Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Regency Bonnet: Pattern Review ("Julia")

While waiting on my corset reference books (which delays both it and the gown), I decided to get to work on some headgear.

I bought the Julia pattern from Timely Tresses a couple years back in order to surprise my dear sister Red, with an appropriately red regency bonnet.  It went together very readily then, and if anything has gotten easier with practice (on a few low spoon bonnets).  Last time I used brim option #1; this time I made #4.

I used some white silk from the stash (the same that got dyed here), and lined it with white linen.  I have just enough buckram left over from my last Victorian bonnet for the brim.  Due to the extremely soft body of the silk, I decided to interline it.  I omitted this layer when previously making the pattern up with taffeta, but this light-weight silk needs some help.  I bought new satin ribbons for the project, as none of the appropriate width were on hand.

The instructions are very clear: as with all three* Timely Tresses patterns I have, the instructions are a proper booklet full of clarifying diagrams and pictures showing each step of the process--from cutting out the fabric to attaching the ties.**  The research and background information are what I've come to expect from them: accurate and edifying, yet concise. The Julia instructions include color pictures of the bonnet made up 4 different ways, as well as color images from period fashion plates.  Appropriate materials and period techniques are discussed, and different finishing and trimming options are included.  The instructions even include explanations of the recommended hand-sewing techniques (much of the sewing can be done on machine or by hand, but the trims and finishing should be hand-sewn).  The pattern pieces are of "printer paper" weight, much sturdier than tissue paper pattern.

And here's my new bonnet (expertly modeled by my iron and a piece of purple linen):

White satin bonnet with blue ribbon trim, made from the Julia pattern by Timely Tresses.
 Top view of bonnet made from the "Julia" Regency bonnet pattern by Timely Tresses.

I'm trying to think of any drawbacks to this pattern, and the closest I'm getting is that the brim variations are overlapped: 1 & 2 share space on two "half brim" pieces, as do 3 & 4.  Since both halves are needed to lay out on the buckram, it's a good idea to trace the line you want, and not cut the original pattern (or you can cut each half-piece along a different brim line, and get good at switching them around).  I followed the pattern advice about interlining, and used a white cotton broadcloth to line the brim, and cotton crinoline for the crown.  Both worked admirably at preventing "show through", but if I were re-doing it, I would flat-line the brim interlining to the fashion fabric (since I was interlining for better structure on the silk as well as to hide the inner layers).  This is how the crown layers were treated, and it worked well.

Very new amateur milliners may have difficulty with wiring the buckram pieces around the edges.  I find hand-sewing it much easier than the machine option (half-inch spaced button hole/blanket stitches will do it, or a wide zigzag machine stitch), as I can bend the wire around the buckram as I go.  However the wire gets attached, by time the crinoline bias is over the edges, it all looks much neater and more professional than you really expect it to look.

Compared to the "big four" patterns I've tried to make, Timely Tresses millinery patterns are far superior: not only is the design documentation included in the instruction booklet, but the techniques are researched and feasible, the instruction are clear, and the pictures make a lot of sense.  It's almost like having a teacher walking you through it.  It'll also tell you which steps can be done on a machine and which need to be hand-sewn (instead of telling you to glue anything that can't be put on a machine, *cough* Simplicity*cough*). Compared to the other Timely Tresses patterns I've made, the Julia was by far the easiest, having the fewest pieces and a soft crown.

I would definitely recommend this pattern to someone looking for an authentic early 19th century, puffy-crown bonnet pattern; it would also make a good first foray into millinery, particularly for someone who prefers machine sewing (most other bonnets I've made require more hand-sewing; this pattern can go either way).  A complete sewing novice would likely struggle with this pattern, but that would be true of any attempt at stitching on a structured 3D object of this sort.  The pattern specifies the years 1800-1810, and should be made-up in silk to get the appropriate period look.

There are some very specific notions needed for a project of this sort.  I've had good luck with the buckram, crinoline, and wire included in the kits at Timely Tresses (they also have good prices on fat quarters/halves of silk tafetta and on ribbons and trims).  Do not use the "buckram" found at JoAnn or similar stores. It doesn't have the same structure and won't hold the bonnet shape (the crinoline works alright for linings).  Linen and smooth silks can be found at your fabric store of choice (if yours doesn't carry these things, see the links for on-line options).  Ribbons and flowers can be found on-line (Ebay, Etsy), at antique shops (vintage trims!) or at specialty fabric shops--the two times I've made this bonnet, I used silk satin ribbon from Nancy's Sewing Basket in Seattle and from Treadle Yard Goods in St. Paul.

Pattern Score: 5 Stars!
Difficulty: Intermediate/ Advanced Beginner
Accuracy: High
Strongest Impressions: A quality bonnet that goes together easily; no pattern modification required

*I have made up two, but have read through the third and will be making it once I find the right silk.
**This is a pattern review rather than a tutorial, because a pictorial tutorial is already included in the instructions.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Work Basket in Silk and Berlin-work

Another design from Peterson's 1861 novelties.  I've been stitching away at the Berlin work since last summer, and am slowly making progress:

Wool cross stitch (Berlin-work) on Penelope canvas, in a home-made frame.

The original pattern calls for two shades of blue, with yellow silk accents, and finished with sky-blue silk and ribbons.  As my stash had some unclaimed green silk (no blue, alas), I decided to work it in two shades of green instead (keeping the yellow accents).

This is a decent-sized basket: the lower circumference is 35" (all hand stitched, 6" wide, in wool on cotton "penelope" canvas), with paste-board behind the Berlin-work to provide structure.  Silk-covered pasteboard makes the bottom, and the upper portion is unsupported silk, which closes with a ribbon drawstring.  Two cords form handles, which attach to the lower "structured" portion.

The embroidery frame is home-made, based on instructions from The Ladies' Self-Instructor in Millinery and Mantua-Making, Embroidery and Applique, Canvas-work, Knitting, Netting, and Crochet-work (1853).

There will be more pictures, as events warrant.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Regency Chemise

New era, new undergarments.  I like to have these made-up before embarking on a gown, both for more accurate fitting, and for sewing practice.

My internet search for originals led me to some interesting places like this, and this.  All hail history enthusiasts on Pinterest. In general, here's what I've discovered of chemises circa 1800-1820:

1) They are white.  This tallies with my mid-Victorian reading/experience, in that un-dyed underthings are easier to clean (boil them!), and don't show-through the garments so easily.  They also don't crock/run.
2) They are linen, or occasionally cotton.  Which is to say, they are washable fabrics. 
3) The necklines may be square or gathered; in either case, they are fairly wide.
4) Short sleeves.  The sleeve-less garments are more often labelled as 'petticoats'.  Many of the sleeves are short and square, though the odd short and gathered sleeve does appear (as well as one long-sleeved garment).

All told, they have a great deal in common with the Victorian chemises I usually work with (the angle of the sleeves with the neckline is the main visual difference).

Most useful are these diagrams of original chemises from the Ohio Historical Society.

For my first Regency chemise, I'm using cotton (because that's what I have on hand). I will be keeping an eye out for a deal on white linen for version 2.0.

First, sketched out the pieces by hand, just to get a feel for them.  I then compared the original's dimensions with my own measurement, and decided that the overall length and widths would suit without alterations.  The sleeves need to be a bit wider, so I'm scaling those up.

First I cut out two large rectangles and two triangular gussets for the body of the chemise. Next, there's the two smaller rectangles for the sleeves, and four more triangles to make the under-sleeve gussets (actually eight, to make them all double layered).  Finally, a long rectangular neckband and small "reinforcement" rectangles (for the underarm) are cut from the scraps:
Pieces for regency chemise.
Chemise cut pieces, in approximate relative locations.

I start be piecing together the under-sleeve gussets and the front/back pieces:
Triangular underarm gusset for Empire chemise.
First seam: underarm gussets attached to front/back

From there, I attach the lower gussets.  I'm machine felling these long seams (which feels like a mortal sin...):

Felling seams on a sewing machine.Gusset and gore for early 19th century chemise.

Now, I just sew the sides shut along both gussets. Next up is the sleeves.  I hemmed one long edge of each sleeve, then sewed and felled them along the undersleeve gussets (extending to the neckline):
Hemmed sleeves for Regency chemise or shift.
 Attaching sleeve to Regency chemise.

Inside-out view of sleeve and gusset on Regency chemise.

I debated attaching the sleeves before the long gussets (the underarm gussets definitely needed to go first), but decided on doing the long sides first, as they looked trickiest.  I cut all the gussets along the diagonals of rectangles/squares (per the diagrams and/or my best interpretations thereof), so the long gussets actually require some tweaking as they are attached--the hypotenuse of the right triangles is towards the back side, and is longer than the straightedge sewn to the front panel.

I made some changes to the chemise finishing.  Despite contrary measurements, the upper edge ended up way too wide, so I took in pleats at the top center (front and back) to make things fit better.  In doing this, I skipped the small placket & button at the center front of the original.

Then attach the neck-band, and hem the bottom to desired length:
Sewing the upper band to the chemise.
 Close-up of chemise upper band.


Completed Regency chemise.

Lessons learned for next time: 1) Front and back pieces can be cut 4" narrower and 3" shorter,  2) Long gussets may work better in two right triangles back-to-back (as with the underarm gussets), 3) Try the neckband on the bias for easier cornering.  I ended up omitting the side reinforcement pieces, as there was considerable bulk in the side seams near the gusset points already (just from the felling).

Note: home sewing machines are definitely post-period. Hand-sew for maximum accuracy.  That being said, this is an undergarment.  Anyone who can tell it's machine sewn 1) shouldn't be judging, and 2) is in kicking-range.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Links for Original Bonnet Patterns

Every so often, I end up digging out these links for someone or another, so here they are in one convenient place, with my comments and the bonnets I've made from them:

1. Godey's 1857 Sun Bonnet You have to scroll down to it.  I used this pattern for my corded sheer sunbonnet, and like the shape it has.  Don't be overwhelmed by the pattern pieces: there's actually only 3 of them, but they are given a second time as "half" pieces (to be laid out on a fold for cutting).  
Side view of sheer corded sunbonnet.White corded sunbonnet, from 1857 Godey's design.

(Back, close up on front brim and ties; 'first draft' bonnet sans ties)

Cut two of the brim/front, one crown, and one curtain.  Measure your head before cutting, to ensure that the brim (longwise) will go over your head, coming down to chin height, with the short side going from the crown of your head to your nose (add an inch or so for seam allowances, and a bit extra on the sides so they can be trimmed straight after cording: my first attempt developed a distinct slant and by time I had it straightened out, it was well-suited to someone much smaller than me). Cord the brim segment: I stitched the outer edge--curve to curve--right sides together, then turned it right-side out, and "sandwiched" the cords, top-stitching between all the layers behind each cord. Sugar'n'Creme crochet cotton was used for the cording, and it holds up alright, though it does better with a good starching.  I then joined the crown to the brim (it needs to be eased in a bit), encasing two self-fabric ties in the seam, so that they can be tied in the back for better fit.  The curtain is hemmed along three outer sides (I cut it on the selvage to reduce hemming), and then the top is sewn along the raw edge of the brim/crown portion.  Self-fabric ties are added to the front to keep the bonnet in place when worn.
2. 1859 Winter Hood (Finished sketch and description) Sometime it's called the "marquise hood", after the site where the pattern is found.  Though only two pieces, this one's a bit trickier.  Make a mock-up, and try it on over your period hair (mine slips down the back unless it's sitting on a bun).  The "half bell" piece is the brim and crown; cut it out with the straight edge on a fold, giving one large bell-shaped piece.  The other piece is the curtain: cut it on a fold as well, making a sort of rainbow-shaped piece.  The rim of the bell (the straighter curve) is the brim, gather the "top" of the bell to fit it into the curtain (leaving a few inches to fold back the brim), and try it on.  Once you're happy with the fit (I had to cut down the brim, despite my large head and mass of hair), cut the real fabric, quilt as desired, and line with a fun silk.  I encased the raw edges in a silk binding, but you could also sew the edges of each piece to it's lining right-sides-together, turn out, and then join the pieces (this will require hand-sewing the lining separately, I'd rather hand-sew binding). 
Red wool hood from 1859 pattern.Red wool hood with striped silk lining, from 1859 pattern.
(This bonnet is shaped by the curvature of the pieces and a little gathering along the connecting seam.)

3. Mrs. Clark's Sunbonnet Pattern (Not an original bonnet, but appropriate to the 1850s-1860s) This is a very straightforward pattern for a slat bonnet.  It includes women's, teen's, and children's sizes, and apparently makes up quickly.  I've seen several pretty cotton print bonnets made from this pattern, and the friendly people at the Sewing Academy have several threads explaining how to adapt it as a corded bonnet or winter hood.

4. Peterson's 1864 Red Riding Hood (Kelly of Mackin-Art made it up beautifully here, and gives construction details).  This is a straightforward hood; it's all one piece (plus optional lining/non-optional ties).  It's basically a 27" square, with scalloped edges.  One corner is rounded, and the whole piece is gathered along the rounded corner, and on the diagonal between it's two neighbors.  That gathered diagonal becomes the edge along the neck, with ties at it's termini, the rounded "corner" goes up over the head, and fourth, intact, corner is the center point of the triangular curtain.
Striped lining on Red Riding Hood, 1864 pattern.
Silk ties on the "Red Riding Hood".Red Riding Hood from Peterson's Magazine (1864).

(The lining in the upper half conceals the tapes used to gather and shape the hood; it also protects the hair when worn.)

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tatting for an 1850s/60s Chemise

Inspired by this lovely chemise, which was brought to my attention by the Sewing Academy, I decided yet another on-going project was in order.  Specifically, it rekindled my desire to make a nice set of mid-century underpinnings with hand-tatted accents, because a) very fun underwear is fun, b) the handmade trim gives me something small, yet period to work on a events, and c) one of these days I'm going to want a pretty set of underwear for clothing demos.

I like the lacy effect of the simple tatted edge here, and additionally like that it doesn't require button hole stitch filler (which I find a bit trying to get right), or excessive purls (which look great new, but quickly get bedraggled in my novice hands) as many of the more elaborate period trims do.

Between the pictures above, and the "Fancy Tatting for a Chemise Band" (Godey's, July 1864, reprinted in Virginia Mesher's excellent Flitting Fingers) I decided on rings of 12 double-stitches, joined at the 3rd and 9th stitch [2 ds, join, 6 ds, 1 purl, 2 ds, close ring and repeat].

I did short samples in both size 20(?) and size 30 cotton:

Tatting shuttle with two sizes of thread for chemise trim.

And decided that the larger thread looks more like the inspiration (or, at least, the ring sizes are of closer scale, with the number of stitches I decided to use).

And we're off:

Tatting shuttle with trim in progress.

The neckline of one chemise will probably take about 50" of tatted trim; if I decide to do the sleeves, that'll be closer to two yards.  (Expect some very triumphant pictures by this time next year.)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Girdle Pocket #1

The Girdle Pocket by Mrs. Jane Weaver (Peterson's Magazine, February 1861)

I like little bits of fancy work out of the old magazines.  They're cute, they don't require 6 yards of specially-ordered material, you can work on them anywhere, and you don't have to alter them when your dress size changes.  

Really, they're just wonderful.

The girdle here referenced is a decorative belt (possibly the shaped outer garment known as a "Swiss waist" or "Medici belt"), not to be confused with the 20th-century undergarment.  The only other picture I've seen of one was a suspended pocket on a cute little waist with brettels. Similar "waist pouches" will appear in the September issue; they are "suspended the waistband by a chain and hook, and sometimes by a cord", and elaborately decorated in "gold, silver, and jet" or coordinated to the dress's trimming.

The description indicates that the pocket should hold a portmonnaie (which I will be making just as soon as I can find an accurate 2.5" frame) and handkerchief.  In the meantime, it should nicely contain my Berlin-work card holder.  I picked this pattern over the waist pouch one, both because it has more complete instructions, and because I realized that most of the materials were already in my stash--mostly because the three colors of velveteen I had lying about were the three colors of velvet called for, and it's fun to see how the original color schemes match up.

Girdle pocket pattern, fabric for project.

1/4 yard sky-blue silk (more like a 7" by 16" piece)
Small bits of red, green, and black velvet (I used cotton velveteen: non-synthetic velvet is hard to find)
Gold cord and thread (I don't know why I have this)
Black glass seed bead (96 small 1/16", 14 larger 1/8")
Half yard of velvet ribbon (using scrap velveteen, see above)
Pasteboard (recycled a box lid)
Lining material (fiber not stated; using linen or silk from the stash)

The Process, Day 1:

First off, I traced out the individual applique shapes onto pattern paper.  Cutting out the small, fiddly bits proved the more difficult piece of the undertaking.*
Tracing the 1861 pattern.

I then traced the overall pocket shape onto the pasteboard; in addition to providing structure for the finished item, these served as templates for cutting the silk background.
Cutting the silk from a cardboard pattern.

Having no blue silk to hand, I decided to dye a white remnant from the stash.   As it was a small amount, I used locally-available RIT royal blue instead of ordering a silk-specific dye. (The wonderful Sewing Academy board, once again, offered a wealth of tips, particularly in this thread:  I used about a quarter of the bag of dye in 3/4 c. water and 3/4 c. vinegar, and let my test pieces "bake" in a warm oven for 40 a ridiculously deep blue.  After extensive rinsing, it was still almost black in color.  I'd heard that silk and RIT tended to be a bit lackluster, so I'd expected that hours would be needed for such a hue, if it was even possible. As I was aiming for more of a "sky blue", I diluted the dye bath by half again with water, and tried a ten-minute piece.  Perfect!  The trickiest bit was probably getting the wet silk to drip dry without clinging to itself and making permanent creases (note to self: another excellent reason to avoid ever getting silk wet).
Silk in the blue dye bath.Dying supplies and silk fabric.

While the silk was drying, I started on the center bit with the crossed gold threads over a green background. Each overlapping gold thread gets a small black bead on it, and the four symmetrically arranged 'stars' mean that it needs to make a fairly straight grid or it will look sloppy.  I've been having trouble with the tension, and think that on the next side I'll start securing the beads from the start, working from the middle, to keep the crossing threads aligned (instead of tacking down the crossed threads, and putting the beads on later).  The instruction aren't clear on the matter, but I interpreted the "border" on the center piece as a thread edge around the "crossed" section, with a small gap of unembellished green fabric, and then the wider gold cord/braid at the edge of the green section.  That seems consistent with the 'thin line = thread', 'voided line = braid' convention; the white space between the two could be either the blue silk background or the green velvet/een of the center piece (both are represented as unshaded white).  In all other instances, the gold cord abuts the edge of the appliques, so I am taking it thus, rather than ending the green at the narrower thread border.
Green velveteen applique with gold embroidery in progress.

Progress status: Silk is cut and dyed, patterns are traced and cut, and the green center piece is in progress.

Dyed blue silk pieces and applique center for girdle pocket.
At the next update, I hope to have the crossed background and small beads done, and possibly the four central "stars" as well (I think they look more like flowers, personally).  The next step will be attaching the green center to the silk (through the beads on the stars/flowers), and cording the edges (I intend to couch the cords, securing the edges of the green at the same time); I then get to repeat the cording with the other appliques.  The final step will be making up the pocket and adding the gold tassel decorations.  Victorians? Subtlety? What ever do you mean?

*This may have something to do with my scissors.  Having a good sense of proportion, my apartment contains four pairs of scissors and a rotary cutter devoted to specific fabric/thread purposes, a bolt-cutter for metal, and one pair scissors for everything else.  The latter may have come off the worse in a wire-related incident a few years back (hence the bolt-cutters).


New year. New projects.  New blog.

Having benefited immensely from project blogs--whether in practical advice, patterns, or sheer entertainment--I decided to start documenting some of my works-in-progress.

To start things off, my favorite skein of hand-spun yarn thus far:
Blue and purple skein of hand spun wool yarn.

It's a single, done on my top-whorl 2.75" diameter Ashford drop spindle.  The fiber was blended by the awesome Mrs. Z.