Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Plaid in the 1830s

I am in love with all things plaid, so I wear it whenever I can. I'm using the plaid silk I mentioned in a previous post for my 1830s dress. I've found some beautiful examples of plaid in the 1830s, some original gowns and some paintings. I'm still not sure my fabric is 100% correct for the era, but I'm taking a chance with it. It's a similar type of plaid to the green and white silk, so I think its okay.
A linen dress
A silk dress
"Portrait of a Lady in Plaid"
"Portrait of Caroline Sophie Moller"

Green plaid silk My plaid is similar.
A cotton dressing gown Maybe my Christmas Eve pajamas?
Such an interesting fabric.

Friday, September 19, 2014

(Hand-sewn) Corded Petticoat

I thought I'd make a post about my pride and joy, my corded petticoat. Every stitch is hand-sewn. It's made of about 3-3.5 yards of white cotton (I bought 4) and probably about 130 yards of Peaches and Cream yarn. I used the giant 700-yard cone, and I haven't made a noticeable dent in it. I bought it all at my local Walmart, and it was a pretty inexpensive project in terms of materials, probably about $10-$15.

Isn't it lovely? I apologize for the wrinkled state of it and my comforter.
I worked on it from early June to (very) late July. It probably took upwards of 60 hours, which seems like an eternity, but I watched tons of period movies and miniseries on Netflix (I highly recommend Wives and Daughters, Bleak House, Jane Eyre, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood).

I'd originally planned on doing 100 rows with no spaces in between them, but I quickly decided against that. I ended up doing 55 rows in this configuration from the bottom up: 15 rows, a 2-inch space, 10 rows, a 2 inch space, 15 rows, a 2-inch space, 10 rows, a 2-inch space, 5 rows. Well, the spaces may not be exactly 2-inches; I used my spool of thread as a guide. Close enough, right?
My first row of cord. I felt so accomplished.
I started by ripping the cotton into 1 yard pieces. I then made two "tubes", using the selvages as the seam allowances. I sewed the two tubes together at the bottoms; this forms the nice clean hem. I started the cording at a seam, pinning the yarn in place and then sewing it. It's a bit fiddly to pin the cords between the two layers, but once I got into a good rhythm, I was good to go. To pin the rows, I'd turn the petticoat around to where the opening was facing me and felt my way around to pinning the yarn. This takes a bit of practice for it to not feel awkward. I'd then turn it back around and stitch the cords into place.

 After the first row, I ran into a dilemma. The seam allowance from the hem seam was getting in the way and bunching up, making the second row difficult to pin. It took me a few minutes to think of trimming the seam allowance. I trimmed it very close to the stitching of the first row, and the second row was infinitely easier to pin and sew.

A detail shot of the beginning/ending of section
At the end (and beginning) of each section, I made a small knot in the yarn, and stitched around it a few times before starting the actual row. (See photo). The photo isn't all that descriptive, because it is difficult to photograph white-on-white details. And it doesn't help that my only camera is my iPhone. My stitching along the seam-lines is less than great, I'm sad to say. It's rather difficult to sew through a million layers at one time. I promise the rest of my stitching is much better.

After I finished sewing in all the rows of cording, I trimmed back the inner layer with pinking shears, but I'll probably trim it down again, closer to the cords. This left me with about 0.5-1 yard of cotton, which has become a few petticoat waistbands and a pair of chemise sleeves. I finished it off by gathering the waist, adding a waistband, and sewing on a button. I haven't sewn a buttonhole yet. I will when I finish my corset and finalize my waist measurement.
Sewing in cording
Even a few rows added some body.

The petticoat falls to about my upper-mid calf, which is perhaps a tad short, but that's how it happened. It measures to be about 88 inches wide. I wanted it to be 90 because I like round numbers, but I could only find 44 inch wide cotton.  The cording comes up to my upper thigh/lower hip, which seems to be within the range of the period. I've seen some 1820s-30s corded petticoats with cords in just the lower 1/3 (like this), and I've also seen some later ones with cording all the way or almost all the way to the waist (like this). 

Overall, I'm very happy with it. It's less than perfect, but it was my first real historical piece of clothing, and I'm very proud of it. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Cosette gown (1830s plaid silk gown)

My Halloween costume this year will be a brown/blue plaid silk 1830s gown. I'm trying to make it as accurate as I possibly can, so it really won't be a "costume". I'll be going as Cosette, and my best friend Abigail is going to be Eponine. Abigail already has her basic costume, but I'm going to make her a new chemise. She'll be wearing a skirt, a chemise, and probably some lace-up boots.
I'm going to have a full set of undergarments with my gown. These will include:
  • chemise- done, I have 3, but I can always use more
  • corset (a basic Victorian shape instead of a truly accurate corset)- in progress, just needs bones and busk
  • personal petticoat (narrow circumference, probably roughly 90")
  • bustle pad (this may or may not be worn, depending on how it looks)- done
  • corded petticoat (circumference of roughly 90")- done (and completely hand-sewn)
  • 1 or 2 plain petticoats (circumference of roughly 130")- 1 done (mostly hand-sewn)
  • sleeve puffs
After I finish my corset, I can start on my gown. I'll be using the TV455 1830s Romantic Era Dress pattern. I plan on using the evening sleeve pattern as my sleeve puffs, as recommended by Truly Victorian. I'll likely only use the pattern for the sleeves and bodice, and I'll probably have to reduce the size of the sleeves a tad, because I'm working with a limited amount of fabric. The silk was given to me by my lovely grandmother. I'm definitely going to have to piece some of it together, but it's a perfectly period solution, so it only makes my dress more accurate! The silk is a shantung, I believe, but there are very few slubs, and my inspiration gown has some slight slubbing as well. I'm planning on making either a brown, blue, or self-fabric belt. 
As for accessories, I'll be wearing some period-passable brown leather flats, maybe with some lacing ribbons. What I really want is the American Duchess "Gettysburg" Victorian Side-Lace Boots, but they're a little pricey at the moment. I'm hoping to get them early next year, though. Eventually, I want to make a gold or brown bonnet trimmed with blue ribbon (to bring out the blue stripes in the plaid, and because blue is my favourite colour), and maybe a reticule. 
My hand-sewn corded petticoat

A close up of cording

My silk draped over my dress form and pettis
 My inspiration gown

Hello all!

I've decided to start a blog. So, a little introduction is in order. My name is Kate, and I'm a 17-year-old home-schooled senior. I'm heavily involved in theatre- I sing soprano, and I act. I dance, if forced. I love to sew. I'm hoping that this blog will be sort of a sewing diary for me. I'm mainly interested in mid-19th century clothing- roughly 1830s-1860s. I adore hand-sewing, but I do end up using my machine for skirt seams, etc.
I enjoy reading. My favourite books include Les Miserables, Little Women, Jane Eyre, and Anne of Green Gables. I'm essentially Cosette, hence my blog title.
I paint and draw a bit, but not as much as I would like.
I'm not really sure what else to write about, so if anyone has any quesions, I'll be more than happy to answer them!