A Shortgown At Last

Finally, I got to compile the long-overdue post on my beloved shortgown I finished a few months ago. To start off, here is the finished product: I took these pictures after wearing it to one of my very first costume events (a historical market) so it is not perfectly pressed. ;)

The finished shortgown.

The finished shortgown.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The back, with pleats and a little bow.

The fabric I used was a gift from a dear friend who is a Regency/Federal-era costumer herself. She was very, very kind to send it across the Pond after I had spent weeks not finding a suitable fabric for the gown I liked. I am so glad she could help me out. But before I got to work with this beautiful fabric, which is a light, printed quilting cotton, I delved into research to get inspired about possible patterns.

Some Research
To begin with, shortgowns were present in women’s wardrobes in the 18th and early 19th centuries. In the 18th century the were also often known as bedgowns or manteaux de lit. And, while the general style of the gown stayed the same over time, some little details in the cut and shaping changed: Earlier versions of shortgowns were often cut from one piece and more or less symmetrical, with a front opening and a flared skirt section, shaped using pleating and / or tucking. Marquise wrote up some very good instructions for an 18th-century bedgown, based on Garsault’s book, here. Another example for this style, but with a more flared skirt, is the Kallfors gown from Sweden. The reproduction in the link also comes with a pattern. :)

And, while one-piece versions seemed to have been the rule, it is not uncommon to find gowns where the skirt section has been pieced on. This was done in the Kallfors shortgown, too. But it is not easy to spot from further away. Here is another Swedish example from Digitalt Museum where the piecing is more obvious in the lovely, bold stripe pattern.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

A mid 18th-century Swedish bedgown from Digitalt Museum.

As time went on towards the Regency era, narrower shoulders and slightly deeper necklines made an appearance as working-class women began to adapt the look that was fashionable at the time. Isabella of the Two Nerdy History Girls wrote a very nice post that sums up these developments. With the changes in shaping, neckline and waist drawstring began to be used in shortgowns. Here is a Dutch example from the very early 19th century that seems to have a neckline drawstring and sports a leaner silhouette than the more flared earlier gowns.

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Early 19th-century shortgown from Friesland (Source: Memory of the Netherlands database).

Another Dutch gown, where the drawstrings are a bit more prominent is this brown one. It has a visible join and drawstring at the waits, though the join might also be a casing sewn as a tuck. To me, this one looks super cute and very “Regency” and so it became the main inspiration for my project. Below, I will tell you how I went about making it.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

Another Dutch shortgown, probably 19th century, from Amsterdam Museum.

The Making
To make mine, I played around with the Sense & Sensibility ELC pattern I used for my stripe dress last winter. I went with the long-sleeve version of the bodice pattern. The only difference was that I included a front opening. For this, I added an overlap of 3/4″ at the center front and cut two halves of the front piece, instead of a whole one. Here is a photo of my cutting layout and the lovely brown fabric:

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

The bodice pattern and layout. :)

To finish the front overlap, I pressed over 1/8″ and sewed a tiny hand-rolled hem on either side. I think this is how I finally fell in love with making them. They did not take long and came out looking really cute, almost like iced on. After finishing them, I sewed the rest of the bodice according to package… erm pattern instructions. ;)

The 1/8

The 1/8″ rolled hem on the bodice front.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

And the finished bodice, with drawstring neckline.

The neckline drawstring casing I made of self-fabric bias binding, also based on the pattern. For the top closure, I sewed two small eyelets into the inside of the casing. They are set off by about 1/2″ so that they tie safely on the inside.

One of the two CF eyelets. :)

One of the two center-front eyelets. Below you also see the casing for the waist drawstring. :)

Like in some of the earlier extant gowns, I also made a separate skirt piece. I had two rectangles for the front that were 8″ long, plus 1 1/4″ for the top and bottom seams. They attach to the back piece at the bodice’s side seam. For the back piece, I played around with the pattern’s skirt piece, which has a curved top seam line. I trimmed it down to 28″ width, to accommodate one box pleat at center back and four small knife pleats on either side. At CB, the piece was about 11″ high and it went down to 8″ on either edge, to fit the front pieces. After sewing the three pieces together, I added two more tiny 1/8″ hems at center front.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed.

The skirt piece, sewn together and hemmed at center front.

After attaching the skirt to the gown, I finished the skirt seam with bias binding. I then sewed it up into the bodice from CF to the side back seam line to form two drawstring casings. The strings tie up to pieces of cord near the back. To finish off, I finally added a little decorative bow to the back. It helps to cinch up the waistline and nicely brings out the pleats. :)

Another “gimmick” my shortgown has is a bodice “lining” piece that keeps everything in place. It was a feature of the S&S pattern and I decided to keep it, since it helps a lot with keeping the gown straight over the stays.

The bodice

The bodice “lining” from scrap fabric.

When I wore it to the event, the lining and outer gown were held together by a total of 30 (!) short pins. And, after spending six hours plus in costume, the whole construction had not budged an inch. I also wore the fichu on the occasion, using even more pins on it and it behaved very well, too. This taught me again that pins really are a great period closure method. And that, no, they do not prick and poke you at all. :D

So, all in all, I am very happy with my first shortgown and actually having worn it “in public” for an event. Here is hoping that I can repeat this again soon.  Until then, it is back to the thesis and more sewing (yay!). Wishing you all a relaxed remainder of the weekend.

Love, Nessa

 

 

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Covering Baby’s Head – Georgian Style

Recently, there have been two new additions to my extended family: Two new baby cousins were born in March and April. They are both girls and look absolutely adorable. To welcome them into their lives, I decided to sew a little gift for each of them. Fitting with the HSM “Protection” challenge, I decided to make a pair of historically inspired baby bonnets. Since I have never sewn any clothing for babies before, it was a sewing adventure I was itching to embark on.

True to my favourite era, I decided to go for a Georgian / early Regency style bonnet. Since time was a bit short to get everything done for the baby girls’ arrival, I opted for a simple style, like the one in this 1801 plate from Costume Parisien:

Mother and child fashion plate; Costume Parisien, c. 1801.

This style corresponds fairly well to this extant American infant’s cap from the late 18th century.

Infant’s cap, second half of the 18th century, American; MFA Boston.

This is the simplest style of period baby caps to be found. It usually consists of two pieces: a narrowly hemmed head-piece and a ruffle or lace edging. Ties were optional and seem to be missing from many surviving bonnets. Beyond this very basic style, quite a lot of bonnets had extra decorations. Lace insets at the back of the head were a very frequent decorative addition, as you can see in this other cap from the MFA.

Infant’s cap with inset lace, 18th century, American; MFA, Boston.

Beyond that, some extant caps show off some very fine, drool-worthy embroidery in white, or sometimes even colored, thread. The early 19th-century example below is one of my favorites. Reaching this skill-level at white embroidery is definitely one of my long-term goals. ;)

Embroider baby cap, early 19th century, British; Textile Museum of Canada.

For my cap, I used Sharon Ann Burnston’s basic 18th-century baby cap pattern and tutorial. The original pattern is sized to fit a very small infant. So, after talking to some other seamstresses who have made it up before and also to the pattern creator herself, I decided to scale it up to about 125% of the size. This way my little cousins can grow into their bonnets over the next few months. :) Here are some detail pictures of how I made up the caps. Since they were so small and my sewing machine needed some maintenance, I sewed everything by hand. It was the quickest, easiest way.

The narrow-hemmed main piece.

After cutting out the pattern from a leftover piece of printed Swiss-dot cotton, I narrowly hemmed the bonnet’s main piece, using the rolled-hem stitch I talked about in this post from last December.

The laddered back edges, sewn 2/3 of the way.

Afterwards, I folded the bonnet in half, butting up the back edges. They were then sewn together about 2/3 of the way from the bottom edge. For this I used a ladder stitch. It is a more or less invisible stitch that can best be described as a straight version of the slip stitch, going from side to side in parallel, horizontal lines.

The radial pleats, outside view.

The radial pleats, inside view.

The open portion at the top of the back edge was gathered into radial pleats, using a circle of evenly spaced gathering stitches, about 1/2″ away from the center. I used a sturdier fillet crochet cotton yarn for this step. Pulling the gathers taut on both sides, created the little rosette you can see in the bottom picture. To secure everything, I tied the thread ends into a firm double knot. Then I back-stitched and buried each thread in the seam.

The lace attached to the bonnet.

Last I stitched some cotton lace to the hemmed edge, all around the cap. After that all I had to do was to add the ties at the “x” marks. For this, I used two 7″ long pieces of 1/2″ wide cotton hem tape. And here is what the finished baby bonnet looks like:

The finished baby bonnet, with ties.

Making one bonnet took about ten hours, or three evenings while taking a break from study and paper writing. ;) I am very happy with the outcome. And, hearing back from the new babies’ mothers, they were very pleased to receive them as a surprise gift in the mail. Now I cannot wait to see the bonnets on my little cousins’, once they have grown into them. :)

I should really try and sew for friends and family more often. But this year, time is extra short *sigh*. Although I am hoping to see you all again very soon.

All the best, Nessa

 

HSM #1: A Procrastinated Chemise

Finally, I get to break the radio silence to share a new blog post with you. The final exam season at uni has picked up speed and it has been a bit of a toughie to fit in the usual amount of blogging and sewing with it. Nevertheless, the first HSM challenge of the year, “Procrastination”, has motivated me to make the new Regency chemise I have wanted for ages now.

Every time I did a fitting or took photos throughout the last year, I thought “Oh my, I could really use a new chemise!” This is what qualified this project for the challenge. And I actually did it! It is even mostly hand-sewn. For me, this is simply the best and prettiest way to work gussets and flat-felled seams, with an extra amount of control.

So here is a picture of the complete chemise. I took it when I should have been revising… ahem. The fabric I used is a basic light voile I bought in France. Even though it is cotton, it handles like a fine linen that was often used to make chemises for the upper classes in the Regency era.

A look at the finished chemise.

To finish the edges, I used two kinds of hems: 1/4″ hand-rolled hems for the sleeves and a 3/4″ double-turned hem at the bottom. This is how I usually do it, to add a little extra weight and make the chemise hang more nicely. Here is a quick close-up of both hems:

The 1/4″ rolled hem at the sleeves.

The bottom hem. You can see how the fabric almost looks like a fine linen. =)

These are all the photos I have taken so far. This leaves the challenge facts to round off the project:

The Challenge: #1 – “Procrastination”

Fabric: Two yards of light cotton voile.

Pattern: Laughing Moon #115 – Regency & Romantic Era Corset.

Year: 1800-1815.

Notions: Cotton thread; cotton bobbin drawstring.

How historically accurate is it? It is mostly hand-sewn and I did my best to stick to period techniques. So I would say it’s 90% accurate, give or take.

Hours to complete: About 30-40 hours.

First worn: Not yet, but I am much looking forward to it!

Total cost: Around € 8 (which was the cost of the fabric).

 

And that was all the sewing I got to finish this month. Most likely, the busy time will go on for this month and the next. After that I am hoping to get back into my usual sewing routine again and to spend more time with you on the blog. I miss you all very much!

Love, Nessa

A Way To Start 2016 : Blog Awards !

Happy New Year once again! I hope everyone passed a pleasant New Year’s Eve. To begin the new year (and another year with the Historical Sew Monthly), a planning post would be in order. But, since my long-term planning usually combusts around Easter, I think I will go without it this year. ;)

Instead, I would like to spread some new year’s happiness. Last month, the wonderful Chelsea of A Sartorial Statement nominated the blog for a Liebster Award. Receiving another award nomination has left me overjoyed, since I am always happy when readers like what I post and I can share the joy with me. Now I would like to pass on the love to you and nominate some of the awesome blogs you write. :)

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To start with, here are the award rules (usually I am no big fan of chain-mail kind of activities, but blog awards are the big exception):

1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you.

2. Answer the questions the nominating blogger asked.

3. List 11 bloggers with less than 200 followers that deserve some recognition.

4. Write 11 questions for them to answer.

5. Notify them that they have been nominated.

 

Here are the questions Chelsea asked, and my answers.

1. Where is your favorite place in the world?
Oh, that is a tough one. But, offhand, I would say Vienna with its amazing old city palaces, coffee houses and fashion collection. Another beloved place where I go when I badly need to unwind and relax, is the huge garden of a nunnery near the Rhine where you can walk and get lost in beautiful nature for hours.

2. What has been your most challenging project, to date?
That would be my pair of Regency long stays. Despite the great instructions they came with, they really challenged my sewing skills. After finishing them though, it felt as though the project had hugely improved my sewing techniques. :)

3. What do you like most to do on a rainy Saturday when nothing else is planned?
Usually, I will go for a coffee and then write on a short story, get carried away on some embroidery or, sometimes, start a new sewing project on a whim. ;)

4. If you could travel to the past or the future, which would you choose?  How far in time would you go?
Hmm. I would say it would be the past for me and I would go back as far as the bronze age to learn more about the origins of human culture.

5. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
It is not really a “tradition” but, what I like most about the holidays is to get together and spend time with family or friends.

6. How do you motivate yourself when a particular project is difficult or tedious?
I put it aside for a while, but not long enough to become a proper UFO. Then I try to find some small rewards (like a nice dinner, some new fabric or a coffee)to get me going again. Although, the biggest reward is finishing the project and enjoying it. :)

7. Do you ever have a hard time explaining your hobby to strangers?  If so, how do you handle that?
Not really, no. Usually I just tell them why I like doing it so much and that does the job rather well. Another matter, though, is when the ladies at the fabric store ask what I am making… ;)

8. What is your most invaluable tool?
After the last hand-sewing adventures, I would say it is a good supply of beeswax to wax the threads/yarn.

9. What is your dream project?  Time and money are no object – what do you make?
An early 18th-century silk mantua. Should I ever marry my own Mr. Sharpe, making one as my wedding gown would be an absolute dream.

10. What is the last book you read?
“The Three Musketeers” by Alexandre Dumas.

11. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?  (Food, TV show, clothing item, etc.)
Other than fabric and embroidery yarn, it is BBC’s “The Musketeers” right now. It is the first TV show in a decade I absolutely went nuts about, and even wrote fan fiction on. The costumes may not always be at the height of accuracy, but I enjoy it a lot nonetheless. :)

 

Now it is time to nominate some of my favourite bloggers and their amazing work. Even though it is not my first round of nominations, I will never run out of really wonderful blogs, and people, to nominate. Here they are:

Laurie of Threads of My Life who blogs wonderfully about her beautiful creations and her adventures in costume.

Lydia of The Antique Sewist whose historical costume creations are absolutely gorgeous, or even breathtaking at times. :)

Hannah of Fabric & Fiction who mostly sews Regency attire, like me. I simply love her blog and the detail that goes into her work.

Hana of Marmota’s Dress Diary who is a very skilled seamstress and great blogger. I love her detailed research of historical garments and fashion history.

Beth of Beth’s Bobbins who writes about her sewing and other textile arts, but also about recreating historical hairstyles. I really enjoy following whatever she does/makes.

Gina of Beauty from Ashes whose costumes always look so perfect and whose blog is a lovely read every time.

Marlena Jane of By the Hush who blogs about her sewing and reenactment life with a twinkle in her eye. Both her posts and here costumes are just great.

Meg of Nutmeg Sews who makes absolutely beautiful historical costumes and blogs about her projects in a good amount of detail. Her blog is much fun to read.

Cassidy of A Most Beguiling Accomplishment who really knows her stuff and makes stunning costumes which she blogs about sharing many details. I also got her book “Regency Women’s Dress” not long ago and love it.

Jeannine of J-Nine Costumes whose blog and projects are simply great to look at and read about.

Bránn of Matsukaze Workshops who is a gentleman seamster (yes, that is a word) making all the historical garb he needs and I just love what he writes and does. There should be more enterprising young men like him in the sewing community. :)

 

And, last but not least, here are my questions for the nominees:

  1. What is your favourite fabric color / pattern you enjoy working with the most?

  2. What is your most favorite place / space (be it a room, building, holiday destination etc.)?

  3. Do you have a favorite TV show or movie? If yes, which?

  4. Is there something you like to collect (fabric, ribbons, buttons, cups etc.)?

  5. If you could travel to one of your sewing era(s), which one would you like to visit most? Is there a specific date/place you would go?

  6. What is your favorite novel / author?

  7. Do you have a favorite museum you would like to visit or go to visit time and again?

  8. Which is the absolute dream fabric or notion you would really like to work with, cost notwithstanding?

  9. Is there a new sewing or crafting skill you would like to learn this year?

  10. Which sewing / dressmaking task do you enjoy / eschew the most?

  11. Where is your favorite place to sew or craft?

Those are my questions. I hope you will be okay with answering them and am much looking forward to reading your answers. :)

 

To conclude this post, I would like to wish all of you a good, happy and healthy year 2016. May all your wishes and expectations come true.

Warmly, Nessa

 

Some Handsewing Tricks

While the month rushes on with giant steps, I am working away to finish the hand-sewn Regency ensemble for the challenge deadline. Since this is my first completely hand-sewn project in a while, it took me some time to get back into the routine. Now that I am back into it, it has become a fun and meditative pastime to end a long day.

As I go, I tend to pick up new tips and techniques to make my sewing life easier. Most of them are only tiny, little hints, so tiny that I went “duh” when I found out about them. Yet they can make the whole handsewing process a lot more easygoing. This is why I would like to let you partake in the things I have learned in this project. I hope you will enjoy this little selection of tips and, perhaps, everyone will pick up a new sewing gimmick, or two. ;)

 

1. Tiny Rolled Hems

For a long time, I have been wondering, just how many of the historical seamstresses I follow make those tiny and neat rolled hems on sheer cottons and linens. In the past, I have used the “obvious” method of pinning, tensing and rolling as you go. But it simply did not cut it.
Now I learned how to really tackle rolled hems. This method has also been used historically and, once you have some practice, it is really fun to use. It is a special rolling stitch that encloses the raw edge in a zig-zag pattern.

Here is my result of using the method to hem the ruffles for the chemisette. You can probably guess which of the two I hemmed first. ;)

rolled20hems

Hand-rolled hems on the ruffles.

For those of you who, like me, have not yet heard about this magical stitch, here are two tutorial explaining the process: I used this one by Laura. Alternatively, there is also a nice video tutorial on the Threads website.

2. Proper Waxing

For sturdy and tangle-free handsewing, a nicely waxed thread is key, especially when sewing with cotton or linen thread. When I was still new to sewing, I thought that simply meant slipping the thread over a piece of beeswax. But now I know that this is only half the process. The other half consists of ironing the thread. Since most costumers know this, it is not talked about much. Although a friend recently asked me to tell her how I wax my threads.  So I will share it here, just to be sure. ;)

waxing201

Start by waxing your length of thread. I usually do this by holding the wax in my right hand and pinning down the long end with my thumb, while pulling through the thread with my left.

waxing202

Then place the thread inside a piece of kitchen paper. Ideally, you should not fold it too often, but a few times usually work fine.

waxing203

Last, fold over the paper and iron the thread without steam, on high or medium high, depending on the material. Afterwards, your thread is ready to use. It should feel like a sturdy piece of twine.

3. Better Knots

After threading the needle, knotting can be the next hurdle before you can start stitching. I never quite understood how the traditional method of pinching and rolling worked. So I turned to securing my threads with quilter’s knots. They can be a bit dizzying to do at first, but once you are in training, you can put them into every thread you like, even doubled ones. Here is a brief video tutorial on how to tie them by Sunni on the Threads site. Depending on how many twists you make around the needle, you can create a firm knot or a smaller one to bury between two layers of fabric. :)

4. Use A Cushion

Personally, I have the nasty habit of hunching over my needlework. It is something my poor back used to complain about a lot. Some people solve this dilemma by always working at their sewing or dining table. Sadly, my niggling elbows are the next ones to nag me when I do that. There is another solution though:

img_0509

How I handsew, using a cushion.

I now put a cushion in my lap when I sew, while lounging on the sofa. This is a comfy habit I picked up while binding my stays. Sometimes, I still have to stop myself from hunching, although my sewing posture has much improved since. Not to mention that my back, wrists and elbows are very grateful. Perhaps this trick will work for you, too.

 

This concludes the tips for today. Admittedly, they were no great deal, though they might be helpful for those of you who find handsewing strenuous or want to improve their skills a little. Please let me know what you think and if you have any other handsewing questions you would like to learn more about. :)

Love, Nessa

 

The Art Of Getting Side-Tracked

This September is being a really busy month around here. Since my last blog post, I have slithered from the holiday in France, straight into the new student job at uni and onward into studying for the second block of exams. And, during this whole time, I have really missed the blog and reading about all the wonderful things you have been up to.

In this post, I will play catch-up and give you a quick update on all the new things that have happened in and around my sewing room since the last blog update. Even though it has been a very full month already, there has been some room for sewing. In fact, there was enough time for me to start two new projects and to get side-tracked more than once. But let us start at the beginning:

The month began in France. It was my first time going there and I absolutely fell in love with French fabric stores and the small merceries where you can buy the loveliest lace, ribbons, buttons and all sorts of other notions. Here is my haul:

Fabrics and notions from France.

At “Toto”, a small chain store, I bought 2 yards of both cream and white voile, as well as a coupon of salmon muslin with nearly transparent woven stripes. All of these will most likely go into making Regency attire. I also found 2 1/2 yards of a very delicate cotton lace and an embossed button at a local mercerie. The button is made of pewter and just begs to be turned into a brooch or necklace. Finding all these wonderful things makes me wonder whether I might have time-travelled back into the Napoleonic era upon stumbling into these shops…

Back home, I set about starting a gown to go over the finished Regency undergarments. I got as far as assembling the e-pattern (I am using Sense & Sensibility’s Elegant Ladies’ Closet with some alteration) and cutting out a first mock-up:

The first stages of the new Regency day dress.

Then I became indecisive about the fabric choice. I wanted to use a sheer white muslin and embroider it with some florals to match the HSM’s upcoming “Brown” challenge. Then this chance find side-tracked me:

Another unexpected fabric find.

It is a sheer, white pima cotton with blue woven stripes and an light check pattern in the base fabric. And it settled my indecision about the dress the moment I picked up the bale. Since it is a leftover, there will not be quite enough to accommodate the sleeves. But I already have some ideas what to do about that.

But first, I had to find a new, quick project for the “Brown” challenge. And I finally got an idea while browsing Pinterest the other night: garters to hold up my stockings. There I ran into two ways of doing them. One was Liz’s tutorial for tied 18th-century garters and another was this post by Isobel Carr, detailing early 19th-century spring steel garters. So I went about patterning my own pair and putting together an embroidery design to match the challenge.

Here is a glimpse of the, thoroughly brown, notions and the embroidery patterns. Since it was customary to add a motto to garters in the period, I came up with one as well: Coeur ouvert – Âme honnête. It means “open heart – honest soul”. That is not quite as cheeky as some of the period inscriptions. Yet, as a good friend has put it: A gentleman “should bloody well have those qualities if he gets as far as your garters.”

The notions for the “Brown” project.

The embroidery patterns; adapted from Ackermann’s Repository, c.1811.

It already feels as though this project is going to be a lot of fun. The plan is to finish it in time, despite all the studying, and to, hopefully, have a tutorial up for you by next month. So it is about time I go on working on it. ;)

Conveniently, this concludes the stream of exciting updates so that I can continue doing just that and wish you all a good start into this week. It feels good to be back with you and I am hoping to write up another post on the garters very soon. I have missed you all a lot!

Much Love, Nessa

The Finished Regency Stays

The day is here: My Regency stays are all done! After completing them, I took some time to give them a spot cleaning and wash out all the pattern marker, but now they are on the dress form at last and I get to post a few photos for you.

The only thing that is still left to do is to bind the countless metal eyelets in thread, but I will postpone that step until it is time for my first even next year. Out of all the eyelets, I only managed to work the two on the straps by hand, because I was concerned that metal might be a bit too poky in that particular place. And, besides, using the vario pliers is so fast, and a lot of fun. ;)

Anyways, enough of the rambling, here are the pictures:

The front, with the ribbon tightened inside the top casing.

Here is the front, with the self-made wooden busk. Since I have made the busk pocket a nit narrow to hold it better, it stands out a little. Inside the top binding, there is a ribbon which can be drawn up to avoid gapping at the bust. For my smallish cup size, this feature works miracles. Since it is not so visible in this shot, here is another pic of the cording and embroidery. Instead of the wavy line suggested in the original pattern, I made a garland in stem-stitch and added some small satin-stitched dots. :)

Close-up on the cording and embroidery.

Next, here is a view of the laced back. Since the dress form is less “squishy” than I am, the lacing gap down the middle is a little larger than it is on me. At the moment I am also considering to change the crossover lacing into either ladder or fan lacing. The second option is a bit tricky to figure out. But Sidney Eileen made a nice tutorial for it.

A look at the back.

Last but not least, here is a shot of the stays’ side. It shows the slanted spiral bone along the side back seam, the two hip gussets and a length of straight cording:

The side view of the stays.

The pattern suggested to floss the hip and bust gussets with embroidery thread. The was a period way to prevent the narrow seams at gusset tops from fraying. A satin stitch was recommended, but I went with the flossing technique used to secure bones in corsets from the later 19th-century onward. For this step, I consulted another great tutorial, also by Sidney Eileen. Here is a close-up of the outcome:

Detail of the flossing at the hip gussets.

And those were the pictures already. Looking at them, I must say that I am fairly chuffed with my very first proper pair of Regency stays. I have spent a lot of nights on them over the past six weeks. But I think they were well worth the extra time and effort. The stays are rather late for the Historical Sew Monthly’s “Out Of Your Comfort Zone” challenge, which ended in June *cough*. Although, now that they are done, I might managed to sew my first Regency dress with a proper period fit for the upcoming “Brown” challenge. Wish me luck!

Cheers, Nessa

P.S.: As an afterthought, I would like to thank you all for your support throughout this project. It has been one of my biggest sewing challenges so far. Without the advice and encouragement from other historical seamstresses and costume enthusiasts, it would have been a lot harder to do.

On the other hand, making the stays has also been a steep learning curve. Now I am much more confident about tackling the next sewing endeavors to come. And, perhaps, I will make yet another corset. But shh, I did not just say that… ;)

Corset Update: Opening Up Shop

And, one day before the next exam, I am back with the long overdue corset update: Tonight I finally got around to ironing my fabric (yay!) and the altered and finished master pattern is waiting to go onto it for cutting.

I will be using a yard of sateen for the lining, and another yard of light trouser-weight cotton twill for the outer layer. For a corset, this may feel a tad too light at first; but then many extant Regency stays and corsets are somewhat on the light side as well. A very prominent example of this aspect are Juliette Récamier’s infamous wrap stays:

Empire-era wrap stays, worn by Juliette Récamier (Musée Galliera, c. 1800).

That being said, I could have also gone with two layers of sateen, according to the pattern’s fabric suggestions. But my sateen is a bit flimsy. On the bright side though, this quality will come in handy when tracing the cording pattern to the fabric. ;)

In the meantime, the rest of the corsetry tools and ingredients has arrived as well. They complete the small collection of items I have shown you in June. Now, we are all set to go…

The rest of the corsetry tools: two pre-cut flat steel bones, 2 meters of spiral boning, a pair of needle-nose pliers, fine steel wire cutters and a tapered awl.

And, for the first time ever, I have involved my dad in a historical costuming project. He was a great help when it came to selecting the right tools to work with hardened steel. He suggested I get a decent bolt cutter for the spiral boning and has promised me to be on the lookout for one at the hardware stores. Until then, I will be using a pair of fine steel snips from the jewelry-making department. :) Another thing we agreed upon was getting some of this amazing stuff: heat-shrink tubing.

Heat-shrink tubing, 6-8 mm wide.

I will use it for tipping the spiral steel bones, after finding this amazing tutorial by Kim of “Steam Ingenious”. This unusual method also got dad’s seal of approval when I showed it to him over coffee. He pointed out that it would stop the cut tips from rusting which is not something one would want in a corset. Sometimes  I really think he would make an awesome historical costumer. :)

I am also excited about finding out what he will say, once the corset is boned and ready to go. I am hoping to get to this point by the end of August. And, of course, I will keep you posted about the progress. Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Love, Nessa

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

On Thursday night, my fellow blogger Crystal at Adventures in Bias Tape provided me with the most awesome surprise: A blog award! Even now, three days later, I am overjoyed to receive her nomination. As always, I am very, very happy when others like my blog and enjoy the things I write about as much as I do. But I am also thankful, since this award provides me with another chance to pass on the admiration those bloggers I love to follow. :)

Long story short: I want to thank Crystal a million times for giving me the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award.” It is a great honor to place it here on my blog. :)

Now, to pass on the joy to the wonderful bloggers I follow. To off, here are the award rules:

1.Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
2.Put the Award logo on your blog.
3.Answer the ten questions sent to you.
4.Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
5.Nominate ten blogs.

And here are the ten blogs I would like to nominate for their amazing work:

My questions for you are the following. I am excited to hear your answers.  =)

  1. How long have you been blogging?
  2. What is / are your favorite topics to blog about?
  3. Do you have a favorite book and or author? And what do you love the most about them?
  4. Which is / are your favorite historical (sewing) periods?
  5. Do you have a piece of clothing in your wardrobe that you really love?
  6. Which sewing / crafting technique would you love to learn?
  7. If a time traveler offered to take you anywhere in time and space, where would you go?
  8. Describe your ideal dress fabric.
  9. Which is your most important sewing or crafting tool?
  10. Are you more of a lace or a ruffle person?

And now, it is my turn to answer Crystal’s questions *sharpens pencil*. I hope they will prove satisfactory. ;)

1. Why is your blog named what it is?
Most of all, the blog title says what I love doing: sewing and researching Empire-style fashion. That it could also refer to an actual empire of sewing is just a funny coincidence. I would never, ever dream of that. ;)

2. What made you decide to start blogging?

When I started blogging, I had been about a year (and two dresses) into recreating historical fashion. After researching online a lot, I knew that, in our special little costume community, blogs transport a great deal of the knowledge required to make beautiful period garments. Around that time, I was staying in Vienna and discovered the historical fashion library. That was the special moment that encouraged me to start contributing the things I learned  through my own blog.

3. What do you enjoy most about blogging?

That one is easy: Getting in touch with other bloggers and people who share the same interests, to enjoy, exchange and discover new ideas. And to drool over everyone’s gorgeous creations of course… :)

4. On average, how much time do you spend sewing?

It really depends on how busy daily life gets. But, on average, I would say between one and three days a week are dedicated to sewing and/or embroidery.

5. Of your favourite eras, do you prefer having patterns pre-made or making your own?

Given the time, I like to make my own or at least size up / alter period patterns to fit. With certain garments though, such as corsets *cough*, I prefer patterns and instructions made by more experienced folk. ;)

6. Speaking of favourite eras, which one is yours and why?

Actually, I have two at the moment: Regency/Empire and Edwardian.
Regency, because I adore the style of, light and gorgeous, high-waisted dresses and how the accessories, like underpinning and spencers, are created around this special style of dress.
Edwardian fashion I like because it is a fashion that is still pretty “recent” in historical terms. And because it has its own, adorable, way of playing on fashions that have gone before.

7. What is the most unconventional object used in a previous project? (Either in the making of, or actually in the item)

Hmm. I seem to be a rather conventional girl with what I put into the garments. The weirdest might have been a length of thick hemp rope, to weigh down the hem of my bodiced petticoat. But that might have been a
In the making department, the weirdest tool is my “bodkin”, which is actually a big no. 1 carpet needle which I got for a few cents at the craft store.

8. Describe your ideal sewing area.

A well-lit room with a big drafting and cutting table (not the floor), a neatly ordered fabric section and lots and lots of space for my historical wardrobe and patterns / pattern books.

9. Care to share your favourite sewing tip/trick?

Sure. I love to tie the ends of my hand-sewing threads into a quilter’s knot. It is the least fiddly knotting method and works well on all kinds of threads. If you have not heard of quilter’s knots before, you can out more in this tutorial.

10. Coffee or tea? Plain or doctored?

Tea at home and coffee when I’m out. I love both equally as well, but each has their time. And, I take a lot of milk with both of them. If you put sugar in either, though, I will scowl at you. ;)

Here you go. I hope my answers were not too lengthy. :) Now, I shall proudly attach the award badge to my sidebar. Receiving this blog award has been a wonderful thing and it has made this week so much better. I hope your week has been a good one as well and you can now enjoy the final hours of your weekend. I shall see you all soon, with a few corsetry updates. :)

Much love, Nessa

Thoughts On Two Splendid Chance Encounters, At A Less Splendid Place

The following post is a bit different from the usual ones. It is not about historical sewing exactly, but about a fashion-related topic that has made my inner seamstress slightly thoughtful of late. Perhaps some of you have made similar observations and can relate to it a little:

Generally, I am no big fan of discount outlet stores. This is not because of the prices. As a student, I am as glad as anyone to find affordable clothes at a decent quality level. And it is not the clinically commercial atmosphere, which you would not find at a charity-run, thrift store. What really makes me wince, is the way many costumers treat and handle the discounted clothes and other fashion items. When I see them being tossed lovelessly into carts to be wheeled off in piles to the fitting room, only to be tossed back out again when they do not fit.

After all, these clothes were once cut and sewn by someone, somewhere. And, since some of them are actual designer items, they were put together with care, in more than just a few minutes of assembly work. And, even it is just a t-shirt or pair of jeans that is tossed around by a customer, it feels to me like someone’s work is not being valued enough. Unknown as this person may be, he or she would not want their product to be handled this carelessly. If it were one of my hand-sewn items being wrangled into a shopping cart like this, I would most likely cuff the culprit around the ears…

The modern empire dress I saved at a discount outlet, after mending.

The other week, I posted a modern empire-line silk dress on the blog’s Facebook page. I bought it at just such a store, because I pitied it. It is of very fine Thai silk, and almost entirely hand-finished. When I walked past, I saw how someone had wedged it onto the hanger quite sloppily, so that the lining was being stretched out. With a slight pang of compasson, I picked up the dress and saw that the fine fabric was snagged and worn through around the seams, from obvious mishandling. So I decided to adopt it, to save the fabric from even more damage. When I walked out of the store with my purchase, I felt as relieved as though I had just rescued a sad-eyed kitten from a kill shelter, extreme as this may sound.

The other day, I went shopping with my family, and we visited another discount store. Luckily, we only had a look around the household floor. Here we passed a smallish bargain book section. And, among the small pile of sewing books, I found this:

A book I had not expected to encounter in the bargain book section…

The find made me wonder whether the store wanted to appease last time’s ill feelings, since this is one of the contemporary sewing books I have always wanted to own. It contains a concise primer on all dressmaking techniques and a series of classic, adjustable skirt, dress, top and trouser patterns. But, so far, I had not found the English edition at a reasonable, affordable price. Now, here it is and I am fairly chuffed.

Yet I am still not very happy about the impact of discount stores. Of course, they serve a purpose and are a reliable source of income for the companies running them. But then again, they do not encourage respect and conscience for fashion, and its creators, in the customers. Personally, I now prefer second-hand or charity thrift stores to find affordable clothing items, which have already been loved and cared for by their previous owners. :)

I hope you did not mind this, somewhat ranty, post. It is something I usually do not do; but I think this had to be said. Next time, we will go back to the business of historical sewing and its joyful prettiness. =)

All the best, Nessa