Monday, October 15, 2018

Buttons? Buttons? Who's got the Buttons?

At last count this dress will have over 90 buttons on it.  Most of them cloth covered and only 23 of them functional  These buttons (and the phone replacement issue) account for the delay in these posts.

The plan for the buttons included around 25 functional buttons for the front of the bodice, 20 for the sleeve epaulet detail (10 per sleeve), and 8 skirt epaulets with 7 buttons each for a total of 56 - 101 buttons in total (Plus what will be used on the under sleeves).

I wanted the functional buttons to be about half an inch, smaller for the sleeve detail - but the hardest to find would be the skirt buttons.

Anyway, I went searching for buttons online.  I could have gone to the local spotlight but there cloth covered buttons are expensive at $8 for 10, have crappy plastic backs and the size range isn't as extensive as I would need.

This brought but the next issue in the planning, how to attach the buttons to the skirt and not have them flop about, I wanted them to sit flat.  Shanks on functional buttons are both necessary but also get held into position by the extra material around the button hole.  Without a button hole it flops around which wouldn't work for what I was after.

So I found on ebay a listing that had not only metal backed cloth cover button kits but came in both flat back (for gluing on jewellery apparently) and shanked.  A bit more searching and I found the website I like big Buttons and placed an order. 

I decided on the small 12mm (25), for the sleeves, 15mm (25) for the functional buttons, and huge 1.5inch for the skirt (50).  I was able to get shanks only on the functional buttons and flat backs on the rest.  You may have noticed that I had to cut down the plan for the skirt buttons because they came in packs of 50 or 100 and I didn't want 44 unnecessary 1.5inch flat back buttons on my hands.  Seemed easier on the pocket and storage to cut down each epaulet by 1 button and only need 48.

There was only one issue with the delivery which is that one of my shank backs came shankless which cut down the number I had to work with by one.  Otherwise, service was fast, friendly and the website easy to use.  I also found that the smaller button sizes were smaller than I had anticipated.  I think maybe if you flattened out the metal circle it would measure 1.5cm but the front buttons came in more the size I wanted for the sleeves and the sleeves are tiny - but we make do and I don't think it will make too much difference to the final look

Then set about the epic task of covering these bad boys.  The process is long winded enough when you have 5 to do for a dress, 89 (as the final count was) took a long time and patience that I am not well known for.  But I did promise myself that I would spend more time and effort on the finer details of the things I make so  I persevered.

To cover the buttons, first I had to cut the circles out of the fabric - a process made slightly easier by spending the extra buck on the plastic sizing tool which provides an exact template of the size that circle.  Then you stitch a run around the circle, put it in the rubber setting tool, place the metal to cover in pull the stitch tight and then push the back in with the plastic finishing tool.  To make things a bit more secure I added some craft glue between the inside and the back.  Then I did this about 90 times.

Pro tip, the bigger the button the easier it is to get the back in.  For the really small ones I used a vice, for the really big ones my own hand strength was fine.

Once all done I attached the buttons to the bodice front the traditional way (shanked) though I screwed up on spacing and will have to redo them today :(.

For the Skirt Epaulets I sewed through the the fabric where it curls under into the button.

I will provide further details of the process of making the epaulets when I do the post regarding the skirt and the one for the bodice, but for now progress continues and with only a couple of weeks to go I better get back to it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The Sound of Silence

I know I really should be posting some kind of update about now.  I even have the subject as my buttons have come in and I have spent time covering them and have reviews of the site I got them from but alas - I lost my phone this weekend and thus I have no way of documenting the progress

In related news I feel so lost without the phone, I can hardly remember life without a 24/7 connection to the world.  I can't count the amount of times in the last 3 days I have had a thought and reached to get my phone and look something up on google.

The positive is there has been little to distract me so I have had to focus on things like covering my buttons rather than procrastinating on whatever the weird ottoman empire game is that I had been playing.  I hope that in the next week I will have a temporary replacement in place.  Until then I may have so see if my husband can help out though his photography is a little advanced so I doubt he will be happy with my quick snaps

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Little things for Little people

My mother and I have been considering and working for a while on the idea of making vintage inspired clothing for children.  We have a ways to go before we can do our first market stall and much planning but in the mean time I find sewing children's clothes to be fun and fast - a great deviation from the more involved projects I am working on.

There won't be to much information about the how's and why's of these few things I have made for friends but I thought I may as well share these with the world.

I am going to start with this one, which I call beach baby.  It was made for a friend who was pregnant at the time (that little girl is about to turn one) and I used a cotton spot that my friend had bought for me to make her a costume for stage.  I knew she loved the fabric, the stage, the show and the costume and so kept all the scraps to make her daughter an outfit.  Gave it to her at the baby shower and she cried.  Got to love pregnancy hormones.  I really liked the hat in this one - its a basic tulip pattern finished off with a matching daisy button and some crossgrain ribbon.

Also for the same friend, this one was using a quilting cotton (what a dream to work with good quality cotton) in a vintage blue striped floral print.  The lace was used to decorate the costume I had in the show.  I think this one turned out with the most vintage feel.  You will also see a pattern emerge of nappy covers, nothing cuter than some little matching pants.

This one is the most beautiful delicate pink fabric with a sweet bunny print, also a quilting cotton and finished with a cotton lace.  All the above are lined in lawn.  The Hat for this one didn't turn out as well as I would have hoped.  I love the gathered brim but I must have misjudged the seam allowance on the crown because it was tiny.  I think the very tiny baby only ever fit it once.  Again same friend but no special meaning other than I liked this pink.

This one was started for a friends child's first birthday, but I accidentally made it 18mth size and then didn't finish in time anyway.  These friends a huge supers fans so I knew Wonder Woman would be a hit.  The birthday was last December, the friends received the finished piece a few months ago.  Basically when my sewing stuff was packed away it ended up a UFO and I only got it back out when doing some more stuff for a workmate.

I love this pattern.  I found with my son that there was very little sweet, vintage baby stuff appropriate for a boy.  I made this for another friends baby shower, she was having a boy and I felt the colours and style would work without being too out there.  Quilting cotton with lawn lining and simple brown buttons.

Also for my friends boy, overalls because who doesn't love overalls.  This fabric has a kitten drinking on it and I am especially proud of the button closures I did on the leg inseams.  I ended up using simple clear buttons here because I hate working with press studs and coloured buttons looked too busy.  The clear blends perfectly whist still being functional.

This is from an actual 1950's girls pattern.  I am yet to see this dress on someone and I would really like to because from here it is a little meh.  I think I am so used to seeing the shaping in women's 50's that I see a box with an unflattering skirt but on it would probably be very cute.  I also think it needs a ribbon which I still have not gotten round to getting.  I had this cotton in my stash for years, I bought it when I went through a phase making small things.  The post exists here somewhere and maybe I will even link it one day.  It is a cheaper quilting cotton from spotlight that was on sale for probably $5 and I don't think this even took a meter to make.

 This psychedelic spot number is so cute.  One of my workmates was going to be a second time grandma and so I made three outfits for her.  She has told me this is her favourite.  I can't remember but I think I also added the lace to the bottom of the tunic in the end but didn't get a photo.  Again quilting cotton and lawn, I kind of want to get this fabric again and make myself a shift dress.

This bunny fabric was so cute.  I used a white cotton to do the bust stripe and added some lace I had hanging around for literally over 15 years.  Still have some left too.  Instead of gathering as I did on the blue vintage one above I pleated to keep bunnies looking neater and it worked a treat.  I believe it was my first foray into pleating with a fork but I stand by the method 100%.  In the end I think it may have ended up a bit stark but at the same time I did photograph it on my work desk which is also white so I doubt that helped matters.

And lastly, of cause my pregnant workmate saw the bunny dress and being rabbit crazy was very jealous.  As I had some fabric left over (I bought 1m and got all this out of it) I decided to use up the excess on her.  I actually prefer this fabric in this more modern tunic style.  Not that the last one wasn't cute but I think the blue shorties break up the starkness of the white and black beautifully.  This one does still need buttons though.

I am sure there will be more to come in this category as I have about 5 more outfits already cut out.

When Heaven is only a few doors away

There was a sewing shop that I was informed of sometime ago.  It must have been in 2016 because I am sure I was on maternity leave.  In any case word had gotten around that a sort of sewing charity shop existed in a far flung non event suburb of Sydney that had terrible parking options and next to no public transport. 

The idea behind this shop is that it took donations of anything sewing and sew craft related and then on-sold it - like a sewing op shop, with proceeds going to Achieve Australia Disability support.

Anyway on hearing of its existence my mother, a friend and I decided to pay it a visit.  After all both my friend and I were on maternity leave so what else did we have to do with our time but trek into random Sydney suburb in search of a sewing op shop in the industrial area.  The place had a lot of pro's - things were different to the more traditional sewing shops like spotlight.  Everything was hit and miss but you could pick up a bargain in terms of fabric or patterns if you were willing to search.  Years of it being at premises meant that there was some level of mess to contend with and everything is basically a one off. 

I think I bought a pattern, My Friend who quilts found a few pieces she liked and I don't recall what mum walked away with but we clutched our treasures vowed to return and then, well didn't.  Basically nothing against the shop but it was out of the way.

A couple of years go by and Facebook lights up with a notice.  This shop is undergoing a name change to The Sewing Basket and it is moving premises.  One block down from my work no less. 

With business hours on Monday, Wednesday and Friday I was happy and my husband worried but either way I had a place to visit at lunch that meant I could be on task for any of those real bargain finds that pop up from time to time. 

In support of their opening day I headed down and whilst it is apparent that they are still sorting through, setting up and finding their feet I did manage to find a few things to take with me.  The staff were lovely, helpful and friendly.  The shop much more organised and clean though with all fabric shops how long that lasts is debatable.

My first find was actually a suggestion by the woman who worked there, a double edge broderie for $10.50 and there is about 2.5m which my research says is a bargain.

Secondly I got this vintage kids fabric - 3m for $15.  Plan is to make something for a friend who is pregnant and rabbit crazy!! but with 3m I am sure mum and I can come up with a whole bunch of things.

Anyway - watch this space as I am sure to find more fun things as time goes on.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The Petty Petticoat

As I outlined in my last post I have been planning how to strategically create my petticoat using the fabric that I had in my stash.  I methodically ran and re-ran the math, I was sure it could be done.  Then the first hiccup - when i took the material out of the bag marked 4.5m of 150cm I discovered about 2.5m of 150cm, which is confusing to say the least as I know that the only thing I have made from it was done before those labels.  I put it down to the fact that at time of labeling I had over 3km of material to catagorise.  In any case I pushed on.

Lesson one: Don't count your meters before you unfold.  I really should have checked this and planned for what I had not planned for what 2012 Heather said she had.

I decided to cut the first tier at 30cm then the bottom two at 40cm.  The benefit of two tiers being the same was that I could sew and gather one full strip and then just sew on however much it took to attach to the full circumference of the preceding tier.  I was going to get out my gatherfoot and it was going to be so fast breezy and dreamy.  That was my second hiccup - pride goeth before the fall.

Unperturbed I pressed on with one 30x150cm strip and less 40x150cm strips than I had hoped but assumed with less gather I should be fine.  After all I only needed a hem of about 4m to go around the hoop.

Lesson two: the gatherfoot says it can gather and attach easily in one seam is the biggest lie since the cheques in the mail.  I watched the tutorials I have seen it done but attempting myself was a hellish trespass that I won't be quick to try again.  Instead I selected the rate of gather I wanted, used that to simply gather single layer of fabric and then pinned and attached a second layer in another step.  This seemed to work well and with practice I feel I can say I even became proficient.

Lesson three: One can not gather material that has already been gathered, or has any sort of thread left in it from a previous gather.  I would even consider fabric with slubs a risk the foot was that touchy.  I broke two needles on that.

So with those two things in mind the project is coming along very nicely.  I was however about to learn another valuable lesson in planning;

Lesson four: there is more than one hoop in a three hoop skirt, and you should know the circumference of all of them as well as their distance from each other and the waistline.

As you can see this outcome is not really what was in my head when I pictured it.  So I had to move into the how the hell do I fix this mode.  Thus  I took my overtired butt to bed.  When I woke up my plan was simple - get more fabric and make the same thing again and use one as a front and the other as the back.  By Lunchtime I had decided to tackle in a different way - one which was mirrored by another sewing friend.

Step one: The first tier is obviously too long, to combat this I halved the distance by self facing the top tier.  The self facing would allow for a strong support for the rest of the skirt (reasons to follow) and the sewing of a channel to put a drawstring through.

Step two: add pin-tucks to the obviously also too long and too tight second tier.  this would allow the first tier seam some room to breathe and also put some added bulk over that first hoop better disguising it under a skirt.

The result

Now it was looking more like I wanted.  In fact I would almost call it pretty.  Short but pretty.  There was no escaping it I knew I would need more fabric and as luck would have it Spotlight was selling there cotton linen at some sort of markdown.  I took 3 more meters because I didn't want to end up short again.

Not really learning from the above I cut 4 more 40cm strips for a total of 5.4m (this was a shorter bolt).  When attaching to the above tier I was short and cut another "40cm" strip that ended up being 35cm but in the end that didn't matter to much as I was able to hem out more than what I had missed.  Final hem is over 6m.

For decorative reasons and to create a more ideal length I added two more pin-tucks on the second tier.  The whole thing sits beautifully but weighs a fair bit.  When they say use lightweight material they mean it.  The lightest you can work with because this fabric economical design has still got 4m ish fabric in it and it all adds up.  It does mean that the extra fabric on the waist adds weight but it also anchors well.

Finally because I am trying to use finishes on all my pieces I moved to decoration.  I contemplated covering the pin-tucks as I don't think they are neat enough but was convinced otherwise by various strangers and friends on the internet. 

In the end I am glad I did because I planned to do 4 rows plus ribbon row on the bottom hem - and ended up with just two.  It literally took 20 minutes easy to pin the trim on and sew it round.  Not all the trim that is 20 minutes for each row.  Not to mention the time it took to thread the golden orange ribbon (I know orange is an odd choice it is a nod to my sons favourite colour), only to discover I was under a meter shy of a full run

So another day, another spotlight trip and 20 more minutes and I have a finished and final petty petticoat.

Apparently I should be wearing at least two so I have plans for  pin-tuck petticoat sometime in the future but today is not that day.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Planning the Petticoat of doom

I have to confess I am cheating a little on my hoop for the India Wilkes dress.  I bought a hoop skirt for about $10 on Ebay years ago to go under my Elizabethan dress and I am just going to reuse that one.  What I would love is to be able to make a hoop from Truly Victorian but the price of getting the pattern and materials to myself down-under is almost prohibitive and to be honest I do only have until the end of October so timing wise at this point it may be a little ambitious.

The hoop skirt I have is sadly only 3 hoops (recommendation appears to be 5 minimum on all historical costuming groups).  Although all 3 hoops can be adjusted on my skirt the largest setting on the largest hoop is about 3.5m.  After much discussion with those in the know I was advised that 3 was most likely closer to realistic.  This is of benefit as I don't have as much fashion fabric as I would like so shrinking the hoop will give me a much better finish on the skirt.

Only problems remain that a 3 hoop will not hold the bell shape as well as a 5 so there is a rather more conical finish than I would prefer, and that one does not want their hoops showing through their skirt.  This calls for a petticoat and so my research began.

Firstly and this took a long time to figure out and I know I would still be muddled if a friend had not politely pointed out my folly, but Americans call Muslin what we in Australia would call Calico (apparently).  They also call Muslin Muslin and did use it for petticoats but when they say lightweight it doesn't mean necessarily feather light like out muslin is.  If someone in the USA could clarify this that would be great but  my understanding now is that our muslin is what you would use to wrap cheese and squeeze out excess liquid but not really sew a garment with.  I know I have tried and that shit unravels as soon as you so much as breath on it - overlocked or not!

The good news about this is that a) I don't have to work with "muslin" again and b) the cotton linen blend that I have had 4.5m of in stash for the past 7 or so years will be more than adequate as a lightweight fabric option for my petticoat. 

The other recommendation was at least 2 petticoats but given the lack of over skirt material (remembering that I need the petticoats to fit under its final hem) and the Australian heat in this instance I am going to be attempting to hide the hoops in a single petticoat.  Not particularly accurate but cross fingers it works well enough for my purposes. 

The next thing to do was decide on a style.  Flounced would be my first choice as it pretty much can guarantee hiding hoops and gives a lot of volume where I want it most.  The downside is that it also takes up excessive amounts of fabric.  As in a friend who made a 5 tier flounced skirt used 11m of taffeta.  Sure it looks amazing, but that is a tone of fabric that I don't have and don't want to buy.  I am trying at least to use something from stash in every costume I make.

I also looked at the free to download TV pattern that makes a petticoat with an 8yd single flounce, but it appeared that I could not work my fabric enough to get the yardage where I needed it.  It looked like I was going to need to do a single tube and MAYBE one flounce around the bottom, though that worried me because it would add bulk at the waist (something I want to avoid) and it may not give the added oomph at the top of the hoops I am hoping for.

I was at a loss researching and hunting when I came across my possible solution, in any case it is the one I chose to attempt.  A three tiered petticoat with increasing volume in two places.  My basic pattern will start with a trapezium 1.5m at the waist to minimize the bulk and 2m at the hem and sit about 25cm long.  To that I will gather another piece 35-45cm long and hopefully around 4m top and bottom.  To that a final tier of up to 8m at the hem and 45cm in length.

I am still working on the math for the final skirt length.  I have however thought that the 35 then 45 would give a nice aesthetic, but the 45 would mean that I could just make one long 45cm run and use the gather foot and let it add what it will.

I won't get to start this till next week I am sure, especially since I still need to complete the pleated trim on my Victorian dress but I will be sure to keep you updated once it is done

caio for now

Victorian Underpinnings

One of the best things about hoarding tendencies is that I still have much of the stuff I started but never finished.  So this post brings you something old and something new following the completion of the Victorian underwear.  Rather than work chronologically I am going to go from the skin up.

My new corset arrived.  I have to say I am much impressed for the price, the quality is quite good.  The boning is definitely steel, they even include a little sample card of what is in it to prove to you its authenticity.  Fabric seems strong and though not of highest quality it will do the job for now.  One day I will make my own.  Until then I won't go into too much detail.

Combination Underwear TV105
I bought the pattern with plans to create these way back but did not get round to it with all the other crazy Victorian stuff going on at the same time.

I planned to make it for my 2017 birthday and even bought all the fabric and trim at the beginning of that year.  I am fairly certain I started almost straight away too, I got almost done and the project shelved for another year.

Finally they were finished about a month ago, just after the high tea.  As they say better late than never.

They are made out of Batiste, I think in a cotton or poly/cotton blend.  Given the wrinkle factor I am willing to believe it 100% cotton.  Given the layering I will be doing in October I hope it is.  Anyway cost wise I think it was about $5-7/m at spotlight.  The colour is officially creame and I loved how the slight colour deviation with the white trim worked (trim was about $1.50/m).

I do love the buttons.  I found them on a random fabric shop outing with my mother and they were cheap as chips, maybe 20c each.

I am unsure and undecided if I wear corset on skin or corset over the underwear.  The pattern calls for you to take corseted measurements but I guess it could go either.

Making it was easier than I had first anticipated.  I did have to unpick the back as I had not been consistent with my crossing overs but that would likely have been avoided had I not taken a year off in between.

The pattern calls for cap sleeves which I omitted in favour of bias sealing the arm scry.  Pro tip the thinner bias tape works better than the wider one.  Who would have thought.

It looks really odd until you add the buttons on too, so remember that you haven't stuffed up thats just how it looks.

Bustle TV101
Technically this is a remake.  I had made this for a LARP costume years ago but when I went through costumes that had been in storage for a few years that bustle (hastily thrown together in inferior fabric choices and stash finds) had mold on it so I cut the bones back out and bought the fabric to remake.

Fast-forward 2 years and we have the completed bustle.  You may notice a theme of white on off white.  The fabric is a quilting cotton from spotlight which could have been anywhere from $5-10/m I can't remember but likely it was on sale as I rarely pay full price on anything.  I have considered adding extra trim to my ruffles but they seem to work ok on their own.  There is one ruffle missing, I don't have quite enough inches and I am still deciding whether to add it in or not.  In any case I consider this finished and if I choose to jazz it up another time so be it.

Like all TV patterns I have ever worked with it runs together like a dream creating a much more complex looking garment than it really is.  TV makes Victorian easy.  I will warn - reinforce those bustle ties because as previously mentioned one of mine pulled right out of the stitching while getting dressed at the Carrington.  Of cause I have fixed it now.

Petticoat TV170
I have now completed all 4 petticoats from a decade ago.  This was the last and only one not complete at the time.  It sat around in a box as pieces for the longest time but since I was now doing this new costume kick it seemed like the perfect opportunity to get it out and finalise.  Only one teeny tiny issue.... what happened to my waistband, and why does nowhere sell lemon poplin anymore.  Ok so the waistband doesn't match but I don't mind too much.

I must have lent this pattern out and have no idea what became of it, which is sad because it is a great pattern.  On the flip side I do have a bustle and natural form petticoat from it so I am unlikely to need another.  Still I hope it turns up.

Hardest part of this is all the gathering. I bought a gather foot to do it for me but at the end of the day hand gathering required less unpicking.  I will master the gather foot one day though.  (and yes all the gathering on these outfits has been done by hand using the two gather stitch method).

well that is all the unmentionables mentioned.  For more information on them please follow the links provided

Thursday, August 16, 2018

India Wilkes - The devil is in the detail

As promised, I continue my documenting of the India Wilkes costume with this post on planning and sourcing.  Before I jump right in though let me just say a few words about my motivation.

I understand that there are people out there making fully accurate historical representations of gowns and they look awesome.  I wish I could do that, I really do but there are several obstacles standing in my way.  First and most obviously is money and my husbands distaste of me spending to much of it.  Historically accurate materials can cost a fortune as a well bred lady would be wearing silk or wool mostly (from what I have looked into).  Whilst cotton was prevalent the best description I found for it was on this blog which explained quite articulately that cotton was basically the equivalent of track pants, fine for house wear but if you wear it down the shops someones going to judge.

Well silk costs about the same as a kidney on the black market and I happen to have a lanolin allergy so can't wear wool (yes I know the blog says hypoallergenic... but its just wrong).  Plus we do this costuming for fun, not for accuracy.  As such if you are looking to accurately represent an historical garment probably best not to follow my processes.  If you are after something that passes for a decent price my thrifty cut corners methods will warm the cockles of your cold dead accuracy unfeeling heart.  So short version is I know its not accurate no need to point it out.

Anyway onto the show. 

Getting Aquainted
As mentioned previously once I had decided on civil war it didn't take long to decide that I was going to have my very own India Wilkes twelve oaks dress.  The first step I took was to become more familiar with India's dress - unfortunately I could not at the time locate my DVD copy and to get it over our streaming services would cost money that I didn't want to spend on something I know I own so internet searches would have to do.  Well searches and discussions with my facebook friends.

I won't put every picture or angle on here but sufficed to say this ended up being the gleaming find in my image searches, It is one of the costume still test shots of Alicia Rhett in the outfit full length.

This image is fantastic because it really brings to light the fine details that could be missed if you were watching the film in standard definition.  The covered buttons on the hem and sleeves show up perfectly here.

My biggest problem was colour.  As you can see from this shot the dress is in an odd shade somewhere between orange brown and yellow.  Some of the colour searches I used included Mustard (too yellow), Burnt Orange (too orange), Rust (too red) and Brown in general.  I was losing faith I would ever find the colour or anything close enough.  Seems my mother was correct that baby poo brown was just not prevalent.  To be honest I didn't find the colour until I had given up and started searching fabric types.

The second issue was cost of fabric.  I mean those skirts could have meters and meters in them.  One facebook group advised that you want at least double your hoop!!! that is a hem of 7m in my case (though I have been told by the same person to shrink my hoop down to a more accurate 3m circumference).  So fabric type was considered long and hard.  The dress doesn't have much shine so most silks seemed off, and well too costly anyway.  Wool was to be honest most likely the fabric of this costume but I can't wear it.  I wanted something more dressy than cotton, light to midweight and not to costly.

Pattern Selection

Much easier to source was style/pattern.  The bodice appears to be almost identical to the TV440 with the high neckline, though the over sleeves will require some work in shrinking from the full pergoda.  Having worked with and loved Truly Victorian patterns before I had no issue in buying this.

The skirt style is more elusive.  I searched the TV patterns for something like it but it seems its not there.  Likely because the pattern for this skirt is too easy.  After discussions and some thought I decided it was simply a tube gathered to a waistband and no pattern would be required.

Fabric Selection

As mentioned above cost was an issue, I won't say I didn't dabble in the silks online but in the end when you need a lot of yardage in the skirt $20USD at cheapest for the fabric makes the costume prohibitive.  My next search was actually into polyester with taffeta but the results all seemed too shiny for the look I wanted.

Eventually I moved to whatever so long as it was affordable and the right colour and the colour search began - which proved fruitless.  Other than baby poo brown I had no idea what to call the colour of the dress and most places have far more poetic names for their fabric colours.  One night no idea why I had an epiphany, like many apparently who came before I thought of cause it must be cotton and semi shiny cotton is sateen.  A search for Sateen led me to this, on

The colour it is Umber and it came up in a sateen search so even though the description didn't say it I think that is what it is.  Bonus was that it was on mad sale at over 50% off.  Unfortunately I did the conversion maths and it came up at just shy of $200AUD for the yardage I would need including the postage.  To be fair had this been in Australia somewhere I likely would have just jumped in, but coming from America what if it arrived and it was too lightweight, too heavy weight, too dull, not the right colour...... Yes I know I can order a swatch for next to nothing but apparently they still want the same postage ($25+USD) to send a tiny swatch to me.  The risk seemed to big.

At least now I was armed with a colour name and a fabric type so my mother and I headed to our favourite fabric area where you find absolute bargains with hopes and prayers for a miracle from the sewing gods.

Now this is not the exact colour, but I have been told it is nicer, and at only $4AUD/m it was a total of $30 (yes I got a discount for end of roll) than the perfect colour above. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made and while I am a bit bummed not to be getting the perfect colour I must say the more I look at what I have the better I feel about it.

Bare in mind it isn't as shiny as it looks, the only way I could get close to the actual colour was to use flash.  Next challenge is the yardage.  I worked out that with the skirt adding 1m to my hem (for fabric conservation purposes, trust me had their been more fabric I would have bought more for that price) I would need at least 5yds or 4.5m.  The Bodice says it requires 3.5yds or 3.2m, though I will be saving fabric in the sleeves and that is based on 44" and I have 54".  I have 7.5m maybe as much as 8 as the place we buy from always measures liberally.  On top of that I need to cover all the buttons and do the trims.

My thought at this stage is my best bet is to do as suggested shrink my hoop (the hoop has the capability) to 3m saving .5m required.  be very careful with lay for bodice and save every scrap for trims and then make skirt with whatever is left to maximize the amount of ruffle I have.  I am at least fairly certain with 52" I can do it in one drop.

Anyway that's all I have for now.  I will check back in to discuss the underpinnings later in the week.

Plans for October - the India Wilkes dress

The historical picnic society will be heading to the Hunter Valley Gardens in October for some more classy costumed shenanigans.

Hunter valley gardens is a series of manicured gardens in various styles including the storybook garden (my favourite) Asiatic gardens, traditional British etc. basically there are loads of beautiful backdrops for photos.  The plan is to bus down together then have high tea there before a stroll and photos.  I’ve even convinced my Husband to accompany me.

So step one is obviously costume plans. So I thought I would follow this one properly and start the blog at the beginning rather than just one post at the end.

I tossed up between an Edwardian "Gibson girl" kind of look and a Civil War hoop skirt.  One of the other lovely ladies who helps organise these outings pointed out - passers by love hoops.  I don't know if I ever mentioned this but I am a crowd pleaser so that sealed the deal.

Like all people who aren't too caught up in historical accuracy when planning a civil war recreation I turned to the master of all civil war recreations - Walter Plunkett and Gone with the Wind.  Here is a second confession, I have always loved India Wilkes.  As my friend put it the sour faced second string bitch.  And I really really love her outfit from the twelve oaks picnic. So it was decided almost instantly that this would be my dress, and so the planning could begin.

Costume pieces needed:

  1. Corset - already ordered for previous Victorian and was on its way 
  2. Victorian underwear - Use the combination underwear from TV105 made for previous victorian.  I know its probably not accurate but it provides draws and corset cover in one so winning
  3. Hoop Petticoat - Hoping to be able to use the china cheapie that I got for the Elizabethan dress. 
  4. Petticoat - Needs to be made, possibly from the free TV Pattern or hopefully fully flounced if I can work out my own pattern
  5. Bodice - Pergoda Bodice TV440 - now comes with undersleeves so no need to get an extra layer in shirt
  6. Overskirt - Self draft gathering tube to waistband.
  7. Snood - the headpeice, I will try and find on ebay or etsy
  8. Shrug - Crochet is not my thing so I may have to buy this one too
  9. Shoes - Given the walking I will be looking at ballet flats.

Watch out for my next post which will be breaking down the outer layers, including sourcing fabric, and planning decorative trims.

Happy sewing

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Corsetary Tale

As I get more and more into costumes I find myself in need of a new corset.  This if foreign territory for me as an ex goth all my costume needs thus far were met by either not requiring corsetry, regency half stays for example, or by utilizing one of my Gallery Serpentine corsets of which I had a fair few.  Notably in old Gallery Serpentine Vernacular a Victorian and Spanish Harlot over bust and an under bust who's style name escapes me.

Historically speaking Victorian provides the hourglass shape, Spanish Harlot the conical shape and the under bust fitted any other need.  I remember buying all bar the Spanish Harlot out of a seconds box (not that I was bothered by a second) and they cost maybe 50-100 each in early 2000's dollars.

Well the times do change and I find that my post baby and junk food addicted body with the slowed metabolism of a 30+ year old did not bode well for fitting into my corsets bought when I was around well american size zero.  The Harlot bought when I was first getting into corsets still fits (size 12 Australian) because it was bought big so as to not cinch to much, but the Victorian and under bust run the risk of the side bones sitting under my bust.  Honest I wore the Victorian to the high tea and despite knee to back lacing I still had a good 4-5 inch gap at the lace.

The decision was made then if I am to get back into the historical costumes I would require a new corset. So, the search began.

Gallery Serpentine make outstanding corsets, I truly mean that.  Other than the fit, which is my own fault, my "seconds" corsets are still going strong over 10 years on.  They are quality ++ because trust me the first 5 of those ten years saw weekly lacing of these bad boys.  However they are made as outerwear, and therefore use beautiful fabrics and design flourishes.  If you are in the market for a corset that can be used as a clothing option and want something that will last I highly recommend talking to them or at lease perusing their website (linked above).

Alas for me who wants it only as underwear and only on occasions where I have need of an historical costume they are priced out of the market - and no longer being of sample size its harder to find ones that will fit in the under $165 sale area.  Also for historical costumes they may actually be too good.  they have a full lining and interlining and seem much heavier than some of the "traditional" underwear corsets I have seen.

For making your own I found  and to be honest this was a real consideration.  They do make them for you at a high price (reasonable for what you get but more than i want to spend) but they also provide kits so you can make at home.  Sometime in the future I may go down this path but time is of the essence and I don't really know how long it would take for me to do something like that.  Still it seemed like the best option

Lastly a friend of mine had a corset from an Australian based website (though I assume made in asia somewhere) They seamed to work ok, quality is ok and prices are reasonable.  More than reasonable when you take into account the fact that if you buy one you get one free.  Don't be fooled it may seem like this is a BIG SALE but I don't think there has ever been a time that I have looked to this site and not seen the buy one get one free deal.

Biggest issue is that I didn't need two, nor did I want to pay for two so I put out a call to see if anyone else wanted to get a corset and split the costs.  Thankfully someone did.  Then all that was left was to select the corset.

I had a choice of two one with more cinch and slightly higher cost and one with more comfort including hip gores.  In the end comfort won out and this is what I have coming to me in the next 11 days

I am hoping that the extra hip space will make it useful in achieving the 50's wiggle look along with Victorian but for the grand sum of around $60 I am sure it will do the job I require of it.  The best news is that with this I will be able to photograph myself in the remixed Victorian as well as begin the plans on future projects such as the India Wilkes dress and the Katrina Van Tassel dress.  One of which I will have for October.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Epic UFO Clean.

The back room at our house functions as both an office for my husband and the storage facility for all our crap; nik-naks and collectibles, books, old trophies, my now diminished costume collection and of cause all the sewing stuff and stash mountain.

We have been trying to consolidate the mass of hoarding that the room contains and will periodically bring out a box or two and clean through it slowly culling what we have.  Among these now lives the UFO box.

To be honest I don't even know why half finished projects are called UFO's or why some of my costumes (looking at you Elizabethan) are technically still UFO (Looking at you hems) but sufficed to say there is a lot of unfinished work.  Even to the point that sometimes in these clean outs I just decide that I don't want to ever finish that project and put it in the bin.  So I think as I work though being more precise of my work and finalising things to a higher standard that I need to also clear out this bucket.

Probably the next job I have is the Hem of the underskirt on my Elizabethan as mentioned above and hopefully refitting the shoulders (they fitted when first done but as the stuffed shoulder rolls were added the weight became to much).  I also think it may be worthwhile getting a carriage pleat going on the back of the dress but then there is the issue of me not knowing how to carriage pleat lol.  The fun bit about all this is that I have worn the dress about 5 times in its existence even with these issues.

I have a fully cut out black velveteen Victorian frock coat for my husband.  Again a decade old project that dates back to the great Victorian nightmare.  I have a dress with some embroidery done on the belt and yoke but sleeves still to be added and more embroidery to finish.  This dress predates even the Victorian stuff and I no longer play the character in the game that it relates to but should get it done regardless.

A 50's dress that was begun about 6 years ago minimum for a friend of mine sits requiring sleeves, hem and yoke.  A dress finished but with a broken zip, shorts without a waistband, you name it I have it half done and waiting for my interest.

I could put together a list but sometimes its just fun finding them occasionally and realising they may come in handy.

Take for example the petticoat TV170.  I cut the pieces and had them all overlocked in the Victorian nightmare and never got any further.  Originally one of my friends was going to wear it but with all the other stuff I was making it sat unfinished.  I pulled it out about 5 years later and added the lace trim to the bottom ruffle.  Then again it sat for years until this month I looked at the Victorian I had made for high tea and thought a petticoat would really help this.  Last night it reached its final hurrah.

Who knows whats up next once I finish this Victorian but I am sure it will be fun :)

Beatles dress - update

A good day is the day you fit back into a dress you made and loved. 

It was about a year ago now, when I played Candy in a production of one flew over the cuckoos nest.  So my psychedelic Beatles dress was prime.  And as I ended up in my underwear so was diet and exercise.

Don't believe it would look this good now but finally a picture of me in the dress as it was intended for you all to enjoy

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Victorian Christmas in July

A year ago (as it turns out to the day) I suggested to some friends that we go to the Carrington Hotel in Katoomba in July dressed in Victorian for high tea.  

I chose the The Carrington, which originally opened in 1883  because it retains that old world charm.  Every year they decorate a tree and put all the trimmings out in July and year round they do a well-priced and tasty high tea.  You can visit the dining room or ballroom for the high tea (depending where they are serving) the reception area, two lounges, library, billiards and office, all decorated in period charm.

I set the wheels in motion with a tentative early july date in September for the Historical Picnic Society, and whilst the numbers on the day were low (just the three of us) a good time was had by all. Personally I think we made several patrons day as they oohed and ahhed at us walking through to take photos at various hotel locations.  One group who all drove vintage triumphs even asked for our photos.

So this being about sewing you can see how the idea linked into my plans for a full Victorian outfit last year.  Let’s just say I was a bit behind on this one.  Not that I haven’t been sewing just that instead of working on this plan I have made multiple kids outfits (post to come) a costume for stage and a new dress.  On top of all this it is really really hard to sew with a two year old who loves to help.  Last night I was pinned in the leg three times as he “helped” me with some hand sewing.

Anyway in true Hef fashion despite a year lead time I created my entire outfit in under a week.  Planning and tracing took about 3 days and then I made the entire thing in one night (bustle not included).  There are further plans to complete this work to a much much higher standard as per the original plan but this is the shell in which I start.

I have continued to add and improve on this which will require another post once done

The outfit

This took about a day from start to finish including all the ruffles being done by hand.  Yes I know I bought a ruffle foot but damned be to the gods if I can work out how to use it.  This included tracing, cutting and all finishes. I think there is a couple of changes I would like to make to it but all in all it works and is a solid piece.

The wires are a size Medium.  I am not.  I was once and who knows maybe I will be again one day but it is not this day.  However because of the wire size and the plan to wear a corset I made the medium anyway.  For this reason the case isn’t quite as wide as my hips, or at least I assume it isn’t as wide as it should be which gives a smaller silhouette than it should.  Given that I am not THAT worried about historical accuracy I don’t think this is a big problem.

Things that I am missing include the bottom ruffle (not enough fabric left, due to indiscriminate cutting) what I may do is just do a less ruffled bottom ruffle to finish it.  I am also thinking I may add some lace to the bottom of each ruffle just to add some interest.

Unfortunately, my bustle had a wardrobe malfunction internally on the day.  The ties that control the bottom wire decided they would rather not exist than deal with the strain of my butt and the stitching on one side came undone.  Consequently the bustle doesn’t sit quite right in the photos but we make do.  The issue has been repaired and seems to be holding much more strongly now.  I assume this strain to be based on that size issue previously discussed.

The fabric is a quilting cotton that I picked up in spotlight a year ago specifically for the skin up Victorian project so technically it was stash fabric.  I picked it because it is of neutral shading but has this pretty white print on it that is barely noticeable.  I thought it was both pretty and likely to hide under any colour skirt I should choose.

I tossed and turned over this or the wash overskirt with the fabric choices.  I would have preferred the more Austere 1887 outfit but concern over yardage lead me back to the polonaise.  Sadly once all was said and done I probably could have done the wash but oh well that will just need to be a project for another day.  I had two different fabric choices, one was a light blue stripe with white underskirt and the second (which I went with) was the brocade and green satin.  

The biggest benefit of the polonaise is that having made it twice before (once as per the previous post and then again as a stage costume) I knew that I could throw it together quite quickly, and as previously mentioned anything worth doing is worth doing last minute.

The Brocade I got for a steal about 3 months ago. 50% off the already marked down price at spotlight brought it down to $5/m.  The Green Duchess has been in the stash for years, since 2012 to be exact.  I remember it was like $2/m at Cabramatta and I wasn’t going to get any for me then a friend I was with bought me 4m as a present for helping her make a costume.  For cheap fabric its actually pretty nice to touch and has a lot of body.  I was concerned that they didn’t go together but after a quick facebook survey I ended up reassured.  In the end I went with this over the light blue and white because I felt that the stripes could work well as a regency where this was less versatile, and who can turn up a red/green combo for Christmas in July.

As noted the polonaise was made in a single night and the underskirt the following morning before we left.  As such I can’t say that on this wearing the finishes were, well finished.  All my internals were open and lining unsealed, there was no boning in the polonaise, the ties in the bustle bit were tacked in bias binding.  I added the snap front closure in the morning.  Luckily you can’t really see any of the rush in the wear but let’s say the slightly too small corset was knee in back tight just to allow the snaps to stay snapped.

After being totally jealous of the finishes on Marion’s Beautiful taffeta extravaganza I have decided not to let sleeping dogs lie and begun the process of finishing the internals and closing off seams, upgrading and more thoughtfully placing the bustle ties and considering closure options.  Do I go buttons or hooks and eyes…. So hard to decide.  Anyway I will repost with the updated, finished and fully tizzed up version once complete.

The underskirt is very simple, three front gores and two back pieces gathered onto a waist band.  I do think maybe this skirt has a little too much fullness for the outfit and I MAY decide to take out some of the a line in the front gores at least, however these shots only have the bustle underneath and perhaps with a finished petticoat the skirt will hold itself better.  

Made in a matter of hours from trace to wear, there is a few things I want to change on this.  Firstly the waistband is too big.  I mean it is the right size for me without a corset but can’t be tightened to the corseted waist measurement.  I am thinking of removing the ties and adding a button/buttons to allow for both sizes to be utilised.

Secondly it is very plain, I have plans to add a pleated ruffle around the bottom just to dress it up more to the Victorian over-dressed standards.  I have enough fabric left for it.  I also may pink the internal seams.  Full sealing isn’t necessary as it won’t be a high wash item.

Missing items
TV105 – all in one underwear.  This is about 80% done now so its on the to do pile
TV170 – Petticoat, that has been hanging around about a decade now unfinished.  Movement has happened and it will be finished in the next few weeks for the finalised.  Fun Fact  I lost the waistband so now will need to buy just a smidge of yellow poplin to be able to finalise.