Wednesday, October 17, 2018

WWI Centenniel--Hello Girl uniform upgrade

I made my Hello Girl uniform this past spring, however it was lacking a proper shirtwaist and the patches/medals.   I started with the shirtwaist.  In looking a numerous photos, it appears that there were several styles of shirtwaists worn which leads me to believe that it was not a standard part of the uniform issued to the women.  I noted different collar and cuff styles so I decided to make the Wearing History Elsie blouse pattern which is a fairly basic shirtwaist with a shaped cuff.  I made the blouse as the pattern indicated using a cotton sateen and turn of the (20th) century mother of pearl buttons from my stash.  It went together quite quickly.  One small change I made after watching the Wearing History video about this pattern was to use a casing rather than a waist stay.  I simply sewed single fold bias tape to the stay line and used 1/4 inch cotton tape in the casing.  I was pleased with the way this turned out and I feel I can use it with other skirts from this era.

I also decided not to line the jacket as my research shows them to be unlined.  I just added seam binding to all raw edges and called it a day.


Next--I needed to add the various patches and pins to the uniform.  I was copying the uniform of Grace Banker below.  


I searched Ebay and found a number of chevrons for the lower sleeve but wasn't sure which style.  I did some research and found that gold chevrons indicated service overseas.  I also noted that there were different styles of the chevrons--the were constructed different ways.  This link explained that how the chevrons were made simply depended on the tailor shop that was making them.  Each base had it's own and the stripes were issued to the commanding officer in rolls.  Individual stripes were cuff off and given to those who earned them.  I was able to find old new WWI stock with bullion embroidery so I bought those.

Next was the various patches.  It's s hard to know the colors with black and white photography.  The patch at the top of the shoulder is a WWI 3rd Army Patch which I found out by looking at collector sites.  It seemed easy enough to reproduce that one.  The second patch is a Signal Corps rank patch.  That one wasn't so easy because I could not find one for a Hello Girl uniform anywhere.  I only found them for men's uniforms which had a khaki ground.  They had the same design so I figured I'd have to make one.  Not knowing what color to use for the embroidery, I went with khaki.  I found a lot of info at this link which also includes info on the arm brassards that are seen in some pics.  My goal is to eventually make one of those as well.

I bought some printable dissolving paper and printed out pics of the patches I wanted to reproduce.  I found the dimensions of the 3rd Army patch on a sale listing so that one was easy.  I had to create the other one based on the size it looks in the pic.  Here's what I had to work with:  photos, tracing paper, dissolving paper.

I used some of my worsted and backed it with fusible hair canvas then I pinned the dissolving paper to the front.

I used zig zag embroidery to create the design.

I pulled away the excess paper and there was a lot of paper left under the embroidery which caused it to have "fuzzies."  I ended up soaking it in the sink to dissolve the paper.

The rank patch was actually easier as far as getting rid of the fuzzies was concerned as the embroidery wasn't as dense.  I hemmed the edges of that patch

Here they are on the sleeve.

I also was able to find an Army Distinguished Service Medal.  They've looked the same since 1918.  The difference between the more modern ones and the WWI medals is the pen mechanism so I decided not to worry about that. 

I also found 2 original collar tacks on Ebay.  They were missing the back piece but modern ones from the craft store fit them perfectly.

Here is part of my Hello Girl Display with the switchboard which was one of the props used in the Hello Girl documentary film.  This was at our Maryland State DAR WWI Centenniel for Founders Day.

The switchboard itself was new--made from photos--but the earpiece and microphone were originals.


Here is my display which has photos and copies of original documents as well as part of the history.

Our wonderful Maryland State Historian had buttons made for each of the stations and she had brochures that we designed printed as well.  Attendees were given bags to put their goodies in.

Our historian also wrote a skit in which each of us gave a presentation.  Here we are at the end after taking our bows.

And--we had a photo area with a WWI reenactor.

I'm really pleased with the way this uniform turned out.  It was completed with the gas mask bag (I still need a gas mask) and the helmet which each Hello Girl was issued.  I'll be reprising this role at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on Veterans Day, which I'm really looking forward to.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

18th Century Basic Hand Sewing Workshop Registration



This workshop will be on Saturday November 10, 2018 
from 10 am to 2 pm 


Laurel Pool Room 
9th and Main Streets
Laurel, MD 20707

This is a basic hand sewing workshop in which participants will learn the basic hand stitches used in 18th century garment construction. This is scheduled prior to the February winter workshop series in order to help those who may need some practice with basic stitches prior to that workshop. Participants not attending in February are welcome as well. Participants will create samples of the following: running stitch, back stitch, prick stitch, whip stitch, applique stitch, Point a Rabattre sous la Main stitch, English stitch --to be used for reference when making 18th century garments.

Participants will be supplied with a materials pack and will need to bring basic sewing supplies:  scissors, needles, thread (any colors), pins

Beverages and paper goods will be supplied and we will have a sign up sheet for food to be shared which will be posted on the event page.

The fee for this workshop is $25 and participation is limited to 25 students.

Please fill out registration form here and pay below.




Once tickets sell out,  Paypal will redirect you to this page.


Friday, September 7, 2018

1810's Seagrass Poke Bonnett

Last year I made an 1810's gown and spencer that needs some sort of bonnet.  Given that I was planning to wear this outfit to the Battle of North Point reenactment Labor Day weekend, I figured that now was as good of a time as any to make one.  I had purchased a seagrass capeline from Judith M. Millinery months ago a figured I'd start with that.  I wanted the bonnet to have olive green trim to go with this outfit and another gown yet to be made.  For those not familiar, a capeline is an unsized hat blank.  They are extremely floppy and do require stiffening.  I wet the crown of the capeline and saturated it with spray starch then stretched it over one of the forms I use--this one is a 3 - 5 pound coffee can.  I stuck it out in the sun to dry.


Here is what it looked like when it dried.

I used steam to flatten the brim as much as I could and played around with it while it was on my head, pinching out various amounts of fullness on the brim then marking the amount that I pinched out.  Then I cut that part of the brim away and cut about a 3 inch slit along the crease between the crown and the brim.

I pinned the loose ends of the brim in place;.

Using a zig zag stitch, I stitched the brim in place and trimmed the excess away on the right side.

Here is what it looked like at that point.

I saturated the crown with spray starch again and blocked it once more.

It's starting to take the right shape thought it's still not as stiff as it needs to be.


Getting there!  The edge of the brim needs some support.

I stitched some heavy millinery wire to the edge of the brim using a zig zag stitch.

I also made a ring of wire and stitched it in the base of the crown for support.

Much better!  The bonnet is now ready for trimming and lining.

I had some extra olive green silk so I used that to bind the edge of the brim and I wrapped two pieces around the crown with the long edges folded under and stitched it in place.  I also made a large cockade and stitched it on the side front.  I didn't have any button molds so I used a large plastic button and a little fiberfill to fill in the indentation in the front and covered it in the same silk.

It was completed with 3 very small ostrich plumes I had on hand.  I didn't use a fabric liner like I normally do.  I had a crown that I had cut off of a straw hat that I bound with petersham ribbon and just inserted inside.  This helped to stiffen up the bonnet.

Front view:

And here it is with the gown!

I was pleased with the way this turned out.  The seagrass gives it a nice summery look which I like.  It fits well without any ties and I didn't need a hat pin!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Edwardian underpinnings: Wearing History Chemise

The second piece of my Edwardian underpinnings!  Typically I would start with the chemise but I did the corset first which you can see in the last post.  I went with the Wearing History 1917 Combination Underwear and Chemise pattern.   I really like Wearing History patterns.  They are actual antique/vintage patterns that have been graded to include a full range of sizes.  The original pattern markings, seam allowances etc are still used--basically the pattern is as the original but with all of the sizes.  The instructions have also been annotated.  You will see the notes added to the original instructions.  I find the old patterns to be really sensible in that they include different seam allowances for different seams.  The seams that are most likely to be used for fine tuning fit (side seams, shoulder seams) are typically 3/4 inch whereas other seams are 3/8 inch.  After looking at the different views of the chemise, I thought I would do the first one with lace beading trim on the neck but with no crotch piece.  I decided on white Swiss batiste and French Valenciennes lace beading and a small edging. Fine lightweight cotton sewing thread like Madiera cotton was used for heirloom stitching.

The garment is basically shaped like a typical tank top only ver loose.  The back has a center back seam with an inverted pleat.
I used tiny French seams on my back and side seams.  The center of the back pleat was actually placed on the fabric fold.  I finished the top of the pleat on the inside so as not to have raw edges.


Once the side, back and shoulder seams were stitched, it was time to finish the neckline, armholes, and hem.  I wanted to use heirloom sewing techniques.  Most machines with a decent stitch selection have stitches suitable for making machine hemstitches.  The trick to getting a good hemstitch is to use a stitch that goes in and out of the same holes a number of times, leaving a hole in the fabric.  I decided on pin stitch which could be represented by stitch #15 or #120.  Stitch #15 is really more like a blanket stitch.  Stitch #120 stitches over each line several times.   A lot of the stitches below are suitable for heirloom sewing applications.

Another necessity is a wing needle.  The wide flat needle makes a larger hole in the fabric.

You can see the samples below.  The one on the left is stitch 15 which smaller holes.  The one on the right is stitch 120.  I found that my machine skipped a bit when doing this.


I experimented with putting tissue paper under the fabric and that helped.  Then I found a product online --carried by Amazon--that is made specifically for this problem.  It's called Stitch & Ditch Heirloom.  It looks like a roll of adding machine tape but it's more of a tissue paper thickness and it comes in different widths.  I just lay the roll in front of the machine and let it unroll as I stitched.  It was much more manageable than cutting strips of tissue.

The first task was to stitch the beading on.  The beading was placed face down on the right side of the fabric, offset by a little under 1/8 of an inch.  Using an open toed embroidery foot, I set the machine for a somewhat narrow zig zag in which the left swing of the needle went through a hole in the lace and the right swing of the needle swung over the edge.  By holding the fabric edge up with my finger, the zig zag stitches cause it to roll like a tiny roll hem.  You basically end up with a roll whipped seam!

Here is the wrong side when the lace is opened out.

Here is the right side.

Next comes the pin stitching.  I used Stitch #120 and sewed next to the lace with the right swing of the needle hitting the lace.

Next I added the lace edging to the beading. To do this, but the edge of the beading and the edge of the edging together and stitch with a small zigzag.

The white stitches disappear into the lace.

I stitched the lace edging to the armhole edge using the same technique but I opted for stitch 15 for the hemstitching on this edge as I thought the smaller holes looked better with the more delicate lace.


The hem was finished in the same manner.

Ribbon was threaded through the beading and tied in front.  Here's the back neckline:

Back of the chemise:

Front neckline:

Chemise full length:

This was an easy little project and I enjoyed doing the small amount of heirloom stitching--something that I hadn't done in many years.  If you are interested in learning how to do heirloom sewing by machine, I highly recommend this book which has everything you could possibly want to know on the subject and more!