Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The It-Took-Forever 18th Century Shift

I have wanted to venture into 18th century clothing for a long time. A very long time. Yet, for some reason, anything pre-1800 has intimidated me. So, I've delayed. Over the past 2 years, I've bought the fabrics, bought the patterns, read the books, read the blog posts, and just generally prepared to make myself some late 1700's garments. Yet, I haven't actually made them.

Actually, I can't say that. I have made myself an 18th century garment, just one, and it took me nearly 5 months to make - a shift.

Yep, a shift. The simplest of garments. The one that goes beneath all the others. The one that doesn't actually get seen. I've made it. Completely by hand. Out of linen. I feel immensely accomplished. And (almost) ready to move on to the rest of the outfit. But first, let me tell you all about this shift.

As I mentioned above, I've been wanting to make myself an 18th century ensemble for quite some time, and I've been gathering supplies for my endeavor. Now what's the first thing that must be completed when venturing into a new era of costuming? The undergarments, always the under garment - shifts, chamises, or combinations, stays or corsets, and petticoats. Without these things your finished garments won't have the right silhouette for your chosen era, and that silhouette is important! With the proper silhouette you can look like you stepped right out of the past. Thus, the undergarments must be made first, as tedious as that may be. Skin out. Shifts first.

Before the 19th century, nearly all undergarments were made from linen. With this in mind, I ordered a few yards of linen online, and when it arrived I chopped it up into my shift pieces - my 18th century project was finally beginning!

18th century shifts are really just a bunch of rectangles, and a couple rectangles cut in half diagonally to make triangles, so no true pattern is required. A quick google search for "18th century shift pattern" will bring up several blog posts, tutorials, and diagrams telling you how to cut a shift from a rectangle of fabric So, that's what I did, back in March. I googled it, found a diagram (I can't remember where now), took my measurements, and cut my linen into one long rectangle for the front and back of my shift, two smaller rectangles for my sleeves, two squares for underarm gussets, and 4 triangles (made by cutting narrow rectangles in half diagonally) for skirt gores. (I've actually made shifts in this manner in the past for my little sister)

That done, I set to sewing these geometric shapes together. By hand. Because, historical accuracy. I worked on sewing the shift while the kids I nannied were at gymnastics. It kept me occupied  while I sat on the hard metal folding chairs in the parent's waiting area for an hour every Monday night. During that time, I got the seams all sewn. Next I had to flat fell all the seams, but then summer came, and I was no longer taking children to gymnastics every Monday night. My sewing basket, with the half done shift, got abandoned and forgotten about in a corner of my sewing room as summer insanity took over.

August came, and I was off on vacation. A few hours before leaving town I stumbled upon the abandoned shift in my sewing room, and decided to bring it along to finish up on the long car rides.

So, I sewed as we drove from state to state, and somewhere between home and the ocean, all the seams got flat-felled. Then, between the ocean and home, the shift got hemmed.

I used a hotel room iron to press the sleeve hems and the bottom hems. Once those were pressed and pinned in place, I did one last thing. I cut my neckline.

Up until this point the shift had been completely unwearable as it had no head-hole. I waited until the very end to cut one, as I didn't want it to stretch out of shape while I sewed the rest of the garment. The neckline is cut wide and low so it hopefully won't be seen underneath the gown I will eventually get around to making. It's finished with a narrow rolled hem.

Two states, and 10 hours from home, on our last day of vacation, I sewed the last stitch on my shift. 5 months after starting it.

Now I'm ready to get on with the rest of my ensemble! Next up, stays! And hopefully those won't take nearly as long as this did to finish, once I actually get started on them. But no promises.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Costuming The Brother

My brother is Scrooge. And I get to costume him.

Now, just to clarify, my brother is acting the part of Ebenezer Scrooge in a high school production of "A Christmas Carol" come December. In real life he doesn't generally go around crying "Bah Humbug!" On stage however, he is a very convincing hater of Christmas. So clearly, he needs the costume to fit the character, and I am having great fun designing it! 1840's grumpy old man here we come!

First up, his outerwear! My mom bought him a top hat, and I made him a cloak - just in time to share today on the costume blog tour hosted by Made For Little Gents "Magnificent Wizards". So here he is, my not so little anymore, little brother, transformed into a gentleman one might pass on a London street in the 1840's.

When this brother of mine got the roll of Scrooge, it didn't take me long to start researching 1840's men's clothing. I finally has an excuse to make something vaguely historical for my brother! I'm reasonably familiar with 1840's women clothing, having made a dress, or two, from that era, but men's wear is a whole new ball game. For starters, men don't have to (get to?) wear corsets, or petticoats. And they wear pants. And tailcoats. Definitely nothing like women's dresses! They do, however still get to wear cloaks, which is a historical clothing item I am familiar with. Thus, that is what I started with. A cloak for my brother.

Gentlemen's 1840's cape, found on

I began where I always begin historical costuming projects - on the internet, finding extant garments similar to what I'm wanting to make. After a quick search I had a general idea of what a men's cloak in the 1840's would look like and I was ready to get started!

All the cloak examples I found showed a double layered cloak, one shorter over layer and one longer under layer. Luckily, I had the perfect pattern in my stash for a cloak like this - the same pattern I used to make my own 1840's cloak almost 4 years ago.

Yep, the Princess Anna cape pattern, McCall's M7000 (or MP381 if you grabbed it off of the display rack, like I did 4 years ago, rather than the normal pattern drawers.). Now this may look like a princess cape pattern, but it's an excellent base for early victorian capes! For my brother's I just made the corners right angles instead of curves, smoothed out the back hemline, and the cloak turned out about as un-princess-y as possible.

Though my brother does declare it as elegant, in a gentlemanly type way.  Especially in pictures where one happens to be running away from the camera.

Now, you know what's not particularly elegant, or gentlemanly, or historically accurate? Flip flops. My brother's shoe of choice for our photo shoot. Or sweatpants for that matter. However, this brother of mine does not particularly enjoy getting his picture taken, and he was actually rather amiable to the idea of a cloak photoshoot, so I didn't push the shoe and pants issue.

We had great fun with our little cloak photo shoot, as my brother went from grumpy Scrooge, to goofball, to mysterious vampire. He generally fell in love with his cloak, which absolutely thrilled me.

Now, honestly, while the cloak gives a lovely historical impression for the stage, it's not really historically accurate in and of itself. It's made of a rayon suiting (found on the clearance rack at Joann's), rather than wool. It's entirely machine sewn. And it's not lined or faced like an actual cloak from the 1840's would be, instead the edges are all finished with single fold black bias tape. But it's perfect for the play! 

Over all, I'm very pleased with how the cloak looks, and my brother is all around happy with it! 

This kid was thinking he wouldn't do anything for halloween this year, but now he's thinking he might wear this cloak to be a vampire! And I am not complaining about that!

So, Vampire, or Scrooge, my brother now has the beginning of some fabulous costumes! Now I just need to make the rest of the pieces!

As much as I enjoying sewing clothes for my sister and I, sewing things that my brother likes and wears is incredibly fun, and I'm excited to continue working on his costume! Next up, a dressing gown, to be finished sometime before dress rehearsal the first week of December. 

And possibly a second cloak, because now that he has one, the brother declares cloaks are awesome and he needs another for daily wear. One suitable for general wear with flip flops and sweatpants. Go figure.

See what other bloggers are making boys for Halloween by following along on our Magnificent Wizards Blog Tour! 
Mon. Oct. 1 | Angel Child Clothing
Tues. Oct. 2 | Made for Little Gents
Wed. Oct. 3 | Big Fly Notion
Thurs. Oct. 4 | Tenille's Thread
Fri. Oct. 5 | Sewing Novice
Mon. Oct. 8 | Paisley Roots
Tues. Oct. 9 | Custom Made by Laura
Wed. Oct. 10 | Fée bricolo
Thurs. Oct. 11 | The Sewing Goatherd
Fri. Oct. 12 | Manning the Machine

The cloak looking elegant, in a gentlemanly type way.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Attention Grabbing Shirt, Tunic, and Dress Sleeves

Sleeves. I have a love/hate relationship with them. They're hard to fit, often motion restricting (because of the aforementioned fitting issue), and sometimes annoying to sew. But goodness, there are some fun things you can do with sleeves. You can make them long, short, puffed, ruffled, embellished, cuffed, flared, or a mixture of all of the above.

There are three basic types of sleeves. Sleeves can be set in (sewn in at the shoulder), raglan (attached at the neckline), or cut-on (cut as one with the body of the garment). All three types of sleeves have their strong suits and drawbacks. Over the past couple years, cut on sleeves have become popular, in both store-bought clothing and sewing patterns. And I can understand why, cut on sleeves, or more specifically, dolman style sleeves, are relatively easy to draft, quicker and easier than any other type of sleeve to sew, and seem to have fewer fit and range of motion issues than either set in or raglan sleeves do. There are some downsides to dolman sleeves, but overall they are easy to make and look nice on certain garments. And sometimes, all you want are easy sleeves.

When I first noticed the dolman sleeve trend, two years ago, I bought a dolman-sleeved T-shirt, and traced it to make myself a dolman pattern. Since then, I've used that pattern multiple times, and had fun embellishing the sleeves, but I've never thought of re-shaping the sleeves. Dolman sleeves are typically one specific shape, and it never occured to me to change that shape, and still keep the easy sleeves. Someone else however, did think of re-shaping dolman sleeves, and that immediately got my attention!

Mother Grimm designed a pattern with flared dolman sleeves, something I hadn't seen before. I'm a sucker for fun sleeves, so, of course, I signed up to test the pattern - The Lammas Tides Top, Tunic, and Dress Pattern

The pattern is for knits, so upon joining the testing group, I immediately dug through my stash of knit fabric to find something suitable. Well, my knits stash has majorly grown over the past few months, so finding something was no problem at all. Narrowing down what fabric I wanted to use was the hard part! Clearly, to use as many pieces of fabric as possible, I would have to make the pattern more than once, for both me and my sister.

The Lammas Tides pattern comes in 4 lengths, top, peplum, tunic, and dress, with 4 different sleeve lengths, short, medium, long, and longest. As soon as I saw the pattern, I wanted to make the dress with the longest sleeves - it's just such a fun, dramatic, combination! However, I also really wanted to use this black and white double brushed polyester jersey from my fabric stash. And this black and white double brushed polyester jersey was actually not a piece of fabric at all, but a thrifted knit maxi skirt.

There would be no getting a long flared sleeve dress out of a single, size small, maxi skirt. Thus, for my first go at the pattern, I used the skirt, and made a short sleeved top.

And I really, really, really like this short sleeved top! I used a sparkly black cotton/spandex jersey (left over from this tank top) for the waist and neckband to make my shirt a little extra special. And I lettuce-hemmed the sleeves (using a zig-zag stitch on my normal sewing machine), something I'd never done before. The lettuce hem was surprisingly easy and added to the fun flared-ness of the sleeves.

My finished top turned out so well, I couldn't wait to make something else from the pattern - something with the longer, flowy, sleeves that initially drew me in - a dress for my sister!

Once again, I cut a waistband and neckband from my leftover black sparkly jersey. This time, I paired it with a starry black and white jersey my mom bought for my sister back at the beginning on the summer.

The dress, with it's flowy sleeves (made from the "longest" version of the sleeve pattern), and pockets (yes, pockets are included in the pattern!) immensely pleased my little sister.

She wore it to class the day after I finished it, which I can only take as a compliment.

Once my sister's dress was done, it was time to make one for myself, out of some fabric I'd been hoarding for months - a cotton/spandex jersey featuring the Marauder's Map from Harry Potter.

As an avid Harry Potter fan, I bought two yards of this fabric when it first appeared at my Joann's this summer. Then I didn't know what to do with it. So in my fabric stash, it has sat all summer long.

Finally, I decided I might as well use it, and a Marauder's Map dress would be a fun thing to have. I pre-washed my fabric, bought some coordinating maroon jersey for the waist and neckbands, then set to cutting out my dress. 

At which point I realized, with the size of the flared sleeves ,(a) if I wanted to center the print on my dress and (b) if I wanted the print to be right side up on my entire dress then 2 yards of fabric just wasn't enough. At this point, I could have found a different fabric to make the flared sleeve dress out of... But no. 

I'd made my Marauder's Map dress plan, and I was sticking to it! Thus, I drove to Joann's, bought another 2 yards of the fabric, came home, and made my dress.

Once my dress was done, I cut out another set of Lammas Tides waist and neckbands from the Marauder's map fabric. I didn't have enough of the fabric left to make my sister a matching dress, or even shirt, but I could make her a coordinating tunic.

I found this maroon rayon/spandex jersey at Hobby Lobby. It was soft, and comfortable, and coordinated perfectly with the MM fabric! Thus, a tunic for my sister it became.

She'd been requesting some new tunics to wear with leggings for fall, so this was perfect!

After having made 3 different V-necks with this pattern, I decided to try out the round necked version. I think I prefer the V-neck, but the round neck version is also cute.

I lettuce-hemmed both the sleeves (the "long" sleeve pattern option) and the skirt for a little extra ruffly fun-ness. My sister was a fan of this decision. Which is good, since she's the one who actually wears the tunic.

And wear it she has done, with both the tunic and the dress!

Personally, I've worn my top and dress plenty as well (though admittedly, I've worn the top more often than the dress, which is rather dramatic). This pattern has been fun to make, wear, and generally experiment with. And now it's got me thinking of all the other ways I could re-shape dolman sleeves.

If the Lammas Tides pattern interests you at all, it can be found here, and is on sale 25% off through the end of today (10/9/18)

*I received this pattern for free in exchange for testing, but all thoughts and opinions are my own.