Saturday, October 26, 2013

Bad, bad blogger...

I admit it freely- If I were an 18th century diarist I would be a historian's nightmare. Sporadic writings, long periods of nothing at all... this is how I blog, as well. I mean to be better about it, but then I'm not. I have come to accept that I will probably never be a blogger that updates on a consistent weekly (or even monthly basis) and that's ok!

This summer, I took on a new position in my professional career. I transitioned from being a high school English teacher to becoming my high school's librarian. This means a couple of things for me: No more grading essays until 3 a.m. (hooray!) and I will need to go back to school for some master's classes in Library Media Science (also kind of cool).

While this is rather a busy time for me, I have to say that I feel somewhat energized and motivated with the change, and it is bleeding over into other aspects of my life (like my historical sewing and research). Thus, I am hoping some of that motivation will carry into my blogging.

Time will tell, dearest reader, but I hope you'll hear more from me to come.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Un-idle Silence...

So I know I've gone silent for the last month-ish. It's not that I haven't been doing stuff- I have. It's just I have been doing so much stuff I haven't really had time for blogging. I teach high school English as my day job. At certain times of the year it tends to overtake my life; May happens to be one of those times.

Our district lets out the first week of June, so I have been busy grading final essays, assessments, prepping final exams, final reviews, verifying grades, dealing with those last minute panicky students and prom dress alterations... My life becomes pretty well consumed by my job. (For the record, I'm not complaining here. I absolutely love what I do. This is just an inherent part of my responsibilities that causes other things I enjoy to be put on the back burner.)

Anyhow, on the job front we are fast closing in on the end of the academic year (insert sigh of relief here- again...I love my job, but man- you ever feel you need a mental health day...week....okay, month?). On the living history front, we are also fast closing in on Days of Napoleon- EEK!

Not only am I attempting a modified tent framework (I'm modding the concepts we have currently to make it  a more girl set up friendly- 6 foot tall man I am not!) but I'm also attempting to create roughly four wardrobes for our group members to be outfitted for the appropriate time period for this event. Sometimes... I think I take on too much. But don't tell anyone else I said that. Seriously.

My HSF challenges have been somewhat put on hold until I get a handle on everything else, but no worries! I have been trying to remember to take pictures as I work on things so that I can post them later. On that note, here's a sneak peak at my latest DON piece:

Eyelets on my new 1812 corset. My all hand sewn original that you saw on
Maybelle has been gifted to my best friend Alix for Days of Napoleon. =)
And yea... that is some machine stitch you see. While my first 1812 corset was entirely hand stitched, I just do not have the time to replicate the process. I'm in survival mode as this point. I need to get everyone at least one set of wearable appropriate clothing. Then I can start supplementing/replacing/remaking everything by hand. This is a whole new era for us, so I'm building from the undergarments out. To compromise between necessity and my own personal standards, I'm not compromising on the construction (i.e.if using the machine means I would have to update the garment construction technique, then I will hand sew instead)  and I will only use the machine on seams that will not be seen by the public (so no hems, top stitching, etc.).

Would I love to have the time to be better than this? Yes. Am I going to stress out and pull all nighter sew-a-thons for the next two weeks? No. Ultimately, will I remake things the in best way I know? Yes. Do I care if some pretentious prig comments on the unseen machine stitching hidden in my petticoat side seam? No.

Okay, honestly will probably make me a little irate. But only because I think as a living history community we need to be better at supporting each other instead of cutting each other down. But that's a story for another day. We've a storm on the way and I have procrastinating grading essays long enough.

I just wanted you to know that I am alive and as verbose as ever. You know, for the four people that actually read this thing. =P

Right. Back to papers.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Random update on stays, shifts, etc.

I may have been neglecting blogging this last week, but I have not been neglecting sewing! I have all of this week off for spring break and I have big plans for myself.

Instead of posting a new post for each thing, I've just decided to update all in one fell swoop.

Cheater stays- almost to the finish line! It is somewhat tedious soaking, shaving, sanding, and shaping all of that oak splint to fit, but I'm about halfway there. Then I just have to cut the last few center and center back bones out of metal to give a little extra support, lop off the excess with a chisel, and let loose the binding/lining.

I'm also working on a couple of shifts for myself and a dear friend. I'll be making one for each of us suitable to the 1770's, then another one for myself to fit my 1812/Regency wear. She came down and visited Sunday so that we could make a muslin to test the fit of the neckline and check the cut of the shift (while a loose and not really tailored garment to begin with, I like to verify before cutting into linen- especially the neckline!)

We had a blast and got her shift pattern satisfactorily made up so that she can make more of them when the fancy strikes later.

I've used a combination of sources for the drafting of this shift. I've been heavily influenced by Sharon Burnston's article on shifts, but have also utilized Mara Riley's instructions. Now add in searching collections with shifts that I am able to view online (no museums nearby with suitable pieces for study and no time to attempt a quick trip!) and my own personal library of costume history literature.

Here's a glimpse of the patterning stage: (I usually just measure directly on the fabric, but wanted to have a paper pattern to make neckline alterations on so that I could send it home with my friend so she could use it for as many shifts as she wants!)

I'll have more details on construction method and choices (always seems to be some compromise when you're adapting modern materials to historical garments- particularly with shifts...) but for now.... back to shaving oak splint!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

HSF Challenge #7: Accessorize (or an 1812 workaday apron)

While dating to 1797 and a scene from
an opera,this style of apron is what I was
 hoping to imitate. See below.
What girl doesn't love accessories? I, personally, am a scarf girl in my 21st century life. I have scarves of all colors, shapes (sort of- only so many shapes out of which you can make a scarf!), and sizes. This does not translate into my historical selves, however. I am not a crazy neck handkerchief hoarder or anything like that.

I am, however, beginning a love affair with the apron (which, btw, is translating into my 21st century self... why did these things go to the wayside??).

For this challenge, I opted for an 1812 working apron. It's one of my items on my long list of to-do's for an event we're attending in June. While it is a working apron, not a "dressy won't get messy" apron, I think it still qualifies for the accessory category- so here it is:

The Challenge: #7-Accessories
This was more of
the style I was hoping for.
Fabric: 1.5 yd 60'' wide linen/cotton blend. Natural color with a small blue woven stripe. Picked this fabric up in a family owned Michigan fabric store for $10 yd.
Pattern: None. Draped to form based on contemporary examples in print and artifacts.
Year: 1812-ish
Notions: natural linen thread,  two wooden button molds
How historically accurate is it? Well, pretty accurate ( I think.) Basically, all hand sewn with historical techniques. Warning: Read on only if you really want to know the specifics! You may think I'm crazy- but I probably spent more time researching this piece as I did actually sewing it. I really wanted an apron with a bib, mainly because this is going to be for our cook and I wanted something to cover more of  her gown. I wasn't too keen on the idea of making a smock, though. It just wasn't as pretty.

So, to my historical textile books I went. I found an example of an apron in a print similar to what I was wanting on page 144 of Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion.  After turning up nothing else of note from my print sources, I then turned to any web sources that might be available.
This plate from the Missouri History Museum
shows more of the style of apron I was
going for- similar to the one in Empireof Fashion. 
This plate from the V&A shows stripe
similir to mine, so I feel good
about the fabric choice.

There were a number of other plates with your standard bib-less aprons (one even sporting an awesome cross barred design) in a variety of colors. Buttoning seems to be a pretty common closure for this period in aprons. Now, note on this- I haven't seen any early 19th century aprons in person. I did browse online collections and found a few that look consistent with the period's silhouette and they have a variety of closures on the back. There is this painting which also shows what appears to be a non tie closure on the back of a dark (and looks bibbed) apron. (Although, it appears there are possibly two versions of this? Hmmm...)

Anyhow, my finished version looks something like this:
Front                                  Side

Hours to complete: Not counting research, maybe eight or ten hours? I basically spent two hours or so fiddling with it on Maybelle to get it how I wanted it, then maybe another six or so actually sewing it together.

For future reference,  I have decided to download an app so that I can track my hours on various projects more accurately. Especially as I'm going to be doing more of these challenges! 
First worn: Will be worn in June at Days of Napoleon in Belvidere.
Total cost: $18

And.... here are a few more pictures of construction, etc. for your viewing pleasure!

I started with a rectangle of fabric for the bib, then moved to the band. You can see
where I ended up piecing the band in places as I wanted to conserve fabric.

I then attached the skirt of the apron, trying a couple of different pleat placements until I was happy. Next, I attached the over the should strap and adjusted placement of this strap in conjunction with the bib for a look I liked. 

Once I was done fiddling with everything, I took it all apart and started to sew the pieces together.  I used a backstitch to sewing the skirt to the band to make sure everything stays securely in place.

Finished view of the side and back. I have not put the buttons/buttonholes on yet as I have not put this on our cook.
She is very close to the same size as I am, but I'd like to put the finishing touches on when we put it on her so it
will be a more precise fit. 

Close up of the top stitching on the band (spaced back stitch) and the hem. 

Overall, I'm happy with the final product. I might try to do more of a smock style for one of our members who portrays a kitchen maid, but we'll see what I find as I turn up more research.

Now, to prepare for challenges #9, 10, 11, and 13! (I'm skipping #8. #12 is pending further review of my time commitments for the other four...)

I have big plans a brewing, so I guess I'd better get to sewing.

Happy sewing and happy Sunday!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Little Bit of Twain and Turn of the Century

Saturday evening a few of us drove out to Bella's Food and Spirits to spend an evening with Mr. Twain (who was tending bar) for a fundraiser for veterans. We enjoyed a lovely dinner, and the best part was that we got to get out our much less frequently visited late-Victorian wardrobes for the night. I dressed up the "White Period Dress" with a lovely red velvet belt with a pearl accent (I saw this in a photograph from the period... I'll post an update when I find the original!); Alix wore the blue wool with a new ribbon around the waist to gussy it up a bit.

It was a lovely evening, and even though we didn't get home until the wee morning hours, it was totally worth the drive.
Myself, Mr. Twain, and Alix getting some fresh air on the
back patio.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter on the Range

Happy Easter, dearest reader, and hopefully you are able to enjoy the company of beloved family and friends.

This morning, my husband treated us to some lovely time at the range. A few months ago, he gifted me with my first single action pistol: an 1858 Remington New Model Army. I have been checking out SASS for a little while now. Honestly, my interest in SASS started due to two things: My desire for some late Victorian (specifically bustle/grand bustle period) clothes and the lack of places to wear them. It's not that I don't enjoy shooting, because I actually do. But my obsession love of historical fashions has me lusting after hoping to round out my historical closet with something from this awesomely sexy femininely flattering time period.

I got to fire my revolver for the first time today, and I must say it was quite fun. My favorite target was a steel plate bunny. (It didn't hit me that this was sort of humorous in a mildly dark kind of way...)  I made him spin once or twice and rocked him back and forth a number of times. Overall, a successful day on the range. (Of course, the rest of the day we spent time with both of our families for two wonderfully filling and delicious suppers!) Here are a couple of pictures of our morning:

Firing my new revolver. It's a bit mushy out with the thaw
happening, so I wore my new rainboots, too! I like to think
that between my boots and my vest I was not only
putting fashion first, but SAFETY!

The hubby firing his new brown bess. She's pretty =)

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dress Form (1812 Style)- Part 3: The End... sort of

A little while ago I started the process to create my very own custom made plaster cast dress form.... in my 1812 undergarments.

Let me say... it has been a journey!
Left: sealed mold on old dress form. Right: form upside
down, supported by paint cans and ready to fill.

Last week, I prepped my mold by coating it in Johnson's Paste Wax and a mold release agent. I was using an old display mannequin to mount my new form on on, so I put my plaster mold onto the old form and sealed the sides with plaster strips. I also sealed the neck..

After 30-45 minutes, I tipped everything upside down (supported it by three paint cans) and got ready to pour. 

Whoops! I ran out of foam!
Lo and behold... I got to the end of my foam before I got the bottom of my form. Uhg!  I would have to order more foam. It was a Friday night, of course, so I wouldn't be able to get the foam asap, but I hopped online to the Brick in the Yard store to order some more--in bulk this time. (It got here Wednesday, BTW.) While I was there I picked up some more plaster bandages for my next venture. I was worried that this might make it more difficult to get my form out of the mold later, but c'est la vie!

The shoulder where I started
pulling off plaster bits until
my fingers were sore! 
I got to work last night to finish up. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought... The only really bad part was I think I overdid the plaster bandages on the sides of the cast, because WOW! I could not get those suckers to peel off as nicely as they should have. No worries, though. I just chipped off pieces of the cast as I could. It wasn't stuck to the mold, but that plaster sure was strong!

Foam form- post plaster
 Once all of the plaster came off (and I had a mess of plaster pieces on my floor) I was left with the semi-finished form. I would need to shave off a little bit of the foam to be able to put my undergarments on underneath gowns I am draping (since I was wearing the undergarments for shape when I cast the mold.) I just needed to figure out how much.

I grabbed my regency corset and a knife and went to work slicing away unnecessary bits of foam. At about midnight, I was sore, tired, and beginning to loose hope that I would be able to make this work. Boobs were still too stiff (even with the soft foam) and I couldn't get the gap in the back down to the 2 inches or so I have when I lace...

Please tell me this was not for nothing!!!

At this point, I decided what I needed was some rest and recuperation. I went to bed. I awoke this morning still fretting over what to do with Maybelle (it's official...she has been named...).

I tossed and turned, trying to sleep some more but also thinking about the fate of this form. I finally decided to just get up, go downstairs, and attack her with new vigor.

I came downstairs; I hacked at her rib cage a bit more (the one place that she still was not quite the right size) and fretted over the shape of her bubbies (which still wasn't quite the right shape). Then, I vaguely recalled reading a post about using some sort of bean and pantyhose to make a fake breast for your dress form. Save me bean boobies!!

My lentil filled knee high. AKA Maybelle's new boobies!

I found the original post by American Duchess and off to the grocery store I went. I returned with a ten pack of knee highs, four  bags of lentils, deodorant, extra sharp cheddar cheese, and milk. Don't judge.

When I got home, I put the cheese and milk in the fridge and put some lentils in my knee highs. ( I left the deodorant in the bag, in case you are wondering... I'm going to use that later...)

I hacked off Maybelle's foam assests and gave her new (and natural) replacements! And voila... It worked!

Left: Maybelle   Right: Me.
These bean boobs are pretty cool. You can mush them around in the cup to pad it out like your own do. I did have to play around with how much to fill the knee high but with minimal fuss Maybelle had pretty close replicas of my own endowments.

Left: Maybelle   Right: Me
 This also helped to fix my problem with the back gap not closing enough.

Right now, Maybelle is not very pretty. She has at least two different colors of foam and no cover. I do plan on shaving her down a bit more so that I can apply some batting and a classy cover. I think I am going to leave her beanie boobies free floating rather than integrating them into the form, though - less work that way.

However, while she may not be her prettiest at the moment, she is certainly pretty close to functional. Which means once I check her measurements to mine one last time I can finally start that Regency wardrobe I need so badly for June! Eek!

Cheater Stays- Progress!

My tools laid out and ready to rumble!
Well, while I was working on Maybelle Thursday night, I had some down time while I was waiting for the foam to cure. So, what better to do than work on my 18th century (cheater) stays! My oak splint arrived awhile ago, and it's just been sitting there in the box patiently waiting its turn. I finished hand sewing my stay panels together Wednesday night and was feeling up to the challenge of tackling the oak splint.

I got my bucket of hot water to soak the oak (about 10 minutes according to the directions) and then gathered everything else I might need. Then I turned on my DVR and got to work.

Scraping the oak wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. My hubby sharpened my knives for me so that they had a good edge which made the work a lot easier. I did a few test strips and kind of got the hang of it.
Cutting the damp oak to width.

I even attempted a few shaped channels where I cut the oak to fit a point and curve so that it filled the channel entirely. It was actually sort of relaxing in a strange way. Of course, at this point I was in the middle of the Maybelle fiasco, so maybe that's why it seemed so methodically calming!

So far so good. Once I finish inserting the oak I can bind the stays and attempt a 1760's dress form... yay...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Historical Sew Fortnightly- Challenge #6: Stripes (or an 18th century striped petticoat)

Not the best photo of me, but you can see my
striped petticoat peeking out from (you guessed
it!) my semi-sheer striped cotton apron.

Well, this was my first challenge that I've done from the Historical Sew Fortnightly hosted by the Dreamstress on her blog. I was a little nervous (as I'm terrible with deadlines not associated with work!) but I thought I would pick a few challenges to try to keep me on track while working on my historical wardrobe this year. To the detriment of my non-stripe-loving-husband, I knew that this challenge was for me! 
This was my first all hand sewn (not just hand finished) petticoat. I am pleased with the results, and will only get better with time!

So, here she is... my sturdy, but lovely, new striped petticoat. All by hand-I'm slowly replacing everything I have made over the years with hand sewn period methods. 

 The Challenge: Stripes (read the original challenge here!)
Fabric: 2.5 yds lavender/white striped linen (maybe linen/cotton blend- I can't rightly remember, but certainly one of the two.)
Pattern: no pattern, per say. Made the way I make all of my 18th c. petticoats: Sew the panels together, cut pocket slits, hem, and then pleat to tape/waistband. Tadaa!
Year: 1768(ish) but can be worn for most of the 18th c.
Notions: 3yds or so of tape for waistband.
How historically accurate is it? As accurate as I know how to make it... It's entirely hand sewn, with a small hem and pleated to waist tapes. My pleats ended up a little smaller than I had planned, but it was so much easier to pleat using the stripes I couldn't help myself.
Top Left: Right side view of the hem. Top Left: underside of the hem.
Bottom: petticoat pleated to waistband tapes. 
Hours to complete: Hmmm.... 4 or so? I kind of spaced it out here or there. (I take a project bag with me everywhere so when I have down time I stitch a bit. But that sounds about right.
First worn: Timeline Trading Day at Midway Village in January (not all the way completed! eek!) First worn finished at Military History Fest in February. (It was my first challenge and I wanted to make sure I would be able to get it done in time!! March is the end of the quarter at the high school where I teach, so I wanted to be extra safe on the deadline. lol)
Total cost: Around $30. (I made one the first time out of only two yards and it ended up being too short after washing... so I gave it to my BFF. I got some more of the fabric for a second, longer version at $12 or thereabouts.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Something finished, something new (to do)...

....Or projects that will shortly be completed so that I can start even more projects in the future!

Shot of some of us at Kalamazoo. Thanks to Spring Valley
for the photo! 
My "compromise" stays are almost to the point where I can shave my oak splint down to size and fill the channels. (This will lead to another plaster casting of myself in my 18th c. stays...)

My 1812 dress form is in the final stages of prep work before I can pour foam and finish up. (I just finished smoothing out the inside layer of plaster and can apply paste wax soon!)

Meanwhile, at Kalamazoo I picked up some lovely fabrics from Regency Revisited for some more 1812 gowns. We also stopped in at Field's Fabrics and found some more lovely finds for the regency fabric stash! This makes it even more important for me to finish my dress form so that I can start draping shapes for a regency wardrobe. My fabric stash is ever growing, so now I need to start turning fabric into garments!

Besides, June is coming quickly and I've got to have something appropriate to wear at our first Napoleonic event!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The 1812 Plaster Cast Dress Form Take Two...

Materials prepped and ready for plastering. I used medical
grade plaster for the first two layers, but regular hobby store
for the last. In the future, I would go with medical grade
for the whole thing. (Ran out and needed some quick!)
After letting my last cast dry out (read about that one here), a terrible thing happened; It spread ever so slightly as it dried and my cut edges did not line up completly (some areas as had as much as 3/4" discrepancy between the edges! eek!) so when I tried to put the two pieces back together they did not make the complete mold I had envisioned for myself.

I should have followed the advice of those who came before and tied my two casts together while still somewhat damp to allow for a matching seam. Oh well... back to step one.

In some ways, I was glad that my first form didn't quite turn out as this allowed me to do a couple of things differently on the second go. First, I was able to wear a shift instead of the tank top that was on hand during my first form. Secondly, I used cling wrap instead of a garment bag.

The cling wrap definitely helped reduce bulk between myself and the plaster while still protecting my clothing. Note to self, not a bad idea to use masking/painter's tape to hold down hard to wrap areas like arms/armpits/neck. No big deal, but would probably help keep everything protected. This took much longer to prep than when we used the bag, but overall I think we achieved a better result. I'd say it was about 30 minutes extra but much less puffage than the garment bag.

Cling wrapping over my shift and
1812 stays. (I made these at a
B&T workshop in 2012.)

It's worth the time and effort to cut the cling wrap in half (the long way down the roll) to do things like the waist and bosom. It's also important to note that while you want the cling wrap to stick to itself and be snug to the body, you want to also be careful not to pull it too tightly or it will squish your squishy bits in a different way than they may normally squish. It should lay nicely close to the body, but not necessarily cling to the body.

Once I was all cling wrapped up, my loving husband and my best friend in the whole world helped to plaster me up. They did quite a fabulous job. We didn't take pictures of the plastering me up this time, as it was just the three of us and once everyone's hands got all messy we left the camera alone!

Once the plaster had dried enough to hold it's shape, but still allow some flex for me to get out, we cut me out... with a dremel. (Check out this post for more info on making your own form. I borrowed a lot of ideas from him!) The first time we used bandage scissors. They worked. But the dremel was oh so better (if a bit nerve wracking, at first.) We got a nice clean cut. The only difficult area was the armpit. We managed to cut enough of one that we finished the cut with scissors and then I slid my arm out of the other "sleeve". We will cut that part off of the body for ease.

I've put some pictures of me in my stays as compared to the outer shell of the mold (remember, the foam will fill the inside of the mold so should end up much closer to my actual shape/size). I think they look pretty close so far, so I'm excited to smooth out the inside, wax it up, and pour foam!

Front view. You can see the mold picked up pretty well on my raised left hip
(right in picture).

I'm fairly pleased with the collarbone detail and ability to see the stay line
along the bust. (Part of that shelf look for which the regency is known.)

Back view. Nothing to compare to here
as I forgot to take a sideways back picture.
But it does look pretty close compared to my
actual body.

All things considered.... I definitely will do this again for 1760's, maybe even for a modern dress form. Worth the time and effort, and I can't wait to start draping on the finished form. I don't think I will make my end of February deadline (as I had to recast the form), but I think I can certainly finish her by the first week of March. =)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

And now for something completely different... sort of...

Don't worry- I'm in media res with work on my 1812 dress form. (More to come on that later, I promise!) The problem is, I keep thinking that I need to be working on my stays for 1768. Like, problem as in I was awake in bed last night thinking to myself, " You need to work on your stays, too. You can't just stop making clothes for the 1760's because you've decided you need to go to Waterloo... you can't just abandon your first time period like that..."

So, to keep me on target to finish my dress form by the end of February while still working on items for my other period, I decided to compromise. I will make a second pair of 18th century stays using my pattern from my Burnley and Trowbridge workshop in November, but I'll machine stitch the channels and (since I won't be able to acquire and work on the baleen for my delicious teal stays) I'll use riven oak splits for this  pair.

My stay pieces cut and ready for basting. My handy dandy
Burnley and Trowbridge workshop folder in the background.
Those folders are magic! =P
So, to construct this second pair, I decided to use materials on hand (minus the oak splits, which I just ordered today.) I used some leftover linen from my B&T workshop, another piece of natural colored linen I had around the workroom, and I'll probably use the leather I bought for my teal pair to bind them. (I can pick up some more when I go to the breeches workshop next weekend...)

I've got my pieces cut and chalked (see photo). Two panels are prepped and ready for channels, so only eight more to go! I'm really hoping by making this pair first I can make most of my screw ups with binding, etc. on this pair before I go all out with my teal stays--plus these will go together faster as I'm using the machine for channels (the rest will have to be done by hand) and using the oak gives me time to arrange for obtaining the baleen and the tools needed to work it into stays. Plus, theoretically, using the same pattern should allow me to then make a plaster mold for my 1760s dress form while wearing this pair, allowing me to drape another gown or two that will fit over my teal pair of stays once they are finished.

I so dig it!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Custom Made Plaster Cast Dress Form (1812 style)... Part 1

It all started with my very first workshop about a year and a half ago: my 1770's gown ( made at a Burnley and Trowbridge summer workshop in Aug 2011). It was so awesome. I went with a friend so we paired up as draping partners and were able to drape to our forms as an 18th century mantua maker would have done.  The gown so well fitted and I love the way I feel when I wear it. This started an addiction...

I next attended a workshop on devilish details, an 1812 corset workshop, an 18th century stays workshop, and coming up soon- an 18th century breeches workshop. (Not to mention the number of workshops I plan to take in the future!)

The more I decide I want to do things in as much of the period manner as possible, the more I am enjoying what I make and the more I want to make more! This venture often leads me down some pretty interesting paths to achieve my desires. ... read on for the first really crazy (or cool, if you're me) thing I've done this year for the sake of authenticity.

The Inspiration:
Waterloo 2015 is coming and I've nothing to put over that 1812 corset! I need to make some regency wear, and I'd like to make a change or two of clothes for my 18th century persona, also. Alas, I have no draping partner here, nor a workshop to attend to obtain one. Enter a little bit of ingenuity and a whole lot of here's hoping this works!

Me in a JC Penny bag over my 1812 corset
and covered in plaster bandages! (I cut
out my face because this was my "put the
camera away and cut me out or die" face...)
More pics to come...
The Crazy (Cool):
I decided to make a plaster cast of myself in my 1812 undies. That's right. I'd read quite a few tutorials online for DIY dress forms using this method and having better results than the duct tape or packing tape form, so I figured- Why not? My other option was to find some way to build a full size replica of myself that would act like skin and bone so that I could put my period undergarments on the form and it would squish into them just like me, or of getting my body scanned in a 3-D scanner wearing the undergarments for each of the time periods I portray.. After a lot of research (ballistics gel, skeletal structures, facilities with 3-D scanning capabilities, etc.) I figured that sounded like waaaay to much time/work/money.

I needed a better solution. Quick.

So I got plastered. Literally.

It really didn't take as long as I thought it would. The whole process start to finish was maybe 3 hours. It was relatively painless and I think my helpers actually had fun. (Special thank you to my husband and mother-in-law for their helping hands.)

My form has been curing for seven days now and I am ready to smooth out the inside with some plaster of Paris. This way when I fill with foam it will have a smoother finish (less sanding later on?). I'm going to work on creating a stand for it this week, so that I can cast the foam mold this weekend.

Once the foam cures around the stand I can take off the mold and VOILA! I'll sand her smooth and create a classy looking cover--maybe top her off with some neck and shoulder caps.

And then the fun part begins as I start draping my Regency wardrobe on a replica of myself.

Here's hoping this works!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Greeting the New Year

With the new year under way, I am assembling the list of things I should like to get completed for my "historical selves" as much as for my contemporary self.

After having decided that we would like to attend Waterloo 2015, I realized that I am going to have to really get started on that regency wardrobe I've been hedging about for the last few years. I started my 1812 corset in February of 2012 (via a phenomenal Burnley and Trowbridge workshop in Nashville, TN) and have been cording away on it since. Technically, it is wearable... I just want to cord the heck out of it to make it sturdy and pretty.

I've also been collecting (not hoarding as some might think) fabric for some lovely regency gowns. I'll need to make a few petticoats for this period and a few shifts, also. I'll be doing all of this by hand with period techniques.

The problems posed: I can't easily drape to form on myself, neither do I have someone able to drape on me who can keep the same hectic schedule I do and is available whenever I have the odd hour or so to work on a project. Thus, in order to facilitate the large quantity of items desired in the most expedient of fashions, I believe I'm going to have to create a body double.

I've been contemplating this for quite some time now, as it is, but have simply been procrastinating. I've seen quite a number of women who have made a variety of doubles for themselves out of all manner of materials. As my husband says, I am not a woman of half measures. I have decided on plaster casting myself to create a mold and then filling said mold with a polyurethane foam. The resulting form will be finished with a cover and voila. I have read many successful attempts at this from women who sew their 21st century clothing. It is my hope that it will lend itself well to the art of mantua-making.

Ideally, while I will attempt this first with my 1812 shape, I would like to create a form of myself for each time period I portray (1760-75, 1780-90, 1800-20, 1870-80's, etc.) Why the number of different forms, you ask? Why not simply make one and then just put on the variety of different undergarments? Well, if you look at the bust shape of 1765 vs 1812 you'll see there is quite a bit of difference. With a hard form that does not mold like flesh does, it would be almost impossible to take my natural body shape, cast it in hard foam, and then reshape it with the undergarments of the period. So, instead, I will cast each mold in the appropriate set of undergarments (namely the appropriate stays/corset- panniers, crinolines, bustles, etc. can all be added to the form post casting) and be able to drape my gowns to their appropriate period's form. It may sound like a lot of work (and it will be) but I firmly believe the benefits of being able to drape on "myself" will far outweigh the initial amount of work required. It will save me time in the long run and allow me to make better use of the time I have to sew.
18th c. Stays in Progress from B&T Workshop

Probably a form for my husband should be in the works, as well. He is lucky in that we will just need one form for him, but we'll need legs on his!

So the form is my big goal to have done by Feb. I'd like to start draping an 1812/14 gown to have done by June.

At another B&T workshop I attended this last November, I drafted and fit a pair of 1760's stays. I am in love with them! I cannot wait to get them all finished (they are my guilty pleasure stays- that teal! Delicious!). I've got to start channeling them soon and then need to order the baleen to fill them with.

While I am still in the process of making my specific garment list, the 1812 body form will be the first order of business. I'll sort the rest out from there!

Stay tuned for what 2013 has in store!