Monday, January 21, 2019

A Little Pink Silk Bag

The Historical Sew Monthly challenge for November was "Purses and Bags". My first thought for the challenge was I could make a carpet bag. That would be a really cool project!!

Unfortunately, knee deep in costuming "A Christmas Carol" at the time, I most certainly did not have time to attempt to make a carpet bag. Nor did I have any idea how to make a carpet bag. So, that idea got scrapped, and I decided to make a reticule instead.

A reticule is a small purse. They came into fashion in the regency era, when skirts became slim and hard to hide pockets in, and remained common for at least the next 70 years, into the 1860's. Eventually they morphed into our modern purses. A lady must have a way to carry the essentials, and if her clothing doesn't thoughtfully provide her with that necessity, than she must carry a separate pocket of sorts. Thus, the reticule.

Now, pocket-loving me did not put any pockets in the skirt of the 1865 pink and lace ball gown. (Yep, I kind of failed there.) Thus, I decided to make a reticule to go with the dress instead. A pretty little bag my sister could carry with her while wearing the ball gown. A place to stash her necessities - the things she couldn't be left without while waiting backstage for her scenes in the play. Specifically, since my sister has type 1 diabetes, her blood sugar checking kit. Yes, a reticule would be the perfect thing to store that essential in for the duration of the play. 

Once I decided I was making a reticule, I had to figure out what it would look like. What shape should it be? How should I embellish it? What fabric should I use?

I began by looking at pictures of reticules from about 1830 to 1865 (the year the ball gown was from) on Pinterest, and stumbled upon this reticule pattern. It was from a book published between 1831 through 1865, making the design plausible for an 1865 reticule. Thus, I used the instructions and drafted my reticule pattern.

With the pattern figured out, I moved on to finding materials. Silk would be an accurate fabric choice. Luckily, I had recently stumbled upon a scrap of pink silk dupioni in my fabric stash which coordinated perfectly with my ball gown fabric. So I pulled out that scrap, a bit of lightweight floral cotton canvas to back it with (looking back I should have used something lighter than canvas, like a quilting cotton, or even a cotton lawn, for the interlining, as the canvas is bulky and stiff.), and a scrap of striped cotton for lining.

I cut the pattern out of both the silk and the canvas, then basted the two together.

Then it was back to the question of embellishment. Reticles were often fabulously embroidered, but I didn't have the time, skill, knowledge, or patience for anything too elaborate. So I searched for period examples of reticules with simpler decoration. I found a drawing of a reticule with just three simple lines of embroidery on each panel in Costume in Detail by Nancy Bradfield, and decided to base my reticule embellishment on that.

I found instructions for a similar looking embroidery stitch in (possibly my favorite sewing book of all time) Handsewn by Margaret Rowen, and worked this stitch, called a fly stitch, all the way around each of the three panels. Once that was done, I decided one row of embroidery per panel was enough, so I moved on to the other embellishment - tassels!

I made the tassels by wrapping pink silk thread tightly around a sewing machine needle case - just the way you would wrap yarn around a book to make a yarn doll.

I tied all the threads together at one end using tan silk thread.

Then cut the threads at the other end using a craft knife.

I tightly wrapped more tan thread around the top of the tassel, and then it was done.

I made four tassels, three small and one slightly larger, to be sewn onto the bottom of the reticule.

Once the tassels were done, it was on to construction! The reticule is comprised of three panels and I decided to pipe the seams between each panel with pink moire fabric left over from the ball gown.

I used a chain stitch all along the top edge of the reticule to make a channel for the drawstring.

I inserted a bit of rayon ribbon into the casing, tied it off, and the reticule was done!

A little silk bag - a 19th century appropriate way to deal with a lack of pockets in clothing!

And a pretty looking accessory - just right for finishing off the ball gown look!

Challenge 11: Purses and Bags

What the item is: Embroidered Silk Reticule 

How it fits the challenge: A reticule is a purse 

Material: silk main fabric, cotton lining and interlining, mystery fiber moire for piping

Pattern: One I found online, apparently from a period pattern:

Year: The pattern was published from 1830 through 1865.

Notions: Vintage silk thread for embroidery, modern silk thread for tassels, all-purpose polyester thread for construction, cotton yarn for piping, rayon ribbon for drawstring.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate, the embroidery is plausible, construction is all by machine, so not accurate. Materials are all accurate with the exception of the rayon ribbon, moire, and polyester thread.

Hours to complete: Around 8

First worn: November 19th for the "A Christmas Carol" cast photo shoot at a local theater. (The reticule was done weeks in advance, but dress wasn't completely finished until about a week after the photo shoot! Look closely at some of the pictures in this post and you'll see straight pins holding the dress together!)

Total cost: Almost Everything was from stash, remnants of previous projects. The only thing I had to buy was the pink silk thread for tassels, and that cost $2.50

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!