sabato 22 aprile 2017

Making a red open robe from "Patterns of Fashion" by Janet Arnold, pt.1

And here we are! After months of planning I can finally start to work on my open robe. I'll use the famous pattern in Janet Arnold book "Patterns of Fashion 1". I read a lot of tutorials on the web before getting involved in this project because you know, curved pleats are not so common and I read some contradictory opinions about. Some costumers consider it easy, others not at all. I was a little bit scared at first but then I realized I would have sewn them by hand so with more control than using a sewing machine. 

The pattern:

And the original garment in V&A museum: 

Some details:
- Length from CB to floor is approx 174 cm, which works great for me
- Underbust circumference is approx 87 cm, another great measure for me 
- Bodice lined in linen

Last month my group (Le vie del tempo) started a series of events set in the very late 1790s, so I had the occasion to make a Directoire dress. I always loved the look of open robes so I decided to make one as soon as possible to add a touch of elegance to my costume; I obviously started with a research and I found nice examples both in fashion plates and extant garments: 

I  immediately fell in love with the red one (and yes, red is my favourite colour!!) so I went to my local fabric store to purchase some beautiful bright red cotton cretonne. I will make mine sleeveless because I love how the elbow sleeves of my dress turned out. 

First of all my boyfriend scanned and printed out the pattern. I traced it onto paper marking all the lines and the pleats and in less then 20 minutes I was done. I put the paper pieces onto the dress form and realized then the bust was slightly small (My back shoulder width is huge despite having a small bust) so I added an extra 5 cm to the pieces to fit. And that's all I did! Now I have to do a mock up and see how the whole thing fits on the real body. 
Thanks for reading! 

lunedì 17 aprile 2017

A Regency red cotton Spencer (19th century)

It's Easter today so this means I'm having a break from sewing projects (believe me, it's a rare event!) and a break! Yay! I have a lot to write because the past weeks have been extremely rich in events and creations so don't waste time and let's start. 

The first creation I want to introduce you it's a simple red cotton Regency spencer. I already made a spencer with a very late 18th century look last year and this time I wanted to replicate with a more 19th century feeling. I used Sense&Sensibility pattern (no time to draft something by my own) using a red pique cotton I had in my stash. I used the double breasted option with self fabric buttons. So lovely!
The revers are made of black linen, all from stash. The lining is cotton. I had some problems with the sleeve gathers but we'll talk about this later.

The body of the spencer fitted perfectly at the first attempt (considering the bulk of the dress and undergarments I chose a size 14) and I couldn't be happier! The instructions are really easy to follow but must be read carefully. The back has a perfect diamond shape with dropped shoulders and the front is shaped by darts. 
The cap of the sleeves is gathered in the back so that there's enough space for movement and wearing ease. To be honest I dislike this position because I think they give a bulky look but I can live with it; next time, however, I'll make a classic straight sleeve. The sleeves themselves also have a strange shape but they were definitely easier to put in position that the ones in the red crossover dress. 
The wrists have a sleeve band with fabric button and buttonhole. I'm so glad I decided to put them, they're really useful to keep the sleeves up and in place. 

The facing was really quick and easy. Since it wouldn't be shown I hemmed it by machine. The whole item is machine sewn inside but with outer finishing (buttonholes excluded). I hemmed the sleeves and the lower portion of the spencer by hand. 

I decided to add this garment on my Etsy shop as made to order item.

I also recorded a making-of video, you can find it on my Youtube channel! 

domenica 16 aprile 2017

White cotton Directoire dress (1795-1799) part 3: finished and worn!

And here we are with the last part of the process, the dress finished and worn. We had a rainy Sunday and we couldn't take better photos but a couple turned out lovely. 

Some words about the finished dress: despite taking accurate measurements, there's a huge gap at the back so excuse me if I didn't take so much photos of the back view. I was wearing accurate underwear (chemise, stays and fichu) but I felt ridiculous. I know it's accurate (drawstring dresses were often borrowed because they could be easily altered to fit different bodies) and no skin is shown, but I have to fix this issue as soon as possible; for the event I relied on my long hair to hide the gap. 

The sleeves are really comfy and so the bodice. Sense and Sensibility pattern worked great for this project! The alterations were minimal but if you're planning to use it for a similar dress I strongly recommend to choose a bigger size (the bigger, the merrier! More gathers!) 

The sash and the hair band are made of burgundy cotton sateen. I'm planning a matching open robe for the next event which will be about fashion and will cover a huge period (1750 until 1825). 

And the photos, at last!

Some shots directly from the event: 

...and a video with the dress in action! 

The beautiful pearl necklace I'm wearing is by Fantasia Trinkets. It's a great addition to most of my historical costumes! Despite the issue with the gap in the back, I'm kinda pleased with this costume. It was fun and easy to make and the thick cotton makes it look more accurate. I also forgot to mention the outer finishing is all hand sewn and the drawstring channels are hand sewn with double thread.

And now, heading to the next project!

domenica 2 aprile 2017

White cotton Directoire dress (1795-1799) part 2

Here we go with the second part of this project. I don't have lot to say about, the project was really simple and quick to be put together (less then a week).
So, after pinning the dress on the dress form to check the fitting I started to construct it. I should have done a bigger size, I admit. There's a nice gap on the back but I'll wear my underwear so...I don't care too much. The bodice could have been more full and gathered, I'll add extra cm next time.

These are the construction steps:

1. I serged the skirt, sleeves and bodice pieces individually. It's not accurate but I need my costumes to last for years and this dress will have an intense use.

2. I assembled the bodice and made a drawstring channel with white bias tape.

3. I attached the sleeves (they're so lovely!) with two small pleats at the back.

4. I opened a slash in the skirt back and made a placket. I love this technique so much!

5. I run some gathering stitches in the upper part on the skirt. I wanted the skirt almost flat and the the back really full and I did it!

6. I stitched the skirt to the bodice and I hand sewn a cotton satin bias tape to make the drawstring channel. I used whip stitches and running stitches with double thread. The bias tape is really smooth and soft to touch.

7. I hemmed the skirt using a slip stitch.This process took a while.

8. My boyfriend made a sash for hair and waist in ruby cotton sateen.

9. Final fitting with chemise and petticoat. I decided to avoid short stays, in pure Merveilleuse style!

 10. And I was done! Photos of the finished thing in the  next post =)

Thanks for reading!

lunedì 27 marzo 2017

White cotton Directoire dress (1795-1800): let's start!

Some weeks ago I announced I was going to make the Danish white chemise dress for my Directoire events in Riva but the amount of custom orders forced me to finish other things before starting to work on my own dress and actually, I'm late. Really late, if you consider the event is this Sunday.
Ok, let's take a breath all together. 

Directoire fashion is a transitional moment. I have seen a great variety of gowns, fabrics and style while looking at the fashion plates of the time and I realized I could easily alter a late chemise à la reine or a very early Regency gown - and so I did. I used a reference this beautiful indian muslin white dress dating to 1796 as reference (but without the embroidery and the long sleeves).

Other references...

1797 - The Duchess of Osuna, her daughter and granddaughter (Agustín Esteve y Marqués)

1795 - The Duchess of Alba (Francisco de Goya y Lucientes)

Gaspare Landi (1756-1830) Ritratto di gentildonna.

These dresses feature the new, stylish high waistline with gathered neckline but the fitted elbow sleeves so typical throughout 18th century and so I decided to make elbow sleeves as well.


I didn't took photos of the cutting process but I can say I used the bodice pattern of the drawstring gown by Sense and Sensibility "Portrait dress" pattern. It worked beautifully! I just raised the waistline to fit my underbust and the rest has been left unvaried. The back of this dress is fitted so the drawstring will run just in the front of the neckline. The waist will have drawstring too so the back of the dress will remain open a little. I don't worry about the gap, first because I'll wear proper underwear and second because I'll leave my hair down... ah, the beauty of Directoire fashion... :)
I forgot to say the fabric is white cotton cretonne I got from a massive sale on at half of the price. Yay! I won't line the bodice to have a light, soft, summer dress. A proper open robe will be made in the next months.

I cut two simple rectangles to make the skirt, which is approx. 150 cm wide and long enough to reach my feet.
The mock up on the dress form:

Un post condiviso da Il Fiore Nero (Danielle Fiore) (@ilfiorenero_handmade) in data:

The sleeves are from the same pattern. Since I 'm out of time the inside of the dress is machine made and serged to last but the outer finishing will be made by hand, of course.
And that's all for now! I will publish some updates this week =)<

martedì 7 marzo 2017

A Regency crossover gown

Last month I started to use the S&S patterns my bf gifted me at Christmas and with an incoming event approaching, I decided to make a new dress using some old Ikea fabric in my stash. I really liked the idea of a crossover/wrap gown, definitely different from my other drawstring dresses. I loved the fact to have a front opening dress with pleats at the front, definitely something eye-catching. So I went for "The Elegant Lady's closet" pattern.

Before proceeding with the post, I'd like to say something to beginners. The instructions for this pattern are not so simple as they seem. The bodice calls for a separate lining (not the easiest thing to understand for people not involved in historical costuming...), an extra skirt layer (the easiest addition), dropped shoulders with sleeves set in the back. Trust me, these are not so immediate steps for a beginner. I would recommend to avoid the separate lining and proceed with a basic one (so using the front pieces of the bodice as guide) and to do a mock up of the sleeves before cutting the final fabric. I basted, stitched, ripped  the sleeves various times before getting a clear idea of where they have to sit - especially for the seam. Where's the seam? At the side? At the back? At the front, as in 18th century? A mystery. I placed my seam on front but I'm really not happy. 
Mark everything when transferring the pattern onto the fabric and things should go easily. I also recommend to add the extra skirt layer on the front to avoid a gap while sitting or moving; you should obviously wearing a petticoat underneath but a white gap in a coloured dress (like mine) it's not so fashionable so why make economy for a extra yard of fabric only?
I also avoided the self fabric binding, binding the upper edges with black bias tape to create some contrast. I have seen something similar in a fashion plate of the time.
The skirts are put together using french seams, while the upper edges have been serged. Every hem and the binding is hand sewn. 

Despite these things, the pattern is really easy to put follow. At first I wanted to gather my front pieces but I realized it would have been really bulky so I followed the instructions making the pleats. Much better! My dress closes from left to right, I founded it easier being left-handed. It closes with a pin at the front but I will add some hooks and eyes for more support. 
The back fits tight so measure yourself carefully before cutting the fabric. Chemise, stays and petticoat add some cm to your measurements. 

I matched the dress with the brand new chemisette I made always from S&S and the outfit was so cute! Unfortunately we didn't took many photos during the event due to the bad light but we'll take new shots in two weeks when we'll be again in Stupinigi!
Some photos on the dress form directly from my Etsy shop:

lunedì 6 marzo 2017

Making the Kyoto Costume Institute striped jacket (1790s) part 1

I recently ordered the famous book by Kyoto Costume Institute and their amazing collection of extant gowns because I definitely needed some "real" visual reference. With real I mean a material version of the references, without using the web; ok, Google is amazing but you know, some details worth to be looked at closely. 
I already knew the famous striped jacket from KCI and I saw the beautiful reproduction by American Duchess some years ago. Now, with the 1790s events quickly approaching, I decided to make my own version. Unfortunately there aren't photos of the real jacket showing the back so I had to use my imagination to figure it out: it doesn't have a peplum skirt and considering the small tail, this one doesn't have a skirt at all. The back is surely fitted at the back with curved sleeves. The jacket is double breasted with only a row of functional buttons. 

So, after studying the images, I started to draft my own pattern draping it on the dressform. It went together really quickly and yes, this surprised me.

There are no details about the construction methods. American Duchess used a hidden lacing at the front but I avoided this part, choosing a simple double-breasted closure with 5 real buttons as the original. I only need to make the front longer, I made them too short but this is just a mock up.
This is a close up of the fabric I'll use and gosh, it's really similar!

I still have to draft the pattern for the collar, for the sleeves I'll use the pattern made for my black regency Spencer with minor alterations. I will make a simpler version of the cuffs as well.
More photos to come!

venerdì 3 marzo 2017

1790s dress plans: some inspirations!

Spring is approaching fast, so do the Directoire events my group (Le vie del Tempo) has confirmed! I literally can't wait because the last decade of 18th century has always been my favourite. I'm planning several outfits (there will be numerous events throughout the spring and summer) so I need at least a dress and a jacket. Instagram fellows probably already read I'm going to reproduce the stripey jacket from Kyoto Costume Institute but we'll talk about this project in a second moment (I'm still waiting for the fabric to come); for the moment, I'm planning to make a simple, fresh, easy to make gaulle or round gown. 
I fell in love with the dress displayed in the danish museum and download the pattern they provide months ago. I studied it a little (knowing German has been extremely helpful in translation the pattern directions since they're in danish!) and guess what? It has almost my exact measurements! Squee! This means I only have to do a toile, minor alterations and I will be done. I'd like to use my Ikea curtain fabric for this project but I'm not sure, since white plain cotton would work fine too. I'll make this dress for sure, obviously in white, but for the moment I need to think about that properly. A beautiful open gown would match this dress - maybe in blue. 

I'm pretty sure you already saw this beauty! 

The second option would be a robe en chemise, so a late chemise à la reine. I looked at a few portraits of the period and I faced out how to draft the pattern but I cannot get decided about the colour. White or lavender? My boyfriend suggests lavender and I think he's right, I can't make a bunch of white dresses but they're so cute!! 

An example of gaulle dress: Seriziat by Jacques Louis David, 1795

The beauty of late chemises dresses is they represent a nice example of transitional dresses. They still have the fitted, curved sleeves of 18th century but the front of the dress screams Regency. They look so elegant, so delicate and extremely feminine and I love to be feminine with my costumes! Robes en chemises had a very fitted back as well, as shown in "The Duchess" (2008): look the gathered front, probably closed with a button just above the neckline. Other examples are from "Marie Antoinette" (2006).
As usual, American Duchess did a great costume analysis here:

The Duchess

Marie Antoinette

And that's all for now! Do you have any suggestions? I'd like to hear your opinion!
Oh, I forgot! Thank you sooo much for the more than 100.000 views on the blog!! It means a lot to me! 

domenica 26 febbraio 2017

18th century pocket hoops

Iconic and easy to make: I'm talking about the famous pocket hoops worn in 18th century!

Beginners or people not involved in historical costuming may find this term strange so let's give some explanation below: pocket hoops were structured undergarments worn in 18th century to support skirts and give volume at sides, as women's fashion of that time asked. They were boned to be supportive and flexible and could be used as small pockets too (as the name suggest); an opening hidden in the skirts allowed the hands to reach the hoops underneath.
Pocket hoops must not be confused with panniers, which were definitely bigger and worn during formal occasions like balls or court events. Pocket hoops were smaller and easier/lighter to wear. 

An example of extant panniers: 

Hoop petticoat or pannier, English, 1750-80. Plain-woven linen and cane, LACMA.

And pocket hoops:

The difference is really clear :)

Now, let's return to my pocket hoops. I drafted them using Norah Waugh pattern in "Corsets and Crinolines" book without big alterations; the beauty of pocket hoops is they don't need to be custom made because they're fitted to the waist with ribbons! Easy, uh? Mine are in cotton but linen can be used too; the only limited is your imagination, taste or stash! 

I boned them with reed for accuracy but also synthetic whalebone or steel boning are good materials to work with. These pocket hoops closes at waist with cotton tapes that run into a casing. 

Side slash opening - hand sewn.

Pocket hoops worn with petticoat 

They turned out really lovely and are a nice addition to my 18th century closet. My first pair of pocket hoops was awful (they were made from a Simplicity pattern...) and they didn't support the figure even if they were strongly boned and made of linen. 

This pair of pocket hoops is listed on my Etsy shop too, give it a visit! 

19th century cotton chemisette

Last Christmas I have been gifted (squee!) with a full series of Regency patterns created by Jeannie of Sense & Sensibility. I came across their website ages ago, when looking for Titanic tea gowns patterns. At that time I didn't sew yet (we're talking about more than 10 years ago!) so I didn't pay too much attention to the full series of patterns they offered but - recently -  I changed my perspective. Usually I try to draft most of my patterns to save money and assure me a great fit (I have a weird body shape with small bust and very wide hips so not every commercial pattern fits me) but since I sew mostly for others, I rarely have the time to drape a customized pattern for myself. So, yeah, sometimes I choose the easiest way using a premade pattern. 
My boyfriend made me the best present ever, purchasing for me a whole series of Regency patterns: this collection includes undergarments, several dresses, purses, embroidery patterns and spencers. Oh my god. You cannot imagine how happy I was, my hands were absolutely scratching while looking at the pattern pieces. I HAD to try them asap! However, I had a very difficult January fighting against a bad ribs inflammation so I couldn't sew or cutting without feeling huge pain: this situation translated in a temporary closed shop on Etsy and a period of relax. I felt kinda down (being self-employed if I don't work I don't get paid...) and during one of these afternoon I decided to challenge my pain sewing a very small piece from these patterns: a chemisette! 

The Regency undergarments pattern includes two chemisettes, one with ruffled collar and another one with a pointed collar. I decided to make the first one with a flat ruffle. I used some sheer cotton I had in my stash plus some satin ribbon to close it. That's all. I made it all by hand excluded the shoulder seams, made by machine with a french seams.

A general overview with the dress on.

The chemisette came together really quickly, it was extremely easy to put together and it took me just a couple of days to be finished. In a normal health status I would have finished it in a day. I decided to avoid buttons or pins so I left the two part of the chemisette open, because there's enough overlap on the front to keep it closed when worn. 

This item is available on my Etsy shop in different standard sizes!  

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! 
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