2017 was a challenge! Balance and peace seemed out of reach and just moving from day to day took energy and faith that eventually times would change. Fortunately we bought a house! Something I thought was beyond reach again in my lifetime after the deep recession of 2008. Unfortunately, the house needed work and coordinating those projects was time consuming and frustrating. Then in the middle of the year it was announced that my entire work department would be eliminated at the end of the year. I know you understand the stress of that!
But, as always, time marches on, and here we are in 2018 having completed the house, started a new business, and life is normal. What? Well, yes, as normal as life ever gets!
So what a treat (and distraction) when I discovered the Foundations Revealed Contest 2018, the Historical Sew Monthly February Challenge, and foundations that needed to be created for an Edwardian costume event I've organized this coming April all coincided! Huzzah!
My sewing area is technically an entry closet and catch-all for all the tools, paint, and equipment needed as I work on the house. Usually fairly organized I find myself almost unable to think in this space. But it is my personal and precious space and I'm truly thankful for it. One day the tools and paint cans will disappear, I'm sure of it.
The theme for the Foundations Revealed Contest 2018 is "Insects". With all the change in my life over the past 9 years and having emerged in a more beautiful place than I could have imagined, I chose the butterfly. The photo above becomes my inspiration for color and I've named my contest entry simply Edwardian Blue Butterfly. In my birth area of the Midwestern United States, the Karner Blue Butterfly is endangered and this is my tribute.
Truly Victorian patterns have always been my go-to patterns especially when I am in a time crunch. They fit me well and I've learned to understand them so that using them is a joy. The FR Contest 2018 was announced in March 2017, but my life finally allows me to seriously consider entering in December 2017 with a submit deadline of February 5. Off to the Truly Victorian website where I find TVE02 Edwardian Underwear and TVE13 1913 Late Edwardian Corset patterns. Perfect!
Now comes the really scary part - fabrics. Not that I'm afraid to use fabrics, I'm scared to death of using really good fabrics. Most of my costumes are made from very inexpensive pieces of yardage from thrift shops, cast-offs from others, reuse from other garments. I decide I want the base fabric in a steel blue color and - poof - there it is online and on my monitor the color is luscious and it is habotai silk, often called China Silk. Expensive. No samples available. I order a yard. It arrives and I'm immediately in love! It's like cobwebs! And so historically accurate as it's made the same way it's been made for hundreds of years. I order my yardage, my corset supplies, and begin my plan for embellishment.
I've taken a tambour beading class and desperately want to use those skills, but there isn't time. So I search for an embroidered fabric for the corset that can be further embellished and find the perfect embroidered net on ebay titled "Bridal Gothic Halloween Butterflies White Black Embroidered Lace Fabric BTY". Ack!!! And it's expensive at $24.99 a yard! But my heart feels it is right and in my cart it goes.
Feeling very satisfied with myself I sit back and wait. Then everything arrives. Now I panic. How can I possibly cut into all that beautiful and very expensive fabric? I'm paralyzed into inaction and the clock is ticking. So I sew bedroom curtains. Really!
Turns out that is exactly the kick I needed to get the creative juices flowing and I dive into the project enjoying every minute! I cut the open French drawers with handkerchief flounce, the evening corset cover option which I will actually use under the corset and all will be worn under an Edwardian dinner gown.
Pieces sewn together with French seams and hand sewn waistbands and although it takes a delicate hand to handle and sew, I'm loving the silk!
Note: After I finished the corset I selected some fine net lace on the lower flounce with a butterfly-like trim outline to compliment the corset, openwork steel buttons over hooks, and this is what the completed undergarments look like today.
Sewing begets more sewing, right? I'm ready to tackle the corset! But wait, I've only constructed two corsets in my life. A Victorian corset through a Historical Sewing online class, and a 1910s from a very difficult pattern. Self-doubt creeps in slowly but surely and I find myself stalling with all sorts of necessary but truly unnecessary projects. I had scheduled a photoshoot to prompt myself into completion, but when the photographer takes ill my motivation takes a plunge. I've looked at past winners and notice that projects on live models always present better. Now I have only one week left to meet the FR Contest deadline. I awake on January 31 thankful for the chance to be sewing, to be sewing in my own home, and having the opportunity to create. So thankful I come to tears and immediately head into the sewing space. Suddenly this has become a joy to create, not a job to create, as beautiful a corset as I am capable.
Using the previous 1910s corset as my toile, I adjust and cut my pattern. Everything has to have a designated space or I know I will easily mix up panels, tops from bottoms, and bone lengths. Organization is key for this to be a smooth project.
I cut coutil, a layer of the same China silk I used for the undergarments, and an overlayer of lace for each of the 12 panels.
The lace had the most beautiful edges and I decided to showcase those edges by cutting each panel to incorporate not only the lower edge, but as much of the embroidered butterflies as possible, and mirroring the panels on the left and right sides of the corset.
The busk goes in beautifully and with that success I know I'm in the home stretch!
I sew the panels together and the lace overlay and pattern arrangement has worked just as I had hoped.
Now grommets. 36 of them. By hand. First I try a sample as it has been a long time since I set a grommet and I have two layers of coutil, two layers of silk, and a layer of lace and embroidery to go through.
Now, 36 grommets, with a chocolate break after each group of 6. Good thing there weren't more grommets or I might not fit into the completed corset!
The pattern directions specifies bone casing. I've never used bone casing but I had ordered it. Now I realize that I can't use it. The casing would be sewn over the seams and with the net overlay I realize that the bones would snag on the net as I inserted them into the casing. I consider trimming the net which seems risky if there is any strain on the seam. I consider double layers of casing but decide that will add too much bulk. Since I don't cinch my corsets tightly I decide to sew my bone channels into the seam allowances and sandwich the bones between the layers of coutil. Success! 24 bones inserted!
The bones in an Edwardian corset don't follow the length of the corset and end about mid-hip to allow for sitting. Rather than sew at the lower edge of the bone, or add to the pattern by elegant flossing, I simply run a satin embroidery floss down and up through the corset at the end of the bone and knot off.
I had saved some butterflies from the lace fabric to use on the underthings, but when my friend Josie saw my corset she suggested using them to create a 3D effect where I had lost a partial butterfly while cutting the lace. I embroidered them to the lace allowing the wings to flutter and love the effect! Thank you, Josie!
Binding, trim, lacing and.....Tada!! A finished Edwardian corset!
Today I took the dressform, Vickie, outside in the blowing wind and damp cold for a photoshoot. We spent some time in the garden where any butterfly would most like to be, and like a true butterfly you can see we also flitted from place to place.
The perfect shoes by American Duchess!
This was a most beautiful project to create and I hope you have enjoyed the journey with me! Please feel free to comment and thank you for taking your precious time to share!
Historical Sew Monthly
The Challenge: 2018 #2 - Under
Material: Habotai silk, coutil, embroidered net
Pattern: TVE02 Edwardian Underwear and TVE13 1913 Late Edwardian Corset
Notions: Thread, buttons, trim, busk, corset steel boning, grommets, corset lacing, embroidery floss
How historically accurate is it? As accurate as I could make it up to the embroidered net overlay.
Hours to complete: 70 hours
First worn: Edwardian event at Biltmore Estate, April 2018
Total cost: $234
Rise like a butterfly!