Progress Report : Recent Projects

Today I’m talking about all my recent projects – which means there is a LOT to talk about! Though I haven’t finished a whole lot in the past months, I have a ton of things in progress and a bunch of recently abandoned projects. I did a big sewing room cleanup yesterday and came across a lot of those projects and thought it would be fun to share them with you! I also want to go over some of my future plans since I’m always planning something. 

But as I usually do with my progress reports, I’ll start off with things I’ve recently finished.

Using the term “recently” loosely, I finished my Civil War Era ball gown, which I adore. 

And from the same period I made a more casual ensemble…er, I tried to, at least. This ensemble was supposed to consist of a blouse, hat, and skirt. But I didn’t have enough material for the skirt so it didn’t sit nicely over my hoop skirt. The fabric I used for the waistband was really delicate and unraveled. And somehow the skirt was sewn onto the waistband incorrectly, leaving the side seam at the center front.

I decided the skirt was cursed and gave up. Usually I push through to the end of projects, but this one wasn’t worth it. However I do really like the blouse! And I made a really cute pork pie hat to go with it. I used buckram, heavy weight interfacing and wire for the structure. It’s covered with velvet and decorated with a cheap brooch from ebay and a few feathers.

Before discarding the skirt I put it on and got some waist up photos, which I think turned out nicely!


I’ll probably remake the skirt someday, and try to get better photos of this ensemble because I really the parts I did finish!

The wig in these photos was from a Halloween shop, I braided it nicely in the back but you can’t really tell. And the earrings are these ones* – I wear them all the time since they make me feel fancy.


Around the time I finished that blouse and hat, I also made an 1890’s cycling costume. This is still one of my favorite things I made this year, it’s really comfortable, cute, and feels more complete than most of my costumes. Not because of how it’s constructed, it just the way everything from the hat to stockings and shoes match. It was also really enjoyable to make, flared jackets are so much fun!


I find jackets so fun that I’ve decided to make myself a winter coat this year. Well, I originally wanted to make myself two coats, one 1920’s inspired, and another based on this 1950’s image, but I could only find the material for one coat and decided to make the 1920’s inspired one first.

Though I’m determined to make a coat like the one on the right some day.


The design I settled on is based on some of the designs in this Bellas and Hess catalogue. I’m going to make mine a lot more fitted than those, but the length, crazy collars, and flashy buttons will definitely feature in the one I’m making. And if I have enough fabric leftover I’ll make a hat too.

Hopefully the end result will be something I can wear on a regular basis. My current winter coat is falling apart so if it turns out well it would definitely be an improvement! And a lot more unique than the ones I’ve tried on in stores.

I picked a fairly plain brown faux wool flannel from Jo-anns, and bright orange vintage buttons for it. But right now it’s just a sketch (on left).


Part of my motivation to make something more wearable comes from a 1950’s inspired dress I finished recently. I was browsing on etsy when I came across a vintage dress from Over Attired that has a really interesting dart placement – they were parallel to the neckline and extended out from a center seam. The dress also had sleeves incorporated into the bodice pattern rather than being a separate piece.

I loved the dress, but it wasn’t in my size. So I decided to make my own! I used a lightweight polka dot material for it and lined it with cotton. It closes with a zipper up the back and a hook/eye. I drafted the pattern myself and absolutely adore the end result, it’s so much more flattering than most dresses I own and really comfortable. It’s made me want to make more of my own clothing, rather than just elaborate costumes.


There won’t be a blog post about that dress, but there is a video showing how I made it here!

And I’ve already started on another 1950’s inspired project, with a similar sleeve design. But this one is bright yellow with a cute collar!


Back to discussing finished things! My most recently completed costume is a Sybil inspired ensemble. Making this was the most fun I’ve had on a historical costume in a long time. I think it was a mixture of the materials, the huge amount of hand sewing, and the spontaneous aspect of it. I didn’t have built up expectations while working on it so I could just go with the flow which was great.


I’d hoped to replicate those feelings with another Edwardian project, but it didn’t quite go as planned. I had a few other things in progress and this got put on the bottom of the pile rather than the top, which ruined the fun of it. But I do plan on going back to it soon when I have time to give it more attention.

The plan for this was a simple dress, fitted at the bodice with short sleeves and a skirt that falls away at the hips. For the dress I was going to use green satin faced chiffon, some trim I had around, and these matching appliques.


The dress would be worn over a lace blouse made from silk, vintage lace, and cotton. This was the part I was most excited about since I love mixing trims, but I didn’t get very far before moving on to other things. I’m DEFINITELY coming back to it, I just need to finish some other stuff first.


And that reminds me of another lace blouse that hasn’t been finished either. I started this a few months ago and got the bodice almost finished – it’s a mix of lace fabric, lace trim, and soft mesh. It was supposed to have a high lace collar and matching sleeves but I was so indecisive about which style to go with that I ended up setting it aside and haven’t gotten back to it. I’d like to resume this someday, but I’m still not sure what direction to go in!


My other recent edwardian plan had a similar fate. It was supposed to be a suit based on this ensemble from a vintage magazine. I was really excited about this project, but I wasn’t very committed to it. I made the base for the hat, then got bored before I finished it. I made bust pads to achieve the proper silhouette and drafted a pattern for the suit, but I lost interest in that too and never finished it!


A project I did successfully finish is this 1890’s taffeta dress. I have the first few blog posts up about this already and the final one should be up next week!


Unfortunately my other 1890’s project hasn’t gone as well. This was supposed to be a fast fun project, made from a yard of glitter velvet and some two tone chiffon I had in my collection. The plan was to make a cute, short jacket and let the material really shine. But then I had the bright idea to embellish patterns on it with sequins, which looks fantastic, but took forever. 

After finishing the embellishing I took a break from it. Then a few weeks later I tried it on and realized the stupid thing doesn’t fit. Well, it kind of fits, but it’s too short in the waist. I might be able to salvage it by sewing in boning and adding waist tape that hooks closed, but that doesn’t seem like much fun so I’ve been avoiding it.


I have two more abandoned projects to share, and then I’ll go back to the positive stuff!

A while back I had the bright idea to make something really different from everything else I had in progress – a tudor ensemble made from a variety of black materials. This was a flop too. I  think black fabrics (specifically velvet?) hate me. Or suck the inspiration from me. Or both.

In this projects defense, nothing went wrong with it. I drafted and fitted the project, then assembled the bodice. I did a bit of beading on it too before losing interest. I haven’t trashed this, and I’d still like to finish it, but my feelings towards is are very “meh” – there are more exciting things to sew, so I’m avoiding it for now.


My final flop is the one I’m most annoyed about, because I invested so much time into it. This was supposed to be an 1880’s day dress, with a slight bustle. I made the bodice from cotton sateen I salvaged from another project and striped fabric I got for a dollar in Lancaster.

I draped, fitted, cut out, assembled, added hooks, sewed on the collar and sewed on the sleeves before realizing this didn’t fit. The main fit issue is with the shoulder, it’s too tight but not sloped enough, so it causes bunching below the neckline and around the chest. It looks terrible and can’t be fixed without removing the sleeves and collar.


On top of that I sort of ran out of fabric. I thought I had more cotton sateen from a recent trip to the garment district that would match, but it doesn’t. Which means the bustle dress would have very tiny, awkward draped panels on the skirt. I could probably make it work but I’m not sure if it’s worth it.

Here is the skirt in its current state, without any draped panels.😦

There is also a matching hat lacking trimming which I don’t have photos of.


On a brighter note, I do have a few works in progress that seem to be going well! The first is my 1830’s dress, which I’ve blogged about already. I finished the bodice for this, and made major progress on a matching bonnet.

I still haven’t started on the skirt since I’d really like to make a shorter petticoat before working on it. But I haven’t been in the mood to make a petticoat, so I may make the skirt over my existing petticoats and  hem it shorter later.


I’ve (bravely) taken on another 1880’s project. This is a natural form era gown, with a very fitted bodice and skirt that is wide around the hips but tapers towards the hem. It’s a very different silhouette for me and will require a LOT of work but I’m excited about it. I’ve been working on this for a while, with a bit of progress happening each week.

I guess the slow and steady technique has worked, because the bodice is almost done (minus some ruffles).


I drafted the underskirt, and have spent ages beading the front panel, but it hasn’t really taken shape yet. Hopefully it will soon.


I’d hoped to focus on some 18th century projects this October – partially because the name is catchy, but also because I have so many I want to make. The first project on this list is an elaborate turque which I mentioned in my birthday haul earlier this year.

The bodice is almost done – it’s fully constructed, just needs some trim and sleeves.


I also got the skirt cut out. The skirt is made from shantung and trimmed with five yards of home made organza puff trim. By some miracle I finished that last week, and have moved on to hemming and gathering the ruffles for the petticoat. These are made from a snazzy taffeta and striped organza


My other 18th century project is in a similar state. The bodice is almost done and i’ve confirmed that it fits, but it’s missing trim and I still haven’t drafted the sleeves. This is made out of that beautiful striped taffeta I got a few months ago. I love it soo much, I can’t wait to see this finished!


I have the matching petticoat cut out as well. Both edges of the petticoat ruffle were hemmed by hand, which is like fourteen yards of hand hemming! But it’s done now, so I can move onto gathering it and attaching it to the upper portion.


And I think that’s everything! I probably left out a few of the things I completed, but you’ve seen them before anyway. I thought it was better to focus on my fails and what I’m currently working on. Hopefully it was interesting and made you feel a bit better about any UFO’s you have laying around!

My goal for this month is to finish the turque, the winter coat, and the 1830’s dress. Then I can focus more on the other 18th century project and maybe something edwardian. I’d really like to work through some of these WIP’s!

Thanks for reading!


Posted by on October 7, 2016 in Uncategorized


Making a Sybil Inspired Edwardian Ensemble, Part Two


This week I have the second (and final) post to share about making my embellished edwardian ensemble! Part one can be read here, and talks about making the bodice and starting the sleeves.

The bodice was almost finished, but still needed a bit more sparkle. I accomplished this by covering the stitching that attached the bodice together with tiny sequins and beads.


I think the end result is very pretty, there is so much texture and sparkle!


Then I folded the back edges inward and added a piece of boning to the lower portion of the bodice. The boning supports six eyelets that are embroidered onto each side of the back of the bodice. The top portion of the bodice closes with hooks and eyes for a clean finish.

I chose to make the back lace up since I wanted the bodice to be as fitted as possible, and because laces allow me to get the bodice on and off without help.


Now back to the sleeves! I sewed organza backed lace trim onto the hem of each sleeve.


Then I covered the top edge with sequins so it wouldn’t fray.


With that done I pinned the back seam closed so I could do a quick fitting. Unfortunately the sleeves were a bit too small – I could get them on, but it wasn’t easy. So I decided to sew the seam up with a half inch allowance, instead of the french seam I had planned, giving me an inch of additional room in each sleeve.

I finished all the edges of the sleeves with lace tape.


The only downside to the smaller seam allowance is that it means the stitching used to secure the chiffon to the lace is visible. It falls underneath my arm, and matches the fabric, so it isn’t too noticeable, but it annoys me nonetheless!


I sewed the sleeves onto the bodice by machine with a half inch seam allowance, and then the bodice was complete! I’m really happy with this, I love all the detail work and how all the different fabrics and textures work together. It’s well constructed too, which i’m proud of since this was made in a relatively short amount of time.


But I wasn’t happy for long because I had to work on the pants. The chiffon pants. I don’t like pants, or chiffon so the combination didn’t seem like much fun (and it wasn’t). It was however, very confusing. So I’m sorry if my explanations are confusing, but I’m not sure how to avoid that since I’m still confused and I’m the one who made them!

At first I thought these would be easy to make – a typical drop crotch pant with an asymmetric draped panel at the front, no problem! Then I realized the draped portion is actually sewn into the inseam somehow and that the back is asymmetrical too.

Before even trying to figure out how that would work I made the base pattern. Which is just a longer version of the pattern I made for my cycling bloomers. I made the crotch lower too, but that was the only big change aside from length.


I cut two of each pattern piece out from my “base” fabric – which is a gold chiffon. Then I cut the front left panel out again, this time from a orange chiffon, and I extended the panel to be thirty inches wider at the side seam. Then I did the same thing with the back right panel and pink chiffon.

The pieces looked like this.


Now for the confusing part. I basted the wider panels to the matching pieces (front left was basted to the front left cut from base fabric, and same process for the back panels) at the crotch seam and inseam.


Then I sewed the crotch seam for the front and back panels AND I sewed the side seams of the base layer together with french seams. Once I put it on my dress form and loosely pinned the waistline it looked like this.

I can practically hear your skepticism but have faith!


The thirty inches of fabric I added to the overlay panels wrap around the body and create the draped front and back. It’s kind of confusing because the front panel wraps around the back of the pants, and the back panel wraps around the front. But it totally worked!


I gathered the top edges of the overlay panels down so they were the same width as the base layer of fabric.


I tucked the front edges inward twice, by around two inches so a raw edge wouldn’t be visible. Then sewed it onto the waistline of the base panels so it hangs asymmetrically.


I cut a slit into the back of the base panel, then covered it with ribbon so the edges wouldn’t fray. I mounted four hooks and bars onto the ribbon, which is how I get the pants on and off. This slit is covered by the overlay once the waistband is done up.


After a bit more gathering the waist of the pants was twenty eight inches, exactly what I wanted! As you can see I left the very front of the draped panels ungathered since I thought that looked nicer.


Now the waistband could be sewn on. I used a rectangle of interfaced brocade for this. It was sewn on with the right sides facing each other, then tucked over the raw edge and sewn down once again.


This is the finished waistband from the front side. It doesn’t look too pretty, but it isn’t visible when the ensemble is worn so i’m not too bothered by it!

It also closes with hooks and bars.


Here you can see it on my dress form. It still doesn’t look too promising, but I was pretty happy with this!


At this point I pinned the overlay portions to the inseam of the base layer. Which looked like this!

Then I did the inseam up with french seams.


I hung the pants up, then used my scissors to level the hem to make sure the overlay was the same length as the base.

I cut an inch of length off since I thought they were too long, then gathered the hem down by hand. I gathered this edge to be large enough to get over my foot, which left them significantly larger than my ankle.


After a quick try on I realized a few issues. The first was that they were still too long. But I didn’t want to raise them from the hem, and it was too late to take them up at the waistline.

The second was that I had no idea how I would get them over my feet after attaching the cuffs. I would have to cut a slash into them, but I knew that would look awful.

But they needed cuffs. So I made some. And after pinning them on the length looked even worse since the cuffs caused them to sit higher on my leg.

So I took the cuffs off and decided to bind the bottom edges with bias tape. It isn’t ideal, but the bottom edge is mostly covered by the volume of the pants. And this also means I don’t have to worry about adding a slash/closure method since they are large enough to fit over my feet. Also, since the bound edge is loose, they hang lower on my leg and the length looks more natural.

For some stupid reason I used chiffon to bind the edges. I should have used a sturdier fabric or at least interfaced the chiffon first but clearly I was in a daze of frustration so I didn’t bother.


End result: PANTS! I think these are the most unflattering thing I’ve ever made. I don’t mind shapeless garments if they have a nice shape but these are…difficult to pull off, to say the least? I think they look nice in a very specific pose (shown on the right) and when they are moving, but from the front it’s pretty rough.


But that’s it! Here they are laid flat.


Close up of the waistline.


And the back – you can see how the overlay hides the slash!


I made a little headpiece to go along with this costume. I didn’t love the crown it was paired with on the show, and I didn’t have enough trim left for anything really exciting. I ended up gluing some scraps of beaded trim onto a strip of lace, along with some glass montees and a few bits of an ostrich feather.

The end result is more 1920s than edwardian, but I think it’s super pretty and fits with the rebellious nature of this ensemble.



Now for the worn photos! I paired it with a blonde wig, some shoes from DSW, and knee length spanx since the pants were a bit more sheer than I had intended (an opaque lining would have been smart). I also wore some earrings from the Downton Abbey collection, but you can’t really tell.


I wish I had a necklace to go with this ensemble, I think the collar area is a bit bare. I was really tempted to get this this one*but figured I wouldn’t wear the costume often enough to justify it. But it matches so nicely…I might crack and get it anyway!



Sorry for all the similar poses, as I said the pants are most flattering from that one specific angle! I think this was the first time I’ve been grateful for my height while wearing historical costumes as I think they would be even more of a challenge the shorter you are.





And that’s it! I’m quite pleased with how this turned out. Even though the pants were a pain, I love the bodice and how all the fabrics work together. It’s very different from anything i’ve made recently, and only took a week to complete! I really want to do more of these week long projects, I always end up really enjoying them.

Thanks for reading!



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Making a Sybil Inspired Edwardian Ensemble, Part One

Todays project is something a bit different for me! It’s inspired by the harem pant ensemble that Sybil wore on Downton Abbey. I watched the show earlier this year and have wanted to make something from it ever since, though I assumed it would be an evening gown, not this!

When I first saw this costume I liked it. The colors and textures used are so vibrant and it’s very unique to anything else worn on the show, so how can you not? But I had no desire to make it, since I much preferred the elegant gowns worn by Cora and Mary.

Then last week a photoset of this costume appeared on my tumblr dashboard and I fell in love. For some reason it really stood out to me, both in design and construction. It struck me as something that would be a lot of fun to make and wear. Since I was between projects I scoured my stash in search of suitable materials and managed to come up with everything I needed. I decided it was meant to be and got straight to work!


In total the costume took a week to make. I used images from the show as my primary reference and didn’t do any research until after completing the costume since I didn’t want to come up with conflicting ideas. Since I made the costume completely out of things I had around, the colors, trims, and textures are all really different, but I did try to achieve the same silhouette.

The materials I ended up using include two different brocades, peach colored netting, and three different shades of chiffon that I purchased for a cosplay years ago. I also used two trims, the gold one is from etsy and the other is from a random shop in NYC.


And of course, lots of sequins. I didn’t have enough embroidery floss on hand to do anything similar to Sybil’s bodice, so I used these to add some texture and design.


The first step was drafting the bodice. I did this the way I always do, by draping it on my dress form then transferring it to paper. My first attempt wasn’t too successful (it’s difficult to achieve a historical silhouette without a corset) but after taking it in slightly I managed to get something more like I’d envisioned.


Then I got right into the construction. I started with the collar, which was cut out of gold brocade. Then I used peach colored netting as an overlay to dull the shine a bit.


I lined the collar with muslin by sewing them together with the right sides facing each other. After turning it the right way out I topstitched across the bottom edges, and around the armscye.


I set that aside and cut out the main portion of the bodice. This is made from the peach colored brocade.


After doing a quick fitting I realized the bodice looked really boring. I thought the prints on the fabrics, and the sheen they have would be enough to make it interesting but no such luck.

So I decided to embellish a fleur-de-lis-ish design on the front. I based this design off the gold trim, which will decorate the waistline.


After several hours of work, the design was embellished! Then I outlined it with some peachy colored sequins, and decorated the brocade with a bunch of seed beads. This material has gold dots printed between the flowers, which I used as a guide for this step.


I lined this portion of the bodice with muslin as well. The pieces were sewn together along the bottom edge to nicely finish that edge before attaching the waistband.

I should also mention that I added a dozen plastic bones to the lining layer of the bodice. I wasn’t aiming for reduction, I just wanted the bodice to be nicely supported so it wouldn’t wrinkle or droop. This was extra important since I wasn’t wearing the bodice with a corset, but wanted it to be really fitted.


Then I pinned the gold lace across the waistline.  I ended up basting this down before I started beading since I didn’t want to worry about catching my thread on the pins.


The next step was embellishing the trim, so it would match the bodice and make it look more elaborate. This took ages – like six hours or something. But the end result is very pretty!



With all the beading done I could finally pin the collar onto the bodice.


I sewed it on with embroidery floss and decorative stitching, which will serve as a base for more sequins.


Then I turned the top edge of the lining inward and sewed it down to hide the raw edges.


And the final thing i’ll be talking about in this post are the sleeves. I drafted this pattern myself – which i’m actually kind of proud of, even though they are simple fitted sleeves.

Then I cut the pattern out of lace. This is a curtain lace I got in a grab bag from The Lace Place. I didn’t have very much of it so I had to cut the sleeves from two pieces.


Then I gave the sleeves a bath in tea to dull the bright white color down to something that better matched the warm tones in this costume.


I sewed a layer of starched chiffon over the lace, then sewed sequins on top using the pattern of the lace as a guide. I really like how this turned out, I think it’s a neat effect and these sequins are perfect for it.


I was surprised at how long this took to do. I started watching Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries while working on it to try and avoid boredom during the process!


Then I hemmed the bottom edge, and trimmed that same edge with some of the pink netting I used on the collar. Hopefully this will help tie all the materials used in the bodice together.

The reason the bottom few inches of these sleeves are missing sequins is because I’m going to cover that part with more lace trim.


And that’s it for today! Part two will cover finishing the sleeves, finishing the bodice, and making the pants (something I did NOT enjoy…)

Thanks for reading! And if you want to see more of this project, I have a video log about it which has some extra details. This is the link to it, or it can be watched down below!



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Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part Two

Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part Two

Today I have the second post about making my 1890’s dress to share. Part one can be read here and covers how I made the bodice. This post will be all about my nemesis: sleeves.

When I made my first 1890’s dress I drafted the sleeve pattern myself and came up with something usable, but it wasn’t accurate at all. I have a habit of making sleeve patterns symmetrical, which is bad since they don’t cup the arm as well.

So this time around I decided to copy a pattern from  59 Authentic Turn-of-the-Century Fashion Patterns*, specifically the sleeve pattern associated with this dress.


The pattern consists of a large “puff” portion which is attached overtop a fitted sleeve. It’s a really strange design, but I thought it would be fun to try. Unfortunately the first mock up didn’t go well. The fitted portions didn’t really fit and the puff portion was tiny, the sleeves had barely any volume. I’m also not completely sure how you are supposed to attach the puff portion to the fitted sleeve.

Soo I made some alterations. I made the puff portion a good six inches wider and longer. I cut the fitted sleeves off at the elbow and added seam allowance so they could be sewn together after attaching the puff. And I made them a bit smaller.


I cut the lining for the sleeves out of muslin, then used the muslin as a guide for cutting out the taffeta. To avoid the lining bunching underneath the taffeta I cut the taffeta pieces to be slightly larger than the lining.


I sewed these pieces together with half inch seam allowances but left the bottom few inches of one seam open since that’s where the closures will be.


The edges of the portion left open were basted down and the bottom edge was hemmed by hand.


I also ran basting stitches across the top edge to keep the lining in place.


Then I sewed loops and buttons onto the sleeves. The the lining was whip stitched to the interior of the taffeta, so it covers the raw edges of the loops. The buttons are all sewn on with upholstery thread since I was kind of concerned about the strain they would go through when trying to button these up!


I cut the puffed portions of the sleeves out, then gathered down the top and bottom edge. when they were gathered most of the way down I sewed them to the muslin lining, which is the top portion of the fitted sleeves.


In between the muslin and taffeta I stuffed gathered strips of organza to help the sleeves hold their shape.


Now the sleeves were a bit too poofy. They looked good when they were carefully arranged, but they didn’t stay looking that way for long. I ended up ripping out the gathering stitches at the shoulder, then cutting off more than three inches from the top of the sleeve.


Then I sewed the top and bottom portions together. This seam was covered with bias tape. And now I had things that actually looked like sleeves!


They are so poofy.


I gathered the tops down to be even smaller.


And then I sewed them onto the bodice by machine. Unfortunately after doing that I realized I couldn’t bind the arm opening without making the opening too small, so i’ve left the edges raw, which really isn’t ideal. But the sleeves were cut on the fabrics bias so they don’t fray that much. Hopefully it will be okay for the limited amount of wear this will get.

On the bright side, they fit! They have a habit of puckering around the wrist (I may have made them slightly too small) but I think they look pretty good!


Please ignore the color this dress has in this lighting, it looks far less noxious in every other setting.


I need to add a modesty panel, but i’m so happy with the back of this costume. All those cute buttons!


To finish off the bodice I sewed together three bias cut strips, then turned the edges inward by hand.


I sewed it onto the collar, leaving the ends long so they can be tied in a bow. The back of the collar closes with three hooks and eyes before the bow is tied. The final detail was that brooch I mentioned in my last post!


The final post about this project should be up in a week or two! And it will go over making the skirt and the hat.

Thanks for reading!


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Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part One

Plaid, Pleats, and Piping – Making an 1830’s Dress, Part One

This weeks post is about another new project, but this time i’m venturing into an era I haven’t sewn from in a while – the 1830’s! I went through a phase a couple years ago where I made three dresses inspired by this period, and I had so much fun making them. But for some reason I never revisited the period until now.

For Christmas I got Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century*, and looking at the silly 1830’s dresses featured in it reminded me how much I love the period. The dresses make me so happy, with the bold prints, large skirts, ridiculous sleeves, and delicate accessories. I still can’t get on board with the crazy headpieces, but I love everything else.

So when I was in Pennsylvania and came across a bright cotton plaid I knew it was time to make a boldly printed ridiculous 1830’s dress. This is the material was four dollars a yard, and I bought seven yards.


I’m going to pair it with the orange taffeta leftover from my 1890’s Dress, and some berry colored velvet I got in NYC a while back.

When it comes to design I was a little bit conflicted. I originally wanted to make something based on this kooky dress, but the neckline and sleeves are quite similar to a dress I made in the past so that seemed kind of boring. And most of the other dresses I found were better suited for a less busy fabric.

I ended up mixing the dress linked above with the bodice design of this dress – I really like the piping, basque waist, the neckline, and the more elaborate sleeves. All those things make it more time consuming to make, but you know how much I love time consuming projects…

Here is my weird sketch which I didn’t really end up following (oops)

I draped the pattern on my dress form, then transferred it to paper. The bodice is made up of 8 pieces, with an additional 4 pieces for the collar.

In the past when doing pleated collars I’ve pleated a rectangle of fabric, then cut it down to the shape I want. This time around I cut it down to the right size before pleating – which was kind of scary, since I was sure it would turn out the wrong shape. But it totally worked and made the process a lot easier, so i’m definitely doing it this way from now on!

I marked the pleat pattern onto the collar with chalk.

Then used my iron to crease the tops of the pleats.


Then actually pleated them and pinned everything in place! This is the front.


And this is the back.


The front panels were carefully pinned, then sewn together. It was unintentional, but the horizontal pattern ended up being almost symmetrical on these panels. They didn’t match up the first time I sewed it, but they were so close that I ripped the seam out and redid it so they match!


The shoulder of the collar pieces were done up with piping sewn into the seam. The bottom edge was hemmed by eye, and the top edge was turned inward by a half inch. Then I hand stitched some piping around the neckline.


To keep the pleats in place I loosely tacked them down from the underside. This was trickier to do than I was expecting. Since the fabric is so thin I couldn’t feel how many layers I was stitching through, and I ended up sewing through the front of the fabric a few times. Those stitches are pretty obvious since I used dark purple thread, which doesn’t match 80% of the colors in the bodice.

Luckily the crazy print also works to my benefit  – your eye skips over the visible stitches and assumes it’s part of the chaos that is this fabric!


With the collar done the bodice assembly began! I made this more difficult by adding piping to every seam (something I’ve never done before). And I chose to use yarn as piping cord, which was way too thin and looked flat after being ironed. Not my best decision, but I kind of made it work!

These are the front panels…


More front panels.


And the back panels!


The arm openings were finished with facings.


And then the collar was sewn on! This was done by hand to avoid any visible topstitching.

After a quick fitting to check the length I hemmed the bottom edge and trimmed it with more piping.


And now it was time for lining! This was assembled completely by machine and is made from muslin.


It took me ages to get it pinned in properly – somehow the lining was too short, so it kept causing the front layer of fabric to bunch up. But I managed eventually, and sewed it in place by hand.


I finished one of the back edges with bias tape (leftover from my 1890’s dress), then finished the other edge with a strip of bias tape that was turned inward and sewn down so it isn’t visible from the outside.


The back closure consists of hooks and loops, which were sewn to the strips of taffeta.


Unfortunately the print on the back of the bodice doesn’t line up perfectly, but it’s close-ish!


Here is the front.


And a close up of the pretty pleats! So far i’m happy with how this looks, though i’m second guessing my decision to go for a more complicated design. I think it might be a bit too busy – but the 1830’s were famous for being crazy, so maybe it works?


That’s it for today! The next post will be about sleeves. I’m not sure if it will be about my 1890’s dress or this one, but it will definitely involve sleeves haha!

Thanks for reading!



Posted by on September 9, 2016 in 19th century, Historically Inspired


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Making an 1890’s Day Dress, the “Pumpkin” Gown, Part One

Today I’ll be talking about making another 1890’s day dress from taffeta. But this time around my posts will be a lot more positive since i’ve already finished this dress and i’m really happy with the end result. The finished dress actually fits, and isn’t too long, which might be a first for me!

Before talking about construction I wanted to explain the design of this, because if you’ve seen the movie Crimson Peak it may look familiar!

If you read this blog post you’ll know my foray into 1890’s fashion was originally inspired by what Edith wore in the film, specifically this gorgeous coat. Back in January I bought fabric for a coat based on that design, and material for a dress to wear underneath it. Even though I really liked the dress Edith wore with the jacket in the film, I chose to create an original design instead.

And it failed horribly.

The design wasn’t the reason why that project failed, but I didn’t want to be reminded of it when attempting another project from this period. So I settled on a simpler design, which features the most common skirt and bodice design from the 1890’s, and the signature puff sleeves. You can see similar designs in Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar* which I had open while sketching this ensemble.

Since my last dress was very heavy I chose to leave this one free of embellishments and trim, with the only decoration being buttons down the front and a brooch. This was the only thing I intended on copying from the dress in Crimson Peak. But when I compared my sketch to the costume from the film, I realized they were pretty much identical!

This was made even more apparent because the fabric I purchased for this project is quite similar to what was used for Edith’s dress. But I like the design, and I like the dress from the film, so i’m okay with them being really similar, even if that wasn’t my original intention.

As I said, I used Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar* as a reference, along with a bunch of things i’ve pinned and the gown from the film.

I purchased seven yards of an orange silk for this dress, and plan on wearing it with this beautiful moth brooch I got for two dollars on ebay. I’ve been wanting to include it in a costume for ages, and I feel like this is my chance – even though brooches this bold aren’t really historically accurate, ecspecially on a day ensemble.


And a more developed sketch.


 I started off by draping the pattern. It’s a pretty simple design, but it took a bit of fiddling to get the amount of volume I wanted while keeping the shoulder and sides perfectly smooth.


Here you can see it transferred to paper with the seam allowances added. This picture was taken after I made my first mock up and some pattern changes. Those changes included making the waistband longer, taking the collar in by an inch, adding a dart to the front, and raising the waistline.


Just to be safe, since the fit of my first 1890’s day dress was so bad, I decided to cut out and assemble the lining of the bodice first. This would serve as a second mock up of sorts, and allow me to make minor changes before cutting into the silk. I’m SO glad I did this, because some weird issues popped up.


The collar was too big (I think I took it in by a full inch), the gathers at the front were gaping, and there was a lot of wrinkling and bunching in collarbone/shoulder area. The wrinkling was weird, since every other part of the bodice seemed to fit fine.

I couldn’t find a solution online, or in Patternmaking for Fashion Design* (which everyone says has all the answers) but luckily I found a handy diagram in one of the 1920’s textbooks from the Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences which my Great Aunt gave me.


I was skeptical about their solution, since the shoulder seam fit quite tightly, and if anything there was more excess fabric near the collar than the shoulder, but it totally worked! The shoulder seam just needed to be on more of an angle. I guess I’ve never run into this problem before since I don’t make high collar bodices very often.

In addition to that, I also took the collar in and sewed a strip of material across the front to control the gathers. In the future I would make a separate lining pattern that isn’t gathered, which would avoid this problem.


Here you can see the strip I sewed to the front. After this was done I tried the bodice on again, and it fit well enough that I felt comfortable with moving forward. So I sewed a few boning channels into the lining, then filled them with plastic bones.


It’s the wrong fabric and color, but it looks the way I wanted!


Now I cut the bodice out from silk. Here is the front panel before I gathered it down.


And here it is after being gathered!


And sewn onto the back panels – can we just take a moment to appreciate how the seams on this fabric are practically invisible? I was so worried about making a full dress from silk, since the last silk I used was a VERY finicky dupioni that puckered horribly any time a needle passed through it.  But this fabric doesn’t have that issue, It sews beautifully and seams disappear after ironing.

Plus it has a gorgeous two tone look to it, and the weight is perfect – light enough that it is easy to manipulate, but heavy enough that I didn’t have to interface or flat line it. I want to own this fabric in every color and use it for everything, it’s wonderful.


I sewed up the shoulder seams and added the waistband. Notice how the front and back panels have the same sheen to them? That’s because I paid attention to grainlines this time around…


And a quick test on the dress form to make sure the gathered looked okay.


Now it was time to add the closures. I chose to make the dress close down the back, and decided to go for something that would be decorative and functional: buttons and loops. I don’t think this is historically accurate, but i’ve wanted to make a dress with this type of closure for years and this seemed like a perfect opportunity.

To make the loops I cut out one inch wide strips of silk on the fabrics bias. Then I sewed them into tubes with a quarter inch seam allowance.

When it came to turning the tubes the right way out, things got tricky. I tried to turn the first one by hand, with the help of pliers. Which worked, but damaged the fabric and took ages – like three hours to finish one thirty inch long tube. It was ridiculous. For the other two I used the safety pin method of pinning it to one end, then threading it through the tube and pulling it out the other side. This worked way better and took less than ten minutes, so I should have done that in the first place!


I ended up cutting the tubes into two inch lengths, then ironing them into the shape seen below. These were pinned onto ribbon, then sewn to the ribbon by machine.


The ribbon was then pinned onto the back of the bodice.


And sewn on by hand. Not my prettiest hand work, but I went over each loop several times to make sure they are really secure.


With the loops on, I went ahead and sewed in the lining.


Now it was starting to look like something!


But it was still missing all the buttons, which meant I had to make some. I bought a tool for covering 5/8″ buttons, along with fifty loop back sets. These were purchased on etsy for a grand total of nine bucks.


A few hours later I had an adequate number of buttons. Though I had to make more later for the sleeves and skirt.


Buttons were sewn onto the back, which unfortunately I didn’t take a picture of, and the front, which looks like this!


The gathered front of the bodice has a tendency to flop over and hide my beautiful buttons, so I’ll have to do something to fix that. But aside from that I really like it! I love how clean it looks, with the focus being on the color and buttons. It’s interesting working on something that is so bold (a lot bolder than my usual projects) yet really simple by comparison.

Speaking of that bold color, i’ve nicknamed this the pumpkin dress because of it! The color probably reminds me of cheetos more than pumpkins, but I think “pumpkin” is a slightly more glamorous name for it.


And that’s it for this post! Thanks for reading!


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Making a Taffeta Dress, 1890’s Inspired, Part Three

This is one of those posts i’ve put off writing (much like all the posts to do with this dress…) since this didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped. Which is disappointing, but not surprising to me. A dress this simple shouldn’t take six months of on and off work to complete. The fact that it took so long shows me that I wasn’t excited to work on it, and there is usually a reason for that!

Like the dress being a total failure. Okay I learned some stuff, so it isn’t a total failure. But it’s pretty close.

The last post about this project showed the making of the skirt, and the post before that shows the construction of the bodice. Which means all I had left to do was make the sleeves. I started by drafting a simple wrist to elbow pattern, with a point at the center.

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The other portion of the sleeve is a massive rectangular-ish block that will be gathered down into a very full puff sleeve. You can tell I drafted these myself because they are symmetrical (rather than having a steeper curve at the front, and a more gradual one at the back) which is very unusual for historical sleeve patterns (and sleeves in general).

It’s also a bit unusual to draft sleeves from this period with a seam between the lower and upper portions. I chose to do this since the original plan was to wear this dress underneath a jacket, and I wanted to avoid additional bulk around the wrists which mutton leg sleeves tend to have.

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The puff sleeves were bag lined with the lightest weight lining I could find.

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Then turned the right way out and gathered across the bottom edge.

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I added interfacing to the points of the lower sleeves, so that edge would stay defined. Then I turned the top edge inward by a half inch and stitched it down by hand.

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I trimmed the top edge with lace, then stitched it onto the sleeve.

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The sleeves seemed to be missing something, so I chose to do a bit of beading. The beading design is the same one I used on the neckline of the bodice.

I also ended up making a tutorial on how to do this, if you’re interested it can be watched here!

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Now the back seam was done up with a half inch seam allowance and I lined the lower portion of the sleeve.

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I actually really like how these turned out – even though the fit isn’t the best. I think the beading design compliments this fabric nicely and the sleeves are perfectly puffy.

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I made the decision to leave the hem of the sleeves raw since I had originally planned on adding cuffs. The cuffs were supposed to be made from these beautiful satin collar pieces that have a winding soutache pattern on them.

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I even spend many hours beading the design to make them more elaborate. I love how they turned out, but they ended up being too large and bulky for this costume. They cut the arm off in a weird way and look too stark against the purple. So they have been stashed away and are being saved for another day.

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Then I gathered the top edge of the sleeves down and played around with some quilt batting to make sure they could take on the shape I wanted.

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And finally, they were sewn onto the bodice by hand. This was a pain the ass since polyester taffeta sucks to hand stitch through. It’s so densely woven that the eye of the needle seemed to prefer going through my finger rather than the fabric. But I got there in the end! At this point it actually looked pretty good.

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Here is the bodice tried on over the original partial shirtwaist thing. I decided after this fitting that it was too casual looking, so I made a new one from silk satin.

This is also when I realized that there were some big fit issues. I’m not sure if you can tell, but it was very tight across the chest. Not to a point where it strained, but the it was obvious in person that it was too small. Because of this the bodice couldn’t be pulled down far enough for it to sit at the proper waistline. I kind of ignored these issues at the time – I thought once the skirt was on it would pull the bodice down and it would be fine.

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Since the bodice wasn’t where it was supposed to be, it gives and awkward side profile as well. The volume is supposed to be right above the waist, which makes the waist look smaller. But this just made the area below my chest look massive. Once again I assumed it would be fine after attaching the skirt.

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And the back. This looked a lot worse in person, too. The back panels were cut on a different grainline from the rest of the bodice, and the difference in sheen was very obvious. It also strained horribly across the back. This is partially because it’s a bit too small, but I think flatlining it with a different fabric would have avoided this. Polyester taffeta just doesn’t look good when strained.

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After this fitting – and making a different garment to wear underneath it, I switched out the buttons for vintage glass buttons that matched the beading. A much better fit than the gold ones I used before!

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The skirt and bodice were both sewn onto a strip of interfaced cotton, with the raw edges facing outward. The waistband will cover these edges.

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And speaking of the waistband, that was made from a pattern that looked like this!

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My first attempt was lined with flannel (why did I do that?) and was also too small. The second attempt was lined with cotton and a half inch bigger, which made a huge difference! This was sewn onto the dress by hand, and that was IT for the dress.

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Unfortunately sewing it all together didn’t magically fix the bodice fit issues. It’s really tight across the chest. Like a whole inch too tight. I can wear it, but it  can’t be pulled down low enough for the belt to sit at my actual waistline. The waist of the dress is too small as well – To get it done up I had to wear it with my 1860’s corset, which is too short waisted for the dress to sit nicely overtop of it.

Also the closure method for this dress was stupid. I decided to add hooks down the side, with buttons down half the back. If this had worked, it would have meant I could get into the dress without help. But the back didn’t open enough, and I ended up needing help just to get it over my head! Plus the lack of mobility from the sleeves meant I couldn’t do up the closures.

And that’s not even mentioning the puckering at the back and hem length. One of those things is fixable, but i’m not sure I can be bothered.

Here it is worn without the undershirt.

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The closures on the side didn’t end up being hidden, since the bodice was tight the hooks (though done up) caused the fabric to gape. You can slo see the strap of the bodice sitting away from my shoulder, which is because the bodice can’t be pulled down properly.

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The dress is too long waisted in the back, causing the puckers to look even worse. But on the bright side, I really like the gathers at the back of the skirt. They looked a bit rough up close but I would consider using that technique again on a different project.

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Is this dress fixable? Probably. But it would involve removing the sleeves and skirt, adding panels to the side of the bodice (though there is enough room to let it out, this fabric shows needle marks), adding additional closures to the back of the bodice/switching the skirt to a back closure, regathering the skirt, and hemming it. And it’s really not worth the time and effort that would take.

Looking back it’s easy for me to see where this dress went wrong – there were a lot of poor decisions and mistakes, one after the other. But it happens sometimes – ecspecially when learning, and adventuring into a new era so i’m not going to mope about it.

I’m actually really excited to put what I learned from this project into a attempting a better dress, which will have a similar silhouette and belong to the same era, but is a completely different design (that resembles the original inspiration for this dress quite closely). But i’ll talk more about that next week!

Before signing off I just wanted to show you the hat I made to pair with this. I based it on an edwardian design since I thought a larger hat would look better with the proprotions of this dress, even though it isn’t accurate to the 1890’s. The brim is buckram with three bands of wire.

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And the cap is interfacing, cut from this pattern and edged with wire.

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All the pieces were covered with taffeta and stitched together.

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The interior is lined with muslin, and the brim is lined with gathered tulle and satin ribbon.

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The exterior is trimmed with some fake flowers and a huge feather! The hat is honestly my favorite part of this project – I feel like I magically turn into a stuffy rich old lady when I wear it. And I mean that in the best way.

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This was my first time using leaves on a hat in addition to the flowers, but I really like it. It doesn’t make the flowers look more realistic exactly, but it certainly adds more interest!

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And that’s it! Thanks for reading!


Fabric Haul & Shopping Adventures

This post was supposed to be a simple fabric haul…but then I got a bit chatty. And I wanted to include some shop reviews and photos from my recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. So it’s some sort of shopping adventure/review/haul hybrid.

And unlike most of my hauls, the majority of these material weren’t purchased in NYC! Most of them are from shops near Lancaster Pennsylvania, then I picked up some matching fabrics to pair with them in the garment district.

The first shop I visited in PA was Fabric Mart. I had heard of this shop before since they have a pretty well known website, but it wasn’t until I researched fabric stores near Lancaster that I realized they have a brick and mortar shop as well!

This store didn’t look too promising from the exterior…and the inside wasn’t that inspiring either. Since the store is made up of three rooms, and it isn’t immediately clear that the back rooms are open to customers, it looks quite small when you first walk in. It also wasn’t as densely stocked as a store like Jo-anns, so I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t find anything.

But once I started browsing I was a lot more impressed. They don’t have a ton of fabric, but they have a good variety of materials and relatively unique fabrics – especially when it came to silk. Lots of patterns and designs I’d never seen before, even in places with far more options like the Garment District.

It wouldn’t be the best shop to go to if you were looking for something specific, but I was just there to find pretty fabrics and it was definitely a good shop for that.

However It wasn’t my favorite shopping experience. None of the fabrics were priced – they didn’t even have paper signs to give you some idea of the price range. And none of the employees I spoke to knew prices offhand. Instead you had to go to their website and type in the fabrics item number. I used data on my phone for this, but if you didn’t have a smart phone you’re dependent on a single computer in the center of the store. Even with the phone it was a pain since I was constantly forgetting the prices of each fabric, and some bolts didn’t have any item numbers visible.

They also handle customer service (a team of several people behind desks) for the website in the same room you shop in – which I understand due space limitations, but I felt really awkward and like I was in peoples way.

But I would go back if I was in the area! And I’ll considering ordering from them online in the future, since I did like the selection and uniqueness of their stock.

Now onto what I bought…

The first fabric is from their dollar a yard section. It’s a light pink polyester satin covered with bright pink roses. I absolutely adore this fabric and the style of the print reminds me of how flowers were painted in the 1700’s. Which is why I want to use it for an 18th century robe a la francaise – something i’ve been wanting to make for ages.

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I don’t think the print is accurate for that period, and i’m not sure how well the fabric will pleat, but I think it’s worth a try. I got eleven yards of it, and as I said it was from the dollar section, so the whole bolt only cost me $11!

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Then I picked up a coordinating fabric in the garment district. This will be used for trims and potentially the petticoat. I ended up finding this material at Zahar fabrics, which is one of my favorites since they have a bit of everything and good prices.

However I wasn’t expecting to find this there. I went there to look at chiffon, but on my way to the chiffon section I saw this beautiful silk dupioni, which matches the floral satin — perfectly. Which is fantastic since I needed a warm (almost coral) pink which I thought would be difficult to find.

In addition to being the right color, It has a lovely sheen to it and drapes beautifully. Though the slub is more intense than I usually like, it’s very consistent throughout the fabric so they don’t look like random snags.

I’d budgeted forty dollars for this fabric, which I expected to get me four yards. But I ended up getting five and a half yards for that price, since that was all that was left on the roll!

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The next purchase from Fabric Mart is a mesh embroidered lace. This was from the home decor fabric and on sale for four dollars a yard. I ended up purchasing two yards, and I think it will look beautiful as the trim for an Edwardian gown.

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The threads used on this lace are almost metallic, which gives it a lot of life. I actually have some purple chiffon that matches this, so hopefully I can figure out a design that pairs these two materials together.

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From the silk section (which I spend ages staring at) I bought a yard of this lightweight beige silk. The base fabric has a lovely subtle sheen to it, but it was the metallic stripes that won me over. They have the most beautiful shine to them, it’s so pretty. I think this would make lovely sleeves for a historical dress – maybe paired with a gold or navy brocade.

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And my final purchase there was this silk shantung which has black velvet flocked designs all over it. I can’t even put into words how much I love this fabric, it’s so striking, i’ve never seen anything like it.

It was the most expensive fabric i’ve ever bought (not including beaded lace) but even the price couldn’t deter me, i’m that in love with it. I’m not sure what i’ll use this for, but I bought two yards which should be enough for something neat!

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To go along with that I bought three yards of black micro velvet in the garment district. I love the contrast of these two fabrics together, and I can’t wait to use them. I just have to think of an idea first…

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The next shop I went to is called Goodvile Fabric Outlet/ Zinck’s Fabric – they recently combined and can be found under both names. This store was an experience, truly unlike any other fabric shop i’ve been to. The store is actually a giant warehouse. The front room is carpeted and looks like a normal quilt shop, but the rest of the space is filled with hundreds of pallets of apparel and upholstery fabric.


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Much.Fabric Haul mid 2016-8280Fabric.

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A lot of it was very poor quality – in the whole store I found less than a dozen fabrics I really wanted, but seeing that quantity of fabric was incredible. And it was all really cheap. The flat cuts shown above were a dollar a yard, as were many by the bolt fabrics.

I picked up two of the flat cuts from the home decor section (the only ones soft enough for apparel use) but they didn’t photograph well so I haven’t included photos in this post. I also got a twenty five yard bolt of white organza for twelve bucks, which I was pretty happy with since i’ve wanted to make an organza petticoat for a while.

My by-the-yard purchases included six yards of this bright plaid cotton. This fabric is very fine and very soft and I thought the bright print would make it good for something out of the 1830s – it’s been too long since I paired massive sleeves with a pleated collar!

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From the same section I got a light brown and white plaid fabric. This is very lightweight as well, but has more drape to it, like a medium weight rayon. It feels very nice to the touch and I thought it would make a pretty dress from the early 1800s as well – maybe something regency inspired? This fabric, and the bright plaid were both four dollars a yard.

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I also bought a flat cut of a cotton homespun – I think these were two dollars a yard once discounts were factored in. This piece is almost six yards long and has a very small green and beige checked print. I think the color drew me to this one, I love green and it’s rare for me to see an apparel fabric I like in that color so I snatched it up!

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This shop had a limited suiting section, but what they did have were stunning. Very soft lightweight wool suitings – and only three dollars a yard! The first one I got is a medium brown with small blue and pink stripes.

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And the second one is black and white chevron. I bought these both for suits based on designs from the early 1900s. Tailoring is something I want to get better at, and these are light enough for the menswear inspired dresses that were popular towards the end of the Edwardian period.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8444

The final fabric from this shop is a polyester satin charmeuse – not usually a fabric I go for, since it tends to look quite inexpensive, but this one has a really nice sheen to it.

I had hoped this would match the lace I purchased from Fabric Mart but it’s a little bit too light – i’ll see if I can make it work, otherwise it’ll go in my pile of mock up fabrics!

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Oh and I bought some buttons too – these were 80c each and I thought they would be handy to have around since I don’t have many small, simple buttons.

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The next store I visited is called The Lace Place. It was a slight struggle to get an appointment here, but i’m glad we did! The store was a lot larger and had a lot more stock than I was expecting. It’s set up a lot like the stores in the Garment District, which is interesting to see in such a rural area – we drove past miles of corn fields and cows to get here!

This shop had a great selection of nylon and colored lace. I found the cotton lace a bit stiff, and the selection of venice and embroidered lace lacking, so I didn’t get many of those. But i’ve never seen this many colorful trims in one place – and in every small pattern imaginable!

The store owner was very nice, and the prices on the narrow trims were very reasonable and well marked. The only negative I can really say is that the checkout and cutting process was slow (especially for fabrics) so I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re tight on time. But if you like lace and you’re nearby it’s definitely worth stopping at!

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My main purchase here was eleven yards of white netting that has gold spots woven into it. I bought this because I thought it resembled the material on Sisi’s star gown. The spots are too close together for it to be used for a replica, but it should work for something similar. Either on its own or as a base for sequins. This was four dollars a yard but twenty five percent off since I bought more than ten yards.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8440

On top of that I got quite a bit of lace, including three white cotton trims, five small off white ones, and a beautiful embroidered organza one. A lot of these are similar to trims I already own, but most of my trim collection is made up of vintage items which so some signs of age, and it’s nice to have some that you know are unblemished!

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An interesting pin tucked cotton trim that I thought would look neat on a corset, a white pin tucked organza that I thought looked cool, and a beautiful alencon beige lace – I can’t wait to embellish this and use it to trim the sleeves of an evening gown, it’ll look stunning.

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And some colorful trims to help build my collection. I thought these might work for lace inset work as well. And the yellow ribbon lace is to top off a corset that I finished recently – it matches much better than what I found at Jo-anns.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8452

From the same store I got three grab bags, which were a dollar fifty each. These were such a steal, all of them have a couple lengths of lace that are three to five yards long, along with many pieces that are half that length. It had a lot of fun opening these up and organizing the trims I got. Definitely worth the money, and a joy to look through.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8447

And now back to the fabric shopping. The final store I visited is called Zooks. It mostly sells quilting fabrics but I did find a few things that would work for my costumes.

The first of which is this plaid orange cotton homespun. I liked the color of this, it made me happy, and the price made me happy too – it was two dollars a yard with an additional twenty percent off. I got all the had left (a little over seven yards) and plan on using this for an 1840’s day dress.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8432

From the small apparel section I got two yards of a silky feeling dimpled orange fabric. This matches the homespun material perfectly (for some reason that fabric looks more red in photos) and  has a really interesting texture. Hopefully i’ll be able to pair them together.

And I also got three yards of a green striped fabric, which has an interesting texture as well. And once again I purchased this to go with the lace I purchased in the first store – it isn’t a great match, but I think I might be able to get it to work

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8433

From a different quilt shop (I forget the name) I got some embroidery floss, since it was reduced down to four for a dollar. I bought some greens and oranges which I can hopefully turn into some sort of floral sampler. Embroidery is one of those things I really want to improve at but keep putting off learning more about.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8427

The final few things I got were from the venders section of a quilt show. My first purchase was this magnificent quilting cotton which has unicorns on it. Unicorns are one of my favorite things, and seeing that combined with fabric was wonderful.

I got a yard and a third of this, and I plan on using it to re-cover my ironing board. I think it will look adorable with unicorns running across the bottom!

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8449

I also got a pair of support gloves for my wrists. My wrists are pretty good considering how much time I spend sewing and on my computer, but they do have bad days. I didn’t have super high expectations for these, but I was willing to give them a try. And I’m really glad I did, because I notice a huge difference when I wear them.

I put them on if my wrists are feeling sore and they alleviate the pain by around ninety percent. Which means I don’t have to slow down or take breaks, which I definitely appreciate. I’m not sure that these would work for everyone, or if you have more severe pain, but i’ve been really impressed with them!

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8424

I also bought a wallet, which is a bit silly but very…me. It’s pale blue and has a vintage singer sewing machine on one side, and crossed crane scissors on the other. I justified this because it’s more secure than my previous wallet, and smaller so it fits in my purse better. But I think you can get better wallets for the price, I just fell for it because it’s sewing related.

But I don’t regret it at all because look! So pretty.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8341

And the final thing I got in PA were buttons. A lot of buttons. There was an antique shop selling a box of buttons for fifteen dollars, and a scoop of buttons for three dollars, with twenty percent off everything.

These are metal buttons which I think are new old stock. They say “Waterbury company” on the side, which is a local button manufacturer who has been providing buttons to the US military for almost a hundred years. I got a box of big ones and two scoops of small ones – all of which totaled seventeen bucks.

Not sure what they will be used for, but I figure I could always sell them on etsy and make my money back.

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Fabric Haul mid 2016-8446

Now onto my NYC fabric shopping adventures. The main point of this trip was the see the Manus x Machina exhibit at the Met. But it doubled as a fabric adventure, and a very successful one at that. My list for this trip was relatively small so I could really focus on finding the materials I was interested in. I managed to find everything I wanted so I was very happy!

The first thing I needed was some fabric to match a plaid fabric I ordered online a while back. This is a very bold print so I needed something to break it up. Luckily I found a matching cotton sateen in Hamed Fabrics, and it was only five bucks a yard.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8327

Then I went to Diana’s fabric, and I was on the hunt for something specific. Last time I was there I fell in love with a blue and white striped taffeta but decided it looked too nautical and that i’d already spent enough money that day. And I’ve regretted not getting it for months. I went back this time with hopes they would have some left.

When I first walked in I was concerned, because all the bolts of striped taffeta were gone. But I had a brought a swatch with me and asked the owner if they had it hidden anywhere. Apparently it was in storage, but they sent someone to fetch it and in a few minutes I was reunited with this beauty.

I recalled this fabric being priced at fifteen dollars a yard, and I needed at least seven yards. I had hoped to talk them down to twelve dollars a yard, but by some miracle I got it for ten dollars a yard. Which is an absolute steal in my opinion – it’s fifty four inches wide and has a beautiful texture and sheen to it.

My plan for this is to make a matching skirt and polonaise that plays with the print of the fabric. I also have a striped organza from a previous trip that I want to use as trimming for this dress, I think that would look very cute!

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8322

While I waited for them to find that fabric I looked at their solid silk taffetas and shantungs. I had hoped to find one in a bright color or jewel tone, something that would work well for an 1890’s day dress. I attempted to make one of these earlier in the year, and though I did finish it, I despise the end result. The fit, the design, the fabric, the length, it’s all bad!

I want to take what i’ve learned from that project and apply it to a new, much nicer dress, that has the same inspiration behind it. And this time around I wanted to use a fabric that drapes nicer than polyester taffeta.

They didn’t have too many colors that interested me, but this bright orangey yellow caught my eye.

I was hesitant about this fabric since it’s different then the colors I usually go for, but I didn’t want to let that stop me, and once the fabric was rolled out and I handled it I couldn’t resist. It’s so crisp but soft and light in a way polyester taffeta isn’t. I’m so incredibly excited to work with this and give this project another shot!

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8320

And my final two purchases are for an 1880’s evening gown. I already have the main fabrics for this (a jacquard and beige taffeta that have been in my stash for years) but wanted something softer for ruffles around the neckline and skirt. I had hoped to find a chiffon, but they didn’t have any in the right color. However I did find a very pretty satin faced chiffon that matched, so I bought that.

At this point the only thing left on my list was a lace fabric for this project. I finally stumbled upon this one in a shop i’m not super familiar with. It was more than I wanted to spend (fifty dollars a yard!) and since I only needed a half yard I couldn’t negotiate a better price. But since I couldn’t find anything else that matched, I decided to get it. And I don’t regret it – it’s truly stunning and matches perfectly.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-8334 And that’s it for fabric shopping but I wanted to share my thoughts on the Met exhibit – i’ll try to keep this short since i’m sure there are far better summaries and photos of this out there!

 I found the exhibit a lot more interesting than I expected. I think the write up on the website is a bit misleading – I thought it would be focusing more on machine made garments, but it was all about the hand sewn details and variety of textures.

There were dozens of beautiful fully sequined dresses, some made fully from feathers, and others that were entirely lace. Though I didn’t like all the dresses (there were some collapsable dresses by a Japanese designer that seemed really out of place, and some “deconstructed” ones that were just…awful, in my opinion) I was really impressed by the majority of them.

The dresses on the left were some of my favorites since they remind me a lot of the dresses the stepsisters wear in the Cinderella live action film.


And of course I managed to fixate on one of the oldest dresses they had – this 1920’s gown was beautiful. I’ve actually pinned photos of it on pinterest before, so seeing it in person was a treat. I love how heavily embellished it is while still being very light and airy. Plus the ribbon embroidery was beautiful – it makes me want to learn how to do that!


I also loved seeing the vintage Dior dresses – of which there were probably twenty. I think they are a benefactor for the museum, which probably had to do with their prominence in the exhibit. But I didn’t mind because they were all stunning!

However out of all the dresses, the one that really stuck out is this Givenchy dress. If you’ve been around for a while you may remember my weird idea of making a vulture inspired costume. I purchased the fabrics for it but never settled on a design I was happy with, so it never came to life yet. However this gave me major inspiration! I love how the bodice looks like armor, but it has the softness of fabric. It gives me lots of ideas, which is more than I can say for the others.

Fabric Haul mid 2016-104506

And I think that’s everything I have to say. It’s definitely worth visiting if you appreciate embellishment and pretty dresses!

Thanks for reading!


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Making a Pink Sateen Ball Gown, 1860’s Inspired, Part Four

Making a Pink Sateen Ball Gown, 1860’s Inspired, Part Four

Here it is, the final post about my lacy 19th century confection! If you haven’t already, definitely check out the first few posts about this project. They can be found here, here, and here. They will make this post a lot easier to follow!

The final thing I had to make for my dress were bows. I didn’t have enough material left over to make them as large and frilly as I wanted, but they still turned out okay! The first step was cutting out the rectangles…


Then the slightly longer rectangles were trimmed so the sides ended in points.


I didn’t have very much lace left over, so I ended up trimming these pieces (which will be the tails) with the offcuts from cutting the lace to be more narrow. Not ideal but better than nothing!


And what little lace I had left went onto the rectangles that make up the bows. Since only one side will be visible I decided to only sew lace onto half of each rectangle.

DSC_5810After it was sewn on I ironed the edges inward. Now this is where I should have hand sewed the edges down to finish them nicely.


But I didn’t do that because I was feeling lazy, so instead I used strips of fusible interfacing to keep the edges down. Not my best work, and I kind of regret not taking a few hours to sew these properly, but I had been working on this project for soo long at this point and saving an hour of time was too tempting to resist.


I gathered the tails down with two rows of stitching that are an inch apart.


The rectangles for the bows were folded in half, then sewn together and gathered down in the same way.


Then I pleated the bows to make the centers smaller.


Look at all of them!


The tails were tacked onto the backs.


Then I cut much smaller rectangles out which will make up the centers of the bows. The edges of these were ironed inward and finished with interfacing (does that even count as finishing?). To make them a bit prettier I sewed on bits of alencon lace trim.


All finished! I love bows, they are cute.


Somewhere along the way I finished sewing on the scalloped panels, which left the skirt looking like this.


Then I trimmed twelve inches of fabric off the back of the skirt, since there was a big gab between the scalloped panels there that didn’t look good. I finished the raw edge of the back panels with lace tape, which was sewn on by hand since dragging this skirt through my sewing machine is really difficult (it weighs eight pounds!).

I also sewed up the back seam (this time I did use my machine) leaving the top ten inches open to make it easy to get on and off.


And now it was time for attaching the bows.


There was still a slight gap between the scalloped panels, but nothing a bit of lace and a bow can’t fix.


Here is a close up of it before the bow.


Tah dah! I used a bit of the leftover chantilly lace and sewed it between the panels. Then slapped a bow over it and it’s perfect!


I cut out the waistband from the skirt offcuts, then fused interfacing into it to keep it smooth. The edges were all turned inward by a half inch.


I sewed it on with a half inch seam allowance.


Then folded it over the raw edge and pinned the other side to the line of stitching. This means the bulk of the skirt will be in the waistband, but since the skirt was pleated (as opposed to being gathered) it doesn’t look too bad.


This edge was whip stitched down.


The skirt closed with four hooks and bars.


Quick fitting to make sure everything looks okay. The waistband was perfect, the only problem was a bit of visible petticoat the back seam where it was left open. To fix that I sewed in a modesty panel and the skirt was finished!



The skirt needing a modesty panel reminded me to add one to the bodice. Which reminded me that I still hadn’t finished sequining the bodice, nor had I fixed the gap in lace on the back of it. Luckily, much like with the skirt, a bow fixed the gap in lace and upped it’s cuteness factor!



And that’s it for the dress! But are we done yet? No. Of course not.

For accessories I bought a necklace (which probably isn’t accurate) from forever 21, and a pair of lacy shoes from Funtusma (definitely not accurate). Unfortunately the petticoat issue forced me to wear higher heels with this skirt instead of my pretty boots but i’m determined to wear them with a different costume someday.

The final thing I needed was a headpiece. In the 1860’s evening caps or headbands were the most popular. I made mine a combination of the two. It’s made from interfacing strips with wire sewn into the edges. It’s covered with bias tape made from the sateen and has a chantilly lace ruffle across the back.


I covered the top with alencon lace trim that was further embellished with sequins, faux pearls, and pink seed beads – the same beads used to detail the bodice and sleeves.


Then I used some fake flowers and metal beads to add volume to the sides.


Now it looked weird, which means it’s perfect because these headpieces were pretty weird.


And that’s actually it! Every piece is complete (and fits)! Which means it’s time for some worn photos. I’d love to get more photos of this in a better environment, because (shockingly) it against a white backdrop with dim lighting doesn’t really do it justice. But for now these will have to do!

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7891

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7876

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7872

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7901

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7872

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7892

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -

Angela Clayton Evening Gown 1860 -7878

Bonus: My dress compared to the one that inspired it.


And compared to the sketch I made before starting – it isn’t too far off!


That’s it for today – thanks for reading!


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Making a Pink Sateen Ball Gown, 1860’s Inspired, Part Three

It’s taken me two months but I finally have another post about making my 1860’s ball gown! I’ve already showed the process of making the bodice and sleeves, and today i’ll be going through the first steps in making the matching skirt.

The skirt wasn’t hard to make, it’s just massive so every step involved in making it was time consuming. And the underskirts for it took up half my sewing room, so working on it was a commitment which required packing away the other things I had in progress. Because of this it took ages to finish, but it’s finally done!

The first step in making this skirt was making the support structure for it. When photographing a more casual 1860’s costume I had success with layering petticoats over my farthingale to get the shape of an elliptical hoop. I decided to use this method again, but instead of pinning existing petticoats onto the farthingale, i’d make a massive one to sit overtop of it.

I thought this was a great idea. It meant I didn’t have to buy sixty dollars worth of hooping wire (and wait for it to arrive), and I thought it would save time since even if I did make a new hoop skirt, i’d still have to make a petticoat to go overtop of it to smooth out the shape.

This was stupid. It didn’t save time at all. In fact i’m pretty sure it took me twice as long to make this petticoat than it would have to make a new hoop skirt and a smaller petticoat. I also massively screwed up my neck while making it since I was hunched over my machine hemming for days…



And the petticoat didn’t really work. Because it collapsed.  And by that I mean the netting compacted under the weight of all the ruffles, making it much smaller (and longer!) than it was originally, so it doesn’t have the silhouette i’d wanted at all. I tried steaming it and storing it in a variety of different ways (laid flat, hanging upside down, laying upside down, on the dress form, etc.) but it refused to come back to life.

Because of all that i’m not going to talk about how I made it, but you can see photos of it above. Those were taken right after it was finished, before it started collapsing and losing it’s shape. You’ll probably notice it looking smaller (and sadder) throughout this post, and now you’ll know why!

*bonus photo of petticoat standing on its own looking like a creepy ruffly ghost haunting me with its failed ruffly potential*


After the petticoat disaster I did look into making a proper elliptical hoop, but it turns out hooping wire has been discontinued! And the replacement is twice the price, meaning the hoopskirt would cost more than the dress did to make.

Plus by this point the skirt was finished and made to fit over the petticoat/farthingale combo, and likely wouldn’t hang properly over an elliptical hoop without major alterations. I still haven’t figured out a solution for this, so unfortunately my dress doesn’t have the silhouette i’d hoped it would. But it’s still ruffly and pretty so i’m going to talk about it anyway!

When it came to actually making the skirt, I failed to photograph the first few steps. But they weren’t very interesting anyway.

I began by cutting out eight strips of fabric that were seventeen inches wide. I sewed them all together with french seams, and hemmed them by machine with lace tape.

Then I cut the borders off three yards of alencon lace fabric. This particular lace had two thin borders on each edge which could be fussy cut away from the mesh and serve as lace trim. It took me a few hours (and a few hand cramps) but eventually I got all the lace cut out. Then I sewed it onto the bottom edge of the massive strip I assembled earlier – by hand, of course.

The top edge of the strip was gathered down by hand until it was five yards long. Then it was set aside and I got to work on the rest of the skirt.


I put the petticoats onto my dress form, then adjusted the form to sit at my height. I measured from the waistline to the floor at a half dozen points and wrote the measurements down. Then I came up with a simple seven panel pattern for the skirt that could be cut from the fabric I had leftover.

The pieces were cut to sit approximately ten inches off the ground, with the hem trimmed to a more even length after I figured out the pleating of the waistline.

I could have sworn I took photos of my pattern, but this is the only one I have. I believe this was one of the back panels (maybe?)


They were all sewn together with french seams, though the back was left open to make embellishing the skirt easier.


After sewing the panels together I pleated the waistline. It has three double box pleats at the sides and front, and double knife pleats at the back.


I’m so grateful I cut the pieces to be longer than I thought they needed to be. Though each panel should have hat 5 inches to spare, some were just barely long enough!

And I know it looks really messy here, but it will be steamed and trimmed later on which makes a huge difference.


I sewed across the top of the skirt to secure the pleats.


Then I pinned the ruffle onto the skirt and fiddled with it until I was happy with the length. I looked at a lot of evening dresses from this period and many of them had long hems that dragged on the ground, so I chose to leave mine long as well.


I used a pen to mark where the hem should be cut. This was marked before removing the ruffle.


After trimming the hem I pinned the ruffle on. Even though I gathered the ruffle down long before knowing the exact size of the skirt, it ended up being the perfect length! It was only off by a half inch, which was a very happy surprise.


Here is the skirt after sewing the ruffle on.


At this point I chose to do a try on test with the skirt and realized it was a bit too long (and one side was longer than the other). I didn’t want to hem the skirt again, so I chose to sew a half inch wide seam a few inches above where the skirt attached. This lifted the hem by an inch.


Now it was time for the frills. In my original sketch i’d planned on doing scalloped panels that were embellished with lace appliques and covered with gathered tulle, which is the same technique used on the collar of the bodice. This was challenging since I didn’t have very much cotton sateen left over, but I managed!

Step one was draping the scalloped pattern.


I transferred it to paper and cut out five from the sateen. Since I was working with limited materials, some of the panels had seams running through them or were made from multiple pieces sewn together.


Then I fussy cut out a ton of appliques and pinned them onto the scalloped pieces. The tulle overlay will be denser near the edges so I kept the appliques towards the center of each piece.


They were all sewn on by hand.


Then I gathered down strips of tulle and sewed them onto the top edge of each piece.


The bottom edges were gathered down as well, then sewn in place. The excess tulle was trimmed away.



For maximum frillyness I wanted the edges of the scallops to be finished will lace. I ordered twenty yards of trim from etsy, which was advertised as being white but was actually light blue! Luckily all it took was a two minute bath in tetly tea to get it to a more neutral ivory.


I trimmed the lace to be one inch wide, then pinned it onto the edges of the panels.


The lace was sewn on with a half inch seam allowance.


Then I turned the lace inward and sewed it in place by hand to avoid visible topstitching. The finished edges looked like this!


Of course they still weren’t finished. There weren’t even any ruffles on them! To fix that I sewed together four pieces of chantilly lace to make a twelve yard strip.


Then I gathered the top edge down by pushing it under the presser foot as I sewed.


The lace was sewn onto the hem of each scalloped panel, and now they were finally done!


Look at this stack of them.


Before attaching them to the skirt I decided to jazz the skirt up a bit with some more alencon lace. I debated about whether  or not to use so much of this lace (since it isn’t very accurate) but ended up going for it since it’s so pretty.

These are also lace borders that were fussy cut out, but these ones are much wider.


I sewed the widest one onto the front of the skirt, and the narrower one onto the back. This was stitched on by hand as well, which took quite a while. Here you can see it pinned in place.


And here it’s sewn on!


The lace originally came up higher at the center front, but I cut it down to a more even length since I thought this was a bit too much. Also the gap between the lace and the ruffle is intentional, since the scalloped panels will cover that area up.DSC_5688

After another fitting (this was after my petticoat problems) I realized the skirt was now too short. So I removed the seam I made earlier. This was kind of a pain since some of the lace trim was sewn overtop of it, but it ended up working out alright.


Now the scalloped panels could finally be pinned in place!


This photo shows them before they were sewn on, but I think it gives you a good idea of how they look!

And with this, I finally reached adequate levels of frilliness.


The next post will cover adding the bows (did you think I would forget bows?!) and boring stuff like the waistband and closure methods. I’ll also have worn photos up along with it!

If you want a sneak peek of all that, I do talk a bit about this project in my most recent weekly progress log!

Thanks for reading!


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