mercoledì 8 febbraio 2017

5 basic tips to work with velvet (and cousins!)

Velvet. The king of fabrics. Really, velvet is from centuries one of the materials connected to royalty and richness with its soft pile and incredible texture. But - for us dressmakers - how velvet can turn into a nightmare our sewing project? Many times, trust me. It happens to experienced seamstresses too so no worries! In this little guide I'll explain you some tips to work with velvet (and cousins - like crushed or stretch velvet) and 
If you're here, I'm sure you probably faced the problems related to velvet so let's get started.

Crushed/panné velvet

Silk velvet

1. Stay calm.
Sewing with velvet can be hard but it's not impossible. First of all, you must keep in mind you're working with an expensive fabric (as silk) so think twice before cutting. Do all the mock ups you need, take all your time but stay calm. Hurry can be your worst enemy. If you want to serge your velvet make a try on some scraps before proceeding: not every velvet type is serger-friendly. 

2. Forget your iron
Don't miss this step! Your iron can ruin your fabric irremediably. The heat can damage and burn the pile of velvet so use your iron always on the wrong side on the fabric, avoiding to touch it; some steam may be used but be careful to don't touch the pile.

3. Clean your workspace
Velvet doesn't fray easily but it leaves lot of small, fluffy balls. Breathing these balls can be a problem for your health so always keep your vacuum near and clean your working space often. Wearing a mask can be useful too. 

4. Pay attention to nap/pile
This is the  most important step, in my opinion. A garment sewn with two different naps scream homemade (remember: your creations must look handmade and not homemade, these are two different things) but  this mistake can be easily avoided paying a little of attention. The nap is the direction of the pile, which can run up or down; usually, the nap running down gives to the garment a darker, richer tone. There's not a general rule (up or down is the same) but the important is to cut the pieces in the same direction: this may require extra yardage so check out the instructions on your pattern envelope.

5. Hem by hand when possible
Velvet may stretch a little, especially on edges, and it can roll on the inside. This counts especially for crushed and stretch velvet. Hemming your garments by hand is a good solution to control stretching: bias tape could work good for this purpose, using a hemming stitch on the inside. Never leave your hems raw! 

mercoledì 18 gennaio 2017

Notte bianca romana Acqui Terme, 2016

While browsing this blog a couple of days ago, I realized one of the entries dating back to 2016 was missing. I don't know what happened, I'm absolutely sure to have written and published that post, but it seems it has gone lost. That post was about my latest event with IX Regio, which took place in Acqui Terme in June 2016. June. We are in January. I have to write again about an experience from more than 6 months ago, how funny. 

So, let's try to remember. Last year we have been invited to join again the "Notte Bianca Romana" in Acqui Terme. Two months before we attended "Natale di Roma" in Rome and so I absolutely wanted to wear again my green (and brand new) outfit. The weather was really hot and wet so - as I expected - I suffered a lot and spent most of my time sitting at the table waiting for the night to come. Towards the evening we got some clouds (hurray!) so I could stand up a little and enjoy the event. 

I'm not a club person so I don't dance or get out on Saturday night (so much work to do at home!) and I'm not the best person to describe an event like this. But I'll try... The event was in two parts, historical in the afternoon and modern in the night, with all the shops open and so on. I think you should have evenings like this too, "notte bianca" means "white night" in English. Anyway, the group did some reenacting stuff in the afternoon and early evening, including gladiator fights (the guys were wearing the colorful subligaculum I made for them the week before - unfortunately this photos is on my phone). 

The guys from the group built the caupona with real food and drinks plus a little market, including... guess what? Fabrics? I immediately went to check out the products heheh

And this is! We didn't take more photos since we were reenacting - first - and we didn't join the drinking evening after - second.
As usual, I recommend to visit IX Regio page on Facebook to be updated on their events and my own Fb page to follow my costumes and work in progress photos.

PS: a replica of my Roman outfit but in blue has been ordered on Etsy and the customer was absolutely in love with it! Can't wait to see her photos from "Les grand jeux romains" of Nimes!  

mercoledì 14 dicembre 2016

The real life behind social medias

This post is about reality and real life. No, it's not the classic "what's my daily routine" post but something more serious, concerning OUR life as bloggers/costumers/seamstresses/models/human beings. In 2015, Lauren of Wearing History started a challenge called "The myth of perfection" in which she explained with photos how social medias can distort the real "us", because on the web you show to the public what you want. And the public will believe you, because people don't know what's happening behind/before/later that photo or video has been taken. 
Social medias may be a dangerous place. I mean...we all have real lives and social medias are often a way to get relaxed, to escape from reality, a personal place. So we want to show our best: our new fabrics, our new dress, our new shoes, our new house...and so on. People often look fabulous, happy, successful: but what's behind? 

I read several post related to this challenge and I decided to do my own. Ok, it's from 2015. I had to contribute last year and I forgot, as often happens because my life is kinda a mess. Like my flat. So, let's get started! This is my real life behind photos shared on social medias.

I'm often told I always look extremely serious and austere in photos but I'm an outgoing person. Seriously, I can laugh (ask my friends)! But in the years I developed the idea I'm ugly (being bullied at school for years didn't help...) and I look extremely ugly in photos while laughing or not being perfectly posing, so I wanted my "modelling character" to be like this: serious, proud, pretending I'm really self-confident about my appearance. 

This shot was taken for an Italian magazine in 2015. I was literally melting for the hot weather, was wearing chemise and corset and trying to use the hoop as tunnel for the wind. A really nice experience but with a sad epilogue: I slowly left modelling after the magazine came out. My parents ignored it completely. 

Always in 2015, wearing my Anne Boleyn inspired gown at an event. I was so happy with this dress but after the ball the dream became a nightmare: our 18 years old car started to stop every 10 km and we came home after 7 hours (7!!) of journey (my town is just 3 hours from where the event was located). 

A victorian photoshoot taken in a very old house. The day after me and the photographer developed a very bad urticaria which required months of medicines to go away. A terrible experience - but the photos were lovely. I had to sit on that sofa because I didn't get my 1850's hoop-skirt on time. 

A shoot we did for my shop, with a landed camera. Our previous Canon broke in 2015 and we could buy a new one only a couple of months ago. At that moment I didn't know when we would be able to shoot again. Due to the shadows on my face I also look fatter and for a woman that always had weight  problems it's not ok. 

All dressed up for a 18th century event in September. I didn't sleep enough the night before because I couldn't finish the ruffles on time  and got a terrible headache after lunch so that I had to remove hat and hairstyle. The day after, I started to have painful abdominal pains due to the corset. 

First Regency event in July. Literally melting in this cotton dress and feeling quite embarrassed because it was the first event with "Le vie del tempo" and I felt very shy so I ended to spend the day in a corner speaking just few words. I was sure the ladies of the group didn't want to see me again!

In Rome, always this year. I had a terrible headache the days before the event, it was really cold (strange weather to be in April!) and my palla wasn't heavy enough to keep me warm. My face and puffy eyes explains everything. 

Back to 2012/2013, one of the hardest moments of my life. Me and my hubby where jobless and forced to live with my parents; we were hopeless and money less and I couldn't afford to buy new clothes for the photo shoots; I started to left modelling, I didn't have enough money to travel and photographers didn't contact me anymore. This photo has been taken near home on a bicycle path. I was really sad in that period and I barely left my house. 

Feeling fabulous in this pre-raphaelite photoshoot for a calendar in 2014. Some days after I had the most awful experience of my life with some customers. 

Second ante-bellum dress, taken from a Simplicity pattern due to lack of time. The back of the bodice was too long for my body shape and full of wrinkles, the skirt ended to be too long and the I discovered someone laughed at my back because - as costumer - I used a premade pattern instead drafting one by my own. This hurt me a lot. At that time I was working on two time-consuming commissions and hardly had the money to buy this white cotton. I had lot of stress in making this costume, with an old sewing machine and awful buttonholes. I also ruined a armhole with my serger and had to fix the hole by hand. 
Now sewing has become my full-time job: sometimes I DON'T have the time to have lunch breaks properly, I miss things and appointments, no social life at all, I get totally stressed but I didn't allow these bad voices to ruin my life and stopped following my dreams! 

And that is! Hope these captions helped to show you we all have a real life behind our modelling shots, perfect fitting clothes and so on: never, never, forget this and remember successful people always were beginners once! 

venerdì 2 dicembre 2016

1750s wool riding habit from "Patterns of fashion I" by Janet Arnold

For my latest reenactment event in Stupinigi I had to sew a ridign habit, since the theme of the day was hunting and I didn't own a proper dress. I always loved riding habits from 18 and 19th century so I immediately started to look for references from paintings and extant gowns,
Riding habits were extremely popoular at that time and were also used for walking or travelling, so were versatile; they were inspired by mens fashion so they were often made by tailors following traditional male techniques, as buttonholes on the left side instead on the right. They could be richily decorated or simpler, with long or short skirts, worn open or closed on the bust. Blue and red were popoular and fashionable colours. 

I wanted it in velvet but I thought it would have been too pretentious to be a first riding costume so I went for wool. I didn't have a particoular colour in mind and I chose a pumpink wool I found at a very good price in my home town. I also bought black wool for waistcoat, collar and cuffs. I wanted to look the most accurate as possible so I wore the proper undergarments (chemise, stays, pocket hoops, petticoat and riding shirt) including the riding waistcoat; now the fun part: tailoring. Seriously, tailoring is totally different from regular dressmaking. For my waistcoat I used my Outlander jacket as reference for the main body, enlarging the front pieces and elongating a lot the skirts as seen in "Patterns of Fashion" and "The cut of women's clothes"; the back has lacing as the male waistcoats. It is lined in cotton and it came together really quicly (sadly I didn't take photos of it during the event!) with hand finishing on the outside but machine sewn buttonholes. It was really warm! 

Now the riding habit. The skirt is a classic 18th century skirt made of rectangles with slits at sides and a waistband. I didn't took photos of the construction since I think almost all us know how to make a 18th century skirt properly =) It ended to be longer than I expected so I will have to hem it again in the future. 
The jacket was longer to make. I used Waugh's pattern to start but I definitely abandoned it because I disliked the dropped waist in the back skirts (The Antique Sewist explains this issue in her blog perfectly with lot of photos of the finished garment) so I referred to Janet Arnold. The pattern was kinda easy to draft but I did some alterations in the skirts and omitted the side pockets. The collar is from Waugh's pattern - it was faster to make. 

Janet Arnold pattern

The back and the sleeves fit perfecly but there are some issues with the front. The jacket looks bulky and too long and this is probably due to the position of my old pocket hoops. The front edges of the jacket are reinforced with canvas according to the pattern instructions. 
The pockets and the hems have been stitched with whipstitches on the inside and visible stitiches on the outside to keep lining in place. Cuffs and pockets have been them embellished with gold metallic buttons. 

Et voilà!

I forgot: the book "Patterns of fashion" is available on Amazon and can be purchased here: Patterns of Fashion: 1660-1860

mercoledì 23 novembre 2016

Pink robe à la française from Norah Waugh "The cut of womens' clothes"

As stated in a previous post, I attended a 18th century reenactment event in September and had to sew a proper court dress. I already had some beautiful pink satin in my stash so I just had to decide which kind of dress I wanted to wear; I couldn't get decided between the classic sack dress and the more comfortable (in my own opinion...) robe à l'anglaise, and in the end I went for the first one which looked better in pink.
I used the pattern provided by The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh and I can say it surprised  me: the pattern needed just some basic alterations and the dress came together really quickly. The Watteau pleats took a while to be done and aren't still perfect but I'll work on them later. 

Now, my pattern:

I took the measurements wearing full undergarments but - however - the sides ended to be longer than I expected, giving the bodice a clumsy look. The back of the bodice has eyelets for accuracy and it's all flat lined in cotton to add more support; on the other hand, the sleeves and the skirts fit perfectly.
The stomacher is fully boned and it's a separate piece pinned to the stays; at the beginning of the day I pinned it to the dress but the weight of my satin stressed it a lot so we stitched it to the robings. The petticoat is made of the same ivory brocade of the stomacher but just at the front; the rest of the petticoat is made of cotton. The whole dress is trimmed with white cotton ruffles, all pinked by hand and hand sewn over the robings and skirt openings.

For those who it's not a wig :) I also wore a cheap straw hat with paper flowers since I didn't manage to sew a lace cap.
To be honest this dress is not a masterpiece but it's ok to be the first sack dress and to have finished it the night before the event. There are several issues to fix but we're all here to learn =) I dislike the lower sleeeves too, they're too big and cover the engageantes completely.
It was a very sunny day and my delicate eyes couldn't stand the light enough to take some decent outdoor shots so excuse for my bad expressions!

- I learned to drape Watteau pleats better
- Proper colour and fabric choice
- Easy pattern to work with

- Not too wide panniers
- Bodice sides too long
- Engageantes not visible as I wanted

Some references I used, dating from 1750 to 1770:

Black linen spencer (1795-1805) from "Regency Women's Dress" by Cassidy Percoco

Be aware: this post is full of photos!

In August I turned 30. An important date, yes, so I decided this birthday deserved good self - gifts. After checking my Amazon wishlist I chose to buy two important books for my costuming activity: Regency Women's Dress: Techniques and Patterns 1800-1830 by Cassidy Percoco and Costume Close Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790 by Linda Baumgarten.
They are two different books, referring to two different eras as the titles suggest: Regency era and 18th century. 

Let's start with the first one. After reading several reviews online, I decided to buy this book because I needed some Regency patterns to be drafted by my own. The book lacks of technical explanations about assembling the garments so I wouldn't recommend it to beginners or sewists used to commercial patterns (like Simplicity, just to tell one) but the patterns are really well drafted and easy to use thanks to the grid. I'm European so I use cm instead of inches but the grid made the conversion easier (a square = 1 inch = 2,5 cm). The pattern came out easily (I drafted it follow my measurements directly) and with very few alterations needed (ok, I've been lucky). 
I needed a spencer for my latest Regency event in Stupinigi. It had to be warm enough without being too heavy so I went for black linen and cotton lining. The spencer in the book dates around 1795 to 1805 so it refers to early Regency fashion with the typical curved sleeves. I did several alterations to the closure (the pattern calls for button and buttonholes mounted on two strings that keep the spencer closed on the front) and I closed it with a simple drawstring. The back seams are all piped and the whole thing is lined in cotton; the bottom of the garment is faced with black bias tape - all hand sewn. 
The neckline has two small lapels at sides and  a regular collar  - nothing hard here.

The worn garment:

- The pattern was really easy to be drafted 
- The linen and the cotton are really warm and comfortable on skin
- Black is a versatile colour I can use with all my Regency dresses
- The drawstring closure makes it unique (the linen keeps it in place)
- The back of the spencer ends with very nice small tails

- There are no images of the extant garment. This would have made things easier, especially for lapels and collar. 
- The illustration in the garment description are minimal  and not detailed
- I made the sleeves a little bit tighter in the upper arm and too large in the lower arm - my fault, I'm not a friend of curved sleeves and I need to practice
- The lapels need a brooch or some small stitches to stay in place when worn

I hope these small pros&cons may help some of you out there! Pay attention to sleeves and keep in mind to enlarge your pattern enough since you're making an outer garment that has to be worn over your regular clothes (don't make my mistake...).
Now the photos - I hope you'll enjoy them!

Some examples of fashion plates from the period (because references are everything):

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