Lady Greensleeves's Velvet Undergown

The tailoring misadventures of a histerical costumer

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Test Message After a Long Time Gone

Clicking into my Blogger Dashboard after ages and ages and ages, and I see that (gasp!) there are actually subscribers! So this message, which is primarily a test to see if I can still work the Blogger interface, is also kind of, sort of directed to those folks who, whenever they stopped by, happened to sign up for updates. :)

I am now doing my costuming blogging at one of two places--my "regular" blog, Mirth & Matter, or my more static costuming site, attached to my website. Mirth & Matter is updated as I work on things, and my costuming pages when projects are complete & time allows.

But this particular post comes about because I am a member of The Enchanted Inkpot, which recently relocated from LiveJournal to Blogspot. My first post since the big move is coming up next week, and I wanted to make sure I could still work the old controls! So for anyone reading this, be sure to check out my interview with author Rebecca Barnhouse about her new historical fantasy, Peaceweaver!


Friday, May 30, 2008

18th Century Ensemble Diary

This spring I took a hiatus from Renaissance costuming to put together my first complete, truly historically accurate* ensemble: women's middle-class clothing of the last quarter of the 18th Century.

*As much as possible. See notes.

The pieces are:
*a hand-sewn shift of linen
*half-boned stays (purchased)
*cotton underpetticoat
*linen tie-on pocket
*wool flannel petticoat
*a jacket of wool flannel
*a white linen cap
*handkerchief and apron, linen
*clocked stockings
*mundane shoes that don't look half-bad

I used the instructions in Everyday Dress of Rural America, 1783-1800 by Meredith Wright, cross-referencing with patterns by JP Ryan and the extant shift in the collection at Williamsburg. I used 3.5 oz softened handkerchief linen from and linen tape (to bind the neckline) from Burnley & Trowbridge. It was entirely hand-sewn, using French seams throughout--a new tecchnique for me, which I have to say I really enjoyed mastering! I've washed and dried it several times, and it's holding up beautifully.
I loved making the shift. It took forever (something like ten or eleven weeks; I could have made it in an afternoon by machine), but my hand-sewing skills leaped forward exponentially; and I discovered just how soothing and Zen-like the rhythm of hand-stitching long seams is. This is my first linen shift/chemise, and it won't be my last. It's deliciously soft--seriously, you have no idea. I can't figure out why we ever stopped making our underwear from 100% linen. Ok, the whole ironing issue, I guess, but still. Yummy.

The tape-bound neckline (inside)

Other Undergarments

I have two sets of stays for this ensemble--the period-correct half-boned stays shown in the picture (purchased from Jas. Townsend), which are slightly too large for me. And a Renaissance-era corset from Castle Garden Creations, which fits a little better, and which is actually what I have on in the pictures of the finished outfit. I ended up with two because I knew the 18th C. stays were too large, but I didn't want to make or buy a second set... and I didn't really have a good Renaissance corset. Long discussions last summer on the sewing boards convinced me that the difference in silhouette was minimal. You may disagree.

I'm also wearing a cotton underpetticoat of violent bubblegum pink broadcloth (inside-out in the photograph). The fabric's not a particularly period choice, but I had it on hand and wanted to test the construction for the petticoat--and not on my expensive blue wool flannel. I'll talk about the construction below (it's identical to the petticoat).

I'm also wearing my single tie-on pocket, which I made from linen, using (more or less) the pattern from Everyday Dress, and the instructions from the JP Ryan Six-Piece Ladies' Wardrobe pattern. I made one change to the construction, and that was to make the ties one continuous length that runs all along the top of the pocket, instead of two lengths sewn to the sides. It just seems sturdier that way.

It's wonderfully practical, and I think everyone should consider adding pockets to their garb (of any era)--I had my cell phone, wallet, sunglasses, pens for signing my book, and a battery pack for a cordless mike in mine a couple of weekends ago, and there was still room to spare!

Jacket & Petticoat

Here's where I depart from historical accuracy a little--and deliberately. Because my book takes place in a woolen mill, I really wanted to work with period wools. From what I can tell, the woollens of the period (as opposed to the worsteds) were used primarily for menswear. The main use for woollens in women's wear would have been for petticoats. Women's jackets and gowns were frequently made of worsteds, like glazed wools and the like--but the flannels, baizes, broadcloths, satinettes, &c would have been much more common in military uniforms, frock coats, breeches, and other sturdy men's clothes.

I didn't care. I wanted to use flannel, and history be damned. Pffft. For the jacket, I used JP Ryan's Caraco pattern, which is based on a couple of extant caracos (you can see photographs of them in the Williamsburg book I linked to, above; and scale reproduction drawings in the Janet Arnold book for the period). (Period caracos seem to have been made mostly from cotton chintz and similar fabrics) I used a delicious butter yellow flannel from Renaissance Fabrics.

I have to say, this was one of the easiest projects I've ever done. The flannel was a joy to work with, and I saved every last tiny little scrap of it for some rug-hooking buddies. But mostly, I think everything went together so smoothly because the pattern was so smart and straightforward. Everything made perfect sense--and even the things that had me going, "Huh?" (like the pleats in the back) made perfect sense when I actually sat down and *did* them. I ran into a couple of tiny stumbling blocks--first, although I made a mockup (really!), it's still a little too big in the shoulders (like absolutely everything on me). I'd cut it a little narrower next time, and remember about seam allowances (which I never seem to do). Second, I really fought with the front closure, and I'm still not totally thrilled with how it looks. The pattern calls for hook & tape (which, by the way, is expensive), and try as I might, I could not figure out how to lay it out so that it made any sense. Even Milord, who is usually my answer to all spatial relations difficulties, couldn't make it work. I ended up using hooks and eyes (alternating them, thanks to a reminder by some sewing friends), and I found them fussy and unforgiving. I'm going to study the pictures to see where I need to make adjustments, and fix those before this ensemble's next outing.

The petticoat is made from instructions in the Basic Six Piece Women's Wardrobe pattern, and they involved math. It was particularly challenging on my non-math-inclined brain, because all the instructions for petticoats I could find expect you to use much, much narrower fabric than I had, and cut the skirt panels according to your height X the width of the fabric. My fabric was 60" wide, so it took some fiddling and thinking (and a hideous pink mockup) before I actually had two panels cut to the right size. Once that was done, however, the construction was a breeze. It's essentially two rectangles of fabric, each pleated to its own waistband casing. They're then sewn together from the hem up, about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way to the waistband (you can see the openings at the hip in the picture--they're there so you can reach through and access the pockets, of course!). Linen tape goes through both casings, and gets tied on one side. And that's it.

I used a fairly heavy blue wool flannel from Hamilton Dry Goods, which has the same name as the fabric I used for the caraco, but which is decidedly different. That flannel was soft and lightweight and drapey. This stuff was heavy, sturdy, a little bit rough--good Civil War soldier uniform stuff. Very well fulled, which is cool--I just lopped it off at the bottom and didn't even bother to hem it! Which makes a great visual aid in a costuming demonstration.


I'm still conflicted about the cap for this ensemble. I was so happy with the results of the JP Ryan caraco pattern, that I used her Ladies Caps pattern... and I kind of hate it. First of all, rolled hems. I'm not even going to go there. But let's just say that's one reason God invented sergers. I don't have a serger. But beyond that trauma, the crown of the cap is HUGE--floppy and baggy and enormously disappointing (not to mention unflattering). I ended up putting several pleats throughout, to catch up some of that fullness, which helped some. I have some ideas about how to make a version that looks better, but I can't vouch for its accuracy.

I also have a neck handkerchief (made from the same JP Ryan Six Piece instructions), which I don't like at all, and an apron (Everyday Dress), which is far too sheer to be practical. I'll be redoing that one of these days, as well as fussing with the handkerchief to see if I can find a way to wear it that I actually like. One neat thing about the Everyday Dress apron instructions: the apron isn't sewn to the ties; they're fed through a casing at the waist, which means you just whip the apron off the ties to wash it. I actually took that advice when I washed the underpetticoat.

Lastly, I have the James Townsend clocked stockings, which are cool (no, actually, they're rather warm)... plus they stay up. I'll say that for them. I don't have period shoes, because I don't know how much I'll be doing this period, but I do have a nifty pair of good mundane approximations.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Test post, after a long hiatus

I had trouble logging on/posting here after Blogspot teamed with Google. I didn't even realize I'd ever logged on over here (or maybe I hadn't!) from a different computer (cookies and all that), but I was thinking about an update over here, so I decided to see if I could log on successfully using a different terminal.

And, holy cow, here I am! So we'll see if this goes through, and if I can come back again later!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Rope Petticoat Diary

Ever since I tried one at at James Country Mercantile a couple of years ago, I have had a desperate, burning desire for a rope petticoat.The one I made is NOT a historical garment; it was cobbled together from what I remembered of the way the James Country petticoat felt, and a pattern I thought would help me achieve that, keeping in mind, of course, that James Country is a supplier for Civil War (American, not English) re-enactors. For historical rope or corded petticoats, check Sempstress and the Elizabethan Costuming Pages (for, paradoxically, Civil War-era petticoat instructions).

I was looking for something that would add fullness at the hem of the skirt, but not add extra bulk where *no* woman needs it: at the waist and hip. I knew I was looking at a gored skirt pattern, then, and Butterick 3418/b (the one with the 5 rows of trim at the bottom) seemed like it would be perfect.
This pattern is supposed to be Edwardian, near as I can tell—it is fitted through the waist and hips, and has a nice full hem. It also has a bit of a train in back, which I would have noticed if I hadn’t been so excited about the fact that it was designed to have trim encircling the hem (so it could tell me how much rope/casing I needed to buy. Anything to avoid math….). I ended up lopping a good 7-9” off the bottom when I hemmed it (which I suppose could have been avoided if I knew how to use lengthen/shorten lines), since I was taking a floor-length skirt for a tall person, and making a calf-length skirt for me.

I should mention that I completely threw out the waistline instructions, as I seem to do on all my skirts. I was trying to compensate for wide hips and a tiny waistline, and a potential fluctuation up and down of either. So I went with an elastic casing a couple of sizes smaller than the skirt (which I had cut to my historical highest hip measurement), and adding a drawstring made of ¼” twill tape (which frays, n.b.). I skipped the zipper, natch, and just left the seam open where the zipper was supposed to go, turning and hemming those raw edges.

For the skirt itself, I used a beautiful soft cream Kona cotton broadcloth, which just got softer as I worked with it, like a wonderful old set of worn bedsheets. The rope casings are from a pale peach 1” satin ribbon (99 cents a spool on sale at Hancock! Can’t beat that, especially since the pattern called for five yards of it). Really, it’s absolutely cuddly, it’s so soft. This stuff would make lovely nightgowns.

The rope is 3/8” nylon twisted rope, which came in a 50ft package from Ace Hardware. I stood in the rope aisle for ages on at least three separate trips before deciding on this. My other choices were jute/hemp rope (too prickly), and cotton clothesline (too soft?). I had read that some costumers had difficulty feeding the rope into the casings, so I thought the nylon would give a nice combination of smoothness and stiffness (did I mention this wasn’t a historically accurate garment?) Other costumers have used upholstery cord or even jute binding for a similar effect. Note to interested costumers: rope is not as cheap as you’d expect. Fifty feet cost $8.00.

The pattern instructions recommend adding the trim (my guide for the rope casings) before assembling the waistline (not to mention before hemming it!) which made absolutely no sense to me… unless you’re making the skirt up out of lovely fabric and have made a mockup and will then know how long it will be (remember that little train?). I didn’t do this. I finished the skirt completely, and added the casings after it was hemmed. All was fine.

I used four rows of casings, set at 1” intervals, which covers the bottom 8” or so of skirt. The skirt is hemmed 5” above the ground (which is the height/length of my hoop farthingale). I turned the edges of the ribbon under, and left an opening at the center back seam.

The rope frayed some as I fed the first length through the casing, so I taped-and-cut the further lengths, and ultimately just decided to leave the tape on the ends. Alternately, if you were comfortable getting fire near your petticoat, you could probably melt the ends of the nylon to keep this from happening. Because I didn’t measure my ropes before feeding them through the casing, I just sewed them together at the overlap, and hope the tape does the rest.

I then jammed the overlapped ends as far into the rope casings as I could get them. I fully expect that they’ll creep around to the opening after a few hours of walking around in this.

This first photo is of the finished skirt before adding the ropes:

This second photo shows what it looks like with the ropes.
The main visible effect is that the ropes have prevented the skirt from falling into those lovely soft folds at the hem, and now it sort of spreads out flat. I tried to take a picture with a skirt over the petticoat, but said skirt (designed for a boned farthingale) was way too long and didn’t look like anything. But when I tried it on, the petticoat definitely held the overskirt away from my legs as I walked (and had a rather peculiar—tho’ not uncomfortable--ridged feeling against my shins from the ropes, which I remember from the James Country petticoat.).

I’m still not entirely certain how it will hold up under the weight of skirts. I suppose the solution would be to add more casings, or to double up on the rope in the current casings. It will need to be field-tested before any definitive conclusions are drawn.

In the meantime, it’s just as pretty as punch, my peaches-and-cream petticoat!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Looking ahead into 2007

As promised, the to-do list. I reserve the right to change priorities daily. But I am making one resolution: That the very VAST MAJORITY of all sewing in 2007 will be for projects for me (marked with *). I did a lot of obligation sewing in 2006... and while I learned tons and it was very rewarding and I like making things for other people, this year I'm going to enjoy the fruits of my own labors.

--*Master the art of hemp boning. I'm not yet ready to say it hates me. Not yet.
--*Chocolate Brown gamurra
--*Butter yellow giornea/overgown
--*hem gold skirt (it would be hemmed now, but it looks so nice on my dress dummy)
--finish the Mystery Doublet. I can't decide what I want to do with it. Sigh. This one has a deadline: May 15.
--Update "Ren-Friendly Rainwear" dress diary with photos & details
--finish up the black rain cloak (it needs trim & clasps)
--*think about Mama Claus costume
--*think about rainwear project #4 (frock coat?)

--make duvet cover (I have some glorious damask sheets that may get appropriated otherwise)
--Obligation Stitching Piece I (wallhanging for nephew)
--Obligation Stitching Piece II (Spanish Sampler)
--*Finish 2003's "Noel Bellpull" into, well, a bellpull
--*Finish "Blackwork Reindeer" into a bellpull/banner
--*Work on "Old Mill"
--*Make at least 2 ornaments (one to give away and one to keep)
--*work some on "Peacock Tapestry."
--*order the fabric for "Skeleton Crew."

The thing is... I know I'll get distracted and find other things that seize my interest, and some of these will fall by the wayside. I do know that the Butter Yellow Damask gown has been on my radar more than 6 months now (I've had the fabric for that long!), so it stands a very good chance of actually being made. Huzzah! I really should put myself on some kind of quota/wagon/challenge/whatever, to make sure that I get done everything I want done... but does that ever really work, anyway? This list is good enough.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Falling headlong into 2007

I promised a to-do list, didn't I?

Hmmm. Maybe not today. A very quick update: I posted a couple of weeks ago about a recent fabric orgy, but it was eaten (somehow not surprisingly) by Blogger. What I said was I had bought my fabric for my Easy Gown, and it has decided (almost completely) what it wants to be. I bought some chocolate brown linen, to serve as a gamurra/undergown beneath the butter yellow Florentine overgown. Chocolate brown and butter yellow... sounds delicious, doesn't it? Mmmmmm. Anyway, the linen arrived, and it's actually kind of a dark chocolate, instead of my preferred milk chocolate; but it's loverly nonetheless. It's very soft. Almost criminally so. Happy.

After being fairly well convinced that I was over the crafting urges of the last few months and ready to buckle down for more revisions (cough), I found I was wrong. I spent the morning at Hobby Lobby not finding most of what I wanted. Sigh. But I've started a new XS WIP, which is bad, bad, bad, since I have two obligation pieces due this spring and summer. One is overdue. But since I'm under a massive obligation project for work, I'm indulging myself for at least the next week. Maybe I'll put myself on a rotation: one week of fun stitching, one week of Obligation Project the First, one week of Obligation Project the Second. The trouble is, while I was working on Obligation II (Sandra Orton's Spanish Sampler), I was really enjoying it. I should just get it back out, dammit.

Anyway, the thing I've been tinkering with this week is more hemp boning experiments. I'm having a devil of a time with it (getting the boning *into* the channels, which is, you know, a pretty important step), so the gurus recommended I ease off on my channel width a bit. I think I may have eased overmuch (gone from 1/4" to 3/8"ish), but I also suspect that the muslin I've been working with to practice is just too floppy, and the channels keep collapsing before I can get the hemp in. So today at Hobby Lobby I found a 7/8 yard remnant of cotton canvas for $2.00, and I'll give that a try. I also bought some slightly smaller hemp cord (halfway between this and the very, very thin stuff I first bought), on the chance that I actually can't measure as well as I thought I could. I was half planning this for an insane project, but we'll see if anything comes of that.

The further happy news is that I finally got my Blogroll to work! Woot! It's totally thanks to a stitcher pal who actually *did* the work for me. And as soon as I find her blog (pathetic, ain't I?), I'll give her her due credit (thanks, Erin!).

All right. I'll get crackin' on that to-do list. Really.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

2006 in Review

I can safely say that this has been the busiest year of my life. Or most productive year. Or most stressful year. However you look at it, I did A LOT.


--Made the black @#!$ McCalls bodice
--Whipped up an arisaidh
--Made the blue-and-magenta DWR microfiber raincloak
--Made the same cloak again, in black with gold lining
--Made Milord's rain tunic, plus chaperon/hooded cowl
--Whipped up a gold broadcloth skirt
--Started and got about halfway done with the Mystery Doublet (including drafting the pattern and making a muslin)
--Made Milord a Santa bag
--did some experiments with hemp cord boning
--miscellaneous mending (worth noting since it's a rare occurrence and some was large)
--made muslins/mockups for much of the above

Other Needlework
--"December Songbird" wallhanging
--Rayon snowflake ornament
--Gingerbread man ornament with linen floss

--"Blackwork Reindeer"
--Second Rayon Snowflake ornie

--Nephew's horses wallhanging
--"Spanish Sampler"
--"Flora" (possible UFO; may restart on different fabric)
--Satin Stitch Celtic knot surface embroidery
--Teresa Wentzler Celtic Knot bookmark (possible UFO)
--Two other possible-UFO ornies
--and a wee bit on "Peacock Tapestry, back in January. Hardly enough to signify.

Plus... I did five or six scrapbook pages!

It's kind of crazy that I actually managed to get *anything* done, let alone the huge amount (for me) that I accomplished! Because while all that was going on, I was also doing this.

I do know, though, that as fretful as some of this was, my sewing and my other crafts kept me sane this year. 2007 isn't supposed to be as busy, work-wise, so I probably won't a tenth as much done... but I have an awfully long To-Do list, which I'll post tomorrow.

Happy Old Year, everyone!