Wednesday, December 30, 2015

My Little Sister's Christmas Dress

Some dress design ideas form because of fabric, others form when I find the perfect pattern. My little sister's Christmas dress was a combination of both.

A few months back I found a queen sized, red damask striped, cotton sheet at a thrift store. The fabric was wonderfully soft and drapey. So I got it, thinking in the back of my mind that it would make a great Christmas dress. It then sat in my fabric stash, nearly forgotten about. Until I saw this pattern.

The Amaryllis dress pattern was perfect for the red sheet fabric! There was only one issue, the pattern only went up to a size 8. Too small for my sister. Dang. After playing around with a few different ideas, I decided to get the pattern anyway. I sized it up by tracing the bodice pieces onto a thick plastic bag (I wasn't home at the time, so no big paper to trace the pattern onto.) Then, I traced a bodice pattern of the correct size over that. I combined the two; then I had my pattern. The overskirt was just a basic circle skirt, and the underskirt just a rectangle. So no need to size up those pieces. I just added a bit of length where needed.

I only made a few changes to the dress from there. First, I decided to have the dress buttoned closed in the front, rather than tied closed like the pattern said, so that it would match my skirt.

Along with fastening in the front, the dress was also supposed to be tied closed in the back, under the over skirt. This meant the underskirt would be open in the back. With as much as my sister likes to jump and spin around I was afraid an open underskirt would lead to a wardrobe malfunction. So, I made the underskirt and waistband a few inches bigger than the pattern said, sewed up the back, then added elastic at the waist.

This worked great! The dress goes on just like a skirt, the bodice goes over the head, sort of like a halter top, then the dress buttons in the front.

I think my sister's favorite part of the dress is the circle overskirt. She's been asking me to make her a circle skirt for quite some time now. It's perfect for dancing in! My favorite part? The fabric the overskirt is lined in. A jewel toned and metallic gold quilting calico. My grandma gave it to me, and I only had a yard. So what would I use it for? I was very happy that it worked for part of this dress! It complimented the red sateen perfectly, and added a bit of body to the skirt. I really liked the print of the fabric though, and didn't want it all to be hidden on the inside of the dress, so with the scraps I made some bias tape to bind the bodice with. (the third change I made to this pattern, it didn't call for, or really need, a binding.)

I really like how the binding adds some interest and highlights the lines of the bodice.

I'm really happy with how this dress came out, and my sister loves it. She's worn it several times already, so it must be comfortable. Now, hopefully the next dress I make her gets just as enthusiastic of a response!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

My Favorite Skirt Pattern

Merry Christmas! I have had a great week of celebrating Jesus' birth with my family. My brother has been home, we put up and decorated our Christmas tree, we went to the Christmas Eve candlelit service, and just enjoyed hanging out and being a family. Meanwhile, I was also franticly sewing trying to get gifts finished. (They were all finished, wrapped, and under the tree by 2 am Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.)
Between finishing the gifts that had to be done for last Saturday and starting the gifts for Christmas at home, I whipped up a Christmas Skirt for myself.

This is the third skirt of this style that I've made myself. Last winter I made this one from brown taffeta.

It has gotten a lot of wear! I only had one regret from it, I forgot to add pockets. A few months later I made one from dark purple linen. This time I was smart and added pockets. Thus, the purple skirt has gotten even more wear than the brown one. I even took it along and wore it several times in Guatemala.

Well, several months ago I found this gorgeous red cotton damask at Wal-Mart. I immediately had a plan for it so bought all they had, which was sadly only 2 yards. I checked the other 2 Wal-Marts in town, hoping they would have more. Nope. No such luck. 2 yards was not near enough for the project I had in mind.

So, in the back of my mind I planned to turn the fabric into a Christmas skirt for myself, and there is no better skirt to make than this pretty, comfortable, button front, zipper-less, maxi skirt. Here's the funny thing, this is the third time I've made this skirt and I still don't actually have a pattern for it. Every time I start with this pattern, Simplicity 1500.

I lengthen the skirt, eliminate the center front seam, narrow the skirt slightly at the bottom so it doesn't take up too much fabric, then widen the front panel about 8 inches at the top, so that the skirt will fit over my hips easily. I do the same with the front waistband. The width of the back panel stays the same, it just gets lengthened to match the front.

 This sounds like a lot of work, but I have it all figured out now, so really it's not. Somehow every time I don't think to take pictures, or trace out the finished cut out pieces so that I have a pattern for next time.  Oh well, maybe next time.

Due to a slight fabric shortage, for this red skirt I had to add an panel (cut off-grain) down the center front to get enough width.

Thankfully, due to the placement of the front pleat, it's not *too* noticeable.

This skirt closes like my black one does, the waistband folds over itself and buttons into place. This makes the pleat down the front of the skirt.

While I was making this skirt I got a little worried, it was bright red, what would I be able to wear it with?? An awful lot surprisingly! Over the past week I've worn it 4 different times for Christmas festivities, each time with a different shirt. This skirt was definitely worth making!

Merry Christmas! Have a blessed new year!

Monday, December 7, 2015

My Little Sister's Bustle Dress

My little sister. She's something else. A bouncy, exuberant, strong, not afraid to get dirty, country kid, with a definite girly side, a very girly, fashion (including historical fashion)  loving side.
We went to Joann's to get some fabric for the next historical dress I was going to make her. (Which I of course already had a time period picked out for). She saw this pink and tan fabric. I suggested it would be perfect for the dress I was going to make her, she said no. In her opinion this fabric was perfect for a bustle (1870's and 80's) dress, and that's what she wanted from it.

Well, I have a really hard time saying no to my sister, so we got the fabric and I got to looking through pictures of children's 1880's dresses. Some of them are pretty elaborate.


This one is a child-sized copy of a woman's dress. This was a very common theme through out most of the 19th century, and before.

This was one of my favorite girls' dresses, unfortunately I didn't have quite enough fabric to re-create it, and I wasn't sure how it would look in a print rather than a solid.

Then I came across this one from 1886, made from cotton (which is what the pink fabric was, many of the other dresses I looked at were originally made from silk or wool) I loved all the lace and buttons on this dress. So I found a princess-seamed bodice pattern, lengthened it to be a dropped waist, made a few other alterations, and got to work. After using several yards of lace, My little sister had her bustle gown.

She was especially happy with the bustle of her new dress, it was just what she wanted!

Now for her dress to have a bustle, she of course needed bustle petticoat. So in an hour or so I whipped up a rather un-historical, but definitely bustled petticoat.

I started out with a circular, ruffled table cloth from a thrift store.

I cut it off to length I needed.

I made a waistband, then gathered the bottom, ruffley, part of the table cloth into it. Since this was supposed to be a bustle petticoat I only gathered the back of it, leaving the front of the petticoat flat.

To add a bit more "oomph" to the back of the petticoat I added a small bustle pad, sewn in at the waistband.

The result? A petticoat that gave the new dress a silhouette appropriate to the era.

My little sister is happy, so I'll call this dress a success!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Completely Handsewn 1840's Dress - Done!

It's finished, it's actually completely, 100% done! It took hours upon hours, countless stitches, and lots of patience, but my completely handsewn, 1840's fan front, made from a sheet, dress is done!

The pattern was a combination of two of the patterns from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1. I sized up the 1840's dress pattern and the 1850's fan front bodice pattern. After multiple mock ups, I had my pattern and was ready to sew the actual dress!

Whilst it was being sewn this dress came everywhere with me, the Heritage Festival, two different camping trips, to work, to friends houses, yep, literally everywhere. Heck, I even worked on it while sitting in traffic on couple different occasions. It was actually rather fun to have a sewing project I could work on any time any place. Hand sewing can be rather convenient!

When I first blogged about this dress I mentioned the plan was to have it done for October's Historical Sew Monthly challenge, unfortunately that didn't happen, but not for lack of trying! I sewed like crazy the last two days of October. at any given time I had 2-5 needles all threaded and ready to be used.

Well, even though it didn't get done for the sewing secrets challenge, this dress still has a few secrets.

This dress fastens up the front (so I can easily put it on by myself). Up at the top of the dress this is obvious, as it fastens with buttons, like my inspiration dress.

The lower bodice fastens with hooks and eyes, but how about the skirt? Well, it's called a dog-leg closure. The skirt fastens off-center and is fastened to the bodice with more hooks and eyes.

When the dress is worn this can't be seen, thus making it one of the dress's secrets.

The other secret is one that is extremely practical, that I'm very excited about. Yep, it's a pocket, hidden in one of the side seams. The perfect place for my phone and pocket knife. (also the pocket is made from a scrape of far from historical looking fabric, but shhh, that's a secret)

To keep the inside hem of the dress as clean as possible, the hem is finished the historically accurate way, with a hem facing. The perfect use for some thick cotton I had no idea what to do with!

The skirt is gathered to fit the bodice with cartridge pleats, they take a lot of time to make (five rows of even hand stitches), but I love the overall look when they're done!

In fact, I'm pretty in love with this entire dress now that's it's done. It's not perfect, it could fit a bit better in the upper back, the lower bodice closure could be a bit more hidden, but over all, I'm pretty proud of it. I set out to handsew a dress, and I managed to not use the sewing machine once!

What the item is:
1840's fan-front dress

The Challenge:
#12 Re-do

 What Challenge/s are you re-doing?:

#5 Practicality. This is a very practical, every-day style, dress of the era. Plus, the front opening makes it very practical to get on and off.

#6 Out of your comfort zone. Sizing up an actual pattern from the past? Definitely out of my comfort zone!

#8 Heirlooms and Heritage. Some of my ancestors immigrated to America in the mid 1840's, which is the era this dress is from.

#9 Brown. Well, it's tan, that counts as brown

#10 Sewing Secrets. The hidden dogleg closure, the hidden pocket, plus I'll count the fabric source, a queen sized sheet, as a secret.

#11 Silver Screen. I was inspired to make this dress because of the fan front dresses in Jane Eyre.

A queen sized flat sheet, found at Goodwill for $4
Cotton broadcloth for lining

My own from the 1840's and 1850's day dress patterns found in Patterns of Fashion 1.


Cotton Yarn, Cotton/poly cord, hooks and eyes, all-purpose thread, cotton thread, vintage porcelain buttons.

 How historically accurate is it?
The sheet is a poly/cotton blend, but everything else is accurate, so at least 90%

 Hours to complete:
A lot, an aweful lot. 1 month of sewing every chance I got, 2 of occasional sewing

 First worn:
11/23, the day I finished it!

Total cost:
$4 for the fabric, then $10-15 for the notions and lining. So in total, less than $20

Now, will I ever completely handsew a dress again? Probably, but not for a while! My next historical dress (hopefully a regency gown to go with my spencer jacket), will most likely have some rather unhistorical, machine sewn seams. I'm ok with that. 
Was it worth completely handsewing this dress? Yes. I'm happy with how it turned out, and now I know I can completely handsew a dress if I want to, all the way down to the button holes. (I'd never handsewn button holes before.) Also, thanks to the techniques I learned with this dress, my next, partially machine sewn, dress will be a bit more historically accurate than it other wise would have been!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Elizabeth Bennett's, not Black but Green, Velvet Spencer Jacket

Sew a clothing item from a (historical) movie or TV show. That was pretty much the description for November's Historical Sew Monthly challenge, The Silver Screen. Great, I love movies and TV shows set in former time periods. The only issue?  Choosing only one thing to make. An entire regency outfit from Pride and Prejudice? I don't have time for that. One if Jane Eyre's dark 1840's dresses? I was already making a 1840s fan front dress, much to bright to be Jane's. A dress from North and South? I already have a couple 1860s dresses, sewing another one isn't high on my to do list. Then I watched the 1995, 6 hour long, Pride and Prejudice movie, and I found the perfect item.

 Spencer Jacket - Philippa Jane Keyworth - Regency Romance Author

This velvet spencer jacket. I've been wanting to sew myself a regency wardrobe for a while now, I just haven't gotten around to it. Making this spencer jacket would be the perfect item to start my regency collection! It would be (relatively) quick and easy to make, and totally wearable with my modern clothing as well as with the regency dress I'm (eventually) going to make. Even better? I already had black velvet to make it out of! With this decided, I started researching my pattern options and looking at lots and lots of pictures of actual regency spencers.

Jacket (Spencer), 1805–15, French. Cotton, silk, & linen. Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 My first thought when it came to finding a pattern was, I could just size up and alter a pattern from Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1. Then I remembered how much work, how many mock-ups, and how many fittings went into the pattern for my completely hand sewn dress. If I was going to have this spencer done by the end of November, sizing up a Janet Arnold pattern just wasn't going to work. I could buy a historically accurate pattern off line, but that could be expensive. So, I went and picked up Butterick B6074 at a pattern sale. This gave me a regency spencer pattern, but it was far from historically accurate.

I couldn't bring myself to use the Butterick pattern as it was, however, thus I decided to combine it with the Janet Arnold pattern. I looked at the pattern shapes in Patterns if Fashion 1. I traced all the Butterick pattern pieces onto white paper. Then I reshaped each piece, taking some from this piece, adding it to this one, combining these two, moving this seam, etc.. It worked great! In the end I had a pattern that was more accurate than the Butterick, took less time than sizing up the Janet Arnold, and quite a bit less expensive than buying a historically accurate pattern off line.

I was all ready to cut out my spencer jacket, only to discover I didn't have enough black velvet! Uh-oh. Well, in my reading and research leading up to this project I discovered that the spencer in the movie was most likely, actually, a rather dark green, not black. Perfect! Green is my favorite color! So I took my shortage of black velvet as a blessing in disguise, and took my 60% off coupon to Joann's for some green velvet. I also picked up some green cotton for the lining and a bit of gorgeous green taffeta for the piping. 

First I cut out and basted together the lining, then tried that on. A couple small tweaks and it was good to go. I took the lining apart and used it as the pattern for cutting into the green velvet.

I machine sewed the spencer together, but used as many historically accurate construction methods as possible. The HSM facebook group was great while I was researching construction techniques! All of my seams are enclosed thanks to an 18th century method of lining.

The way that the sleeves are sewn is quite clever, not something I would have come up with on my own, but definitely something I plan to repeat in later projects! I then hand sewed the sleeves to the jacket, using this method shown in a book by Pernilla Rasmussen, so that I could continue to keep all the raw edges hidden and not have machine stitches showing.

Once the spencer itself was sewn, it needed trim! The edges were finished with self made green taffeta piping. The same green taffeta was used to decorate the front of the spencer. Finally frog closures were added as a finishing, and practical, touch.

(the taffeta is actually a MUCH better match than it appears to be in this picture
Then Elizabeth Bennett's green velvet spencer jacket was done and all ready for me to wear! 

Since I don't yet have a proper regency dress, under the spencer jacket I wore a very long, rather straight, elastic waist skirt I found in a box of old fabric someone gave me.

Now that this jacket is done, I can't wait to get started on my regency dress!

The first order of business though, will have to be a set of regency stays! After all, I can't get the correct historical look with out the right foundations.

What the item is: 
Elizabeth Bennett's green velvet spencer jacket from the 1995 Pride and Prejudice movie

The Challenge: 
Well it was supposed to be for November's silver screen challenge, but as I missed the deadline for that by a few days I decided to instead use it was one of my entries for December's re-do challenge. So, challenge #12 re-do

What Challenge/s are you re-doing?:
Primarily, Challenge #11, The Silver Screen.
Also, Challenge #4, War & Peace. Thanks to the military inspired front decoration.

Green syn. velvet, green/black syn. shot taffeta, green cotton broad cloth

Butterick B6074, heavily altered so that the pattern pieces resembled those of the riding habit jacket pattern in Patterns of Fashion 1

approximately 1810

Thread, frog closures, cotton yarn for piping

How historically accurate is it?
Well, nearly all my materials are synthetic, and I did use my sewing machine, but, the pattern is correct, as are my construction methods, and the look is right. So I'd say about 70%

Hours to complete:
I didn't really keep track, probably about 10. There was alot of handsewing and pattern altering.

First worn:
12/3, for pictures

Total cost:
Around $20, thanks to coupons!

I certainly need to make myself a proper regency dress to go under it, but for now it works well to "winterize" some of my favorite sundresses!