Tuesday, January 14, 2014

HSF14: #2 Innovation


The Challenge: Innovation
Fabric: 100% Bemberg Rayon
Pattern:  from extant garment in my collection.
Notions: thread, lace, buttons (from my grandmother's stash)
How historically accurate is it? I'm a horrible judge of historical accuracy, I'll give myself 90% on these.
Hours to complete: unknown
First worn: Not yet.
Total cost:  $7.61 for the actual garment (fabric $5.62, lace trim $1.79, 2 buttons from the collection I found in my grandmother's closet.) The tap pants I patterned them from cost me $25 - we'll call that a one time fee :)

I had originally wanted to make a Chemise a la Reine for this challenge but as the time to start drew near and I thought about the fact that the dress I wanted to make in time for the Broken Hearts Masquerade Ball on Valentine's Day (also my birthday!!!) was going to be fairly extravagant and the next 3 Challenges should be covered by it's creation, I decided I needed to do something simple so that I would have extra time to complete everything else. Around Christmas I purchased a pair of tap pants at one of the local antiques shops I frequent. They are in perfect condition, quite possibly never worn.

And 100% silk.

They have beautiful lace inserts.

And tiny little button closures on the side.

And check it out, when they sewed the buttons on, they stitched one on then ran the thread down and stitched the other one on. Looking closely at it, I can guess that if these had been worn, they would have been replacing one or both of the buttons very quickly!

Since silk has been around for so very long, it's not an innovation for this time period, so I'm going to go for the innovation of Rayon... which was created as an alternative to silk, so there you go! I have no desire to revisit high school essay writing, so you're going to get a cut-and-paste research.

Wikipedia tells us this of Rayon:
  • Rayon is a manufactured regenerated cellulose fiber. It is made from purified cellulose, primarily from wood pulp, which is chemically converted into a soluble compound. It is then dissolved and forced through a spinneret to produce filaments which are chemically solidified, resulting in synthetic fibers of nearly pure cellulose. Because rayon is manufactured from naturally occurring polymers, it is considered a semi-synthetic fiber. Specific types of rayon include viscose, modal and lyocell, each of which differs in manufacturing process and properties of the finished product.
  • Rayon is a versatile fiber and has the same comfort properties as natural fibers. It can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton and linen. The fibers are easily dyed in a wide range of colors. Rayon fabrics are soft, smooth, cool, comfortable, and highly absorbent, but they do not insulate body heat, making them ideal for use in hot and humid climates.
Other interesting info I found :
  •   "Rayon is the oldest manufactured fiber, having been in production since the 1880s in France, where it was originally developed as a cheap alternative to silk. Dupont Chemicals acquired the rights to the process in the 1920s and quickly turned rayon into a household word, churning out yards of the cheap, versatile fabric." www.wisegeek.org
  •  "The viscose rayon fiber, first known as artificial silk, was in commercial production by 1905 in Britain. In 1909, because of high import tariffs, the British company Samuel Courtauld and Co. Ltd. obtained the rights to produce rayon using the viscose process in the United States. The first U.S. rayon plant, in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania, was in business by 1910. Courtauld called this new venture the American Viscose Company." Vintage Fashion Guild 

This was also my first go at patterning from an existing garment.
The Pattern.

The First Try. Just in cotton broadcloth.
Overall, I was impressed with how well it came out for a first try. The crotch is a little tricky, it's kinda like piecing a quilt almost. The fit was.. meh. I decided to add an extra inch to back because I am not shaped like a typical 20s gal. For the 2nd go round I also made some adjustments to the pattern. I evened out the side piece so that the part that cuts in at the hip is at the same level front and back (there;s just a slight difference on the original and I'm not sure if it's possibly just because of the silk fabric). Once I fixed that, I lined it up against the front and back pieces and made sure they would match up better. I also folded the front and back in half and cut them on the fold so that each side would be the same.

When I stitched the first side on, it still wasn't feeling quite right. I was stitching like I do almost every seam I have ever stitched but it was coming out almost 3 dimensional.

So, I took another look at the original. You can see pretty easily on this close up of the crotch that it kinds looks top stitched.

So, I tried something different. I took the side pieces and folded in the seam allowance on all the seam lines.

I used a neat zig-zag stitch on my new machine to top-stitch everything in place after I very carefully lined the seam allowances up.
MUCH better!!! Lays nice and flat on the inside too.
Looking more like the original.
Finishing all the side seams, it looks and fits WAY better than the first try!!

So, I've been writing this post as I go along. I'm a slow sewer so what might take 1 person a few hours of work, might take me the same amount of time but spread over several days.  Right now I'm stitching the final garment together...... and I really really really .... really hate how slippery this darn fabric is. I mean it's not like I haven't used something like this before but normally I'm using for actual lining, not as the entire garment! OMG, I can't wait to be finished with this. I let me tell you how much I am NOT looking forward to making bias tape for binding the waistband! Ugh!!!
I did manage to find an easier way for the crotch to go in. Instead of stitching all crotch pieces together and then setting into the pants, I stitched the front sides together and the back sides together, iron down my seam allowance on the sides to be set in and then stitched them down.
This really shows the difference between normal stitching top stitching.

I had also double check the crotch on the original and noticed that the seam between the front and the back was a french seam. Easy enough. The crotch on the final garment is way way way better than my first attempt!

side-by-side crotch comparison

The other picture is a bit hard to see the french seam so here's a better shot.
The narrow trim I finally found to trim the legs with.
Let's not talk about all the trouble the closure gave me. It was Rubik's cube trying to get that to lay right. It's not exactly like the original, but I had to go with what I could make work.  And don't get me started on the buttonholes. I have a new machine that does "Automatic One-Step Sensor Buttonholes", On my test fabric they came out great.... when I did them on the actual garment.... OMG, I lost track of how many times I had to pick them out. I finally had to switch the top hole from horizontal on the waistband to vertical below the band. I might have to add a small hook and eye closure in the future.
The buttons are Mother of Pearl. They came from one of the jars of buttons I found in my grandmother's closet when she passed away. 

 And... the final product!!!

Overall, I am very happy at how they turned out. They are very comfortable but I might have to do a minor adjustment to the back waistband area, because of the slippery fabric, it's cut a bit high. And I might have to attempt to take them in a little bit with a tuck or something, they're just a smidgen big... must be the difference between the mock up cotton with no give and this rayon.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

HSF14: #1 - Make Do and Mend


The Challenge: Make Do and Mend
Fabric: cotton batiste
Pattern: none
Year: unknown exactly. Victorian
Notions: thread, 1 ostrich plume
How historically accurate is it? unknown
Hours to complete: probably about 3-4 hours total (1 1/2 movies and about 3 episodes of Antiques Roadshow)
First worn: not yet
Total cost: $40.35 total ($2.35 for the fabric, $3 for the ostrich plume, & $35.00 for the hat.)

Last year I only managed to complete 2 challenges for the Historical Sew Fortnightly challenge. Mainly because I already had things planned out and it was a bunch of non-historical stuff. This year I was able to plan ahead. I made my To Do list of everything I wanted to sew and not I just have to find the piece that works with each Challenge.  For the first challenge of the new year, Make Do and Mend, I decided to finally repair a (possibly) Victorian portrait hat I bought at Heart of Ohio Antique Mall almost a year ago.

This was originally the inspiration for the blue 1875 ball gown I made last year, but I need to make a long sleeve day bodice to go with the skirt so that I can wear the hat with it.

As beautiful as the top side is, the underside is... lacking.

Yes, that is, I think, pattern paper sewn to the inside, presumably to help it fit better.  Now, certainly it is possible that the hat is not actually antique, maybe it was made for a theatrical production of some sort quite some time ago, or maybe this is the way hats looked back then. I'm not sure, I haven't done enough research to figure it out. I thought it was pretty, so I bought it. 

The crown had been crushed at some point and it just looked too shabby so I did a little research and came up with the steam method of restoring crushed hats. I put on a kettle of water and when it was boiling nicely, I held the hat over it, rotating occasionally. Once it was pliable, I stuffed the crown with some craft-type paper and let it sit for a couple of days. It looks way better now (the first picture at the top is actually after the steaming).

 I purchased some black batiste (I really hate that Jo-Ann's refers to this as Daphne now) to make a new lining.  To line the crown I just laid the fabric over the hat and pushed it into the crown, pinned it in place, then stitched it down.

Then, I made a long strip and put a gathering stitch on one side. The side that would not be gathered, I stitched the velvet. The gathered side was taken in the fit and stitched to my inside lining.

I know it's not the prettiest lining job ever, but it works and now I can wear the hat without that underside screaming "Look at me!".

On the outside, the plumes have seen better days, but it could be worse. There was a bit of an empty space between the black and the light blue plume. Maybe there was something else there at some point. Maybe a bow?
As luck would have it, I had just picked up some black plumes at an antique show a few weeks ago and one of them was fluffy with a slight curl and fit just perfectly into this space to help fill it out.

I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, especially considering I have never worked on a hat in this manner before (i.e. without a glue gun in hand).  I can't wait to make something to be able to wear it with!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Rescue Mission: Victorian Bodice (lots of pictures)

I sometimes have what I call rescue missions. Almost always it is a piece of vintage or antique clothing... sometime umbrellas. It's pieces that will probably only ever be bought by someone who wants to pattern it out and recreate it. I usually find them hanging on hangers that they have no business being on or wadded up and shoved in a plastic box one might store shoes in. I want to rescue every piece I find but unfortunately, I can only afford the pieces that appeal to me the most.... and aren't stupidly priced. I look for $15 or less depending on what it is. Most of what I have now has either been $5-$10. I have several pieces now and have been meaning to post about them, but I'm a slacker. But now it's time to get started so I will start with my newest and awesomest piece... which was a $5 rescue!
I'm not good on the actual dating of the garment yet so I don't know what year it might be. It's silk and I can't wait to recreate it! It has beautiful pleating on the front and back.
Front. This is where the majority of the shattering is.
Back pleating detail and the accent color piping whatnot.
The delicate netting neck piece. I think it was permanently attached at one time.

Lace detail on sleeve.
Sleeve with cuff folded down. Easy to see how the lace was just basted on.
The way the lace is basted on kinda makes me think it wasn't always part of the bodice. Maybe it was added on at a later date to fancy it up a bit?

The bottom half of the front is attached on one side and snaps closed on the other (your left side if you were wearing it).
Snap closures.

Folding back the front flap.

The lining closes with hooks and eyes down the center.

The lining feels like a very fine linen and looks like it was stitch with french seams or something along those lines. It also looks to be both machine and hand stitched. The fact that it has machine stitching might help narrow down the dates.
The lining is in fantastic shape!

French seam?

To the far left there's a row of hand stitching next to some machine stitching.

 The outer portion of the bodice was stitched to the lining. The difference between construction of clothing then and now is amazing. I have yet to make anything that is made in this manner, it will be very interesting when I finally get around to trying to pattern this out. I want to start with something simpler first though.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


My only New Year's resolution is to sew and blog more. I have all these ideas for posts and things I want to share but I seem to always get distracted into doing something else.... or absolutely nothing at all.  I wrote about my To Do list a couple of months ago and that hasn't changed. I want to do as much as possible of the Historical Sew Fortnightly (and figure out how to get the picture link thing to actually show up and work on my blog). I want to expand my Etsy store with more vintage items, like the stuff that I just hate to leave behind when I go antiquing. I've already purchased a few patterns and a book, and I found some silk handkerchiefs that I had forgotten I had bought with this thought in mind. I hope to get all that posted in the coming weeks.
I did make a big step towards the sewing more thing... I bought a new sewing machine with my Christmas money. My machine was going to turn 19 years old this year, and while it still works fine, I've outgrown it in a sense.
Another step towards sewing more... about a month ago, I started a local historical costuming group because I was jealous of all the blogs I read and the things they do and there was nothing like that around here. So I started the Central Ohio Costuming Society. Our first meeting is next weekend, we're meeting for tea at a local shop and then some antiquing nearby.
Well, that's all for now, this is my first step in my commitment to more blogging.