Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part One

This weeks post is about another new project, but this time i’m venturing into an era I haven’t sewn from in a while – the 1830’s! I went through a phase a couple years ago where I made three dresses inspired by this period, and I had so much fun making them. But for some reason I never revisited the period until now.

For Christmas I got Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, and looking at the silly 1830’s dresses featured in it reminded me how much I love the period. The dresses make me so happy, with the bold prints, large skirts, ridiculous sleeves, and delicate accessories. I still can’t get on board with the crazy headpieces, but I love everything else.

So when I was in Pennsylvania and came across a bright cotton plaid I knew it was time to make a boldly printed ridiculous 1830’s dress. This is the material was four dollars a yard, and I bought seven yards.

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I’m going to pair it with the orange taffeta leftover from my 1890’s Dress, and some berry colored velvet I got in NYC a while back.

When it comes to design I was a little bit conflicted. I originally wanted to make something based on this kooky dress, but the neckline and sleeves are quite similar to a dress I made in the past so that seemed kind of boring. And most of the other dresses I found were better suited for a less busy fabric.

I ended up mixing the dress linked above with the bodice design of this dress – I really like the piping, basque waist, the neckline, and the more elaborate sleeves. All those things make it more time consuming to make, but you know how much I love time consuming projects…

Here is my weird sketch which I didn’t really end up following (oops)
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I draped the pattern on my dress form, then transferred it to paper. The bodice is made up of 8 pieces, with an additional 4 pieces for the collar.

In the past when doing pleated collars I’ve pleated a rectangle of fabric, then cut it down to the shape I want. This time around I cut it down to the right size before pleating – which was kind of scary, since I was sure it would turn out the wrong shape. But it totally worked and made the process a lot easier, so i’m definitely doing it this way from now on!

I marked the pleat pattern onto the collar with chalk.
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Then used my iron to crease the tops of the pleats.

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Then actually pleated them and pinned everything in place! This is the front.

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And this is the back.

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The front panels were carefully pinned, then sewn together. It was unintentional, but the horizontal pattern ended up being almost symmetrical on these panels. They didn’t match up the first time I sewed it, but they were so close that I ripped the seam out and redid it so they match!

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The shoulder of the collar pieces were done up with piping sewn into the seam. The bottom edge was hemmed by eye, and the top edge was turned inward by a half inch. Then I hand stitched some piping around the neckline.

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To keep the pleats in place I loosely tacked them down from the underside. This was trickier to do than I was expecting. Since the fabric is so thin I couldn’t feel how many layers I was stitching through, and I ended up sewing through the front of the fabric a few times. Those stitches are pretty obvious since I used dark purple thread, which doesn’t match 80% of the colors in the bodice.

Luckily the crazy print also works to my benefit  – your eye skips over the visible stitches and assumes it’s part of the chaos that is this fabric!

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With the collar done the bodice assembly began! I made this more difficult by adding piping to every seam (something I’ve never done before). And I chose to use yarn as piping cord, which was way too thin and looked flat after being ironed. Not my best decision, but I kind of made it work!

These are the front panels…

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More front panels.

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And the back panels!

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The arm openings were finished with facings.

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And then the collar was sewn on! This was done by hand to avoid any visible topstitching.

After a quick fitting to check the length I hemmed the bottom edge and trimmed it with more piping.

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And now it was time for lining! This was assembled completely by machine and is made from muslin.

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It took me ages to get it pinned in properly – somehow the lining was too short, so it kept causing the front layer of fabric to bunch up. But I managed eventually, and sewed it in place by hand.

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I finished one of the back edges with bias tape (leftover from my 1890’s dress), then finished the other edge with a strip of bias tape that was turned inward and sewn down so it isn’t visible from the outside.

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The back closure consists of hooks and loops, which were sewn to the strips of taffeta.

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Unfortunately the print on the back of the bodice doesn’t line up perfectly, but it’s close-ish!

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Here is the front.

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And a close up of the pretty pleats! So far i’m happy with how this looks, though i’m second guessing my decision to go for a more complicated design. I think it might be a bit too busy – but the 1830’s were famous for being crazy, so maybe it works?

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That’s it for today! The next post will be about sleeves. I’m not sure if it will be about my 1890’s dress or this one, but it will definitely involve sleeves haha!

Thanks for reading!

 

Making a Gold and Ivory Gown, Part Two

It’s time for the second post about making this years holiday dress! Part one can be read here and is about making the bodice. Today i’ll be going over how I made the sleeves, which i’m excited about because they are my favorite part of this dress. I wasn’t expecting to like them so much, since they are really simple, but I adore how the cuffs turned out. They have little bows on them so my wrists feel like presents!

I started by drafting a full length puff sleeve pattern. They flare out more at the bottom, so they have a slight bell shape but are pretty full at the top too. I probably would have made these wider but I was working with fabric limitations. I’m kind of happy the fabric restricted me, because the shape worked out really nicely and they probably wouldn’t have looked right if they were any bigger.

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I turned the bottom five inches of the sleeves edge inward by a half inch and sewed it down. Then turned it inward again so the raw edge was hidden, and sewed it in place with a whip stitch. I did this because the lower few inches of these sleeves have to be left open to allow my hand to pass through.  My hands are too big to fit if they are sewn closed all the way to the wrist cuff!

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I also gathered the lower edge of the sleeve down to my wrists circumference by hand with a running stitch that was pulled taught as I went.

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Then I cut out the lining for the cuffs, which are just rectangles of quilters cotton. I marked guidelines an inch away from each edge, then folded the raw edge up so it touched that line and sewed it in place.

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This way every edge of my cuff was finished.

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I pinned my sleeves onto the cuffs, with all the raw edges facing upward. Then sewed it down with my machine.

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The gathered edge was quite bulky so I topstitched over it several times until it became relatively flat. The backside of these did not look pretty, but they are functional, which is what matters most when it comes to the interiors of garments!

Since these cuffs are very fitted I decided to use hook/eye closures. I sewed two of these into each cuff – one at the top, one at the bottom.

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My cuffs fit perfectly at this point, but I realized later that I actually made them too small. The cotton had a tiny bit of stretch to it, so they eased nicely over my wrists. Once I added the top layer of fabric (which didn’t have ANY stretch) to the cuffs, they became much more difficult to hook up and I was left with some red marks after wearing them for long periods of time. Silly mistake on my part.

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Once the hooks were sewn in I trimmed the frayed edges at the cuffs.

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Then I cut out two pieces of ribbon and stitched them over the top side of the cuff, so all the ugly bits were hidden.

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Doesn’t that look so much better?

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Now it was time to make the bows for the cuffs. Here are the two lengths of ribbon I cut for them – I’d say I used around ten inches of ribbon for each one. I sewed the ends of the ribbon together so I had two circles, then pressed down in the center of the circle so I had two even loops.

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I wanted to use the same ribbon for the centers of the bows, but this ribbon is awfully wide for the centers of such small bows. So I folded the velvet part of the ribbon towards the gold trim and sewed it down. This created a quarter inch wide fold that made my ribbon a half inch smaller, and much more appropriate for these bows.

(I take bows very seriously, clearly)

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Then I wrapped the smaller ribbon around the center of each bow and sewed the ends together. And tah-dah, perfect little bows!

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I was going to put these on the backs of the cuffs, but they were so cute that I decided to sew them onto the front instead. Here they are pinned in place.

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And sewn on!

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Then I sewed up the side seam with a french seam. Like I mentioned earlier, I left the lower few inches open so I can fit my hand through.

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I sewed the bottom half of the sleeve on first, then gathered the top half so it perfectly fit into the arm opening. Then it was sewed in place with a whip stitch. I’ve been doing puff sleeves this way a lot recently because it lets me better visualize how dense I want the gathers to be before sewing them, which I like.

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At this point the interior of the bodice wasn’t looking great. It isn’t that bad, but there are some frayed edges and knots of thread which aren’t nice to look at.

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So I cut out a layer of lining from quilters cotton.

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Pinned it in place.

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And sewed it in with a whip stitch.

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Then my bodice, and sleeves, were complete! It still doesn’t look like much. I think this bodice really comes to life when it’s worn, it’s quite…flat looking when it’s just laid out. Luckily I will have worn pictures to share very soon – they should be going up on Wednesday or Thursday.

DSC_9744The final “The making of” post and video about this project will be up tomorrow! And that will be followed by photos of the finished ensemble. I got behind on my Christmas related posts, so you will be getting a lot of posts at once (I hope you don’t mind too much)!

Really quickly I wanted to mention the Christmas themed headpiece I made. It isn’t exciting enough to get it’s own post, but I’m really happy with how it turned out so I wanted to share it with you guys. A tutorial on the process of making it can be watched here, and photos will be below!

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Thanks for reading!

Making a Menswear Inspired Cotehardie

It’s time for a new project! It’s been a while since i’ve been able to say that. I’m finally beginning work on a medieval ensemble that I bought fabric for a few months back (more info on that here).

This project is menswear inspired and consists of a few different pieces, the first is a cotehardie, which is a slim fit long sleeved garment. It will be worn over tights and a pair of shoes which I plan on making myself. Overtop of that there will be a mantle (capelet) which will have a liripipe (long pointed hood). And I might be making a crown to go with it as well. So lots of different pieces to keep me busy!

I decided to start with the most important piece which is the cotehardie. There are tons of reference of these in artwork from the middle ages, but that artwork isn’t very fun to look at. So here is an example from “The Complete Costume History” book. These are some pretty fancy examples, mine is a little less elaborate!

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Here are my main fabrics for the ensemble. The cotehardie will be made from a wool suiting, the mantle and shoes will made from a really heavy wool coating, and the tights from a gold knit.

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Once I had my references gathered I started draping the pattern. This part was a little tricky. Cotehardies shown in artwork seem to be really fitted but do not have any seams in the front or back. I managed to accomplish this but the end result hinders mobility a bit which is kind of a bummer.

When I was draping I added darts to get the fabric to fit the form tightly, but I removed these when transferring the pattern onto paper.

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Once that was transferred to paper and seam allowances were added I had a pattern. Then I made a mock up.

Here is my mock up being tried on, the left is before pinning, the right is after pinning. I managed to get an okay fit by raising the waistline and shoulder, but even after doing that there is some gaping around the arm opening. That part doesn’t look great, but It’s kind of unavoidable when trying to make something super tight and without seams when you have boobs.

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Once my alterations were made to the pattern I cut the pieces out.

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At this point I realized the wool suiting I bought was really flimsy. I felt like it would show every lump and bump and not look as hardy as a cotehardie should be (haha). I know with suit jackets interlinings are often used to bulk the material up…but I didn’t have any of those around. So I cut out a layer of flannel and used a random pad stitching(ish) technique to attach it to the wool.

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I didn’t bother to add it in the hips, I felt like the fabric stiffness was more important at the front and waist.

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When that was done I folded the front edge inward and sewed it down.

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Now I had two pieces that looked like this!

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This will have a false button closure on it. During this period buttons were used as decorations more often than not. If they were functional they closed with a button loop system, not button holes. I’ve used buttons/loops before and it can become quite finicky, so I decided to make the buttons decorative and have the cotehardie snap closed.

I used bright pink basting stitches to mark the centerline on the lapels, which show where the buttons and snaps will be placed. Then I used chalk to pinpoint where each one would go.

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A MILLION YEARS LATER (or nine hours, one or the other) I had all the snaps and buttons attached. I’m really out of practice with sewing these on because it took me so long. It also ripped my fingers up a bit, since I sewed them all on in two days.

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Here is what it snapped closed! They don’t all line up perfectly a couple might be a few millimeters off. But it doesn’t effect the look or wear of the garment at all so I don’t mind too much.

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Now at this point I realized my cotehardie was pretty boring. And I don’t like making boring things. Even though I liked how the buttons looked, it just wasn’t enough detailing to make it really pop. But I didn’t have any gold trims that would match, so I wasn’t sure what to do.

Then it hit me: I should add lions.

Because when in doubt, add lions, right?

Heraldic cotehardies were actually a thing (as seen here) where a coat of arms/crest/emblem would make up the pattern on a dress or tunic. So using that theme I started googling medieval emblems until I found one I liked. Eventually I came across the “Coat of arms of Castile and León” which had a handy vector image of a lion on it’s wikipedia page.

I ran that through photoshop, then printed out two lions.

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When I held these up I realized it would look like two lions framing my crotch. Which wasn’t a great look. So I decided to only use one lion and figured out a different pattern for the other side later on.

I traced the outline of the lion onto double sided fusible interfacing. Then I fused it onto gold spandex, since spandex doesn’t fray I managed to avoid the frustration of turning over each edge, which was awesome.

Finally, I cut the lion out. Which took ages, there are so many fiddly bits!

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Then I ironed the lion onto my cotehardie, and tah-dah! Instantly fancier!

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For the other side I decided to add fleur de lis, which I traced from this coat of arms.

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I cut them out so they looked like this.

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Then fused them on.

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Before doing anything else I stitched up the side seams and turned the hem inward by an inch.

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Then I stitched around the edge of my appliques and added some details with more stitching. I did this with regular cotton thread since I didn’t have any embroidery floss, which isn’t ideal, but I still think it looks pretty good!

Next time I have E6000 out i’m going to add rhinestones to the lions crown and eye. I think that will look neat.

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And here it is laid out flat~

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After a quick fitting I realized the shoulder fit was pretty bad. So I took it in a bit and added some quilt batting to stand in for shoulder pads. Even that didn’t help very much, since the main issue is that the shoulder was cut too narrow. It is too late to fix that on this piece, but I made a note on the pattern. If I ever use it again i’ll add at least a half inch to that area.

Then I turned the collar and arm holes under so they had pretty finished edges.

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Which meant it was time for sleeves! Here is the pattern I drafted for them. It was hard to get them really tight, but also wide enough to have a nice silhouette.

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They were cut out of the suiting and sewn up the side.

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And the process was repeated with some polyester lining fabric.

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Then the lining was sewn to the wool sleeves.

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The lower edges of the wool got turned under by a half inch, then the lining was sewn to cover the raw edge.

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And I sewed on more buttons! Because you can never have too many of those.

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I whip stitched the sleeves on.

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Then cut out lining for the body of the garment and sewed that in. This was probably the hardest part since i’ve never lined something with such a curvy shape before. I also took my cotehardie in quite a bit, but didn’t mark those changes on my pattern. So there was some guesswork involved when I used it to cut out the lining.

But I managed!

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And now it’s finished (aside from a couple rhinestones)! I love everything except the shoulder fit. The slope on those is a bit to dramatic and they are too narrow. But I think the rest of it is pretty awesome. Especially the lion. That is probably my favorite part.

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One piece down, a couple left to go! Worn photos of it will be taken soon, but I want to get the tights and shoes finished first.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Medieval Escoffin / Heart Shaped Headpiece

Last week I decided to make a Medieval Escoffin. They are a tall, usually elaborate, heart shaped headdress with a padded roll on top. I thought it would be a fun little project and unlike any of my previous headpieces.

The finished piece looks like this – I’ll be taking better photos of it when I have the matching dress finished.

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I’ve seen these headpieces in a lot of paintings and etchings, though they are usually just called heart shaped headpieces or heart shaped hennin. Fig. 50 from the page below was my main inspiration for this, since I thought the slightly wider shape would be more flattering on me than the completely upright ones (like Fig. 51). I didn’t intend for mine to look so similar to the drawing, it just sort of worked out that way.

Also this isn’t to go with the Damask Medieval Dress I’ve been working on – I just borrowed some materials from that piece.

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Oh, and those drawings are all from this book. It’s really great for seeing the styles from various periods but it doesn’t have any information on the patterning or making of any headdresses. Which is totally fine with me – I like making that part up on my own.

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I started doodling what the pattern might look like flat. Once I realized the curves in the headpiece could be created by adding batting to a flat pattern this became way easier.

My first  few sketches kind of look like the Modius crowns from Ancient Egypt – in fact the shape of a lot of early European headpieces remind me of ones Egyptian Royalty wore. Which I wouldn’t have expected.

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 I started by drawing out the shape I thought it would have on newsprint. The right side is what it looked like originally and the left side is the one I altered. I took it in a lot, lowered he top arch, and raised the bottom. Then I drew out the various sections onto the newsprint so I could better visualize the proportions.

I kept holding it up to/putting it on my head and adjusting things until I liked the way it looked. It was surprisingly easy!

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This is the pattern I ended up with. But I ended up raising the bottom portion since it was lower than I wanted.

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I traced the pattern onto heavy felt weight interfacing and cut it out. I also drew on the separate sections so I would know where to put the padding.

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Then I hand sewed wire around each edge. This makes the headpiece a lot more durable and shapeable. For the lower edge I stitched the wire about a quarter inch away from the edge. This will help reduce the bulk at the there, which is good since a lot of fabric will be layered there.

I also tried it on at this point to make sure everything looked okay – and it did, so I carried on.

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Then it was time to pad the lower section (I’ve been calling these the “ears” but there is probably a proper name for it). I used circles of quilt batting which I cut up and layered until I had a nice rounded shape.

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Here they are pinned on. I whip stitched the edges down shortly after taking this picture.

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Then I covered the ears lower section with a damask print fabric. To jazz this fabric up a bit I covered it with a gold mesh – the damask fabric is from NYC and the mesh is from Joanns.

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Then I sewed some home made brocade piping across the bottom edge. And I covered the lower edge of the felt interfacing at the centerfront with a scrap of red fabric. This part will eventually be hidden by a ruffle but I didn’t want the felt to be visible from any angle.

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Here you can see the textures of these materials together, I really, really, love the combination.

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I decided to line the interior before doing anything else. I used some red suiting for this.

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Then I tried it on. I was happy with the way it was looking but I thought the lower panels looked a little empty.

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So I started fiddling around with some beads and I realized I had enough of these gold glass beads to embellish the lower panels with a cross pattern.

I got these from Michaels (or maybe Joanns?) the pack of gold ones was on sale for $2. I also decided to stitch fake pearls across the bottom of the panels. For that i’m using super cheap 6mm ones by darice, I think these are 99c a strand.

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I made up a paper template for the cross pattern, which looked like this.

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I pinned them on and traced the edges of each strip with a yellow copic marker. If I did this again I would definitely draw this pattern onto the fabric before sewing the fabric over a dome. Because that make it way more difficult and the design isn’t even on both sides, which is a bummer.

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Taking the fact I was trying to draw straight stripes on a dome into account, I think this looks pretty good!

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But I still wanted it to have more details. So I decided to add a little ruffle. I had pink, red, and ivory chiffon, but none of them looked quite right with the damask material. I found this orange chiffon at the bottom of the stack and thought it was perfect, so I cut it into strips which got folded in half to create a finished edge.

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I gathered that down and sewed it onto the escoffin. It looks a bit silly, but I was happy with it.

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I started doing a little bit of the beading, as you can see on the right side. But the major difference here is the addition of batting to the top portion of the headpiece. This is seriously just a giant rectangle of quilt batting that I folded three times. Then it was pinned and draped inside the guidelines I had drawn.

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Here it is after being sewn down!

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Now I came to a little roadblock. I had no idea what fabric to use to cover the top portion. This is a spontaneous project, so I didn’t buy any materials with it in mind, I’m just using things I have around.

I figured if the fabric stretched that would give a smoother finish, and the only stretch fabrics I have are stretch velvets. So I raided that bin and luckily came across scraps of red velvet that I used for the cloak on my Christmas Costume in 2013.

I had just enough to cover the top portion. It took a lot of pins, stretching, and pricks to get it to lay smooth but I managed!

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I had to cut centerfront to get it to lay flat. I didn’t want the raw edge to show so I covered it with a scrap of velvet.

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With the assembly done I went ahead and finished the beading.

(I did this well watching American Ninja Warrior – that show is really addicting)

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The last thing to do was add a gem to the front. I don’t actually have any gems, but I do have glass montees. I used a clear one and painted it with alcohol inks until it was a rich gold that matches the other materials used. Then I glued gold beads around the edge and set it into one of the brass cameo frames I got in NYC a few weeks ago.

I think it’s super pretty!

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That got sewn onto the center front.

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Then I did up the back and it was finished!

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I love how this turned out. It’s one of my favorite pieces i’ve made in a while.  That is probably  because it’s so different from any of my other pieces. But I also really like all these materials together, I think they look quite stunning.

And this was really fun to make, which  raises my opinion on it. I love figuring stuff out without any information other than what the finished thing should look like, and I definitely got to do that with this. So that was great.

No photos from the back yet. I think i’ll make a veil to hide my hair, because right now it’s visible from the back and doesn’t look great.

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Cost Break Down:

1/4 yards of:  velvet, damask fabric, gold mesh, chiffon, and suiting = $6

1/2 yard of interfacing & quilt batting = $5.00

Beads, cameo frame, glass montee = $6.00

It probably has fifteen hours of work into it. Maybe twenty. I was pretty damn focused on it for three days, and by the fourth day it was finished. But all the work was fun, I really enjoyed this project!

Thanks for reading!

Completing the Brown Menswear Ensemble + Finished Photos

DSC_5288resize2This is the final post about making my brown menswear inspired ensemble. Part one went up almost ten months ago, and part two was posted a couple months ago. Today I’m sharing how I made the tunic and hat, along with some photos of the finished costume!

I started on this tunic ages ago, so I don’t remember the dimensions and measurements I used. But here are how the pieces looked after being cut out.

I used a lightweight cotton gauze for the tunic. I absolutely love the feel of this material, and it’s ridiculously wonderful to work. Unfortunately it’s delicate, so it isn’t a great choice for undergarments that will be worn a lot. I still chose to use it since I had some around and it was the perfect shade of off white.

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The first thing I did was fold rectangles in half and gather the top edge down to make little ruffles. The smaller ones are for the wrist cuffs, and the larger one is for the collar.

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The body of the tunic is made from a rectangle which is folded in half, then a neck hole is cut in the center of the folded edge. I cut a slash down the centerfront so I could easily pull the tunic over my head.

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The raw edges of the slash got turned inward by a half inch, then I covered the raw edges with bias tape.

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The collar and cuffs are made from two inch wide strips of fabric. The edges were all turned over by a half inch to create finished width of one inch.

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I sewed the ruffle onto the top edge  of the collar.
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Then the collar got sewn onto the body of the tunic. Lining was sewn in to hide any raw edges.

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After the lining was sewn in I stitched one eyelet onto either side, so the collar could be closed with cord.

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That finished off the body of the tunic, so I moved onto the sleeves. Both sleeves were tightly gathered at the cuff.

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The cuffs were attached, then ruffles got attached to the cuffs.

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After the lining was sewn in I finished the cuffs off with eyelets so they can tie closed.

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And that is where my progress pictures for the tunic end. I sewed gussets onto the tops of each sleeve with french seams. Then the sleeves were sewn onto the body of the tunic with french seams. Finally the side seams were done up, and the lower edge was hemmed.

Now, onto the hat! I decided to pair my doublet with a beret. Berets are super easy and made from three pieces of fabric: A circle, a circle with a circle cut out of the center, and a rectangle. That’s it.

I cut those pieces out of a thick brown canvas. Then I used these as a guide for cutting out the top layer of my beret, which is a brown stretch jersey. Definitely not the best choice for a hat, but I used it on the doublet and I wanted them to match.

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Here are the layers pinned together.

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With the right sides facing each other I stitched a half inch away from the edge of the inner circle.

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Then I turned the fabrics the right way out, this creates a finished opening where the hat will fit on the head. I stitched around this edge by hand.

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Then the two pieces got pinned together and I sewed a half inch away from the outer edge. Once it was turned right side out I had a hat!

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I turned the edges of a rectangle inward and trimmed it with some lace, then sewed that to the opening of the hat. This created a band/brim that I pinned onto my wig. I would have loved to decorate this with feathers, but the pheasant feathers I bought with this in mind were too large and the wrong shade of brown.

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I paired this costume with a wig from color.salon on ebay, the shoes are from payless, and the socks are from charlotte russe. This costume is menswear inspired and I tried to mirror that with the styling – the wig is still long but it’s tied back and i’m not wearing nearly as much makeup as usual.

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And that’s it! I’m not totally happy with how this turned out, but I like how different it is from my other projects. I’m planning on making another menswear inspired ensemble very soon. Hopefully my next attempt will be a bit more historically accurate because this is all over the place.

Thanks for reading!

Making a Grey Taffeta Kirtle

This is another project that came out of nowhere. I was about to go to bed and thought “I should make a dress based off that painting  pinned on pinterest a few months ago”.  I wrote the idea down so I wouldn’t forget in the morning, and seventy two hours later I had a dress!

This dress is actually an ensemble that consists of a kirtle, undershirt, hat, and eyepatch – that last one might sound a little odd, but it will make sense in a minute. I based this costume off of this painting, it isn’t the most exciting painting or costume but I thought it was very striking when I first saw it, and it’s obviously stuck with me. The subject of that painting is Ana de Mendoza who was a countess, duchess, princess, and prisoner at various points of her life. She wore an eyepatch after an injury left her blind in one eye (she may have lost the eye as well – sources disagree).

She has far more elaborate costumes shown in other paintings, but I decided on this one. I love the hat, the color scheme, and the simplicity to it. Plus I could make it (almost) entirely out of things I already owned, the only thing I had to buy were materials (interfacing, denim, and feathers) for the hat!

Today I’ll be showing how I made the most major piece of this costume (but not the most striking – i’d say that award goes to the hat) which is the kirtle. I made this from six yards of polyester taffeta which I got in NYC at the beginning of last year. It was four dollars a yard and is dark grey in color.

I decided to make this kirtle the “proper” way with stiffening in the bodice. My last kirtle (made for my tudor project) didn’t have any structure, instead it was worn over a pair of bodies. That led to problems later on and I didn’t want to make the same mistake this time!

I used an altered version of Norah Waugh’s bodies pattern. I made the basque waist wider and shorter, lowered the neckline, lengthened the straps, and took it in slightly. I cut the altered pattern out from canvas, which will be the base layer of the bodice.

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I marked out all the boning channels and backed the fabric with cotton. Then I stitched all the channels and filled them with quarter inch wide plastic boning.

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I pinned taffeta over both pieces. The curves got clipped and folded over the edges, then whip stitched down. This was really hard, taffeta does not have a lot of give to it and it did not want to go around those curves.

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The interiors looked like this! The cotton layer was just to back the boning channels, so a lot of it got cut away to remove bulk.

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Then I pinned a thin muslin layer to the interior, which will function as lining. I sewed this in with a whip stitch as well. But I used black thread for this, so it didn’t end up looking very pretty on the inside.

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I decided I couldn’t stand how puckery the taffeta looked around the the arm holes, but at this point there was’t a lot I could do without ripping everything apart. So I cut strips of wool and sewed those over the arm holes. I think this looks quite nice, even though I doubt it’s historically accurate.

I also bound the pieces together instead of sewing them with seams. I did this because it worked better this the pattern and reduced bulk at the shoulder, which is always good!

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I also started sewing the eyelets on the back side seam.

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Here you can see the lining job I did (I told you it’s ugly) and how the bound edges look from the interior.

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I stitched a gathered strip of lace around the neckline. Historically this would be attached to the chemise, but it’s such a pain to get the lace of an undershirt lined up with a boned bodice and I wanted to avoid the struggle. So I sewed it directly onto the bodice.

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Then I added the pearls. These were once again, something I already had around. I bought these from my red and silver “Renaissance” gown (aka my totally un-researched slapped together costume that had a sleeve fall off during a photoshoot) but never used them. I sewed these around the shoulder of the bodice but didn’t put them on the back, since the wig would likely get tangled in them.

You can also see how my eyelets progressed!

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For the center point, where the strands of pearls join, I put a brooch. I bought this for my birthday last year, It was a total $2.24 on ebay and suits this costume perfectly.

And when I say “perfectly” I mean it looks really pretty, not perfect from an accuracy standpoint.

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With that attached, the bodice was complete and it was time for the skirt! I actually made and cut this skirt out in the middle of the night, so my photos are lackluster at best and nonexistent at worst. But here is my skirt “pattern” there are six panels which get progressively longer towards the back. Once they were all cut out and sewn together I cut the hem into an arched shape instead of the blocky/triangular one this pattern creates.

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Two of the panels cut out…

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And those are all the photos I have of the skirt being cut out. I told you it was bad! But you can probably imagine the rest, they all got sewn together with the wrong sides facing each other, then the seams were trimmed down to a quarter inch and sewn into french seams.

After the hem was shaped I folded the edge over by a half inch and basted it down.

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Then the hem was brought up by an inch and a half and pinned in place.

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I sewed it down with a cross stitch.

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I knife pleated the top of the skirt down to twenty five inches.

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After I sewed across the pleats I pinned the skirt to the bodice. Then I cut a seven inch slit in the skirt, which continues down from the opening in the side back of the bodice. To finish the edge I used more strips of wool.

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All that got sewn on, then I pinned a strip of one inch wide bias tape over the frayed edge on the interior of the bodice. I stitched that down and it was done!

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Isn’t it pretty?

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I’m very happy with it! I was going to wait until Friday to post worn photos but here is a sneaky one since i’m eager to share!

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Thank you for reading!

Heinrich Mücke Inspired Dress, Part Two

The procrastination project continues! Earlier this week I wrote about the process of making the lining and sleeves. That post can be read here. I didn’t mention this last time, but I “vlogged” (I hate that word) about making this dress on youtube. For the five days I worked on it I took short clips about my goals and how it progressed. I edited them into two videos and if you are interested in seeing those they can be found here!

Starting where the last post left off, I went ahead and gathered the tops of the sleeves and sewed them onto the bodice lining. I didn’t figure out a way to make these more opaque with the materials I had on hand, so I left them the way they were. Luckily as the project has gotten closer to completion the sheerness has grown on me!

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DSC_5020With the sleeves finished I switched to working on the skirt overlay. I started by cutting out a big rectangle, which was a little more than four yards wide and fifty sevenish inches long. I turned the bottom edge over by a half inch and basted it down by hand.DSC_5015I pinned that edge up to create a two and a half inch wide hem.DSC_5022And sewed it down with a cross stitch. I haven’t hemmed anything this way in a while because it is a little more time consuming than a whip stitch, and takes a lot more thread which makes it more prone to tangling. But this project reminded me how nice it looks from the outside of the fabric, you can hardly even see the stitches!DSC_5025The top eight inches of each edge got rolled over twice and stitched down with a whip stitch. I did this on the lining layer as well. It gets left open when I sew up the back seam and gives me a way to get the dress on and off.

DSC_5026I used my machine to gather the top down to twenty seven inches.DSC_5028Then I attached it to the bias tape I made earlier. I cut a fifty seven inch long piece of bias tape and sewed the center twenty seven inches over the raw edge of the skirt. I whip stitched both ends (which were fifteen inches long each) shut so I could tie them into a bow at the back of the skirt.DSC_5029I did up the back seam with a half inch wide french seam. Which doesn’t sound hard, and it wouldn’t be with more fabrics,  but this material is incredibly difficult to work with. It acts almost like a very tightly woven silk chiffon. Even my finest needle which was changed right before working on this caused tons of pulls when sewing a simple seam. Luckily they mostly ironed out, but it was really annoying!DSC_5037And here the skirt is, looking all nice and pretty on my dress form! At this point the skirt was complete so I moved on to the bodice.DSC_5031The bodice will have a draped gathered overlay on it, which is something I have very limited experience with, so I was a bit nervous. I took my remaining fabric and cut it into three rectangle, which got sewn together. Then I gathered the lower edge down to the width of the waist of the bodice.DSC_5039I pinned the wrong side of the gathered rectangles to the right side of the bodice. Then I sewed across the bottom.DSC_5040Then I started on the tricky part, pulling, gathering, and manipulating the fabric into a visually pleasing overlay. It looks great, right? The image below just has things roughly pinned in an attempt to get the fabric evenly distributed over the neckline. The next step  was gathering pieces by hand and basting them to the neckline. And of course, trimming away a ton of material so I could ease the overlay across the shoulder and around the armholes.DSC_5043After a bit (okay, a lot) of work I had something much more attractive.DSC_5049

DSC_5047I left the fabric around the zipper opening loose, since it will be stitched down in a specific way to cover the zipper. I have to wait until the zipper is attached before doing this, so it stayed open for quite a while.DSC_5050I tried it on to make sure it fit okay and didn’t create a “snowman effect” which happened with the gathered bodice for my christmas costume. It sort of did but I was able to mostly fix it by pulling it down in certain areas to create more tension and smooth it out.

Unfortunately since this bodice doesn’t have boning in it or anything to help keep its shape, the whole tension thing didn’t really work. It just pulled up the layer of suiting which made it rest a half inch higher on my waist. I’m really annoyed about this. It was coming along so well and actually looked pretty flattering! And this sort of ruined that. It wasn’t a mistake I could really fix since I had already trimmed the overlay fabric down, and even if I hadn’t, ripping stitching out of this material would be impossible.

I had no choice but to move on. So I did. I sewed the overlay down around the neckline, sleeves, and shoulders. Then I covered the neckline with more home made bias tape and stitched it down by hand.DSC_5053To help with the length problem just a little I decided to cover the raw edge at the waist with one inch wide bias tape, then top stitch the skirt layers onto the bias tape. This doesn’t make the bodice longer, but it does prevent me from losing the half inch seam allowance.DSC_5058Then it was time for beading. I decided to stitch a row of gold sequins across the bottom of the bias tape at the neckline, then another row extending down from every other sequin to create gradient type of effect. In the center of each sequin there is a red seed bead. This took three or four hours to do, which was wayy longer than I had expected. It’s a little more subtle than I had wanted, but I think it adds a lot to the bodice so it was worth the time it took to do it!

I chose to take a close up of the first section I did, which was a bad idea. The rest of it looks much cleaner, I promise.DSC_5060Here it is on the dress form.DSC_5061 I decided to make beaded tassels for one of the additional waist ties. I’ve never done this before and didn’t research how to do it, so it ended up taking hours and the end result isn’t that great. But I like how they look with the finished dress!

The one on the right was my second attempt. It took half the amount of time, used fewer beads, and looks way cleaner. So I think if I made these again it would be much faster and yield better results.

DSC_5067And that’s everything for the bodice! So back to focusing on the skirt. I sewed the skirt lining onto the bias tape on the bodice.DSC_5064

DSC_5072…Which made my dress too small to fit over the shoulders of my dress form. So here is how it looks hanging up!DSC_5069I sewed the zipper in (I did an awful job because I was feeling lazy and knew it wouldn’t be visible. I’m a bit ashamed of that) and top stitched the skirt overlay on.

The bodice overlay got tacked around the zipper and it was done! I’m very happy with this dress. It might not be the best thing i’ve made when it comes to quality of stitch work, but I think it’s really pretty and I know i’ll enjoy wearing it!

The weather where I live has been overcast all week, so I haven’t had enough sunlight to take worn photos. But that will probably change in a few days so I’ll have some worn photos to post soon!DSC_5077Here are some close ups for now.DSC_5558

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I’ve also made a headpiece (well, two headpieces, not sure which i’ll use) out of wooden skewers, sequins, beads, and dried flowers which are all mounted on plastic headbands. I think this will pair really nicely with the dress and give a similar appearance to the spiky brush strokes that were used to create the appearance of a halo in some renaissance portraiture.

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So that’s it for today! Thank you for reading!

Heinrich Mücke Inspired Dress, Part One

Last week I shared the making of my Cinderella dress, which I actually finished today (thank god), that project has been frustrating, to say the least. Part way through I decided I needed to take a break, which meant it was time for a procrastination project!

I decided to begin work on something I mentioned in my Progress Report. I’ve had this project in mind for a while and I knew it would be relatively easy to make, so I got to work! In total this dress took five days to make, and sixty dollars worth of materials. I used sari fabric from Joanns, and a matching suiting for lining. I also raided my beading collection and used some sequins and seed beads for embellishments.

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This project is based on a dress from a painting called “The Body of Saint Catherine of Alexandria Borne to Heaven by Angels” it was painted by Mucke Heinrich. I love this painting, I think it’s really pretty. And even though the dresses shown are simple, I really like them.

The image below does not belong to me and was taken from this page.

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I drew up a quick little sketch as well. I decided that it would have a structured base out of suiting, with the sari fabric draped overtop. The sleeves would be large with little ties at the wrist, which match larger ones at the waist. The neckline would be finished with bias tape and have sequins sewn on to cover the seam.

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Step one was draping the pattern. This is a super simple three piece pattern, which will actually end up being a four piece pattern since the front and back seams are cut on the fabrics folded edge.

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Once removed from the dress form it looked like this! It was pretty rough around the edges so I did some trimming before tracing it for my paper pattern.

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After things were straightened out, I traced each piece and added seam allowances. The pattern looked like this.

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I turned that into a mock up (made of cute puppy dog fabric, of course). I was pretty pleased with the fit. I just wanted to deepen the neckline  a little and lengthen the waistline by a half inch.

After a big of fiddling,  I decided this dress would close with a zipper up the back side seam. It makes getting it on a bit of a struggle, but it’s really the only seam I can hide it in.

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With the alterations made I cut out my pattern. The two panels shown below are the ones the zipper gets inserted into. Instead of being sewn together with a seam both edges get turned over by a half inch.

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But the rest of the seams get sewn the way you would expect. This is actually the wrong side of the bodice, which will be facing the interior. As I said earlier the suiting is the lining, and the sari fabric will be draped overtop which will hide the raw edges.

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Here the bodice is with the shoulder seam done up and the right side facing out. I know it looks a bit messy, but that is unavoidable with these things! I also chose to stitch a half inch away from each edge, this creates a guideline for where to attach the bias tape.

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Speaking of bias tape, the next step was using some to cover the raw edges around the arm holes.

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With that done I placed it on my dress form. I think it looks a lot better this way! And this is actually the last step about making the bodice lining, because everything else has to be done after the overlay is attached!

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With the bodice lining “done” I moved onto the skirt. The skirt is a four yard wide, fifty four inch long rectangle. The top eight inches of the two raw edges got turned over twice and sewn down. This will be the opening for the skirt.

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Then I pleated the top down to twenty seven inches. I had to do this part twice since I sort of messed up on the measurements and it ended up four inches too small….

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Here it is on the dress form. The hem is really long, but I kind of like that. It reminds me of my Pleated Navy Gown, which is so long that it’s impossible to walk in. Though not very practical, it looks really nice in photos, so I decided to leave it.

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I used horsehair braid to hem it. I’ve shown this process before, but it doesn’t hurt to show it again! It gets sewn on to the right side of the fabric, with a half inch seam allowance.

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Then rolled over, twice, so it’s on the wrong side of the fabric. Then it gets stitched down again.

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With that done I did up the back with a french seam, leaving the top six inches or so open so the zipper can be sewn in  later on.

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The skirt can’t be attached until the bodice overlay has been draped, so this is pretty much it for the lining layer! I think the lining actually looks pretty nice on it’s own. This would be a fun dress to make in a day if you used prettier fabrics.

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But that would be far to simple for me, so of course I have to add an overlay, waist ties, and sleeves…

I’ve leave the making of the overlay for my next post, but I will show how I made the sleeves. I started by drafting a quick sleeve pattern. It has a lightly sloped top and is wider at the wrist than the top, but it’s pretty damn similar to a rectangle. So it doesn’t make the most flattering sleeves, but they are full and pretty!

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Here they are cut from the sari fabric. This fabric is kind of odd, it has big bullseye stains dyed into it at various points throughout. I think it looks fine in the finished dress, but when laid out flat it looks like the fabric has been shot and is bleeding!  It seems really out of place with the subtle mottled dye the rest of the fabric has.

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I turned the lower few inches of the edges over by a quarter inch and sewed it down with a whip stitch.

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Then I gathered the bottoms down to six and a half inches.

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I made little ties for the wrist out of bias cut strips of the fabric. I folded the edges inward, then folded the strip in half. The gathered edge of the sleeve gets tucked into the folded strip so the raw edge is hidden.

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The ties were sewn on, and the edges that weren’t folded were sewn shut with small whip stitches. Here are the sleeves with the bottoms nicely finished.

I wasn’t super happy with these, even though I liked how the gathers and ties looked. They were a lot more sheer than I had expected, which makes my arms really visible through them, and I didn’t want that. But the fit of the bodice makes undersleeves impossible and I didn’t have enough fabric leftover to line them. So I decided to live with it and move on!

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I did up the back seam with a french seam. The tops still need to be gathered and attached to the bodice, but i’ll go over that in my next post.

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So that’s it for today!

Thank you for reading.

Making 16th Century Foresleeves

Today i’m talking about foresleeves. This is the…honestly I have no idea what number this post is, this series has been going on for so long! But all the previous posts about this project can be found here.

Foresleeves (or false sleeves) are a bizarrely shaped piece of material that covers the arm from the elbow to the wrist. They are large and rounded in shape with strips of material pulled through slits at the lower edge and wrist. They are often trimmed with material in a different color and embellished. You can see examples of foresleeves in a couple paintings which served as my inspiration for this ensemble, those can be viewed here and here!

This was a fun post to write because I hadn’t realized how much work went into this part until I was resizing photos. These sleeves were one of the first pieces I began working on, and one of the last I finished.

I started with a pattern. Ignore the tick marks for now, those were supposed to be where the fabric was pulled through to create puffs but I changed the sizing later on.

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Then I cut my sleeves out. The body of them is made from silk dupioni, like the kirtle. If I was smart I would have interfaced them at this point, but I put that off until later (which I now regret).

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Then I pinned bias tape over the edges. I used my machine to sew down the backside and hand stitched the front.

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It looked so smooth and pretty! So smooth and pretty that I decided to not add puffs at the wrist. There are paintings that show puffs only at the bottom edge of the sleeve so I figured that would be good enough.

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But then I set these aside for a couple weeks and realized the reason I didn’t want puffs at the wrist is because I was scared I would mess up. And that is a silly reason not to do something since i’m trying to learn. So I marked out the slashes where the puffs would be inserted, then stitched around them to help prevent fraying.

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I cut each slash open and bound them with quarter inch wide bias tape. This was tricky and time consuming since I was working with two fabrics that fray a lot and I didn’t have any room for error. But it turned out okay!

Unfortunately I had to add interfacing at this point and couldn’t avoid the wrinkles near the wrist. I’m a bit bummed about this, but oh well, i’ll know for next time.

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I played around with a lot of different fabrics in an attempt to find the perfect fabric for the pulls (I like calling them puffs, but that is incorrect, meh). I tried off white cotton gauze, ivory silk organza, a satin material, and even a knit! None of those are very historically accurate but I hated how the linen I had looked. Even when tea stained to be off white it looks very stark and inexpensive compared to the silk and damask.

So I put organza overtop of it. Which added some depth and made it look a little fancier. These are the five inch squares which got gathered down at each end to create the wrist puffs.

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Here they are pinned into place! These got stitched down shortly after.

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One side done. Unfortunately this step created even more puckers at the wrist, but at least it is less noticeable when worn.

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At this point that I decided to turn the top edge over to make each sleeve a little shorter. They actually went past the crook of my elbow which was a bad sign. Luckily this was easy to do and fixed the problem.

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Another thing to fix was the huge amount of fraying of the wrist puffs. it wasn’t visible from the outside of the sleeve, but the interior was a mess. So I half lined them with leftover linen.

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Then it was time to make the pulls for the lower edge. I decided there would be five puffs on each sleeve, and each one would be made from five inches of material. So I cut two twenty-five inch long strips of linen and organza – one for each sleeve.

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Then I gathered the strips every five inches to create puffs.

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Which got sewn to the underside of each sleeve. Aside from the puckers, I was really happy with how these were turning out!

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With all the pulls done it was time for embellishing. I put a large glass stone and two pearls at the base of each wrist puff.

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I was running low on glass stones, and wanted to save the ones I had for the jewelry and french hood. So I decided to keep it simple and only use a pearl and two seed beads between each puff on the underside of the sleeves.

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This is how they looked!

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The only thing left to do was create some sort of system to attach them onto the main sleeve. I opted for eyelets, since they are easy to do and historically accurate. There are three sewn at the top of each foresleeve.

After trying them on I also decided to stitch up the back of the sleeves so they would sit better on my arm and keep their shape. And that is it! They were done!

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Here is how they look worn! This was before attaching the oversleeves to my dress.

Photo on 4-27-15 at 1.19 PM #2

 My next post will be about making the accessories for this project…or maybe it will be about the skirt. I haven’t decided yet, but it will be one of those two.

Thank you for reading!

Making a Orchid Inspired Dress, Part Two

This is the second post about making my Orchid Inspired Dress! Today i’m going over the process of making the lower half of this costume. The post about making the bodice can be read here.

The skirt base is a really big circle skirt cut from striped upholstery material. Unfortunately at the time I bought this material my math skills failed me and I purchased wrong amount. I only bought three yards and I really needed another eighteen inches. I had to crop the front and back of the skirt by four inches just to cut the skirt out. Yikes.

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Here you can see how that ended up looking on my dress form. Do you see the problem?

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Luckily I had a plan that would cover the hem! It would involve the three yards of organza I bought without  a real purpose in mind.

So I did a rough patching job that lengthened the front of the skirt. It was pretty ugly, but it’s okay if it’s ugly, I can cover that up later.

(that could be my personal motto)

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The back of the skirt was also too short, so I used leftover fabric to make a train. I planned on using the organza to cover the seam, so the stripes not lining up shouldn’t be noticeable in the end.

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With the skirt the right length all the way around, I could move onto hemming! I started by stitching a half inch away from the lower edge. This was done to prevent fraying more than anything else.

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It still frayed a huge amount in some spots, so I trimmed those places with pinking shears.

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Then I used a basting stitch to turn the edge over.

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And then the edge got turned over again, this time by two inches.

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I sewed that down, by hand, with a whip stitch. This hem was ridiculous, I think it was six yards long or something similar. It took all afternoon to finish!

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It was around this point that I felt the skirt looked a little boring. So I decided to paint spots up the back of it. The logic here was “My Orchid has spots, so my dress should have spots!” which seemed like a bright idea at the time. I drew these spots out with a colored pencil, then filled them in with a jacquard paint in the color “violet”.

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After putting on the first layer I had a “Oh god what have I done” moment of immediate regret. I definitely didn’t love how it looked, but by this point I was committed so I kept going.

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The paint wasn’t as opaque as I had hoped, so I did a second coat with a setacolor ink. This stuff wasn’t very opaque either, but I was running out of it so I decided two coats would have to be enough!

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With the spots done it was time to decorate the hem with organza. I debated about what technique to use, but finally decided to sew it into tubes and to tack them down kind of haphazardly. It all sounds very strange but I had a vision!

Here are the strips of organza.

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They got sewn into tubes, then the seam allowance was trimmed down, and they were turned rightside out.

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I had a few different sizes. I really wish I had bought more organza because I didn’t have nearly enough. I had hoped to use some of these on the bodice and top of the skirt but I needed them all for just the hem,

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I didn’t steam or iron any of the tubes, so they still had a lot of volume after being pinned and stitched onto the hem. I also used all the remaining mesh from my Fluffy Feathered Dress to make it look like flowers were growing up the dress. I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, though I wish I had more organza so I could have made the strips wider and the effect more pronounced.

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With the bottom of the skirt done, it was time to focus on the top half – I guess this part could be considered a peplum, but that isn’t a word I think of applying to part of a ball gown!

These are the pieces that drape down from the bodice in petal like shapes. I drafted these by hanging my few remaining pieces of organza from the waistline, then trimming them into the correct shape.

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Once laid flat they looked like this. I sewed the darts and cleaned up the edges.

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Then I finished those edges off with home made bias tape.

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Now it was time for the draping! This would be done with purple taffeta, like the bodice was. I used the same technique and cut strips of taffeta which got folded in half and stitched up the side, then turned right side out.

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After a lot of pinning I came up with something I liked!

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So I took it off the dress form and tacked the strips down so the draping pattern would stay put. Then I stitched the tops of the “petals” together so sewing it onto the bodice would be easier.

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But before sewing anything I decided to make another piece for this dress: A bow. I cut three more strips of taffeta and sewed them into tubes (see a running theme with this dress?) then folded the edges into points and whip stitched them closed.

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Then I put the bodice, skirt, peplum, and bow onto the dress form just to make sure everything looked the way I wanted.

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I was really happy with the draping and placement of everything (and the bow, I always love a good bow) but I thought the skirt was lacking in volume. Though it had tons at first, my petticoats have a habit of deflating, and after two weeks of working on this project the skirt had shrunk and looked pathetic.

But any good seamstress should have a bolt of petticoat net on hand! And I did! I cut out a few large rectangles and sewed them into strips.

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Then the lower edges got trimmed with home made bias tape so they wouldn’t catch on anything.

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The tops were gathered down and stitched together.

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And in no time at all I had a netting lining for my dress!

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Now I felt comfortable sewing everything together. But (isn’t there always a but?) I had to fix up the opening in the back first, because it had turned into a frayed mess.

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I trimmed back the worst of the frayed parts, then attached taffeta bias tape around the opening.

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I also sewed a zipper underneath the bias tape, but for some reason I didn’t take photos of that part.

Now I could finally begin assembly! The peplum was sewn onto the skirt, then the netting was sewn in. The photo below shows the netting just before being tacked to the interior of the zipper.

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With all the layers together I could finally attach bias tape to the top. This prevents fraying and any scratchiness from the netting.

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And then the bodice got attached!

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Here is how it looks finished! I wish I had photos of the back but this dress is too big for my room, the train ended up being cut off in every picture.

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Thank you for reading!