Craft Fair goodies

September 9, 2012

The craft fair was in Canberra a few weeks ago and, obviously, I went. It’s good fun because there’s so many different things so even though I could probably get most of the stuff online it’s fun to browse. Much more variety than the few shops in Canberra.  So this year’s goodies included:


Packet of various types of linen and evenweave to try out (don’t know the shop name), novelty zips, sashiko printed panel, sashiko thread and lovely japanese fabrics to edge the panel with and turn it into a table runner (from and a book! 18th Century Embroidery Techniques, which I thought would be handy for working out how to do my pockets – I ordered a pattern from Nehelenia Patterns, which is nice but doesn’t have much explanation of stitches or anything like that.  The books looks really nice, I saw a review of it on American Duchess a while ago, and I agree with everything she said, if you’re interested.



These are make-your-own plastic coasters.  I have a plan for making some super cute cross stitch coasters. I don’t know how pretty these will look, but it’s probably a better option than sitting a mug directly on the cross stitch.  Anyway, I’ll see how it goes.


This is last year’s craft fair purchase! I hadn’t heard of sashiko before (Japanese embroidery) but I’ve always loved those geometric Japanese patterns (apparently originally derived from sashiko) so I decided to have a go.  It’s even easier than cross stitch (the kits come with pre-printed fabric) so it’s a nice relaxing thing to do.  My mum was pretty sceptical, Japanese isn’t really her thing, but she came to the craft fair with me this year and now she’s got her own sashiko project : )

At last! Working on the 1780s stays

August 16, 2012

After months of apathy (and a lot of non-sewing stuff going on), I’m finally getting on with my new set of 1780s stays.  Here’s what I’ve done:

Fitting: a few months ago I asked a friend who was briefly in Canberra to check the fit of my prototype.  She suggested cutting the tab slits higher, bringing the front shoulder tabs in and altering the angle of the lacing at the back.  I made all these changes to the prototype (had to cut yet more pieces for the front, grumble) and I think it went well, although the lacing at the back met, so it’s possible that the angle still isn’t ideal. On the final version I’m taking an inch off each piece so there will be a gap, so I’ll have to see how it goes.

Oh, and I added some curve to the side-front seam of the piece since I’ve read (for example, from American Duchess) that this is how you get the more rounded line of the later decades, which sounds more flattering and more comfortable to me.

Materials:  I’ve had a lot of trouble deciding on materials, but I’ve finally made some decisions.  Ideally, I wanted to make the stays soft blue with pink trimming. I have some blue silk, but it’s actually quite yellow-y and odd, so it really doesn’t go with pink.  Then I ordered some pink silk twill ribbon from etsy for binding, but when it arrived the colour turned out to be less rose pink and more salmon, so it needs a nice clear colour so that it doesn’t just look brown. I was going through my silk collection and realised I have just enough ivory silk dupion left over from binding the last set of stays and it looks OK with the silk ribbon.  I also managed to find some pink silk thread that goes well enough, so it looks like the stays will be ivory with pink stitching and bound with ribbon.

For the interlining fabrics, I’m using a layer of beige-y cotton/linen and yellow cotton canvas. Finding pure linen fabrics without stretch was basically impossible, and I think the final effect will be the same.  Also, I’m hoping that only having one layer of canvas will make the stays more forgiving and curvy than the last set, which had 2.

If I put in a lining, I’ll do it at the end. I have some reasonably soft pale blue linen that I can use.

Boning: I’ve still got German synthetic whalebone from the last stays so hopefully there will be enough.  In terms of arranging the boning, I think I’ll look at these stays from the V&A, this pattern from JP Ryan, these amazing stays, and the Butterick pattern I’ve been using. I’m starting with bones along the seam lines.

Tracing around the prototype pieces

Cutting out: I’ve traced the outline (without seam allowance) of each piece onto the silk and then cut out them out of all layers, leaving plenty of spare fabric all around the lines.  Then I basted around the outline through all three layers.

Outline traced in water-soluble pen

Construction: I’ve started sewing the boning channels. I’m sewing by hand, using backstitch.  I’m not sure how that’ll go, it’s much slower than machine, but it does give me more control – doing channels by machine, I often had to undo them if it got wonky, or I realised that it was slightly too tight for the bone – by hand I can check these things as I’m going, instead of unpicking the whole thing and starting again! It also means that I can do a seam or two at a time, watching tv or while I’m at uni.

Then once I’ve done the channels, I’m planning on whipping the edges of the pieces together.

Anyway! Progress.  I think it’s going well.

More on the new stays

January 31, 2012

So I cut a new  piece for the stays with the centre front fold on a slightly different axis and a higher neckline and it seemed to work out fairly well.  I wore them for a few hours and they didn’t hurt too much, although it’s hard to tell when they’re not boned as heavily as the finished thing will be (I ran out of boning) and it’s the crappy sew-through boning that doesn’t really work the same way.  The sew-through boning has actually been really good, it made it much more achievable to do a toile with boning in it, but I’m not sure how the feel of it will compare.  The boning that angles in and finishes around the waist at the front was digging in after a while, and I don’t really know whether that would still happen…

Anyway, I need to try it on again, but I need some spare time when I’m just going to be a home for a few hours! That hasn’t really happened recently.  And then I need to make final decisions about fabrics, boning etc.  Blah.

Toile for new stays

January 13, 2012

So, to cut a long story short, I’ve decided to start on new eighteenth century stays.  In order to end up with something I actually like I’m making a few changes:

  • I’m making a slightly different style of stays, later ones with less boning and (hopefully) more curviness
  • I’m going to put more effort into doing a proper toile with boning, etc
  • I’m going to construct it in a more sensible (and hopefully accurate) way so that if I hate it when it’s done I have more chance of fixing it.

Anyway, I should write up what I’m doing in more detail later.  For now, these are pictures of the toile.  I’m currently contemplating

  • whether to raise the neckline (I think I probably should, I can always cut it down later).  I haven’t added any length so far because I was a bit daunted by how to do it, but I think the neckline is where it’s needed.
  • whether to take it in more at the centre front.  At the moment the armscyes are digging in and the lacing gap at the back is too narrow at the top, so hopefully taking it in more would help.

Basically this adds up to cutting a new front piece.  Sigh.  Off I go.

1780s progress?

October 7, 2011

The 1780s sewing weekend was lovely, even though I only managed to make it for one day (grr to having to earn money) and it was great to spend time with lovely people and share ideas.  However, it seems as though I may actually be further behind now that I thought I was at the beginning of the weekend.  Sigh.

I spent pretty much all of my Friday working on my eyelets, finishing them at about  midnight. I decided to be good and pierce the holes with an awl (which worked, for once) and whip-stitch around them with silk thread.  It wasn’t difficult, it just seemed to take forever.  And in the end the holes were a tiny bit tight for the aglets on my lace, so lacing them up was a bit more of a chore than usual.  I also made a bumroll from a pattern Aylwen had drafted up.

And then on Saturday the problems began.  I tried the stays on for fitting the bodice toile, and I discovered they were way less comfortable than I thought they would be (despite my careful re-sizing and testing at earlier stages of the process).  Then the bodice was about 2 inches too short, and sadly the Portrait Dress pattern does not include a helpful shortening/lengthening line so adjusting it across odd slopes was going to be a bit of a pain.  In the end I decided to give the JP Ryan Robe à l’Anglaise pattern a go as it did have lengthening lines so adjusting it would be a bit easier.  So I wasted some time tracing a new pattern and cutting out a new toile (with 2 inches added to the waist).

The new toile turned out quite a bit better.  I can probably take a bit of the length out (as I’d hoped) and I had lots of help fitting the toile to me, cutting the armscyes deeper and adjusting the angle of the shoulder straps (the extra piece made this pretty easy).  We also spent some time debating what to do about the point at the back of the bodice – originally we were going to flare it so that it came out neatly over the bumroll, but after looking at some pictures we decided that the angle was too sharp and the bodice should curve out more gradually, without flaring.  We then had some questions about what was making the angle of the bumroll too sharp – was it too firm, tied too high, or the wrong shape?  After some research of my own, I’ve decided it looks like the right shape, but I should take some stuffing out and tie it a little lower.

Over the day I took my stays on and off quite a few times… And by the end of the day I was actually starting to have some sympathy for Elizabeth Swann.  Later in the afternoon, I actually did feel lightheaded and thought I might faint (apparently I turned white).  Added to this, I’m not that happy with the look they achieve – according to Lynne, who is much more experienced in fitting such things, I should have cut the points at the front higher and flared the centre front piece towards the top for a better shape.  I tried making a small pad to put in the front to try to take some of the pressure off my ribs, and it helped but didn’t fix the issues.  Anyway, the stays issue is a post in itself, but it did make me decide that I really need to make sure I’m happy with the stays situation before I finalise my bodice adjustments.  Gah!

Late C18th Ikea Dress Plans

September 28, 2011

So, in an attempt to motivate myself, I’m going to write down my plans…

The first C18th dress I want to do is a chintz day dress.  I saw a few that I loved in this style in Europe, such as this one from the V&A.

I’ve got an Ikea doona cover that I’m going to use as the main fabric.  In fact I’ve got 2, because I liked it so much I decided I wanted one to use as a doona cover as well.  I’ve got about 6 pillowcases as well, which I can cut into if need be.  The advantages of this are that it was cheap, I can probably get another set if it goes horribly wrong, and the fabric is quite soft, as it’s not designed for quilting or anything.  The pattern probably isn’t 100% historically accurate, but I think the effect is close enough for a first go.

I ordered some fine cotton voile to make a matching petticoat, but it turned out to be a very stark white which makes the Ikea fabric look too yellowy, so I’ll use it to do an under-petticoat, and some softer white voile from my stash for the proper petticoat (both are very fine, so I’m assuming I’ll need at least two).

In terms of cut and pattern, I’m using Sense & Sensibility’s Portrait Dress pattern.  I’ll use the lower neckline and try to achieve something gently curved.  I’ll cut the bodice with a pointed front and back and elbow-length sleeves.

By way of trimming, I’m thinking of doing something similar to this dress, from the Kyoto Costume Institute.  I like the soft organza and bolder colour of the red.  I’ve got some silk organza to make a kerchief and I may have some offcuts for the trimming – I’ll see how I go, otherwise I can order more.  This might be a longer-term plan – from what I’ve seen, very little decoration is also acceptable.

I also bought a couple of metres of very beautiful, wide lace to trim the cuffs with.  I think this will probably date the dress a little earlier than the 1780s I’m going for – most of the soft, frilly decoration seems to be a little earlier, though it’s probably hard to tell as lace is the sort of thing that might get transferred from dress to dress.  Anyway, the lace is beautiful and I think I’ll gather it onto some bias tape so I can remove it easily.

Oh, and I’ll probably attach some ribbons and buttons so I can turn the dress into a polonaise, depending on how I like it better.

C18th progress

September 28, 2011

Well, my C18th outfits are slowly progressing but I’ve hit a bit of a rut and really haven’t done much.  I’ve done my research, chosen my design and bought all the fabrics I need, so I’ve run out of fun things to do and have to trudge through the boring slow bits before I can get to the more interesting work of actually sewing the dress.

The corset is all done except for the lacing holes.  I’m still trying to work out how to do them – the internet seems adamant that I should use an awl to pierce the hole rather than cutting them but when I’ve tried this in the past it just hasn’t worked at all.  Maybe because I like to use closely-woven silk taffeta?  Anyway, I guess I’ll have another go.

Corset so far

Closer view of the corset

I should also make a new chemise.  I really love my Elizabethan one and I could easily make a new one from that pattern, but I do remember it taking longer than it should, because of having to measure out all the pieces.  I’m very tempted to just shorten the sleeves of my Elizabethan chemise…

I also need to make a bumroll, probably before I get into doing proper toiles and fittings.  Drafting one up and making it from some calico and stuffing shouldn’t be hard, it’s just another boring, fiddly thing to do.

I’ve already traced a proper pattern for the bodice from my epattern and cut and sewed a calico toile, but I can’t really progress until I’ve got working stays and a bumroll.  Sigh.