Friday, September 11, 2020

1870s Carriage Gown - Part 2 - The Blouse Waist

The 1870s Carriage Gown is a ten-part project of blog posts.  The Plan is outlined on this blog post.

Welcome!!  to Part 2 of the Carriage Gown Project which I now call the Cupcake Gown.  Inspired by cupcakes I baked, decorated, and happily ate this past spring.

Part 2 is an 1870 Blouse Waist created from Truly Victorian Pattern 401 from the pattern selection in the Early Bustle Era 1869 - 1876.  In addition to being able to choose patterns from the same eras and know that they will work together and represent historical fashion, the sizing is unique and easily adapted for a beautiful fit.

Although I've successfully used Truly Victorian patterns in the past, I haven't made this pattern and the first thing I will do is have a cup of tea and read the instructions thoroughly. 

I've purchased this pattern in a downloadable format and the first page of the download is How to print and assemble your pdf pattern.  You can print on your own printer or take it to a professional printer who will do the work for you.  The instructions are easy to follow and my pattern fits together beautifully.

A rough cut of the pattern pieces and I'm ready to choose my size.

Page 2 of the pattern gives instructions for Taking Your Measures and Sizing Your Pattern.   Truly Victorian patterns are designed to give you the proper fit for the fashion of the period and you may not use the same size pattern piece for back and front or even sleeves.  Following these instructions seems a bit strange at first but the instructions are good and they will guide you to finding the right pattern pieces for you on the Size Chart on Page 1.  I will need a combination of Size E and Size F for my blouse waist.

To make it easier when cutting my sizes from any multi-sized pattern I will circle my size and sometimes even follow the correct line with a red pen or highlighter to make sure I cut correctly.  That is another nice thing about downloadable patterns - I can print parts or all of a pattern again if necessary.

When I was cutting the neck facing for View B I had a question.  I emailed the Truly Victorian designer and got an immediate response.  So wonderful!  There is also a facebook group, Truly Victorian Pattern Sewists, where the pattern designer and others familiar with the patterns share experiences and finished designs.  It is a very welcoming group and new to experienced costumers will find it helpful.

All pattern pieces now cut to my size.

Ready to cut the fabric!  The embroidered linen has a definite pattern and I aligned the front and back pattern pieces and the sleeve heads to best highlight the fabric pattern.  

All pieces cut!  (You may be wondering about my fabric preparation.  Usually I would pretreat the fabric as I would clean the fabric after wearing.  A sample machine washing of this linen taught me that the fabric had to be handled with care because of the embroidery.  And linen wrinkles easily!  Knowing that I will be wearing period chemise, corset, and corset cover, I opted not to wash the fabric.  I hung it outside in the sun to kill any bacteria that might be lingering, and then pressed it with a steam iron to take care of shrinkage that I might experience in hand washing and ironing later.)  Again, all pieces cut!!

I used to struggle with pattern markings.  I tried everything and have realized there is no one answer so now I have these 5 tools that I use most often.  The tailor's chalk is beautiful for darker fabrics but needs to be kept sharpened with a knife to keep the line sharp.  Roxanne's Quilter's Choice pencils also have to be kept sharpened but work beautifully.  The Clover chalk marker is wonderful with a wheel to distribute chalk along a crisp line.  The 2-sided purple and blue pen has a purple ink which will disappear within 30 minutes of being placed on a light fabric and the blue ink is water soluble and will disappear when dabbed or sprayed with water.  A Frixion pen is erasable because the heat of erasing will make the ink disappear and it also works on fabric where an iron will cause it to disappear as well.   Thread marking is an amazing technique and one I plan to adopt when my other supplies run out.  No matter what you choose test everything on your fabric before you begin.  Trust me on this!  Don't ask why.  :)

For this light fabric I chose the water soluble blue ink.  I pinned through the pattern and fabric where I needed marks and then marked where the pins pierced the fabric.  I marked the positions of the sleeve ruffle on the upper sleeve, and the gather lines on the sleeve head, the bodice fronts, and the bodice back.




Time to begin sewing and in the pattern Sewing Instructions begin on Page 3.  The first sentence is that a "1/2" seam allowance has been added to all pieces unless specified differently".  Since my fabric has just a bit of see-through I'm going to sew French seams for the side and shoulder seams.  I test my French seam on a small bit of fabric before I begin.

A French seam begins with sewing the wrong sides of the fabric together.  Seems odd, I know, but yes, wrong sides.  Since I need a 1/2" seam I'll make my first stitch line 1/4" from the edge.

Then the seam is trimmed close to the stitching.  In this case to about 1/8".  

Time to press.  Honestly, I spend twice as much time at the ironing board as I do at the sewing machine.  Pressing the seams during sewing makes a world of difference in the end result.  My sewing room is tiny and I set my ironing board up in my bedroom.  So for each seam I dash to the bedroom and back again.  Getting those steps counted!!  For every seam I will first press the stitching.  This integrates the thread into the fabric.  For the French seam I will press this first seam to one side.  Then turn the fabric over and press the seam open on that side.  Every seam get three pressings.  Once to integrate the thread into the fabric.  Second to press the seam open and flat on one side.  Then the third pressing is on the other side of the fabric.

Then the fabric is folded to enclose the raw edge and pressed.  I know.  More pressing.  But it makes such a difference!!

Another 1/4" seam is sewn which encloses the first seam.  This is why the first seam was trimmed to 1/8" to make sure it was fully encased when this seam was sewn.

                                                        know the seam to integrate the thread, press the seam to one side, turn the fabric and press again.

And the result is a beautiful enclosed French seam which can be used for all shear fabrics.  I often use this seam for many lighter weight fabrics just because it makes the inside of a garment just as beautiful as the outside.

This is the seam finish I use on both side seams and both shoulder seams.  This is also a good time to tell you about my favorite resources for sewing fundamentals.  Ready?

I'm not kidding!!  If you have never sewn a stitch in your life, never worked with a pattern, or just want a refresher, this is my go-to resource.  It never leaves my sewing table.  And this is the page that gives the fundamentals for sewing seams:

With beautiful French seams the body is a single piece and, of course, I can't resist pinning on the trim to see if my vision is coming true.  I love it!

In the pattern instructions we completely skip Page 4 which is for View A and move to Page 5 for View B.  The pattern has instructions for a neck ruffle which is sandwiched between the blouse fronts and the facing but since I'm adding trim at the end I'll skip right to the facing.

The facing consists of two pieces for the front edges and a single piece for the back of the neck.

The neck area pieces are a curve and I find that the best way to have a matching curved line is to have the pattern edges meet at the point where the seam will be sewn.


The seams are pressed-pressed-pressed and then the outside edge is pressed under 1/2".

The inner edge of the facing is sewn to the bodice body.  Seams are pressed-pressed-pressed and trimmed and notched to allow the curve to lie without tension.  Then the facing is pinned to the bodice and top stitched in place along the outer edge of the facings.  I used a zipper foot for the topstitching as it gives me a beautiful edge guide.

The facing is finished!  Because of the embroidery on the fabric I've used a longer stitch length to allow the topstitching to blend with the embroidery stitches.

Now to begin the most gorgeous part of this design - those flowing, ruffled, huge sleeves!!  While the fabric was still flat I pressed the 1/2" seam allowance on the top edge, and the 1" hem allowance on the lower edge.

The sleeve ruffle is sewn together along the side seam and pressed-pressed fully open-pressed. 

The sleeve ruffle is to be hemmed at this point which is a great idea considering the amount of fabric to be handled.  I decide to hem the bodice body at the same time.  My favorite hem is a Blind Stitch Hem and my favorite sewing reference, Sewing for Dummies, has a great instructional sketch.  I use this stitch on skirts and have found it helps with not getting my shoe heels caught in the hem as there are no exposed threads.

The seam is sewn on the upper sleeve and pressed-pressed-pressed.  The gathering stitches are sewn on the sleeve ruffle beginning and ending on either side of the seam with a single row of long machine stitches leaving long thread tails for pulling the gathers.  Now the sleeves are ready to assemble.

When I gather something as wide as this sleeve ruffle into something as small as this upper sleeve, I will mark the half-way and sometimes even the quarter points of both pieces.  This will allow me to gauge if my gathering is fairly even.  I will measure the width of half of the smaller piece and begin to gather half of the larger piece to that measure.  I will pin the pieces together at the half-way marks, adjust gathers, finish pinning, and tie off the gather threads in a figure eight over a pin.  

Once I'm satisfied with the gathering of one half I will pin it firmly to the marking on the upper sleeve and repeat everything for the other half.

Knowing that the gathers are in the correct position for seam placement since I marked the upper sleeve, I can sew directly over the gathers on the outside.  The upper sleeve and ruffle are sewn wrong sides together and the seam raw edge is encased when the upper sleeve is pulled through after sewing.  Don't worry if this sounds confusing.  The pattern has a great diagram and as you see the pieces it makes sense.

The gathering for the upper edge is the same as the lower.  I gather the upper edge of the ruffle one half at a time to the width of the upper sleeve where it will attach.  I anchor the gathering threads with a figure eight on a pin, pin the upper edge of the sleeve ruffle to the mark on the upper sleeve, and pin in place.  Then repeat for the other half.

Then I stitched at the gathering line which was 1/4" from the top edge as directed by the pattern.  This creates a nice top edge for the shirring.

Two finished sleeves!  I pin them to the dressform on to the corset cover and can see a fun summer blouse being created from the combination of these two patterns.

Since the fabric is semi-shear I decide to sew a French seam to attach the sleeves to the bodice following the same steps I used for the straight seams.  The armhole of the bodice has a mark in the front lower corner where the sleeve seam will join the bodice.

Once that placement is made the rest of the placement of the sleeve is easy.  Sleeves can be difficult at times.  They have been called "sleevils".  What has helped me is to put the sleeve on my arm without the bodice.  There should be a natural position where it feels right.  In patterns I've sewn there are sometimes gathers and I will gently gather a bit before this step.  As soon as I feel what feels like a natural position for a sleeve I mark the right sleeve as "R".  Because of the slope of the sleeve for this bodice and the gathering line clearly marked on the pattern and the mark on the armhole corresponding to the seam, these sleeves are easy.

The gathering thread on the sleeve head as per the pattern instructions:

From the initial pinned position at the sleeve seam, I then pin up to the gathering thread on both sides.

Gently gather the sleeve head to fit the bodice and pin.

For a 1/2" total seam I'll sew 1/4" from the edge, trim, press-press-press, turn, repin, sew, and press-press-press the finished seam toward the sleeve.

The bodice has sleeves!  And, of course, I'm still making sure I love the trim and buttons.  I'm never afraid to change in mid stream.  :)  Aren't those sleeves incredible?!

This would be the place to create buttonholes.  I actually did them before I attached the sleeves just for ease of manipulating all that fabric.  I use my machine.  I'm able to make handsewn buttonholes but I'm not very practiced and my time was constrained.  I think if ladies in the 1870s had had an automatic buttonhole attachment for their newly purchased sewing machine they would certainly have used it.  I marked where I wanted the buttonholes to be and sewed them.  Or rather the machine sewed them.  I just watched.

I used to be so afraid of cutting open machine sewn buttonholes.  This little trick has saved me!  I put a pin at the bar tack at the end of the buttonhole.  Then I can easily use a seam ripper to open the buttonhole and the pin will stop the seam ripper from cutting the bar tack.

After I attached the sleeves I made sure of the bodice fit, marked button placement, and sewed them on the bodice.  I found these vintage beauties in a facebook destash group, Construction Items for Historical Costuming Fabric/Trims/Books/Patterns, and have enough for the front apron of the skirt.  Which is the next post and video for Part 3!

With the sleeves finished and the buttonholes and buttons complete, I can do a final fitting to adjust the waist gathers on fronts and back.  The marks are already on the fabric and I do a double gathering stitch between the marks.  Adjust the gathers and anchor them with a figure eight around a pin, then sew over both gathering lines.

My finished back and front gathers:

With the entire bodice gathered, buttoned, buttonholed (is that a word?), and stitched in place, it's time to remove all the water soluble marks.  They can be sprayed with water or just dabbed with a dampened towel.  They just disappear!!

Oh oh!  You've already had a glimpse of my finished trim!  I wanted to mirror the trim at the neckline so I pinned from the center back and forward and down both front edges.  Yep.  Both front edges.  I'll explain later.  I attached the trim to the bodice first at the outer edge with a short stitch at the top and a longer stitch underneath.  I stitched a second row at the other edge of the trim near the buttonholes.

And with the trim sewn on we have a finished bodice!!  Time for chocolate!!

I love this design and could see wearing it for more than historical costuming.  Which is a plus for me as I have very little space for one-time-use clothes and a very tight budget for clothing in general.  I mentioned that I added the trim down the front of both sides of the blouse.  Why?  So that it could be worn as a jacket!

The pattern has an option for the longer tuck-in style I made here, or a shorter style with a waistband.  The front cover also showed the tuck-in length with a belt.  I doubled the size of the belt pattern and created another option for wearing.