I can now mark that UFO done

It has taken over a year…a YEAR!…but I finally have it done (unless you count the cape I hope to make for it by next Saturday).

I’m not madly in love with it.  The black is light sucking.  I did so much by the seat of my pants that I have no idea if any of it is actually plausible.  I had to totally alter the sleeves from the original pattern because finishing it in fall means shorter sleeves will be impractical.  And the whole up sizing of that pattern was a challenge (aka  a drag).  But, it is done.  It is wearable.



My next goal is the cape to keep me from freezing to death next weekend.  I wish I had some black wool.  Alas, I do not.  And I have mountains of black material in my stash to use.

Two steps forward, one step back

I’ve made some headway on my mourning gown.  But, I did have to re-cut and sew a new front flap panel.  It fit with some squishing but I decided that in 1900 they were starting to move towards the pigeon front and not the snug fit of the earlier years.  This required a piece that was 3″ wider.  Thank heavens, I had enough fabric to re-cut it!



I realize that the remodeled panel looks crooked on the top.  It isn’t in reality. Once it is really buttoned down (I will be using the Chinese frogs I made for the Oriental challenge of Historical sew fortnightly) and the faux shirt is laying flat, it will be fine.

I’m on the edge with the faux shirt.  It seems a bit like over kill.  But, since it is just a bib like thing, I could find a fabric I like better and make another one.  This one will do fine for the more Halloween version of this dress’ incarnation.  The one thing I do like about it, is it adds some more curve that would help with the pigeon front look.  I just don’t know….

Once the sleeves are on and the fasteners are on and functioning, I should be able to make a better decision on the shirt front.

If all goes well, I should have the bodice done on time for my event next weekend.  It is an evening event and our evenings are getting decidedly cold.  I’ll need some sort of item for warmth.  I had thought of dying one of my knitted shawls black but the dye pack I was looking at, could not promise that it would dye black and not some dreary shade of grey.  So now I’m hoping to get a cape made by next weekend.  My oh my, being employed is getting in the way of my sewing plans!

Sideburns-oh my!

Today I have a carte de visite from my collection.


At first glance you notice the dress.  My guess it is from the 1870’s.  At least the silhouette seems to be 1870’s to me.  I like that it is a paler color than many of the other photographs I have.  I also notice the flower in her hair.  I wonder if this is a wedding photo?

Upon my second glance of the photo, I noticed that this fellow has some serious sideburns!  I believe the term for these bad boys is mutton chops!


Zooming in on these photos bring in surprising details.  When I zoomed in on the dress, I discovered that the fabric has some sort of texture to it.  It makes me think of waffles.

SAM_1451 - Copy

I wasn’t able to get anything on the photographer but perhaps one of my readers might…


Why are my dreams bigger than my purse?

I’m dreaming of one day building something like this….

1960 dress plaid a

Isn’t this a wowzer!1960 dress plaid b


1960 dress plaid c



I don’t know if I love it because of the color or the plaid or the shape but I love it.  And I want to do it in my family tartan…Watson.  Either this one….



or this one…



I think I’d need at least 10 meters to pull it off.  At $60-70.  A $700 dress.  A $700 costume.  Sigh.  Ain’t gonna happen unless I can find a winning lotto or a cheaper source.

I don’t think I like this!

I’ve been working on my bodice for my 1900 widows weeds.  This is my inspiration.


I got it from a book I borrowed from the library.  It has the pattern pieces that you have to enlarge.


It has been difficult.  I haven’t got this enlarging thing mastered. The pieces were either to big or to small.  They also lacked in instructions on how to put the thing together.  So I’m now flying by the seat of my pants…almost more of a draping exercise than an enlarging original patterns exercise.  We will see how far we get tomorrow.

Dealing with Small Pox

Before you panic, I don’t have Small Pox.  I have picked up my 1866 household medical guide and done a little light reading before bed.  Gunn’s New Family Physician or Home Book of Health says that many ladies in the country could deal with Small  Pox as well as or better than a physician.  This is surprising considering the disease killed and blinded thousands!   So how did the book suggest these ladies deal with this?  It starts out like a flu with a fever so you bathe the feet in lye water.  Lye water is a corrosive poison 

Lye water is in fact a poison, under the
Controlled Substances Act, 1984. As
such, it requires specific packaging
and labelling.

Nice start.  Spearmint or Peppermint tea if the patient feel nauseous.  I can live with that.  I prefer not to have chemical burns on my feet but a nice tea would be soothing.  But, if you can relieve the patient of the upset tummy, you must then give them a good dose of purgative (ie laxative).  They were obsessed with bowels!  Once the bowels are empty and if they feel nauseated or are throwing up, you give them something to make them throw up .  I’m not following the logic!

Once the rash to the skin shows up, the patient should be drinking teas made from saffron and catnip.  I wonder how that would taste?  Then one gets more lye water baths on the feet on the body to open the pores!

For headaches, you bathe the head in vinegar and water.  I think people still do that.  Then you add a mustard plaster to the bottom of the feet.  Those mustard plasters had the potential to cause burns if they weren’t done right.  Between the lye water and the mustard plasters, it is a miracle if they ever walk again!

For phlegm, the patient should gargle in a decoction  of sage, honey and borax.  Borax.  Isn’t that laundry soap?

To prevent scaring on the face, silk should be soaked in olive oil and applied to the face and the patient kept in a completely dark room.

The crowning glory to this list of instructions was the warning that some folks can end up with a diarrhea that leads to gangrene and mortification.  Does that mean what I think it means?!  That can’t be pleasant at all!

Thank the good Lord, that small pox is eradicated now!

Well, on that pleasant note, I will head to bed and have nightmares about the business end of my butt rotting off!

Whew! It is done!

I’ve learned a lot from the experience.  The first is that corset making isn’t that bad!  The second is that if I use a thinner fashion fabric, I should use a thicker inter-liner (too many wrinkles).   And finally, if I am going to trace the pattern pieces off of an existing garment, I need to go back and compare the pieces to the garment with a tape measure.  My tracing and eyeballing during assembly didn’t work out.  I originally thought it was an inch bigger than my original, (which is what I was going for) but it is much bigger…in fact, some how, it is the same size as the one I tore apart which was an inch to big!


But it is still usable.  It will work with my swimsuit and my tea gown (which I will alter soon).  Some women did wear corsets with those garments, but they would have been looser.  Being cotton, they will be cooler as well and for lounging outfits like a swim suit and tea gown, cool is better.

I do wear a corset almost daily to deal with back pain.  If I am on my feet a lot, I need a corset that is tighter than this one goes but if it is a sit a bit, stand a bit kinda day this one will work as well.

So, not a raging success but better than I was expecting!  I have the confidence now to say ordering more hardware for another one will not be throwing my money away!  That wont happen this calendar year, but perhaps next year.


The Challenge: 19 wood metal bone

Fabric: cotton

Pattern: traced from existing manufactured corset

Year: any year where a underbust works

Notions: bones, busk, bias tape, thread

How historically accurate is it?: The fabric is plausible.  I doubt they machine sewed everything.  The bones are metal not baleen. I can’t be sure that the original modern corset is based on anything historical.  I wonder how many women would have made their own corset?  Is it like the modern bra where even the poorest of women bought pre-made and some could afford tailored? So 30%?

Hours to complete: @20

First worn: for the photo

Total cost: $15

Perhaps not madness!

My journey into corset making has perhaps not proven to be so mad after all.  When I left you yesterday, I had the pattern drawn and cut out, pieces all put together (right side up-at least the second time round) and the binding attached.  I wasn’t sure about leaving the seam allowances untrimmed and attaching the binding so early in the game.  Neither decision turned out to be a bad one.  I was worried about the actual strength of my seams.  When I pulled on them (simulating the force of a tightened corset) I could see light through the seam.  It made me feel that there was too much “give” and it wouldn’t be able to “take” it.  So how to solve that?  My move wasn’t pretty but neither was it all that ugly.


I decided to run one of my sewing machine’s decorative stitches up each seam.  It didn’t turn out as decorative as I had hoped but it did seem to make things a lot more sturdy.

My next step was to join the lining to the fashion fabric on the grommet end and add the busk.


I laid the busk where I thought it should go and chalked in the sewing lines and the spaces for the sticky-outy things to go.  And zip, zip-done.  The lining was now attached to either end and there was a space for half the busk.


I then had to do the same thing on the other side, only this time, punching little holes for the posts to come through.  I was even bright enough to make sure that the posts and sticky-outy bits lined up before punching holes!  I then sewed in the lines that held the busk in place and I sewed in the channels for the metal boning.  I used my current functional corset to help me remember where all the channels and bones needed to go.



I did it so perfectly that didn’t have to fight with any of the bones to get them in and my lining side looks even lovelier than the fashion side-just like the Dreamstress.  Ahem.  Ok.  There was a quite a bit of pushing with all my might on a couple of the bones and the inside is embarrassing.  But, it is my first corset, there was no pattern or instructions, it looks like it will actually be functional, and no one will ever see that side anyway.

I did try stitching in the ditch.  It worked out very well on the fashion side but not so well on the lining side.  I know it would have worked better if I would have hand sewn it but that was more work than I was willing to do.

All that is left is to whip stitch the back half of the bias tape down, cut off dangling threads, hammer in the grommets (there will be some interesting sounds coming out of my office during my dinner break this afternoon) and put in the cording.  I could conceivably have this done by bedtime tonight.

I’m wondering how comfortable this corset will be.  I have in my imagination, the idea that it might be more comfortable than a brand new corset because the bones had already conformed to my shape.  Granted, I did not make sure to get the bones in the exact same location so perhaps it wont be all that much better.


Is it daring or madness?

I have two deadlines.  One is a costume event in October and I need a bodice that is not started yet.  But, before that, I have a self-imposed deadline.  I have made it my goal to have an entry for every Historical Sew Fortnightly event and the next one is the Wood Metal Bone challenge which is due before my costume event.  So part of the madness is starting a project that doesn’t NEED to be done and risking being half-naked for my next costume outing!

The other part of the madness is trying to make something that I have mentally viewed as very difficult and I am trying to do it without benefit of a pattern or instructions!  I am trying to make a corset and I am hoping to use stuff I remember reading on other blogs (at least I think I remember reading it) and basic intuition.  I dismantled a corset that was falling apart and was a hair to big. I hoped to use the fabric pieces as pattern pieces but it was impossible to take apart.  All I could do was cut the hardware out.



I do have my corset that I am currently using (but it is about 1″ to small).



I traced each piece and added 1/16 of an inch (for enlarging) plus a 1/2 ” seam allowance to each side.  I did not add a seam allowance to the top and bottom because I think that was simply covered by the self bias tape and not lost in a seam.  It was a bit tricky tracing the pieces as the boning made it hard to lay the pieces flat.  But not impossible.



I did a trial run to see if it looked right.  It did and that will be the lining.  I’m considering my existing corset as the mock-up.  This lining matched up to the corset I have, with exception of being about an inch bigger-which I wanted.



I flat lined all the pretty baby blue fashion fabric with some dark blue broad cloth.



And then I sewed the fashion fabric together.



I’m not happy with the lack of pattern matching but such is life when you fly by the seat of your pants!

Speaking of flying by the seat of your pants…. I wasn’t sure if you clipped seams to cut down on bulk or if you didn’t clip to help maintain the integrity of seams that have to withstand a lot of force.  I went for leaving the seams intact.  I also thought that sewing on the bias tape at this point will save me some work later as I think I’d have to hand sew both sides if I put it on further along in the construction.



I’ll let you know tomorrow if these last two guesses were right or not.  I do confess to having some anxiety about the strength of my seams, fabric and thread.  I have visions of walking along and then in an explosion of fabric, boning and fat I end up standing in a pile of threads and torn fabric!  Definately, going with the trial and error method!

1901 Mourning Hat: HSF 18 Re-make, re-use, re-fashion

I took this typical modern straw hat…SAM_1359

…and I dunked it in some water for a while.  The I flattened the crown so it wasn’t sticking up so high and waited for it to dry.  Then I tried to paint it black.   But, I didn’t have enough paint so I went to the store and bought more.  Alas, it wasn’t black, it was a slate grey.  So back to a different store because I know the first didn’t have black.  That was the most drawn out part of the whole process, let me tell you!

Once the paint dried I hauled out every lace ribbon and do dad I had in black and I toyed with some ideas.  I had miles of a synthetic lace that someone gave me and decided it would do.  Starting at the brim, I hot glued the lace round and round until I reached the top.  I took a shorter bit of lace and tied it into a bow and glued that on at the curve between the brim and the crown.  Then I hot glued little black silk flowers randomly around.  This part took the least amount of time but was the most fun.SAM_1421

This black is a light sucking black so it is a bit hard to see in the photo but I think you get the idea.  So just the facts.

The Challenge: 18 

Fabric: none

Pattern: my own

Year: 1901

Notions: straw hat, synthetic lace, fabric flowers, hot glue, acrylic paint

How historically accurate is it? The synthetic lace, flowers and hot glue-well not so much. I’m not sure about the paint. The shape of the hat and being made of straw is pretty good. So 50%

Hours to complete: Including all of the driving trying to find the paint, about 6

First worn: Just for this photo

Total cost: $10 (most of that was paint).