The sleeves that never get finished

Finally! My order from Thailand arrived with all the perfectly matching soutache, fringe, and tassels in exactly the scale that I was looking for. As a side note: You’ll never realise how difficult the colour grey can be to work with. Cool tones, warm tones, greys that verge on blues or greens or taupes… and the level of difficulty rises even further if you need various types of materials to all be the same (or at least vaguely similar) shade.

Anywho, I received my order and started to add some fringe to the velvet arm detailing.


And then I added the soutache to the cuff where the velvet meets the woven taffeta. To see what I was finally working with for a sleeve I used an alligator clip to hold the sleeve in place. You’ll also notice in the photo below that I’ve used a smaller alligator clip to tentatively hold a tassel to the cuff; a hair clip to keep the bodice closed; and a handkerchief in place of undersleeves (which I haven’t made yet).

Believe it or not the sleeves still have a long way to go. I want to make a decorative braided button for the tassels to attach to on the cuff. I also have to tack that beast of a cuff down so that it stays exactly in place. Lastly, I have to sew the sleeves to the bodice. Once those are on there I can replace that handkerchief with some actual undersleeves. Onward!


Shameless Plug

There was just no point in sitting on my hands, so I decided to put my collection of antique and vintage handmade (crochet, tatted, lace) items and costume accessories, etc. up on Etsy. The result? Her Haberdashery Etc.

I had some fun making some bonnet decorating kits as well as adding some inspiration photos. I had no idea that there were so many actual historically accurate options for wearing doilies…

More Bonnet Bits

While I was waiting for heaps of tassels, fringe, and soutache to arrive from Thailand, I decided that I might as well tackle more of my bonnet project. Since I had all the fabric and trimmings for the interior, I started with that.

Processed with MOLDIV

The real reason for lining the interior is that I spend a lot of time doing my hair, and the face that I make when my perfectly done coif gets stuck in the straw is decidedly not a friendly face. No one likes an angry Victorian. The lining, etc. are all done in a very light cream, but once I’ve gathered more supplies for the outer decorations, this thing is going to become much more colourful.


Heart and velvet on my sleeves

The bodice and skirt came together really quickly – and so now it’s onto the sleeves and all the detailed bits. I tested out some cording for the seams at the shoulders, then, liking how that looked I sewed it on. Working with such thick cord was not the most enjoyable experience and I did end up having to hand-sew the ends where they meet near the armpit. I’m pretty sure I’ll have more hand-sewing to do when I attach the sleeves as well.

The actual sleeves got their lining and you can finally see a bit of the pagoda style coming through. Next, I began to hem the decorative velvet pieces that will hang on the sleeve at the shoulder seam, and sew up the velvet cuff. The hunt has been on for some time for tassels, fringe trim, and middy braid that all co-ordinate AND match the dress. There is an absolute dearth of upholstery supply shops / trim suppliers here in Nova Scotia. As always, ordering online can be tricky if you’re trying to match colours, but it may be the only answer. That, or I just make all the tassels, etc. by hand…

E916D61C-67B7-45B0-85A0-96C50F37E71EDF97C360-0690-4A21-996B-D9D9CE58287EProcessed with MOLDIV6F585860-2ECE-4A86-B233-7A5BFCAEFED5062E807B-86BB-46C7-9494-3EE39698940F

A Bonnet

I finally went through with a bonnet project I’d found on Pinterest months ago. All you have to do is take an inexpensive straw beach hat, and snip snip glue yourself a lovely Victorian bonnet.

Processed with MOLDIV

I have yet to add any decoration, but I do want to match the new dress I’m making. I’ve got white ribbons and greyish blue feathers for it, and hopefully some fabric rosettes.

Easy Peasy Productive Weekend

It definitely helps to have your materials and notions and sketches ready for when you sit down to sew. If you’ve got everything at your fingertips you can just fly through a project – and finishing a project means you won’t feel so guilty about starting another one. This weekend I was ready to sit down (and get up again several times to press or pin things) and see how much of this new dress I could get done.

I found this amazing grey/blue and gold fabric on sale months ago, but am finally putting it to use. There isn’t as much hand gathering to be done in this pattern, and only a few panels that required pleating. Most of the wow-factor on this dress will come from the decoration – so much fringe…

The bodice is lined, and as you can see from the photo it almost looks like the waist is a bit too low. It actually fits well on the waist and the “drop” in the pleats etc. are to accommodate a fairly wide, fitted velvet belt (which will also have some fringe on it). The next steps are the pagoda sleeves and making some decisions on piping… stay tuned!

Sneaky Peek

I’ve discovered that making historical clothes for men just isn’t as exciting as making dresses and skirts, etc. With a dress there’s so much more potential for decoration and creativity. So, while I finish up the gentleman’s jacket I’ve been working on, I’m going full steam ahead on another project for myself. Clues? This:

See my Vest!

So it turns out that despite the dizzying amount of pieces that go into a vest, the actual assembly took only a weekend. Sew, sew, press, flip inside out, bam. It still needs a final pass under the iron, and a few buttons, but other than that I think it’s looking pretty neat!

It begins

With a few free minutes this past weekend I decided to cut out some pieces for the vest. It was while figuring out which fabrics were for the front and back of the vest that I discovered that I need fusible interfacing as well as another material for the lining – you know, just some crucial things to grab from the fabric store that aren’t mentioned on the package for the pattern. It was only in the instructions inside that it mentions extra materials and notions. Poop.


A Little Reflection Time

What was the original purpose of this project/experience?

I had a number of reasons for starting this project. First, I wanted to see if I could actually do it. Second, I wanted a big amazing mid-Victorian dress that was all mine. Third, I thought it could be useful in the future doing programming at museums, etc. (And it has! I’ve worn it during one of my needlework workshops!)
What were the critical factors helping or hindering completion of this project?

Helping: I would say that I have a very healthy background in mid-Victorian history and fashion. Hindering: I had an extremely basic knowledge of sewing.

What do you wish you had spent more time on or done differently: I wish I made the bodice tighter to my body so I don’t look so balloon-y. I still might make a few adjustments.
What part of the project did you do your best work on:I’m really pleased with the way the hand gathering on the dress turned out. I’d never done anything like it before, but I took my time and the end result is a highlight for me.

What did you learn most about yourself by participating in this project? 

That things don’t really change and that I still get mad at myself for making mistakes.

What differences has the project made in my intellectual, personal or ethical development? I have learned that if I want to make a big giant dress – I can. I don’t have to have a reason or rationalise it to anyone. If it’s something I want to do/try, and I’m not clear-cutting a forest to do it, then I can just go ahead and do it.

What level of personal effort do you feel you put into your project? A lot. I had to look up a lot of new terms, watch videos, read blogs to really understand some of the processes. I usually like quick projects and instant gratification – since this was a multi-month project I really had to keep learning and keep at it.

What was the most enjoyable part of this project: 

Being able to answer; “Yep, I made that” (I’m not going to lie – recognition for effort feels good)

What was the least enjoyable part of this project: 

Ripping stitches out to repair the petticoat.

If you were to redo your project, what would you change about it?

If I were going to redo this project, I would see what I could do to alter it in such as way as to make the skirt and top separate pieces. That way I’d have a skirt to mix and match. Zoave jacket? Next time 🙂 

If I had chosen to do “x” or not to do “x”, what might have happened? If I had chosen to go with a sheer fabric (as originally planned), I think the dress would have been much lighter and flowy. I think it would’ve been harder to hide little imperfections though… and as this was my first dress I was counting on a few imperfections.