Sunday, January 23, 2022

Mrs. Hudson's 1890's Skirt and Shirtwaist (McCall's 8231)

Late last summer a herringbone cotton flannel in the Plaiditudes collection at Joann's caught my eye. It was thick, soft, and had an amazing drape. Immediately I started thinking it would be a fantastic fabric for a new 1890's ensemble for my sister. A few weeks later my sister told me she was going to play Sherlock Holmes' land lady, Mrs. Hudson, in an upcoming play.

 Well look-y there - A perfect excuse to buy the fabric and make my sister a new 1890's ensemble!!

I told my sister I had her costume covered. She came to visit me one weekend and we made a trip to Joann's and bought 5 yards of the flannel. It was happening.

My plan was a basic 1890's skirt and shirtwaist, and then, if I had enough of the the herringbone flannel left once the skirt was cut out, a matching jacket or capelet. I certainly had patterns in my stash that would work for this ensemble, but then the new Angela Clayton pattern caught my eye - an 1890's skirt and shirtwaist ensemble. Just what I needed! I snagged that pattern at the next pattern sale and cut it out in my sister's size.

The skirt panels in this pattern are HUGE! They give you a delightfully full and swishy skirt when all is said and done, but they're certainly fabric hogs. 

 Before I cut into the fabric I measured the length of the skirt panels and called my sister to have her measure the length of the last 1890's skirt I made her. I discovered these skirt panels were a good 6" longer than my sister needed. I folded that length out of the pattern pieces to save myself a bit of fabric - but even so 5 yards of 44" wide material was barely enough! A matching jacket or capelet would not be happening.

I flat lined all the panels with some midweight cotton from my stash and added a pocket, specially adapted to hold my sister's insulin pump, into the right side seam.

Once all the panels were seamed together, the pocket was added, and the waistband was attached, all I had left to do was add the waistband closures and the hem facing.

 I'd grabbed some green-ish polished cotton from my fabric stash to make the hem facing from, but upon unrolling the fabric I discovered something interesting.

This polished cotton came to me second hand and I'd never bothered to unroll it before and see how much fabric there actually was in the bundle. Well, upon opening it up I discovered this wasn't some plain cut of fabric, but a partially assembled 5 gore skirt - longer in the back and shorter in the front. Amazingly, it matched up almost exactly with the hem shape and circumference of the skirt!

I decided to just use the whole thing as an extra deep hem facing on the skirt - why not??? It saved me the work of cutting a hem facing and gave the skirt a nice shape and body - even without petticoats.

To go with the gray herringbone skirt I had it stuck in my head that a green and white striped shirtwaist would be just the thing. However, green and white striped cotton proved rather tricky to find.

After weeks of searching, I finally came across some with the Christmas fabrics at Joann's. Unfortunately, the stripes are just printed on, rather than woven in - but it works!

My sister doesn't like tight collars so I shortened the collar piece and made it to open at center front rather than buttoning off to the side the way the pattern recommends. The collar still looks good this way, and my sister finds it comfortable!

The other change I made was at the waistline. The pattern has you make fabric ties to cinch the waist in - fairly historically accurate, but a bit too fiddly for a theatre costume. I want the easy route and just put elastic at the waistline of the shirtwaist so my sister wouldn't have to mess with it when she put the costume on.

Other than those minor alterations, I pretty much made the pattern exactly as written, and my sister and I couldn't be more pleased with the results!

The waistband of the skirt dips a bit in the back, due to the weight of the pleats, but that can be easily fixed with a small bumpad. 

The skirt has a fantastic shape and swoosh factor, and the blouse is a wonderful basic 1890's or early 1900's shirtwaist. I can certainly see myself using this pattern again.

My sister played the role of Mrs. Hudson to perfection in the ensemble!

She crocheted herself a beautiful shawl to wear in the "outdoors" scenes, and topped the outfit off with a hat I wore in one of my high school plays, once upon a time. 

Along with acting and looking fabulous, my sister also made quite a few of the props for the play - including crocheted dead geese! Her crochet work is quite impressive!

When not on stage, she quite enjoyed frolicking about in her skirt. If you're looking for a skirt that has some flair to it - this one really can't be beat!


Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Red and Gray Flannel House Dress (Butterick 6482)

Over the past several years I've discovered what the ideal winter wardrobe is for me. Teenage me, who could never find long sleeves shirts that actually had long enough sleeves, and who got in trouble over dress code violations at school because her pants were "too tight", would be amazed. It's really crazy what making your own clothes that ACTUALLY FIT can do for you!

So here are my preferences: Jeans and long sleeve tops for work. Wool skirts and nicer tops/sweaters/blouses for church. And comfy flannel dresses for those marvelous days where I don't have to leave the house.

My supply of long sleeve tops, jeans, and wool skirts is decently healthy. My stash of flannel house dresses? That one could use some work.

A couple years back I came across a beautiful, thick, soft, red and gray plaid cotton flannel on clearance at Walmart. I got everything that was left on the bolt, and added it to my stash. Last winter, in a burst of inspiration, I decided to pair the flannel with Butterick 6482.

I thought the tea length skirt and 3/4 length sleeves would make an ideal house dress.

I cut the pattern out in my size that very evening! But then I got distracted by things (such as getting engaged and spending the next 4.5 months planning and sewing for my wedding), so I never did actually make the dress.

Last time I was back at my parents' house, the pattern and fabric still stacked together in one corner of my old room caught my eye. That dress really would be nice to have. . .

I brought the pattern and fabric back home with me and spent the next couple days I had off work sewing it up.

The finished dress is exactly what I wanted - comfy, warm, and cozy.

Slightly terrifying face - but it's a great picture of the dress!

I specifically cut the waistband and waistband facing on the bias, not only for the visual interest, but also because I thought the bit of stretch given by the bias would make the dress extra comfy and non-restrictive.

And it is comfortable! That said, this dress doesn't have as much shape as I thought it would from looking at the pattern envelope. The bodice gathers are a little skimpy.

This might just be due to the fact I used a stiffer, heavier fabric than what was recommended. However, if I make this pattern again I'll probably add a bit more fullness to the bodice and I might make the waistband a bit tighter for more of an hourglass shape. As is, this dress is almost tight through the bust and rather loose in the waist. Just fine for a house dress, but not what I generally go for when wearing something out and about.

The only pattern alteration I made on this dress was to move the zipper from the side seam to the center back. There was already a center back seam on the dress so this was super easy to do. I find dresses with back zippers easier to slip on and off, so unless there's a really good reason for the zipper to be at the side, I move it.

My favorite element on this dress is the full raglan sleeves.

The pleats and the top stitching? Fantastic!

And they're the perfect length - long enough to keep warm, but short enough to stay out of the way when you're working.

Overall, despite the fact I don't love the rather shapeless silhouette, I'm calling this dress a success.

I think it will receive plenty of wear this winter and for many winters yet to come!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

A Christmas Dress of Woodland Creatures and Glitter

I thought it would be really fun to use a print for my niece's Christmas dress this year, rather than a solid or a plaid. Something whimsical, fun and Christmas-y. But not too casual. I still wanted the Christmas dress to feel fancy. Little girls' Christmas dresses are supposed to feel fancy!

I really wasn't sure how I would accomplish this "fancy printed dress", but once the idea was in my head I decided to run with it. The next time I was in Joann's I kept my eyes open for just the right print.

A cotton knit featuring the silhouettes of woodland animals on a red background caught my eye. The graceful woodland animals frolicking in the trees, flowers, and snowflakes felt both elegant and fun - perfect for a toddler's Christmas dress!
Even better, the fabric was a knit, thus on the stretchy side, making it comfortable for an active toddler to wear and easier for her parents to put on her. Last year my brother's only complaint about the Christmas dress I made for his daughter was the lack of stretch. He found it much harder to put on the baby than her normal, stretchy, clothes. So hopefully this year's fabric choice would be more acceptable in his eyes!

As for the pattern, I started with the top pattern from Simplicity 8963, and cut it off at the marked waistline on the bodice front and back pieces. I used the pinafore pattern as a guide for how long to make the skirt and cut out a 3 tiered skirt. Last minute I decided to also cut out the shoulder ruffles from the pinafore pattern to add to the dress because the more ruffles the better!

To "fancify" the dress, and add some definition between the skirt tiers, I decided to trim the dress with some sparkly silver ribbon and fold-over elastic I found at Hobby Lobby. The wide "ribbon" at the waist is the elastic, while the narrower trim is actually ribbon. 

 The dress came together in less than a day, and when it was done I loved it! It was everything I wanted it to be!

My niece loved it too! Her mama (who also quite liked it!) said she was very excited to put it on and found it comfortable and acceptable for playing, crawling, and walking! (Yes, somehow she's walking now. How did that happen?!?!)

 She wore it to visit Santa, and then all day on Christmas. She got very into unwrapping presents this year!

One of the (many!) gifts she opened was a new Christmas tree ornament I made. I'm not sure she fully appreciates it right now, but I think she'll like it a lot when she's older!


I made her a little dress ornament last year from her dress fabric scraps and trimmings sewn onto felt, and this year I decided I might as well continue the tradition. 

Kids outgrow there clothes before you can blink, so this way she and her mama will have a tangible reminder of each year's dress that they can hang on the tree together!

On the back of the ornament is embroidered her name and the year. Now I've just gotta keep this tradition up!

Both the ornament and the hand-made Christmas dress every year. When she gets older she can help me design her dresses!

It is so much fun to have a little girl to sew for!!

A huge thanks to my sister-in-law for sending me pictures and allowing me to share them!