Friday, July 19, 2013

More Lovelace Previews

The fun continues

tacking down the bodice pleats with running stitches
Being careful not to let the stitches show on the organza

My super talented friend, Bonnie, styling my wig for me. So good!

Intermediate wig stages

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Lovelace previews

I've been blogging all afternoon, and I'm getting a little burned out, but I couldn't resist posting a few pics of my progress on the Ada Lovelace gown.

I'm trying to replicate this portrait:

The first thing to notice is that the fabric is probably shot. That is, the fabric is made of one color thread on the weft and a different color thread on the warp. That explains the pink and purple shades and dark shadows. The bright white highlights, I have concluded, have to be the artist's license. There is no way to get all four colors out of the same fabric at these intensities.

I found a brilliant silk taffeta satin for the main fabric.
While this is lovely, it's really too saturated for recreating the portrait. I hemmed, I hawed. My husband suggested using an overlayer over something sheer to damp down the colors. We looked at a white netting which was a step in the right direction, but it was nylon and I really wanted to stick with natural fibers. I kept looking and later found a silk organza that was shot with a dark teal and burgundy. I couldn't believe my luck!
With this organza overlayer muting the intensity, I feel like I've gotten as close to the portrait fabric as I am likely to get if I want to stick with natural fibers, not break the bank, and finish this thing by early August.

Here are a few shots of the project coming together. Eventually the skirt will be joined to the bodice. Right now it is all just pinned to the dress form.

The shoulders on my dress form are much wider than me. I am not concerned about the gap at the back... yet. 

Corded Petticoat (Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #15: White)

As I mentioned back in May, I'm tackling my first reproduction challenge. I am going to make an Ada Lovelace costume.

This portrait is dated circa 1838, so I needed the proper undergarments to get the right look.

I chickened out and did not attempt a late 1830's corset. I wanted to, but I also want to wear this costume in August so... I'm going to tell myself that the line achieved with a mid-Victorian corset and the line achieved with a late 1830's corset are close enough.

I decided that I really did need to make a proper petticoat to create the right shape under the skirt.

I purchased Jennifer Rosburgh's tutorial and went to town. This tutorial was well worth the purchase. The pattern is not difficult, but her input and advice on technique was very valuable.

I chose to make a two-layer petticoat and sandwich the cords into between the two layers. This allowed me to create the corded sections in one long spiral. I used cotton organdy, which I've never worked with before, and it's now my new favorite thing.

The hardest part was getting the first through third rows of cording because I had to work with the two outer layers and the seam allowance. After that it was smooth, if tedious, sailing. I used cotton yarn that was slightly less bulky than 1/8". This meant that I needed a lot of yard. I probably used about 100 yards of yarn all told.

I cannot say this enough: do not expect to finish your corded petticoat in one sitting. You will go mad.

After the organdy layer was finished, I decided that I would need an under lay to keep the organdy away from my legs. I made a (relatively) quick tucked petticoat out of some muslin and gathered them both into the same waist band. I have no idea how historically accurate this is, but I wanted to reduce bulk at the waist.

Then I starched the two layered petticoat and let it dry. Three hours of ironing later (no joke!) and the skirt would stand up by itself.

Here's some photos of the project:

I've added a little bum pad to help create the line of the skirts in the portrait. 

The second under-petticoat. 

Two petticoats in one waistline. 

It seriously stands up on it's own. For hours. Days possibly. The cat knocked this over in a cat fit of mystery fright. 

I am submitting this project for Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #15: White.

The Challenge: White has carried many connotations as a colour, from defining culture and social boundaries in Ancient Egypt (only foreigners and those connected to the afterlife wore colour), to denoting status (white was often an expensive colour to produce and maintain), to implying purity, or simply cleanliness.
For this challenge ‘white’ is defined as anything in the white family – from brightest white, through to ivory and cream and all the shades between.

Fabric: Cotton Organdy (corded overskirt), Cotton Muslin (tucked underskirt), Cotton yard
Pattern: Jennifer Rosburgh's Tutorial (available for purchase here)
Year: 1820 - 1860
Notions:  Polyester thread, approximately 150 yards of cotton yarn
How historically accurate is it? Except for the machine sewing, this it pretty dead on technique. I joined the two skirts together in one waistband, which is probably less accurate (it would cut down the reusability of both skirts in other outfits -- not very frugal). Overall: 9/10
Hours to complete: 40 hours (most of that spent sewing the yarn into casings)
First worn: Scheduled for early August
Total cost: 3 yards cotton organdy ($24), yarn ($15 - two different kinds used for no good reason), 3 yards muslin from stash ($6), thread ($1) total: $47

Finally! Corset success! (Historical Sew Fortnightly #13: Lace & Lacing)

So, I have long been in search of a corset pattern that would work for my short waisted proportions. I long ago gave up on buying something off the rack. Being short waisted means that nothing fits vertically. In addition, my hips are proportionally narrow; that is, they are not as wide as one would expect given my bust and waist measurements.

I've tried the Laughing Moon Silverado corset pattern, twice. I also made a corset from an Ageless Pattern recreation of an original 1869 pattern. While the fit of each attempt got better, I've consistently had problems getting the laces parallel, which speaks to a problem getting the horizontal proportions right. I've also had problems giving myself room where I needed it. By this I mean that even though my hips are narrow, they need space in the right places to accommodate their changed shape when corseted. Failure to get the fit right has lead to low back pain and cramping after a few hours of wear.

I decided to try this FREE corset drafting tutorial from I cannot say enough good things about this approach. If you have non-standard proportions, this is the right approach for you.

I have to apologize in advance, I didn't take any photos of the process. If I have an excuse, it's that I was too excited by how well things were going to slow down and document the process.

The process starts by carefully taking several measurements. There are vertical as well as horizontal measurements. This means that if you have an unusually long or short torso, that will be reflected automatically in the pattern.

From these measurements, the tutorial walks through the process of drafting the pattern for the right half of the corset. It is important to note a few key things that the instructions didn't make 100% obvious

  1. The pattern drafted does NOT include seam allowances, so it will look waaaaaaay too small. This works to your advantage in the end, as you are free to add whatever width you are comfortable work with for seam allowances.
  2. The pattern is designed to have a 2" gap in the back. This gap is included in the pattern, so one needs to remove 1" from the center back once the pattern in complete. If a larger gap is desired, remove more width from this piece. 
When I completed the first muslin, the fit was great from the waist up, but the pattern was far too small from the waist down.

This. Never. Happens.

I think this occurred because the pattern was drafted off my uncorseted measurements. When the corset goes on and cinches in, some of that flesh simply compresses, but some of it moves downward to the hips.

This presented the opportunity to add a hip gore to allow more room for my hips. This also meant that I could put the extra room exactly where I needed it. I opened up the side seam all the way up to the waist. I then pinned in a piece of fabric to drape the gore pattern and fiddled with it until it felt right and the laces were parallel in the back.

I created the final version with a single layer of corset coutil and a outer layer of blue cotton. I bound it with while bias tape and flossed it with white cotton. I had an 11" busk on hand, which turned out to be a little too short, but I compensated with 3 hooks & eyes at the top.

This will be my go-to corset for 1840's - 1900 for now. I chose the blue fabric so pair with my Steampunk Alice in Wonderland costume, which I hope to wear again in August.

The extra hooks & eyes at the top of the bust line help make up for my slightly too short busk. 

Very few patterns put a gore of this shape where this one ended up, but it was right where the extra "squish" wanted to go, and it helped widen my hips from the front view. Widening the hips make my waist look smaller. 

There's some extra room at the bottom of the hip. This helps create the illusion of more proportional hips (making my waist look smaller) and it provides ease when I sit. It will also allow me to wear a chemise more comfortably, should I choose to do so. 

This laces so comfortably down to my standard corseted measurement that I had to recheck my measuring tape three times to make sure I was reading it right. I could easily take another 2" off my waist. It's amazing what happens when the pattern cinched in where one is squishy and leaves room for all the bones. Go in where you go in and go out where you go out = happy corset. 

This is also my first submission to the Historical Sew Fortnightly project. I hope to have more to contribute to this very fun endeavor.

Fabric: Cotton Coutil & Cotton broadcloth
Pattern: Self-drafted from this FREE corset drafting tutorial
Year: 1860's-ish. The drafting tutorial is for a Victorian-inspired, but modern corset pattern
Notions: 1/4" spring steel bones, 1/4" spiral steel bones, 11" steel busk, metal grommets, lacing, bias binding
How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate. While I can't pin down the pattern to a specific year, the cotton coutil and cotton broadcloth would have been available in the Victorian era. The bias binding is the standard polyester stuff, the thread is polyester, and I assume that the lacing is polyester. I'm also unclear when exactly metal grommets came into use. Let's say... 8/10
Hours to complete: I didn't track this too carefully, but here's my best guess: 4 hours drafting the pattern, 8 hours for muslin, 16 hours for the final version (including flossing). 
First worn: The first public appearance is scheduled for early August. 
Total cost: approximately $60 of supplies went into this corset, but much of that came out of my existing stash. 

Simplicity 1687

This summer, I began giving sewing lessons to an incredibly talented 14-year-old sewist. She got some home ec. training in junior high, but hasn't done much since.

For her first project, she chose Simplicity 1687.

It was a great match for her shape, but it presented a fair number of sewing challenges:

  1. 9 separate pattern pieces
  2. princess seams
  3. pleats
  4. angled waistline
  5. piping
  6. invisible zipper closure
In retrospect, perhaps I should have suggested a first project with a more straightforward pattern, but my student handled it all really well.

The only problem I found with the pattern itself was that on one of the skirt pattern pieces, the direction of the pleats was not marked. We had to infer it from the instructions and design diagrams.

We made a muslin with extra large seams for fitting purposes. We made some minor changes to the upper back area and hips, but all in all the muslin fit pretty well.

My student chose a fabric that needed to be lined, so we flatlined it with a polyester lining fabric. We omitted the pockets, but kept the vertical piping detail.

This is a really cute design that would flatter many shapes and has lots of seams, which makes alterations easier. It went together smoothly, but I would not recommend it for a first project for a beginning sewer working on their own.

Here's my student in her new dress. Doesn't she look great?