Friday, July 10, 2015

Pattern Review: J.P. Ryan Caraco

This review is posted on  I've furnished more pics here.

1. What is the inspiration for your design?
My husband and I are 18th century reenactors. I wanted to make something to wear to Mt. Vernon for our July 4 reenactment that was sort of red, white and blue. When I read about this contest, I figured that I could wait to start the outfit on July 1 because the pattern was very basic. I focused on making all my accessories before that date.

2. In what year / decade / era does your design originate? (Estimates are just fine; no need to be scientifically precise!)

Since this was for July 4, I was aiming for the Georgian era--specifically 1776.

3. Why did you choose this design?
I like this type of jacket and didn't want to make a full gown. This is a middle class garment which was the type of person I was portraying. As reenactors, we focus on historical accuracy and I chose a design that was appropriate and fabric that was accurate. The only thing not historically accurate is the machine stitching which cannot be seen as it is encased between the lining and outer fabric and the hook and eye tape which was used for convenience. The fabric is a cotton from a supplier in Williamsburg that was researched from an extant garment of the period. The outer petticoat is 100% linen.

4. Where will this design be worn?
This design will first be worn at Mt. Vernon on July 4.

5. Was this design created for yourself or someone else?


6. If you used any vintage techniques or fabrics please tell us about them.
The fabrics are not vintage but they are historically accurate.

7. If you started with a pattern, identify the pattern. If you started with a photo of a design, you are encouraged to include the photo.

The caraco is made from J.P. Ryan's caraco pattern and the petticoat was made following the tutorial at this website:

8. What fabric and trims did you use?

The caraco is made from a cotton chintz from Burnley and Trowbridge and it is based on a historical garment in their collection. It is lined with a 50/50 lightweight cotton/linen blend from Joann Fabrics. The petticoat is made from midweight 100% linen from The sleeve ruffles are made of Italian cotton organdy from Wm. Booth Draper. The petticoat is bound with linen tape and the buttons on the caraco are bone button moulds also from Burnley and Trowbridge.

9. What was the most challenging aspect of your design?

This was an extremely easy pattern to make. Basically the lining and outer fabric are constructed in their entirety then sewn together and turned. The most challenging thing wth 18th century garments is fit. Since this closes with hooks and eyes in the center front, it has to fit exactly right. Fortunately J.P. Ryan patterns are very consistent and I've made others so I flat measured the pattern, made adjustments on the pattern, cut the lining out and constructed it first to try on. It was perfect so I did the same for the outer fabric. This was a 1 day project for the most part. Due to time constraints, I chose to forego making handrolled/stitched hems on the sleeve ruffles and chose to finish them with pinked scallops which was a common treatment at the time. Examples of garments with this type of finish can be seen in many museums.

A word about fitting J.P. Ryan patterns:  measure over your stays.  The patterns are designed for a body that fits the given measurements.  Size 8 is for a 34 inch bust and 26 inch waist.  I measure 34 and 28 but in my stays, my waist is 30.  I find that I have to add 4 inches to the waist for the patterns to fit.  They are very accurate.  The sleeves also run very slim.

Here is the closure of the false stomacher.  I added linen buckram to make it nice and stiff. 

The sleeve ruffles were finished with pinked scallops in lieu of hand rolled hems.

The buttons were made using bone button moulds which is historically accurate.  I actually prefer these to the modern fabric covered buttons.

The petticoat is pleated so that the box pleat is the width of the caraco stomacher front.  It is bound with linen tape.  The side seams were machine stitched, the pocket edges, pleats, binding and hem were all hand stitched.

I made the accessories before the outfit which included this silk lined/trimmed straw hat.  I love these little Georgian hats and I've made several of them.   I'll post a tutorial at some point.

A French style souvenir fan with pictures of Mt. Vernon and George and Martha Washington.

Miniature portrait jewelry.  The larger one is on a red silk bow which is pinned to the front of the jacket.  Both portraits are reductions of period paintings of George Washington.

Here are some pics of the outfit as worn July 4 at Mt. Vernon.

So far this is my favorite 18th century garment.   It's very comfortable, fits perfectly and fits the period I''m portraying very well.

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