Your Weekend Wow!

The days are already noticeably shorter, the evenings are starting to cool off, summer is drawing to an end. Perhaps you’d like a little something to ward off the chill, yet not abandon summer altogether? If you happen to have a crochet hook, miles of cotton thread, a sturdy wrist support, a few bottles of aspirin and a bucket of time on your hands…

Belle Époque Irish Lace Coat, c. 1900.

White, full length, raised petal blossoms, openwork lace band near hem, soutache trim in F & B yoke area, small crochet balls around perimeter & hem, cord tie w/ crochet strawberries. Shoulder to shoulder measures 12″, Length is 54″, excellent condition. It sold for $1560.00 in late 2013. (




The “Dunnton Abbey Picnic and Garden Party” was a Success!

The centennial year fundraising picnic for the Seattle Dunn Gardens was a great success. The weather behaved, as much as Seattle weather is wont to do. No rain, no mist, no gusty winds. It stayed in the mid-to-low 70s (F) with intermittent high clouds, a bit of a breeze now and then, a tad humid at times, and sporadic outbreaks of sunshine.

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There were lots of attendees – some even came in garden party attire, which made it all the more enjoyable. As someone said, “It’s so nice to see people take the time to dress nicely for a change.”

There was a wonderful music from The Cornucopia Concert Band. They played a wide range of period music, with everything from Stephen Foster to John Phillip Souza to those fun 1920’s songs. Some of the numbers turned into impromptu singalongs – it was wonderful to see that so many people remember the 11th most popular hit from 1911: Let Me Call You Sweetheart, by the Peerless Quartet.

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The ambiance was helped immensely by the fact there were no hoards of electric (or electronic) gizmos. Not very many people were talking on cell phones. There was one electric pump to keep the garden organic “tea” fertilizer (for sale) circulating. And there were cameras and cell phones for photos. But that was it. The primary sounds were conversation, laughter, the band and the wind in the tree tops. It was heaven.

The local croquet club set up on the formal croquet lawn. A lot of people played for the first time and were surprised to find they liked the game…not nearly as dull as they had imagined. Rather exciting at times, judging from the squeals and shouts of accomplishment. Another area hosted the bocce court, though it was more sedately played. Sadly, I neglected to take photos of either. Sigh.

The antique automobiles came courtesy of LeMay – America’s Car Museum in Tacoma, WA. Each was in pristine condition and had a “watcher” – necessary because, despite the signs, most folks’ natural reaction was reaching out to touch the wood and leather and engraved glass. Even wearing gloves did not spare me from a “Please, don’t touch!” reminder.

There were demonstrations of Edwardian-style flower arranging with the final settings auctioned off to the highest biddder.

And SITU-Seattle members came dressed in fashions ranging from 1911 to the mid-1920’s. Picnics were spread under the trees and a good time was had by all. 2015-08-08 12.23.33

The Official Notice: HSM #8 is Finished!

This should have been a leisurely project, but doing it all last-minute in just four days using nothing but a skeleton pattern upon which to build made it a challenge indeed. And I still hate plackets with a passion.

I would have gladly swapped my hat for this wonderful 1914 Detroit Electric Priscilla Coupe

I would have gladly swapped my hat for this wonderful 1914 Detroit Electric Priscilla Coupe

The Challenge: Heirlooms & Heritage – Re-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.

Project Title: Channeling Downton Abbey

Fabric: 100% cotton stripe from the 2012 RJR Fabrics “The Sweet Shop” collection by Dan Morris.

Pattern: Butterick 6190, used the bodice and skirt pieces only.

Year: 1912

Notions: Very old vintage cotton lace, cotton thread, vintage hooks and bars, snap tape.

How historically accurate is it? Very, except for the snap tape. Hook and eye tape was available in 1912, but snap tape did not come along until later.

Hours to complete: The entire dress was constructed over four days – approximately 24-28 hours.

First worn: Yesterday, August 8th, at the Seattle Dunn Gardens 100th anniversary fundraising event “A Dunnton Abbey Picnic.”

Total cost: Vintage hooks & bars plus snap tape = $1.50. Fabric from stash, approximate cost = $40. Very old vintage lace also from stash, approximate cost = $8. Pattern = $12. Total cost = approximately $62.

Additional Notes: I am a member of Somewhere In Time, Unlimited – Seattle (SITU-Seattle), a group of historic costuming enthusiasts. The Garden Director of Dunn Gardens invited us to attend the fundraiser in Edwardian dress to help “set the stage” and add color. In the spirit of the challenge, I wore the Edwardian Summer Hat I made for HSM #7 and the Edwardian petticoat I made for HSM #6 as well as the dress for HSM #8. I also used very old vintage cotton lace for my heirloom sewing supply, although I’m not sure it’s old enough to truly be considered “heirloom.”


Posing with a 1917 Cadillac Type 55 Club Roadster. (What the heck am I doing with my left hand? It looks like someone stole my parasol and I haven’t yet noticed.)

HSM #8 – The Edwardian Summer Dress is Done!

It’s late and I’m tired. I wouldn’t have believed it possible, but the dress is finished and – if I do say so  myself – lookin’ pretty good. (Especially considering I knocked it out in just four days, basically making it up as I went.) Now I’m really looking forward to the fundraiser/picnic/open air theater performance tomorrow.

The first thing I noticed this morning was when I looked at the bodice on the mannequin, it looked more “Laura Ashley” than Edwardian. The bands over the shoulder were too far apart. When I pulled them in a bit it helped immensely. The bodice went from looking square and block-ish to more narrow and appropriate for the time. (Hopefully this will translate into me looking less square and block-ish, too.)

It’s taken me the better part of the day to get to this point. I may not touch another placket for months. And I feel an affinity developing for “over-the-head” pull on styles, at least for the next dress or two.

Here it is, with more photos and all the details to follow. For now – I gotta get some sleep.





HSM #8 – A Very Productive Thursday

WooHoo! It’s finally looking like a dress, or at least a bodice, and I’m loving the stripes. The fabric is by RJR and is from a 2012  collection called “The Sweet Shop” by Dan Morris. All day yesterday I kept thinking of candy canes and peppermint sticks (when I wasn’t cursing the placket) and hoping I don’t end up looking like a giant version of same. Now I’m far enough along I know that won’t happen.

After I set in the sleeves I kept thinking it looked fine – but a bit boring. I tried adding some solid pink, like I’d done in for faux-draping session, but it wasn’t working for me. So I left the sleeves unhemmed while I considered the options. Then I remembered my stash of vintage lace and something I’d bought a while ago because I thought it would look great on an Edwardian dress. Just as had happened with the hat, once I saw it on the bodice I knew I had to go with it. Using the lace added about three hours of hand sewing but it was worth it.

I used it to hem the sleeves…

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And across the front panel of the bodice…

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Then, just to go a bit overboard, I also used it to edge the pieces running over the shoulders…

I’m not worried about the shoulder straps being too short, since the bottom edges will be completely covered by the cummerbund wrap around the waist. They are not part of the pattern, so I had to figure them out and make the stripes work. It wasn’t difficult but it did take three tries to get them the way I want.

The remaining steps are:

  1. sew the skirt to the bodice,
  2. sew the cummerbund waist wrap in place,
  3. sew on the hooks and eyes, and
  4. hem the skirt.

I think I’m going to make it on time!

Why Do Plackets Hate Me?

I’ve made progress today. The sleeves are on the bodice. My big ol’ upper arms are comfortable in them and they don’t bind at all. I’ll post more dress photos tomorrow. But mostly I’ve spent a good deal of time today with the skirt’s center back placket…more than I’d like.

I don’t know why plackets drive me nuts, but they do. It’s not like they’re intellectually confusing or hard to understand. I’ve done them before although, admittedly, it’s been a while since I last tackled one. And that’s probably because they never come out looking good. Never. Setting in sleeves is a dream. I can do them in my sleep. And I’d rather tackle a dozen sleeves in black fabric, using black thread, at night…rather that than mess with a single placket.

The first time through was completely my error. I had a moment of visual confusion and cut the placket with the stripes running horizontally. The stripes on the skirt run vertically. As a result, the back would have ended up looking like a confusion of peppermint sticks. Fortunately, I caught it early and little harm was done other than loss of some time.

Second time around I oriented the stripes correctly and went through the application step by step. Slowly. Carefully. I reinforced the pivot point. I clipped with caution. And I still ended up with a pucker. Perhaps I should have clipped it more deeply? It’s such a silly thing, but it annoys me to no end.

At this point, my solution will be to carry my picnic basket behind me, hope my shawl is long enough, and spend a lot of time sitting beneath my parasol.

HSM #8: A Fashion Crisis is Afoot.

This deadline is starting to unnerve me. I’m feeling it creep down my neck like an errant spider. The odd thing is that there isn’t really that much to do…this isn’t a horribly complicated pattern and there is enough time to get it done – especially since I’m skipping French class today for the extra three hours of sewing time I’ll gain.

This morning’s e-mail contained instructions for Saturday’s event – 6 pages’ worth!! Directions, maps, schedules, instructions. Whens, wheres, hows and whos. Yesterday it occurred to me that by going as a SITU-Seattle member in Edwardian costume, my role becomes one of “local color.” I’ll be a bit part player on a well-manicured stage. There will be photographers and, since this is an annual fundraiser for the Gardens, the press will be there, too.

That’s all well and good, and I’m happy to help Dunn Gardens with their fundraiser. But I think I”m feeling more pressure than usual to “get it right” this time around.

I’ve been going through a mental list of what I need to wear and to bring. Late Monday night I realized I have a bit of a shoe crisis. I don’t have really correct Edwardian shoes. I can’t afford to run out and buy anything, so I need to work with what I already have.

This shoe thing is using up brain cells I need to finish the dress, so I’d appreciate some help. Here are the contenders – which do you favor for the job? I could probable sneak a second pair in my big picnic basket and change discreetly, if needed. The light is bad again today and I can’t get this first pair to show any detail, so please excuse the crummy images. I’m showing a lot of them, in case that helps you see the details.


A pair of vintage-ish lace-up, wing-tip oxfords. They are black and aren’t comfortable for a long day on my feet, but I can always spread a blanket and “strike a pose” on the lawn whilst picnicking, chatting, reading or hand sewing for an upcoming HSM challenge.


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My pair of Wolkys, also black, which are completely modern but are great for long days.


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A pair of cheapo white flats I bought for “Regency” wear until I can afford better.


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And, come to think of it, I also have a pair of Regency style Nankeen boots from American Duchess.


Whatever I end up choosing, they’ll be mostly hidden under a long skirt. The toes will peep out when I walk and part of the shoes will probably show when I sit. I’m hesitant to go with flats, though, because the dress will be hemmed for wear with heels. And it’s primarily that, along with style issues, that keeps bringing me back to the black oxfords. Should I just give it up and go with them? Aargh!

HSM #8: The Edwardian Summer Dress. And They’re Off…!

racehorse toys on Pinterest

Needless to say, after losing two days to silly upsets and disruptions I have a lot to get done in a relatively short time. Today is the 4th – the event is on the 8th. Gulp. Today calls for serious effort and no fiddling around.

Since the new pattern has both of the bodice pieces, and some others I hadn’t realized were missing, cutting the gown out went relatively quickly. I don’t have time to make a muslin, and that’s a concern. My guess is the pattern itself is forgiving enough to allow tweaks on the fly. At least it’s in my size and, given the contemporary fit, if anything I should need to take it in somewhat here and there. (She says with hope in her heart.)

The pattern I’m using has the skirt shortened in the front and falling to a mild train in the back. NO TRAIN! Not for a picnic with a fashion promenade around the gardens in the midst of it. So that was the first alter-as-you-go change. I had to choose between the hemline finishes of the two extant gowns I’m using for inspiration:

As much as I like the layered overskirt with the pleated hem underskirt, I don’t think time warrants that kind of detail at the moment. So I’m going with a plain skirt. I can always shorten the hemline and add a pleated hem underskirt later. Like on Sunday. One decision down, who knows how many to go.


It’s nearing 3:00 in the afternoon and I need time to take a break, do some hand work and read so my unhappy back can un-knot itself a bit (it does not like production sewing mode, not at all). I started this morning by layering up my dress form with all of the undergarments I’ll be wearing, then padding here and there to my dimensions. Most of the dress pieces have been cut and are ready to go. A few are awaiting final decisions.

The basic core of the bodice is done. I lined it, which isn’t part of the original pattern but made it look much nicer.

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I cut the lining so that the center back edge aligned with the back fold where the pieces overlap and, eventually, the hooks and eyes will be sewn. That hides the edge of the lining under the fabric and will also give some additional support and stability to the stress points of the hook and eye closures.

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I want the stripes oriented horizontally on center of the bodice, but I don’t have the time to start piecing. So I just made a drop panel, lined it, and sewed it to the bodice at the bottom edge. The goal here was two-fold: add a bit of support for the wide waistband that will be tacked in a peak at the center and, considering the lack of period-correct supportive undergarments available for “the girls”, give the bust an extra bit of concealment. The most vigorous sport I plan on playing is croquet, but why tempt fate (and flop)?

This leaves the upped edge of the bodice looking a bit too low, but a band of solid pink along the top will raise it to a more 1912-appropriate height.

I’m not being overly careful with matching stripes – the top shoulders aren’t even close – but serendipity smiled when it came to the center back closure. The edges overlap so that the stripe pattern is unbroken.

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And that’s where I am for now. I need to figure out how to cut the pieces that run over the shoulders to form a V in the front, which I don’t expect to be too problematic. The gathered waistband in the pattern only goes around the front half of the bodice and I’m pretty sure that’s not authentic styling, so I’m going to extend it to wrap completely around the high waist. The sleeves will get a cuff. Once those are in finished and attached to the bodice the bulk of the work is done.

Maybe I’ll have time for an underskirt with a pleated hem after all. 😉

HSM #8: We Are Not Amused – a Fairy Tale in One Part.

Once upon a time, a humble servant (aka, moi) found a pattern she believed would make a good “base” for an Enchanted Edwardian Gown. It is difficult for her to recall whether it was found in the Land of Etsy or the Land of eBay, but in one of those there lived a Retail Princess who offered the pattern at a price below that which was found in any Kingdom. Delighted to  have been so favored by the Sewing Universe, our humble servant inquired as to the health of said pattern. The (scheming) Retail Princess smiled and assured the humble servant the pattern was uncut and in excellent health, although the envelope had suffered slightly in a recent scuffle with a pair of scissors.

Antique Thai Scissors

Antique Thai Scissors

Knowing how scissors can be, feisty underlings that they are, the humble servant felt assured all was well and offered her custom to the Retail Princess. Days later, the pattern arrived by Mechanized Woodsprite Courier Services. The humble underling mended the sliced envelope with Magical Transparent Tape and set it aside.

Yesterday the sun rose and filled the Kingdom with warmth. The humble servant completed her duties in the Land of Blog and the Empire of Facebook, then gathered her fabric and the pattern envelope – eager to see the Enchanted Edwardian Gown come to life.

She shook out the yards and yards of fabric, iron them carefully, then set them aside. Next she opened the pattern envelope and – behold! – there were crinkly bits in the bottom, stuffed inside the pages of directions.

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At that, our humble servant was immediately suspicious, since crinkly bits are not commonly found in any uncut patterns in any Kingdom. So she proceeded with care, teased apart the large leaves of pattern paper and cut the pieces need for the Enchanted Gown. In the end, she discovered that the (dastardly) Retail Princess had lied. The pattern was not uncut, nor was it in good health. The front and back bodice pieces were missing.

Casting a disparaging eye over the crinkly bits, the humble servant gently opened them up, only to find oddly suspicious negative shapes. Shapes that look as those that would have surrounded front and back bodice pieces.

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By then it was too late in the day to act, so the humble servant had a large glass of wine with dinner and called it a day – after issuing multiple verbal curses and conjuring a few lightning bolts against the (truly dastardly) Retail Princess.

(found on Pinterest)

(found on Pinterest)

This morning, the humble servant worked her best magyk upon the Ether of Internet, only to find that the pattern was to be found in none of the local Kingdoms. Special Delivery via Golden Unicorn would take too long. There was nothing to do but mount her trusty steed and search the land.

Sadly, the trusty steed had gone lame in one foot and so time was needed to have the beast re-shod. Eventually, however, the humble servant was underway. To her delight – and, admittedly, more than a bit of exasperation – she discovered that the pattern in question was indeed available in a neighboring Kingdom. Having shaken the last coins from her purse, she held the precious pattern close to chest as she rode home where she decided that another large glass of wine would not be amiss with tonight’s dinner, either.

As for the Truly Dastardly Retail Princess, to her our humble servant offers a wry smile…and about 20,000 volts.

(from giphy)

(from giphy)

HSM #8: Heirlooms and Heritage.

It is said there’s no rest for the wicked, so I’m diving straight into HSM #8.

The Challenge. Heirlooms & HeritageRe-create a garment one of your ancestors wore or would have worn, or use an heirloom sewing supply to create a new heirloom to pass down to the next generations.

I don’t have any “next generations” to specifically pass anything on to, so I’ll be making an Edwardian Summer Dress for SITU-Seattle’s “Dunnton Abbey” Picnic, which is on August 8th. SIX DAYS. Best get myself moving.

As you may recall, I’d thought about the dress long before so I know where I’m headed early on – a bit of a refreshing change for me.

The fabric:

My lovely rose-striped fabric

My lovely rose-striped fabric

The result of playing with rough draping:

Roughly draped concept check.

Roughly draped concept check.

The inspirations:

1912 (Montana Historical Society)

1912 (Montana Historical Society)

1912 (Augusta Auctions)

1912 (Augusta Auctions)

The pattern I’m using as the base to get the drape and proportions correct:

Butterick B6190

Butterick B6190

The goal:

I haven’t made a real dress for quite a while and I’m looking forward to it. Now it’s time to lay the thing out and start cutting. Since time is short, I’ll start with a basic dress. Then I’ll dress up the lower part of the skirt and the sleeves – after the picnic. Unless a minor miracle happens and I whip through this more quickly than I think I will.


Here’s a information about the event, gleaned from the SITU-Seattle member’s website:

It’s the Centennial Garden Party, the one held out on the great lawn behind the manor.  You’ve probably been invited in the past to the annual gatherings, but this year you simply MUST come to this grand event!  The who’s who of society will be there to play a game of croquet, maybe join in a bocce match too, old boy.

Dunn Gardens, Seattle, WA

Dunn Gardens, Seattle, WA

What is this garden party you say?  Why, it’s “Dunnton Abbey,” of course!  Together with the prestigious Dunn Gardens of Seattle, SITU will be participating in a charity fund-raiser at the gardens.  They are located in north Seattle, just northwest of Northgate and near Carkeek Park.  The gardens are just stellar!

The plan is to have all of us sign up in advance so the organizers know exactly how many people are attending.  We, as SITU members, are allowed to bring in our usual picnic supplies (chairs, tables, hampers, etc.) as we will be creating a colorful and charming vignettes amidst the backdrop of the gardens. The rest of the participants will be paying substantial amount of money for the entry fee.  (Note: this is a fundraiser, so the entry fee is $65.)

Professional milliners will be on hand for those who would like to top their crowning glory with a pretty chapeau.  There will also be a Parade of Fashions for the participants, by some of our member volunteers.  There will be Edwardian florists on site demonstrating with their items for sale. There will be a “cake walk”, vintage cars, and more!

 Sir Harry will set up bocce and the Croquet Club is bringing in croquet, so people can play a lively game or two or their favorite pastime.

 If you do not wish to plan your own picnic menu, there will be prepared box lunches available for an $11 purchase. They will be prepared by Il Fornil Bakery. You will need to have pre-paid this so the organizers can order enough lunches in advance.  We understand that a private reserve wine will also be made available for purchase on-site.  The bottle price has not yet been disclosed, but will certainly be a collectible!

Picnic basket – oh yeah – it’s around here somewhere…