Sunday, October 23, 2016

Quickie project! A new short gown.

I needed something fairly quick to wear on a warm weekend so I decided to bite the bullet and finally make a short gown.  I'm not sure why I had such an aversion to them in the past.  They really are practical little garments.  They're unlined, which removes one layer making them nice in warmer weather.  They're also not fitted which eliminates a whole world of problems.

I started researching them and found that linen is the most common fabric used so I picked up a brown striped mid weight linen.  I like the reduced pattern in Fitting and Proper by Sharon Burston. This pattern was made from an extant example.  I enlarged the pattern and it clearly wasn't going to fit without major alterations which I just didn't have time for so I pulled out the JP Ryan pattern that I happened to have.  The JPR pattern instructions have you making the garment by machine.  I knew this pattern would fit so I cut it out all in one piece and I used the instructions in Fitting and Proper for constructing it by hand.

I whip stitched the side seams before realizing that they should've been flat felled so I felled the inside which rendered them nearly invisible.  The back pleats were stitched with running stitches and whipstitched in place on the inside.
side seam

back pleats

Inside of back

The neck edge, front edge, hem and sleeves were hemmed with a 1/4 inch hem.  I used a facing at the back neck where the pleats are as turning it in twice there would be too bulky.  This is the way the extant in the book was constructed as well.

That was it!  No lining or anything fiddly involved with this one.  I've already decided to do one with long sleeves:  wool lined with linen.  It was an enjoyable project.



Here's one view of the short gown being worn:

Inspired by a runaway ad from 1780:  "Ran away on Monday morning the 20th instant, an Irish servant girl named Jane Smith . . .had on and took with her, a striped short gown, striped lincey petticoat, a pair of new stockings, new shoes, and a new check handkerchief:  She stole and took with her a dark gray cloak almost new,  a green bonnet with a white ribbond round it, a pair of silver shoe bucles, a pair of white mitts, and about forty dollars in Continental money. . ."

Wearing the drapes! Not just in movies any more! (a tutorial)

I've had a few occasions that required Regency dress lately so I decided that I really needed to make a new Regency gown. My current Regency gowns include a wool worsted winter gown, a silk ball gown and the first reenacting gown I ever made of dotted Swiss which was machine sewn. It's time for one based on research rather than one simply made from a pattern.  

I've always been enamored by the wispy white muslin Regency gowns--particularly those that have whitework embroidery of some sort.  I had been fortunate enough to come across a pair of antique white muslin curtains with a tambour embroidery.  The curtains were quite large--measuring 90 X 90 inches.  I used part of one to make a lovely 18th century tambour work apron which you can see in this post..  I was still left with one untouched curtain and most of the 2nd one so it seemed like I had plenty of fabric to use for a gown.   

Here are some examples of existing extant embroidered gowns from the Regency era:

1804-05 French origin  V&A Museum

Unknown origin--believed to be British

Napolean and Empire exhibit

Unknown European origin

Kent State Costume Collection

Early 1800's Boston Museum of Fine Art

The first consideration is how much embroidery you have, the size of the embroidery and where you would like it to appear on the gown.  This curtain panel had embroidery on the bottom edge only.  I decided that I wanted the embroidery to be around the skirt and on the sleeve as in the very last picture above.  This sleeve style is representative of an earlier gown ca.1800-1805.  I decided to use the Sense and Sensibility pattern, going with the bodice from the Butterick pattern with drawstrings and a higher neckline.  

The curtain fabric is very sheer so I felt that I could use the full 90 inch width since it wouldn't be too thick when gathered.  The first quandary was where to place the seams.  The pattern I was using has side seams with no center front or back seam.  I really wanted to keep the seams to a minimum since it would disrupt the embroidery pattern so I decided to simply have a single back seam.  First I folded the curtain in half and I placed the front pattern piece on the fold and the back piece with the center back at the selvedge  edge.  I cut one single piece connecting the two--marking where the front side seams would be.  The extra fabric was to be worked into the back.

I still had half of the first curtain left over so I placed the sleeves on that hem after determining the length they would be, then I used the scraps of the remaining part of the curtain to cut the bodice out.

As this fabric is extremely sheer, I made tiny French seams first in the sleeve then the center back, leaving open at the top about 6 inches for a placket.

Since there was a center back seam, I just turned the seam allowances in for the back closing which is what appears to have been done in the extant example.
I decided that the bodice needed to be lined so I just used some bleached muslin from Joann's and cut the bodice pieces.  I placed the curtain fabric on top and treated the 2 layers as one, stitching them with felled seams.  The sleeves were not lined. They were stitched in and the the seam allowance was turned in then the seam allowance was secured with a running stitch.

The skirt was gathered to the bodice and stitched and the center back of the bodice was folded in twice and whip stitched on the inside.  The bodice/skirt seam was covered with 1 inch wide woven cotton tape which was stitched to create a casing for the silk ribbon.  The neckline was also turned in and whip stitched to form the top casing.

Outside of bodice

Back closure

Close-up of sleeve embroidery

Bottom of skirt

Close-up of skirt embroidery

Because the skirt of this gown is very sheer, I made a strapped petticoat.  I used the skirt from the pattern and added a waistband to fit just under the bust gussets of my stays.  I stitched wide cotton twill tape in the back and tried it on with my stays on to adjust the length of the straps which were then stitched in place in the front.  Antique mother of pearl buttons were used as closures.

Since I was feeling motivated, I decided that a new dress required a new bonnet so I pulled out my Lynn McMasters soft crown bonnet pattern.  I found some red silk in my stash and went to work.  Since I knew I'd be stitching the silk to the crown form, I decided to us heavy pellon rather than buckram for the form.

The bonnet required cockades or bows at the side to cover the raw edges of the pleats so I decided on red and white cockades.

I trimmed the width of the ribbon and made smaller cockades to wear on my walking boots.  They are attached with shoe clips so they can also be worn on my white flats.  I also made a larger reticule so I could carry my necessities for the day.

It was a lovely day to wear my new gown and accessories to the DAR costume exhibit.  

I'm very pleased with the results of this the lightweight curtain ended up making the perfect gown for a hot day in Washington DC!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Chili Relleños! It's what's for dinner!

I love Southwest food.  If I had to pick any culture of food that I could eat every day, that would be it. One of our favorite dishes is Chili Relleños.  I have a recipe that I got in an old out of print book about 30 years ago that I've tweaked over the years.  Since I was making it tonight, I thought I'd write it up to share.  I love the combination of the somewhat spicy Poblano peppers, the soft melted cheese and the airy omelet like coating.  It's a mix of textures and tastes that is most appealing to me.

Chili Relleños

  • Poblano peppers--one for each relleño.  I always get the biggest ones I can find
  • Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese.  Plain is more traditional but I like the extra kick from the pepper Jack.
  • Eggs--one for each pepper plus one extra.  Since I make 4 at a time, I used 5 eggs.
  • Flour
  • Water
  • Cooking oil
You will need to peel the peppers.  Place them on a cooking sheet under the broiler until they are blistered.  Turn over, making sure they are blistered all over.  You will need to watch them but figure about 5 minutes or so on each side.

When you take the peppers out of the oven, place them in a paper or plastic bag for 10 or 15 minutes to steam.

This will make the peppers easy to peel.  The skin should pull right off in big pieces.

Slit the pepper open and clean the seeds and inner membrane out.  Sometimes it's easy to just rinse them then blot dry.

Cut an oblong block of cheese for each pepper and put inside the pepper, wrapping the slit opening around to enclose it.

While preparing the coating, place about 1/4 - 1/2 inch cooking oil in a non stick frying pan to heat on medium heat.  The oil must be hot when you begin cooking.  Separate your eggs, placing the whites in a medium to large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.  Beat the whites until stiff peaks form.  Then beat the yolks and add 1 tablespoon of flour for each egg and 2 teaspoons of water for each egg.  Since I was making 4 relleños, I used 5 eggs, 5 tablespoons of flour and 10 teaspoons of water.  Beat the yolk mixture until blended, adding a pinch of salt.  Basically, you want it to be the consistency of pancake batter.

Gently fold the yolk mixture into the beaten egg whites.

You will prepare 2 relleños at a time.  Place two big blobs of egg mixture on the oil, a little bigger than the peppers and let it cook for a few minutes.

Gently lay a cheese stuffed pepper on each blob of egg batter.

Carefully spoon a thin layer of batter over the top of the pepper, completely covering it (except the stem).

Here's the tricky part.  You need to turn the relleños by gently rolling them over.  Put your spatula under and roll toward the side of the pan.  You will basically be folding it in half.

You will need to roll them over at least once more, cooking until golden brown.

Repeat with the remaining chilis.  Drain them on paper towels.

I served these topped with fresh Pico de Gallo. 

Easy Pico de Gallo


Roma tomatoes
Red or yellow onion
jalapeño pepper
lime juice

This is easy!  Dice equal amounts of Roma tomato (seeded), onion and cilantro.

If you decide to add jalapeño, seed the pepper and dice finely.  Be sure to wear gloves or wash your hands well after handling hot peppers.  I used one large jalapeño to 1 cup each tomato, onion and cilantro.

Mix well, add a splash of lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.  You may end up tweaking the ingredients to your liking by adding more or less of any one of them.

The meal consisted of the chilis, topped with the pico de gallo and a dollop of sour cream.  It was accompanied by our favorite Mexican slaw which can be found here.  I substituted green cabbage for the red cabbage called for in the recipe.

Yum!  My favorite Mexican dish!