Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Making a Regency petticoat from B6074, Part 1: Patterning

So there are a lot of really costume-y non historically-accurate early 19th century style patterns out there, especially from the Big 3 lines, or whatever the costumer nickname for them is. To be honest though, not all of them should be immediately written off, and some are much better than others... and I'm especially inclined to modify and work with something that is halfway there if I can literally just pop over to the store and get it on sale for $5. Butterick 6074 has interested me since it came out a couple of years ago, and I finally had occasion to buy a copy last month. It's a little bit of a mixed bag, but there were certain details of cut that seemed inspiring: observe the straight back seams on all three garments- these tend to be rather common in extant Regency garments, instead of the usual princess-seam backs you find on a lot of costume-Regency patterns from the Butterick/McCalls group. The spencer also looks like it has a decent cut, with the shoulder seams placed on the back. It's a broader sort of back, and the sleeves probably should be placed a bit farther back for a more historical- looking cut, but I think in general the pattern could work decently for Regency.  It comes with the same quirks as many historical patterns from the big companies- loads of ease, and cut for a figure without stays- as well as the classic armscye-sleevecap problems in the sleeved garment sections. However, with some prudent measuring, good fitting, and basic pattern alteration skills, I think these can easily be overcome.
Those back seams. So nice. Also I drew in the sb seams in black on view B, so you get an idea of what we're gonna do with it! Image source:

Anyway, on to the point of this post: making a Regency petticoat (with bodice) from this pattern. I used option B for the petticoat I made. This is a pretty simple-looking little design, with separate shoulder straps, which makes fitting a little easier. Also, as an fyi before we jump in, I'm going to completely disregard all the instructions and only use the pattern shapes themselves. I will also be adding notes in *italics, set between asterisks like this*. They are for further explanation of why certain things are done, for the benefit of anyone who is kind of confused and needs more details was to why I'm doing certain things- read or ignore them as you wish, if they are helpful or not.

In looking at this pattern, the first thing to note is that it contains overlay pieces and lining pieces for each gown. This means that if you follow the instructions, you are creating a fully-lined garment- the lining of which essentially does the job of the petticoat. Thus, in order to make only the petticoat, we need to collect all the lining pieces of the bodice- we will need pieces 5, 6, 7, 8, 12 and 13.

Now you will realise that the shoulder strap comes in two pieces... and it's called a "yoke" in the pattern description. Bizarre. Why divide into a two-piece yoke what should evidently be a single-piece strap? It is much easier and slightly more attractive to make it a single shoulder strap- so let's turn it into one. To make this a shoulder strap, draw a line 3/4" in from the edge of pieces 12 and 13 where they should be attached. Match them up so that these lines are sitting on top of each other. *explanation: you do this because the original pattern drafter has added the standard seam allowance on all sides of each pattern piece, with the intention that you will sew the two pieces together. Given that we’re only going to cut this in one piece though, and not two, this means that if you put the pieces together end to end as they are, you would end up with a strap that is 1.5" longer than it's supposed to be.*

Pattern pieces 12 and 13 attached to form the strap.

Lay your pattern pieces (including your newly-altered yoke single strap) and make a mock-up. Now is the stage when you can decide if you want major drawstring gathering on your petticoat, or if you want something fitted. *Fit it more closely if you want it fitted, or more loosely if you want it gathered.* You may have to take out a lot if you want it fitted- my back panel ended up quite tiny by the time I was done fitting it.

*I have not mentioned the skirt pattern at all because technically we don't need a pattern for this- and the pattern shape in this envelope is mostly a rectangle anyway, and not very flattering given the way they've gathered it on the envelope. You could use the pattern they give you and just adjust the gathers in whatever way you feel suits you best (concentrating your fullest pleats or gauging at the back is always a good option). Alternately, you can just measure out however many widths of fabric work best for you, or cut a gored skirt, with a slightly a-line panel inserted in the sides, and a rectangle in back. The latter is more work and less alterable, obviously, but it is also a very pretty shape. From what I understand (though I haven't gotten to personally study any originals yet) early 19th century skirts are actually fairly big- many hems appear to measure from around 85" to 100"!*

I'll be following up in another post about how I constructed my petticoat with the resulting pattern pieces!

NOTE: I am not  in any way paid or otherwise remunerated to promote Butterick's patterns- I just thought this would be a useful guide using a pattern which is easily accessible to many people, and I hope it's helpful!

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Regency stays, design and alteration

First thing on a list of things to make in a Regency outfit- stays. I was actually terrified by the thought of making these up, because, coming from 18th century costuming, I was convinced that gussets must be evil and extremely difficult to sew. I maintain this view to some extent, but understand now that they are completely feasible, and not a corsetry nightmare.

For starters, some lovely extant stays from the era! Image sources left to right: Museum at FIT: ; Augusta Auctions, Tasha Tudor collection: ; Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Image source:
After looking through several sites devoted to fitting and making up Regency stays*, or documenting other costumers' attempts at stays, I decided to go with long stays. I mean, I actually do want to be able to dance in these things, so yes thanks, I'll take all the support I can get. I decided to use the pattern in Hunnisett’s Period Costume for Stage and Screen vol. 3, because it was easily accessible to me, and has a great variety of pattern diagrams. I scanned the diagram for the stays, sized it up to scale in MS office and printed it off.

I made the mockup and was upset to find that the bust gussets simply did not fit. The gusset length was way too short. Now everybody says, "yeah, the gussets are supposed to be short- just widen them by a bunch and it'll all work out" Yeah, but this only works out if the gusset already fits in length. I mean, this thing basically fit me like a friggin underbust corset with some tiny floppy fabric things at the top, that's how short they were. Ludicrous! I got ridiculously frustrated and started taking it personally,** and threw both the mockup and the pattern together into a forlorn corner of the sewing table... and then decided to pretend that they didn't exist for a while.
Coming back- cautiously- to the stays a couple of weeks later, something occurred to me: while it is counterproductive to lengthen the gussets by cutting longer slits into the body of the stays (you lower the bustline=bad), it is possible to add to the top of the gussetted area to make it longer- preserving the height of the bustline, and achieving the needed length to actually do its work. I drafted up a design for the front panel.

Later, I put forward my design to the Regency sewing group on facebook to see if anyone else had any similar ideas. Someone referred me to the stays pattern in Percoco's Regency Women's Dress. The original gusseted stays pattern featured in this book, dated to 1810-1815, actually feature a similar level-change in the top of the stays (although in a different place from mine).***So I can tentatively say that this is an attested early 19th century fitting technique. And, even better, now I have a pair of stays that fit! Here they are:

Yes, this is the same image as in the last post. I just feel like it shows the entire cording layout fairly well.

Finally the place with all the asterisks at the bottom
* Probably the most ubiquitously recommended, the Oregon Regency Society has a particularly good breakdown of styles of corsetry from this era, and fitting.
**Never a good idea. Mock-up's don't judge personally; they simply indicate what will work or not!
***The book refers to this fitting technique as "stepping"- so something for me to look into further!

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Making a Regency ensemble: Foundation layers

Over the past few months I’ve been working to research and create a foundation layer for the 1810’s. To be honest, this strikes me as a really difficult era to do well, given the very... extreme silhouette. Having recently become an official member of the Regency dance group at Fort York though, I now have an official sewing goal to which I can work!

Out of the garments, on my list right now, I have a chemise stays, and a bustle pad (so little!). My old chemise didn't work for this, as the neck was too high and the body too narrow, so I had to create a new one. I also recently completed a petticoat/slip, because the most appropriate gown fabric I have is quite sheer, and definitely needs the extra layer underneath!
Now for pictures:

Stays. These took a lot of drafting to figure out- this will be the subject of an upcoming post.[update: the post is here] Not a lot of cording, but they work well and I'm glad to have finished them! I think I learned a lot making them.
The bustle pad. In real life it is so tiny it's comical. I made it completely out of leftover scraps from other projects (except for the tape ties)- it's even stuffed with scraps!

Chemisette, made of some great super cheap cotton gauze I found on Queen St. In this photo I still hadn't gathered together the frill. I put it onto a separate band in the end, with whipped gathers (but I hemmed it beforehand for no apparent reason). That frill took way too much hemming. What's more, I have a second layer of frill sitting around half finished. Maybe it will become part of this at some point... maybe.

Stay tuned for more info and updates on newer parts of the ensemble soon! (for real this time).

Friday, 8 September 2017

Updates from the sewing room: Summer clothing

So there we go. I didn't end up completing the blog challenge after all, but that's ok. I think I was just extremely daunted by the idea of writing a post a day for 30 days! Either way, I may not have been writing, but I haven't been lazing about doing nothing by any means!
With that being said, here is some clothing I completed over the summer:
The shirt is cotton voile I picked up earlier this year at the old Honest Ed's fabricland (I miss it so much now! :'(...). The pattern I adapted from the "Portrait Blouse" pattern in Gertie's New Book for Better Sewing. The different sizing system was a bit confusing at first (different from the paper pattern sizing/adjustments I'm accustomed to), but having made it up now, I like how high the armscye is in this pattern, and the fit is decently good. Among the adjustments I did, I decided not to go to all the work of putting in a size zipper for what amounted to a t-shirt (what's the point of tee's if they're difficult to make, am I right?) so I took out the tucks in the front and back and left it as a pullover. This changed the fit a bit, but it still works decently for my purposes. I also changed the neckline facing to a bias self-fabric strip, because the material was a bit too light for a thicker interfaced finish.

For this skirt I didn't use a pattern at all- just a tube pleated onto a waistband. I made the length so that I hope it will work for cycling; this seems to be about the length to keep a skirt out of the gears, and at the same time keep you nicely covered while riding. I actually pleated it last winter, but recently finished all the fastenings at the top so that it is actually functional! I really like the dotted print on the fabric... I find it to be a pleasantly busy pattern.

Now back to school for me. Hope summer has been good for you too, dear readers!

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Some yardsale fun...

One of the things I find really fun in the summer is yardsales. I ended up at a couple this summer and scored some amazing things!
Candlestick, wind-up travel clock, mini teapot and pepper grind, from the sale in my laneway.
I really loved the painting on this candlestick, and I've got a beeswax candle that will look very nice on it in the wintertime. The clock too will come in very useful, I think. I like that it's small and folds up, and I've been looking for a windup clock for my room for a while. Yes, they're noisy and have to be wound every day, but it somehow seems easier than having to go out and buy replacement batteries after a year! As for the mini teapot and pepper grind, I thought they were really pretty! The kid gloves (in the picture below) I also picked up here. They seem to just fit, and although the embroidered pair is a little stained, they're both so beautiful.
Coral necklace, some really groovy clip-on earrings, an antique crochet hook, hair curler and glove stretcher,  from the Kensington Market street sale, and two sets of kid gloves from the laneway.
I also ended up going to the very first Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday of the season. For anyone who doesn't know, this is where they close off the streets of the Kensington Market neighbourhood one Sunday of each month through the summer and fall, and there are often different things going on in the street, like buskers playing. On this particular Sunday, because it was the first, the residents had a whole bunch of yardsales on the street. From this sale I got jewellry (coral necklace and gold clip-on's in the photo above) and some really neat vintage textile/clothing-related bits!

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

A looming project

I'm sorry, I simply couldn't resist the pun. There is a new (ok, within the past six months kind of new) arrival in my room... a loom! Today I finally got around to warping it and beginning to weave for the first time! It's kind of exciting to see actual textile forming before your very eyes. Here it is.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Socks and Sandals, Roman Egypt-style

Some of my favourite extant historical garments are the kind that make you do a double take; the kind of garments that don't normally come to mind when thinking of clothing in a given historical era. These were, for me, one of those pieces. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the Egyptian toe socks of Oxyrynchus. (drumroll).

These red woolen socks date from the 4th to 5th century A.D., and were found in Egypt, near the ruins of the Hellenistic town of Oxyrynchus (yes, the same place as the Oxyrynchus Papyri came from, if anyone was wondering). I love to imagine who might have worn these fabulous socks over 1500 years ago. The split toe is made so they can be worn under a pair of sandals.*
They were constructed with a technique we now refer to as nalbinding- a precursor to knitting which involves a single large sewing needle.

*In fact, in Japan today split toe socks are very popular, and are made to be worn with traditional geta sandals.

Source: The V&A website's write-up on these socks and their construction, available here.