Monday, July 21, 2014

Some Tips on Making a Duct Tape Double

There are already several websites that will tell you how to make a duct tape double dress maker's dummy, so I won't get into all that here.  However, I did want to pass along a few tips I learned about the hard way while making mine.

  • Use a heavy duty duct tape.  I used Duck brand tape, which has a noticeably less sticky adhesive on it.  That would probably work OK for the first layer.  My problem was that I had used it to tape up the side seam after I had fit it over my old dressmaker's dummy.  I stuffed it, then didn't look at it again for a few days.  When I did see it again, the taped up side had burst open.  I re-taped it with Gorilla brand, which seems to be holding up much better.
  • Try the method that applies the strips in 6 inch lengths.  I had to make my double mostly without help, so I used longer strips to get my back done.  It's definitely harder to get smooth coverage that way.  I ended up with issues with the double creeping up because I was pulling the long strips too tight.
  • Apply the strips in various directions.  Again, this will help keep it from creeping.  Part of my problem was that I was applying the strips mostly horizontally.  Some instructions do tell you to do that. I think there would have been more control if the strips had followed the contours of my body more naturally.
  • It's ideal if you can get an old dress maker's dummy in a smaller size and use that for your base.  Of course you can make the dummy without one, but may be worth the cost in time and aggravation to pick up a used one at a thrift store.
  • When you tape the dummy back together after you've gotten out of it, place the tape horizontally so it will hold better. 
  • If you want to use the dummy for historical costuming, stuff it with batting instead of using the spray foam insulation method.  This will allow you to use corsets on it to maintain a period correct shape.
  • As you are stuffing the dummy, be sure to keep comparing it to your own body, especially if you aren't using an old dummy as a base.   If you do not have some form underneath to maintain the oval shape, the shell will tend to become rounded (if you look at it from a cross section), while most people's bodies are more oval.  Even with a form, you have to be careful to pad it in the right places.
  • Once the dummy is stuffed and mounted, make a form fitting cover for it from stretch knit fabric.  That will give it an extra layer that will be easier to pin into if the need arises and will look nicer, too.

copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2014

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bustle Era Chemise

1883 linen chemise (reproduction)
I have been wanting an excuse to to make a cuirass form dress for decades now.  At one point, I made underpinnings for it, but never got further than that.  So, when I saw Jennifer Rosbrugh's Bustle Day Dress class being offered recently, I jumped at the chance. This class has been great so far (3 lessons in).  If you ever have a chance to take a class from her, do it!

I hit a bit of a road block right off the bat when I tried on the old underpinnings I had made.  The petticoat had gotten ruined at one point and as thrown out, and the combinations made from a Mantua Maker pattern no longer fit (oh, middle age spread, what have you done to me?!).  So, back to the sewing machine on those.

First up was making a chemise.  I don't know what the deal is, but the ones I have made in the past from Simplicity patterns have always ended up huge.  Either they were what I found out later were more suitable for 1830s/1840s fashions, or were just plain sized wrong and falling off of me.  So, this time, I grabbed my book, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1 by Frances Grimble, and tried drafting one from 1883.  The description said that the measurements given should fit up to a 14 year old.  I'm relatively thin, but even that size looked like it would have too much bulk from all the cloth in it.  I trimmed it down a couple of inches on the sides.  The version I chose had small sleeves.  Big mistake.  Apparently, this was designed to fit a somewhat wide 14 year old with very scrawny arms.  Unless I wanted the circulation in my armpits cut off every time I wore it, the sleeve had to go.

The illustration looked like the neck opening was barely gathered if at all.  However, when I tried it on ungathered, the neckline was so big that it was falling off of me.  I ended up putting tucks in the front and another pleat in the back to take up another 2 inches on each.

The chemise is made with handkerchief weight linen from and trimmed in 1" wide white cotton lace.  I think it turned out pretty well.  The arm holes are still a little tighter than I would have preferred and there is more gathering than the illustration shows.  I probably would have done more futzing with those aspects if I wasn't already running behind.  Still, overall, I'm pretty pleased

copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2014

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Eva Dress 1945 Lounging Jacket C40-4244

Since I wrote a book on local ghost stories, I wanted something appropriate to wear when I do author talks and other public appearances for it.  It's kind of hard to find clothing that conveys a sense of spookiness without going overboard into a stereotypically witchy or black t-shirt tough guy paranormal investigator look, or getting just plain Halloween cheesy.  So, when I found this Edgar Allan Poe themed fabric by Michael Miller on, I knew I had to use it.

The scale of the design is fairly large, so I wanted to find something that would show it off well.  Luckily, Eva Dress hd just the thing in their 1945 lounge jacket pattern.  They also offer the pattern with the lounging pants as NL40-4244.

I really like this pattern.  For as much style as it has, it goes together very easily.  I had screwed up and cut part of the back one size to small.  Even with that goof, I was able to put it together without a lot of wailing an gnashing of teeth.  Now that I have the middle aged spread to contend with, I am also wary of patterns that are fitted in the waistline.  Getting that fitted right is usually a lot of extra work.  I might not win any awards from professional tailors for it, but it only took a couple of minor adjustments to get it to fit well and look nice.

The end result turned out well.  I was pleased to discover that some of the motifs, like the crow on the lapel, ended up being placed so perfectly you would think I had planned it.  

Here's the final product. 

copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2013

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Butterick 1920s Day Dress

I had brought an authentic mid-1920s dress pattern that I had modified for a velvet evening gown last year. Since I was so happy with that, I decided to use the pattern for its original purpose and make a day dress.

As  you can see, the original pattern is kind of girlish.  Since I am so thin, it is actually in a size range produced for girls and teenagers.  The overall look isn't too far off from what women were wearing at that time, though.  I found almost the same design being offered through the Sears catalog (Spring, 1925 if I remember correctly).  BTW, if you have a subscription to, they have the entire run of the Sears catalog available online - a godsend for vintage clothing lovers! 

I an not a big fan of the Peter Pan collar, so I modified the neckline.  The collar I used is just a long rectangle cut to fit.  Again, I found examples of the open collar look in the Sears catalog.  I also wanted more pockets.  I added a second one, cut crosswise to play with the plaid of the fabric, and dispensed with the trim up the side.  I could probably still wear it with a hip level belt, but the older I get, the more I appreciate loose clothing.

The end result turned out pretty well (although a little rumpled in the photo).  I'll admit, the looser One Hour dress is more comfortable.  This looks professional enough that I can wear it at the office.  One thing I've noticed about the 1920s cotton dresses is that they are actually cooler to wear in the summer than the modern tank and shorts combination.  I survived a 90 degree day with no air conditioning in my windowless office relatively comfortably in this.   I will probably be making more of the One Hour dresses to wear around the house and more variations of my Butterick dress for work.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

1920s Gown

I kept looking at my 1924 one hour dress and thinking that it looked a little large on me.  Since my next project was going to be made of out silk velvet and I was running late on making it (no time for a mock up), I decided that I had better go with a printed pattern this time.  I lucked out on finding a very Art Deco design at, so I wanted to keep the dress design as basic as possible to show off the fabric better.

What I came up with was a vintage pattern for a basic day dress with short sleeves, a Peter Pan collar, and some applique detailing.  I expect I will be getting some mileage out of that, since the pattern lends itself well to modification.  For this gown, I left off the sleeves, and finished them with bias tape made from the material I had bought to make the slip from. I modified the neckline slightly so that it was large enough to pull over my head without an extra opening, and bound that with the bias tape as well.  I added a detachable belt with discrete belt loops, and voila!

In the short amount of time I had, I wasn't having any luck finding either a vintage slip pattern or information that gave me a clear idea on the construction.  So, I just winged it.  It ended up being basically a tube of habotai silk with no fitting, held on by 1/2 inch straps.  With my boyish figure, that worked fine.

The end result looked great.  My only issue was the belt buckle.  I wanted something sparkly, large, and square or rectangular to fit with the design of the fabric.  I found a rhinestone buckle that looked great in theory.  However, when I wore it, it was so heavy that it dragged the whole belt down.  Still, overall, I am very happy with the dress.

1930s Hooverette Dress

I fell in love with this pattern (Vintage Pattern Lending Library T1889) the first time I laid eyes on it. It looked easy to make and I liked that there were both ultra feminine and businesslike versions.  It looked easy to make and I liked that there were both ultra feminine and businesslike versions.  I tried really hard to find a cotton print that felt 1930s for it.

I got delayed on actually sewing it up until several months after I had bought the fabric. Big mistake. It turned out that the yardage listed on the pattern back for view 2 was way short of what was actually needed.  I could easily have used another 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 yards (4 to 4 1/2 yards total).  Of course by then, the fabric I was using was no longer available, so I couldn't buy more.  I was able to work around that by leaving off the bottom ruffle and making the ties narrower and a little shorter.  The end result turned out cute, but what a waste to have spent so much time looking for a period print when the end result wasn't the period length.

It worked up quickly and the rest of the directions were correct. Please note that you will need bias tape for it. I like that most of the seams are French seams.

One thing I noticed with the shorter length is that this looks very much like a dress my mother had in the 1960s.  The only real difference is that hers did not have the shoulder ruffles.

I will probably make this again, hopefully in the proper length.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Simplicity 2207 Steampunk Gown

I wanted to make something kind of theatrical to wear to my book signings to really put the audience in a spooky mood.  Ideally, I would like to have made a late Victorian mourning outfit for that.  Unfortunately, in order to do that up right, I would not only have to make the base gown, I would have to have all the proper underpinnings for it.  Realistically, I don't have enough free time to have all that finished by mid-August, so I went with Plan B - Simplicity's 2207, a lovely Steampunk outfit with a very late 1880s/early 1890s feel to it.

I am making it in black acetate taffeta and purple velvet ribbon for the trim.  I appreciated the fact that the skirt has an elasticized waistband in the back, as my waist size has been in a state of flux for the past year.  I didn't pay attention to the pattern instructions and ordered 3/8 inch ribbon for it.  In hindsight, that will not show up as much as it does in the illustration.  Since my color scheme is more muted, it may not make as much of a difference.  I also ordered vintage black glass buttons for it.  I was toying with the idea of using some clock faced buttons I have in my stash, but for my purposes, it's probably better to stick with a faux Victorian look than go full out Steampunk.

I have just started making it and already have an observation.  The flounces and ruffles are designed to be finished using a serger or zig zag stitch.  Since most of what I sew is historically correct reproduction clothing, I never bothered getting a serger.  It would have come in handy big time for this.  I zig zagged the edged once on the #6 width, which on the lightweight taffeta, ended up being more like a #2 width.  I had to go over it a second time to make the color noticeable and to make the finished edge more secure.  The single row of zig zagging felt like it could easily get pulled loose.  Fair warning, you will need a lot of the contrast thread for this.  I expect to go through 2 large spools, possibly more.  I'm going to have to hand trim all the fuzzy edges off of it, too.

Come to think of it, I am in the mood for this general style, having watched the full series of Lark Rise to Candleford recently.  The costuming in that was charming.  The photo below doesn't do the costuming in general justice.

IF I have time, I will be making a late 1880s/early 1990s bonnet to go with it.  I found the perfect pattern offered by Lynn McMasters.  She has some very cool bonnet and hat patterns in general.  If I enjoyed making hats (which I don't), I could have a field day with these.

And if I get really energetic, I would like to make the late 1880s coat from Truly Victorian.  One of the characters in Lark Rise wore something similar to this made out of cotton velvet.  It was worn over a bustle-less skirt, and the extra length included to cover a bustle draped quite prettily in the back.