Thursday, November 10, 2016

1830s and the Crazy Sleeve Day!

When I first started making historic costumes, I swore I'd never want to do 1830s. I just thought, who would ever want to make that? The crazy hair! The odd waist placement! The sleeves! But somewhere along the line, I just developed a huge fascination and love for it, and finally, there came along an event that gave me an excuse to make an 1830s something. As it turns out, this is probably one of my favorite things I've yet made! It's a very silly era, and it definitely brought out my silly side. . .

Popeye arms also known as crazy big 1830s gigot sleeves

I found a printed cotton fabric that I thought looked the part, with its serpentine and floral pattern, and a silk that brought out the pink flowers to use as a sash at the waist. I had a rake around in my stash and found this antique mother of pearl buckle/slide that was just the thing. For a pattern, I picked out Past Patterns 003 (the "Full High Gown") because I felt like it would pair nicely with my fabric.

Past Patterns 003 Full High Gown, serpentine and floral printed cotton and pink silk for 1830s dress

I agonized a bit over when to start this project. It seems like it would make sense to start as early as possible, but because I was actively losing weight, I was afraid to get the fitting done and then have it be baggy by the time the event rolled around. So I procrastinated until late August, when I decided I simply couldn't wait any longer. Unfortunately, I didn't quite fit into my old stays yet, so I had to squeeze in the making of new stays before moving on to the dress! (I used the Laughing Moon stays pattern, which is a fantastic pattern that I'll be posting about as soon as I finish binding them so they are presentable!) So that ate a chunk of my time, and then there was drama when it came around to fitting the PP003 bodice, which burned even more of my time.

Woody is stressed out about my bodice fitting issues

The really long story short is that the day was saved by my friend reminding me that there are 1830s bodices in Hunnisett's reliable Period Costume for Stage & Screen. Of course! I quickly scaled up the "B" bodice from the 1830s section, and made a test of it. With just a few pins, I had a fitted bodice lining! Hooray! However, I was still totally married to the idea of the PP003 design. So what I ended up doing is using my fitted Hunnisett bodice pattern for the lining, and then altering the very same pattern pieces to be just like PP003, using the PP003 pattern pieces as a guide. For the sleeves, I used the PP003 sleeves as is. By some miracle, I pulled this off!

mock up of the 1830s bodice combining Past Patterns 003 and Hunnisett's Period Costume for Stage and Screen

So this was all very good news, except for one thing: The above picture was taken the evening of 9/29, and the event was to be on 10/1. Oh yes, you read that right! And, I had to work on 9/30! Yikes! But after all, I'd once sewn an entire 18th century jacket - lined and everything - by hand - in only a day. So I thought, if I do this one by machine (except for any visible stitching), I should totally be able to do it in a day!

1830s dress cut out and ready to be sewn

I got everything cut out and marked between the evening of 9/29 and my lunch break on 9/30. Also, I worked from home on 9/30, which was great, not only because I was able to put the lunch break to good use, but also because it meant I didn't have to waste three hours of the day commuting as I usually do, so I was done with work and ready to start sewing at 4:00!

Sewing with cats, as per usual!

4:18 pm. Under the watchful eyes of two of my cats, the sewing begins. . . And carries on until my friend Taylor arrives (my houseguest for the weekend!) and we take a dinner break, which involved going out to one of our favorite restaurants because even when there are things needing sewing, there is sometimes also a need for good queso. Ha ha ha!!!

Woody watching Taylor work

11:19 pm. Taylor puts finishing touches on her dress. Of course, her kitties had to stay home, but Woody was all too happy to step in as kitty supervisor for her.

1830s bodice is nearly finished

11:58 pm. This was my stopping point, because I knew if I stayed up all night, I'd be too exhausted to enjoy the event. So I decided to roll the dice and get a good night's sleep and hope I could finish the bodice and add skirts/waistband in the morning!

Taffy is stressed about this overnight 1830s dress thing

7:12 am. The tea kettle is warming up, and I'm getting under way again. Taffy is unsure of my ability to pull this one off, and keeps a watchful eye. . .

Washing out the blue marker from the 1830s bodice

7:56 am. When I realized that you could see blue washable marker everywhere on the bodice! So into the sink it went, and then on to the dryer, while I switched gears and made the waistband and skirts. . .

Applying piping to the neckline of the 1830s bodice

10:08 am. The skirts are ready and set aside, the bodice is out of the dryer, and I'm sewing some piping on the neckline. Because a dress on this tight of a time crunch is the perfect time to do things like pipe the neckline and the armholes, right? HAHAHAHAHA. . .

Holding up my wearable 1830s dress

11:51 am. A wearable dress!!!!! After this picture, there was a lot of scrambling to climb into undergarments, deal with hair, and somehow I made the pink belt as well. Then it was into the car and on our way to the pre-dinner tea and hanging out part of the day, where I multi-tasked and hand-sewed the hem of the skirts and sleeves. While wearing the dress. It is no easy thing to hem sleeves while you are wearing them, but now I know I'm capable of that!

Finished 1830s dress and subsequent silliness!

And, I made it! This is actually the first of the Popeye-esque pictures I posed for, and I swiped it from Taylor (also known as Dames a la Mode, who incidentally made the necklace I am wearing with the dress!) I don't know. The dress is very silly, and also, I'd tippled a wee glass of champagne. ;)

I absolutely love this dress!!! The only thing that was disappointing was that I didn't have time to do big 1830s hair. Another time, I suppose! In attempt to not be completely boring, I pulled some pink flowers out of my stash of vintage millinery trims and arranged them in a fan shape sticking off my head. Because really, when else in life is it totally sensible to have all kinds of flowers sticking out of your head, right?

And now, here are a handful of pictures I took at the event, followed by a group shot that I swiped from Carrie (who organized this event and did an incredible job of it!)

And a bonus picture of Woody's new 1830s tent. . . ;)

Friday, October 21, 2016

Sewing Room Makeover!

I have a new sewing room!!! Well, it's the same room, but recently had a transformation to turn it into a much nicer, more inspiring place to be!

For years, I've been living with chaos. Seriously, total chaos!

Along the largest (well, in that it isn't broken up by windows/doors) wall of the room, I had put up overhead cabinets a few years back. At the time, this seemed brilliant to me, because that way I wouldn't give up floor space. But seriously, what did I want with that floor space against the wall? I ended up struggling to find little bookcases to stick in there to hold my fabrics and notions.

On the opposite wall of the room, the vintage hutch that I bought because at the time I thought it was so pretty was busy being almost useless. The shape of it limited how many dolls could stand in it, the shelves were not adjustable, and the cabinets underneath were not a good size/shape for storing much of anything. Also, because I had too much fabric and not enough logical storage for it, things tended to heap up in front of the useless hutch cabinets!

I found that whenever I was in the room, I felt annoyed and uninspired. It had to change! I spent a ridiculously long time planning what I wanted, and trying to find the thing that I dreamed up. I knew I wanted white furniture, and I was hoping for floor to ceiling cabinets with glass fronts. How lucky was I that Ikea's Hemnes series is exactly what I was dreaming of?!? Even though it was perfect, I still agonized for a few more months before making the purchase, because it seemed so expensive, and what if I didn't like it in the end?!? I finally took the plunge and purchased the pieces.

The whole process of going from "old sewing room" to "new sewing room" was a bit insane. The rooms in my house are not huge, and there is not a lot of space to stick things, even temporarily. It was like a circus act, boxing things and moving them here and there to make room to take this down, build that, move those, etc. (Not to mention, in the midst of this, I was trying to find new homes for a lot of things, so I'd get these emails from people willing to take this or that, and then I'd have to go nuts figuring out where I'd shuffled whatever it was to! Total madness!) It started with clearing one half of my sewing room (which sounds so simple, but honestly, I thought I wasn't going to make it, ha ha ha!) and taking down the overhead cabinets. . .

Woody helping Glenn take down cabinets
Cat helpers are almost as good as husband helpers! ;)

Then, with a newly open space to put my new cabinets in, I was ready to start assembling. Thank goodness my husband was helping, because these pieces were large and needed some strength to make sure everything was in tightly. For example, we learned that I am not strong enough to set the screws in the drawers all the way in, and that if they aren't all the way, the drawer won't close! But at least, we achieved success!

Newly installed cabinetry

Then, it became time for me to start putting everything to rights in their new spaces. I was really determined to downsize things, so instead of rushing to stuff everything into a spot, I slowly went through things, one box at a time, only putting back the things I knew I still really wanted and would use. The cats loved this entire process. There was always some new box or bin that was the latest greatest nap spot!

Cats enjoying the chaos

One of the things I was most stressed out about when deciding to go for this makeover was that I was going to have to cut down my sewing table. My husband made me this sewing table a really long time ago, when we were living in our tiny, rented cottage, and I was sewing on the dining room table, and all my patterns fit in a plastic bin that rolled under the counter. (Can you imagine?!? I won't even admit to how many patterns I own now!) I had gone to Costume College, and while I was away, he surprised me by rearranging the bedroom so that I would have a nook to sew in, and made this table to perfectly fit the space. So naturally, I'm very sentimental about it! He kept trying to persuade me to get rid of it and get a desk that matched the rest of my fancy new room, but I just couldn't do it. It wouldn't fit against the smaller wall without first losing a few inches off it, so Glenn disassembled it, cut it down, and put it back together. (In the previous picture, Taffy is actually sitting in the top "drawer" of my sewing table, because the table top was in the basement being cut when I took that picture!)

In the end, it was all worth it! My new space is beautiful, peaceful, and inspiring. I'm so motivated to make all the things in it! And cutting down the table turned out to be a happy thing because, prior to cutting down, it used to jump a little when I ran the sewing machine on the fastest setting. Post-cutting down? Not even a tiny jump! Hooray for that!

Here are some additional pictures of my "new" sewing room. . .

My new cabinets! All the dolls fit, because this cabinet doesn't have a curved top, and I can control the shelf locations. The drawers in that unit hold doll clothes and accessories, with some overflow under the cabinets. The middle unit has my best costuming books, and all kinds of fabric! I am slowly working on neatly ironing and folding all the fabrics. You can see which shelves I've finished and which I have yet to get around to doing! And finally, the unit at the right has all my notions, most of my works in progress, dollmaking supplies, antique fashion magazines, and assorted other odds and ends that make me happy.

My shortened sewing table fits perfectly on the smaller wall now! I don't miss the extra length, as I feared I might. In fact, I tend to not let things pile up on it any more, since I haven't the extra space, so that's a good thing! (Don't mind my overflow of books! Buy all the costuming/craft books, right?!? Also, there's that hole in the wall which needs patching, that is the result of a rewiring project that involved getting rid of super old wires in favor of wires that won't burst into flame, which is a good thing!)

What have we here? Empty wall space!!!!! I can not tell you how excited I am to hang things up here. I have acquired quite a hoard of wonderful, inspiring things that have been needing a place to hang. My only problem now is making a choice as to which things get to go up! I'm trying to figure out how I can make it so I can switch things out now and then, and hopefully get to enjoy them all!

My lovely windows! I have some issues to address with that curtain rod and shade situation, but it's fine for now. That bench is a beloved spot for my cats, and I also often enjoy doing some hand sewing there, with a cup of tea on the little table beside.

What was once a stressful place of chaos is now a peaceful, pretty place for me to enjoy. It was so satisfying to downsize and clear out things I'd been hanging on to but knew in my heart I'd never use, and everything having a designated place has made it a piece of cake to keep things clean and organized. I still have a little more downsizing to do (patterns, doll things, fabric, and maybe even some of my beloved books), but on the whole, I'm feeling very good about this. Every time I walk into this room, I feel my mood lift, and I feel inspired to make all the things!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

More Skirts!

The third and final skirt I've been meaning to post about is this simple cotton number I made up using Simplicity #2226. This is one of their "learn to sew" patterns, and I felt a little ridiculous buying it since I've been sewing for more than two decades! But I thought the style was cute, and I'm a sucker for good-size pockets, so I had to have it.

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

Can you even see the pockets, though?!? I took the time to really match things up! In this side view, the skirt is rippling more than the pocket, but trust me, it all lines up. I'm obsessive about these sorts of things. ;)

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

The fabric came from a Craftsy kit that I impulsively bought during one of their sales. This is not the sort of print I would normally choose, but I was trying to step outside my comfort zone a bit. I don't think I'd recommend purchasing the sewing kits from Craftsy. I've bought a few of them now, and they barely have enough fabric to make a garment. There is definitely no allowance for matching prints or making even small alterations for size. In this case, there was no fabric allowed for the tie belt that is included in the pattern, which was sad. I ended up hunting down an additional yard of this same fabric, so I may make the belt, as well as a new waistband, because since making this, I've lost so much weight that it is actually a bit too loose!

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

Of course, I had to make the insides very beautiful, as I always like to do! In this case, I fully lined it, as well as used my beloved Hug Snug seam tape on the exposed seams. I think it's worth it to take the time to make things nice inside because it makes it hang nicely, keeps things from unraveling, and just plain makes me happy!

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

In looking through these pictures, I realized I never added the hook and eye at the top of the zipper. Oops! I'll have to go back and add that. . . But here's the back view, anyhow. . .

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

I used to wear the shirt untucked with this skirt, but now it's really too loose, and I need that extra fabric tucked it to help it stay up! But here are some pictures of it untucked, all the same. . .

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

This cat is Ginger. She has a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde personality. When she's Jekyll, she's so sweet and huggable, but when she's Hyde, best to only pet with your eyes, and not your hands, if you value having them in one piece. ;)

Simplicity 2226 skirt from Craftsy kit

Pockets!!! Love. Also love this necklace, which is the silhouette of Jane Austen, and was made by my talented friend Taylor, of Dames a la Mode fame. It filled a gap in my jewelry collection. (Yes, I had a wardrobe gap due to "not owning a necklace with a literal Jane Austen theme so that the world can know how much of a Janeite I am!") It was impossible to photograph, but I didn't want to not mention it as I am so very much in love with it!

Jane Austen necklace by Dames a la Mode

And finally, as a bonus, here is a second skirt I made from this pattern. . .

Simplicity 2226 skirt with science theme

I made this one for my niece, who is studying to be a chemist, and has appreciation for a fun, crazy skirt such as this! This one was even tricker to match up those pockets, as I was dealing with a very small amount of fabric, but I somehow pulled it off. And of course, once again, I fully lined it, and also finished the seams with Hug Snug seam binding.

Simplicity 2226 skirt with science theme

I've been promised pictures of the skirt in action in the lab, so I'll definitely post those when I get them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Brumby Skirt

Skirt #2 that I want to post about is Brumby. I tried to take marvelous pictures of this and another skirt, but it seems I am always at work, or at school, or it's cloudy or raining, or whatever other fiasco turns up. I made it outside today to try some nice fall foliage pictures but of course, no matter where I went in my yard, they all turned out too dark. So, you get poorly lit kitchen pictures, complete with piles of cat toys and even some cats! This particular cat is Woody. He is a bit mischievous, but also a total cuddle muffin, so he gets away with all the mischief. ;)

I fell in love with the Brumby skirt long before the pattern was ever published. Megan Nielson published some pictures of her skirt in denim and I thought, that skirt is perfect!!! What felt like ages later, the pattern finally got published, and I immediately purchased it. For my first attempt, I made it in a medium weight chambray. I want to say it was a Robert Kaufman linen blend, but I'm not completely sure on that. Most of the time, I order my fabrics online, so I can usually look up what a fabric was. . . But this one, I actually bought in person, in a little shop in Portsmouth, NH.

Megan Nielson Brumby skirt in chambray

When I first tried this on, I tried it on with all kinds of tops, tucked and untucked, and universally decided "NOPE! Not on my body!" My finished Brumby then languished for a while, unworn and unloved. Then one day, I tried it on again, and I don't know what happened but I decided I really liked it. It has since become one of my most comfortable, most often worn items of clothing! I guess it just needed to age for a bit. Here is what it looks like with the top tucked in, although this is rarely the way I wear it in real life. . .

Megan Nielson Brumby skirt in chambray

I opted to put a ton of fullness into the back of the skirt. I really wanted it to be swishy and fun, and it definitely is!

Megan Nielson Brumby skirt in chambray

The other feature I really love about this skirt are the pockets, which are so roomy that one can fit all manner of things in there! Part of my commute for work involves a train and then a shuttle bus, and in the process of that commuting, these pockets saw knitting projects, an iPod, my T pass - even a bottle of Coca Cola! They really are wonderful pockets.

The only changes I made to this pattern were to adjust the length, and I skipped the exposed zipper and went with an invisible one, instead. I just can't seem to get on board with this exposed zipper trend. I guess I'm old-fashioned! I also don't want to suddenly have all my hand made things be obviously outdated when this trend finally passes by, as all trends eventually do! At any rate. . . Everything lined up in back so perfectly that I really think the sewing fates were smiling down on this project!

Megan Nielson Brumby skirt in chambray

Normally, I line almost everything. I skipped lining this skirt, figuring it would be a summer skirt and I'd be wearing it with bare legs, but then I ended up wearing it all through the cold months, with sweater tights, which meant I had to wear a slip. I really regretted not lining it, and will not make that mistake again! I did, however, take the time to finish all the exposed seams with a Hong Kong seam finish, using some lovely blue Hug Snug seam binding. This is my absolute favorite way to finish raw edges. It's not only neat, but it can be a fun way to add a secret pop of color!

Megan Nielson Brumby skirt in chambray

I absolutely love this skirt! I have another cut out in denim that I can't wait to sew up!

Megan Nielson Brumby skirt in chambray