"Resign yourself, Catherine! Shops must be visited! Money must be spent! Do you think you could bear it?" - Northanger Abbey

Friday, August 31, 2012

Regency Dress Menu

A 'contents' page for all my regency dress related stuff, so you can see my 'progression' through stages of frustration before finally....acceptance. I wanted to show that these dresses aren't 'easy peasy' especially if you aren't the average size and shape. And that it takes a lot of trial and error before a garment is completed.

My initial attempt started with the fabric in 2011....

Some early...and maybe too adventurous designs

and early failure

Some revised designs

Trying to draft my own bodice - early attempt

Getting inspired

then realizing 'drawstring' dress isn't going to suit me

Trying to use pattern from book

and ending up with another failure


Moving forward

Added skirts and sleeves

Deciding on colours

Fichu's and Embroidery

Regency Dress sleeves

Regency Dress modesty and material


Regency Dress II

Regency Dress II - accessories

Regency Dress II - nearly finished

Regency Fichu -Embroidery

Cap & Bonnet

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A regency cap...to save a fortune in hair dressing

So I've noticed that wearing a bonnet or turban really messes up your hair. I end up looking like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards. How do I solve this problem. A cap!
I like the one on the right
Now I know its usually older women who wear them. But I'm planning on wearing under headress rather than as a cap in its own right.

A Lavinia hat of fine moss straw — a small cap of lace beneath, ornamented on one side with a small bunch of flowers, and tied with cerulean blue ribband on the other.
With my bonnet (I finally found one I liked that didn't make me feel like a pet wearing one of those cone things). I soaked it and shaped it. Still haven't decorated it yet.
It looks close to the one in the image above.

It looks to me in the fashion plate she has some kind of cap underneath. And she doesn't look 'ancient' or anything.

 So using some mystery left over fabric I cut off a skirt lining that looked like it was lightweight enough.
This is the cap 'undecorated'. It sites quite far back on my head. 

And above is the 'trim' pinned on. What do you think...does it work or is it too fussy?

In case anyone wants to know this was basically my process.

Here are some additional images now I've finished the bonnet.

 And to show how the 'lace cap' looks underneath.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Embroidered Fichu - completed

So I started making the fichu a while back mentioned here. And now its finally finished. Well I say finished but there is room to add more detail in the future.
 This is the entire fichu laid out.

 A close up of the large shell and swags of laurel leaves.

and my glossy 'shells' dotted around the material.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Regency Dress II - Nearly there!

Well nearly finished....just doing buttonholes on the open robe now. Even got my accessories together. I will wear the black shoes, with matching umbrella and fan for the promenade, but the grey ones for the dancing to go with my grey 'grecian hairband'.

I used the burda pattern for the 'yellow' dress. But changed the placement of the elastic on the  neckline.

 And instead of using elastic for the sleeves I pleated them.
Close up of pleats on sleeve from inside
 And thought I'd show my pleats at back of the open robe.

In these pics my open robe was just pinned and the hem on the dress not sewn. I hope next post about the dress will be on location.

EDIT: Wanted to add some images of the open robe compleated

Friday, August 24, 2012

Going Dotty....an unscheduled post

I have a confession to make. I went to the fabric shop just to buy a few essentials...and came out with a blue and white polkadot cotton and plain blue cotton, 3.5 metres of each. I just couldn't resist.
Now after seeing the latest retro butterick release I'm wondering should I use it to make butterick 5813 or simplicity 3673?

And how would I use the fabric...go two tone or dotty all over?
(yes I know everyone thinks I'm 'dotty' anyway lol!)

Our survey said....fabric choices

So far I've stuck with cottons and poly cottons, playing it safe. I know I need to branch out and try other fabrics. But...I am terrible at recognizing fabrics, their qualities, sewing difficulty, treatment and what projects they will suit.

My first step I decided was to do a survey, of my wardrobe. Taking particular note of the items I like to wear.

It seems viscose, cotton, and blends of viscose come top, with polyester blends second.

Now I have questions:
viscose...is it always stretchy? Is it nice to sew with? Easy to get hold of?
Why can I wear polyester blends but anything 100% polyester is left unworn?

Oh, and I got some 'vintage' buttons given to me.
Aren't they just asking for duck egg blue fabric & white piping?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sewing Stretchy fabrics by hand...an experiment

As a committed hand sewer I have always avoided knits as assumed you need a surger or at least a sewing machine with a special foot. Anytime I've asked about sewing anything with stretch by hand I could feel the looks of surprise and alarm.
Is it so shocking that no one has ever sewn stretch knits by hand? lol! It can't be any different than sewing wovens on the bias can it?

And as if to prove me wrong I find this little gem of advice. And this one.

Herringbone stitch is one of my fave decorative stitches. So wanted to see if it truly worked. I had some stretchy material that I couldn't resist buying in my stash (so soft and drapey) so I cut off a strip and did an experiment. Now if I remember science at school you have to write about it.


Stretch jersey fabric
1 sewing needle (just the one that came with my sewing kit)
1 spool of normal thread

What I aim to find out:

How different stitches affect the stability of the seam, allow for stretch and look best. In other words what is the best hand stitch for sewing stretch fabric.

What I did:

I cut out 6 strips of the material on the same grainline.
Pinned the pairs together.
Sewed each pair with a different stitch
Observed how the seam looked on the side that would be visible on garment just as is and under stress.


Stitch 1

Stitch 2

Stitch 3 (control)

That both under stress and 'relaxed' the running stitch looks the best.

If anyone has any other hand stitch suggestions for stretch materials I'd love to hear from you as I will keep experimenting.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vintage/Retro Sewing Wishlist

Well I thought I'd make another list for Autumn/Winter...so I can plan what fabrics to buy.
First off I want a 'suit' well I'd use it more like coat with matching skirt.
Going to use simplicity 4044 again. I like the Blue suit below.

I'm thinking of doing it in blue wool blend with blue polkadot lining. 
But then simplicity 3688 is closer in style. (I have to admit I bought 4044 by accident thinking it was 3688)
What do you think?
I could make a matching blouse from Style 2769. View with sleeves & collar.

And yes still haven't braved trying to make trousers.

Also on my list is the dress Butterick 5209. Intended as a summer frock though. Might pass for autumn/spring.

I also want to have another go at sewing the collette Jasmine blouse.

When I'm not in a rush working to a deadline.

so there's my current list...if I can just finish that regency dress...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Regency Dance - thinking about what to wear

I have signed up for the 'Beginners’ Dance Workshop' at the Jane Austen Festival. So I thought I really should think carefully about what I choose to wear. For one thing I think I will have to have my hair dressed differently. And secondly I'm thinking about hem length.
I don't want it to drag along the ground/get caught up in my feet when dancing but I don't want it too short so it spoils the effect. And as essentially I only have one dress (one petticoat and one open robe). I'm going to have to find a way of stopping it getting dirty/smelly so I can wear it twice.  Maybe it will add to the authenticity? 
I wonder if there's a launderette near the B&B? lol! If worse come to worst I am packing my modern maxi dress which will probably 'pass'. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Thoughts on vintage & retro patterns

Just to start in this context I'm using 'vintage' to mean original and 'retro' to mean modern reproduction of a 'vintage' pattern.

I have to admit to following a lot of blogs where both vintage and retro patterns are sewn. 'Its the 30's and 40's patterns I look at and think 'I want that dress'. But *whispers* I don't like 2nd hand...even patterns...I know I'm just weird like that. There seems to be such a varied selection out there but looking at the big pattern companies retro releases you'd think there was only 50's style. 

I wish they would take note of the more stylish patterns from earlier eras. They all seem to be based on fitted bodice & circle skirt combinations with of course a few exceptions. I for one have used simplicity 4044 suit pattern several times now...but can I find a matching shirt/blouse pattern I think is nice (yes I know 3688 but I need a V neck on tops...high necks just make me look out of proportion).

I don't want a 'costume' I want something I can wear *everyday*. I don't want 'pin up' I want to look like your average person. Like you would actually see in photos of ordinary people of the era.

And another thing what happened to the 20's & 30's they seem sorely neglected when it comes to patterns!?

And what's so wrong with doing separates rather than dresses all the time?

If I want anything with style and practicality it seems to be the smaller pattern producers that are listening to the market rather than pumping out yet another dress that would look at home on the set of grease. I have enough "50's" outfits (they do take up lots of room in the wardrobe don't they?) 

The only newly released pattern that has appealed to me as a little different is simplicity 1777...although I'm afraid the 'ruched front' will look a little ridiculous on me.

I don't mean for this to be a rant...but living in the UK I find it so expensive to get hold of patterns from abroad. I wish I had the skills to draft something with complexity (yes for me anything more than a vest top is complex).

* additional note I like Simplicity instructions but Butterick 'fit'. Have yet to try to make up a Vogue pattern.

Its ok...I'll go back in my box now.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Regency Dress II - Accessories

Well I've made my reticule... and now I'm onto dressing my hair. Not only have I been playing with how to set my hair with rollers so it lasts more than 2 hours before it looks like someone's been at it with the straightening iron. I've been working on the regency bandau/turban item.
My most successful curling involved changing to centre parting, putting in rollers overnight and just curling the fringe (for my US readers what you call 'bangs'). I pin up the back in pin curls.

Now for the headress. I was originally planning to use some lovely luxurious looking material. But it was way to slippery, kept fraying and was a pig to sew.
So...Plan B after a little discussion over at the forum I rummaged through my material, to spot the old cardigan I was about to throw away. I thought that'll work. Its got a little stretch in it, was the right colour and gripped my hair. So I cut off one of the sleeves, stuffed it with some old tights and sewed it up as a band. Then disguised the join with the bias binding I'd made from my 'open robe' material. Added a cameo broach, and a 'rosette' I'd made from ribbon. I think it still needs a feather.
I also used my fichu to tie my hair up in a 40's kinda turban before adding the bandau over the top, thus covering the hair showing at the back.

In other news I've nearly finished my open robe just need to add the closures but that can wait till I finished the short sleeve dress so I can judge where to add the hook & eye over the layers.

Additional Update.
Found a yellow scarf in my stash...matches flowers in the fabric I'm using for short sleeved dress.

Also found a passable shawl...its orange, but it has a cream panel in
the middle.

I also have my walking shoes...

Of course I'll change the ribbons.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Regency Dress II - Short sleeves and short on time

So with so many layers now going on with my dress...if its a hot day I'm just gonna be a pool of sweat...which is not a good look. This has caused a last minute panic. 

Fortunately I still have the fabric I bought over a year ago to originally make a dress. 

And mum had made her dress using this pattern (Burda 2493). I tried it on and it fitted so am using the same measurements.

And she had some elastic left - I know I let out a that's sooo *not * authentic' groan - but needs must - I'll just keep tutting as I sew it. Going to try my best to make it look as un-naff as possible. 

I was planning for speed to sew it by machine...as you can see from this blogpost it didn't work. 

Only got the reticule done, made some self fabric bias binding...and sewed up one side of the dress. I will be doing the rest by hand I think.

Oh and in a fit of frustration my white dress is now a open robe....which I'll put over the short sleeve dress for a different look. I really don't trust myself to keep a white dress white when eating is involved. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Every time I use a machine it reminds me how much I hate sewing machines

Every time I use a machine it reminds me how much I hate sewing machines...
I'm running out of time so in a panic I got out the sewing machine...and instantly regretted it. first the bobbin wouldn't wind properly (all loose and knotted). Then the tension I needed didn't seem to exist...and the stitch size wasn't right.

Then when I finally - after half an hour of cursing the stupid machine - got to do some sewing I ended up spending more time seam ripping than sewing. And I got backache!!!
Grrr! I virtually never have to use the ripper when I hand sew.

At least I did get one thing finished...but whatever you do don't look inside the seams are a mess.

I tried to make a start on the sleeves of the short sleeve dress....just ended up in a tangled mess. Spent all evening untangling it. Would have been quicker to re-cut the sleeves.

I don't think anyone will ever convince me sewing machines are pleasant to use. I'm just going to have to step up my hand sewing speed...

some examples of machine sewing problems:

Friday, August 3, 2012

Regency dress...modesty and material

I tried my dress on the other day and realized as the light shone in the window behind me that was having the issue that my fabric was a little too transparent. A bodiced petticoat is in order. Although as I am wearing a corset I won't need the boning. So something like this one? Or Should I just have a suspendered petticoat?
Thing is I'm not sure of which fabric to use.

There's the fabric I used for my mock up which is quite stiff (curtain lining).
fabric bottom right

Or there's some (what I was told) was linen. But its stiffer than I expect linen to be and has 'slubs' in the fabric but sill not as stiff as the lining.

Or I have some cream polycotton I was going to use with the polkadot for a top.

I have 2 metres of each of the fabric.

Erm help?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Regency dress....sleeve dilemma

So as I seem to be posting almost every day updates...thought you might be interested in progress. I do amaze myself how much I can hand sew in one evening (approx. 5 1/2 hours). One day I'm going to actually how many meters I can sew per hour.

I managed to sew the waist *twice* (for extra security) after I'd raised it a little.

Bias bound some of the seams and pinned sleeves in place. Now the thing is now I can see that the sleeves when hemmed aren't going to come down long enough. They come to top of my thumb instead on knuckles.
Now wondering how to solve this...should I bias bind the sleeves to keep a bit of length, or find some lace or make a ruffle to go round the bottom of the sleeve. I know I will have to eat wearing the dress so I don't really want stuff that's gonna get in the food when I eat.

In addition having a few shoulder issues...is it normal for it to sit like this?
I seem to have same issue with a modern top.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Regency Dress- Fichu's, chemise's and embroidery

Making a start on embroidery

What's needed for those regency gowns in typical British weather is something to fill in the neckline. Enter Fichus and Chemises. Now I'm a scarf wearing girl myself so I decided to make a fichu.
Having read this article on the subject and gained some good advice on the subject of fabrics from the Sense&Sensibility forum...I decided to go and rummage through my offcuts bag. I had just enough of some plain white polycotton left over to make a 'triangle' although it was more of a rounded triangle, but not quite a half circle and shaped the neck.
Hand sewed a rolled hem. And now for the decorations.

This is my initial design. Taking influence from the 'classical' but also adding in a little nod to the 'seaside'. I wanted it to be simple enough so I could do it in the time available.
It would be much quicker in running stitch and lazy daisy....but I suspect that is a modern option and satin stitch is what's needed.

Update: I have some more images.

And a close up of the detail...