Friday, September 29, 2017

My First Civil War Dress

When I was 13 I had one request on my Christmas wishlist: a Civil War dress. I wanted a pretty dress that required a hoop skirt, and my grandma delivered. On Christmas I received from her a small gift bag containing McCall's 5132 and a note saying she would take me fabric shopping the next week to pick out fabric for my Civil War dress.
The next week she and I went to Joann's and picked out a pretty purple calico. Then over the next 6 months she and I worked together to make that dress. She did most of the work, but I got to assist with cutting the dress out and gathering the skirt. As we ended the dressmaking process my mom pulled out her wedding hoop skirt for me to wear under the dress. She'd made the petticoat herself and my dad had made the hoops for her - out of #9 fencing wire!

Murder Mystery Party (I think I was 17)
The completed dress consisted of a skirt, a bodice, and a set of under sleeves.

Halloween Party - I was around 15

When the dress was finally done I got to wear it the following week to a costume party. I was Mary Todd Lincoln. The following spring I found another excuse to wear the dress: the costume contest at a goat show. My goat Leola and I were President and Mrs. Lincoln. I don't recall how we placed in the costume contest, but I do remember that Leola won grand champion at that show!

14 year old Alyssa and 'Abraham Leolakin'
And so it continued. All throughout high school I took every opportunity I got to wear my Civil War Dress. It was my outfit of choice for every Halloween and costume party.

A few times over the years the dress had to be let out, and a new button placket was added so that the dress would actually fit me as I grew. 

Then, when I was  17, I got a little bored with my dress and decided it needed some accessorizing - a new bonnet was just the thing!

I spend a week sitting on my bedroom floor working on this bonnet - it's made out of mystery fabric from Wal-mart, bailing wire, and some rope I found in the barn! I think it turned out quite well!

While I was making the bonnet I decided that I needed a cloak as well - so whipped one up in about 30 minutes. Out of polar fleece. Historical accuracy was not a priority for me at the time.

Now this dress doesn't get worn as much as my newer historical dresses do, but it's had it's outings in recent years. (It actually fits perfectly over my corset and other proper under pinnings)

My friend Erentry actually wore the dress to the Heritage Festival a couple years ago!

Then, a couple months ago my mom sent me this picture:

Yes, that's my little sister wearing my very first Civil War dress. Apparently the dress I made with my grandma when I was 13 (and my sister was only 2) now fits my 13 year old sister! When did she grow up? How did that happen?

Over 10 years later, and I'd have to say that this dress is one of the best Christmas presents I've ever received. It was so special to get to help my grandma make it - and now it's the most worn historical dress I've got! 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

This Jacket Suits Me! #therefashioners2017

It's no secret that I've missed my sewing machine this year. Like really missed it. Never more so than at the end of July however. As July neared it's end I was mindful of the fact that The Refashioners 2017 would be beginning soon, and that I might have a hard time participating this year - you know, moving countries every month and my lack of a sewing machine really gets in the way of refashioning.

Then The Refashioners was actually announced. My days of trying to guess the theme and wondering if there was any way I would be able to participate were over. I had my questions answered! Well, one of them any way.

The Refashioners 2017 theme is Suits You! Yes, the challenge is to refashion a suit. I had mixed feeling about this - how would I manage to refashion a suit on the World Race? Refashion a T-shirt? No problem! Refashion an African mu-mu? I've got that! Refashion a suit? What? How could I manage that?
But on the other hand - what a fun challenge! Suits are often made out of wool - my favorite fiber! So if there was any way I could take part in the challenge this year I would!

Following the theme announcement, there was another announcement over at Makery, the hosting blog of the challenge: rather than running from August 1 to September 30, like past years, this year the challenge would run from September 1 through October 31. This meant if I started my project at the beginning of August I would have an entire 3 months to complete it! Considering at this point I thought I would have to completely hand sew my entry, this was perfect! My decision was made. I would be participating in The Refashioners 2017.

That decided, my first step was to actually find a suit to refashion. Easier said than done when you're in a foreign country where you don't know the language, don't know where to find a thrift store, have no car, and are on a very limited budget.

Well, I completely lucked out one day when I was exploring the city of Oradea, Romania, with my teammates. As we were walking down the street I caught sight of a thrift store, so I checked it out. Inside, I found no 2 piece suits - but I did find this pretty blue wool/rayon blend suit jacket! And it was only 20 lui ($5 USD)! I snatched it up, took it back to my home for the month, and began dismantling it - while video chatting with my little sister one night.

Now as soon as the Refashioners was announced I knew exactly what I wanted to make out of a suit coat - a bomber style jacket. Something like this:


With sleeve "cuffs" like this:


And front detailing similar to this suit jacket I saw at the Oradea mall:

So once my suit coat was dismantled I started draping my bomber jacket right onto myself. 

As I draped I pinned all my seams together so that I could sit down and hand sew them - but then I received a fantastic blessing!

The sewing room I got to work with in Romania? They loaned me a sewing machine over a 4 day weekend!!!! I borrowed an iron and ironing board from the hotel laundry and I was set! One end of the hotel dinning room became my sewing room and the jacket refashioning began in earnest.

The back of the suit coat became the back of my jacket.

The front of the suit coat was completely cut up and sewed back together in a way that made use of all the pockets and added fun details.

I used as much of the original lining as possible to line my new jacket, but the suit coat wasn't fully lined so I had to add some "new" lining as well; rayon left over from a dress I refashioned into a shirt.

The original sleeves became my new sleeves. I just shortened them from the top, took them in a bit, and added elastic cuffs using some elastic left over from an African mu-mu I refashioned into a shirt for a friend.

I made the hem band and neck band out of a scrap of polyester knit left over from refashioning a jumpsuit into a dress for another friend. (Dang, I've done more refashioning this year than I realized!)

The zipper? I picked that up for 50 cents at a discount store in Montenegro!

Once I brought that sewing machine 'home' it took me less than 2 days to sew all the pieces together and have a brand new jacket!

Photo Credit: Katy Herder
One that I'm absolutely in love with! 

I am beyond thrilled that I was actually able to get this jacket made on the race!

And I am equally thrilled with these pictures my teammate, Kelsay Singleton, took of the completed jacket! Aren't they amazing?

Now, if you wanna know what else I've been up to on the race (other than sewing), and especially what I've been up to in Cambodia this month (other than getting photographed) check out my World Race blog

And if you wanna take part in The Refashioners 2017 - do it! Head over to Makery to read all the details! I highly recommend participating! It's a ton of fun!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Tank Top

When I originally packed for the race I may have over packed. My pack that was supposed to be 50 pounds or less? It weighed nearly 59! So, the night before I left the country, I had to re-pack and leave a few things behind. Such as the one tank top I'd planned to bring.
Thus, I left the country without a tank top. This was no problem (at all!) for the first 3 weeks of the World Race. My team was living at the top of a mountain on the outskirts of Bogota, Colombia. It was rather chilly there.
Then came week 4. We traveled to Medellin, Colombia, for the week and suddenly we had been transported from winter to summer! I really, really regretted my decision to leave behind my tank-top. Less than a day went by before I decided that I really, really needed to add a tank-top to my rather limited wardrobe. Only one issue, I didn't want to buy a tank because I didn't want to add any extra weight to my pack. (I'd worked hard to get it down to 47lbs!) So, I decided one of my shirts was destined to lose its sleeves that day: this one.

This blue paisley number is one of the shirts I whipped up the week before I left home. I found the fabric, a woven polyester that wouldn't wrinkle, at the Mennonite fabric store, and the pattern, Simplicity 2593, at a thrift store. While I liked both the fabric and the pattern separately, I really wasn't a fan of the resulting garment. Thus, when I needed to cut up a shirt, this one was a no-brainier. (Don't ask me why this shirt stayed in my pack and the original tank top did not. I was sleep deprived when I made the decision)

The sleeves got chopped off, the arm holes got hemmed, and I had a tank top! 

Losing the sleeves elevated this shirt from my least-worn to most-worn top. Suddenly it was perfect for things like hiking in Peru,

Exploring Madrid during a 24 hour layover,

And fabric shopping in Ghana! Or anything in Ghana, really. It was hot there!

This tank top got worn at least twice a week for the two months I was in Ghana. Wearing it I held babies,

Caught goats,

And washed my hair in the rain!

With as much wear as this shirt has received, how did I ever think I could do the race without a tank top??

Note to future self: always, always, pack a tank top. Or, at least a shirt that can lose its sleeves!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Shirt I Didn't Have Time For

Last December, right before leaving on the World Race, I had a very detailed sewing plan all written out in a notebook. I had a list of everything I wanted to sew for myself and I knew I'd be pushing it to get it all done before I left the country. I couldn't afford to add any other items to the list. But did this stop me from adding just one more shirt to the list less than a week before I left? Of course not!

During a last minute trip to Joann's, to pick up one sewing notion or another, I came across this teal and gray stripped knit in the clearance fabrics. It was calling my name, and all the clearance fabrics were half off the already clearanced prices that week. So how could I not get it?

Yep, there was no leaving this fabric behind. So I picked out a solid gray knit to go with it, got both fabrics cut, and took them home. Less than 24 hours later I had a new shirt!

   I was on a raglan-sleeve top sewing kick at the time so I used Kwik Sew 3593 to make this top. It easily went together in one afternoon!

This top has been one of my favorites to wear on the race, it goes great with both my split skirt and the navy skirt I brought along!

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Montenegro, Romania, and now Cambodia. This shirt has been worn everywhere. I've never once regretted deviating from my sewing plans to make it!

Yep, it was a shirt worth making!

If you wanna know what all I've been up to this year (apart from wearing my hand-made clothing) check out my World Race blog!

It's been a heck of a year so far!