September 1, 2014

Big Stripe Emery Dress

Emery Dress

Taking a break from historical sewing for some regular additions to my wardrobe...

The Pattern: The Emery Dress by Christine Haynes, a classic fit-and-flare style with gathered skirt and darted bodice. It has options of longer sleeves and a collar as well. I decided to keep it simple.

Partially inspired by Lauren of Rosie Wednesday who has been quite prolific in sewing Emery's lately, she's probably made at least half a dozen.

Emery Dress

I cut a size six and it fits pretty well with no alterations but I'm wondering if I need to alter the upper chest area, it pulls across my front if I move my arms back even a little but when I stand normally it's almost like there's too much fabric there. It's weird, not totally sure what to do about it. Thoughts?

The Fabric: A big stripe shirting from Form and Fabric, an online store that recently opened a storefront. I love this fabric so much! It's so soft and light, perfect for Texas summers.

Lisa from Notes from a Mad Housewife bought some, too, while she was in Austin visiting and made a Scout.

The Changes: I made some self bias tape and used it as a neck facing rather than line the bodice, something I do when I can because when it's so hot you usually don't want an extra layer of fabric.

Emery Dress

I finished all hems by hand, including the neck binding. And I did a lapped zip instead of a regular or invisible one. I've done lapped zips before in practice but never on an actual garment.

But my zipper was too short. I have to put the dress on over my head rather than stepping into it because of that little detail. I just used a zip I had in my stash because I was too lazy to drive to the store and buy a longer zipper yet I some how perfectly fine about sewing all the hems and picking a zip in by hand. Priorities.

Emery Dress

The Results: Overall I'm very pleased. I've already gotten a few compliments on it. It's an easy dress to throw on and look cute and I've already worn it several times in the last week or so. Win!

Only change I'd probably do next time - I think the waist is a tad too loose or like half an inch too low, or both, or neither. I don't know, if nothing else I'd probably raise the skirt up a bit at the back waist 'cause it's not even from the side. But this is just a minor thing and won't prevent me from wearing the dress.

On the other hand I loved the addition of the back shoulder darts, they worked great to give a smooth shape in the back and most patterns don't include them.

Emery Dress
(Peanut photobombed me!)

I already have plans for my second Emery!

August 25, 2014

Regency-era Underthings: More Adventures in Historical Sewing

Regency Outfit

Here's a sneak peak at my new Regency era outfit (with a poor attempt at a turban to cover up my lack of long hair).

If you remember I've been slowly working on historical costume sewing. I've made progress but until now no finished product has been blogged.

For those unfamiliar, the Regency time period in terms of fashion spanned about mid 1790-1820s. Think Napoleonic era or Jane Austen movies. Columnar skirts, very high waistlines, lots of white fabric, bonnets, "classically" inspired, ability to swoon over Mr. Darcy.

(novelist Jane Austen, 1775-1817)

(The cast of the 1995 BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, aka, the best Pride and Prejudice evah!)

Of course if I'm sewing historical costumes this means that Dixie Victorian, my historical-sewing-accuracy-nazi alter ego, must reappear. *dun dun duuuunnnn*

She usually pops up while I'm making key decisions regarding garment design or construction...
Dixie Victorian: Wait, you're not going to sew that corset by machine are you? You know they wouldn't have had sewing machines for at least another FIFTY YEARS???

Dixie DIY: Yeah, but I don't have time to sew a bazillion yards of cording all by hand. It's just underwear, no one's ever going to see it.

Dixie VictorianYou will see it. You will know. And you will hate yourself for it.

A little bit later:

Dixie Victorian: Is that plastic boning you're using for those stays? You know they make synthetic whalebone nowadays and you can buy reed on the internet.

Dixie DIY: Yeah, but I don't want to wait a week for that stuff to be shipped. I want to finish it now and I already have this plastic stuff.

Dixie Victorian: So you are both lazy and impatient. You disgust me.

Jeez, woman! Calm down...

Besides, there's one thing so much more important than accuracy to worry about when sewing Regency garments: bewbs.

Allow me to explain: as a small busted, pear shaped lady attempting to dress in the soft, feminine, almost childlike fashions (actually, in the late 18th century this style was what little girls wore, and then their moms stole it from them) with that high empire waistline I run the risk of looking at best pregnant and at worst like a 12 year old girl. No, scratch that. At worst I look like a pregnant 12 year old girl. And no one wants that.

The solution? Up the bewbs! I once read that the idea was to put the chest "on a platter" as it were. For me that's a very small platter but I am determined to look like I at least have something, uh, to be served.

And how do we go about getting that... effect? Why, with the sexy sexy Regency underwear, of course!

Laughing Moon #115 Ladies' Regency and Romantic Era Corset

...Uh, or not... Yeah, that's not in any way sexy but it does the job, right? Yes? Maybe? I hope?

Let's begin with the shift - the undermost layer that just looks like a big long woven t-shirt with a drawstring at the neck.

I used the Sense and Sensibility Regency Underthings Shift pattern with a pima cotton batiste from The Common Thread. I made a size M and machine sewed most of it. I machine flat felled all the seams (great instructions on how to do that with the sleeve gussets) and finished all hems by hand. There's a little ribbon that runs through the neck binding to adjust the shape.


Now for the "stays" - what they called a corset before corsets were a thing.

Normally when you imagine a corset you're thinking of the victorian style - cinched in waist that makes an hour glass shape. Laces in the back. Busk with hook and eyes opens at the front. Steel boning.

Regency corsets were much different. No steel (not invented yet). No opening bust (also not invented yet). Straps (which are just as annoying as bra straps that slip off your shoulders, even in 200 years no one's fixed that problem). And this style wasn't designed to make your waist smaller - it's all about THE LIFT! Which is the goal, right?

The stays I'm wearing in the previous photo were not my first attempt. I started with the "short stays" from Sense and Sensibility patterns. They're kind of like a lace up bra only even more uncomfortable.

For Short Stays Version 1 I cut (I think) a size 12 with b-cup bust inserts. Disaster. The girls kept sliding down into the depths of the stays never to be seen again. And digging your fists into your shirt to fish them out isn't very lady-like. Massively failing at the prime directive of Regency styling.

Sense and Sensibility Short Stays version 1
(Short Stays version 1, the case of the missing bust. I cut off the binding and took out the bones for version 2)

So I went for a different approach. Version 2 I cut two sizes smaller (to my under bust measurement) and cut d-cup inserts. More like modern bra sizing in which the band size is based on under bust. Better, but the cups were probably a bit too big (they lacing pulls too tight at the top).

Sense and Sensibility Short Stays version 2
(Short Stays version 2, with dreaded under-bust poof)

There were more issues. The bottom of the stays dug into my sternum and the short-ness did nothing to curb the bulge of fabric at my waist created by my shift. Even with the over dresses that pouf of fabric didn't go away, only adding to the pregnancy vibe.

Defeated, I decided to try the more traditional "long stays."

Laughing Moon #115 Ladies' Regency and Romantic Era Corset
(no poof, yay!)

These are from Laughing Moon patterns and consist of straps that tie on in front, drawstring gathers over the bust for "containment," hip gussets, lacing in back, cording for support and wooden busk in front.

Laughing Moon #115 Ladies' Regency and Romantic Era Corset

My busk is actually a paint stir stick. It's there to support your front (no slouching, ladies!) and to "lift and separate." Seriously, they used to call this style a "divorce corset." Because in the year 1800 you couldn't divorce your man you could at least divorce your bust (can I get my right one to pay my left one alimony??). Now, I need my bewbs to stick together but at this point I'll take what I can get.

***Funny story - this corset uses cotton cording (the kind used inside piping) which produces a surprisingly firm result. Unfortunately it requires MILES of it.

I bought enough cording for the corset but then used some for piping on another project so I needed more. Then I used more of it, didn't have enough. Back to the store again.

In the span of a few weeks I had gone to Joann Fabrics so often for this stupid cording that the lady at the check out counter literally said to me, "More string? I hope your not tying up your sister or something with all this."

*deep breath*

The corset has twill on the outside and muslin inside with cording sandwiched in between. Machine sewn because sanity. There are more skilled and patient costumers than I who hand sew these things. There should be a shrine dedicated to them.

If you're wondering where Dixie Victorian is at this point, well, I think I scared her off because screw accuracy at this point. I just wanted to stop crying after sewing so much endless cord...

Oh, and then there's the two dozen eyelets sewn BY HAND. By now I've probably sewn near sixty eyelet on this and various other unblogged historical projects. Tiny blanket stitched holes haunt me in my dreams...

Laughing Moon #115 Ladies' Regency and Romantic Era Corset
(I could have tightened the stays more, they're kind of loose, but I was alone and didn't have anyone to help me)

In the end the stays do their job well enough and I'm proud of myself for sticking with it. AND no waist pouf! And no wandering bewbs! Success!

Well that's enough for one post. Next time I'll talk about the dress...

August 8, 2014

Jolie Marie Louise Lea Dress

Lea Dress from Jolie Marie Louise Patterns

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure to test the new Lea Dress from Jolie Marie Louise Patterns. You might be familiar with the lady behind this new company - she's Anto, the incredible illustrator and sewist extrordinaire from Stardust and Soul. Her work is seriously beautiful.

Anyway, on to the details:

The Pattern: the Lea dress is a fitted, woven, sleeveless style button down dress with a cute little sweetheart neckline.

Lea Dress from Jolie Marie Louise Patterns

Since I was testing I decided to make the pattern as-is straight from the printer and I got a pretty good fit (I cut a size 2). My measurements are a little more curvy than the size chart so next time I'll bring it in a bit at the waist.

And when I make the dress again I'll take a little wedge out of the back armhole, it's a little roomy.

I didn't make a muslin 'cause I'm lazy but I'd definitely recommend you make a muslin of at least the bodice. What's nice is that with all the panels in this dress is it easy to take it in here and there for a good fit.

The Fabric: This is an Echino linen/cotton blend print from The Cloth Pocket. I liked the geometric style mixed with a nature motif (there are little birds here and there on the print). I carefully tried to match the pattern (or blend the pattern) where I could like on the pockets. But I accidentally switched the two center back pieces of the skirt, oh well.

With so many seamlines I think this dress would look great in a colorblock or mix of textures like one color for the sides and another for the center front button placket. You could even try out a chevron effect with stripes.

Jolie Marie Louise Patterns Lea Dress

The Changes: Just for fun I did hand topstitching in a gold-ish embroidery thread along the hem, pockets, sleeves and front. This print is already pretty wild, why not go crazy with it? And finally - shiny gold buttons.

Lea Dress from Jolie Marie Louise Patterns

Oh, and I kind of forgot to put in the kickpleat (got too excited while sewing up all the pieces, oops). I could get away without one because I could easily walk in the dress. Well, turns out I should have added it - when I sit down the bottom button strains and I'm pretty sure that's because there's no slit in the back of the skirt to balance the fabric pulling. I'm going to go back and put it in. Lesson learned.

Lastly - the original pattern that I tested had small cap sleeves, the released pattern does not. So I carefully cut off my little sleeves to match the more recent version of the pattern. The binding method for the armhole is the same so I didn't even have to go back and sew anything up - just snipped the sleeves off, lol. I think I like it more as a sleeveless dress. Good choice.

Lea Dress from Jolie Marie Louise Patterns

The Result: Overall I think it's a pretty cute dress! I think I want to try it again in a nice wool suiting or something to make a sharp looking office dress. I love the button-down style, too, and the sweetheart neckline that isn't too low. Feminine and classic. Note to self for next time - grade down in the waist, remember the damn kickpleat.

As for the pattern PDF itself - very well done, clear illustrations, lots of information on preparation - including a whole page on how to do an FBA on the bodice!

The pattern is on sale now - go check it out! And thanks again to Jolie Marie Louise Patterns for asking me to help pattern test.