Taking a Stab at Base Layers

Mood: Relieved

Audio: Compound by Ruben de Ronde

Snack: trail mix

Drink: Turner’s iced tea

I wonder if you haven’t figured out by now that my love for historical fashion runs incredibly deep. Despite this, however, I hardly have any costumes to show for it, let alone any foundations.
Past historical projects of mine have been firmly rooted in the uncorseted past where the foundation for a garment is mostly sewn into the garment itself in the form of stiffened interlinings. And while I enjoy these costumes for their comfort and ease, I think I’m ready to tackle the eras where my true passion lies. Eras in which women employed stays or corsets to shape their bodies. Eras that require more undergarments than just a shift.

So I made a pair of combinations (aka combination underwear) to go with an upcoming project. [Apologies for the horrible pictures from here on out. I tend to become nocturnal when I’m sick.]

There isn’t a whole lot of history behind combinations. In fact, compared to other undergarments like the shift, they were only around for a blink of an eye before fashion left them behind in the very early 20s. You see, they were just the solution to a bulky problem. Wearing shifts and drawers together creates alot of fabric traffic around the waist. By meshing the two together, you essentially knock out two birds with one stone: less layers around your waist so you can really cinch down to achieve that pinched waist and one less article of clothing to put on.

Like most shifts, drawers, and shirts during this time, they were made from readily available thin cotton, linen, or silk. Mine are made from 100% cotton muslin and cotton thread with polyester buttons. They are 100% handsewn and 98% of it was constructed while I languished, sick, on my living room couch.

Seeing as though these are essentially a trial run, I did not embellish them. I still like them though. They reminds me a lot of the romper trend from a few years ago now but more convenient with a split crotch.

When I make this again it will most likely be in a lightweight linen gauze with lace and ribbons. (I also fancy one in black ever since I laid eyes on the black combinations in the V&A’s collection.)

There are commercial patterns available as well as xeroxed patterns from the pages of different ladies’ magazines but I decided to wing it. I drafted the main body but the other pieces, like the inside of the legs and button placket, were formed out of the  leftover scraps. I didn’t make mine as fitted at the waist as the one pictured above. Fitting was something I couldn’t bring myself to do in between naps and coughing my lungs out. But there are plenty of examples of loosely fitted combinations during the late Victorian and early Edwardian periods.

In drafting, I did forget to make allowances for hemming around the inside of the split crotch however so I was left with a suspicious gap at the front beneath the button placket. [Pictured here with shorts and a tee shirt for modesty.]

I fixed this by cutting out new inside leg pieces that were several inches longer. In the process of inserting them, I somehow made a mistake which left me with just a tiny hole in the same area. No one is going to see it anyway so I’m leaving it. I know better for next time.

Now, I’m not entirely sure how historically accurate bias strips are during this period but I did use them in a number of places. One strip was used to reinforce the button placket. Three to make the drawstrings and yet more to make up the drawstring channels along the inside of the waist and both legs.[Yes, I did cut, sew, and iron the bias tape by hand out of scraps too. Crazy things can happen when you have a fever.]

I added the drawstrings so that I have the ability to wear them from one era to another. Victorian combinations are more fitted through the use of darts, with narrow legs that stop at the knee or lower. Edwardian combinations, from existing extant pieces, tend to be much more loose and frilly. The legs are very wide for modesty’s sake and tend to be on the short side in comparison. Also, several pieces that I’ve seen have extra fabric at the front bodice to form the infamous ‘pigeon breast’ silhouette.

All of the strips were sewn to the inside using the same method. Each strip was prepared with only one edge ironed down. They were first sewn with the right side of the bias tape pinned to the wrong side. Once it was sewn down with a running pick stitch, the bias tape was folded upward, pinned down, and sewn with a whip stitch along the folded edge.

Things to do next time:

  1. Lower the leg drawstrings
  2. Raise the inner leg inserts
  3. Check and double check my seam allowances
  4. Make it fancy!

Woo! Excuse the dirty mirror!

And if you’d like to delve a little further into the history of this undergarment, I will leave you with a couple of resources that helped me in recreating these:

  1. Fashion Nostalgia’s post
  2. Lady Carolyn’s post
  3.  Several extant pieces from the V&A and The Met found via Pinterest (as always. I can’t stop pinning.)

Seeing Double

Mood: Excited

Audio: Cosmic Gate’s album ‘Wake Your Mind’

Drink: Water

Snack: Avocado toast

Anna and I have been through a lot together. It seems like a lifetime even though it’s only been little more than a week.

In the beginning, it was exciting. But this excitement dulled rather quickly. She started getting rather ‘flaky’ and she was always threatening to go flat. Not to mention we were always having issues with her seams. And then the incident happened…

Did I mention Anna is my new tape dummy that was made in my likeness? I probably should have said that first, eh?

Anyhow, I made Anna because I’ve been making the same comment for several years now:

‘This would be so much easier if I had a dressform.’

I knew it had to be a custom tape dressform from the gate. Most, if not all, manufactured dressforms have size charts that end well before my dress size. Not to mention that I have a short torso and a non-hourglass figure. Oh and retail dressforms are so incredibly expensive that I can hear my wallet screaming at the thought.

So the dude and I picked a weekend and spent most of it fiddling with tape. I won’t bother to explain most of the process because there is an endless sea of tutorials for this sort of thing on the internet.

The one thing I did do differently was that I added zipties to the inside to support my more ‘extreme’ curves.

 

The inside support is made up of 2-1/2″ x 2′ pvc pipes, a 1/2″ coupling, and a 1/2″ threeway connecter thing.

But before I added the zipties I passed a yarn darning needle threaded with embroidery thread through Anna’s sides because I noticed that she was beginning to flatten out.

[In through one side…]

[…and out the other…]

 A good chunk of the task of placing and taping the zipties was done by feel. Originally, I had wanted to hot glue the zipties to the form itself but that sooooo didn’t happen. Just taping the ties proved to be pretty challenging by itself. It was tricky to try to get them to lay flat in the right direction. I don’t think I would have had any fingerprints left if I tried to hot glue the ties.

A few stats:

  • The breast cups were filled with fabric scraps to make them firmer than the rest of the mannequin. I felt that they would become deformed way too easily if I just used polyfill. 
  • The ‘hanger’ is a clothesline that I braided and taped together. It is threaded through the t-connecter on the inside.
  • 4 rolls of masking tape were used for this project in total.
  • Anna contains just under 5 pounds of stuffing
  • She is also covered in nearly 3 yards of 1/4″ foam stabilizer interfacing that used nearly an entire spray bottle of spray adhesive
  • She also permanently borrowed a long sleeve shirt off mine and a short sleeve tee shirt from the dude

    As much as I’m grateful that I have Anna, I’m not entirely pleased with how she turned out. It’s all my fault really. I put too much stuffing in at first and the neck got all warped in the process. As hard as I tried to preserve her curves, they did flatten out a bit, especially her tummy. 

    But at least she is partially pinnable! That fact makes up for a lot. So I hope you like her. You’ll be seeing a lot more of her in posts to come. 

      The Forgotten Era

      Mood: Mildly frantic

      Audio: Birds flocking to the hedge

      Snack: N/A

      Drink: Yerba Mate Hibiscus and Lime tea

      So, I was digging through my box of commercial patterns today on a hunch that I had a pattern for combination underwear that I could use as a jumping off point for an upcoming project, when I found something strange.

      I believe at one point or another, no doubt when I was younger and thus smaller, I may have had an obsession with civil war fashion. What do you think? 

      Also, I’m not sure what my younger self intended to achieve by buying the same pattern not twice but three times as well as the revamped version. I guess we will never know…

      What I do know is that all but one is unopened. I have never made a thing from these patterns except the corset and it fit horribly as commercial patterns always do for we non-hourglass types. I ended up slashing and painting the result anyway for the one and only anime convention I’ve been to: Otakon 2008.

      Point is, I don’t have the pattern I thought I did. So I’m off to draft my own. Wish me luck.

      An Obligatory Re-evaluation

      Over the years I’ve become, probably unnecessarily so, cynical about New Year Resolutions. For a while I’ve viewed it as a commercial advertisment for gyms and all things weight loss. Now I view it mostly as a way for the general populace as a whole to garner support for long thought about and much needed life changes. And there is nothing wrong about that. 

      However, when thought of in a fishy kind of way, I’m definitely a salmon. And with that in mind, I think I will continue on as I have. Sure, this year I plan on starting new ventures and learning new things but maintenance as a theme appeals to me more than starting from scratch as people are want to do around this time. I feel the need to continue to strive for being more consistent, persistent, and decisive.  Last year I started to find my footing in how to express the identity that, for one reason or another, I have been forced to repress. What reason could there possibly be for stopping such important progress?

      Despite last year’s general horrific nature, I have made some decisions I feel really good about. In some aspects, I feel as though I have finally found the right path. Where it leads, I don’t know, but I’m hopeful.

      But all this would not have been possible without encouraging words from those that I love most. And besides the dude, I have a few really kick ass aunts who have inspired and encouraged me through this ‘transformation’ of sorts. And to them I dedicate this post. To my Aunt Pat, may she rest in peace, for holeing herself up with me in her craft room to blither on for countless hours about anything and everything. To my other Aunt Pat for having so much faith in my future and her sister for bestowing her vast seamstress knowledge upon me when I thought about giving it up entirely.

      May their wisdom continue to help me through this new and most uncertain year. 

      Happy New Year everyone! 

      When a Sewing Theory Comes Together

      Mood: Hangrelieved (hungry angry and relieved)

      Audio: The sounds of my new neighbors moving in.

      Snack: Pancakes are on the way.

      Drink: Limeade

      Consider this a sneak peek. At some point, I’m going to make a complete write-up of this project. But this will have to suffice in the meantime. I just had to share this and get it off of my chest.

      This picture encompasses everything that I have tried to do over the last two weeks. This picture is me getting everything right the first time which really isn’t possible but it happened. This is me growing as a seamstress and I am so ecstatic about it.

      I’m not entirely sure how this is going to work out as a whole but consider me motivated. These pleats can’t stop me now!

      A Stew

      Despite this being a sewing blog, I thought I would share this recipe with you. It’s a hearty soup or stew that keeps me going for several hours so that I can focus on the projects that I want to without having to stop and eat a snack. The basis of this recipe is the spicy  korean winter stew soondubu jjigae or soft tofu stew. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any soft tofu but it turned out just fine.

      One quick note before we start: this highly customizable stew is cooked all together in a special clay pot called a dolsot and it is made specifically for this purpose. You can put it directly on the stove though you will need the matching plastic tray to handle it after cooking is finished. You don’t need this pot to make the stew but if you’re in the Korean grocery store to begin to gather ingredients you might as well check out their kitchen essentials aisle. Most shops sell these pots for a really decent price. There is an unlimited amount of uses for them so you can’t really go wrong with picking one up. Just don’t forget the plastic tray!

      Ingredients:

      • 2 cups of kombu (seaweed) stock.
      • 1 large clove of garlic minced
      • 1 small onion roughly chopped
      • A small handful of ground pork
      • 3 spicy beef gyoza
      • A handful of premade fish cakes
      • 7 stems of baby yu choy washed thoroughly
      • A handful of pea sprouts rinsed
      • 1 egg raw
      • 2 tablespoons of szechuan pepper infused sesame oil
      • 2 tablespoons of ground red pepper
      • 1 tablespoon red chili flakes
      • 3 tablespoons chinese cooking wine
      • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
      • 1 tablespoon sugar
      • 1/2 tablespoon dark soy sauce

      (You shouldn’t need any additional salt or pepper. Trust me!)

      1. Combine the dark soy, sugar, fish sauce, and cooking wine in a bowl. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
      2. With your burner on high, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in the dolsot and add the ground meat. Keep the meat moving until mostly cooked. Add the ground red pepper and chili flakes. Stir to coat.
      3. Add the sauce mix, minced garlic, chopped onion, and half of the stock. Stir and bring to a boil.
      4. Add the pea sprouts, baby yu choy, gyoza, fish cakes, and the rest of the stock.
      5. Bring to a boil and add the raw egg. 
      6. Wait about 5 minutes for the edges of the white to cook (the egg will continue to cook, with a very soft yoke, after the pot is taken off the heat). If you’d like a firmer egg, try poaching it separately or turning the burner to med-low and covering.
      7. Serve with warm rice and your choice of side dishes.

      A Day’s Work

      Mood: A bit disappointed and frustrated

      Audio: Midsomer Murders

      Drink: Hibiscus and Lime Organic Yerba Mate 

      Snack: N/A

      I am damn rusty. It seems like five months is enough time for me to forget practically everything I know about sewing and working with fabric.
      Today, I set out to create two wearable chemise toiles. But between having no oil to oil a sewing machine in dire need of it, dull sharps, and a lack of knowledge of where any more would be in the mess of my sewing room, my plan to complete two wearable chemise toiles is put on hold.

      Instead of sewing in front of the tv, I get to frog these socks and start over with a new pattern.

      When Doves Fly

      You’re welcome for that ear worm. (And yes, I know the lyrics are ‘when doves cry’ but you don’t see any tears in this print do you? I hope not. I tried to wash them all out and cut around them. *sniffle*)

      image

      This fabric is easily the most difficult fabric I’ve ever dealt with. It was like cutting sand. Silky shifty sand. I ended up having to whip out the rotary cutter and a self-healing mat to make things easier. It kind of did. I only had to fiddle with it to make it flat. And then again after putting the pattern piece on. Pins were my best friends.

      Fortunately, the pattern drafting was straight forward. It’s a simple v-neck with plenty of ease and no defined waist. The sleeves were a different story, however. It’s probably the weirdest sleeve sloper I’ve had the privilege of drawing up. I didn’t want the sleeve to just be flowy. I wanted it to billow out at the back of the elbow; a of shape reminiscent of dogale sleeves but not as long.

      90% of the seams are French seams which was a nice change from the usual and the v-neck edges/hem have tiny rolled hems.

      And after that is when I gave up. It could have had something to do with me cutting and partially sewing this dress within a week of moving  but I did fold each piece very carefully and pin all the way through them with a label before they were packed away. However I think it was just the nature of the fabric that did me in.

      Before this, I had no prior experience to working with sheer fabric, let alone a fabric as slippery as this. Sure there was that silky satin I used for my prom skirt but that turned out just fine. In a sewing space smaller and way more cramped than the one I cut and attempted to sew this dress in no less. So I’m not entirely sure what happened.

      But every seamstress must have a failure. And it’s what she learns from the failure that is the most important. I’m thankful for the experience and maybe, when I can muster the courage, I will break this fabric out of it’s plastic bag and try again.

      The Room

      Mood: I don’t want to go to bed

      Audio: All the craft podcasts of Youtube.

      Snack: Leftover steak pizza 

      Drink: Count Traveler: A blood orange shandy

      In case I did not mention this before…I moved.

      We packed up our things and moved away from the city and now reside in a smaller but much more functional space in a tiny steel mill town that is slowly winding down. We have more windows and sunlight here and I can no longer complain about the commute to work.

      And now that it is just the two of us and our respective fur babies, we can finally breathe and make up our own rules. And the first rule is: 

      The lady of the house shall have the biggest room as her craft room.

      It is in the back of the house and the only other room that has more windows is the kitchen.

      Previously, my sewing space was split between the kitchen table and our computer desk in the front room. We no longer have said dining room table and the computer desk has been returned to it’s intended usage in our new office. So that left me without a space to cut on or draft on, that wasn’t previously occupied anyway, for about four  months until today.

      Later on I’ll have to upload the video I made but until then, my pictures and description will have to suffice.

      My table so far consists of two 3-shelf bookcases from wally world and a discontinued tabletop from IKEA. It’s not as tall as I’d like but it will do for now. And on this table, I went ahead and spent my day cataloging my fabric stash to come up with a comprehensive project list so that I can start making things right away once I build the set up for my machines.

      Our house lacks furniture in a lot of places and this room is no exception. The only storage for my crafty things at the moment are the brown boxes I moved them in. But that issue will soon be put right. Just not today. Instead, today I moved all of boxes from along the wall by the entrance because I plan on putting a sewing cabinet with an attached storage space in the far corner.

      I also managed to consolidate two fabric bins into one thanks to smart folding and removing some fragile objects that I had put inside for safer keeping. Yay!

      And now for the pictures of my awful mess and a sneak peek into my stash catalog. (Compiling everything took all day and several cups of tea – until the water main broke anyway – but I’m glad I did it. I forgot about a decent chunk of my older fabrics.)

      Thr sunlight is so strong and beautiful in this room! Unfortunately, all the other photos were taken at night with the overhead light on.

      Beautiful Mistakes

      Mood: Make this humidity go away.

      Drink: The rest of my lime infused workout water

      Snack: N/A

      Audio: Hoarders: Buried Alive (I really can’t stop watching this show.)

      Whilst working on this here bralette pattern:

      The shoulder of the lace dress I’m also working on slipped off the narrow shoulder of my display mannequin  and this happened:

      I believe the current emotion I’m feeling is love.