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Category Archives: Steampunk

1890s Bicycling Sweater Tutorial and Sewing Pattern

If, like me, you’ve long admired the 1890s bicycling or sporting sweaters but did not know how to knit, this sewing tutorial and pattern is for you, no knitting required!WCIH9664

I wore this sweater to the Reno Tweed Ride, along with a wool skirt and witch hat I made. (A tutorial for the Professor McGonagall-inspired deerstalker hat is in my previous blog post).IMG_3336

This lovely example is from the Met Museum. It features a heavy knit, giant upper sleeves, fitted lower sleeves, a turtle neck collar, and buttons.The Met Museum.jpg

I have made a simplified version with a similar silhouette using 2 yards of 59″ wide  “Telio cable knit” fabric from Amazon (affiliate link). It also comes in pink, gray, and blue. It’s not a real yarn sweater knit but it is inexpensive because of its wide width, easy to get, and most importantly it is chunky and not thin. If you want a more authentic look you can look for a real cable knit fabric in cotton or wool, but it will be more pricey because those come in smaller widths. (If you end up using a “real” knit it will be stretchier so cut a slightly smaller size of pattern).

This tutorial assumes some basic pattern drafting skills and also that you have a serger. (This will keep the knit fabric from fraying and also keep the seams stretchy).

The pattern pieces were drafted to fit a woman with a 34″ bust and 28″ waist (or slightly larger because of the stretch). If you are busty or have a soft belly I have an alternative pattern piece for the front that will fit at least a 36″ bust and 30″ waist, with some extra stretch for slightly larger measurements. (If you don’t fit these measurements I will explain what to do below as well).

All pieces include a 1/2″ seam allowance.

BODICE PATTERNIMG_4296

The pattern pieces for the front (red lines) and back (purple lines) of the sweater resemble a sleeveless top. They are mostly the same except the front piece is a little wider and the neckline is cut a little lower. If you are flat-chested or like a tighter fit use two of the back pattern pieces (and cut the neckline lower on one piece to make it a front). If you use two back pieces this will fit a 34″ bust/28″ waist. If you use the front and back this will fit a 36″ bust/30″ waist. This will fit larger sizes depending on how stretchy your fabric is.

For each piece FOLD YOUR FABRIC IN HALF and put the pattern piece on top, with the folded edge on the right. When you cut through 2 layers of fabric and open them you will have a complete pattern piece. Do not cut the fold!

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If you are slightly larger than the measurements you can scoot the pattern piece towards the left and add extra inches to the folded size.

If you are very different from the measurements you can make your own pattern by taking a sweater that fits you and tracing the main body as a guide. Remember to add seam allowances! IMG_5443

BODICE CONSTRUCTION

After you have your front and back, sew them (right sides) together at the sides using your serger. Repeat by sewing the shoulders together. (Note: on the extant sweaters the shoulders are not sewn together but fastened by buttons. If you prefer that look then you’ll want to not sew your shoulders closed at this part. You’ll also want to extend the top shoulder area of your front bodice piece to ensure an overlap, and serge the raw edges. I opted to sew my shoulders closed because my fabric is stretchy enough that the neck opening was sufficient).

For an extra fitted look (or if you’re wearing a corset) I recommend putting it on inside out, pinching out any excess on the side, marking it with chalk, and sewing and trimming the excess. Do this before you put on the sleeves or collar!

To keep the raw edges from fraying, also serge along the edges of your armholes, neck opening, and bottom hem. Turn up the excess length on the bottom hem and stitch down with your preferred technique (with your serger, zig-zag stitch on sewing machine, or straight stitch if you don’t mind losing horizontal stretch).

You should now have a sleeveless top.

UPPER AND LOWER SLEEVE PATTERN

Each sleeve consists of two parts: a large puffed upper sleeve and a fitted tube-like lower sleeve.IMG_4302IMG_4303IMG_4290

As you can see, the upper sleeve is huge. (The sleeves are the main reason I chose a wide width knitted fabric). If you are uncomfortable drafting a curved sleeve head based on the diagram above you can start with an existing large puffed sleeve pattern from your collection. Perhaps you have a Regency or Victorian dress pattern in your stash? Trace that puffed sleeve, then slice it down the vertical center. Pull the two halves apart. Further. Keep going. Yes, they really are that big. Then fill in the missing middle by tracing your new pattern on another (really large) piece of paper. If the sleeve isn’t tall enough to match the measurements given, you can also slice it horizontally and extend.

The lower sleeve is mostly a tube that tapers below the elbow. I have long slender arms; you may have to widen this part of the pattern if you have a more athletic build.

SLEEVE CONSTRUCTION

Sew the long edges of the lower sleeve (right sides) together to make a tube. (Again, use your serger for the sleeve construction to avoid fraying).

Sew the straight edges of the upper sleeve (right sides) together to make a giant um, thing. Serge all edges of your sleeve openings now because it may be too thick to put through your serger once it is gathered/pleated.

Gather the bottom opening of the upper sleeve so that it fits into the top part of the lower sleeve and sew the two parts together. You should now have something resembling a chicken drumstick. IMG_5459

When worn, you will push part of the lower sleeve up so that the bottom of the upper sleeve hangs over it, like the next photo:IMG_3032

Pleat the top part of the upper sleeve to fit into the armhole of your top. The direction of your pleats is a matter of personal preference, but just make sure you mirror them on the other sleeve. IMG_3298

Put on the sweater, push the lower sleeve to the desired location as described above, and mark where you want your sleeve to end (at the wrist).

Fold up the excess at the end of the sleeve and stitch down to have a finished edge in the same way you did the bodice hem.

COLLAR PATTERN

The turtleneck collar is based on trapezoids. Fold your fabric in half and put the shorter edge of the trapezoid against the fold and cut out your shape, ending up with sort of a hourglass drum. Do this twice.

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COLLAR CONSTRUCTION

For each piece you are going to fold it down the center horizontally, right sides together (so that it is inside out). Sew the side seams and then flip it right side out. The top doesn’t need to be sewn because it was on the fold. Serge the bottom (long edge) shut.

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Pin the collar pieces to the neck opening of your bodice. The front and back collar pieces are going to overlap on the sides where you put your closures. You will want the front to overlap the back on the outside. Sew the collar pieces to the neck opening, right sides together so that the serged seams are hidden inside when worn.IMG_5494

For closures you will add buttons on each side of the collar. The number will vary depending on the size of your buttons. IMG_3361

I put hidden snaps on my collar because my knit was too thick to put through the buttonholer on my sewing machine, and I was not about to make buttonholes by hand! If you’re not as lazy as me or you have a thinner knit you can certainly make buttonholes for your buttons.IMG_3037

Now you are done and your 1890s sweater is ready for a Tweed ride, historical costume event, or even everyday wear as history bounding!

PROJECT COSTS:

I paid $23.06 including shipping and tax for 2 yards of “Telio cable knit” fabric from Amazon (affiliate link). The buttons, snaps, and thread were items previously purchased cheaply and/or in bulk so my total cost was about ~$25 for this project. Obviously, your costs will differ depending on what kind of fabric and buttons you buy, but this is to demonstrate that a historical sweater doesn’t need to be expensive!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

I hope this tutorial was an understandable and accessible way for people who cannot knit (or don’t have the time) to make an 1890s sweater. If you make one with my tutorial please comment below or send me a message on Instagram @freshfrippery and let me know!

For those of you brave souls who actually want to knit your own, there is a knitting pattern for an 1890s sweater by Kelsey Patton on Ravelry. 

For now I am wearing my sweater with a wool skirt but I have plans to make some bicycling pants in the future.

Have fun and go on splendid adventures with your sweater!

I am happy to provide all patterns and tutorials for for free on my blog. It is absolutely optional, but if you would like to donate towards my domain registration and the data costs of hosting the many photos on my site, consider buying me a “coffee”: https://ko-fi.com/freshfrippery.  Thank you!Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 9.28.46 PM

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Steamtorium Undercorset Belt and Teacup Holster (Steampunk Project and Pattern Review)

My most recent project is a steampunk utility belt with swivel hooks that accessories can be attached to: a teacup holster, a pouch, a fan pocket, and some skirt lifters/chatelaines. These items were made with two patterns from the Steamtorium Etsy shop: the under corset belt (which includes the pouch, fan pocket, and chatelaines) and the teacup holster.IMG_6440

And here it is without the teacup and fan.IMG_6442

Although this was designed to be a steampunk accessory, which would probably work quite well for a Wild West event I have this year, I think it would make a great sewing utility belt too!  I might wear this to a workshop some time. The fan pocket can be used for scissors, various tools can be clipped to the chatelaines, the pouch would hold small items, and I have to stay properly hydrated while sewing, of course. =) My favorite item is the teacup holster!IMG_6411

There’s a pocket for your saucer, a pocket with a secure snap strap for your cup, a pocket in the back for teabags, and some loops on the side for your spoon.IMG_6410

My first thought when I got these PDF patterns was “Wow! Step-by-step instructions clearly illustrated by color photographs!” The pattern is not a difficult one, but has a lot of steps and small parts, so the pictures help a lot, especially if you are a visual learner.

The belt pattern is multi-sized for 27-45″ waists, and the fan pocket comes in 2 sizes, while the rest of the accessories come in one size. Here’s some more examples made by the pattern-maker:

All the accessories are detachable and can be moved around because of a swivel hook and D-ring system.IMG_6429.JPG

You can wear this at your waist or hips.IMG_6439

Tips for easier sewing:

  • Don’t use a fabric that’s too thick! I used a heavy upholstery because I liked the pattern, but some of the straps are narrow and very difficult to turn if your fabric is thick. If I made this again I would use a lighter brocade or twill.
  • Read all the instructions carefully first before cutting out the pattern pieces. I ended up cutting some extra pieces that weren’t needed. (For example, if you make the teacup holster to be worn with this belt, and not your own, you will make small D-ring straps, instead of big loops, but both kinds of attachments are provided).
  • The pattern instructs you to sew ribbons to each end of the belt to tie it together. If you want to be able to swap the ribbons whenever you like, you can put eyelets or grommets into the ends, like I did. (This is the only change I made to the pattern).
  • Get sewing clips. Some parts of the project requiring sandwiching together many layers of fabric, and it’s much easier to clip them together instead of pinning.IMG_6352.JPG

Pros and cons:

  • Great, detailed instructions!
  • There are a lot of pieces. This not a difficult pattern, but it can be time-consuming. Don’t do this the night before a convention! I would recommend pinning the pattern to each fabric piece you cut out so you can keep track of all the small pieces.
  • Related to above, there are a lot of materials, and give yourself time to source all of them. In addition to your fabric you will need swivel hooks, D-rings, O-rings, foam batting, fleece batting, interfacing, ribbon, and thread. There’s a detailed materials list in the pattern.
  • The belt is made of 6 pieces of fabric (3 on the front and 3 on the back). I suspect this is so that the pattern pieces can fit on an 8 x 11″ paper, and so you can save some fabric yardage. However, if you have thick fabric you will have bulky seams, and it’s hard to match patterns. I think having an option to tape the paper pattern together to make one larger pattern piece to cut the belt out would be nice.
  • Very responsive customer service! I found a small typos/omissions on some pattern pieces, but Sherry, the pattern designer, said she would fix them right away. I think by the time you read this review the version in her Etsy shop should have all the updates!

Project cost: I normally provide a tally of the costs, but it’s a little hard in this case because a lot of the items are from my stash, or you use small pieces of it (like the foam interfacing),  and some of the hardware is sold in a large pack. (For example, you only need 1 snap, and it comes in a pack of 10). I’d estimate that if you were to buy everything from scratch it may cost $30-40 depending on the fabric and the type of hardware, and you would still have a lot of materials left over.

Final thoughts: This was a fun project to make, the patterns are good with clear instructions, and I recommend them!

Note: I was offered this pattern for free by Sherry Ramaila of Steamtorium, but I wasn’t paid for this post. All opinions are mine, and I used my own fabric. Thank you Sherry for the pattern!

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Upcycling a 1990s Dress into an 1890s Blouse

I recently completed a steampunk-flavored, not quite historically accurate, but oh my I love stripes 1890s/1900s-inspired blouse by upcycling an unflattering 1990s dress into a wearable blouse. (It time-traveled 100 years back!)IMG_5696

The original dress had an elastic waist, zipper back, pencil skirt, and puffy three-quarter sleeves. I cut off the skirt and used the sleeves to make new sleeves.IMG_5699

I made a waistband and buttoned back using scraps from the dress. I made button loops instead of button holes because I couldn’t overlap the back panels because of the pre-existing sailor collar.IMG_5708

Here’s a look at the original dress:

The original was so frumpy!IMG_E5469

I have some navy blue wool that I plan to use with the Black Snail Edwardian Bicycle Skirt pattern.il_570xN.1057503348_1n8f

I’ve used some scraps from the dress to make covered buttons for the skirt.IMG_5691

With different accessories I plan to use this with a Victorian bicycling outfit and a Wild West event for next year. I hope this will be a versatile blouse!IMG_5712.JPG

Steampunk Hot Air Balloon Skirt and Capelet

Yes, I know I should be working on my Gibson Girl dress, but as most crafters and costumers know, “Look oh shiny!” syndrome makes us easily distracted.

A while back I bought some fabric printed with hot air balloons from Spoonflower. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but decided to do a quickie project to reduce the stash.

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The skirt is just a simple gathered one, with an elastic waist and serged seams. There are no pockets (or even a lining) so this was an extremely fast make.

The capelet was a little more fiddly because I had to piece it together from the scraps of the skirt. (I used 2 yards total for this whole project). The pearly thing in the middle is a jewelry clasp.

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The beautiful leather violin belt was a Christmas present from my husband. He bought it from Etsy. The blouse is vintage and the underskirt is a tiered cream cotton petticoat I made for my wedding a few years ago.

The capelet isn’t quite even so I need to make some minor tweaks.  Also, I still have to figure out what sort of hat or fascinator to make. I plan to wear the ensemble to a steampunk-themed lunch outing at a ice cream bar.