The Continuing Saga of the 1870’s Bustle Hat, Victorian pocket watch detail

Victorian pocket watch detail from

Once I had 5 minutes of time to breathe, I realized the Bustle Hat class was coming to an end on the 30th. Everything was coming down at 6pm: the course videos, access to the course handouts, and the fabulous Facebook class group. With typical “whoa – I bet I can finish this up today” over-enthusiasm I watched the rest of the videos, made sure I had downloaded all of the course handouts, gathered up my mountain of trim and started working on the hat.

Finishing up the underside of the brim only took 30 minutes or so, even with all the hand sewing.

Next it was finally time to attach the brim to the crown (or is that vice versa?).

This hat has a wickedly curved brim. I found out this detail makes stabilizing the little bugger a bit tricky – especially for an aspiring millinery student, such as myself.  One day I may choose an easy first project, but it will probably be by accident. *rolls eyes*

In any case, the instructions were to make life easier for myself by tacking the center front and back in place, then by tacking the sides, and then start the real hand sewing to permanently attach the crown. All I can say is…what a PIA it’s become. I know this is the hardest part, but really now.

It quickly became obvious that I was not going to finish the hat by 6pm, no matter how much time (or blood) was spent. So I posted the “this is as far as I got” photos, thanked everyone for a wonderful class, and bowed out with as much grace as I could manage. Here are the last official photos of the hat, still in progress:

Hat perched atop water bottle - crown pinned to brim

Hat perched atop water bottle – crown pinned to brim

Bias trim draped loosely around base of crown to show future placement

Bias trim draped loosely around base of crown to show future placement

I now have the center front and back tacked into place, but am wrestling with the sides. Even with the pins in place, as soon as I touch the thing it wants to pop loose from the curve. *grumble/whine/complain*

Side view of brim, correctly shaped with pronounced bend

Side view of brim, correctly shaped with pronounced bend

The brim is now curved into its final shape and its is a real nightmare to handle. I find myself spending my spare moments wishing I had a cobblers sewing machine, or a power stapler with ginormously long arms. It’s going to be slow going for a couple of days – I’m afraid I can’t rush this step without incurring a near-fatal injury.

But, silly me – I’m still in love with the stupid thing and can’t wait to start playing with the trim: lots of netting, flowers, leaves and that odd, oval ornament thingy in the center front that needs a bit of inspired imagination. Still a good bit of play time left, though, and I’m rather pleased about that.

The goal - from an 1871 fashion illustration.

The goal – from an 1871 fashion illustration.


Just Things

Spring is considering its options at last.

Spring is finally here at last.

I haven’t written for a while and I thought I’d best let you know what’s been happening.

On Thursday last week I awoke to find my best friend knocking on my door. Her mother had a huge stroke early in the morning and she had to leave town ASAP. Would I fill in as an emergency pet and house sitter? Of course! She ran off for the airport and I decamped to her house a short distance outside of town. Her mother passed away two days later and she has been out-of-state with her family picking up the pieces of a very complicated estate. She hopes to be back on Saturday, but things remain flexible. I’m so glad that I don’t have any hard-set conflicting commitments so that I can do this for her.

The only wrinkle in the works for me is not having access to my sewing space and fabric and tools, etc. I thought about hauling it all back and forth, but it’s just too much of a pain and I don’t want to go there. As a result, my historical sewing projects, which were already a bit behind, are a little more behind. But they are only things, and things can wait. This is where they stand, in no particular order.

Thing #1: the 1870’s Bustle Hat

Bias trim finish for edge of brim

Bias trim finish for edge of brim

The crown and brim are completely covered in fabric. The bias trim is pinned to the outer edge of the brim and I want to get it sewn on today, if possible. Right now it looks like a Saint Catherine’s Wheel of opportunity for bloodshed, but we’ll see. The class is officially over, but the course materials, videos and Facebook group are available until the 30th, so I have time. Wish me luck.

Thing #2: the 1870 Bustle Dress

overskirt front pinned to left side drape

overskirt front pinned to left side drape

Not much has happened since I set it aside. I did hem the ruffle and it is ready to be placed and sewn on. When I get back home the skirt is going back on the dress form. Now that there’s no 4-alarm urgency to finish I’m happy to have the time to work on it methodically.

Thing #3: the Historical Sew Fortnightly

The HSF has really taken a back seat. Challenge #5 was for a bodice, which was going to be the bodice for the 1870’s Bustle Dress, which fell behind. I’d already planned to skip challenge #6 (Fairytale), so there is a slim chance I just might succeed.

Challenge #7 is Tops and Toes – Create an accessory that goes on your head, or on your feet. It’s due on April 15th and my 1870’s Bustle Hat should be finished by then.

Challenge #8, UFO’s and PHD’s, is due May 1st – Use this opportunity to finish off something that’s never quite gotten done, or stalled halfway through. Do I hear a second chance for the Bustle Dress skirt and bodice? Absolutely!

Thing #4: the Victorian Corset Class

My first Victorian corset - 2011

My first Victorian corset – 2011

Lesson #2 came out two days ago and I still haven’t gone through it. I took my measurements, determined my size and got all the pieces sorted and marked before the knock on the door. The fabrics are ready to go. The mock-up needs to be laid out and cut, then sewn and checked for fit. If my friend gets back on Saturday as planned I’ll have enough time to catch up on Sunday.

So, things are fine. I’ll see how far I get with the hat today and tomorrow. After that…well, we’ll just see.


Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7 – The 1870’s Bustle Hat

Miss Johannesen, dance instructor, 1872.

Miss Johannesen, dance instructor, 1872.

While all the excitement of getting ready for the Victorian Heritage Festival was burbling along, I was taking two online classes with Jennifer Rosbrugh: the Victorian Undergarments class and the 1880’s (or 1870’s) Bustle Hat class.

I finished the undergarments and love my new “under-semble” of things.

The hat has proven to be more of a challenge. I’ve ripped apart and re-decorated hats for eons, but have never made one from scratch. This is true beginning millinery; something I’ve wanted to try for a long time. So when the opportunity arose to take a class, I jumped at it.

My 1870’s bustle dress-in-the-making is in need of a hat. In addition, the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #7 is Tops and Toes: create an accessory that goes on your head, or on your feet. It’s due on April 15th – 17 days from now.

The 1870’s were a time of Big Hair, lifted upwards and to the back of the head then, usually with hair pieces, left to fall in enormous braids and/or curls. The photograph of Miss Johannesen above is a perfect example.

The hats were worn forward on the head, tilting from the forehead in the front to the height of the hairdo at the back, and decorated with just about anything. Again, Miss Johannesen got it right.

The illustration I want to re-create is a perfect summer hat: a jaunty base with ribbon, flowers and netting. Then I found a photo on Pinterest that put the hat:hair ratio into startling context and set it as the “do not exceed these parameters” limit for size. (Although I must confess I’d love to do my hair with a ginormous braid like that, then be able to whip out the photo when the “perfectionists” start commenting – aka criticizing.)

The class is using a hat pattern from Truly Victorian, however we were given permission to use a different hat pattern if we wanted to do so. And, of course, I wanted. Jennifer supplied a list of millinery pattern makers and suppliers. To my astonishment, DeniseNadineDesigns offers a hat pattern that was inspired by the very illustration I has chosen as my inspiration. The universe aligned, I happened to be paying attention, and hey-presto! This all occurred the Friday before the class was to start, so I ordered the pattern kit that has the pre-marked buckram, wire, thread, bias tape, patterns and instructions. I had no time to waste hunting down all the pieces individually and as it turned out, I probably broke even, cost wise considering the distance I’d have traveled to put it all together.

Dale Lynn by DeniseNadineDesigns

(copyright denisenadinedesigns)

By the time the kit arrived I was in the throes of the Victorian Fest costuming crunch and the class was well ahead of me. I was eternally grateful I had ordered the kit and saved myself some time. The class Facebook group was posting some amazing and inspiring creations. I just made one itty, bitty booboo. I focused on the instructions that came with the kit and not the instructions that came with the class.


The kit instructions are for a more advanced/skilled millinery student than myself. I ran into problems fairly early on because I didn’t know what I was doing and the techniques were too advanced for me. While I was struggling, the class kept pouring out these amazing photos of their finished hats and works in progress. I was starting to feel a bit dense and discouraged. Jennifer advised me to just follow the class instructions, written and video, and not worry so much about what I’d received with the kit. I set everything aside until the Victorian Festival was over – I wanted to concentrate on the hat alone and do it correctly from there on out.

I picked it up a couple of days ago, grabbed the class instructions, watched the videos to catch up to where I was and right off the bat discovered I had another problem: the crown was too big for the tip. Jennifer cautions about this in her video, but the kit’s instructions did not and I was blindly following them. Oh, nuts. Happily, I am hand-sewing the hat and not power-gluing my way through it, so all I had to do was pick out the stitching from the buckram, adjust and re-sew the crown to fit the tip.

Tip pinned to crown and ready to sew

Tip pinned to crown and ready to sew

I am now at the step of sewing the tip to the crown, which is today’s big project. Yeah, I think I sewed the crown inside out (I believe the center front marking should be on the inside) but so it goes. I am also putting the bias tape over the now-wired outer edge of the brim. Once the tip is sewn to the crown I’ll also be putting bias tape around the edge where the crown and tip are sewn. Then it’s apply the flannel mull to the crown. And if I get all of that done today I’ll be a happy camper.

My next class, a Victorian Corset, starts on April 1st so I have a few more days to work on the hat body. I’m not concerned with the trim…that’s just a matter of playing with the elements to get the right look and balance, and I have a good illustration to follow.

So for now it’s off to play with needle, thread and buckram once again. Let’s see just how far I get today…

Running on Empty

I’m having one of those days with sooo much that needs doing and I’m feeling so overwhelmed by it that I have no energy to do it. The Victorian Heritage Festival is one week from today and all I have completed is the underwear, which is a bit problematic from just about every angle (no pun intended).

The underskirt is awaiting its ruffle, which depends on which shoes I’m going to wear, which I have not yet decided.

The overskirt front piece has absolutely no life and the center hangs from the side pleats like wet paper, so I decided to go ahead and line it with the last of the black fabric. Except I somehow measured incorrectly and the lining piece is two inches too narrow. I set that aside earlier this morning to ponder the options.

The 10-day forecast calls for highs in the 40’s and overcast/cloudy skies next weekend. No rain, but there will be wind – out here on a peninsula with the entire Pacific Ocean just around the corner, wind is a fact of life. And if it’s going to be that cold, I’ll freeze without a wrap. So, to take my mind off the overskirt debacle, I decided to just cut out the fabric, the flannel flat lining, and the lining so it would be ready to go when the time came. It’s a large-scale brocade-like print done on a mid-weight home dec cotton fabric. I ordered enough, I hope, to allow for matching the print. But I cut the first piece, the left front, and my brain just kinda snapped. Which way to mirror this saves more fabric? Do I really have enough fabric? How did I calculate the yardage? Thanks heavens it’s only 4 pieces…uh, oh…that back part looks a little tricky. And just when do I think I’ll have time to make the waist for the bustle dress – which just also happens to be my Historical Sew Fortnightly project?

Then there’s the petticoat for the Victorian Undergarments class that’s nagging at me.

And the project for my 1880’s Bustle Hat class that I’m making completely by hand with the goal of wearing next weekend needs attention. The tip and crown are wired, the brim is next. After the buckram frame is together it needs the mull, then the fabric, then the trim. And I’ve never made a hat from scratch before, so I’m not rushing it. At least, trying not to.

I took a break and played with my Pinterst boards, only to get confused by how to tell a Victorian house dress from a tea gown when they look the same to me: one piece, front button, princess seams, Watteau back, embroidery work, lacy bits – how does one tell, or are the people who post them confused, or are they really one and the same, or…

My mind is spinning as if I had one foot nailed to the floor so I can only run in circles.

In the past, I’d just push through and force myself to do something – anything – towards getting these projects done. But I have learned two very important things.

First, when my mind is this jumbled, forcing myself to keep going only creates more problems than it solves. And fixing those problems will take twice as long as it took to create them, if not more. (I can be extremely creative when it comes to “alternative” ways to mess things up.)

Second, I’m a bit slower than I used to be and, when coupled with learning how to make clothing that I’ve never tackled before, I need more time than I’m giving myself to get these projects done. My allotted time frame needs a serious reality check.

So for the rest of the day, unless inspiration strikes earlier, I am going to back off the gas. Lunch is way past due, so that’s next. Then maybe I’ll knit a bit or read or even take a nap. And, while I’m calmly sewing the wire to the buckram for the brim of my hat, the rest of this jumble will be percolating away in the back of my mind, sorting itself out, and I’ll then be ready to pick up the scissors again and sally forth.

At least I bloody hope so.

The Early 1870’s Bustle Dress and HSF Challenge #5 “Bodice Black and Blue”

Fichu and fabric for Early 1870s-style Bustle Dress

Fichu and fabric for Early 1870s-style Bustle Dress

The annual Victorian Heritage Festival is less than a month away, so *ahem* I think it’s time to get my new bustle dress underway. I want something I can wear with the 1870 fichu I made for the Historical Sew Fortnightly. And the next HSF Challenge (#5) is “Make a bodice – a garment that covers the upper body.  You can either abide by the strictest historical sense (see the blog post for history of bodice terminology) or can explore the idea of bodices in a more general sense.” I just love it when these kind of things come together. And I had the perfect fabric already in my stash, so making the rest of the decisions has been pretty easy.

The first time I saw the fabric it made me think of the 1930’s, except for the color being wrong. Then I saw a photo of an extant garment (can’t recall where it was) and it was just about a dead match. So I took about 10 yards home and it’s been waiting patiently ever since.

Here’s the plan:

1) Truly Victorian #104 – 1870 Blouse Waist Patten, View B

2) Truly Victorian #210 – 1870’s Underskirt, with ruffle

3) Truly Victorian #401 – 1872 Side Drape Overskirt

I already have the combo petticoat/bustle I made in 2011 from Truly Victorian #101, Petticoat with Wire Bustle (made before the pattern was revised…not sure how the new one differs). All of the eyelet ruffles were from a single twin-size bed ruffle; $2.99 at Goodwill.

I started laying out and cutting the underskirt yesterday, which also happened to be the launch for the Imperial Tonure (bustle) project for my Victorian Undergarments class. Since I had the fabric all laid out and ready to go I went ahead and cut out the underskirt. Deluding myself once again, I planned on having it together in a jiffy. Then I somehow managed to lose all track of orientation with the pieces and sewed the side back panel to the waist edge of the center back panel. This left me about 4 inches of fabric short from meeting edge to edge. So I shook my head, laughed, and pulled out my seam ripper. The phone rang, the dog needed to out, the mailman came and I settled back in and proceeded to sew the right back side panel to the left side. *rolls eyes* I really do amaze myself sometimes. Another quick bout of “un-sewing” and it went together the way it should. Sheesh. (It’s never the complicated stuff that gets me. Probably something very telling in that.)

While I was in the middle of fabric origami it I remembered a trick I’d heard of but never used. To help keep in-seam pockets in place, the suggestion was to cut the pocket with a little bridge of fabric at the base, which then gets sewn into the seam and prevents the pocket from shifting or moving around too much. By that time the simplest things were becoming interesting so, I figured, why not give it a try. After all, it didn’t look as if the seam ripper was going away any time soon.

Here’s what the right side pocket looks like:

It’s getting late enough now that I want to stop for the night…need to rest my cold and achy hands. Tomorrow, the rest of the underskirt (a bit more than a full size smaller than the last one I made – yay!) goes together and we’ll see if those bridges hold up to the promises. Then, hopefully, I’ll get the “Big Mama” Imperial Tonure cut and underway.

HSF #4 – Under It All – is finished!

copyright Daisuke Tomiasu 2003

copyright Daisuke Tomiasu 2003

Title: A Pair of Pretty Pantalettes

The Challenge:   #4: Under it All. Make the foundations of your outfit: the things that go under it to provide the right shape and support, and to protect your fancy outer garments from sweat and grime.

Fabric: 100% cotton twin sheet with embroidered eyelet band already applied.

Year: 1800-1817 (Regency)

Notions:  white thread, white grosgrain ribbon

1800-1830 Pantalettes pattern from The Mantua Maker

The Mantua Maker

How historically accurate is it? The pattern (from The Mantua Maker) is 100% historically accurate. Use of pre-embroidered sheet is not, but it is 100% cotton – including the embroidery (no shiny nylon/poly thread; it was a high-quality sheet). Was going to 100% hand-sew, but cold weather makes for achy hands these days and I finally used the machine to French seam the inside leg seams last night.

Hours to complete: 30 minutes to pin and cut, 3 hours of hand sewing (I’m slow, but I love it.), and about 45 minutes of machine work.

First worn: not yet worn

Total cost: $2.99 for one twin-size cotton embroidered sheet at Goodwill + $0.27 tax = $3.26 total. Already had pattern, notions and supplies.

Comments: Easy-peasy project to make up for the Edwardian Drawers. Here are they are. My shop mannequin is much smaller and shorter than I am, so they look a bit disproportionate. I have layers of Early Bustle paraphernalia on my working dress form and don’t want to mess around with undressing her.

Regency Pantalettes

1800-1830 Pantalettes pattern from The Mantua Maker

1800-1830 Pantalettes pattern from The Mantua Maker

The Victorian Undergarments class is working on Victorian drawers this week. I decided to pass, since I already have one pair of Victorian drawers I made, 2 pair of antique drawers that I wear, 1 pair of antique drawers I just bought for $5 (they have 2 holes that need mending, otherwise perfect) and the pair of Edwardian drawers I just finished for the Historical Sew Fortnightly.

However, HSF Challenge #4 is Under It All:

  • Make the foundations of your outfit: the things that go under it to provide the right shape and support, and to protect your fancy outer garments from sweat and grime

I don’t have my Regency wardrobe together yet, but when I do I will indeed be wanting something under it all, so I’m whipping up a pair of Regency pantalettes.

I’m using The Mantua Maker’s pattern – easy to make and excellent instructions. For fabric I went into my embroidered sheet stash and chose a high-quality 100% cotton sheet with a wide, pre-applied band of cotton-thread eyelet embroidery that – if you squint – could almost plausibly pass for crude broiderie-anglaise. Not 100% accurate, but for a whopping $3 from Goodwill the price can’t be beat. Plus, I’m dog- and house-sitting for a friend, which leaves me relegated to hand sewing for the weekend and that’s what I had on hand for a quick grab-and-go project.

The pattern is a historically-accurate two-leg pair of pantalettes. Each leg is independent of the other. A ribbon threads through the top and the legs tie on at the waist separately.

The finished pantalettes, as made and sold on Etsy by Historika.

Finished Mantua Maker pattern pantalettes, as made and sold on Etsy by Historika.

This is what made it possible for a lady to loose one leg – if the tie came undone the leg would simply slip to the ground. The poor, unhappy wearer would then be faced with one of two humiliating options: stop and bend over to retrieve the fallen leg (no true gentleman would ever touch a woman’s undergarments) or keep on walking and simply leave the fallen leg behind.

You can also see a seam at the upper portion of each leg. This piecing allows the “business” upper par of the leg to be made of a sturdy fabric, while the lower part of the leg can be of a more delicate fabric, such as lace or dimity.

I don’t want to sit on a seam or have a seam running around my thigh  – no added bulk needed there, thank you very much – so I cut each leg as a single piece.

And I don’t want two pieces of ribbon tied around my waist, so I’ve decided to place the legs on a single length of grosgrain ribbon and let the chips – or pantalettes – fall where they may.

HSF #3 – Make Something Pink – is finished!

copyright Daisuke Tomiasu 2003

copyright Daisuke Tomiasu 2003

Two days late, but I don’t care. All the problems with the pattern instructions, the shortage of fabric, lost sewing machine foot pedal and power cord, the storms and power outages and hand-sewing by headlamp in the dark…all of it well worth it. I love these drawers.

Title: Anachronistic Knickers

The Challenge: #3 – Make something pink!

Fabric: printed cotton

Pattern: Edwardian Rose Antique Patterns, #1904-A-002 – “Ladies’ Elegant Longer Drawers (Bloomers)”

Year: 1904

Notions: cotton thread, grosgrain ribbon, satin ribbon roses for trim

How historically accurate is it? Depends on how you look at it. Pattern is 100% accurate, taken from an extant garment. Fabric is 100% cotton; however print is not of the era. Lace trim is nylon.

Hours to complete: 10 days – not able to keep track of total number of hours

First worn: not yet worn

Total cost: less than $20 for fabric; already had pattern and notions

Comments: The large, bright photo close-up of left leg satin ribbon rosette shows the fabric’s true color. This pink does not photograph well in artificial light.

After much thought and internal debate I decided to go ahead and make a full set of regular drawers, so went back and purchased enough fabric for the second leg flounce. I tried hand-made ribbon roses but I don’t have that skill down yet, so went with pre-made rosettes from my stash.

There was a major storm last night and power was out for long enough that I sewed the right leg flounce hem by hand wearing a hiker’s head lamp. To make sure the legs looked even, I sewed the left leg flounce by hand today.

I didn’t want to use nylon lace, but the cottons were just too heavy. Because the fabric is such an odd color combination – one of the herringbone stripes actually has a very pale yellow background – white laces looks too white (as you can see in the photo with the white grosgrain ribbon tie) and cream/ecru/ivory laces looks too yellow. I played with reds but it didn’t work at all. Black was the only color that was strong enough to balance out against the zing of the pinks. I was afraid it was going to look a bit “brothel-ish” but I love the end result. Hmmm…not quite sure but that means…

It Takes a Village to Cause More Trouble…

Left leg, in progress

Left leg, in progress

At last…progress to report. Other than caring for self-inflicted bruises, I actually managed to get some sewing done yesterday. *happy dance*

On the plus side, this little bugger is gong together better than I’d expected, considering the “quality” of the instructions. On the minus side, my machine needs a bit of adjusting and I can’t get the thread tension balanced. It’s too loose on the bottom, but not by much. I can work with it, for now.

So, to prevent screeching to a dead stop once again, I decided to just reinforce the living daylights out of it: French seams, top-stitching, and hand-application of the inner leg (crotch edge) bias edge finish. The left leg is now done, except for hemming and lace trim, and waiting for the waistband. Here it is, pinned to my much-smaller-and-less-paded-than-I-am mannequin:

Those of you familiar with my recent adventures will already know that I only have enough fabric for one flounce. I decided that I really do want flounced legs, to keep at least fractionally true to 1904 style. I’d been mulling over what to do for the right leg.

As a result on an exchange of comments with Jennifer Rosbrugh – who devilishly suggested I should go ahead and leave one side short, which would allow me to show a bit more leg – the line of thinking rapidly devolved in my brain to “Hey! This could be the Edwardian equivalent of speed dating!” Mildly interested? Flash the long side. Downright enthusiastic? Flash the short side.

This may get me thrown out of the Historical Sew Fortnightly, but I think I’m gonna do it and submit it for Challenge #3 just for fun.

I can fuss with making it wearable later. Maybe.

Newsflash – Washington State!

beep-beep-beep-ba-deep-beep-beep-beep-ba-deep-beep-beep…Ladies and gentlemen, this word just in.

Geologists around the globe are stunned at a massive disturbance in the earth’s crust measuring an incredible 9.8 on the Richter scale, recorded in the Puget Sound area of Washington State.

“It just came out of nowhere!” stated a shaken Dr. D. R. K. Crevasse, chief textile geologist at the Institute of Earth-Shattering Textile Development and Study, as he wiped another bead of perspiration from his brow.

Dr. Merry Stitches, Director of Mechanical Engineering at the Institute, shook her head as she escorted Dr. Crevasse to a nearby chair. “We never expected to see a Development like this. It’s really rather exciting” she said, “assuming, of course, there’s no associated loss of life.”

Further investigation has revealed the source of the disturbance as originating at the residence of one Lady Constance, a local so-called “period costumer” of questionable noble descent. “There were only three boxes left!” she cried, wiping tears of joy from her eyes. “I couldn’t believe it when I found it…the power cord, I mean. I never thought…I mean, only three…you see, I have this deadline…oh, dear!”

Paramedics rushed to the stricken woman as she collapsed to the ground, calling out to a “Jennifer” who remains unidentified at this time.

Tidal wave warnings have been issued for Hawaii, Japan, Guam, greater Polynesia, and the Aleutian and Kamchatka peninsulas. Updates at 11.