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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