Friday, 2 August 2019

HSM '19 Entry for Challenge 7 - Unexpected: My sister's Moravian Wallachian bodice

What the item is: Moravian-Wallachian bodice for my sister

What is the unexpected feature? The colour blue. These days, the typical Moravian-Wallachian folk costume bodice is red (usually with green or gold trimmings). But in my research, I found out that's actually only a c. mid-19th century development; before that, red dye was more expensive and red bodices were only worn by well-off women, and for special occasions. One of the colours more common historically was blue, and as we hacked out the ideas for her costume with my sister, we found out she really liked the earlier version of it.
(Also, strikingly, it unfortunately came out much darker and brighter than expected - my inexperience with that brand of dye shows. :P I did use about 1/3 recommended amount as per Jacquard's instructions for "most saturated results", but apparently I should have used much less... :-( )
Here are two modern reconstructions of blue bodices in Moravian Wallachia in the beginning of the 19th century that were our primary inspiration for this - and show the sort of colour I was actually aiming at. :P The first also shows an extant picture - originally published in a book I unfortunately don't own.

Material: For the outer, overdyed cream wool worsted (a sort of brushed twill?) strengthened with woven cotton iron-on interfacing to roughly imitate wool broadcloth with my resources. Lining is a cotton-linen blend I bought in Ikea about ten years ago.

Notions: Dark red polyester satin ribbon for trim (sewed on with wrong side out to lessen the shine). Blue cotton thread for machine-sewing the outer, white cotton thread for machine-sewing the lining, white linen thread for handsewing the lining in, dark red silk thread for sewing on the trim. Blue linen buttonhole twist for sewing on the buttons. Dark red silk buttonhole twist for buttonholes & the embroidery in the back. (All links to Sartor, because they ship all over the place and I'm pretty sure they carry the same brands I used; but I only bought the linen thread there myself.) Metallic filligree shank buttons. (The plan is also to add hooks and eyes in case her figure changes, but I haven't gotten around to that yet.)

Pattern: My own, based on lots of Wallachian bodices viewed online, most of them not extant. Derived loosely from the basic bodice & princess seam tutorials by Bilikis Signatures on YouTube, because her simplified drafting methods struck me as a good starting point for a more rural garment; but I drafted front & back separately, because my sister is very busty. Then tweaked in mock-up.

(The centre front is actually cut on grain.)

Year: c. first half of 19th century

How historically accurate is it? About 50/50, I guess. Colour came out a tad too chemical. Material is mehish, though not too bad for our budget constraints & what's readily available (I'm not happy about the polyester trim, but the rest works quite well). Pattern is an educated guess. Machine sewing on seams & straighter bits of trim to speed it up. Aside from that, the construction method is plausible but not documented, and I think I made some mistakes because I was figuring it out as I went. I am not certain about the embroidery in the back, its existence is also a bit of an educated guess - I couldn't find any back pictures of extant bodices or historical depictions from the back; current bodices mostly have pom-pom-like decoration there but there are also some embroidered ones, and my sister wanted her bodice as smooth as possible.

The folds were, at first, delightfully neat - sew vertical seams, clip into seam allowance, fold, stitch seam allowance at the top of fold without stitching through to the outside, press.

The outer and the lining were sewn separately - I pleated the folds in the opposite diretion on the lining, without sewing down the top, and then I pressed the edges down and fell-stitched the lining in. This created a problem with the folds, however, in part because I had done a stupid and embroidered over them before I sewed in the lining - so it was even messier than it would have been anyway. (I've forgotten that I still want to sew pieces of fabric over the top inside to clean it up and secure it... see below how rather messy it is at the moment.)

The embroidery, though, makes me quite happy despite. I stitched tight triangles of overlapping stitches right above the folds to secure them, and then did a little decorative embroidery above it, in a bit of a spruce-branch pattern (or chicken feet, depending on how you look at it...) to echo the embroidery of spruce branches my sister made for her shirt.

(Callback to that post: As you can see now, I didn't interface this with downproof ticking in the end.)

Hours to complete: About 2 days for fabric dyeing & pattern creation & prep, about 3 days of rather intense sewing.

First worn: Not yet. It was meant to be worn at the final promenade at the Prague Folklore Days in July with the rest of her costume, but it was too hot for it so the bodice was left off. (She works as a guide for foreign dance ensembles almost every year and wanted to finally join in in her own folk costume.)

Total cost: I got the wool as a super-discouted remnant with holes and smudges at work, so this amount came at c. 30 CZK! The lining fabric was bought ages ago but I'm guessing it would have been around 80 CZK per metre (it's very narrow). Can't remember exactly how much the notions were - let's say also c. 80 CZK for the interfacing, c. 30 CZK for ribbon, 100 CZK for buttons (bought from a seller online), about 30 CZK for negligible amounts of thread, most of the cost being the linen and the silk? About 180 CZK for dye + shipping (my sister bought that, so I'm not entirely sure, either). So a bit over 500 CZK all together? Because of my extreme employee discount, mocking up broadcloth still came out considerably cheaper than actual broadcloth, which starts somewhere around 500 CZK per metre...

* * *

Sooo. That pattern-drafting method.

I discovered Bilikis a couple months ago through a YouTube recommendation when I started watching more crafting / historical videos on YouTube. I really like her demonstrative explanations, although some of her methods are not up to scratch if you're used to modern Western sewing methods. (Others, though, on the other hand offer some simple insights especially for a historical seamstress that modern Western drafting methods overcomplicate, so it balances out.) First thing I noticed is - that folded almost-symmetrical drafting method may create problems for busty ladies.

So I divided all of my sister's vertical measurements into front and back, and drafted front and back separately.

(She decided to wear her corset underneath her costume, which isn't exactly accurate but makes her a lot more comfortable, as a very busty lady.)

I also, initially, took away width in the front both at the sides and at the centre, creating a sort of trapezoidal shape; after I made a mock-up and found out there was length missing at the front and a bit of width missing in the bust (I think I underestimated my ease in that area), conveniently missing exactly where I stopped my angled "dart" in the front centre so I could just add it along that line - I rotated the pattern piece to put the centre front on grain and added length both on top to widen it there, and on the bottom to account for the missing length that her bust ate up, i.e., I lengthened the front to the point where the new hemline formed a right angle with the front.

Like so:

(Plus button overlap.)

Which was completely intuited, but may actually be a pretty good method to deal with that front length shortage due to bust while keeping the same side length as the back? I'd have to think more on that. Generally, I think I'll have to give more thought to this drafting method as relates to various historical patterns - it's a really neat starting point.

Because I had two princess seams in the back, I think I used smaller measurements for my darts than Bilikis uses in her tutorial. I had to take them in a little during mock-up after all, and generally had to balance the back a little - taking width from the centre and adding it on the other side of the pattern piece only at the waist, which I think had more to do with my sister's specific build (she's pretty sway-back-y) than the drafting method as such - the exact sort of thing mock-ups are for.

I also had to cut into the armscye considerably in the front - mostly because it's a sleeveless bodice, I think. And to adjust the shoulder slope - my sister has very mid-19th century shoulders! (The picture above already features these two adjustments.)

Oh, and I moved the shoulder seam very slightly to the back - which you can see with my abundance of cellotape in the pattern above. Now I think about it, with my aim date, maybe I could have moved them even further? But it would have messed with the neckline and my aim for a pattern that's as simple as possible.

* * *

I made the buttonholes following the tips in the buttonhole tutorial(s) from Fort Ticonderoga, which proved priceless.

Aside from the fabulous tip to rotate the thread couter-clockwise, it was especially the tip on focusing more on keeping them even than at keeping them tightly packed that came really helpful. I just somehow completely forgot about the cording...

Here four of them finished, with some of the basting already taken out. I originally planned on doing six of them, but then decided only five looked more balanced.

Not bad at all for someone who's mostly managed to avoid buttons for fifteen years of sewing! Definitely all thanks to Stuart Lillie's tutorials. (Okay, and maybe also my general ability to handsew surprisingly neatly, and the power of handbasting stuff - a little more work that saves you a lot of trouble in the long run!)

* * *

This is a placeholder where I may share the finished pattern one day, to make life easier for other busty ladies out there.

P.S. I've introduced a new tag, "Mess of making", which will be strategically placed at posts of particular importance to the truth of occasional sewing fails, messy insides and shortcuts taken. What with sewists online recently often bringing up how discouraging it can be when everyone keeps showing only picture-perfect finished makes, and how helpful it is to see others make mistakes, too: here there be my mess of making, as promised in the very beginning of this blog. I'm not going to show you the mess that's my room, but I do promise you I won't, ever, stick to picture-perfect finished projects only. After all, my love of sewing is just as much if not even more for the learning process as it is for the ability to make pretty clothes. :-)

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

HSM '19: Moderator Favourites for Challenges 1,2 & 3

For this year, we decided to switch up the favourites-choosing process somewhat. Last year we slacked off halfway through as we tried to keep doing picks from all the moderators and that became less and less feasible. So this time it's just the first three or however many more entries that anybody picks, which should hopefully make the selection process somewhat easier.

We said. It didn't quite happen so smoothly because I got busier than expected every time it should have been posted.

Yet another picture to keep the preview from spoiling it!

So this post combines both January, February, and March into a three-challenge post, just like Leimomi used to do it back when it was still the Historical Sew Fortnightly. But even then, especially with January, we really couldn't quite settle who was picking what! So this time around, you also get a bit of an insight into the picking process. :D Definitely check out the albums in the Facebook group to see all the lovely creations, we still couldn't cover it all!

As usual, items with photos link to the Facebook group's album, items with only a link lead directly to the maker's blog.

January - Dressed to the Nines:

Ninka: "The 1825 dress by Michaela Coy is one of my favourites: My immediate thought was "This looks like out of a fashion plate!" and it really is based on one. The colour, fabric and design give it a fancy look and there's clearly much work been put into creating the dress. Plus I always have respect for completely handsewn items, especially whole dresses. The extra effort in recreating also the depicted accessories really fits the theme."
& Carrie loved this one too, and her and Ninka couldn't quite decide between this and the following one!

Carrie: Jamie's 1860s petticoat - "The pintuck petticoat is beautiful and I think that might be my overall favourite."
& Hana: "I'm super impressed by this one!"
& Bránn: "Her petticoat is probably my favourite."

Leimomi: "My favourite is Ninka's: I love the clear but subtle inclusion of the theme, with nine roses, and the effort that went into creating a pair of beautiful undergarments. They are so evocative of their period."

Hana: And in addition to all that, I couldn't decide between:
Raquel's nine-gored skirt - "I really liked that she went with nine gores, such an interesting take on the "nine elements" interpretation of the challenge. And it is so neatly made and hangs so beautifully and elegantly!"
Leimomi: "That one was super cool!"

And Jeanette's "Day gown with dinner bodice option and Talma wrap with French bonnet" full outfit. "So much work, definitely dressed to the nines in the idiomatic sense, and she used nine different embelishment techniques!"
Carrie: "I really like Jeanette’s use of the 9 embellishing techniques."

February - Linens:

Ninka: "I pick this 1770s apron by Melissa. An apron is always a useful accessory to have, and this one is especially pretty. I love these blue stripes!"

Hana: "I loved Jeannette's 1913-1916 brassiere both because it was so neatly sewn, from a pattern based on an original pattern, and because it combined both interpretations of the challenge - it is lingerie, and linen was used!"

Leimomi: "Katie's embroidered pocket. It's absolutely beautiful - so meticulously worked, and striking."

Carrie: "My pick would be Dai Sanders' linen Belle Époque outfit. It was a lot of work in a pretty short amount of time, and I like that it stood out for being day wear in a pool of foundation wear (not that there is anything wrong with underwear of course!!). The colours are lovely and the outfit as a whole looked great."

March - Sewing Kit:

Hana: "My favourite is Sharon's 1770-80s apron, because of the point she makes about fine, small needles. Fine, small needles are the best, and indeed a crucial tool for fine sewing!"

Ninka: "My favourite is Jamie's mid 19th century sewing bag. First of all it's really practical for storing and carrying projects around. And on top of that, I think Jamie really captured the style of the extant pieces with her design and choice of fabric. Definitely a pretty and useful item!"
& Carrie: "I vote Jamie's brown workbag. I love the fabric, the use of reference material and that she started using it immediately."
& Jeannette: "Yes, Jamie's bag is perfect."

Klára: "I like Raquel's pincushion very much."
(note from Hana: So did I, but I tried to stick with one choice... which doesn't really matter all that much by now. :D)

Bránn: "I quite like Taylor's blue/white huswife."

And, well, anyone who knows me will know that ending on something blue and white is just about perfect! ;-)

So that's it for the picks but, as I said, there are more nice makes and you should check them all out! And hopefully the next post won't take quite so long to write. :D Till next time!

Sunday, 27 January 2019

HSM '19 #2 Inspiration: Linen/linens

The second challenge for Historical Sew Monthly 2019 is Linen/linens: make something out of linen, or that falls under the older definition of linens: ie. underclothes (lingerie literally means linen).

Linen, made from the fibers in the stems of the flax plants, is one of the oldest textiles there are (at least in the Old World), so you're safe to use it even if you by any chance do Sumerian or Ancient Egyptian impressions!

Wikimedia Commons tell me that bunch of stalks before Ani represents a bale of flax. Whether or not that's the case in this particular artwork, the clothes he wears most probably are linen.

Egyptian linen was known to be so fine as to be transparent, an aspect of linen you may also be familiar with from fine caps, fichus and chemisettes in the later centuries.

And while your quintessential transparent white Regency dress is usually made of Indian cotton muslin, you can actually find some linen extants as well - taking that clothing article that much closer to the example of antiquity they were aiming at!

And throughout the centuries, it was a popular material for fine laces, more easily obtainable in Europe than silk.

Lace may be too much for you to recreate for the challenge (but isn't the one above adorable?), but of course these would often be attached to chemises and shirts, or separate collars, also made of linen.

Linen was a home-grown fibre in Europe, and as such, something that you find very often in peasant / folk costumes. One aspect of it I find particularly fascinating is that in several countries (or regions, specifically), women wore caps / bonnets made with the very ancient technique of sprang well into the 20th century. These were usually made with linen thread, although later also cotton (and I've unfortunately only tracked down cotton examples, but the style is the same).

Another use of linen completely hides the linen in your project. I mention it here because it often lands you with search results on museum sites that list "linen" among other materials, without the linen actually showing on the outside of the garment, so it's something to watch out for:
Linen was used extensively as a lining fabric underneath other fine materials - often, before the methods changed in the 19th century, you would drape the garment in the lining fabric, i.e. the linen, and then mount the silks or wools on top of this linen base.

This presentation on the Lengberg finds makes a case for it being the case back in the 15th century!

We discussed this particular application of linen with the moderators, and the final consensus was that if linen linings are a step towards greater historical accuracy for you, or you just happen to be working on a project like that right now, feel free to use it as a justification for your entry for this challenge.

Aside from the hidden linings, medieval depictions show white accessories like headwraps and aprons that would have definitely been made of linen.

And you can, of course, totally justify your linen linings if your outer fabric also happens to be linen!

But linen is also known as a nice material to wear in summer heat, and it was used that way in the past, unlined, in articles of clothing that were otherwise usually comprised of far more layers.

It's also known to be good at wicking moisture (that's part of what makes it nice for summer), and that, together with its ability to withstand repeated washings, made it an ideal material for underclothes like chemises and shirts.

Which ties us neatly into the other interpretation of this challenge: underwear.

Especially if it happens to be made of linen. ;-)

If you're going the underwear route, you don't necessarily have to use linen the fibre, though (it's not always easy to find in the correct weight for fine underwear these days). It is, however, the most accurate material for the earlier periods.

From cca the end of the 18th century onwards, you find cotton being used in the same underwear applications as linen fairly often.

And of course, for certain things you could use silk.

Or even, as a more affordable option in the 20th century, viscose / rayon.

And if you're currently in the cold part of the world, or on the other hand would like to prepare for when your hemisphere is plunged into winter, you could even use wool.

Just please don't take the interpretation even further and don't make household linen instead! The HSM is meant for garments or accessories worn by a living person, normally not for other types of sewing. (Some challenges, like the Sewing Kit challenge this year, may specify you can also make something else, but those are only the exceptions proving the rule!)

Hopefully that still offers you a wide choice of things to pick your project from for this challenge. Happy creating!

(You can search, on museum sites, not only for "linen" but also "flax" - the term for the plant - or "bast" - the general term for plant fibres like linen. On different language sites it depends on the particular language the site is using, of course...
On Czech sites like, you can search for "len" - the material / fibre, or "lněný" / "lněná" / "lněné" - the adjectives. The downside to the adjectives is that, depending on the algorithm, you may accidentally end up with wool and cotton objects, too... "vlněný" and "bavlněný", respectively. Yep, Czech is fun!)