First Croquet Of The Year

An event! With vintage clothes, and people, and sun, and croquet! The weather was perfectly reasonable–warm without being absurdly toasty–and the ground was dry–perfect for laying out blankets to picnic in style.

I decided to wear my rayon 1943 Mauve Print Dress. I made it in 2017, but have only worn it once, I think. I thought this would be a great opportunity, plus it allowed me the chance to wear my American Duchess Peggy spectators and do my hair in victory rolls. I’m pretty much a fan of big hair in any era, so the victory rolls sounded more appealing than close-to-the-head 1920s styles (1920s being an oft visited decade for summer events since the clothes are easy to wear even when it’s very hot).

(As a side note, I feel like this photo with Plaid Petticoats makes me look like a giant! I don’t think we’re actually that far apart in height (maybe we are?), but the combination of natural waist dress vs dropped waist dress, plus heels vs flats, plus big hair vs hat really makes us look drastically different in height!)

I was very pleased with my victory rolls. I’ve practiced them a few times over the last year or so and have tried a few different products as well. I’ve found that I can make them work (even with my curly hair, yay!) with some Lotta Body on dry hair that hasn’t been washed that day. The biggest challenge is actually that my hair is getting quite long, so the rolls start even farther away from my head than when I wore this dress the last time with victory rolls. My arms almost aren’t long enough anymore!

The long hair also makes figuring out the back a little tricky. I was pleased with what I came up with, though I don’t remember exactly how I did it. It’s something with each side separated, twisted, and then dented in the middle so it’s not one big puff. I guess I have to do it again so I can figure that out!

The picnic included a croquet tournament. I was doing unexpectedly well in the first game, but faltered towards the end and didn’t make the cut to the next round due to the fierce competition (said only somewhat jokingly!).

Croquet involves serious thinking and set up!

This was a lovely outing, perfect for easing back into events. It was wonderful to go digging in my historical clothes closet to get out all of the garments, accessories, and picnic things I would need! I’ve really missed that!

1880s Blush Duchess Satin Corset

In 2015 and 2016, I posted a ‘project journal’ series of blog posts about making a yellow duchess satin c. 1880 Steam Molded Corset (this link will take you to the whole series, which includes specific posts about the plan, inspiration, mockups and patterning, the final pattern, construction, steaming, and finished garment photo shoot). Late last year, I made another one as a commission for a friend, this time in a blush pink duchess satin I picked up at the fabric store with no particular purpose, but thinking it would be really good for this specific use (in fact, I mention this exact idea in the fabric stash additions post where I shared about the purchase of this fabric in 2020).

Having already figured it out once, I used my old blog posts as a guide for making the new corset. This post is intended to document the new corset and the changes and updates I made from the yellow one.

To start, I adjusted the pattern I’d developed for size as well as some of the boning patterns to accomodate the adjusted seam lines and to simplify some of the boning patterns, especially in the back. The yellow corset has a whole bunch of bones… It’s great and based directly off my inspiration image, but time consuming and unnecessary for this purpose.

Once I had a solid pattern, I cut out all my pieces: one layer of silk satin for the exterior and two layers of white coutil for the inner layers. For the most part, the layers for each piece are exactly the same, but there are some differences at front and back panels.

Below are the front panels, where I’ve intentionally cut the coutil to be smaller than the silk. This allows for the seam allowances to be less bulky and therefore more crisp as they fold inward around the busk. The piece on the left is for the proper left side of the corset while the two other pieces are both for the proper right side of the corset. I’ll show how these pieces are put together later in this post.

Next are the back panels, again showing that all of the layers are not cut to be exactly the same. The cut edge of the narrowest coutil layer provides a crisp edge over which to turn the other piece of coutil for the back edge. It also creates 3 layers of coutil where the grommets will be while allowing the silk to fold under the outermost edge of the coutil for a crisp line there as well.

You can see in both of the above images that I machine flat lined the layers for each piece together on almost every edge (some were strategically left alone).

Next, I prepared the center back grommet areas. The silk only seam allowance was crisply turned back over the straight cut edge of the coutil, then the coutil was crisply pressed back over the narrower layer of coutil. You can see the folds opened on the right and the resulting crisp panel on the left.

These were very carefully pinned in place (duchess satin does not hide pin marks!) and then the channels were stitched. I made sure to make them wide enough to not struggle when putting in bones (the last corset had boning channels that were a bit narrow for the bones and it was terribly hard to put them in!).

I used an edge stitch foot to get the lines of stitching right along the folds. Edge stitch feet are magical! I discovered mine while making masks last summer and have since started using it for all kinds of projects–any time I need to stitch close to the edge of a fold! My machine, which is pretty basic, came with one (though I hadn’t used it in, oh… 12 years???). I encourage you to it out if you haven’t before!

Here you can see the exterior of the grommet panels on the left and the interior on the right.

Later, I added size 0 silver grommets. Skipping ahead in construction, here’s a finished image of the corset, showing the finished grommets in place.

After preparing the grommet area, I assembled each side of the corset. No photos of that here, since I did this in the same way as my last corset: grading my seams, binding them with ⅝” cotton twill tape, and then stitching these down to create channels for the bones. (My original construction post has detailed pictures and explanation of this method. The part of the post discussing this also has some images showing the many bones on the back of that yellow corset that I mentioned earlier.)

Next, I put in the busk, starting with the socket side, which is the proper right side of the corset. I used a different method on this corset than on my yellow one. Further inspection of originals shows a seam that the busk sockets are pushed through, rather than reinforced holes without a seam, so that’s what I wanted to do!

This is where I used the two pieces I cut. In the photo below you can see that the two pieces are pinned together (pin heads are on the underside, in case you’re wondering) and I’ve marked small lines where the sockets will land on the seam. This allows me to leave openings in the seam for each socket. The openings need to be snug, but not too tight. The seam is sewn just outside of the coutil, so that the layers fold crisply. As you can see, my seam allowance is uneven. I left the side of the silk that will be visible as the busk is pulled on a little wider to make a solid facing even after years of use.

Here is the finished seam, pressed open. If you look carefully you can see the gaps in the seam that I left for the sockets of the busk. My ruler at the bottom shows the scale. (This photo also shows some of the finished seam allowances and boning channels on the other seams, as well.)

Now the socket half of the busk is pushed into place. The single layer of silk seam allowance is pressed over the cut edge of the coutil and the whole thing is carefully pinned in place. I made sure that the busk is quite snug, so that it can’t shift in any direction.

To do this, I started with pinning the inside, to ensure that the silk is perfectly wrapped under the busk–no gaps or bubbles there! Then, I very carefully pinned from the outside. As you can see, I only pushed the pins through the silk once (they come up through the coutil again, but not through the satin) to minimize holes.

After that, some very careful stitching with a zipper foot was in order. I curved my stitching around the top and bottom of the busk (a detail from extant garments). It’s tricky to make the curves look nice, but it’s a small detail that helps elevate the finished garment, I think.

On the inside, it looks like this. I was able to keep the stitching a consistent distance from the fold in the silk due to my careful pinning. I’ll admit that this turned out better than my yellow corset! The yellow corset has a few bubbles and variation in the width of the turned under seam allowance.

Here is the busk from the side. You can see the seam and the snug openings, with solid back stitching, which leave space for the sockets to push through.

Ok, on to the stud side of the busk! This is the proper left side. Here, you can see the marks I’ve made to show where the studs will poke through and where the edge of the busk will fall. It is intentionally set back from the cut edge of the coutil.

One thing I was very careful about was poking my holes for the studs, because I found that on my yellow corset the silk pulled where I used an awl to make the holes. No one but me would probably see this, but I wanted to do better with this corset. I believe I used very sharp snips to cut small holes rather than using an awl to push the fibers apart. This is fiddly work, because a hole too big can’t be saved and will fray and cause the stud to move around, but it produced better end results, I think.

After making my holes and getting all the studs through, I carefully pinned and then stitched around the busk just like I did on the socket side.

Ta da! Busk!

Next up was binding the top and bottom edges. I used almost the same method as on my last corset. To quote myself:

The bottom binding is bias strips cut 1″ wide. I stitched them first to the right side of the corset with ⅛” seam allowance on my bias, trimmed my corset seam allowance to just about ⅛”, folded the bias over the edge, turned the raw edge under on the wrong side, [basted the seam allowance in place on the inside instead of hand whip stitching the bias down on the inside (slow, but a more effective method than pinning in this case)], then turned the corset back to the right side and topstitched very close to the edge of the first fold. This narrow topstitched binding seems to be common on late 19th century extant corsets and looks very tidy.

Below you can see the bias turned to the inside, pinned, and being basted in place. On the right are finished edges from the inside and outside.

This corset is boned with spiral steel for the bulk of the seams and flat steel on either side of the grommets.

I usually apply the bottom binding first, then put in my bones, and then bind the top. It’s a bit trickier sometimes to bind the corset after the bones are in, and if the top will have decorative lace then it can help hide any struggles that occur. (Thankfully, I learned from my last experience and made a test sample of the boning channel width that was perfect, so it was relatively easy to bone this corset!)

At this point the corset was basically done! The only things left were to add ivory beading lace and ribbon around the top and silk flossing along the bottom of the boning channels.

I was excited that I had all of the necessary materials in the stash, including the silk thread in the perfect ivory color.

I’m very pleased with the end result. It takes all the struggles and things I learned along the way with my yellow corset and perfects them, creating crisper folds and finishes and a comfortable garment with a great silhouette.

There’s no trickery in the next photo, this corset holds its shape with no support other than what is built in!

1830s Woods Walk

My 1830s apple picking adventure last fall was followed by a ramble through the woods for exercise and to get more photos. I shared a bunch of the photos in the construction posts for my 1834 dress (here and here), but even after that there were still a bunch of lovely photos I wanted to share. At that point, I decided to take a break and post about other topics since I’d posted a few blog posts in a row about 1830s things and so the photos from the woods have been patiently waiting to have their moment to shine. Today is the day! I bring you an 1830s armchair ramble through the woods!

On our way to the wooded area, we stopped to take advantage of this stone wall and gate.

The main gate to the wooded area is similar, though with bricks instead of stones and with animal sculptures to delight visitors. My usual photographer friend (who blogs at Plaid Petticoats) enjoyed taking a few photos with her Petzval camera lens, which creates the swirled background in the next two photos (you can read more about the Petzval lens in this Plaid Petticoats blog post).

Just past the main entrance to the wooded area is a little bridge spanning a lovely bit of water. It looks like a pond, but I think it might actually be connected to the nearby river.

Around the bend is one of my favorite vistas, a grand line of pine trees bordered on one side by a small meadow. It’s a magnificent and playful place to stop for photos.

Continuing towards the river is a path along one side of the meadow. Thankfully, the grass on the path is maintained and easy to walk through.

This group photo uses the Petzval lens to make a glorious twinkling arch of greenery out of the dwindling afternoon sunlight.

Along the way to the river are small bits of interest. Enterprising greenery in unique shapes and more watchful animal statues.

Near the river we stopped for more photos. The drooping trees made dramatic backgrounds for us.

I love the next photo. It captures the reflection of the golden leaves in a way that almost looks like a painting, in juxtaposition with the oak leaves and branches on the far side.

Thanks for joining me on this autumnal walk through the woods. I find outings like this are wonderful moments for reflection and appreciating the natural beauty of the seasons.

 

 

Early & Mid 19th Century Commission For NSCDA-MA

I find great joy in the pursuit of researching and making historical clothing. Here on the blog, I post most often about the garments I make for myself, but I rarely post about commissions to make custom historical garments for private individuals, museums, historical institutions, etc. Today’s post is different from the usual in that I’m going to share a commission project with you!

This commission came about through the kindness of Myrthe, who blogs at Atelier Nostalgia. (And how fitting, that we were just communicating about how wonderful it is to connect with people who love historical clothes from around the world!) The commission was from the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America (NSCDA-MA).

The NSCDA-MA owns the beautiful William Hickling Prescott House in Boston, which was built in 1808 and upgraded throughout the 19th century. The NSCDA-MA website (linked above) shares many more details about the various owners of the house and its architecture. In addition to the house itself, the NSCDA-MA also holds a wonderful collection of historical clothing, some items of which have been used for display purposes throughout the house (though most of the garments are in storage and only available for research visits by appointment). Unfortunately, historical garments are often not suited to permanent display as they can be made of delicate fabrics that can be damaged by light, dust, and gravity, just to name a few possible problems. The NSCDA-MA was looking for custom made historical dresses to display instead of the extant historic garments and I was very excited to work with them to make that goal a reality!

The commission involved two dresses: one from about 1810 and one from about 1845. The two dresses haven’t been mounted yet and aren’t available to visit due to ongoing closures, but I hope to eventually go see them in one of the glorious rooms of the house. For now we’ll have to make do with flat photos that were taken for my own archival purposes.

The c. 1810 dress was inspired by a few different dresses, including this c. 1810 cotton dress held by The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The goal was to merge the inspiration dresses into one dress with a repeated pattern on cotton, an adjustable drawstring neck, and long sleeves. In order to support the silhouette and provide opacity I also made a bodiced petticoat to go with the dress. Below are front and back views.

Unlike the first dress, the c. 1845 dress was inspired by this specific c. 1848 silk dress held by The Met. The goal was to keep the details of The Met inspiration dress but make the new dress proportional to the measurements of the form that would be wearing it. The dress includes extra structure to help the bodice keep its shape even without a corset underneath. Below are a full length front view and a close up of the bodice.

I had lots of fun finding trimmings for this dress that recalled the original. In the case of the tassels, I combined sections of the fringe with tassel tops and vintage passementerie buttons in order to get the right look and create tassels. Below, a closeup of tassel parts and the final result.

The designs of each dress were settled on with much collaboration to determine fabrics, trimmings, style details, and more. Both patterns were individually created to fit the requirements and specifications for each dress. Both dresses use a mixture of machine sewing/modern methods on the interiors and hand finishing on the exteriors. This speeds up construction and provides the necessary foundation for the dresses even without a full set of supportive undergarments.

I love projects like this! It’s so wonderful to collaborate with others who appreciate the minute details of historical clothing while also making garments that can be used to help interpret history to the public. These sorts of projects are often initiated through word of mouth suggestions, so please reach out if you know of museums, historic sites, historical societies, etc. who are looking for this type of collaboration!

New Grey Sweatpants

I made a pair of sweatpants! It isn’t the most fancy project, but I’m quite pleased with them because they are a re-creation of a very loved pair that I’ve had for about 20 years.

After looking for replacement pants with a similar cut for years (and coming up with nothing), I decided to take advantage of Blackbird Fabrics restocking their Bamboo/Cotton Stretch Fleece and try making my own! I’d already taken a pattern from the old pair, so there wasn’t much to do except cut out and sew the wonderfully soft fabric I’d purchased.

I didn’t track how long taking the pattern took, but I did track the construction: these new pants took just 2.5 hours–a short project by my usual historical dress standards! I used 1 ¼ yards of the Bamboo/Cotton Stretch Fleece and ½ yard of Bamboo/Cotton 2 x 2 Ribbing in matching grey, also from Blackbird Fabrics.

I reproduced all of the details from the original, including the pockets, wide hems, and wide elastic encased in the waistband.

First, a look at the wide hem from the exterior and interior. I stitched twice, to replicate the look of a twin needle stitched hem.

Next, a look at the wide waistband and the western style pocket. You can also see some of the topstitching that I replicated from the original pants.

Here is the inside of the pants, showing the yummy new fleece interior (so soft!) and the nicely serged edges.

The only thing I left out was a drawstring, because I didn’t have an easy way to make small metal eyelets in my new pants and I didn’t have a matching drawstring, either. This means the waist can’t be cinched in quite like the old pair needed to be (earlier in their life when I was skinnier and later in their life when they were super stretched out and old), but they stay up pretty well. The next pair might get a smaller elastic…

And yes, there will be another pair! After these were so successful I decided to buy fabrics for a second pair (again from Blackbird Fabrics), this time in dusty pink.

Over The Creek And Through The Woods, In A Bustle!

Long before winter had arrived, I had a vision for getting atmospheric winter woodland photos of my recently posted about 1884 Wool Plaid Dress and 1885 Wool Mantle. (The links are to previous posts about these garments that have tons of inspiration, patterning, construction, and finishing details–check them out if you want to see more details up close or learn about how these garments were made.) I was joined in my plans by a friend (who blogs at Plaid Petticoats) who also had a winter-y bustle dress that, like my ensemble, needed to be appropriately documented and photographed. In this post, I’d like to take you with us on our photographic ramble to show you some of the beautiful winter sights that didn’t make it into the detailed construction posts.

We began our adventure with photos at a local ruined estate called Bancroft’s Castle. We’ve walked up the long, steep hill to this location multiple times in modern clothes, but wanted to prove it was possible in corsets, bustles, and snow, as well as having the wonderful setting for some of our photos.

Bancroft’s Castle was built in the early 20th century but destroyed by fire within a few decades. Now, the only parts left standing are the stone walls and fireplaces. The site is open to the public and often quite crowded, but in the freezing temperatures we had it pretty much to ourselves. I love this photo, which captures the ruined walls, open levels, and stark trees. Even the iron fence seems to suit the mood!

There are lots of other photos with Bancroft’s Castle as the background in my details posts about my dress and mantle, if you want to see more.

After taking advantage of the different sections of the castle, we moved on to a path along the nearby river .The path meanders across fields, up and down hills, along the river, through the woods… and more!

It was a beautiful, sunny, very cold day. There was relatively new snow that covered everything. Being just a few inches, it was not deep enough to be a hassle to walk through in a long skirt.

The open field trekking felt very much in the spirit of adventuring women of the late nineteenth century, though it was made slightly easier by the fact that we could follow existing tracks rather than having to blaze our own trail.

After crossing the fields, we arrived in the woods along the river. The bare trees made wonderful views for musing as they stood in the snow.

The river is large enough to not freeze over entirely, though the shallow edges were covered with ice. I appreciated the bands of interest provided in this view. Snow, bare shrubs, ice, wonderfully reflective water, grey trees, green pines, and very blue sky.

In particular, I was struck by these trees with their curved trunks artfully reflected in the river. The bursting silhouette of the trees is fun all on its own but even more pleasant to look at when joined by the reflection. It feels exuberant, despite the bare branches.

The wooded area was soon interrupted by a stand of pine trees. I could easily envision them being foreboding, in an Anne of Green Gables way, but they were also bathed in golden sunlight which brought a certain magic that was cheery and bright.

It was a great place to stop and take photos. I love the next one for the depth, but if you look carefully you can also see that both bustle ensembles made it into the shot, which amuses me.

A bit of post-production on the part of my Plaid Petticoats friend produced this Harry Potter patronus image. Her dress is Slytherin inspired!

After the stand of pine trees was a small creek that fed into the main river. We looked into going around it, but of course finding the end wasn’t really feasible and the other side had a river. So… It was over the creek time!

Other trekkers had laid logs and branches across the creek to create a makeshift bridge. With the help of the ‘bridge’ we made it across with no problems!

After that it was easy going along the river and then back through the woods and fields. Both of our dresses were none the worse for wear, though part of my hem facing had been pulled loose on a branch and then collected quite a bit of snow inside. Getting all the snow out was a bit challenging, but it was easy to resew the hem once the more difficult task was completed.

I had a great time tromping about in my dress–proving that climbing hills and scrambling down ravines and across creeks is completely do-able in a bustle!

1885 Mantle (HSM #5) & Accessories

Last post was a detailed look at the 1884 Plaid Wool Bustle Dress that I completed last year. This post is going to look at the details of the accessories I made and wore to stay warm while taking photos of the 1884 dress: a mantle, a new muff cover, and a quick mention of the hat.

First, the mantle, which qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 Challenge #5:

Purple: Make an item in any shade of purple.

Easier to see the color in the next photo! Purple!

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials: 1 ½ yards purple wool, 2 ¾ yards drab polyester lining, and about 1 yard of faux fur.

Pattern: Adapted from a pattern on page 33 of The National Garment Cutter Book Of Diagrams.

Year: 1888.

Notions: 4 ¼ yards brown braid trim and 4 coat size hook and loops.

How historically accurate is it?: 85%. The pattern and silhouette are good, but the polyester lining and faux fur are not accurate. I’ve also never examined an extant 1880s mantle up close, so the construction methods are guesses that made sense to me.

Hours to complete: 18.5 hours.

First worn: In January, for a ramble and photos!

Total cost: Approximately $40.

Mantle: Beginnings

This accessory adventure started with a passionate desire to make a specifically 1880s shaped mantle to go with my new dress. I don’t remember the details exactly, but it’s possible that I fell in love with the red mantle on the right in the fashion plate below even before I fell in love with the shape of the bustle dress that I’m wearing underneath my mantle.

The shape! The fur! The matching muff! So cute! It seemed like it would go very well with my dress.

Mantle: Patterning

I started the mantle soon after finishing the 1884 dress last year, beginning with the pattern. The pattern is from The National Garment Cutter Book Of Diagrams published in 1888 (the entire book is digitized and available here).

The pattern I started with is on page 33: Ladies’ Wrap. It has the same general shape as my inspiration plate, including the very specific-to-the-1880s outerwear sleeve set into the side back seam. Figuring those out was an eagerly anticipated part of the challenge.

The brief instructions are to use the scale corresponding to the bust measure to enlarge the pattern. I didn’t feel like finding the right scale in the book, so instead I guessed at a scale that generated proportions that made sense for my size. I think it was somewhere in the realm of ⅛” to 1″.

After the pattern was enlarged, life became busy and I put this project on hold. Fast forward to the first days of 2021 and I decided to knock this project off the to-do list so it would be ready at the first sign of snow for photos!

I made a mockup from my pattern, adjusted a few things including the length of the front piece (it was much longer than my inspiration!), then altered the mockup to check the changes. At that point, I was satisfied and ready to move on to real fabric!

Mantle: Sleeve Puzzling

Along the way in this process I had to figure out the sleeves. Below is what the sleeve pattern piece looks like when cut out. It’s not your usual sleeve shape. The top looks mostly reasonable, but what’s with a dart on the bottom edge? And the point at the bottom? Odd! Folding this in half (as you would normally do for a sleeve) would produce a strange sleeve, indeed.

I pondered this… looked up extant garments (there are a number of mantles with sleeves like this on my general 1880s outerwear Pinterest board) and did some searching for other people who had made this type of garment before.

The thing that suddenly made the sleeve click for me was a series of posts from Caroline (who blogs at The Modern Mantua Maker) showing the construction of an 1880s dolman that she made. This post, in particular, contains a photo showing the sleeve before it was set into the body of the garment. Ah ha! I realized that the bottom of my sleeve folds up and the dart goes against the body. That creates the right shape!

This post from Caroline shows her finished dolman. It was also very helpful as I tried to wrap my brain around these unusual sleeves. And, Caroline has another dolman she made as well, which I also looked at as I was figuring out my pattern.

Mantle: Materials

I had the fashion plate to reference for the overall design of the mantle, but I needed a bit more detail to confirm my material choices. Many 1880s mantles are made from fancier fabrics: silks, velvets, brocades… I only had a heavy purple wool in my stash in a quantity I thought would be just the right amount for the mantle and I didn’t want to buy something new (especially something likely to be expensive, as many of those fancier fabrics would be).

After some searching, I found this c. 1880 opera cloak at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that seems to be made of a plain wool. I decided to use some of the details from it, like the braid trim, to upgrade my mantle from plain to more interesting.

I had the braid trim in my stash already, purchased a few years ago from Deb’s Lace and Trims because I liked the look of it and thought it would be useful someday (I love Deb’s Lace and Trims–you absolutely can’t beat the prices and the products are lovely–I’ve been using them for historical projects for the last ten years!). It was great to find a use for this braid.  With just five yards on hand I had to reduce the amount used relative to the Met inspiration mantle, but I think the end result is in keeping with the simple style of the dress. The braid highlights the shape of the mantle but doesn’t distract or seem too gaudy for the plain wool base.

After creating my first mockup I did have a very justified fear that my purple wool would not be enough for the mantle. Thankfully, after altering the pattern to suit my taste and size I was just able to eke out all of the pieces. Whew!

I love the quilted lining of the Met opera cloak and I considered quilting silk myself to do it. My stash didn’t have any appropriately colored silk, though, so that idea was out if I was to stay on the stash busting course. I thought of buying pre-quilted silk (completely abandoning my stash busting idea), but the colors I could find were bland and the dark brown I eventually decided on after months of indecision was sold out.

In the end, I decided I just wanted the project to be finished, so I would go the low-cost route of purchasing a polyester lining from the $3 per yard store. It helped me use other stash materials, so it seemed a reasonable trade off.

Mantle: Construction

Here’s that polyester lining. It’s unintentionally the same greyish-brown drab color as the cotton lining of the 1884 bustle dress. The mantle is fully lined, as you can see.

In order to make the lining of my mantle tidy, the sleeves were fully lined before being set into the side back seams. Here is one sleeve assembled and ready to be set in.

The assembled/lined sleeves were set into the exterior wool side back seams while the lining side back seams were sewn plain. After attaching the sleeves around the armsceyes in the exterior wool, the lining was turned under and whip stitched to finish the edges.

All of the braid trim is machine sewn on using a zipper foot. I was able to sew it in place on the wool before setting in the lining, so none of the attaching sew lines are visible.

The lining was machine sewn around the edges with the neck left open to turn right sides out. After that was completed, I machine sewed the collar lining (interfaced with cotton) to the neck edge by machine. Then I sewed the exterior fur collar on the neck edge by hand (shown in the next photo).

After that I flipped the lining up, turned all of the seam allowances in, and whip stitched the lining to the fur edge. It seemed easier to do it this way rather than machine sewing the fur.

The faux fur trim around the bottom edge is pieced where there are seams in the wool. This allows the fur to have the exact same shape as the wool underneath. These edges have no seam allowance. The edges are just butted together and then (roughly) whip stitched, as in the photo below. From the right side of the fur the seams are completely invisible.

The top and bottom edges of the fur trim have seam allowances that are turned in and hand sewn along both edges. The outer (bottom) edges are sewn right sides together with the bottom of the purple wool. Then, the inner (top) edges are turned under and stitched. Here is that process in progress.

The mantle closes with 4 coat weight hook and loops spaced down the front edges. They kept popping open while being worn, so when I got home I pinched them with a pair of pliers to make the hooks grab onto the loops better. I haven’t been out wearing this again since then, but I’m confident this solves the problem, as I’ve used this trick in the past.

New Muff (Cover)

Next, I want to share a bit about the muff I have in these photos.

Despite having a number of muffs, none of them are the right size and material to match my new mantle. I have a dark muff that matches the hat I wound up wearing and I have a muff made from the same fur I used to trim the mantle, but the dark muff didn’t match my mantle and the one that does match is an intentionally oversized early 19th century muff. Neither would do!

But I didn’t want to make an entirely new muff. Instead, I decided to make a new cover for a muff I’ve had since 2012 (you can see it in this post from 2019, when I used it with an early 19th century outfit). The muff is from a workshop I took with LadyDetalle. (She has an Etsy shop that often stocks muffs like this as well as many other beautiful and historically inclined goodies.)

The base is essentially a pillow (stuffed with real down–quite luxurious!) that can be rolled into a tube and have a cover put on. The idea is that the muff cover can be changed out so that you can have all sorts of beautiful muffs and only need to store the one base. The muff is sized for the 18th century, but I thought it just might work for my 1880s look, too.

Accordingly, I measured my existing muff cover and cut a rectangle of faux fur that size. I butted my edge to make a tube and whip stitched it, in the same way as I whip stitched the mantle trim. Next, I machine sewed twill tape on the tube ends. (I had no worries about the fur getting caught in the machine sewing because that whole edge turns into the muff in the end anyway, so none of that will show.)

Once whip stitched in place the twill tape covers the raw edge of the fur and also provides a casing for the ribbons at each end. I used tobacco brown polyester ribbon that was gifted to me. By way of justification for the polyester ribbon, I’d already used polyester for the mantle lining and this seemed like a good use for this particular ribbon.

Below is the muff cover after those steps were completed.

And here is a closeup of the twill tape with machine stitching on one side and whip stitching on the other. The ends of the twill tape are just turned under and butted together, leaving an opening for the ribbon ends to come through.

And ta da! A muff that is the right size and perfectly matched to the mantle! The additional muff cover takes up hardly any storage space and now I have more versatility in my wardrobe.

Hat Baubles

While making my mantle and debating how to stay warm, I figured I would need something to keep my head warm. I’d already made the dress and the mantle and I didn’t feel like creating something all new for my head, as well. And I loved this image from the McCord Museum of 1880s ladies curling in the cold with their hats.

I thought I could repurpose my 1917 faux fur hat to suit the purpose, as it has a generally similar tall, straight shape. That hat is nice and warm, being lined in flannel and interlined with layers of batting to insulate the head.

The look of it was a little bland with this outfit, though, and not really coordinated with everything else.  I liked the idea of bringing in some of the mantle fur to make the hat look like it belonged. After fussing with various ideas I decided on fur poms, or baubles.

The baubles are sort of like large-scale cloth stuffed buttons. They are a circle that is gathered, the edges turned into provide stuffing, and the backs sewn together to close up the opening. (This tutorial shows how to make these types of buttons, though I started with a circle of fabric rather than a square.)

I like that the finished baubles pull in the look of the tan fur, that they are silly and amusing, and that they are easily removable. In fact, they are attached with safety pins on the inside of the hat! You can’t get much more easily removable than that!

I’m very pleased with my stash-busting-and-using-things-I-have-on-hand winter bustle ensemble. It’s warm. It was a great patterning challenge. It’s really fun to wear (it feels super elegant!). And it (mostly) reduced my fabric stash.

Thanks for sticking with me through this second detailed (and rather long) post! Next post will be further photos of the bustle dress in action on a woodland adventure.

1884 Plaid Wool Dress Details

I’m very excited to share the details of my (somewhat) new 1884 Plaid Wool Dress! It’s ‘somewhat new’ because I actually finished it 8 months ago, but at that point it was July and the temperature was absolutely not acceptable for wearing a wool dress for photos! Instead of putting the dress away, I kept it out, waiting for colder weather and the opportunity for a photo shoot. I was hoping for snow… and this winter, I got it!

This dress is entirely inspired by the dress on the right in the fashion plate below from La Mode Illustree. I love the relative simplicity of the overall design and the waterfall of folded fabric on the skirt. Unfortunately, I don’t have an official source of the fashion plate or the year it is from, though my best guess is 1884.

I thought the design would be a great use of the tan and plaid wools that have been in my stash since 2012 (wow… that’s longer than I remembered!).  In addition to those, a small piece of plain purple wool had made its way into my stash over the last eight or nine years and when I started this dress in November 2017 I decided it would be a nice addition to the tan and plaid wools in the form of trim. While not an exact match to the purple in the plaid, I think it helps to perk up the plaid and bring out the non-tan tones (the green and purple).

Skirt Construction

I started the process of this dress with the skirt. I wanted the fabric to hang just like the fashion plate, so I decided to drape a custom pattern as opposed to starting with anything that already existed. The only exception to that (in the skirt) is a base of drab greyish-brown cotton. The base pieces were adapted from a Janet Arnold pattern.

I used the skirt base for the front and side areas, in order to have something for the wool layers to be attached to. In the back of the skirt there is nothing but the tan wool.

Here is a look at the inside of the finished skirt. You can see the tan waistband along the top and the drab cotton base with tacking stitches all over it. The tacking stitches are holding the plaid fabric in place–you can just see the plaid selvedge poking out on the right side.

The pleats in the plaid aren’t part of the original fashion plate, which instead has a draped apron-type front. I tried that, putting my plaid with a vertical grain and a tan apron over top, but I really hated how it looked in wool–too heavy and rather unattractive. I played with the fabrics until I settled on the bias plaid. I hinted at the draping in the fashion plate by adding tucks to the plaid to help it drape just slightly rather than just being flat. You can see the resulting folds pretty clearly in the next photo.

The various overlapping pleats of the plaid front, waterfall side, and back were complicated. I was trying to achieve a back that looked like this dress held by the Met, in addition to the various lovely folds shown in the fashion plate.

It’s easy to draw things, but sometimes they don’t really work in actual fabric… I found that with the waterfall, especially. There’s actually an added loop of fabric tucked between the folds that isn’t part of the side piece at all! It’s just a little fake bit to help create the look of the fashion plate. I couldn’t figure out any other way to do it!

Given these various challenges and lots of other things to keep me busy in life, this poor skirt sat in a half finished state on the dress form in my sewing room for at least a year. I couldn’t remove it without marking everything… and I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted! (I say poor skirt, but it was sort of poor me, as I definitely reached a point of wanting the dress to get put away!)

Eventually, I did make up my mind and remove the skirt, but the partially finished skirt still sat around for ages before I finished it. Part of marking the skirt also meant figuring out the facings of the waterfall bits, because the fully finished edges had to be set into the waistband. Mr. Q actually asked at one point after the skirt was off the dress form whether I had intended it as decoration in my sewing room because it was there for so long… Nope!

All the various pleats on the skirt wound up making for a rather thick layer of things to sew through for the waistband. Here’s what the side with the waterfall trim looks like on the inside. I count at least 9 layers of wool in one spot! Given that, I decided to cut the inner side of my waistband on the selvedge of the fabric and leave it hanging down into the skirt instead of turning the seam allowances up as you would normally do for a waistband.

Setting the hems on the skirt was another challenge, though this was due to the fact that I did it by myself. It involved dressing in my corset, bustle, petticoat, and skirt, twisting and contorting while putting pins in the hem to mark the floor, then standing to look in the mirror to see if they were even, then adjusting… many times!

I eventually had everything marked to my satisfaction and could move on with the sewing. All sections of the hem are finished with wide bias strips of the drab cotton, the goal being to make the hems durable and less likely to catch on twigs, etc. than if they had more textured wool exposed (and I can say, after romping about the woods in this dress, that the hems did an admirable job!).

After using the drab cotton for both my 1896 Bicycling Ensemble and to line my 1863 Apricot Evening Gown I was starting to run low for this project. I cut the skirt base pieces, cut the bodice lining pieces, and then used pieced scraps to make the wide bias to hem the skirt. As you can see in the above photo, some of my bias pieces were only 6″ or so in length. And in the photo below, you can see the only bit of wide bias that was leftover when I was finished!

The final skirt detail to share is a hidden patch pocket! The skirt opens on the side front, along one side of the plaid, and underneath that opening is a pocket, perfectly sized to fit a cell phone and keys. The pocket is oddly low, near the knees, but that is because I wanted to make sure that any bulk from items in the pocket would press in towards my legs and not make an unsightly bulge on the exterior of the dress.

The photo below shows the pocket, as well as some of the hooks and thread loops that allow the tan fabric to attach to the plaid wool.

Bodice Construction

In addition to this rather complicated skirt, there was also a bodice to be made! The bodice is actually pretty straightforward. The pattern is adapted from the one I used for my 1885 Frills and Furbelows summer dress which in turn was adapted from a Janet Arnold pattern.

The bodice is completely flat lined in the drab cotton. There is a ribbon waist tape to help keep the back of the bodice tight against the body and to keep the bodice from riding up while being worn.

The bottom and front/neck edges are finished with bias strips of the drab cotton. The seam allowances are unfinished. The bodice closes in front with hooks and loops.

There are two other details I want to discuss, as well. First, there are the bust pads! I came across these in this c. 1885 extant dress and decided I wanted to give them a try to see if I could get that really exaggerated bust to waist ratio in my inspiration fashion plate (here’s the link to it again).

Turns out… no. I did not achieve that bust to waist ratio… but I think that’s more a factor of my waist size than anything. (It’s not as small as it was 10 years ago…) To keep the proportions of the fashion plate I would drastically need to increase the bust size. Perhaps in another dress.

In the meantime, this dress tried out the bust pads. They are made from cotton scraps with shaped batting layers inside. Below you can see the steps to creating the pads. Once sewn, these were tacked inside the bodice to keep them in place.

The second detail still to discuss is the neck ruffle. I finished this dress shortly after completing my 1875 Reception Dress last summer and I had my antique fluting iron on the brain. After pondering the fashion plate neck and sleeve ruffles for awhile I decided to use my fluting iron to ruffle some cotton to use for my dress’s neckline and cuffs.

I was well practiced by this point, having fluted lots of silk for the 1875 dress, so away I went! The cotton strips are cut on the grain and folded along the long edge–no hemming required!

Attached to the neckline the trim looks like this. The waves are a little crushed where they are tacked down, but the folded edge maintains a nice wavy shape. I found that my cotton frayed more than I wanted it to, so I went back and whip stitched over the raw edge to keep it tidy.

I used the same cotton for small ruffles on each cuff, as well. Like the neck ruffle, these are hand sewn inside the finished sleeve openings.

You can see the finished effect of the ruffles in the next photo! Subtle, but adding a nice edge finish.

While the ruffles are sewn to the inside of the finished bodice, the purple bodice trim and plaid cuffs are sewn similarly but on the outside of the finished bodice. I didn’t want them to add bulk by turning all the way under into the bias edging, so they have the raw edges turned under and then they are hand sewn to the outside of the bodice.

I decided the purple trim around the neck wasn’t quite interesting enough and so I added a narrow fold of bias cut plaid to help transition between the two solid colors. This also helps the bodice to feel that it belongs with the skirt, so that the only plaid isn’t just on the skirt front and cuffs.

Final details

Both skirt and bodice are mostly assembled by machine with hand finishing, including trimming, hemming/facing, closures, etc.

I used about 8 yds of the different wools and drab cotton for the ensemble. These materials, plus notions etc., cost just under $30. This was definitely helped by the fact that most of the fabrics were purchased for just $3 per yard at the local discount fabric store!

The skirt is a bit heavy, being made of about six yards of wool and cotton, but it’s not unreasonable. And, it’s quite warm! I was perfectly warm in the approximately 20 degree Fahrenheit cold for all of these photos except for my nose, chest, and hands. Never fear, though, I was wearing the additional layers of my newly completed mantle and muff except for during these photos! (And there will be posts coming up about them as well, with lots more photos!) With all my layers the only part of me that was cold was my nose!

In the end, I’m more pleased with the overall dress than I expected to be! I was always excited about the skirt and the purple swoop of the upper bodice trim, but once I started making the dress in wool I was worried the bodice might be too plain and maybe even boring… but I like the fit and shaping very much (especially in the back!) and I think that helps balance out the relatively simple style. It makes sense for a wool dress to be well tailored but more simple in decoration and style than its silk counterparts.

Also, I’m very pleased that my idea from 2012, to use these fabrics for a bustle dress, has finally been achieved! I think there’s still a yard or so of tan wool in my stash, but I’ve sewn my way through a good 8 yards of it. That’s great stash busting!

A Magical Walk Through The Woods

My last two posts were aimed at sharing photos of my black wool 3/4 circle skirt and 1950s boysenberry raglan cardigan. Those posts both included a bunch of photos, all of which were taken during a magical walk through the woods, but there were many wonderful photos in addition to those that I didn’t feel needed to be added to the garment documentation posts.

Accordingly, I’ve decided to share more in this post!

Hopefully this is a nice ‘armchair’ outing into the snowy, magical woods! Welcome to the adventure!

This snow was very early–occurring on October 30. Due to that early date, there was a beautiful mix of iconic golden bronze New England leaves still on the trees as well as on the ground, mixed with the snow.

The snow was rather sticky, as you can see in the photos, so not only was it clinging to the trunks and branches, but it also clung to the leaves. The combination of slanting sunlight filtering through the trees created an incredible glow.

The snow, only a few inches deep, created a quiet hush over the woods. It provided enticing opportunities to step off the paths, something that is less likely during other seasons, when branches are full of leaves and poison ivy might be lurking in the undergrowth.

In between photos, I donned my coat and orange vest. Safety is important when it’s hunting season in the woods!

I found it quite tempting to pause and listen to stillness, admiring the majestic height of the pine trees and the beauty of the forest.

It was fascinating to see how the wooded areas bathed in shadows retained much of the snow throughout the walk, while areas that were in more direct sunlight were quite clear of snow. Look at the contrast!

The colors were so vibrant! The mix of bronze leaves on the trees and ground, green algae on the river, boysenberry sweater, and blue sky are such a contrast to the snowy scenes that we found only a mile or so back on the wooded path.

The colors look even more vibrant in this photo. I think the green branch really brings out the green in the river and pops against the purple of the sweater.

By this point in the walk my down coat was rather too warm, combined with all my other layers. The snow felt the same way, I think, as most of it had melted, leaving bare leaves and trees.

The pine trees in this part of the forest were a different variety. I’m not an expert on tree types, but these remind me more of drooping Douglas Fir trees than the very tall pine trees.

Scattered around were also many baby pine trees, pushing their way up through the snow and leaves to get their share of sunshine!

There are always many photos that don’t make the cut, but I found some of the ones from this outing to be particularly amusing, so I thought I’d share a few outtakes, too!

This is probably the most logical one. As the day warmed up the sticky snow was falling off the trees in clumps and landing everywhere… including on my head! Easy to dust off, but amusing!

Next, I have this photo, in which I believe I’m trying to keep a branch from poking me in the head. I actually love the background… this little gully is lovely, with the floating leaves and curved shape leading out to the river. But… my arms remind me of a family joke about ‘keeping the elephants’ away, which is amusing.

Lastly, my favorite outtake. The ‘what??? confusion’ face! This one just makes me laugh.

I hope you enjoyed this beautiful, snowy armchair outing!

1950s Lady’s Raglan Cardigan In Boysenberry

I finished knitting another sweater!

This is actually my fourth sweater. The first was my 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina, the second hasn’t been posted to the blog, and the third was my 1920 Sweater of Determination. Each sweater has been a learning experience in some way, and this one was no different!

One thing I learned with this sweater was about multiple different ways to increase and decrease symmetrically on each side of a piece (a sleeve for example). This was a rabbit hole I went down that I think was sparked by my wondering why the stitch instructions were different for the left and right side raglan armholes.

The method of increasing or decreasing is an important one made by the pattern designer because every stitch has a different look and different types of stitches may or may not look symmetrical when knit up. Also, the increase and decrease stitches have a slant to them, so it’s important that the slants are going in the correct direction. This resource clearly outlines different increase and decrease methods.

You can see the decorative symmetry of the shaping on the armsceyes in this pattern in the photo below. I love how it looks!

I also learned how to K2Tog TBL (Knit 2 Together Through The Back Loop). I’d K2Tog before, but not through the back loop. I found this explanation of K2Tog TBL to be the most helpful.

And, I learned about picking up stitches along an already finished edge, which is something I hadn’t encountered in any of the things I’ve made so far. This technique is used for the cuffs on the new sweater. I found this information and this information super helpful in terms of figuring it out and making it look nice.

The pattern for this sweater is a PDF download from Subversive Femme on Etsy. It is the 1950s Fitted Raglan Cardigan pictured below. The pattern was easy to download and the quality was clear and easy to read.

My cardigan (the end result) generally follows the pattern image, so that’s great! There are a few differences:

1- My understanding of the instructions created a vertical pattern that doesn’t quite match the one pictured on the orange sweater. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong or not, but I don’t mind how mine turned out.

2- The pattern image clearly shows full length sleeves, but the instructions definitely produced ¾ sleeve sleeves with weird proportions in terms of circumferences around the arms. After making one, I puzzled for a bit, then decided to take it apart and knit a new sleeve with alterations to make it longer.

Below, you can see the comparison of the sleeves: the original sleeve that follows the directions is on the left and my altered version is on the right.

3- I made up the sweater in a bust size 38″ (the largest size included in the pattern). As much as I love my sweater, it is a bit small. I’d prefer it to be an inch or two longer in length, a bit bigger in terms of torso circumference (the buttons don’t really stay closed), and definitely bigger in the size of the armsceyes (it’s a bit tight under my arms). This makes sense, since my bust measures 40″. Someday I might make another version of this sweater and adjust the pattern to have more space in the areas where I need it.

The pattern seems to have been published by a yarn company and states quite clearly that “Correct results can only be obtained by using Lee Target in ‘Motoravia’ Double Knitting Wool.” Well, I didn’t use that… I used Red Heart With Love acrylic yarn in boysenberry, because I had a bunch of it in my stash (enough, I thought or at least hoped). It was leftover from my Deauville sweater, I liked the color, and it also seemed to be a similar weight to the Lee Target wool, which Ravelry has great information on and photos of.

I figured that if the sweater was a complete disaster I wouldn’t have spent tons of money on yarn for it. In the end, I didn’t have quite enough yarn and had to order another 6oz, but luckily I found the right yarn, in the right color, on Etsy and the skeins don’t have dye lots, so I had enough to finish the project!

Being acrylic, this cardigan is quite warm. It’s great for being outside in the cold, but I’ve found that wearing it inside can sometimes make me too warm. That’s true of most acrylic sweaters I own. I can’t count on them being part of an outfit all day, because I often take them off at some point.

This sweater took about 46 hours of knitting to make, plus another 4 ½ hours of unknitting (either to take apart the sleeve that was too short or because I’d mixed up a stitch somewhere along the way and had to go back and fix it). It was made over the course of about 10 months.

For materials, I used about 18 oz/925 yds of yarn and 7 plastic buttons that I found in a coordinating shade of deep pinky/purple, after a lengthy hunt on Etsy. The total cost of the materials was about $20, plus some shipping for the buttons and extra skein of yarn.

I had a wonderful time tromping through the woods after an early snow last October to document the new sweater and the black wool ¾ circle skirt I’m wearing with it. Despite the fit being a bit small, I’m very pleased with the cardigan and have added it into my regular wardrobe rotation even outside of a photo shoot walk.

While it’s fun to make historical things that only get worn on special outings, there’s also an added bonus when things can be worn more often for everyday life!