Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Modest Gold Pannier

I have made a lot of 18th century skirt supports. A lot. I've made and taken apart at least four sets of small to moderately sized panniers, and yelled many unspeakable things at pocket hoops. (For some reason, I've never had any luck making a set of pocket hoops that aren't completely terrible. They're evil.)

I've been trying to perfect a set of modest panniers for a while now. I've made several versions, but there's always something I don't like about them - they either aren't wide enough or they're too wide, the boning doesn't lay right or it twists in the channel, or some other problem. Earlier this year, I made a new set of panniers for a dressing demo, and while they had a few problems, I did love the proportions on me. I felt like I had finally managed to find the right set of measurements that flattered my size and height without being too wide for informal outfits or too small for my personal tastes.

But, as you can see below, they had issues. Because I made them in a rush, I had accidentally sewn the diagonal boning channels to the wrong part of the panel (on the center and back instead of on the sides) which made it do weird and terrible things. I also hadn't made the top yoke deep enough at the center front and back, which made it sag below my waist line. It was not a good look.

Yeah. With all that wackiness going on, those panniers weren't going to last long, so I decided to try and remake the same pattern in better materials, and with better construction. I had a ton of this pale gold taffeta in my fabric stash, so I decided to use it so I could make something really flashy and neat without having to worry about running out of fabric.

I used a couple of different resources to help pattern out the new set of panniers. As with the wonky set, I used the diagrams from the marquise.de to draft out the body of the panniers, paying much closer attention to the original measurements on the drawing. The top yoke is based off the one on the website, and the Simplicity grand panniers pattern, as well as measuring the parts of the previous yoke that fell short and compensating for them accordingly. The old pannier yoke didn't quite come up to meet my waist, and would hang very low when I had the pannier on, so that definitely needed to be worked out.

I drafted everything directly onto the taffeta fabric. Once I had my pieces cut out, I sewed one of the long seams, and stitched the yoke to the top of the body, finishing all the seams by flat felling them.

I kept one seam open to make it easy to add the boning channels. On advice, I used twill tape instead of bias tape for the channels. Big mistake! The twill tape stretched, warped, puckered, and was generally completely unruly. I had to pin it to within an inch of its life to make sure it didn't squirm all over the place. But, eventually, I had my three boning channels sewn in place.

I hemmed the bottom, and added some bias tape to the top edge to form a drawstring channel for the waist. I had to wait to finish the boning channels because I didn't buy enough twill tape on my first visit to the store, but once that was installed, I was ready to finish up.

The diagonal tapes need to sit behind the uppermost horizontal boning channel so they have some reinforcement and don't damage the skirt fabric or stick out weirdly.

I sewed up the other seam in the body of the panniers, leaving a gap at the boning channels. I had to add my second diagonal channel after closing this seam since the channel runs directly over the side seam. If I end up making another set, I think I'll put the seams at the center front and center back, rather than at the side, so I can install both diagonal channels while the body of the panniers is flat and open, rather than having to wrestle with the completely sewn pannier. It wasn't a difficult thing to do it the way I did it this time, it just could have gone a lot faster if I had done it the other way.

Once all of the boning channels were stitched, I salvaged the boning from the wonky hoop and inserted it into the new panniers.

The final step was to add the interior tapes that would pull the pannier into shape. I pinned them into place first and played with their placement until I had everything just like I wanted. Then I stitched them all into place.

And voila! A finished pannier! I may take up the yoke a bit if I find that the silhouette is too low on the sides. I have a few new petticoats to make, so once I see how they effect the silhouette, then I'll decide if I need to raise the sides.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Blue & Gold 18th Century Shoes

I am so excited to finally have this project under my belt! It was a pretty spur of the moment decision to finally tackle it, too. I bought a pair of ugly, ugly shoes on eBay and intended to put them on a shelf and wait until the summer to work on them, when events tend to slow down and I don't have to sew for certain occasions. But I couldn't wait! I was so eager to try my hand at this that I just dove in and started.

I've wanted to try my hand at something like this for a long time. I've seen people do some amazing shoe transformations, taking some absolutely hideous old shoes from ebay and the like, and turning them into stunning 18th century confections of brocade and ruffles and awesomeness.

Well, I finally did it. I finally just buckled down, bought a pair of horrendous eBay shoes of my own, and turned them into something historical. Behold, the ugly.
So, so ugly. They're brown faux snake skin, with these stupid seams on the side fronts. The only good thing about them is the heel, as it's a fairly decent Louis-esque heel. I tried them on as soon as they came in, and while they were okay in length, my toes felt like they were in a vice because the shoes were so narrow. The stupid seams on the toe ended up coming in handy, because I could snip them open and insert some leather to widen the toe. This improved the fit immensely, though it didn't look very pretty.

At this point, I started to pattern the covers for the shoe, using a plain muslin. This turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated, and it took over an hour to drape a pattern for the toe alone. Eventually, I did get a pattern that I was happy with, but it certainly wasn't a piece of cake.

Once I had the pattern together, I ripped the rest of the shoes apart, taking off the heel tip and gently prying off the sole, and cut the covers out of the fashion fabric. I've had this fabric in my Stash for a long time. It's been a saque, an Italian Renaissance gown, and now it's going to be these shoes and a new set of stays. This fabric has had many lives!

I positioned the toe pattern so it would showcase the big rose design you see above. The point at the bottom is at the toe.

I have read several different blogs of people that had remade shoes the way I'm doing it, and there are a couple of options to make the additional pieces like the tongue and the latchets. I decided the most sturdy would be to use a thin leather, so I picked up a hide at my local leather shop that was fairly thin and had few blemishes.

I cut the tongue from the leather and glued it on to the top edge of the front. Then I found a thin part of the leather and added it to the back so the interior would be nice and neat looking.

I wung the heel by cutting a large piece on the bias, coating the heel with glue, and then coaxing the fabric around the heel so it was covered evenly and there were no bubbles. Then I trimmed away the excess.

Once the toe was covered and the glue holding the tongue on was set, I covered the toe with the fashion fabric. I was worried that the snake skin texture would show through, but the damask was thick enough that it wasn't a problem.

To fit the toe, I ran a simple line of gathering stitches, spread glue on the toe of the shoe, and gathered the fabric to fit. It required a little bit of coaxing to get it to lay flat against the toe without any puckers, but eventually I had the toe smoothed down and looking neat.

Next was the back of the shoe. I aligned the latchets so they laid the way I wanted them and smoothed them back to the center back of the shoe. There was some excess, which I trimmed away, and then I glued down the fabric in the back.

I cut out a piece of leather, slightly larger than my latchet (I knew the fabric would move and stretch a bit, so I wanted to make sure there was some wiggle room to glue down the latchet fabric), and glued it to the front where there would be the most strain. Then I trimmed the leather down so it would be the same size as the fabric.

Once I was satisfied with the position and size of the latchets, I glued them down the rest of thew way.

To bind the edges, I used a narrow cotton twill tape that I dyed to match the fabric. Since the cotton didn't have the sheen of the damask I couldn't get it to match exactly, but I didn't worry about it too much since I knew it would be covered in trim.

I decided that, in order to avoid the glue becoming messy, that I would spread the glue on the tape and then apply the tape to the edge rather than apply the glue to the shoe. This ended up working really well. I clamped down the tape with little clips which helped to get a nice firm seal.

I added the bias tape to the edge of the tongue and all the way around the edges of the latchets and the top of the shoe.

At this point, I reattached the sole. I should have waited until I had the remainder of the trim added, but I was impatient and wanted to see how it would look all finished up. I started at the back by the heel and worked forward, adding glue liberally. Then I wrapped the shoe in strong rubber bands so it would hold the sole down while the glue set.

I wanted to add some gold trim to the edges to make the shoe a bit more blingy (even though the fabric itself is already pretty blingy), and I did some searching but didn't find anything I really liked. I eventually did order some trim off of ebay, but I misread the width and it turned out to be waaay too wide to use. I ended up buying a gold metallic net trim at Joann's, which was, well, not the greatest looking stuff.

I ended up cutting off the scalloped edges and using just those for my trim, and discarding the rose motif in the center.

I glued this down on top of the twill tape.

Then I repeated everything with the other shoe! The second shoe went much faster than the first, since there was a learning curve the first time around. It definitely came out better, too, and I know now what to do and what to avoid for the next pair. I think I'll do a pink pair for my next ones!

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Embroidered Stomacher - Finished!

It's been quite some time since I started this project. It's been languishing in the UFO pile for a while, asking to be finished, but I never just sat down and got it done. I've had quite a bit of down time recently as I wait for a new job to start up, so I decided it was finally time to go back and finish it!

The last time I looked at the project, the embroidery had been finished, but that was where I had stopped. There was still quite a bit to do, as I had chosen a rather involved piece to try and copy. I was planning to simplify the original a bit, though - I didn't like the little dinky tabs at the bottom, so I was definitely going to leave those off, and I wanted to simplify the shape of the bottom to bring it forward a couple of decades (the original is dated 1730s - 40s) and make it appropriate for the more 1760s-ish wardrobe I have.

The first thing I had to do was cut out lining for the main section. I used a less-fine linen for the lining since it wouldn't be showing.

I bound the edges of the main section with narrow bias tape to finish the raw edges without losing any width. 

Next I needed to create the side sections. I had previously cut out a second copy of the main section from my fine linen, but I didn't have any more left, so I had to improvise a little. I cut out another copy of the main section for the rougher linen, and then I cut the fine linen and the rough linen copy in half to create the side sections. I stitched the rough linen to the fine linen, right sides together, turned them out, and pressed them.

The original stomacher had gold trim on it, but for some reason, I thought it was tarnished silver, so I bought a silver braided trim to use on mine. I don't know why I thought that because the original is clearly a dark gold, but for whatever reason, silver stuck in my head. That's part of the reason it took me forever to find a trim I liked, too. It's so hard to find a metallic trim that doesn't look tacky or plastic-y! This one combined a dark grey fabric braid with a tiny bit of metallic trim, so it didn't look outrageously modern or plastic.

I pinned the trim along the edge of the flaps and along the top and bottom edges of the main section, and sewed it down by hand.

Once that was done, I added the line of stitching on the outside of the trim, just under half an inch from the edge of the trim. On the original this line was actually functional and secured the side section to the main body, but the main part of my stomacher was so narrow that I wasn't going to be able to maintain a straight line while stitching the sections together, so my stitching is purely decorative. I did a simple backstitch by hand.

The most time consuming part (after the embroidery) was adding the eyelets. There are twelve on each side, one inch apart, and they are only a quarter inch wide so they fit between the stitching and the trim. I used a jewelry jump ring as reinforcement for the hole and stitched around with a whip stitch.

I didn't take any pictures of it, but I stitched the sides to the main section by whip stitching the lining of the sides to the bias tape edging the main section. After that, I turned in the edges of the side section and stitched them closed, and added tabs to the edges.

As you can see, the shape changed quite a bit once I turned in the edges. I actually had to trim down the side sections because the top of the stomacher ended up super wide, which changed the overall shape of the piece. But, that's okay with me. I'm still really happy with how it turned out.

Once it was all assembled, all that remained was to lace the silver cording through the eyelets. Since the cording is rather elastic, I had to pin the stomacher to the ironing board cover so it wouldn't draw the sides together while I was lacing it.

And it's finished! I'm so happy to be able to scratch this off my list of UFOs, and I finally have a functional stomacher! I can't wait to wear this with a gown. I think it will be a really versatile piece that I'll be able to wear with a lot of different things.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

A Blue Chintz 18thC Gown

I didn't actually plan to make this dress. I knew I needed a new 18thC dress for an upcoming dress talk at a local library, and I had a few things up on the drawing board, and one by one, those things started to prove more involved than I anticipated. I was actually about halfway through a new caraco before I decided to switch gears and make this. The caraco just did not want to cooperate. I used the Janet Arnold pattern, the same one I used for the Curtain Along Caraco, as my guide, but absolutely nothing went right. The bodice wrinkled in weird ways, the skirtings didn't want to sit right, and with just three yards of fabric to work with, I had absolutely no room to rework any flubs or mistakes that might have been made. I decided that, instead of hammering away at it and trying to squeeze it in before a tight deadline, I would set it aside and take my time reworking it when I didn't have to have it finished in time for an event. By the time I came to that decision, it was only a couple of weeks until the talk, and I still didn't have anything to wear!

I hit all the local fabric stores, but things either didn't work or were too expensive. (Another reason I sidelined the caraco - I couldn't find a red satin for the petticoat that matched the fabric I was using on the caraco.) I was on the verge of using something in the Stash that I'd earmarked for something else, when the clouds parted and a beam of light shone down on a bolt of fabric in Walmart. Yes, Walmart.

I had seen it before and knew that I wanted to use it for something 18thC, but I didn't know quite what. Thankfully, there was just enough on the bolt, about 8 yards, to eek out a gown if I made a contrasting petticoat.

I dug out the last bodice pattern that I made that worked and used it to cut out a lining from plain cotton muslin. Then I started on the gown, making an en forreau pleated back and fitted front. Since I actually had a decent amount of fabric to work with, I could actually make the skirt as full as I wanted, rather than simply scrimping by.

Before completing the rest of the gown, I decided to switch gears and work on the petticoat. I took a swatch to the store and began holding it up to fabrics to see what worked, and fell in love with a mustard colored cotton. I bought enough to make a nice full petticoat to go over my new panniers.

With that finished, I went back to working on the gown. I finished the front, added the sleeves, and finished the straps.

I spent the day before the lecture finishing the trim and stomacher. The trim was hemmed and gathered on the machine, but tacked onto the dress by hand. For as little time I had available, I'm really proud of how much hand-sewing went into this dress. The long seams on the inside and the hidden seams in the bodice are sewn on the machine, but the pleating on the back, the shoulder straps, the trim, and the lining at the bodice waist is all done by hand.

I literally finished this dress about 5 minutes before I left for the lecture. I'm actually super happy with this dress - it fits perfectly, looks great, and is actually 100% complete, unlike most of my gowns, which usually have some quick fix in the stomacher or no waistband on the petticoat or something.

I also had to make all new undies for this outfit, which also cut down on the amount of time I had to work on the gown itself. I made a new pannier, a new under-petticoat, a new shift, and new engageantes out of this fabulous embroidered net lace that I found at one of our local fabric warehouses.

The dress talk went incredibly well. I hate public speaking, but it was a subject I was really comfortable talking about, and I had a great audience that came loaded with tons of questions. They were super interested in the clothing and beauty trends of the 18th century, and even though it was just a general overview of fashion, I feel like people went away knowing more about a period that I love and that's very popular in television and film right now.