Wednesday, 7 October 2020

How NOT to draft a women's sloper: Why the Breanna sloper for women does not work at all (unfortunately)

In the loquatious manner of old books, the full title of this blog post continues:

Containing therein an explanation of the fundamental importance of the difference between dart width and dart angle.
What shenanigans Marmota gets into when she has too much free time on her hands and wants a quick solution to something (Spoiler alert: It was anything but quick.)

I have to say right ahead that this was written back in May so some of the info about how the site is set up here is dated. The problems with the pattern remain exactly the same, though.

I also have to say right ahead that the sum total of my knowledge of programming is a neat zero, so I have no idea how the actual code works and cannot unfortunately fix it.

I do, however, by now know a thing or two about drafting sewing patterns, and about measuring and altering them to make sure they fit - seeing as I'm exactly the sort of non-average person is targetting:

In their system, back in May, the closer you were to a standard size, the more your diagram looked like a perfect circle. Mine was a perfect splotch.

So I can at least offer an explanation of why it doesn't work. Why the way they take those detailed measurements (that for the most part do make sense to me) and turn them into this pattern... results in a pattern that does not work at all. Long story short: the very base of the women's sloper is flawed and does not seem to take into account some fundamental truths of sewing and pattern-making.

Namely how you deal with darts and angles.

I hope that this post will both work as a (very detailed) review for other existing / potential users to see exactly why that particular covetable pattern (custom slopers are covetable, right?) doesn't work right now, as well as hopefully help the programmers do things better in the future when it comes to women's patterns. Because I do love the idea of OpenSource patterns!

(And maybe it will also help explain some things about drafting your own slopers. I learned a lot from this myself.)

Monday, 11 May 2020

Throwback: The Andrea blouse and pattern

This dates back to the era of BurdaStyle as a website for OpenSource patterns, and BurdaStyle as a sewing community. Digging back, it seems I made this blouse in 2008? Definitely finished it in 2008. It predates this blog, and was actually one of the first items of clothing I ever made for myself... preceded by a "medieval" (ha-ha) dress and an evening dress! I always had a habit of jumping headfirst into sewing projects without regard for the order of their perceived difficulty ratings. :D

In retrospect, it's absolutely no wonder I've developed the sewing persona and habits I have if, out of the first three garments I ever made for myself, one was drafted based on a scaled draft, one was made from a heavily altered pattern, and one was a completely new design drafted from a basic sloper! There's no way I was ever going to end up the sort of sewist who buys and has to try all the newest patterns! :D

 Old photos demonstrating that my habit of wearing headscarves is already more than ten years old... and that my problem of finding well-fitting RTW trousers is a lifelong one.

That era of BurdaStyle as a sewing community is now definitively gone. Just like the blouse.

The physical object no longer fit me, and was worn and the colours washed out... so recently I cut it up and am in the process of turning it into patchwork pillowcases for my sister. Well, technically, I would be far more in the process of if the project were not currently 180 kms away...

(I wasn't even in the habit of visiting the BurdaStyle site for the past couple of years, so I was surprised to find out it was completely remade when I ventured there recently - I'm not sure when the change happened. But everything is gone. It's truly and fully nothing but a shop now, and as you can guess from the previous paragraphs, I definitely don't need it.)

This blouse was my first pattern of my own, drafted from a basic sloper (provided back then by BurdaStyle user JJ), based on my own design, my own idea, and so it will always be special.

The original idea counted on colour blocking or at least several colours / patterns of fabric, which I eventually scrapped in part because I did not have that many coordinating fabrics of the same type. I also played with the idea of back lacing which I think was quite "in" at the time (also, hey, I've always loved historical costumes), and scrapped that because, well, back lacing isn't very practical.

Also I named it after the little girl who was baptised the day I finished it, so even though I'm not sure how many times I've even met her after that, it is a rather specially named pattern that way.

 And as you can see, I eventually adjusted the back seams to echo the front more. It's much better balanced that way! And more fun! I dislike patterns that have inventive designs in the front and boring standard seam / dart configurations in the back.

The blouse used to have a record on the BurdaStyle site, including a single-size PDF download of the pattern, but as I said, that is now gone, and the record only lives on in the Wayback Machine  - without the PDF (and including my early confusion concerning invisible zippers if you go further back in history :D - it was a regular one). Plus there's my old Czech blog post - now picture-less. ETA: Actually, now that blog is gone, too (the platform is gone), and only lives on in the Wayback Machine.

I forgot to take more photos than these original ones before I took it apart. So you only have my word for all the beginner mistakes I made... such as trimming the seam allowances too fine as I zig-zagged them (together, too, I suspect - you can kind of see that it even affects the fit in the back), before I even tried it on properly. It wasn't that a big problem with this piece, but it's not a habit you want to maintain in general. :D

There's also the matter of my not knowing anything about understitching - so I topstitched around the neckline instead. Again, not a big problem with this casual blouse but not a habit you want to get into in general!

And somewhere between my forgetting some details from the drafting tutorial, the block I used having come without sleeves, and my generally not yet knowing the wisdom of measuring patterns against my own measurements, the sleeves originally ended up a tad too tight - so the underarm gusset was a necessity. One I fell in love with, though. :D

Looking at these photos now, and remembering how I did things compared to what I now know about my usual adjustments, I think I probably should have lengthened it in the upper part / lowered the bust point / raised the shoulder seam, too... I suspect that was also part of the reason the sleeves originally ended up too tight. Not having done that, however, does make the resulting pattern a bit more usable as a general pattern. :-)

... I kind of forgot about my old Czech blog; I don't use it anymore because that old Czech platform is pretty clunky. I now found out there that the thrifted pillowcase from which I made the blouse cost only 5 CZK (!!!), and that the yellow fabric I used for the teeny piping along the sleeves cost 10 CZK (and it cycles back to today because I think I have now used some of that fabric for face masks...).

That blog post is also a bit cringe-worthy because I had frankly no idea what I was doing or how to write about these things in a logical manner. :D


I retained my habit of drafting patterns on newsprint ads for many years after. I don't do it anymore, in part because we don't end up with them in the mailbox anymore (or only rarely maybe?). But it's actually not such a bad habit - if you don't mind drafting on already printed things and having to peer closely to see your lines! :D (I would always do the final markings in a black pen.) Re-using useless stuff isn't a bad thing to do; these days I still have a habit of e.g. taping together office papers printed from one side...

Here's the original pattern, as-is: Drafted at Burda size 38 in the bust (88 cm), c. size 36 in the waist (66 cm), widening back to size 38 (94 cm) or even 40 (98 cm) for the hips; the bodice lengthened in the waist to fit my long torso, and pretty narrow sleeves. No seam allowances.

Download original Andrea blouse pattern

I have an ambition of turning it into a more standard-size multi-sized one - but I'll leave that for the future (because it would hopefully also involve sewing a new version for myself and doing some sort of tutorial!).

Sunday, 10 May 2020

A simple trick for clipping / notching seam allowances

It's another thing I learnt from Bilikis. She doesn't even describe it; she just does it whenever she notches seam allowances (so it usually ends up being sped up!).

When you have a curved seam that needs to have the seam allowance clipped into / notched, it can be a tedious and slightly perilous job. But if you fold your piece at the spot where you need to clip, and cut into your seam allowance along the fold, both sides of the triangular notch at once like this...

 ... it goes much faster and it's much easier to ensure you don't snip all the way into your seam (without needing to bring a craft knife into your sewing room and move your project to a cutting mat!)

Really simple, eh? :-) It barely rates the name of tutorial but... it's supremely helpful, and clearly isn't common knowledge, so let's tag it with that, too.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

He's not here, he's risen

And it's Easter Sunday and I'm alive.

Which, given the current worldwide situation, and my last post featuring a flu, is far less of a given than it may normally seem.

There have been sudden upheavals in my life since the last post.

But it's Easter Sunday. It's still Easter Sunday. I watched / listened to a service, and I sung Easter songs.

It's sunny outside and it's Easter Sunday.

... I can't get enough of that fact, possibly because I did not get to share it with many other people "live". But in a way, that's the only element missing from my requirements for Easter Sunday - it's sunny, and trees are in white bloom, and I did get to sing my two favourite Easter songs, and listen to a sermon. So that's the absolute majority of my personal Easter requirements checked, so I'm doing pretty well all things considered.

I had a bit of a habit, in the past years, to post at Easter - I even have a tag for it. So it seemed like a good opportunity to rear my head in the blogosphere again.

And I'm making things. They're not always the things I thought I would be making this year. But that's practically tradition with me by now. So, yeah. Nice worsted things, or finishing the whole of my folk costume? Probably not happening anytime soon.

Hand-knitted socks? Happening sooner than I thought. Right now, one. In about three days, I expect to have a pair, and then on to more. (The least enjoyable part is casting on. With most of the rest, I can sit in front of a computer and watch things, like videos from the Ffestiniog Railway with my father.)

Knitted mitts of a vaguely historical nature are happening.

New Regency stays based on Bernhardt's Fig. F (which for some reason not many costumers have used so far, despite the greater ease of adjustment with more seams?) are probably still happening.

Also, historical recipes are still happening every now and then, although I don't think that's anything I will ever document with much consistency. There has been Welsh rabbit. There will be something with eggs from Rettigová (and I should probably take care to document that). Beyond that it's anyone's guess.

* * *

Aside from Sunday services online, and regular fixed-days-of-the-week calls with mom, what's helping me along is videos from Kate on The Last Homely House channel. Kate is great. Kate has four cats. And chickens. And a goose. And bees. She's creative and imaginative and friendly and fun.

What's getting on my nerves right now is town PA. On Easter Sunday. They could have done that on Saturday instead, blegh. Especially because they're right now reminding us that going to church is not good and you should only watch services online. A bit late for that, folks, I've already done that. :D

But that was the last announcement for today. It's still sunny, and it's still Easter Sunday, and I think I'm going to cast the rest of my stitches in the garden. There were supposed to be photos in this post, but I have better things to do.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Deciphering Historical Clothes: A c. 1840 corset & Drafting a pattern from photos

I've been stuck at home with a flu for over a week. After the first couple of days when I really felt awful, I now feel mostly okay except for a bit of a cough, a bit of a temperature and the fact any sort of physical activity tires me very quickly.
So I'm stuck mostly sitting down and trying to invent ways not to go crazy with boredom and do something more productive at least with my mind.

Which in Marmotaland sooner or later means DECIPHERING HISTORICAL CLOTHES.

I have corsetry on my mind, what with deciding that I need to make myself new Regency stays (my size has changed so much that I eventually figured out altering my old ones was probably more trouble than it was worth, alas). Along the line, I got to wondering about some 1830s-1840s corsets without bust gussets (I always have the 1840s low-key in my mind because the discontinued kacabajka adventures hang over me), and that led me to this c. 1840 corset in the Met.

Atelier Nostalgia (who has recreated it and whose blog post directed my attention back to this particular one) noted that it has no bust gussets. Which she says was unusual but I think it was actually quite common at that particular point in time and soon ceased to be so for some unknown reason - plenty of the c. 1830s corsets are simple "princess seamed" affairs. She also noted that the museum helpfully provided lots of detailed photos.

Those photos are, of course, ideal for deciphering.

Behold my usual messy colour-coded pictures:

Blue is for seamlines between pattern pieces.
Purple is for boning and the front busk.
Red is for the very narrow boning channels which may involve narrow baleen (is it possible to make baleen so narow? I have no idea), or cording, or even reed - which you can totally still use in Victorian corsets! To which this 1863 patent by Lavinia H. Foy attests with this sentence: "Rattan and whalebone strips can be inserted in the usual manner..."
Green is for grainlines. Sorry for making it so pale; I didn't want to cover the details underneath too much with all my scribblings, and went a bit overboard on the transparency. It should be easier to see in the full size. (What's not accounted for in my pictures and what I did eventually figure out is that the front hip gusset is also cut on bias. I am still not entirely sure about the back gusset but I think it might be on straight of grain.)

The corset is made from satin, which is a beast for determining grainlines even in real life, let alone in photos. Luckily, some of the photos are VERY detailed, allowing me to make a better guess, especially because in some places the fabric is a bit worn, which exposes the yarns more and makes it less of a quesswork. Also the lining (see additional photos at the museum site) is plainweave, which also helps; although I think the lining doesn't quite match the outer, it does more or less correspond to it.

What struck me was that the centre front was not cut on straight of grain, and neither was the side piece - leading my train of thought straight back to my Regency stays enterprise and the Bernhardt stays, specifically Fig. F.

There are definite similarities between this corset and the Bernhardt stays when you look closely (aside from the aforementioned, the hip flare is basically just an addition to bring the corset lower down the hips). That got me so excited about this corset as a possible sort of missing link between Regency and Victorian styles that I went ahead and roughly drafted out the pattern for myself in Inkscape, more or less following the principles lined out in Cathy Hay's Corset Making Revolution article.

And it worked.

Well, obviously I haven't made a mock-up yet. But my experiment did yield a pattern that looks like a good starting point for that. It's also similar to this 1840s corset on the Abiti Antichi site (which still has shoulder straps and on the other hand seems to have some sort of proto-opening-busk), so it's probably a very good basic style for the 1840s.

But more than that, as Atelier Nostalgia also noted, it's also a style that you can find it later corsets as well. And not just the 1850s. It looks surprisingly similar in principle to a couple corset patterns in patents from the 1860s and 1870s on the Haabet site.

And, from my browsing of museum collections, it also looks like a style that, with slight variations, carried all the way to the 1880s. Most 1880s corsets tend to have wider fronts, though, and are usually more along the lines of the gussetted or princess-line corsets you can find in commercial patterns. But you can still see elements of this sort of construction even in some later corsets.

The difference being mostly the fact later corsets have opening front busks, cross-lacing, and tend not to go so low on the hips. Many of them also utilise bust gussets instead of the bust seams of this particular style.

All this basically means I've developed a method of drafting a certain kind of Victorian corset pattern that can work, with various alterations, for a period of about 50 years from the end of the 1830s to 1880s! It's different enough from the commercial patterns I'm aware of, and yet ubiquitous enough in museum collections that I think I really hit on something here.

This is what I eneded up with. It will still nead fine-tuning, especially in the underbust area, but it's definitely a workable start.
(The exclamation mark on the left means my division of the waist is imprecise because what I really needed was decimal point numbers and I couldn't do those quite so easily in Inkscape without changing the grid - which is a bother, so I'll get around to that in paper stage. Basically at this point there is zero waist reduction and I think there needs to be at least a little bit of it.
The exclamation mark at the front hip gusset means that particular seamline is in serious need of truing - and the hip gusset will need some slashing-and-squishing after I get around to altering the waist.)

In order not to make this post too long (more than it already is), winding and difficult to navigate, and in order to make it easier to make stuff linkable (I'm not flattering myself to think this will be linked, am I?), I will eventually put the whole drafting method for this particular style in a separate post, probably after I've had a chance to make a mock-up and really see how well it works. Although now that I have shared an actual flat pattern draft, I guess you could also just apply Cathy Hay's method to it without waiting for the next post. :D

And when I get around to physically drafting this pattern, I'll definitely do some sort of further pictorial comparison between it and the Bernhardt Fig. F to prove my point. It's not quite immediately obvious - especially because the distribution of seams is a bit different - and I don't think I'd have thought of it had I not been drafting the Regency stays just before. But that front dip, slight bias in the front and bias on the side (also just slight in the Bernhardt stays) did make me wonder. If you lengthened the two back pieces and the front tip of Fig. F, and introduced hip gussets, you would get something approaching the 1840 stays and all those subsequent styles!

What I will share here regarding the drafting is this: I knew, instinctively, that this drafting method might work because I've done it before with my first Regency stays. I looked at lots of photos of extants. Focused on seamlines and where they sit on the body. Drew myself some technical drawings. And drafted the thing in a grid following my own measurements in a method similar to what Cathy Hay does - except that I used a lot more measurements to make sure it really fitted me.

So yes, this can totally be done just from photos - as long as they are decent quality and you have more than just one view. Look where the seamlines sit on the body. Find the underarm line (3 in my plan below). Find the waistline (C) and underbust line (B - in this case it's a lower underbust). Figure out the grainlines. Go from there.

In this particular case, I was lucky because the museum even provided a flat photo, so I could use that as my rough starting point for a flat plan (and use some common sense to account for the distortion).

If you don't have a flat photo - I didn't for my Regency stays, both because there aren't that many online in the first place and because the stays were an amalgam of many individual garments - draw yourself a sort of gridded flat plan first, not bothering with exact measurements for now. Make several such plans if it helps you to make sure you understand how it goes together.

And then you fine-tune that plan with actual measurements. Make your default horizontal lines the length of the biggest measurement of the main pattern pieces (excluding gussets), minus your preferred lacing gap, and go from there, leaving gaps where your other horizontal measurements are smaller. Or (like Cathy Hay) go with the bust, overlapping your pattern pieces in places where you're bigger (hips).

Meaning that for this particular corset - with its bust seams - I went with the bust measurement for my horizontal lines (and added the gussets for my hip / upper hip measurement, which is slightly bigger than my bust). For my Regency stays, I went with the underbust (because I was using both bust and hip gussets and really needed them to fit snugly at the underbust).

If you're drawing on paper, it may help to start with a scaled down pattern (in pencil!) to see at one glance if you're really going in the right direction. Your scaled down first draft can also double as a draft for your boning layout. (Or do it like I did now and draft your pattern in a grid in Inkscape or similar vector graphics program - that has the advantage of allowing you to correct mistakes cleanly, including the "back" function.)
That draft is your first dry run. It will help you catch any mistakes and things you forgot to take into account before you draft full-scale on paper. (There will totally be mistakes and things you forgot to take into account. On my first run through this pattern, I completely forgot to take into account the bust-to-waist difference in the back, and the fact you want your corset to dip in the underarm area. Among other things.)

And even then, always make mock-ups. :-)

You could apply the method to other items of clothing as well, but what with them not sitting close to the body like a corset does, and involving things like pleats and gathers and sleeves, that will involve even more trial-and-error. But it can totally be done, as Sabine of Kleidung um 1800 and Bránn both demonstrate. Especially if you start with something simpler like an apron, and something in a patterned fabric like a check that makes it easier to determine pattern shapes.

So that's my five cents concerning drafting from photos. And 1840s corsets. Some people seem to think the 1840s are boring. I hope I've just proven they're far from that.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

HSM '19 Inspiration: #9 Everyday

The challenge theme for the Historical Sew Monthly in September is Everyday: It’s not all special occasion frocks. Make something that would have been worn or used for everyday.

Look at those divided mittens! Also, hoods, and split skirts probably for greater use of movement. That's about as far as I get, myself; if you do Middle Ages, I'm sure you'll gain more from this.

That's one challenge idea that's near and dear to my heart - over the years, I have discovered that even though I do fall in love with those pretty frocks (and there are some special ones I'm head over heels in love with), on the whole I prefer to treat my historical wardrobe much like my modern one: as a collection of separates that can be mixed and matched according to current needs, rather than as special occasion head-to-toe looks. I have great admiration for people who can pull those off, but this one is certainly a challenge for us who like our clothes plainer or don't feel up to that yet. :-) And maybe a relief from the big challenges for the others. Or maybe it's a greater challenge for you if you've only been making special occasion clothes so far! ;-)

Now you may ask, what is everyday clothing? And the answer is, it probably depends.

The conservation bias that particularly preserves special occasion frocks and special occasion looks usually makes all the genre paintings and photos and the occasional extant piece where you can see what people were really wearing on an everyday basis all the more exciting. But the scope of what that group of clothing and accessories contains is still large, depending on many factors like era, class, or region; and while it is tempting to go to the other extreme and look for poor people's clothing, it's not so black and white. Which is actually good, because you can still tailor this challenge to your own costuming (or even your own everday) needs!

Interestingly, the more recent it gets in the timeline of the HSM, the more differentiated clothes types can get, concerning conventions for occasions - until you reach the 19th and early 20th century with so many different types of clothes it gets confusing - what's the exact difference between an evening dress, a dinner dress, and a ball dress? And then tea dresses, and for men, things like lounge jackets get thrown into the mix. A ball dress is definitely special occasion, but might a dinner dress or a tea dress actually count as everyday? I'm tempted to say they're definitely special occasion, but who knows what they were like for different people!

Dinner dress, 1841–46, silk, American. Metropolitan Museum of Arts, ID:  1977.293.3
For a lady of somewhat limited means, this might be her best dress. For a more well-off one, this could be just one of several.

What for one class of people would be everyday might be special occasion clothes for another class - or what would be special occasion clothes in one era might be relegated to everyday in another; or vice versa. Clothes pass-me-downs were far more common in history than they are nowadays and a noble lady's everday stays may become a maid's best pair...

There is also the fascinating case of the (tree) bast shoes that medieval Czech kings would put on during their coronation - in rememberance of the legendary Prince Přemysl the Plowman who, of course, in his previous life as a plowman wore such shoes as a matter of course, just like other peasants all the way to the 19th century.

1880s tree bast shoes - "lapti" - from Russia beyond the Ural. Národní muzeum, ID: H4-S3680. Felling trees just for costuming would be a bad idea, and there's probably a limited use for these in the costuming world. But it's a fascinating historical tidbit.

Of course, one can always use more chemises or shirts for one’s everyday wear. Undergarments – given they do not scream “fancy” or “for a special occasion” – are certainly something that would have been worn every day.

Man's shirt, linen or cotton, Dolní Němčí, Uherskobrodské Dolňácko, Czechia, early 20th century. Národní ústav lidové kultury, ID: 5351, Accession Number: 5051/1983.
(The date comes from this Esbirky listing.)
This shirt is yet another example of the blurred lines I am speaking of above: for the village man who would have been the original wearer, this was probably a special occasion shirt, as the lace on it indicates. But a pintucked shirt sewn along the exact same lines could have been a city man's everyday shirt in the late 19th and early 20th century. I share this particular example because NÚLK's online Badatelna, while somewhat clunky for searching, has listings for a number of these and other folk costume shirts with good quality flat photos that you can use for shirt construction research. (Search for "košile" and dig through the results.)

So this is all open to interpretation and if you can argue your case, we'll be only happy to grant it!
And therefore, for the rest of this post I'll just share more of my own favourite historical everyday items that I've stumbled on, and maybe some of it will spark an idea if you don't have one yet.

* * *

Here's one for those who sew for children - these are almost certainly village children, most likely in summer, or maybe spring:

The Czech painter Václav Brožík, who was otherwise mostly gaining traction as a society portraitist and a painter of historic or romanticised historical scenes, actually painted a number of similar scenes of children, as well as other village people, so you can get a pretty good overall idea from that if village life at the end of the 19th century is what you're after. Probably specifically in France, actually, because that's where he spent most of his working life; but here's one I think is almost certainly meant to depict a Czech scene. (Notice the woman in the back knitting a red stocking!)

If you're after city life in Europe at the end of the 19th century, though, especially Central Europe, you really shouldn't miss out on the work of Jakub Schikaneder for some everyday insights, both of working-class people, and this company at summertime leisure that's probably middle-class (I love the proof that the blouse-and-skirt combo was definitely already a thing in 1887, and not limited to white, on the two ladies in the middle):

Or maybe you could make nice cozy mittens for winter! (Their suitability for everyday probably depends on what your everyday looks like...)

c. 1930s-40s wool mittens, Národní muzeum, ID: H8-20091
These are probably from the tail end of the HSM's time range, possibly already from outside it. It doesn't give the measurements, so I'm not sure if they are meant for an adult or a child... but child seems likely. The fact that they are mittens, rather than gloves, as well as the long cuff, suggest they were aiming at practicality, despite the colour and fancy braiding patterns. It is, of course, those fancy braiding patterns that landed these among my historical darlings. :-)

And as a long-time lover of Albrecht Dürer, I would be remiss if I didn't include something by him; this drawing of a girl, with her partlet and headband, has always been one of my favourite portraits by him:

Albrecht Dürer: Portrait of a Girl, 1515, Charcoal. Staatliche Museen, Berlin, via Web Gallery of Art

Accessories are always a good way to go with the challenges, and one that would have undoubtedly been used in everyday contexts is a money purse!

* * *

And while we’re on the subject of money and shopping, how about a reusable shopping bag, which will definitely come in useful even in your modern everyday contexts?

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at netting, a string bag could be just the thing to start your netting adventures on. (The link leads to Wikipedia; note especially the Czechoslovakia part, which falls into the HSM range, and I confirmed from another Czech source that that part at least is fairly accurate, if brief.) It became all the rage (at least in Europe) in the lean 1930s when having a lightweight shopping bag of great space capacity ready at hand for whenever a good buy presented itself was quite useful, and bags of this style stayed in use for decades after that (but that's outside our scope of interest for the HSM). Although they were sold commercially, they could also be made at home, which undoubtedly added to their appeal. They are now making a comeback, although the commercially-produced ones are now no longer netted by hand.
(I'll even confess to keeping an indefinitely postponed sewing project bundled up together in one of those... a use for which its see-through quality comes in handy!)

 Despite their historical ubiquity, I had a hard time finding an indisputably 1930s example. So here's a photo from the above Czech source, clearly taken years ago at an exhibition, said to be examples from the 1930s and 1940s - it probably comes either from Vlastivědný věstník Moravský, year XXXIV, issue 2, 1982, which that site cites as its source, or from the Krčil family archive.

They can also be crocheted, and even the (homemade?) netted version would have crochetted handles, as a Czech advice article in Národní listy from 25.3.1928 attests - it also points out that the crochetted version is a bit heavier and bulkier than the super-lightweight netted bag. It suggests to make it, either version, from "perle yarn", "twisted yarn", so I'm guessing a thin crochet yarn that's at least 2-ply and quite firmly twisted will do. The article's instructions will probably give you a smaller bag of this kind - they refer to it as a "purse", and make mention of larger bags; so if you want a bigger one, size up accordingly.
For netting such a "purse", the suggested diameter of the stick is 5-6 mm - quite small, probably to prevent things from falling out. Starting with 30 loops and increasing until you reach 50; then you do 20-30 rows of 50 loops and start decreasing again, until you create a netted hexagon. This you then crochet around, with two stitches in every loop, gathering the sides a bit and creating the "rim" of your bag, with an opening of about 45 cm in diameter. You add two more rows of crochet and crocheted handles; both the rim and the handles can be strengthened by crocheting around a cord. (The resulting bag would certainly look something like this one, from the abovelinked Czech source - unfortunately they give no date on that bag. But it illustrates neatly what the article also makes mention of - that one can have fun with colours!)
The article also suggests you can sew a small envelope bag / pocket to keep your bag in when not in use; they extoll the beauty of keeping your hands free for most of your walk if you have a lightweight, easily packable bag like that. I'm definitely tempted to give it a try one day. :-)

But other types of bags are out there - this one is dated a bit outside the HSM range, but perhaps not too much so to make it implausible to use as inspiration for the very tail end of the HSM range. It is, interestingly, made of prefabricated straps in order to achieve a far more substantial, heavy-duty bag.

Not to mention that certain 1790s reticules could well double as shopping bags, if one is to believe their size in the fashion plates! This one in particular seems suspiciously bulky (are those outlines of round shapes hints of balls of yarn? apples?!). No dainty special occasion purse for this lady!

Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1797-1798, Rijksmuseum, ID: RP-P-2016-8-125

And if you're going to be out and about on your everyday historical errands, you're definitely going to need some type of head covering, as this lady also shows.

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It's apparently a costuming trend right now to sew things you can wear in modern contexts as well. I am all for that; just keep in mind that for the Historical Sew Monthly you should keep the modernising aspects of that trend well outside the sewing room door. There is still a surprising number of things that could pass the muster both ways!
Good luck, and have fun creating things that you will get much everyday use out of!

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...

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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.

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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!)

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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. :-)