How’s this for mood swings!

I made some progress on my dress and decided to add some accessories to my mannequin to see how it looks so far.SAM_2026

And then I laughed my head off when I thought about what I was actually doing…playing with my dolly!

5 seconds later I burst into tears when I remembered my Grandma did the same well into her 70’s. The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree apparently. 


My Grandma and I on her farm in 1981.  The other picture is some of her dolls.  (Some of which she sewed clothes for.)

Miss you Grandma.  It pleases me a lot when I see the ways we are the same.  It means a part of you is still here with me.

Table cloth to cape: vision stage

As you may recall, I recently scored a table cloth at a thrift shop.  My mind instantly saw it as something else.SAM_1675

But, I certainly don’t want to look like I’m wearing a table cloth!  That is so gauche!  Scarlet O’Hara might get away with wearing a curtain but I doubt I can pull off a massive doily!

So how to hide its table clothiness?  (Yes, I just made up a new word…just go with it.) I’d like this...

44.24.4…but, the instant I cut it into the correct shape, it will, obviously, unravel.

So there needs to be some sewing to hide and support any cutting I decide to do.  I like the lacy look of this cape as well as the ribbons.

C.I.65.40_F2The above cape appears to be knit or crochet.

I’m also rather fond of the color scheme of this cape.  Am I too old to pull it off? Meh, who cares…Pink challenge, here I come!C.I.45.68.36_F2

And I like the many textures of this one.


I don’t care for all the fluffies at the neck though.  I wonder if I can pull off what I have in mind.  I may have to tap the hive mind for their thoughts on if it is plausible for any Victorian era once it is done.  I’m hoping that I get a range of 1860’s to 1880’s-may be all the way up to the 90’s.

The hive mind over at Historical Sew Fortnightly Facebook was able to find that the pineapple stitch (the main stitch in this table cloth) was around at least in the 1880’s for lace.  And the love of pineapples was around considerably longer so I might not be to bad off.  I may make serious reenactors and museum curators cringe but it will be good enough for my group.  (If it is plausible from a distance and if we can articulate where we have taken creative and/or financial licence then it is a go.  We do not advertise ourselves as experts.)


Oh boy! Here we go!

While on vacation last fall in the States, I found a place that sells real silk fabric at prices I can only dream of here in Canada.  I found some at a price that I’m hard pressed to find in a decent cotton.  If I do find it here at that price, it is so hideous that you’d have to pay me to cart it out of the store.

The thing is, the cost of silk is ordinarily so prohibitive for me that I’ve never knowingly used it.  (I did hope that a bolt of fabric I once found at a thrift store was real silk but I’ve never found out for sure).  That prohibition has caused me to fear the day I’d cut into it and sew it.  What if I botch it up and I’m left with a huge pile of expensive useless?  What if I pull it off and manage to sew something that fits and stays on my body and I wear it and dump cranberry juice on it or tear it on the car door before I even get to my event?  What if I try to wash it and it shrinks into some sort of horrid worm shaped doll dress?  Oh the humanity!  These fears have hung over me, even though I didn’t actually pay the high price.  KNOWING that I would have paid a high price for it HERE has frozen me solid!

I’ve stalled and procrastinated on that project long enough.  Today I took the plunge.

Hard to tell in this dark "selfie" but I'm cringing as I make the first cut!

Hard to tell in this dark “selfie” but I’m cringing as I make the first cut!

The skirt is cut out now and there is plenty left over for a bodice and perhaps I can use the scraps on a hat.  SAM_1685Tomorrow we bite the sewing bullet and put this puppy together.

Now I have to decide what to call this dress.  1860 …..hmmm….Silky Skies Dress?  Sure why not.

HSF: Challenge #24 Redo

I believe the goal of the challenge was to take something that we really enjoyed making and make another one or to finish something that didn’t get done.  My redo is the 1880’s Tea Gown aka “Ugly Sack”.  So ugly even the camera wouldn’t look at it properly.

SAM_1356It brings to mind this phrase from Star Trek.

It was ugly in so many ways.  There were optional darts at the waist that I didn’t put in because I thought it would be more comfortable.  That coupled with the unneeded extra material added at the front for the “girls” and you had the sack formation.

Then there is the absolutely overwhelming pattern!  I said to myself, “Self, you need to break out of the box and go for a bold pattern.”  Well, Self, I say to you, “Get thee back into thy box!”  When a large woman wears uninterrupted, vast expanses of floral print, she takes on the appearance of a sofa.  Just sayin’.

So my redo was to put those darts in and with some strategic tucking, pull in all that extra fabric I had put into the bodice part.  I attempted to break up some of that wild pattern by adding some lace.  I don’t know.  Would more help?

What is going on with that pose?  A bit Nora Desmond if you ask me.

What is going on with that pose? A bit Nora Desmond if you ask me.

I didn’t change the back because I liked that part.SAM_1620I don’t loath the thing now.  It is warm.  I would make a decent house coat if not buttoned to the throat.  A bit frumpy (there is an understatement) but at least it would get used.  Not any uglier than some of my sweat suits and PJ.

I can’t see using it as a costume piece.  Even if I had chosen a nice sedate fabric, I’m not sure I’d ever use it that way.  I try to wear costumes the way the original Victorian’s would have worn their clothes.  They didn’t wear tea gowns to go on outings on trains or picnics.  They didn’t wear them to GO to tea.  They wore them when just hanging out at home, having tea with close friends or family.  If this were to get wear at a costume event, I’d have to invite some folks over for tea.  And my house just isn’t Victorian enough.  I guess I could try to find a house museum that was from the 1880’s and pretend I was the lady of the house…..

Plans in the making

My mourning gown has moved to the back burner again.  I’ve got two things working against it.  One is trying to participate in the Historical Sew Fortnightly means that my mourning gown doesn’t always fit the current challenge…no matter how I creatively interpret it. But, its biggest handicap is working with a light sucking black is just a bit dull.  I will have to get it finished this summer though.  Victorian at Heart is planning a photo shoot in a cemetery.  Also, some fun ideas came up at our last outing.  I don’t know if these ideas will ever come to pass, but if one of them does, I will need a mourning gown.

Anyway, it is on the back burner as I work on the Separates challenge.  I will be making an 1870s dress that will have the bodice one color and the skirt another.  And the skirt is green so it will work for the Green challenge.  I should do the bodice first as it is needed for the earlier challenge but I do get set in my ways and I almost always start a project with the faster, easier part first-the skirt.

I hope to get a lot of sewing done this weekend as next weekend will be a bit of a rush.  I’m finally cashing in on a couple of prizes I’ve earned with my costuming hobby and the hubby and I will be dinning out at a fancy restaurant and then staying in a B&B which is in a Victorian house!  Woot! Woot! Then on the Saturday, some of Victorian at Heart will be riding the old train in costume again.  Gonna be a blast!

Ditto that!

I was going to do a cabinet card post today (my go to post when I don’t have anything new to share), but the lovely Dreamstress got my mind churning on another topic.  Costumes and Accuracy.

I wont quote back what she wrote because you can and should read the actual post.  In fact, you probably did read her post before wandering over here to read mine!  Rightly so!  I did want to share some of the  thoughts that have been running through my mind all evening since her post.

First of all…I agree with what she said totally.  And I’ve gleaned a new concept or two that will impact my choices (I hope) for future projects.  One was weave.  I really have no idea how many ways there are to create a fabric.  I understand knits.  I understand that denim is made differently from a brocade but beyond that….  I don’t know.  Perhaps, one day, I will take the time to learn different weaves for fabrics and more importantly, learn what was common during Victorian times and how to recognize if the fabrics I’m looking at are correct (or at least close enough).

Further to the topic of fabric, I was thinking about getting good fakes as far as color and pattern go.  I rely a lot on what I see in museums for what was available at the time.  Color and patterns terrify me.  I keep drifting towards plain browns for fear of picking a color that was simply not possible at the time.  I force myself buy color and pattern so I wont end up with 50 plain brown dresses and I tell myself it is a 50/50 crap shoot.  I may discover something is horribly wrong and then never be happy with the dress again (a good reason to not blow $400 on fabric for one gown) or I may stumble across an example that is a near perfect match and think I am the most gifted costumer.

You’ve already “heard” my rant on costumers who look down their nose at folks who choose to use synthetic fibers for costumes.  As I commented on Dreamstress’ post, I have laid a silk next to a fake and could not tell the difference…until I looked at the price.  If you have to set it on fire before you can tell if it is real or synthetic it is a good fake.  For me this is a hobby and not a career.  I’m not spending tons of money for a hobby when 95% of the people in the world could not tell the difference and 4% would have to set me on fire to know for sure. The 1% that could tell at a glance are not worth the money.

One day I will hand sew a whole costume, more as an exercise to prove to myself that I can be that disciplined and to learn what it feels like to do that task.  But for my purposes, at this time, I don’t feel I need to hand sew when no one will be looking close enough to see machine stitches.

My goal is not to create a counterfeit Victorian gown that will totally fool 95% of the world into believing it is a well-preserved dress from that era and force the other 5% to rely on chemical testing, x-rays and microscopic analysis to discover the fake!  Nor is my goal to get a museum to display my dress as a reproduction.  My goal is to feel pretty.  I kind of think of myself as more of a theatrical costumer than a museum curator or reenacted. My goal is to pretend for a few hours that I am a rich Victorian lady.  In reality I’m an actress, or more accurately, an 8-year-old in a middle-aged woman’s body and I am playing dress up with my other 8-year-old friends.  I want to have my “audience” suspend reality and allow themselves to imagine for just a moment I have stepped forward in time. They will not know enough/care enough/ get close enough to see the inaccuracies.

Besides, if I have car keys in my bag, deodorant on my body, fillings in my teeth and plastic boning in my dress I cannot be 100% accurate and I am not willing to leave the keys in the car, smell au natural, knock out my fillings and kill a whale for the sake of being authentic.  So why kill myself and wipe out my bank account trying to achieve the impossible.  I want to know what makes my dress different from a real Victorian dress so I can be more knowledgable about the time I am interested in.  I think it is a good thing to know that they didn’t have polyester blends and that they didn’t have sewing machines in 1840.  These are facts and facts are good.  Knowledge is good.  And one way to gain knowledge is to make a mistake.  Maybe I will discover that my Copper Penny dress is too vibrant a color for that era.  “Ooops.  I made a mistake.  I learned from that mistake.  Thank God I didn’t spend $40 a meter on real silk”.

And just like the Dreamstress says, you can hand sew a dress.  You can use only real silk.  You can use the perfect pattern and under garments.  And it can look more inaccurate than a machine sewn poly blend because the dyes available at that time did not make that color.

To put it short and sweet, my costume philosophy is “have fun learning and playing dress up.”

I bought my fabric.

Before I begin, let me wish all you love birds a Happy Valentines Day!

Back to my planned post for today….I need an 1840s dress by next May and I need it in striped material for Dreamstresses challenge at the end of March.

I was looking for a striped pattern that would look good on me and not be a too dramatic color as I’ve not seen many examples of strong colors in that decade.  I was also looking for something that might be a convincing fake that I could afford.  I’m not sure, but I think that striped and affordable were the only two goals I hit.SAM_0941This is definitely a bold color.  I’m a bit worried that it may be a bit on the orange side for me as well. A white collar will help with the coloring next to my face.  It also, may be a bit to shiny to convince anyone that it is anything but what it is…sythetic curtain material. Alas, I wish I could afford taffeta. But, ding dang doodly…I like it and I could afford it!  Just now it occurred to me the material might be the same color as a parasol that I had bought and was thinking of recovering. What do you think…pretty close eh?

Another thing, I need to not take myself to seriously.  I make COSTUMES FOR MYSELF.  Not museum pieces.  Not authentic replicas.  Not contest entries.  Not for customers paying good money for accurate pieces. And this cowboy can’t afford real taffeta for COSTUMES!  Wanda, relax and enjoy!

Two birds with one stone.

This coming Mother’s Day, we are hosting a Victorian Tea for our folks at the nursing home with dresses made by Shirley and myself.  We’d like a dress from each decade so we can show how the dresses changed in shape over time.  Neither of us have a dress from the 1840s so I plan on making one.  I also plan on doing it in a striped material so that I can get one of the future challenges from the Historical Sew Fortnightly done at the same time.  I found a photo at the Met Museum of a dress in a similar pattern from the one I bought at Truly Victorian and it is in stripes.  1845 dress afternoon a

I’m not wild about the colors.  But, I’m cool with the look of it.  The trick will be to avoid the bold colors I like so much as I don’t believe that was too common.  The other end of that spectrum is that just because dresses from the 1840s are muted in color NOW does not mean the colors were always muted.  Obviously, fading could be an issue.  1845 dress afternoon b

But, the real issues are finding a striped material that is in a color that does not make me look like poop and finding it in a price range I can afford AND having it be a material that is at least a believable fake in fiber content.  Ahhhh to be a quadrillionaire so I can move to Mexico in the winter and Victoria in the summer and sew real silk taffeta as much as my heart desires……

The corset debate.

I’ve been reading my medical book from 1866 and I have to wonder if some of our cultured hatred of the concept of the corset does not come from the Victorian era itself.  I’m interested in this topic because-as I have said a few times-I wear a corset daily as it helps my back pain.  I wear it at a comfortable constriction where my breathing and circulation are not noticeably affected.  I believe that there is wearing a corset and then there is tight lacing.  But, if you did not read my old book carefully, you’d come to the conclusion that there was no difference and that it was just plain bad.

In the following photo I was taken by the idea that the corset and tight lacing was soon to be heard of no more.  WRONG! It continued for at least another 50 years.  I also found it humorous that the author felt that girls submitted to this because they wished to hear the marvelous exclamation uttered by some would-be-exquisite or FOOL.  The author also felt that not one in 500 women wore their corset loose enough to avoid  the pit falls of the corset.  Not one in 500!SAM_0296



The funny thing was that after listing it as a horrible thing, the Dr went on to tell his readers how to get the benefits of the corset (the figure enhancement) with out the damage.  But, the implication is that the materials the corset is made of is as important or more important than simply loosening the strings.  SAM_0298



I take up the challenge!

My Monday posts are supposed to be about sewing or project accomplishments.  I could say I have nothing today as I was too busy with Christmas this weekend but that would be a lie.  I was pooped after the family thing on Saturday and I just wanted to flake out on the couch all day Sunday and that is what I did.  I had a session of mental down time.  (I did finish that striped scarf but it turned out to be too short…not enough green.  I’ll sew or pin it into a circle and pass it off as a neck warmer.  I’m not excited enough by it to take pictures of it.)

Honestly, there have been many sessions of mental down time since this summer.  I’ve only managed to start one dress project and start and finish one hat and one shawl in all that time.  Procrastination, thy name is Wanda B Victorian.

This is why I am taking up the Dreamstresses challenges this year.  Every two weeks she challenges us costumers to complete something and post photos of what we have done.  She posts the challenges ahead of time so you can prepare in advance.  Let’s face it…many projects need more than two weeks to get them wrangled together and done!  The nice part of the challenge and knowing them in advance is if there is a huge project you want to include in the challenge, you can work on it in advance and you are not obligated to participate in all of them.  The two weeks of a project you wish to skip can be put towards a bigger project.  I’m hoping that sewing with other costumers, having a goal and having a dead line will help with some of my procrastination!

The first challenge is sort of a practice run…anything quick that can be done by New Years Eve.  I have been crocheting black fingerless gloves and have one done.  I think I can get the second one done by New Years Eve!

So with that in mind, I wish you a Merry Christmas Eve!