Sunday, 12 March 2017

The start of more Medieval garments

As I am studying at Newcastle University this year, I decided to join the campus SCA group, which is essentially Medieval re-enactment and other fun stuff. I have always had an interest in historical clothing, and did actually attend a few SCA meetings almost 10 years ago when I lived in Sydney, but until Winterfest last year, hadn't really made much in the way of (mostly) historically accurate garments. Now, after only 2 meetings with this new club, I already have 3 more pieces of garb underway (some of which may take longer than others to finish) My inspiration for my new pieces is to create a complete wardrobe for a specific time and place, and taking inspiration from my husband's last name, I have chosen to focus on Scotland, probably around the 15th or 16th centuries, as any earlier than that seems even harder to find reliable information on (and later is no longer medieval)



The first item I began on is a yellow leine, which is essentially the medieval gaelic version of an undershirt. They were worn by both men and women, throughout Ireland and Scotland, particularly by those who refused English rule. According to the research I have been finding, they were quite often dyed bright yellow, although I am finding conflicting information about whether they were dyed with saffron to get the colour, or merely dyed a saffron yellow, by way of a description of the brightness. From what I have been looking at, they fairly often had long, bagged sleeves and simple necklines. There are many variations of course, but I wanted a fairly simple design, but liked the bagged sleeves, as they can also be used as pockets.

I found a piece of light yellow cotton in my stash, that was just over 2m in length. Ideally I would have liked more fabric to work with, but I also like to work from my stash instead of buying more fabric, and I also believe that trying to make historical clothing work from as little fabric as possible would be quite in the spirit of historical accuracy, as working class people would not have been able to afford to be extravagant and wasteful with their cloth. Traditionally the leine would be made from linen, but I can't really afford that sort of fabric, so cotton will suffice just fine for my needs. To start my leine, I simply folded my fabric into quarters, so that the middle of the fabric, where the neck opening will be, was at a corner, then using my measurements and pins, marked where I was going to cut. I cut the front, back and upper sleeves as one piece, with no shoulder or sleeve seams. I then pieced some extra length onto my sleeves from the fabric next to the skirt, to make sure they would be (almost) full length, and also to utilise the most out of the fabric. The way I have cut and constructed my leine is almost certainly not historically accurate, however, with such limited fabric, this is they way I chose to do it.

Sorry for the wrinkles, but this gives you
an idea of the sleeve shape

Here is a rough diagram of how I cut to make the most of my smallish piece of fabric:



The construction was very simple, sewing on the extra sleeve lengths, then just sewing the 2 side seams. I plan to use a simple facing for the neckline, which I will hand stitched down once it has been turned in and pressed. The sleeves and bottom still need to be hemmed by hand. I can leave it there, but I am considering trying my hand at a little bit of decorative embroidery along the hem as well.

I also decided to make a bodice/corset/stays/pair of bodies, or whatever term you wish to use, as so far my kirtle is the only support garment I have, and I thought a second one, without an attached skirt, would be handy to have. I decided on a simple design, back lacing, sort of straight Tudor style front, with tabs at the waist and ties on the front of the shoulder straps. I quickly drafted a pattern for these straight onto my calico when I was at my brothers one day, but when I pinned the pieces together to check the fit, discovered I had made quite an error in my measurements and needed to add an extra panel either side. so I then used those initial pieces to trace out new pieces, cut out 2 layers, sewed the seams, pressed them open, then sewed the 2 layers right sides together along the back edges only. I then turned it right side out and began carefully hand sewing boning channels along several of the seams and back edges. I used a tiny prick stitch, which should be fairly strong.

Prick stitching the boning channels

Progress shot. Tabs will be cut into the bottoms of the panels

Once I had added boning channels and boning to both front seams and the 2 back edge seams, I began working on the lacing eyelets, stretching them out with an awl (actually a knitting needle, but whatevs) and hand stitching around them with the same sort of reverse blanket stitch I used on the eyelets for my kirtle. After I had inserted a couple of the eyelets, I tried it on to get an idea of the fit. It wasn't perfect, but it certainly wasn't bad either. There seems to be a little too much room under the arms, but that may sit better when the rest of the eyelets are done and it is fully laced up, if not, I can remove some of the excess with a dart on each side. Also, the shoulder straps are far too short, however, I can just use a longer piece of sting to tie them to the front, so that isn't too detrimental. At the moment I am thinking of using some dark green cotton for the binding around the edges, but I am not completely decided on that yet.


The third garment I have been working on is a pair of socks! I know, how exciting! I saw another SCA member using a technique called nalbinding at the first meeting I went to, so the next day I decided to find some of my rougher handspun and a wool needle and give it a go. It essentially gives you a fabric similar to knitting, but is made with shorter lengths of yarn and done with a yarn needle, where you pull the entire length through a loop each stitch. It is a technique that predates knitting, so definitely could have existed in the 15th/16th century in Scotland. Looking in my collection of handspun, I found 3 cakes of some brown alpaca that I had spun, 2 that were quite chunky and rough, and 1 which was a lot finer. I started my first sock, using some guidance from online tutorials, using one of the chunky cakes, but as it was forming, I realised I would finish the cake before making the sock anywhere near as long as I wanted. In an attempt to keep things even between 2 socks, I made the decision to start each sock with each cake of chunky yarn, then finish each with half of the yarn of the finer spun cake, thus keeping the sole, toe and heel thicker and more hard wearing, then making the leg a finer, more delicate weave.

Sock progress. cake in use on the left, finely spun cake in the
middle, and the second rough spun cake on the right
I have also already made an Arisaid, but as that is just a rectangle of fabric, it's not really much on an achievement. I purchased 2m of a blue, black and white polyester woven tartan, that is lovely, soft and warm. It naturally has a small fringe along the selvedge edge, so I machine stitched down each cut end, about 1/2 and inch from the edge, and purposely frayed the fabric. These are usually worn pleated and belted to the waist, so I will have to find or make a suitable belt to go with it.

I still have plenty more garments in the planning stages for my SCA persona, which I will share once I get started on them. Has anyone else been working on any historical clothing?

Dixie

Monday, 27 February 2017

Mummykins and Me Madison Blouse/Dress

Recently, I was lucky enough to be selected as a tester for a new pattern from Mummykins and Me. While I had heard of this designer before, it was mostly for her children's patterns, but what I didn't know was that most of her patterns are also available in adult sizes as well! The pattern I tested was the Madison Dress and Blouse (also available in girls sizes) I was originally going to sew up the blouse version with the bow collar, but when I looked in my fabric stash and chose a lovely lightweight floral cotton, I could just see it made into a nice little A-line dress.

I made a XXL, graded out to the 4XL at the hips and hemline. These patterns go up to a very generous 5XL size, which is great for us larger ladies. I didn't use any interfacing in the button placket, to keep the whole garment light and airy, and utilised clear buttons so as not to distract from the floral print.









While this is certainly not my usual style, I really love how it has turned out! The little gathered sleeve heads, and neat little collar, make it very sweet and feminine, which I always love. Like most PDF pattern designers, Mummykins and Me patterns have wonderfully detailed instructions, that seamstresses of any experience level could follow, and as a bonus, for those more advanced seamstresses such as myself, they include a 1 page cheat sheet of brief instructions. I mostly used this so I didn't have to scroll through pages and pages of instructions that I didn't need. The instructions also include options for seam finishing, so you don't need to have an overlocker, or spend time working out the best way to finish all the seams.

If that wasn't enough to tempt you with this pattern, here are a few of the other lovely ladies who tested this versatile pattern!

Valerie from Elegantine made a beautiful silky blouse


Tenille from Tenille's Thread made a great wardrobe basic white blouse (which makes me want to make one too)


Loni from Havin Sew Much Fun made this cute girls blouse


Amy from Anna's Heirloom Boutique also made a delightful girls version with some cute print coordination.


Zoe of Soul fed on thread made this cute incarnation, and if you head over to her post, you can also see the adorable matching doll size one she made!



I can definitely see myself making a blouse version with the neck tie in the future, but I am also thinking of hacking it slightly and making use of those shoulder yokes to create a cute vintage western style shirt. But for now, I am already making my second Mummykins and Me pattern, the Amsterdam Coat!

Dixie

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Dracula Kwik Sew 4001

Last weekend, Spotlight stores hosted a super sewing weekend in their stores. I went along on the Sunday, mostly to try my hand at winning the brother sewing machine. Spoiler alert, I didn't win it. But I did have a very lovely day, spending many hours at a table of other crafty ladies, appliqueing unicorns on tote bags, and making felt finger puppets. The brother sewing machine was the prize for the most creative felt finger puppet, and although mine was one of the best, someone (I don't know who, as they were there on the Saturday) beat me out.


Once the crafts had finished, naturally I did a bit of shopping. I got a few $2 a meter fabrics from the clearance table, a number of nativity scene panels that were $2 each from the remnant bin, and 3 panels of this awesome retro style Dracula cotton poplin print. Each panel is about 1.5m and cost $2 each, making it pretty good value.


After spending the day at Spotlight, I spent the evening at my brother's house, so he and my husband could have a few beers to celebrate my husband's birthday. Being my usual self, I decided to amuse myself with my new pretty sewing things, and borrowed my sister-in-law's sewing machine and supplies. I picked out Kwik Sew 4001 from her pattern stash, choosing to make view A from my Dracula Print poplin. Despite there only being 1 review of this on Pattern Review, and that review not being particularly positive, I thought I would give it a go.



Using the largest size, XL, I managed to cut out all the pieces for the bodice and pockets from one remnant, and 2 rectangle panels for a basic dirndl skirt from a second remnant. That left the third remnant to hopefully use as panels of a bowling shirt for my hubby, as I don't think there is quite enough to make the whole shirt from it. The bodice went together quite easily, following the pattern instructions. When overlapping the front pieces, I angled the points down a little further (so they weren't quite lined up with the bottom edge of the other side) so that there was slightly less gape in the neckline, and trimmed off the excess. I got all the way to attaching the waistband pieces before heading home from my brothers house. The next day, I overlocked around the pocket pieces (the only pieces that needed it) and sewed them into the skirt pieces, then gathered the skirt and attached it to the bodice, and inserted the zip into the side.

At this point I tried it on and hated it. the bodice was sitting horribly and was just loose and baggy everywhere. Fiddling with the fit while looking in a mirror, I decided to take up the shoulders a whole 2 inches each, which at least got the dress to a wearable, shop-bought level of fit. It is still gaping quite badly in the armholes and neckline, but is at least wearable. While I usually have to shorten bodices, I don't think I have ever had to take off this much from the shoulders of a pattern before. If I ever make this pattern again, I will be making a smaller size and making a few changes to the pattern before I even cut it out.

Despite not loving how this dress turned out, I still finished the hem and wore it to my Orientation Day for University on Wednesday and received lots of compliments (which I think was mostly due to the fabric choice. I will probably still wear this, despite the fit issues, as it is quite comfy due to how loose it fits.






These photos turned out a little bright, but you get the idea. Anyone else sew up a pattern, against their better judgement? I guess that's the whole point of Pattern Review, so that we don't waste our time and fabrics on patterns that just don't quite work like they should.

Dixie

P.S. I am super excited to start University next week!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Edwardian Fantail skirt by Scroop patterns


I have been wanting to make myself a new historical outfit for some time, but I have been lacking the motivation to do much sewing at all. However, when I found out about this new pattern from Scroop patterns by the Dreamstress, I knew I wanted to make it, and even had a perfect olive green linen to use for it.

It did take quite a bit of paper and space to put the pattern together, as it is a full length skirt with a fair bit of volume at the hem, but it was worth it. I found this pattern went together sooo easily, with really clear illustrated steps. I especially love how the placket and pleats at the back sit.

Amazingly, I did not have to make any alterations to this pattern at all. I was originally going to make the waistline a size smaller than the hips, but ended up making a straight size 46, and it fits great, including the length. Usually I have to shorten things a few inches, so I'd say if you're on the taller side of 5'5" you may want to think of extending the skirt pieces (or just using a smaller hem)

The pieces all cut out

I didn't take many progress photos, as it was such a straight forward make. So here is a photo of my progress pinning the pleats into place before basting and pressing them.

Working on the pleats

Once I had the skirt done, I realised I needed a suitable blouse to wear with it. Searching through my stash, I initially found some lovely light floral cotton, however some members in my historical sewing group did not feel the print was suitable for the time period. So instead, I decided to use a silky cream fabric with grey pinstripes. To begin drafting the blouse I used my own measurements to make a pattern piece similar to the one used in this post, with the exaggerated curve along the waistline to gather in.

Initial bodice piece

Once I tested that the front piece worked (and trimmed a bit off the sides and armholes) I made the back using the same piece, just trimming off about 2 inches in length at the waistline in the middle and drafted some simple, full, straight sleeves. Once I had sewn these pieces together, I gathered the neckline and waistline, put elastic bands over my wrists and tried on the skirt.

Blouse half done, checking how
the outfit looks

At this point I felt that the overall silhouette was pretty spot on. So I finished the front edges for the button stands, as well as the collar and waistband pieces, then attached the buttons and sewed the buttonholes. Lastly, I gathered the sleeves into cuffs, each with 2 buttons.

To accessorise the outfit, I paired my blouse and skirt with a pair of black boots I purchased from Big W some years ago, a small pearl brooch, and a lace parasol my grandmother made from an old umbrella and some curtains, more than 20 years ago. In future I may also add a necklace as well. My hair isn't really long enough to style into a period correct Edwardian hairstyle, so I just did my best with some sort of bastardised victory/gibson rolls, which I think turned out ok. In the future, I will be making a period corset to go with this outfit, to improve the silhouette.

As this was our first proper shoot with our new Nikon camera, my Husband and I decided to go out to the property behind my grandparents place, so we could try out both lenses, and not have too many modern things in the background of the photos. As a result, we were joined by Bonnie, my grandparent's west highland terrier.







While the style of the blouse is certainly not doing anything particularly flattering for my figure, I like how the overall outfit looks, and I'm pretty happy with these photos. I may still make another blouse to go with this skirt from a more historically accurate fabric, I'd also like to make a matching vest from some of the leftover skirt fabric. I will be endeavouring this year to improve the quality of the photos on my blog, so this seems like a great start. I am also looking forward to debuting this outfit at the next Historical event I attend.

Dixie

P.S. In all fairness, I did get to test this pattern, so I didn't have to pay for it, but I definitely think it is worth the US$15 (or just US$10 for just the historical length)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

A comfy underwear set

A month or so ago, I kept seeing a new free soft bra pattern being posted in numerous Facebook sewing groups, so when I happened to pick up some 95%cotton 5% elastane jersey knit fabric from Big W on clearance for $5, I thought it was about time I gave it a go. The free pattern is the "Lovesick Bra" from George and Ginger, and can be found on their site, with the rest of their free patterns.  If you like a boyleg undie, George and Ginger also have a free pattern for those, as part of the "I heart you" set.

To make my matching undies, I chose to use the bikini bottom pattern from Golden Rippy's Mykonos collection, but adding about 1 inch in height to make it slightly high waisted (better for holding the jibbly bits in) There are also tons of free underwear patterns online you could use for your own version, I just chose this one as I had made them previously and liked the fit.


I chose to cut out the size 20 DD cup and back pieces, with the size 18 band and straps, working from the pattern's measurement chart, as well as the XXL in the bikini bottoms, with an extra inch height at the top. After cutting all my required pieces out, I had only used a bit more than half, so I should be able to get another pair of undies out of it, or another set, in a smaller size for someone else. If your measurements are smaller than mine, you may be able to squeeze out 2 sets for yourself out of 1 meter.

I didn't take any progress shots at all, as both items were quite straight forward. I did add a piece of 1" wide elastic to the bra band, but other than that made it straight from the pattern. Unfortunately, the bra has ended up a bit big, and lacking in any support. This seems to be a fairly common complaint I have seen from larger ladies who have used this pattern, so if you plan on using it yourself, I would highly recommend measuring the pattern pieces and sizing down. I did realise mine was looking a little too big after I sewed the darts in the front cup pieces, but decided to forge ahead and finish it anyway.

I figure I can now wear these as pajamas, especially on hot evenings, like some of the scorchers we have been having recently.

Other than the sizing issue, I have also found that I do not like the placement of the darts closest to the center front, as they seem to poke out at an odd place. Perhaps this is due to the bra being to big and not supportive enough, or maybe just due to my naturally wide set breasts (just like Marilyn Monroe had) I shall have to make a smaller version to test see, and perhaps move their placement.


I may or may not add a modeled photo at a later date, but for now, I cannot be bothered.

Anyone else tried the Lovesick Bra? how did it work for you?

Dixie

P.S. Happy Valentines day my Dear Readers!

Sunday, 12 February 2017

My first attempt at a Waist Training Corset

I have been interested in waist training for a few year now, but haven't begun for a few reasons. Mostly because of the cost of the corsets, but also because of the amount of times I was pregnant last year. My husband and I are still trying for a baby this year, but I've decided not to put things off because of it. Don't worry though, I will only be wearing a corset at times when I definitely know I'm not pregnant.

I had a good look online at a few corset brands, as well as Lucy's corset calculator, but none had a corset curvy enough and short enough for my body, Mystic City Corsets had a few that were close, but not quite small enough in the waist, or big enough in the hips, or short enough. So naturally I thought I would have a go at sewing one myself. As far as I could find, there doesn't seem to be any corset sewing patterns that match my measurements either, so I got out a pencil, paper and ruler, and got to work drafting my own.

First draft corset pattern

I aimed for a fairly short waspie style with only about 6" reduction in the waist, and I mostly kept the front pieces flat, putting the curves at the side and back where I need them. I added 1/2" seam allowances on each side, then once I was happy with the pattern, I grabbed some fabric scraps and cut the pieces out.

Clipping the curves while watching "Call the Midwife"

For this test version, I just sewed up the front instead of inserting a busk (as I don't have any on hand) each seam was sewn up, clipped and pressed open, then the two layers are put wrong sides together, matching up all the seams. I then simple sewed a line of stitching down either side of the seams to create the boning channels, adding an extra boning channel either side of the front seam for extra rigidity there.

Sewing boning channels between the 2 layers

Boning inserted, ready to insert the eyelets

Once I had the eyelets in, I laced it up with some red and black satin ribbing I happened to have on hand and tried it on. Unfortunately, it looked like I had added too much room in the hip spring, probably because the corset is so short, it doesn't hit the part of my upper hips that I measured. I fixed this easily with 4 small darts in some of the side and back panels.

Testing the fit, over my pajamas
Once I had sewn in the darts and pressed them, I bound the top and bottom edges with a soft pink binding from my stash, the tried on the completed corset over a stretchy dress.

Finished, trying on to test fit

While I am happy with the fit of this corset as a first draft, there are lots of areas I want to change/improve for the next one. For starters, I think I will raise the top edge at the back in an attempt to minimise back fat and stabilise the top edge somewhat. I also really wanted a more dramatic hourglass shape initially, so I will also be changing the shape of the waistline, and possibly bring it in slightly smaller, as well as bringing in the bottom edge slightly so I don't need to add darts.

As with many plus size gals, my hips tend to spread out a bit when I sit down, so a fellow corset maker and wearer suggested I try using power mesh in small triangular gores on the bottom, to allow for extra room when seated. In order to make a corset that will be comfortable to wear sitting down, while sewing or perhaps doing Uni work, I will probably use this idea. Naturally I will also be buying a proper steel buck and spiral steel boning.

When I do fix up my pattern, I am thinking I will scan it in and upload it as a new free pattern for my readers. Admittedly it will only suit people with similar measurements to myself, but I am sure there are plenty of curvy short gals out there who will appreciate it.

Dixie


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Beautiful (but hot) Summer Wedding

So, a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend the wedding of my little brother, and his lovely bride. Although I was not part of the wedding party, I invited myself along to get ready with the bride and her bridesmaids, in order to help them with any errands and running around that they might need. One of the things I was able to do, was to take a few photos of her and her girls getting ready using her Canon 1100 (which is what inspired me to buy my own DSLR) As I am not very camera savvy, I couldn't locate the the auto-focus setting, so I had to manually focus these photos, and I am pretty proud of how they turned out. I did take more photos than these, but I am only sharing the ones that have already been shared on social media



The rest of these photos were taken by a professional (who also help me locate the auto focus on the camera I was using)


All the girls!

I, of course, wore my Navy cotton voile dress that I made last year, specifically for this event, and while it was a very hot day, I would have been much worse off if I hadn't worn such a breathable fabric, and I loved wearing such a bright coloured dress in a sea of mostly dark colours.

The Ceremony







My husband was a groomsmen (the tall one)


yeh...... I don't know.....


Little bro, Dad and Big bro

Sisters!

Dad and the Bride

We scrub up alright....even in 37 degree heat

Both sides of the Family!

Mum and the happy couple


Reapplying the Bride's lipstick

And later at the reception.....








All in all, it was a wonderful day, and the Bride looked beautiful, and most importantly, I now have a SISTER!!!

Dixie