Saturday, November 14, 2009

Projects in Progress and Miscellaneous Notes

Currently I am working on a Civil War era naim coat made from a pattern taken from Peterson’s Magazine. The basic pattern is pretty simple, but I decided to make a hand quilted lining for it. At the rate I’m going, it will be spring before I’m finished. I guess that doesn’t matter too much, as my opportunities to wear it are limited, anyway. I am not a reenactor with any large group. I work part time in a Civil War era historic house museum. We do very few costumed events outside, so I don’t have much need for outerwear. However, every April, we do walk several blocks down to the statehouse to reenact mourning for Lincoln while his body was lying in state there. The weather has ranged from bone-chilling rainy days to sunny, almost balmy late spring weather. You just never know. I may make a lighter coat or jacket, too, just in case. I probably ought to make a jacket, since there are some nice patterns available and they might be suitable for indoor wear as well.

At least my mourning bonnet gets a workout then and for the ghost tour in October. I got some advice from the ladies on on making it a little more historically correct. Even though I used a period pattern, since I modified the frame, the shirring in the section closest to the face disappeared. In original drawn bonnets from the period, there were also often ruffles incorporated into the outer bonnet. I will add some to cover the last section.

I am happy to report that I finally have an excuse to make a Civil war era ball gown, too. I have been secretly wanting to make one for a couple of years, but have absolutely no place to wear one. Now the museum is planning a ball for April, 2015 to celebrate the sesquicentennial of the end of the war. I guess that gives me plenty of time to design and construct it.

And since an instant gratification project is always nice, I will be making a felt 1920’s cloche for daily wear. I was able to find some barn red 100% wool felt on eBay to match the winter coat I wear the most. Now I just have to wait for the pattern to arrive from Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Octagon Ladies' Repository Drawn Bonnet

The Octagon Ladies Repository offers patterns taken from originals that had been printed in ladies' magazines from the Civil War era. I have access to some of the original magazines they were taken from, but frankly, I am delighted not to have enlarge and size them myself. As with the originals, they aren't the most detailed patterns in terms of the instructions and assume that the seamstress knows how to make some of the simpler pattern pieces that aren't included. However, they make up for that by being very low cost.

One thing to note about this pattern is that, like the original, it does not include a pattern for the "curtain" piece that covers the back of the neck. I made a pattern for it by making a rectangle 26" by 5 1/2". I marked a point 4" from each end along the top edge, then drew a softly curved line down to the bottom corners, so that the pattern piece looked kind of like a very long orange slice. I doubled that, although I understand that original bonnets from the period usually just had one layer of the outer fabric and underlined it with something a little stiffer. If you aren't familiar with bonnet making, it's the curved edge that gets gathered and sewn onto the lower edge of the bonnet.

The basic pattern went together very quickly. I used 16 gauge wire for the ribs and added and extra 1/2 " onto the lengths so that I could make little loops at the ends to thread the bottom wire through. Then I turned the ends of the bottom wire back around the loops of the front rib so that it would not poke through the fabric. Unfortunately, the instructions produce a silhouette that does not match the illustration on the front (a common problem with illustrations from that time period!). With the lengths of wire as directed, the side view of the bonnet fitted close to the head until the last section where it flared up suddenly. It reminded me of a 1930's baby bonnet. I wanted the gentle slope as seen in the illustration, so I replaced the second and third wires from the front with a 24" one and a 19" one.

They do include illustrations of other bonnets from the magazines to give you ideas on trimming. For the frill inside the brim, I used 2 yards of 5 1/2" lace. They don't give instructions on how to do that, but if you look at period illustrations, it isn't hard to figure out. Use at least 2 yards of ribbon, ideally 4 inches or more wide, for the ties. My ties ended up being unfashionably short because when I bought the ribbon, I wasn't planning on putting it around the crown as part of the trim. Since mine is supposed to be a first mourning bonnet, I did not add any trim beyond that.

I'm quite pleased with the end result. It looks very similar to a photograph I've seen of a period bonnet. My overall assessment is that I would not recommend this pattern to a beginning costumer, as the pattern requires some modification. They might be OK using my additional suggestions as posted here, though. As far as bonnets in general go, the drawn bonnet was much easier to make than ones using the standard covered buckram and wire construction that I've tried in the past. I would also suggest that anyone interested in making a Civil War era bonnet join The Sewing Academy and do a search on "bonnet" to find all of the discussions they've had on bonnet making there. Those ladies really know their stuff and were a godsend in helping me figure out what I was doing with this one.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Vogue P921 - 1920's Style Cloche

I picked up this pattern years ago. It's a set of modern hats designed by Patricia Underwood. A few of the hats have a very retro feel to them, including a turban, a fedora, and a cloche. So far, I've made the turban for a fortunetelling costume and the cloche. My only issue with them is that the pattern seems to run a little small. I made the hats according to my head measurement, which is well within the medium size range, but think I would have been happier if I had made the large size instead.

It's been a few years since I made the turban, so I don't remember the details about making it. It is made of stretch material, so the fit is very forgiving. My only issue is that the shell tends to ride up on my head the longer I wear it, exposing the lining.

The style of the cloche is perfect for an art deco feel, with a nice slice of contrasting color around the crown. I made mine of bright red fine wale corduroy trimmed with mixed wale black corduroy. I was a little surprised that the instructions did not call for the cloche to be interfaced. I was concerned that the crown would not have enough body, so I interfaced it, anyway. That is probably part of the problem as to why it fits a little tight. However, I think I made the right choice in that respect. The only other thing that bothered me is that the silhouette of the hat is more like a 1960's bucket hat, with the back being shorter than the front. The cloches I've seen from around 1927 were more uniform in length. If I use this pattern again, I will modify the brim so that it is the same width front and back. It isn't quite as noticeable when the hat is on my head, but I'm fussy about the details. However, the end result looked stunning, so I can't complain.

Vintage Pattern Lending Library 1652 - 1920's Ladies' Coat

I needed a costume to portray a woman from the 1920's for some history tours to benefit the restoration of Green Lawn Abbey, which was built in 1927. The style of this pattern is consistent with coats I've seen in catalogs from 1923-24, so I made some modifications both to make it more appropriate for the later time period and to make it more functional just to wear everyday.

VPLL 1652 - 1920's Ladies Coat

Right off the bat, it became apparent that there were a few odd things about the pattern itself. First of all, the length is much longer than it seems in the illustration. It is ankle length - very 1923! - so I took 10 inches off the bottom. There are also tabs extending from the top of the coat fronts that did not have any corresponding tabs on the facing. I cut those off. Finally, the pattern layout illustration only shows that the cuff piece is cut twice. You actually need it cut 4 times. I should also mention that the pattern only give the pattern layout and yardages for doing the coat in one solid color with no contrast. I used 3/4 of a yard to make the contrast for mine, minus ties. You would probably need an extra yard for the ties. If I hadn't made some modifications, this would have been a super easy coat to make.

The pattern shapes are simple, with only one set of darts to be made in the coat fronts. It is designed to not even be lined, although the instructions do mention how to line it if desired. The cut is loose, so no fussy fitting is required. There are no pockets to deal with, and the pieces fit together well. I am also very pleased with how VPLL made the pattern. If you've ever worked with original patterns from that era, you know that construction marks, such as where to put the darts, were simply small holes in the pattern where the seamstress was supposed to make tailor tacks with thread. VPLL not only had the markings drawn on, they are printed in a second color to make them more distinguishable from the cutting lines.

My 1920's outfit

The modifications I made were to shorten the length, and added pockets, triangular trim at the waistline, loops for the buttons, and both a lining and a heavier interlining. I am very pleased with the end result. The only things I am not keen on are the result of my own modifications: I should have made the pockets in the same color as the shell, it would have been better if I had made the length a wee bit longer than I had, and the weight of the interlining pulls the front of the coat a little funny when the collar is buttoned up. Still, I got a ton of compliments on it. I can't wait to try my next pattern from VPLL!