Hello again! Found my way back here.

   It’s winter again. Today is Tuesday, and we have received over one foot of snow so far, at 14:00 hrs. Not a record-breaking amount, but a lot for us, since we had a completely green Christmas. I was actually gardening on Christmas day, in a t-shirt!!!

Last week ended with a deep freeze, so deep we lost the mercury on our thermometer. The coldest this thermometer drops to is -30 C. It has crept back up a little, only to land us in a very real snow storm. Not a  raging, windy, howling and blustering storm. Only a constant, heavy fall of rather fine flakes, collecting on our window sills and everywhere else, high enough to prevent seeing out, is what we woke up to today. I dug out the seeds and other treats we put out for the birds and squirrels, but it got re-buried within 30 minutes. The crows are cawing and chatting… We are privileged to host 5 crows almost every day,  at our feeding station!!!

But I am not here to talk about the birds or animals or the weather! I got rather busy last year with many projects. Some from the local Super Heroes group, others from the 501st, weddings and proms and finally quite a few personal things, such as my first ever, absolutely (looking) accurate Tudor gown and other costumes needed for our first visit to a Renaissance Fair in the U.S.A. My own Tudor outfit took very close to 300 hours. There was a lot of hand embroidery, as well as free-motion machine hand-controlled embroidery, beading and hand-couching and a lot of hand sewing to get it all together.

It looks like I am slipping into talking about that project, rather than talking about my K-Coats (which are what I intended to discuss!!!!!!). I also started making K-Coats last year.  In fact I produced 34 of them!!! Some were commissioned, most were just coats I HAD to make!!! That was what I thought to write about today. So which shall it be?

I think that now that I have started, I will continue with the Tudor outfit. I am very proud of it. Since it takes a lot of room in the closet, Justin suggested we keep My Lady on her mannequin, in the living room, near the fireplace. A permanent exhibit of what I consider to be the apotheosis of my *making* career. I wore it only 4 hours. Maybe even not quite.

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Our Tudor couple.

The whole RenFair experience was new to us. We were invited to join my friend and her husband at the Bristol, WI. Renaissance Fair. Then I invited another friend to come and she brought one daughter and a niece too!!! The Bristol Faire is considered to be the *best* RenFair in the country. Their time-frame is late Elizabethan. I chose late Tudor as our era for our costumes.

Our first look at the Entrance to Bristol Renaissance Faire!!

Our first look at the Entrance to Bristol Renaissance Faire!!

I could go into the whole story of how and why Tudor times have always been my favourite era in history. I think I may have touched upon that in a past entry of my blogging. If I haven’t, I will come back to that, later here, or in another blog.

There is so much goes into making a costume (or any piece of *meaningful* clothing). Especially for me. THIS Tudor costume has been decades in the desiring, thinking, preparing, envisioning, designing etc. and also collecting of fabrics and trims, embroideries, beads, gems and buttons. My use of burgundy for it is not surprising at all. In fact, burgundy has been a favourite of mine all my life, probably because of my love for Tudor costuming. I used silk for the outer, final layer of the garb. I made a pair of stays two years ago… in hope that one day they would be used within their proper context. I made the stays to go to the 5th Anniversary of the Ottawa Steampunk group’s gala. I was thinking ahead. There was a chance that I would be going to a RenFair in the next couple of years, so my corset for the Steampunk Gala was actually a Pair of Stays.

My reversible pair of stays.

My reversible pair of stays. Note the blackwork embroidery at neckline and sleeve hems. All the ridges seen here smooth out very flat once I am wearing it.

I made the stays, with all their boning, and the outside layers in two silks: a red one, with black sketches of roses, for the inside and a pale blue heavier brocaded silk (bought in Shanghai!! The Mecca of silks!!!) for the outer layer. In fact, the stays were made to be reversible. So I could wear them red, or blue. I cheated in the end. I have made many corsets and gowns requiring lacing up at the back. I have worn many myself. This time, I decided, I would use a zipper (OOOOARGH!!! OH!!!! SHAME!!!) to make it easier to get on, if I had to do it alone. At the Fair, my friend pointed out that if I had put lacing on them, I could have reduced my silhouette by several inches. Perhaps. Yes, perhaps. But, (when I first made them), I wanted to be relatively comfortable… and Tudor stays, in any case, were not made to reduce the size of the wearer. They were made to force the body’s shape cylindrical. Not curvaceous. No emphasis on the chest size (eyebrows raising in a knowing way). In fact, the stays rather flatten the bust: they push it up, but do not reconfigure it. I didn’t really mind that I could have been 5 inches smaller. I was glad, actually, in the end, that the stays straightened and helped support my back, without forcing me smaller. It was a very hot and humid day (31C) in Bristol when I wore My Lady Tudor. I stayed in the shade most of the day… The first 2 hours were a rather precarious time, when I relied on my cane for stability and I was really fighting fainting from the heat… then I got used to it all, and spent another two hours parading about as if I had been born to that clothing!!!

My Lady Tudor is based on three or four paintings I finally chose to help design this gown.

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janeseymour  bookcover

I was determined to make it as accurate as can be. Some parts were made to *look* perfect. I didn’t make a separate placard. I made the bodice all in one, with folds in the fabric in strategic places, to make it look like there was a separate placard and I sewed on brass pin heads in the right places. In Tudor times, they preferred to cover the lacing up part, which was at the front, unlike the Victorians’ dresses and corsets, and they covered this lumpiness with a placard. Enhancing and further shaping the body into a cylinder. Not a shapely (eyebrows raising up and down) bosomed bodice. The bosom was pushed up. Some RenFair girls wear their stays WAY too tight (I felt) to REALLY do that push-up thing. I actually asked one or two of them in Bristol if it was painful having your breasts pushed up so high, you could rest your chin on them….. Apparently, it is not uncomfortable.

I digress again. Such is my mind. Wandering and remembering and commenting! The three paintings I used as reference guides were: the cover of the book which gave me the instructions and guidelines of all the parts I needed for the costume. This book is: *Creating Historical Clothes*. The painting is of a 16 year-old *woman* in 1565. I also used the painting of Princess Elizabeth, at age 13 or 14 (1546). Then there was a painting of Queen Katherin Parr, the one who out-lived King Henry VIII. But at the time of the painting she was simply a*Lady*, wife of Lord Latimer, but the depiction of her clothing was very instructional. Another painting which had good details and inspiration, was one of Queen Jane Seymour: the one who died of childbirth and is renowned to be Henry VIII’s *favourite* wife. Favourite only because she is the only one who bore him a son who survived early childhood… But that is a whole other story and subject to many thoughts of mine…. Not needed here!

All these dresses were red to burgundy, by the way! I got jewellery details and sewing details from all these paintings.

I looked for more books and more information… I eventually based all the details on these paintings and made what I hoped were correctly looking historical parts. When I strayed from *CORRECT*, it was only so I could get into this clothing on by myself. With very little help if required. That’s why the placard is included in the bodice’s  design. Just one piece, yet it looks like two or more. Really. It does!!! I have had a lot of experience making historical clothing easy to make and put on, yet LOOK exactly right. Does not take away from the final costume!!!

There was the blackwork embroidered linen under-chemise. Then the under-skirt, then the *hoop skirt*, then the kirtle (or kyrtle), in two parts in my case.  Then finally the over skirt  comprised of the fore skirt, which is the flashy showy part of the skirt which is sewn to the rest of the skirt which is always hidden. The bodice was layered this way: chemise (well embroidered, in blackwork, at neck and sleeve hems), stays, kyrtle top, silk bodice top.

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Close up of the over sleeve with the linen chemise peeking through. Note the blackwork.

As big as I thought my bum roll turned out, it seems I still managed to make it smaller than many I have seen since. It feels cool though!! Then the various skirts and hooped parts. Then, FINALLY, the outer skirt. I found some beautiful burgundy silk at a second-hand shop. It was actually a brand new queen-size duvet cover, silk on BOTH sides, bed skirt and two king size pillow shams. All silk, all clean and new!!!!

The fore skirt had a very good pattern on it, but it needed some more pizazz…. So I over embroidered, free-hand machine embroidery, a good part of the gold in it. As it still needed *more*, I also added gold metallic trim which I decorated further with black satin soutache and eventually pearlized beads in various sizes and larger gemstones to it. This fabric also served as the under sleeves, which had slashes cut into them. The picture below shows the embellishments on the fabric for the over sleeves.

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This is the main fabric for the fore skirt and the under sleeves. It required quite a bit of extra dazzle.

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Here you can see the over sleeve, covered by the over fold, which was couched and beaded as well as black work added to give it more texture.

I made the French Hood too. There were many hours of beading in that!!! I was happy with the end result. I used a pattern for it, and although I reduced the size of it when I cut the first piece, after it was all done, the various layers of cotton and felt added some volume to it. I did sew the ties for it, which go under the neck, to help hold it up, but they drove me crazy in my fittings. So I altered it by adding a hair comb on the inside, to attach it to my hair. That was a good idea: it stayed on my head very comfortably that way and didn’t strangle me, the way the ties had done.

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I also made my husband’s costume…. He had a few stipulations though: NO *bubble pants*, it must have matching fabric to mine, no silliness. How does one achieve *NO silliness* when reproducing a historic costume? They wore these clothes with absolute faith that these were what is right. The same way we do with all our trends and fancies today, in the 21st Century1!! And his costume adventures will be the subject of my next blog I think!!

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Sari Sailor Suit

Earlier this week I presented Veronica to you and mentioned Jenny. Jenny is now ready for you.

If you haven’t read my last post, I will explain who they are. Veronica and Jenny are two patterns produced by The Tailor’s Apprentice. Veronica is a 1940’s evening gown with a capelet and Jenny is a sailor suit, also from the 1940s. Lorna McKenzie is the designer and she has used actual clothing from the WWII years to draft these patterns. These were clothes owned by Miss Page. Lorna tells her story on her website. She also has 3 other 1940s patterns at the moment: a wedding dress, a day dress and an overall type thing! There will be more.

It took me a couple of days after downloading the digital patterns from Lorna to decide which fabric from my stash I would use for Jenny. It was a cinch choosing the fabric for Veronica!!! That’s why I started with that pattern. In the end, I chose to use another of my saris to make into the sailor suit. Once it was done, I was amused to observe that I had turned the formal gown Veronica into a day dress and the casual sailor suit into a dressier outfit, as you will see. Asi es la vida!!

By the way, digital patterns are as easy to use as store-bought ones. After receiving your file by e-mail, you print it out and re-assemble it, a bit like a puzzle, and then proceed with cutting the paper up and then cutting your fabric from it. When I say *like a puzzle* it actually is easier than that! All the pattern pieces are logically and clearly numbered, so all you need to do is place them in rows and columns.

So, back to Jenny in a sari. I love using saris for many of my clothes: the fabric drapes so nicely! And the colours! and the metallic thread borders! Having said that, this sari is black with pewter and copper metallic thread borders.

The sailor suit consists of a short-sleeved top complete with little square scarf thing at the back that ties at the front and a pair of trousers. The very attractive design component of this suit is how the top is yoked at the front. It has a pretty swooping curve. The pants are straight.

I started with the top as it is more *involved*. I prefer to do the difficult thing first. Once again this pattern is in three sizes. I cut everything in the large size, for added comfort. There are two small darts on the blouse. The sleeves also have darts or pleats at the shoulder which give them a slight puff. The ’40s’ puff!!

The instructions are clear and precise and assembly went well. Here are the things I changed though, customizing it to my preferences. First: I lengthened the top. In the pattern picture, it is a short blouse which just covers the trouser top. As I am a *certain* age, I prefer my dressier tops to be tunic length: ending about 2/3 way up my thigh. This entailed widening the hemline by simply lengthening the sidelines a little and I chose to make a slit on either side for more comfort.

I also wanted my sleeves to be full length. But they can be rolled very flat for times I might want it shorter because I made them straight down.

Same as for Veronica, I omitted the side seam zipper. I just didn’t feel there was a need for it, for me, and besides, I don’t like the feel of a zipper on the side there. It stiffens the fabric when using a soft one like sari material. The last change I made was to keep the scarf thing apart from the blouse, rather than sewing it to the neck edge. The instructions guide you through using a bias tape (made from the same fabric and for which a pattern piece is supplied) to finish the neckline. I still used the bias tape. I added one thing: because I was using a sari with a beautiful border, I wanted some of that around the neckline. I had to place it correctly in line with the edges of the neckline and make it stop at the top of the border that was part of the yoke. See picture.

  

The pants are only four pieces. I widened the pants, to really take advantage of the border; in addition, I like wearing skirts in summer but I find them inconvenient at times. So lately I have been making pants wide at the bottom and which are fitted at the top and they look like skirts (or Palazzo pants) because I almost always use soft and flowing fabrics. Comfort and elegance all wrapped in one, if I do say so myself! 🙂

There is no waistband but an inside facing that helps keep things tidy and flat. They have a side zipper and because I liked the fitted look of these, I did use a zipper rather than my usual elastic waist. The well-written instructions guide you through that installation smoothly. There are two small darts on the trouser back pieces which make it lie completely flat to your rear end.

The last thing I did was make a narrow casing with the facings and the pants in the back. Here’s how: after attaching the facings to the pant top, I tacked down the facings at all the seams and then sewed across the back, from side seam to side seam, about 1/2 in. down from the top. Then I slid the elastic in there, sewing it down on either side seam. I cut my clothing slightly bigger than I actually need for comfort. Sometimes that makes the pants droop. So by putting that narrow little elastic in the back, it holds the trousers up snugly at your waist(or wherever) and makes the front look taught and smooth, without bunching the back at all. There is more space around the middle and bum for sitting in that way too. This *flatness* is also necessary when wearing a lightweight fabric top. The tunic shows no bunches or anything when you are wearing it. Of course in the picture it is slightly gathered: cut the elastic just long enough for it to stretch gently and it will then lie flat on you.

 

This pattern has extra long legs because Lorna offers the option (with instructions) of making cuffed pants as was stylish in the 1940s, even for women. Again, I wanted the sari border to be the decoration at the bottom, so I cut the pants to my usual length. Placing the pattern pieces correctly on your borders is crucial: I lined up the pattern grainline on the cross-grain(that is the weft of the fabric, as opposed to the grain which is on the warp. They cross at 90 degrees.) in order to get the border at the bottom.  Come to think of it, that’s what I did for the sleeves too: put the sleeve hem on the border and the cross-grain of the fabric became the grainline on the pattern.

As the end of assembly was nearing, I realized that this outfit would be a very appropriate evening ensemble, not very formal but *nice*. I also saw that it looked a lot like an Indian set, of course, because I used the sari and it’s embellished borders to the max! The last thing I made was a wrap with the last bits of the sari and I can use that on cooler nights.

So in the end, I made Veronica the evening gown into a day dress and Jenny the day outfit into an evening set. Twas ever thus! While discussing the changes I made with Lorna, she pointed out that the original pattern called for a tunic length top, but that *the hipsters thought it would be better shorter*, so she made a short top for this pattern. I simply returned the pattern to its original design!

  
   

Passion for the Fashion, part II: The Accessories.

 

My first post about the 1912 Afternoon Wrap from the VPLL website Titanic Sewing Project talked about how I came about making the wrap. This post is about how I dressed it up a little to be able to wear it at the Titanic Dinner we are going to at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier here in Ottawa. The Chateau is commemorating the Titanic disaster because the man responsible for its existence, Mr. Charles M. Hays, was supposed to be at the opening ceremonies but he died on the Titanic on his way back from London, England. They had to postpone the special ceremonies for over a month.

My husband surprised me on Thursday morning with reservations for the Titanic Dinner! The dinner is on Sunday evening! What to wear? what to wear? Not in a panic but simply which hat shall I wear? I recently made quite a few 1912 or thereabouts hats. What outfit? I wanted to wear my newly made Easter hat and a matching gown I would make that day but after consulting with the Ladies from the 1912 Titanic Sewing Project on Facebook, I realized that hat is simply not right for a dinner. It is an afternoon hat or a luncheon hat… NOT a dinner hat. A hair ornament with feathers and or ribbon and or tulle and any mix of the previously mentioned would be better.

So I set out in search, again, for suitable materials to make the hair ornament. I picked out some antique metallic lace, a couple of brooches, feathers and of course a comb, as this ornament should sit in some kind of *updo*. There were many types of feathers and I decided on peacock after observing that certain feathers have more blue which perfectly matched the blue of the Afternoon Wrap and its skirt. The skirt I already made about 4 years ago and is a very long and full flowing skirt.

 

 

In order to hide some of the discoloration of the metallic thread and also because I wanted to narrow down the piece of lace to fit my wide comb comfortably, I folded over the two ends and sewed them tightly into a strong support for the feathers and brooch I intended to add to it. It looked lovely but didn’t show up very well. 😦 So I added a piece of the blue satin behind the lace and sewed them together at the edges and a little throughout the lace to make it sit flat. After that I sewed on the brooch which I assembled from 3 brooches: I found two very small pins with blue rhinestones that were the right match for the blue and the gold was a good match for the gold on the pendant pin. The bigger brooch has a large drop pearl dangling from it. It appealed to me!

Once the brooch was solidly attached to the lace/fabric background it was time to add the feathers. Many ideas were considered…. and after a long while I chose 5 peacock feather *eyes* and use the stem of a very long plume without its ornate end to have some cascading long *stalks* floating behind the smaller and lower row of *eyes*. Steaming the feathers after arranging them makes them stick together properly again. My comb was finished by the end of Thursday and met with many of the Ladies’ approval.

All evening though, I kept on thinking that although the outfit looks very nice, it isn’t really appropriately *evening* in spite of it being satin. The main problem with it is that the skirt is so much fuller than what would have been worn in 1912. I didn’t have enough matching fabric to make a new narrow skirt nor was there anything in my stash that looked right with it. Besides, I like the butterfly border on the skirt: it obviously works well with the same border used as a belt and the back design for the Wrap!

I also had a handbag on my mind… I didn’t have anything in the right colours to use for a period dinner… I went to bed deciding that I would embroider a butterfly on a remnant of the blue satin and make a small clutch with it.

The plan was in my head, I was able to get to sleep! hahaha!!

My morning on Friday was busy with serious appointments and visits… I had to wait for the afternoon to get back to my outfitting!!!  I set upon the embroidery work and by the end of the day I had two panels of embroidered fabric ready to make into a bag. Even though this is machine embroidery, it takes several hours to get two embroideries of this size done. I embroidered a butterfly design which is almost the same butterfly as on the fabric’s border on one panel, using the wrong gold side of the fabric as its background, and a moth with a sunset scene in its wings for the other panel. The embroideries were done with a layer of quilt batting under the fabric: it gave the small bag extra texture.

Satisfied with that work, I found a zipper (Horrors!! They had no zippers in 1912!! But as I had no fancy bronze clasp and neither did I want to make a flap which would have covered the embroidered insects I went for the next easiest thing to do: a zipper.) and left that day’s work at that.

I went to bed still looking for a way to make my inappropriately wide and full skirt into a straight, evening look skirt. Cutting it down to narrow it was out of the question. The other secret about this skirt is that it is actually a pair of very wide pants. My mother had something like this in the seventies. They called them :*Palazzo* pants. Do you remember that?

First thing I did Saturday morning was finish assembling the clutch. I sewed some of the beaded trim in the bottom curve of the bag and this made it shine!

 

But what about the skirt? I knew that I should have some kind of sheer and straight front panel. At least that is what I preferred in the look of the many dinner and evening dresses I have looked at from that era! Having a panel like this would partially hide the full skirt. It could hang either horizontally across or diagonally. Either way it would have to be placed so that the butterfly border could be seen. Last night I went in search of fabrics in my treasury… there was nothing that caught my eye. I went to bed feeling a little disappointed.

After breakfast this morning, back down to the studio I went because overnight I remembered that I have a box of organzas and other sheer bits that I forgot to check yesterday!

No royal blue. 😦 No gold. 😦 Right at the bottom there was an oddly shaped piece of navy blue organza!! Rather scrunched. But upon opening it up, and checking it against myself, I established that not only was there enough but that the diagonal piece it was cut into would be the perfect shape for my *tabbard* of sorts!! I immediately decided that I would add the last of the blue beaded trim I made for the Wrap if there was enough of it… what else can I do? What else? What else would be the last touch??????

There was enough beaded trim. YES! 🙂 And after checking to see if there was enough of that: I cut the last bits of the butterfly border off the remnants and although not quite enough to extend the full length of the hem, I sewed it on to the organza. I will drape and pin to properly settle everything when I get dressed tonight.

        

Since the seam between the organza and the satin would show anyway, I sewed over it with gold metallic embroidery thread that matched the gold of the fabric. (I have 10 different shades of metallic gold in my threads!!!) This gave it extra dash. Then I sewed the beaded trim to the very edge of the butterfly border. The weight of the beads pulls the overskirt down and prevents it from flying up due to static or other sources. This piece of fabric will wrap over the skirt, creating a flat narrow look and matching the outfit for a proper ensemble look!!! And I still have my wide skirt for summer time!!!

I will post pictures of me wearing this outfit later on tonight or tomorrow!!

I haven’t been here in almost two weeks! I caught a bad cold, got better then caught a wicked flu that really floored me.  Actually, it bedded me, but that doesn’t really mean the same thing, does it? Fever, complete exhaustion and disinterest in anything have finally given way to getting bored with doing nothing . If I’m feeling bored, that means I’m better so I set to work!

Late last Monday night, Janyce (from the VPLL 1912 Titanic Sewing Project) asked the Ladies: *Who would like to try the Challenge project?*. It was a Princess Slip. As soon as that email got in my box, I wrote back to her volunteering for it. I actually received the pattern, via e-mail in a .PDF format, the next morning and was very excited and pleased so decided to print it out right away. That exhausted me so I went back to bed… after a half hour I decided to re-assemble the 30 pages of print-out into the large sheet containing the 4 pattern pieces: a middle front to be cut on the fold; a side front panel, a middle back and a side back all to be cut twice. It was easy: I figured out that the print-out was 5 across and 6 rows down. The pattern appeared as promised and I set to cutting it out. Then I went back to bed for several days. There is no pattern piece for the pleated flounce at the bottom of the slip as that is just one long, narrow piece of fabric. It requires a lace insert as well, to be done before the pleating.

Over the next few days, I read the excitement on our Facebook group page as the other ladies who volunteered for this *Challenge* project slowly received their own copies and got to work on their slips. I was discouraged as the weekend rolled around and I still hadn’t done anything. Simply too tired to think… but Saturday, I got up and went to search for the fabric and lace I wanted to use for the slip. An hour later I emerged from my workroom, sweating from fever but excited at what I had chosen. My first choice was to take out some white lining and ivory lace. Since I wasn’t ready to sew yet, I left it on the table to mull it over some more.

This past Monday I had to finish another project I wanted out of the way and looked at the fabric for the slip again. I was not happy with that choice anymore. So I went back to my stash of favourite fabrics and pulled it down since it needed straightening out again anyway and chose new fabric. I kept the lace I had first seen.

 Here is the vintage lace showing it’s 3 patterns.

The fabric I used is a crinkled, black flocked black chiffon. The lace is ivory. The narrow ribbon around the neckline is scarlet.

I mentioned that I read most of the posts the other ladies were writing. Many seemed to be having problems with this pattern. Sizing was a universal concern. So I measured the pattern, measured myself and was quite happy to find out that it wouldn’t need any altering, as the measurements of the paper pattern seemed to fit mine exactly! I made two small changes. I narrowed the back between the shoulder blades by about 2 inches and lengthened the straps by about one inch, while cutting the fabric. In the end, I would say that this is an easy to intermediate skill level pattern.

The lace I chose is vintage and 1 3/4″ wide. It is woven in 3 patterns across its width. The pattern required some lace 1″ to be used on the body of the slip and some lace 2″ wide for the neckline and the sleeve openings. I ended up sewing my lace into two 3″ wide segments, to use down the middle front and middle back of the slip. I cut one section off more lace to use down the side seams of both the front and back parts of the pattern. I further cut down the lace to use as a narrow band on the front bodice, to balance out the wider length which I used as the bottom lace insert.

Because this slip will actually be a nightgown for me, I didn’t cut out the fabric from behind the middle lace segments: it was very see-through and very wide… and as one of the Ladies wrote earlier, *I was giving away the ranch*. (What a picturesque expression!!! I like it!!!) I only removed the fabric from the side seam inserts on back and front, and behind the lace that crosses the bodice top.

            

Inserting the lace is a long job but not too difficult. It consists of sewing the lace along the marked spots, turning the piece over, cutting down the middle of the fabric which is now behind the lace, ironing the two flaps to either side of the lace, then sewing down these rolled edges to finish the seam nicely. This process emphasizes the lace if it is the same or a close colour to the fabric it is sewn on. In my case, the lace shows up very well either with or without its fabric backing.

Assembling the front to the back was easy once the lace was inserted. The pattern also called for several buttons to be put down the centre back. Since this is a nighty, I only put one button at the top as I don’t want to be lying on buttons half the night.

The next step is to cut the fabric in one long (about 4 metres) rectangle for the flounce. That was done by ripping it to my chosen width of about 12 inches. I thought to make my flounce out of a black chiffon embroidered in black. I felt it would be softer than the main fabric and would flow better at the bottom. I proceeded with inserting a plainer lace and then to pleat it. The pleats are accordion pleats, with one inch overlapping a two-inch section. This would make the pleats sit without heavy overlapping. It was suggested we read a chapter of this book: “The Art of Manipulating Fabric” by Colette Wolff to learn how to make these pleats. I adapted what I read there to my own needs.

You can see the two lines I marked on the envelope.   Here you can see the two lines I marked for the pleats.
Pressing the fabric over the edge of the envelope at one inch mark.

I took a thick envelope and marked a line one inch from the edge, then made a second mark two inches from the edge. That way the fabric could be folded over the edge of the envelope at the one inch mark and pressed. Then I would align the 2″ line to the (just made) pleat’s edge, weigh it down and bring the fabric over the envelope again and fold it back at the one inch mark. This way the pleats were being kept nice and flat under the paper and not getting ruined or in the way of  making the new pleat. Every 10 or 11 pleats I would press the fabric directly and pin one edge of the fabric to hold the pleats down until all of it had been pleated. Then I basted across the top of the flounce in order to make the pinning of the flounce to the hem of the dress easier.

  This picture shows the pinning of the pleats on one edge.

After the flounce was basted on, I overlayed another piece of the lace and sewed it in three places. This allowed to keep the pleats well flattened and when I wash the garment they will fall back into place much better.

The last thing to add was the red ribbon, woven into the lace at the neckline. I chose the scarlet because it just felt right to me.

 The neckline is emphasized by the scarlet ribbon.

 Front of the finished Princess Slip.

  Back of the finished Slip.

 

A Princess Slip from 1912.

Midnight Blues.

As I wade through the mountain of thoughts that keep me awake at night, I wonder about the vagary of the brain’s pathways and what fires it to this state of activity when it should be resting. Isn’t night time meant to rest the body, the mind and the soul, where dreams should take over and run one through the experiences of the day? Or of other moments which have made an impression on one?

I wake up, feeling its time to get up and start my day only to discover that I have only been in bed about an hour and a half! I have dreamt and now I awake fully prepared to tackle my new projects or continue the started ones and I despair that I have to lie here for another 7 or 8 hours, enslaved by all the ideas rushing at me wanting to be heard, chosen and developed. They ENvelop me and wrap themselves tightly, the most urgent ones returning constantly, hammering at me, until I get up and put them to rest by writing them down. And I imagine them cheering as I get up out of my warm bed to find somewhere to dispose of them in an effort to quieten these voices that suggest the thousand threads of ideas insisting on finding their way in here. Most will be discarded. Many will be thought about until tried out… some will become obsessions that I will work on and further change until I feel all has been done for and said about them.

I started thinking about writing a new chapter about some of the people who booked a berth on the Titanic. It was suggested I write a chapter about facts about the Titanic. It is a well-known story and I can’t add anything to what has already been discovered and written about it. My son went through a period in his ‘teens of intense interest about the Titanic. I bought many books, models for him to build, videos to watch. We followed with keen interest the adventures of Dr Robert Ballard who finally discovered its final resting place and read with mounting excitement the articles in The National Geographic magazine documenting this momentous event! http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/photos/discovering-titanic/

I also thought of documenting my current sewing project. It’s keeping me occupied during the wait for my vintage pattern package. It’s a Steampunk Outfit. Steampunk is a pseudo-Victorian movement involving Victorian derived clothing and Victorians’ fascination with the emerging machinery of the period. This jacket and skirt I am putting together have elements gleaned from several different fashion trends within 19th Century European mainstream costuming, plus some of my own ideas based on what I have at hand in my immense stash of fabrics, notions and trims. A certain fabric jumped to mind one day last week: it had originally been destined to be a Georgian outfit… I only had 2 m when i really required 4.5m to make the jacket i was thinking of… so i redesigned it and made it to complement the skirt. Or is it the skirt that will complement the jacket?  Let’s just say: They were made for each other! 🙂 Here are a few pictures.

  The fabrics I’m using:  
Next is a sleeve with black lace:  
The bodice is almost a stomacher:
There are loops at the back for the ties:

  Mostly pinned together outfit so far. There will be a bustle of sorts but it hasn’t been cut yet.

Another subject insisting on its time in the sun (under the moon would be more precise since I am writing in the middle of the night) is the finishing of my Siren Costume, there may be pictures in a future post. Then comes the realization that I will never be able to collect all the existing pictures of Victorian or any historical time fashions and clothing. I have spent hours in the past week surfing the Net, picking pictures and identifying them in chronological order to file them correctly in my Period Costume folder. Am I going crazy? I am not alone though! This past week and especially in the last two days, since the formation of this project’s Facebook Group, I have watched as the various participants of this Titanic Sewing Project join and share their own passion and excitement at being part of it! I see that there are a lot of women who spend at least as many hours as I do, searching for, exulting at and collecting dozens (even hundreds! Thousands?!) of photographs of fashion plates, paintings and old photographs of clothing of bygone eras. And I marvel at the enthusiasm of all these ladies, from beginner to hobbyist to professional sewer for the Titanic era clothing! I read that there are 345 of us who wish to challenge our brains and try our hands at assembling new garments from vintage patterns published a hundred years ago! So far 102 have signed up on the Facebook page. It hadn’t really occurred to me that there would be as many fanatics for this time-period as there were for Medieval or Classic era garb and way of life! And why shouldn’t there be? About 10-15 years ago I was seriously involved with the craze for medieval weddings and fundraising balls and other events. I am now mildly participating in this Steampunk movement as I was made aware of it about three years ago and I want to produce my version of it after absorbing the pictures for 2 years now! As a designer and creator of costumes and general clothing I feel privileged to be able to supply them to other people who want to share the feeling of what it was like to dress and live in those days, whatever the period. Or whatever the current version, vision and understanding of any period. I simply enjoy fabric and making things from it! I also make quilts, duvet covers, cushions, dolls, tablecloths, flags and banners and tote and handbags in many sizes and shapes. Soon I will be sculpting with it… if I could get this new clothing sewing obsession out of my mind!!! Everything in its time I guess!

I remember reading and hearing in a long ago past, that no music we compose, hear and listen to today is *new*. It has all been written already. We are just giving the same few basic notes new tempo, new rhythm, new context but the riffs are repeats of older compositions. It dawned upon me that the same can be said of clothing and making it. As I exclaim and melt at, admire, adore or despise the clothing I see in all in these pictures I have gathered, I realize that today’s designers are not inventing anything new, really. We are only folding, draping and assembling and embellishing fabric in combinations and modeling the same ideas over and over again. There is only so much which can be done to protect and adorn the same body shape after all!

And that brings me to another question that has taunted and pursued me for years and years. According to most anthropologists, we have all evolved from the same root, the same core in Africa. And some of us went east, others north and eventually some went west (once we had the technology) to meet peoples that had gone east millennia before. Of course the human animal encountered different living conditions everywhere it travelled, emigrated and settled… Yet I still wonder why or how the human brain contrived the easily recognized Asian styles of dress at the same time (more or less) as it developed the European styles. And why is it that the basic shape born and made in India, China, Japan,  Korea etc stayed virtually the same over the thousands of years that have been documented yet, European clothing changed so radically? The changes were slow at first but then sped up and went in so many different directions!! The basic tunics eventually became waisted gowns: high waisted, straight or cinched. Skirts went from tubular to bell and A-shaped to artificially widened sideways (with pads then panniers and then crinolines), then exaggerated all around then only at the back. Then suddenly the under frames evaporated away!! Hairdos (and hats or head coverings) did the same: short, then long and braided, long and rolled up, long and stacked on the head to two and three feet high, then back to rolled and tucked away. Sleeves were initially narrow and practical, then lengthened and then widened and even dragged on the ground then shortened and narrowed again. Nowadays trends last a month? But we certainly have more options available at once yet conformity is still a driving force.

I love to turn pieces of clothing into other things. For example I have often turned pants and leggings into tops or jackets. Short jackets into long coats. Skirts into pants and bags. Bags into belts and even dance bras!! All sorts of clothing goes into quilts, duvet covers and even floor coverings and carpets!! None of this is new: many of our ancestors did this! I firmly believe in recycling and re-using and will take apart various unused things to reconstruct them into new (hopefully) useful items. It’s mostly my love of colour and texture that drives me to these experiments.

What really impresses, or even completely blows me away, is the enormity of the work that went into decorating the cloth for clothing and furnishing the well-to-do over the ages. Today some is done by hand still but most of it is done with an artificially power-driven machine (as opposed to plain human powered), which dramatically speeds up the process. When you look at a hand-embroidered gown from the Middle ages, the Renaissance or China, do you realize this took months to accomplish? Do you remember that it was done in unimproved daylight or by candlelight? Some of those stitches are so small and so close together!! Think of the huge tapestries and bed coverings before jacquard and brocade weaving was invented and widely used!! Even after it was developed it was still a huge process until it became steam (and eventually electricity)assisted… It occasionally boggles my mind and that’s when I realize I have to stop looking at the pictures for a while…. I fry my brain with these thoughts!!