It is still stupid cold around here because our house is huge and so leaky that the poor furnace can’t keep up. When my husband got home from work this evening, I begged him to retrieve the propane space heater from under the bathroom so I can function tomorrow. I feel so very sluggish all day and am ready for bed by dinnertime as my body conserves energy to stay warm. Today I got up enough energy to work on my stays some more. I watched North and South with Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe. There is some very nice eye candy in that movie. It was also delightful to watch a love story that had substance to it. The strike and its effects were a nice reality check to the carefree “he loves me, he loves me not” theme that I hadn't previously noticed in the costume dramas I've been watching. It added real depth to the story’s world.
The corset got a makeover today. I ripped out nearly all of the bone casings due to the fact that the new zip ties are a tad smaller than the old ones. The old ones I got from uline.com, product number S-14016, which is a ¼” wide, 18” heavy duty zip tie. I only bought a single 100 pack since I didn't want to make a large purchase on a new material I had never tried before. These ties are a true ¼” wide, and about 1/16” thick, measured against my 1/8” graded measuring tape since I don’t have a caliper. They fit very nicely in a 3/8” channel. The new ties I got from Home Depot since I didn't want to wait for them to arrive via shipping. These are about ¾ the thickness of the ones from ULine, and they are 3/16” wide, so they swim and flop about in a 3/8” channel. There is a marked difference in quality. To use the zip ties, I snip off the block at the one end, and the taper at the other, giving me a uniform size, and I trim the corners to round them. Full disclosure: I get nothing for my comments about these companies. They don’t know me from Adam. Well, I hope that my gender would give them some clue that I am not Adam, but still.
I preserved the wider casings for the larger ties at the edge of each tab, along the center back on either side of the grommets, and four channels down the center front. These are the locations I want the most strength. The rest got ripped out and replaced with smaller channels at ¼” wide. These channels were easier to stitch, since I could just use the edge of my presser foot for a width guide. The 3/8” channels needed to be marked out and every line drawn. There are now a total of approximately 124 channels (62 in one half, and I assume the same number on the other side), compared to the original 96. My channels are not all perfectly straight or perfectly even, with gaps between some of them where they didn't line up quite right. Also, I remembered to backstitch at the beginning and end of each line this time.
I then began to add the binding. I am using the binding itself as a casing as well whenever possible, and extending the bones down into the binding as well, and as I mentioned before, I really struggled with puzzling this process out. Now that I have my new boning channels, I have worked it out and I like the results. It is tedious, to be sure, but I think it is worth it. I am using ½” double fold bias tape and stitching the binding along the channel edge, but not along the bottom. When I reach the bottom, I pin the binding in place, encasing both layers, and stitch perpendicular to the binding, along the already stitched channel edge. For the points of the tabs, I run the binding up the edge to the point and stitch it along the channel edge. Bear in mind I am using the binding as a boning channel. I can’t stitch through the channels. When I get to the top of the point, I stop stitching and ease the tape around the point. I have to sort of stuff it up there, else the natural tendency is to have it fold outward to accommodate the width of the gap, so it looks like a little triangle set point side up at the top of the binding. Instead, I want to coax it *around* the point. I then resume stitching down the opposite side. This allows me to extend the bones all the way across the tabs. I got the first two tabs bound today.
I haven’t posted because I haven’t done much sewing this week. We had a cold snap roll through just as we ran out of oil. We have been out of oil since Tuesday and have been putting diesel in the oil tank to keep the house from freezing until our delivery arrived. My husband would bring it home after work and we would restart the furnace just to run out of oil again by early to late morning. We dealt with two nights of frozen pipes in the downstairs bathroom and I was so grateful we have a second bathroom for the most urgent of needs. The first time I could not get those pipes to thaw at all. When Ben got home from work, he was able to wrestle the random bale of straw that was in the garage when we bought this house out to cover the hole in our foundation and set up a propane heater in the crawl space under the bathroom. We turned on the faucets so we would know when they thawed. Around 10 pm I heard the shower running and ran in there to discover that the sink had overflowed because the drain pipe didn’t thaw yet, and the hot water coming out of that faucet had caused thermal shock to the sink itself which cracked from the edge of the counter right down to about halfway down the bowl towards the drain and so water was pouring into the cabinet under the sink and all over the floor. We now have to replace at least the sink bowl and counter (it is a single molded piece). We didn’t feel safe leaving the propane heater running under the bathroom all night, so we shut it off before crawling into bed. By morning, everything had frozen up again. I am very thankful that no pipes burst in all of this. The plumbing itself has remained intact. The sink is wholly above the floor, and we changed it out once already, so I know it is not that difficult to fix. And if the damage isn’t too bad, we might even be able to salvage the cabinet it sits in. So my week has been spent trying to ignore the fact that I was freezing cold as the house dropped down to 50 degrees at one point. I have had no energy to sew. The oil delivery man showed up here at 8 pm tonight and I was so happy to see him. I feel bad that he was out so late on a weekend, but very grateful that he was. I can now relax for a week or two before I have to order more oil. Old Victorian era homes burn up a lot of oil in New England.
I decided to make an Elizabethan corset next, rather than a Victorian one. I have attempted three Victorian corsets, and none have come out quite right, and I need a victory before another defeat. Also, I have no busks at the moment, nor any steel boning. The ones I have been making have zip ties for boning right now because it is what I had on hand from an Elizabethan corset for my 15-year-old for Halloween. Zip ties work fine for the Elizabethan because you use so many of them. In the 1500s, there was no steel boning. There were whalebone and reeds from what I have gathered. I think the zip ties are a fine mimic of reeds, in my opinion. A Victorian corset has just a few bones, comparatively, with bones on the seams and sometimes halfway along the panels. An Elizabethan corset is a solid wall of bones.
I went to the bargain fabric store just up the road and got a yard of a nice buttery yellow twill. I wanted a light color so that I can wear it under light colored clothing if I so choose later. I am using the custom corset generator at http://www.elizabethancostume.net/corsets/pattern.html, and I chose to make the boned tabs version. I used the basic no tabs version to make my daughter’s in October and I really like how it came out. I had altered that one so that it laced up the front instead of back so she could do it herself at school if she needed to. This one I am making back lacing. I originally used ¼” x 18” heavy duty zip ties from a packaging supplier, but this time I am using regular strength 14” zip ties. They seem to be about half the width of the heavy duty ones, and don’t need quite as wide of a channel. Of course, I didn’t realize this when I asked my husband Ben to bring home the zip ties, or I would have planned things a little differently.
I started by drafting my pattern according to the instructions on the website, and cut out my two layers of twill. I love that this pattern does not require special boning casings since the channels are formed by simply stitching two strength layers together. I marked out my tabs, and I spent a long time contemplating the layout of my boning channels. The instructions basically say to put the bones for the edges of the tabs right against the edge, but then they say to stitch up the edge and make the points, resulting in a ¼” gap between adjacent bones at the edges of the tabs. She also says to insert the bones before stitching the edges. I was very confused because my machine won’t stitch along the edge of the bone, or at least I don’t know how to make it do so. A zipper foot might work (I didn’t try it), but my experience is that the two layers would not have stitched together evenly, with the top layer reaching down over the bone to meet the bottom layer, and throwing off the alignment. I chose to stitch the points between the tabs first. This might come back to bite me; we will see.
While I waited for Ben to get home, I measured out and stitched 3/8” for all the bone casings, which resulted in slight gaps in the centers of tabs where the tab wasn’t quite wide enough to accommodate one more casing. I also puzzled over how to attach the binding along the edges. The instructions said to insert all the bones first, then add the binding. It also said that if I used reeds for boning, I was lucky and could stitch through them. As I mentioned above, I chose to bind before boning so that my machine would be able to do the job. I dreaded the thought have and stitching the binding on and constantly running into the bones with my needle. Now with the one I made for Moira, I was able to use the binding along the vertical edge as a boning channel itself. I really liked this concept, but the tabbed version would be harder to do that on. As I stitch the binding across the horizontal edge, it stitches the channel closed. For most of the bones, this would not be a problem. For the center back bones, this would be a huge problem because the binding kicks out away from the channel at the top of the tab. See the diagram in section 3 here: http://www.elizabethancostume.net/corsets/corset3.html. I finally decided to machine stitch down the edge until I reached that point. I then stopped, and resumed stitching at the point where the binding was all the way off the channel again, and just around the corner of the tab to the edge of the channel again. My plan is to stitch the binding in such a way that the bones run into the binding itself. I will post pictures when it is done, of course. I will stitch the binding up the channel edges rather than across them.
Today was a bit on the chilly side, with temperatures only in the single digits all day. My youngest, who is 3, wanted to wear a dress instead of pants, so for today’s project, I decided to make up a shift for her. I followed the same pattern from The Sewing Academy that I used for my shift, but scaled it down, and machine stitched it. By scaling it down, I was able to use fabric I had intended to recycle from the mockup of a bustle skirt I made in October. I got the entire body out of a mere ¾ yard of 45” fabric, and used a separate, previously cut piece for the sleeves.
The dimensions I used were to make the body out of 9” wide fabric instead of 16”, which seems to be just the right amount of ease for her little body. Additionally, I changed the fixed measurements in the pattern of 4” for drafting the depth of the neckline and the height of the sleeve to 2”. I chose that because the rest of Adelle’s measurements seemed to be half of mine, so it seemed appropriate to halve that one as well. I did, however, put in a 3” hem instead of a ½”, so that as she grows, I can let it down as needed. I did not set the hem of the sleeve on a selvedge as I did on my own since this was recycled fabric and had no selvedge. I followed the same steps as for my own, except I machine stitched everything to save time. I remembered to stich only to the stitching line for the flatfelling under the arm, but I did not think to hem the sleeve before seaming. Because the angle at the sleeve edge is not 90 degrees, I then had to unpick my seam there to hem it, and restitch it after.
It was a nice quick project, and she is delighted to be wearing it. She would not stand still for pictures, however, being much too squirmy and wanting to be a ham. She now doesn’t want to put her skirt and shirt back on, wanting instead to prance around in her shift, which is over her pajama leggings and a tank top that I put on her for extra warmth layers when we dressed her this morning. I did manage to get a couple of pictures that weren’t horribly blurry. Definitely a success. The dress, that is, not the photos.
Today’s sewing was accompanied by Jane Eyre, the BBC miniseries. I loved it. I always love a good romance, and when it is a historical romance, that is even better. Today I completed the basic construction of my chemise. I began by marking out new gathering lines along the neckline. I marked a new line at 3/8” from the edge since I already had 5/8” marked out. I then ran new gathering threads using smaller stitches (the same size as the ones I used for seaming) since I didn’t like how the longer stitch length came out, starting and stopping at each armscye seam again. I stitched the top line first, since it was generally shorter, and then the lower line, matching each and every stitch, which wasn’t nearly as difficult as I originally thought it might be. I then took my binding and pinned it to my gathered edge, after marking out where the armscye seams should lie on the binding. I had already marked out the ¼ marks on the binding and lined them up with the center points on front, back, and each sleeve, but I wanted to know where the armscye seams should lie, also. I measured my widths, and scaled down proportionally and marked the binding. To do this, I measured how long the sleeve width was, and how long the front/back width was. It so happened that the sleeve width was approximately ¼ the width of the front and back, so I marked ¼ the distance from my sleeve center point marks towards my front/back center point marks on each side. I then pinned the centers up and the armscye seams up, and then drew up the gathering threads. I am very pleased with the gathers this produced. I then stitched the binding with a running stitch along the crease I made by ironing. I folded the binding up over the seam and down the other side and top stitched it down with another running stitch. Finally, I removed the gathering threads.
At this point, I was unsure which side was supposed to be right side out. I think it is the side that shows both rows of flat fell seaming, but I had unsightly thread ends on that side. It occurred to me at that moment that I never really learned how to finish my hand stitching. I used to leave the ends just sort of hanging since they were never anywhere visible. Then I got the bright idea of weaving the ends back up the stitches so they were contained, and that is how I had done these. I am thinking now that perhaps the French knot I was taught for ending my seams might not be ideal, either. Perhaps, there were no knots involved originally and they just back stitched as we do today with modern sewing machines. That is something I need to look into more. I am seriously considering unpicking those knots and hiding them between layers or something.
My final construction step was to hem the shift. This is why I needed to decide inside from outside. I finally chose the side that had the single line showing (and thus fewer unsightly threads) for the outside, and marked out my hem. For some bizarre reason, the front and back pieces did not match evenly. When cutting out my pieces, I used the snip and tear method for the front and back bottom edges so that the edges would be truly straight. But when I seamed them together, one side was more longer than the other. In other words, the back extended ½” past the front on one side, and 1” past the front on the other. I don’t know if that was due to uneven stitching, or not, but I did notice that there was unevenness even before stitching them together, as if the fabric itself was woven a little bit off. I trimmed it up so it was even all around and pressed under ¼” and 5/8” for a hem, then stitched that down. At this point the shift is complete. Now I just need to wash it to remove the marker and pencil lines. I want to trim the neckline at some point, too, but that will wait for another post later. Altogether, it took me about 20 hours to complete, including the time spent redoing mistakes. I can probably cut that down to 15 with more experience and fewer mistakes.
Overall, I am very pleased with how it all turned out. The only part of it that will be visible to the public would be the neckline, so all my errors and whether I made it inside-out or not will be my own knowledge only. I think I will definitely use this pattern again. Now on to the next project.
Today I completed the side seams while watching the 1983 BBC production of Mansfield Park. Having the armscye seams extend only to the stitching line was a great boon. It was much easier to flat fell them. Once both sides were done, I made two rows of gathering stitches along the neckline. I made my stitches rather longer than usual to make it easier to match up the two rows of stitching. Following the instructions, I started and stopped the gathering rows at the armscye seams. Do remember that I added 5/8” seam allowance rather than the pattern’s ½” and that I stitched the armscye seams from the raw neckline edge. This later came to trouble me. I stitched the neck binding to the gathering, but found the large stitches a bit unwieldy. Still I got it together and folded the binding over to secure on the inside. At this point, I discovered that ½” x 4 (seam allowance, back up to top of edge, down to other side and a second seam allowance) equals the 2” I cut for the binding according to the pattern, but 5/8” does not. Therefore I removed the binding and pressed the binding into fourths so I had a proper line to follow when stitching. I was mildly discouraged by this, but it is really only a small setback. I apologize for not taking any photos today. I spent about 6.5 hours working on it today.
I found the Historical Sew Monthly Challenge and decided to jump right in on the first challenge, which is foundation garments. Interestingly, I found the blog hosting the challenge after seeing it advertised on several other blogs as I searched for a period chemise pattern. I decided to take up the challenge and began right away.
The pattern I am using is from The Sewing Academy (http://www.thesewingacademy.com/compendium/, scroll down to find the free pattern). I have a bolt of muslin that I got for pattern development and making mockups of outfits, so I dove right in. I was so excited to start that I didn’t notice what time it was when I started. Using other clues (last read email time stamp, the time my daughter left for work, etc.) I figure I probably started around 9 am. Also, I decided I am going to handstitch the entire garment.
I began with 2 yards (measured very roughly as being twice the length of my arm from hand to the opposite shoulder) of unbleached muslin, washed, dried and ironed. The pattern called for 16” across the half-pattern, so I trimmed the fabric down the edge from the original 48” to 32”. In retrospect, I should have cut it down to 34” for the seam allowance. I did have the room to spare. I used the edge I cut off for the sleeves, thus making very efficient use of the length. Following the instructions, I drew my pattern directly on the muslin. Wait, that is a bit misleading. The instructions did not say to do that. Rather, I measured down 5/8” from the top edge and in from the side edge for seam allowance, then drafted the pattern directly onto the muslin instead of a piece of paper. I then added the seam allowances, except that being the kind of person I am, I didn’t wait to see how much seam allowance the pattern called for and I just used the 5/8” I am accustomed to. Next time, I need to remember to use the washable pen. I hope the pencil will wash out. I drew the stitching lines on each piece and began flat-felling the armscye seams. I stitched from the edge at the neckline down to the raw edge at the armpit following the felling instructions in the pattern, but when it came time to do the underarm seam, I realized that might not work so well. I unpicked the armscye end of each seam just to the stitching line for the underarm seam to better accommodate those seams. Also, for some reason, one of the side seams isn’t perfect. The armscye seams don’t quite line up, and I’m not quite sure why. I set it down at 5:30 to make dinner. Counting out time spent helping my 12-year-old work on an outfit for her doll, and basic parenting (the kids are all home from school until Monday), I probably spent about 6 to 7 hours on this today.
I'm sorry the pictures aren't more elaborate. I just wanted to show the stitching. I'm not sure how else to photograph an otherwise big blob of fabric.