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Thursday, 8 June 2017

Adventure Awaits!

I've been a tad absent since the start of the year.  I just started my Master's degree in January, which was, well... I survived.  I'll just leave it at that.

As part of my degree I can take an internship (and get credit). When an opportunity popped up, on Facebook of all places, for an internship at Colonial Williamsburg I knew I had to apply. I think it's fairly competitive, and wasn't expecting to be accepted. The fact that I got an interview made me really proud of myself! But, I did get it.  I GOT IT!

Oh man, that was the easy part. Between figuring out how things would go through school and work, figuring out finances, not receiving any travel grants I applied for, and trying to figure out if a visa was needed... it's been quite the journey to get here. I was fairly convinced it wasn't going to happen. But here we are, a few days before I leave, and I've finally realized that I'm going to Virginia.  Like, on Monday...

Super excited to learn from the Journeywomen at Colonial Williamsburg, but I'm also delighted to spend the summer in Virginia. It holds a special place in my family history. When my Great Grandfather (John Smith, no joke!) first landed in North America he came to Virginia. He thought it was the most beautiful place he'd ever seen. When he returned to Wales and my Grandmother was born a few years later she was given the middle name Virginia. And I was named after her.  I've driven through the state before, but as a small child. Now I get to go and see what my Great Grandfather saw in this place. I get to live in the place that holds such a key piece to my family's history.  I'm delighted!

Even better is that I get to spend 8 weeks in the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop. There's so many things I want to learn! I was to learn whipped gathers and how to make a giant floofy cap. I desperately need to understand how eighteenth century sleeves are set in because I cannot for the life of me figure that out! And I want to know how to bind stays in leather, how to make trims, etc. I'll totally be in knowledge sponge mode!

Watch this space for regular updates. I'll be blogging more frequently, but differently than before. It will be more about the adventure of it all rather than strictly documenting sewing projects like usual.

I'm still attending Costume College at the end of July. I was hoping to have everything done by the time I leave, but alas. I'm fairly certain my Gala gown will be entirely hand sewn as I just need to get other projects done before I go.  As long as I can conquer that blasted corded petticoat, I'm fine.  It'll be fine.

I have three more days of work, one day off to pack, and then I leave Monday!  Please take this time to sacrifice a chicken (or tofu, whatevs) in my honour to the travel gods.

If you're on Instagram, watch the hashtag #yegsewistdoesCW for hilarious and awkward travel photos. Silly faces abound.

See you in Virginia!

Friday, 16 December 2016

Vintage Capsule Wardrobe Update - Simplicity 1590 Blouse

I've been working my way towards a capsule wardrobe for some time.  A capsule wardrobe (at least my interpretation) is one where you own less items of clothing, but they all coordinate.  It avoids the daily 'what should I wear?'  or 'where's the matching blouse?'.  And since I'm truly lazy about mornings (seriously, just bring me tea and back away!), it helps that I can just grab whatever is clean and looked put together.

For my capsule, I've selected purple, blue/navy, turquoise, and green, with the occasional hint of yellow accessories.  Black and white are acceptable as long as they match at least three outfits.  I tend towards more vintage styles anyway so it just made sense to focus on using more vintage patterns for the items I make.

Enter the Vintage Capsule Wardrobe Sewing group!  First, so lovely!  We may not be interested in the same era or colour-scheme, but it's wonderful to have a like-minded group for encouragement.  For December they've created a blouse sew-along.  I struggle with blouses!  It's so much more fun to make a fancy frock or skirt so that's where I focus my energy, but with my job now being in a costume shop trousers and a top are much easier!


I picked out several items to sew for December.  Ideally, I'd like to get three finished before I start school in January as who knows what my time will be like!


I started with one that's been in the UFO (unfinished object) pile for longer than I'm willing to admit.  I found some lovely green rayon with navy dots awhile back and decided it would be great for Simplicity 1590.  So cute, right?


I couldn't remember how far I'd gotten, but I just had to finish it first.  And I did!  I basically had to finish the front edges of the peplum and buttons and buttonholes.  No idea why I left it when it was so close to being done! 


The pattern instructions were a bit interesting.  As always, I wrinkled my nose and made up my own. 

One new blouse in the closet!  Huzzah!

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

1805 Summer Bonnet

Oh my heavens!  I completely forgot to tell you all about my summer bonnet.  Let me do so now.

After last summer's Promenade I wanted a light, airy bonnet for the inconsistent summer here in Alberta.  June could snow, rain, or scorch us, or quite possibly all three!  July is usually quite warm.  August could be the same as June, though typically in the reverse order.  (I promise I don't jest!  It snowed the day after our end of August wedding)

I discovered this lovely bonnet by FestiveAttyre:


The unlined straw is exactly what I'd been looking for!  While in LA I discovered California Millinery, which has an entire section of straw braids of every shape and colour.  I came home with three different kinds, one being a navy blue that would suit my outfit nicely.

Festive Attyre's blog was the only useful source I could find regarding where to start.  I tried a few Facebook groups, but they all suggested a buckram base, which I was hoping to avoid.  As usual, I just decided to give it a go and hope for the best.

I made my frame out of bristol board, did a quick check for fit and shape, and then started pinning my straw.  As I only had a short length I decided to start with the brim and work backwards.  I was hoping for a longer bonnet, but buying materials in a foreign place with a long line behind you makes it nearly impossible to think straight.

I quickly spritzed my straw with water before starting to pin it to the base.  It did nothing to help and I was so frustrated I nearly gave up on the whole thing.  I remembered reading something somewhere about soaking straw to get it to behave, but only for a short time.  I soaked my straw for 25 seconds in tepid water until the dye started to leak out and I panicked and pulled it out.  I let it sit in a strainer for a few minutes before starting.

You'll notice I wrapped my base in plastic wrap so it didn't get too wet.

From there I just started pinning.  And pinning.  And pinning.

The dye didn't fade at all to the naked eye, but my hands were purple-ish blue for a week!

I decided to pin the entire thing before sewing as I thought for sure I'd make a mess of it.  By the time I finished pinning the crown the brim was dry enough to start sewing.  I used a sturdy thread and just started stitching, removing the pins and I went.


I wanted the brim flipped under at the back so I basically just made a bucket hat.  It was a rather boring shape until I flipped the back, close pinned it in place, and let it dry again before stitching it down.

While waiting for it to dry we went to Chintz and Co.  It's one of our favourite stores, though we mostly spend time at the back in the fabric section.  It's the only place in Edmonton you can get really nice quality silks and velvets.  They are mostly a home decor store and so have excellent quality petersham and faux flowers.  I was able to grab a few items to match my bonnet, and then finish that same evening.

Ta da!

My very, very late HSM entry:
What the item is: Regency Summer Bonnet
The Challenge: #6 Travel
Fabric/Materials: Straw braid, faux flowers, feathers, 
Pattern: My own
Year: 1805
Notions: thread, ribbon
How historically accurate is it? Very.  Based on a fashion plate from 1805 and entirely hand-made
Hours to complete: Oi.  About 16-20
First worn: August 21st, 2016
Total cost: $40 CAD

A bonnet fit for a good frolic!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Pride and Prejudice Ball 2016

O.  M.  G.

I've scarcely had time to sleep let alone to write!  What an adventure the past few months have been.  After the May Regency Costume Fair I met so many lovely new clients!  Gowns and tailcoats were ordered.  Fabric purchased.  Mock ups were made and fitted.

And then at the second Costume Fair in September I had more inquiries about custom gowns!  With the ball fast approaching I hunkered down and put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.  I don't think I've ever sewn so fast in my life!  I made 35 custom pieces, all due and worn in one weekend.  That doesn't include in the various reticules and cravats I made, or any fans or feathers.

I'm pleasantly overwhelmed by the abundance!  It was a joy to meet with so many lovely people just as crazy as I am who want to join our Regency events.  How lovely it is to grow our community in such an immense way, and in such a short time no less!

We managed take group shots both evenings, which I'll post at a later date once they are available.

For now I'll leave you with this gem.  (Do please see Nanc Price's beautiful photos here: Saturday Photos .  I'm so pleased to have her as the photographer for this event!)

Do check out the hashtag #AustenYEG for more lovely photos!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

1920s Zig-zag Dress

In my other, other life, I do a few events around Edmonton, and sometimes they are even themed.  Hello?  Right up my alley!

Behold my new 1920s gown:

The outer fabric is a sheer black with flocked zig-zags.  How fun!  I got it at the FIDM scholarship store for a steal of a deal.  The best part?  I cut out the whole dress while matching patterns, which takes so much fabric, and I still have a ton left over.  Huzzah for 60" wide!

The green silk charmeuse is part of the great silk heist of 2015 from my lovely friends at Fashion Under Siege.  And I have enough *I think* to make a blouse, too.

It fits perfectly in the Pattern challenge as well, even if a bit late.  It's my second entry so I think it'll pass. 

Challenge #8: Pattern

What the item is: Evening Dress & Blouse
Fabric/Materials: Silk charmeuse, flocked sheer fabric
Pattern: Decades of Style Tier-rific Ensemble
Year: 1924-ish
Notions: Bias, thread
How historically accurate is it? Maybe 75%-ish?  
Hours to complete: About 8
First worn: Sept 8th, 2016
Total cost: Maybe $15

I'm also quite impressed with myself for doing finger waves in my hair.  I set the front myself and then had the hair and make up peeps finish the back.  Fab, right?  And check out my new Besame lipstick!  I truly hate lipstick, but I actually like wearing this one.  It's not drying and stays put!

I'm going to call this a win!

Sunday, 28 August 2016

1817 Velvet Ballgown

With another Regency Ball looming I started considering my wardrobe for appropriate attire.  I have multiple gowns, true, but with the completion of my 1806 Hortense gown I feel the need to further my skills and create another gown.  I've settled on this portrait:

1817, by Antoine-Jean Gros

I love everything about this!  The colour, the floof, and the jewels!  In trying to dissect the gown, particularly the white trim piece, I reached out to several costuming groups online for insight into how to start my reproduction.  I did a little more digging on the Duchess, and noticed her predilection for a particular gown style.  





Favourite style much?  It certainly makes it easy for me to recreate the bodice with all the different views and angles.  The gown is fairly straightforward (famous last words!).  The sleeves will require a bit of testing, and beading, but they are a repeating design so I think doable.

The trouble is the hem.  Because it's not shown I have quite a bit of artistic license.  Based on the way that the trim hangs away from the body at the shoulders it's likely a separate train worn over the gown, like 1816 portrait above.  


The plan as it is today is to make a velvet gown with the floofy, pearled sleeves and lacy hems.  Including of course the gathered satin across the bust line.  I can't wait to add crystals to the waistband!  Pearls!  Crystals!  Floof!  YASSSS!


Thursday, 4 August 2016

1770s Robe a la Francaise

I'm just back from Costume College so I hardly know what to write!  I'll write a post about that soon.  You know, once my luggage arrives home...

My 1770s gown started as it so often does; it all started with a gorgeous striped silk I picked up for $11!  I've had it in my stash for over a year knowing it would become a Francaise one day.

I already had the stays so I just had to make panniers.  I followed The Dreamstress' pannier along tutorial.  I highly recommend it!  The only adjustment I made was that I decided not to put a bottom in my panniers.  Stupid, stupid idea.  Ignore me and follow the directions!

It started as a 1760s gown with this delightful number from the MET as inspiration:

MET, 1750-1775 European gown, silk
I used Katherine Caron-Greig's tutorial on making a Francaise gown.  I found it quite easy to follow.  Check out the nine part series here: http://koshka-the-cat.blogspot.ca/2011/03/draping-sort-of-sacque-part-one.html

I started with the back in order to make sure I had enough fabric.  Matching the stripes was the only tricky part.  

Once I had the pleats in I could add the side panels and start pleating in the skirts.  Once I knew how much fabric I needed for the back I could cut the petticoat.  Then, came the trim...

This was quite the trial and error! I did my best to replicate the trim in my inspiration photo, but honestly I was just winging it!  I cheated and machine sewed the trim on the petticoat.  Not ideal, but I was running short on time.  The straight line was a little finicky, but doable.  The wavy part was completely crazy!  I made a guide and just started pinning.

But it worked:

Knowing the amount of trim I had to do on the gown I was feeling a little apprehensive.  With a little advice from various sources I just dove right in the to the rest.  I finished the rest of the gown.  I'm especially proud of the back robings :)

Now, this is where things got tricky.  I found a delightful little ship for my hair.  A SHIP.  FOR MY HAIR!  I wasn't willing to sacrifice the ship so I had to adjust the gown.  Ships in hair were worn specifically to celebrate a naval battle fought and won against the British by the French in 1778.  I had planned to create a stomacher for my gown, but that was WAY too early and wouldn't hit that middle ground I was aiming for.  Then I came across a compere front gown.  

It's a perfect blend of styles.  It's a sewn in stomacher with functioning buttons.  How clever!  It also makes it easier to get in and out of.

I draped it like a normal stomacher and then just marked the centre, added my seam allowance, and away I go!  

After sewing on MILES and MILES (I just got back from the US!) of trim, here's the final dress:

I'm so proud of it!  

The Challenge: #8 Pattern
Material: Silk stripe and trim, cotton lining
Pattern: Draped based on Katherine Caron-Grieg's Sacque tutorial
Year: 1770s
Notions: silk and cotton thread, covered buttons, ribbon for bows
Accuracy:  I'm going to give myself about an 80% on this one. Materials and pattern are spot on.  I did cheat and use modern techniques for the sleeves, and a button cover kit, but it's almost entirely hand sewn.
Hours:  Oh boy.  I have no idea.  If it weren't for very dear friends helping me sew this it would have been impossible!
First worn: July 30th, Costume College Gala
Total Cost: $25.  No, that's not a typo :)

Special shout out to Jenny La Fleur for the AMAZING hairstyle.  The ship and flowers were absolutely perfect!  And jewellry by Dames a la Mode!

Special, special shout out to some very lovely ladies for helping me pleat all this trim and hand sew it on!  Without their love and support this gown would be me in a puddle of silk, crying.  Ladies, you are truly amazing friends!