Tuesday, July 29, 2008

How to clean fur - in 1907

An acquaintance needs to clean her white fur, and while researching, I came across a fascinating technique. Not one I would care to try, mind you, but fascinating just the same.

Here is the advice from "The Complete Dressmaker", published in 1907:


The dark furs, such as seal, mink, sable, etc., respond to mahogany or fine cedar sawdust as a cleanser. These may be purchased from any furrier. Place the fur on a table with the hairy side up and rub sawdust in by the handful. Use plenty of sawdust and rub vigorously. Shake the fur over the table to save the sawdust that fall, as it can be used again. Turn the fur with the hair side down on large pillows according to the size of the garment; beat it well with a switch. Shake the pillows occasionally and continue beating until all the sawdust is removed. White furs are cleaned in a similar fashion with corn meal.

Here is the furriest photo I could find at the moment. She is one of a pair Rat Masks, made for a BayCon many, many years ago. I still like the masks, the paws, tail, and feet, but the rest of the costumes were rather pathetic. I hadn't started doing any historical research at that point. When I look back, I cringe. Someday I need to make some new clothes for my Rodents.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Updating my website - again

I decided that the Mantua-Maker website is entirely too boring, so I fussed and fussed - and undid every change I made.

So I started over again. Now I have changed the navagation bar. I like the effect *much* better. Have a look at www.mantua-maker.com and tell me what you think.

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2008

As the polonaise turns ...

Test and retest and retest ... That is my motto. Sometimes I feel rather slow, though.

Slow point number 1: Why did I decide to entirely redraft this pattern rather than start with one that works?

Slow point number 2: It's not the back seam, dummy, it's the whole armhole. Back to the drawing board.

Still, something rather wonderful happened this week. We had a rainbow in the middle of a thunderstorm! I want to share it with you, or at least, share the best photo I could manage.

Business stuff:
Sometimes people ask if the seam allowance is included in my patterns. Yes, it is! It is 1/2" unless otherwise noted. Happy sewing!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Next pattern in line - Sunset Knoll Polonaise

I've been testing - and retesting - my next pattern, a polonaise which can be worn plain as a redingote, or as a fully draped evening gown, with a loose front Tea Gown option. I've had a little trouble with the side back seam, but I think I have it resolved. The instructions have gone off to be proofed, and I'm *hoping* she will want to make it up, too, but I know she has several projects on a short time line.

I *really* want to make this pattern available soon, so I need a volunteer or two to make it.

I offer your choice of one of my patterns as a reward for testing this pattern within a month. Please contact me at deb@mantua-maker.com if you are interested.

Here is the *original* prototype of this pattern, started many years ago. For various reasons, the whole project languished on a shelf after this dress was made. For those of you who remember the Centaur Bustle Dress at Costume Con 23, it was known as "After the Masquerade".

Monday, July 14, 2008

Skirt Pattern Repairs are made.

I have been working with the printers, and all of the repairs on the text are finished. So, next time I am able to get to the printers, I will have another new pattern.

I'll be able to ship them on Monday 7/21/08. Now the details:

1870 – 1890
Broadway Walking Skirt

Ideal as a dressy skirt for:
Walking, visiting, reception, dinner or dancing.
Based on a tissue pattern issued
by Butterick in May, 1880.
Includes the full text of the cover sheet.
This pattern has adaptations for
the 1879 - 1881 narrow skirts
and the 1883 - 1887 aggressive bustle.
Variations included.
The foundation skirt is not included.
Sizes Petite - Full.
Price: $16

Friday, July 11, 2008

Trials and Tribulations on the new pattern

Well, the new pattern has come back from the printers, and it has a cosmetic problem. The text on some places has slid around. Not everywhere, mind you, just here and there.

Now this is a side effect of my new collaboration with the printers. Instead of printing them out at 1/4 scale on my "new" printer (*don't* buy a cheap Dell printer, even though they *say* the output is good), and having the printers enlarge it, flaws and all, I now email the patterns to the printers full scale. The problem is, what shows on my screen is *not* what prints out, though only the text is affected. Scaling problems, software differences.

So, even when I *think* I have everything fixed, I don't. Sigh. Five copies down the drain. I'm considering offering them to my website customers at the wholesale discount, just so I don't throw them away.

Anyone have an opinion?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My new walking skirt pattern is at the printers!

As I write, my newest pattern is at the printers!
1870 -1890
Broadway Walking Skirt

I am very pleased with the way it turned out. The only thing I would have done differerently is face the scallops, instead of hemming them. The hemmed curves simply did not come out as smoothly as I liked, even though I hemmed it by hand. Of course, my hands are old and tired, but not that bad! So I have added a facing option to the pattern, which will be faster than hemming, and almost as fast as binding the edges.

This pattern is based on a tissue pattern issued by Butterick in May, 1880. I have placed the full text of the cover sheet at the end of my instructions. The writing 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.
A walking skirt is a skirt of “walking length”, which means that it does not have a train, and that it is raised above the ground – at least slightly. The distance from the ground depended on current fashion

Sunday, July 6, 2008

New Victorian bodice pattern from the Mantua-Maker!

I wish to announce that I have a new pattern finished!
It is now available for pre-orders, to be shipped 7/14/08.

1875 - 1890
Brandy City Bodice

A fashionable everyday bodice.
The bodice may be fitted
or in the Blouse Bodice style.
The lower front may be full length,
opened or closed.
Or it may be draped up,
or cut away in several styles.
The back may be pleated,
gathered, or shirred.
Two lengths coat style sleeves.
Many historical references
and decoration ideas.
Sized 2 - 30, all included.
Price: $22

The photos are of the blouse front version.

Front Photo -- Artwork by Lorina Stephens

Back Photo -- Variations Drawing

To order, please go to http://www.mantua-maker.com/

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Why should I make a mock-up?

Everyone's body is different. The patterns are created to "fit" as many people as possible - but that so-called fit happens because seam allowances are a little wide on the front, back and side seams; or the darts are marked as suggestions only, not as hard-and-fast rules; or the gussets can be exchanged for larger or smaller ones. Or what I consider a size 10 might be what you consider a size 6 or size 16. I don't want you to waste expensive fabric if we are not communicating perfectly.

Also, some of the sewing techniques can be a bit tricky the first
time(s) you try them. With practice they'll work fine, but the first time you put in a gusset, you may not be too happy with me.

Sometimes the way a garment fit historically may not make you happy. The prime example is my Regency corset. These stays are intended to have a VERY wide gap in the back. This upsets some people. If you know it seems too wide from the mock-up, you can widen the back panel. --- Or the bust gussets seem too small, so you use the wider ones. Then you'll discover in your mock-up that the wide gussets don't give you the support you need.

You can often use the mock-up as the lining or interlining of your garment. So if it fits, you haven't really lost anything!

These are photos of the mock-ups for my new pattern,
the Camargo Sash Bustle Drapery.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vote in my colors poll.

I have been collecting Victorian color names and definitions from Victorian (and a few years after) sources. An acquaintance asked about the meaning of a color name recently, and it occurred to me that others might be interested in my list.

So, kindly take a moment to vote in my poll, and tell me if it will be worth the trouble of putting several pages of color names and definitions and sources on my website.

Just to brighten up my page, here is a photo of my late Victorian corset.