-worn top from this pattern, if not my most-worn winter top of all time. Seriously, I wear it at least once a week. Thus, I decided the red sweater knit needed to turn into something similar, with just a few small changes.

First, I opted to make this shirt with a v-neck and a wide neck band.

Then, I decided to make the sleeves full-length with long sleeve flounces. Maybe not the most practical idea ever, but so much fun to wear!

The sleeve flounces aren't hemmed at all, since knit doesn't fray, and I love how fluid they look this way.

Finally, I decided to finish off the bottom of the shirt with a hem band, as I didn't see this fabric behaving very well if I'd tried to do a regular turned-up hem.

Now this shirt was very simple, and very quick to make! I would have had it done, from cutting out to hemming, in under an hour, had my serger not misbehaved.

My serger has been behaving just fine, no issues whatsoever, for so long I can't even remember the last time it gave me issues. But Tuesday night, when I was sewing this shirt, it decided to throw a fit. It came unthreaded more times that I care to count! So, I spent half the time I was working on this shirt re-threading the serger. And re-threading it again. And re-re-threading it. And reading the instruction manual to see if I was doing anything wrong. Then, discovering I wasn't, threading the darned thing again. I finally finished the shirt around 11:30 that night - an hour and a half after I started. Twice as long as this style of shirt ought to take me to make. Darned serger.

Anyway, the shirt was done before midnight at least. I tried it on and loved it! I wore it the next day, and my sister took these pictures for me. Also, my serger has behaved fine ever since! (darned tempramental machine!)

So, there we go - 5 pieces of fabric bought, and one already used! Only 4 pieces going into my stash now - so that's not too bad!

Ok, clearly I have room to improve. . . but little steps, right?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A New Bodice on a Snowy Day

My list of "planned projects" is long. Like really long. Long enough I probably wont get it all done in my life time, let alone this year, long.

And I really don't think that last sentence is really an over statement. Yet, I want to get at least all the projects I already have materials for done this year! I know I won't, but I still want to!!

All this to say, it's very rewarding to finally get around to doing a project you've had planned for some time. Such as the 19th century wrapper I blogged about just a couple days ago. Or the dress I made for Designin' December. Or this dress I just finished yesterday.

Ok, I know what you're thinking. "Umm, Alyssa? Haven't we seen that dress before?"

Yes, yes you have, mostly. This is the dress I made while testing the Admiraal Dress pattern, by the Eli Monster, back in the spring - with a new bodice.

While on the World Race in 2017, I gained a bit of weight. This was caused by not being as active on the Race as I am at home and then eating whenever I missed home. Yeah, not a great combination. However, once I got home, the weight just started to fall off. I was back to my old life, wrangling children and chasing goats, and that was enough to make all the extra weight disappear with in a few months with no real effort on my part. (So just in case you're wondering what my weight-loss regime was, that's it - kids and goats. They're a real work out.)

Clearly, going back to my pre-race weight and size was (is) a good thing. I like it. All my clothes from before the World Race fit me again. There's only one minor downside. The cute clothes I made for myself in the months after the race, quickly became too big. My pretty blue cotton plaid Admiraal Dress, fell into that category of garments.

I made it for myself in the spring, and by early summer (when the remaining weight fell off - something about keeping up with three kids all day, every day, rather than just after school), it was decidedly too big. At this point it entered my mind I could "fix" the dress by making a new bodice for it. I had just enough blue plaid left to do so. Thus "A new bodice for my Admiraal Dress" went on my projects list.

Since then, the new bodice has been on my planned projects list, and it's only taken me about 7 months to get around to it!

At the beginning of this week (last week, since it's now Sunday?) I decided I was, most definitely, going to somehow, find/make the time somewhere in the week to put a new bodice on my Admiraal Dress. I needed some more winter dress clothes (as I've been wearing this outfit and this dress on repeat to church and every other "dress up" event for weeks now), so I decided it made more sense to fix an existing garment to fit me now, and get a project off my list, than it did to make a completely new dress.

The weather obliged my bodice making plans by sending a massive snow storm resulting in well over a foot of snow, and an unexpected day off work to tackle the project.

I began by assembling the new bodice pattern, a size smaller than I used for the original dress. I've had this pattern printed off for months now, so all I had to do was tape it together, and make a couple alterations.

I did both a broad back and a full bust adjustment, lengthened the bodice by over an inch (as my original dress bodice was a bit too short for me), and raised the armscye slightly. Then I made a bodice mock-up from an old cotton sateen sheet.

I adjusted the darts until they fit me right, made a couple small changes to the back of the bodice, then I was ready to cut the new bodice out of my remaining blue plaid fabric.

There was just barely enough fabric to squeeze the new bodice out of. There was not quite enough to cut the back as one solid piece, however, so I added a back yoke.

Once the new bodice was cut out, I set about disassembling the original dress.

I would be re-using the original skirt (already constructed with pockets!), sleeves, cuffs, collar, buttons, and zipper. Literally the only thing I would be replacing was the bodice.

Once all the pieces were removed from the old bodice, new bodice construction began. I cut down the tops of the sleeves a bit, lowering the sleeve cap for a better range of motion in the completed garment.

When I put the zipper back in, I did it as a pretty lapped zipper, rather than the ugly, hastily done, exposed zipper insertion from the first rendition of the dress.

When I made the buttonholes this time, I only sewed 4 sets, rather than 5, like the dress originally had. So, the new bodice, only has 8 buttons, not 10. This was not done on purpose, but it works just fine.

The finished dress with the new bodice fits me!

It's not quite perfect, somehow, even with the broad back adjustment, I wound up making the back shoulders a bit too narrow, unfortunately. However, thanks to raising the armscye and lowering the sleeve cap, I still have a decent range of motion despite the narrow shoulders. (Though I'm still scratching my head wondering how they came out too narrow, as they fit right on the mock-up I thought!)

Also, the darts coming in from the side seams could be lowered by at least half an inch for a better fit - but this is not something I'm willing to take the bodice apart to fix! 

It looks decent enough to wear, even with the too high darts, and too narrow shoulders. It fits perfectly through the bust and the waist!

I am thrilled to have this dress wearable again, and something completed off my never-ending list!

What I'm less thrilled about, is all the snow. It began snowing Friday afternoon, and now, Sunday morning, it's still snowing.

Don't get me wrong, I like snow generally - it's pretty! This foot and a half of snow however is very heavy, and wet, and breaking things, like trees.

One very large limb fell on an old, no longer in use, chicken pen on Friday night.
Our yards are full of downed tree limbs, and the snow has even taken out 3 complete trees already!

Two of those trees happen to be right next to our outdoor wood furnace, so at least we won't have far to carry the firewood when this is all over! 

Sadly, the big shade tree over our driveway sustained a ton of damage, and eventually my dad and brother had to cut down over half of it to keep it from falling on the house.

The dog thinks it's heaven - big sticks falling from the sky, just for her!!

The goats aren't huge fans.

Our yard is going to look very different once this snow storm is over!

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Mid-19th Century Wrapper to Hide the Ball Gown

For a couple weeks over the summer I became mildly obsessed with mid 19th-century (1840's-60's) wrappers. A wrapper is an informal, full-length, front-closing garment a women would have worn in the morning, over all her undergarments (corset, petticoats, hoops, and the like), before getting dressed for the day in her nicer clothes. A wrapper was easy to put on and could be worn for house work and basic farm chores - it was essentially a house dress. They were often made of cotton, but could also be made of wool or silk.

1840's wrapper from The Met

I searched out 1840's, 50's, and 60's wrappers online and studied every picture. I wanted to know how they were each constructed, what materials they were made from, and how they were trimmed. The more I went down this rabbit hole, the more I wanted to make my own. Thus, I began to keep my eyes open for suitable fabrics for the project - not really knowing when this project would take place.

1850's silk wrapper - Tasha Tudor Action
The clearance rack at Joann's yielded a bolt of fantastically brightly colored brown calico, which would work splendidly for a mid-19th century wrapper. I purchased some green striped cotton, also found on the clearance rack, to use for trim, and I was all set to make a wrapper - when ever I found the time or a very pressing reason to do so.

The reason came when my little sister was cast as a Caroler in "A Christmas Carol" - after already being cast as Mrs. Fezziwig of Fezziwig's ball.  Yep, she was double cast and would need two seperate costumes - the ballgown, and some sort of a caroler outfit. 

The logistics of doing a quick costumes change into and out of the ball gown made my head spin. (Hook and eye closures do not lend themselves well to "quick".) I soon decided the caroler outfit would need to be something my sister could just throw on over the ballgown. Well, a wrapper typically opens all the way down the front, with buttons from neck to hem. Along with that, a wrapper is not a closely fitted dress, rather, the size of the finished garment is somewhat adjustable thanks to ties and sashes. A wrapper could be easily slipped on over a full set of 1860's undergarments, a partial set of 1860's undergarments, or a ballgown. Thus, the 1860's wrapper I'd been planning and buying materials for would happen, a bit sooner than I'd hoped and anticipated - all because my sister needed a caroler costume.

The wrapper would need to be done in one weekend. There was no more time to be found in the weeks leading up to the play. I had the materials for the project, but that was all I had. I didn't have a pattern, and I only had a vague idea of how wrappers were constructed. Those details had to be figured out before I could seriously begin making this thing. So I took to the internet again and looked through all the blog posts I could find about making 1850's and 60's wrappers. Several years ago Romantic History shared several detailed posts about the making of her 1860's wrappers, which I found very helpful to read in preparation for this project. Probably the best resource I came across, however, was the blog All The Pretty Dresses. Here I found all sorts of pictures of extant mid-victorian wrappers - both internal and external views - which helped me greatly!

After an hour or two of reading and looking at pictures I had a plan and was ready to jump into making this wrapper.

As for a pattern, I decided to start with Butterick B5831, already in my pattern stash.  It had just the 1860's bodice I needed - a lining fitted with darts and loosed, gathered, outer bodice. The perfect base for a wrapper.

Many 1850's and 60's wrappers had the front cut as one piece from shoulder to hem - no waist seam, no separate bodice and skirt. So that's how I cut mine. I used the front bodice piece from the Butterick pattern for the top of my front. I figured out how long the skirt would need to be and measured and marked that distance onto the fabric, from the bottom of the bodice pattern piece. Then, starting just under the arm hole, I cut a long side seam at an angle, all the way down to my marked hem. 

The back pieces were cut out exactly according to the Butterick pattern - they required no changes. A slightly gathered over bodice over a fitted lining, with a partial waistband, which would be attached to gathered skirt panels at the waist.

The skirt was cut to be two full-widths of 44" fabric wide, and cartridge pleated down to fit onto the back bodice.

Due to my limited time frame for this project, corners had to be cut, and I did a lot of thing I normally would have done by hand on a historical project, by machine. Cartridge pleats however, were one thing I was not willing to compromise on - they just look so much nicer than machine sewn gathers! 

By contrast, I sewed on all the trim and did all the buttonholes by machine - something that would not have been done in 1860 at all!

Now, speaking of trim, I loved the angled strips of trim, from shoulder to hem, as seen on this 1840's wrapper, and others from the 1840's-1860's. (such as the brown silk wrapper pictured at the beginning of this post).

1840's Wrapper, Met Museum
So that's the trim design I replicated on my wrapper, using strips of green striped quilting cotton.

It took multiple tries for me to get the angles of the trim just right, and replicated on both halves of the front, but eventually, I was satisfied with it.

I machine-stitched the trim down to the front panels, then sewed two narrower strips of green striped cotton onto the bottoms of the sleeves.

Speaking of sleeves, I'd had lots of ideas for fun layered or puffed sleeves I could do on this project. I particularly likes the sleeves on this 1850's wrapper, and had planned to replicate them.

1850's or 60's wrapper from All The Pretty Dresses

Those little puffs I love at the top of the sleeves are held in place by a fitted sleeve lining. This is relatively easy to do and would be no problem at all if the wrapper was just to be worn over a set of undergarments. However, my wrapper was going to be worn over a ball gown, which had short little puffed sleeves itself. These puffed sleeves would not fit under a fitted sleeve lining. So, in the end, I just left my wrapper sleeves loose - no little puffs, no cuffs - so it could easily be worn over the ball gown as intended. (though I might go back later and add the short sleeve lining and little puffs, because they are just so cute, and I don't think the wrapper will be worn over the ball gown again.)

So, the fitted lining of the sleeves was abandoned, but that wasn't the end of linings for this project. Oh no, from the outside, 19th century wrappers may look loose and unfitted, but that's a bit of an illusion. The loose front outer layer hides a fitted bodice lining layer which holds the wrapper in place and keeps everything looking tidy.

Attached at the shoulders and the side seams is a plain brown cotton lining, fitted with darts. When the wrapper is worn, this is first buttoned up.

Then the outer layer is buttoned up - from neck to hem with 18 shiny gold buttons I found in my stash. (No idea where they came from, but they were perfect for this project!)

Look at her being all dramatic. . .
After that, the waist is "fitted" with a sash I sewed into the side seams, inspired by this 1860's wrapper:

1860's Wrapper, FIDM Museum

This gathers up the front waist, giving the wrapper the hour glass shape of the mid-19th century.

I met my goal of getting the wrapper done in one weekend, with the exception of the hem - I wanted to hand-sew that.

  Thus, the hem got faced with polished cotton and hand-sewn in place between other projects the following week.

Even with that hand-sewn hem, the wrapper was still done by opening night of the play.

My sister wore it splendidly on stage, over the ball gown, and looked the part of a Dickens' Caroler. (With the addition of a cloak and bonnet, which have not yet been photographed - but they were worn, I promise you!)

I am pretty darned pleased with how the finished wrapper turned out, even though time required more machine sewing than I'd planned.

It looks the part - and is an excellent addition to my costume closet! 

After two 1860's ball gowns in the past few years, I needed something more relaxed from this era!

I also used my wrapper as my entry for the Historical Sew Monthly December Challenge; Neglected Challenge -  Make something for a past challenge you either missed, or didn't make exactly what you wanted for. This Wrapper is my re-do for Challenge #3 of 2018 - comfort at home. I made an apron for that challenge, but what I'd really wanted to make was a wrapper - I just didn't have the time or materials back in March to do that. (And the apron I made really was worth making too - it also got used in the play!)

Thus, this wrapper feels like a very fitting way to end my 2018 costuming - A garment I vaguely wanted to make at the beginning of the year, became slightly obsessed with the idea of making in the middle of the year, and finally got around to making, in a hurry, at the end of the year.

What the item is: A Mid-Victorian Wrapper

What passed challenge are you recreating: Comfort at Home. 

Material: Quilter's Cotton Prints, Solid brown cotton for lining, Polished cotton for hem facing.

Pattern:Butterick B5831, heavily altered.

Year: It would be appropriate for the 1850's and 60's. I studied pictures of wrappers from the 1840's through 1870's while making this.

Notions: Thread, metal buttons for front closure, coconut shell buttons for lining closure.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern I wound up with is fairy accurate, as is the overall design. Cotton is an accurate fabric choice for this type of garment, but I'm not sure exactly how accurate the print is. And the green striped fabric I used for trim is a printed stripe rather than a woven stripe. The construction methods are decent - it's a mix of hand and machine sewing, which would be accurate, however, as I was on a time crunch, I used the machine more than would be accurate for the era. The button holes are done by machine and the trim was applied by machine, which would not have been accurate.

Hours to complete: One weekend. Around 10 hours I think. 

First worn: November 18th, unhemmed. The entire first week of December, hemmed.

Total cost: The fabric was $4 per yard and I used 8 yards, The green fabric I used for trim was also $4 per yard and I used 2 yards, The lining fabric was stash. The buttons were stash. I did have to buy a spool of thread and that was I think $3. So, Overall, approximately $43.