Monday, January 25, 2016

Procrastination Challange

I decided to take on the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge for January 2016.  In the group, every month in 2016 they feature a themed challenge. One can sew (or knit, or crochet, or tatt, or embroider, or whatever it is you call making a hat, or otherwise create) a historical (anything pre-WWII, so 1938 and earlier) garment or accessory that fits the theme.

This project has been sitting my UFO box since January of  2013. I had originally cut it out to practice making one for the Pocket Sandwich Theater, or to go with my new Truly Victorian Patterns I was going to make. Neither happened, other than I got the petticoat sewn together all but the bottom ruffle and the waist band.  It was only a couple hours to finish.  Took longer than I thought to gather 5 yards of ruffle onto a 2 yard hem.  Regardless, it is finished.  I don't have a dress to wear it with  just yet, but hopefully that will be rectified.

Materials: 100% unbleached muslin, cotton cord
Pattern: TV170 Victorian Petticoats
Year: 1870-1879
Notions: Cotton Thread, 1/4: wide cotton cord
Historically Accurate: 75%. Modern overlocker, and machine was used
Hours to complete: 4 hours
First Worn: Not yet, need the dress to go with it.
Total cost: $12 USD

 With that done I have started another procrastination project, other than the great sewing / office clean out. I had started making the baby girl a set of vintage PJ's last summer, but never got the top finished.  I'm guessing I had a paid gig come up, which isn't bad, but the project ended up in the UFO pile.  I pulled it out and I was surprised how quickly it has gone together.  Sewing gods being with me, I should have it done by the end of the week.  I think she will like it because she has started "stealing" it to try it on.  

Speaking of procrastination catching up with you I had to laugh a little at myself at one bit of UFO I turned up in my continued trips into the cleaning/ organizing of the sewing room/ office.  I found a bag that had the pattern, fabrics, and such ready for me to make a dress up knights outfit for my oldest nephew.  At the time that is what he was big into doing,  knight and SCA and such.  Yeah, time has past and he has grown up just a bit.  When I originally planned it for him he was wearing a size 7 kids, now he is wearing men's medium shirts and 32x30 jeans.  Not to mention is 14 years old.  It is safe to say this UFO could be broken up as he won't be wanting it anymore.   I'll just have to make him something else now. Panel shirt or cool vests anyone?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The great dig (AKA Cleaning the sewing room)

I have been struggling as of late with sewing.  While I enjoy sewing I am finding it is not always practical for me to be set up at our dinning room table, or the kitchen counters.  Yes using those makes me keep them clean, keeping them clean is the problem. 
We can't eat dinner at the table if there is sewing stuff on it, so each night I have to pack it all up and take it back to the sewing room/ office.   This means I then have to turn right around and go get it once dinner is over.  That can be frustrating if you had the project just right to sew something, and you waste time.  On top of that our daughter LOVES to spend time with us, but most of her toys are in her room.  I can't blame her that she doesn't want to be alone in her room when mommy and daddy are doing something fun in the living room.  This can lead to frustration on all our parts. 

A couple weeks ago we decided to do a bit of de-cluttering of the house, we do it every January, and June. It lets us get rid of the things we simply do not use, or want anymore.  Christmas decorations were put up, but we still had a section of the living room that we had stashed stuff.  Be honest with yourself,  you have a place that when in a hurry, you put it back there until company is gone, but you never really ever take it back out.  Yeah, that area needed to be cleaned out.  We were thinking of rearranging the living room, and we would need that stuff gone. 

I  decided yesterday would be the day to tackle it, and the sewing/office.  I pulled out all the junk from the stash area. Went threw it and got rid of 90 % of it, and consolidated the rest.   This gave me room to bring out the boxes, and bags from the office to go through.   I started by breaking the room down in sections in my head.  This was to allow me to systematically know  what needed to be done next and where things should ultimately go. The first area I hit was my fabric tubs.

Sewers and crafters are notorious for keeping way too much in their stash, and as a theater person I am required to keep stuff in my stash, but there comes a point where you simply have to say "No! You are not paying your rent, you need to leave!"  I went tub by tub and pulled out anything smaller than what I could cut a sleeve for my daughter.  Anything smaller went into my scrap bag.  Let's be honest it was a kitchen size trash bag.  I heard some one in the back saying, "But you make great stuff out of scraps."  This is true, but I don't need little pieces of silky fabric because they ravel and are not sturdy in those types of projects.  I do have one large tub that I put any of the fabrics that were 1/2 yard or less that would fit my needs.  Trust me I am set for that project.   Also as I went through the tubs I took a look at the yardage that I had been holding on to for a while.  There was some that was just plain hideous!  I get that you sometimes need quirky fabrics for characters, or there is an 'Ugly Fabric Contest", but I really would NOT have wanted to work with them even then.  I simply didn't love them, so out they went.  I want stuff in my stash that if I needed a gift by tomorrow AM I could walk in there, pull out the fabric and make something.  Not dig through tubs of stuff I can't stand to look at, much less use.

After going through all the fabric I found that I had consolidated down by two whole tubs.  I was quite proud of myself.  Then came the organizing.  The first thing I did was dust, wipe down, and vacuum.  Always ALWAYS  ALWAYS vacuum multiple times when cleaning, just because you got up any pins or screws the first time, does not mean you haven't dislodged more in the mean time.  Trust me, I swear I found more after each vacuuming.  That is why rule #1 in my office is "Wear hard sole shoes!"  Yeah, it is even above "don't touch my scissors!"  I've had a pink removed from my foot, not something I want ANYONE to repeat much less my little daughter.

All across the net people post thing about "organize your fabric" but they don't really tell you how, and what is the best way.  My thoughts on the matter are this: #1 what is the purpose of your crafting.   #2 Organize to that purpose.   Sounds silly but it seems to work.   I've seen hacks where people put fabrics on file cabinet folders.  That is not going to work for 5 yards of satin or wool.   My choice has been plastic storage bins. I keep mine in large bins by color.   I keep pinks/ reds in one , yellows/ brown in another, Green/Purple/ Blues in yet another, then black and grey in the last.  I keep any creams with the browns, but whites have their own bin.  If you have the space, I would also break it down into like with like.  Put all the cotton of the reds together, blues, yellows ect.  I say that because in certain situations that works best.  I keep all my velvets and high end brocades in a special tub. That way I can protect them from being crushed much easier.  For sheers, or chiffons I keep them in a clear plastic bag.  That is the only fabrics I do that to.  Ideally they would have their own tub, but given that sheers take up so little space, having a tub strictly for them, seems a waste of space.   When it comes to tubs, get ones with opaque sides.  I know you would prefer seeing your fabric but fabric will degrade if it sees too much light.  Best to keep them in the dark.  If you want to know what is in the tub, I recommend the new all sticky post it notes.  Post it now makes a note that is all sticky on the back, not just one spot.  These make great removable labels. Regular post it's come off easily on boxes and tubs, not these. Highly recommend them.

Once the fabric was sorted I hit the pile of patterns.  This is another spot where darkness is good.  Talk to any good comic book collector and they will tell you light is bad for paper.  Out on the net I see two ways that people organize their patterns A:  They put them nice and pressed into comic book bags and boards.  B:  They put them in 10x13" manila folders with the pattern envelope taped to the manila folder. Then filed in a filing cabinet.  Neither of those worked for me, so did something in between.  I put any pattern I have used in a gallon size zip lock bag.  This keeps all the pieces together, and I can keep any alteration pieces in there as well. I just make sure I squeeze all the air out of the bags before I put them in the file.  I have found that I prefer to use bankers boxes over comic book boxes.  The bankers boxes are about the width of the zip lock gallon bags, so they store well. Unfornatly they are a half inch to narrow to put two patterns side by side when they are not in the bags.  You might have to get creative staggering them, if you want to go that route. I keep my patterns sorted by gender, type, time period, and size.  This means I have an infants to size 4 box, and a infant to size 12 kids costume. I have a women's costume- ren faire, as well as one for 1800's, 1900's and Modern, then a plus size box.  For men I have a basic Mens, and then a Men's Renfaire,  and Costume.  Then a general "group costume" for those patterns that are used for both genders.   Then one for accessories/ dolls/ and crafts.   Each box is labeled and sorted. By being in bankers boxes they are easily handled and moved from my closet.  I can pull each out, look for what I need , and put them back.  I think of them as a modular filing cabinet.
 The other problem is knowing what you have and don't.  There is nothing more aggravating than buying a duplicate when you already had the pattern, or thinking you have the pattern but it is in the wrong size. There are various computer programs you can use to keep file of them.  There are even excel spread sheets , and Access Data bases that you can use.  There is even apps you can buy for your phone that will let you set up data bases in the cloud so you can access them on the go.  I tried those a few times.  While they work, it takes ALOT of work to get it up and running, and it is only as good as you updating it, and using it.   At some point I'll get to that, but that is another day.

In 8 hours of work I managed to get through half the room, and get rid of alot of stuff, but I am certainly not done.  My next challenge is to finish up the last of the boxes, and get my sewing trims and the like sorted out.   I did learn something yesterday.  When working with maribou trim, keep it in plastic bags when you are not using it.  The DH lost a yard of light colored fleece because the yellow and black feather trim he got to make puppet hair disintegrated in the box that he had it in.  The color also leached into the nearby light colored fabric.  Thankfully most of it can be cut around, but still a section was ruined.   I have found if I color coordinate my trims in a shoe box or bankers box, and they are stored in quart size zip lock bags they keep their color, and are easier to find when needed. 

Having all of your supplies organize not only helps you get work done, it honestly saves you time and money.  Think about it,  if you know what you have in your stash, and when to find it easily it will save you money so you don't have to go to the store and buy something you already have.   Also by having the supplies organized you are also safer. More stuff where it belongs means fewer things to trip over or fall on you, or someone who love.  Honestly it will also make you happier and more productive.  I'm not going to say you need to go and do as I did and "nuke the site from orbit", but it does help.  The problem with tackling something this big is that there is always "fall out".  I still have items in our living room, that I have not yet gotten back into their home, because their new home is in the area I haven't cleaned yet.  The other fall out is the dust I stirred up when ever I clean. I got alot out into the air, and unless everyone in the house has on dust masks until 2 hours after you are done cleaning, allergies will run rampant. We had an air purifier going, which helped but you will turn up alot of dust.  That is why I recommend you think of this cleaning as an archaeological dig.  One bit at a time, and wear a mask and goggles when diving into the "dirt".  Just remember in the end, it will be worth it, but like any good project it might take several 15 minute segments to get it all done. :)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Mrs. Clause Part 3

Looking back I realized I had never completed this series of posts.  Ooops.....

The bodice was done with Truly Victorian 422 1881 Dinner Bodice.  That bodice kicked my tail for 5 days straight.  I've been sewing professionally for 15 years for theatrical, and custom work; so it is safe to say I'm not a beginning seamstress by any means. Translation, if I am having trouble, something is seriously wrong somewhere.  I reached out to the Historical Costumer Pattern Reviews group on facebook for help.  There I struck gold.

A rundown of the trouble I ran into.

My first mock up made per the directions listed in the pattern for fitting. My back width is 18" ( per the measurement done by the DH), Bust is 40: 40-18= 22".  22" meant I was to use a size C front. Simple enough right?   Yeah, didn't work out that way.

When I tried the mock up on over my corset I discovered, that I needed an inch added at the waist due to long torso. Also that I forgot to add an inch at CF so that I could pull the bodice together to properly fit.  I then realized I was wearing the wrong type of corset, I needed to wear an over bust not an under bust.  On top of all that I failed to take into account that  that petticoat, plus bustle, plus under skirt plus over skirt add inches to waist which need to be accounted for. After being in tears for 2 days, decided to make a 2nd mock up. 

I was not going to give up on this I again made a mock up per the measurements. I tried it on over a new over bust corset per the directions. I put the corset on my squishable dress dummy. I cinched the corset so that it's measurements matched mine when I wore the corset. Put the layers on the dress dummy over the corset. Then put the new mock up on. I found that the back was great (if not a little loose; however, I needed 5 inches added to the front/sides in order to make it so it fit properly. After another night of tears I came back to it. I remade the sides to add 4 inches total to necessary areas. ( after un picking and adjusting I found I didn't need as much space as I thought.) I also fixed  gapeing at the neck line. In all honesty that second mock up was hideous! 

 That is when I had to wave a white flag and go for help.  The best place I knew to go was to the Historical Pattern Review Facebook group.  If they didn't know how to get me out of this pattern disaster I didn't know who could.  Heather Naughton, God bless her, was able to help me. Is is actually the one who created the Truly Victorian Patterns, and if she can't figure out what is wrong no one could!  She walked me through going from the beginning because SOMETHING was wrong, but we couldn't figure out where.

We started with proper measuring.  She gave me a link to where she teaches people how to properly measure for her patterns.  You would be amazed that most pattern drafting problems are because A) someone didn't measure in the right place, or B)  they don't want to agree with what the measuring tape actually is telling them.

When I gave her the calculations I had on my first two mock ups  she thought my back width sounded a bit wide. For a comparison, she has fairly wide shoulders, a 48" bust (all rib cage) and only a 16 1/2" back width. After looking at that I had a co-worker remeasure my back width for me. We came up with a 14.5" back width.  With a 14 1/2" back with, that is a size F for back and sides. The adjusted back for the size F is 19.25. 40 - 19.25 = 20.75 which is a size F front.  We decided to go with a size F back and a size G front, just to give me a hair bit more room in the front.  

I then cut out an entirely new pattern and made a new mock up based on the new pattern recommendations from Heather. I made sure I had the extra inch added at my waist for torso length per my original mock up.  Heather also reminded me that the TV patterns use a 1/2" seam allowance instead of 5/8" like modern patterns use.  This is important because in garments this closely fitted 1/8"-es add up to whole inches in garments like these.  I ended up putting a piece of tape on my machine where 1/2" was so that I could have a better guide than the tiny markings the machine  provided.  Part of me felt a fool for having all the problems, but I kept being reassured that we all sometimes get off the wrong foot, even with years of experience.  It takes an outside eye to help you get back on track. 

The third mock up did the trick.  It was the back piece that was throwing everything off.  I did the correct pieces and it fit perfectly. I did discover that I needed to adjust the bottom of the bodice to work with the design of the bustle.  This wasn't surprising because I was using a 1870's bodice pattern and trying to make an 1880's gown.  The bodice wasn't designed to go over a bustle,but by making an adjustment to the sides it laid better over the skirts. 

I then went on to the proper fabric.  It was a 100% cotton Scarlet broadcloth.  I wanted something mid-weight that was breathable. As you can see in the pictures it began to show potential soon as it was put together.  I flat lined my cotton with a black twill to give it more stability but keep it breathable.  I added an inch at the center front to allow for buttons to be used.  This was honestly the trickiest part of the construction.  I had trouble wrapping my brain around how I needed to do the front.  I ended up having to do something odd to allow for the over lap.  Honestly I am not completely sure what I did, but it worked. (Too many late nights sewing, and foggy sleep deprived brain). 

The only other quibble was with my corset.  Trust me I LOVE my corset but for this gown it was 4 inches too tall in the front.  I really needed a sweet heart neck line one but at the time I didn't have access to one.  That has since been rectified.  In the mean time I found an old partlet/ corset cover made of white cotton flannel that I would wear under the bodice.  I had tried to make a white frill that I could wear with it but it drove me nuts, didn't lay right, and I ended up simply using my sewing snips I carry with me at events for repairs, to remove it with in 15 minutes of being at the event. It was bugging me THAT much. 

I had never used buttons on a center front of a dress before and I wasn't sure how it would work out.  The pattern directions tells you how to measure out how to make them properly spaced. I wasn't sure how that would work out , but it worked perfectly.  As for the buttons themselves I had wanted to use the pearl half ball buttons I had left over from a different project but I could not find them anywhere in my stash of buttons.  Knowing my luck I put them away someplace where I wouldn't loose them.  Giving up on finding them, I ordered off amazon a dozen half ball pear buttons  1/2" for around $6 with free shipping.  They arrived with in 2 days and I had no problems getting them on.  

I added matching white pleated trim to the bottom and cuffs, and then the green leaves and beads to the bottom of the dress.  I simply ran out of time to do the leaves and beads on the cuffs.  Besides by then my fingers were raw from all the hand sewing.  It has been YEARS since I had my fingers bleed this badly for a project.  I will say it was well worth it. 

As for what I want to add to it besides the wonderful cape I did for Celtic Christmas.  I want to finish the trim on the sleeves, and maybe do some sort of fur collar thing.  I also want to do a Christmas themed bonnet of some sort.  It has been a while since I did millinery and I would like to try it again. Besides, who knows what I'll come up with between now and next Christmas. :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


I really don't like to Procrastinate on projects, but sometimes something comes up and I just don't get around to making something due to work, paid sewing, or just simply life happening.   I decided to join in on  the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge. 
The challenge for the month of January 2016  is Procrastination.  We are to finish a garment you have been putting off  finishing (a UFO or PHD) or make something you have been avoiding starting.   I have had 7-8 yards of a 60" wide wool that I got two years ago at a thrift store.  I have wanted to make a 1870's gown from it for 2 years, but never got around to it.  I want to wear it to an event in February, but worst case I might be able to wear in April (if it is cold enough)  or in November (provided it isn't 90 degrees!)  I'm thinking I may take it into the world of steampunk but we shall see. 

On that same note I have an 1870's petticoat that I started 2 years ago as a "mock up" for the Petticoat I used for the Mrs. Clause project.  I got it all the way to the waist band and ruffle but never finished it.  It wouldn't take much to finish it, but I just have to do it.   It would take 2 hours to complete it, therefore I really do not have an excuse to NOT finish it. That would complete the challenge, but why stop there?

It wouldn't be historical, but I have a PJ top for the munchkin that has been sitting in the UFO pile for 6 months now.  If I don't finish it soon it will go into the  "bless another" pile.  As much as I like making stuff for other people, I would like it to go to the person I planned it for.  I'm silly like that. 

I'm also plotting in the back of my mind a special to me project.  I will not make a wedding dress for someone.  It is too much of an important day for someone and the drama around it is NUTS!  That said, I am going to make a white dress that is based upon a wedding dress from the 1870's for my 15th wedding anniversary.  If something comes up where I can wear it, all the better.  I got to do a little something for our 10th wedding anniversary, but I had to accommodate being 5 months pregnant with our daughter.   While nice, didn't QUITE get what I wanted. Still had fun though.  Our 5th wedding anniversary was spent on the pier of Wellington New Zealand drinking micro brewed beer and eating fish and chips. That wasn't a bad anniversary either I must say.
I designed my wedding dress, but I didn't make it.  I found a different seamstress to make it.  I was in the middle of finals, student teaching, graduating and moving,so I have no regrets having her do it for me.  I got to make my flower girl's dress so I was happy with that.  It may sound silly but I want to up the ante on the dress and see what I can do 15 years later.  It is a little unnerving that at the same time as our anniversary our flower girl will be graduating from High School.  Yes it was 15 years but she is not suppose to grow up!