Loose threads

Various sewing projects. Mostly historical (or historically inspired) stuff. Varying levels of ambition!

Challenge 2017:4 Party!

Kategori: Allmänt, Historic Sew Monthly 17

So there I was, with a tight schedule for larp and a ton of projects, and what happens? A party invitation. 20's themed. So, fast-forward 200 years and party dress it was.
The biggest problem, it turned, with 1920's fashion is two-fold. One: There are so. Many. Nice. Things. I get totally destracted by all the extant garments and actual photos of actual people wearing actual clothes that drape around actual bodies - not at all like trying to figure out if Veronese airbrushed it all, or if there was a clever solution that made the shoulder straps stay on the shoulders and bla bla bla. Two: It's surprisingly hard to find good fabrics for it. I wanted something draping, since I needed the dress to be not overly complicated to make.
In the end, there was an emergency trip for fabric shopping (which isn't such a very bad thing, especially not since I had my wits about me and picked up the fabrics I needed for the rest of the Regency stuff, too, which saved a LOT of tears and agony later!). I came home with a pale brownish violet sandwashed silk, and some plum-coloured chiffon to go over it, and while shopping that I also had to finally settle for a style of dress.
Wonderfully simple, is it not? A lot of the 20's stuff I found was actually some truly genius dress engineering, and I might end up doing more of it at some point.
Only problem is that for most draped dresses you need an under-dress, too. This is where the sand-washed silk entered the picture. After some more googling, I ended up using this as a reference:
Sorry about the size. The original is at the helpful page here, and is sadly no bigger.
I found a vintage pattern somewhere online (facsimile from a book I think) and now I can't find it, but it was super-simple, basically two pieces, both constructed out of two rectangular pieces. I can't for the life of me find the pattern now, so here are my best paint skills instead:
Basically, the top part is a tube that sits about on your hipbone, and the lower part is essentially a slightly bigger tube, gathered into the smaller one at the sides. The result is thoroughly unbecoming, shape-wise:
As you can see it's fairly long - I went for rather early 20's in the end.
Easy enough, right? Well, you have obviously never sewn anything in sandwashed silk if you think that. It slides. And slides. And walks when you work it. And to cut a straight line is near impossible. I ended up handsewing the whole thing, I didn't even dare start thinking about what it would have done in a sewing machine *shudders*. Good for me it was very little actual sewing involved. I was soooo happy I didn't go for a bias-cut thing. I really was.
After that, cutting the chiffon in two, with a slit in each side, and making a rolled hem was a breeze. Draping it and attaching it with a few stitches wasn't too bad either.

The end result was more than ok, I think:
There are photos, somewhere, of me in the dress with hair done up and feathers and pearls and gloves and everything, but I don't have them. This is instead a photo of the finished dress, slightly wrinkled from being at the party and in my bag, on my mannequin. As you can see, the draped fabric is slightly less wide than the inspiration picture, giving it less of a curve at the bottom, but I like it this way too.
The facts:
What the item is: 20's evening dress

The Challenge, and how this item fulfills it: #4: Circles, squares and rectangles - overdress is two rectangles. Underdress is basically one square (above waist) and a larger square (below waist) times two. The shoulder straps are rectangles, too ;). The rest is draping and gathering.

Fabric/Materials: Silk satin for underdress, silk chiffon for overdress

Pattern: None as such, but there are guides for draping from the period.

Year: 1922-24 or so

Notions: Silk thread (underdress) and polyester thread (overdress)

How historically accurate is it? Fairly, actually. I know too little to say it the combination of the pattern and a sheer overdress was used, but patterns and materials are ok - I'd say 90% with a ? for the "unsure" part, as well as the polyester thread.

Hours to complete: Hand sewn, since the silk satin was a pain and rolled hems was easier to learn to do by hand.

First worn: at a party 8th April

Total cost: Due to the silk, about 85 euros including notions.
I have just over one metre of silk left. To use for something. When I have managed to forget how dreadful it is to work with, and only see the pretty silk in the pretty colour....

Challenge 2017:3 The stashbusting spencer

Kategori: Allmänt, Historic Sew Monthly 17, Stashbusting

The March challenge, "the great outdors" did yet again fit perfectly into my project list. Fortune and Felicity was still the main deadline, and one can't be a Regency lady without a spencer.
Again, larp and no need to be totally accurate, so I decided to go for a proper shape and just go ahead and use that scrap piece of linen I had had lying about since I made a dress for a friend some years ago (and got the scraps as a bonus).
The layout. No nape, but of course I had to do everything along the length of the fabric. This is a bit more waste than I'd actually like, but later I realised I would actually manage to get facings for the bottom half of the collar, as well as a collar, out of it too. Fabric thriftyness success!

The bodice outer fabric pieced together.
I then used another scrap piece of the same raw silk I used to line the bodice of the black silk taffeta dress with to do lining (also for the sleeves, since the linen wasn't thick enough on its own. If I had made the spencer in wool, I would not have lined the sleeves.
Adding the facings to the inside of the lower part of the collar. As you can see I had to piece it together. Waste not want not and so on...
And finished!
Ideally, the collar would have been two pieces of the fashion fabric, but I can live with the thin, dark line around it too.
The back.
The facts:
The item: A regency spencer

The Challenge: The Great Outdoors

Fabric: Striped linen, raw silk lining

Pattern: Sense & Sensibility's pattern*

Year: Early 19th century

Notions: Cotton thread for button loops, polyester thread for the rest, mother-of-pearl buttons.

How historically accurate is it? Pattern ok, garment ok, not at all sure about the linen and raw silk is normally not period at all - but using the last scraps from other projects, very much ;) I'd say 50%.

Hours to complete: Far too many, despite the machine sewing. Got distracted a lot, but perhaps 10-15 including the handsewing towards the end.

First worn: At the Fortune and Felicity larp at Medevi Brunn, 24-28 May 2017

Total cost: Under 10 euros. The striped linen was leftovers from a commission, the silk was bought on sale aaaages ago and I've used for several projects, which makes it a bit hard to estimate now. Buttons were about 5 euros.
*A bit of a disclaimer/PSA: Nothing at all wrong with the pattern, not at all. I found it rather well researched and fairly easy to use. I will however not buy from Sense & sensibility again. Why? While people are perfectly entitled to their own opinions, I can make a list as long as my leg of things I'd rather have my money support than Ladies against feminism. Google it at your peril.

Challenge 2017:2 - The very re-made daydress

Kategori: Allmänt, Historic Sew Monthly 17, Stashbusting

February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion - Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning. Turn one thing into another. Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again. Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat. Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment.

This is always a fun sort of challenge, for many reasons: it's very useful to force oneself to look at garment with new eyes, and to make do rather than to start over – as most wannabe-costumers I don't exactly need help to expand my wardrobe, and re-make, re-use, re-fashion should be done more in general. It also fit perfectly with my schedule for once. I heard of this larp called ”Fortune and Felicity”, thought ”oh wonderful idea, but that's just not going to happen.” Enter a group of larpers I got to know over the course of two Fairweather manor larps (this dress and this one, this blog is not the worst way for me to keep track of my larping). Somehow, I ended up signing up as soon as the tickets were out. Which meant that in two and half months, filled with intense work and larping, I should also sort out a Regency wardrobe. Totally new period to me. Of course, and little or no time to browse for fabric.

 And then it dawned on me: in 2001-02 somewhere I needed a ballgown. My mother did it, and before she cut into the proper fabric she of course made a mockup, in a blue and white printed cotton that was lying about at home for unknown reasons. So in the wardrobe back home it still was; a cotton dress with slightly raised waist and puffed sleeves, although not at all strikingly Regency – it could be.

Disclaimer: yes, apparently I sew by night, in worst possibly photo light conditions. It has been that kind of spring.


Too long in the bodice, funny sleeves and so on and so forth.
 Modern sleeves just make the fabric pull strangely. That's how it is. Period fashions have spoiled me comfort-wise.

So I brought it with me, basically opened every seam in the bodice, took out the lining (same fabric as the outside, and neither I nor my mother will ever understand why she bothered lining a mockup) and got started. I

  • ripped the sleeves apart, used some of the lining and pieced together proper puffed Regency sleeves

  • added a small piece under the arm to make the armhole smaller and increase mobility

  • ripped apart the back and sewed it back together, raising the back neckline (to keep the shoulders from sliding down), and taking it in partly by adding the signature diagonal side-back seams

  • raised the waist as much as I could without making the skirt to short. I could have lifted it another inch, to improve the look, but alas, one can't have everything

  • reattached the skirt, gathering as much of the width as possible in the back

  • added blue-ish mother-of-pearl buttons down the back

  • added some white linen to neckline insides, to stabilise it. In hindsight, I should have just lined the bodice since it's a bit too thin. But with a petticoat and shift under it, it's ok anyway.

All done!
 And the back. Still at least an inch too long, but at least the skirt is almost long enough that way...
This is what was left. I am mighty proud of my thriftyness.

Or actually it wasn't. Just before the larp my mother found the rest of the fabric (4 metres of it no less!). Seems I hadn't needed be quite so thrifty after all – but now I could (mere minutes before the larp) add long sleeves. I also, technically, could make another dress out of the remaining fabric. Might actually do that at some point. Later. Because free stash fabric and I quite like Regency fashion despite how silly it is.

If, by some lucky chance, there are better pictures of the finished garment worn I will update later, but for now:

The facts:

What the item is: Regency dress

The Challenge, and how this item fulfills it:  Re-make, re-use, re-fashion: This is the mockup a ballgown my mother made for me about fifteen years ago, modern pattern with a slightly raised waist, and I redid it to work for a larp this spring. I picked it apart in about a thousand pieces and put it back together, using the lining (same as outer fabric) in the bodice to alter the back and sleeves, and lifted the waistline about two inches.

Fabric/Materials: Cotton

Pattern: None, apart from the sleeves where I used Sense and sensibility's pattern

Year: 1800-1810?

Notions: Polyester thread (it's machine sewn), mother-of-pearl buttons

How historically accurate is it? In the "use an old garment and remake into something new" - totally. In the "accuracy" sense? Nah, maybe 50%

Hours to complete: Far too many, got distracted a lot.

First worn: At the larp Fortune and Felicity, at Medevi Brunn 24-28 May 2017.

Total cost: This time I -will- claim the fabric was for free, since it's reused. About five euros for buttons.