Friday, February 28, 2014

HSF #4 Under It All

So I haven't been blogging because I've had a full plate of sewing (and sewing related) activities filling my free time to overflowing.  Besides taking a class in making Victorian undergarments, I also signed up for a class on making an 1880s hat. (I love millinery, but haven't done it seriously in years) In retrospect, two simultaneous classes might be a bit much for my sewing schedule, but it's certainly increasing my productivity!  I also have some editing of pattern notes to do for a Kickstarter I helped fund, so my sewing to do list is pretty much as long as the to do list that greets me at the office every morning. And, blogging, alas, is secondary to all of the above.  Hence the silence the last couple of weeks.

Luckily, (and perhaps a bit guiltily) the chemise I made for the Victorian Undergarments class for HSF #4.  I used white combed cotton lawn that I bought at Dharma Trading Company and it was a joy to work with..  and wear.  One pre-washing made the chemise feel like the softest, comfiest in garment in my historical closet. The pattern, TV102, wasn't difficult, but me being me, I had to make it more time consuming by fussing with the trimming.  But I'm glad I did.  I think the three tucks really add something, as does the ribbon on the hem.  (Although I was cursing when I did it because threading the ribbon thru the eyelet took the better part of an evening)

I had an astoundingly difficult time finding grosgrain ribbon for this.  I went to 4 different fabric stores locally, ideally looking for a pale blue or lavender.  They had a few neon colours and white.  I couldn't even find black.  I wasn't thrilled about the poly but with as difficult as it was to find any grosgrain, I decided to get the while poly grosgrain and learn to like it,

The finished chemise

I do think if/when I make the pattern again, I will probably narrow the sleeve a bit. It seemed wide to me to begin with and adding the lace with such a soft drapey fabric made the sleeve stick out more than I cared for. One of my classmates said she used the sleeve from TV105 instead.  I may try that or just skip the sleeves altogether.  I did really like the effect of the eyelet insertion drawstring, though.

Sleeve and eyelet insertion drawstring

Tucks and eyelet on the hem  (photobomb by Samuel L Catson)

The Challenge: #4 Under It All
Fabric: Combed cotton lawn
Pattern:  TV102
Year: 1885
Notions: cotton eyelet, cotton lace, poly grosgrain ribbon
How Historically accurate is it? 80%?  Points off for the poly grosgrain and machine sewing a bit more than our average Victorian seamstress probably would have
Hours to complete: 6-8  (I am a slow fussy sewist)
First Worn: Probably to 221BCon in April
Total Cost: $40?  (I intentionally bought extra on the fabrics and trims to add them to the stash)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

AnachroCon Recap

So this was an especially hectic week costuming wise. (We won't talk about the hectic week at work) My Victorian Undergarments class started sewing this week AND it was the week before AnachroCon, with all the inevitable last minute fiddling. And fiddling there was aplenty...there was the "OMG...  what am I wearing to the 40s swing dance" crisis when the dress I was planning on wearing didn't materialize at the last minute. Then I got it into my head that I wanted a striped underskirt that I could hike up "steampunk style" and I found American Duchess' wonderful tutorial on how to make a portrait pin and suddenly I wanted to make one holding a photo of Nikola Tesla.

Tesla, my sweetheart

Still, I managed a good night's sleep before we left, so I felt pretty on top of things, over all.  Although, lordy, the amount of luggage dressing up for 3 days entails!  I haven't packed that heavily for a weekend since my SCA days.  Thank heavens the con was local...  I can't imagine having to fly with all the various and sundries..  hatbox (I managed to get all of both mine and Jay's hats into a single box or there would have been more) train case for makeup and hair pieces, tackle box for fiddly bits for both of us....  my skirts and petticoats alone took up their own garment bag.

Hair pieces and makeup pretty much took over the bathroom counter

AnachroCon itself was fun.  It's pretty much a steampunk convention so I took a lot of liberties from pure historical costuming.  Friday night there was a 1940s dinner, then a USO show by Bombshells United and swing dancing.  Since we ballroom dance anyway, we took a couple of swing lessons right before the con and got out on the dance floor more than once.  There were only a few couples that were brave enough to do so.  So for the rest of the weekend we'd meet people and they'd say  "oh..  you guys were the ones that danced!"

Jay as a sailor

Me in my last minute pseudo 40s dress I found on Lands End and an amazing hat from ArchiteuthisHats on Etsy

Saturday Jay wore a more perfected version of the steampunk aviator outfit he wore to Sunday in the Park and I wore a steampunky riding habit.

There were talks on a variety of topics (Aviation in WW1, Weimar Germany and fashion 1830 to 1850) that we went to but the height of the afternoon was the absinthe tasting.

The tasting was by Tea and Absinthe and we got to try six different absinthes. Jay and I managed to agree on one of them (thankfully) and I hope there is a bottle of absinthe in our future.  I desperately wanted one of the absinthe fountains... there is just the spot for it in our dining room, but I couldn't quite convince Jay, unfortunately.

The dealer's room was filled with all sorts of enticing things.   Jay bought a British Sergeants uniform and an aiguillette from Spencer's Mercantile and I couldn't resist a green leather over the bust corset from Pendragon Leather

I'd never worn an over the bust style before, and I think over all I prefer an underbust, which doesn't dig in under my arm, but the green leather is just too pretty and after all, isn't fashion a bit of sacrifice?

We also pre-registered for 221B Con in April.  Another opportunity to play dress up!  And we're told that next year's AnachroCon theme may be 18th century, so there are all sorts of costuming possibilities in that.  I forsee a fancy dress officer's uniform for Jay 

From Wikipedia

And perhaps a 1760s riding habit (and stays, and petticoats and hat) for me.
 From the Met

So..  next on the schedule is my chemise for my Victorian Undergarments class, then the next Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge...  then costumes for 221B Coan costumes for DragonCon...   So many ideas, so little time to sew!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

HSF #3 The Pink Challenge Part 2

When last we left our heroine, she was realizing she had drastically underestimated the time it takes for hand embroidery.

Nature, however, was kind enough to curse me with a horrific sinus infection last week and I was off work for two days.  I slept a good part of those two days, but the hours I was awake, I wasn't up for much besides watching TV so I finished the embroidery while watching season 4 of Torchwood.

 I was rather pleased with how the embroidery came out.  (I'd insert a picture here, but I forgot to take one at this juncture.) There are a few minor inconsistencies in the spacing of the pattern and the stitching, but I don't think they're terribly noticeable.

The next step was also an exercise in under-estimation.  How long is hemming a handkerchief and putting some lace on it going to take?  An hour? foolish me thought.  When I got to pressing up the first corner, I realized that I was going to have to either mitre the corners (a technique I'd read about but never actually done) or  *gulp*  hand roll the hem.

This put me into a bit of analysis paralysis.  Cutting the corners wrong to mitre them could ruin the whole thing, wasting all the embroidery time. But I'd also never done anything but make a hash of handrolling hems, either.  (and had no better luck with a roller foot on the machine.)

So after sleeping on it, I did a test attempt at hand rolling a hem on a piece of scrap linen.  It went about as well as I expected it would..  which is to say dreadfully.  So I gathered my courage and snipped the corners to mitre them.  Pressing in the hem with the mitred corners worked  better than I expected, but I couldn't see how I'd have the necessary finesse with a machine hem, so a hand hem it was.

I am not a "sew a garment completely by hand" sort of seamstress.  My handsewing is decent, but not especially impressive.  My biggest fault when it comes to hand sewing is impatience, so my stitches can get a little long.  But, settling down with a few episodes of Doctor Who, I got the hem stitched in.   And darned if it didn't look pretty good, even the mitred corners!

The back side with mitred corner

 But it still needed something so I rummaged around in my antique lace collection until I found just the right lace to edge it with.

Another episode or two of Doctor Who and I had a finished handkerchief.

 The right side

 Detail of the right side

 The Wrong side

Detail of the Wrong side

While it's not the ideal of the backside looking identical to the right side, it's tidy and consistent looking, so I'm pleased with the result.  In fact, I'm going to go so far as to say I am pretty darned PROUD of the finished handkerchief.  I would call this project a total success!

The Challenge:  #3 Pink

Fabric: Handkerchief linen, cotton lace

Pattern: For the embroidery, a design from Briggs Patent Catalog of Transferring Papers (from

Year: 1884

Notions:  Thread, silk embroidery floss

How Historically Accurate is it? 90%?   The pattern was from a Victorian source, it was all hand sewn. I have no idea the age of the lace used, other than "antique"  The thread for hand sewing was not 100% cotton, so marks off for that.

Hours to complete: 16ish

First worn:  Probably tucked into my purse this coming weekend at AnachroCon

Total Cost: $40ish This was not the most cost effective project I've ever done.  I had to  buy a yard of handkerchief linen and I bought a number of shades of pink silk floss that I decided not to use.  Still, anything unused goes into the stash, so it's not a waste.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Serendipity and Schiaparelli (Or One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure)

In college, I had a vintage Schiaparelli hatbox.  Hot  "Schiaparelli" pink trimmed in black, it seemed the height of retro sophistication.   It was a gift from my thesis advisor who, after seeing my obvious enchantment when it came in with a load of donation clothes for the costume department, kindly said "Hatbox?  I don't see any hatbox listed on this inventory.  Just clothes.  Yes, definitely just clothes."

That hatbox stayed with me through  three dorm rooms and several apartments, post college.  But it was, alas, just cardboard, and vintage cardboard at that.  Being a thoughtless 20something, I wasn't especially careful with it and it finally gave up the ghost and had to be tossed.

As I get back into costuming and repeatedly realize just how amazing Elsa Schiaparelli is as a designer, I think about that hatbox when I pin something to my Schiaparelli board on Pintrest and miss it a little.

This being the weekend before AnachroCon, there were a bunch of little costuming related errands to be done, one of which was taking my shoes for the 1940s dance over to a shoemaker across town to be stretched.  It was lunch time, we were hungry and there was no parking to be found near the store (what is it about cute little historic neighborhoods that they never have good parking?)  So we had to park in the lot of an antique/home decor store that we'd been in before and found unimpressive.  We dropped off the shoes, but felt a little guilty about parking in the antique store lot, so in we went to look.

Out next errand was going to be the Container Store for hatboxes to pack for the con..  which was pretty much the other side of town, so Jay, in a desperate attempt to avoid the extra time, suggested we see if the antique store had any hatboxes.  We found a surprisingly nice wooden one for his top hat and I was very hungry at this point, so I was ready to buy it and go to lunch.  But Jay asked the clerk:  "Do you have any other hat boxes?"

"Well, we have one, but it's not functional for actually holding a hat.  It's pretty beaten up.  It is vintage though."  the clerk says.

Something made me say:  "I'd be interested in seeing it, at least" so the clerk lead us to the back corner of the shop, moved a fake potted tree and went rummaging under a counter filled with retro Christmas decorations.  She pulled out a hot pink hatbox trimmed with black and I swear my heart skipped a beat. Still, it was probably a local hat shop box, nothing to get excited about.

But against the odds, it was, in fact, a tattered Schiaparelli hat box.  Without even asking what she wanted for it, I said I'd take it and (thankfully) it was only $13.00.  She had no idea who Elsa Schiaparelli was, and was interested in hearing about her, but I think she clearly thought I was a little bit crazy to be buying a worn out piece of cardboard.

Me, I was just ecstatic to be getting back what felt like a little piece of my college years.  And this time, I will take better care of it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

HSF #3 The Pink Challenge part 1

The goal was simple.  A handkerchief, embroidered in pink.  It complied with the challenge, was something I might actually use, wasn't so pink that it made me twitch and should be simple since this was due the weekend of AnachroCon.  I should have known those were famous last words...

I couldn't find any sort of original source that the Dover Whitework book was from, so I needed to find another source for an embroidery design.  Serendipitiously, one of my fellow classmates in the Victorian Undergarments class posted a link to a pdf of an 1884 catalog of embroidery patterns so finding an agreeable alternate wasn't difficult.  

Pattern with my color scheme penciled in

This pattern was more tightly drawn than my original plan, and pricking and pouncing the design onto the linen didn't seem like it would work well.  But the linen was thin enough I was pretty sure I could trace the design on with my new favorite notion, a Dritz Tailors Marking Pencil.  It's essentially a 9mm mechanical pencil that comes with 3 different colours of chalk sticks to load it with and makes it easy to make small precise marks on fabric.  So it was down to the cutting table, with Ziyi to supervise.

 Ready for tracing

 Ziyi says:  "Hmmm...  are you sure you're tracing on the lines?  Here let me help!"

Despite With Ziyi's help, I had the pattern traced onto the linen in about an hour.

It's white linen..  of COURSE it needs black cat hair on it.

Pattern on fabric

Then it was getting the linen onto the embroidery frame, which I ended up doing by hand because darned if I could figure out how I used to machine baste linen onto the stretcher rods.

Finally ready to start embroidering

That was pretty much my available sewing time for the day...  and it was several days before I had time to pick up the project again.  At that point, the tailors chalk had faded just enough for me to realize that I might have been able to embroider that pale green pattern on white linen without going blind when I was 20, but I did *not* have the eyesight to do that now.

So it was back to the cutting table (while Ziyi was napping) to pencil the design on with graphite this time. I was pretty sure it would all be covered by embroidery anyway and not going blind seemed like a win.

 A pattern I can actually see

Originally, I thought about adding the pattern on all four corners...  it was just a simple chain stitch, it wouldn't take long at all to do...right?  I'm rather glad I talked myself out of that, because I severely under calculated the time it takes me to embroider these days...since I haven't done anything similar in at least ten years.
Three hours solid work got me this far

I will get this done in time  if it kills me, but someone, please, the next time I come up with an "easy" idea like this for a challenge...  talk some sense into me! :)