A Few Updates From Sewing Life

Oh dear, the new is ten whole days old already. I think it is time for a little update about how my sewing has been faring so far. Even though it might be a bit early to say this, I have a feeling this year will be special, at least as far as costume is concerned… ;)

Last weekend I got the chance to kick off the sewing year with a visit to my friend and fellow HSM(F) contributor Britta. We spent the afternoon admiring her wonderful collection of costumes. You might have already seen some of them on her blog, but they are even more awesome in real life.

Thanks to her, I also got the chance to try on an 1860s corset and crinoline for the first time. It was a special feeling. We found a corset that fit me almost perfectly and got a little excited over it. Here are a few pictures. I am wearing her “whipped cream” petticoat from last year’s HSF #1 challenge. Oh, and forgive the striped sweater. Next time I will wear a proper shift underneath, promised. And I am sure there will be a next time, since I seem to have fallen in love…

Wearing an 1860s corset and crinoline for the first time.

Mastering the door frame with 6 m diameter. ;)

The chance to share some costume geekery with a good friend has given me a motivational blast for my sewing. On Monday I started working on my split drawers for the “Foundations” challenge, but the pattern and I still have to become friends. Since I am not really used to working with commercial pattern from big companies, we still need some getting used to each other. The fact that the tables on the envelope told me I was a size 18 came as a bit of a shock.

But, thanks to the support of the HSM Facebook group I got over it rather quickly. I learned that Simplicity patterns contain a somewhat excessive amount of ease and that cutting them one or two sizes smaller is a viable option. Today, I cut out a mock-up in size 14. It still looks a bit wonky to me, but then these are my first historical drawers. Here is a picture of the progress so far. I will keep you posted on how they are coming along.

The (one-legged) drawers mock-up.

In other news, the embroidery fever has infected me again. At the moment, I spent most of the time working on a very late Christmas present for a friend. It is a mini-tapestry featuring her favorite animal: a dragon. Well, actually, it is a baby dragon. I copied the pattern from a childrens’ coloring book and, so far, the little fellow looks like this:

My current embroidery project.

Tonight, I will start filling him with satin- and long-short stitching. I am really excited about how he will turn out. He also still needs an apt name. So far, he is called Leopold-Napoleon. But, perhaps, some of you have some creative name suggestions as well. If so, please let me know. I am very intrigued to hear them. :)

This has been the gist of my sewing year so far. I hope yours has been off to a good start as well. I am much looking forward to seeing the gorgeous costumes everyone will be making. Happy sewing to us all.

 

See you very soon, Nessa

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Making The Corselet Skirt: A Modern Take On Period Instructions

With Christmas over and done, it is time to get back to making the corselet skirt once more. In the challenge post I mentioned an interesting discussion we had on the HSF Facebook group. Mainly, it was about Edwardian skirts worn with belts. At some point I mentioned sewn-in corselet belts as an alternative style. This idea raised a few interested eyebrows, with some people hearing about this for the first time.

What surprised me when researching corselet skirts, was that they are mentioned here and there and have also been recreated by a few historical seamstresses, but do not really enjoy wide popularity. At first this puzzled me a bit. Then I realized that it was also not a mainstream fashion trend in the Edwardian era. It was considered a Reform fashion, mostly popular with younger women. This also explains why most period photographs show rather young wearers of the style, such as this young lady, in a photo from 1917:

Young woman in a corselet skirt (c.1917).

Similarly, when looking around for patterns online, I only found a few. Among others, I encountered this 1911 diagram from “The Ladies’ Tailor”. I want to share it with you, since it gives a good overview on how to draft the different gores of a corselet skirt to your size.

Corselet skirt pattern from “The Ladies’ Tailor” (March 1911). Click to see both pages. :)

But there is more to corselet skirts than the high-waisted cut. What is really interesting, is their inner life. The waist is reinforced with a sewn-in corselet belt. You can think of it as a cleverly hidden Swiss waist. If you do not know it is there, you will most likely overlook it at first glance. But actually, that is a pity. Which is why I will now show you, how I constructed mine, based on period instructions, but with a modern twist.

The Instructions

To assemble the corselet belt, I used the original instructions from Antonie Steimann’s “Ich Kann Schneidern” (“I Can Sew”; c.1909).  I first found a Dutch translation of them on Esther’s blog, although my Dutch is not really that good. ;) But, eventually, I got lucky. The fashion library in Vienna had several German-language copies of the same book. That made things a little easier. But, actually, the illustrations already explain themselves very well. Here they are:

The Materials

For the corselet belt, you will need two strips of the lining fabric, as wide as the corselet portion of your skirt pattern and long enough to reach all the way around the skirt. If the top of the skirt is curved, like in the picture, you can also sew together the corselet portions of the individual gores for shaped bands. Add a 1.5-2″ (3-4 cm) hem allowance to the top and bottom edges. For my version, I used one straight strip of fabric and a matching strip of medium-weight iron-on interfacing and only added a 4 cm hem allowance to at the bottom edge.

The boning originally called for whalebone. I used sew-through boning tape instead, about 1 cm (1/2″) shorter than the pattern’s corselet portion. Together with the interfacing, the tape provided enough stiffening for the purpose.

The Method

The original instructions state that a corselet skirt should be boned once the corselet portion, above the waist is wider than 3-4 cm (approx. 1.5″). Of that is the case, whalebone is to be inserted at the front, sides and back. After that, the raw edges of the corselet belt are folded under and sewn to the skirt lining.

As you can see in the images above, the whalebone is inserted into casings at the spots in question.The “Encyclopedia of Needlework” (c.1890) gives the following instructions for this boning method: “Before slipping the whale-bone into its case or fold of stuff, pierce holes in it, top and bottom, with a red hot stiletto. Through these holes, make your stitches, diverging like rays or crossing each other”, like so:

The period method of fixing whalebone from “Encyclopedia of Needlework”; c.1890).

What I did is a little different. My steps were the following:

Step One.

I sewed the corselet belt to the top edge of the skirt lining, with the interfaced side facing down. Then I folded it, as you can see in the picture.

Step Two.

I aligned the pieces of boning tape with the skirt seams.

Step Three.

I sewed down each piece of tape with a single row of small straight stitches, leaving the hem allowance un-boned.

Step Four.

I folded under and pressed the bottom hem allowance, making sure the edges of the boning tape did not poke into the fabric at the crease.

Step Five.

I sewed the bottom edge against the lining. Later, when joining the lining to the outer skirt, I covered the raw top edge with a portion of the shell fabric. This was also the way it was done in the original instructions. Alternatively, you can also sew both the top- and bottom hems directly against the corselet belt.

My finished belt looked like this: (Please excuse the awful image quality. A new camera is finally on the way… ;) )

The finished corselet belt from the inside.

And that was that. Hopefully, this quick semi-tutorial has helped solve the mystery of Edwardian corselet skirts for some of you. I am much looking forward to your feedback and your own corselet skirts, should you decide to make one.

Even though it might not look that way, a corselet skirt works for nearly any body shape. I have a rather short, stumpy torso myself, and it worked miracles on my waist shape and posture. Compared to that, you can so forget modern shape-wear. It is a much less elegant solution should you need to cover up some failed New Year’s resolutions, later this coming year. ;)

Wishing you all a happy, healthy and successful year 2015.

Much Love, Nessa

HSF #23: An Edwardian “Empire” Skirt

Oh dear, has it been a month already? With Christmas, uni and sewing keeping me busy, it has really flown by like nothing. Quite a lot of new things have happened in the meanwhile. For once, I have bought my first own vintage pattern books. Here they are:

The one on the right is an original pattern drafting manual from 1906 with instructions to pattern your own shirtwaists, skirts and house dresses for women and young children. The other is an 1983 reprint of an original linen pattern book from 1901. It is quite awesome and contains patterns for household linen, underthings, nightwear and swimwear for men, women and children, as well as the cutest baby clothes and a whole appendix of monogram embroidery patterns.

With those two books at hand, my love of turn-of-the-century fashions has, pretty much been set on fire. The plan to make an Edwardian skirt for modern evening wear has actually been around since the beginning of this year, but only in the books did I find the perfect pattern. The one I chose to make is a Reform corselet skirt with a small train. Once I opened the pattern book, I fell in love with it, since the heading on the page also described it as an “Empire skirt”. So it really fits in with the blog and adds a little touch of Regency flair to my first Edwardian fashion item. :)

Below you can see the original skirt pattern drawings, with model measures in centimeters. Even though I have used Inkscape to size up historical patterns before here, I have scaled it up the traditional way this time, using a big roll of pattern paper. It was a whole new experience for me, but turned out very well.

The pattern of the seven-gore “Empire” corselet skirt (c.1910).

While I was making it, we had an interesting discussion in the HSF’s Facebook group about actually combining a corselet and skirt in one piece, instead of adding a Swiss waist or cincher to a regular skirt. For some people, the notion of doing so was a novel idea, which actually fits in well with the challenge’s “Modern History” theme. A skirt like this was actually considered a part of Reform fashion at the time and was especially popular with younger women.

My first contact with corselet skirts happened while I was browsing Edwardian fashions on Pinterest. After that, I lucked into a copy of “I Can Sew”, a turn-of-the-century fashion compendium by Antonie Steimann, at the Vienna fashion library and got to reserach the extant construction of the sewn in corselet belt of these skirts. It is a separate piece of fabric, sewn into the high waistband of the skirt. It goes over the square portions at the top of the pattern.

The belt also holds the skirt’s boning. For my version, I placed a short strip of plastic boning against the seams of each gore and also reinforced the band with interfacing, for extra stability. You can find a very useful illustration of the extant construction method over here on Esther’s blog. My next post will also go a little more into depth about it and walk you through the construction steps. After talking about it in the group, some of you might find reading about them useful. :)

So much about the theory behind it all. Now it is time to present the finished skirt to you. Thanks to the moody taffeta fabric, finishing it took a while longer than expected. The worst part were the bottom hem and the closure at the back. After my first attempt of using snaps, like in the period instructions, all 18 of them fell right off again. After a day of sulking I replaced most of them with hook-and-bar and hook-and-eye closures, which took a few turns of sailing off as well before they decided to behave. Just now, when taking the photos, the very last snap at the bottom decided to jump into its death as well. I already see myself sewing it back on on Christmas Eve, like an hour before the skirt’s big moment.

For the record: Taffeta and snaps will be banned from the sewing room for a long, long while now… But, enough of the ranting. Time for some photos and a brief roundup:

Corselet skirt front (excuse the funky socks).

The train at the back.

The side view, with a peek at the Christmas-y cotton lining.

The Challenge: #23 – “Modern History”.

Fabric: 3 yds of brown poly taffeta for the shell and 3 yds of candy-cane striped cotton for the lining.

Pattern: “Miederrock oder Empirerock aus sieben Bahnen” from “Einfache Zuschneidemethode für Damen- und Kinderkleider”

Year: 1910.

Notions: 2 hook-and-bar closures; some sew-on snaps and smaller hook-and-eyes; 1/2″ of iron-on interfacing and 1/2 yd of sewable plastic boning.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate, except for the poly fabric and plastic boning. Used the machine for it, but only on straight stitch.

Total cost: About € 25.

Hours to complete: About 40 hours.

First worn: Will be worn extensively over Christmas.

I am so glad I finally managed to get this post out for you. With all the work at the moment, I have really missed blogging for you. But, luckily, it will be Christmas break very soon. Until then, I should get cracking to finish making up the last of the Christmas presents. And then, you will have my full attention again. Soon, there will also be a new camera to take better pictures again as well. (Yay.)

Love, Nessa

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Project Boudoir: The Complete Ensemble

As promised in the Making-of, here is a quick picture post of the completed Regency boudoir ensemble. I finally finished the bed-jacket yesterday and got to enter it into the HSF’s “Re-Do” challenge. All in all, I am very happy with it. It goes along nicely with the bed shift.

At first, I was a bit worried about its poofiness, especially around the sleeves. But the poof is exactly what makes the jacket warm and cozy, allowing for some extra warm air to circulate. When I was taking the photos yesterday I got really, really sleepy and did not want to take it all off again afterwards…

Here are the photos of the ensemble and a few more detail shots of the jacket. So you can see it all together with the boudoir cap I made a little exception, sharing a frontal shot of sleepy me. You will also find the HSF challenge details for the entire project below. Enjoy. :)

 

The Finished Boudoir Ensemble

The finished bed-shift, bad-jacket and boudoir cap.

Back view.

 

Some Jacket Details

Back view of the folded collar and ruffle.

Upturned collar and front tie.

Sleeve and underarm gusset.

The cuff and ruffle. I tacked the cuff’s slit together with a small strand of crochet cotton for a better fit.

My very first shoulder gusset. Above it, you see the shoulder seam and below it, the edge of the collar.

 

The Challenge Facts

The Challenge: #21 – “Re-Do”

Challenges redone: “Under it All”; “Black & White”

Fabric:
For the bed-shift: 2.5 yards of 60/40 linen-cotton blend.
For the bed-jacket: 3 yards of woven Swiss-dot cotton.

Pattern:
Shift: Sense & Sensibility “Regency Underthings” chemise with modifications, based on this extant shift.
Jacket: My own, inspired by Kelly’s shirt tutorial.

Year: 1800-1810

Notions: approx. 2 yds of woven cotton tape; cotton thread, thread wax

How historically accurate is it? I gave my best. Some of the seams were machine sewn for speed, but most are hand-sewn. I would say 75% accurate.

Hours to complete: About 30 hours for the bed-shift and another 50-60 hours for the bed-jacket.

First worn: For the photos.

Total cost: € 15 each, € 30 altogether.

With this post, “Project Boudoir” come to a close. I hope you enjoyed this venture into the world of the Regency lady’s bedroom. To be sure, I did. And, on top of that, it has given me the most comfortable bedtime outfit ever. ;) Wearing it does not feel like being in costume at all, but like donning an everyday garment.

For the remainder of November and the holiday season, I will turn to a few new sewing projects, including a historically inspired Christmas outfit for HSF # 23 “Modern History”. And, for the first time ever, I will be sewing some, historical and non-historical presents for friends this year. To keep them a surprise, though, I shall post about them here after Christmas. ;)

See you soon, Nessa

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Project Boudoir: Making the Bed-Jacket

Hello again. :)

After a row of evenings spent sewing up the Regency bed-jacket, I have finally made some time to tell you about the making-of. It all started out with wondering about how to pattern a  bed-jacket at all. It is not really a staple Regency item, sewn by costumers and hence, there are not really many pre-made patterns around. But then… I had an idea:

More or less by accident, I started looking at Regency-era men’s shirts. Just as the bed-jacket I showed you before, they are made from light linen or cotton fabrics. They are also no less frilly than the jacket in question. Here it is again.

The extant bed-jacket.

Now if you compare it to an extant gentleman’s shirt… it looks quite similar, right?

An extant men’s shirt from the Met’s collection (c. 1816).

Luckily, there are a good few shirt-making tutorials available online. The two I liked best were Kelly’s tutorial and this one from Marquise. After some measuring and drafting around, I decided to make the bed-jacket, based on Kelly’s instructions, with a few minor alterations. These are the following:

 

Pattern Pieces & Measurements
As I am no, tall, dashing Mr. Sharpe or Mr. Darcy, but a rather petite lady, the main thing I did was to scale down the pattern pieces to my measurements. But I also added a front closure to the shirt’s body and omitted some pieces, such as the side-seam gusset at the bottom or the neck ruffle. Instead of that ruffle, though, I cut two extra ruffles for the cuffs and another for the collar. Here is an overview of the pieces for my bed-jacket, including seam allowances of 7/8″ on each side:

  • Two front pieces, each 28″ x 18″
    (The finished fronts will overlap a bit, if you would like a button placket, add another 2 inches.)
  • One back piece, 28″ x 34″
  • Sleeves, each 19″ x 36″
    (This is a very generous measurement, creating a very poofy sleeve. For something more fitted, take a measurement of your upper arm, add seam allowances and double it.)
  • Two collar pieces, each 4″ x 19″
  • Four cuff pieces, each 10 1/2″ x 3 1/2″
  • Two shoulder gussets, 2″ x 2
  • Two underarm gussets, 5″ x 5″
  • One collar ruffle, 52″ x 3 1/2″
  • Two cuff ruffles, 18″ x 4″

 

Making Up

All in all, I followed Kelly’s wonderful instructions. But, here again, a few changes were needed to adjust for shape and sizing:

Around the top of the jacket, I only sewed up a 4-inch shoulder seam on either side. to this, the shoulder gusset added another 2 inches and made for a comfy shoulder fit. Usually, I am not big on gussets, but shoulder gussets are just awesome.

The next thing was that I used two front pieces. So I did not have to cut a slit and simply hemmed the front ends before gathering it all into the collar. I later fastened the jacket with a length of soft cotton tape at the top, right below the collar hem.

As you might have noticed, I used four cuff pieces, instead of two. The reason for this is that I gathered and then sandwiched the ruffles between two cuffs before attaching everything to the gathered sleeve. When assembling the collar, I did the same again.

At the bottom of the sleeves, I left a shorter slit of 3″, to fit my slender wrists. If that is too wide, you can also tack or button the slit shut below the cuffs. But, if you choose to tack, make sure that your wrists still fit through comfortably.

 

And that was it already…

As for everything else, no more big changes were necessary. And I think this is the place to give Kelly another big thank you. Without her blogging about the shirt, there would have been no bed jacket.
But now there is. (Yay!) Even though it is a little too late for the HSF “Re-Do” challenge, I will try to get a few photos to put into a challenge post over the next few days.

Maybe, in the meanwhile, some of you will start making their own Regency bed-jacket and/or matching shirt. Just like the jackets, it was not uncommon for gentlemen to slip a night-shirt over their shift to stay warm. With the holiday season at the door, it would certainly make for a very special present.

Cheers, Nessa

 

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Project Boudoir: Bed-Shift Photos

After finally charging up the camera and setting up everything for the first round of photos in the new living-room, I have captured a few pictures of the finished bed-shift for you. It is made from a light, but cozy, linen-cotton blend and turned out very nicely. I could wear it around the house, day in and day out. The only problem with that endeavor is the rising autumn chill outside….

But, luckily, the pieces of the bed jacket have already been cut out. I patterned it using late-18th and early-19th men’s shirts as a guide. In a little while, I will tell you some more about it all. But, for tonight, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure:

The front view.

 

The back view.

The neckline and lacing.

The sleeve with lace trim and gusset.

My first-ever monogram. It says “N.S.”. I picked it out in satin stitch, using an 18th-century alphabet for linen embroidery.

 

Those are the impressions of the bed-shift so far. I will add more photos once the whole boudoir ensemble is finished and ready for the HSF’s “Re-do” challenge, due on November 15th. But I will blog some more before that as well. ;)

 

All the best, Nessa

P.S. This weekend, I realized that “Sewing Empire” now has a total of 55 followers, here and on Facebook. It has amazed me to see the blog being received this well. And I would love to thank you for your wonderful feedback and support. Please keep it coming. You are the best. =)

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Project Boudoir: The Bed-Shift Pattern

Now that the holidays are over and real life has me back, it is time to get a little more “real” about the bedtime attire. I am glad that the bed-shift has made some really nice progress and is as good as finished. But, today, I would like to take you back to the start of it and tell you a little about making the pattern.

Basically, the shift pattern started out as the chemise from the Sense & Sensibility Regency Underthings Pattern, which I already used for my first Regency chemise.
Starting from this, I reshaped the yoke and neckline to look more like the one in the picture from last week’s post.

Last week’s Georgian chemise, as found on Hope Greenberg’s website.

As Regency shifts and chemises usually have necklines that are a bit on the wide side, it took me a while to puzzle out just how low and wide I wanted to make it to still be suitable for bedtime wear. With the help of the awesome historical sewing crowd on Facebook, I finally reached a decision. I have to thank everyone that replied yet again. You guys are the best help one can possibly wish for. :)

In this context, someone also directed my attention towards this extant chemise pattern from the Missouri Historical Society. It looks very much like what I had in mind:

Pattern of an extant chemise from the MHS.

In the end I used the overall width at the top and the strap length as a guide to shape a new yoke, which I then connected to the original pattern’s body. I distributed the strap length to be 6 inches at the front and 4 at the back, which, more or less, equals the proportions of the original pattern’s cleavage. But still, it turned out quite a bit higher than the original. I will probably only wear it for winter wear outside of bed, where it can hide under a chemisette or high-necked walking dress.

To make it all a tad longer than a day-wear shift, I simply went without shortening the pattern. Originally, it is probably meant to be knee-length for ladies about half a foot taller than me. When altering the pattern into a bed-shift, some of you might have to lengthen it at the designated marks…

And that was all about the bed-shift’s basic pattern. Another thing I changed was the neckline binding: Instead of making bias tape with the pattern’s binding guide, I used 3-inch wide strips of self-fabric, overlapping them at the corners of the neckline, to better preserve the square shape.

As in the original pattern, I fed a drawstring through the inside of the binding, to keep the shift from sailing off at night. (This happens to you once and never again… ;) )

Oh, and I decided to add a monogram and some lace to the shift. But I will tell you more about that in the next post. Until then, I wish you all a Happy Halloween.

Much love, Nessa

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HSF # 17: An Embroidered Reticule

Even though it may look tedious, embroidery can be so relaxing. That is why I am glad I decided to make my embroidered reticule for the Yellow challenge. Because, right now, life is being a bit hectic again. When I got back from my merry journey to Sweden last week, I was told that I would be moving house in a week hence. So, here I am showing you the finished item from atop a pile of boxes. ;) I am really glad most of the embroidery was already done on the road and I only had to make up the reticule when I got back.

Here is how it all went along, from start to finish:

First, I picked a pattern that would go along well with the shape of reticule I wanted. I picked this one here from an 1821 issue of Ackermann’s Repository:

The 1821 needlework pattern.

 

Next, I transferred the pattern to the fabric and back-stitched the outlines. As the outer fabric was a wool blend it was not really co-operative when it came to tracing the pattern. So I had to resort to the paper-tracing method also used in my blackwork tutorial. It worked okay, but requires a lot of patience on loosely woven fabrics… Here is what the tracing process looked like. For this, I used a no. 3 fine crewel needle:

Paper-tracing and back-stitching the lines.

Then I carefully removed the paper with a pair of tweezers and started filling in using a no. 5 crewel. For the big petals, leaves and the garland I used two different satin stitches (split and regular). The smaller flowers were filled with long and short stitch to create some shading. it does not seem to be a 100% period stitch to do, but I wanted to try it. Everything else (stems, veins and the yellow buds) I filled in with stem stitch. Here is a picture of the finished embroidery:

The filled-in embroidery.

 

While I am not certain whether the long and short fill stitch was popular during the Regency period, the stem stitch was definitely a favourite for outlining and filling, in white as well as coloured work. By chance I found this wonderful embroidery detail in the Met collection, filled almost entirely with tiny rows of stem stitching. When this whole moving craze is done, I will try and give you a quick tutorial on this, very versatile, stitch.

An 1820s corset embroidery, filled in with stem and satin stitch.

Afterwards, it was time to make up the reticule. My pattern inspiration was a blend of the two reticule patterns that come with Sense & Sensibility’s “Elegant Lady’s Closet” pattern. Here is a picture of the lining, to give you a better idea of the shape:

A look at the lining.

At last, I joined the inner and outer fabric at the top hem and fed a yellow satin ribbon through the drawsting casing. Luckily, I remembered to attach the tassel before this, so I could bury the knot on the inside, never to be seen again. ;) Here is a picture of the finished reticule, along with the challenge details.

 

The finished reticule.

The Challenge: HSF #17 – Yellow

Fabric: Shell: Yellow silk-wool blend; Lining: Light blue cotton canvas

Pattern: Reticule: My take on the Sensibility reticule patterns (Elegant Lady’s Closet); Embroidery: 1821 Needlework pattern from Ackermann’s Repository.

Year: 1820s

Notions:9 skeins of cotton embroidery twist for the embroidery and the tassel; 20 inches of yellow satin ribbon

How historically accurate is it? The fabric and patterns are period-approriate and everything was stitched and finished by hand. So, rather accurate altogether.

Hours to complete:Embroidery: approx. 36 hours for I am a bit slow; Making up: 2 hours.

First worn: For the photos.

Total cost: € 14 for the yarn and shell fabric. The lining was made from a piece of scrap.

And that was it already. I shall see you with some catch-up posts on this project, and maybe also some new, exciting ones, after moving and regaining internet access in the new city. Until then, take good care.

Love, Nessa

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HSF #16: From the Calico – My First Regency Dress

It is official, I am a laggard. This is the first time I am a little late posting a challenge item for the HSF. But, now that the craziness of the last eight weeks is slowly subsiding, I am slowly getting the hang of sewing and blogging again. (And yes, I did not forget the week roundup I promised you last time. But so many new, exciting things have happened; so it ended up being postponed until I find the right words to tell you all about that.)

But first things first. Here are a few facts about making the dress and how it ended up in the “Terminology” challenge:

This is my first attempt at a Regency gown and the very first time I altered a pattern almost entirely based on the mock-up. And the good news is: there were barely any alterations needed. Because of this, I was able to keep the toile and re-use it for the bodice lining. Since the gown was originally meant for the “Paisley and Plaid” challenge last month, this was my way of smuggling it into the HSF after all. ;) To do so, I needed a fitting term from The Dreamstress’s Historical Fashion and Textile Encyclopedia. Luckily I ran into “calico”, which is also sometimes used to refer to mock-ups, along with toile and muslin. And, because this aspect was pretty important to me, it fit.

Cutting out the bodice pieces from the calico.

Since this is a first attempt though, I am not entirely happy with the result. The other day my side seams decided to rip clean through because there was a little too much strain on them. And then there are a few issues with the trim, half of which merely exists because the skirt came out a wee bit too long and I forgot to shorten it until everything was made up… *headdesk* But, in the end, I quite like those tucks and the dress is actually wearable. Still, I cannot wait to start the next one, if only to iron out those silly beginners mistakes. ;)

Now, that was enough moping, here are the challenge summary and photos:

The Challenge: HSF #16 – Terminology

The Term: Calico (European use)

Fabric: 5 yards of “Moscow check” poly-cotton for the dress and old calico bed-sheet for the mock-up and lining.

Pattern: Janet Arnold’s 1806-09 Muslin frock, without major alterations.

Year: Early 1800s-1810

Notions: 1 3/4 yard soft cotton tape and 2 ecru shank buttons for the back closure; 5 yards of satin ribbon and 5 yards satin bias tape.

How historically accurate is it? Pretty accurate. The pattern is derived from an extant gown, about 80% of the seams are hand-sewn and the lilac check fabric was sampled in an early issue of Ackermann’s; except that the fabric I used had some synthetic fiber content.

Hours to complete: about 70 hours.

First worn: For the photos and fitting.

Total cost: about € 35 altogether.

And here are a few pictures, posing with one of great-grandad’s very old books. ;)

The front view.

The back view.

And now, unto the next challenge. Hopefully this time it will be on time. And I will keep you posted again more regularly from now on, promised. :)

All the best, Nessa

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