Friday, December 28, 2012


I'm on the 4th patterning of the hairnet, and have made it all up once only to fail (7 hours down the drain).  The cording is so stiff that any slack in the shape turns into a big wing off the side of the head.  I thought I'd be able to draw up an oval at the bottom the way store-bought snoods are done but the stiffness had it looking more like a pizza hat.  Failing that I flat drafted it with zigzag edges to be able to weave the net together at the bottom and I really thought that would work, but it was still huge in back when I sewed it up.  Building it on a headform gives a skullcap with a bubble in back, still not where I need to be but closer.  I need a hat block the right shape!  That's not going to happen today so I will drape a few more shapes & see if I can stumble on the secret.  Chalk up another frustrating day. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Oh look! A peek!

I still have to make the chemise & hairnet but the dress is wearable. It's all about finding that perfect fabric. I found enough random parts to make the pendant too! 

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Here's the finished partlet.  You can see where the tension got wonky.  It looks worse in the photo than it really is because the mannequin isn't shaped like a  corseted body. The lines should lay straighter when it's on and pinned to the corset in back. 
Today's goal was to get the skirt attached to the bodice & get the hemming done.  I put a 2.5" canvas guard around the bottom to protect the velvet from abrasion & because the period examples I've studied seem to do that consistently.  This photo is where the train turns so there's a curve to ease in.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Still plugging along

Today's goal: pleat the skirt.  I have the partlet done at last.  The scale isn't a match to the portrait but it would have taken twice as long to make the grid squares half as big, and only hardcore folks who know the portrait will know it's off.  Lesson learned: shoulders are multi-curved.  Gold braid is stiff & not curved.  If you want the shoulder to lay truly smooth you have to compensate for the curves and hollows when you plan the grid pattern.  That forces you to really look at the shoulders in the portrait and they seem unrealistically sloped.  I've seen shoulders like that, but only on small frame excessively overweight women.  Certainly not on the waiflike figure that was Eleanora.  We'll see how much I can force the grid to lay flat when it's on and pinned to the corset.  It's already obvious I won't be able to dress myself & get all the pieces to lay right.

I've been studying the portrait, the copy dress that King Studios did, other period paintings, and the fabric to figure out the best way to make the pleats look like I want them to.  I'm ready to start pinning & see where it goes, while contemplating where I'm going to find the jewelery bits.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas & 12th Night are creeping closer & I'm making minimal headway on dear Eleanora.  I feel like I've been sewing pearls on snakes for a week.  The actual labor time so far is a surprising 8+ hours on the partlet and I think half of that is replacing the pins that got stuck on my sleeve and torn out requiring re-tensioning, or de-knotting the thread every time it gets hung on a pin.  I'm not a fan of handwork and this has to be some of the most frustrating and slow I've ever done.  Kudos to you folk who do network & the like by choice. I hit the point where I stopped trying for perfection & went for just get it done about 6 hours into it.  Sadly, it's obvious.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Partlet time

Stitch & bitch on a wet, cold Thursday evening with costume obsessed folk & I managed to get something done despite the good company & great books.  I discovered that foamcore poster board now has 1/2" grid marked on it.  That's convenient, because my plan was to get some foamcore & draw the pattern I draped on it and then grid it, pin the cord to it, and sew right on the pinup.  So far, so good.  I pinned the gold cording (surprisingly tough to find this time of year) in a 1.5" grid pattern.  I tried to layout as if it were network (zigzags) but there was too much curve in the joins. To get that clean 90 degree at each pearl the cords have to cross.  I left the sides open so I can lattice them together easily after it's off the foamcore.  That's all one continuous piece of cord. I'm not sure if I'll add something in the center back on that V or not, since most of it will be under the dress. I feel very productive!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I've finished draping the partlet (on myself, in a corset, must be nuts).  3 tries to get all the key places to lay flat.  The shoulders have some curve that I'm not sure if I can transfer to the net layout or even if it will matter given net's flexibility. Looking at the closeups of the painting the original didn't have any curve but we don't know what the back looks like and straight over the shoulder will skew the back a bit (and the flat vs curvy problem comes into this as well, part of the shoulder curve offsets the extra fabric caused by where the corset breaks). I have this idea that I can transfer the pattern to a piece of foam core & draw the net grid, then pin the cord to it and sew right on the board.  Task for tomorrow: find a big piece of foamcore.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Finally back to Eleanora!

bodice front
with sleeve

bodice back
At long last, time for the first real fitting.  I thought I'd try something different & put the lacing rings inside instead of trying to do worked rings on the velvet but it doesn't hide the way I'd hoped.  That I'm totally unhappy with so I will have to re-do the closing.  The fabric was too bulky to do the sleeve tops the way I usually do but I think they'll be OK when there's a chemise & real aiglettes on it.  On the bonus points side, the fit is near perfect.  I drafted the corset off the bodice pattern so the lines would match up and that was worth the effort.  I'm hoping the tabs will help support the weight of the skirt . Now you can see how I fit myself--mirrors and a camera!

Unexpected History

The holidays are a great time for just stumbling into all sorts of discoveries.  I've been rooting in my parent's slide files hoping to find a photo of me in the halloween costume that traumatized me enough to influnce wardrobe choices forever.  It doesn't appear that one was immortalized, but I found a previously unknown pic of the first thing I ever sewed.  Funny, as much as I hated it then for the mismatched fabrics, it fits right into the now with its salvage esthetic and (heh!) mismatched fabrics.  Here I am, aged about 10, in my first maker finery. I learned to sew without patterns & still have a tough time using them.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Gaaah! It's December!

Has it really been a month already? The holiday season has bumped up the activity level and I'm of course getting behind, but it's time to regroup & evaluate what's coming. 

But first, a word on books (in time for gift giving!):  Latest find at the Barnes & Noble bargain book table is a small-format version of Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century, The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute.  $19.99 and it's been reported at this price in Portland and Seattle stores so I bet if you poke around you'll find it somewhere.  For the fashion lover or the period costumer this is an awesome book packed with color photos (aka eye candy) of the extant stuff in their extensive collection.  You have a friend who wants it, or perhaps you can hint to them to get it for you.

For a bigger budget bite, take a look at Fashion The Definitive History of Costume and Style.  This is a coffee table sized book done by Smithsonian/DK that's a timeline of silhouettes with vignettes about who you might have heard about that wore them, photo details of random extant examples, construction notes and bits of history.  If you need a quick reference to show other people historical examples to get the point across, this is the best I've seen and it's a fun read about costume history.  I expect it to become one of my most-used very quickly.

I'm feeling very inspired by all the positive feedback after wearing the turquoise Venice gown to Swashbuckler's Ball (which was a nice ball indeed! ~so many lovely pirates).  I must find time to do another and I've joined an 18th C stitch & bitch group to see if that can keep me on task.  Oh look! Squirrel!

The holiday costume season began yesterday with the santas and bananas descending en-masse on NoPo and kept on last night with the Krampusnacht Ball.  I sincerely WISH that promoters would stop slapping "ball" on the name of every event because it devalues the ones that really are balls and gives folks the idea that a ball is a place where jeans and a T shirt are OK.  A BALL IS A BIG DEAL REQUIRING APPROPRIATE DRESS.  It's not just another bar gig with DJs.  Lady Raven has it figured out, wonder why none of the other promoters can hit the spot? 

12th Night is coming on fast and I'm still staring at pieces of Eleanora but she's now joined by the rebuild of last year's Vespertine gown (Ralph Lauren fabric embroidered in pearls & silver thread!) and fabrics I've been accumulating for something pewter colored and inspired by that last 3 Musketeers movie.  There's a red satin prom dress looming on the horizon so I need to get my plate cleaned up a bit. This is going to be one crazy busy holiday season!