Wednesday, 26 February 2014

American Duchess: Nankeen regency boots giveaway

American Duchess has just announced her new regency style boot "Nankeen", and there's a giveaway.

Click here for your chance to enter

These are my most favorite boots from her so far, and in fact I'm more interested in using them for everyday wear than for regency recreations, since that's not a style I'm really interested, or feel comfortable in.

I'm almost done for the HSF challenge 4, it's a new pair of stays. The only thing left is the binding, but it's killing my hands as usual, and I also happen to work around 16 hours/day this week. That's what you get for not taking a holiday and instead trying to combine your everyday work with volunteering for the organizing of a world cup competition in ski jumping.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Quick and dirty

I'm working at a historical mine/museum. Even though it's prepared so that we can take visitors down there, it's still a dirty place. I've used it to weather both my female tusken and jawa costume. It gives a perfect weathering to simulate having lived in a desert for decades. From time to time we decide to do some special events, but the problem is finding clothes for it. My tusken and jawa have doubled, but they are in fact getting a bit too dirty now, and it's a bit of work getting them there and back again.

When I cleared out my fabric stash, and it coincided with an even where we were going to dramatize part of the history I took the chance to do some quick and dirty costumes. Normally I hate when historical clothing is equal to bad quality, but this was an exception. In the end I managed to make one complete outfit,in a total of two hours or so.

The most accurate thing was the cap. I made two caps out of a former bed sheet. The caps were made according to the instructions at, so except for being sewn on the machine they are pretty accurate. Definitely more accurate than the caps I found in the museum's basement and that were made with elastic.

Then I turned a hideous halfmade tunic that I found. It looked like a tent, and was made out of cheap cotton.
This is what it looked like when I found it. I cut away the side panels and cut off the excess material in the skirt to make it pointed in the front and the back. In fact I cut out a bit too much so it ended up too small for me, but I'm bigger than most people who might use it. There was also so much excess material that I could use my 3/4-length 18th century sleeve pattern and add it to the bodice. I didn't have time to make any kind of fastening in the front, but I think it can be pinned. In all I think the general shape is quite close, and the sleeve is definitely accurate. It's all made on machine and all the edges are raw and unhemmed.

Then I found quite a large piece of grey cotton and I pleated it into a simply 18th century style waistband. The skirt style is accurate, but once again sewn on machine and unhemmed.

To finish it off I took a worn out bedsheet with a nice blue embroidery at one of the sides. I cut it up and teadyed it to make a worn apron.

So for a total of $0 and two hours I created something that was enough to fool non-costume people that we were dressed as typical 18th century matrons.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

HSF Challenge 3: pink

The third HSF challenge was quite simple, make something pink. Still I had planned to skip this one. Despite having quite a lot of pink in everyday wardrobe I haven't had any inspiration to do any pink historical garments, and I didn't have any ideas about it. When I cleared out my stash I found this tiny piece of pink/purple sink habotai though, and when I found a piece of pink fabric I felt that I needed to do something with it. At the same time when I cleared out some of my old corsets I also found an illfitting ballgown bodice that I had used once. I hated the shape of the bodice, but the fabric was quite nice and I had bought it because I thought it was really 18th century. In a time before I made 18th century creations I settled for just small nods to the time period. The roses on the bodice are pink as well though. This bodice was probably just my second or so attempt at even sewing something by myself.
totally unflattering and box-shaped bodice
 With just small amounts of fabric, each panel of the bodice was quite narrow I decided to just do a small reticule with the bodice fabric as outer layer and the habotai as lining. The reticule is a drawstring bag that came into usage in the end of the 18th century.The simpler silhouettes of the female fashion made it impossible to hide loose pockets in the petticoats and hoop skirts. You can find this type of bag still today, especially if you are looking for handbags for evening wear. They can be in any form from simple to heavily decorated with beads and tassles. There are plenty of tutorials out there for reticules/drawstring bags, so I'm not going to go through every step of it.

I started with ripping apart the bodice. It consisted of seven panels, five of which had the row of roses in the middle, two just had a blue/green/border in the middle. I only wanted to use the the flowers for the reticule. My pattern was simply a rectangle with a pointy end. After some miscalculating I thought that the reticule would end up too short to be able to hold my phone in it, so I took the two panels without the roses and cut out the border and attached it to the top of the bag.
Here is the finished bag. The drawstring channel is handsewn and hidden since it's sewn with brown thread and I followed the lines of brown on the top border.

Here is the pink lining. I also want to emphazise one step that I had probably skipped a few years ago. After having attached the lining and pressed the top I turned the outer fabric in a few millimeters and topstitched it in place. Here it's halfway down and you can see how much neater the right side looks, with the topstitching, compared to the left where it's still bubbling over the top despite it being pressed. This was especially important since I made the lining slightly bigger than the outer shell, since I wanted it to look like a soft sea of silk when I opened the bag.
Here is the bottom of the bag. I couldn't quite get the roses to meed in the middle, due to how I had cut out the fabric. I also thing that the whole bag would probably have looked better with six panels rather than five, but five was what I had to work with.
The finished reticule with, of course, pink ribbons to carry it in. I will be on the lookout for a pink tassle to attach to the bottom to further enhance it.

The Challenge: Pink
Fabric: some kind of brocade, silk habotai
Pattern:my own
Year: late 18th century
Notions: sewing thread, satin ribbon
How historically accurate is it? The shape is correct, the brocade is probably synthetic and the ribbons are definitely poly satin. The main seams are made on machine, but the topstitching and other visible seams are made by hand, I would say 60%.
Hours to complete: 4, most of that was to rip up the old bodice.
First worn: Not used yet
Total cost: $0, all from my stash.

I must say that so far the HSF has really helped me make a dent in my stash and add to those small things that enhance a period wardrobe, but I tend to forget them during work with a big thing, like a full robe.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Getting dressed the 18th century way

Here is what I do when I want to get ready in my 18th century gowns. This is a series of photos I took when getting dressed in my Snow White costume.

Step 1. Put on the chemise, stockings and shoes. It's important to put the shoes on almost first, because when the stays are put on and laced tight it can be hard to bend down and fiddle with the fastenings.

step 2.
Step 2. Put the stays on, don't pull it so tight that it's uncomfortable.
step 3
Step 3. Fix the hair so it's ready. Also if you have worn the stays for a while you can usually pull them a bit tighter, since the body has adapted to them. I'm doing the hair fairly early in the process. I don't like fiddling with the hair, and if something goes wrong it's better to have started early than having it be the last thing that you need to rush to be finished.

step 4
Step 4. Put the false rump on, or if you are wearing pocket hoops or panniers. My false rump started it's life as an 1880's travelling bustle. There are three layers of ruffles of some stiff fabric, inbetween two of the layers I also have a small stuffed pillow. In order to get the 1880's silhouette I had strings that shaped it into a narrow but bulging bustle, for the 1780's silhouette I removed strings and that gave it a flatter and more rounded shape.
step 5
Step 5. Petticoat time. For a long time I didn't understand why people where going on about the needs for many petticoats. Surely one was enough. Well I was totally wrong. I used to just have one made out of old sheets. Then last year I made two cotton voile petticoats, and what a difference. The second petticoat works miracles when it comes to attaining a bigger, poofier shape, it's needed to hide the support structures, and it makes the outer skirt/petticoat lay smoother. For my 18th century outfits it made them look better, but it wasn't gamechangning, but a second lightweight petticoat was what was needed to hide the hoops of my hoopskirt to the Amidala Travel Gown, and make the skirt to that one lay flat. It's better to have more petticoats out of soft and light fabrics than one heavy petticoat.
step 6
Step 6. Put on the main petticoat (outer skirt). Tie the loose pocket on over the petticoat. It's possible to have the pocket under the petticoats, since they have openings in the sides, but I prefer to wear it like this since it's easier to get to the pocket. I've embroidered the pocket so I don't mind showing it either. I try to fix the last details on my hair and make up now, before putting the robe on. I have a problem lifting my hands up over my shoulders in the robe.
step 7
Step 7. Put the robe on, fix the last things and have fun. In fact this is the one step that I think is the hardest to do by myself. The bodice and sleeves are so tight that it would be a lot easier to have a handmaid, but I can make all on my own.

This is just me wearing my 1780's ensemble, but the principle for how you get dressed is basically the same as long as there are corsets and supports involved.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Early birthday gifts

It's my birthday in February and I've bought myself two, ok three, birthday gifts this year. Two of them have arrived quicker than I expected so I already have them, even if it's just the beginning of February.

The first thing was the book Creating historical clothes: Pattern Cutting from Tudor to Victorian time by Elizabeth Friendship.
I bought it after reading this review over at American Duchess. I can only agree with the assessment in the review, that the book covers everything, but there are few pictures of actual garments. I've just flipped through it and to be honest all the diagrams and numbers and points seem a bit daunting to me. I'm hoping that once I read through the instructions carefully and just follow them step by step, then it will be a lot clearer. I still think this is the kind of book I need though in order to be able to finally make the patterns I want to, without having to buy new patterns for every single piece. I also like that it covers such a wide time period, since I have promised myself that I am going to make a 17th century outfit one day, and I can't help that I'm dreaming of making a really nice 1880's ensemble as well.

This book together with draping will probably be very helpful. Draping brings me to my major birthday gift to myself. I've finally bought a dressform.
Here she is dressed in my navy anglaise. It was really hard to choose which size I would go for, since I am a bit between sizes, especially when I'm wearing historical undergarments. In the end I decided to go for a medium sized, rather than the small. The dressform actually arrived in less than two days and after assembling it and adjusting it I can only say that it fits my natural measurements great. Unfortunately as you can see I can't close my navy anglaise at the bust. I have adjusted the bust measurements to the smallest available, but my squishy bust is pushed upwards  when I wear stays and this gown, while the dressform of course has a bust that refuses to move. There is also a difference between the navy anglaise, which is on the verge of "I can't breathe" and the printed cotton anglaise which is probably half a size larger, and that one I could close over the bust.

If I want to make something 18th century as tight as the navy anglaise I will simply have to do the final adjustments on my body rather than on the dressform. The reason why the navy anglaise is so tight is also because I used a dressform in size small, and even with padding it was too small compared to myself.

Also even if I'm in an 18th century phase at the moment, I do quite a lot of other clothes as well, and then the dressform can be adjusted to my exact size.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Disney's Frozen

I watched Frozen yesterday with my two nieces, despite being set in Scandinavia and inspired by an HC Anderssen tale it didn't get to Sweden until now. Anyway I was totally awestruck by the costumes in the film. For the first part I just sat there gaping and thinking about how I would be able to recreate them. I definitely think Frozen is something new when it comes to attention of details on animated costumes, and I would recommend reading this interview with the costume designer Jean Gillmore. I loved the colours and how they mixed elements of the Norwegian bunad with fairytale fantasy fashion.

The bunad is broad term for Norwegian folk costume. It actually evolved in the 19th century when when national romanticist wanted to revive traditional folk customs and clothing. I'm from Sweden so I don't really know the story about the bunad, and if it's similar to the history of the Swedish folk costumes.
This is a picture from the wiki article about bunad and shows the modern wearing of it. This picture is from Trondheim, which is fitting since a lot of the inspirations for Frozen was taken from Tröndelag, the region surrounding Trondheim. Anyway you can see that the general style of bunad is very similar to Anna's dress in Frozen, the only thing missing is the apron.
There was one costume that I loved even more, probably because I felt that Anna's dress was a bit too young for me, and that was Elsa's coronation gown.
I have already gathered quite a few reference images of it, and it doesn't look too complicated. The gown itself would be a corset with a sweetheart neckline. It has two distinct seams on the side of the bodice, so I would possibly make the strength layer as a traditional corset and cover it with the outer fabric with those steams. The main thing is to decide if I should paint or embroidered the motifs on the skirt and bodice. I would love to use a proper wool, but the important thing is to get a fabric with a nice and heavy drape to it. For the cape I would be able to use the leftovers of my silk velvet from my Amidala gown. It's not enough left to make the train as long as in the original, on the other hand that will make it more practical to walk in.

The main problem as usual would be to fix the hair ad the little tiara.

As for wearing it. Well that is the problem, and I usually don't like to make costumes that I can't wear. he HSF has a challenge for alternate universe due around Halloween, and this would definitely fit that. I could also bring it to the annual sci-fi con in Stockholm in early December.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Clearing out the stash

Since I moved in to my apartment almost six years ago I have had all my fabrics in a cupboard in my hall. Quite high and with plenty of shelves, but of course through the years it's been filled up with fabrics, pieces here and there and stuff like that, so the last few months it's been bursting. I've had to more or less force the fabrics into the shelves, and to be honest I haven't had any overview of what fabrics I actually have.

Today I was finally fed up with the situation and decided to go through the whole stash and see what I could get rid of, or if simply folding the fabrics neatly would help in getting me more space.

cleared out fabrics
 At first it was hard, but then got into the groove and started to be able to put fabrics in the "get rid of"pile. These are the kinds of fabrics I've decided to get rid of:
  • Small scraps. If I can't see myself getting anything useful out of them, then they shouldn't take up space.. For example I had a lot of cotton cut up to be ruffles and flounces, but I haven't added them, and today I wouldn't use those kind of fabrics for ruffles. 
  • Ugly fabrics. Through the years I have gotten quite a lot of pieces of fabrics from people, after all I like to sew and then I must love getting more fabric. I have also bought some hideous things, and there was a while when I thought I actually could look good in big patterns. I've found an UFO in the pile that proves that if I had finished that dress in that print I would have looked like an 90-year old elephant.
  • Polyester satins. When I started sewing I thought that polyester satins were the thing you could make nice costumes out of, after all that was the only thing available in the local stores. Now I hate working with those kind of fabrics so I'm throwing them out.
  • Muslin/bed sheats I've always asked my mother to get her old bedlinens when she's bought new ones, so that I can use them for muslins and trying out patterns. I found so many of them in all of my shelves that I've now decided that I will not allow myself to have more than one shelf with that kind of test fabrics.
newly organised stash
This is my new stash. Previously the shelves were ordered by colour, but now I've instead decided to have them by fabric type.
  • Top left. Natural coloured fabrics in natural fibres. Mostly leftovers from my tusken and jawa projects, but I can see use of them for historical projects as well.
  • Top right. Special fabrics. Here I have lace fabrics, batting, vinyl, felt and faux leather.
Then from the top down
  • Muslin and cheap cottons. These are the fabrics that I will use for testing patterns and draping. I've decided that I'm not allowed to let them grow out of this shelf.
  • Satins and shinies. I didn't get rid of all my satins. I kept the heavier duchess satins and those in the most beautiful colours
  • Knits and jerseys. I found a lot more jerseys than I remember that I had I normally don't work in jersey, but if I have them easily visible I might get inspired to use them. The big white piece is the material for my new classic princess Leia gown.
  • Wools and suiting fabrics. I even found a piece of plaid wool so I might have something for the HSF plaid challenge now.
  • Silks and brocades. These are the really beautiful pure silks and brocades that I have gotten through the years. They include quite a lot of fabrics that I've gotten as presents when family members have been in Asia.
  • Velvets and chiffon. It's hardly visible but I've put my velvet and chiffon fabrics in the bottom.

Now I'm going to gather the useable pieces so that I can give them to the local second hand store, I don't want to throw them away in the trash, and then I only need to make sure that I can keep the stash ordered even if I get more fabrics. I've tried to keep not fill up the shelves so that there will be space for new aquisitions.