More is more?

I finished the over skirt for Lilac Dream.



Now is the time to decide what, if any, trim will be added to the over skirt.SAM_2678

At first I liked it with nothing but I rather like the lace. With some fancy foot work I can get a lot of the ties done with the same lace.

In the modern world, less is more, but in the 1870’s they seemed to live by a MORE is more philosophy. So let’s try more. I made a pile of bows and still have 3 left. SAM_2679Hmmm.  That doesn’t seem quite right. Asymmetry bothers my modern mind.SAM_2680Nope.  Not the asymmetry that is off.SAM_2681Nope.

Let us try the more is more theory again.SAM_2682I don’t hate it…more?SAM_2683

Gads! I don’t know!  I think I need to walk away from it for a bit and let it marinate in my mind for a bit.

There is also the issue of the contrasting side panels that I am having a love/hate relationship with.  I have to love them…they are there because I ran out of the floral fabric. Maybe they need something…more….SAM_2676

Motivation vs Procrastination

I have no idea where my get up and go has gone.  I can’t seem to stick to a project for more than a few minutes!  I’m blaming the craziness that is Christmas time.  When you are on constant “run mode” at work and home, it is hard to sit down and work on something for an extended period of time.  And the drive to create is also stunted by and equally powerful drive to not make a big mess!  Those of you who must use their dining room as a sewing room know where I’m coming from.  Sure could use a day or two off.

Project machine!

Before we begin the fun, let us pause for a moment of silence to remember our fallen soldiers.  If it were not for them, we wouldn’t have the freedom to pursue our odd little hobbies and interests.


Project machine.  That’s me.  Just firing them off one by one.

I have an event next weekend (if all goes well) and I’m excited about it but I’m also shaking in my shoes in fear that I will be shaking in my shoes in freezing conditions!  I went out and bought some fall boots and if you squint in the dark, they will look like something that may have been worn in the 1840’s.  I will likely be modern with my heavy socks and waffle fabric long underwear but over that I will be wearing my new flannel petticoat.  

Wearing an embroidered cotton flannel petticoat in cold weather is authentic.  Having machine embroidery…not so much.  But I am pressed for time and if you squint in the dark…well you get the picture.SAM_1546

Once that was done, I needed to think about my poor hands.  I went for the muff I made here. I had made it so I could change the cover to co-ordinate with other outfits.  But, in removing the cover, I remembered that I hadn’t put in proper ties yet…it was still being held together with wool.  So proper ties jump to the head of the to-do list.  I made the channels too narrow, so what should have taken a few seconds to do took and episode and a half of Murdoch Mysterys! SAM_1547

Once the cover was off (and finished) I decided to steal my friend Shirley’s idea and flip my muff inside out and sew a pocket into it for slipping a “hot pocket” package in. SAM_1548Then I flipped it right way out again so that the pocket will be next to my hands. (We will call this last paragraph a tutorial “How to keep your hands warm and hide modern conveniences.”

Okay, with that done, it was time to make the new cover.  I wanted it dark brown to go with the trim on my 1840 copper penny dress and hat.  I went rummaging in my stash but couldn’t find a big enough piece.  What I did find is two smaller pieces attached to pieces of light brown.  They came from hacking the ends off of my pagoda sleeves when I decided that they were too long.  I sewed the pieces together and ended up with a muff cover that will go with my copper penny dress and my 1850’s tea dress.SAM_1552I hated that sewing line.  And it really was quite boring.  So….SAM_1553Now I have a submission for Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge 25 1 meter. Not bad for a half day of work.  I’ll likely rip that bow off and replace it with something more interesting when I have the time and the idea.  It will do for now.

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 don’t feel like sewing…

I haven’t been excited about sewing for quite some time…even though I have an idea I’d love to have for Halloween.  But, I have been keen on getting back to some accessories projects that have been on the back burner for quite some time.

I spent my Sunday cleaning and doing laundry (yuck) but I also pulled out some beading supplies and strung up a couple of sets for myself.  The first one is an elephant bracelet and earrings.  I’m sure I have told you about my love of elephants so it is no surprise to you that I picked these up at a flea market in spite of the fact that the bracelet was broken.The vendor said they were real ivory.  I’ll take that with a grain of salt.  I wouldn’t know if it were real ivory or not.  I doesn’t feel like plastic but that is all I can say about that.  And I’m fairly certain that if it was real ivory there were some legal hoops that should have been jumped through that weren’t.  And being an elephant lover, I HOPE IT ISN’T IVORY!  I bought them thinking I could use them with costumes as Victorians were not to concerned about the fate of the animals they loved to wear but I think they look to 1970s…especially the earrings.

I also strung some fake red coral beads.  You can find red coral necklaces in flea markets fairly regularly and for reasonable amounts of money but I never seem to have reasonable amounts of money on me when they are around.  Red coral was popular to give to children as a ward against danger (that seems to come from Roman times).  Adults would wear it too.  You’d find it on parasols and jewelry.  I bought the fake beads to make for costuming but now I’m not so sure that it isn’t too simple for a matronly woman and is more suited for a child.Ah well, if upon more research, I discover it is too young-looking, I have a child or two I could give it too.  Or I can just wear it for modern wear.

Final installment on the making of 1850s dress.

I did one more step to the dress…I added some jewelry.

I found a cameo I like. All fake but if I had the real thing I'd be afraid to use it in a costume!

I took the longer chain that came with the purse for this costume and clipped it to a locket I found and made a faux watch.

The faux watch.

Ultimately, I’d like to have a real one.  This will do for now.  If the real watch doesn’t happen soon, I may remove the clips (which are a bit tacky) from the chain and reattach the locket.  I don’t want to do that unless I am sure I will never use the long chain on the purse.  Then I want to put a picture of a watch face in the locket as well as a picture of a person.  The person picture could be changeable so it suits what ever era I am wearing.  For now I just wont open it!

I have been on-line shopping for an 1880s pattern because Shirley A Victorian and I are tentatively planning another event in the fall.  It will be 1880s travel themed.  I’m ordering the patterns so early because of needing time for shipping and for finding the right material.  It needs to be a dark color as travel can be a messy affair.  I’m feeling brave enough to consider a bold stripe or, dare I say it, a plaid.  I want to try pattern matching.  Any pattern I have had in my last three outfits have been “quiet” and any matching that happened was strictly accidental.

While I wait for the patterns to arrive and the perfect material to materialize I will be pulling the back burner outfit out.  It is for an event Shirley and I are tentatively planning for August (the biggest question is whether I will be up to it…I am scheduled for surgery at the end of May…nothing serious).  The theme is “green”.  There will be a mixture of era’s but they will all have greens and be summery.  Hopefully, we will have more folks than just Shirley and I (all dressed by Shirley) because two people could hardly be called a mix!

So it isn’t the bodice from hell!

I’ve had a super productive day and I’m really pleased with how my pagoda sleeve bodice is coming along!

There it is, on Trudy. It really isn't that wrinkly in front. Wierd lighting.

I’m really please with how I matched the pattern in the front.

It is just pinned in place right now but it looks like it is going to be a perfect alignment!

Even the back looks OK.

Of course it needs a better ironing. I pressed the seams and that is it!

But, it can’t be all good.

The sleeves come all the way down to my knuckles. Pretty sure that it too long!

I haven’t decided what to do about the sleeve problem.  I’d really like to not rip the sleeves out and apart for a redo.  I had thought about turning them and making a cuff.

The trick will be to turn them without the wavy lumps.

I like the chocolate-brown at the bottom of the sleeve…it picks up the chocolate at the bottom of the skirt and it will pick up the buttons I will be adding.  I just don’t know if they had cuffs on pagoda sleeves (authentically) and if I can do it without it looking bad.  And I don’t know how far up I have to turn them.  I need to look at some pictures and figure out how low those sleeves went.  (I also need to have a closer look at where the shoulder ends during this era.  I believe there was a drop shoulder…if mine is too low then I may have the answer to my long sleeve problem.  I hope not because I want to redo that even less than I want to redo the sleeve.)

I’m also having another problem.  The weight of the skirts is bending my hoops in odd ways and I may have to reinforce the top hoop with something stronger (and heavier).  Also,  the hoops, petticoat and skirt are slowly sliding down the corset on my dress form.  I don’t think it will be a problem on me as I have more flesh squishing out from under my corset than Trudy does and that should hold everything up.  But, I think I will add some hooks and eyes to my corset and hoops to help hold it all in place.  I think I will also add hooks and eyes to the bodice and skirt to keep the bodice hem down and the skirt up.  I’m thinking I’ve read this was a fairly common practice.

The other funny thing is, the weight of all the clothes is pushing the telescopic stand in and Trudy gets shorter and shorter every day!  May be that is why they wore corsets!  They would collapse under the weight of all their clothes without it!