Monday, April 30, 2018

I Gave Velvet Another Try

Yep, the title says it all. I decided to give it another chance. How could I not? I needed an 1890's belt, and the one I decided to re-create was. . . Velvet. Soft, beautiful, tricky to work with, velvet. Well, I wanted to make that belt, so I decided to conquer this textile! By completely avoiding the iron and the sewing machine. . . Small steps, you know, small steps.

Once I finished my 1890's shirtwaist, to go with my wool skirt, I realized I needed a belt to complete the outfit. Without one, the ensemble was clearly missing something. So, I began looking through the books on my shelf to find inspiration for this belt.

On my bookshelf I have a rather thick volume titled "Montgomery Ward & Co. Catalogue & Buyers' Guide 1895" It's a reprint of an entire 1895 catalogue published by Skyhorse Publishing, and is one of my favorite books to sit and look through! Nearly 1,000 pages full of illustrations and descriptions of everyday items from the 1890's - including clothing!

One page is full of ladies' belts, so this is the page I found myself poring over while planning the next addition to my 1890's wardrobe. After taking into account the materials I had on hand, I decided to make a belt resembling number 13002 - "Black Velvet Belt, cloth lined, two inches wide: fancy oxidized buckle."
Well, I had a bit of black velvet, and some black wool for the lining, in my stash, but no "fancy oxidized buckle." Where was I to find one of those?

Honestly, I have no idea. After looking at picture after picture of antique belt buckles, and considering the buckle options I could find locally, I settled on this pearl-encrusted slide buckle from Joann's. I can't claim it's historically accurate, but it's pretty and adds a completed look to my outfit.

With the design settled on, and the materials acquired, I was ready to make my belt! There was just one problem - after making my sister's riding habit I was in no hurry to make anything else in velvet.  So, I put off making the belt for a few weeks and began to consider what other materials I could use for it. Leather? I couldn't find any that affordable and suitable. Satin? Not the look I was going for. Silk webbing (another belt material mentioned in Montgomery Ward)? Not to be found. Finally, I decided I was going to make my velvet belt, and I was going to finish it by the end of the month for Historical Sew Monthly, so, I got a move on.

First, since it was the iron and sewing machine that caused me so many headaches last time, I decided I would use neither on this project. So, I took a piece of cotton belting the correct width and length, and cut a strip of velvet an inch wider. 

I folded the edges of the velvet over the belting, and pinned it in place - with an awful lot of pins. Then I handsewed the velvet to the belting, with no problems whatsoever!

No sewing machine or iron had been used and I had a strip of velvet covered belting that actually looked good! Next up was the lining.

I took a strip of wool, cut it the same width as my belt (2"), then pressed all the edges under about 1/4 inch. (While doing this I made sure to have the velvet belt on a completely different surface from the iron. I was taking no chances.) Once that was done I laid the wool over the back of the belt, completely covering the edges of the velvet, and handsewed it in place.

All the hand sewing went surprisingly quick. Before I knew it I was attaching the buckle and had a completed belt! My attempt at sewing with velvet again had gone well!

Challenge 4 - Buttons and Fastenings.

What the item is: An 1890's belt to be worn with my skirt and shirtwaist.

Material: Velvet for the outside, cotton belting for the inside, wool for the lining.

Pattern: My own - based on a picture and description found in a re-print of a 1895 Montgomery and Ward catalogue.

Year: 1895

Notions: Slide buckle and thread

How historically accurate is it? Well, the look is about right and the belt matches the description found in the catalogue. It's two inches wide, made of velvet, and backed in cloth. But, the velvet is polyester, the belt is completely hand sewn (not really accurate for this period), and the design of the buckle isn't particularly accurate either (I'll probably replace it when I find something better). So, maybe 40% accurate.

Hours to complete: 3

First worn: For pictures 4/28

Total cost: about $10

Friday, April 27, 2018

An Admiraal Dress for Me

Do you ever look at a design and decide that you will recreate it, even if you have to make the pattern yourself? (Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this!) Such was my thought after I made the Admiraal Dress for my little sister - I wanted one just like it for myself! I even had the perfect fabric already in my stash! So, I was going to cobble together a few patterns and make it. Then, I didn't have to.

Just as I figured out what pattern I could adapt to make the double-breasted bodice, Steph, the woman behind The Eli Monster patterns, designer of the Girl's Admiraal Dress, announced she would be releasing the Admiraal Dress pattern in ladies' sizes. Wooohooo! I could just sit back and wait for that pattern to be ready! I didn't have to make my own!

Meanwhile, the fabric for my dress was waiting patiently in my stash - 3 yards of a rather heavy blue cotton plaid. Technically, it was drapery fabric, not dressmaking fabric, but it was so pretty, I just had to wear it! Provided, of course, that I could find a pattern to showcase it appropriately. As it doesn't require a particularly flowey fabric, and has some nice tailored details, the Admiraal Dress was just the pattern for my fabric.  

Thus, when I had the opportunity to test the new pattern, I jumped on it! After a couple of quick bodice mock-ups to check fit, I was finally able to cut into my pretty plaid fabric and turn it into something wearable.

I looked through my stash to find a suitable fabric for my cuffs and collar and settled on a textured gold satin - left over from a prom dress alteration I did years ago. It added just the right amount of sparkle to my plaid cotton dress!

The fabrics and pattern complimented each other just as I'd hoped they would! The heavy fabric holds the pleats beautifully and the large plaid highlights the design without overpowering it like a busier print might. 

And I got just the pretty blue plaid dress I wanted, without having to make the pattern myself!

If you're interested in making this dress yourself, both the Girl's and the Adult's Admiraal Dress patterns are on sale for just $7 until this Monday (4/30/18)! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Just Real Blue Jeans

Jeans making? Who knew that was actually something I could do? Once I made my gold skinny jeans, a whole world of possibilities opened up to me. I could make jeans! I could actually make my own jeans!! Those gold skinnies proved it wasn't an impossible task. Suddenly my mind was filled with ideas. I could make more skinny jeans! I could make boot cut jeans! I could make high waisted jeans! I could make low rise jeans! I could make purple jeans! I could make blue jeans! I didn't know where to start!

A pattern. A pattern would be a good place to start. The pattern I used to make my gold jeans was good, but rather limiting. It's for one specific type of jeans - high waisted skinnies. What I wanted was more basic. Just a good jeans pattern which I could adapt to make jeans of all varieties - high waisted, mid rise, low cut, skinny, straight leg, bootcut, or anything else that entered my mind. Thus, when I had the opportunity to be part of the Winter Wear Designs "Just Jeans" blog tour, and try out their Real Deal Jeans pattern, I took it!

The Real Deal Jeans were just the basic pattern I was looking for. With an average rise and straight legs I could modify them to my heart's content! So that is just what I did. 

With all sorts of possibilities before me, I was rather torn on what type of jeans to make. A pair of plain blue denim skinnies would be a good addition to my wardrobe, but I really wanted to try my hand at making a pair of bootcut jeans too. Decisions, decisions! Thankfully, the choice was made for me. In my stash I had a lovely piece of dark blue stretch denim, gifted to me by my grandma. It was the perfect weight for skinny jeans, but a little too light for bootcut. So skinny jeans it would be. 

Just plain skinny jeans however seemed a little boring, so I decided to make an extra wide, double-button waistband, and accent the jeans with silver and gold metallic top stitching. (Because I couldn't pick just one color!)

It was pretty easy to turn the regular waistband into an extra wide one. I simply took the waistband pattern piece, cut in in half lengthwise, spread the top and bottom 1" apart, and taped a strip of paper between the two before trimming off the excess paper.

Once my pattern was ready to go, the jeans came together much quicker than I expected! The pattern instructions were clear, and I saved time by using two sewing machines. I threaded my sister's machine with regular sewing thread and my machine with the top stitching thread. This way I could just switch back and forth between sewing machines rather than re-threading one machine constantly. I was amazed by how much this sped up the jeans making process!

My favorite part of sewing jeans is actually making them look like jeans. I enjoyed planning out the top stitching design on my back pockets and loved adding rivets to highlight the seams.

 And, of course, hammering in jeans buttons is great fun too! This may be why I decided to put two buttons on the waistband. . .

Once those buttons were hammered in place, my jeans were done! I'd actually made a pair of real live blue jeans! 

Now that these are done, my mind is already running away with plans for my next pair. I already have the pattern, now to get my hands on some more stretch denim!

To see other versions of the Real Deal Jeans, and the other jeans patterns by Winter Wear designs, check out the rest of the blog tour! (And just in case you were wondering, the shirt I'm wearing with my new jeans is a modified version of the Outer Banks Boatneck Tee, also by Winter Wear Designs)

Don't miss any stops on the Just Jeans Blog Tour
Monday 4/23

Tuesday 4/24

Wednesday 4/25

Thursday 4/26

Friday 4/27
Lisa Dawson for Winter Wear Design

Friday, April 20, 2018

A Riding Habit for a Female Paul Revere

Velvet. Prior to this project I had no particular feelings about it. It was pretty, nothing more, nothing less. After this project however, well, I'm gonna have to think real hard before I decide to sew with it again! It's slippy, slidey, and easily destroyed with an iron. Now, prior to my latest velvet project, I knew all this in theory, but theory didn't help me when it came to actually sewing it. Though, to be fair, the theory might have been helpful had I actually paid more attention to it and acted accordingly while constructing my sister's velvet-lined jacket. But did I do that? No. No, I did not.

*Ahem*, now that you've heard the tale of my velvet woes, lets get on with this story and talk about the fun stuff, the entire reason I was sewing with velvet - an 18th century riding costume for my little sister. A much more interesting subject than my rant against velvet.

Two weeks ago, while in costume, my little sister stood up in front of her classmates, their parents, and grandparents, and presented the crowd with the fascinating true story of a brave young woman who played her part in the American Revolution - Sybil Ludington.

'“Listen my children and you shall hear of a lovely feminine Paul Revere.” Thus begins the poem written many years ago about me. I defied many ideas of how a girl of my age should behave.  My family wanted to support my father in any way we could. There was a time that included a 40 mile ride through the countryside to warn of a British attack during the American Revolution. This midnight ride would later influence people to hail me as a “feminine Paul Revere.”'
~ My Little Sister, in her paper about Sybil Ludington

In the weeks leading up to her presentation, my sister spent hours researching and planning her presentation about Miss Ludington - and "commissioned" me to make her costume. 

 She wanted an 18th century riding habit, preferably in dark blue to resemble the uniforms worn by the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Once this was decided, I dug through my stash to find a suitable fabric for the project. A quick search revealed 4 yards of a wool/synthetic blend suiting the perfect weight for this project. There was only one problem, it was beige, not blue. So, an afternoon spent dying fabric was an order.

We used a bottle of blue dye and bottle of black dye to get the color my sister wanted. She stood at the hot stove for an hour, stirring the fabric in a large pot of dye. In the end we had 4 yards of dark blue fabric, ready to become a riding habit!

With fabric in hand, I began looking at paintings and pictures of 1770's riding habits, and formulated a plan for my sister's. She would need a petticoat (skirt), a coat, a waistcoat, and a riding shirt. Oh, and she wanted a tricorn hat too. 

I already had a pattern for the tricorn hat, McCalls M7705, so I decided to start with that. I made it out of wool felt from Joann's and was surprised by how quick and easy it was to make. It came together in about half an hour one evening!

Tricorn hat done, I moved on to the next part of the outfit - the petticoat. This too was easy to make. No pattern needed! 18th century petticoats consist of two widths of fabric pleated match the waist measurement. Quick and simple. For maximum historical accuracy, these widths of fabric would be pleated and sewn onto linen tapes, which would be tied around the waist. For ease of wearing however, I pleated my sister's petticoat onto a fabric waistband, which fastened at the side with a hook and bar. After all, this riding habit is meant to be a historically inspired costume, not an entirely accurate historical reproduction.

With the petticoat finished, it was time for what I believed would be the most complicated part of the costume - the coat. And this coat certainly certainly had its challenges, though they weren't the ones I was expecting!

 When I got around to making the coat I was running short on time and fabric. I had one afternoon to get it made, so I picked the simplest pattern I could find, McCalls 8701. The pattern called for 2.5 yards of fabric, and I just barely had two, but I was going to make it work!

I managed to squeeze all the pattern pieces on to the two yards of fabric, no problem. Then I decided to make the cuffs and line the front to the coat (which would be turned back so it could be seen) in navy velvet, as I happened to have some in my stash. That's where all the trouble started.

Even with a copious amount of pins and a walking foot, the velvet would not stay lined up with the outer fabric! It slipped and slid everywhere, making the seams very hard to sew. After a lot of frustration and a bit of seam ripping, I resorted to hand basting. Now, with velvet you should always hand baste. I knew this, but I was in a hurry so I attempted to skip it. Bad, bad idea. 

The hand basting made the rest of the sewing go quite a bit smoother, but the original wonky seams weren't the end of my problems. Oh no, it got worse. 
Once the main fabric was sewn to the velvet, I decided to press the front edge of the coat. I thought I was being responsible. I made sure not to apply the iron directly to the velvet. Rather, I pressed on the main fabric side, with the velvet face down on the ironing board. Still, I completely crushed the velvet. Horribly, irreparably, crushed it. 

Lesson learned, never get the iron anywhere close to velvet, unless you have a velvet board. (Which I clearly don't have.) So I had to do more seam ripping and re-cut the front lining. More time wasted. But that wasn't the worst of it. No, I was all out of velvet, that was the worst of it. Thankfully, at this point my mom saved me by volunteering to run into town and get another half yard of velvet. While she was gone, I ripped the destroyed velvet out of the coat (Thankfully it was only the lining on one side of the coat, not both.), and proceeded to sew the sleeves without incident. 

When my mom returned, I cut out the new front lining panel, sewed it in, and finished the coat. Then breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was done! And it looked just the way I'd hoped it would! Now there were only two pieces of this costume left to figure out - the waistcoat and riding shirt.

My mom came to the rescue yet again, with a satin blouse that would work in place of a riding shirt. One less thing I had to sew! At this point, that was a good thing! Now all I had left to make was the waistcoat. So, the night before my sister's presentation, I looking through my patterns and found McCall's 6937.

The pattern was exactly my sister's size and the vest was just the shape we needed. I only had to make a couple slight adjustments to the neckline and hem, so it would look more 18th century and less 1980's.

I found a remnant of pale green/gray upholstry fabric in my stash that was just big enough for the waistcoat. Thus, the morning of my sister's presentation, I got up early and whipped up this final component of her Sybil Ludington costume, and she was set.

Her costume was ready. Her paper was done. All that was left to do now was deliver her presentation - and she did that fabulously!

She got up in front of the room, wearing her 18th century riding habit (with uncrushed velvet trim!), and read her paper with passion and inflection! She brilliantly conveyed to the room the bravery of a 16 year old girl, who rode to warn her neighbours of a British attack during the American Revolution - and I am incredibly proud of her!