Thursday, December 2, 2010

Old Fashioned Christmas in Columbus, Ohio

In the mood for an old fashioned holiday?  It may be 2010 but there's no reason why you can't travel back in time to experience Christmas 19th century style. The local house museums are all gussied up and ready for visitors.

At the Kelton House Museum and Garden, you can see a fabulous display of Victorian and early 20th century Christmas decorations from the collections of Michael Girard.  Open hours are Sunday afternoons from 1 - 4 p.m. They are also holding special tours for the month of December on Fridays from noon to 2 p.m.  The tours last about an hour, so make sure to get there early.  Admission is $6 and under.   

You are probably familiar with the song "Up on a Rooftop," but did you know that it was written by a composer in Westerville?  Come visit the Hanby House, home of Benjamin Hanby, for a dose of Christmas cheer.  They are holding a holiday open house on Saturday, December 4 and Tuesday, December 7 from 7-9 p.m., and Saturday, December 11 and Sunday, December 12 from 1-4:30 p.m.  Admission is $3 and under, or free to members of the Hanby House or Ohio Historical Society. 

If you are in the mood for something earlier, the Orange Johnson House in Worthington harks back to pioneer days.  They are also having a Christmas Open House on 3 Sundays, December 5th, 12th, and 18th from 1 - 5 pm.  There will be musical performances at 1:30 and 3:30 pm.  Admission is free.

A perennial favorite is the Ohio Historical Society's Dickens of a Christmas event at Ohio Village.  The entire village is decorated in mid-Victorian style, with wandering carolers and costumed interpreters giving demonstrations in the buildings.  This is the most interactive of the festivities, with hands on activities for both children and adults.  The dates are December 10, 11, 17, 18 from 6-9 p.m.  and on December 19 from noon-5 p.m.  Admission is $12 and under.

Please click on the links for more details, and have a wonderful holiday season!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The One Hour Dress from 1924

The One Hour Dress (center) and 2 vintage pieces

I needed a dress for a 1920's lawn party but didn't have a whole lot of time to put into it.  I found the perfect solution in the One Hour Dress.  That is a set of instructions created by famed home economics instructor Mary Brooks Picken in 1924 for making a dress in an unbelievable amount of time.  There is a set of videos on YouTube where a seamstress demonstrates this, and yes, you really can make a dress in an hour.  However, it requires techniques like not using pins or finishing the seams that I was not comfortable with.  So, between using the usual sewing techniques and making some modifications to the pattern, it took me more like 4 hours to make.  I met a lady at the lawn party wearing a fancier variation of the dress.  She said it took her an entire week to make.  You can easily spend much more time on it the more detailed you decide to make it.

I have to admit, I really liked being able to make a dress without using a pattern.  Or maybe I just like being able to work on something without the cats dive bombing the pattern and chewing on it while I'm trying to pin it down and cut it out.  The modifications I made were to change the skirt so that it overlaps in front and adding a wide bias cut strip at hip level for interest.  Depending on the fabric choice and trimming, the pattern can end up looking like a hospital gown.  The hip detailing was a good decision in terms of making it look more dresslike.

The end result turned out really well.  It does have a very period look, as of course it should.  Sadly, I only came in second place in the costume contest with it.  The costume that won was a cheesy all over fringe dress worn with a feather boa and a pair of flip flops!  At least I don't have to worry that I didn't win because my dress didn't look authentic enough.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The 1912 Kimono Dress Completed

Here is the end result of my Sense and Sensibility 1912 Kimono Dress.  Overall, I liked the pattern.  My only issue with it is that the bodice and skirt parts in the back required some easing to fit together.  The cotton broadcloth I was using didn't work too well for that and puffed out a bit.  I also wish that I had either been able to afford the same print that I used for the bodice for the underskirt, or used the underskirt material for the belt to tie it all together better.  Still, the end effect is very pretty.  I got a lot of compliments on it.

Getting a proper hat for the era was a bit of a challenge.  The closest I could find patternwise is the hat pattern from Simplicity's Edwardian duster coat pattern.  The crown on that really wasn't wide and deep enough for a 1912 impression.  I probably could have altered it easily enough, but I really didn't have the time to spend making a hat regardless.  So, after doing some research, I found that a smaller brimmed hat would also be appropriate as long as the crown was fairly deep and wide and the trim was even higher.  I found a nice modern one and some great 4" wide ribbon on eBay.  The Ribbon Store out of Las Vegas is a godsend for historical hat making!    I made a cockade based on the Old Fashioned Ribbon Art book that Dover republished. (Update- hat problem solved!)

I'm pretty pleased with the outfit.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

1912 Kimono Dress

I had to take my sewing machine in to be fixed. The sewing machine repairman was swamped, so it took 3 1/2 weeks to get my machine back instead of the 3 days that it normally takes. It's nice to see someone getting a lot of business in this economy, but that threw me off schedule. I had to put the 1863 jacket on the back burner and switch to working on another project that I have a deadline on.

The new project is the 1912 Kimono Dress pattern put out by Sense and Sensibility that I am making for a historical presentation in June. I won't take me that long, but since time has a way of getting away from me, I thought it would be smart to get it taken care of. However, this pattern is making up so fast that it almost counts as an instant gratification project. I got it cut out a couple of days ago and should have no problem getting it finished in an afternoon.

One thing to watch out for if you decide to make this pattern - the bodice pattern is designed for 54" - 60" fabric. If they mentioned that in the yardage requirements, I completely missed it. However, that may have only been an issue for me since I made the bodice out of a different fabric than the underskirt.  I may have been able to lay the pattern lengthwise instead of crosswise that way.  Luckily, I was using one of the smaller sizes, so the fact that I was using 45" material only resulted in the sleeves being 3/8" short. Anyone trying to make one of the larger sizes would have a problem, and with medium sizes, the sleeves will be short. There is an option to add contrasting cuff sleeves which could hide some of the shortness.

I think this will turn out nice. I found some era appropriate reproduction fabric from for the bodice in pink and green for the bodice and sash. The rest is broadcloth in coordinating colors. Of course, I will post pictures when I'm done.

Hopefully, I will be able to get back to the 1863 jacket soon. The French blue cotton velvet I got for it is gorgeous, and I found some lovely old gold trim to go with it. Unfortunately, I have 2 other 1920's costume events in June that I also have to get ready for, so it may be on the back burner for a little while longer. Now I remember why I tend to use all my vacation time to hang around the house and do sewing.

Want to see the finished project?  Here's how it turned out.

copyright Nellie Kampmann, 2010

Sunday, March 14, 2010

1863 Jacket Progress

The pattern arrived yesterday, so I went ahead and made the mockup. I was surprised that the pieces all fit together just fine, aside from requiring some easing, as described in the pattern instructions. From what I'd heard of patterns from that time period, they tended to be wildly inaccurate, and were mainly used by seamstresses as a general guide. The patterns are not detailed. They are basically "sew pattern piece A to pattern piece B". The basic construction is pretty simple, so that's not a huge issue. However, there is no mention of, oh BTW, you need to make a lining for this and things like that. An experienced seamstress should have no problem figuring out how to make it, but I would not suggest it for someone who is fairly new to sewing.

It fit me (34" bustline) quite well. It will require 2 yards of outer fabric, with or without nap, and 1 7/8 yards of lining.

Now what to make it in? I was originally thinking of cotton velvet in a color to coordinate with my day dresses. the sleeves will not accommodate the bulk of my day dress sleeves. After doing more research, it looks like jackets of this kind were not meant to go over other dresses anyway. The illustrations inevitably show them over a blouse, sometimes with a vest, and a skirt that is usually made of the same material. The original May 1863 instructions suggest making it out of cashmere,silk, or wool.

Here is an illustration from 1865 showing various jackets. It is from La Couturière Parisienne, one of the best sites I have found for researching high fashion from previous centuries. She has everything from paintings and fashion plates to actual patterns available there. This illustration is a couple of years beyond what I'm shooting for, but it fits with the other research I have done on this.

So, in addition to the usual dithering I have over color, I have to decide whether to make it in a heavier contrasting fabric, possibly to donate to the museum where I work weekends for the docents to wear. That would need to be easily cleaned, which limits my fabric and trim choices. Option 2 is to make it from silk and make a matching skirt. That would also require making a blouse. All that would be a much larger project that I had originally intended for this. Option 3 is to make it to wear to my day job at a archives library, which gives me more color choices, but would again limit the choices of fabric and trim. I'm leaning towards combining Options 1 & 3, making it for work, but also keeping in mind that I could use it with the costumes at the museum.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

1863 Jacket

Never the kind to have only one iron in the fire, I have yet another pattern on order. This time, it’s for a 1863 jacket from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

I am going to leave off the vest part for a couple of reasons. First, I want to wear the jacket as a historic touch with my modern clothing as well as with my Civil War era stuff, and it would work better for that purpose as just a jacket. Secondly, I’m too lazy to deal with adjusting the pattern to fit that much. This was pulled from an authentic 1863 pattern. Patterns of that time period were typically produced for a 32” – 34” bust line and a 22” – 24” waist. Having descended from a long line of 98 pound weaklings, the former is no problem. However, the latter is. Having hit my 40’s and the accompanying middle age spread, my waistline being that small is a distant memory. As in, there’s a reason why I’m starting to develop a love of the clothing styles from the 1920’s.

Anyway, I’m back to my usual dithering. I’m not sure if it will look right over my 1860’s dresses. The sleeves are going to be an issue. Some research is in order there. And if it would work , I would ideally like to make it in a color that would complement both the cadet blue and cream cotton print dress and the aubergine wool dress. I’m thinking it would probably work best in a nice deep green cotton velvet. That has its own issues. I am finding cotton velvet in green, but it’s a more medium tone, washed out version of hunter green. Of course if I can't use it with my dresses, that frees me up to make it in whatever color catches my fancy. The problem may be solved right there. I'll be able to tell more once I get the pattern in my hot little hands.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

My First Steampunk Project

This isn't sewing, but I did complete a pair of steampunk earrings this afternoon.

I wish the gears in the center showed up better so that you could see all of the detail in them. Ideally, I would like to have had larger gears for the center, too, but watch gears are too small and clock gears are too big. But I'm pretty pleased, anyway. It's kind of nice that the dangle part is loose and can swing back and forth. The best part is, the watch faces glow in the dark.

Instant Gratification Cloches

If you ever need an instant gratification historical costuming project, I don't think you could do better than Vintage Pattern Lending Library's H001, 1920's felt cloche hats. All I had to do for the model I made was to cut out three pieces of felt, sew 4 seams, and voila! - instant hat! If I hadn't chosen to hand sew the seams, I could have had the entire thing done in less than an hour. Since it did not require much material, it was also quite inexpensive.

As with all of VPLL's offerings, this is a reproduction of an authentic pattern. In this particular case, it is actually a set of 5 hat patterns that were put out by the Western Felt Works company in order to get people to buy more of their products. The styles range from sporty to sophisticated, and all of them have a certain panache. It's a nice change from the basic cloche that seems to be the standard with other companies. The one I chose actually has a very modern feel to it, so it will look fine with either my period clothes or contemporary ones. I like that they mention what colors were in fashion in the instructions. Better yet, the hats are simple to make. In the instructions for the one I made, there was a step left out of the instructions, but it was easy enough to figure out.

The only real challenge I had was to find the right material for it. I wanted to make mine out of historically correct 100% wool felt and found the pickings on that to be mighty slim. When I did find a source, the dimensions of the piece turned out to be a squared 18" by 18", unlike the 9" x 32" elongated rectangle assumed in the instructions. I was barely able to fit the pattern on to the piece I bought. If I had wanted to make the larger size or one of the other hat patterns I would have had to buy 2 pieces of the felt. One of the pieces for view 2 is so large that it would not fit at all on the felt square I had. Be prepared to piece together your felt cloth in order to have a large enough section if you can't find the right width of felt. It looks like there are bigger pieces being sold now than were available when I ordered mine, though.

The end result is a nice, unlined felt cloche. I have made cloches before from other pattern companies and found the fit to be too tight. I mean, cloches are supposed to be close fitting and designed for short bobbed hair, but these were a bit too snug even with those considerations. In the case of this pattern, however, the 22" size fit my 22" head just perfectly. Please note that if you are buying it for the 23" head size, the pattern pieves themselves are for the 22" size with instructions to add a certain amount to the seam edges to make it for a 23" size.

Not that I really need more than one cloche, but I will no doubt be making a couple of the other views, too. When it's this easy and inexpensive, heck, why not?

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In the 1990’s, there was a short-lived science fiction/Western tv series called Legend that is one of my all time favorite shows. The premise was that a Jules Verne-esque writer of Western dime novels paired up with a character based on Nikola Tesla who could bring the scientific inventions he imagined in his books to life. It was set in 1876, one of my favorite periods for women’s fashion, so that was a plus. The series was a delightful mix of adventure, quirky humor, and gorgeous costuming, and it really captured my imagination.

Fast forward a decade or two, and I discovered the old BBC series Bramwell. Bramwell is set in the mid-1890’s. That isn’t a time period that normally fascinates me, but after watching many hours of the show, the look is starting to grow on me. It doesn’t hurt that Butterick re-released some of their original patterns from that era, and I was able to get them on sale for dirt cheap. My day job is in a historical society, so I can get away with wearing historically inspired clothing without folks thinking that I am too eccentric.

And now, here I am discovering this trend of steampunk fashion. Yeah, I know I’m late to the party, but I don’t claim to be hip. I’ve known about it for several months, but what finally hooked me was seeing the wonderful pieces of steampunk jewelry designed by Kay on her Pizazz Beads website. I can’t say that they ever wore anything like that on Legend, but the general feel of the pieces reminded me of that series.

It should be no big surprise what my next project will be. The timing on my interest in this is impeccable, too. just got in a huge shipment of 100% cotton dotted swiss lawn and plain lawn. They are already sold out of white and the softer colors, but they also have some bolder colors that are also quite historically correct for the 1890’s. I have already amassed a small stockpile of steampunk jewelry beads and findings from Pizazz, so I am raring to go.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Whoops List

I plead guilty to being one of those costumers who, in the rush to complete a project for an event, doesn’t quite get everything done, then forgets to go back later and finish it up. This is biting me in the butt in a minor way while trying to get ready for a ball.

One of the local Civil War reenactment groups is having a ball at the end of this month that is open to the public. This delights me to no end, as I have been hoping to have an excuse to make a ball own at some point. I only found out about it 3 weeks in advance, though, which was not enough time to get appropriate fabric and make a ball gown for it. So now I am trying to make my best day dress as suitable as possible for evening wear. It is a raisin colored wool dress with trim in violet silk velvet – very elegant, if I may say so myself. It’ still a little staid for evening wear, even with the flowered headdress I am making for it, but the historic fashion police will probably understand that folks who aren’t heavy into reenacting probably don’t just happen to have proper ball gown or evening dress lying around. It getting it prepped for the ball, I realized that I never did get around to making a belt for it. At the time I originally made it, I was having trouble finding a historically correct belt buckle for it. The dress is acceptable without a belt, except for the fact that it strains a little at the bottom of the bodice, showing the hooks and eyes. I have since found a decent buckle at an antiques fair, so that’s on my to-do list for the weekend. It’s not a huge deal, but I wish that I had gone ahead and made the belt when I wasn’t under any time pressure.

A bigger issue is that I did not use horsehair braid on the hem, and the hem is starting to wear. That’s not a huge problem, as the hem could stand to be slightly shorter, anyway. I just am not looking forward to al the work involved in ripping the current hem open, sewing on the horsehair braid, and re-hemming the whole thing. This will have to wait until after the ball.

Another thing I have to plead guilty to is using a purchased bridal quality hoop skirt for the dress, again, due to time constraint from the event I made it for originally. It has an elastic waist which has suddenly lost all of its elasticity, a fact that became sadly apparent to me when I was docenting this weekend. Ideally, I will be cutting it apart, reusing the hoops and combining them with a couple more for a sturdier item, and making a new cage crinoline. Again, this will have to wait until after the ball. On the plus side, the smaller hoop skirt that I had made for another dress needs some parts to hold the hoops together better. I didn’t need any other supplies at the time I realized this, and couldn’t place an order for just $2.50 worth of parts. This gives me a reason to place an order for more supplies, so I can kill 2 birds with one stone.

And my final oops was the realization that when I made my mourning gown, I ran short of time and hadn’t made a collar for it. I borrowed the collar from my plum dress, which became an issue when I realized that 1 hour before I was supposed to leave for my docenting shift over the weekend. Thank heavens for little safety pins. The collar is interchangeable, but it would be nice not to have to worry about shifting it back and forth between the dresses. One more thing for the to-do list.