Irene’s Chemise

Yesterday I built Irene’s chemise. It was…interesting.

Thanks to not marking the indicated stitching lines, I messed up the first two steps – stitching along the stitching lines at the center front neckline and then cutting a slash between them. My first seam cut the corner too quickly, so I had to pull it and redo. I gathered the top edge as instructed and got ready to attach the yoke. I peered carefully at the illustration to orient the yoke correctly, attached each side…and realized that the illustration started at center front. Off the yoke came, turned around, and on again it went. The parallel steps for the back blessedly went more smoothly, except that Tinkerbell kept trying to curl up on my lap.

Then came the sleeves. I got the sleeve oriented wrong side up, the shoulder line underneath it right side up…and sewed the sleeve to the neckline instead of the armhole side. Lather, rinse, repeat. Around this time I looked farther up the pattern instructions and finally noticed the header “Civil War Undergarments”. Yes, ladies and gents, Simplicity 2890 despite complete lack of indications on the outside, is intended for the 1860s. I decided to mentally reassure myself that I did indeed read a while ago that undergarments didn’t change much in the latter half of that century, and move on.

Next up, armhole facings. For once I got the orientation right on the first try, but I incorporated some shortcuts: stitching the non-seam edges down instead of pressing them. Once it was time to turn them under, I machine stitched them again, when they probably should have been hand finished. One of the four pieces also went in about an inch and a half lower than it was supposed to.

Then I put in flat-fell side seams, which was amusing since I’d read about flat-felled seams just last week. Rather than clipping the short edge, I actually set the seam slightly off to begin with – by accident on the first side, on purpose on the second. After that, it was time to face the yoke, at which point I realized I’d only cut one back yoke piece (as illustrated) instead of two. Since the instructions talked about starting with the shoulder seam, and the drawing indicated the same side facing up for front and back yoke, I decided to cut another. I used the selvage for the lower edge intended to be slipstitched to the garment (though of course I machine stitched again). I also sewed the hem, even though that wasn’t mentioned…

Lily wanted to help show off the finished chemise!

I did decide to use a snap instead of a button, since all of my buttons are quite modern and I’m still terrified of the buttonholer. And that was the final touch on my rather tent-like (aside from the tightly fitted sleeves) late 1800s chemise.


Cutting Irene’s Underthings

It got worse before it got better. Not that it’s gotten better yet.

When we last left the scene, there was fabric everywhere. Now there’s more fabric. Most of the “white to beige” category had absolutely minuscule amounts of yardage, which when compared to the patterns I meant to use were quite dismal. Needless to say, they would not be sufficient. So I hauled out the motherload of very thin, delicate white fabric that’s going to be terrifyingly sheer as chemise and drawers. But at least there’s more than enough beige for Irene’s corset, Regency short stays, and hopefully even the lining of the Regency day dress.

The sewing detritus takes over – or maybe the cat does. And the filing cubby is filling up…

I laid out the white and started cutting the pattern pieces…which is when the cat decided to come “help”. It is possible that I encouraged her, waving strips of scrap in her face, but I take no responsibility for her penchant for lying on crinkly things. Her parking herself on top of the pattern pieces is her own doing.

So far, the chemise is cut, the corset is just about laid out…and the cat has vanished, so I’d better get back to it while I’ve got the chance…


Start ALL The Projects

And then, because I am a fickle and impractical creature, I got out a ton of fabric – not to mention all my old works in progress – to start working on more projects instead of finishing those more recently started. But fear not, gentle reader – at least I am putting them in a filing cubby!

The full horror of the office: earth tone cottons and linens sitting on top of the filing cubby for potential medieval outfits (we have friends from out of town potentially going to an SCA event only a couple of hours away this spring); more fabric for Jaime tucked away in the box behind that; the aforementioned yellow fabric for a Regency day dress on the rocker (and perhaps the green for a spencer?); detritus from the yukata on the stool waiting to be turned into hanging accessory-holders; white to beige cottons and linens for Irene’s undergarments; and in the center of the floor, a pair of pinstripe trousers which are interestingly going to be lined with a quasi-harlequin design – one liner leg white and the other black, since that’s what was available. Most of the cutting will have to wait for my next work day, however…



Kimono to Button-Down Dress

With another wibble, because apparently I can only be chronically late or have an enormous stock of pre-written entries, here is the mystery project I promised to unveil:

My sister had a kimono (technically a yukata, which has smaller sleeves and generally cotton, though this one might be synthetic) she was given by an exchange student. She recently decided to part with it while getting the rest of her things from our mom’s place, and asked me to find it a new home. Well, after she’d dropped it off, I wrapped it around me, Jeff said the colors/print looked nice, and off I went…chopping off the sleeves, a bunch of the length, and pinning new side seams and darts (right-side out instead of wrong-side out unfortunately). As my mother pointed out, that new use probably wasn’t what she’d intended. Thankfully, my fait accompli was not hugely offensive to her – whew!

Cut down yukata, dark pink waistband, light pink porto-liner, and yellow obi-turned-trim.

I dug through my stash to find a coordinating color (which turned out to be light pink) to line it with; I cut it the same way I did the skirt of the holiday dress – laying out a completed garment and using it as a “pattern”. I plan to use the wrap from securing the obi as a belt and the obi itself as a decorative trim at the hem. I’ll probably have to suck up my button-hole fear and actually put some in (and find buttons, of course), since it’s intended to be a button-down dress. Or I could punt and use hooks and eyes…



Fancy Homemade Oatmeal Flavors

This is rather a paltry introduction, but good food is one of those things that Jeff and I are pretty enthusiastic about. We like to cook, though often it gets pretty routine. Sometimes we are able to come up with really delicious new combinations, so I might as well share those here, too.

I’d gotten home late from the theatre one night this weekend, and suckered him into making crepes. (I make a mean pancake, but I can’t flip crepes to save my life.) Usually we eat them with a syrupy cooked fruit mixture and whipped cream, but this time we discovered that our frozen fruit was VERY frozen. Lots of extra ice all around the strawberries especially, but even the blackberries were pretty coated. Which meant there was much more liquid left when we were done than usual.

Now, if you’ve had the packaged instant oatmeals, you know they come in all kinds of flavors. And I thought to myself, here is a way of making a more authentic “strawberries and cream” oatmeal. So I stuck the pan of liquid in the fridge to save for the next morning.

Well, I got it back out and cooked the oatmeal directly in extra strawberry water, then scooped some leftover whipped cream on top and mixed it in. Let me tell you, the fruit flavor was intense! The whipped cream made it almost too rich, too – I was hungry enough that I wanted a second bowl, but had to make Jeff help me finish it.

I think “peaches and cream” should be doable, too – you can probably even start with a can of diced peaches, set half to two thirds of the actual fruit aside and use the rest of the fruit and its liquid as above (possibly with some watering down).

2017 Sewing Goals

I’m using a time wibble again because I didn’t quite feel up to posting on the 12th; I’d made no progress to speak of on the mash up, wasn’t ready to share my embroidery progress on Cersei, and hadn’t cleared my next project (yes, I have three major WIPs now) with my sister. But I spent some time browsing sewing blogs last night, and aside from becoming more discouraged about the a-historical nature of the mash up, I think it would be worthwhile to lay out my sewing goals for the year (skipping links this post – if you’re new, browse the costume tag!):

Obviously, I need to finish up several of my current projects:

  • Finish historical mash up gown
  • Finish Cersei
  • Finish Jaime
  • Finish new repurposing project – more info on this soon!
  • And maybe finish one more item from my box of old WIPs?

Deadlines are really useful for me, and I just found out my local museum is hosting historical teas this spring, so I’d like to add:

  • Foundation garments for Irene
  • And maybe a new leg o’ mutton sleeve blouse?

And then Jeff and I are planning to at least hang out outside of Comic Con this year singing nerdy music, so we want some more costumes for that. We’ll take Cersei and Jaime one day, and we could easily use Sherlock and Irene again, so then I’ll only need to choose 1 or 2 of the following pairs:

  • Inara & Atherton Wing (from Firefly’s “Shindig” episode)
  • Rincewind or Vimes and Susan (from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series)
  • Mechanicsburg reporter and false female Jäger (inspired by webcomic Girl Genius)
  • Or (and this is my newest idea, and thus a late addition to the list) Giselle and Robert (from Enchanted, because my mom has a very appropriate set of floral curtains she’d like to replace)

Plus one stretch goal, I think, using a nice pale yellow from my stash:

  • Regency day dress

Recarpeting the Cat Stands

Jeff and I actually first made our cat stands many moons ago, when we discovered that buying the suckers was going to be a serious pain in the wallet. We bought eight feet of 4×4, which the folks at the store cut down to two 3′ and one 2′ length for us, along with some scraps of (nicer looking) plywood for the base and the top. There was some slight awkwardness holding the first flat piece in place while we added the second – possibly they should have had two screws each. Still, it’s kind of fun (and occasionally handy) to be able to rotate the top around for cleaning, moving, etc. Then we wrapped carpet remnants from our house around two of the three posts, nailed them in place, and voilà! Cat stands.

Since Tinkerbell enjoys shredding the stands as much as the next cat, though, the carpet was getting rather the worse for wear. Short carpet fibers regularly swirled around the living room, and the longer warp or weft threads dangled irritatingly from the stand itself. It was time to seek out additional carpet. I kept meaning to wander over to the flooring place just down the strip mall from our gym, but December sent me into hibernation mode, and I kept failing to accompany Jeff to his personal training sessions.

Enter my mother and her new carpet! I spent New Year’s with my mom, and while exploring closets found the remnants from her recent carpet acquisition. I asked, she said yes, and they made the trip home with me.

I then killed two birds with one stone and gave Lily a nice long walk while simultaneously visiting the neighborhood hardware store for tack nails (actually intended for carpet!). Amusingly, after I’d pulled the old carpet off, Tink actually tried to maul the post-less old carpet she was used to, knocking it into Lily’s water dish.

I cut out the first piece of carpet for the 3′ stand, found that it wrapped much more tightly than I’d anticipated, and began improvising. The first side I could indeed attach with several moderately-spaced new tack nails. I also put a couple on the opposite side to keep it tightly wrapped. Once the carpet covered the original side for a second time, though, it was too thick for the tack nails. I got the last couple of the longer, original nails out and dug through the discards I’d pulled from the old carpet for a few more straight-ish ones. A little lumpy visually, but effective.

I cut a shorter and narrower second piece of carpet for the 2′ stand. It still wrapped too tightly. I decided to let the extra width billow out, since I was out of long nails. I tacked down the beginning and end with moderately-spaced lines of tack nails on the “left” and “back” sides of the post. I didn’t like how off-center the result was, so I added a couple of tack nails on the “right” side (and I think the front of the left, too). That forced the extra width to the front of the post, which you can see in the photo below.

Completed cat stands!

Building a Historical Mashup Gown

The draped dress form prior to cutting of any kind. I really wanted to include a fichu, so I was excited to find a little bit of complementary sheer fabric in my stash to tuck into the neckline!

Having realized I would need to make a mock up for my historical mashup gown, I got out the biggest piece of white cloth I had. I draped it over the top of the other colors I’d chosen, and – still with trepidation – started cutting. I cut out the left front, lay the yardage down on the floor and cut a mirrored right front. Then I hung the rest from the shoulders and cut the left back edge; again I lay the yardage down (this time with a fold to eliminate a center back seam) to cut the right back edge. I took the largest piece of scrap, draped it over my arm, trimmed it, and used it as a template to cut three more half-sleeves.

I basted the fronts to the back, as well as each sleeve. If I’d had any sense, I’d have at least noticed the uneven, unfinished side seam hems before cutting the final fabric. As it is, I’ll probably have to do something with flounces or lace to hide how the final hem hikes up at the side seam. Though keeping the hem very narrow at that spot might help.

But that’s not all. Having cut the final fabric, I proceeded with assembly of the mockup, expecting to turn it into a liner, and found that the armholes of sleeve and bodice did not line up. The bodice was bigger. So the mockup started out with a couple of pleats at the back of each armhole, creating rather a lot of drape. I tried tacking it in place, but when it didn’t hold, I decided to implement my first attempt at a fix: taking a little length off the narrow end of the sleeve, bringing the seam to a wider part of the curve. It helped significantly. I realized that I also didn’t take seam width into account on the front of the bodice, so I was afraid I’d have to overstitch the two layers, possibly with a framing ribbon in front, to compensate.

Then disaster struck. I had only rotated the pattern piece for the final fabric of the front around, not over. I had two right front pieces, instead of a left and a right. After some panic and swearing, it occurred to me that the piece wasn’t too far off of being symmetrical, so decided to adjust one of them to fit. I trimmed the side that would become the front opening and added a gusset to fill out the armhole. Not nearly as awkward as I’d been afraid of!

I added some more tucks and darts to the mock up, then assembled the final version and did the same to it. Then I took a break to make the puffed inner sleeve. I started with the same sleeve piece as all the rest, cut some rectangles for cuffs, and started putting basting at the lower extremity of the sleeve to find out how much gather would fit. I got my cuff steps out of order briefly, so one edge of a cuff has overstitching when it should have been turned wrong side out and had the edge stitched that way before going back to right side out to stitch to the gather.

Then I had to decide what order the sleeves would sit in. I wasn’t sure whether to use the mock up to line the final sleeve, or to puff out the inner sleeve. The latter won – the white would have looked weird inside the blue sleeve, and the stuffing helped a lot! I was also able to take advantage of that decision to attach the inner sleeves with a half circle of stitching on only the top half of the mockup’s shoulder seam.

Another mental wrestling match with spatial relationships later, I put the final version on the dress form first, right side out, followed by the mockup, outside out (which technically is the wrong side, because I want all the seams and tucks hidden between the layers). I pinned (for once!) all around the front opening, then stitched the layers together. Flip the final layer from the underside to the overside, stuff the inner sleeve into the outer sleeve, and it’s ready for hemming and embellishments. Which will have to wait for another day.

Planning a Historical Mashup Gown

Back to costumes! Immediately after I finished my holiday dress, I wrestled my old powder blue floral prom dress onto the dress form. I’d been wanting to use it as the base for a historical gown for ages, and I’d just retrieved it from my mom’s house in the great stuff shuffle of 2016. Then I went to my costume textbook for reference information. I really wanted to split the overgown down the front, and display the prom dress as a fancy “petticoat”. That design inspiration meant I had two major choices: Elizabethan or Baroque.

A portrait of Elizabeth I as a princess that was printed in my costume textbook; here, of course, simply lifted from elsewhere on the internet.
A portrait of Rubens’ wife, also printed in my costume textbook and again lifted from the internet. There was another I preferred in the book, but didn’t find quickly online.









Then I realized the prom dress was A-line, which means whatever I end up with is going to be some kind of fantastical mashup. And whenever I get around to really making dresses from those eras, period undergarments are going to be a must.

Still, I dug around in my fabric stash to see what would suit. Most of the cool colors were so dark they washed out the powder blue, but ultimately I found some shiny darker blue I like quite a lot. I got it draped around the dress form (inside out!) and found I was terrified to start cutting. So it looked like I would have to finally go through the extra steps so often recommended of building a mockup.