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Outlander Dinner Party

Last night I went to a lovely Outlander-themed dinner party at the Sequoia Lodge in Oakland. The wooden building surrounded by trees definitely contributed to the mood!  We were greeted by a bagpiper as we entered. Later, as part of the dinner entertainment there were also musicians signing and playing instruments, and some dance demonstrations.

I wore a gown I made for the occasion out of cotton plaid. I am also wearing a wool petticoat, 2 under petticoats, a double-bum pad, a pair of stays, a chemise, a fichu, and a pair of beautiful black 18th century Dunmore shoes from American Duchess.IMG_2029

It was my first time using pins to close an outfit instead of hooks and eyes. I bought some reproduction 18th century gown pins from Larkin and Smith. (I am using a combination of the medium and fine pins). I am still figuring out how to do it without stabbing myself or putting weird wrinkles into my dress, but I am getting better! (Hint: the stays are for safety as much as they are for support). You can read about construction details in my previous post.IMG_2037

My hair is rather short at the moment (even too short to braid properly) so I put it into a tiny bun on the back of my head and covered it with a large fake braided bun.IMG_2034

My fichu is actually a small vintage cotton organza tablecloth. It has lovely floral whitework, scalloped edges, and best of all, zero effort on my part! (For those that are curious, it is about 35×35 inches wide. If you are tall or broad-shouldered I’d recommend a larger square).IMG_2006

As usual, I was too busy chatting and stuffing my face with the delicious meal (puff pastry wrapped asparagus with prosciutto, roasted fowl with buttered leeks, roasted blue and gold potatoes, haggis, and sweetmeat cake with marzipan) to take as many pictures as I should have, but here are a few more!

You’d never realize that Christina of The Laced Angel and Natalie both finished their jackets that afternoon. Christina started the same day! IMG_2024

The tables were set up in  large U in the lodge. This was the side I was sitting on.IMG_2050

There was a range of social classes and decades at the dinner.IMG_2060IMG_2064

I especially loved the variety in jackets! (You can catch a glimpse of the bagpiper to the right of the photo).IMG_2015

I had a delightful time, and I think everyone else did too. (There was even a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, and they were married 25 years ago in the same location!)IMG_2032.JPG

Outlander 18th Century Plaid Dress

In a few weeks I am going to an Outlander-themed dinner party hosted by my local costuming guild. I don’t subscribe to premium cable so I have never actually seen the show, just lots of pictures, but I am always a fan of dressing up and eating!

I’m aware that there are some fabulous silk dresses in the second season of the show, but I wanted something relatively quick and inexpensive, so I decided to go with a plaid 18th century dress using a pattern I’ve worked with before. (I used the Period Impressions 1770 Polonaise Pattern when I made my Ljusoga dress).

I found a decent plaid cotton from the “Wales plaid” Fabric.com collection. (I ended up purchasing it through Amazon due to a 20% off promotion and free shipping!) It was cheap enough I used the same fabric for lining the bodice and skirt. I dithered for a long time as to whether I should make the fabric out of the same fabric or make a fancy quilted one. In the end I could not find a suitable pre-quilted fabric or bedspread to repurpose, and some well-priced wool appeared on a destash group I am part of, so my decision was made.IMG_1861

In real life the bodice fit is rather different (and much better!) because I would be wearing stays to provide a smooth front. My mannequin is not wearing stays because it does not have a compressible torso and the boobs would be in the wrong place. Right now the front is pinned with regular straight pins while I await some proper 18th century reproduction pins in the mail. IMG_1866

See how the middle point of the back of the bodice rides up a little? I’ve got to adjust my underpinnings a bit to fix that, but what prevents it from flipping up all the way is a split bum pad.IMG_1864

My old half-moon bum pad was too small and not up to the task of the much larger faux butt I wanted for this outfit, so I made a new double bum pad. The split down the back  is what gives it this particular shape. I should have curved the top edges but this was a rather quick project. It is just twin trapezoid pillows bound with a single twill tape at the top.IMG_1740

The front comes forward enough to increase my hips too. The way I constructed these bum pads is not period correct, but works for my particular body shape.IMG_1739

See how gloriously wide it makes the petticoat compared to my real figure?IMG_1859

Final project costs:

  • 8 yards (45 inch wide) cotton plaid fabric: $45.31 from Amazon (affiliate link) including tax and discounts; I still have leftover fabric.
  • 2.5 yards (60 inch wide) brown wool fabric: $20 plus $6.50 shipping from Facebook; Normally I use 3 yards for a petticoat but this was wide enough to do piecing in the back.
  • Pattern: $0 (already used for another project)
  • Bum pad fabric, stuffing, and twill tape: $0 (left overs from other projects)

Total (without notions): $71.81 (Not bad! I was originally planning $50 just for the main dress and I can reuse the petticoat for other outfits).

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 3)

I’m still working on the rest of the court ensemble but at least my dress is complete! B.JPG

I didn’t have all my accessories yet at the time so I wore a pearl tiara I had instead of a Regency diadem and did a quick updo. (My next post will be about Regency diadems; I got together with a group of friends for a tiara-making day).D.JPG

You can read Parts 1 and 2 for more information, but to summarize a few details, my dress is made up of one layer of beaded and sequined mesh, an interlining of seam foam chiffon, and a lining of cotton voile. It is made from Butterick B6074 View B, with some modifications:

  • I combined some pattern pieces to minimize seams in the beaded fabric.
  • I skipped the gathered overlay on the bodice which is recommended for solid fabrics.
  • I raised the back neckline about 1 inch.
  • I extended the bottom front bodice about 1 inch since I was not trying to achieve the tiny bodice/pushup bra look.

Note: Butterick B6074 runs large! It has a lot of ease built in for the modern wearer. I recommend going down 2 sizes.

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For undergarments I am wearing a shift, short stays, a corded petticoat and a ruffled petticoat. I normally would not wear a corded petticoat with Regency but this dress is heavy.

I have decided to go with a rose velvet for the train, and I have been spending far too much time searching for pink velvets, getting swatches, and looking for trim. However, I think we have a winner. IMG_1185.JPG

I still need to order the rest of the fabric and find the trim, but I’ve purchased lining and have the pattern ready. I’m mulling over whether I should use my leftover beads and sequins to decorate the trim, but that may be madness speaking.

By the way, in case you think my life is glamorous, here’s a peek at real life (bad posture, clutter, and photobombing) vs. the cropped version of a selected few pictures for the blog!img_1155

UPDATE:

I wrote a tutorial for this dress, which Fabric Wholesale Direct spiffed and made into this post on their website! 

All the fabric I used for this project is from Fabric Wholesale Direct. Thank you!

Beaded Regency Court Dress (Part 2)

The dress is nearly done!img_1061

I’m excited that this is nearly complete, with just a few minor things to do. It’s taken a little longer than I thought! Sewing is about learning from your mistakes, and I’ve been doing some learning.

Lesson 1: It’ll stretch more than you think

I accounted for a bit of the stretch of the mesh fabric when cutting out the skirt, but underestimated how much more it would stretch afterwards. I was afraid I was being too careful and the skirt would be a little too short, but after I attached it to the bodice and let it hang for a bit, the heavy beads dragged the skirt down to a length that would have required stripper heels instead of dainty Regency slippers to manage.

Due to the scalloped border I couldn’t hem the fabric at the bottom of the skirt, so as much as it pained me to undo all the hand-stitching I removed the skirt, cut off some excess at the top, removed even more beads, and reattached it.

Lesson 2: What looks good on the dress form doesn’t always look good on you

Redoing the skirt gave me the chance to also redistribute the gathering. Originally I had made the front flat to avoid the dreaded pregnant Regency look, and focused most of the fabric on the sides and back. However, once I put the dress on I realized the extra beading on the sides made me look a little wide and boxy. Here are some quick shots with my phone showing before (left) and after (right) without petticoats.

Because of the peculiarities of my figure (mainly the shape and size of my ribs and chest), the version on the left looked better on the mannequin, but not particularly well on me. Normally, to reduce bulk at the waistline I would have cut tapered panels, but could not do that with the beaded fabric. I also wanted it to be fuller than the lining underneath. Since the beaded layer is essentially a gathered rectangle there’s a bit more bulk around the empire waist than I would like, but the new version with redistributed fabric is still a little more flattering on me than looking like a sugary green rectangle.

Although most of the examples of Napoleonic dresses I’ve seen have a flat, columnar front, I did find this extant dress worn by Empress Josephine that is gathered all around.regency1

Lesson 3: Working with sheer, beaded fabrics will double your sewing time.

This bag represents only a portion of what I had to carefully unpicked from the seams,  darts, and placket panel. There are plenty more that ended up on the floor or hiding in the corners of my house. My next dress will definitely be made of solid fabric!img_1032

To minimize snagging on the mesh, instead of hooks and eyes I made covered buttons and loops for the back closure, and added a placket. (Yes, I had to remove all the beading on the fabric used to make these buttons too).img_1018

I think smaller buttons might have been a better choice, but that size of button-covering kit was what I had on hand, and I do like having them large enough to have a different pattern on each.

Lesson 4: If you hoard it long enough it will come in handy

Years ago, when I started sewing, I bought a spool of “invisible thread.” It was actually beige nylon and not as invisible as clear fishing line, so I never knew what to do with it until I obtained beige netting fabric! (I’m not kidding when I say I think I’ve had the spool for nearly 15 years).

The beaded motifs are staggered in a way that I had to cut through a few of them to make the center back seam, and the beige nylon thread came in rather handy for putting the two sides together. (I hand-sewed two rows of stitching for extra security).IMG_1043.JPG

I would  have loved to do a slight train on the dress, but the fabric I had was not wide enough. I will have to make up for it with the velvet court train for the rest of this ensemble!

I still need to bind the raw edges inside, do a little bit of final fit adjustments, snip loose threads, etc. to clean the dress up before I wear it to take photos.

My to-do list:

  • Buy materials for the court train: I’m looking for a rose cotton or silk velvet
  • Make matching shoe clips for my American Duchess Pemberly slippers (affiliate link)
  • Make a Regency diadem; I already have the materials ready!
  • Make a reticule out of leftover pieces of the beading. (I have no more of the green chiffon except some small scraps, so I may make the base fabric match the velvet train).

Read part 1 here.

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2017 Costuming Plans

I have three large projects planned for 2017, although I’m sure little projects will pop up in between if I get invited to events or get distracted by shiny things. I’m happy to report that I already have most of the materials on hand for my three projects, much of it acquired through some lucky bargains!

Regency court dress

I am not planning to reproduce this exact outfit, but this picture is to give you an idea of what I have in mind. I will be making a beaded Regency evening dress, for which I already have the materials (courtesy of Fabric Wholesale Direct). I’ve started on the dress so that will be the focus of my next series of posts. The color and type of fabric I will be using for the train has not been decided and will depend on what I can get for a reasonable price.

1660s Cavalier gown

I’ve never made a 1660s outfit before, so this is an era that is new to me. Although I think satin might be a little more appropriate, I will be making this out of black silk taffeta because I happen to have it in my stash (from the wonderful $5/yard sale from Fabric Mart!) Although I had already picked out this dress to make for the gala at Costume College this year before the theme was announced, it ended up being the perfect choice. The theme will be “Dinner at Tiffany’s” so a black dress with pearls is quite appropriate!

Crimson Peak picnic outfit

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I already have the right color silk for the skirt due to a serendipitous find from a friend’s garage sale! I won’t be able to find the exact lace for the blouse but I have something with a similar feel. The biggest challenge will be sculpting the hand belt. This outfit is being planned for a spooky Victorian tea in October.

I hope your sewing adventures in 2017 are fun and fabulous!

2016 Costuming Year in Review

Looking back, 2016 was a fun and productive year full of costuming adventures!

Our fabulous 1940s Star Trek groupIMG_8018My 1940s Star Trek dress (one of my favorites from this past year!)IMG_7949

1920s Egyptian Revival dress and Poiret cocoon coatIMG_7051Robe à l’Anglaise retroussée18th century elegance by Andy Schmidt

Lady Tremaine (my biggest project of the year!)IMG_88531950s vintage dressIMG_89481830s flashbackIMG_93081930s vintage dress at the Gatsby Picnicimage1950s skirt

Royal lolita coordinateimg_9740Indian salwar kameezimage1950s Black Swan ballgownimage1840s flashbackimg_0538Tudor kirtle and smockimg_0729Giraffe dress and elephant PJS

And finally, a preview of a 1950svdress I made but haven’t decided if it is finished. (I may make a matching belt).IMG_0701.JPG

Happy New Year!

A Giraffe Dress and Elephant PJs Using Fabrics from Tanzania

Earlier this year my friend Kim visited Tanzania and brought me back some great African fabric as a special gift.

I used this vibrant giraffe print to make myself a long dress for summer. It’s opaque enough that I was able to skip a lining, making it a perfect cotton dress for warmer weather.img_0713

I cut it out a few months ago but only recently finished because I got distracted by the Tudor kirtle.img_0714

I think it looks like the giraffes are having a chat and perhaps giving a little side-eye.img_0715

I used Vogue 8789 for the pattern, and just extended the length of the skirt to use up the width of the fabric. (You may recognize the bodice as being the same shape as my Black Swan 1950s  Ball Gown). The dress used 3 meters of fabric.img_0716

The other fabric I received from Kim was a kanga. (You can read about them and how they are used on KangaUSA). This elephant kanga is printed with the phrase “Wanyama ndiyo urithi wetu tuwatunza,” which is Swahili for “Animals are our inheritance, we should protect them.”IMG_9037.JPG

Because of the shape of the fabric and the way the print is formatted I had to think about how to cut the fabric, but realized that pajama bottoms are a great way to use a rectangular print.img_9038

The pattern is Butterick 6837, which I’ve used a number of times in the past to make PJs for myself and my family. If you have a serger and put in an elastic waistband you can make PJ pants in about an hour with enough practice.IMG_9040.JPG

I was able to use up the kanga with very little fabric wasted. Because of my height I had to piece a little fabric at the top to make it long enough, but a shorter person could skip this step. This project was so quick it was my first sewing project right after attending Costume College in August, when I wanted something easy.

I’m still working on my last project of 2016, but Happy New Year!