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

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