Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part Two

I’m a few days late but here is the second part of making this floral lacy dress! Part one shows the process of making the bodice and can be read here. Today i’ll be talking about how I made the sleeves and skirt.

I went back and forth about what type of sleeves to make for this dress. I love huge frilly sleeves but the neckline of this dress has so much detail that big sleeves would take away from it. So instead I settled on small sleeves with a little bit of lace, which ended up being very similar to the ones shown in the painting I used for inspiration!

To create a pattern I measured the arm hole, measured my arm, and used a lot  of guess work when it came to the length and slopes.

I made a mock up from broadcloth and liked how they looked enough to turn them into a paper pattern which was used to cut them from my floral fabric!

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I also cut the pattern from muslin. I pinned the muslin and floral fabric together, then sewed around the top and sides. This created three finished edges and saved me from making bias tape and sewing french seams later on.

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I folded the fabrics inward by a half inch on the lowest edge to create the appearance of a finished edge and pressed them in place. Then I pinned lace in between the two layers.

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Then the lace was into place, this is what the sleeve interior looks like! I usually don’t make sleeves that allow for this method (It can’t be done on puffy sleeves without adding a lot of bulk) which sucks because it’s so easy and looks so nice.

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I did up the only remaining seam and the sleeves were done!

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I sewed them in place with small straight stitches, then went around the outside with a whip stitch to make sure they are secure.

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After the sleeves were done I sewed together my lining and pinned it in place. Aside from attaching the panel of buttons I think this is the only machine sewing on this costume.

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The lining was completely hand sewn in place. Once that was done the bodice was finished! The lining on this isn’t perfect but it’s pretty close, it’s the damn basque waist that always screws me up.

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Since the bodice is done it’s time to talk about the skirt! Like my last two 19th century dresses, the skirt is made up of one big rectangle. Because I didn’t have that much fabric this skirt is only one hundred inches wide, which makes it look a little weird over petticoats.

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I marked out the hem line in pen.

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I did a sort of strange hem on this dress, the selvage was rolled over and basted in place, then the new edge of the fabric was rolled over to create a two inch hem. I used a cross stitch for securing this hem, since it’s kind of fun to do and you don’t see any stitches from the exterior of the garment!

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Then I gathered the top of the skirt. They aren’t large enough to be called cartridge pleats, but I used the same method just with quarter inch wide stitches. There are two rows of gathers, each a half inch apart. I left sixteen inches ungathered in the front, which was turned into a four inch wide box pleat.

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I pinned the skirt onto the bodice and sewed it in place with a whip stitch. This took ages and I ran into so many problems, my  thread was so tangly and broke a half dozen times during this process.

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After the skirt was stitched on I sewed it up with a french seam, I left a six inch opening in the back to make this dress easy to get into. The opening closes with five small snaps.

Once the back was all figured out the dress was done! I’m really pleased with this dress. It’s so girly and lacy, just looking at it makes me smile. I’m also proud that I managed to make this dress from start to finish in forty eight hours, without sacrificing the quality of the finished garment.

I think I might do more forty eight hour challenges in the future, hopefully they will all be as satisfying as this one!

I have a whole bunch of photos of this dress laying flat, but no worn images just yet. I’ll post those next week along with a write up on how I made a matching headpiece.

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Thanks for reading!

Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part One

This project was really spontaneous. Usually i’m a planner and I think about things for days or weeks before starting on them, but this project is an exception. I was feeling overwhelmed by other projects and wanted a break, but I still wanted to be productive. So I decided to make something new, and to try and make it from start to finish in forty eight hours!

I succeeded and in two days I had a fabulous [18]40’s dress.

The dress is a bit odd. Probably because I made it on a whim and spent about five minutes planning it before I got to drafting. The skirt and fabric choices are the type you would see on a day dress, but it’s an evening style bodice, so it’s kind of all over the place. However I still think it’s really lovely and I adore the end result because it’s so girly and delicate!

The original inspiration was this painting, I really loved the neckline and sleeves with the lace trim. I chose to use the floral home decor fabric I got many months ago in April, along with the matching buttons and a few yards of lace I bought on etsy over two years ago.

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I started by pleating a panel of fabric for the collar, then draped everything around that.

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When I was happy with that I removed it from the dress form and made a proper paper pattern. I’m really pleased that I managed to draft this without any seams in the front…even though front seams are more historically accurate I like how it looks without them so much more.

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The first piece I tackled was the pleated neckline, because I knew it would be the most difficult part.

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After cutting it out I marked all the pleat lines with a colored pencil.

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I used my iron on the highest setting and a very potent starch/water mixture to make sure these would stay in place.

DSC_8933When the pleats were finished I cut each panel down to match the “finished collar size” pattern, which will be used to cut out the lining later on.

I sewed across the front edge of the panels to keep the pleats in place when sewing the front seam.

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To make sure they would line up I pinned them very carefully, then used a pen and ruler to mark exactly where the seam needed to be.

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I hand basted across the line I drew.

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And they lined up perfectly, yay!

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I repinned the panels together, then sewed the seam with my machine.  I pressed the seam “open” from the front and back to make everything really flat.

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And they looked pretty damn good! Not completely perfect but pretty close.
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I set aside the collar and moved on to the main part of the bodice, which is made up of three pieces.

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On the back panels I sewed in loops of ribbon, my plan was that the bodice could be laced up, then closed with a false front of buttons and snaps.

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Once all the pieces were sewn together the ribbon became encased in the seams.

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I set my bodice aside and resumed work on the collar. The next step involved tacking the pleats down. I do this by marking out lines every three inches and pinning the pleats in place.

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Then using a matching thread color and tiny whip stitches I secure the pleats together. If done right the stitches should not be visible from the front.

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Once the tacking was finished I hemmed both edges.

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I also hemmed the lower edge and arm holes on the bodice.

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Before attaching my collar I added the lace. This lace was originally a pure, bright, blue toned white that didn’t match at all. I put it in a plastic bag with hot water and two tea bags for ten minutes until it was the ivory tone I wanted.

I draped and pinned it to the neckline until I liked how it looked, then trimmed it and repeated the process on the other side.

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Here is how it looks cleaned up, just before it was sewn down.

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 After the lace was sewn down I attached the pleated neckline.

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Lastly I attached buttons and snaps to two strips of floral material. These serve as the closures on the bodice and were stitched on to the center back.

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On the finished bodice they look like this!

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Next week I’ll talk about adding the lining, making sleeves, and the skirt.

Thanks for reading!

Diaphanous Flower Dress, Part One

I don’t like summer.

I know, it’s an absolute sin to say that. But I don’t like the heat, or the sun, or the bugs. Ugh, the bugs…

I’m definitely not the person who makes facebook statuses complaining about cold weather and overcast days – in fact I savor them. When summer comes around I sadly pack my fuzzy pajama pants, sweaters, and hot chocolate packets away for a few months and wish for colder temperatures.

If I think really hard about it I can come up with two things I do like about summer. There is an adorable family of tiny bunnies that live on our lawn throughout the season, and craft stores put all there summer items on clearance sales to make room for fall merchandise.

I figure I should take advantage of one of the things I like in this god awful season, and since the bunnies won’t let me get within ten feet of them, summer clearance sales were my only option.

The majority of these came from Michales, I made a huge order during an independence day sale when they were all 50% off.

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Then I bought even more flowers from Joann’s, which were on clearance for less then a dollar a piece.

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And I followed that by buying even MORE from Michaels summer clearance, at seventy cents a piece.

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I bought these heaps of flowers with a project in mind, I wanted to sew them into the hem of a dress and overlay them with a sheer fabric to make them look a little less fake.

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Originally I wanted to use chiffon, but I quickly realized it was too opaque. I thought about using organza, but didn’t like the texture. I ended up deciding on two layers of tulle as an overlay, with organza and chiffon as a base for the flowers.

I wanted to pair the skirt  with a corset bodice made from tulle, which unfortunately isn’t really possible. After some experimenting I realized I could use silk organza to create a solid structure for the bodice, then overlay that with chiffon and tulle. I would still have the sheer factor, but it would be much more durable.

The skirt is just a simple circle skirt, I really had no clue how long to make this. I wanted to pair it over a fluffy petticoat, which would make the skirt appear shorter…but I wasn’t sure if the weight of flowers would collapse the petticoat. I didn’t want it to be down to my knees, but I didn’t want it to be too short either so I took a guess and made a 22 inch circle skirt pattern.

I didn’t have enough chiffon for a full circle skirt, so my skirt is actually a 3/4 circle.

The pattern below is half that size, when cut on a fold it forms the correct size.

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I cut my skirt from a layer of organza, then again from chiffon, and basted (by hand) the layers together. Chiffon, tulle, and organza are all very slippy, not very well behaved fabrics so pretty much everything had to be basted before machine sewing pieces together.

Once that was done I sewed half inch horsehair braid into the hem, which is why it looks so wavy! At first I was worried it wouldn’t lay flat thanks to this, but the weight of the flowers ended up keeping it smooth. What a relief!

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I pulled all the flower blossoms off of the stems. In some cases I had to use tin snips or scissors, but most of them were easy to remove.

Then I poured them all onto my skirt – which made a dramatic picture but was a really bad idea. I got heaps of flower related lint onto my fabric and spent ages with a lint roller getting it all off (super fun).

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I got organized and set aside all the leaves, which I had saved. I might do something with them later on…

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I used a heavy duty glue gun made by Westward to attach all of these onto the skirt. The model I used takes 1/2″ glue sticks which makes the process much faster. I had better luck with applying hot glue to the flowers themselves then the fabric.

If you try this at home please do a test with whatever fabric you are using to make sure the hot glue won’t melt straight through it! The hot glue did melt the polyester chiffon I used as a top layer, but the silk organza (underneath it) did not melt.

I also clipped the plastic bits off the flowers before gluing them down. These plastic bits keep the stem and petals attached together, so it’s important to only snip it right before gluing them – the glue melts the plastic and keeps everything together which is why it isn’t a problem later on.

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Also I did do this on a rug but I used a set heavy duty melt proof lid underneath the portions I was working on. If you are working with sheer materials, don’t use cardboard or paper as a protective layer, the glue will take the paper with it. You’ll end up with brown paper bits all over your fabric which isn’t attractive.

After maybe half an hour of gluing I had a lot done! At this point I wasn’t very happy with the skirt. I felt it looked really tacky and I was honestly pretty upset by it.

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I ended up adding daisies to fill in any gaps (there were many) and adding many more hydrangeas to create a gradient of sorts. After that, I was much happier, so I moved on to the tulle overlay!

After sewing them hem and everything my skirt length was twenty inches, so I cut two layers of tulle that were forty inches long and one hundred and twenty inches wide.

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I basted the two pieces together, then gathered one end to be the same width as the skirt waist.

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 I sewed this end onto the backside of my skirt, then gathered the other end and sewed it onto the front of the waist. This gave my skirt a “bubble” hem and also encased everything in a layer of tulle. At this point I actually loved the way it was looking, the tulle gave it the lightweight “magical” look I wanted.

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Here is a picture of it on the dress form, with the matching bodice. I’ll talk about making that next week.

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Here are some more tips if you attempt to make this:

Vacuum your workspace between every step and lint roll each fabric before sewing, if any lint gets trapped between the materials fabrics it will be nearly impossible to get out.

If you have long hair and are prone to shedding, tie it back. Trying to get hair strands that are sandwiched between organza and chiffon out with tweezers is not fun, trust me.

You can use a lint roller to remove any hot glue strands after they’ve dried, so try not to worry about them too much during the process of attaching flowers.

Make sure to use a petticoat that has “bouncy” fabrics, the weight of the flowers isn’t too bad but it will collapse most tulle petticoats. I used one that is organza with cotton ruffles, which is much less prone to deflating then tulle or net.

For the record I have no problems with people taking inspiration from or trying to recreate my designs. I think it’s pretty awesome some people like them enough to do so, just please do not claim the design (or any of my photos) as your own.

Thanks for reading!