Thursday, April 19, 2012

Kentwell: Planning

Last winter, my cast at Dickens Fair hosted four of the participants from the Reenactments at Kentwell Hall in Sudbury, England. The story of how this came to be is long, and better told by they who did it, but suffice to say there are More Of Us in Europe. :)  I applied to be one of the several participants brought over this year for the Great Tudor Reenactments, and to my delight, I was accepted!

So now I have a huge costuming challenge before me, which I was putting off hoping I'd be able to churn out an Edwardian gown. (Ohwell.)

Here's the kit I plan for this event:
  1. 2 smocks 
  2. 2 pairs of drawers
  3. 2 coifs
  4. Woolen petticoat with supportive linen bodice
  5. Woolen kirtle
  6. Woolen gown
  7. At least three, and maybe more than three aprons
  8. Possibly an extra partlet
  9. Maaaaybe a waistcoat if there's time

So far I've made the two coifs but for some small hand sewing (shortening the tabs on one, and putting the ties in another), and I've got a nice calf-length linen smock cut and sewn, but not finished.  I started in on the petticoat last night.

Amazingly, most of this is able to come from my stash. 
  • The coifs were made of an anonymous linen that I had laying around, that used to have black linen embroidered flowers sewn to it until I snipped them off. This is the same stuff I made my maid apron from for Dickens. (Somewhere in the Stash, I have a plastic baggie full of black linen embroidered flowers.) 
  • The smocks come from a giant length of gorgeous white linen that I *think* I must've gotten from FabMo.  I have about 4 yards, which is enough for two nice full smocks. There's a second length of a different make that will be drawers and aprons.
  • I have a length of black linen, and a length of green. The black will be a "fancy" apron and another partlet if needed, the green will be the rough aprons. I need to make at least one white one too, but I'm going to wait until I have the rest of my things cut first.
  • The fabric for the body of the petticoat is a lightweight rusty red woolen suiting that I got from, and washed until it couldn't shrink anymore.  I believe I started out with ten yards, and ended up with nine or so.  I've only ripped the skirting from it so far, but it's already a dream to work with, and it steams up beautifully.
  • The kirtle and gown will be made from the Woolrich woolens I bought last year for use in my St. George household kit, but that I never got around to.
The petticoat is the only thing I've bought for so far, and that was to buy two yards of the "flax" color linen canvas from Fabrics-Store. Ironically, "natural" colored linen is actually bleached white and they dyed an unbleachable tan, so they have to give the *actually* natural linen a different color. 

My plan for tonight is to get the petticoat bodies stitched and possibly reeded, and begin work on some of the hand sewing on the smock.  All of our visible seams are to be hand-sewn, so that also means the hem will be hand-stitched.

And as I know that I can either work and blog, or work and sew, I'm off!  A post on accessories, later!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Make-Do and Mend: Jeans

Before we left for Hawaii I realized that I was going to need some shorts. Unfortunately for me, a rather chilly California winter was still in progress (and it still is, really) and the last thing retailers are pushing right now is sensible shorts. The best I could find was ahem-shorts, by which I mean garments that may have once resembled short trousers, but that now more closely resemble what the British would call "pants". Knickers.  Slightly too brief for me, thanks.

Neither was the internet any help. I ordered two pair of board shorts, neither of which fit even halfway up my legs. (And this when they professed that they fit two sizes larger than I am? Please!)

The day before we left I was working on the 1940's ensemble and dropped something on the workroom floor. When I bent to pick it up, I noticed the mending pile. The mending pile has a few pairs of my old favorite jeans in it, most of which have worn out at the most annoying place ever - namely the inner thigh. These jeans had stayed in the pile (rather than just being chucked out with the rest) precisely because they'd been so comfortable.  And they'd been expensive!  A pity to waste them. I'd tried mending issues like this before by doing some reinforcing darning with my zigzag machine, but I found that the whole chunk of darning ripped out a few washes later as the fabric surrounding it was just not up to a whole lot of support. A complete patch would have to be the thing.

First things first though, acquire patch material!  Since I was making cutoff shorts (pedal pushers? capris? something like that) this part was easy: cut off the legs. Make sure they come out even.

Next, I laid out the jeans so the worn panel was completely flat and on true grain.  This is trickier than it sounds, but you can figure it out if you mess with it enough.  I then took a small piece of scrap pattern paper and creased it to the crotch depth.

Next, I pin-pricked the line, just to be sure it was good and accurate, and transferrable.

Next, I cut away the excess paper to make a better patch shape.  And here's a tip - if you're doing this process for multiple pairs of jeans - even if they're from the same manufacturer - you're going to have to make a different paper pattern for each. They're all going to differ slightly based on the cut, the year of the cut, and the fiber content of the denim material.  And it hardly takes but a minute, so why not?
Then I laid out the proto-pattern on the straight of grain on the jeans, and cut it out.  (Remember to leave seam allowance!) Oh and the other nice thing - you can get one full patch from part of a single leg. Which means that if the patch wears out and the rest of the jeans are still sound, you can just... patch them again!
 I also added an inch to the inside, so I could dodge my patch around the already-pretty-thick inner seam of the jeans.

After cutting out two of these, I pretended they were part of a pair of jeans: I sewed them together along the crotch seam...

...And then flat-felled the join.
Next, placement.  I lined up the crotch seam of the patch with the crotch seam of the jeans, and pinned it in place.
I then opened the patch up and pinned it along the crotch line and then along each inseam, making sure that the end of the patch ended up at approximately the same part of each leg. With the patch tacked down, I then tucked under the edges of the patch and pinned that down too, for easier sewing.

The hardest part was probably adjusting my sewing machine's tension to deal with the extra layers. :P  Oh and not stabbing myself when I forgot and my pins switched directions halfway around the patch.

The end result?  Nearly invisible!  And I got to mend something, avoid paying for clothes that I don't know will fit, and also pick the exact length of the jeans.

(And for what it's worth, they looked and felt just fine while I wore them, too!)

The Fail Blog

This blog is starting to sound depressingly like Fail!Blog.  But to my credit, I did call it.

I did get started on the Edwardian, but I just didn't have time. I got it a good way towards completed, then when I tried on the bodice I found... that the pleated applied shoulder stuff was off. Not just a little off, but one-crawling-up-my-neck, one-hanging-off-my-shoulder off. Fixing it meant ripping everything apart and starting over, and I literally threw myself on the bed and wept in frustration and exhaustion. Not a pleasant feeling at my age. At least now I can have a pisco sour when things look black and sad.

At work we do this thing called "Five Whys" which is basically a business process for identifying failure points and correcting them.  If I did a Five Whys on this disaster dress, it would go something like this:
  1. Spent most of my enthusiasm on the corset.
  2. Consequently started on the rest of the ensemble later than I should have.
  3. Never got a good working brassiere figured out. The camisole thing didn't work for me, and I was bound to be disappointed any time the line suffers.
  4. Went for accurate and fiddly over simple and evocative.
  5. Didn't have a clear design in mind when I started.
  6. Didn't have a clear structural pattern in mind when I started, which you simply cannot get away with when you bust is this size.
  7. Didn't take the time to pad out my old Uniquely You dress form.
 Really, in the end, #7 was the one that killed it. If the bodice shell hadn't been hanging crooked on a dress form that represents me in 2005, I think I might have been able to salvage the thing.  But there's a lot here that I need to think about.  I have so many different things I want to do, and so little time for them, and I realize now that I am not realistically scoping my projects. This has happened at least four times now.  So: No more outfits where I don't already have the underwear.

So I need to make more undergarments. :P  I need to figure out an Edwardian brassiere, a 1920's bandeau that doesn't make me look like I am smuggling a batch of hamburger, and a set of combination underwear and slips.  This is to say nothing of the 1930's stuff I'd like to do... but what DID full figured ladies wear back then?  The beautiful surviving examples are clearly delicate lingerie for... delicately boned ladies.

And all of this has to wait until after Kentwell.  More on that in a bit.