Sunday, 25 January 2015

Deciphering an 1840s bodice

Extant clothes are important. They're important for costumers, to see how things went together; but they're also important simply as a document of how people used to live.
Although, being into sewing, I'm particularly interested in how things went together.

Pinterest, on the other hand, is, just as we say about fire in a Czech saying, "a good servant but a bad master". You can find great stuff there, but you always have to be the master and check it out, otherwise you can end up perpetuating a mistake. Where I'm getting with this is, thanks to Pinterest and thanks to at least sometimes actually checking the links, I've found more blogs and museum sites I was unaware of. Some of the best things, it turns out, can be found on Dutch museum sites - like the Regency half robe I posted earlier on this blog.

Or like this super-simple 1840s dress bodice that makes it possible to infer how a basic 1840s bodice goes together, at least in the front (sadly, no back-view).

(It's in the Amsterdam museum, inventory number KA 13119.)

So let's see what I can see:

  • where there are basic seams
  • where there are piped seams and piped hems
  • where the grainlines go
  • and where there are hemming stitches (I forgot to mark the bottom - it's less obvious)

It's particularly interesting to see the piping in the front darts. Sometimes, there would be a separate front pattern piece. This one has just darts, though, and seeing the grainlines, they're probably quite narrow, too. And still piped. This might suggest the piping works sort of as cording, to help the seam lie smoothly?

The description (sadly, the website is built in such a way that I can't link directly to the object, boooo!) says there are three bones / pieces of baleen in the front (presumably at the centre seam and the darts?). Then it says something about "zijbalein" on "both sides", which sadly Google translate does not help me decipher - does it refer to the bones in the darts, to the side seams, or something else? There's a drawstring in the neckline (!) that ties in the back. There's a back closure of eleven hooks and eyes, hidden by a band (placket?). There's evidence of an attached skirt, not in the collection.

And it says this simple style of white dress would be an afternoon dress for a young girl.

What makes this such a fantastic find is the complete lack of any frills. It's almost like a muslin to build on; yet, since it has piping, it's obviously an actual garment.

I can see the grainlines (at least in the front and the sleeves); thanks to that, I can deduce that the straight of grain lies along the neckline and the front seam is partially bias (= not true bias) and probably shaped. The shoulder seams also lie on bias, while the sleeves seem to be a very simple, straight-cut, almost rectangular shape.

The best part? I didn't even have to wreck my head too much to figure all this out. Making that colour-coded version of the picture above took maybe two minutes, and now I have a much better idea of how a basic 1840s bodice works.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

HSF #23: Modern History & HSF #24: All That Glitters - Jewellery bits and pieces

I'm putting this up in the wrong order, but that's because some of it is waiting to be re-made, so...

For the last challenges of last year, I decided to add to my historically-usable jewellery collection. One of the things I really wanted was the key brooch from this plate.

So that's exactly what I made. It was as simple as buying the requisite components and gluing them together. (Well, and then changing the colour, but more on that later.) So I put that under "Modern History", because it didn't involve much changing of the modern components, so it's obviously something you could do just by walking into the shop and picking what you'd like, without the historical inspiration.

Now, about the colour... The components available in that shop are mostly silver, with only some brass and gold. I suppose gold isn't fashionable right now or something. It's a bit of a problem for me, because most Regency-ish jewellery involves gold rather than silver. I resigned myself to a silver key, but then Leimomi mentioned her experience with colouring metal buttons on my Facebook post. I looked up the marker she had used, saw it was "acrylic" and realised I had golden acrylic paint. So I went ahead and tried it and the results were quite good. Except that it rubs off with force (like when it fell into the radiator, eek) and washes off. So now I have a half-gold brooch and have to decide if I'll resign myself to a silver one again, or try and figure out some other way to colour it gold...

What the item is: A key brooch
The Challenge: # 23 Modern History
Fabric: none
Pattern: none, but the idea came from the aforementioned fashion plate
Year: 1797
Notions: key-shaped jewellery component, jewellery pin, super glue, golden acrylic paint (or maybe not)
How historically accurate is it? The key-shaped brooch is documented, but this one is probably some non-historic kind of metal and got painted with acrylic paint. Plus superglue.
Hours to complete: Minutes till the glue dried... plus much longer with the paint - quick to paint, long to dry.
First worn: In the silver stage, sometime in later December, modernly into a restaurant, holding together a low neckline slit on a blouse, exactly as it's done historically on that plate.
Total cost: If I remember correctly, 25 CZK for the key and 5 CZK for the pin = 30 CZK = cca 1,35 USD. Plus superglue and acrylic paint, but either amount used is just a fraction of the whole package.

* * *

For the following challenge, All That Glitters, I followed in the jewellery components vein and made two hat pins / something that could be used to hold Regency headpieces in place, etc.

The first is another very simple superglued piece. Remember how I've found some "beads" without holes when I went through my bead stash? I've found the perfect use for them.

It's as simple as can be, but I'm sure I could make it more fun and add those decorative metal bead "caps" in further iterations of the theme.
(Because the bead is round and the base is flat, and the superglue still takes some time to dry - at least the one I have -, I had to try gluing it twice. Just a word of warning.)

The other pin is more elaborate, and I plan to write a tutorial of sorts on it in a following post, because it's a fairly simple technique that could be applied to other kinds of decorations (I have a feather piece in mind.)

The golden-ish sheer ribbon was a small piece I found once in the remnants bin and bought just because I liked it. The button was an orphan in the stash. This is the best kind of project, using something like that in a lovely and meaningful way!

What the item is: Two hatpins
The Challenge: All That Glitters
Fabric: none
Pattern: none, but I took inspiration from American Duchess' cockade tutorial for the second one
Year: 1800s-ish, but it could be used for a range of eras
Notions: two kinds of hairpin components, small glass ball, superglue, two kinds of polyester ribbon, thread, metal shank button, and felt for the base
How historically accurate is it? Superglue. Polyester. Modern jewellery components. But it's simple and small, so not so jarring; and the second one is handsewn. Using The Dreamstress' criterium of "would a historical person recognise it for what it is?", I think it passes.
Hours to complete: Minutes till the glue dried for the first one, maybe an hour or so for the second one (I made it in two sittings, so I don't remember anymore).
First worn: not yet
Total cost: I forgot. And I bought the components together with others and the bill never tells which price was for what, so I can't look it up. But it can't have been much, all in all. The ribbons, button and felt were from stash; otherwise, they would probably be the pricier part of it.

Friday, 23 January 2015

HSM #1 - Foundations: A batiste slip or chemise

My main project for this challenge was a simple slip. Now, the reason I decided to make a simple slip is because simple = versatile.

I'd wanted to make a slip out of the batiste lingering in the stash for years now. So when I realised a simple 1920s design of rectangles and triangular gores at the sides (inspired by American Duchess' tutorial, but not the same) would be a reasonable approximation for other eras as well, I decided to go for it. It's so simple and unobtrusive that I can wear it under modern dresses as well: that was the very first idea for the fabric. The slips I got from my mum years ago don't fit me anymore.

The final impulse came from the fact that this year's annual ball held by my church was 1920s themed. In the end, I did not attend, in part because I still don't have a dress to wear over the slip and in part because I want to go to a Regency ball in February and somehow the whole Regency thing takes precedence.

But it gave me the final kick of "Hey, Foundations challenge, and I want to bust the stash, I could make this thing I've pondered for years!"

It's also an approximation for medieval times, namely inspired by the chemises worn in various Czech illuminations, e.g. here. It's not in any way super accurate (and definitely does not look like this), but it's not meant to be - what medieval I do have is more of an approximation overall, anyway.

And the other approximation is this: for the Heritage challenge this year, I would like to look to the folk costume of Moravian Wallachia.

An 1837 lithograph of the folk costume from Hošťálková, near Vsetín, Moravian Wallachia. Scanned from Langhammerová, Jiřina. Lidové kroje České republiky. Nakladatelství Lidové noviny, Prague, 2003.

I'm not going to make the full thing, I think, especially because I actually have nowhere to wear the folk costume of a region my family does not live in anymore. But I've always loved this particular style of folk costume and my family actually does, on one side, hail from Moravian Wallachia. And I do have ideas for uses for some parts of it.

Searching for what goes where in the costume, I came across the existence of a slip that goes under these folk costumes, at least in most places in Moravia if not everywhere. It's called "rubáč" in Moravia (and Slovakia, I think). Often, it has a gathered skirt - the only one I've found probably from the Wallachia region does, and so does this geographically unspecified 1940s piece in the Met Museum.

But then maybe that first one is not necessarily a slip that went under a folk costume - it looks quite modern to me in comparison to the traditional style of the Met one. And the Met costume is not a Wallachian costume.

What the dancers in this video seem to wear does probably not involve triangular gores, but it's definitely less full:

Besides, as I said, I don't aim to make a full, super-accurate folk costume, so as an approximation for versatile use, it works.

It's flat-felled, which is the only place where I'm not quite sure I nailed it: I still struggle with figuring out how flat-felled and French seams work where seams meet.

There are pintucks at the bust, which is perfectly fine for 1920s and probably less so for the other uses. (Oh, and those were actually my first pintucks. I'm not sure why I was so scared of them. Making just a few like here is super simple.)

And there's fine machine-made bobbin lace at the bottom hem.

Originally, I wanted to use another piece of lace from my stash (both laces given to me by my grandma or my aunt.) I did not have enough of it and in the end, I'm very glad that was the case, because the fabric is finer than I thought and the finer lace goes much better with it.

I did not hem it: I just used the selvedge.

Just the facts, ma'am:

The Challenge: #1 Foundations
Fabric: less than 1.5 of cotton batiste (or something of that type)
Pattern: my own: two rectangles (scooped down a little in the front after the pintucks were sewn down), four triangular gores at the sides
Year: 1920s, with leeways for elsewhen
Notions: white cotton thread, white cotton machine-made bobbin lace
How historically accurate is it? Cca 95% for 1920s (fiddly flat-felled seams are a bit winged). With the machine-sewing, pintucks, lace, fiber content etc., less so for medieval times and folk costume.
Hours to complete: I can never ever remember, even when I try to keep track. There were some mistakes along the way. Without them, it's quite quick to whip up. Maybe 2 hours? You still have to pin and sew the lace very carefully.
First worn: Just trying it out.
Total cost: It was all stash, given to me, so for me, zero. It would very much depend on the fabric used and your size.

P.S. If you go for it and decide to make yourself a simple slip like this, with gores, don't forget to start the gores at the waist, so that you already have enough fullness at the hips! Just thought I'd point that out. :-)

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

HSM '15 #1: Foundations - Teeny bumpad + a glimpse of something else

Happy new year, everyone!

For 2015, the Historical Sew Fortnightly has transformed into the Historical Sew Monthly, which was meant as a relief to the Dreamstress, but I think it's really a relief to practically everyone. It's definitely a relief to me - I will have a busy year ahead and I never managed much for the Fortnightly... whereas a month is a longer time to squeeze some little making in here and there, hopefully even when you're busy.

January, at the beginning, is a bit easier on me still, so I'm actually managing to do more. Maybe it's a buffer against future lapsed challenges (I'm especially not sure about April and May, also because I'm not quite sure what I want to make for those challenges).

So the first thing I made was a teeny bumpad. It's something I may need for my beloved 1790s-Regency era, and it's something I may need when I finally get around to making the 1848 costume (I do have ideas for making most of it usable in a modern context, for the record).

(That's our Christmas tablecloth there, before it was thrown into the laundry.)

It's a stashbusting project. The fabric used to be a child's duvet cover that was passed to my family years ago with the idea we may use it for sewing. The colours are so garish that I've only used it for muslining so far. They're so garish that I decided to use the wrong side at the last moment, which is why there are pencil lines on the bumpad...

It's filled with tiny scraps I've been hoarding for stuffing things with. I have a big bag filled with them and this used up only a tiny portion of that, but it's a start. :D
They're cut into thin strips, about 1 cm wide - that way, they stuff in more easily and evenly, without so many bumps. I stuffed it not too tightly, just tightly enough to give it a firm shape, but with some give for it to bend a bit - because I want to use it both at the waist and at the underbust.

I made the pattern using an aluminum foil contraption (really, just tightly rolled up layers of it) that was meant to approximate a flexible ruler for taking curves off the body. (I don't remember anymore where I learned this trick, but it's not my own idea.) It's not as stiff as a flexible ruler probably would be, at least with the amount of layers I've used, so there's still some guesswork involved; but it's quite a bit of help.


And that's your glimpse of something else underneath.

One of the most annoying things about sewing is when you find out the trim you wanted use just so isn't enough.

So I'll have to dig up something else or resign myself to plain hem. But that's all a matter for another post. Back to topic.

Just the facts, ma'am:

The Challenge: HSM #1 Foundations
Fabric: striped printed cotton
Pattern: drafted by me
Year: cca late 18th century to mid-19th century
Notions: white cotton thread, scraps for filling (I'm probably still going to attach a tape to it, too)
How historically accurate is it? Plausible, I suppose, but the materials are dubious and it's partly machine-sewn.
Hours to complete: 1-1,5? Plus making the pattern. The stuffing takes probably the longest.
First worn: not yet
Total cost: Minimal. All stash; the fabric used is just a cca 50 x 20 cm strip. Cost of filling depends on what you decide to use...

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Making sweatpants the hard way

Sweatpants are a bit of an epitome of boring clothing, aren't they? Navy blue sweatpants. Not even a piping. Just in-seam pockets. Possibly the least imaginative item of clothing you could own.
(I did want to make piping, white, because yay, blue and white; but then I realised that despite my love for the colours and my love of piping, I actually don't like this particular look on other people, so I would be lying to myself about it. Plain navy it is.)
I'm making them because I do have the fabric (got it years ago in that stash haul) and I need new sweatpants (my old pair is really threadbare now, and I'm pretty much fed up with it because I may have had it for ten years or thereabouts already); there's a clear correlation between those two.
And I'm handsewing it.

Not the whole thing! That would take forever. But due to lack of variety in stretch stitches on my machine - the zig-zag turns out quite bulky - I'm handsewing the crotch seam allowances down; and the hems are done by hand, too.

The pattern is, of course, also derived from that one pattern that fits me. (I should settle the terminology, by the way; trousers it is now, when it's a respectable item, but then these are sweatpants - what's another name for this particular piece of clothing?) At that occasion, I've found out I can not find that original basis pattern. I know I took it out to digitalise into Inkscape; I did digitalise the front piece, did not get around to doing the back piece, and now I don't know where it is. *sigh* So I had to put this pattern together from the wide-legged Nancy pattern and a pattern I made for stretch fabrics some time ago but never actually used. I ended up altering the crotch area considerably. I'm not sure I'll be able to transfer those changes back to the pattern.

I think I still have enough of this knit left to make a sweatshirt. Possibly a hoodie, because in that same inexplicable manner, I've lost my orange hoodie.

But that can wait, because after I finish these, I think the most important thing to make are corduroy trousers. My current pairs are slowly but surely falling apart as well and the time of the year slowly but surely demands their wearing. Now that I have a pattern that fits, I feel much more confident about that endeavour than I did when I first acquired the corduroy.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Pivot points: Where was I when...

The Dreamstress started it. It's something I've thought of before: what historical events do I remember? How? (And why.)

If you feel compelled to share your memories, maybe you should do it at the original post. I'm writing this here, because it grew into blog post proportions in the telling.

* * *

Bandykullan, in her comment at The Dreamstess', is correct about remembering the aftermaths more than the event itself: my first memory of this kind is the separation of Czechoslovakia. I don't think I really remember the news, but I do remember being puzzled that my country was no longer ČSFR (Czechoslovak Federal Republic) and trying to get used to the name Czech Republic. It's connected to the name of a publishing house that published colourful children's books, like Disney books (those were also new and exciting for us at the time! although I was too young to have experienced life without them much). The name used to be Egmont ČSFR (it's actually a branch of an international company), so I was closely acquainted with it, and then suddenly it was no more (the publishing house changed to Egmont ČR eventually).
In retrospect, it was mostly a good thing, though, I think. Relations between the Czech Republic and Slovakia are, to the best of my knowledge, good, which may not have been the case by now have we stayed in one country. Maybe I was lucky to have only experienced Czechoslovakia for such a short time. I don't have much to be nostalgic about. I don't need to mourn the death of the country of my birth (even if technically it was the country of my birth). All I have is the good legacy: the abundance of good old books available in Slovak, the ease of understanding between the languages (to such an extent, in my case at least, that sometimes it would take me weeks to fully realise some people in my classes at university were Slovak), the ease of travelling to a foreign country (even if I've only taken advantage of it once so far).
Yesterday, me and my sister talked, among other things, about the urge some countries have to expand and retain their territory at all costs. We're lucky to live in a small country without such an unhealthy urge.

* * *

I do remember, vaguely (not in an "I was there when..." way), both the death of Princess Diana and the death of Mother Theresa that The Dreamstress mentions. I remember the media-and-society crazy over the former, and the more subdued but longer-lasting sadness surrounding the latter. I don't remember that it happened in such close succession - maybe exactly because the latter was more of the kind you come across and think of over a longer period of time, as the name is casually brought up in connection with other issues.

* * *

The "I was there when" way is strongly connected to 9/11 for me - because I wasn't there.
At the time, there was a practice in a certain class at my school of having a short presentation on current events each week. (I hated it. I've never been one for closely following the news, surmising that most of it was useless in long term.) I was the first, alphabetically, so I was the first to have the presentation the second week of September (school starts at the beginning of September here). And that day, the day before my presentation, in the afternoon / early evening here, when it happened, I was at a basketball training. I came home and found father listening to the radio. He told me what had happened. We've never had TV, so all I had was what father told me and what more came on the radio. First thing in the morning next day at school, I had to stand in front of a class full of people who've seen it on TV, and talk about a terrible event I knew less about than anyone else (or so I thought at the time). It was all kinds of horrible rolled into one for a young schoolgirl.
And there was, once again, the aftermath. A lot of aftermath. The whole terrorist scare. I can't tell if it was more grounded than usual or not, but it was most certainly something new and horrible in this country - I've lived in a free, unafraid country most of my life, and suddenly, being a NATO member, we were dragged into something that did not have much to do with us. So it was my first taste of global events.
And there was suddenly an Arab / Muslim scare, a whole new sort of mindless impersonal racism (not many Muslims in this country at the time, certainly not in my hometown), which lasted much longer, which I saw in my classmates, too, and which I was scared by. The Dreamstress mentions not being too keen on brimstone as a Baha'i. My brand of Christianity isn't too keen on brimstone, either, and it's very keen on thinking things through. So of course I knew right away that not every Muslim was a terrorist, just like I'd spent my school years explaining to my classmates that not all Christians answered to the Pope or that no, me being Christian doesn't mean I want to enter a convent (seriously, the idea was so ingrained that for a while I had to convince myself it was not the case!).
It's all died down. Sort of. We're back to being a country where an explosion in the centre of Prague makes people think of gas leaks. Where I can carry a pocket knife in my pencase and people's reaction is to ask if I'm a Girl Scout (for the record, I'm not). In many other ways, the situation and mindset here is not ideal; but it's the sort of thing you know you love about your country if you've lost it for a while.

* * *

I have lived through the Velvet Revolution. And reportedly, my family, including me, saw the Northern Lights on November 17.
The story goes like this: Father went to Prague that day on some errand, and mother heard about the demonstrations on the radio and was of course very worried. Father came home in the evening, wide-eyed, and said: "Guess what I've seen!" Mother said: "Revolution." Father said: "The Northern Lights!" And they packed us all into a cart, wrapping us in warm clothing, and took us to a hill above the town and we watched the Northern Lights.
There's a little detail in the story that I wonder about. Did Mother really say "Revolution" on November 17? Was it because the Communists spoke of Revolution (theirs) and contra-Revolution (everyone else's) that the word Revolution came so easily? Did many people really feel something was changing right then, just like it's also shown in Kolya? Or is it a detail added in the retelling?
I was too small to remember anything, which irks me to this day. Not the Revolution. Having seen the Northern Lights and not remembering it. To top it off, it seems no one else had seen them, because everyone else was concerned with something else that day; so it's like it never happened. Were there really Northern Lights to be seen in Czechoslovakia on November 17 1989?
But then, it's also what I love about the story. It's a family legend about the Velvet Revolution, and in that way, it's perfect.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

A Loki-coloured necklace

Some colours just look good together, okay? And I had these black and green glass beads. And these brass-coloured ones (that I suspect are actually glass, too).

And one single orphaned pearly bead.

The colours just work, and I had these beads that needed to be used up.

I was also inspired by some necklaces I've seen online - I had a mental image of a more masculline-y type of necklace, what with the black. It turns out the mental image was for a "twelve step necklace". Huh.

Whatever. I used that orphaned bead in a dignified manner and I now have a necklace to balance out my jewellery hanger. The bluish and silvery side started overpowering the warm-coloured side. That, frankly, was to be expected.