Sunday, 11 February 2018

HSM Favourites for #1: Mend, Reshape, Refashion

When the Historical Sew Monthly started as a Fortnightly, and for several years after, Leimomi would choose her favourite entries for the challenges, picking not just personal favourites but also things that in her opinion best represented the spirit of the HSM and the particular challenge.

Then the group got even bigger, life got even busier and that practice fell by the wayside in favour of more pressing things to do. But for this year, we decided to bring the favourites posts back, because they’re a nice way to wrap up the challenges and motivate the participants. This time around, each moderator would choose one item, write a little blurb about why they like it, and the person doing the inspiration post for a given challenge will post all the favourites on their blog.

So obviously it falls on me to post about our favourites for Nr. 1, Mend, Reshape, Refashion.
Just like before, for our favourites we will always try to select items that really represent the spirit of the challenge: in this case, to remake a costume to be wearable again (just like our ancestors did), or to look at historical clothing and things around you with an open mind to see what could be used for a project; generally, to research, stretch yourself, learn more, sew better, and get something made.

 (Header image from the original post so that you would not get a premature peek at our choices, hehe.)

There will always be amazing things that we won’t show you (because there are only so many of us and so many of you!). So we recommend you always check out the comments under the inspiration blog posts, the photos in the Facebook albums and the hashtags on Instagram to see the rest of the fabulous things that were (ever!) made. (Yep, you do have to be a member of the Facebook group to see it, yep, if you ask to be a member we’re going to ask you some questions, and yep, it might take us a few days to let you in, but if you are really interested in the HSM, as a participant or active cheerleader, we’d LOVE to have you!)
And now without further ado, the favourites! Just like Leimomi used to do it, entries with photos link to FB, entries without a photo link to the blog post of the maker.

Okay, so nominally this is Kura’s pick, but really it was a common favourite! We all liked the historical accuracy / impressive amount of research into an earlier, less documented period. Kura has been too busy to devote much time to moderating recently, so she agreed to at least have this presented under her name. :D

When you wear historical clothing regularly, and actually do physical activities in it, repairs are a fact of life, whether patching a knee or elbow, splitting a seam, repairing a hem, or just re-attaching popped buttons. And quite often, it is a task we procrastinate over *looks guiltily at my own pile of garments needing repairs*simply because it’s work; it is generally not creative, but is tedious.
Only a few people chose to actually do repairs--either because it felt like something too simple to enter, or because they had other plans--and this one stands out to me because of the fabrics involved.
Dana decided to...with her self-confessed limited handsewing skills...t o patch a rather large tear in a silk chemise. Not a task I envy her doing. As near as I can tell, she cleaned up the edges, resewed them together, then applied a narrow patch over the top in order to spread the strain over a larger area.

Sarah remade a knitted mid-19th century hood her daughter would not like to wear into hood for herself. I like this project because it not only reuses material, but utilizes hours spend on knitting too. Besides, it is not just minor alternation, but the original hood is completely redyed and reshaped.

Leimomi: Dana’s 1860s hood (Hoods and headwear in general were a rather popular entry both for the participants and the moderators, it seems! - certainly not anything I foresaw when writing the inspiration post...)

I love Dana’s 1860s hood made from a cut-apart sweater. Historical costuming is challenging because we often ask ourselves to have more skills than the vast majority of clothes-creators would have had in the past: drafting, draping, sewing, knitting, hatmaking, hat-trimming, lacemaking - even shoemaking. And we ask ourselves to have these skills across multiple eras. As someone else who doesn’t knit, I really enjoy the way costumers use ingenuity create knit garments without actually knitting. Dana used a photo of a Civil War laundress as inspiration, and created a garment that will look and act just like a knitted hood - without knitting. So clever!

Because it's pretty, simple as that. I love the fall of the pleats and how Alyssa managed to make the plaid work for her despite not having enough fabric for a planned plaid-matching. And I also like  that it’s one of the entries that fit into one of the further possible interpretations of the challenge I originally suggested: that of changing a garment to a different figure.

So hopefully you can see you don't necessarily have to do a big project to wow us. :-)

Next time, over to someone else... see you in August! (Well, hopefully there will be other HSM-related things to post in the meantime. ;-) )

Sunday, 7 January 2018

HSM 18 Inspiration: #1 Mend, Reshape, Refashion

Welcome to the Historical Sew Monthly 2018! If you are new to this year-long event, you can read all about it on The Dreamstress’s website here. I've volunteered to write the inspiration post for the first challenge of the year, which is:

Mend, Reshape, Refashion: Mend or re-shape one of your previously made historical clothing items, or refashion a new one out of something not originally intended as sewing fabric.

Louis- Léopold Boilly: Passer Payez, c. 1803. Wikimedia Commons. Notice the patch on the man in the very left.

Now, if you’ve been making and wearing historical costumes for a while, chances are you do have something that needs mending, or updating to match your current skill set and knowledge, or re-shaping to fit your current figure (or somene else's) better.

Like I did for the November challenge of 2017 (which I haven’t yet blogged about, typical for 2017). I had never been satisfied (and finished) with the inside bodice flaps of my sleeveless 1800s dress, and one of them finally tore, and possibly also my bust has increased a little since I made the dress. So I finally replaced the unnecessarily fussy drafted shape of the original flaps with simpler, more historically accurate (and slightly wider) rectangles.

On the right, fussy flap shape drafted with modern drafting sensibilities (notice the neckline curve); on the left, the new rectangle

Mending is something that undoubtedly happened with clothes all throughout history because for most of history fabric was quite valuable; although conservation bias often leaves us with the special, lightly worn clothes rather than those that were worn within an inch of their clothing life.

While searching for things to showcase here, I came across Bránn's and Pat Poppy of Costume Historian's posts - they have already done some of the research into repaired extant clothes in the earlier periods I don’t habitually look into. So thanks to them, I came across extant clothes like the Bernuthsfeld tunic and these heavily patched sailor's clothes:

Shirt and breeches, linen and cotton, 1600-1700. Museum of London, 53.101/1a,b.

These are indeed clothes worn to within an inch of their life, probably by people of lower classes who had no other choice. But mending is not just like that...

Wedding dress of Maria Theresia Countess Czernin, née Orsini-Rosenberg, 1817, from the collections of the chateau Jindřichův Hradec (photos mine from an exhibition in chateau Dačice).

There is a patch here underneath the raised waistline. (I was so excited the photo came out blurry...) To tell the truth, I do not really know whether the patch was added during the countess’s life or during the ages since; what I like about it is the fact it proves that yes, these fine fabrics do tear and did tear. If they tore for Mrs Allen in Northanger Abbey and for Countess Czernin, it’s par for the course with them; go ahead and try mending them as neatly as too make Mrs Allen proud.

Reshaping clothes is another option. And because this often happened with clothes that were of better quality (so that one would get more wear out of the expensive and still nice fabric), you can, I think, find many more surviving examples of unpicked seams and other alterations than there are of patches, if you only peer more closely at museum garments and their online photos.

You can just adapt a garment to a changing figure, or perhaps you can make something for a smaller figure than the original garment was intended for...

Instructions for cutting a boy's undervest out of old lady's drawers in the Handarbeit-Wäsche-Wohnung magazine, 1933, Otto Beyer Verlag, Leipzig-Berlin

Or, what you could also do is reshape a garment to match new fashions (or new costuming interests). There is, for example, a number of 1790s-1800s dresses re-made from earlier ones; the huge amount of fabric in rococo dresses allowed the update to the more streamlined high-waisted fashions fairly easily. One of my favourite examples is this 1790s dress in the Met, in a fabric very unusual for the era; if you zoom in, you can even see the seam running above the hem where fabric was added to accommodate for the longer skirt of the raised waist – the join is nearly lost in the busy pattern but in the side view, you can clearly see there are non-matching vertical seams towards the front...

(Preferrably, though, don't do this to garments that are already antiques.)

Piecing was common historically, both for re-made dresses and just to get more out of the narrower fabric goods available in the past. So it can also be used with aplomb to get more out of something not originally meant to be sewing fabric: in HSF 2013 (back when it started and was still the Historical Sew Fortnightly), Sarah awed everyone with a pieced 1840s dress squeezed out of a tablecloth.

And there are many other fabric items one could do something with! Curtains and bed linen are popular with costumers (not just characters on film), because home furnishings these days often revive patterns that passed out of fashion for clothes decades and centuries ago. Perhaps somewhat less creative, but a perfectly good choice for this challenge.

Part of my fabric stash, with 18th-century-patterned IKEA duvet covers in the forefront - the same ones Magpie Tidings made a lovely reproduction of a 1780s dress out of in 2015. My plans for it are currently for a 1790s one.
The flowered golden stripes in the background are another clearly historically-inspired print - but unsuitable for this challenge because it's fabric meterage. Neither would the green sari work: it's also basically just meterage. (Leimomi says that a used sari is acceptable, but a new one isn't.)

In the lower left corner, a peek of embroidered panels & chain of an old frame bag I took apart to clean and remake, back when I did not have the good sense to realise how old the original probably was and take pictures. It's a project stalled for many many years by a lack of matching materials and bag-sewing confidence; maybe I could finally finish it now...

Even thrifted clothes can be used: I like them as a cheap source of smaller quantities of really nice materials I could not afford otherwise (like silk); which can then be used for example to make pretty accessories.

Pocketbook, silk, embroidered with silk and metallic yarns, Italy, 1675–1725. Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Accession Number: 44.617

Positions on fur differ; personally, I think re-using them when they are already out there is more respectful to the animal than just throwing them away. And faux fur is always an option, of course.

Or you could even sew stockings out of thrifted knit garments.

Pair of Woman's Stockings, silk knit with metallic-thread embroidery, Europe, 1700-1725. LACMA, ID: M.2007.211.134a-b
Silk knit garments will probably be hard to find, so one may have to compromise on accuracy there. I have seen a couple of early 18th century stockings with such horizontal stripes at the top, which, if you're lucky in your thrift shop finds, could allow you to piece them out of several garments.

Or you can alter existing accessories, like reshaping hats into historical headwear, and trimming them.

Journal Des Dames et des Modes / Costume Parisien, 1828, Rijksmuseum

But if you are at the beginning of your historical costuming journey, making undergarments is a very good place to start your wardrobe, and the plain cotton fabric of something like bedsheets can work quite well for that purpose! (Especially since cca late 18th century – before that time, cotton was a more expensive option than it is nowadays, and linen would be used originally.)

Petticoat, cotton, American or European, third quarter 19th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Accession Number: 2010.487.7

On the other hand, if you're feeling confident and adventurous, you could take the idea of the challenge even further and do as the maker of this bag did: they stringed cloves like beads. (Isn’t it wonderful that it survived to this day? There's also a cloves necklace from the first half of the 19th century...)

While for the sake of expediency we speak of fabric in the challenge description, you can use other techniques and unusual materials (as long as they form a substantial part of your challenge item). Seeds could also be used for jewellery: simple rosaries are traditionally made of bladdernut seeds in Europe, and Adam Mickewicz’s heroine Zosia in Pan Tadeusz (depicting events in Lithuania in 1811-1812) has a set of earrings made of cherry pits that she got from a childhood admirer. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, this might be a chance to enjoy the summer in brand new ways! :-)

And those of us in the grey grip of winter could perhaps unravel a few thrifted items and knit ourselves something warm and colourful.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 29: Ensemble - The 1802-ish navy blue sleeveless dress and red sleeveless bodice

On August 13th, me & my sister went to Slavkov u Brna, aka Austerlitz, for a series of short talks about Empire fashions held in the chateau there (we overslept, and missed church and the first talk :P - but it was some sort of general introduction so I don't think I missed too much, although it probably would have been interesting for my sister.) So I finally met my namesake and Justyna, who had two of the talks - well, I'd actually met Justyna before, at my first Jane Austen ball in Brno, but that was before I knew who she was. :D Her talk, on outerwear and sportswear, was one I was most looking forward to - and it did provide exactly the sort of complete overview I had been missing.

I also wore my Directoire/Empire clothes (calling things based on a 1797 fashion plate and an 1802 portrait "Regency" is too much of a stretch, although I'm keeping it in the tags for simplicity's sake). And we used the historical backdrop of the baroque Slavkov chateau and the impressive classicist church just underneath it for a sort of photoshoot.

The church was built in 1786-89, so it's perfect for my preferred era.

Conclusion: Slavkov is awesome photoshoot backdrop, close to Brno, easy to reach, with family in a village nearby so it can be paired with a visit. It's awesome photoshoot backdrop if you can manage the photoshoot without visitors to the chateau getting in the way, that is...

Taking the photos in the entrance hall may not have been the best of ideas, but that bench was too good to pass up.

The dress is a sleeveless drop-front, which was a mistake. After I made it - which is the usual order of things, isn't it? - I realised all the depictions of sleeveless dresses I'm aware of are drawstring. Also, while drop-front dresses are definitely easier to get into on your own than back-closing ones (I even avoid back zippers, after all!), it's still a bit more bother than a drawstring would probably be.

And I need to rework the arrangement of the chain-loops in the back so that my ties do sit where I want them to sit.

(It's less obvious in this photo than some of those we took at the church, but: the ties currently cut across my pleating in the back because I don't yet have some strategic loops in the raised bodice back.)

Still, dressing for this occasion was less of a bother than usual, because I wore my transitional wrap bra / jumps rather than my (back-lacing, hah) stays.

Also, it's a lot easier now that I was inspired by the Dreamstress' post on bodkins and got myself some large blunt needles to help with my laces and ties.

We took some of the photos in the ladies' restrooms. Because:

The dress is lightweight cotton sateen, this one I bought years ago in the beginnings of this blog. It's more matte than shiny, although it does have a slight sheen to it just thanks to the weave.

Apparently, back then I wanted to overdye it and use it as lining. I'm very glad I changed my mind.

I hereby formally request admission to the Regency Ladies' Wedgie Society.

(You can see here what I meant about the ties not sitting where I want them to.)

For my hairstyle, I did a French braid held up with a haircomb, inspired by this tutorial - without any of the bells and whistles, though, because I knew I'd wear the fichu en marmotte on top of it anyway.

I even managed a curtsey; but that was the last photo before I broke out laughing and could not seriously pose anymore.

I originally made the skirt too narrow (most of the dress was made in a big hurry before an event, and it was my first take on "Regency", made without a pattern of course because that's apparently how I roll). Later, I added narrowly trapezoidal side panels, and therefore also moved more fullness to the back part. That took care of it. It's still on the narrow side, but I think these photos prove it's got a good shape on me.

The church is a super-nice backdrop.

That was wind billowing my skirt, and blowing my headscarf to the front so I had to hold it.

Monday, 21 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 21: UFOs

That is, for those unfamiliar with this online sewing jargon, UnFinished Objects.

I have a lot of those. Some aren't here with me.

Some are. So here's a selection of my unfinished object, to take a stock of the making before it's done, fingers crossed.

Or not. The purplish "modern" spencer never got finished.

It's all the fault of my enthusiastic unresearched patternmaking; I'm now too bothered by the fact I put the deep-inset armscye in the front as well as the back.

Not good for the period, and bothering me in this modern-constructed garment as well.

It's a pretty good fit, though (although it could no longer fit with a button overlap), so it's a bit of a mock-up. A starting point.

* * *

In further bathroom photo adventures: Mock-up Nr. 2 of the Utrecht wrap stays.

Way better than mock-up Nr. 1, which I'm soooo not going to show you, because it didn't fit at all. That was how I found out that only one bust gusset for a DD cup was a bad idea. That volume needs to be distributed more evenly, without all the strain being focused on one point. And it plays havoc on grainlines, so I ended up with a lot of wrinkling and buckling etc.

It's still not completely good. I'm thinking of slanting the inside gussets, or moving them closer to centre front, because there's still some odd wrinkling happening there that I think could be taken care of with a change of grainlines. And I think I need to play with the slant / attachment of the side-front and straps, too, because there's fabric excess there.

Also wondering now if I should try cutting the front on the bias, like in the Bernhardt diagrams. Namely, the diagram C - the basic shape is very similar to it, after all. Maybe that would take care of the problems I'm having, too; so I might start with that.

* * *

Also in the realm of underwear, conical stays teetering somewhere on the edge between late 1780s/1790s, and a folk costume bodice (Central Bohemia, specifically).

I am more and more drawn to earlier transitional styles, so I sort of set out to experiment with it from inside out, cheating by machine of the inside layers. Considering how long it took me to finish my Regency stays, by the time I'm finished with these, I might even really be ready to move into the era!

The fabric I'm covering it with is probably more late 17th than late 18th century, I'm afraid. Let's pretend it's a re-use.

* * *

Also in-progress: a shortgown.

I didn't get beyond sewing two rectangular pieces together to create the skirt portion, and pleating the cetre back. Which, in retrospect, was probably a wrong order of things?

It's a quilting cotton that's not-entirely-correct-but-good-enough.

I've found an extant original that's a good example of what I have in mind, so I have something more solid to go on now. Although now I look more closely at it, I realise the skirt is cut together with the bodice. So it won't be entirely the same anyway. :P

* * *

This cutting layout is actually something I'm already wearing. I think the skirt in question needs to have its pocket openings taped, though, something I forgot to do...

Note: that's not flowered fabric, that's flowered tissue paper. Something was wrapped in it once, I think. Now it's become a pattern. A 1915 pattern (although adapted for my modern uses, with the introduction of side seams.)

* * *

Also in the works: another pair of Moravian-Wallachian socks, this time actually in wool.

(That's an old photo. I'm further ahead now.)

* * *

There are more things in progress. Too many. And more ideas of what to make. Still, I think it's overall a lot better than this time last year, with things I have actually finished (though not yet posted about), with a lot of the ideas with much more concrete outlines, and with some concrete ideas for some fabrics that had been lingering in the stash for years.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

#CoBloWriMo 10: Not in a Million Years - Changes to plans, and plans still underway

There's definitely costuming / dress-related things I'd class under that heading.

Very high heels, for example. My cutting-off mark is somewhere around 8 cm, which is what my tallest heels are, and I can only walk in those because the shoes have ankle straps.

They are a tad too small for me, but the open heel makes it okay. They also have leather soles, and were only 100 CZK in a thrift shop. Totally worth it for vintage-worthy shoes (possibly really vintage, definitely pre-1989)  for an occasional outing. I've last worn them with my Regency dress, actually... it was raining, and it was, in that case, rather nice not having to worry about dragging my long skirt in puddles.

Also not happening: actually buying crocs shoes. I've worn them, as house-footwear at a friend's place; but it's not something I would do of my own accord. And now with very good reason, too.

I have skin problems. I've had some sort of atopic ecsema on my hands since I was about ten. It disappeared after my stay in the USA in 2007 (probably due to longer-term exposure to sea air); since then, it occasionally reappeared, but it was quite manageable.

Not the sort of thing you can gaze upon from your front porch in the Czech Republic.

And then, last year, in my new job, it came back with a vengeance. I had skin problems, bad problems, elsewhere on my body, too.

It's part of the reason I dropped off the face of the blogosphere.

It got eventually tamed down with a combination of medical help and with switching positions in the company. I first worked with large amounts of dyed and not-yet-washed wool, which I think was the main problem. I now still deal with wool, including the super-awesome employer's discount on faulty pieces (*insert a costumer's squeel*), but it's now without the probably too harsh chemicals, so, yay, my hands are okay.

Wool twill in a sort of greyish-greenish robin-egg colour. That 1797 fashion plate is definitely happening sooner rather than later.

But sometime after the fact, this year, I realised - thanks to a discussion thread in a costuming group on Facebook, no less - that part of last year's problem was also heat rash. Part of the problem, I suspect, was the fact I am unaware of the term "heat rash" even existing in Czech - so I had lived all my life without knowing that was a thing.

And it definitely is a thing. I do have some form of atopic ecsema, there's no denying it; but I'm now convinced my problems last year got so bad because my atopic ecsema (and probably those dye chemicals, and the fact it also turned out I had iron deficiency) got combined with heat rashes. I did suspect sweat was a contributing factor, but because of my other problems, it got overlooked. It was a whole big combination of factors, a hundred times nothing killing the donkey, as the Czech saying goes - with regards to the heat rashes, a combination of changes in themselves not too significant, like a super-hot summer spent comuting in a city with plastic and pleather seats in buses (I could get away with walking a lot before this job), and safety-regulation shoes that were artificial fibre and padded. (That's no longer a requirement in my new position, either - I now just need closed heels and toes, so, phew.) Turns out a lot of the problems can be managed just with zinc cream. (And a lot of other precautions, and other medication when it really does get worse; but on an everyday basis, zinc cream and vaseline are a huge relief after the succession of not-entirely-successful treatments over the years.)

So. The lesson I've taken from this super-unpleasant experience is: plastic and artificial fibre sitting close to my body - not in a million years.

I now put a shawl over the seats in the bus if I'm wearing too short a skirt. And pick train carriages with wool seat covers if I can...

It is bad news for the Regency/early 1820s dress plans I had harboured for this probably polyester sari I bought years and years ago:

Layers of natural fibre underneath or no, the bodice would be close to my body and would not breathe at all; that's very bad news in my world now.

But it is, I think, good news for the Scroop Fantail, because a pleated skirt with judicious use of cotton underneath should be mostly okay. ;-)

The question is... modern, or historical length?

I cut off the borders for general use as trim; maybe a Regency dress can still happen with that.

And the ground fabric could still be used as pretty bag lining or something like that...

Really, all in all, it's actually a good thing I was forced to drop the original plan, because I found out that over the years, the colour has become too dull to wear in a large expanse next to my face.

By which I mean, over the years my colouring has changed to such an extent that I can get away with, even require, much bolder colour combinations:


In the photo, I wear: the fichu en marmotte, my chemise, the transitional warp-jumps bra-thingy (answer to question whether I can wear the dress over it: yes, but I have to take care to fit the wrap-jumps tightly), a sleeveless dress I never got around to blogging about, a sleeveless bodice I never got around to blogging about, white cotton over-the-knee socks that are my stand-in for historical stockings for the moment, and these shoes. I think there should actually be a shirt or something rather than just the chemise but, as I wrote earlier this month, I haven't figured out that part properly yet.

Also, I completely forgot that, for this photoshoot opportunity (I plan on posting more of the photos later, but by now I'm not promising anything), maybe I could wear some jewellery beyond the baptism-gift ring I wear all the time. Typical.