Monday, December 21, 2015

Making a Medieval Cloak: A Bit of Geometry

I looked forward to making a cloak to go with my Medieval costume, because I longed for the swishiness and practicality a cloak provided. I wanted a cloak that was full but not too full; a complete circle cloak just seemed like a disaster to hem and a swishing hazard.

I settled on a 3/4 circle cloak, meaning that instead of the cloak resembling a full circle when laid flat on the floor, it would resembled 3/4 of a circle. A 3/4 circle can be assembled with three 1/4 pieces, yet this would give me two seams to sew rather than one, and I was on a severe time constraint (at this point, Halloween was about a week away!). A circle can be divided in several ways. Into quarters, as shown:

Or, into eighths, as shown:

Thus, a 3/4 circle and 6/8 circle are the same size! But how could I get around the issue of all those seams? I cut the cloak in two pieces, each piece 3/8 in size. Below, 3/8 of the circle is shaded. This results in one edge being cut on the bias and one on the selvedge of the fabric. I used the selvedge cut edges for the center back seam, and the bias edges became the front edges of the cloak.

For this cloak, I wanted a material that was lightweight, yet substantial; luxurious, but not busy or overwhelming, since this piece is intended to go with other costumes in the future. I looked to period art for inspiration, and found several trends.

Trend 1: Cloaks were often solid

Lady 1370
Germany Frankfurt am Main
14th century depiction of Henry II and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Trend 2: Cloaks, especially those worn in images of the Madonna, could be blue (Throughout the Medieval and Renaissance art periods, and especially in the Renaissance, the Madonna is very frequently wearing a red/orange dress and blue cloak. Does anyone know of the significance/symbolism of these color choices?)

Madonna and Child by Lorenzo Monaco, Florence, c.1410
Madonna and Child by Berlinghiero, Italy, 13th century
Madonna and Child by Duccio di Buoninsegna
Illumination from the Jay Gould Hours, French, c. 1460

Further, as you can see from the images above, cloaks were usually floor length -- some even pooled at the wearer's feet, though this could be artistic license. At 45" wide, my fabric wasnt' wide enough for a floor-length cloak unless I pieced the fabric together, but I didn't have time for that, so a mid-calf cloak was made!

My cloak is made from Kona Cotton (I believe the color is Pacific), which is heavy yet has a nice drape. It is lined with an old white cotton sheet, which needed some clever piecing to fully line the cloak. The lining and outer fabric are attached by hand with a slip stitch, which allowed me to work on the cloak at school or in the car; the hand sewing actually went by rather quickly! I felt that the finished cloak was too plain, so I handstitched gold gimp braid 1/2" away from the edge. Turns out 8 yards of braid was just 2 feet short of rounding the whole cloak, so I had to get clever with disguising my lack of trim, and so the trim ends in swirls at the back of the cloak.

The cloak fastens with two large bronze dome buttons, between which a plastic "gold" chain is looped and then secured with a safety pin behind the buttons. This allows for easy removing and adjusting. This chain-and-button closure also appeared in some examples of period artwork, like the illuminated manuscript above. However, the chain easily slipped inside my dress unattractively.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Edwardian Kitchen Maid Outfit

I occasionally docent tours at Hobart Manor, a registered historic landmark on the William Paterson University campus. Today I had the opportunity to conduct a tour focusing on the Manor decorated for the holidays, and I couldn't miss an opportunity to throw on some old duds to enrich the experience!

Instead of making something new, I reused the homespun skirt and Edwardian shirtwaist I had made this summer to wear as the costume of a late 19th--early 20th century Portuguese baker's wife. I made the costume look less folksy and more Daisy from Downton Abbey by wearing it without the headscarf, embroidered handkerchief, embroidered slippers, jewelry, or patchwork drawstring bag. I wore the outfit with thigh-high black polka dot tights and my American Duchess Gibson shoes. In addition to wearing my tucked petticoat with crochet lace and monogrammed drawers underneath the outfit, I wore an antique Edwardian corset cover and petticoat (fantastic Ebay/flea market finds which I hope to post shortly!).

It was very fun to be a maid at the Manor, a change from last year's bedazzled 1920s lady. It was also very rewarding to see how different costume pieces can be appropriately reused; with just a change of accessories, I went from rural housewife to Edwardian servant! It was also fun to try on the outfit with some of my wool shawls and scarves; carrying around a carpetbag-shaped leather purse, I felt as if I had stepped right onto Ellis Island!

I especially love how I look in the photo on the right!

This shawl/cowl/shrug was thoughtfully handmade for me by my boss! It's very warm and soft, and matches the tones of my outfit quite perfectly!
Good thing this skirt has a strong facing! It was so long that it swept up anything on the stairs!

This costume is especially meaningful to me because my paternal grandmother worked as a servant in a large country house. The daughter of her employers was named Gabriela, and she always desired to have a daughter or granddaughter with that same name. Not only have I fulfilled (unfortunately posthumously) her desire for a Gabriela, I am exploring her experiences of scurrying up and down stairs--albeit to deliver notes in my office (which is located in the Manor)--and standing on her feet all day. This is certainly an outfit I can see myself wearing on many occasions!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Medieval Veil

Though it's been a while since my last post, I have been quite the busy bee sewing garments from a range of time periods which I can't wait to show you! My next few posts will discuss my 2015 Halloween costume, a somewhat historically accurate Medieval ensemble.

By June, I had decided that my 2015 Halloween costume would be Medieval (possibly a queen or saint). Conveniently, Medieval fashions commonly include a head covering that eliminates the fuss of styling my straight, fine hair (more information on Medieval headwear and Medieval headresses here). I chose to make a veil, which seemed fairly popular during the 12th through 15th centuries.

My veil is made of cotton muslin. It is cut in a D-shape, with the straight edge framing my face and the curved edge falling down my back. The long straight edge is 38.5 inches long, and at its widest point the veil is 26.5 inches long. It is hemmed with a 1/4 hem sewn with a blind stitch (because I still can't figure out a rolled hem).

I love the drape of the veil!

The veil had a very pleasing drape, especially in the back where the bias edges fell against each other. Overall this was a very satisfying, quick, and easy project, if not perfectly historically accurate!

To secure the veil to my head, I cut a strip of muslin 3 inches wide and 25.5 inches long. Folding it in half lengthwise, I wrapped it around my heads and secured it with pins. I then pinned the veil to this. This was a very easy and effective method, as the strip not only kept my coiled braids in place, but provided a sturdy foundation for the veil.

Do you have any tricks for hiding hair with period headcoverings?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

I was so pleased to be nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by none other than the talented Anneliese! Anneliese blogs at The Young Sewphisticate, creating gorgeously intricate garments that span the early 1800s to the 1950s! She even does costuming for plays, with spectacular results!

Official Award Rules: 
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you, linking back to their site
  2. Put the Award logo on your blog.
  3. Answer the ten questions sent to you.
  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
  5. Nominate ten blogs.
Now, onto the blogging fun...

Thank you so very much, Anneliese! It's so nice to receive a blog award, especially from someone as talented as you. In times of doubt, this kind of recognition really helps me get back on track, both with blogging and sewing. Thank you, Anneliese, from the very bottom of my heart!

2)  Done!

3) Anneliese's Questions: 

Why did you begin blogging?
I began blogging in 2012 to document my biggest sewing project up until then, the creation of 5 Italian Tarantella folk dancing costumes. I really wanted to share my process for anyone out there who was also looking for information on those costumes and, like me, had a very difficult time finding it. 

Who or what sparked your interest in costuming?
I can owe my interest in historical costume first to my love of historical art. As a young teen, I began to see how art changed throughout the centuries--and even more evident, how the clothing of the subjects changed, too. My curiosity was spurred by wanting to know what the Renaissance really meant for fashion. Once I fell down that rabbit hole, I tried to absorb as much information as I possibly could, and I had a new place to funnel my adequate craft skills.

What do you find more exciting: the designing or the sewing process for your costumes? 
Oooh, I llove both but designing is very exciting! I love late-night hunts for the perfect fabrics, going through my bead collection to pick the right beaded accents, and making haphazard sketches, but after a few weeks of designing I get restless and need to start bringing my designs to life. 

What is your all-time favorite period drama?
James Cameron's Titanic. I have cried every time, since the first time I watched it as a 4 year old.

If you could travel anywhere in the world for a week (all expenses paid), where would you go?
I would go to Portugal, the land of my parents and ancestors. Even though I go there nearly every year, this small country still has so much to see!! And being with all my family there is priceless.

If you could have a conversation with anyone from the past, who would you choose & what would you ask them?
I would choose Marie Antoinette because she is so enigmatic. She represents an entire era, and its demise. Just as she was then, she continues to be surrounded by a horribly false and widespread reputation. I would ask her about her husband and what she felt toward him; who hurt her the most; how she felt about the gossip; what her relationship with women like the Duchess de Polignac was like emotionally, mentally, and physically; and what, to her, it meant to be Marie Antoinette, to be the Queen of France and the symbol of an era.

Which do you prefer more: mornings or evenings?  Why? 
Mornings. I'm always sleepy in the evenings! I start to feel drowsy by 6 pm. I've always had early morning classes and jumping right out of bed at 6 am is habitual. 

What accomplishment(s) in the past year made you the proudest?
I'm a volunteer for the Hobart Manor Restoration Committee, an organization which raises funds to restore and preserve a historic building on my university's campus. This year, I worked with the university's film crew to create a video tour of Hobart Manor. I'm so proud to represent such a beautiful building, and to be part of the force that keeps history alive.

What do you hope to accomplish this year?
I hope to be more dedicated to the Historical Sew Monthly than I have been in past years. One of my thesis projects is to research the societal, philosophical, and governmental influences on French fashion before, during, and after the French Revolution--with accompanying examples handmade examples of the garments to use during the presentation of my thesis!

What is on your sewing wish list? 
Gingher shears, a serger, a self-healing cutting mat, a (very scary) rotary blade, and lots of chiffon!

4) My Questions: 
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of your sewing space?

What is your favorite color? Do you tend to sew more things in that color?

What is the largest/most difficult sewing project you have ever tackled?

What is your favorite sewing tool, the one you couldn't live without?

What is one crafting technique (beading, embroidery, scrapbooking, etc.) you'd like to try in the coming year?

Fill in the blank and explain your choice: Sewing is like __________

What, in your opinion, is the most challenging aspect of sewing?

If you could live in any historical building, anywhere in the world, for a week free of charge, where would you live?

How did you come up with the title of your blog?

What is your favorite day of the week and why?

5) My Nominations:  These bloggers are such an inspiration; I live vicariously through their amazing creations!

Miss Brilliantine at B*tch, Pelisse!
Not only does Miss Brilliantine win an award for her super-creative blog title, she also deserves to be recognized for her witty writing and elegant creations!

Kathleen at The Midvale Cottage Post
Kathleen's blog is a treasure trove of sewing tips and patterns from vintage magazines. I'm always so charmed by the 1920s home sewing tips she publishes, and I even used one of these to make my 1920s dress!

Lydia Gastrell at The Antique Sewist
Lydia constantly produces gorgeous garments from a variety of time periods. Her pattern reviews and tutorials are also invaluable tools for the historical sewing community!

Bianca Esposito at The Closet Historian
I love reading Bianca's detailed Closet Histories series, and her endless amount of perfectly coordinated outfits are so inspiring! Bianca has a great sense of fashion, which she pairs with tremendous sewing skill.

Miss Hendrie at Miss Hendrie's Workbook
It is always a pleasure to see what lovely new garment Miss Hendrie has sewn. She is always spot-on with little details and great fit! I especially love her beautiful teens-era garments!

Hana - Marmota at Marmota's Dress Diaries
Like me, Hana - Marmota is fascinated by folk costume--I love seeing her posts documenting the folk costume of the Czech Republic! I'm so glad I found her through the Historical Sew Monthly because her creations are so inspiring!

Gabriela Juranek at La Reine de Retro
I LOVE Gabriela's blog! Talk about a picture speaking one thousand words...though Gabriela's blog is written in a different language, her photos capture all of the amazing gowns she makes.  I am always fascinated by how she just perfectly nails the 19th century look--she looks just like she stepped out of a Winterhaler portrait!

Glennis Siegfried at The Modish Victorian
Glennis' Victorian sewing game is so strong--have you seen her fabulous 1890s Bathing Costume?? I love following her meticulous attention to detail and design, and the finished product always reminds me of a fashion plate!

Kat at Madame Modiste
In addition to creating breathtaking Victorian outfits, Kat also makes Regency and 18th century garments. Take a look at all of her amazing Victorian formalwear--but make sure you're sitting down, because you will jump out of your seat!

Amber Mendenhall at Lady of the Wilderness
Even though I found Amber's blog just a short time ago, I'm already addicted, on the edge of my seat waiting for her next post. She is truly a talented artist, and even shares her own crochet patterns!

Congratulations and have fun! 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Plaid Homespun Skirt

So I had my petticoat, my shirtwaist, and all my accessories ready for my interpretation of a Portuguese marketwoman of the late 19th century/early 20th century...but what about my skirt?? Making this skirt was a mad rush before the event (as most sewing tends to be!), and took me only about 6 hours to complete, which included cartridge pleating 5 yards of material!

The following 20th century photos are from Trajar do Povo Em Portugal, a Facebook page which documents clothing worn in Portugal by all social classes during the 19th and 20th centuries:

Sardine vendors from Leiria, Portugal
Woman selling milk in Lisbon, Portugal
Marketwoman eating a snack in Lisbon, Portugal
My skirt is made from 5 yards of this burgundy and cream plaid homespun from Joann's. Five yards created a perfectly full skirt, but presented some challenges when it came to sewing. Between the application of bias tape in lieu of a hem, adding a hem facing, and adding 2 tucks, the skirt has 25 yards of machine sewing alone!

The historical accuracy of the skirt is, in my opinion, extremely high. The skirt was sewn cut edge to cut edge, with a 9 inch long gap left at the top of the seam. As mentioned above, my skirt has a 10 inch tall hem facing made from blue Kona cotton, as found on many extant skirts and nearly all modern reproductions. Two 1 inch wide horizontal tucks above the facing keep the skirt at ankle length--the fabric was never cut, just adjusted to my size to reduce waste. The raw edges of the bottom of the skirt and facing are enclosed in 1/2 inch wide grey double fold bias binding, also seen on period and repro pieces, as a way to reduce wear on the skirt fabric itself.

To create the cartridge pleats, I folded 3 inches of fabric down, creating two layers of fabric at the top of the skirt to add dimension to the cartridge pleats. I then sewed four lines of running stitches every half inch (Warning: this process takes forever). I finished the top of the skirt with grey double fold bias binding, which extended into waist ties.

In this photo, you can see the grey double fold bias binding which encloses the hem, and my embroidered patent leather mules!

This skirt was easy, inexpensive, and authentic. In my opinion, it captures most accurately the experience of a home sewer of the late 19th century/early 20th century in Portugal and other rural areas. The skirt is dramatic, durable, and cost less than $20 to create, including notions!

Have you ever worked with homespun fabric before? Share your projects in the comments section below!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Folkwear #205 Gibson Girl Shirtwaist Review

I used the Folkwear #205 Gibson Girl Blouse pattern to create a blouse worn by women in Portugal during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as supported by photographic evidence (which you can read about in my post here). I made the blouse out of vintage floral cotton, with tones of pink, purple, blue, and white.

The blouse is constructed with French seams on the sleeve seams, shoulder seams, side front seams, and side back seams. The seams between the sleeve and bodice, and yoke and bodice, were left unfinished because I couldn’t figure out how to make a French seam with gathered fabric and piping. I plan to cover these unfinished seams with bias binding eventually.

Changes to the Pattern:
  • I added self-made piping, from purple cotton, between the yoke and blouse. I also added the piping between the yoke and collar, and between the sleeves and cuffs.
  • I made the collar out of fabric rather than lace. I added half-inch-wide beige lace trim to the top of the collar.
  • I shortened the sleeves by 1 inch and narrowed them by 1 inch, because I was worried they’d be too long and billowy for the peasant/marketwoman I aimed to portray. The altered sleeve width was fine, but in retrospect I should not have shortened the sleeves because now they are too tight around my elbows for me to add a closure to the cuffs!
  • I removed 2 inches from the side panels of the blouse, to prevent the blouse from being too billowy for a working class woman and prevent it from overwhelming my petite figure.
  • I chose not to add the fabric ties at the waist, because my cotton fabric created ties that were very bulky and unyielding. I plan to add grosgrain ribbon in a coordinating color to serve as the waist ties.
  • I topstitched the back button placket.
  • The collar fastens with 2 hooks and eyes, and the back yoke fastens with 3 snaps, because I didn’t have enough buttons to go all the way up the placket.

Overall Thoughts:
I LOVE this pattern! The construction was easy and intuitive, and the blouse only took about a week to create. The final result is flattering and very comfortable to wear (and it looks so cute with jeans). I will certainly make more Gibson Girl blouses in the future, and the pattern includes enough varied options for decoration (such as lace insertion and tucks) that I could create multiple “looks” from this pattern.

What made construction of this blouse difficult was my choice to add the lace trim to the collar and the piping. It was difficult to get the piping evenly sewn between the seams, but this is
purely my inexperience with using piping. The effort was worth it though, because the piping helps break up the heavy floral print, and adds a unique dimension to the blouse.

My entire Portuguese marketwoman costume: shirtwaist, skirt, apron, handkerchief, headscarf, patchwork drawstring bag, petticoat (not seen), embroidered mules (not seen), and a basket filled with corn bread!
A post about all of the elements of the Portuguese marketwoman costume is coming soon!

Have you ever made the Folkwear #205 Gibson Girl Shirtwaist/Blouse pattern? What was your experience with it?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

HSM #7 Accessorize: Beaded Velvet Purse

Though I haven't been blogging much, I have been busy sewing and working on my Historical Sew Monthly entries!

Initially, I planned to submit a Medieval veil I finished at the beginning of July for Challenge #7: Accessorize, but then the black velveteen I ordered to create a robe de style ended up being very stiff and even dirty (!!!) in some places. I was so upset about the velveteen that I just wanted to make something small to get it out of my stash so that it could stop mocking me! I needed a small, quick project, that could use the clean areas of the velveteen and the fabric's stiffness to its a little handbag!

You may have realized my affinity for drawstring purses, since I made a Harry Potter-inspired one, various embroidered models, and a patchwork design. I decided to make an Edwardian-inspired velvet purse, with a hand-beaded fleur-de-lis motif (as this was a gift to a beloved professor).

The beaded fleur-de-lis motif is done in the same antique bugle beads as on my 1920s dress, and modern small flat sequins. The purse is lined in polyester satin. It fastens with a wide black polyester ribbon.

Expect a tutorial on how to make and bead this bag to be up on the blog in early September!

The Challenge: #7 Accessorize
Fabric: Black cotton velveteen, black polyester satin
Pattern: Self-drafted
Year: c. 1900-1912
Notions: Thread, antique bugle beads, flat sequins
How historically accurate is it? Fairly accurate, except that period examples tend to hand much more beading.
Hours to complete: About 9
First worn: Not sure, as it was a gift
Total cost: About $5

Friday, June 19, 2015

HSM #5 Practicality: Patchwork Drawstring Bag

The next element of my Portuguese turn of the century peasant outfit was a drawstring bag made out of scraps of fabric. Traditionally, these bags were used to carry small meals, like sandwiches. My father, who lived in Portugal until his 20's, remembers using a patchwork bag like this! Called a saco de trapos in Portuguese, this project was a nice way to use up scraps and create a useful accessory that could take some wear and tear. 

Many Portuguese folkloric and/or ethnographic groups use sacos de trapos as part of their outfits.

A member of the group O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho, holding a patchwork drawstring bag. Photo courtesy of O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho.
More examples of patchwork drawstring bags used by O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho. Photo courtesy of O Cancioneiro do Alto Minho.
From the Museu do Traje de Viana do Castelo. Photo courtesy of A Ervilha Cor de Rosa.
Antique patchwork drawstring bags. Photo courtesy of Arco da Velha.

I used scraps of cotton or poly cotton fabrics for my bag. I tried to have an equal mix of printed and solid fabrics. The bag is approximately 9 inches wide and 11 inches tall; it's still a bit small, however, and I could have made it larger. It is lined in the same lovely, stiff cotton my petticoat is made from. I even made a pocket inside to keep my cell phone separate from my keys and other things that could scratch it! It is decorated with two tassels made out of pink, green, white, and cream yarn, and fastens with a .5 inch wide twill tape through a drawstring casing.

One side of the patchwork bag.
Detail of decorative embroidery on the patchwork bag.
The other side of the patchwork bag.
Chain stitch embroidery on the other side of the bag.
The cell phone pocket, which fastens with a wooden button and fabric loop.

The Challenge: #5 Practicality
Fabric: Cotton and polyester/cotton scraps
Pattern: Self-drafted
Year: mid 19th century to mid 20th century
Notions: Wood button, twill tape, yarn
How historically accurate is it?: 95% -- I lose points for the polyester blends and polyester thread
Hours to complete: About 5
First worn: Sunday, June 14, for the Portugal Day Parade
Total cost: $0 -- Everything came from the stash!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Making a Tucked Petticoat with Crochet Lace

The past month has passed in a flurry of sewing as I've created, from the skin out, an outfit for a Portuguese country woman in the late 19th and early 20th century! You can read more about the petticoats (known as saiotes in Portuguese) used with the Portuguese folkloric costume here.

The first item I made was a white cotton petticoat, trimmed with three .5 inch pintucks and wide white crochet lace. The white cotton fabric and lace were purchased in Portugal and are of exceptional quality. The fabric already was lightly starched, perfect for a nice, full petticoat.

My petticoat only has a 3 yard circumference because I only had 3 yards of lace. I consulted a few websites that sell extant petticoats or reproductions of petticoats for use by folk dancing groups, and this seems to be an average hem circumference. The lace is hand sewn to the hem of the petticoat, and the waistband is also hand sewn.

Very convincing machine-made crochet lace!
The side seams were pressed open, then folded and stitched down. This appears not to be a very secure type of seam, but at least it isn't bulky; I don't anticipate that the petticoat will take too much strain anyway.
It is gathered to a 1" wide waistband, which fastens with a tab and bright blue button. This fastening is supported by evidence in petticoats of the period. The waistband rests lower on my hips so as to reduce the pressure of waistbands (from the petticoats, skirt, apron, and pocket) digging into my waist.

A diagram of period appropriate closures for petticoats (saiotes and saiotes travados) via Trajes de Portugal
The petticoat fastens on the left side of my body.
My only regret with this project was placing the buttonhole too close to the tab edge! This was my first time using the buttonhole function on my new sewing machine.

This was a fun and quick project! I see where I could improve on the next petticoat, but I still love this one very much. It was just the thing to motivate and prepare me for a long month of furiously sewing the rest of my turn of the century folk outfit. And it's nice to have a little petticoat to dance around in!

What is your favorite seam technique and closure for petticoats?