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!!

East meets west as they Wrap into one.

Here is another example of the interesting historical patterns which can be found at the VPLL website, offered as part of the VPLL’s 1912 Sewing Project. This is a 1912 fringed lady’s wrap with deep scallops, almost like bat wings! As soon as I came across it, I knew what fabric I wanted to use! I had a remnant from a sari I bought last fall. I made a circle skirt with the body of the sari and kept the pallu: that’s the especially ornate, decorative and patterned end of the sari which is usually thrown over the left shoulder.

I love saris. I was first introduced to them at about 8 years old, when my father befriended someone who worked with him at the CBC who was married to a lovely little Indian lady named Shakuntala. We often shared meals and eventually she gave my sister and me an old pure silk sari in shades of violet and black. It was printed with the perennial paisley design so dear to India. I still have it in my closet!

Anyway… my love affair with saris and most things Indian most assuredly started then.

As I digress nostalgically about saris, I mustn’t forget my present project.

The sari I bought last fall had bright colours: red, yellow and blue-green melding into each other and a Jacquard pattern woven into it which reminded my husband of fish scales. He thought it would be a good base for a Hallowe’en costume, as we had been invited to a party and I was still looking for a good costume to make. The blue-jade ran down the centre of the sari and as soon as he said that, I saw a siren’s tail… That will be the subject of another blog one day… So the sari was bought and quickly transformed into a skirt (see the second picture: that’s the circle skirt hanging to stretch before hemming it) which would become part of *Sedna*.

 

And there I go again! I was saying that I knew immediately upon seeing the pattern that I would use this remnant. The pallu is mostly red and yellow with dashes of blue-green and I was a little worried it wouldn’t be big enough to accommodate the wrap… but I was wrong. There was plenty! There was even enough to cut the tie linings but not enough to line the main body of the wrap.

 

I STILL have smaller bits which are folded away now that will undoubtedly be used as accents somewhere. They are packed away with several other saris awaiting their turn for use! And there I go again… It must be because I am in a very quiet house tonight: everyone is away at work or chumming with old friends. I can actually think, compose and write as well as savour my wine at the computer without guilt and without interruption!

The wrap pattern consists of only 3 pieces: two different length ties and the wrap itself. While I was placing the pattern on the fabric I was wondering what I would use as a fringe. I have several lengths of satin fringe, but most of them are black… I didn’t want that kind of contrast. The instructions also called for a lining. I did cut one out of bright red lining although I wasn’t certain I would want it. I thought it would be a convenient cover to hide the fringe band if I used a fringe.

I stay-stitched all around the wrap as it has scalloped edges and they tend to stretch even with *ordinary* fabric. But sari fabric is often rather loosely woven. This one is especially. So, to prevent too much distortion and stretching I stay-stitched.

My search amongst my treasures turned nothing up at first… So I went ahead and started sewing the ties to their linings. As I strolled over to my ironing board to press them I caught sight of a piece of beaded fringe a special friend gave me. I used to make belly dance and tribal costumes (for others as well as myself) and this is left over from those days! The fringe is gold, red and green. The gold was a perfect match for some of the yellow shading in the sari and the red and the green just worked too! There is a pattern within the fringe: red roses with a green leaf on either side. A 4” glass beaded fringe is a little heavy, but it doesn’t matter much to me. I figured it would help keep the wrap nicely pulled down to show the beautiful woven as well and dyed patterns in the fabric. Best of all: the fringe is beaded onto a yellow ribbon. I measured it and it was as if it had been cut especially for this project! Perfect fit!

So I carefully sewed the fringe on to the edge of the wrap with a zipper foot, still thinking I would line it. I actually did sew most of the lining to it as well, afterwards. But it felt wrong. I stopped sewing and took the lining off. I decided to use the yellow ribbon as the cache for the cut edge. I turned in the seam allowance under the ribbon and sewed the ribbon down over it. A very clean finish! After some consideration, I decided to sew a  narrow red satin ribbon on the right side of the wrap. It seemed to need it.

The ties could have a pleat or not. I chose to simply sew them flat to the wrap ends, as I intend to use them to tie around the waist at times… Easily done! I carefully top-stitched the ties on and there you are! The wrap was done swiftly. If it hadn’t been for the search for the fringe, it would have been done in an afternoon. This is an easy project for beginners and pros alike!

The best part of this is: I can use the wrap as a shawl, as it is intended to be, or as a hip scarf over the matching skirt! I don’t *dance* much anymore but I love my bright colours in summer and this certainly fits THAT bill! I will wear the skirt and wrap with a solid coloured t-shirt and it will look just dandy!

     

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!!

1912 Spring Mantle

Last week I requested the Spring Mantle from the VPLL website. I had finished all my *real* work and was ready for more 1912 sewing. I thought making this little mantle would be fun… I still have so much fabric in my stash that needs a life!! :-).

After downloading it and printing it, I read the instructions and somewhat regretted my impulse a little. It requires 10 yards of bias cut fabric to be gathered into gathered trim for the sleeve edges and the front! I hate making gathered stuff! But I bravely took the pattern to my sewing studio and searched for a large enough piece of fabric in my stash. I decided to make it reversible when I couldn’t decide which to use: the royal blue or the coral. I have had that piece of 100% silk coral brocade for many years. I always knew I would use it for a jacket of some kind as it is fairly thick. The blue satin brocade with dragonflies was a remnant. Lucky there was enough for this!!

 

I established that the pattern was a perfect size for me, so no changes to it were needed. BUT, I had to be creative to fit the pieces for the mantle in the slightly narrow fabric remnant. The blue was just wide enough to hold the pattern pieces

but the coral was too narrow. I had to piece two corners of each side: at the sleeve and on the side back. They don’t really show as there is a wide trim covering most of those seams.

Starting with the blue fabric, I proceeded a little differently from the instructions. After cutting the required two sides and  4 gussets, I immediately sewed the gussets in, two to each half jacket.

I was able to find a small piece of steel-blue Shantung (textured with flubs) silk which perfectly matched the blue in the dragonflies’ wings.

After cutting it into approx. 10 yards of 2 1/2in wide tape, I gathered it all into a 3 yard length. I got that number by measuring the width of the cuffs (following the pretty curve it has) and the length of the band (which is indicated on the pattern) along the front. This band doesn’t go around the back of the mantle. I got 108 inches, or 3 yards. After gathering it, I pressed it a little to help stop it from twisting about while it got pinned to the front and the sleeves. I marked the sewing line for the wide trim by sewing a long-stitched line at 2 1/2 in from the outer edge. After placing the right side of the trim on this line I could then sew it fairly easily. After sewing it down, I flipped it back and pinned the edge of the trim to the edge of the blue fabric and basted them together. Here again, I changed the design by NOT adding another layer of fabric or batting under the trim. The gathers were puffy enough for me! The two blues I chose for this side were right for each other but the colourway lacked *Oomph!*.

I dug out various braids and ribbons and at first chose a lovely violet 1″ braid to sew alongside the trim… but because it was braided and the trim was already rather textured by its gathers, my daughter pointed out that it seemed too busy… :-(. She was right. So I went in search again and pulled out a satin cord in a light red (as opposed to brownish) burgundy that helped pull out the pink and added a dash of life to the mix. I then proceeded to sew the cord right up against the gathered trim with a narrow and long zig-zag stitch.

   

This is when I made each piece into 1/2 a jacket shape by starting sewing at the sleeve edge, along the sleeve, diagonally across the gusset and down to the bottom edge.  But I did not sew them along the middle back together yet.

I chose to trim the coral side of the mantle with a Shantung silk in medium creamy orange.

 

This was another remnant. It blended well with the smooth charmeuse finish of the background coral and two other brighter orange colours of the bamboo Jacquard silk. I didn’t want to gather this trim as the other side was already puffy enough. Again, I found that although these colours were made for each other, and maybe because of that, there wasn’t enough contrast.

     

I went back to my braided trims and found a piece of very pale coral narrow braid, only 1/2 ” wide. My first idea was to sew it right on the edge of the Shantung, the same way I had done for the burgundy cord on the blue side. I changed my mind later on and elected to sew it 1/2″ lower than the edge of the darker orange Shantung.

In order to have exactly the right size pattern, I simply traced the band shape from the front and the sleeve cuffs onto another piece of paper and added about 3/4′ to its width. (Pictures above show this step). Then I cut the orange Shantung trim. I ironed down 1/4″ the inside edge of this trim and carefully pinned it in place. This band was top-stitched to the coral half-mantles before I applied the 1/2″ braid half an inch below its sewn edge. I felt it made it more dynamic that way. The unfinished edges of both the trim and the coral Jacquard were basted together. Then I sewed the seam making the sleeve down to the bottom edge of the mantle, the same way I did for the blue side.

I now had 4 half-mantle pieces. In order to sew as much as possible by machine… and have stronger seams closing the several layers of the cuffs and front edges, I had to sew the sleeve edges first, right sides together, by placing one jacket piece inside the other inside out. After sewing this, I pulled the blue jacket out through the orange jacket’s sleeve and found myself with half a reversible mantle! I did the same with the other side.

   

After pressing all the edges to have them lie a little flatter and look cleaner, I proceeded to sewing the two blue centre backs together, changed the thread and sewed most of the two coral backs together. I remembered to leave a small opening to turn the jacket right side out and sewed up the remaining 4 inches by hand. Another little steam press for the middle seams and my jacket was ready!

   

   

Passion for the Fashion!

 

Life has been rather hectic since my last post. Lots going on at home and everywhere else!

I received our Titanic Sewing Group’s first pattern last week on Thursday. 1912 Afternoon Wrap, pattern # 0291, from La Mode Illustree, found on the VPLL’s website. First thing I did was go to my private stash and rummage through that until I fell upon a remnant from a  skirt/pant I made 3 or 4 summers ago from a lovely royal blue Jacquard light weight satin which goes to navy on both selvedges and within that darker part is a gold woven pattern of butterflies and scrolling. So the wrong side of this is just as beautiful as the right side… This explains why I chose to make the Afternoon Wrap without a lining. The flashes of gold add an interesting dimension to the outfit!

The fabric

Same as for the Challenge Pattern (the Princess Slip from my previous blog), I printed the pattern from a .PDF and reassembling it was easy. We were provided with a cutting layout and I saw that it showed cutting the two main and the four collar pieces separately on a single layer of fabric and realized that they had been placed incorrectly. Another Lady in our group brought that up yesterday… before I had a chance to report on it. I passed over that as I intended to cut these pieces on a folded piece of fabric, that way only cutting one large main piece and two collar pieces. As long as either the two right or two wrong sides are touching, the pieces get cut correctly, that is: mirror-image of each other and you are ready to assemble them.

I stay-stitched all the pieces. It means a lot of work removing some of that later, but prevents the pieces from changing size as many of the edges are on the bias or other than straight grain of the fabric.

There were two darts indicated on the main piece. One for the shoulder and one for the bust. After measuring the distance from the shoulder dart to that bust-line dart, I decided to lower that dart a little and extend it too. It was too high to lie where it should when I am wearing my *regular* bra. It would have been fine if I wore a push-up bra… These things always come into play, right? They do make a difference on some of us hahaha!! 🙂

Another change I made was to lengthen the back and front parts because again, after measuring, I saw that the hem line would lie across my widest part, and I don’t particularly want to put a spotlight on it… (I must confess that lately, I prefer to wear slightly longer t-shirts, vests, sweaters and jackets for that reason too.) As I was cutting the pieces out I was thinking of the trims and other decorations I wanted to use. The pattern called for making a belt and adding tassels to the sleeve points. As I didn’t have any ready-made tassels but did have a bit of matching dark blue satin fringing, I chose to make the tassels with that and embellish the tassels with beads. I have been beading for years as well and to put it mildly, I have beads in many colours, textures and sizes and shapes. (Being a sewer for the last 40 years, and a collector of *bits*, I have a large selection of many things to use when I don’t have exactly what is required.) Depending on how much fabric border would be left over, it would be used to make the belt. If too short, I would make a buckled belt as suggested but I was hoping it would be long enough to make a tied belt that would have long hanging ties.

 

 Tassels sewn to the point by rolling the hems over the crown of the tassel.

I wanted to spotlight that lovely border as much as possible, so turned the pattern piece 90 degrees making the centre back sit along the selvedge and the butterflies would be going up and down my back, rather than across it and the front pieces. The instructions included adding an optional band on the sleeve edge. Rather than add another layer of fabric to the sleeve edge, I decided to turn up the hem using the gold wrong side outside at the hem which added only a narrow detail instead of the wide one suggested.

  You can see the wrong-side-turned-out hem and the point which is covered with the selvedge border.

As I looked at the sleeve, it occurred to me that if it was going to have a nice gold edge, it should also have more decorative points. After cutting enough border for the belt, I found that I still had enough border length to cut four points from it and add them to the points of the sleeves. It gave the points the same fade from dark blue to the royal blue as the hem had and would decorate the points a little more than having just the tassels hang from them. This was also good for adding some weight to the points because the fabric was so light. Clean finishing the top of the triangle and sewing it to the end point was a quick job. When I turned the hem there, the two layers here turned over together to make a stiff heavier point which would be stronger to support the beaded tassels.

 On the left you can see the one point still pinned in and the second point has been sewn across its top to clean finish the new triangle.

  This is what it looked like before turning the hem.

Here are two of the sleeve points finished but before having added the tassels.

I made the pleats and sewed the darts first making sure everything was lying in the right spot with each piece. Then assembled the two main body pieces by sewing the centre back seam, as per instructions. The collar was equally easy to assemble and add to the wrap. Pictured at left below is the front pleat on right half bodice at waist line. The next picture shows the pleat on back bodice.

  

Using the border for the belt made a rather ornate belt. That was another reason for not using the order butterflies on the collar lapels.  I simply turned the two edges of the belt length under using the rolled-hem foot on my machine. Below is the wrong side of the belt piece.

 

I wanted to see the wrong side of the fabric too, in order to use the gold flashes that would appear as I moved. I didn’t want to use a buckle: that’s when I decided to make two more tassels for the belt ends. I shaped the square ends of the belt into triangles and sewed the tassels to the points of the belt, reflecting the sleeve points. The belt was then sewed to the middle back seam at its middle and everything was pressed once more. After beading the tassels, I made a beaded fringe with the blue beads which I then sewed to the front and back hems of the wrap. This all made it a little more formal than may have been used for an *Afternoon* wrap in 1912 but I may only use the wrap with the skirt on cooler evenings in the summer. I don’t wear that pant/skirt in winter! The very next two pictures show you the beaded fringe on front and back. The bottom pictures are front and back views of the entire outfit with the long-ago made skirt.

  

  

Now that it is done, I feel the slashed points of the sleeves near the bodice front need re-enforcing. So I will be adding a self bias strip stretching 3 in on either side of the opening.

And… I am pretty sure I will make this wrap in the same fabric used for the Princess Slip made to be a nightgown two weeks ago. Again, I will lengthen the front and back pieces and I will use the same lace as the gown for the sleeve edges. Instead of a belt, I will use buttons. It will be lighter than a bathrobe and give the nighty some extra *modesty* when not in bed, heheh!!

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.

It’s been coming…

Well here I am writing a *blog*… I read only a few blogs myself. Friends’ pages mostly: they write about things i want to know about, or things i already know, interesting things; they are sharing their thoughts which interest me. That’s why they are my friends: they have thoughts that make me laugh or make me think, profoundly or not too much, but I like to read what they have to say. Sometimes I learn new stuff, other times what I read simply reviews or reminds me of older information. Sometimes their stories lead me to other blogs and I will read those as well. I like to keep up with my friends’ discoveries or just their news as we all work in different places and jobs and don’t get together as much as we would like. Especially in winter. I don’t get out much in winter and the reasons why could fill yet another blog! So I will keep that chapter for another day perhaps and try to stay focused on this, my first page of my first blog. With the age of Facebook, I have friends I never met, but we chat and joke and exchange news in written form, through the regular Facebook newsfeed or through private emails or through our blogs. I laugh and cry and sympathize or celebrate with them all the news they care to share. Again, this should be another chapter at another time, I think!

So this blog is about *Sewing the Titanic* or at least, that’s it’s title right? How does one *sew* the Titanic? What is this anyway?

I will not be sewing a ship… although some people may think: *That’s something she is capable of!*. I have made some strange or unusual, unexpected things and I although I wish this project fell into one of those categories, I realize that it won’t!!! What I am embarking on (unintentional pun here… using embarking in a blog about something to do with the Titanic!) is not so unusual, really, not for me as I am an avid costume designer and sewer, nor unexpected since I am a sewer and an avid period/historical costumer… (I will digress briefly here, to mention that I keep on wanting and will have to use the word *SEWER*, but its exact spelling also brings to mind the smelly stinky wet cold sludgy lumpy waters that travel beneath our cities taking the disgusting remnants of our lives away from us and that bothers me. I am a very visual person, and language, whether written or spoken, translates into very vivid images in my head… all the time… and so, I hate some words… or at least, try to use different words when they provoke entirely different images from the ones I am seeking to engender.) I used remnant there… lots of remnants in a sewer’s life… good grief! this will be difficult!! So many plays, images, scenes as I write!

I can see how this could be a protracted blog. Where are all these words coming from? Why am I compelled to explain everything I think, write and see! And since I haven’t received my first installment of the *Sewing the Titanic* project and that I am just introducing this blog, I will get this other stuff off my chest as it were! It reminds me of the film: Julie and Julia too. Discovering everything that wants to be let out is kind of funny…

Writing a themed blog like this one will force me to channel my thoughts and I will try to keep on the straight and narrow of the subject, rather than going everywhere the images thought or written take me. That could be a good thing. Thoughts like: should I even address this idea? Should I explore it MORE or just set it aside for another day? Or just forget it entirely?

It’s funny how life does things… A few days ago I was thinking perhaps I should join the ranks of the blog writers… seems almost everyone is doing it!!! but couldn’t think of anything to say (What me, not knowing what to say??? hahaha!! I know, I know… rare but occasionally true!! hahaha!!) or to tell what would be worth writing or reading about. Then yesterday I came across an ad looking for sewers (that horrible word again!) who would like to participate in the Titanic Project. This year of 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. It went down in April 1912. I discovered that there are many Societies and Associations and groups with the Titanic theme… and why not? One group in particular, the VPLL (Vintage Pattern Lending Library) is celebrating, for lack of a better word,  maybe *commemorating* would be better, this sad event by recreating the clothing patterns spotlighted in the French publication “La Mode Illustree” of 1912. One of the stipulations for participating was to document my progress with the monthly patterns I will receive both with pictures and entries in a blog at least once a month… I can do that!  So here i am!

Here are pictures of the styles worn that year:

 

All I have to do now… is sit… and wait…