Sunday, May 17, 2020

Baking Cookies from the 1912 Fannie Farmer Cookbook

My foray into the world of Youtube continues with some experimentation of recipes from my 1912 copy of the Fannie Farmer New Book of Cookery!

1912 Orange Circles Recipe:

3 tablespoons butter 2/3 cup sugar Juice of 1 orange Grated rind of 1 orange Few grains of salt 1 3/4 cups flour 1. Put butter and grated rind in a bowl and work until creamy using a wooden spoon. 2. Add sugar gradually, continuing the beating; then add salt, orange juice, and flour, a little at a time. 3. Toss on a floured board, pat and roll to 1/8" thickness. 5. Shape with a circular cutter, first dipped in flour, put on a sheet covered with a buttered paper and bake in a moderate oven.* *Bake for 10 mins in a 350 degree oven. Let the cookies cool in the tray for 5 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

I made the all the clothes I'm wearing in this video (including the corset!) using historically appropriate techniques and textiles. This outfit represents what a kitchen maid in the early 1900s may have worn when making this exact recipe.
Notes on the recipe: this recipe produces a light, citrus-y cookie that is perfect with afternoon tea. The batch made about 15 cookies; yield will vary based on the size of cutter you use. I used salted butter, so I omitted the salt from my batch.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Getting Dressed in the 1840s - Victorian Get Ready with Me

I've been wanting to start a Youtube channel for a while now, so that I can better capture my sewing and research process, and some other fun things - like recreating original historic recipes!

Please enjoy my first video, showing all the layers I don for an 1840s daywear look. If you enjoy this content, please like the video and subscribe to my channel.

Some notes on what I'm wearing:

Shoes and stockings are from American Duchess
Chemise and corset were made from Simplicity 2890
Petticoats were drafted from the Dressmaker's Guide
Fan front cotton print dress was made from Laughing Moon #114
Muff was made from stitching together two fur cuffs from a secondhand, vintage coat
Bonnet, cloak, and gloves were all purchased secondhand!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Corded Petticoat

When I discovered that the 1840s is one of my favorite periods in historical fashion, I decided to invest some time in building out my mid-19th century wardrobe with the appropriate undergarments. The quintessential soft, bell shape of 1840s dresses is achieved by the use of corded and starched petticoats, worn several at a time. Last year, as my calendar filled with Victorian themed events, I committed to making a corded petticoat, using as many historically accurate techniques and materials as possible.

I used the premium cotton muslin from Joann's, which I already had in my stash and had earmarked for 19th century undergarments. For the cording, I used the much recommended Sugar n' Cream cotton yarn. I had purchased a cone of this, and used a seemingly endless amount for piping on my mid 19th century dresses and for this corded petticoat - and I still have a significant amount left on the cone! I highly recommend investing in a cone of this yarn for your mid 19th century dressmaking needs.

The petticoat fastens at the waist with an antique china button, purchased as part of a lot of mismatched china buttons on eBay. Apparently, this style of button is known as a "piecrust" due to its shape!

The Dressmaker's Guide by Elizabeth Stewart Clark is an indispensable resource for 19th century sewing. The author's knowledge and passion is apparent on every page, and this book is packed with information that will guide you through every detail of constructing a mid 19th century lady's wardrobe. I highly recommend adding this book to your shelf - there is much to learn from it, and you'd help support an independent patternmaker and educator!

Some details regarding the construction of the corded petticoat:

The petticoat is made from two pieces of 45" fabric seamed together. I used the "sandwich" method of cording.

Length: 27.5"
Hem circumference: 86"
Height of facing/cording: 17"
Placket opening: 10"
Rows of cording: 54

My rows of cording were rather arbitrary, but generally denser at the bottom than at the top.

The top of the petticoat was sewn with stroked gathers, which were stitched to the waistband by hand. The buttonhole was also sewn by hand.

I'm really pleased with how my corded petticoat turned out. Even with 54 rows of cording and hand sewn gathers, it only took a few weekends to complete. I reminded myself not to rush through the process, and that made it less stressful and daunting to sew all those cords. This is one of those projects where I don't see any flaws that I need to go back and fix later! Since finishing it, I've worn it nearly a dozen times, and, together with 2-3 other petticoats, gives a satisfying fullness to my 1840s dresses.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Handsewn 18th Century Linen Shift

Lately, I've been expanding my 18th century wardrobe, and with a few 18th century events planned (though they've since been cancelled/rescheduled due to COVID-19), it was time to add a proper 18th century shift to my rotation. I've been using my cotton regency shift with my 18th century outfits, but I don't enjoy how the short sleeves get stuck inside the long sleeves of my jacket and gown. I also love using my historical chemises and shifts as nightgowns, and it's been a few years since I made a new one!

I used "Snow White" light weight linen from FabricMartFabrics. The linen was pre washed in scalding hot water in my shower (tiny apartment problems!). It it soft and tightly woven, excellent quality for the price, especially if you can get it on sale. My piece of linen was 54" wide selvedge to selvedge, and 2 yards long. I used historical cutting techniques, which prioritized fabric economy, to cut out my shift. I still have enough fabric leftover to use for caps and linings!

I used linen thread from Burnley and Trowbridge and wax from LBCC Historical. Waxing your thread, especially linen thread, keeps it from fraying and tangling.

I used Simplicity 8579, the more historically accurate of American Duchess's two shift patterns with Simplicity. This pattern is great if you'd like to make a historically accurate shift with some modern shortcuts. It includes underarm gussets and side gores, but recommends you to use french seams rather than the more historically accurate (and frankly less fussy) flat felled seams.

I made some key modifications to the pattern to make it as historically accurate as possible. I only used the pattern as a guide for how wide to cut my body panel, side gores, sleeve gussets, and neckline.

Per the very knowledgeable Sharon Burnston (I highly recommend reading her research before starting your own shift), I cut the body of my shift in one panel that was 39.5" long (the length of my piece of linen fabric after pulling threads to square it) by 25" wide. Instead of cutting the side gores as separate pieces, as the pattern suggests, I cut them from the body of the shift.

I cut the neckline per the pattern, and was very pleased to discover that I was able to cut "the gussets from the bosom," as the 1789 manual Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor instructs. Fabric economy played a significant role in the cutting and sewing of garments in the 18th century and beyond. Shifts and shirts, the most basic undergarment worn by all people in some form, was an exercise in geometry to minimize fabric waste. I was able to cut both underarm gussets AND sleeve cuffs from the scrap left from cutting out the neckline!

I also modified the sleeves. I wanted a fuller, mid-century style sleeves, so I cut out two rectangles 14" long by 17" wide. These sewed up into moderately voluminous sleeves that end at my elbow.

I sewed the whole shift by hand with a 3/8" seam allowance.

Sewing the Side Gores
Per Sharon Burnston's instructions, I flat felled the side gores - first felling the gores to the body of the shift, then felling the front to the back of the shift. My side gores are cousins, not twins!

Sewing the Sleeves, Gussets, and Buttonholes
I stroke gathered the top and bottom of the sleeves, and set the bottom into cuffs. Sewing the sleeves took about 20 hours, and was the most labor intensive part of the shift!

My tip for buttonholes is to outline the buttonhole with heat-soluble ink (I love my Frixion pens). I then do a basting stitch along the outer pen lines. Then I cut along the slit of the buttonhole, and sew a buttonhole stitch around the slit, pulling the purl of the stitch towards the slit.

My buttonholes don't come out perfect, but they're good enough for me! I then threaded a silk ribbon through the buttonholes, but I might change this to a twill tape - the silk ribbon doesn't stay tied very well, and I want to use this shift as a nightgown regularly.

I'm very pleased with this shift! I'm proud of my stitching, even though it isn't as fine as originals. I think I stretched out the neckline while sewing it. I tried out a neckline template prior to cutting, and the template fit fine, but after sewing up the neckline, it falls off my shoulders easily. However, when I'm wearing my stays, the shift stays in place, so it's not so bad.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

18th Century Cotton Print Jacket

I was charmed by the ease and versatility of 18th century separates, and felt that for my first foray into building a historically accurate, handsewn 18th century wardrobe, a jacket was a fine place to start. In the 18th century, jackets were made in a variety of fabrics, from sedate wools to elaborate silk brocades, to suit the station, season, and occasion of the wearer. I'd be wearing my jacket to a picnic in July, so decided on a fashionable cotton chintz style.

This led me to examine what were the common stylistic elements of cotton chintz jackets. I found many examples of Dutch origin (I tried to collect as many examples as possible on my Pinterest board), which drew my interest as the event I was attending was at the Dutch Van Cortland House Museum and Park. I noticed that many of these Dutch chintz jackets had tabbed stomachers, and I wanted to incorporate that into my design.

Dutch, c. 1750 - 1775
Dutch, c. 1770 - 1780
The jacket fabric is a vibrant floral print from Colonial Williamsburg, Palace Bloom. It's lined in white linen from Fabric Mart Fabrics, which has become my go-to for affordable, quality fabrics -- look out for one of their sales!

I used the JP Ryan jacket pattern, View B. I shaped the fronts of the jacket to eliminate the corners where the neckline meets the front of the jacket, per the Dutch jackets I studied. I drafted a stomacher made of three sets of tabs, held together with twill tape along the outside edges.
Adjusting the front edges

The jacket was sewn entirely by hand, which ended up being a very relaxing and manageable process! I used the construction techniques in the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking and Costume Close-Up. I highly recommend in investing in these two books to develop a greater understanding of the techniques used to create 18th century garments!

Using the prick stitch to sew the shoulder pieces to the jacket

Whip stitching the lining

Using the edge stitch / edge hem stitch to join the outer and lining fabrics

A back-stitched lining seam
In my mock-up, I shortened the waist of the jacket by 0.5", but after the jacket was complete, I found the jacket too short, so I should've left it alone. To help "snug" the jacket to my waist, I stitched a length of narrow twill tape to the each seam -- when I put the jacket on, I tie this tape around my waist and then pin the stomacher and front edges of the jacket down.

Overall, I'm very pleased with this project. I've worn it a few times since I've made it, which is testament to a successful project in my opinion! It's colorful, fun, and flattering, and I can easily dress myself. 

My hair styling is horrendous here (it was a hot and windy day!) but the back seams of my jacket look great

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Shoe Bow Tutorial - Make Your Shoes Look Victorian!

Ah, the struggle of acquiring a shoe collection that spans as many decades as your historical wardrobe! While I love all of the gorgeous historical shoes American Duchess designs, space (tiny NYC bedroom!) and funds limit me from having a comprehensive collection.

Despite that, I've discovered an easy, quick, and cheap (the crafting trifecta!) way to transform basic ballerina flats into passable mid-19th century shoes.

Just like us, the Victorians had a range of shoe types from which to choose from, each suited to a particular activity or purpose. I needed something to wear with my 1830s and 1840s ballgowns, and chose a delicate slipper style shoe that was worn for this purpose in the mid-19th century.

A quick examination of mid-19th century formal slippers reveals some common elements:

  • a long, straight tongue
  • a square or gently rounded toebox
  • flat soles
  • ribbons, fringe, bows, etc decorating the shoes
  • solid colors, especially neutrals like black and ivory

Evening Slippers, 1845-1865 
Evening Slippers, 1830s
Evening Slippers, 1835-50
Evening Slippers, 1835

You will need:
  • a pair of flat shoes in your size, preferably with a long tongue; I used a pair of black faux-velvet flats
  • 1 yard of 1" wide ribbon that coordinates with your shoes
  • scrap of 0.5" wide ribbon that coordinates with your shoes
  • matching thread
  • scissors
  • pins
  • 2-4 shoe clips

Take a length of the 1" wide ribbon and stack it in a figure 8 to make a 4-loop bow. The ends of the ribbon should be in the center of your bow. Baste through the center of the bow.

To add dimension to your bow, gently twist the 4 loops apart. When you're pleased with the shape of the bow, pin and baste the loops in place.

Take the 0.5" wide ribbon (or the 1" wide ribbon folded in half) and secure it to the back of the bow. Wrap the ribbon around the front of the bow, and overlap the raw edges of the ribbon at the back of the bow. Fold under the top raw edge and stitch down.

Place your completed bows on your shoes to determine the best placement for the shoe clips. I decided to sew 2 shoe clips onto each bow for extra security! Stitch the shoe clips to the bows, being careful not to sew through all the layers of the bow loops.

Friday, January 3, 2020

2019 Year In Review

Cheers to a new year, new decade, and new adventures!

Analyzing my work and identifying areas for improvement is one of the ways in which I constantly challenge myself. I'm starting off the new year by reviewing all the garments I made last year and their shortcomings (and working towards my goal of blogging more frequently). 

In my 21st century life, I'm a project manager at a financial company. I coach my peers to reflect on what they achieved and how they can do better, and I'm using the same model to analyze the garments I made in 2019.

First up is this 1940s reproduction dress, my first in this era, made out of soft, slinky blue rayon. I love the fabric and design, but neither worked well together -- the fabric stretched and distorted markings, darts, and slashes, which made the assembly of the gathered elements challenging at best. Despite that, this dress is a favorite and I wore it dozens of times last year!

Pattern: Simplicity 8249

What went well: all the seams were bound in vintage rayon tape

What needs improvement: the hem was a last-minute job (i.e. basted in place) and needs revisiting  

I completed my first 1840s dress (the 40s and blue were recurring themes this year!) in February, after working on it for over a year. This dress ended up being a great example of when taking it slow and steady pays off. It's great fun to wear and the hundreds of hours of hand sewing that went into it are well appreciated. I wore this dress so many times last year that I lost count!

What went well: all the cartridge pleating was definitely worth the time and effort

What needs improvement: another rush job on the hem... The hem braid needs to be removed so that I can add a proper facing to protect the dress

For my first try at 18th century stays, I used theatrical construction techniques (read: lots of exposed seam allowance!) so that I could become familiar with the shapes and fit. This was a great stash-busting project and the stays fit my short-waisted frame very well.

Pattern: Simplicity 8162

What went well: the binding, and using a thicker thread to stitch the boning channels by machine

What needs improvement: the underarm area of the stays is too high on me, so I'll need to remove the binding there and cut a lower underam curve

I made a cloak for a dear friend, but this project was not without its struggles! I accidentally cut the neck hole too large, messed up the hood, and broke down and cried a few days before he was supposed to wear it to a Tolkien party. Thanks to the helpful suggestions and support of the online sewing community, I figured out how to salvage the cloak and it ended up with a very hobbit-y folded round collar.

Pattern: self-drafted

What went well: the color of the fabric, the revised collar

What needs improvement: clearly, my ability to draft functional hoods is lacking... And I shouldn't break down so quickly the next time my project doesn't work out

During most of May, I worked on an entirely hand sewn 18th century jacket out of the most vibrant reproduction cotton print from Colonial Williamsburg. I used the techniques in the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking -- I highly recommend this book! This ensemble is a joy to wear, and I can easily get dressed by myself.

Pattern: JP Ryan Jackets

What went well: setting the sleeves and customizing the stomacher 

What needs improvement: I shortened the pattern at the waist by half an inch, as I'm short-waisted, but I should've left it alone as now the waist seems to short! Also, I still hadn't figured out how to properly style my hair

June was the month of petticoats! I started off the month by whipping up a handsewn 18th century petticoat (seriously, whip stitches are so fast!). I also made a corded petticoat and a tucked petticoat to layer underneath my mid-19th dresses.

Pattern: for the 18th century petticoat, I used the instructions in the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking; for the corded and tucked petticoats, I used the instructions in The Dressmaker's Guide

What went well: taking my time on the cording and not rushing (I had been working on it for a few months)

What needs improvement: I think my 18th century petticoat is too long and needs to be re-hemmed

Once I realized my attempts at 18th century hair looked atrocious from the back, I decided to make a cap to hide any future crimes against fashion. I chose the round-eared cap from the Kannik's Korner pattern, using linen from Fabric Mart Fabrics (I'm ashamed to admit I bought maybe a hundred yards of fabric from them in 2019...).

What went well: The linen was SO easy to work with; I was amazed that I could press it with my finger!

What needs improvement: I chose to make the split ruffle, but my execution was quite poor here and the join looks...chunky. Next time, I'll make the single ruffle

Ooof...this 1840s ballgown gave me equal amounts pleasure and pain. The fabric, a gorgeous silk, was an absolute nightmare to work with: it shredded and snagged, and was so sheer that the tucks of my petticoat were visible underneath! I struggled for a daunting 2 weeks to get the fabric to cooperate, and, in the end, I settled with dissatisfaction. I enjoy wearing it, even though I feel like the silk will just fall apart one day.

Pattern: modified Laughing Moon 114 - I used the bodice lining pieces from View C

What went well: the finished dress is a visual treat, and I wore it 5 times within the span of 4 months!

What needs improvement: Where do I start? I mucked up the skirt pleats somehow and there was too much fabric in the back to gather down, so there are enormous 6" pleats tacked to the inside of the skirt. In its first iteration, the bodice was too loose on me; it would benefit from bust padding, rather than me shoving in a kitchen towel on my way to an event. It also needs a pocket slit.

I finished up 2019 with a quick DIY fur muff I made in the car on the way to an event. It's two faux fur cuffs (removed from a thrifted coat) whip stitched together.

Pattern: none

What went well: this was a delightful fast, easy, and useful project

What needs improvement: the muff could use a thick, padded lining, and maybe an inner pocket

Overall, I'm very proud of what I was able to achieve in 2019. I made useful, interchangeable, and easily alterable pieces (I covered my 1840s gown in gauze for a ghostly look!) that I wore several times and look forward to wearing again. I challenged myself and learned many new techniques, and with discipline, learned from every failure.

What was your biggest achievement of 2019? What was your biggest lesson?