My Nearly Fabulous Francaise

Shortly after I moved to DC I was told about this fabulous event called The Francaise Dinner. It’s an annual dinner organized and attended by people who just like doing this sort of thing! Last year and this year it was held at Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria – hence, very local to me! So this year (in March) I got to go to my first one!

Of course, I needed to make a new dress for the occasion. 1. Because I nearly always need to make a new dress for nearly any actual “occasion” because reasons; and 2. Because I didn’t have anything really appropriate for this event. The date range did go up to c. 1799, but I really wanted to go more full-on 18th century rather than Neo-classical. It was also a perfect excuse for specifically making a historically accurate francaise – something I hadn’t done since the big crazy reproduction project during my MA – none of which pieces I kept (all donated to the university).

Not to mention I had THE PERFECT fabric for it – behold!

2016-05-10 11.40.13

Yes, that is silk duchess satin. Yes, I nabbed it for 5GBP in London a few years ago from a stall in Walthamstow Market. Yes I bought 20 metres of it. Yes I wish I had bought the whole bolt.

The colour kind of reminds me of this iconic Francois Boucher portrait of Madame de Pompadour:

Francois Boucher 1703–1770 FR  'Portrait of Madame de Pompadour' 1756:

I used the Francaise pattern from Pattern of Fashion for the dress, altered a little for my size and for fuller falling cuffs on the sleeves. Oh, and I also opted for a regular stomacher front rather than a compere.

Janet Arnold francaise

I also trimmed the gown and petticoat differently, using this dress in the Kyoto Costume Institute’s collection as my inspiration/guide:

KCI 1760 Francaise

I just loved the combination of the arced strips with the bows somehow! Here’s a close-up of the skirt trimmings:

KCI 1760 Francaisecrop

I was in too much of a sewing hurry to take in-process photos of the construction, but I basically followed the same procedure as for the sack dress/francaise of the repro-project mentioned above.

I did take some detail pics, but I’ll show them towards the end and instead show pics of the whole shebang first.

Photos are all from the Francaise Dinner event. This one is my fave, though it doesn’t show off the dress the best:

From Angela

photo by Angela B

Oh, and this was also my first try at doing a proper 18th century styled wig. I used Kendra van Cleeve’s fantastic book, “18th Century Hair & Wig Styling

Unfortunately, I ignored a very important piece of advice, which was to NOT style the wig on a Styrofoam head, but rather on a proper wig block. Since this was my first try I wasn’t keen on investing in a proper block. I should have. The wig ended up a little small and so didn’t cover my head properly and pulled at my scalp something terrible as I tried to stretch/pull it to get decent coverage.

The is reason #1 that my francaise is nearly, but not actually, fabulous.

Here you can see it a little from the back, and it seems to look ok. Also – Hi Taylor! Hi Gloria!

from Chelsea2

photo by Chelsea S of A Sartorial Statement

Another shot from the back – in and of itself it looks nice.

from Gloria

photo courtesy of In the Long Run

However, you can see here how it doesn’t completely cover the back of my head. I think the whole thing also rises too vertically rather than angling slightly backwards gracefully.

Oh well. I keep reminding myself that this was my first try. I WILL remake this and get a properly sized block for doing so! I think I’ll try a lace-front wig next time to change my hairline a little, too, since I was also reminded of how much I dislike my super high forehead (I wear bangs just so I don’t have to look at it/deal with it). And with a lace front wig I can make the whole thing look a little more natural as well.

From Maggie

photo by Maggie M

I can’t remember her name, but the lady behind me, in the red/maroon had THE BEST HAIR I think I’ve ever seen! I was in awe of her hair all evening!

This photo also shows reason #2 why this francaise is only nearly and not actually fabulous: the wrinkled bodice. I’m actually not sure what’s going on here, what’s causing this. I’m going to have to do some investigating. But I’ll have to be in the mood to get into it again for that. I’m wondering if one factor might be my stays. They’re a late 1780s style, so a little higher-waisted than one would normally wear with a francaise. They may not be firming and smoothing my torso far enough down for this dress bodice. However, I think there’s a bigger problem elsewhere. Whether it’s just too tight through the bodice (though I do have the back bodice lining split with ties for just such adjustments) or something not right in a seam somewhere….I’m just not totally sure yet.

from Taylor1

photo from Taylor of Dames a la Mode – from whom my jewellery also came! It’s a full parure (which word I learned from her) made up of this topaz/citrine collet necklace with matching earrings and two matching bracelets. Incidentally – I have been literally amazed at just how versatile these pieces have been. I’ve worn the necklace countless times with both historical and everyday clothing (the earrings less so, just because I have this weird relationship with earrings in general; I often feel *too* dressed up with them on in my everyday life, despite the fact that I wear what many people would consider pretty fancy dresses on a daily basis – I said it was weird).

One final thing I’m thinking is that it may need a little more volume under the skirt. I’ve got pocket hoops and 2 petticoats on underneath – both with deep, gathered flounces around the hems – but looking at these photos I think it could do with just a little more. A little more width (maybe add some removable padding or something to the pocket hoops) and a little more fullness overall with either an additional petti or ones of fabric with a stiffer hand.

Here’s a great photo of the whole Francaise Dinner group. So much pretty in here, I was blown away by the quality and effort of people’s ensembles! And so much good hair! I felt as though my very mediocre hair stuck out like a sore thumb. Oh well – I will BRING IT next year!

francaise dinner group photo2

photo by Beth of BWPW Photography

A final few shots of me from the evening:

from Taylor2

photo by Taylor of Dames a la Mode

from Chelsea1

photo by Chelsea S of A Sartorial Statement

from Chelsea4

photo by Chelsea S of A Sartorial Statement

And now some detail pics of the ensemble.

It was entirely hand-sewn, mostly with silk thread. I did use linen thread for the seams of the bodice lining. This is what I’ve seen most often done on extant 18th century women’s garments I’ve examined.

The back pleats of the fancaise, sewn down to the bodice lining for approx. 3 1/2 inches.

2016-05-05 14.46.15

A shot of the bodice lining. The stitches in dark thread are the ones holding the silk to the lining.

2016-05-05 14.45.40

Bit of a close-up of the bodice interior – all edges are clean-finished apart from the armhole seam allowances, also as per extant garments I’ve examined.

2016-05-05 14.45.55

The exterior of a bodice front with robing and trimming.

2016-05-05 14.44.45

One of the sleeves up close, this is one of the areas where I used my scalloped pinking tool:

2016-05-05 14.45.21

lightweight linen (lawn?) sleeve ruffle. This is the only part done by machine – the scalloped hem edging. I just did not have time to do this by hand and had no lace on-hand to make sleeve ruffle from. However, my goal is to eventually replace the machine embroidery on here with handwork (worked with some while silk floss I have) and also add some additional embroidery, perhaps based off the set of engageantes in Patterns of Fashion. It would also be nice to have some decent lace ones, but these did the trick for the night. They are gathered into a cotton tape band then basted into the dress sleeves:

2016-05-05 14.51.08

The trimming of one side of the skirt front. I used just normal pinking shears to cut the fabric pieces that made up the bulk of the trimming. This may seem odd to purists, but close examination of the photo of the extant dress in the Kyoto collection showed exactly this. I’d also seen it used on the trimming of a dress in the Snowshill Collection kept at Berrington Hall, England, that I examined on a research trip back in 2008.

2016-05-05 14.44.18

The petticoat opens and ties at the sides, bound with light blue silk satin ribbon (someone, PLEASE tell me a source for silk taffeta ribbon in a variety of colours/widths!)

Showing direction of pleats in the front:

2016-05-05 14.47.12

And in the back:

2016-05-05 14.47.35

2016-05-05 14.49.35

A close-up of the decorative flounce on the petticoat front. I noticed that the trimming on the Kyoto dress has an overall ‘flat’ look to it, so I pressed all the gathered/ruched areas of trimming after setting them onto the garments, just in case any of you might have wondered about that. I don’t know whether that look on the original francaise was created at the time of original construction or whether it’s the result of 250+ years of existence/storage, but I liked it and wanted to reproduce it.

2016-05-05 14.49.11

Another flounce close-up:

2016-05-05 14.49.05

And one of the trimming along the petti hem – the same as on the edges of the gown skirt fronts.

2016-05-05 14.48.23

Finally, the stomacher – front:

2016-05-05 14.51.51


2016-05-05 14.52.03

I need a little space from this one before I go back to it in order to make the ensemble as a whole as fabulous as I think it deserves to be. But rest assured I will certainly do so! In the meantime, if anyone has an interest in seeing any other parts of the construction of this just let me know and I’ll snap and post those pics!

Has anything ever turned out frustratingly just slightly less fabulous than you wanted it to? Did you go back to it and make it fabulous? Or just move onto the next fabulous thing?

Springtime on Capitol Hill – Not Sewing

Upfront disclosure: this post has nothing to do with sewing! It’s all flowers and flowering trees in my neighbourhood. Really the main reason I made this post is so my mom can show my Gramma my photos (Hi Mom! Hi Grandmama!). I was going to just post them to Facebook, but there was so many and the files are all over 1M and I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of compressing them, yadda, yadda, yadda, so here they all are.

If a boatload of flower photos don’t do it for you I won’t be the least offended if you skip this post (and I won’t even know, either, lol).

For anyone who would like to know, here’s the little backstory for these. This is my first Spring living in DC, on Capitol Hill, specifically. A few weekends ago we enjoyed some truly glorious weather and noticed a) there are a lot of flowering trees around here; b) they were pretty much at their peak; and c) they were gorgeous! So I decided to take myself for a little walk armed with my tablet to see how it did with taking photos. It did pretty well, I think!

And it was fortunate I took these when I did since by the following weekend the blooms on the trees were pretty well all done, and now they’re all just green (except for the Japanese maples, and not that I’m complaining about the green!)

So, without further ado, my heavily floral-biased view of Spring on Capitol Hill, 2016!

2016-04-16 16.06.532016-04-16 15.51.46 2016-04-16 15.51.24 2016-04-16 15.46.31 2016-04-16 15.36.05 2016-04-16 15.34.36 2016-04-16 15.34.14 2016-04-16 15.33.36 2016-04-16 15.33.31 2016-04-16 15.32.53 2016-04-16 15.32.24 2016-04-16 15.32.02 2016-04-16 15.31.33 2016-04-16 15.30.02 2016-04-16 15.29.58 2016-04-16 15.29.24

Obligatory kitty photo – I just loved the grey cat on the grey chair!

2016-04-16 15.28.02 2016-04-16 15.27.19 2016-04-16 15.26.01

There were numerous trees with these flowers and I could. not. get over how gorgeous they were!

2016-04-16 15.25.41 2016-04-16 15.25.33 2016-04-16 15.25.26 2016-04-16 15.25.15 2016-04-16 15.24.11

Picnicking at Lincoln Park

2016-04-16 15.23.20 2016-04-16 15.22.51 2016-04-16 15.21.26

The first escaped balloon of the year I’ve seen!

2016-04-16 15.20.49 2016-04-16 15.20.12 2016-04-16 15.20.02 2016-04-16 15.19.55 2016-04-16 15.19.38 2016-04-16 15.19.34 2016-04-16 15.19.03 2016-04-16 15.18.31 2016-04-16 15.17.58 2016-04-16 15.17.45 2016-04-16 15.17.24 2016-04-16 15.16.49 2016-04-16 15.16.15 2016-04-16 15.15.38 2016-04-16 15.15.23 2016-04-16 15.15.08

There aren’t much in the way of lilacs down here (one of my favourites) but I did find a few trees and bushes – and sniffed them to death!

2016-04-16 15.13.40

I didn’t manage to get a great photo of this (the sun was in the wrong position for it) but I loved the pink and white blossoms against the pink and white row houses.

2016-04-16 15.13.08 2016-04-16 15.12.57 2016-04-16 15.12.30 2016-04-16 15.12.13 2016-04-16 15.11.03 2016-04-16 15.10.45 2016-04-16 15.10.30 2016-04-16 15.10.19 2016-04-16 15.09.33 2016-04-16 15.09.02 2016-04-16 15.08.21 2016-04-16 15.07.48 2016-04-16 15.07.27 2016-04-16 15.07.09 2016-04-16 15.02.34 2016-04-16 15.02.24 2016-04-16 15.02.16 2016-04-16 15.01.37 2016-04-16 15.01.07 2016-04-16 15.00.53

To any and everyone who made it to the end -well done and I hope you enjoyed this little floral tree tour of my current neighbourhood! I hope you’re having a lovely, sunny day wherever you are!

A Tale of Two Open Robes


Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion Regency Open Robe:

Early in the year I became obsessed with late 1790s open robes and this pattern in particular. It’s the 1795 Open Robe pattern featured in (goddess) Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion I. In fact, I have started getting obsessed with late 1790s fashion in general and believe I now prefer it to much of the later Regency aesthetic. I do love transitional periods!

Gallery of Fashion, November 1795.  So much to love in this fashion plate!  First of all, the colors all go so well together.  Yellow and navy- swoon!  Amazing hats, beautiful print on the first gown, and do I spy yet another blue riding habit?  I think so!:

Gallery of Fashion, November 1795

I love the residual 18th century volume and *floof* of these styles, not to mention the fun hair! And having looked at the insides of several surviving gowns and garments from this period I have also been quite charmed by the combinations of 18th century sewing techniques with new ones to suit the changing styles.

Open robes Heideloff gallery of fashion 1795:

Open robes Heideloff gallery of fashion 1795

Gown and under gown with pretty pattern. Journal des Luxus under der Moden 1798:

Journal des Luxus under der Moden 1798

I had wanted to make the Arnold open robe for some time, and finally got my kick-in-the-pants justification for a Twelfth Night Ball at the Riversdale House Museum just outside of DC in early January.

I made a somewhat unconventional fabric choice of viscose velvet in a dark royal blue colour.

unconventional point #1: it’s viscose and so technically a man-made fibre. However, I often give rayon/viscose a pass since it’s plant-derived (regenerated cellulose). Also, the pile of modern silk velvet is also viscose/rayon (it’s just the backing that’s silk), so there’s no advantage fibre-wise to using that and I also find the pile of (at least vintage) viscose velvet (which I think mine is) to be denser and thus richer than modern silk velvet, so actually gives a more correct period impression.

unconventional point #2: I dug around on Pinterest for quite a while looking for examples of velvet open robes and Regency-era dresses. I did fine several extant, fashion plate and portrait examples, but all from around 1810, give or take. I didn’t find any for the late 1790s. This makes sense since the late 1790s was all about lightness in dress textiles and by the 1810s you’re starting to see some heavier textiles and colours being reintroduced:

Adele Romany, Portrait of Aglaé-Constance Boudard in red velvet dress, 1815:

Adele Romany, Portrait of Aglaé-Constance Boudard in red velvet dress, 1815

I mulled this over for a couple of days and finally came to the conclusion of: screw it. I’d had the velvet in my stash for I don’t know how long and wanted to use it. And while my recent inclination had been to use it for an 1880s ball gown (in conjunction with something else in the stash) for whatever reason I was really drawn to using it for this open robe. So, as they say these days: sorry not sorry.

The robe is all hand-sewn with correct period techniques including the bodice lined in linen sewn with linen thread and silk thread for the rest of the sewing. (from what I’ve seen of extant garments so far, cotton linings didn’t really start coming in until at least the 1820s – anybody have evidence to the contrary? my expertise on such minutiae starts dwindling after 1805-1810)

2016-03-28 14.17.072016-03-28 14.17.35

Much of the sewing was quite easy and straightforward – hand sewing velvet is SO much easier than doing it on the machine! I may never machine-sew velvet ever again! (Not that I feel inclined to sew with velvet all that often, though). However, when it came time to do the pleats along the fronts I started cursing my decision to use velvet. The pleats on the actual pattern just don’t work in velvet, they are either too small or create too much bulk by being stacked/overlapped. So I had I ended up having to drape the pleats from scratch. Then it took multiple tries to wrangle them into something that looked relatively smooth and tidy.

2016-03-28 14.21.37

Because I knew I’d be wearing the open robe with the white 1797 gown I recently made, which has elbow-length sleeves, I opted out of the sleeves in the Arnold pattern. However, I quite liked the look of short sleeves such as the example below and how American Duchess altered the sleeves of her open robe.

Formal overdress(detail) English; Egyptian Egyptian silk tabby brocaded in gold and silver filé. Centimetres: 224 (length), 61 (width) circa 1801 Neoclassical Area of Origin: Textile woven in Egypt, dress made up in England:

Formal overdress(detail) English; Egyptian Egyptian silk tabby brocaded in gold and silver filé. Centimetres: 224 (length), 61 (width) circa 1801 Neoclassical Area of Origin: Textile woven in Egypt, dress made up in England

Mine didn’t turn out quite as full as the ones above, but I think they’re alright and I definitely like the short sleeve look all round.

The velvet open robe was kind of a hit at the ball, but holy cow it was SO HOT to wear, especially during dancing.


Photo curtesy of In the Long Run

I went for the full and somewhat messy hair look of the mid-late 1790s – it was really easy to do with a wig I already had. I then just wrapped a sheer, fringed scarf around it and stuck in a feather or two. I also accessorized with a matching collet necklace and earrings set from Dames a la Mode.


Photo curtesy of In the Long Run

When we re-entered the ballroom after dinner for the second half of dancing we had to pull a paper slip from a hat to give us our “identity” or something for the rest of the dancing. I ended up picking out “Queen of the Ball”. I was supposed to wear a paper crown, but it didn’t work too well with my hair, so it became a sort of paper tiara instead, lol.


Photo curtesy of In the Long Run

I already knew I was going to another ball in February and dreaded the idea of getting so hot and sweaty again. So, after a little debating with myself (because there was yet another event in a couple of weeks for which I needed to make something, because I didn’t have anything really appropriate) I decided to make another open robe in something lighter: silk taffeta.

2016-02-07 16.25.38

Since I’d done one (and in velvet) already, I figured a second (and in taffeta) would be a relatively quick and easy make. The only things I did differently the second time were to make it completely sleeveless and use the original fold/pleat lines along the robe fronts. One of these made things easier, the other significantly trickier. Any guesses as to which?

2016-02-08 12.52.45

It was actually the sleeveless aspect that threw me this time. I hadn’t paid attention before that the bodice lining and outer fabric didn’t match-up around the armhole. This wasn’t a huge problem when sleeves were going in, but needing a clean finish around the armholes for sleeveless made this into a problem. It didn’t help that I clipped through the seam allowances to enable folding the fabric to the inside around the armholes. I had to do quite a bit of finagling and it’s still not 100% perfect, but I managed a decent job in the end – I think!

A few more in-process images, just for fun!

2016-02-07 16.25.522016-02-08 12.53.15

2016-02-07 21.31.18

I wore this with nearly all the same other stuff I wore to the Twelfth Night ball in January, but the lavender taffeta created quite a different look from the dark blue velvet. I’m really not sure which I like better! And hooray for the beginnings of a Regency mix & match wardrobe!


Photo by Taylor of Dames a la Mode


Photo by Taylor of Dames a la Mode


Photo by Taylor of Dames a la Mode


Photo curtesy of In the Long Run


Photo curtesy of In the Long Run

White Cotton 1797 Gown

Ok, this post is a long one, but I hope you’ll think it a good one.

I’m using this as my (slightly belated) entry for the HSM ’16 (Historical Sew Monthly) January challenge: procrastination. Doesn’t it just figure I’m a little late with ito_O

I started this dress for last year’s challenge: out of your comfort zone, back in……May? April? Something like that. Considering I was feverishly working on finishing my PhD thesis at that time I wasn’t about to take on a whole new branch of sewing/needlework for this challenge. Instead I decided to take on one historical sewing technique that had long fascinated me but I’d been unsure of trying for some reason. The technique is a particular way of seaming bodices in the late 18th century. It consists of finishing the separate pieces of the bodice with their linings and then sewing them together with a very scant seam allowance (you’ll see what I mean in a moment).

The style of the dress is from (goddess) Norah Waugh’s Cut of Women’s Clothes, the 1797 open gown:

I used the pattern largely as-is, adjusting just a little for size and making it a drop-front round gown as opposed to an open one (I didn’t have enough fabric for an open gown + matching petti and wanted something all white). I don’t know exactly how the extant gown from which the pattern was taken was sewn. I chose to use the method I did based off a very similar dress at the Museum of London I examined that used this seaming technique.

Like I said, it starts with lining the individual bodice pieces and clean finishing them:




The clean-finished bodice edges were then stitched together with a closely-spaced running stitch (backstitch and herringbone stitch were also used in the period, I think) taking up a seam allowance of 1/8″ or less:

2016-02-01 13.39.41

For comparison purposes, here’s an example of an extant dress seen the same way:


Manchester Galleries, Gallery of Costume at Platt Hall Acc# 1974.27

My seams are not quite as close to the edges as they ideally would be, but for a first try I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

2015-12-19 21.07.07

As far as all that went things were good! The procastination came with working on the crossover fronts. The way Norah Waugh’s sketch looked to me, the fronts were meant to be slightly gathered along most theirbottom edges. However, when I tried that the result was not. good. Without gathering along the neckline, it created a weird rippling neckline edge. I tried gathering up the neckline as well by threading a cord through the hem edge, but that justmade the whole front look super dowdy. I camcto the conclusion that Waugh had drafted the piece incorrectly, that it should have had a curved bottm edge so that it could gather and the neckline would be fitted. Unfortunatle, this mean I needed new fronts, and because I had accidentally cut out 2 of each of the original front pieces I had no extra fabric except scraps. This is when the procrastination set in. I just could. not. be bothered to deal with it then, especially with all being hand sewn, and with both my thesis and our impending move to the US on my plate – I needed my sewing at that time to be relaxing, not frustrating. I put it away but allowed my subconcious to continue pondering the problem.

Fast forward to November/December and I finally started feeling willing to tackle this little beast again. I decided to take 2 of my fronts and graft a curved piece onto each trying to sew as unnoticeable a seam as possible. It wasn’t an ideal result. And gathering the bottom across its length was still looking weird to me somehow. Crestfallen, and feeling out of options because there was just no more fabric for this I decided to play with two of the first fronts again. And I figured it out!2016-02-01 13.55.28 Waugh’s pattern piece wasn’t wrong, her sketch was just misleading! The bottom edge of the fronts was only meant to be gathered up a little beneath the bust, to create the fitting over it. Duh. I felt dumb, but really relieved – it turned out to be such a blessing in disguise that I had cut 2 additional fronts way back at the beginning! Hallelujah, my dress was saved!

I went right on ahead with finishing constructing the bodice. The sleeves were another slight challenge, but a few tucks in the fronts near the bottom edge gave them some shaping they were lacking, and is a perfectly period technique. I should have used the sleeve lining piece rather than the sleeve piece from Waugh’s pattern. If I do this one again I will.

The sleeves were sewn to the bodice before the cross-over fronts were added, as they were meant to be applied over top of everything – as far as I could tell. This is also how the Museum of London dress I was referencing for construction was put together

2015-12-19 21.05.44

The skirt was just two lengths of the fabric stitched along the selvedges for the side seams, leaving an opening at the top for the front drape. Although I made mine a round gown I followed the pattern’s diagram for pleating the back, I think it’s quite a smart look!

I made a few new undergarments to wear with this, partially because the only petticoat I had was a quick & dirty make from a dark ivory old bedsheet remnant that would have looked quite bad under the sheer white dress, and partially to add extra fullness to the back of the skirt a la late 1790s silhouettes:

1796 Journal des Luxus und der Moden1796 Journal des Luxus und der Moden:

1796 Journal des Luxus und der Moden

I made a petticoat just with shoulder straps:

Then a bodiced one:

2016-02-05 10.25.01

(I like how the stitching turned out looking on the bodiced petti)

To put underneath it all I experimented a little and made a bustle pad that ties onto the back of my stays:

It works a treat to fill-in the small of my back and add just that little bit of volume…..unfortunately it’s REALLY HOT.

So, now here’s everything put together……the setting isn’t *quite* correct, but you work with what you have, right? And at least the new loveseat is *slightly* plausible! Ha!

White 1797 gown (1)

White 1797 gown (2)



The jewellery is a necklace and earring set from Dames a la Mode and the shoes are a pair of Pemberlies from American Duchess.


Here’s a sort of close-up of the back skirt pleating. It’s stacked box pleats that meet at the bodice back seams.

Clearly, I need some Neo-Classical décor for the mantle.


Just lounging around….you know, as one does.


Why yes, Madame Recamier IS a friend of mine…….why do you ask?


And finally…….Just the Facts Ma’am:

The Challenge: Procrastination

Material: Cotton and linen (for the bodice lining)

Pattern: 1797 open gown in Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh

Year: 1797

Notions: thread (silk for most of it, linen thread for the bodice lining), shell buttons, cotton tape for ties

How historically accurate is it? 95-99%

Hours to complete: Who knows!?

First worn: To a Twelfth Night Ball in early January (with an open robe overtop – post to come!)

Total cost: Hmmm…..everything was from stash….I’ll guesstimate the total was around $30 Canadian

New Year, New Loveseat!

My husband and I moved to Washington DC this past August for a 3 year stint. We moved from a wee 2 bedroom condo in Kingston, Ontario Canada to a rather grand historic row house on Capital Hill. We had a loveseat back in Kingston that served as our sofa, but it was a hand-me-down and getting ratty so we left it behind and just brought our pair of Ikea tub chairs (I’ll hopefully be blogging about them in a bit, too). In our new house there’s a beautiful front room, but with just the 2 chairs and a small accent table it felt kind of empty and also forced us to use the dining room table as a sitting room stand-in. We needed additional seating in the front room!

2015-12-25 10.01.23

(front room – in Christmas mode!)

We intended to get something new, but then came across an old/vintage piece at a vintage furniture/housewares store that seemed well-built, was the right size and with lines we quite liked. And for $200, we really couldn’t go wrong!

However, it too is a little on the ratty side:


So a slipcover was needed. I’ve done this sort of thing more than once before. Over 10 years ago I made a fitted slipcover for a little chair I also found used that I loved – and I still love it and the cover I made for it. I also made a slipcover for the old loveseat.

This one was surprisingly easy to make a pattern for. All I did was take large pieces of tracing paper (I get it by the roll), pin it to the individual parts of the loveseat, and trace along the upholstering “seamlines” with marker. And fortunately the seat cushion is fully separate from the whole, which made things that much easier!

I trued-up the lines a little and cut out the paper pattern pieces as-is, without adding seam allowances. I added the allowances when I cut out the fabric. I got the fabric from a very yummy store over in Arlington called Haute Fabrics. It’s a sort of discount designer home furnishings fabric store. The prices aren’t rock-bottom, but considering it’s very high-end stuff and really beautiful they’re quite reasonable. I had gotten some money for Christmas that was meant to go towards furniture and I figured this counted.

The main fabric is a pale blue cotton (or linen?) and rayon (I think) blend with a woven design of little wee ivory/pale gold/warm silver circles all over. I made the piping myself with a figured silk fabric in a cream/pale gold colour that co-ordinated with the main fabric’s pattern:

2016-02-04 10.56.40

I felt the main, blue fabric was just a little thin on its own for so I backed it with muslin to give it a little more body and substance.

And here’s how it turned out:




And while it’s not the best photo, here is the room with all the furniture together:


Although it’s not absolutely perfect, I’m pretty pleased with it! So much so that I think it will come in handy as a prop for photographing some of my other recent makes – coming soon! And I’m already thinking ahead to making another cover in a dark red for next Christmas….hmmmmm…….

Now I just need to make the slipcovers for the tub chairs – which I’ve had cut out for probably at least a year but have allowed to languish; pretty dresses are just so much more fun!

New Year, New Ironing Board Cover

I know I am way, way behind with posting on here, and this post isn’t going to address that. However, after being out of the groove so long (not that I was or will likely ever be a terribly frequent blogger) I needed something quick and easy with which to get back into the habit. I have given myself the 2016 goal (I’ve never been into resolutions, but I like the idea of yearly goals, and it certainly worked in 2014 when I decided that was the year I would become a knitter!) to blog at least twice each month. It’s already 2/3 of the way through January, so expect more from me pretty soon! lol

I also used the new year and a desire for some fresh starts to replace my really, really tired ironing board. And it’s amazing how happy having a new on has made me!

My previous cover came from Ikea about 10 years ago. It was very lovely when I got it, but over the years ended up looking like this:

2016-01-24 15.23.54

It had even started tearing – which is what made me finally take action to replace it:

2016-01-24 15.24.01

I had initially thought of getting something pretty in white and aqua to go with the colour scheme I’m gradually developing for my sewing furniture:

2016-01-24 15.22.20

However, when I found this one on Joann’s website (and that it was on sale) I thought this was too neat to pass up!

June Tailor Press-Mate Ironing Board Cover-58"x19"

So here is my new-and-improved ironing board:

2016-01-24 15.21.53

I do a lot of hem pressing by eye (naughty, naughty, I know) and I have hopes this will enable me to be both lazy AND accurate! This can also be helpful for pressing self-made bias strips/binding and probably lots of other things. Also, it looks just so….sew-y, I love it!

Do any of you (whoever may still be following or paying attention to this blog) use the new year to replace, refresh or change anything?

Happy (belated) New Year, and I’ll see you again soon – before the month is up!

Regency Shako

Ok, so I have a lot of catching up to do on here! Between finishing up my PhD and then an international move, there hasn’t been much time for blogging over the past few months. But I have been sewing during a lot of this “away” time. I made a natural form era summer suit, a vintage mash-up summer suit for my thesis defense, and three new dresses over the past 2-3 weeks. I’m also in the middle of a white cotton regency gown to wear with the blue silk spencer.

Today, I present a project I made for a Historical Sew Monthly challenge back in the spring: War & Peace. I did get it done and posted to the fb challenge album in by the challenge deadline, but never got around to blogging it. In the interest of catching up, this is going to be short and sweet, but I hope will still be worth your taking a look.

I hummed and hawed about what to do for War & Peace for some time trying to figure out what to do. Then I remembered those smart military-inspired hats women wore during the Napoleonic wars – feminized versions of the Shako hat/cap:


However, I didn’t want to be so literal about it, and I also came across this image and totally fell in love with this hat, despite it being a modern costume piece:

HAT LOVE - Claire Skinner, Fanny Dashwood - Sense & Sensibility directed by John Alexander (TV Mini-Series, BBC, 2008) #janeausten

This is the character Fanny Dashwood from the 2008 BBC Sense & Sensibility. And it’s totally true what they say on Frock Flicks: the Austen mean girls get the best costumes! I mean, THAT HAT.

So I constructed a similar-looking form out of buckram and hat wire and started playing with some scraps of the olive-coloured fabrics left over from the Natural Form Tea gown (hooray for finding uses for scraps!). I draped a diagonally pleated cover for the crown, but before actually stitching it down did some digging for historical precedents to make sure I wasn’t going too far off the mark in terms of HA.

Low and behold, I found this plate on Pinterest, and it’s even green!

1812 M5053MA_214X02X00001_L_3 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

My version is sort of a mash-up of the S&S costume piece and the example in the fashion plate.

Although I didn’t manage a series of in-process photos I made sure to get one showing the cotton flannelette I used to cover the buckram frame (to pad it slightly). BANANA FLANNEL. Go on, say it out loud and see if you don’t end up with a smile on your face. I’ve had this fabric for FOREVER, as in, about 15 years. There was a set of pajama bottoms made of it at some point for someone, and I have enough for possibly another pair along with scraps of various sizes. Hooray for more scrap-usage!


And with no further preamble, here’s my finished Shako:


The main fabric is a cotton/silk blend sateen; the binding, cockade base and piping is pale celadon silk taffeta; the cockade inner is silk chiffon; the crown is lined with a scrap of white linen. The feather is ostrich, which I curled simply by wrapping it around a fat highlighter marker – I didn’t think it would work, it proved me wrong. So everything came from stash, mostly scraps, which makes me very happy. It’s entirely hand-sewn, which I find so much easier with millinery than trying to do any of it by machine.


Here it is with the blue silk spencer. I intend to wear them together, really liking the contrast between the olive and the pale blue. It actually looks better than this, the spencer is too highlighted in this photo.


So, because I’ve gone about this outfit kind of backwards I have no dress to wear these with just yet, it’s the white cotton gown that’s in-progress. Here’s hoping I can get it and a photoshoot of everything together before winter comes!