Sunday, March 10, 2019

Completed Project: 1870s Winter Ensemble

I could really use a time turner right now.

As the winter wore on but the ice skating ponds closed, my desire to abandon my Slytherin-inspired 1870s winter ensemble grew stronger. But I was so close, and I knew if I moved on to something else I wouldn't ever finish, or I'd take a shortcut after being so good and doing all the things (it has closures!).

Friday night I finally put in the finishing stitch...just in time for the weather to warm up everything to turn to freezing slush and there to be no good outings planned until next winter. I really wanted to wear the darn thing at least once though, and so The Boy and I took a stroll through our urban neighborhood while he did his best to get some decent photos.

Real photos will follow next winter, but for now: evidence of a completed project I am quite proud of!

The underskirt is unlined and faced with green upholstery velvet (it's quite stiff and I had it in the stash...I have a limited color range it appears). Most importantly, it has a pocket! The overskirt is partially lined with the same silk I used inside the bodice to keep it from sticking to the other layers. The bodice, which I previously showed in progress, now has closures and a collar in addition to sleeves (which I drafted using the TV402 pattern as a guide--I decided I didn't want giant trumpet sleeves for this particular outfit).

the inside of the overskirt: the front apron is entirely lined in silk, the back is only lined on the sides.
Both the overskirt and bodice are trimmed with faux fur. I had a really hard time finding fur I liked for this project, which ended up eating a week and half in February. I wanted gray, and something that looked and felt like real fur (rather than soft, baby blanket "fur" that doesn't look remotely like a natural thing). Getting that combination turned out to be really tricky, as most furs that had the right feel were brown or black, and pretty much everything I found in gray wasn't what I was looking for.

the three faux furs I ended up with while trying to find the right stuff: my final choice (left), my first online order which reminds me of c.1990s shag rugs (center), and my second online order-which I like in this photo but think looks super fake in person (right).

I tried ordering online, which went terribly as you might expect. In the end I took an early-morning trip to a store near my office and spent a long time waffling in the fur aisle. I ended up with a dense, long-piled option that is white with gray tips. I worried it read as too white, but I liked it so much better than any of the "gray" furs I found that I decided I would rather be fluffy...and in the end I think the mix of colors looks more natural than anything solidly gray anyways. I do want to give a shoutout to the McCall's blog, which had some really handy tips for working with faux fur without causing it to shed everywhere or clog my machine. That was really helpful!

a bit of cut fur from the side, so you can see how ridiculously fluffy it is
In the end it fits well, it is entirely finished, and it was a lot of fun to wear (even if this time that wearing was just a hike through the very modern urban jungle). Now I can say goodbye for the season, knowing that whenever I have the opportunity to bustle it up next year I can pull this out and throw it on, no assembly required.

That might not really be magic, but it feels like it to me!

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Witch Winter

Last May when I was preparing for an adventure in Bath, I started exploring the early 1870s in depth to inspire an early bustle gown to wear to the ball. While researching I started to notice a particular color trend--especially in winter ensembles--that spoke to me.

Oh Victoriana on Instagram: “La Mode Illustree - 1871... #1870s #victorian #victorianfashion #antique #art #antiquefashion #fashion #design #artist #beautiful…”
La Mode Illustree, 1871 (via)
La Gazette Rose 1873
La Gazette Rose, 1873 (via)
1874 winter skating outfits, Ice Skating, Fashion plate
Illustrirte Frauen-Zeitung, 1874 (via)
La Toilette de Paris 1870
La Toilette de Paris, 1870 (via)
The green and gray are an elegant combination on their own, but that particular pairing has a special place in my heart as my house colors. And after seeing Emma's amazing Hufflebustle, I knew a Slytherin ensemble needed to happen. 

Image result for slytherin pride
I tried desperately to make this combination work for the Bath ball, but it turns out velvet and fur don't really work for May.

I ended up leaning into Tissot, which did speak to me for May, and for dancing, and put my house dreams on hold. But then in November I saw The Cursed Child (the Potter series sequel, written as two plays, which is currently open in New York City, London, and coming soon to several other cities), and it was back to Slytherinspiration for me!

with my house crest outside the theater

So I've thrown practicality to the wind and am putting my 1870s underpinnings to use again with a velvet and fur winter ensemble--short enough for skating, but dressy enough for future (less sporty) outings. And the timing couldn't have been better, because I've been in a rather witchy mood...and I don't mean that as a euphemism! Between Cursed Child and my other media consumption (I'm currently blazing through the second book in the All Souls Trilogy, and my sewing background show is Siempre Bruja/Always a Witch (English dub)) this winter, I'm having serious witch vibes.

I am immensely pleased with my progress on this so far, and I'm excited to share the finished version soon! In the meantime, I'll leave you with the insides...because really,  it doesn't get witchier than this.

bodice construction: you can see the gray argyll flannel lining on the pinned piece
pinning the facings: the neck and front opening are faced in textured acid green silk. I extended the bottom edge facing into a bag lining (over the cotton flannel that is flat lined with the velvet) to the waist. The flannel and velvet love to stick to each other, so the silk lets the long points of the bodice move over the skirts smoothly.

Pinning the bottom bag lining: an unintentional consequence of this approach is that the back pleats have serious body from the silk!
And with that I suppose I should get back to work so I can wear this before all the snow melts!

Monday, January 28, 2019

"Mystery Blogger" Award

In June of last year Quinn of The Quinntessential Clothes Pen nominated me for the Mystery Blogger award. It is always fun to see these kinds of awards go around, because it is a nice opportunity to get to now other people in the community a little bit. And so I was honored to be chosen! 

The Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging, and they do it with so much love and passion.”
Created by: Okoto Enigma

The reason blog awards are such a nice way to get to know each other is because they typically have rules that involve answering questions. The ‘Mystery Blogger’ award rules are:
  • Thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog
  • Tell your readers three things about yourself
  • Answer the questions from the person who nominated you
  • Nominate 10-20 bloggers you feel deserve the award
  • Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny one
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

So now, in an effort to catch up a bit on posting, I am finally answering Quinn's questions! 

First some facts:
1. I find making crepes to be weirdly calming, and so I used to make them all the time as a way to cope with stress. I have probably flipped thousands of crepes at this point--while I no longer use them as a stress relief mechanism, I do still make them from time to time! They are my go-to Sunday breakfast food, 2am post-ball food, and I'm-out-of-groceries food.

2. I have a cat named Xena, who is the most unhelpful sewing helper in the world. If I can finish a project without getting claw punctures in it then I call that a doesn't happen often. 

3. I like to have background noise when I sew, and that is usually television or movies I don't mind only half paying attention to. This means that (a) I watch a lot of TV when I'm in the middle of a sewing project, and (b) I tend to measure the length of time a project took me to complete in media consumed. It can end up being a weird seasonal measure--for example, I started my current project in early December, so to date I have watched 2.5 bad Netflix Christmas movies and 2 episodes of Worst Cooks in America while sewing. (And in case you are curious, those 3 movies were: The Christmas Candle (this was the half), The Christmas Prince 2, and A Holiday Engagement.)

And now for Quinn's questions:

If you had a time machine, where would you take it to first and why?
Concord MA, 1863! I have spent so much time researching the residents of that particular town throughout the 1840s-80s that I would really love to experience it. And 1863 happens to be a year from which there are a lot of remaining letters (which I have transcribed!). So it would be particularly interesting to visit then. 

What do you do to combat the blues on a rainy day?
Drink tea, wear a tiara, and do something fun. Sometimes that's reading a book, or sewing, or watching a movie, or baking. But the tea and tiara are important. Another thing I like to do is plan trips. Not trips I will necessarily take any time soon, but someday trips...sometimes it's nice to fantasize about taking adventures from the comfort of the couch in my pajamas.

Where would you like to travel next? Near or far…
Well, my next actually-scheduled trip is to Disney World. Disney is a particularly fun trip to "armchair plan" because there's just so much data on the internet to research! But no limits? Southeast Asia. There's a boat trip I would love to take that goes from Hong Kong to Singapore, Bali, Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan (not in that order). Someday...

What is your favorite sewing tool?
I thought about this a lot, actually, and I think I have surprised myself by this answer. I think I am going to go with a seam ripper? I hate using a seam ripper because it means I'm tearing something out. grr! But the fact that I have a nice seam ripper and I use it regularly is empowering too, because I think it represents how far I've come as a costumer. I actually bother to rip things out and fix them now! And also it doesn't destroy my confidence when I have to do it the way it used to.
But a less fraught answer would be my spring-loaded scissors. THEY ARE AMAAAAZZZIIIING.

What name would you give to a combination of a zucchini and an asparagus?

A zasparini of course!

Finally, here are the blogs I would like to nominate. Thank you for sharing your stories on the internet, and inspiring me!

My questions for you are:
  • If you could travel in time OR space but not both, which would you choose and why?
  • What is your favorite period of clothing to wear?
  • Do you have a color you tend to gravitate towards? If so, what is it?
  • What is your favorite sewing technique or task?
  • If you could meet any magical creature in the real world, what would it be?

Happy sewing, all!

Friday, December 14, 2018

2018 Year in Review

It's been quite the year!

Not that you could possibly know that, given how little I've blogged...oops. But it's the time of year in which we review our work and reflect on the year to come, so what better opportunity to renew blogging efforts?

This year has been eventful for me in the life-way, which is part of why I haven't been blogging. There's just been a lot going on! And honestly, not a lot of sewing. But I'm hoping that will change with the list of projects I have planned for 2019!

But before plans, the 2018 review...

I got engaged!

I made a new silk 1860s ballgown and wore it to Returning Heroes, our annual costume-required ball
I clearly planned to blog about this...but never did


I attended the Bath Victorian Ball in a new dress, and I did actually manage to blog about it
Also: I graduated!


I partnered with Emily and the Vintage Express to put together a WWII display as part of the Strawberry Banke Museum American Lives event 

We demonstrated a variety of roles people played during the war, and Emily and I focused on women in the armed services. Here I am in my summer WAC uniform looking very was almost 100 degrees and super humid!


I took an adventure to Baker's Island, where intrepid adventuring friends and I mostly survived and entertained boats of tourists! 

I also revisited the Crane Estate for their Roaring 20s Lawn Party
and I did actually sew some things! I forgot. For Gatsby on the Isles I whipped up a quick and dirty 1920s bathing suit...

...and finished this pink striped summer dress I started a lot of years (and two apartments) ago. Whew!


Back to Hogwarts (and Knockturn Alley) on a weekend getaway!

Mostly October was just work (and work travel), but we also took engagement photos with our AMAZING AMAZING wedding photographers, so I am throwing one in here!


December means Fezziwig's Ball! This wasn't an exciting costuming event this time, but that's ok! Because it was a great year for friends both old and new. 

plaid brings people together ;) Hi Kenna!

I AM YOUR GHOST HOST--wait, wrong...hmm.

So that's it! Not much of a sewing year, but definitely A Year. Thank you so much to everyone who has said hello at events or left me notes on Instagram. I love that this hobby is full of such wonderful, nerdy,  interesting people. I hope your holiday season is full of good cheer!

And to round things off...I have set myself what I think is a reasonable list of 2019 projects. I feel pretty on top of wedding things right now, but that house of cards is sure to tumble at any moment. Right? right. So it goes. For posterity, here is what I hope to do (and blog about):

Early 1870s winter ensemble
Regency pelisse 
Tartan 1860s re-make 
Chemises and petticoats (because I realized my go-to 1860s chemise is from 2007...eek!)
Bonus Round: something new for Fezziwig's next year

I always try to set myself a goal in addition to projects I hope to accomplish. This year, my goal is accessories. Not necessarily making them, but at least spending the time to acquire them or alter things to be appropriate. Because accessories really do make the time travel magic happen, and I'm always happier with the dress I've made when it feels like a real ensemble. So let's see how I do with that!

COME AT ME 2019!

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Fussbudget: 1873-4 Dress Details

While in the past I have thrown together bustled ensembles for steampunk events and college shenanigans, before April I had never attempted an actual 1870s gown. So when I started this project, I told myself I just needed to go slowly and focus on making something that fit well.

But then I got...fussy.

And by fussy, I mean I couldn't get Tissot and The Buccaneers out of my head, and so my simple plan somehow developed a lot more ruffles. The romancey cupcakey dresses I imagined in palaces were the only thing I wanted to make. 

"Too Early" by James Tissot, 1873
Then once I had an idea in my head, I didn't want to give it up--which made finding fabric a lot more difficult! As time ticked towards my flight and I got more desperate, I tried something crazy and ordered sheer cotton voile curtains on Amazon. They were available on Prime, they were a nice stripe, and they would have to do. Once they came, I took a quick trip to Homegoods with The Boy, who helped my sort through bedding options to find a suitable set of queen-sized cotton sateen sheets to use as an underlayer.

In the end, this ended up being a blessing in disguise because as I ruffled away I ran out of fabric...but it was easy to order more curtains from Amazon! Even so I don't think I would recommend the home furnishings approach to fabric shopping--everything I bought swore it was 100% cotton, and not a bit of it was. This was some dead Dino all the way.

I was also lucky in that several years ago I made my first 1870s dress, modifying a Truly Victorian pattern to work with a natural form silhouette. I still had the pattern pieces already fit to my body, so I was able to save a lot of time by being able to just cut things out and go! This time I used the original back pleats since I wanted the bustle silhouette. (I took a look at the TV website and I no longer see this particular pattern listed, unfortunately, so I couldn't figure out the number!)

The sleeves I cut just using a little math, and consist of a striped bias-cut overpuff with a fitted gold undersleeve. 

Like many women traveling to Bath before me throughout the 19th century, I bought some accessories at the indoor market (friends are a great and terrible influence). So I also dressed the bodice with a new metalwork brooch and my hair with a gold and pearl comb, which worked well with the earrings and necklace I had already planned to wear, and I think the brooch especially finishes the bodice nicely. I would have been rather plain without it!

back pleats in the bodice

can you see my secret plaid on the overskirt? when the sheer layers of stripes overlap magic happens!
For the skirts I started with TV208 (trained skirt ensemble), which includes both under and overskirts in the pattern. For the underskirt I actually made two skirts: a cotton sheet base layer and a sheer curtain with vertical stripes. I also included a pocket for the first time! Oh my goodness, I want to put pockets in everything now. It was way easier than I expected and so useful. The skirts are assembled separately (the pocket is in the base layer and the sheer stripes have a pocket slit in the side seam), but attached as one to the waistband.

I cut both skirts without a train, as this ensemble was purpose-made for dancing. (PSA: never drag your train on the dance floor!!!)

For the overskirt I used apron front B and a draped/improvised back based on the little fabric I had left. Both are cut with the stripes going horizontally. I plan to order more fabric to improve the back in the future! I also added a butt bow based on some fashion plates from 1873-1874 made out of a pillow case from sheet set.

Finally, everything is trimmed with bias ruffles (2 ruffle layers on the underskirt, 1 on the apron) and pleated satin ribbon trim. I couldn't find multiple widths of the same cream ribbon, so I folded it to create proportional ribbon sizes for each layer: the underskirt is the full width (2" I think?), the apron is 3/4 width, and the bodice is 1/2 width. (Many many thanks to Peryn and Emma for help slamming the last bits of trim and hooks and eyes onto the bodice the day of the ball!)

While there are a few things I plan to adjust before I wear this again (if I ever wear this again...I don't typically do 70s!), overall I am quite pleased with the way this turned out. Being fussy (and working with incredibly fussy fabric) had a happy ending!

yes yes, I'm a ballerina.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

The Buccaneers Take Bath

At the beginning of May I found myself drinking Prosecco at 1 in the morning with a very dear friend, debating dance history technicalities over onion tarts. We had just attended the Bath Victorian Ball, and we were savoring the moment. Given that she lives across the ocean from me now, our chances to dance together are was such a treat to get to see her!

Whenever I am lucky enough to attend a historic dance event abroad, I am reminded of Wharton's unfinished novel (and the 1990s mini-series) The Buccaneers. I am usually in a pod of friends--also all American ladies--and while we are quite well trained in the dancing, we never quite fit in with the unique historic dance culture of the place we're visiting. We change partners too frequently, we swap spots in the set between dances, we don't know the "customs of the country" (as Wharton would put it).

But if I do say so myself, we clean up rather well.

At events like this I always feel a bit like Nan and company, shipped off to England to make matches in old society (well, without the pressure to marry a Duke, that is). And I think that pushed The Buccaneers to the front of my mind when I started working on an early bustle period dress for this event (to match Emma's fabulous Huffle-bustle!). The result is a fussy, ruffly, ribbony, shimmery thing, which I promise to discuss in detail soon.

But first, I wanted to share my favorite pictures of the evening: our Buccaneers moment gossiping by a fireplace in the Assembly Rooms. Now all we need is a proposal and a scandal! (Just kidding, we managed to have a lovely evening without either.)

And of course, butt bow posing commenced!

It was an incredible evening, and I had so much fun dancing in the AMAZING Bath Assembly Rooms! What elegant surroundings! Even if I am ever a fish out of water, it's practically worth the flight for the chandeliers alone. 

As always, my favorite part of the evening was getting to dance with friends old and new. It is social dancing, after all! A particularly brilliant moment was Mr. Hart's Lancers, as Emma and I spent a week last summer studying Lancers quadrilles in Denmark. It was awesome to stretch the brain muscles, and to so immediately slide back into being a well-oiled machine. I suppose quadrilles are growing on me after all ;)

I think this was the moment we realized the arrangement for the dance was selections from The Mikado, which we both know well!

such satisfying swoop!
I have to admit, in the States we do our balls on modern time, and attending a more "realistic" ball (with a supper break at almost 10pm) was exhausting! Flopping after the ball was all the more satisfying for it.

Cheers to friendship, dancing, bustles, and intrigue!