Pins Pins Pins

Pins are a real sewing staple. We use them very, very often and still hardly talk about them. This why I want to write about them today.
Lately I have been working on a few different sewing projects. And I realized that I have been using many different pins for them. So I thought I would give you a little “tour” of my pin collection and tell you a bit about which ones I use for which sewing tasks. Perhaps you are using you can find a new pinning idea for your sewing in this post. :)

My pin collection (left to right): Standard steel pin, veil pin, glass head pin, fiberglass pin.

Steel pins are my tiny workhorses. I use them to hold together most standard fabrics, such as (poly-)cotton or wool. When in costume, I also use them as dress pins, to secure the layers on top of my stays. Although some people worry that they might prick themselves, I have never had that problem. My trick is to pass them in out of the fabric a few times, as if I was sewing with them. Then I make sure the pointy end comes out on top and everything is fine. The two things that annoy me about steel pins are that they bend easily and that they seem to get dull more quickly than other pins. Of all the pins I use, I have to replace these most often.Glass head pins are my new love. I only bought my first pack last month. Since then, I have mostly used them in stay-making and to fit mock-ups. They stay in place more reliably than average steel pins. I also find that they iron better and I iron over my pins a lot. The only downside I see at the moment is that they do not pick up so easily. Sometimes when I try to pinch the head between my fingers, the pin literally jumps to the other side of the room. Besides, good-quality glass head pins are not really cheap. Which is why I only got mine now… but it was a good investment!

Fiberglass pins are what I use to pin silk or other fine fabrics, such as sateen or voile. They slide in and out easily; sometimes even too easily. Also, they never get dull. But you do not usually find these pins in many places. I got mine at a store selling all kinds of novelty items. You might have to search around quite a bit to find a seller that carries them. I really wished more places would sell these cool little things.

Veil pins are basically 3″ long mini hatpins. And that is how I use them. When working on millinery projects, they are great for holding the hat/bonnet base on the styrofoam head. Of course you can also use them as decorative pins on mantles, cloaks or veils, as the name suggests. ;)

Another, amazing, thing I discovered recently are wonder clips. Once upon a time, they were mostly known to quilters. Now more and more sewers are discovering them. It took some time for them to come to Europe, now we can even buy more affordable no-name clips. They work just as well as the Clover ones. Recently I have used them when binding my stays. It was much easier than sticking in a pin every half inch or so.

Binding the 17th-century stays with wonder clips … and pins ;).

And this concludes the brief tour around the pin collection. Now I am curious about your sewing and costuming experiences with different pins. Looking forward to hearing from you!

Love, Nessa

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Open Seams with Herringbone Stitch -A Tutorial

While making my herringboned fichu, I realized it was about time to post a new tutorial. So I thought I would show you how I made the open seam at the back.

Open back seam on my fichu.

Open work is something I had always wanted to learn, because it never fails to look delicate, wherever you put it. But, so far, I have not found a go-to tutorial for it. When making the 18th-century baby caps for my cousins, I tried my hand at fagotting. It is very similar to what I did on the fichu, only with a more complicated stitch. I could not really wrap my head around it and eventually opted for a basic whipstitch finish.

Then I remembered that herringbone stitch can also be used for open work. And here we have it, simple and pretty. If you have not seen herringbone stitch before, here is a very good video tutorial. We will be doing just the same to create the open seam. The only difference will be the gap between the two stitch lines.

Now that you have familiarized yourselves with the stitch… off we go!

You will need:

  • The two pieces you want to join.
  • A thread of your choice. You can match it or just go wild with colours. Sewing thread might be too thin. What works well are fillet crochet yarn (no. 80 or 100), silk buttonhole or one to two strands of embroidery floss.
  • A matching needle. For best results, it should be smallish and sharp.
  • A piece or strip of paper as long as your fabric edge. It need not be wider than 1″.
  • A cushion to anchor your work. A small sofa cushion or throw pillow will do.
  • Pins.
  • A ruler and pencil.

How it is done:

  1. Finish your fabric edges. Before you start, the two edges you are stitching over need to be hemmed. Hemming any other edges is advisable, though, especially if your fabric is on the sheer side. Narrow hand-rolled hems work well. You can use them to get some extra stability for your seam (see below).

    Make a paper template for the seam.

  2. Use your paper and pencil to make a template. Basically you draw two parallel lines, each one as long as your fabric edges. The space between the lines should be between 1/4″ to 1/8″. For the tutorial I started with 1/2″, but eventually went with 1/4″ for the fichu.

    Pin the template to the cushion.

  3. Secure the template on the cushion with pins. Make sure it lies flat.

    Pin the fabric pieces on top.

  4. Now pin your fabric pieces onto the cushion. Match the fabric edges you are working on with the lines on the template.

    Bring up the thread and start stitching.

  5. Thread your needle. If you have wax to hand, waxing the thread is a good idea. Now bring your needle underneath the hem on the back of your fabric and bury the knot between the layers. Then bring the needle to the front. It should come up at the top edge of one piece, a little ways away from the working edge.
    NB: If you have a rolled hem, come up right at the inner edge of it. Working the herringbone over the hems will help stabilize the stitch.

    And stitch away!

  6. Work the herringbone stitch between the edges until your seam is done. Try to keep an even tension to avoid puckering or loose stitches.Take the needle to the back to finish off.
  7. When you reach the end of the seam, take your needle to the back, coming up on the hem.

    Knot the thread and bury the tail.

  8. Knot off the thread and bury the tail between the layers at the hem. And, tadah, your open seam is all done!

    Your finished open work seam. Yay!

And that is it already. Easy, right? The next level would be to use a double herringbone stitch instead. Here is a video tutorial for that one. Try not to get dizzy. I still do sometimes! ;) 

I hope you found this brief tutorial useful. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know. I cannot wait to see your own, beautiful open work creations!

Nessa

A Herringbone Fichu

After the stays, I was itching to do a pretty project that would not take ages to finish. Thus I picked up a scrap of cotton voile and made another fichu. Like my previous one, I based it on this super handy fichu guide by the Oregon Regency Society. Only this time around, I made it rectangular in shape.

Here is what I did: I started by cutting two rectangles, each 28″ long and 12″ wide. After finishing the edges with 1/4″ hand-rolled hems, I joined up the pieces with an 8″ open herringbone seam. It now sits at the center back of the finished fichu. Finally I embroidered two more rows of herringbone stitch down center edges to match.

Creating the open herringbone stitch.

All herringboning was done is a blue no. 80 filet crochet cotton, which I use for anything but crochet. It works great for sturdy finishes or small embroidery designs like this one. Here is the finished item. Making it took about eight hours in all.

The front view.

A closer look at the herringbone finish.

The back view.

A close-up of the open-work seam.

This small project was much fun as I got to do two of my favorite sewing things… decorative stitching and rolled hems. After hand-rolling quite a few of those, the process has become a bit addictive. I think some of you can sympathize here, no? :)

Yours, Nessa

Not in a million years … I thought (CoBloWriMo #20)

Tonight I have some news to share with you: Just in time for the “not in a million years” prompt I finished the binding on my 1620s stays! And this is really something I would not have believed to be doing in a million years.

When I started sewing, I was positively terrified of working on corsetry, let alone fit my own patterns. This, however, was four pairs of stays ago. And things kept getting better with each one.

The first short stays were a catastrophe. Then came the Laughing Moon long stays. They were a big challenge, but the pattern instructions were a great help, as was the generous fitting advice on the Regency Facebook groups. After that, things kept getting better.

My self-drafted morning belt went together quickly, after just a few fits of swearing over the pattern. And now, there are the 1620s stays. When I started them, I was as terrified as ever. Although, aside from being super time-consuming, I have not yet come across any bigger snags.

One thing that really helped with it was Cathy Hay’s corset binding tutorial at Your Wardrobe Unlock’d. And now, the unbelievable has happened. Here are the bound stays, drying after a little spot cleaning to remove the pattern marker. Yippee! I made the binding from leftover lavender linen. The rest of it makes up the interlining.

The bound 1620s stays.

Next up are scores of hand-sewn eyelets. Another thing I believed I would not be doing in a million years. But, oh well, one truly grows with every corsetry project!

Nessa

Top Tips for Handsewing Needles (CoBloWriMo Day 13)

Today’s CoBloWriMo prompt is “Top Tips”.

In their posts,Thedementedfairy,  Kitty Calash and Cassidy have pointed out how important handsewing and using the right materials is to achieve the best possible results. My tips are an addition to all the great handsewing advice they have already given.

Being a stickler for always using the suitable needles for each task, I have compiled some points on those pointy things for you. ;)

As someone who primarily hand-sews, I find that proper control over the needle is one of the most important things. To get it, I use the smallest, sharpest needles I can find, namely quilting “betweens”. 

Quilting betweens, sizes no. 7 & 9.

Betweens are shorter than modern standard needles. This brings them closer to historical handsewing needles which were often on the shortish side. Recently I found someone who was totally stumped at people using 1″ long needles for sewing. To be fair, it takes practice and threading them can be fiddly. 

Thus it is best to start with a slightly bigger size, like a no. 7, and to go down as you are feeling comfortable with it. I am now on a no. 9, which is the smallest size I can source locally. On the long run, downsizing is well worth it. I especially notice the difference when sewing invisible stitches, whipped gathers or tiny rolled hems. They turn out much nicer as the stitching becomes smaller and finer.

Another thing I find important is to toss your needles and take new ones regularly. On average, I do this after every second or third project. When sewing with silk or extra fine voile, I automatically take a fresh needle, just to be on the safe side.

If you are unsure if a needle is still good, pass the point over your trouser leg (or skirt ;) ) at an angle. If it scratches or snags, the needle is a goner. You can do the same with machine needles, to be sure you do not get holes in the fabric or a sewing machine on strike.

I hope these tips are no old news to you and will help you a little with your sewing. :)

Love, Nessa

A Cap for a Dear Friend

After fixing some image server issues, the blog is back and I can finally tell you about all the projects I have finished over the past few months. Since my last post, the white crossover gown has come together at last. But I will keep you in suspense a little longer, since a photo shoot opportunity (my first proper photo op, yay!) might arise at the end of this month.

So, today I want to tell you about a gift for my dear friend Ann. She was kind enough to go through her stash and send me fabric for my shortgown when I could not find anything suitable on this side of the pond. This is why I simply had to sew something for her in return. Because she had once told me that she does not have a simple linen cap for reenactment, I knew just what to make for her.

For the cap I used my favourite Mill Farm pattern, the same I have used for mine here, and leftover white linen fabric from the bed shift. When making it up, I tried my hand on two period sewing techniques. The first were itty bitty rolled hems around the brim, on the back crown, and the ties.

Rolled hems around the brim…

…. and on the tape ties.

Further, I got to learn a new technique I had been ogling for a while: rolled whipped gathers! And now that I know how they work, I never want to go back to regular gathers, ever again. They just give you much more control over the gathering process and a much neater edge finish besides. To learn rolling and whipping, I used two video tutorials for orientation: This one from Katherine and another from Conner Prairie, which has sadly gone offline. This second one described a rolling process of the fabric around the needle. But I found that you automatically start doing that, once your stitching gets quicker. Here are some photos of the gathering process around the crown, with a look at the finished item:

Finishing the row of whipped gathers on the crown.

The gathered crown (with a rolled hem at the bottom).

The attached whipped gathers, inside view.

The attached whipped gathers, outside view.

Once everything was hemmed and the gathers were in place, all that remained was to back-stitch the tape ties into the brim, wash and iron the finished item. Here are some photos I took before mailing the cap overseas. It reached its new owner quickly so that she could make plans to wear it for the Regency Ladies Weekend at Riversdale House Museum last month. This was only the third historical costume gift I got to sew for someone and I am super glad that she liked it. :)

The finished cap.

The finished cap… back view.

Speaking of gifts: There has been another, very exciting, surprise that reached me in the mail earlier this year. But I will leave it for next time, since it really deserves a post of its own.
So… stay tuned!

Until soon, Nessa

PS: The image issues should be resolved now, but should you have any trouble viewing or accessing the images on the site, please let me know. Thank you! :)

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

Gussets, Grommets & Cords: Some Novice Corsetry Advice

Please excuse the long quiet on the blog. As you can guess, I have thrown myself into making the corded Regency stays. While this project is really keeping me busy, it has actually made some good progress so far: The sixteen (!) gussets, as well as all the cording and grommets are done now. So far, no major disasters have occurred, either. Well, aside from bleeding on them twice while hand-sewing, ahem…

Here are two photos of the current state of affairs. I will add some more, less messy ones, once the stays have come together. :) :

One of the back pieces, with finished hip gussets, eyelets and cording.

The corded, gusseted and embroidered front (on a less pretty sheet).

And the stays have proven to be a great learning experience, also in terms of general sewing skills. Even though I am still a novice seamstress, I would like to share some of the helpful things I have learned.

I know of quite a few other costumers in the historical community who are attempting similar projects at the moment *waves at Molly of Avant Garbe*. So I am hoping that these hints might make life easier for some of you. I will also link to the tutorials that have helped me the most, so that everyone can profit from them. Here we go:

Three things about gussets.

Firstly, since it is about time someone says it out loud: Gussets are no fun! They are finicky, they need tiny, annoyingly slanted seams and they almost always seem to fray like mad. But, with that knowledge in mind, sewing them actually feels a bit easier. There is no such thing as the perfect gusset, or gore, unless you have a great lot of practice sewing them. So do not stress over them too much.

Secondly, there are several ways of sewing gussets. The one that has worked best for me is to cut a single slit, stay-stitch around it, fold and press over a tapering seam allowance and then slide the gusset in place while looking at the right side of the corset piece. There is also the method of snipping two tiny extra cuts around the bottom end of the slit. But it is a lot more fiddly and frays even worse when you need several tries to place the gusset.
And, even though it took a lot longer than using the machine, I went the long way and hand-sewed all the gussets. It cost a lot of time, but also saved me a great amount of swearing.

If you want to make your gusset sewing even more hassle-free, here is a very good tutorial on a similar gusseting method by Sarah of Romantic History. Molly has pointed it out to me last week and it really is immensely helpful. :)

Lastly, you should double-check the length of your gusset slit with the actual gusset by matching the dots before cutting. Sometimes the slit markings on the pattern happen to be longer than they should be, which in turn leaves you with less neat gussets. And it also helps not to poke the scissor point into the dot mark on the slit. This happened to me on the test stays and I was anxious not to repeat it on the actual stays. The gusset’s pointy end still needs to sit on a section of uncut fabric. Everything else may result in mild to severe cursing. ;)

Some advice on grommets.

Metal grommets really are a great invention. Even though they are not quite historically accurate for Regency stays, they are used more widely than you think. Right now, they are still “naked” on my stays, but I will cover them with embroidery floss in a later step, to hide them and give things a slightly more appropriate look.

With the right equipment, gussets are actually easy-going. Since I was a bit skeptical about the hammer setting method, I invested into a pair of convertible grommet pliers for my birthday. If you are interested to see how these work, here it a quick demonstration video by Lucy’s Corsetry:

However, there are still a few tricks with these. For once, try using a tapered awl instead of a thread cutter or scissors to make the eyelet hole. It is much easier on the fabric and keeps the threads intact. Further, turning the pliers over and giving the grommet another quick squeeze, as shown in the video, really provides a firmer hold. It also leaves a rift-like pattern in the metal, as you can see in my picture above. But I actually kind of like that special look. ;)

A few cording tips.

The most tedious part about cording is tracing and sewing the cording channels. But you need not be afraid of it at all. Technically, it is quite easy, if not the most exciting of sewing tasks. And it works fastest by machine. Yet there is one thing that makes finishing the channels a lot neater: Knot the thread instead of back-tacking. For this you bring the top thread to the back of the fabric by using a needle or the tip of a seam ripper and knot it off.

Here is a general sewing tutorial on knotting machine seams. It details the same knotting and back-tacking advice I have been given in my only sewing machine class ever…
If you use this method and work carefully, you can also undo a few stitches in case you have been too eager with the machine and have overshot the end point of a cording line.

In terms of the cording itself, not much can go wrong, if you follow the cording advice on your pattern: Add the right amounts of cording ease to your pieces to preempt shrinkange. Depending on the fabric, the stays can shrink from almost nothing to up to 1 inch which would be a problem, especially in the horizontal direction. Since my twill and sateen had  a lot of bias stretch, no shrinkage happened at all. But I still added the recommended ease before hand and then simply trimmed it off again after. Better safe than sorry. ;)

Two little, but still useful, points are to really use a blunt tapestry needle to insert the cord. It is still pointy enough to poke through your lining fabric, but will do no lasting damage to the fibers. A size 18-20 needle works best. :) Also, always leave a bit of a tail on the ends of your cords, so they don’t slip out again. I think I have somewhat over-done this bit on my stays:

The lining side of the front piece, with all the cord tails.

For a really awesome cording tutorial, detailing everything you will need to know, I recommend a visit to The Laced Angel’s blog. If you can cord as artistically as she can, you have really made your way in the sewing world. ;)

And this concludes my novice-to-novice corsetry advice. I hope I have not rambled too much and that you will find some of the tips useful for your own historical corsetry projects. Please stay tuned for the next round of stays updates.
Much Love, Nessa

Cloak Progress: Folding the trim

For the HSM “Blue” challenge,  I am finally getting to make the Regency cloak that has been on my project wish list for so long. And I really owe you a research post to get the whole project rolling properly.  There is just one tiny, little holdup: term finals.

So I have been meaning to do some cloak research all week. But, after spending a few hours with statistics, it gets a bit tough. On the bright side though, I have itched to use my hands after all this brain work. As a result, the sewing is coming along quite well. Tonight, I have been enthusiastically folding and ironing away on the 3 yards of self-fabric trim that will go onto the hood.

Since the woven wool fabric is somewhat fussy about lying flat and being cut straight, it took a small trick to fold over the raw edges. I cut the side out of an old cardboard box to get a strip that was two inches wide; the width of the finished trim. The rest was simple and felt a bit like magic. It went like this:

One: Center it.

Two: Fold, press and pin.

Three: Done. Three yards of blue wool folded. Whew.

And now, I can happily fall over and relax for the rest of the evening.

Wishing you all a Good Night,
Nessa

Assembling a Regency bum roll – A Tutorial of sorts

Unbelievable… I just tackled a challenge, a whole month ahead of its due date. As a result, the Regency bum roll is already finished, completing my set of underthings.
And, making it has been surprisingly quick and easy. It gave me just the burst of sewing encouragement I needed right now. So, I have decided to give you a step-by-step walk through the construction process in case you, too, could use a fun, no-fuss historical sewing project to keep you going. :)

To make the bum roll, I used Farthingales’ Elizabethan bum roll instructions and modified them by measuring around the bottom edge of my stays, instead of the high hip and slimming down the overall width to half the recommended size. When turning and filling the roll, I realized that the 4-5 cm (approx. 2″) I used were a sort of bottom limit. Any narrower, and you might encounter some trouble turning it all inside out or pushing the stuffing all the way into the far tips. That being said, here are the photo instructions for sewing a Regency version of the roll, adapted from the Elizabethan original on Farthingales:

First, sew up the center backs of your eight pattern pieces with a doubled thread. You should end up with four matching pieces.

Then flat-line the outer pieces by basting a bias-cut piece to each. Afterwards, the lining’s center seam should still be visible on the back.

 

Next, sandwich all four layers together, linings facing outward. Leave a biggish opening for turning and stuffing in the middle of the inner curve.

 

Now, sew around the bum roll. Then turn it inside out. Have a seam turner handy for the pointy tips. :)

 

Stuff it with scrap cotton or any other filling material you feel comfortable with. When you are done, whip the opening shut with smallish stitches.

At last, add the ties to the front tips. I used small, invisible overcasting stitches for this step.

 

And that is it already. Once the ties are on, you will have an (early) Regency bum roll that will look something like this:

And… the bum roll has landed. ;)

Now all you have to do is fit it over your stays and/or petticoat and pat it into shape so it sits snugly, but comfortably against your curves. To see what mine looks like on the wearer, stay tuned for my challenge post, detailing it all for HSF challenge #9 “Black and White”.

But, before I get to that, it is due time I plot some Regency gown shenanigans to go over it all. At the moment, there is a whole cascade of ideas buzzing around in my head. And I have promised Susan and Lady Constance, who are currently planning their own Regency wardrobe, to blog about those a little. Just wait for me to untangle all these different dress fantasies up there. With my thesis going full-blow at the moment that may take a little while… ;)

See you very soon.Yours, Nessa