A goal…not a resolution

Have any of you made new years resolutions?  I tend not to do those any more.  They never make it past January.   But I do have a couple of goals.  One is to reduce the amount of stuff in my house.  I used to go through the house twice a year and ditch things that no longer served a purpose but I haven’t really done that in a few years and the amount of “stuff” that has started to amass is getting uncomfortable.

My other goal is along the lines of the first but more specific.  That is to reduce the sewing and knitting hoard by getting rid of started projects by either finishing them or getting rid of them.  So, for example, if I look in a bag and see a knitting project that I can honestly say I have no desire to finish, I will unravel the wool and either set it aside for another project or sell it in a garage sale or donate it to charity.  Some of that wool was purchased because it was on sale but now I feel it is ugly.

In terms of sewing, I’ve been hoarding fabric for 4 projects. Since I no longer do Historical Sew Monthly, I have no need to put these projects on the back burner AGAIN and run out and buy more fabric for projects that better suit the challenge.

Here are the four projects:

  1. The olive dress using fabric I bought a year and a half ago at CoCo.146
  2. A corset with fabric bought a year and a half ago (also at CoCo).147
  3. An 1896 dress with fabric I bought last spring for a Historical Sew Monthly challenge but never started.IMG_20170629_102241680
  4. Decide on and make a dress with the fabric my costuming buddy picked up for me when she went to CoCo last summer.IMG_20180104_073824267In years past, I worked out a project plan based on the Historical Sew Monthly challenges but this year I’m just saying “goals” not “plans” and I will tackle each project when I have completed a current project and I will decide on which one to start next based on what I feel like making.  Historical Sew Monthly was useful for helping me build my costume wardrobe and for pushing me into motion but now I don’t want the pressure.  I want to make what I want when I want.  I feel I can “up my game” not by rapidly trying new projects, eras and skills but by slowing down and working on quality not quantity.  I no longer need to build a wardrobe.  Now I need to fill it out with accessories and I need to start thinking about replacing dresses with ones that better represent what I know and what I can do.

Have any of you made plans or goals for this year?

The new corsets are here! The new corsets are here!

I found a corset sale where two corsets plus shipping and exchange cost less than one normally does. This first one is a bit big in the bust area but not any worse than I’ve had before.

I have been wanting white ones for some time as they are what was more commonly worn and I needed a new one because one of the bones in my old one seems to have broken and it digs and scratches unbearably.

This second one seems to fit better in the bust area.  I have to try wearing this one with the bolero from my 1861 dress.  That didn’t fit the bust properly and one theory I had was the corset didn’t fit the bust properly either and with a tighter corset, it might be fine.

The fate of the old broken corset?  Possibly I will buy a bone and fix it but more likely (now that I have two new ones) it will be hacked up and the usable bits will be used in an Edwardian corset on my to do list.  I hope I can buy just one bone.  If not I may have to try zip ties.

Sewing/knitting plans for HSF 2017

The new list of challenges for HSF has come out on the Facebook page.  Generally, I attempt to match up my own plans and ideas with the challenges rather than trying to come up with something to match the challenge.  That, perhaps, defeats the goals of the Dreamstress and her Facebook moderators but it keeps me from creating something I will never ever use.  The role of the challenges in my life is not give me ideas for things to create but to keep me moving forward and FINISHING things.  My life is full of UFO’s that sit idle because I got really excited about starting a project so I abandon a project that I started to get bored with. You should see the bags of unfinished projects behind my couch and in the storage cupboards in my laundry room.  Pitiful!

So here are my plans:

January: Firsts & Lasts – Create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit. Edwardian Chemise because I want one Edwardian outfit.  If there is time, a Victorian Chemise (because I only have one and it is good to have a wear and a spare) 

February: Re-Make, Re-Use, Re-Fashion – Sew something that pays homage to the historical idea of re-using, re-making and re-fashioning. Turn one thing into another. Re-fit or re-fashion an old gown into something you would wear again. Re-trim a hat for a new outfit, or re-shape a modern hat to be a historical hat. Re-purpose the fabric from an old garment (your own or a commercial one) into a new garment. Attach black needle tat trim to Half Grand Surprise dress   In a past challenge, I made some lace with needle tatting. (Great pastime and I want to make more…time, time, time, I need more time.)  I had planned on adding it to my red and black 1880’s dress.  This will be a fast project which will give me time to work ahead on future projects.

March: The Great Outdoors – Get out into the weather and dirt with an item for outdoor pursuits. Arm warmers I have seen knit patterns for something like these…5b60a444dd9211ac82061bdc1ae5ec2d

I don’t think I will make these…I’ve seem something more fitted but I can’t find the pattern just now.

April: Circles, Squares & Rectangles – Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and circles  Canadian cloud.  I have been working on this puppy for months.  It is slow going and a tad boring so this could take awhile.  Having a goal of “April” seems reasonable.

May: Literature – The written word has commemorated and immortalized fashions for centuries, from the ‘gleaming’ clothes that Trojans wore before the war, to Desdemona’s handkerchief, ‘spotted with strawberries’, to Meg in Belle Moffat’s borrowed ballgown, and Anne’s longed for puffed sleeves. In this challenge make something inspired by literature: whether you recreate a garment or accessory mentioned in a book, poem or play, or dress your favorite historical literary character as you imagine them. Gambeson. My younger boy used to be into knights and I once made a chainmail coif for him.


It seems the interest died shortly thereafter.  But, I might enjoy going as a knight to the Medieval Fair that happens every two years. So I will make a Gambeson that could fit either one of us.

June: Metallics – make something in silver, gold, bronze, and copper, whether it be an actual metal, cloth of gold or silver, or lamé.  Corset 1850 The busk will be in metal.  Total cheat.  Perhaps I will find a fashion fabric that will meet the criteria but I doubt that would be very authentic!

July: Fashion Plate – Make an outfit inspired by a fashion plate, whether it is a direct replica, or a more toned down version that fits the resources and lifestyle of the character you are portraying. If you want to stick to a period prior to the 17th century advent of fashion plates, either re-interpret a Victorian ‘historical’ fashion illustration as period accurate, or use an image from your period that depicts and idealized and aspirational fashion. Pink/grey/black/cream 1898 flared skirt and ball gown bodice for pineapple shawl I haven’t found the fashion plate for this idea but I will.  I have this shawl I made years ago that I have never worn and I need to create a dress I would wear it with.  This is a big dream project so it may not (i.e. probably wont) come to pass.  Dream big. The back up plan is some sort of accessory that could go with the Edwardian dress.  A fan?

August: Ridiculous – Fashion is sometimes a little silly, and historical fashions can look particularly odd. Make something that was considered outrageous in its own time, or is just utterly ridiculous to modern eyes.  Edwardian hat. As I mentioned, I want one Edwardian outfit and there is nothing so “out there” to our modern eyes as an Edwardian hat!  I wouldn’t mind a Bloomer Dress but that just isn’t in the plans for this year!

September: Seen Onscreen – Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favorite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece. Bloomers and corset covers in Victorian and Edwardian styles.   The Edwardian ones are needed for my Edwardian dress and the Victorian ones would be done if there is time.  I have some already-I just want my “wear and a spare”.  The “onscreen” part of the challenge will be easy…just about every period movie has an undies scene…”show the audience what they wear under all that.”

October: Out of Your Comfort Zone – Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before. Corset Edwardian. This goes without saying.  Corsets are a mental hurdle for me.  I’ve done one that stretched badly in one wear so I only use it when I wear my bathing suit or my tea gown.  Looser corsets were considered acceptable for active or lounge wear.  I will tackle a Victorian one earlier in the year.  Hopefully, it will go well and I will gung ho to try an Edwardian one.  The challenge will be the different aesthetic lines from my usual Victorian era.

November: HSF Inspiration – One of the best things about the HSF is seeing what everyone else creates, and using it to spark your own creativity. Be inspired by something that has been made for the HSF over the years to make your own fabulous item. Edwardian Coco suit. The suit will be called the Coco suit because I bought that fabric while at Coco.  My Inspiration is the many bloggers and costumers I see on line and at Coco.

December: Go Wild – You can interpret this challenge as an excuse to make something that incorporates animal print, or wild animals in some way, or to simply make something wild and over the top. Knit petticoat. A knitted petticoat is different!  I have yet to see any one make one of these!e4890f80a30fb38258693b97224dbf71.jpg

On top of these challenges, my goal is to get some of those modern UFO’s done and perhaps think about getting some small gifts made in time for Christmas.  I also have some ideas for the craft sale my girlfriend has a table in and some ideas of modern clothes for myself.



Coco shopping

I scored some good stuff while at Coco.  While on the FIDM tour, we made a pit stop in the scholarship store and low and behold, the last Friday of the month is 50% off day!

The first score is about 5 yards of very wide fabric.  It feels very linen like and in fact, I’m sure it must be linen.  The photograph got the color right.  So the color,feel and amount of the fabric says some sort of walking suit-in the later years, probably 1890’s.  I’m playing with the idea of dying it.  But I’ve never dyed that much fabric before.  I also got a couple of lace yokes that I think could work as collars.  And there is some lace ribbon too.  If I keep the color of the fabric the same, I may tea stain the lace to take some of the stark white out.  It feels too harsh a contrast.


I bought two pieces of leather that I think are big enough to try my hand at glove making.  Every other pair of gloves I have picked up have either looked far to modern or far too small.  Leather stretches some but lets face it, they wont go from pencil thin to sausage thick!  I will definitely need to do a mock up to make sure my glove pattern will fit me because there is no wiggle room for mistakes!  I also need to do some research on how to cut and sew leather as I have never done this before!


The above bits cost me $17.  I was torn between laughing and crying with joy when I heard the price.  I’d NEVER in a million years find that kind of deal at home!

Next, I went to the FIDM student book store.  I found these French Curves for $7.  My local fabric store has them for a much higher cost.  I couldn’t justify the expense.


When I went to the market at Coco, I found these metal buttons and figured they would be a wonderful addition to the costume kit I am building.


I also found some coutiel, which I can’t find in my local fabric store. I have wanted to take another run at corset making and knew my biggest problem with my first attempt was not coutiel-my corset stretched on first wearing.  I snapped this package up because it saves me the cost of shipping.   I also prefer shopping in person to on line shopping.  I like to see and feel what I am buying.147

I got a pretty good haul at the bargain basement.  I got some random trim that I have no plans for yet but I know one day….

I picked up some plaid because I have been wanting to try working with that again.


One of the plaids and another plain fabric seemed like they may make good contrasts fabrics for my linen suit kit. I also picked up some plain buttons that may work as well.198

So my sewing line up is: finish my Spanish inspired gown (Just need to finish the waist band and make the belt), sew the paisley I bought last December into an 1840’s dress, then the gloves, the corset and then the walking suit.  I also have two or three knitting projects in the line up as well.  Whew!  I need to retire so I can have more time!

Nice idea in theory…

For years, I wore a corset everyday.  I had back pain and the corset helped wonderfully (not to mention made me look 30 pounds lighter).  But in the past year, two things happened to change that.  1) The back pain improved.  I don’t know why but it got better.  I wouldn’t say I’m cured but it is better.  2) Menopause.  I am in the early stages of that glorious time of life and I randomly get really, really hot.  The corset became just another THICK layer holding all that heat in.  (I am not a fan of me in a bathing suit but there have been times I questioned why they wont let me wear one at work.)

I saw this the other day and thought this would be the answer to the heat problem.

The theory would be you’d still get the support of the boning  without all the heat retaining fabric.  I envisioned trying to make one of these.  Doable.  Then I envisioned trying to wear one.  This is what came to mind….only much, much worse.

One thin little chemise is not going to keep me from looking like a giant Playdough Fun Factory.

My dogs are barkin’

This weekend is Doors Open in my home town.  The historic buildings open their doors to the public at no charge, allowing them a glimpse inside of buildings they may have passed by all of their lives.  I help out at two venues for this event.  Yesturday was the Vaughn Street Jail.

The old jail was built in the 1880’s but currently stands gutted and empty except for some storage spaces and a handful of offices.  There is a group of the old cells still standing in the basement.  But, the jail’s most interesting features is all of the famous and infamous characters in my city’s history that have had connections to that jail.

In spite of being gutted, the jail is one of the most popular sites because the organizer has arranged a bunch of volunteers to do mini skits and vignettes representing some of these historical figures (some of the skits are done in the remaining cells, which is the very popular finale to the tour).  Last year I played a very respectable female doctor with a bit of a religious and feminist bent.

This year, I wanted to “stretch myself as an actress” so I volunteered to be one of the “girls” of a well-known madam…Minnie Woods.  I actually had a ton of fun with this.  I was going against character but being IN character AND costume gave me the freedom to say and do things I normally wouldn’t!  It was very empowering.  When ever I am biting my tonge and holding in things that I want to say, I should tap into my inner harlot!

SAM_2166Being in those shoes for over 10 hours on a cement floor is the reason my “dogs are barking”.

In Canada, in the past, a lady of the evening was paid with $2 bills.  Because of this, it was considered to be in very bad taste to hand a respectable lady a two dollar bill.  Which is why I put mine in a very strategic place.SAM_2168


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!

Sewing progress…corselet and hat.

One of the big no nos post surgery is no lifting.  Good thing my hobbies are all sedentary!  And that my job is not.  So for the next 5 weeks (in between naps and struggling to get out of chairs) I will be hobbying!  Woot woot! (Full pay too!)

I have completed a couple of projects thus far.

The first is my corselet.  It needs its final seams pressed, which I will do prior to wearing (I hate ironing!)

I like how the line of the corselet follows the line of my boo boo cover-up trim. Wish I could claim that I planned that!

I had considered adding buttons that match the ones on the skirt but now I think I wont.  I had done a pretty good job of centering the pattern in the damask and pattern matching on the pieces that I think buttons will just hide that…and look too busy.

My first attempt at grommets. Not so mysterious and difficult as I thought.

The left hand top one is a bit to low but I don’t think the average bear will notice.  I’ll chalk it up to learning curve and do better next time.  I’m looking for a ribbon I like that will be long enough that I can slip this over my head without the need to re-lace.  It was hard enough to do on Trudy…never mind on myself.

I also finished my hat…or may be not.

My first attempt at making the form of a hat with buckram and wire.

There are a few glaring mistakes on this thing.  The first is I was too skimpy with the feathers.  Luckily, I have more and I am going to go back and add to it.  The second is I hot glued to much of it.  The inside would look much tighter and professional looking if I sewed them in.  But, it is only the inside…not worth chucking the hat for that. The third thing is it is a tad to tight on my big melon.  I thought I had factored that in by wrapping the wire around my head and using that as a basis for making the hole.  What I didn’t factor in was the layers of fabric that would narrow the hole.  Note to self for the next time.  I think that can be hidden by wearing it jauntily cocked to the side.  Which means adding some loops for a hat pin.  I’m not sure I love that green ribbon on the front.  I wanted to hide the ends of the feathers and provide a back drop for the buttons to stand out on.  May be if I trim back the tails of the ribbon or make the ribbon yellow instead.  What do you think?

I think the hat needs one more feather along the side.

And now for the worst mistake….

I didn’t line up the shape of the crown with the shape of the brim and it is a bit wonky.  I missed by about 1 1/2 inches!

I think I can hide it with the extra side feathers and a different type of bow in the back….. And as long as no one looks at it from the top…..I could try taking it apart but since I hot glued it, I’m not sure I can do it with out wrecking the parts that I do like.  I think I’ll just leave that and chalk it up…again…to lesson learned.

If I get around to fixing those mistakes today I will post a photo tomorrow.