1850s · Dress · In-Progress

In-Progress: 1850s girl’s dress

I thought I would show you all a few sneak-peek photos of the 1850s girl’s dress that I’m currently working on!

The back bodice placket being hemmed, and the full gathered skirt.

The fabric is a purple and grey plaid wool that I got from the Pendleton outlet down in Washougal for like $4 a yard. If you ever have a chance to go down there, I highly recommend it! They have fabulous stuff at really amazing prices.

I also put 3 “growth-tucks” in the skirt. The gals in the mid-19th century were incredibly clever in constructing garments for their little ones that would last for years and could accomodate growth. Since children (unlike 5’4″ petite brunette women) grow, the tucks can be let out to accomodate this growth. If all 3 tucks in this skirt were let out, that would add 6 inches of extra length to the skirt, since each tuck is 1″ deep but takes up 2″ (one inch on each side).

In other fun costume news, both the “Inspired by Margaret Hale” wool coat and a carpetbag I made are going to be in an independent movie that’s going to Cannes! I met the set designer for You Can’t Win last week at my internship (it’s a western movie that they’re filiming here in the PAC NW and stars Michael Pitt, who is so brooding!) and she said that she would like a coat to hang on a hook for one of the scenes they would be filming, so I brought that for her on Tuesday, along with my carpetbag. Now, they will be in the background and hardly be seen, but still! Very exciting. 🙂 I’ve never had one of my costumes in a film before, and I really don’t care that I’m not getting credit or paid for it. If this was my job I would, of course, but knowing that my stuff was authentic-looking enough that the set designer loved it and wanted to put it in the film is reward enough. 🙂

Anyways, to get back to the original topic of this post, do you have any experiences sewing things (historic or modern) for children, and if so, how did it turn out?

Dress · Edwardian/Teens · In-Progress

In-Progess: The Lady Mary Dress

First off, apologies for such a (relatively) long absence. I try not to get too personal on this blog, but the past couple of months have been rough on me, the last two and a half weeks especially. I’m not going to name specifics, but it’s just difficult when you look forward to something for so long and plan for it and then it doesn’t come to fruition. At the same time, I feel like I’ve grown so much (emotionally; I’ll always be 5’4″ unfortunately) during the past few months and learned some life lessons that have been difficult to swallow. And it turns out that stress baking and listening to Adele are good for swallowing difficult life lessons. Anyways. . . .  .

I’ve been chugging along on the Lady Mary Dress, and I thought I would share some in-progress photos with you all! I’m using this Laughing Moon pattern, which so far has worked out great except for a minor issue in the fitting of the bust (which I was easily able to fix by just taking in the seam by pinning out the excess fabric).

A small amount of the lace that is to be sewn on to the bodice . . .

 Anyways, the Titanic tea is tomorrow and for reasons listed at the start of this post, as well as crazy amounts of schoolwork, I’m not as far along on the dress as I had hoped. But, I feel confident that I’ll be able to finish it tonight, as there’s not that much work left.

Skirt pieces with lining pinned to them, waiting to be sewn

 And speaking of the Titanic tea, I’m so excited for it! I’m really hoping that everyone has a good time, and to those ends, I’ve spent a lot of time planning and creating favors, menus, and placecards. And believe you me, there’s a reason that “event planner” is a paid professon! There’s just so much stuff that goes into planning tea parties like this, although luckily I don’t have to do all the food prep. 😉

Alright, off to go sew some lace to the bodice and put the skirt together. Have a lovely Titanic Centennial Weekend, everyone!

1850s · In-Progress · Reproducing an original

In-Progress: 1850s Embroidered Collar

First off, I just want to say a big “thank you!” to everyone who left such lovely comments (both here on the blog, and also on my BurdaStyle and Flickr pages) about my dress from my last post. I truly appreciate each and every comment I recieve, and I’m hoping to be able to respond to all of them this weekend when things calm down a bit. 🙂

Anyways, before I start my weekend, I just thought I would show you an in-progress pic of the 1850s collar I’m embroidering as part of the exhibit that I’m working on for my internship. Unfortunately, we don’t have any original artifacts from the gal that this exhibit is about, so reproductions have really been a necessity. In this case, the collar here is meant to be a reproduction one that is shown in the earliest existing photo of this woman, from the 1850s.

The reproduction! I need to add seam allowances and hem the bottom and top edges before I attach the tatting. Unfortunately, the blue marking pencil that I used to mark the edges has faded quite a bit, so I decided to place the tatting around the edge to show where the edge will be.

My reproduction is made from cotton batiste and will be trimmed with this vintage tatting that almost perfectly resembles the tatting on the original collar. Oh, and the whole thing will be dyed black when I’m done, as the original is black. I debated about dyeing the individual parts and then putting the collar together, or making the collar up in white and then dyeing it, and I decided on the latter. While I’ve never dyed anything, I do know that using different dye baths can make the colors of the items dyed different, and I want to try to make the whole collar the same shade of black that I can.

Anyways, the exhibit opens at the end of April, and I also have a straw bonnet and embroidered letter case that I’m working on. I have to say, making museum-quality reproductions that aren’t just costumes for me has been challenging, nerve-wrecking, and incredibly rewarding all at the same time. And I’m incredibly flattered that I’ve been entrusted to complete this task, one in which I think my OCD-tendencies will come quite in handy. 😉

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Contemporary Pattern · In-Progress · Modern Sewing

Snow Day

Snow days mean cable knit sweaters and cups of tea! Oh, and not having to put on your make-up . . .

Its been snowing pretty heavily the past couple days here in the Pacific NW, so yesterday and today have both been snow days off from school (I’m hoping for tomorrow off, as well, but we’ll see). Meaning that I get to sleep in, drink lots of tea, catch up on neglected school work (ugh), and bundle up in a cute cable knit sweater. I love cable knit sweaters. 🙂

Okay, enough about the weather and school, onto sewing! Unfortunately, the 2 projects that I had been planning to work on – the skirt and modern dress commission toile – both have issues. The skirt has issues because I left the hem binding for it at home so I can’t finish it just yet, and the toile has issues because I don’t have the right size pattern (hoping to remedy that this weekend during the Joann’s sale).  Anyways, since I couldn’t work on either of those two things, I’ve been working on another project, a cute modern bag for commuting. I’ve had the pattern and fabric for a while, but finally had the chance to sew it up.

Here’s a sneak peek of it:

The pattern is Simplicity 2685 (View D) for those interested.

Alright, off to go finish it. For those of you snowed in here in the NW, stay warm! 🙂

corset · In-Progress · Pattern · Tutorial · Underpinnings

In-Progress: The “copy-cat” corset (plus a mini-tutorial!)

Fitting is one of my least favorite things about the sewing process and sewing is always easier when you have a pattern that you know fits. In updating my underpinnings, a new corset was on the top of the list. My corset is really starting to show its 5 years of ware with bones popping out and seams fraying. I was extremely lucky that the first corset I bought (an off-the-rack one) from Abraham’s Lady fit so well. Actually, I was more lucky that the site that I volunteer at bought a group of these corsets and I was able to try them on in person to see what size I was before buying online. So, with a corset that I have that fits, I set out to copy this corset and make a new version of it that would have non-fraying seams and bones in their proper place.

Taking a pattern off of a corset is really quite easy, and I thought I would write a little “mini tutorial” on the process in case anybody out there has a ready-made corset that fits them but needs updating.

To start with, you’ll need 4 things: pattern paper, something to write with, a ruler and/or hem gauge and your corset.

Since this is a seam-shaped corset, we’re going to individually trace each piece (in this corset, there are 6 pieces). Start by placing your corset on the butcher paper. Mark where the seam lines are and draw the top outline of the corset, like so:

Next, move to the bottom of the corset. Keeping the part you just drew in line with the corset mark the seamlines and trace the bottom. Sometimes the bottom half tends to want to bunch up, so you might have to spread it flat.

Finally, we have to connect the top marks to the bottom marks. It’s helpful to draw any curvy corset pieces by hand, and connect the straight lines with a ruler.

Continue this same process for all of your pieces. It also helps to number your pieces left to right (or right to left, whichever you prefer).

Since we’ve just drawn the corset pieces as they appear on the corset, we of course have to add seam allowance. I just added a simple 1/4″ seam allowance on my corset pieces to save both fabric and time. I used a ruler that had a handy 1/4″ marked on it for the straight pieces, and used my hem gauge to draw and connect the seam allowance on the curvy pieces.

Finally, cut out all of your pieces, pin them to your corset fabric (I’m using cotton sateen here) and cut!

If you’re making a 2-layered corset like I am, it definitely saves time to cut your pieces out on 4 thicknesses of fabric (since you’ll need 4 of each piece – 2 for each front piece, and 2 for each back piece). To do this, just fold your fabric in half and then in half again. When cutting, use lots of pins and a very good pair of scissors.

Now, to pin all of these pieces together and stitch . . .

1850s · Dress · In-Progress · Pattern

Putting the “fan” in “fan-front”

A fan-front dress wouldn’t be called such without copious amounts of hand-gathering in the bodice. With that in mind, I thought I would show how I did the fan on the fan-front (LM #114)  that I’m working on right now.

First, I marked the gathering lines (the pattern comes with a handy template for this!) on the wrong side of my bodice, transfering the marks using tracing paper and a tracing wheel. Then I gathered the bodice (7 rows on the bottom to make the fan, and 1 row on each of the shoulder seams).

Right-side view of the fan after being gathered. Click to enlarge.

Next, I pinned the bodice right-sides together to the lining, pinning around the sides and middle. The pattern recommends to do this, and the purpose is to gather the fan and secure the threads to the inside of the bodice, so you don’t have huge knots on the outside of your bodice.  I then pulled the threads up to make a fan, stopping when the outline of the fan matched the outline of the lining. When that happened, I tied the threads together (2 strands at a time) and then clipped the excess.

I didn’t bother to do this with the top shoulder seams, since I belatedly decided to pleat them instead of gather.

After I had the fan all tied together, I then un-pinned it from the lining. Then, I re-pinned it, wrong sides together to the lining, this time matching the newly-created fan to the lining, and drawing and pleating the shoulder seam to match the lining.

The fan inside-out and pinned to the lining. The lining sticking out of the armscyes was a mis-cut on my part and will be trimmed to match the outline of the green wool fan. Click to enlarge.

Then I basted the lining and fan together with a running stitch. These two pieces will now be treated as one (which is called flat-lining) and sewn to the two back bodice pieces.


1850s · Dress · In-Progress · Pattern

Bodice Innards

Here’s a close up shot of the bodice lining for the dress I’ve been working on of late. It’s the Laughing Moon Round Gown pattern, and I’m making view B (the fan-front, although sans the gathering in the back of the bodice) out of a really neat green wool plaid fabric I got at the Pendleton outlet in the remnant section. The lining here is a red polished cotton (also from the remnant pile, although different store) with boning channels sewn into the excess of the dart and bones. For good measure, I also overcasted the raw edges after sewing the boning channels in the darts as the fabric was fraying.

Commission · In-Progress · Millinery

Quiltin’ Along


I’m halfway through quilting the curtain of a quilted hood I’ve been commissioned to make for the fabulous Auntie B. The exterior is this gorgeous olive green silk taffeta with wool batting sandwhiched between this layer and a bright blue silk lining. After finishing this quilting then I’ll start on the quilting for the back and the crown. Suffice it to say, this is a fabulous project for a commuter student such as myself since it’s so portable. It’s also great for procrastinating on school work while watching fabulous costume dramas. 😉