Monday, March 23, 2015

Embroidery Stitches

Thank you all for your wonderful comments on my wedding dress construction post! Lauren of American Duchess was kind enough to share my post on her Facebook page. After she did the stats for that post skyrocketed! It's now my #1 most viewed post which I find very humbling. I'm often far too critical of my own work, seeing flaws or things I wished I had done differently. It's always nice to receive positive feedback but for my wedding and reception dresses, which were rather stressful to create, it's especially nice.
As a quick follow up to my recent post on crewel embroidery, today I thought I would share some helpful resources. There are lots of online resources for basic embroidery techniques. If you are searching for reproduction sewing and embroidery tools, take a look at Burnley and Trowbridge and Wm. Booth Draper. They both carry an array of beautifully made items in addition to books and fabrics!

Fantastic explanation of crewel work stitches.
courtesy of TW's needlework blog, check it out
This crewel embroidery stitch chart shows a 'good step by step' of some of the most basic embroidery stitches.

I can personally recommend the following books as I have them in my personal library.

White Work Embroidery (You can also find this on amazon too.) This book gives a history of white work and provides information on materials, pattern-transferring techniques, and instructions and diagrams for over 20 different stitches.

Art of Embroidery: History of Style and Technique is an excellent resource for someone who wants to really dive into the history of embroidery. It's filled with excellent photos and well-researched descriptions. This book is rather expensive, prices on Amazon start at around $50.00. I have an older copy of that I was fortunate to pick up at a yard sale some time ago for just a few dollars.

18th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh, gives detailed illustrations and color photographs of museum owned items such as aprons, gowns, and mitts. It gives you a really good understanding of 18th-century embroidery techniques and includes information on period tools and equipment. The best part are the details and illustrations showing techniques such as metal and silk embroidery, quilting, whitework, tambour and chain work, and of course crewel embroidery.  

19th Century Embroidery Techniques, also by Gail Marsh, is another good resource and is laid out in a similar manner.

Do you embroider? What are you favorite stitches and materials to use?

Thursday, March 5, 2015

A Tail of Two Wedding Dresses - VPLL Pattern Review

Finally, a post I know many of you have been waiting for. As I'm sure you all know I got married last October and was crazy enough to make not only my wedding dress, but a separate dress for the reception. I don't have as many construction pictures of my wedding dress as I would like. But that's par for the course I guess. The pattern I used for my wedding dress was the 1934 Evening Gown With Drop Sleeves from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.

1934 Evening Gown With Drop Sleeves from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.
The VPLL ships fast and does a very nice job in packing your order. Look how nice my little bundle of patterns were! I ordered three patterns in all. Each time you purchase a pattern, or leave a review, you earn points towards future purchasing. They patterns are printed on a nice quality paper. The instructions are pretty clear and easy to follow with some additional information provided as well.

My first task after receiving my pattern from the VPLL was to resize it. While the VPLL does offer some patterns in multiple sizes, this was not one of them. It was reproduced in its original size - a 38" bust which I am not. I made a quick mock up to help with resizing the pattern. All was going well until I cut into my lining material. In my hurry to complete the dress I forgot to add my seam allowance! Even with tiny 1/4" seams the dress was going to be too snug. Uuugh! I had enough material to cut a new lining for the basic dress but not enough for the train. Feeling frustrated and very annoyed with myself I tossed the project in the corner of the sewing room and didn't touch it for about two weeks. In the mean time I had to hunt for more lining material. I thought finding more of the same off white cotton muslin would be an easy task. Wrong!! I never realized how many shades of "off white" cotton there would be.

McCall August 1934 Pattern Catalog - Source
This pattern actually goes together rather well, despite my fitting issues. For the bodice I treated the lace and lining as one. The lace pieces were first basted to the lining and then the bodice was sewn together. Next the bias tape binding was added to the neck edges and arm holes. I didn't have any white or off white on hand so I used peach which I think made a nice contrast to the lace.

The skirt is constructed to two sections - upper and lower with additional fabric added for the train. Again, lots of basting with the lace mounted first on the cotton lining. The two photos below show the lower back sections of the skirt. Because Cori and I had not moved into the new house yet, and thus I had no sewing space of my own, I worked on my dress at my parents' house. It's a good thing they have a giant dinning room table!

Here you can see the lower front section of the skirt.

Here is where it got a little tricky sewing wise. The zig zag edges of the upper and lower skirt sections are lapped which meant, yep you guessed it. LOTS of pinning and basting. I used colored thread so the basting stitches would be easy to see when it came time to take them out. The lapped seam makes for a nice neat finish but was fiddly due to the lace and excess fabric of the train. Ahhhh huge wedding train!! :)

I like using these extra long quilting pins. Plus the butterflies are kind of cute.

The hem of the cotton lining was finished off with bias tape. I made a small rolled hem for the lace section. The dress closes at the left side with a placket and snaps. The belt was made with a layer cotton fabric and fusible interfacing with the lace mounted on top right sides together. Then the belt was turned right side out and pressed. The rhinestone buckle is from a 1930s dress in my collection which sadly is in very poor condition.

The most obvious changes I made to the pattern, other then the size, were to omit the extra large fluffy sleeves and to add a RIDICULOUSLY long train. I made a slight change to the neckline and added darts to the bodice as well. The original neckline hit right across my collar bone which would have been OK except that I would not have been able to wear a necklace of any kind. This realization, of course, came after I had assembled the bodice and added all the bias tape around the edges. Grrr. My quick solution was to make an inch and a half slash down the very center front and turn the edges under. Not very neat but at that point I didn't care and just wanted the dress done!

Here you can see the changes I made to the neckline. If I were to make this dress again I would keep the original rounded neckline.

And the finished dress.

I have very few construction pictures of my reception dress and most of those are just a pile of lace fabric with my cat happily holding it down. Black cat, white happens. My reception dress was made from the same lace fabric as my wedding dress and Advance 8269 which I purchased on Ebay. It was sewn very quickly the week of the wedding. Crazy I know, but I really wanted a shorter dress for the reception. It has some fitting issues that should be reworked at some point but I'll worry about that if I ever have the opportunity to wear the dress again.

Summary of the Pattern
Fabric: Cotton-ish lace with plastic sequins and 100% cotton lining all from JoAnn's Fabric.
Pattern: 1934 Evening Gown With Drop Sleeves from the Vintage Pattern Lending Library.
Year: 1930s
Notions: Bias tape, snaps, thread, rhinestone buckle all from the stash.
How historically accurate is it? Very, but it's really more 1930s evening then wedding. Although you do see lots of 30s evening gowns with trains, this one is really much too long for true evening wear. Wedding gowns of the 30s and 40s were mostly long sleeved too.
Any tricky parts to the pattern? Attaching the skirt bottom to the skirt top using a lapped seam. Part of the difficulty was due to the excess amount of fabric in the train.
Did you change anything? Left off the sleeves, slashed the neckline, and added the train. And of course resized the pattern.
Time to complete: ummm, hard to say. There was a lot start and stop with this. I worked on it over the course of 2 months. I started working on resizing the pattern sometime in July and finished the dress a couple weeks before the wedding.
First worn: October 10, 2014
Total cost: $16.50 for the pattern

You can read more about my wedding day here and here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Feeling Behind and a Preview of My Sewing Space

Having a rather blah kind of day today. I feel like I'm so behind on getting things accomplished, particularly in my blogging. It must be the cold and snow. Yep, that's what I going to blame it on. It was -6 this morning and that's without the wind chill! We have several feet of lovely soft snow but it's just too darn cold to be outside to enjoy it. Brrr! I did manage to finish a new blouse in time to wear for a Valentine's Day party. But do I have pictures to share? No.... I'm hoping to finish my Simplicity 2823/Dorr Mill jacket this weekend so I can cross that off my personal Vintage Sewing Pattern Pledge list.

Wishing for warmer days....
I have such a backlog of photos I want to share but just can't seem to get things done. It's partly due to a lack of time but mostly because the computer I have is crap. It takes FOREVER to download photos from my camera and FOREVER to do any kind of edits. It's time for a new computer but I'm not sure it's in the budget at the moment. (I have several items for sale is anyone is interested.)

My wedding flowers next to a card from a very dear friend. The money is from Afghanistan and is something he carried with him during his deployment.
I do have a few photos of my sewing room that I can share. One of the first things I did when we moved into the new house was to work on a sewing space. This room will eventually become a guestroom but for now it's serving as a space for my sewing and vintage stuff. It's been rearranged a bit since these photos were taken but I wanted to give you an idea of the space. It feels so good to have all my sewing and costume books in one spot!

One can never have too many books about sewing, historic clothing, etc.

The lower shelves are where I store my vintage magazines and patterns. I'm currently using some plastic totes from the dollar store to keep my vintage patterns in. All the patterns have their own acid free storage sleeves. I'm waiting for larger sized storage sleeves to arrive for the magazines.

Until I get a real cutting table the large table in our dinning room is where I cut most of my fabric.

A little preview of my Valentine's Day blouse

Friday, February 27, 2015

It's Crewel Work! - Stomacher and Petticoat Border

Did you know that February is National Embroidery Month? I didn't either until recently. Just the perfect reason to share these two projects.

As promised here are some photos of my finished 18th century crewel embroidered stomacher. For those unfamiliar with the term, a stomacher is an article of clothing, an accessory really, that filled the front portion of gowns throughout much of the 18th century. The stomacher is pinned to the front of the wearer's stays. The open fronts of the gown are then pinned to the stomacher. There were no zippers in the 18th century and women's clothing, with few exceptions, lacked buttons. Everything was pinned or tied into place.

This stomach was started many years ago at a Hive sewing workshop organized by the wonder Ladies of Refined Taste. The kit for the stomacher contained a piece of vintage linen with the pattern per-drawn, wool embroidery floss, and vintage linen for the backing. I used a wooden embroidery hoop to hold the fabric as I worked.

Once the embroidery was finally finished it was time to trace the finished shape of the stomacher. I used one I made before as a guide. I was careful to trace the pattern larger to allow for seam allowance. When I was happy with the shape I cut the linen. I did the same for the backing. The edges were turned in about a 1/4", pressed, and slip stitched together.

Tracing my pattern. I use the same stomacher for my purple and white gown and my cross barred gown.
Back of the embroidery

I really have no idea how many hours went into this. When I started working on the stomacher back in January I only had a very small section left to embroider. I think it took less then an hour to complete that. It was probably another hour to trace and stitch the two pieces together. If I worked straight through I could most likely complete another project like this in a weeks time.

Another crewel work project I've been working on off and on again for a few years is a border for a petticoat. Mine is based on this one at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. There are many surviving examples of 18th century crewel work. Happily many of them are from New England. To create this border I downloaded an image of the original. With some help from my dad we enlarged the image as best we could to its actual size of 10 1/8 inches x 65 1/16 inches. The resolution wasn't great but it was enough to see the design. My dad printed it out for me at his office. (One of the advantages of knowing someone with access to printers used for making drafting blueprints.)

Petticoat border American (New England) 1758.  Accession Number 40.571 Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Petticoat border American (New England) 1758.  Accession Number 40.571 Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
I had to trace over the printed design in pen to darken it as the resolution wasn't great. Using a light box I traced the design onto my linen fabric. I also used a brown colored pencil to mimic the color of the ink or charcoal that would have been used originally. The colors on my border differ slightly from the original as do some of the flowers but that is mostly due to tracing the design from a lower resolution image. The photos online at the MFA now are a much higher quality!

The book, Eighteenth Century Embroidery Techniques, was helpful in deciding what kinds of stitches to use. The vines are embroidered using a back stitch. Most everything else is done using a short and long stitch. According to Winterthur's  American Crewelwork: Stitches of the 17th and 18th Centuries, "The work of the average needlewoman of Colonial times shows only three or four stitches in any one piece." (p2)    

Same examples, like this one at the MFA, are embroidered straight onto the petticoat. More often it seems a separate border piece was embroidered and then added to the finished petticoat. My guess is that was done so that the embroidery could be removed easily and saved or reused should the petticoat need to be rework, recycled, or discarded. The designs are mostly floral but you see lots of animals too. This petticoat border, attributed to American Catherine Woods Brigham, includes butterflies, birds, trees, squirrels, stag, dogs, rabbits, and even a little house! Occasionally you will see people too.

Set of fragments of a petticoat border. American mid-18th century. Attributed to Catherine Woods Brigham (American, born in 1733 American) Accession Number 25.186a-b Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
I still have a lot of work left on my border and I apologize for the lack of pictures. There is one whole panel that still needs the design transferred before I can begin the embroidery.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Big Closet Clean Out!

My new sewing machine has arrived!!! I'm super excited because this means I can sew ALL the things! Over the weekend I figured out how to use the special foot for sewing button holes. My old machine just couldn't do them any more. I have a couple blouses plus my plaid jacket that are so close to being complete. They just need button holes. Now I can do them, hooray!

My new machines was a rather large investment for me but was totally worth it. But paying for that plus the normal expensive of a new home owner I'm feeling the financial pinch. So combine that with my New Year's goals for clearing away the clutter and things I don't use/wear any more. What you get is a massive closet clean out. I still have a few things listed on Etsy if anyone is interested. I have not added any of the items below yet but most likely will in the near future. I have lots more pictures so please feel free to send me a message if you need more information. I'm happy to ship most places worldwide and will consider reasonably offers on all pieces.

Up first is this truly awesome 1950s striped lounging robe/dressing gown. It's so Lucy Ricardo! Who wouldn't want to lounge out home in something as stylish as this? It's made of colorful striped rayon with black lapels and sleeve cuffs. It  has shoulder pads, one side pocket and is unlined. The stripes form a gorgeous chevron pattern in back on skirt. There are thread belt loops, but the belt/sash is missing. A couple of hooks keep it closed without the sash. There are 3 pleats on either side of the skirt at the waist. The label reads "Peer."

Condition - Very nice with only a few flaws to note. There is a small spot and a few pin holes on the bodice, and a 1" stain on the skirt. (see pics) I have not tried to clean this but spot should come out with proper cleaning. Has thread belt loops, but the original belt/sash is missing.

Measurements (measured flat) Ties could be added to the waist to accommodate a larger waist and bust size
Waist - 13" across (Hooks can be moved slightly to adjust fit although I think this is best for a 24" to 27" waist measurement if worn closed. Size somewhat flexible if worn open)
Armpit to Armpit - 19" across
Armpit to Sleeve Cuff - 16"
Waist to Hem - 39"
Collar to Robe Hem - 54" (I'm 5' 2" and it's a little long on me but perfect with a pair of boudior slippers)
$75.00 + shipping

This dress has the most charming novelty print and is made from a medium-weight rayon crepe. The dress has a v-neckline, shirring at sides of bodice and shoulder seams with cap dolman sleeves, fixed waist with original self-fabric covered belt. (Belt in poor condition). Skirt is a full bias-cut. There is a metal zipper at back of neck and at left side. Large shoulder pads which look odd on my dress form. Hem is slightly uneven in front. I believe this was a homemade dress, no label. Sold as is.

Condition - Good vintage condition for it's age. The structure of the dress is sound but there are flaws to note. There are some staining/discolored areas. The worst at the shoulders, sleeves, and hemline.There is a faint blackish line on the back of the bodice. Some of this should come out with a good cleaning. The belt is in poor condition with soiling throughout and the backing is cracking and separating. Belt could be salvaged by adding a new backing by someone who wants to take the time. So many belts become separated from their dresses, and although this one is in poor shape it's nice to still have it with the dress. I have soaked the dress once in cold water (no soap or other cleaning agents) and much of the discoloring and storage soiling has come out but there are still noticeable areas. Could use another good long soak with Woolite or other cleaning agent. Still a great print and design! Hopefully someone will be able to give this gal new life. I have TONS of additional pictures, please ask.

Bust - up to 36”
Waist - up to 27”
$82.00 US + shipping

I purchased this mustard yellow 1940s dress last month but sadly it's too snug to fit comfortably on me. So sad because I adore this color! The dress has a great wrap detail on the bodice front, 3/4 length sleeves with nice ruching detail at elbow, and 6 little buttons and button loops up the back of neck. Side zipper in good working condition and two short waist ties. Dress is unlined, no label but is well made. Over all in very good condition but please see notes below. Color was hard to photograph but I think the first picture show it best.

Measurements - Best for a 32-33 inch bust and 25-26 inch waist but no bigger. Dress does have a generous side seam allowance so it could be let out.

Condition - Very good. There is one tiny hole on the front left skirt, hardly noticeable. I noticed one tiny spot where a seam was starting to open but that's a very easy fix. There are two faint lines and a whitish spot on the skirt. There also appears to be some kind of white residue under the buttons, possibly from dry cleaning? I'm not sure. These issues are not very noticeable but worth mentioning as they were not noted before when I purchased the dress. I think a light wash or trip to the cleaners would take care of them. I have TONS more photos so just ask if you need to see more.
$85.00 + shipping

Anyone need vintage shoes? I have several pairs that either don't fit or I just don't wear. I really wish this pair fit because they are pretty amazing. They are listed on Etsy but I'm open to offers.

I need to take measurements of the following items but I'm open to offers. Just let me know. :) The purple and silver dress is a square dance dress from the 1950s/60s and is a larger size. The top is velvet!

These shoes were made in Greece. I think they about a size 7 but need to check.

As is 1940s dress in a larger size. Open to offers.

I have fabric too!

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