c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part V: Middle Construction Details

I had hoped to get all of my remaining construction details into this post, but progress on the stays has slowed. Plus, I realized I didn’t have enough linen tape to bind the edges, so new binding needed to be ordered. That has been done but I’ve been so busy that no sewing has happened yet. So for now, here are the middle parts of the construction update.

Updating Gussets

After all the initial steps of putting the stays together (which I detailed in my previous post in this series), I had a fitting that left me feeling rather disappointed. I’ve already detailed the results of that fitting, in Part II of this series.

To summarize: I wanted to raise the gusset I’d added to the back with the goal of providing more width at the waist and hopefully increasing the comfort of the stays on my back. Accordingly, I removed the offending short gusset out of the stays, but, instead of piecing new gussets out of my meager scraps, I realized I could cannibalize the straps I’d originally cut (but decided not to use) to make longer gussets.

Below: the new, longer gussets in place.

This worked well for the exterior linen and one layer of interlining linen, but the straps were only ever going to have one inner layer of linen. And none of my scraps were quite long enough to make a second layer now that the piece would be used in the main body of the stays.

So, I used what I could and layered a second piece near the bottom tab to extend the second layer of linen. Work with what you have, right?

This new gusset had a wider bone channel already sewed… and I really didn’t want to deal with my narrow bone idea again. Therefore, these two pieces will have permanently wide boning channels. It’s all in the spirit of making do! I did have to extend the bone channels after adding the extra bit of linen near the tab, but that was easy to do.

Covering Seams & Finishing Edges

Following the information in Patterns of Fashion 5 (see my fourth blog post in this series for more information on this incredible book), I covered the visible whip stitches that formed the seams of the pieces with 1/4″ linen tape.

Then, I basted all around every exterior edge, to hold the layers in place while I continued to work on the stays. I followed that by whip stitching the raw edges, in order to create a more stable edge for the binding.

In the photo below you can see the linen tape covering the seams and the edges that have been basted and whipped.

Finally, I was ready to bind the edges!

You can read previous posts in this series here:
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part IV: Early Construction Details
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part III: The Pattern
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings

c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part IV: Early Construction Details

Construction Process Resource

The book I used to create the pattern for my stays (Stays and Corsets: Historical Patterns Translated for the Modern Body by Mandy Barrington) gives very little in the way of construction information for stays (process, materials, and details). I found this to be really disappointing.

Thankfully, however, there are other resources that one can go to for this type of information. I chose to reference Patterns of Fashion 5 (PofF5), authored by Janet Arnold, Jenny Tiramani, Luca Costigliolo, Sebastien Passot, Armelle Lucas and Johannes Pietsch.

The great thing is that I could go to PoF5! It had not yet been released when I started this project, but I have it in hand now… and I must say that it is an absolute gold mine of information! There is so much research, expertise, and detail included. There are so many color photos. There are x rays of extant garments. And of course there are patterns. And information about patterning and making both in the past and now.

I cannot do anything but rave about this book! It is almost double the length of the earlier Patterns of Fashion books. I actually sat down and read this book cover to cover, which is not how I usually deal with pattern books (usually I read the bits that are relevant to a certain project). This book is amazing!

On To The Construction Process

Despite creating a pattern from another source, PoF5 was invaluable for the construction process of my stays. Using information in PoF5, I decided to make my stays from an outer layer of linen, 2 layers of linen buckram, and a lining (that will likely be linen).

To start, I cut out the exterior and 2 layers of heavy linen for the interlining. Below is a photo of my inner heavy linen with the pattern laid on top. I used stash fabric and found a piece that just barely fit my pieces. No seam allowance is included in the pattern, so you can see that I really eked my pieces out!

To nerd out on history fun and try something new, I decided to make my own stiffened buckram for the inner layers. So, on a hot August afternoon I was to be found sitting on my deck dripping with sweat while painting gum tragacanth onto my linen pieces instead of being inside where it was cool.

So what is gum tragacanth? It is a stiffening agent used to make linen buckram, which is a material used to stiffen 18th century stays.

Burnley and Trowbridge has a great video about making buckram that describes fum tragacanth and Leimomi, The Dreamstress, has a great blog post discussing gum tragacanth and xanthan gum. The post includes videos and lots of wonderful how-to information.

I used a paintbrush to spread my gum tragacanth on my linen. By the end I was definitely getting a little sloppy because I wanted to get out of the sun as quickly as possible, but I was still impressed with myself for the lengths I go to sometimes for the sake of historical exploration!

Below is a photo of my set up. Cardboard from the recycle, a dish-shaped piece of packaging from the recycle, and a paint brush.

I used a full 4.4 oz bottle of Eco-Flo Gum Tragacanth for my double layer linen interlining. In the dish you can see the consistency of it. It was wonderful not to need to mix or heat it, as you would need to do with xanthan gum.

To be honest, I didn’t notice too much of a difference in the linen after applying the gum tragacanth. (This could be because I was already using a heavy linen?) It also seems, and makes sense, that the stiffness has been reduced as I’ve worked with the fabrics. Regardless, I am still entertained and enriched by my experiment.

After the gum tragacanth dried, I flat lined my 3 layers for each piece (2 layers of heavy linen and the exterior linen) and marked my boning channels. I found that using Frixion pens worked well, because the marks easily erase with a hot iron after the channels are sewn (and the pen marks don’t rub off while being sewn, as with chalk). Magic!

There was lots… and lots… of sewing boning channels, as you can see blow.

After all my channels were complete (and I’d pushed in all those narrow zip ties I ranted about in my first post about these stays), I moved on to the eyelets. There are eyelets for the center back closure and eyelets for front adjustability, as on the inspiration Chertsey stays (which you can see in my third post about these stays).

I realized that I hadn’t cut my center back pieces with enough fabric to wrap around past the eyelets (though I didn’t have enough fabric to do that, anyway!), so I pieced strips together and whip stitched them on to make the extension, as you can see on the right side of the next photo.

After the eyelets were done, I assembled my pieces with whip stitches.

I whip stitched the seam allowances down as well, thinking that might help make the stays fit smoothly for a fitting.

That basically brings the project up to the unfinished state it is in now, minus a few fittings and adding that back gusset.

You can read previous posts in this series here:
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part III: The Pattern
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings

c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part III: The Pattern

The Beginnings, The Longer Version

Let me back up from the current state of the Stays Of Fail to all the wonderful documentation I did about making them, at least to this point. When I started these stays back in 2018, I intended them to be a sort of in-between-projects-project for when I wanted a bit of hand sewing to do. Given that, the project moved at a pace only slightly faster than a glacier!

Somewhere very early in the planning stages of these stays I decided to try out a new book for patterning them: Stays and Corsets: Historical Patterns Translated for the Modern Body by Mandy Barrington. This book presents the idea that you can use any person’s measurements to draft a basic block of the body and then use the basic block to draft any of the historical stays in the book. It’s a neat idea, in theory, and I wanted to try it out.

The Pattern

I didn’t keep track of how long the patterning/drafting process took me. But it was a long time…

There was lots of math, which always happens with drafting a body block and is to be expected, but on top of that there was also the drafting of the specific pair of stays I’d decided on: the 1785-1788 Half Boned Stays (patterned from a pair of stays held at the Chertsey Museum). I was doing my pattern drafting while being often interrupted, so that slowed me down, but despite that the process was longer than I was expecting (and I’m not new to making body blocks or patterns).

This is the original pair of stays at the Chertsey Museum. (Accession number M.2008.53)

(The nice thing is that if I were to use this book to pattern another set of stays or corset I would be halfway there, having already now created a custom body block, but I suspect it would be faster for me to start with a pattern from another book source, because I think my brain wraps around the idea of resizing a pattern without the body block drafting pretty easily.)

I eventually had my body block and was able to draft my pattern using the instructions. The instructions were quite detailed, so that was great. I finally had a pattern that I was able to cut out and make a mockup out of! I was able to get into the fun part: sewing!

Testing The Pattern With A Mockup

I had expected that, after spending a lot of time spent patterning the stays to fit my measurements, I would have stays that basically fit. And I did. But they fit my measurements with the center backs touching and no compression, just sort of lightly surrounding my body without providing support.

The drafting did it’s job of making stays to my measurements, but I was dubious about whether they would do their supporting job when fully boned and finished. So I decided to adjust the mockup a bit–taking some in at the waist, in particular.  (While this is a small adjustment to make, it reminded me that at the point at which I had to alter the mockup I might as well have started with a pattern that took less time to create.)

But perhaps, that alteration was my downfall. As you’ll see in later posts, I later had to add fabric back into the waist size.

That’s all for now. Next post, I’ll detail the early construction process, including stiffening my own linen!

You can read previous posts in this series here:
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update
c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings

c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part II: Fitting Update

In March 2022, I had another fitting on the pair of stays I started posting about recently. I tried a few different things and some seemed to work. It gave me hope!

I decided to add tape straps to these stays, partly to help counteract the back pulling away from my shoulder blades and slouching in towards center. This method of straps comes this pair of stays at the McCord Museum (accession number M969X.26), which is dated 1785-1790.

The idea has intrigued me for awhile and specifically appeals for this project because I didn’t like the fit and feel of the attached fabric straps and had already cannibalized them to make gussets, anyway.

Adding the tape helped the stays feel better, but the gussets were still a problem. I decided to move the gussets up higher by about 3″. I didn’t have quite enough fabric length to do that but I decided to piece on additional sections at the bottom. Piecing is completely period and seemed like a better idea than not having stays that I could wear!

Additionally, I maxed out the seam allowance on both sides of the gussets and the abutting pieces. I’m hoping those things will help narrow the back gap. I’ll also add a new boning channel in the gusset.

In terms of fit, the side view actually isn’t bad with the added strap!

The tape shoulder straps wrap across the back and then will hook in the front. For the fitting the test strap is just safety pinned. Other pins are marking where the strap hits as well as the finished length of the tabs.

After this fitting, the to do list includes:

  • resetting/piecing the gussets and adding boning channels and boning to them
  • whipping the edges of the stays in preparation for binding them
  • binding the edges of the stays
  • adding the tape straps for a final fitting

I’ve been very busy, so those things are moving along quite slowly. I did update the gussets and start whipping the edges, so there is some progress.

That’s all for now. Next post, I’m going to go back to the early construction details of these stays.

c. 1785 Stays (Of Fail), Part I: Beginnings

The Beginnings, The Abbreviated Version

The very late 18th century (1780s and 1790s) is a mostly new period for me. I have a chemise… but no other underclothes that fit, no dresses, and quite likely no accessories… I’m starting mostly from scratch! And as one does (or at least as I do) when faced with a new period, I decided to make completely hand sewn stays as the foundation. That was in 2018!

I thought I had a grand plan. I was so excited about my stays! I tried a new way of patterning, tried a new method of stiffening my fabric, sewed oodles of boning channels by hand, shoved bones into all the channels that were just a little too tight, put in my eyelets by hand… And I documented all of it to share it here.

Catching Up To The Current State Of Things

Then in mid-2021, I did a fitting… and realized that I was really unhappy with the stays. Really unhappy. Mostly due to the fit.

The stays pushed my tummy downwards so it rounded out underneath the front point and tabs, but, even worse, the back pushed down on my lower back and was super uncomfortable! AHHHHH! After all that time spent hand sewing! And it’s not like I jumped right in to hand sewing stays without mockups and thinking that the pattern fit. No, I’d done those steps and hadn’t noticed anything wrong! GRRRR.

My immediate reaction was to put the project away. I just couldn’t bear it. After I calmed down (weeks later, mind you!), I tried to see what I could do to fix the issues. I decided to add a gusset into the back, since the pressure seemed partly to come from the bottom of the lacing gap being quite wide. I had only very small scraps left, so the only way to do this was to cannibalize my straps (which is fine, because I wasn’t super keen on them restricting my shoulders, anyway).

Here’s a photo of the back of the stays with the triangular gusset already added (and some other things that I’ll talk about later). The gap at the bottom was even wider before I added the gussets!

Fast forward a bit more and I had another fitting. The gusset helped a little, but I still had pressure on my lower back. And… the front problem, I realized, was due to a combination of the front being too short for my frame and this idea I had to use ⅛” bones, to mimic the size of originals…

I’ve had success with plastic zip ties as bones, so I thought I could use narrow ones to create the width I was looking for (I used these, purchased on Amazon). Unfortunately, they were very tight in the channels. It took a lot out of my wrists to cut and push in all the bones. The width of the zip ties looks great, but they’re too flimsy. Look how much I can bend back the front tab!

After much deliberation that included going back to look at the original that the pattern I used is based off of, and the reproduction made from it that is in the book I used, I realized that the original stays are just really short in the front. AHHHHH! (More about the book I used will be coming in a future post.)

I didn’t process this earlier, in any of my fittings, or my mockup, or my patterning, or my looking at the book! And I’m incredibly low on fabric! Below are my scraps, minus the long ones in the center, which were already used to face the eyelets.

So… I was left with a half finished pair of stays that took many, many hours to even get to this point–wonderfully sewn in terms of methods, but which I couldn’t wear. I was very upset and put the stays into time-out (again!).

I’ll stop the story of the stays here and continue on with my updates from the most recent fitting next time.

Fabric Stash Additions: Summer 2020

I’ve accumulated a few new fabrics over the last few months and I thought it would be fun to share them in a stash addition post!

Fabric for new sweatpants

I have a favorite pair of sweatpants that I’ve had for almost 20 years. They’ve seen a lot of wear. After 20 years, the hems are pretty worn out and they’re starting to develop holes in the fabrics near the seams. I’ve been on the lookout for similar ones to replace them for years, but the fit is hard to find: wide-ish legs with a bit of a flare, diagonal pockets, and wide hems. I’ve never come across another pair with quite the same styling. (And they’re not currently in style, being 20 years old, so that’s part of the challenge.)

While wearing them quite a bit in March and April I had the thought that “I could make myself a new pair of these pants!”

This idea was spurred in part by the lovely fleece fabrics that Blackbird Fabrics has stocked over the last eight months or so. Every time they popped up in an email I considered purchasing some, but couldn’t make up my mind about color and dragged my feet. Blackbird’s fabrics sell out quickly and I kept missing the boat with my indecision, but then they restocked the bamboo/cotton stretch fleece and matching ribbing and I decided to make a decision, go for it, and order some!

Doesn’t the fleece side of this fabric look soft? I love that new fleece feeling!

I ordered 1.5 meters of the fleece and .5 meters of the ribbing. I’m sure I’ll have leftover ribbing, as it’s only used for the band at the top of the pants, but I’ll find a use for it again someday, I hope.

Of course, right around the time I purchased my new sweatpant fabrics the weather warmed and I lost my motivation to make the pants. But the fabric isn’t going anywhere and in theory the weather is getting cooler soon, so maybe these will make it onto my sewing table sometime in the next few months.

I do congratulate myself on taking the time to take a pattern from the old pants before I lost motivation so that when I decide to move forward I’m ready to go!

Two block printed fabrics

I keep a running list of sewing projects, in order to remind myself what steps projects are at, what fabrics are marked for certain projects, and what projects I have in mind. Occasionally, while looking at this list, I get swept away with ideas for new projects.

Earlier this summer, this feeling of wanting new projects was compounded by a friend updating me on the status of her current 1830s day dress project using a lovely block print cotton. It’s been a few years since I’ve seriously looked at what’s on offer for block print cottons on places like Etsy and eBay, so I decided to check things out.

Oops! Because, of course, I found pretty things! And then my brain went into overdrive, thinking of all the amazing projects I could make with the beautiful things!

I confess that I gave in to temptation and purchased two block printed fabrics.

I feel somewhat justified in that I have very clear ideas in mind for them!

I intend for the green and red print to become a gown like this one, from about c. 1785. I have 10 yards, enough to make the dress and a matching petticoat, but I thought that someday I might also be interested in having a contrast petticoat as well.

In terms of timeline, I have no clear plans for when I might make this. I am working on stays from this period, so that will be a great help, but that’s not really a solid plan. And the stays are going slowly, as I’ve been distracted from them by other projects. So, no deadline or timeline in mind.

I also bought 9 yards of the pink print in order to make a day dress from 1843/44. But then I remembered a fabric already in my stash that would also make a lovely dress from these years (I actually posted about it in this past stash addition post in 2018–it’s the cream woven plaid). So… I’m not exactly sure which fabric I would pick for this project, though I’m leaning towards the new pink block print (whichever one I don’t pick doesn’t have a clear plan).

I have a new corded petticoat that would help with the 1840s silhouette and I already have the rest of the undergarments, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could tackle this project in the not-too-distant future. (What does that actually mean? Next year, maybe?)

Discount duchess satin

This is the standard ‘I happened upon it’ story. This blush duchess silk satin was in the discount bin at a local store.

Of all of the fabrics I’ve acquired recently, this is the one that is the most ‘stash addition’.  I don’t need the 1.5 yards that I bought for anything in particular, but I thought that for the low price it was worth picking some up.

I think it would make a gorgeous 19th century corset (like my 1880s steam molded corset, which is also made from duchess silk satin). I also have vague plans to someday make a 1920s corset/girdle and I think it might be useful for that as well.

In conclusion…

I’ve been doing well at using stash fabrics to make things recently, which is great, but I’m not sure if I’ve offset that by buying new things… Oh well! Sometimes you have to buy things when you see them!

Oh, Making Decisions is Hard!

As I mentioned in my look back at 2012 post, one of early 2013’s projects will be to paint and decorate my recently purchased American Duchess Kensingtons.

This link contains an affiliate code, which provides a small benefit to my shoe fund. This does not affect my impressions and reviews of this product.
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Kensingtons, yay! And the buckles came in that cute little bag. Love it!

When I first thought of buying Kensingtons, I was set on painting them yellow, either a lightish shade of yellow or medium yellow, like the images below.

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1775-1785. Colonial Williamsburg.
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Mid-18th Century. Bata Shoe Museum. (Those buckles are so pretty!)

But then I started looking at fashion plates… Some of them had very cute yellow shoes, but there were also some that had pink shoes that caught my eye. I love pink things… so I started thinking about painting the shoes pink.

First, fashion plates with cute pink shoes from the 1770s and 1780s.

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PINK shoes. 1778.
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PINK shoes. Gallerie des Modes, 1778.
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PINK shoes. 1778-1787.
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PINK shoes. Magasin des Modes, June 1787.
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PINK shoes. Magasin des Modes, March 1789.

Second, fashion plates with cute yellow shoes from the 1770s and 1780s.

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YELLOW shoes. c. 1776.
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YELLOW shoes. c. 1776.
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YELLOW shoes. Gallerie des Modes, 1779.
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YELLOW shoes. Magasin des Modes, April 1787.

Then I went back to looking at extant shoes and thought “perhaps two-tone shoes?” Either yellow with pink accents or pink with yellow accents… perhaps like the ones below? Here’s a fashion plate showing two-tone shoes, and there are more extant examples a little farther down in the post.

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Two-tone pink shoes. The Dress of the Year 1775 by Ann Frankland Lewis.

Another thing, I’ve noticed that many of the extant shoes I see are cloth, not leather. Well, the Kensingtons are leather, so that’s what I’ve got to work with (and I like it in a way, because the shoes will be much more durable). So then I started thinking about what I need to do to capture the 18th century in leather shoes that already have the right 18th century shape. I took a close look at the details in these next photos and analyzed what I saw.

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Light blue satin shoes with silver braid. c. 1770. The Charleston Museum. STUNNING!
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Silk. 1770s. Met.
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Silk and leather. 1770-1789. Met.
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Silk and leather. c. 1775-1785. Shoe Icons.
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Silk. 1780s. Met.

If that isn’t enough examples, you can see more on my pinterest board: Shoes: 1770-1789. The details that strike me are: the binding around the ankle opening and latchets (often in a contrasting color) and the 3D quality of the trim and fabric of the shoes… the decorations are not simply painted on, but sewn on. That’s hard with leather, but glue is a good alternative to stitching.

I’ve seen other styles of painted and decorated historic shoes on my costuming friends. And at American Duchess, Lauren has done multiple posts and tutorials about 18th century shoes that she has painted and decorated.

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Two-tone painted and bound Devonshires, from American Duchess.
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Two-tone painted and bound Devonshires, from American Duchess.

What materials to use for decorations? Lauren used what looks like cotton bias tape, and on later Regency shoes narrow grosgrain which comes in a wide variety of colors. But the extant shoes look like they are bound with silk, so that’s what I’m going to aim for.

“What will I wear these shoes with?” is an important question I asked myself. “Well, everything I own from the 18th century until I buy another pair of 18th century shoes,” I answered. In the works right now are a taupey-brown silk petticoat, blue wool petticoat, Waverly mineral felicite jacket, and creamy quilted petticoat (you can see most of these fabrics in this previous post). In the future, I’m inspired by a purple and yellow color combination, as well as green and pinkish/red (these colors all in the fashion plates above!).

I’ve been ruminating over this decision for months so I make a choice I’m really happy with. I had all these options to think about: pink, yellow, both… It was tough. But I finally made a decision to go simple: yellow with champagne silk binding and champagne heels (saving pink for later, or removable ribbons, or other accessories). The latchets might also get pained champagne, I’m undecided on that point. Do you have thoughts about that? (More opinions is always better in these situations, you know!) I’ve got the paint from my Astorias, so that was easy… and the silk ribbon has been ordered! More to come soon!

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A Lot Of Wool: October Fabric Stash Additions

I really should post about my 9 Month Sewing Plan before posting about the additions I might have added to it (cough, cough). But oh well… These fabrics are exciting so I don’t want to wait!

The first fabric stash addition is 2 yards of Waverly Mineral Felicite. I was interested in the Curtain- Along created by  Jen of Festive Attyre, but I wasn’t inspired enough by the three Waverly curtain colors (Cream, Noir, and Crimson) to actually hop on the train (and I didn’t want to make something super similar to what other people are making). But then I started researching other color ways online and fell in love with the Mineral Felicite at onlinefabricstore.net. You can see my Pinterest board of various color ways here. The board also includes some other similar fabrics. I haven’t done all my research yet so I can only generally say that I’m planning to make a 1780s jacket out of this fabric. (And possibly something else, because 2 yards of this fabric is actually quite a lot!)

My next fabric stash addition has two parts. The first is plain weave creamy yellow silk that I bought a few months ago when buying the whole giant mound of fabric that is for my 9 Month Sewing Plan. I bought a few sections of it from the remnant table for just $6 a yard! I love prices like that! It had no definite plans, until… I was starting to near completion of my current hand sewing project and started thinking (which is almost always dangerous!) about what to hand sew next. I’ve been contemplating an 18th century quilted petticoat for about a year, but never had a real need and considered it to be overwhelming. But now the idea is sticking… and I’m planning to hand quilt a petticoat sometime in the foreseeable future! I mean, I hand piece and quilt queen size quilts, and if I can do that, I think I can tackle a petticoat. In fact, I think a queen size quilt is actually bigger… The second part of this, and the recent stash addition, is a plain weave cream colored wool to back the petticoat with (only $5 a yard!). You can see both of the fabrics in the top photo. To the right you can see the wool by itself. I’m excited… It’s going to be really amazing!

While looking at the wool wall for the petticoat backing I stumbled upon this wonderful wool plaid. There were only about 1 1/2 yards left on the bolt and it was $8 a yard, but I loved it and couldn’t let it go, even though I had no idea what I would do with it. It’s really lovely and thick, and a little fuzzy and soft, and not itchy. It’s hard to see in the picture, but it’s forest green, plum purple, dark tan, and light beige. The repeat is pretty big (I didn’t measure it, but I’d guess about 6″). After taking down this bolt, I stopped at the wool remnant table… where wool was only $3 a yard! Really nice wool! There were about ten 1-2 yard pieces of that slightly fuzzy beige wool in the picture… and I might have bought all of them! I have visions of using some of them, with the plaid, to make a bustle dress either from the 1870s or 1880s (with a train!!!). I’m still open to inspiration for this fabric, though, so who knows what else I will come up with? Does it strike you as anything in particular? I also have visions of maybe using the beige wool for an 18th century cloak, and a modern skirt, and probably other things… I have a lot of it. Whee!

I also found, at the wool remnant table, two similar but different dark blue wools. There were two pieces of each, all under 1 1/2 yards in length (and I did have to dig through a lot of blue wool, analyzing the selvedge edges of each to make sure I found matches, before I was successful). One of the two blues will be used to make a 1780s petticoat. The other… I don’t know. Maybe a cloak, instead of the beige wool? Blue cloaks were more common than brown in the 18th century, I believe. And I’m not sure that the beige is the right shade of brown, anyway. I have more research to do on that before I make a decision. One of the blues is more purple-y than that other (and I think I do like that one best!) but I’m not sure if it’s too purple-y for the 18th century. Although if they are not next to each other they just look navy and are almost impossible to tell apart, so I’m not sure it matters. On the left is another view of the same fabrics.

Well, as you can see, I was sort of struck by an 18th century inspiration… so most of these new additions relate to new 18th century projects. Yikes, I had better go sew, or my stack of to-be-used fabric might just envelop me!

Chalk It Up To Experience (Remade Robe a la Anglaise)

I recently met up with friends from the Massachusetts Costumers to attend a colonial faire. It was a cold, damp, day so we had the opportunity to pull out warm clothes and accessories like mitts, muffs, and cloaks.

Here we are!

I wore the 1780s green striped robe a la anglaise I made last September, but I changed some things in an effort to make the ensemble look less costume-y.

Last year, for comparison.

First, I made a matching petticoat out of the remaining bit of striped fabric I had. I had enough to make the front stripes run vertically, but in the back the stripes are only vertical for about 12″ and then I hd to do lots of piecing to even have enough fabric. Right above the vertical stripes are stripes that run horizontal, and above that are remnants of my green 1900 skirt from Newport. And I really do mean remnants! There are 3 rows of pieced in remnants, some of those are even pieced together with vertical seams to be wide enough! Of course, you can’t see all of the crazy piecing, since the skirt of the anglaise covers it. And I was rather in a hurry while doing all of this, so I have to confess that I did not iron any of my seams… or my hem… Bad behavior, I know!

Robe a la anglaise worn a la polonaise.

Second, I decided to wear the anglaise a la polonaise. I did this in part to keep it out of the mud in the fields we would be wandering through, and partly because I found multiple examples of striped robes a la anglaise with matching petticoats that were worn a la polonaise.

Robe retroussee dans les poches. KCI. c. 1780. French.  In “…the “retroussée dans les poches”… [The] gown’s hem is pulled out from slits in either side, and draped on the back.” (From KCI) Okay, not actually a polonaise, but very similar.
Robe a la polonaise. KCI. c. 1780. French.

Third, I decided against wearing the straw hat I wore last year. The shape of the brim is good, but the crown is too high for the 18th century and the ribbon wasn’t sewn on in an 18th century decorative way. I thought of adding that same blue silk ribbon to my 1912 ivory mushroom hat since that hat shape also appears in the 18th century… but it seemed a bit too much to have an ivory silk hat to wander around muddy fields. Plus, after completing my hair style, I realized that I hadn’t made my hair big enough to support the hat (and I didn’t want to cover up the rolls I had attempted in the back!).

Bun roll hair.

Fourth, I attempted a new hair style with rolls in the back. I don’t think I quite made it, since it kind of looks like edible buns on the back of my head… But it was an experiment, and I learned some things, so it wasn’t a total bust. I separated the hair on the front part of my head and brushed it out and hair sprayed it upside down to add volume. Then I actually put it into a pony tail on the back of my head, which I pinned in place to create the poof in front. I then separated the pony tail into those three sections and rolled them individually. I took the remaining bottom section of hair, brushed it out a little, and pinned it up so it would fall from the bottom roll, rather than the base of my scalp.

Rather sad petticoat, but fabulous new muff!

Fifth, I wore my new 18th century muff! The muff is from one of the classes I took at Dress U this summer, with Stephanie Pool. It’s stuffed with 100% down and is super warm. The blue silk cover is removable, so I can make lots of covers and have interchangeable muffs! I was hoping to have the blue silk ribbon on my head to complement the muff, but that didn’t happen. Incidentally, muffs make rather good pockets… I was able to put a little bag with my phone, money, etc. in it as well as my camera inside my muff!

You can see the down filled pillow inside. The two ends have a silk ribbon running through a channel. You simply pull the ribbon to gather the ends and then tie them to secure the gathers. You simply have to untie the ribbons to loosen the gathers and change the cover!

I did sort of give up and not try super hard for accuracy when I was getting dressed. I decided not to wear stockings, because I didn’t want them to get dirty. I couldn’t find any shoes that were remotely 18th century-like. I clearly need to make some under petticoats and readdress my bum pad/roll situation (I had also made my bum pad smaller, since it seemed so large last year… but this year my skirts looked a little sad and droopy… so maybe I went too far?). I need to actually hem the silk tucked into my bodice, so it’s not a full square of fabric… Oh also, I guess I need to make some simple pockets, until I learn embroidery and make some fancy embroidery pockets as I mentioned earlier this year.

At this point, I am going to freely admit that I rather failed at creating an outfit that is historic clothing, rather than a historic costume. Certainly, there are some aspects of this ensemble that are correct. For example, I’m very pleased that I cut my sleeves so that the stripes go around my arm, not vertically. I think my trim is well done and really makes good use of the fabric I selected. And I like the scale of my stripes, but feel that the fabric is really not the right choice for a piece of historic clothing, rather than a historic costume. In addition to that knowledge, I have learned a lot about the construction of 18th century clothing, which I did not know when I made this last year. For example, I now know how to make petticoats the correct way, and how to construct the bodice of the robe the correct way, and how to sew the shoulder straps the correct way. I plan to make more 18th century things in the next year, so I will be sharing these sources with you as I go so that you will be able to gain this knowledge as well.

In the end, I’ve chalked this green anglaise up to experience, as every seamstress has to do, now and again. We all have to start somewhere. It’s pretty rare that the first thing you make from a totally new era is as correct as you want it to be!

Here’s a few more shots from the day, of me and my companions. Enjoy!

New caraco and quilted petticoat.
New jacket! In a day! You can read more at Jenni’s blog: here.
I really enjoy this pond. That willow on the right is the very same one we took pictures at last year!
It was chilly, so we stopped in the tavern at the inn to warm up a bit.
In front of the real fire! It was really pleasant.
Of course, I took this picture to be silly. There was a lot of picture taking and iphone-ing
Shoe shot! With our “chaperone,” who was obviously not wearing historic clothes.

Oh yes, and I’ve realized I don’t have any shoes that are remotely 18th century-like. So I need to deal with that too… I want yellow ones!…

Project Journal: 1780s Ensemble Part VI: Open Gown and Petticoat

1780s ensemble: petticoat and open gown

I constructed this 1780s ensemble to wear to various 18th century events. If you remember, I decided in the beginning of September to construct a robe a la anglaise and accompanying undergarments. Most of my commentary can be confined to captions (which also allows me to include more photos, so that is exciting!). Enjoy!

I attended the Sudbury Colonial Faire with friends: Carly and Katy
We found a nice woodsy background to take pictures of our outfits
And it’s imperative that you look at the camera sometimes!
We took in the sights (mostly that meant watching the fife and drum units)
The vendors were also dressed in period clothing, but most of the spectators were not: we were asked many times to have our photo taken with random people (and then even more random people snuck in to take cell phone pictures that they didn’t ask permission to take!)
Ooo, this is a good one because you can see the pleated trim on my bodice
(warning: inside joke coming) Jenny, you will appreciate my pumpkin picture! Happy fall and happy birthday!
We found this really adorable garden that was so inspirational for more pictures!
The garden has a bench that is perfect for a quick break and a few photos
We traded cameras so that we would get pictures of ourselves on our own cameras! Genius!
Then we saw this lovely section of the garden and had to take more pictures
There was this great dried branch on the ground that was a perfect picture prop!
I made friends with the bust on the brick wall and he was accessorized with the dried leaves
I really enjoy shadow pictures, but this is especially great because you can see my silhouette!
We were lured out of the garden by a glimpse of this fabulous pond!
And upon closer inspection, the pond had a picture perfect bench just waiting for us!
So of course we all had to take turns being picturesque on the bench
It was a lovely setting!
We finished up the evening by joining more friends at a ball