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.

2015-08-04 14.06.08

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.

2015-08-04 14.07.09

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.

2015-08-04 14.11.04

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: Heirlooms and Heritage.

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

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.

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…

HSM #3 – Almost There…

2007-01-10 19.53.54I received the waist cincher stays late yesterday. The general framework was finished last night and the bag is complete except for tacking on the last bit of trim (you can see it dangling from the front). I’m down to adding the last 5 hoops. Hooray!

Cutting the hoop wire is a misery on the hands so I’m taking breaks in between each one. I’ll post the finished project this afternoon.

I do need to unearth some lacing for the waist cincher, so at the moment a piece of leftover bias tape is standing in. Here’s how it’s looking. (Please forgive the mess around the cutting table: bags of paper for recycling and boxes for Goodwill.)

Now I’m off to French class…Ă  bientĂŽt!

A Project Update at Last!!

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes

HSM #3, The Case of the Contraband Crinoline, is turning out to be a bit of a detective story in and of itself. Some of my sewing things have not yet been unearthed from the move. And my camera is still missing. *insert complete exasperation here* Perhaps I should have chosen a less sinister-ish title? Oh, well – too late to do much about that now.

I’m beginning to feel perhaps I should hire a good detective…or psychic…or get Professor Trelawney  to read my tea leaves. (Hmmm…that last one might prove a bit dodgy.)

Emma Thompson as Prof. Trelawney

Emma Thompson as Prof. Trelawney

But since my friend’s letting me use her camera, things have been a bit smoother and after a bit, (45 minutes, to be specific) of futzing around with the computer this morning, I was able to upload the latest driver and then upload the files to DropBox. Finally!!! A couple of shots are a tad blurry, so my apologies in advance.

I’ll go back over what I’d written previously and add the photos. Then it’s on to the crinoline’s current status. So, from the top…this is the goal:

First I cut the bone casing (used for the vertical support ribbons/tapes) into lengths, then carefully marked the top and bottom ends, and the levels for each hoop.

Next I cut three pieces of muslin for the bag (the fabric that covers the bottom hoops to prevent accidentally stepping through them), marked the folding and sewing lines and sewed the pieces together.

One section of the bag, with stitching lines for boning channels marked.

One section of the bag, with stitching lines for boning channels marked.

The three bag sections sewn into a long rectangle and folded in half horizontally.

The three bag sections sewn into a long rectangle and folded in half horizontally.

The open ends form the center front and now it was time to sew them together with the boning channel markings matched. Now it’s one big loop.

 With the bag folded back in half again (horizontally) it was time to stitch the boning channels #6, 7 and 8.

I didn’t get as far as planned at the end of the previous post, so now we’re up to date.

Today I started setting up the cage with the bone casing. It’s also the day I’m glad I am OCD enough to have thoroughly marked each length of casing. Starting from the center back, I marked the placement for each of the vertical support tapes all the way around the bag.

Starting from the center back, I marked the placement for each of the vertical support tapes all the way around the bag.

At this point, for reasons that escape me, I decided that I wanted a round of narrow lace around the top of the bag. Nothing fancy – something as plain and “coarse” as the muslin itself. I’ve not seen an extant 1850’s crinoline with lace applied like that, but my mind was set on it. Fortunately, I had a scrap length of just the right thing. (Well, right for what I wanted – not right historically speaking. I think.)

So, as I sewed around the top of the bag to attached the vertical tapes, I also attached the lace.

Once I had all of the tapes sewn in place, I laid it out so I could see “the big picture.” The first thought that came to mind is that of a corset cover for an enormous octopus…that’s missing one arm.

So now the bag, with its bands trailing, is folded up and awaiting construction of the waist cincher, from which the bands will hang (with the bag at the bottom).

2007-01-05 01.32.51

And the waist cincher is awaiting the arrival of 5 four-inch lengths of white steel boning. Happily, they should be here in a couple of days. I also realized I need another coil of boning and it will be here soon as well.

So I’m gonna try, however I may not make the due date on the 30th. But I’ll be pretty darned close…as long as that weird octopus thing behaves itself.

The Contraband Crinoline – Update

(I think my cell phone is dying – it’s acting strange and refuses to upload photos to Dropbox. My camera battery is dead and I can’t locate the charger. So no photos today – aargh! – but I will show the steps as soon as I can.)


"The Crinoline Factory" (French print, no date given)

“The Crinoline Factory” (French print, no date given)

I have a confession to make. As excited as I am about the concept behind this project, I was more than a bit worried about its execution. This happens every time I venture into new sewing territory and must blindly trust that whatever directions I’m given will get me where I want to end up. (Excluding operator error, of course.) And, for some reason, the mere size of the crinoline was intimidating. Why? I don’t have a clue. After all, it’s 90% open space.

However, one must start if one expects to finish. In the process of setting up my cutting table I decided to turn the dining room into the sewing space. It has better light and I’ll be closer to the heater in winter. That frees up the office space for fabric storage, patterns, mannequins, works in progress…all of those things.

Having full access to my cutting table again is wonderful. Once I got the crinoline pattern fully laid out (all one page of it) I realized it’s not nearly as big and cumbersome as I’d thought. And working with a Truly Victorian pattern really makes life easy.

First I cut the bone casing into lengths and marked the levels for each hoop.

Then I cut three pieces of muslin for the bag (the fabric that covers the bottom hoops to prevent accidentally stepping through the hoops), marked the folding and sewing lines and sewed the pieces together.

Today I start setting up the cage with the bone casing. It’s also the day I’m glad I am OCD enough to have thoroughly marked each length of casing.

Pretty dull without the photos, huh? To make up for it, here’s a look at one of my favorite Civil War Era dresses. Wish I know what the colors were. And I love those loops – I think they’re velvet!

1860's Dress with dark intersecting rings as trim on the skirt and sleeves.

1860’s Dress with dark intersecting rings as trim on the skirt and sleeves.

HSM #4: War and Peace – Project Revealed

I heard back from Karen Abbott, who was on the road travelling, with permission (thank you!) to quote her article posted on Military History Now. I’ve added images to help set the scenes. I hope you find this bit of women’s history as interesting as I do.

Union soldiers pausing on their march through Frederick, Maryland, in 1862.

Union soldiers pausing in Frederick, Maryland, 1862.


Heroines, Smugglers and Spies – The Forgotten Contributions of Women to the American Civil War

There was work for everyone during the American Civil War
 even women—especially women. Mothers, sisters and wives had to adjust quickly to the sudden absence of men. And while women had no vote, no straightforward access to political discourse and no influence in how the battles were to be waged, they did take control of America’s homes, businesses and plantations.

Pauline Cushman (born Harriet Wood) 1833-1893 - Actress and Union Spy

Pauline Cushman (born Harriet Wood) 1833-1893 – Actress and Union Spy

Women on both sides fueled their states’ war efforts. They raised money for weapons, supplies and materiel through the aid societies they founded and ran. Others rolled bandages, sewed banners and made uniforms. And some—privately or publicly, with shrewd caution or gleeful abandon—chafed at the limitations society set for them and determined to change the course of the war, or at least the course of their own lives.

Smugglers in Skirts

A southern woman unloading boots, which she attempted to wear across Union lines.

A southern woman unloading boots, which she attempted to wear across Union lines.

Some women famously brought fashion into the war effort. Ladies clothing of the era included crinoline, the rigid, cage-like structure worn under skirts that, at the apex of its popularity, could reach a diameters of six feet. Some patriotic women capitalized on their cumbersome and cavernous garments, using them to concealing all manner of goods as they passed through enemy lines.

On one occasion, a Southern woman managed to conceal inside her hoop skirt

  • a roll of army cloth
  • several pairs of cavalry boots
  • a roll of crimson flannel
  • packages of gilt braid and sewing silk
  • cans of preserved meats
  • and a bag of coffee

—quite a tally of contraband.

Belle Boyd, confederate spy and smuggler (1844-1900)

Belle Boyd, Confederate spy and smuggler (1844-1900)

A network of rebel women, led by Confederate courier and spy Belle Boyd, crept about Union camps, gathering thousands of unattended sabers and pistols and tying them to the steel coils of their hoop skirts. One day the 28th Pennsylvania Regiment, encamped near Harpers Ferry, discovered a cache of 200 sabers, 400 pistols, cavalry equipment for 200 men, and 1,400 muskets, all stashed inside barns and outhouses and buried underground, awaiting transfer to Southern lines.


You can probably see where I’m headed with this…welcome to HSM #4: War and Peace – “The Case of the Contraband Crinoline.”

"The Lady and the Dress" Punch Magazine, August 1856

“The Lady and the Dress” Punch Magazine, August 1856

HSM Challenge #4: War and Peace

twins having fun

twins having fun

April 1st seems like a good day to start on HSM Challenge #4.

The guidelines are: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.

A dozen ideas have run through my mind, then I read an article by Karen Abbott on Military History Now that set a plan firmly in mind.

At this time I’m waiting to hear back from Ms. Abbott with (hopefully) permission to use some of her writing to explain my project. Fingers crossed!

HSM Challenge #3 is Done!

2015-03-31 21.42.30My “stashbusting” 1855 wool crocheted shawl is done…and with 2 hours to spare, no less. I scavenged the wool (“frogged” it) from an 1840’s-style shawl I’d started to knit long ago but didn’t like the way it was draping. The wool’s partially recycled and somewhat coarse. That makes it ideal for its intended use as a cool-weather wrap while I spend time as a re-enactor at a historic frontier fort and fur-trading site where time has been frozen at 1855…basic, no frills, no luxury. It’s just what I’ll need come early fall. And those few women who were settling the area needed to re-use whatever they could, so I figured /hoped using 100% recycled wool would not run afoul of historical correctness.

Sophie, of course, stayed with me to the bitter end.

Here are the specifics for HSM #3, which I’m calling “Warm Wool Wound all Around”:

The Challenge: Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.

Fabric: 100% wool

Pattern: My own

Year: 1885

Notions: wool and crochet hook

How historically accurate is it? Very – I created the pattern based on photos of extant shawls and extant crochet patterns from the era

Hours to complete: approximately 10-11

First worn: not yet worn

Total cost: 0$ – everything came from my stash

Reflect, Reconsider and Revise

(Image found on Pinterest)

(Image found on Pinterest)

This past weekend was our town’s annual Victorian Heritage Festival. It was windy, rainy and cold. But that’s not why I missed it. I missed it because, once again, I hadn’t finished my Victorian clothing. And, once again, that irritates me.

In addition, March is almost at an end and I’ve only completed one of the twelve HSM 2015 challenges. I didn’t make it past April last year and I want to see the finish line in December this year.

sherlockI decided it was time for a good course of forensic retrospection to determine the cause and change where I’m getting off course. Identifying the underlying issues wasn’t too tough. It boils down to six areas of consistent error:

  1. I love recreating period dress. I love a wide range of eras and styles. I want to try it all. And I want to do it now. Think Historic Costuming meets ADHD, then add sugar.
  2. I sew more slowly than I used to. On one hand I’m more cautious about doing things correctly. On the other hand, I’m just slower and can’t stand to rush. I used to get into production mode when I was sewing and could go for hours without stopping (15 hours is my personal best). But not any more.
  3. I like challenges and tend to sign on to whatever looks enticing – regardless of whether I have even the faintest idea of what’s involved or not. And I choose the project for each challenge randomly.
  4. Because of #2 and #3 I consistently and chronically underestimate how long it will take to get anything done. I used to whip out a skirt in an hour, easily. But it didn’t involve yards of fabric, flatlining, plackets, hidden pockets, and all sorts of ruffles and other hemline treatments. I tend to forget that.
  5. Events pop up throughout the year and I think “Ooh – I want to do that one, too.” So I stop what I’d started, start something new, can’t get it done in time and find myself with two unfinished projects, instead of one.
  6. The corollary to #5 is that since my historically-correct underwear collection is, shall we say, sparse, heading into a new style means sewing everything from the inside out. An Edwardian tea coming up? I can’t just make a dress. I need corset, princess slip and petticoats, stockings, gloves, shoes. The same goes for Regency, Romantic Era, all the Bustle Eras and on and on.

The problem is glaringly obvious: I don’t really have a plan with/for any of this.

white lotusSo I let that thought percolate a while, after which I changed my perspective and the way I make decisions about my sewing. Instead of “What do I want to make?” I asked myself “What do I want to do in my period dress?” and “What do I need to do to make it happen?” Then things started falling into place.

First, I’m letting go of the 17th Century Challenge. It’s just too much and requires techniques I know nothing about – I can’t even correctly name all the pieces of clothing. That’s a clue. But I’ll follow what the rest of the folks are doing this year and learn from them so maybe I can hop back in next year.

Second, I’d like to complete three sets of period dress this year: Regency, 1855 and 1888. Here’s what involved with each –

Regency: a dress, cap, stockings, reticule and a spencer/cape/redingote. I’ll buy the stockings (silk). I have patterns and fabric for the rest.

1855: a dress, corded petticoat and a few regular petticoats, stockings, cap, bonnet, shoes, stockings and a mantle/pardessus/cloak. Have patterns and fabrics for everything but the bonnet. Will buy shoes and stockings (wool for winter). Should make a period-correct corset, but will cheat this year with the Victorian corset I already have and put a period-correct corset on next year’s list.

1888: a wintertime dress, two more petticoats, bonnet, boots, warm coat, muff. Have patterns. Have fabric for petticoats. Have antique Victorian coat buttons. Have lining for coat. Need fabric for dress, coat and muff. Will buy boots.

That’s a lot, but I have the HSM monthly challenges and I can revise them to do double duty: meet a challenge and finish my goals. Like this –


  • Foundations: make something that is the foundation of a period outfit.
  • Project: 1855 petticoat.
  • Title: A Pert and Pretty Petticoat


  • Colour Challenge Blue: Make an item that features blue, in any shade from azure to zaffre.
  • Project: A Civil War era houswife (hussif, husif).
  • Title: The Blue Housewife


  • Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.
  • Project: An 1888 petticoat.
  • Title: I Can See For Miles and Miles


  • War & Peace: the extremes of conflict and long periods of peacetime both influence what people wear.  Make something that shows the effects of war, or of extended peace.
  • Project: 1855 corded petticoat.
  • Title: The Ties That Bind


  • Practicality:  Fancy party frocks are all very well, but everyone, even princesses, sometimes needs a practical garment that you can DO things in.  Create the jeans-and-T-Shirt-get-the-house-clean-and-garden-sorted outfit of your chosen period.
  • Project: 1855 wrapper.
  • Title: That’s a Wrap!


  • Out of Your Comfort Zone: Create a garment from a time period you haven’t done before, or that uses a new skill or technique that you’ve never tried before.
  • Project: 1855 mantle/pardesus from a period pattern.
  • Title: Oops, I Did It Again.


  • Accessorize: The final touch of the right accessory creates the perfect period look.  Bring an outfit together by creating an accessory to go with your historical wardrobe.
  • Project: Knitted 1860’s sontag (“bosom buddy”).
  • Title: Sing a Song for the Sontag


  • 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: Late Bustle Era petticoat with antique lace and trim.
  • Title: Ruffles and Laces and Bows…Oh, My!


  • Colour Challenge Brown: it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.
  • Project: Hand-sewn 1855 bonnet.
  • Title: Bippity, Boppity, Boo!


  • Sewing Secrets: Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).
  • Project: Hidden Traveller’s Pocket.
  • Title: My Pockets are Empty, See?


  • Silver Screen: Be inspired by period fashions as shown onscreen (film or TV), and recreate your favourite historical costume as a historically accurate period piece.
  • Project: Regency dress and cloak.
  • Title: Hiding from Mr. Collins


  • Re-Do:  It’s the last challenge of the year, so let’s keep things simple by re-doing any of the previous 11 challenges.
  • Color Challenge Brown
  • Project: 1888 dress.
  • Title: Hot Chocolate!

This gives me most of what I need to end up with three complete wardrobes by the end of the year. I feel less mentally scattered and more focused on specific end points. I’ll be ready for this year’s upcoming winter events and won’t get caught short for next year’s Festival.

If all goes according to plan. *wink*

Info on the Ageless Patternsℱ Dress Mentioned in the Previous Post

Harper's Bazar, 1877

Harper’s Bazar, 1877

I neglected to give any information about my Ageless Patterns purchase, made whilst in the grip of quasi-delusional determination to give it a try. The front is a bit odd – what’s up with those pleated pocket-looking things over the boobs? – but I fell for the back with its draping, ruffles and pleats. It may well be the most complicated gown I tackle, but abject fear (and lack of common sense) has never stopped me before. No good reason to change that now.

The pattern, copyrighted and sold as Ageless Patternsℱ # 1614, is described thusly: This dress or polonaise was made of plain pale pink zephyr wool, pink and dark gray striped zephyr wool and trimmed with side pleated ruffles. I love how those six little words “and trimmed with side pleated ruffles” skim over the hours and hours of work behind them.

Note: Zephyr cloth, also referred to as zephyr wool, is a thin kind of cashmere made in Belgium. Cashmere was historically known as “cassimere” and “kerseymere.” There are a number of definitions for this fabric – here are a few:

  1. a thin, lightweight, twilled woolen fabric,
  2. a heavily fulled, twill-weave woolen cloth finished with a fine nap,
  3. a fine soft woollen cloth of twill weave,
  4. an inexpensive version of this fabric, made with a cotton warp and a wool weft.

As is the case with most Ageless Patterns, it comes in only one size: 34-inch bust and 20-inch waist. Needless to say, there will be a considerable amount of re-sizing and many, many muslins until I get the fit right.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the brand, Ageless Patterns come with a reproduction of the original pattern and a copy of the original sewing instructions. These instructions were written for experienced dressmakers of the time who already knew the basics of Natural Form construction and didn’t need step-by-step instructions. (Fortunately, the pattern pieces have 5/8-inch seam allowances added, avoiding at least one potential error from the start.)

There is no hand-holding and the patterns are not for the beginner or the faint of heart. Yet there is sits in my pattern box, awaiting its chance for fame and glory unenviable notoriety. Optimism or insanity? We’ll find out eventually.