August 31, 2016

A Beribboned Cap

"A hat is a shameless flatterer, calling attention to an escaping curl, a tawny braid, a sprinkling of freckles over a pert nose, directing the eye to what is most unique about a face.  Its curves emphasize a shining pair of eyes, a lofty forehead; its deep brim accentuates the pale tint of a cheek, creates an aura of prettiness, suggests a mystery that awakens curiosity in the onlooker." 
- Jeanine Larmoth

Today's post is all about caps and offers a look into the construction of my most recent late-1820s to early-30s beribboned cap!  If you've been following my blog, you probably know by now that I love to roll hems and whip gathers...this project is no exception.  Featuring double ruffles (as well as a short back ruffle) and striped silk taffeta ties, there was plenty to hem and gather!  (See the beribboned cap in action here: The Flower - 1820s Photo Shoot)  

Historical Inspiration:  As always, before I begin a project, I look to historical examples - be it a painting, fashion plate or extant garment - for guidance and direction.  This particular project was part inspired by the following (as well as several other, similar Pinterest finds), and just the need to balance out the blossoming gigot sleeves of the era!

Portrait of a Lady by A. F. Lagrenee, c.1820s
Look at those FRILLS!
(Image via: Public Domain)

Cap c.1830
Accession Number:11.60.255
(Image via: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Cap c.1815-1820
Inspiration for wide striped ribbon...
(Image via: Pinterest

Completed Project Shots:  Per usual, the cap from every angle possible!

Front and center.

The front from more of a bird's-eye-view.

When I first completed the cap, I tried it on and instantly disliked it.  (My co-workers at the museum bore witness to my disappointment.)  It literally looked like the ruffles were consuming my head!  However, the addition of the side ribbons helped band down the ruffles just enough to still be fluffy, but not over-powering.  Long story short, I like it much better with the striped silk streamers!

Following historical examples, I ended up whipping a ruffle to the back too.

Construction Notes:  Entirely hand stitched using the period correct techniques of 1/16" rolled hems and rolled whipped gathers.  The cap is constructed in a single layer, featuring a double frills along the face edge and a single frill along the back casing.  Made from cotton lawn with 1/4" cotton twill tape utility ties and striped silk taffeta streamers. 

From the outside...

All laid out...ruffles! 

Side displayed flat.

On the inside...

Close up of the rolled whipped gathers.
Notice that the ruffle along the casing is separate from the ruffle along the band.
Also, here you can see how the silk streamers and utility ties were attached.  

Rows of ruffles...

Top view of double ruffles.

The second row of ruffles were whipped as the first, slightly offset.

Finishing ties...

Each of the silk ties were rolled with a 1/16" rolled hem to prevent fraying.
Note: silk taffeta is much harder to roll than cotton lawn!

Looking back, this might have been the most time consuming cap that I've tackled yet...but it was worth it!  Thank you for reading!

An Open Letter - La Vie Continue

With the fall semester upon us once again, I've been thinking a lot lately...I've kind of been in a slump recently, well all summer, with sewing and blogging.  There are dozens of drafts filling up my post queue, folders of pictures from this summer (and last semester) waiting to be sorted, sewing projects in various states strewn about - I just need to thread a needle, pick up a pen and get back into the swing of things!  Those are two of my goals for the sew daily - even if it's only a stitch or two - and to write daily - whether its for pleasure or for school.  Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more catch up posts (and a new living history series that I'm excited for) in September! 

So in the spirit of moving forward, I wrote an open letter.  As some of you may already know, before summer started, I made a practical choice.

To quote a favorite poet of mine, Robert Frost, In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life...

It's okay to change your mind.  Change it once, change it twice, or change it several times.  In high school I thought I had everything figured out - a straight line from graduation, to a top notch university with a scholarship, and then into that prestigious career - I laugh at it now.  Instead, I chose the road less traveled - a year and a half gap, a semester of college, and, now, into unknown.  But you know what, life goes on.  The path ahead is full of twists and turns, full of stops and starts, but giving up is not an option.  Not when there are so many hopes and dreams to catch.  

Point State Park fountain at sunset.

After a lot of deliberation, I made the difficult decision to leave Point Park University.  With it goes all of the good, all of the bad, my chance at a B.F.A. from their top rated theatre conservatory program, and my stay in a city that I've come to love.  It was not an easy decision to make.  However, in short, despite receiving nearly half in scholarship, I cannot justify the yoke of debt that I would be burdened with after graduation.  Especially when, more than anything, I hope to pursue an M.F.A degree in costume construction.

I'm a dreamer.  I know what I want to do so badly - to pursue costume construction for living history museums, theatre and film.  To lecture, to teach, to hold workshops, and to publish on costume history and construction.  Finding that right path to get there, however, has proven a harder challenge than I ever would have imagined.  I am determined to succeed though.  Giving up is not an option.   

SO listen up, future self, promise:

(1) To humble yourself.  Be grateful, and always treat people with kindness.

(2) To be patient.  Make smart decisions that place future happiness ahead of short term satisfaction.

(3) To take risks.  Overcome your fear of making mistakes that prevent you from taking advantage of opportunities.  

(4)  And finally, to be content in the present.  Stop dwelling on past mistakes and regretting what might have been.  Forgive and look to a better, brighter future.  

Cheers to what's to come next. 

Demain est un autre jour. 

August 18, 2016

Inside & Out: 1820s-for-20-Years Project

Right around this time last month, I put the finishing touches on my 1820s-for-20 years project.  It was meant to be completed by my birthday, which we celebrate on the 4th or 5th, however, fit issues with the bodice held me up.  Ignoring the perfectionist within, I finally added a panel to the back and called it finished!  So, tonight's post, as promised earlier, will detail constructing the project, inside and out.  (You can view the completed photo shoot here: The Flower - 1820s Photo Shoot.)

Starting with the inside...After researching (extant garments, historical sources, Pinterest for lots of pretty pictures), my first step for any new project is to look at the foundational garments.  Just as a building cannot stand without the proper, carefully measured and cut under-structure, no historical recreation would be complete without its undergarments.  For this late-1820s project, the first layer was a new shift using Sense & Sensibility's Regency Underthings Pattern:  Made from 100% cotton muslin.  

What made the pattern so useful was its directions on underarm gussets, specifically the order in which to flat fell the seams.  The underarm gussets really make a difference, allowing for a greater range of movement (compared to my mid-century yoked chemises).  I think I need to make several more of these now!

Sleeve and underarm gusset from the outside.

Flat felled gusset from the inside.

Flat felled gusset and sleeve from the inside.
Success to me is when the inside looks as nice as the outside!

The rest of my undergarments - corset, two tucked petticoats and a corded petticoat - were borrowed from my mid-century wardrobe.  However, unique to the late-20s and early-30s are the sleeve plumpers!  No day dress would be complete without the quirky fashion, sleeve puffs for the win!

Small plumpers of my own pattern, based off a basic sleeve shape.

Stuffed with cotton batting...They began to remind me of croissants!

Anyone else see the remarkable resemblance?!
(Image via: Wikimedia Commons)

They each feature a flat felled arm seam and three twill tape ties (stitched inside) that attach at the dress' sleeve seam:  

A puff right side up...

...And a puff upside down!

Then, onto the dress:  Made from a lightweight polka-dotted cotton (based on wear I'm wondering if there is some poly in it...sad face), lined in 100% cotton muslin and hem faced with left over tan cotton.  Combination of hand and machine stitched - machined interior bodice and long skirt seams.  

Here's one of several inspiration dresses:

Day dress of roller and block printed cotton, c.1830
(Image via: Cora Ginsburg, Pinterest)

So, I drafted the pattern for the dress myself, and some of it turned okay, and other parts not so much...feeling ambitious, I wanted a smoothly fitting, darted lining with a gathered front.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, not so much...

The lining went together well.  I was so proud of those darts!  But then I realized that the bodice was much to long, especially with a wide I chopped off two inches all the way around:

The results after draping the darts on myself.

But, somehow between the mock up and the fashion fabric, something went awry!  The fashion front didn't want to gather the way I had hoped, and may have been too long for the lining because it pigeons out oddly.  Fail.   

Dress front: The bodice is gathered at the waist and at the neckline,
which features a piped facing to bind the edge.

Dress front lining.  But hey, those darts look nice!

And, worst of all, the bodice somehow shrunk!  It ended up being too small, grrr, so I added a small flap to extend the back.  Fail.  

Dress back: note also that the shoulder seams are piped.

The back closes with seven metal hooks and thread eyes.

The skirt (about 130" around) is gauged and whipped onto the waistband.

Moving onto the sleeves, they ended up a bit snug, but do the job!

Sleeve: armseye and long sleeve seam are piped.
The wrist opening is split and finished with a piped facing.

Inside: Tapes are added at the armseyes to tie the sleeve plumpers in place.
Also provides a good look at the back extension piece.

And finally, the hem facing!  I like adding deep hem facings, they're easy, relaxing, and never fail you:

Ending with accessories:  Often overlooked, accessories can make or break an outfit!  Or in this case, hide the panel extension in the back...For this project, I ended up making a pelerine, wide silk belt, and beribboned cap (featured in a post to come). 

The pelerine was simple:  Flat lined in tan cotton, bound with bias from the fashion fabric.  The neckline is bound with a rectangle ripped on the grain and closed with a hook and thread eye.  Entirely hand stitched. 

Pelerine front: note that the top had to be pieced.

Pelerine back. 

The belt was also a satisfying project:  Made from striped silk taffeta, flat lined with bleached cotton muslin, and interlined with cotton drill.  Closes with two metal hooks and thread eyes, entirely hand stitched.

And, just for fun, I noticed for the first time when I wore the dress in the Foster-Tufts House that this lady wore a belt much like mine!

Portrait in the Foster-Tufts House parlor. 

And, that should do it for tonight's post and look inside and out at the construction of the 1820s-for-20-years project!  Now, onto the next dress...

Thank you for reading!