Riennynn the Renaissance & Regency Tailor

Adventures of a part-time seamstress

Regency bodiced petticoat - Part 1
It's been months since I posted.  Defended my dissertation in May, officially graduated in June, and have been looking for a postdoc or industry research position.  In the meantime, I've been turning out Elizabethan corsets and working on Regency wear for myself.

I've experimented with a chemise and both short and long stays, but haven't been happy with the silhouette they produce.  Spent a couple of weeks making long stays from J.S. Bernhardt's scaled up patterns (below), hoping to distribute the pressure of lifting my bust evenly across my torso.


Unfortunately, even extensive fitting left me with something made for a woman with a more slender torso, tapered waist (my underbust and waist are the same size), and larger bust without the amount of lift desired.  The first two photos of me trying it on, I wore a camisole underneath in place of my chemise, which was being washed.  The final photo is the stays themselves showing the uneven back gap even with reinforcing boning.  I decided not to invest more time in refitting and moved on.


I also have a set of short stays (which I can't find photos of at the moment) meant to be worn over a chemise with more of a lifting effect, but wasn't happy with the overall silhouette.

A couple of years of research and reading had left me thinking that a bodiced petticoat wouldn't be enough to support my figure, as I'm a generous 34D with most of my bust at the front and "top".  Given my failures with stays, however, I thought it wouldn't be a waste to try after all.

I began by dyeing a selection of cotton with Brilliant Blue iDye.  After years of white and off white foundation garments turning up, I assume they were par for the course when gauzy sheer muslins were being worn over them.  Since I plan to go for colored fabrics, and blue is my favorite color, it didn't seem like my choice of petticoat color would show through.

Below is the final results from dyeing.  Half a package of Brilliant Blue, one cup of salt, and 45 minutes of soaking.  Original colors were, clockwise from top left: baby pink, unbleached, unbleached eyelet, and white.  I chose to go with the fabric on the lower left for the outer part of the bodice, and more of the unbleached heavy cotton for the inner part.


For a pattern, I started with Jennie Chancey's lovely Elegant Lady's Wardrobe dress bodice.  It's meant to be gathered, and so is wider at the front than needed, but the back is already perfect.  My measurements are 31 underbust where I want to put the high Regency waist and 37 inches at the fullest part.  Based on a side to side measurement across my back of 15.5 inches, I knew I wanted the front to measure approximately 21.5 inches to start with and work down from there.  To achieve this, I traced the bodice pieces out onto a fresh sheet of paper, and got out my ruler.  The pattern originally measures a little under 14.5 inches across at the widest point or a total of 29 inches across the front.  I added lines lowering and widening the back neckline to prevent it from peeking out too far under the outer gown.  I then lowered the front neckline, narrowed the shoulder straps, and removed excess from the center front, narrowing the front piece to 11 inches, or a total of 22 inches across.


Resized pattern pieces.  The side back pieces were not altered in order to keep the armscye the same size.


Next step was the pin the pattern pieces to the unbleached muslin and cut them out.


I used short (0.75 inch) pins to hold the pieces together at the seams.  Seams are 5/8 inch.  Photos below show the side backs being pinned to the center back and the entire bodice shown on my dressmaker's form.


The initial darts ended up too low and too far off to the sides.  After moving them closer to the center front and lengthening them, the bodice fit much more closely. Note the change in "lift" once the darts were in the correct place.   Please excuse the shaky camera hand; I was holding the side seam together and am not left-handed!  (I put on a camisole for decency while shaping the front - it doesn't change the shape of my bust at all.  )


The first photo below shows the darts when the bodice is laid flat.  Ignore the diagonal line from the side seams: I originally thought I would be placing a line of cording or boning for support, but ended up not needing it.  I traced the darts out with chalk and transferred the markings to my paper pattern for future reference.  The darts were symmetrical on both sides.


I then cut out the pieces of my blue fabric, identical to the lining.


The pieces were pinned together at the necklines and armscye edges and stitched inside out so that I would be able to flat line the entire bodice neatly.  I used a 3/8 inch seam here, followed by turning and pressing.  The second photo shows the right sides of the fabric after pressing with much narrower shoulder straps.


The side seams were next.  I like to machine stitch parts that are hidden (all of the seams themselves), followed by hand finishing.  I originally planned to flat-fell the sides, but was afraid of the seam ending up too bulky.


The darts were sewn in next, and I tried on the bodice again to be sure I liked the fit.


I decided to add a third set of darts closer to the center front.  Unfortunately, I didn't take photos of the second fitting, but the darts were needed to evenly support my bust all the way across.  This is where stays with a busk would normally function to hold everything in place.  The side back seams are flat-felled, and the shoulder straps turned in, finished, and whipstitched to the center back.


I finished the darts by stitching them down for added strength.  The left side seam has been turned under and finished and will be fastened with either hooks and eyes or buttons.


Everything needs a good pressing to remove those pesky wrinkles.  More to come once I get started on the skirt portion of the petticoat, and hopefully some more photos showing the fit!

Random costuming photos
Wow, been a while since I updated.  My dissertation is keeping me on the edge of sanity, really pushing to get it done ASAP.  Just waiting on some histology and finishing statistics.

A good friend (who isn't even a costumer!) reminded me to keep track of the things I've completed for future reference.  So, a photo dump and short description of each.

Teal Taffeta Skirt

Picked up a bolt of very lightweight synthetic satin taffeta from the on-campus store which sells materials from the art, design, and architecture departments.  It's an appealing teal color, and can be used for linings and outer fabric.  This skirt is two rectangular panels of 36" x 48", serged up the sides - I LOVE my Janome 8002D even though I only use a fraction of its functions - with a black bias tape waistband gathered with black satin cord.  The bottom raw edge is handsewn with acrylic pearls on twill tape.  Sold for $24.99


Embroidered Taffeta Skirt
Extra wide (120") medium weight cream taffeta ordered from Fabric.com a while back.  Lovely embroidery done with brown, tan, and yellow threads.  Really great drape on it, crisp but luxurious hand and sheen.  Single 112" x 43" panel.  Waistband is ecru bias tape and hem is more pearls.  Sold for $49.99


Teal Taffeta Corset

Gave the taffeta a try in corsetry.  It's a little lighter than I'd normally like to use, probably would be better with a layer of interfacing on a muslin backing.  Boned with 1/4" spring and flat white steel bones - little buggers are more slippery than the heavy duty cable tie boning I prefer, leaving a bit of gathered fabric on each channel that you can see in the photo.  Tried something different for finishing and couched black satin cord onto the front panels for decoration.  Still unsold.


WIP: Brown brocade Regency pelisse
I'm currently three chapters into my dissertation and one enormous stress ball.  My favorite way to relax is imagining up new bits of clothing to construct (I'm a die hard sewing geek), and since it's winter here I wanted to make a pelisse in honor of the weather.


Chocolate brown brocade ordered from FabricGuru.com a while back.  It's a heavier fabric intended for upholstery.  The lighting isn't perfect in this shot, but the lighter parts have a subtle gold sheen to them and are slightly raised from the darker background.

The pattern I'm using comes from Sense and Sensibility's Elegant Lady's Closet.  Love this set of mix and match pieces.  I've altered the neckline to suit my figure, but otherwise the bodice is cut as specified.


Pinning the curved side back seams into place.  These two photos show the underside of the fabric, also pretty in its own right.


My sister bought me a gorgeous Janome serger as a thank you gift for being her maid of honor and all of the things that went along with her wedding.  Couldn't wait to use it, and this is the first seam I stitched with it.  A little odd getting used to the alignment markings versus my trusty Kenmore workhorse sewing machine.


Serged side back seams, underside and right side of fabric.  Apparently I forgot to pull out my camera when I attached the two front sections :(


Decided to go with the long sleeves since this is intended as a warmer garment.  Here I've got some delicate white pointed lace laid out on the cuffs, trying to see what looks best for embellishment.

Back to the dissertation for now.

Regency chemise in 12 photos
From last November when I first started my foray into Regency fashions:

I always like to start from the ground up, so to speak...I guess that's the skin out.  If there's anything I've learned in my journey from 'costumes' to 'clothing', it's that the right underpinnings make all of the difference.

I for the life of me can't seem to locate the exact instructions I used, but this is a very straightforward design consisting of two large rectangles (front and back), two smaller rectangles (sleeves), and two squares (underarm gussets).

Photos shown below accompanying descriptions.

Step One
Select a sturdy but lightweight fabric.  I didn't have any linen on hand when I made this, as I tend to get inspired at 3 am.  Instead, I used a finely woven white cotton that has stood up to poking, prodding, pulling, shrinking, etc.  I cut two identical panels for the front and back as follows:
  • Length: shoulder to knees + 1 inch seam allowance (I cheated and used the selvage edge as the bottom hem)
  • Width: hip measurement divided by two + 6 inches 

Step Two
(Not shown) Cut two rectangles for sleeves.  I made mine 16 inches long by 5.5 inches wide.  The longer edge will circle the arm, so I made sure it was larger than my bicep circumference.

Cut two squares for underarm gussets the same size as the width of the sleeves - 5.5 inches here.  I traced in my seam allowance on the gussets as I was handsewing and wouldn't have the machine guidelines like I usually do.  Since I wanted to finish the seams by turning under, I made a larger seam allowance than normal.  It's a full half inch here.

Step Three
Pin the gussets to the sleeves.  They'll sit at the lower corner, as the extra sleeve material at the top is the seam allowance for the hem.

Step Four
Stitch the right hand vertical seam (to the right of the orange pins above).  Then do an origami-like manipulation and stitch the left hand vertical edge of the sleeve rectangle to the bottom of the sleeve gusset (below the orange pins in the photo above).  This creates a triangular seam, shown in the second photo.  The top point will be at the underarm, just below the bicep when worn.  The bottom point will be at the actual underarm where the sleeve joins the front and back panels.


Step Five
Press the seams open starting with the "point" of the triangle at the underarm.  Turn the edges under again and whipstitch down to finish seams.  Stitch the remainder above the "point" to finish the underarm seam.  Turn the armhole edges under twice and finish as well.  The second photo shows the unfinished edge where the sleeve will be joined to the main body.

Step Six
Open the sleeve out as before and check that all the seams are finished and even.

Step Seven
Set the sleeves aside.  Open out the front and back panels, which should have the measurements to the left below plus seam allowances.  To make the neckline, I measured from my shoulder to the top of a low cut top for the depth, followed by between armpits for the width.  Since the neckline will be gathered, I didn't worry about it seeming overly wide.  I traced in a curved neckline and cut, as seen to the right below.

Step Eight
Stitch the front and back together at the shoulders.

Pin the sleeves into place just below the shoulder seams and stitch.  Take care that the seams meet evenly at the bottom point of the underarm gusset so there isn't any funny misalignment when the sides are sewn.

Step Nine
Press the seams open, turn under, and finish as before.  This is a photo of the underarm once all seams are finished around it.

Step Ten
Stitch the side seams.  Press open and finish.

Step Eleven
Turn under twice at the neckline and sew a casing, leaving a bit of the seam open.  Turn the chemise out and press seams again.  This photo shows all the seams around one sleeve.

Step Twelve
Thread a ribbon into the neckline casing, try on, and adjust appropriately.

Total time elapsed: two and a half hours due to all the handsewing.  Time by machine?  Much faster.

Taffeta Venetian (June 2011)
Finally transferred a load of photos off my memory card.  There are things there from over a year ago *groan*... Please excuse the yellowy lighting, my desk lamp casts that weird glow and I haven't had a chance to correct for it in all of the photos.

A much-belated accounting of my taffeta Venetian project.  This was meant as a trial run for the silver Venetian I eventually made for myself, in order to test out some construction techniques.

Descriptions are underneath each picture.

Requisite sewing movie.  I can't count how many times I've watched / listened to A&E's version of Pride and Prejudice when there is a project to tackle.  Always puts me in a costuming mood :)

Lining fabric - lovely heavy cotton twill from Fabric.com in "York flower".
Fashion fabric - medium weight embroidered cream taffeta also from Fabric.com in "Gardena Savannah"

Decided to drape this one over my dressmaker's form rather than use a 2D pattern.  Ideally, I'd do this over a padded and corsetted form that most closely replicates my own shape.  I cut out two large rectangles of the lining and folded them in half.  The fold is pinned at the center front and the fabric smoothed and pinned along the curves of the dress form.  

I marked the wide, squared off neckline and armhole, then carefully cut.  Then I sketched in the deep front V that Venetian bodices are so well known for, following it back and up to the waistline before cutting.  This required a little bit of fiddling and repinning to get everything to sit right.

I pinned the second rectangle onto the back with the fold at center back.  Following a similar process to the front, I smoothed, pinned, sketched, cut, and repinned.  The last photo on the right shows the side seam marked, pinned, and trimmed.  I left a fairly large seam allowance for reasons I'll get into below.

Using the lining pieces as a template, I cut the fashion fabric "right sides" of the bodice.  At this point, I would normally trace this off onto paper to keep for future use, but since this is a practice run with the dress form not even set to my exact measurements, I  didn't worry about it.  Next, I pinned all of the taffeta to the lining pieces, right sides out, and pinned the whole bodice together.

Stitched the side seams and pressed them open.

The extra large seam allowances now come into play, as I fold the raw edges back towards the side seams, press, and stitch in order to create boning channels.

The folded and stitched side seams, trimming the boning to size, and inserting into the channels.  I left the ends of the channels open as I'll be using bias tape to finish all the raw edges later.

The semi-finished bodice pinned to my dress form.  Shoulder straps are fitted together, pinned, and all raw edges turned inwards before stitching.

I used a 100% cotton bias tape (bought off eBay as car headliner tape for CHEAP!) I dyed ecru and the Clover bias tape maker to create seam binding.  Stitched this to the raw edges, beginning with the neckline and armholes.  All corners are mitered for neatness.

Applying the seam binding in progress.

I'm using a skirt I made for Halloween in 2010 where I was an enchantress.  This is about three yards of the taffeta box-pleated with a single line of stitching to hold it together.  I was in a hurry that year - I was sewing and ironing upstairs while prepping for my Halloween party downstairs at the same time - so I didn't bother finishing the waistband, as it would be hidden underneath a corset.  To finish the waistband (finally), I applied more bias tape and machine stitched it down.  The bottom of the skirt is the selvage edge.

The end product displayed on my dress form over an Elizabethan chemise; it should be shown over a full-sleeved Italian camicia, but I hadn't made one by that point.  I also tacked on some eye fasteners and did a quick imitation of ladder lacing.  It's horribly askew, but it gets the idea across.  

On the whole, a successful experiment.  Having had this to practice on, I did end up more comfortable when I made my own gown later in the year, which called for a skirt attached to the bodice.  

I still haven't finished the lacing on this one, but plan to do it soon and get this sold off.

Slightly Less Quick Project - Full Head Form
I decided I couldn't leave off at yesterday's project post of the chignon form, and went ahead with Lynn McMasters' instructions on how to make a full head form.  

After some adjustments with the PDF and my printer, I was able to use standard 8.5 x 11 paper.  

This pattern had four pieces (two each of the head sides and center portion), so it required three seams instead of yesterday's two.  I cut out the pieces from the same blue twill, and set to work notching the curves and pinning the two sides separately.

Next, I stitched each side separately, then pinned the two halves together.  After stitching the two halves, the whole thing looked rather like a deflated punching bag.  The bottom right photo shows it turned right side out and ready for stuffing.

Once again, I utilized paper shreds for stuffing.  I didn't want to have the problem from the previous form of unfilled curves, so after each handful I went in and made sure all of the seams were properly expanded.  Gripping the neck of the partially filled form like a sack helped press the shreds into place.  The fully filled head had a somewhat dubious shape, but I figured I could go back later and fix that.

The base was circular this time, rather than oval.  I cut the front pieces a little shorter than recommended by the pattern, so the neck opening was larger than indicated.  It measured roughly 4.5 inches in diameter, so I cut out three corrugated cardboard circles to this size.  Alternating directions of the grain, I hot glued them together, then pulled the edges of the fabric around the base and hot glued them down.

This head ended up weighing only a few ounces more than the partial form, at just over a pound.  Not too shabby.

At first I was disturbed by the blobby, uneven look, but then I realized the pattern pieces were shaped to create a slightly protruding "back" of the head.  A little bit of squeezing around the "neck" and gently shaping of the top of the head created a smoother and more finished appearance.

I did end up having to reinforce a couple of the seams at the lower neck edge that had been overly strained during the stuffing process.

Displaying a capote work in progress.  You may recognize the straw salvaged from this deconstructed hat I previously posted about.

Final Thoughts?

A bit more work than the previous form, but a whole lot better looking overall.  This one has an actual "head" shape and a "neck", allowing for display of hats that rely on the back of the head.  Also larger in circumference (approximately 22 inches versus 18 on the chignon form).  

Filling this one was a bit trickier due to the more curved seams and used a few handfuls more of the paper shreds.  

Once complete, I can look at it and definitely know it should be a head form.  The one I did before looks more like a milliner's shaping block - not a bad thing by any means, but limited in what I can display on it.

Total time elapsed: still less than an hour.  

I may make a few more of these so I don't have bonnets stacked on my dresser.

Quick Project - Fabric Head Form
I was reading up on period hairstyles, including the making of hairpieces to augment one's own natural hair, and stumbled across Lynn McMasters' fabulous tutorial on Victorian evening 'dos at Your Wardrobe Unlock'd.  From there, I followed the link to her fabric head form pattern, and printed out the one for the smaller form, which she refers to as a chignon base.

I've been wanting another head form for displaying my wares besides the blindingly white and oh-so-modern styrofoam one, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try making one.  With only three pattern pieces, clear and simple instructions, and no fancy supplies, I set out.

  1. I chose a sturdy periwinkle blue cotton twill left over from another project.  Set out pattern pieces, making sure to pay attention to the grain line.  Had to do some fiddling to get the grain lines right when I folded, since my brain wasn't processing 45 and 90 degree angles correctly.
  2. Cut out pattern pieces and transfer markings.
  3. Pin together.
  4. Another view of the pins.

  1. Form turned right side out.  Decided not to press the seams as I figured stuffing it would fill them out nicely.  More on that later.
  2. Fitted over my styrofoam head just to see how it looks.
  3. Reminds me of a toaster or tea kettle cover, actually.

  1. No fiberfill or batting on hand, so I decide to use shredded paper.  After all, my trusty shredder has been chewing up junk mail and needs to be emptied.  This is a "before" shot showing how full the bin was.
  2. Start putting handfuls of paper shreds into the form.
  3. This is roughly four handfuls.
  4. Compressing the shreds.
  5. Continue filling, pressing down as needed.  The seams filled out nicely.
  6. "After" shot of the shredder bin, showing how much paper I used - I'd guess somewhere between a dozen and twenty handfuls.

  1. Cut the base pattern out of corrugated cardboard.  Lynn McMasters instructs you to cut two with the grain lengthwise and one with the grain widthwise, which provides a sturdier base.
  2. Hot glued base.
  3. Set the base on top of the shreds, fitting the edges of the fabric around it and making it straight.
  4. Press down and pull the edges up more firmly.  Cardboard pops out without my hand there - I figured this meant I'd filled the form enough.
  5. Hot glue the edges.  I normally am not a fan of hot glue, but in this case it works perfectly as I don't have an industrial stapler on hand.
  6. Dated and initialed the base (just in case I decide to sell this down the line).

  1. Finished and upright
  2. Front view
  3. Apparently I didn't stuff it as completely full as I initially thought.  Forgot that all that pressing down was flattening the top curve, so it didn't end up fully done.  Ahh well, a little late now to fix that.  
  4. Holding the head form up next to the styrofoam head for a size comparison.
  5. Weighs in at a little over 14 ounces - not too bad.  Heavier than styrofoam by a long shot, but that's a good thing in that it won't move or tip over as easy.
Overall time elapsed of less than an hour.  Two easy long seams to sew by machine, everything else taken care of my hand.  I had a large piece of fabric, but could easily be completed with a few oddly shaped scraps that don't even have to match.  Corrugated cardboard was leftover from packing and shipping, and I still have paper shreds galore from all the junk mail we deal with on a daily basis.

The finished head form is sturdy but has some give to it.  The paper filling is more forgiving that styrofoam, and I won't have to worry about making pits or wearing large channels from pinning in the same places.

It's not perfectly head-shaped; to do that, I'd have to use Lynn McMasters' other headform tutorial.  I was feeling lazy tonight, not to mention I don't have any 14 inch paper on hand to print out the pattern.

Paper doesn't spring back the way styrofoam does.  Pins don't sit as firmly, and it takes a bit of maneuvering to get them in straight.

Final Impressions?
Delightful use of an hour :)  Simple project, easily repeatable, and potentially profitable.

Truly wonderful customers
I've experienced a true gem of a customer.  She has been an all around pleasure to work with, from the day she contacted me via email to request a custom Regency bonnet and all throughout the creation process.  Not only that, but she sent a lovely handwritten thank you note after receiving it.  

This follows on the heels of another lady I sold a bonnet to who sent an email expressing her delight and a photo of herself modeling it.

Ladies (and gentlemen) like these are the reason I continue to love sewing for other people.

Here is a photo of the bonnet for the first customer, meant to match a navy and cream striped gown:

Capote sold!
I'm inordinately pleased to have my first sale on Etsy.  To a lady in the UK no less!  For some reason I feel like having someone buy it from from a place that experienced the Regency fashions firsthand is validation...I know that sounds strange when I type it out.

Etsy certainly is more freeform than eBay.  No annoying micromanagement of shipping and policies.  I do miss being able to do shipping labels straight off the order page, but it's just a couple extra steps to manually input all the info.

On a side note, I love my new photo lightbox.  It makes the photos come out much more professional looking.


silk flowers
Thought I'd share a few pictures of the lot of silk flowers I purchased off of eBay.  There was something like 6 lbs of mixed stems, flowers, and leaves.  They filled a 16 x 14 x 22 inch box to the brim - when organized this way, the assortment doesn't look as extensive as it does jumbled in the box.

I've sorted them into piles by color.  Please excuse my exceedingly loud printed duvet cover :)


Tags: ,

Regency capote
I started with a "twisted sea grass hood" from Leko's hatsupply.com.  As a side note, her website has an absolutely extensive supply of hat blanks, tools, and trimmings.  I only wish it was easier to navigate.  

It arrived flat, springy, and quite not-a-finished-hat-shape. 

I fell in love with the capotes, best described here at Jane Austen's World.  After staring at the pictures for a while and doing some other image collection on Google, I decided the hood could best be altered into the shape I wanted by rolling the back bottom edge up and shifting the top of the crown slightly forward.

The sea grass is truly flexible stuff.  It also springs back with a vengeance.  Finally, with the help of a small clamp (bought at ACE Hardware of all places) and my trusty spray bottle, I had a mass of limp, drippy, hay-scented hat.  Cue the hairdryer to set everything.


A closeup of the rolled side.

Here is how it looked on my styrofoam head.  I tacked down the rolled up back edge and sides to help keep its shape.  Even when dry, the open weave gives the hat quite a bit of give.  Helpful in terms of fitting to different hairstyles and angles when worn, but frustrating when trying to work with it.  I did end up turning the front edge up more sharply than it shows below.


It took a few tries to decide how I was going to trim the capote.  A lot of images that I found were very simply finished, with braided edges or swatches of fabric / ribbons.  I dug into my trusty box of vintage silk flowers ($15 for 6 lbs on eBay!), and came up with a gorgeous pale blue stargazer lily, and spray of yellow daffodils, and a couple of large leaves.  

I wanted the trim to be asymmetrical, but didn't want it to feel lopsided.  By tucking the flowers and leaves into the rolled up side, they make a statement without protruding too much.  Before attaching them permanently, I poked the stems through the open weave of the hat and played with positioning.

I always prefer to stitch decorations on rather than use glue - somehow, it feels like cheating.  The flexible grass was working against me though, so I compromised and used craft glue to set the greenery in place with pins, and then stitched the stems once the glue was dry.

After all of the flowers were in place, I added a double band of green bias tape.  At first, I had it running around the brim, but decided it looked better arching over the crown.  

I'm rather pleased with the final product.  I love the way the lily spills over the rolled edge, and the daffodils cheer things up quite a bit.  Planning to leave it unlined without ties.


What did this hapless straw hat do to deserve a deconstruction?  

I laid eyes on it and decided it would have a wonderful second life as a re-formed Regency bonnet.

Cue the use of scissors to snip the rather messy job someone did of sewing on the fluffy fake flower vine.  Thankfully the globs of hot glue holding the feather and ribbon in place also came off easily.  

Last step involved cutting the invisible thread holding the courses of braid together and popping the seams.  A ton of dust flew out, but most of the straw itself was unscathed.  More photos to come later, once I'm done editing some stuff for my mom.

Olive green Regency bonnet
Here is the latest Regency bonnet.  It has a wired buckram frame - I normally forego the wire because of the extra time it takes to apply it properly, but in this case it created a much sturdier frame to work with - covered with olive green taffeta.  I pleated the fabric around the crown and used the trim to disguise the securing stitches.  It's trimmed with wide black grosgrain ribbon (called "hat band" ribbon), black and gold satin cord, white lace, gold stamped filigree bead caps, rooster feathers, and a couple of silk flowers.

eBay link here.

Silver Venetian photos
Since it doesn't look like I'll be having time in the near future to post details of the construction of last year's silver Venetian gown, here are a few photos of the completed project, including the delicious gold Venise lace partlet that I didn't have time to finish.  

From the inside out: blackwork edged camicia, tabbed Elizabethan style corset, olive green underskirt, corset cover, gown, and paned sleeves (tied on at the shoulders).  Accessories include a pearl choker, double peacock pendant on a long chain, chain girdle finished with a tassel, pearl and maple leaf earrings, and various rings.  My hair is supplemented with a false braided bun and decked out with pearls.


Regency Bonnets
My latest creations :)  I've really enjoyed the process of learning as I go and trying out different ideas in terms of framing them.  Constructed with buckram frames and brims, covered and lined in various fabrics, and trimmed with ribbons, bias tape, feathers, and lace.  The one on top is my favorite so far.  I may end up keeping it rather than selling...

Medieval studies and bonnet making
So much for staying updated.  I recently went to a stress management workshop for grad students, and the best recommendation I came away with was to schedule my "off" time, to put my sewing time on the calendar for the day so that I feel I deserve to take a break from work.  Haven't managed to do it yet, but I see it in my future.  There would be nothing nicer than sitting down to a project without feeling guilty for not reading journal articles / listening to online lectures / writing my dissertation.

Ahh yes, the dissertation.  I finally broke down and made a Dissertation folder on my drive.  At the moment, it's populated with an EndNote library of references and a Topic List file.  The Topic List file contains an outline of the background subjects I want to cover in the chapters preceding each of my major experimental chapters.  I remember being miserable trying to write my Master's thesis in a month, so am hoping that this will preclude much of a agony.  As I read journal articles and make my reference library, I'm adding quotes and notes from each of them to the outline.  So far it's about 4 pages long, but it's certainly a start.

It's been almost six years since I started off on the road to a PhD, and this time I think I can actually see it in the distance.  Planning to write my dissertation in the coming months, walk in June, and defend before the end of the summer.  With luck, I'll be a postdoc by the fall.

I ran into my favorite Medieval studies professor at the post office on campus yesterday.  It's funny because I had been thinking of sitting down to write him a letter just the other day.  He's one of the few people that still appreciates the hand written word.  I always seem to come across him when I need to talk to him most.  He helped my state of mind so many times through the years, I can't imagine the undergrad and even grad experience without his support.  I remember once when I was having an awful day, that he said, "Come see me if you ever need someone to help make you feel better about yourself."  Beneath the cynicism and realism, he's one of the best people I know and I know I'm so lucky to have his advice and friendship.

Beyond that, I've been experimenting with bonnet making.  As usual, I'm attempting to circumvent the usual costs associated with my projects by being creative in their construction.  Rather than pay $$6+ for one yard of 20 inch buckram, I'm working with layers of a softer buckram that I usually use to stiffen French hoods.  It's been trial and error, but I think that three or so layers of buckram strips placed in alternating directions and glued should work well.

Also determining that shaping the brim isn't nearly as straightforward as I thought.  The first one that I cut uncurved rather resembles a prairie or colonial bonnet instead of the face-framing Regency styles I'm trying to emulate.  That being sad, the next brim I cut was semi-circular and certainly shaped better.  Still working on getting the proportions right, this one may end up looking more Victorian as it's fuller on the sides that I envisioned.  

The next challenge is going to be getting the crown shape correct.  Too wide and it's floppy, too narrow and it doesn't leave enough loft to accommodate a Classical hairstyle.  Grrr.

I'm pleased I was able to obtain a lot of vintage trims and bindings on eBay for $8.50.  It was enough to stuff full a flat rate Priority envelope in a wide array of colors and textures.  There's ribbons, seam binding, piping, etc.  Also was a floppy cream satin bow embellished with an organza rose and string of pearls.  I've already tacked it onto the side of my second bonnet with some assorted feathers and am quite pleased with the effect.  Must remember to get some photos posted later.

Currently on Amtrak to the Bay Area, hallelujah they finally got some WiFi for us :)

Grants, updates, and never enough time
As usual, I'm behind on my updates.  I always start out describing things so faithfully, and then I get caught up in the sewing process.  I get a ton of photos taken, but never seem to finish my posts.  Really need to do that this time for my silver Venetian.  I think part of the problem is each project is exhausting in the final stages, since I'm not known for getting things done way ahead of time, so I suffer from 'costume fatigue' and just want to take a break afterwards.

My focus has certainly switched to Regency since Halloween.  I will always love the 16th century styles, but it's time to indulge my Pride and Prejudice preferences :)  I've been amassing quite a selection of organdy, fine printed cottons, vintage silk saris, and muslins for Regency sewing.  Just need the time to work on them now.

We had two grants with the same due date earlier in the month, which ended up consuming most of my spare time.  When I wasn't reading papers and writing, I felt guilty if I spent any time sewing outside of my eBay seller's commitments.  Ahhh well.  And now I have a crop of undergraduate research assistants to train.  I suppose it will have the effect of making me feel more virtuous by sheer amount of work?

I'm still recovering from hosting a Halloween party this weekend, and need to do a massive update on the actual construction of my silver courtesan gown.  It didn't turn out exactly as planned - some parts wonderfully exceeded my design, and others were just plain frustrating.  The end result came together well for lots of compliments, but I was still plagued by falling shoulders (note to self: definitely make the back higher to hold up heavy sleeves) and the lack of a partlet (more due to running out of time than design problems).

Onward, though!  My next projects will be Regency based :)  I've always loved Pride & Prejudice, and the 1995 BBC / A&E version is my go-to sewing movie.  I know next to nothing about drafting short stays or the seams on these gowns, so I went ahead and bought a pattern.

I chose Jennie Chancey's Elegant Lady's Closet pattern suite from her amazing website.  The reviews on it are all good, I've compared the 'look' of the finished product photos to drawings and extant garments, and at $9.95 for a downloadable pattern, the price was more than right.  

Silver Venetian - Adventures with the Washing Machine
Photos to come once I've uploaded them from my camera.

Washing the taffeta turned out to be much easier than I'd imagined.  I simply unfolded all 5 yards of it, loosely piled it into the washing machine drum, and selected the extra delicate cycle.  I added a quarter capfull of Woolite, and stood there nervously while the machine filled and watched it gently agitate until I was sure nothing awful would happen.  It did take a couple rinses to get all the Woolite out, but the fabric appeared unscathed.  I transferred it to the dryer with a sheet of Snuggle fabric softener and let it tumble on the lowest heat setting while I washed the sari.

I was much more nervous about the delicate silk, but it turned out much hardier than expected.  This time I let the drum fill first, then added the silk.  I cut short the spin cycle because I was worried about stress, although in retrospect I probably should have let it continue as there is the faintest remaining scent of Woolite on the fabric.  I folded it loosely into panels about 3/4 of a yard wide, clipped it with a padded hangar, and left it to hang dry over my bathtub.

By that point, the taffeta came out of the dryer completely dry.  Ahh, the beauty of synthetics.  The hand was still crisp, but softened and I feel like the sheen and texture are much richer.  There is much more restrained luster, and not any discernible shrinkage, although some of the edge threads frayed and needed to be clipped off.

The sari fabric remains much as I first received it with less of a musty dried-sweat-and-dusty-storeroom smell to it.  I did discover a couple larger than pinhole size holes in the 'hem' of the sari where the cotton fall is sewn that weren't apparent before washing, but I think I can work around those.  There's also some mystery stain spots near the same area, but again, since this is a vintage and used item, I can't really complain about. 

Grumblings about jewel shopping
First of all, I love eBay very much.  It's a great marketplace for a small-time seller like me, and a way to find really unique things that I can't go to the mall to buy.  And I have found some wonderful things browsing late at night for good prices.

On a second note though, it's darned frustrating.  I'm going for a period look rather than true authenticity - there's no way I can afford gold-plated pewter cast reproductions on a grad student budget.  My costuming sales are going THAT well.  So it's off to eBay to find something that looks close enough to feel appropriate without breaking the bank.

I've been having horrible luck with rings recently, as I keep seeing ones that have nice settings (read: bands, not prongs) only to discover that they're adjustable.  Even for $5 or less, if I wanted an adjustable ring I'd pop in two quarters at the grocery store gumball machines.  It always sours my mood, because I can't justify it to myself.
Ahh well.
On a more comical note, here are some interesting descriptions I've stumbled across: "ghasful" used to describe a skull ring, "selectable" referring to those annoying adjustable rings, and "noble" used to describe everything from rings to bracelets to silk pajamas. 


Log in

No account? Create an account