2016 Sewing Year In Review

Hello! Happy (Belated) New Year! I’m a little late to the 2016 review/ring in 2017 party but better late than never, right? I hope you all had a wonderful and as unstressful as possible holiday!

I’ve only done one sewing year in review before (for 2014) – I only started this blog in 2013. Last year I just could not get my act together for it, there was WAY too much going on – namely, frantically preparing to teach (for the very first time) 2 courses at a local university for which I’d been hired only just before the holidays. This year I’m teaching again, but it’s not quite so insane…..yet, lol. And man, has this been a bumper year for me in terms of sewing! It didn’t seem like so very much while I was in the middle of it all but looking back it’s surprising even to me how much I got done! Going through this list I’m counting 31 distinct projects – several of them made up of multiple garments. Holy Doodle! I guess this is what happens in a year when I’m engaged in neither all-consuming-research/thesis writing or working a normal-people-hours job! And somehow my fabric stash is only slightly smaller than it was this time last year………………………….oh well.

I’ve decided to break down this review into the three main categories of Historical, Non-Historical, Home Sewing with sub-categories of “blogged” and “not blogged.” I think I did manage to blog most things but there are a few that got missed so I’m using this post to play some catch-up – I hope you won’t mind!

I think 2016 was probably unprecedented for me in terms of the number of historical makes, never before have I had so many reasons/occasions/events to do historical sewing for. I’m getting totally spoiled here in DC and already don’t know what I’m going to do without this kind of vibrant historical dressing community when I go back to Canada in a little over a year and a half.

I did a little calculating and discovered that I sewed 101 metres (approx. 110 yds)) of fabric over 2016! Although my net reduction of the fabric stash was only 23m…….. Anyway, I’d like to say that this year’s goal is to beat that figure but I’m not sure if that will even be feasible, I guess we’ll see! Continue reading

Victorian Christmas Tea

This is the event for which I busted my butt making my recent Natural Form gown – a Victorian Christmas Tea I hosted at our historic Capitol Hill house (built in 1908).

As hostess I didn’t really have a chance to take photos, but a couple of my guests, Gloria of In the Long Run designs (all her photos have her watermark) and Maggie (sans watermark) appear to have well taken care of that for me!

The theme for attire was Victorian but open to any part of the period to make it as easy as possible for people in a heavily 18th century/Regency-oriented region to attend.

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Natural Form in Plum and Chartreuse

My latest – very frantic – make, is an 1876/77 Natural Form day or reception dress in striped silk taffeta and plum cotton sateen.

It was made to wear at a Victorian Christmas tea I hosted at our house last Saturday. A big part of the reason for the tea’s Victorian theme is that I’d started missing Victorian sewing over the past few months, nearly all the historical events and activities around here have been either 18th century or regency. I know, I know, life is so rough, huh? I swear I’m not complaining but I have wanted a little change of pace. I’m also still deeply into a Natural Form phase and had started planning out this dress at least two years ago so I was delighted to have a reason and opportunity to finally make it a reality!

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c.1780 Italian Gown – In Action – literally!

Now I can finally show you the whole look of my new 1780s ensemble all put together!

(In case you’re just tuning in and/or would like to revisit the construction posts I wrote about this here are links to the bodice, petticoat, and skirt + finishing)

(and I will still be doing a post about the sleeve cuffs, some of the underpinnings, and the wig, which I will link to here when it’s done and up)

Taylor (aka Dames a la Mode) graciously volunteered to do a photoshoot for me last Friday. The location is St James church + yard just up 8th street from my house here on Capitol Hill that’s done in an atmospheric faux-gothic-Jacobean mash-up style. I kinda love it!

And now on to the show!

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Italian Gown – The Gown Skirt & Putting it All Together!

A quick re-cap of the original dress/pattern in Patterns of Fashion and how I modified it:

the original dress has a box-pleated skirt but I wanted the tight, narrow knife pleats so common for this period.

(Also, here are links to my posts on making the bodice and petticoat)

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So I used the skirt pattern from another dress in Patterns of Fashion as a rough guide.

Although I still did things a little differently from either. I cut my skirt as two full-width panels of my fabric with a little bit of a train at the back but completely straight along the top. Instead of cutting the waist edge with a curve I just sewed it with one – you’ll see what I mean in a moment.

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c. 1780 Italian Gown – The Petticoat

The style of the petticoat is based off the original one that goes with my primary dress inspiration/pattern in Patterns of Fashion:

p59 JA 40. Petticoat - 4.5 widths. Flat pleated towards sides. Top edge bound linen tape, ties both sides. Deep self flounce all round hem:  petti-pattern

Although to make it I simply cut 2 panels of my fabric, with the back slightly longer than the front to help accommodate the false rump that’s going under there. I also pleated mine differently from the original since it appears to have been done according to an older style where the pleats all face towards the side/pocket openings – another clue that the ensemble *may* have been an earlier one altered in the late 1770s/early 1780s. During the later period petticoat pleats tend to all face towards the centre back similarly to dress skirts, although the pleats themselves tend to be larger than on dress skirts.

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Red + Aqua Spring/Autumn Dress

This dress post is even more belated than the summer ones from this year as I made it back in the spring. However, since I’ve also been wearing it over fall I thought I could get away with still posting about it.

It’s actually one of my overall favourite dresses right now because it’s both so pretty and super comfortable!

It’s made of lovely soft, swishy rayon challis in an aqua/pink/red print, with solid red rayon for the accenting bands.

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2016 Summer Frock Parade – Yes, there’s one more

This is the final summer dress I made this year. It’s also quite possibly the most comfortable, making me wish it had been the first. But at least it was done in time to help get me through the horrors of August heat/humidity. It was also a favourite during my recent trip to Italy in September.

It’s made using the same bodice pattern as the Flamingo dress, just altering it back to be sleeveless (as per one of the options with the original Burda WOF pattern). For reference, the pattern is number 112 from the November 2007 issue of the Burda magazine when it was still Burda World of Fashion, so unfortunately earlier than they started archiving them on the website.

Oh but look, I did just find an image of the line drawing from the Russian site on Pinterest:

#112 Burda 11/2007:

The skirt is just 3 panels of the 54-60″ wide fabric gathered/pleated up using the ruffler foot on my Singer Featherweight.

It’s made from a really lovely cotton voile I’d had in the stash for a few years. I love the swirly, impressionistic print of it and the combination of light and dark olive greens with hints of aqua/turquoise.

It also happens to be THE perfect fabric for DC summers – so lightweight and cool, and with just a hint of crispness to it that keeps the surface smooth and cool. I have some more of this fabric in an abstract watercolour-ish print in shades of mauve that I was hoping to make up this year, but it will now have to wait until next spring. Next summer it is quite possible that I will live entirely in these two dresses (unless I can get my hands on more cotton voile of this type).

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‘An Agreeable Tyrant’ and Me

**Warning: Long and image-heavy post ahead**

A new fashion exhibition has just opened up at the Daughters of the American Revolution museum here in DC, ‘An Agreeable Tyrant’: Fashion After the Revolution. It explores Americans’ various relationships with prevailing fashions during the early Federalist period of 1780s to 1820s. Over the past year I’d been assisting the curator, Alden O’Brien, with the exhibition. First, with some late-stage planning and design, then with drafting scaled down patterns of several of the garments going on display, a little bit of photography, and finally mounting the garments on their mannequins including making adjustments to the mannequins themselves and also making some of the underpinnings needed to properly display the garments. Most of this was on a volunteer basis but I also wrote one of the essays for the catalogue (on fashion and thrift) and that was on a professional level. It was very exciting for me because its the first time I get to see my name in print this way!

FYI: The exhibition runs until April 29, 2017 and the catalogue is available to purchase online here – and they do ship internationally.

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