12 April 2015

Pretty Purple Gown

Following up on the leading strings post, here are notes and construction photos of the "Sofia the First" girl's gown made from the Larkin and Smith gown pattern last fall. 
The construction is pretty much the same as the leading strings gown. As you can see above, the inside bodice is lined with beige linen. 

The bodice and petticoat are attached and there are tape ties finishing the petticoat.

A peek at the center front, which shows the cotton tape at the top of the petticoat. 

Since I wanted this to be more of a 1780s gown, the back closes with tape ties, instead of lacing closed with eyelets, much like... 
...the gown in this c.1785 portrait of Anne Barbara Russell with her son Sit Henry Russell, by George Romney. And like little Henry's gown...

...it closes with three tape ties.
It's so cute!

I sewed this one on the road, and didn't use a machine, so I lapped the bodice and sleeve seams. 

The pattern calls for 2.5-3 yards of fashion fabric. When I made the leading strings gown, I used less than 2 yards. In this version, I made two skirt panels instead of four which results in a skirt circumference that's 40 inches instead of 80 inches. You can kind of tell here that this petticoat is less full...but it saved a bunch of sewing time and the entire gown only required just over one yard of fabric. 
When you look closely at the seam at the center front of the bodice, the stripes aren't exactly lined-up...

...but from a distance I don't think it's terribly noticeable. 

After using this pattern twice, here are some FYI points if you're considering making it. (As I had written previously, my comments are in no way intended as a criticism. I've included them here to help others who are making gowns for little ones.) 
  • The pattern includes three sizes per price, so if you' have two daughters of varying ages/sizes you'd having to purchase both versions or make your own pattern with sizing adjustments. 
  • I had anticipated that the directions would include color photos to guide you through each step. It actually has black and white photos, and less images than I'd like to see included.
  • The pattern includes all the of the bodice parts, but it doesn't include a paper pattern for the skirt panels making it a tad trickier for novice sewers.
  • When comparing the sizing to modern retailers the bodice runs a tad large (think Carters sizing, rather than the "inbetween" sizes that OshKosh and Gap Kids sell); the sleeve pattern is true to modern sizing. 
As a whole, I definitely recommend the Larkin and Smith girls gown pattern. Over the last year as my daughter has reached a point in her development where she better understands "history work" and what I do at work/when volunteering, it's been wonderful to include her. And as she grows I'm certain that the experiences she has had as a result of participating in "history work" will help nurture her cultural interests.  

30 March 2015

Little Leading Strings

Last summer I made a sweet little gown for my daughter using the Larkin and Smith girl's gown pattern. Thanks to the extensive winter snow storms, I've had time to wash, iron and photograph it, and can now share construction notes. 
It's so pretty!
It's no secret I'm a moron at reading pattern directions, I luckily had a mock bodice that Hallie had kindly lent me ages ago that I could refer to for guidance. Hallie and Steph, who I consider mentors and friends, have done a great job at developing a pattern that is much needed for reenactors with little girls (or older toddler boys who aren't breeched). My notes are in no way intended as criticism; I hope they offer guidance for anyone creating a little child's gown and may stumble on the same areas as I did.

Like any period gown, the bodice is a little involved. The construction is similar to a lady's 18th century gown, such as lapping the side seams and setting the sleeves. One main variation on the child's gown is the back lacing feature. This pattern includes plackets that are sewn on top of the center back to cover the eyelets. To attach this, I used a spaced backstitch because it's pretty, and because this is intended to be an upperclass girl's gown.

You can get a better sense of how the plackets cover the eyelets here.

Just like making stays, there were oodles of eyelets to sew. 

I used a blended linen-cotton fabric that's rather lightweight. 
I repeated this fabric for the lining.
When sewing the skirt panels, I followed the cutting directions and made the four panels 20 inches wide. When it came to pleating the petticoat, it was a bit too much for her size, which at the time was about a child's 4-5. 

The photo above shows how the petticoat has a finished waistband, just like mom's version; however this petticoat is sewn to the bodice. The petticoat ties closed at the center back, like an under petticoat.

This image shows the front waist. The point at the front of the bodice is all finished. Rather than directly tacking this to the petticoat, it pretty much "hangs loose" and flops around.

I cheated a little! Inside seams were machine sewn.

In hopes that she can wear this for a second season, there are two growth pleats basted in place.
Detail of the back of the leading string.
To sew the leading strings and sash, I whip stitched two sides together. As you can kind of tell above, there is a "right side" that doesn't show the stitches and a "back side" with all the stitches.

When working with this pattern, there is one adjustment that I suggest making. The bodice is a bit too wide. As you can see in the photos below...

...the first time my daughter wore this gown it was very gappy in front. 
 The bodice front is a bit too wide.

Bodice pleat added under the left shoulder strap.

To help correct this, I made a little pleat on the bodice under each shoulder strap.

Not to pat myself on the back, but there's something magical about her wearing this gown which is somewhat captured in this mini video. 

21 March 2015

Lucy Locket's Little Pocket

It's always nice to complete a lingering project!

I started a little embroidery kit two years ago...

A progress photo from spring 2013.

...and then got distracted, and forgot about it. It's a Scissors Pocket kit by Wellingsley Studio (WS doesn't seem to have an internet presence). The kit contained wool and silk threads, linen screenprinted with the pattern, and the usual directions. The mountains of winter snow provided extra time to stitch up the remainder, as you can see in the following images...

The buttonhole stitch on the flowers was fun.
The flower buds should have been French knots, but they didn't knot well. The leaves are worked in double satin stitch, and the flower pot pattern is satin stitch with some stem stitches.
Please ignore the sloppy blue bit at the bottom!

The flower stems are just back stitches.
Et voila!

To finish the project, I assembled it just like my 18th century pocket.

It's tiny...
 ...but good for four year-old fingers.
 It's bound with silk scraps...

 ...and was all handsewn.

The back features a scrap of printed cotton.

I'm calling it Lucy Locket's pocket and am using it to store my daughter's "history work" marbles, which are from Plimoth Plantation. She's requested to do more "history work" this year and, when events arise, we have a new period-appropriate toy to tote.

09 March 2015

New 19th Century Stays...and a Stays Secret

Please excuse the coffee stain.
New early 19th century stays! They're far from perfect, but they're a million times better than what I've worn for the last year.

This is my third attempt at early 19th century stays. (You can read about Attempt #2 here.) I used the Laughing Moon Regency Corset pattern in the theatrical version, because I wanted to make something quickly that would create a better shape. I used the pattern for cutting guidance, but the directions mystified me. I didn't follow them.

As you can kind of tell, I made the lining on the front and back, to create support for the eyelets/lacing and the busk, but not on the sides. The inside seams are flat felled and partly machine sewn. It's 3/4 handsewn, 1/4 machine sewn. I didn't choose the best fabric, the weave of this linen-cotton is a bit loose. I expect it won't hold up for years, but this experiment was more about fitting.
Being short waisted, standard busks are too long. Thankfully Red Threaded on Etsy makes an affordable custom busk and speedy shipping.

The edges are bound with cotton tape. I machine sewed little side tucks when fudging with fitting...which probably wasn't necessary.
Pas mal.
Pas bien.
Mais pas mal.
The single layer of linen/cotton on the side is really evident here...
...and here.
I saved the bust gusset fitting for last, which was the trickiest part. After an hour of gusset fiddling, and pin stabbing, I discovered that I could improve the fit by pinching the seam under the gusset (as seen with the sloppy whip stitches at the gusset's lower point) which created a little support and push--but it's not quite right.

It shouldn't be a surprise that gussets are so tricky. Finding a well fitting modern bra is hard. A seamstress class in constructing undergarments is looking especially appealing! 
In terms of fitting the back lacing...
...the seams seem too close together, but I have a feeling that's how the pattern was designed.

On the scale of Good, Better, Best, these are somewhere between Good and Better. There are fitting issues to overcome, like growing a third arm to help when fitting them on myself, and pattern revisions I would favor.

When sewing these stays, I was amazed by how quickly they came together. My 18th century stays took about three months, these took two weeks.

I couldn't help but wonder what the late 18th century staymaker thought when this new style took precedence over fully boned stays. Was he tired of the years/decades of sewing boning channels and happy to have a change of pace? Was he frustrated that he had spent much of his career perfecting the knowledge of fitting a garment that had become a defunct fashion? Or was he up for the challenge of crafting this new shape for young ladies?
For anyone who has read, or scrolled, this far, what's my secret? What have I been wearing over the last year? Get ready to laugh...

...this is it! Yes it's a little embarrassing but:
a) It cost $10 (including the shipping) as it came straight from a factory in China via ebay.
b) It created the right shape.
c) It helped me focus on making better gowns, the part of the ensemble people actually see.
It's not about the destination, it's about the journey. What fun would it be if there wasn't any challenge behind the research, interpretation and construction...and coming up with creative solutions?