Thursday, January 30, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #2 Innovation

The Challenge:  Innovation
Fabric:  Cotton
Pattern:  Past Patterns #8159 Ladies' Dress with Two Piece Skirt, Documented to Novemer 1917
Original Pattern:  McCall Pattern No. 8159 Patented April 21, 1908  20 cents
Year:  1908 - 1917
Notions:  Buttons, Snap Fasteners
How historically accurate is it?  The pattern and sewing techniques are historically accurate.  The use of the Downton Abbey print is, of course, not accurate, but the use of cotton fabric is accurate.  So.....90%?
Hours to complete?  16 hours
First Worn:  Made for the Downton Abbey Costume Exhibition at Winterthur Museum, Spring 2014.
Total Cost:  Buttons $3.52, Pattern $16.00, Fabric $50.00 = $69.52


Creativity is thinking up new things.

Innovation is doing new things.
     Theodore Levitt

It started with a hat.  It always starts with something small, doesn't it?  A photo, a drawing, a dream, a thing - that first part of creating.  A stop at a local flea market/antique shop just after Christmas and this hat caught my eye.  It had the most beautiful turquoise thread and being just $3.00 it came home with me.  I had a colorful scarf which I thought would make a fun addition and I could wear it in the summer.


But then I remembered seeing a great dress pattern that I had once thought would be perfect for the Downton Abbey Costume Exhibition at the Winterthur Museum next spring.  A little internet searching and I found the pattern on the Past Patterns website.  Yay!  And what kind of hat was being worn in the inspiration?  One just like my $3.00 beauty!  I wanted a nice cotton for this dress and discovered that a new line of quilting cottons had been released in the Downton Abbey theme.  Another search and I found a 4 yard piece on ebay for $50.00.  It wasn't enough to make the dress but I had a tiny piece of contrast fabric in my stash that I thought would coordinate and luckily it did.

The pattern is one-sized and I would have to rescale it to fit me.  Something I'm not experienced doing.  So I cut the pattern and pinned the paper pattern pieces to my dressform.  This gave me a general idea of the construction of the dress and where I would need to add to the pattern's dimensions. 

Some measuring, some additions, some mistakes, some corrections, and several mock-ups later I have done it!  Of course I'm thrilled that I figured this out and did this!

Before I start to cut the fashion fabric I start a little side project for my hat decoration.  This is 1-1/2" wired ribbon and Tulip Soft Fabric Paint in turquoise.  I mix some of the paint with water, dip my coiled ribbon in it until I get the saturation I want and then let it dry in a glass bowl.

It turns out to be a beautiful variegated ribbon.....
which I sew into a turquoise Tea Rose.

So back to creating the dress.  I had to be very very careful with my cutting as I wanted the "Abbey" part of the pattern situated on the center of the back and bodice, the center of the skirt front, and the center of the sleeves.  To do this I cut each piece individually and then laid the cut piece on the fabric with right sides facing and mirrored the pattern.

I had inches of fabric to spare!  And in my rescaling and pattern matching I made a terrible error.  I was short fabric on the left bodice front shoulder and cut into my fabric on the right bodice front shoulder.  Oh no!  These pieces would be so visible and I had no fabric left over!

To fix my mistakes I cut pieces from my contrast fabric and created strips across the tops of the shoulders.  They actually turned out to be a nice addition to the design.  

Now we get to the Innovation.  Snap Fasteners!  In the directions Item (2) says "fasten with snaps."  It is referring to the bodice pieces as they overlap each other.  A snap fastener is a pair of interlocking discs made of metal, or today of plastic, and used to fasten clothing.  Like buttons, the concept is actually ancient and a form can be traced back to 210 BC on horse halters.  The modern snap fastener was first patented by German inventor Heribert Bauer in 1885 as the "Federknopf-Verschluss".  It was a fastener for men's trousers.  The invention was sold to a German company in 1903 who started production and marketing that year.  Prym is still the leading European producer of snap fasteners.  When James McCall patented his dress design and pattern in 1908, the snap fastener for a ladies' dress would have been a wonderful innovation that had become mainstream in a few short years.


In my fastener inventory I had the snap studs which became popular in the 1930's by rodeo cowboys for quick release of their shirts for safety, snap fasteners which attach with metal teeth, and clear sew-on snap fasteners.  While the clear snap fasteners would not have been available in 1908, the sew on method was very period correct for this dress.

A touch of contrast fabric, a touch of turquoise with buttons, and the Downton Abbey dress is complete!

Although the Exhibition is months away, I couldn't resist having a little photo fun with my new creation!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #1 Make Do and Mend

The Challenge:  Make Do and Mend
Fabric:  Silk Dupioni and Taffeta
Pattern:  Butterick B4698 Making History Designed by Rachel Wallis
Year:  1872
Notions:  6 yards 2-1/2" lace, 6 yards trim, 3 yards ribbon for waistband
How historically correct is it?:  Based on fashion plates and period photographs, I believe this collar would have been used as an alternate to extend the use of a gown.
Hours to complete?:  4 to 6 hours depending on whether the wide lace is pre-gathered or it requires self gathering or pleating as was done for this challenge.
First worn:  Planned for a spring dinner party.
Total Cost:  Part of this challenge was my personal challenge to "Make Do" with what was available and therefore there was no additional cost except thread.  Everything was left over from the original ball gown construction or other projects.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
                                                  Theodore Roosevelt

This project started with a ball gown completed in December 2013.  It was for a Reconciliation Ball and the colors were blue and gray representing the colors of the armies of the North and South during the Civil War.  The amount of material required for the pleating meant that there was little left to make another bodice to extend the wear of the gown to other events.

The bodice bertha is constructed so that it slips over the head and ties to the bodice.  That gave some options for adding lace and trims to the bodice for a different look but it is still only suitable for a ball gown due to the off-the-shoulder style.

The book Victorian Costumes for Ladies 1860 - 1900 by Linda Setnik is actual photographs and a great historical resource.  This gown looked like it was a ball gown and the description says that a chemisette has been added.  There are cap sleeves and it appears that long sleeves could have also been added.


This Butterick pattern View B seemed to offer a way to Make Do with the remaining fabrics and bring added use to the ball gown.

So I gathered my small supply of leftover fabric and cut the pieces...
flatlined the front panels, the back, and the collar with muslin, and box-pleated lace for all edges.

There were several choices of trim in my little stash and I posted the photos on facebook and let my friends choose.  Dusty pink, navy/gray, white with blue roses, and white gimp.

And the winner is.....  the navy/gray!   And here is the finished collar over the ball gown bodice and the skirt with the pansy ribbon flowers.

While this gown is suitable for another ball it could easily be used for an opera gown, or a dinner gown (which is my plan!).  Here is the gown without the ribbon flowers.
Just as we try to mix and match and extend our wardrobes today, I believe Victorian ladies were creative and learned to Make Do when they ran out of fabric, when gowns were passed to sisters and cousins, and when a special gown needed a facelift.