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.