Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Start off to HSF Pink Challenge

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that nothing else happens, but it's been a pretty smooth start to my pink reticule for the new HSF challenge. After buying most of my supplies last week, I sat down and started to sketch out a basic design based on the dimensions of the original.

Using my measurements, I then sketched out pattern pieces for the exterior and the lining of the reticule.

The one thing I found in the initial start-up is there is not a lot of descriptive information available about the original at LACMA outside of the dimensions. Based on the available pictures, the reticule is made up of three embroidered panels sewn together to form a triangular shaped purse. I cut pieces out of muslin then sewed everything together so make sure my measurements and pattern drafting had turned out the way I needed.

It actually turned out very well since the only adjustment it looks like I'll have to make is to the length of the exterior piece of fabric since it ended up being about a 1/4" too short.

The one hitch I've ran into is that apparently small brown tassels are impossible to find. Every craft store I went to had small tassels in every other color and medium-length brown tassels, but no small ones. I couldn't even find a thread that I liked so that I could attempt homemade tassels. So I went for an alternative plan. Instead I bought a length of home decor trim with brown tassels...

Dismantled it...

And ended up with six tassels.

All things considered, I might look into this in the future for the simple reason that it only cost $2.50 for the length of trim and single tassels are about $2 apiece. Much cheaper overall.

I also started cleaning up the lace that I had bought from the store. The one gripe I have with craft store lace of any type is the edges are usually very uneven and choppy. So I grabbed my small scissors and started trimming away the extra netting. Oh what a difference it makes!

Top - Untrimmed Edges, Bottom - Trimmed Edges
With my minor adjustment made to my exterior pattern piece, I'm going to sit down tonight and start cutting pieces from my fashion fabrics.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1870s Bustle - Purple Madness!

Except for hooks and eyes on the waistband (I have to get more from the store) I am finished with my 1870s Grand Bustle finally!

Despite my fabric shortage issues, everything worked out well and now my grand bustle has become a bodacious purple bustle (cackles in laughter). Once it became apparent that I would have to incorporate a lighter shade of the purple into it, I went with it and had fun.

So not only is there alternating layers of ruffle, but the boning channels are also done in the lighter shade.

And I went ahead and grabbed some ribbon for the inner support panel in the same shade.

It's been a long process from start to finish but I'm very satisfied with the outcome of the project. Definitely looking forward to spring when I might be able to wear it with my Indienne tea dress or maybe I'll just have to start another early bustle dress to wear over it (mwu-ha-ha).

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Fabric - Cotton broadcloth in two different shades

Notions - Grosgrain ribbon, grommets, metal boning, pre-made bias tape, x-large plastic zip-ties, hooks and eyes for closure.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Next Challenge for HSF - Pink!

Well onto the next challenge for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. Since I'm doing the half-marathon, I'm jumping to Challenge #3 - Pink. This one is very basic, I have to make something in a shade of pink. Very straight forward, right? Here's my issue, I'm not a huge fan of pink, at least the modern day fuchsia and hot pink that seems to be everywhere.

Because I have only four weeks to complete the challenge and a pink dress is out of the question, I settled for something a little smaller. I love reticules. They're great for keeping small things in when you're out and I find they work a lot better than those matchbox sized evening clutches. I'm pulling my inspiration from this reticule from about 1820-1825 at the Los Angeles Community Museum of Art.

Women's Retitcule 1800-1825 LACMA
Yes, the big draw was the purple, but I also love all the tassels and the shape. So with only a vague idea of how I might approach this, I went off to the fabric store today to purchase materials. Now I have a big pile of - well, this.

A dusty pink dupioni silk with brown lining, cord, and beaded lace. I bought a little extra of everything since I'm going in pretty blind in terms of how to design and sew the reticule. First I'll have to sit down and draft out a pattern then play with the pieces to see how I'll go about things.

In my store wanderings though, I stumbled across this lovely red floral fabric. At $2.50 a yard, I couldn't resist and bought 5 yards of it with future plans for a Regency dress.

Hopefully I'll have a progress report in a couple of weeks for the Pink Challenge.

Costumes of Downton Abbey

In my fervor to get my first Historical Sew Fortnightly project finished, I didn't get around to posting this right away.

In conjunction with the Hudson Library and Historical Society, Sarah Hume, the curator of the Kent State University Museum (I interned here), did a presentation on the changing fashions of Downton Abbey last week.

According to the Downton Abbey timeline, about ten years has passed since the show began. Along with the characters, the clothing they were has undergone an evolution. Hume went over the major historical events and changing attitudes that affected these changes, using examples pulled from the museum's own vast collection of materials.

Blue Wool Suit 1920s
She did an excellent job of pulling materials to compare between the two decades and against the costumes used in the series itself and I got to catch up with Sarah of Sarah's Clothepress.

For those who live in and around the Kent, OH, area, mark your calendars because the museum is going to open a new exhibit July 24 titled The Great War: Women and Fashion in the World Transformed and highlights changes in fashion between 1914-1920.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

HSF - Challenge #1 Make do and Mend

Challenge - Make Do and Mend

Fabric - Cotton broadcloth and grosgrain ribbon

Pattern - Truly Victorian Walking Cage Crinoline (TV142) 

Year: Pattern says 1856, I use it for the 1850s to early 1860s

Notions: Pre-made bias tape

Hours to complete - I don't remember how much I spent when I originally made it, but the alterations/finishing touches I made to prep the channels then sew them closed took about 6 hours total.

First Worn: May 2012, most recently was September 2013

Total Cost - $2 for the bias tape used to close off the channels

How accurate is it?
Heather at Truly Victorian bases most of her patterns off originals. In terms of the methods I used for encasing the boning in the hoop, probably not so accurate. A lot of the crinoline hoops I've found in my research are enclosed completely in fabric or the wire is held within the vertical tapes via metal rivets(?).

1856 Walking Cage Crinoline

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I never made any type of official announcement, but I decided last fall to participate in The Historical Sew Fortnightly put together by The Dreamstress. Since is my first time doing the challenge, I decided to start with the half marathon, especially since I work full time outside of the house.

The first challenge was to make do and mend. What a great opportunity because I have a lot of almost finished projects laying around. The one I ultimately decided to tackle was my late 1850s crinoline hoop skirt. Put together in 2012, I had to immediately wear it to several events and ran out of time to finish off the boning channels. Since they were never finished, the metal boning would pop out of place at regular intervals which made for a lot of riffling through petticoats to adjust the boning.
Exposed boning in unfinished channels
Once I sat down to finish the crinoline hoop a couple weeks ago, the first problem I faced was trying to figure how to connect the cloth boning channels together since you can't really run an overlock stitch over the loose threads (it would seal the channel and the wire would break my machine). I looked up other methods that people had used but wasn't entirely satisfied with the methods I was finding or just didn't work with the type of hoop I had made.

In a moment of insanity, I only fray checked the edges and then sewed the edges together by hand, pulling them in close with just large stitches. It's hard to explain completely without a picture.

Yes it looks horrible but based on the direction I saw this going, it was only temporary and would be covered anyway.

Next step was figuring out how to cover this mess. Initial ideas including going with wide grosgrain ribbon to match the vertical tapes the hoop is made of. However, each of the gapes in the channels were different widths and even the largest width wouldn't cover the one gap I had. Instead, I went out and bought double fold bias tape and used 4"-5" lengths to cover these gaps. The ends were folded under 1/2" then hand stitched in place. Although the bias tape is a little larger than the channels, I like the fact that if I ever run into a problem with the boning, the covers are easily removable.

Bias tape covering the pulled ends and threads on channels
I started off pretty basic and for the next challenge I'm hoping to step it up a bit and pull something together new and a little more advanced (just not sure what yet!).

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Downton Abbey Season 4 review

Here in Ohio we are getting a very frigid start to the new year (the weather forecast shows a high of 3 degrees). On the plus side, with the start of the new year we also have a new season of Downton Abbey to look forward to! I first started watching this wonderful show when it first came out and have been watching since.

The first episode of season 4 aired this past Sunday, January 5, but I have - ahem - connections and have watched the entire season already.

This season opens with Mary still in mourning for the death of Matthew which happened in the last season (six months previously for the Downton Abbey timeline). As she tries to cope with depression and a new baby whom she has little feeling toward, the rest of the Crawley family try to figure what it best for their daughter and the estate which is now having to face the changes of a new era.

As the series progresses, she finds the motivation to keep moving forward through both her work and from her family. Soon enough, two contenders for her hand will enter the scene and lead the viewer on a back and forth debate of what may happen next for Mary.

When we last left the season 3 Christmas special, it was announced that Lady Rose MacClare would be joining the Crawley household. Lady Sybil may be gone, but Rose manages to fill in her place with keeping the Crawley family and the Downton staff on their toes between her various rebellious acts and interests. 

"Let's face it, she is a flapper," remarks Lady Mary at one point. The Christmas Special will see a trip to London for Rose's court presentation which is not to be missed.

For those of us who know history, Lady Edith's own story is bound to get interesting. Not just in this season, but in future storylines as well. Her romance with Michael Gregson, the magazine editor, has become very intense but he is unable to obtain a divorce unless he travels to Germany to become a citizen.

The ensuing struggles Edith faces while she waits at home at Downton Abbey will have the viewer once again remarking, "Poor Edith!" It just seems inescapable.

Not to be ignored of course is the downstairs staff of Downton. Still caught up in the happiness of Mr. Bates' release from prison, he and Anna are living in marital bliss. Tragedy does strike however that will soon test their love and trust in each other. Sorry, but I can't really say much else without giving away the plot. 

Of course no episode would be complete without Mrs. Patmore, Daisy, and now Ivy having a row of some sort in the kitchen. As the two young girls continue to vie for the affection of Alfred, one of the footmen, Mrs. Patmore is always there to offer a bit of advice.

Not to be missed of course is the Dowager Countess (played by the spectacular Dame Maggie Smith). She's back with more wisdom and wit than ever, but we do have a brief glimpse into the future in which there may no longer be a Dowager Countess. It's very depressing to think about.

Other returning favorites include Tom Branson, Lady Sybil's husband and prior chauffeur to the Crawley family, and Martha Levinson played by Shirley McLaine. Her and the Dowager Countess will get a few stabs at each other but not until the Christmas Special at the end. 

There is a lot to look forward to in Season 4 and while it does not seem to move as fast as other seasons, there's a resolution in some of the open plot areas which are only opened by new story points that will no doubt continue into Season 5. 

Costumes of course continue to be wonderful and drool-inducing. Since the series has now reached the early 1920s, there are a number of the loose, frock-like dresses making appearances along with the robe-de-style that I love in particular. 

I would love to include so much more about what to expect this season, but then I would be giving too much away I feel. In short, tune in Sundays to watch the latest season of Downton Abbey. You just can't miss it!

Overall rating - 4.5 out of 5
Costumes - 5 out of 5

For enticement of those who haven't seen the entire season, here's some photos from series: