Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Back on Track for the Walking Skirt

I've been much too distracted by other things, but I'm finally sewing on the walking skirt. Between my day job (which is very part time, and not paying even a bean), finishing up the two bodices, and selling odds on eBay (I'm a packrat, so that is less painful than I thought it would be), I've just been hopping. The Mystic Mine Basque is now on my website, and the You Bet Bodice is almost ready to go.

So, I've started sewing again. Unfortunately, Texas is having a heat wave, and electricity is expensive, so I keep the A/C at 83. My problem is that my sewing room is very dark, and half an hour after I turn on the lights, I'm cooking! Off to the computer, where I can work in the dark with half the hot flashes.

I did iron the fabric during a thunderstorm, when it cooled off for a few hours. It's amazing how a meager 4 degrees can make such a difference! I felt quite spry that day.

I thought I'd introduce you to the man in my life. He's getting old (aren't we all!) and he's been blind for years. I must tell you, a blind cat is the ideal companion for a seamstress. He can rarely FIND trouble to get into! It doesn't slow him down much, except that he only jumps up on certain things, usually where I am sitting. Strangely enough, he'd been blind for a couple of years before I realized it. I knew he was acting odder and odder, but until he ran into a wall, I couldn't figure out what was wrong. I took him to the vet, and she said Ocular Degeneration. We were both amazed. But for me, I'm happy I can leave projects on the table and not worry about him eating the fringe or the silk flowers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mystic Mine Basque

Hurray! Suzie has sent the instructions back, and I've made all the changes! By June 1st, I'll have a brand new pattern printed up and ready to go live!

This is the Mystic Mine Basque, named after a retired gold mine in California, and after my cat, Mystic. A little from the first page:

Style and elegance were critical to the Victorian fashionable mentality. Even middle class women aimed to achieve some sort of panache in their mode of dress, if only with a few ribbons. But the most obtainable part of dress was the style itself.

By the early 1870’s, patterns were available through mail order, and everyday sorts of women’s magazines were publishing pattern supplements in most issues, sometimes in the form of a tiny line drawing of pattern pieces, sometimes as whole – but single sized – patterns. These full sized magazine patterns had the disadvantage of having five or ten patterns on the same sheet of paper, with all of the dashed and dotted lines crossing and crisscrossing like an ancient city’s road map. As insane as these sheets appeared, they made a ghost of high fashion available to all home seamstresses. One of the sources for this pattern is the supplemental pattern sheet in the July 25, 1874 issue of Harper’s Bazar. (They changed the spelling many years later.)

The basque featured in this pattern is an example of an easily available bodice. It has the fashionably pointed front, and the sexy longer drapery at the back. It was stylish for walking, traveling, or as part of a riding habit. With more expensive fabric, it was appropriate for a formal dinner, or even a ball.

This pattern has two variations in the neckline: the standing collar and a square evening gown neckline. The sleeves may be cut three quarter length for reception or dinner wear; or full length for day wear; or they may be left off altogether for evening or ballroom wear. The back pleats may be single or double, wide or narrow. The front may be pointed or cut away, or it may be extended across the bust in an overlap.

New bodice patterns coming soon!

Well, I did go sew, but not on my walking skirt. I realized I had a basque sitting on my sewing table that I *must* finish (or I'd never get around to it) before I started the skirt. Now I have three bodice patterns ready to roll, as soon as I hear from my last proof-reader, Suzanne Garcia, a very dear, and *very* busy friend.

I want to share with you here the bodice I just finished in my best fabric. This is the You Bet Bodice, and it is made in the ballroom version out of the most gorgeous teal-green, dragon and phoenix encrusted silk. It fits over any size bustle, which quite honestly amazed me - I thought that the back would cling too close to the hips. I made it with the You Bet neckline, but it also comes with a square neckine and a high neck with collar option, and with sleeves.

I'm going to make part of the walking skirt with this fabric, the shirred and scalloped bit. I have just enough left, and that was what inspired me to finish this bodice.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Technique articles

I have added three new articles on my website:

The first is Bustle Draping Techniques. It is a set of ideas for draping you bustle dress, and is based on classes I have taught at past costuming conventions.

The second is Period Fabric Covered Button Construction, written by Lorina Stephens of Five Rivers Chapmanry, and illustrated by me.

The third is Hand Sewn Eyelet Hole Construction, just because it seemed useful.

The last two articles are in .jpg form because it took *way* too long to get the bustle article online, and I haven't even dug up any pictures yet.

The photo shown here is from my pattern #1880-20,
1870 - 1890 Apron Overskirt with Waterfall Back.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Looking for me?

To see what I'm up to when I'm not blogging, have a look at You can see the patterns I have ready for sale, and photos of years of costuming mischief, disguised as photos of patterns!

This photo is of my Renaissance entry at the Australian Costume Con. It uses my Quilted Pair of Bodies, Farthingale, Round Kirtle, and French Gown patterns.

I named her Juana, after a queen of Spain, known as "Juana la loca" by her detractors. I thought that fit me rather well.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

New walking skirt pattern in the works

I am working on a new pattern is based on a tissue pattern for a walking skirt issued by Butterick in May, 1880. The writing on the original cover sheet is tiny and blurred with a smeared stamp and age marks. The instructions assume you know exactly what you are doing, and none of the pre-cut pattern pieces are labeled. This one would be an adventure!

Now, the first thing I discovered was that three pattern pieces were missing. The belt was obvious, and easily recreated. The side gore was also missing, and also re-creatable. I had the back breadth, the shirred portion, plus two other pieces I wasn’t entirely sure about. I thought I had a strange looking front gore and the back drapery, but I didn’t seem to have a tablier. The piece I thought was the back drapery could conceivably be the tablier, but when I compared the notches and perforations, it did prove to be the back drapery. So I was missing the critical tablier.

Then I took a serious look at my “front gore”. Very strange. In fact, it is impossible for it to be the front gore. It had to be the tablier! No problem, I can recreate a front gore. I now had all of the critical pieces to bring you a new pattern.
So I have finished drafting the pattern pieces, and writing the first draft of the instructions. It's time to go sew!