Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Sewing Plans...Interrupted

Before my college education really sped up, I would spend summers sewing--filling baskets and boxes and hangers with UFOs and self drafted patterns and toiles and whatnot. My grand plans for Summer Sewing 2014 included a Female Hobbit Costume, a Daenerys Astapor Dress, a ruffed skirt for my mother and completing the Raspberry Smocked Dress and Edwardian Pintucked Shirtwaist...yeah right! 

(My camera cord has decided to hibernate in some undisclosed location so unfortunately pictures for this post will be lacking).

I was starting to feel burnt out from the Edwardian Shirtwaist, which I worked on in May; since I had no event or deadline, I set it aside and worked on my Raspberry Smocked Dress, which ended up being its own can of worms.

McCall's 6503 had a gross amount of excess ease. When I started the dress over a year ago, I took in the back darts and side seams, and replaced the front gathers with honeycomb smocking. I let the back darts out a bit in June and redid the smocking, and everything was going fine until it was time to attach the waistband and the skirt. The waistband front was too small and the back too large -- of course -- and the side seams were not matching up. One new waistband later and then I agonized for days because it appeared that my perfectly edgestitched waistband was on UPSIDE DOWN. After several nervous fits and many opinions from neighbors and family, I realized that it wasn't upside down but that somehow the front waistband was cut a smidge longer than the back....sigh. Simple snips with the scissor fixed that, but then the skirt...THE SKIRT! Like the waistband, the skirt was not matching up with the side seams. After fiddling for another week with the side seams (which, for the first time, I had finished with handmade bias tape from a remnant of vintage can see where the agony is coming from) and the pleats, the skirt was hopeless. I cut another skirt out of whatever fabric was left -- to accommodate the short amount I reduced the length of the skirt by 4 inches. 

Most of these alterations stem from my figure -- though I'm not complaining, my very narrow back is significantly smaller than my tummy. For the new skirt, I cut a size 14 for the front (the largest in the pattern envelope) and a 6 for the back (the smallest size in the envelope). The straight size 10 I had cut the first time around wouldn't work no matter how much I finagled with it.

By this time I was very burnt out with my sewing, having spent nearly a month trying to complete the supposedly quick and easy Smocked Dress. I had planned to have the Hobbit and Daenerys costumes completed by July, but by that point the deadline for the ruffled skirt I had promised my mother was nearing.

Some days of frantic sewing the ruffled skirt for my mother -- I drafted the pattern from a previous ruffled cotton miniskirt of hers -- and I realized I could not finish it in time without sacrificing other work obligations. Sigh...the material came from Wal-Mart, a lovely blue cotton shot with silvery green, creating a subtle shimmery olive color, for about $1 a yard. Unfortunately it appeared that this Wal-Mart hadn't replenished their fabric stock in months and the bolt only had 1 yard and 20 inches, just enough for the ruffles and waistband. The lining fabric was originally destined to be grey polycotton, but when I realized I didn't have enough I sent my boyfriend out on an emergency fabric run--he came back with an even nicer (though much more expensive) dark grey polycotton (presumably). I'm really excited to finish this and at this point have only to hem the ruffles, attach it to the waistband, and add the zipper.

And the Daenerys and Hobbit costumes? Those will be a scramble to complete during September as they are destined for ComicCon in early October.  Though it will be overwhelming, I'm sure I can do it and am glad I chose a very easy Halloween costume for myself this year. I will be [hopefully] be wearing  an embroidered ionic chiton and dressed as the goddess Demeter -- if that falls through I do have the Bronzino Gown from last year, which I love wearing!

I hope your summer sewing plans are going much better than mine this year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: Child's Canvas and Leather Button Boots

These Edwardian children's shoes were built on left and right lasts, unlike the straight lasted leather button boots from my last post. I have found examples of similar shoes that date from around 1900.

The boot uppers are made from olive-green canvas. The boots fasten with 8 buttons along a scalloped opening; just like the straight lasted button-up boots, all of the presumably glass buttons are intact. The toes and heels are decorated with black leather. These boots have a slight heel.

Like the other button boots, the soles of these gems show very little signs of wear. However, the way they were stored has facilitated deterioration. These boots were stored with the canvas uppers folded, which wore out the canvas along the fold. The leather is also crumbling and wearing away.

These boots are lined with plain, beige (presumably) cotton. The lining is stamped with the number "589."

Since finding these at the bottom of a box alongside the the Silver 1920's Dancing Shoes and the Straight Lasted Button Boots, they have been stuffed and wrapped in acid free tissue paper.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: Straight Last Child's Leather Boots

These straight-lasted leather button-up child's boots were found in the same box as the Silver 1920's Dancing Shoes. Though my area of research doesn't focus much on children's fashions, I believe these shoes are from the late19th century or the early 20th century. I've seen similar examples that date as early as 1860.

The shoes fasten with 5 buttons that feel plastic but are very likely glass as most period shoes had. The shoe is decorated with cut scallops along the buttoned edge. The upper back of the shoe has a slightly upward, elegant curve.

The shoes are in very poor condition. The leather has crumbled; a dark, powdery substance easily falls from the shoe. I would love to restore these but am uncertain if leather dyes and restoratives would work on leather that is this far gone. Additionally, the shoes were stored without internal support, such as a stuffed fabric "sausage" to maintain the shape of the shoe. The shoes are creased above the ankle.

The soles of the shoes show very little signs of wear.

The shoes are lined with a printed cotton. I tried not to touch them too much because of how easily the leather "dust" was flaking off.

These button up boots have now been wrapped in and stuffed with acid free tissue paper to prevent any further creasing and flaking of the delicate leather.

Stay tuned for more goodies from the Kearny History Museum!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Museum Mystery Boxes: 1920s Metallic Dancing Shoes

Picture this:

I walk into the Kearny Museum's attic (always very cautious because that place is so terrifying not even spiders want to live there), looking for somewhere to store a Scottish kilt that was recently donated. The shelving units have been newly labelled by the Museum Committee. Sports Memorabilia, Lighting, Local Artists, Faux Greenery, Victorian Dresses...Victorian Dresses??

And there on the "Victorian Dresses" shelving unit were indeed boxes labeled all sorts of crazy things like "Fur Capelet," "Chef's Hat and Utensils," and "Black Tafata[sic] Gown."

Uh-oh. I had never seen any of these boxes or their supposed treasures. At once I felt both ecstatic and panicked. What would I find in these mystery boxes?

I pulled out one of the smallest boxes and carefully opened the lid, revealing a jumble of hot-pink tulle (which would be a recurring theme for the rest of the mystery boxes), yellowed napkins and dirty plastic bags. More digging and...ooooh, shiny!

Well what do you know, crammed inside a sandwhich bread bag (also a recurring theme for the mystery boxes, including bags of buns) was a pair of glittering, silver metallic 1920s evening shoes!

They are accompanied by a faded display card, and were at one point in time displayed with the beaded 1920s dress. The 1920s dress was also donated by Mrs. William Schreiber.

Indeed, the strap has an interesting mechanism wherein a metal hook is latched over the buckle. This fastening technique is still in use and I own a pair of modern heels that fasten this way.

Unfortunately, the shoes are in very poor condition. They must have been truly loved because the heel cap has been worn all the way through to the nail! The sole is peeling back at the front and heel, and the metallic leather is flaking and cracked. There are several slices in the leather, the largest being on the inner left side of the right shoe. The rhinestoned buckles are also missing one or two stones, and the insoles have begun to detach.

The shoes were stored and likely displayed without the necessary support. The lack of foot-shaped support to hold out the shoe possibly led to the irreparable splits in the leather. I will be making muslin-shaped "feet" stuffed with polyfill to support the shoe and its straps. The shoes will then be displayed alongside the beaded 1920s dress in its glass case.

Stay tuned for dozens of more Museum goodies, including an 1867 mourning dress, an enormous tatted lace collar, children's button-up boots, a fur capelet, a fur muff of exaggerated Edwardian proportions, 19th century drawers, a taxidermied bird, an unusual piece of embroidery, beaded gloves, and much more!

Also, the inexplicable and widespread use of bread bags and hot pink tulle for storing antique pieces will be explored.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pinterest Picks

This week's edition of Pinterest Picks begins with this American dress from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Though it looks very similar to the infamous Chemise a la Reine, this cotton beauty is actually from the 1890s!

Another stunner from the Met: this 1920s evening dress is a lovely example of Eastern and Middle Eastern influences on Western fashion. Note the vibrant, warm colors, the exotic print, and the unique batwing sleeves!

This velvet and chiffon beauty from 1914-1920 has been meticulously beaded with glass and shell beads. Imagine how heavy this dress must have felt when worn!

Notice a common theme yet? To celebrate America's birthday, I chose pieces that were not only American in origin but also American in design, and therefore, red, white, and blue! Additionally, each piece represents fashions or elements from other cultures and countries, indicative of America's immigrant heritage.

What is the most patriotic historical garment you have ever found?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Edwardian Petticoat with Cluny Lace

This Edwardian petticoat, c. 1900-1909, was tucked away in a box in the Kearny History Museum's storage. It has since been wrapped in layers of acid-free tissue paper and stored in an archival quality box.

This petticoat is made of a fine yet sturdy cotton, which may have originally been a truer, brighter white. Its volume is achieved through shaped panels, or gores, and a large, gathered ruffle along the bottom of the skirt. The side seams of the petticoat are constructed with the flat-felled method for strength and durability.

The petticoat has one row of fine, [presumably] cluny lace insertion, and a matching, wide band of cluny lace trim. Both the insertion and the trim appear to have been applied to the petticoat by hand.

The ruffle has three lines of gathering stitches to create fullness. The entire petticoat, except for the decoration, appears to be machine-sewn.

There is an additional, shorter ruffle on the inside of the bottom ruffle which adds even more shape to the petticoat. This ruffle appears to have been gathered with two lines of machine stitching.

I apologize if any of the pictures make the details of this garment blurry. Photographing white on white can be rather challenging! If you would like me to re-photograph specific areas of this petticoat, please don't hesitate to let me know!

The petticoat has a large tear along the back, just under the placket. I wonder if the wearer tore this while walking, or if an inconsiderate perambulator stepped on her skirts!

The back panels of the petticoat are very tightly gathered with cartridge pleats to the waistband. The waistband is narrow, and remnants of a cord/drawstring closure exist.


Waist: approximately 26 "
Width of Hem: approximately 95.5 "

Note: All measurements are approximate; I didn't have a table or tape measure large enough to spread the whole petticoat flat and measure it. Please feel free to let me know if you would like more detailed measurements.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Summer Sneaker DIY

This summer, I scored an internship in the Fashion Department of Cliché Magazine, a free digital magazine covering topics such as Beauty, Fashion, and Entertainment. I was very excited to write my first post for Cliché, and decided to come in with a bang and pitch an original DIY idea. I had considered putting this DIY on my blog since I bought these cool purple canvas shoes last summer, but only found the right fabric recently!

I have seen tons of canvas sneaker DIYs on the internet (painting, studs, glitter) but never a simple change like a fabric applique.

This DIY is easy even if you're not too familiar with a needle and thread. To make unique, bold shoes, stitch a fabric applique on the canvas shoes of your choice! That's it! Select the area of the shoe to decorate, make a template of that area, cut out the fabric and sew it to the shoe! You can read the full post here!

And if you're not ready for a bold, printed shoe, just applique a small strip of the shoe at the back for a small hint of surprise!

I had a hard time choosing between the mosaic pattern and the floral, so I did both. If you could applique a canvas sneaker, what contrast fabric would you choose?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pinterest Picks

Pinterest: the rabbit hole for sewists, crafters, DIYers, fashion afficionados, baking buffs, home improvement gurus, holiday decor experts, comiccon mavens,....In general, a place of seemingly endless inspiration for millions of people. It usually starts out as "lemme just log on for 5 minutes" and ends 4 hours later, with your head buzzing from so many amazing ideas that your brain cells are begging for a break.

During my recent *ahem* "excursions" through Pinterest, I stumbled upon several pins that held me breathless for a dangerous amount of time. I wanted to share these awe-inspiring pins with my readership, and decided to create a new weekly segment called Pinterest Picks, which may later have its own folder on my Pinterest, too.

Weldon’s Ladies’ Journal, August 1927
This fashion illustration represents the epitome of 1920's style: dropped waists, beaded trims, interesting skirt designs, sashes....! And how amazing are the embroidered clumps of flowers on the dress on the left?

Aerial views from Marie Antoinette's hamlet at the Palace of Versailles
This image really puts new perspective on Marie Antoinette's little pastoral hideaway!

Gold and enamel locket, c. 1915
Wow, isn't this piece a stunner! I wonder what outfit this WWII era locket would have been worn with?

Wedding Dress, 1850, silk embroidered with metallic embroidery
Could you imagine all the hours that went into this amazing gown? All the broken needles, all the silk thread, all the sore fingers...

Rules of Flirtation
Both funny and charming, these instructions for flirtation with a parasol and gloves is a fun read! Have you ever used these methods at a ball or historical event?

I'm still not too sold on the name Pinterest Picks for this new segment, and welcome any suggestions from you!