Pattern Pieces – The Process Begins!

So here are the pieces I was talking about yesterday in a larger picture. I made a copy of them with Illustrator, and that makes them editable. I can make adjustments with the program as I need to… However I think I will Print them out and try to get the proportions figured out on some craft paper.
The issue is going to come in with joining the back to the sides and front. In the images you will see what I mean. The back is meant for a longer jacket, so I will have to either crop the back, or taper the joining seam to accommodate the longer back. Or both. I haven’t gotten that far yet, luckily I have an old sheet that I held on to for just this project, the muslin will really help me make the necessary adjustments. It’s going to be a trial and error process I think.


Bustle Business

Even after all of the research I had done I was still struggling with the issue of the bustle. I made a big “pocket” of sorts, that I will likely be stuffing with netting to give it volume, and then draping the bustle over the top. The problem there is that it’s really labor intensive, also, it’s probably going to look like there is an enormous tail under my skirt. And that is DEFINITELY the wrong idea. Then I saw what Lauren at American Duchess had made… it blew my mind. And I felt like a complete moron for not thinking of that myself. Seriously, I had sketched and thrown away so many ideas! This will fit delightfully under the “pocket” of fabric I made, and give the correct appearance (hopefully). Also, if you haven’t seen Lauren’s work you will absolutely die, she is amazing. Any time I have any sort of question if I am doing something right I go to her blog. She is such an inspiration to me, and really incredible at costuming. (She also has period shoes and stockings you won’t find anywhere else)

So, tomorrow I will venture into my old coat closet and pull out 6-8 hangers and go to work straightening and re-bending them to fit the shape I need. I will definitely post photos of the process when it is finished. I also need to get to work on the corset. It’s been such a learning experience. I currently have 4 layers of fabric (one of really thin woven synthetic laid diagonally, 2 satin, and the upholstery weight cover) and guess what… because I don’t have an industrial machine I have been forced to hand stitch each of the channels. Bad choice. I was fine with all of the innards, but once I added the cover it was too much for my machine, even with a heavy needle. Sad day. My fingers ached, and the stitching leaves something to be desired for sure. I have been using cotton cording, as opposed to plastic boning because of my deep fear of it buckling and bulging out in weird places. The layers of fabric may have prevented that, but I’m not taking any chances. It is easier to work with than the plastic boning, or even industrial zip ties (which I have also used) because it is pliable and will take on any shape you need it to. However, that also makes it a nightmare to work with. I have been pinning like crazy as I go so that I can be sure that the lines are straight. I also had to get a leather thimble because my finger was literally raw and bleeding from sewing so much through those thick layers. Holy headache. I should have been smart and attached them before putting the cover on and sewing it all together. Lesson learned for sure. Also, not I have the luxury of decorating the boning because it is on the outside. Weirdness, it looks all kinds of funky, at least I was able to make my own bias tape so it won’t be such an eye sore (not that I’m planning on it being exposed at this point, but you never know).

Now I’m on to making a “jacket” of sorts as well. I have had such a hard time deciding what the heck I am going to do for that as well. I will use the same fabric I used on the skirt, it’s lightweight and easy to work with so far, and the color will be easy to match or dye. Whichever I decide. For the “jacket” I will be using 2 different patterns. The first one is for a fur-trimmed Jacket in the book Reconstruction Era Fashion (which is an amazing book with TONS of resources for all kinds of projects. LOVE IT!)

Here you can see the pattern for the Fur Trimmed Jacket. That’s likely what I will use. I love the buttons on the front and the lines in the finished jacket. The only problem will be scaling it up to fit me, as I am no where NEAR the size the women were back then.

This is the front of the jacket – see what I mean by the lines on the finished product? They are beautiful, and give the illusion of a nice figure. Who doesn’t want that?! The only thing I’m unsure of is the neckline, I don’t know how much I like it…

The back of this one has such nice lines, and I like the idea of having the waist pleated and the fullness of the back of the jacket. However, it couldn’t be this long. It would totally take away from the bustle in the skirt. So do I shorten it? That’s what I’m really facing now, I don’t know what to do!

This is the pattern for the back of the Paletot. It’s not bad, and certainly would be easier to work with as far as getting the contours right (I can work with darts) but will it work in a shorter length?

Alright readers, I have shared my woes with you on this project. What are your thoughts? Leave me a comment, some feedback. I’m not necessarily going for historical perfection, but I am trying to stay as true to the period as I can. I need help with this craziness! I will be making a muslin of the jacket (and a lining, and the outer part of the jacket as well) so there will be a lot of sewing in this jacket. I don’t want to get mid way and wonder if I should have done things differently. Remember how much work went into the 1830’s military jacket? I spent so many hours working and reworking the pattern on that. I never was happy with it, and it still sits in a box in my storage shed waiting to be finished. All I have done on that one is the lining! Sad jacket. But off topic, so help me out here, give me your thoughts and opinions!

The start of something (hopefully) beautiful!

Well, aside from the cord to make the waist of the underskirt adjustable, I finished the underskirt last night. I knitted an I cord for the waist of the skirt, and it has a large slit down the back for maximum adjustability (and comfort). I sewed in the cording this morning (at like 6 AM!) and finished the hem at the bottom of the skirt. This is where the skirt sits right now.

You can see the cording I made for the waist, the slit is about 13 inches long from the top. The bustle will go over that portion. I’m making the cover for the bustle out of the same fabric, and hoping that because of that I can put it over the underskirt to help cover up the slit.

i’m really happy with the way that the front of the skirt lays. I know it’s not period, but I do believe I will be adding pockets to the underskirt…. We’ll see how the overskirt turns out, if it’s possible to add them without the overskirt getting in the way too much I will do it.

So there you have it. It’s not nearly done, I have pleated trimming to add to the underskirt near the hem, and I have to finish the bustle before I can do that. But it’s progress!



So sorry it’s been so long, but I am in fact working on projects! I promise!

The Bustle

Since deciding on the bustle dress ensemble project, I have been looking at the construction of the bustle frame. For those that don’t know, this is the piece that makes the dress.

It is made from a large, varying group of materials from cloth, wire, steel, plastic, wood, and sometimes bone. The frame it’s self is what determines the size of the bustle, and it changes from one year to the next. So really, in order to determine what kind of bustle frame to make, I first have to decide what kind of bustle the dress will have. This is the part where I really wish I had the ability to sketch something out, at least well enough that it makes sense when you look at it. Instead, I will use images I was able to find to try to narrow it down.

This first one is a cotton and wire combination. It’s more for the type of bustle skirt that has a bit of a “train” at the back.  It supports the heavier fabric skirts better, because it has the wire support. The potential downsides I can see are that a- the wire pokes through the cotton, b- the wire bends if you sit on it (unless you can master the art of gathering the supports before sitting) c- It wouldn’t work with a skirt that was narrower at the ankle.

Here you have the Langtry Bustle frame. This seems to solve the problem of sitting on the supports and bending them, and quite well if I may add. It’s almost like a device. It looks like it would also support the heavier fabrics, and work well with a dress that is narrower at the bottom. Truthfully I think that is the direction I will go. The only downside I can see is that it’s meant to be made from steel. I would imagine it would get quite expensive, creating a reproduction. But I wonder how it would work making a similar one from some kind of heavy weight plastic?

This one is similar to the one I posted above it, but it is shown with the underskirt. The more I look and think about this type of bustle, the more I think I will probably go in this direction. I like the idea of having the bustle high in the back, and having a somewhat narrower skirt at the bottom toward the calves and ankles.

Here you can see the front and back of a dress similar to what I mentioned. I love that it has all of the detail in the skirt, and then the gathering is on the apron or overskirt in the back. This would cover anything left exposed by the underskirt, and also mask any flaws. I like the ruffling on the underskirt above, the pleats don’t look as nice to me. The whole ensemble can be seen here.

This is an excellent example of the jacket I mentioned in the first post. It accommodates the bustle, and addresses my concerns of modesty. I really like the 3/4 length sleeve also, and I am pretty certain that is what I will do with mine. However, I’m probably going to use a ruffle instead of fur for trim.

I do really like the overall flow of this dress, the skirt is narrow enough at the ankles, and it would accommodate almost any size of bustle. I would probably make mine just a bit bigger. I also like the simplicity of this one, thought I most definitely will not being doing mine monochromatic. I also like the box pleat on the trim, it looks “frilly” but doesn’t have too much body too it. I would dare say this is nearly a perfect example of what I will be making. The only thing I don’t like is the back of the jacket, I will have it split as I mentioned earlier, so it will accommodate almost any bustle. I kind of feel like it looks less “stiff” than this one.

And of course I will be making a hat to match the whole thing. 🙂

So, blog readers, what are your thoughts? Do you like the pleating or the gathered ruffle better? What about color? Should I make a fuller underskirt? Should the overskirt be shorter? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

I’ve been thinking….

That title should have readers running for cover. That’s truly frightening. LOL but seriously, I have been thinking for a while about a special project. And honestly, it feels like it’s going to take me a kajillion hours to finish. It involves ordering a corset from Damsel in This Dress. I seriously LOVE Michelle and her awesome work, she is nothing short of amazing at what she does, and I know that even though I CAN sew, it would take me SOOOOOO much time to make something that even held a candle to her work. She has all the experience and equipment to make these, plus I just don’t have the ambition to stick with something that would frustrate me like I know that would. Ha. I tried it once. ONCE. Never again. It’s so much easier to just buy one from her, and I know it will be a high quality piece. It’s totally WORTH IT.
Anyway, I have a treasure trove of wonderful schematics and diagrams… mostly in French (thank you 2 years of foreign language in high school that I have had no need for EVER until now). Basically it means I can draft my own pattern, accurately for the period because these wonderful diagrams are from the mid 1800’s. What does it mean? LOTS of work for me. Not only translating the pages of french, but piecing together old paper bags to draft my patter pieces on. Then transferring them to muslin (or something like it, probably and old sheet) and fitting them on my dress form. Oh man, I’m already starting to lose the ambition for this project. Ha. Not really, cause I know that the end result is going to be amazing! I’m a big dreamer, if you hadn’t noticed.

So, the plan is this. I need to calculate how much fabric I need. I also need to figure out what kind of fabric I am going to use. Should I use something that is period accurate? It seems silly not to, since the pattern will be. But cost is definitely going to be a factor there. I haven’t been able to grow a money tree YET. So what do I use? I guess I ought to at least tell you what the project is. Ha ha, I got ahead of myself. I am going to make myself an ensemble… from the 1870’s-ish period. It’s daunting for sure. I’m slightly intimidated, and I will definitely be making a mock garment so I can test my pattern drafting skills. So the ensemble will consist of the following (and I’m trying to include images cause I know that not everyone will know what I am talking about):

A Bustle Dress. Not the Long trained dresses, it has to be practical and I need to be able to walk in it. But I have always been in love with the fullness of the dress at the top on the back.

Henri Gervex

This is a good idea of the style, ankle length but with the fullness I was talking about.I also love the long sleeves, but is that a part of the dress or a separate “jacket”?


Here is another example of the fullness I was talking about. This one clearly has a “jacket” (I can’t for the life of me remember what they were called, I even tried googling it to jog my memory) that goes over the top, and has fullness at the back as well to accommodate the full bustle skirt.

Here is a better example of the front portion of the skirt. And again, the “jacket” that goes with it. I’m definitely going to include something similar, mostly for my own personal modesty standard. I don’t want the plunging neckline of the classic ball gown of that time period (I have had 2 kids, and that whole “process” wasn’t kind to my poor body…), but rather I will have the high neck and full coverage. There is something romantic about being fully covered in a gorgeous dress. Anyway, onward!

HMS Calcutta

This is very easily my absolute favorite example of what I want my creation to be. The woman in blue, with all the frills and bows at the back. The trimmings are so much a part of the masterpiece. I love it. The shape of it, the fabric, the length, everything. It’s pretty much perfect.

So, there you have it, my idea. Undoubtably it will have a steampunk twist to it, I’m such a nerd for that stuff (Have you seen my pintrest!?). I am in the brainstorming phase, and hoping that all 3 of my blog readers will be able to help me out here. I need ideas for color, fabric type, “jacket” or shrug, long sleeves or short, there are SOOOOO many options! In the mean time I will be working on getting the skirt pattern drafted and tossing about ideas. I would sketch them, but I fail at drawing and it would surely be a train wreck of colors.

Hiatus is over! Giveaway time!

How exciting is it that I am officially moved into my new sewing space and ready to get going on the projects that literally piled up in the waiting period? It’s very exciting! 
I am so happy to have this space, though it has the occasional spider and it smelled like a basement (because, well, it’s in the basement) until I put in air fresheners. It has opened up the living room and made the house feel bigger. And it’s nice to have the mess all tucked away where virtually nobody will see it 😉 I am finally ready to unveil the room, are you ready to see it?!

It needs paint, not sure what color to go with yet. And new curtains (one of the projects in the pile), but it’s a great space, almost like it was meant for me to make it into a sewing room. It’s tucked away in the basement, right next to the laundry room. You want to see more?

I need a bookshelf for this space, it’s really not very useable the way it is (yet! I will be making changes!). I would be happy to repurpose one, if only I could find one.

This is a better view of my little corner where my sewing table is. There is a window right by it, and a light right above it. The lighting is super nice, and I can see everything I am doing really well. 
Here is the cutting table, that has SO much more room since I moved everything for the machine into the desk and had my wonderful husband build me a thread holder (it will eventually be mounted to the dresser so I will have even more flat surface). 
Thread holder close up. 🙂
And the dresser and dress form. It’s nice to have room to put it all up and not have to tuck it into corners. There is even enough room to put up the ironing board and leave it up if I want to. 
And here is a little peek into something fun! I am happy to be part of a repurpose showdown this month. The item to repurpose is a scarf. I’m not really a scarf person, and happened to have some. So I chose this little beauty.
Its super soft, and a really great coral color. Really, it’s just beautiful.
So here is the deal. In all of the excitement of getting a new sewing room, and being part of the showdown, and it being summer, and just cause I want to I am going to be doing a giveaway here on my blog! Pretty awesome, right? If you can guess what I will be repurposing this gorgeous little scarf into you will be entered to win something special, custom and hand made by me! Just submit your guess as a comment here on this blog post. The showdown is over at the end of the month, and I will announce the winner at the first of July. 
Happy Guessing!