1870s Unmentionables: Layer 2-Corset

Despite my long time love of late-Victorian silhouette and detail, it has taken me a long time to jump in to an outfit. This is partly because I didn’t have any immediate upcoming event at which to wear a bustle gown, but mostly because all of those underlayers are intimidating! You have to dig through a lot of non-visible structure before you get to the pretty dress, and once you’re there, the gown is no picnic.

Chief among these complicated structures is the corset. I have made multiple sets of Regency stays before, but as far as I’m concerned, those are nothing compared to the Victorian corset. So I dragged my feet for a long time, but after the dullness that is making chemise and drawers, the corset looked much more interesting.

And you know what? It was! I was shocked how much I enjoyed making this thing. Two rounds of test corsets were boring, and took me a while, but once I got to the real thing the process was surprisingly fun, and even more surprisingly fast. The only part of making the corset that took as long as I expected was binding the edges. Oh, and flossing, which took much longer than I expected.

I used Laughing Moon 100–the same pattern I used for the chemise and drawers. It has two corset options the Dore, which has no bust gussets, and the Silverado, which does, I chose the Silverado.

I started with a test corset. I didn’t take pictures of the first one because it was frankly embarrassing. I am very short, so I went ahead and shorted the pattern by two inches, which in my defense, I often have to do. Turns out, not this particular pattern. I made a second test corset, shortened by one inch, which came out much better.

I ended up shrinking the gussets by one size, trying that out, and then cutting the real fabric!

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I used a subtly-striped cotton twill as my outer fabric. When it came it was slightly lighter-weight than I would have preferred, but since I had a very strong backing material, I went ahead with it anyway. I anticipate needing to replace this corset in the next few years, but since I enjoyed making it, that’s fine with me. It will give me a chance to make one covered in pretty taffeta!

The first step in the actual corset build is inserting the front-closing busk, which is a little fiddly, but not nearly as involved as you might think from looking at them. For the hook side, you simply line up the busk with the seam-line on the correct front piece and trace around it, skipping over the hooks.

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Then you can simply sew the front and the front lining together at the center front as normal, but leaving gaps in the seam for the hooks to poke through. Then turn it right side out, put the busk in place, and stitch around it to keep it secure.

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And now: the knob side. You stitch together the other front and front lining as per usual, then line it up with the hook side on the table, as if it were closed in front, and mark a dot in the center of each hook.

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Then one by one, you open a hole at each dot with an awl, and put the knob side of the busk through and stitch it in place, just as you did with the hook side.

Ta-da! One finished busk!

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The back pieces come next–the fabric is sewn to the lining along the center back seam so that the grommets can go in now, when you won’t have to wrestle with an entire corset.

And with the hardware in, the real sewing starts.

First: the gussets. Bust gussets are just extra pieces of fabric that help the corset fit around your bust. They can be a bit tricky, since they are inserted into just part of a seam between two other full-length pieces, but I find them very satisfying when put in correctly. One side of the gusset gets sewn to one of the two corset pieces from top to the point at the bottom where the seam allowances on either side of the gusset piece would intersect. Then the other side of the gusset is sewn to the other corset piece from the top to the same point. The, with the extra gusset seam allowance pinned out of the way, the two corset pieces are sewn together below the gusset.

These gussets got some nice top stitching to keep them sturdy.

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The rest of the corset body is very straightforward sewing, which I didn’t bother to take photos of it, but I did take the last chance to check for fit when the outer fabric was all sewn.

And good thing I did too, because it laced completely shut, and I ended up taking 1/4″ out of each seam!

The other important thing to note when trying it on at this stage is where it creases at the waist. Since the waistline takes a lot of strain from the laces, it gets reinforced with a piece of twill tape to prevent it from stretching. I simply marked where the creases were at the waist and pinned the twill tape following that line.

And then stitched along each seam to hold the tape in place.

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That is the final thing that needs doing before the rest of the lining goes in!

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And now, the fun begins. Boning channels!

Because I wanted to reinforce the structure in every possible way, I first stitched in the ditch to hold the fabric and lining together securely.

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There are a total of 24 bones in this corset–one along each seam, two at center back, one down the center of every piece where there was space for them, and three in the middle of each side-front piece.

Before binding the edges, I basted some cute little lace along the seamline, where it would poke fetchingly out from under the binding.

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I bound the edges in bias strips of the outer fabric.

And now for the part I was most excited about! Flossing! Flossing is a kind of embroidery around the ends of the bones, which is both decorative and functional. It helps hold the bones still in their channels, and prevent them from tearing through the fabric with wear. It is much easier to replace some worn out flossing than to replace an entire hole-y corset!

I did my flossing using a dark teal cotton embroidery floss.

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My first attempt (right side) was a bit wobbly…

I did the wing shaped ones on either side of the grommets, then switched to criss-cross ones on the rest of the corset.

I watched North and South on Netflix while I was stitching, and Marionette was very happy to help.

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Flossing finished!

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I am so excited about this corset! I really enjoyed making it, and I’m actually excited about making another, fancier one in the future. It’s a pretty basic corset, but the little details make me happy.

I’m on to the bustle and petticoat, and then I finally get to start covering up all that under-structure with beautiful silk! I can’t wait!

1870s Unmentionables: Layer 1- Chemise and Drawers

It’s here! I’m finally starting on a project that I’ve been planning for close to two years!

At work, since we work with out hands, we end up talking about a lot of random things: food, Star Wars theories, the relative merits of various names, cats, genetics, and Harry Potter to name just a few. Not just about Harry Potter, of course, but about the whole Wizarding World: its history, its issues, its everything. We love to speculate about things, and with this kind of talk come all sorts of fun costuming ideas. We’ve all seen what wonderful things can happen when you put wizards in the 1920s in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. But before that even came out, I was planning this outfit: an 1870s bustle gown inspired by Ravenclaw House. It will be a historically-accurate (as much as anything is) gown, fit to wear to reenacting events, but the colors and the design are inspired by the personality and the symbols of Ravenclaw.

There will be more about that as I get to work on the actual gown, but before you can have an 1870s gown, you must have an 1870s under-structure, so that is where I am beginning.

For the chemise, drawers, and corset, I am using Laughing Moon #100.

https://i1.wp.com/www.voguefabricsstore.com/images/P/LM100.jpgI started with the innermost layer: the drawers.

Victorian drawers are very strange to our modern sensibilities because for the most part, the are left open in the center to allow for ease of doing-one’s-business in large, complicated skirts. It would also be almost impossible to pull down a pair of drawers once a corset was tightened over the top of them, and certainly impossible to pull them back up again. Many modern reenactors choose to close them up, but I agree with the Victorian ladies–I’d rather get used to open drawers than fight with them in order to use the facilities.

An extant pair of drawers at The Met, dated to the 1850s.
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A drawing from an 1869 pattern, available to the modern costumer through Ageless Patterns.

Both of these examples are similar to the ones that I made. The drawers are very simple to put together–only three pieces total, but the leg pieces are some of the strangest pattern pieeces I’ve worked with. They are wider than anything I’ve ever used that wasn’t an enormous skirt panel. I had to open up the piece of lawn and cut each leg individually, because they didn’t fit on the folded fabric!

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The first step is the decorative tucks at the bottom:

Then you sew the legs into tubes–I used French seams.

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Add a hem, and some lace if you want!

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I cut out one inch self-bias strips to bind the open center edges.

The pattern comes with two waistband options: straight, and pointed, but, like most waistbands, they both go on the same way. The tops of the legs are gathered onto the right side of the waistband, and the back of the waistband gets pressed under and slip-stitched to cover the raw edges.

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I had to pin them to the front of the dressform, so they look a little sloppy, but there’s no way I was taking a picture of myself in just these!

The chemise is a bit more complicated. By this point, chemises were no longer a bunch of squares, rectangles, and triangles, constructed in a way that allowed for the most efficient possible use of fabric. This chemise is gathered into a yoke that is shaped around the top of the bust.

I wanted lace around the neck and arm openings, so my first step after sewing the front and back of the yoke together at the shoulders was to baste some lace along the seam lines.

Once the lace was in place, I sewed the yoke and the yoke lining together, turned the whole thing right-side-out, and pressed. I ended up writing “right side” on the side I wanted to show, since the sides are basically identical.

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The front body is gathered into the front yoke, and the back into the back yoke. Nothing is attached at the sides yet, just at the shoulders. The front yoke overlaps itself in the center, but that bit of the seam doesn’t get sewn yet.

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Then, you sew the side seams–body, yoke, and yoke lining all in one fell swoop. I used French seams here as well. Now that everything’s all in one piece, you can finish the yoke lining.

At this point, you pin the center front yoke so that everything is nice and square and even, and then sew it in place at the bottom.

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Buttons and buttonholes at the top:

And tucks and hem at the bottom:

And you have a Victorian chemise! I may add lace at the bottom later on to match the drawers, but right now, I don’t have anything in my stash that will work.

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I am on to a much more fun part of the process now–the corset! There are so many steps before I finally get to the big, beautiful dress, but once I have this, I’ll have a good foundation for many other Victorian dresses to come! So many plans! If I can make half of them happen, I’ll be a happy costumer.

Spectra Spec-tacular: Part 2

With the biggest part of my new Luna Lovegood cosplay out of the way (the coat–which you can read about here), the rest of the pieces came together very quickly.

I bought the tights, a pair of pink Converse shoes, and the official Spectra Spec replicas. The tights and the specs got to stay as they were, but the shoes, not so much.

The Converse that Evanna Lynch wore as Luna in HP and the Half Blood Prince were a pair of special editions called Autumn Flowers, and since the movie came out in 2009, they have obviously long been out of production. I have an eBay search for them saved, but so far I haven’t seen a single pair, let alone one in my size. I’ll keep my fingers crossed. In the meantime, I wasn’t about to let that stop me!

Using a few pictures of the shoes, I drew out the design on my light pink shoes in pencil.

I painted the shoes with acrylic paint, which I water down slightly so that it soaks into the fabric and spreads really nicely. I painted the background color first. It’s an extremely dark brown, almost black.

I also gave the white soles a coat. It’s not a permanent solution, since it chips off of the rubber quickly, but it got me through Lexington Comic and Toy Con and bought me time to find a better solution.

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Then I started filling in the base colors of the flowers, refining their shapes a bit as I went. I knew I was going to go back with a second coat of the background color at the end, so it was fine to leave a few pink spots here and there.

I painted things in one color at a time, so that once I had mixed a color, I wouldn’t have to re-mix it later in order to match what I’d done before.

Then there were the details. Each flower has a contrasting center, and some other details–smaller petal shapes or little dots around the center.

Once I went back and touched up the base color, I went around and outlined the details in black sharpie to make them pop.

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After a couple coats of Scotch Guard, the shoes are ready for action!

Now, for that wonderful skirt. The original was from H&M. Once again, it has obviously been out of stores for many years. I’ll keep searching for an original on eBay, but since H&M clothes aren’t exactly built to last, I won’t hold out too much hope.

Luckily, I had a pretty good solution. My brother is studying to be an animator, and thus, is fantastic at digital art. He made me a design similar to that out-of-this-world horse, bird, star, and heart print, which I got printed at Spoonflower. The design looks great, but it’s definitely not a perfect solution. I ordered it on cotton poplin, but the printing process stiffens the fabric so much that it might as well be quilting cotton. It did soften up a bit after a wash, but it’s still pretty stiff.

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The skirt is super simple: just a couple of rectangles stitched together and gathered onto an elastic waistband. I flatfelled the seams to finish them.

The entire thing is done by machine (a rarity for me), so it only took an hour or so!

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Luna also has a bag, which any con-going cosplayer will tell you is a lifesaver! I could actually carry all must stuff around with me!

The bag is made of a fun blue woven with lots of other colors in it, and I lined it with some heart-printed calico from my stash.

It’s about the simplest bag in the world. The bag portion is two rectangles, the strap is attached on each side, and the join is then covered with another square of the blue fabric. I attached the lining with a zigzag stitch in purple for a bit of extra detail.

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I didn’t quite get the final item of Luna’s outfit done in time for Lexington Comic and Toy Con, but it did give me something to do with my hands!

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I even used an on-theme stitch marker!

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I really need to get better about remembering to take pictures at cons–I’m lucky I remembered to have someone take the one of me knitting! Here’s one that was taken by another awesome cosplayer at the event (check out @queenaslaug on Instagram!).

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This is definitely my comfiest cosplay so far, and it’s really fun to hang around as Luna!

Watch out for Nargles!

Spectra Spec-tacular: Part 1 (plus piping mini-tutorial)

Almost two years ago, I completed my first cosplay: Luna Lovegood’s dress from Bill and Fleur’s wedding in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You can read all about the (rather haphazard) construction here. I picked that dress because it seemed simple, and I though I had quite a bit of sewing experience, I was only just wading into the world of making my own patterns.

Looking back two years later, I can hardly believe how far I’ve come in such a short time. Two years ago, it was the coat that scared me away from Luna’s iconic outfit from Half-Blood Prince. I knew that if I did that outfit, I would want a coat as similar to hers in shape as possible, and I definitely didn’t trust myself to make that pattern up. Now that I’m doing it, I’m glad I waited. I don’t know how I would have done the construction then, but I know it’s better now!

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I stared at pictures of this coat for a long time, and watched the scene it appears in over and over. There is never an unobscured shot of it. She is always holding the Quibblers, or has her arm up, or the shot is too close up to see, or it’s dark. Luckily, when she finds Harry on the floor of Malfoy’s compartment on the Hogwarts Express, she holds the magazines enough to one side that you can get a pretty good idea of how this all goes together. After all that, here is the quick sketch that I came up with:

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It’s basically a little bolero jacket with a pleated skirt portion attached. The placket for the buttonholes is part of the same piece as the pleated portion. It has a large collar and sleeves that have a gathered cap which is tall, rather than full. I assume that the pocket flaps are false, since They seem to flatten the pleats along the bottom edge more than they would if they actually opened, and I have no idea why anyone would decide to put actual pockets through three layers of pleated coating.

I draped the body on my dress form, then used those pieces to make a quick mockup. It fit quite well right out of the gate (not that it’s a particularly fitted garment). All I had to do was adjust the front placket and the shape of the center front edge of the bolero portion just a smidgen so that the closure wouldn’t gape between buttons.

I spent a long time staring at pink coating fabrics before I picked a pink, white, and burgundy wool blend from Mood Fabrics. The threads are a bit larger than the ones in Luna’s coat, but it was the only fabric I could find that had all three colors I was looking for that wasn’t a regular pattern like plaid. I thought about going with a plainer pink fabric, but I figured with Luna, always err on the side of more out-there. Even though it’s not exact, I also love the addition of the sparkly bronze bits in the weave as well. Makes it a bit more magical?

The lining is a deep purple linen/rayon blend from Joann.

I had to think long and hard about the order of operations on this jacket, since the construction is a bit odd. The bolero and the pleated skirt aren’t sewn together by a normal seam, but by the zigzag detail about an inch in from the edge of the bolero.

So, up to a certain point, I needed to prepare the two sections separately. I started by sewing the skirt fronts and back together, and pressing the bottom and center front edges of both the lining and fabric under. Then I placed the lining on the fabric, slightly offset, and slip stitched the two together.

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I then folded the pleats and basted them in place ,and the skirt portion was ready to go.

The bolero is a bit more exciting: its edges get piped with patterned piping! I scoured Joann and found one that had a pattern with a lot of the same colors as Luna’s piping: purple, coral/orange, and white.

But before all the fun, I had to put the pieces together. It is very simple: no darts or anything, just one back piece and two front pieces.

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Because the edge of the bolero will over hang the skirt portion a bit, it needs a facing so that if the underside is ever seen, it looks the same as the outside. This is where the piping comes into play:

Mini Tutorial: Piping

Step 1: Cut fabric into bias strips. I only cut mine an inch wide, but to be on the safe side, I would recommend cutting 1.5 inch wide strips. Bias strips are cut at a 45 degree angle to the grain of the fabric. Since fabric stretches more on the bias, this allows the piping to go around curves without bunching.

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Step 2:

If you need lengths of piping longer than the strips you were able to cut from your fabric, you will need to sew some together. The best way to sew  bias strips together is to to it at an angle–you may have noticed this if you’ve ever paid attention to the seams in your commercial bias tape. You will do this by placing the diagonal edges of your strips right side to right side at a right angle as shown below. The pointy ends will hang over on each side.

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Sewing the seam like this means that you are sewing with the grain of the fabric, which will help the seam disappear. Since the seam is at an angle once you open up the pieces and press it, it also distributes the bulk of the seam allowance, making the join more, well, seamless.

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Step 3:

Fold your strip in half around a piece of cord in whatever size you would like your piping to be. For garments, I usually opt for ordinary butcher’s string/kitchen twine. It’s a good size, it’s very flexible, and best of all–it’s extremely cheap!

Make sure that from the bottom of the string to the raw edges of the fabric is at least as wide as your seam allowance–I had to offset my edges to make sure of this, but that’s ok, because none of this will show in the end!

Using the zipper foot of your sewing machine, stitch through the fabric right next to the cord but NOT through it. I always move my needle as close to the cord as I can get it by adjusting the “stitch width” setting. The closer you can sew to your cord, the neater your piping will look and the happier you will be!

 

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When you have sewn all of your piping, put a ruler of measuring tape up right against the bottom of the cord and make sure that your seam allowance portion is the same as the seam allowance your are using for your project (1/2″ in my case). Trim off any excess. This may seam tedious, but I promise you won’t regret it!

Inserting the piping:

Step 1: Take one of the two pieces of fabric that will form the seam where the piping will sit. Pin (or Wonderclip!) your piping to your garment. Because you’ve trimmed your piping seam allowance to be the same as your garment seam allowance, this means you just need to line up your piping edge and garment edge just as you would if it were two pieces of fabric. The bottom of your piping will automatically be right at the seam line.

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Now, at this point, you could just sandwich the other piece of fabric on top and go to town, but I find that if I do that there’s always at least one spot where the piping shifted slightly and went under the needle by accident, meaning you’ll have to either live with wonky piping or tear that portion out and do it again. But, this can be avoided! Follow these next three steps and you can have perfect piping every time!

Step 2:

Still using the zipper foot, sew the piping to your one piece of fabric (in the case the outer fabric of the bolero), still keeping the needle as close to the cord as possible, right on top of the stitching that holds your piping together.IMG_2848.jpg

Step 3:

Pin the second piece of fabric (in this case the bolero facing) to the first, just as you would if you were sewing the seam as normal without piping.

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Step 4:

Turn the work over so that the seam that holds the piping on is facing up. Sew right along the same line. (My fabric was so heavy that the zipper food became awkward, so I switched back to the basic foot. You may find that continuing to use the zipper foot works best for you.) Doing this ensures the piping sits exactly where you wanted, and never either gets squished in the seam, or extends too far out, forming unsightly lumps and bumps.

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Perfect!

As long as I was piping things, I also made the false pocket flaps. In addition to the piping, these get a row of decorative zigzag stitches about an inch in from the edge. Once they were on and I stepped back, I realized that just one row of zigzags didn’t show up much against such a busy fabric, so on the collar and the bolero, I ended up doing two rows right on top of each other.

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And then I draped the collar, since I was too lazy to do that back when I was makign the rest of the mockup.

The collar is made in the same way as the pocket flaps, with piping and zigzag details. When it was made, I basted it to the neckline of the bolero.

I was running low of fabric when I did the collar, and worried about having enough for the sleeves, so the underside is more of the crazy fabric from the piping!

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So, both the upper and lower parts of the coat were basically ready (minus the sleeves–I decided that it would be easier to attach sleeves to the full coat than to worry about them getting in the way while I tried to attach the two halves.

After doing one row of the decorative zigzagging around the edge of the bolero, I pinned the lower half inside of the upper one, making sure that it overlapped the zigzagging completely.

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And then I simply sewed a second row of zigzags right on top of the first, which made it much more simple than if I had wanted just one row of stitching!

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Nearing completion!

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I drafted a sleeve pattern and then tested it several time with alterations in between until I was happy with this one:

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When the sleeves were on, I sewed a lining for the upper portion of the coat. I machine sewed it to the neckline, with the collar sandwiched between, then pressed it down and anchored it with a row of stitches below the collar. Then I just turned the jacket inside out and folded the edges of the lining under and slipstitched in place.

Finally, I made a pair of decorative bands for the ends of the sleeves. After attempting one, I realized that if I piped them the same way as everything else, I couldn’t turn them back right-side-out. The piping made them too stiff, and the fabric was so thick, but so loosely woven, that I ended up with an unraveling mess when  I tried! So, I sewed the piping to one piece (I used a quarter inch seam allowance), then pressed the seam allowance to the wrong side and covered the raw edges with a piece of bias tape sewn along the back of the strap.

The straps are sewn down, and the buckle is entirely decorative, since the finished straps were far too thick to be able to go through the buckles twice!

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After that it was just buttons and buttonholes:

And a bit of top stitching to smooth out the edges and the pleats:

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And we’re finished! Now I just have to get the rest of the costume finished in time for Lexington Comic and Toy Con this weekend!

Now back to sewing, painting, knitting, (and, of course, hunting wrackspurts) to make everything as magical as possible!

Men Can Be Fashion Plates Too!

I may have gone a little insane when I was making Brandon’s Christmas present this year. My intention was to make him a new green linen Regency tailcoat, since most of our events are in the muggy Kentucky summer. But, I wanted to do a new style for him, which meant making some changes to the pattern. For that, I needed to be able to try a mockup on him. So, I decided to give him the the materials to be made up into a coat in January. But just a pile of fabric and thread and buttons didn’t seem like a very fun present, so I thought, the fashion plate I’m working off of has some really great trousers too, why not make him a pair of trousers so that he has something finished to open as well? Great, trousers don’t take too long to make, what a great plan.

So, I’m partway through making the trousers, when I happen to be digging through my stash and notice some Robin’s egg blue linen that I’ve been meaning to make into a waistcoat, and I think how nice the Robin’s egg blue would look with the rest of the outfit. So, in a moment of insanity, I stop working on the trousers and start making a waistcoat instead. At the moment, I cannot remember my justification for needing to put down the trousers in order to make the waistcoat first, but that’s what I did. So, in short, Brandon got an entire new outfit for Christmas. The outfit is based off of this fashion plate from 1814:

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Since I was working on the waistcoat and trousers in secret, I didn’t take many pictures of the process, but here are the few that I have:

Here I’m working on the waistcoat pockets.

And here’s the finished pocket:

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I made Death’s Head buttons for the waistcoat. It’s always fun to learn a new skill, and it was a fun demo to do while interpreting at Locust Grove!

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And here’s the finished waistcoat! It’s made with the Kannik’s Korner Single-Breasted Man’s Waistcoat pattern. Next time I make one, I’ll have to do a better job of taking progress photos.

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Next came the trousers. They are Past Pattern’s Small Fall Trowsers with a slight adjustment to raise the fall high enough to be covered by the high waistlines of 1816.

 

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Here I’m working on the fall welts. Using the wig head as a third hand turned out to be a great idea–I could work much faster with less strain on my hands, which was good since Christmas was now fast approaching!
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Attaching the fall welts.
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The trousers also have a snazzy blue stripe up the sides.

Here are the finished trousers (I haven’t put suspender buttons on them yet, so they’re a tad droopy):

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Once we got back from our Christmas trip home to Michigan, I could begin work on the  coat. I started with Laughing Moon #122, then modified to the front to close all the way up at an angle and lowered the waist so that it would cover the bottom of the waistcoat, as in the fashion plate above.

Somewhere between the second and third photos I made a mockup and tried it on Brandon, then made more adjustments to the pattern piece. Once I was happy with how the mockup fit, I got to start working with the real fabric, a gorgeous evergreen linen from Renaissance Fabrics.

If you’ve ever done any tailoring you know that putting the pieces together is the bit that takes the least time! Most of the work happens when prepping the individual pieces for assembly: padstitching collars and lapels, interfacing pieces, adding pockets, it all adds up, and you’re halfway through a project before it starts to look like anything’s happened!

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Marking the collar interfacing for padstitching.
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And padstitching the collar. I actually love this part.

Catchstitching is the magical technique that keeps your interfacing firmly in place and flat while not showing as a tell-tale line on the outside of your garment.

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It’s also my favorite part of tailoring.

The tail pockets in this pattern are an odd little precursor to welt pockets. Here, I’ve attached the inner flap to the tail, and am about to attach the pocket bag by stitching on the blue lines. When that’s done, I slash down the middle and push the entire pocket bag through the slit, which finishes the edges, although not particularly nicely. There’s a reason we invented welt pockets.

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Here’s the finished pocket with both flaps:

You must also interface the facing! Jacket fronts must be stiff or you look like a schlump! Since this part has to go over the shoulder, I padstitch over my leg, which forces the piece to take on a curve. You can see that it’s nice and smooth when curved, but when you straighten it out, it gets all puckered.

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Where would we be without more catchstitching? In the land of loose, floppy interfacing, that’s where.
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Sewing together the back facings. Bonus: I finally replaced my dead sewing machine light and IT’S SO GREAT!

Once the body was all put together, I tried it on Brandon. The facing was rolling a bit and the collar was being a bit floppy, but nothing a bit of prickstitching won’t fix!

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Here’s the back facing after I tacked down the point to the seam. All of the seams that aren’t covered by facings are flat-felled except the armscyes, which are too bulky with all the gathering. Them I trimmed and blanket stitched to keep them neat.

Down to the finishing touches!

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Buttons covered!
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Buttonholes marked!
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I even ponied up for beautiful silk buttonhole thread and it is definitely worth it!

Here’s Brandon in the finished ensemble! Can’t wait until he gets to wear that nice linen jacket in the hot KY summer!

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Locust Grove Interpreter Auditions

It’s that time of year again, and the Locust Grove Interpreter Corps are looking for new recruits!

The interpreter corps is an all-volunteer group who help teach guests to Locust Grove all about the history of the site, the family, Louisville history, Kentucky history, and US history through first person interpretation. (Don’t worry if you don’t know much about the history now–we’re always learning!) We spend our time at events as people from 1816 Louisville, and interact with guests as if it is the past.

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Interpreter Jos, as Miss Eliza Bulleit, teaching young guests to play a new game.

I absolutely love every event I get to do with the interpreter corps–they aren’t just a group of fellow volunteers, there some of my favorite people and dearest friends. When my now-husband and I moved here, they welcomed us with open arms as soon as we walked in for our own auditions, and we’ve been part of it ever since!

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1816 sisters! Interpreters Laura and Carol as Mrs. Ann Gwathmey and Mrs. Elizabeth Ferguson. Photo by Kara Hamilton

The Interpreter Corps doesn’t work from a set script, but are part of a constantly evolving improv based on our ever-growing knowledge about life in 1816, and about Louisville’s history in particular. Every interpreter brings a unique set of skills and interests to the group, whether it be playing an instrument, knitting, embroidery, or the ability to spin a good yarn (literally or figuratively). We are all constantly learning from one another as our research grows and our interpretations develop.

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Yours Truly as Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor and Mia as Mrs. Lucy Croghan demonstrating tambour embroidery and knitting to a visitor at a special event at the Speed Art Museum.

We will be holding auditions on Saturday, Feb. 25 from 12-2.

We have an especial need for young people this year, as many of our younger members have aged up to new parts or gone off into the wide world, so if you know kids, or parents of kids ages 11-19 who might be interested, please pass this on to them! Never fear, there are also plenty of parts for adults. Here are the parts we are currently casting:

Male: Edmund Croghan (age 11); Charles Croghan (age 14); Nicholas Croghan (age 14); William Croghan, Jr. (age 22); George Croghan (age 25); Zachary Taylor (age 32); Thomas Bullitt (age 39); John Gwathmey (age 42); William Clark (age 46); Judge Fortunatus Cosby (age 49) Aaron Fontaine (age 63); General George Rogers Clark (age 64); William Croghan, Sr. (age 64); Richard Taylor (age 70)
Female: Emily Taylor (age15); Ann ‘Nancy’ Thruston (age 17); Eliza Sydnor Cosby (age 17); Sarah Bailey Taylor (Age 17); Ann Croghan (age 19); Elizabeth Thruston Fontaine (age 45)

We are also seeking a regular volunteer interested in training to demonstrate as an out-of-character (third person) interpreter in our hearth kitchen.

The interpreters meet regularly to train in the history of the period and the family, as well as workshops on period language and manners, physical characterization and improvisation, and clothing of the period, and appear at events throughout the year.

You can find complete audition information on the Facebook Event page.

For more information on Locust Grove please visit www.locustgrove.org or https://locustgrovelouisville.wordpress.com/, or email Brian Cushing at bcushing@locustgrove.org.

Please pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested!

I hope to see you in the Corps this year!

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Come in!
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Join us!

All photographs by Fox and Rose Photography unless otherwise noted.

Snow White Riding Outfit 4: Finishing Touches

I was finally able to get back to work on Snow this month, after my break waiting for the final materials to arrive turned into a break to finish Christmas gifts! Snow is finally finished. I only have dress-form photos at the end of this blog because next week I have a studio photoshoot scheduled, so keep an eye on my Facebook and Instagram for the good stuff!

If you read Parts 2 & 3 of this blog, you know that things were nearly finished–the pants were fronted with suede, the skirt drapes and the jacket were made. All I needed was to bind and bead the jacket, and make the belt. (I’m also making a little costume for my bow, since Snow’s is wrapped in leather and fur, but I’ll show that off at the photoshoot.)

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Here’s the real costume, designed by Eduardo Castro

It took forever to get a hold of faux leather seam binding in exactly the right shade of off white. It turns out that not a lot of places sell faux leather binding at all, and those that do mostly have tan and black. I finally had to order off white from the seller Neotrims on Amazon (they also sell on eBay), and while it’s the perfect solution, it took weeks to get here–most of the reason for how delayed this blog is!

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Sewing faux leather binding turned out to be another one of those places where Wonderclips are invaluable. Since this binding is basically just one strip of double-sided poly leather with a slit down the center of one side to facilitate folding, you can’t sew it like fabric bias tape. It doesn’t open up.

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So I just clipped it onto the edges of the jacket and slip stitched each side. At first I tried sewing both sides at once by putting the needle all the way through the jacket and both edges of the tape, but I lost so much time constantly turning the piece this way and that to make sure the needle was coming through in exactly the right place, and fighting to pull it through that many layers that I decided just sewing each side seperatly would be more efficient.

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As usual, Marionette was determined to help out by sitting exactly where the project needed to go.

Once I had put binding on the jacket and sleeve pieces, I put in grommets to attach the sleeves to the jacket.

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Putting in grommets is very satisfying, as it’s one of the very rare times in sewing when it’s acceptable to hit your project with a hammer.
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Don’t listen to that nonsense on the package about using scissors! I always open up holes for eyelets or grommets with an awl, which doesn’t sever the threads of the fabric, and therefore keeps the hole much stronger. It also alleviates the risk of opening a hole to big for the eyelet, thereby ruining the project.

Here’s the jacket body with binding and eyelets:

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It took me forever to find a bead/stud that I liked for the centers of the diamonds. It is almost impossible to tell exactly what they are either in the show or in any photos of the costume I’ve seen. Eventually, I found these small rhinestone shank buttons on Etsy.

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Here is a link to the seller’s page.

She didn’t have a big enough listing of them up, but she was very helpful and was able to special order 550 of them for me from her supplier. They were definitely the priciest part of this costume simply due to the quantity, but I think it was worth it.

Beading, as usual, took much longer than planned…

Because I decided to leave beads off of the area under the belt and down the center of the back (to avoid getting them tangled in my wig), I ended up using a total of 424 beads.

I left attaching the sleeves until later and moved on to the final piece of the puzzle: the belt.

I started with measurements. With the jacket on, my waist measures 30″, so I needed something with a 30″ finished length, plus a tail. It needed to be slightly narrower in the center than two of my rhinestone brooches, since they hang over the edges ever so slightly.

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I found these brooches at a shop that sells all sorts of stuff for events, and at less than $5 apiece, I don’t think I could have done better!

To make the belt pattern, I used a piece of stiff buckram interfacing. I measured and sketched out the shape I needed, then cut it out and tested it with the jacket.

After a few minor adjustments, I used that pattern to cut out the outer layer (silver metallic knit from Joann), and an inner layer of muslin, sandwiched the interfacing between them, and basted, leaving one end free to attach the buckle. The other end got two layers of off-white leather for the holes.

I them bound the length between buckle and leather with the same off-white pleather binding as the jacket.

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While I was putting on the binding, I also added a loop to hold the excess length of the belt. It is a piece of the binding folded in half and sewn into the binding at the back of the belt. It then wraps around the front of the belt, and back under the binding on the other side.

When the belt was finished, I simply pinned the brooches in place.

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The final step was to attach the sleeve pieces to the jacket. I used a worsted weight cotton yarn since I was having trouble finding any twisted cord of the right size and flexibility. The yarn is tied in a cow hitch (both ends through the grommet, then pulled through the loop left on the other side) around the upper portion, then both ends are put through the corresponding grommet on the lower portion and tied off. The dangling ends are each adorned with a silver beadHere.

Here it is, all finished! I’ll have awesome photos of me in the full costume in a couple of weeks, so check back, or follow me on Facebook and Instagram (@fabricnfiction)!

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