Sunday, November 20, 2005

Oodles of Fabric!

Hi all,

I haven't posted lately because I have been sadly without fabric. However, that is slowly changing! There is TONS of fabric on my Christmas list. I also WON fabric from Denver Fabrics online. I'm not kidding: you can check it out right here (I'm listed as Melissa of Dulles). With my $50 dollar gift certificate, I ordered red and black velvet for my Tudor gown. This is a change in plans, because I originally wanted an all-brocade gown. The gift certificate changed my mind. The red velvet will make up the body of the gown, and the black velvet is for the turned-back undersleeves. I still need to get some gold brocade for the sleeves and underskirt, and some linen for a chemise. Then I can start sewing!!

My father-in-law also made a recent trip to Korea, and bought some silk for me!! World's coolest father-in-law!!! I haven't actually seen the silk yet, but he sent me this picture (look at all that silk!!! It makes me drool!).
The silk is a very pale blue (even though it looks white in the picture). Look at the vendor's hand showing through the silk: it looks almost sheer!! Wohoo!! I'll have to come up with something creative for the silk. It's not as wide as U.S. fabric: probably about 22 inches versus the standard 45 inches. It will require a bit of research and some creative cutting. I can't wait!

Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!!!

Hope everyone had a great Halloween!!
To answer your questions about Poland and Halloween: no, Poland does not do anything Halloween related. A couple of the restaurants in town had a few pumpkins out and offered 'Halloween' special menus, but I didn't see any Halloween parties, etc. One of the Embassy compounds had a special trick or treating for the American kids. The American households decorated and let the kids come around for candy.
I decided to impose myself upon a nice family so I could dress up and hand out candy. I got pictures of all the costumes I made this year, including this great snap shot of Nadia and I!
I didn't make the black shawl I'm's actually a cute black cape that I got to wear for fall. When I pair it with a modern boot cut jean and leather boots, it's actually very modern and chic. But it turned into the perfect civil war paletot when paired with my day dress.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

3 Hour Leia Costume

This was supposed to be a nice, easy project that would keep me occupied for a few days, but several events beyond my control turned this into a last minute mad dash.

I decided I really wanted to make the costume out of a polyester double-ply fabric, which is what the original Leia costume was made out of (plus, it's cheap). Knowing I would have to scour fabric stores for weeks in Poland to find this, I decided to order it from 3 weeks ago. I only just received the fabric on Monday. Late Monday night I opened up my package and found only ONE yard of fabric, even though I'd ordered 4 yards.

Plan B: find Polish fabric store, and quickly.

Tuesday, I planned to go to a few stores open late after work, but I had a meeting that kept me out until 8:15. That left today, Wednesday, for everything. The costume had to be finished by Thursday so it could go home for the little girl to wear to school on Friday.
At this point I was panicking because I was in a time crunch. I knew I needed the fabric tonight if I had any prayer of finishing the costume, I was only going to have about 40 minutes at lunch to shop, find a store I could get to on foot, and hopefully luck out and find fabric that worked. Big Kudos to my Polish colleague who gave me several addresses, and Polish vocab words: the second store had what I needed!! phew! Thankfully Princess Leia wore a nice simple dress, and the Simplicity pattern was cut out and sew up in about 3 hours.

Happy Halloween, and may the Force be with you!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Indian Sari

While not technically a costume, and definitely not 'historical', I got out a sari project this weekend.

This all began after watching "Bride and Prejudice." If you haven't seen it, you really should. It's by the same director as "Bend it Like Beckham," and is another story about westerners encountering India. It's based of off Pride and Prejudice, and was great! I got a kick out of the Indian Ballywood-style dance/song scenes, including songs like "take them to love" and "thank you for getting this marriage into town."
Anyway, the Indian-themed weekend made me want to play dress-up, and I remembered that my dad had brought me back a sari from one of his trips, and it was buried at the bottom of my fabric box. I got it out, roll hemmed the raw edges (see below), and then learned to put it on.
I don't have a matching choli (top) or petticoat, but it was fun to get out and play with!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Day Dress - Dry Run

Ok, ok. The dress looks as if it's done, but there are a few more finishing details that need to be done before I can say it's done. Those things are: hem facing, hemming, collar, and tacking the skirt to the bodice (it prevents the waistband from peaking through where it shouldn't).

Take a look at the gorgeous belgian lace that Anna sent me and tell me - do you think it works for the collar, or is it too nice for this outfit???
Everything is looking pretty good, isn't it?!! I'll be happy to wear this around Gettysburg next time we visit, and I can pick up a matching bonnet. Poor Dave...just what he load hoops into the trunk of the car, and then upon arrival, walk around with his century-confused wife, while he's in jeans and a t-shirt).

So, here's what I did on Sunday and Monday:
I sewed up the sleeves. The sleeve puffs are gathered pieces of fabric that had to be hand-sewn to the sleeve, and then the sleeve was sewn into the bodice. The sleeve puffs took forever!! I managed to almost finish the skirt (with all those pleats) and pull the bodice together in the time it took me to do those silly sleeves!! They don't look that complicated, do they?
Next up was finishing the boning on the interior of the bodice, using single bias tape to finish the edges (I found some pink colored bias tape, hidden away). Then, I sewed in the hook and eye tape. That process had to be repeated a couple of times before I got the placement just right.

Finally, last night I covered some buttons and sewed them to the bodice. It's almost impossible to see, but here they are:Now where are some kids I can borrow so that me and dress can have an outting together?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Day Dress update

Every time there's a long weekend, I just can't resist the urge to spend it sewing with my favorite costumed dramas on in the background. I made a lot of progress today. I whip stitched the pleats of the skirt into the waist band, and then added the hooks and eyes. Since I can't hem the gown by myself, I can't say the skirt is actually finished yet. It will still need to have the hem facing sewn in as well. Check out the litte knife pleats!
Next, I moved on to assembling the bodice. I sewed the lining and gown fabric together (this is called flat lining), added the darts on each side, and sewed in some of the boning. It got a bit late, so I'll finish the boning and sleeves tomorrow. I hadn't realized that I'd run out of bias tape, so I'm stuck on finishing the edges of the gown. I think I'm impatient enough that I'll try and make my own bias tape tomorrow instead of waiting the two weeks it would take to order it.
I'll say it again: I love this pattern. Look at how nice the fit is!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Day Dress, Take Two

Happiness is a pattern that fits properly, and comes with good instructions!

For those of you who may not remember where I we last left this project, you can read about my frustrations here. I am now using a new-release Simplicity pattern, and so far it's working very smoothly. I already fitted the bodice muslin, and so far I haven't had to make any alterations. I do think the shoulders will probably have to be altered: look at where the edge of the bodice hits my arm. Although civil war shoulder seams were much wider then the actual shoulders, I think half way down the arm is pushing it. Believe it or not, I think the other evil pattern had a better cut at the shoulders. Oh well. The only perfect pattern is the one you draft for yourself, and since I don't know how to do that, the Simplicty pattern will have to work.

Instead of making up the bodice first (which is what I normally do), I decided to make the skirt so that I could fit the bodice over the hoops, petticoat, and skirt, to be extra sure of the fit.

I'm using a very simple cotton print fabric. The color shows up very nicely in this picture, where I was trying to show the knife pleats that I've been working on at the waist band of the skirt. I'm currently in the process of whip-stiching the pleats to the waist band. I'm using tiny stitches, so it might take a few movie sittings.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fairy Wings

The little flower fairy dress is now 100% complete. Here are the wings, made out of wrapping paper. They sort of stuck out at a nicer angle when they showed them on the pattern envelope, but since I didn't want to string wire through them (3 year old child running around with protruding wires just didn't seem to be a wise idea) this will have to do.

I promise to get pictures of the adorable fairy herself, but I'm waiting to deliver the costume until we're closer to Halloween. Reason #1 is if I were a 3 year old girl, I would put this on and never want to take it off until NEXT Halloween. Reason #2 is I don't want it to get out around the office that I'm sewing Halloween costumes. While I would be willing to hire out, I don't think most people would want to actually pay my fee (whatever that would be) on top of an already healthy-sized fabric/pattern bill.

Anyway, I don't think my next project will be the Tudor dress. As much as I would like it to be, I am, alas, without a fabric budget this month. Since my mother managed to snag a new civil war pattern (top left) for me during JoAnn's 99 cent Simplicity pattern sale, I think I'll try to pick up the civil war day dress project again. The fabric is ready to go, and all I would need is to find some cotton muslin/lining material wich is very inexpensive.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Bippity, Boppity, Boo!

What happens when one has entirely too much time on one's hands?? You finish the project that was suppose to keep you entertained for the next month in one weekend. Wrapping paper wings still to come, though.

One of the biggest challenges on this project was dealing with the various fabrics I had purchased. The sequins on the purple fabric have been glued on. Every time the needle ran through a sequin, some glue residue would coat the the needle. Then the thread would start sticking to the needle, and would break. This sometimes happened every 3 inches. It drove me crazy. Below is the leaf collar: this process involved several broken thread crises.
The nice pinkish fabric and the green organza would ravel if you looked at them funny. A lot of the edges in this costume were left raw and were not finished...which caused problems. I solved this by using fray check.

Another source of frustration was attaching the skirt to the bodice. The skirt is several layers. First, you attach 10 petals to the bodice, and it looks like this:

After this, you cut three ENORMOUS skirt panels - a good two times taller then I am for a child-sized dress. Then I did the same with purple tuile. Then, I sewed the skirt and tuile together, and gathered it to fit the bodice. There was so much fabric, I had to gather it up as much as possbile for it to fit. Then there was the problem of attaching this massive skirt to the waistline. This picture tries to give you an idea of big it was: I had a hard time getting the fabric to fit under the sewing machine foot.

I think my favorite part of the costume is the adorable little flower petals hat, complete with a stem. It went together without a fuss, and I think is should look absolutely adorable!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Fairy update

I've been having fun sewing some over the long weekend. It gives me time to finish the project...and keeps me from getting bored as well.

I finished the small jumper/panties set that goes underneath the almost transparent fairy costume. I went ahead and then started on the bodice and sash. Since I got to see the little girl on Friday night, I took the jumper and tried it on to make sure I had the right size. It was a great fit, and she seemed to really like it, or at least I assume she liked it since she didn't want to take it off.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Sugar, Spice...and Fairy Dust

A great recipe for a little girl's first Halloween costume. I am still without a sewing budget, so I'm finding other ways of distracting myself. Like making other people's costumes!

A couple I work with has an adorable little girl that will be celebrating her first Halloween. I'm making her a little flower fairy costume. I picked up the pattern while I was at home, and went to the $2 a yard bargain bin and found some great fabric! The fun sparkly fabric is the kind of stuff I would never normally work with as a historical costumer, so this is a fun project for me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Pictures of Gown

Here's the finished product!! If you want to compare it to the inspiration, click here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Robe Francaise Complete!

My Robe Francaise is now 100% complete, and I even had time to make a little pinner cap for my hair today. Yesterday, Katie helped me pin up my hem and attach a pleated flounce to my underskirt.

We then spent lots of time, cutting, pinking, sewing, and gathering ruffles and ruching for the dress. My first attempt at decorating the dress did not come out the way I wanted, so I started again today. To the left are pictures of my trim options.

Below are the finished underskirt and sleeve trim.

And while I realize this isn't the greatest of pictures (the sun had long gone down when I finished sewing), here is a picture of the final product.

I'm desperate to go outside in good light and have some pictures taken with me actually wearing the dress...but Katie left this morning, so I don't have anyone to take picutres of me. Rotten timing. I know.

Unfortunatley, since I'm out of muslin, and I'm currently paying off next week's vacation, there isn't any fabric money this month. I also don't have any more projects sitting around waiting to be started (other then the evil civil war dress that is on hold until Simplicity has a $1 sale and I can get a new pattern), so I imagine there isn't going to be much sewing for me to post about in the next few months. Just lots of dreaming and planning.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Hi All!!! Well, I haven't been sewing very much lately. I must admit that I have been distracted by visitors and traveling about. I haven't felt very inspired to finish trimming my 18th century gown, and the thought of working on my civil war gown with the horrible pattern I have is depressing.


I'm planning my next project!! I want to make a Tudor gown (this was the time of Henry VIII and his six wives). I already have the pattern and have selected the fabric I want to use. I'm using a great red brocade, with gold brocade undersleeves and underskit:

For the oversleeves, I'll use a matching deep red velvet. Now I just have to save up the money for the fabulous fabric.

I'll need to make a linen shift to go underneath the gown: the puffy sleeves of the shift are pulled through the slashings of the sleeves to show through. If I have the patience, I could also do blackwork (or spanish embroidery) to complete the look of the shift. I have no clue where to get the pattern for the chemise, and would like to avoid purchasing another pattern, but the well known elizabeth 'smock' generator doesn't have the required puffy sleeves. I'm planning on trying to use my 18th century stays instead of making yet another corset, and I've already got a set of farthingales (aka hoops from the time period).

For accessories: I'm going to make a french hood to go with the dress, and I've also found a great place to purchase necklaces/girdles/and billaments for the dress called Sapphire and Sage.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Nips and Tucks

Just doing a bit more house-keeping while I have down time. Today, I shortened my fully boned 18th century corset so that it will be more comfortable. It provides a bit more of a firm conical shape then the blue satin corset that I've been using to fit my Robe Francaise. It was always too long after I finished it, so I opened up the top bias tape, measured down 1.5 inches, and then just cut the excess off and rebound it. I can't actually lace myself into this corset, but it looks like it's going to fit much better. You can see the original fit here.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Trimmed Stomacher

I finished trimming my 18th century stomacher tonight. I sewed on some fine lace, and the attached ruching in a 3 tiered figure eight. 4 pinwheels then decorate a few remaining spots on the dress. I need a second opinion: should I add on any more pinwheels? I see two spots that could be covered up, but I don't want to overdo the trim. So far I like the overall effect, though I think I would be happier if the last tier of the figure eight weren't so circle like...

What do you all think?

The stomacher trim was inspired by this original garment.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Finished Corset

Here it is! I finished another Victorian corset. Why you ask? Well, I tell myself because I wanted a prettier corset that had gussets to make a nicer fit for a curvy person such as myself, but the truth is: cause I wanted to!!! I finished up all the little details, right down to nit-picky embroidered 'x's on the outside. I think it really does make a nice profile with less of a shelf look that my other corset. However, my other corset is ten times easier to get into!

18 century accessories

Hi all. While I wait to find a better solution to my raveling pinking for the 18th century gown, I continue to look for accessories to make the outfit complete. I saw this silk and ivory fan on ebay for a steal (really Dave, I promise), and just couldn't resist. It has some less-than-period feathers on the tip of the fan, but it looks gorgeous. Plus it's the from 19th century, so it's a little peice of history. It's nice and big too, which was the style in the 18th century. This fan is 11 inches long when closed. Not a tiny little hand fan.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Satin Victorian Corset

While I wait to find out how to trim my Robe Francaise without the pinking raveling, I decided to start another project I had purchased supplies for. I always loved my victorian corset. You can see a great picture of it in my archives. But when I heard that Simplicity had come out with a more advanced corset pattern, I knew right away I had to give it a try. Unlike my practical white cotton coutil corset, this one will be made out of peach satin coutil.

One reason I really like this pattern is that it includes bust and hip gussets, and creates a more 'hour-glass' shape when it's finished. Here you can see I've hand sewn in the gussets. Since the gusset sizes are determined by your bra cup size, I think the finished corset will also fit better.

I started the corset yesterday and really got into a sewing mood. Today, I was able to finish sewing in the lining...

...and set in the eyelets and busk. The eyelets took a long time, about four hours (the only reason I know is I sat through two movies to finish them). My hands are pretty blistered after working with the grommet setter. None of the boning channels have been sewn in yet, but the garmet itself is pretty much assembled.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Basic gown complete

The basic dress is all assembled! Yippee!!! The picture is completely underwhelming, but here it is. Check out the gorgeous sleeves!!!

So, here's what's left on the To-Do list:
  • hem the dress (I need a helper for this)
  • Tack the fold of the dress down so it won't fold back
  • Sew in hook and eyes for stomacher*
  • Trim the dress
  • Have someone else take some pictures. I'm getting tired of the silly/ugly mirror pictures, unworthy of the glory of this gown.

*I tried pinning the stomacher to the dress, and after stabbing myself repeatedly with the pins, and then still having the stomacher move and pull around, this is required. Kendra, of Demode, did this on her dress and it looks great.