Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Converting a stomacher gown pattern to a center close front

To a sewist, there is nothing more wonderful than a well-drafted well-fitting pattern.  I found this in the Larkin & Smith English gown pattern.  I made some slight adjustments to the paper pattern and I was able to achieve a perfect fit.  This gown is a stomacher front English gown with an en forreau back--representative of the early - mid 1770's.  I'm wearing this gown in the photo below which was taken after a presentation about clothing during the last quarter of the 18th century given to the General Smallwood chapter of NSDAR.  

I was so enamored with the fit of this pattern and the construction methods used that I decided to make my next center front closing gown using this same pattern.  The construction methods are period correct and the method of pleating the en forreau back is fool proof.  

First I studied the differences between the two styles.  The most obvious difference is that a center front close gown doesn't have a stomacher.  It also doesn't have robings.   So it appears that the main task will be to extend the front bodice to the center front plus a turn under allowance and the add a shoulder strap made from the fashion fabric.  I settled on worsted wool for my fabric.

The first step requires a little bit of draping.  Using Swedish tracing paper (sort of like a cloth) I first traced the front bodice piece and just extended the tracing paper an un determined amount to have some paper to work with when drawing the new lines. The piece on the left is the front bodice piece. The parallel lines are the edge and seam allowance on the original pattern piece edge.  The pieces on the right are the original bodice front and lining.

Here is where a dress form comes in handy.  Mine was being used so I hung my gown and pinned the stomacher in the way I would normally wear it.  Then I pinned the new pattern piece to my gown at the side back seam, the parallel lines were pinned to the edge of the front piece and I pinned it at the center front of the stomacher.  This did involve pinning the robing out of the way.  I marked the center front and drew a line at the top of the stomacher so I'd have a rough idea as to where the neckline was.

I also made sure to mark the center front.

I redrew the neckline and bottom lines neatly and extended the front 3 inches past the center front line.  The neckline looked a little high to me and I pinned the piece on myself in my stays and determined it was.  I did end up lowering it about an inch.

I cut out the pattern piece and set about making a bodice muslin using the new pattern piece, the back lining piece and the shoulder strap. I tucked the seam allowance in along the neckline to check the depth. The front edges were folded in to achieve the correct fit. and  pinned that hem in place before taking the muslin off.

The new bodice front was cut from the fashion fabric and the lining.  I left the original pattern marks for the pocket slit and I made sure to mark where the skirt ended on the old stomacher gown to make sure it lined up the same way.

Basically I constructed this gown exactly the same as the pattern indicated for the stomacher gown. Here it is getting the skirt pleated to the bodice.

Once the skirt was sewn to the bodice, the lining shoulder strap was sewn on, the sleeve was attached and the back facing was stitched on as per pattern instructions.

Here is where things were a little different.  At this point the robings would be sewn on.  Instead, I cut shoulder straps from my fashion fabric, turned in the seam allowance on all sides and stitched them over the strap linings, encasing the sleeve seam.

Here is my first fitting.  This is where I checked how much to turn in the front on each bodice piece. Each piece required a one inch turn in.

Here is the dress as first worn over a bound wool flannel petticoat with tambour embroidered accessories:

I'm really tickled with this gown.  The fit is perfect and it's extremely comfortable.  It may be my new favorite.  I found this project to be a great learning experience and a nice intro to some basic draping. If you have this pattern, give it a try!

Monday, January 2, 2017

JP Ryan Jacket--#4--using 18th century construction methods.

I love the JP Ryan 18th century jacket pattern.  The first time I made it, I followed the directions for construction, though I eliminated the stomacher and made it center close.  The pattern directions have you construct the outer jacket then construct the lining and bag the lining turning it right side out when done  Quick and easy, but not without problems.  Now obviously I was aware that this was not historically accurate due to the fact that it used a machine.

The second version, I made by hand--whip stitching the seams of the outer fabric together then the lining and whip stitching the lining into the outer fabric.  I liked that better but I knew that while hand sewn, it didn't use historically accurate hand sewing techniques,

The third version, I used pretty much the same construction techniques as the 2nd one,

I decided to do it differently for this current version.  There had been a lengthy discussion on one of the 18th century sewing groups on Facebook about a particular stitch that seamed the lining together, the outer fabric together and attached the lining t the same time.  This stitch has been found in extant gowns which do not have en forreau backs.  This stitch apparently has no name.  The Margaret Hunter Shop at Colonial Williamsburg posted a short video on how to do this stitch.    The best explanation for it can be found at Abby Cox's blog.  Abby was an apprentice in the Margaret Hunter Shop.  You can find that post here where she refers to it as a weird running whip stitch.

I also found a stitch that looks to be the same in The Workman's Guide to Tailoring Stitches and Techniques.  They refer to this stitch as a seam made with a prickstitch.  There are a couple of variations.  Someone told me that this was incorrect but the instructions for completing the stitch are the same as Abby's.

Likewise, this stitch appears again in The Workwoman's Guide by A Lady, 1838 reprint.  It appears in the instructions for constructing stays.  The instructions say to turn under the edges of the outer fabric and the lining, place the outer fabric pieces wrong sides together with their matching lining piece.  Place the pieces to be seamed right sides together.  "Take up with your needle, three of the thicknesses, leaving the fourth unsewed.  The next stitch, take again three folds, leaving the other outside one unsewed:  continue alternately taking up one outside and omitting the other, letting the stitches lie close together: when completed, open the seam, and flatten it with the finger and thumb."

So here is what this looks like in practice.  First prepare your pieces.  turn under the edges of both lining and outer fabric.  I chose to baste the lining to the outer fabric.  The darker brown is the wool fashion fabric and the lighter brown is the linen lining.

Pin your pieces to be seamed together.  You will have four layers.  You will be stitching from right to left.  Put your needle straight though the farthest three layers--omitting the lining that is closest to you.

The next stitch is from the other side.  Same thing.  Push your needle through the farthest three layers, omitting the layer on the outer edge where the needle enters.  Stitches should be close together and very close to the edge.

I turned in the neck edge at the seams and stitched the seams to about 2 inches from the hem.  I whipped the lower two inches together so I'd be able to turn in the bottom hem allowance on both the lining and fashion fabric.  This photo was taken before it was pressed.  I was amazed at how flat it was!

I put the body aside to construct the sleeves.  I used the instructions from the Larkin and Smith gown pattern.  Placing the lining and fashion fabric wrong sides together,  pin over the out fabric seam allowance which has been turned under.  Using a spaced back stitch and working from the outside of the sleeve, stitch through all three layers.  When you get about 2 inches from the bottom of the sleeve do not stitch through the lining layer.

This is what it looks like pinned together on the outside.

Turnunder the loose seam allowance in the lining and whip stitch it to the lining.

Now for the shoulder seams.  I treated the back fashion fabric and lining shoulder pieces as one.  I turned under the front shoulder seam allowance, lapped it over the fashion fabric and lining of the back shoulder and stitched through all three layers with a spaced back stitch (same construction as the sleeve seam) leaving the lining free for about an inch at the neck edge.  Then the front shoulder lining piece was lapped over this and whip stitched.

Then the sleeves were stitched in and the neck, bottom and sleeve hems were finished.  I whip stitched the hems.  Further research in the tailoring book revealed a prick stitch hem for lined garments that looks like a running stitch on the outside edge.  I'm wondering if that would be more accurate.  I'll have to research that more, I made the stomacher without boning.  I just interfaced it with linen buckram.  I decided not to put eyelets in this jacket as I hope to make a crewelwork stomacher to wear with it so I just pinned it together.  I wore it over a tan wool petticoat bound with brown wool tape.  This was worn to Mt. Vernon on a very cold night!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

We interrupt our sewing to bring you . . .Sweet Potato Chips!

Being the mother of a Blue Front Amazon parrot who is 30 years old can be quite an awesome responsibility.  Most people don't have pets with lifespans that equal or exceed their own.  As such, I'm always looking for nutritious snacks that Gloria will enjoy.  Since parrots in captivity often need additional vitamin A, sweet potatoes are a frequent choice.  Gloria is also fond of crunchy things so sweet potato chips seemed like a logical choice.  Commercial ones don't fit the bill as parrots should not have most oils or salt so it makes sense to make them myself.  I was amazed at how easy it is!

You will need:
sweet potatoes
coconut oil

I like to use garnet sweet potatoes that are fairly straight.  Peel the sweet potato and cut the ends off. I like to slice the sweet potato perpendicular which makes smaller chips.  They do shrink too.  If you are making them for humans, you may wish to slice them diagonally to have larger chips.

Thinly slice the potato using your method of choice.  I like using a mandoline as it allows me more control--though my Cuisinart would certainly do the job.  I set my mandoline for 1/8 inch slices.

Melt a small amount of coconut oil in the microwave.  I used about a teaspoon.  I could probably use less.  Another option, if you really want to avoid oil, is to skip this step and lightly spray the chips with a coconut oil spray.  Add the sweet potatoes, oil and any seasonings to a plastic bag and shake so all the slices are covered.  Parrots love hot peppers so I use crushed red pepper on our chips.

Lay the chips out in a single layer on baking sheets and sprinkle with additional seasoning if desired.

Bake for 40 minutes in a 200 degree oven.  After 40 minutes, turn the chips over and return to the oven for another 40 minutes.  

Watch the chips.  They will curl a bit as they shrink.  You may need to bake them longer or they may be done a little early.  They need to be hard.  Mine were clearly not done after the second 40 minutes. Bake until they are leathery, then take them out.   They will get hard and crisp if they are done.  If they aren't crisp, put them back in the oven for 10 minute increments.  I ended up baking these an additional 30 minutes. You can probably reduce the baking time by increasing the temperature.

I think I find these to be as tasty as Gloria does because every time I give her one, I eat two!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Mitts, Muffs, and Hoods: A Winter Skill-building Sewing Weekend--Information

Those post is for those who do not have access to Facebook.

We will be holding an 18th century sewing weekend on Saturday Feb. 11 at historic Carroll Baldwin Hall in Savage, Maryland.  If you are a historic costumer/reenactor, we suggest dressing in period dress to make this a more authentic hands on experience but this is not a requirement for participation.

The day will begin at 9:30 am with a meet and greet session.  We will then be treated to a presentation by Carolyn Dowdell about how women kept warm during the 18th century.

We will then have 3 hands on workshops:

Mitts were an important accessory for women in the 18th century. They were important for warmth during the colder months and sun protection during the warmer months. Our mitts workshop will focus on mitts for the winter. We will be using fitting muslins in a variety of sizes prepared by the instructor using the pattern in Costume Closeup to find the right fit . We will then cut out and stitch a pair of wool mitts with an optional silk lined tip. Participants will learn to do the herringbone and edge herringbone embroidery stitches as part of constructing their personal mitts.
Participants will bring a half yard of light weight wool--preferably something fulled like flannel or lightweight broadcloth with matching sewing thread (typically silk or cotton quilting). If they'd like a lined tip, they may bring a scrap of silk with matching thread as well. They will also need embroidery needles. The instructor will supply silk stranded embroidery floss in a variety of colors. She will also have some scraps of silk taffeta on hand in several colors for those who may need some to line their mitts.
Vicki Embrey will teach this workshop (Hey! That's me!). She has been sewing since she was a child and she studied French hand sewing and English smocking before becoming involved with the reenacting community. She recently taught the caps workshop at the Sky Meadows weekend hosted by Mrs. Boice's Academie Historie.

Muffs have been a popular winter fashion accessory for hundreds of years. In our muffs class, we will be exploring example of 18th century muffs then we will begin making a muff cover as well as a simple white muff insert. Participants will bring precut rectangles of their chosen fabric as well as trims they may wish to use for decoration. They will also be given a link to purchase a premade muff insert if they prefer to do so. These details will be on our supply list which will be uploaded early January.
Our instructor for this class will be Sarah Cooper. Sarah has over 20 years' experience sewing everything from pajama pants to historic ball gowns. Sarah has worked and volunteered with museums that cover the 18th through early 20th centuries and has created her own clothing collection to match, as well as sewing for customers, coworkers, and friends. Although she would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite era, Sarah is most interested in working-class clothing throughout history. She is currently creating the costume collection for the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, MD, which is set to kick off their season next year focusing on 1917.

Although we think of hoods attached to cloaks, they did exist as a separate garment in the 17th & 18th centuries. Most popular for Englishwomen in the late -17th century, American utilitarian extants do exist that are dated in the 18th c. Earlier style hoods are fitted close to the head and with, or without, a small cape like the gray silk one dated from 1750-1790 in Sharon Burnston's book "Fitting and Proper". By the 1770's they would be fashioned with room for bigger hairstyles of that era, like the 1776 quilted black sarsenet extant in LACMA's collection which also features a small cape. However, references to hoods do not appear in runaway adverts in either "Had On Took With Her" or "Wenches Wives and Servant Girls", leaving us to speculate on their actual value as a fashion accessory. However there is no doubt that a wool hood adds warmth when worn over a cap but without a cloak for 'hands free' working OR under a hooded cloak for extra warmth. Bring 1/2 yard, 54+" wide wool and 1/2 yard of silk taffeta (black or any 18th c. color), matching thread, 2 yards ribbon or plain linen tape, to fashion your own plain OR lined hood, with OR without a small cape. Choose from either the earlier, fitted hood style OR 1770's large hood style during the workshop - with or without a narrow cape.

The event will include lunch and dinner will beverages and snacks available throughout the day concluding at 8 pm.

If you choose to arrive early, we will meet for dinner at the Rams Head Tavern at historic Savage Mill which is across the street from the venue and we will tie up any loose ends over brunch Sunday morning.

A supply list will be uploaded to the registration page the first week of January.  

For those who must travel--a list of hotels is available on our REGISTRATION PAGE.
Payment information is also available there.

The fee is $100.

We MUST have 20 people registered by12/29/16 in order for this event to take place as we have to pay for the venue by the end of the month.  If we fail to get enough people to register, we will refund the registration to those who paid,

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mitts, Muffs and Hoods: A skill-building sewing weekend--Registration

Registration is now closed for new participants.

Just to recap a few details here:
Date:  Feb. 11, 2017
Time:  9:30 am - 8 pm
Location:  Carroll Baldwin Hall  9035 Baltimore St, Savage, Maryland 20763

Check in begins at 9:15 am.

Format:  We will have a presentation about how women kept warm in the winter and learn about winter garments followed by 3 workshops in which we make or start a pair of mitts, a hood, and a muff using 18th century construction techniques.  All of these projects require a half yard of fabric or less.  A materials list will be available for download here soon.  A hotel list is available for download here as well.

All downloadable forms will be available on this page. We will update as needed.

If you still have an outstanding balance, please sent it to:

Kozy Kitty
P.O. Box 415
Savage, MD  20763

Note--Due to the financial constraints that many people face this time of year, we are happy to offer a 2 payment plan for those paying by check.  If you wish to take advantage of this, follow the paying by check instructions above but enclose a check for $50.  You will receive an email reminder the first week of January to mail your second payment of $60 by Jan. 25.

Hotel Information:

Click on link below for pdf hotel list.

Hotel List

Workshop Materials List:

Will be emailed to you directly.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

1790's Headdress -- a tutorial

Necessity is the mother of invention, or so they say.  When making preparations to attend a 1790's ball, it occurred to me that I didn't have the proper accessories to wear with my Chemise a la Reine as I had styled it from a portrait from 1783.  I originally made a lovely straw hat to wear with it during the day which you can see in this post.  I thought a headdress of some sort plus 1790's shoes were in order to wear to a ball that included an evening of English Country Dance.   I envisioned something with plumes that could be worn with my hedgehog wig.  I looked at some portraits:

I was particularly taken with the last portrait.  I love the wispiness of the sheer fabric along with the darker band and pearls.  I used this for my inspiration.    

For my project, I used the following materials:  Silk taffeta, silk gauze,  batting, glass pearls, wire, felt, ostrich plumes.  The first task was to measure the size of the band needed.  I blocked my wig on a head block which matches my size and measured.  I tamed the wig a bit with bobby pins and used a measuring tape to determine the size of the band.  It measured around 30 inches.

I rolled the thin batting to make a long solid tube around an inch in diameter by 30 inches long then stitched the tube closed.

Next, I folded the cut edge of my silk in by 1/4 inch and rolled it around the tube, pinning it in place.

I stitched the silk in place, connected the ends and sewed the silk closed.

The band is complete.  I checked to make sure the fit was correct.

Next I strung my glass pearls on a piece of beading wire.  At this point I wasn't sure how many beads I'd need so I figured I'd cut the wire long enough to be able to add more beads if I needed them.

I wrapped the beads around the fabric tube and twisted the wire ends together, hiding them in the folds of the fabric.

I placed the band on the wig again and used my measuring tape to try to "guesstimate" the size of the circle I would need for the sheer part of the headpiece.  This was definitely a situation of making it up as I went along!  I determined that I would need a 30 inch wide circle in order to have enough fabric to manipulate it into folds of some sort.

I pressed under 1/4 inch around the edge of the circle and pleated it to the headpiece.  I didn't measure the pleats, but they were quite deep--over an inch deep. When I was pleased with the pleating, I whip stitched it in place to the headpiece.

Here is the result so far.  The sheer part of the cap is very tall--much like a chef's hat!  Now it's time to manipulate it!

This part is hard to describe.  I pushed the center of the cap down and made random pleats with the fabric while the headpiece was on the wig.  I pinned each pleat in place.

Here you can see the pleats from the top. These pleats were just invisibly tacked in place rather than stitched down.

I knew that I'd need a way to secure the plumes so I made a half cockade.  I cut a strip of silk 4 - 5 inches wide, folded it in half lengthwise and pressed it.  I pleated the strip to form a half of a cockade and pressed it.  The pleats were then stitched in place from behind.

The inspiration portrait has 3 plumes:  two white ones with a black one in the middle on top of the white ones--so I decided to do something similar.  The plumes were curled so they did not stand up straight and positioned them the way I wanted them.  I had cut two pieces of blue felt into half circles smaller than my cockade.  The plumes were sandwiched between the felt pieces and stitched in place.

The cockade was stitched on top of the felt pieces, stitching under the pleats and along the bottom.

The plume assembly was then secured to the headpiece by tucking it in the headband and stitching it in place to the band.  This does leave it somewhat lose when wearing but I use pearl headed hat pins to secure it better to my hair.  The pins can be hidden in the folds of the fabric.

Here's a view from the top.

I also decided to add some shoe clips to my American Duchess Pemberly shoes.  I had previously worn my chemise with 1780's shoes and I wanted to dress up my plain Pemberly pair.

Materials for this project were scraps of heavy Pellon, 1.5 inch double faced silk satin ribbon, shoe clips.

I cut pieces of Pellon to the contour of the shoe for the base of the ornament.  I then gathered the ribbon as shown in this post.

The ends of the ribbon were tucked under and the gathered ribbon was tacked to the Pellon base. Three shoe clips were attached to make sure that the clips would be secure during a night of dancing.


Here are some pics from the ball showing the finished items!  

The complete outfit included the items made plus a blue silk sash, a lover's eye pendant (tutorial in this post) and white leather gloves.  Chemise a la Reine is worn over 18th century stays, Regency chemise and two white linen petticoats. Ties were added inside the side backs of the Chemise to draw up the train. Earrings are by Dames a la Mode.

I love having several sets of accessories to make this gown work for two different decades!