Friday, July 30, 2010

Getting down to business

My order arrived from Wm. Booth, Draper this morning, so now it is really time to get cracking. My linen is washed and dried and ready for the ironing board, so off I go!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Today, as I was racing past the dining room table (which is piled shamefully high with things that need to be "dealt with"), I spied something new added to the usual debris. An overstuffed flat-rate envelope! A quick look at the label and I thought, "Geez, that was fast!"

My linen! Now, how manages to cram 6 yards of this stuff into a standard flat-rate is beyond me. The fabric is very nice. It has a fine weave, but it is a little too sheer for my taste. They also kindly included a swatch card with all their colors of the IL019 (5.3oz) linen, which are very pretty. I think I would have been just fine with the 5.3 oz linen instead of the 3.5 oz. Even the heavier linen is slightly sheer. I was worried it would be too heavy or coarse or something. We'll see how this turns out; I wonder if it will be too sheer under a light muslin gown or a silk gauze? I guess that's what petticoats are for, right?

It's still hard for me to pay much over $5.00/yard for nice linen, but considering how far from L.A. we live now, I'm pretty darn happy to get it at $7.30/yard + shipping online. They are really on the ball with the shipping, too -- I cannot get over how fast it got here!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Good Service!

I just received an email from Wm. Booth, Draper informing me that the actual shipping on my order was only $4.00, and that they had adjusted my bill accordingly. Yay!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Remember where you came from

In an effort to learn from previous mistakes, yesterday I pulled out a dress I made in 2006. It is made from a sheer apricot colored cotton, with roller printed flowers and leaves forming stripes in maroon and chocolate brown. The fabric was a wonderful find in the L.A. garment district -- $1.00 a yard. I had been hoarding it for nearly a year when I sat down to make this dress.

"Lining" on skirt, and unbelievably horrible, last-minute hem.
I used the Period Impressions 1809 Daywear pattern. I had used it once before, but found that I had to raise the waist on it and mess with the sleeves a great deal both times. It is a nice pattern, but not particularly accurate. I made a number of changes, very clumsily, as I did not (and still don't) know much of anything about pattern drafting. I made a sort of muslin when I was fitting the bodice, but it wasn't very good, and then I used it as a lining for the real bodice. I used plain white poly thread throughout. I made the dress to fit over my modern underwear, and I didn't have any kind of petticoat or chemise, so I decided to just flat line the skirt. I had no idea what period pleats looked like, and just winged it.

Wonky "back" pleating creeping around to the front.
Unfortunately, I didn't balance the pleats, so on one side of the finished dress, a pleat appears on the side-front. It makes the whole dress feel like it is twisted. And, the nail in the coffin, I raced to finish the dress in a few hours to wear to a dance that evening. That would explain why the back is sewn closed. I did sew the hems of the sleeves (which were too tight and too short) by hand, and those were rather nice, and I did attempt to use the fabric creatively to create a decorative waistband. Otherwise, the entire project is a horror show.

None of the seams inside are finished.
An attempt to reduce upper sleeve fullness. Excess never trimmed.
I made a lot of mistakes on this dress. Most of them were the results of being lazy and cheap, and others were the result of a lack of skill or lack of research. I looked as closely as I could stand to at this, and took away from it a desire to do better. I know I am capable of better workmanship. I wanted to record this as part tell-all confession, and as a recorded "before" for what I hope will be a much improved "after."

My husband and I do a lot of vintage 20th century things, WWII reenacting, etc. and when people get snotty about the way "new people" look, or how they are "doing it all wrong" I have to laugh. We all have to start somewhere, and if you remember where you came from, you tend to be more compassionate and have the desire to help others who are just starting out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Countdown to the First Project

#1 -- The Regency Shift

My goal for the Unmentionable Project (UP) is to create a functioning, historically accurate and complete set of period undergarments for a number of historical periods. I am beginning with my favorite, the Regency. Fashion evolved fairly rapidly over the years between 1790 - 1820, so I am aiming somewhere in the middle of the period for the silhouette of my undergarments.

To begin at the beginning, I will construct a shift. I chose the Kannik's Korner Women's Shift 1790-1820, which is based on original cutting diagrams. I already have a couple of patterns from Kannik's which I have yet to make up, but I am very impressed with the amount of documented research that went into producing them. I also really like that they give instructions on hand sewing the garments using period stitches and cutting techniques.

So, here is my materials list:

6 yards* of bleached white 3.5 oz linen from (IL020) -- $56.02 (incl. shipping)
KK Shift Pattern -- $12.00 (from Wm. Booth, Draper)
90/2 Linen Thread -- $8.50 (from Wm. Booth, Draper)
10 yards Cotton Twill Tape, 1/8" width -- $2.00 (from Wm. Booth, Draper)
Shipping -- $8.00 $4.00
Total: $82.52

*The extra yardage is for a regency shirt for my husband.

Now, I have to sit back and wait for the goodies to come in the mail. I'm a little scared.

A Fresh Start

I learned to sew when I was about five years old, from my grandmother who was a very accomplished and professional seamstress (having attended "dressmaking school" in Japan during the Occupation). She taught me all the basics -- how to do the work-horse hand stitches, how to thread and use a sewing machine, how to read a pattern. But it took me 20 years before I took it seriously.

I am starting this project for two reasons.

1. I am tired not being able to start a period gown because I do not have the requisite period undergarments. In some cases, I have bits and pieces (a corset here, a petticoat there), but I do not own a full "kit" of any one period. I'm tired of "fudging" the structure with modern fixes, or playing mix-and-match with what little period underwear I do have. My goal is to methodically work up an entire period kit of underclothing for all of the periods I am interested in creating costumes for.

2.  I am ready to set the bar higher for the quality of my sewing, my design, and my research. I want to make beautiful, accurate, well-made garments, not flimsy costumes. I found that trying to "slap something together" in time for an event really undermines my abilities and creates cheap looking pieces I am embarrassed by. My goal is to dig deep when researching, and to sew by hand using the most appropriate materials available to me, and to allow it to take as long as it takes to do it right the first time.