Friday, 27 November 2015

Corset storage bag - and how you can make one, too!

Hello again!

I'm back, to show you all my latest project I told you about the other day.
After making my corset, I found I needed something to keep it in. You know, to keep it free from dust and to protect it from anything that could harm it, like zippers or velcro. Something good for travelling, too. I needed a storage bag of some sort, and here it is!

I drafted a pattern for it myself, after measuring the length of my corset. It is really just a simple drawstring bag, with a round bottom. It is made from two layers, and all raw edges are encased for a clean look. I used plain white cotton, but I bet a nice 1880s lady would have had a silk bag for her corset.

I knew I wanted some embellishment on it, and first considered doing a monogram like on the chemise. But then I remembered my tatting. Wouldn't it be nice with a little bit of me-made lace? Yes:) (funnily, I now want to put tatted edges on everything...)

I think it turned out super cute, and I am very happy with it. It made up in a couple of hours, and looking at it, I think it would be great for other things, too. Like storing shoes in, perhaps. Maybe as a gift wrapper, something to stick a winebottle into, to give to a friend?

So, although I know you are all capable of making up your own stuff, I've decided to add a little how-to if anyone want to make their own storage bag :) It is a quick, easy project, perfect for a beginner sewist.

For one bag, you will need:

  • two rectangles (50x60cm), and two circles (20cm in diameter) in the fabric of your choice
  • two metal eyelets/grommets
  • a ribbon about two feet long

Here's how you do it:
  1. Stitch together the shorter sides of your rectangles, 1 cm seam allowance. Press seams.
  2. Pin or baste one of the round pieces to each of your tubes (making sure the raw edges are facing the same way). You now have to bag-like objects.
  3. Set eyelets in your outer bag. Place them about 1" (2.5cm) apart, and 9cm from the (raw) top edge. (I placed mine at the center front, the side seam of the bag is center back.)
  4. Take one of your bags, and turn it wrong side out. Put the other bag inside the first, so that right sides are facing each other and you can see raw edges both inside and outside of your bag.
  5. Line up the side seam of your two bags, and the top edge, neatly. Stitch together at top, leaving a 2" (5cm) gap.
  6. Turn your bag right sides out, through the gap in the top. You now have one long sausage-like object with all raw edges enclosed. Tuck the one half that doesn't have eyelets, inside of the other, to form a bag. Press the top edge, and hand stitch the gap closed from the right side.
  7. On the outside of your bag, mark the stitching lines for the drawstring channel. Measure from the top edge, and have your eyelets centered between the two lines. Mine are approx. 2cm apart. Do not place the lines too close to the eyelets, or you will have trouble with your presser foot hitting (and sliding off of) the eyelet when stitching. I used my zipper foot for the seam, which enables the seam to get quite close to the eyelet.
  8. Thread the channel with a suitable ribbon.
Congratulations! You have made a corset storage bag!!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Learning a new skill - A very Victorian pastime!

Hello everyone!
My first week of unemployement has passed, and I am struggling a bit to adjust. I have been quite restless, but at the same time I can't seem to get anything done. So I decided to learn a new skill! And what could be more fitting than the most popular handcraft amongst Victorian ladies, tatting!
Or Nupereller, as it's called here in Norway (yes, chew on that, my foreign friends :)

Beautiful tatted border

I have always loved the look of tatting, but never even heard of anyone doing it around where I live.
And when I tried to get the tools for it, it became evident that this is NOT a popular pastime for 21st century Norwegian women.... Who knew?
I mostly got blank stares when explaining what I was after. *sigh*

Tatting uses special holders for the thread, called shuttles, or long blunt needles. Shuttles are for more elaborate work, so I am saving that for when I have more grip of the process (pun intended). As I couldn't find the right needles I bougth some long tapestry needles, and had Mr. P grind off the points for me. Bless him :) It will have to do for now.

The technique for tatting is basically to make knots and loops of thread, which together form a lace-like structure. When needle tatting, you form a sequence of knots on the needle, and then slide them off onto the thread that's in said needle. For this you want a needle that has an eye not thicker than the needle itself, and those are hard to find over here. They are also very long, about 5-7 inches. If you use shuttles, this is not a problem, but it uses different hand positioning and is said to be trickier to learn, and master.

Tatting using a shuttle

After deciding to dive into tatting, I was surprised to see just how versatile this technique is There is obviously the classic doily, and numerous border designs. But also tatted jewelry and even Christmas ornaments, bookmarks, collars and belts. 

Vintage border/inlay pattern

Found on Etsy, here.

Tatted Christmas ornament

My first attempts were rather sad looking. But as I started to get familiar with it, I soon discovered that not only was it quite easy to do, but also quite addictive and fun! I spent an evening just making friends with my needle and thread, and figuring out tension and such. By the end of the first day, I was happily tatting away on my first little border. There are lots of free patterns around, so no need to run out of projects to try, even for a newbie :)

This little border is destined for a special project, soon to be finished. It is turning out rather lovely, can't wait to share it with you all!

My first tatting project! Yay :)

 I also tried my hand on a little snowflake, still in progress!

Have you ever tried tatting? Or do you have another favorite technique?

Thursday, 19 November 2015

The Golden Jubilee Corset - LM#100 Silverado pattern

King Winter arrived in the wee hours this morning, and sprinkled us with glorious white snow. And that usually means light enough to get half decent photos taken! (But rather typically; by the time I was all dolled up and laced in, daylight was fading...)

My victorian chemise and drawers have been waiting for this moment for several weeks already, but my corset got it's last stitches done on Sunday. I still haven't flossed it, due to a lack of a long enough hand sewing needle and silk thread. But other than that, I think it's done!

The corset is made from three (!) layers of coutil. The fancy outer coutil seemed a bit stretchy and unstable, so I basted it together with a layer of strong white cotton coutil. I also used this as my lining. In hindsight I could have used something lighter for lining, but I didn't have anything suitable in Le Stash. I used some lighter cotton fabric for my second muslin lining, and that ended up showing the inside seam allowances which wasn't a good look. At least, this corset is very sturdy, you could probably hoist a horse with it :)

This particular corset pattern has bust gores, which means there are six layers of fabric at the seams, meeting up in the gore points. Bulk festival.
I tried to grade down the seams as much as possible, so there wouldn't be any pressure points over my ribs. I can just feel a small lump at the gore nearest the front when I wear it. I just hope it doesn't end up being painful. I wore it for a couple of hours, and it felt fine. Fingers crossed.

All the inside seam allowances are cast over by hand. It took a whole day, but it was strangely satisfying.

Mid-construction. Hand cast seams, and in the process of putting in the waist stay.

When I decided on my project, which dates from 1887, I did some research on what was big in the news this particular year. As it turns out, Queen Victoria herself had her Golden Jubilee this very year, so I decided to honour the dear gal with a small token inside my corset :)

The little embroidery was done on the lining fabric before assembly. I just made a quick rough sketch with a marking pen, and free-handed it. It is the same style as the monogram on the chemise. I was afraid the crown would look like a chimp doodle, but I am happy to see it actually resembles a little crown.

I just love it when the stars align like that, my corset coutil and the golden busk and grommets were all chosen before I learned about the Royal Jubilee. It would seem like some costume sewing fairy godmother is watching over this project! Oh, may it last!

Making a corset isn't difficult, but it is a lengthy process with many steps. The pattern adjusting and the fittings are the most important ones, and I think one needs to make quite a few corsets to get it right. I am pleased with my first proper corset, but I learned loads of things I will do differently on the next one. Plus, I need to get more practice with things like grommet setting and working with densly woven fabrics in multiple layers.

If I am to say anything about the Laughing Moon pattern, I highly recommend it for first time corsetiers. It has patterns for everything you see me wearing in these photos (not the silk robe), so good value for money. The instructions are very good, too. If you are looking for a big waist reduction, I find this pattern to be not very curvy. I added a lot of hip spring to the pattern pieces, and still wish I had some more. But those are fitting steps everyone need to do for themselves in the muslin stage, so totally normal.

The chemise and drawers pattern is also nice, but I don't like the rounded shapes on the chemise front yoke, just over the bust. It looks odd to me, because it doesn't mirror the shape of the corset top. Personal preference, I guess, my next one will be shaped differently. And have lots more lace!! Other than that, it has a nice close fit at the top that will not add any unnecessary bulk under bodices.

I also got a lesson today about lacing oneself into a corset when your chamber maiden has her day off. It is hard. I broke a sweat, and my arms nearly fell off. And a mirror just makes it worse! I guess it gets better with practice, but I wish I could have gotten it tighter, and a bit more even for the photos. Oh well.

If you managed to read your way down here, you are a champ!
Next up, wire bustle and heaps of petticoats!!!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Victorian inspiration - or how I chose my project.

Since I decided to just jump in, and make a historical outfit, my biggest conondrum has been choosing what to make. I mean, with all the breathtakingly gorgeous day dresses, walking suits, evening gowns, ball gowns, petticoats, corsets, chemises, hats, gloves, capes etc. etc. from all different eras - HOW DO YOU CHOOSE???

Clichè, I know, but I decided to follow my heart. I took note of what made my mouth dry with admiration, the things that made me go "Oooo!" out loud, and spill my coffee. Mostly, I found, this happened to be stuff from the late Victorian era. I like big butts, apparenly, so the bigger the bustle, the more sweaty my hands.

Portrait of Baroness von Derwies, 1871.
Example of a first bustle era dress style.

Bustles first came into fashion in 1870. The wide hooped skirts of the 1860s started to change, as the fullness migrated towards the back. The skirts were gathered up with tabs and buttons to form a pouf, and the wire bustle was introduced to support the skirt.

An example of a 1870s wire bustle.
The Metropolitan museum of Art.

In this first bustle period, there were still quite a lot of fullness at the front as well as the back. In 1875, a more slender silhouette appeared. The wire bustle was put aside, and sleek lines with tight fitted bodices and narrower  trained skirts became fashion.

Slender, Natural form silhouette.

 Around 1880, the bustle was reintroduced in France, but it wasn't until 1883 that it took off as the new silhouette. This time, the bustle was even bigger, and formed almost a straight angle to the back. In the late 80s, the bustle again diminished as the skirts widened, and fullness migrated down the back. By the mid 1890s the bustle was mostly gone, and fashion evolved towards what would become the Edwardian silhouette.
This is of course a very simplified summary of the bustle period, as there were many details to womens clothing and fashion during this short space of time.

Right, now. Where was I? Oh yes, the outfit!
I tried to pinpoint what I would like to do in my outfit. Would I attend a ball? Or a park picnic? Would there be walking involved? Dancing, perhaps? Indoors/outdoors? Summer/winter?
Another consideration other costumers focus on, is what kind of person you portray. Working class women dressed very differently than an upper middle class lady. If I was doing reenactment, this could be a concern, but my focus is just to try recreate something that I love the look of, and that is within my budget material wise. And of course, there is the skill range.

See more photos, and read the story of this dress
 and it's wearer here.

I have now landed on something that isn't too dressy (if you could ever say that about victorian clothing) or complicated, but no less lovely! I want to do a walking suit/ travelling ensemble as my first make.
And it will be heavily inspired by this 1887 outfit, designed by Herman Rossberg.

I love the muted colors, that show off the design elements. I find it very elegant and mature, but not frumpy. I like that it can be dressed up with a set of more fancy sleeve cuffs, collar and front insert. And I really love the simple, yet intricate soutache trim. Here you can clearly see an example of a grand bustle of the mid 1880s. That butt is huge!!

The original design has two different bodices, and despite how much I love both styles, I think I'll be making just the short one, with the small back pleat detail.

I am probably in way over my head here, but I want to see if  it can be done! I am not in any hurry, so if you are expecting to see a finished outfit by the end of next month, don't hold your breath. There is lots of research to be done, petticoats and wire bustles to be made! If anyone has pattern suggestions, for any part of the ensemble, I would really appreciate it. For the bodice, I have set my sights on Truly Victorian #466 or #463. They both seem to fit the bill, with some alterations.

The skirt is giving me a headache, there seems to be concealed pleats at center front and sides, and some straight panels. And then there's that fabulously draped overskirt with the assymetric bustle.

So what do you think? (Other than how insane I clearly must be!)
I already got most of the fabric for it, but I fear I'll have to use two tones for the skirts. Calculating yardage for this thing is not my strong suit, and suggestions online range an aweful lot. I fear the skirt is a major fabric hog. The muslin will answer that question, no doubt! I have nearly 8 meters, but it's most likely not enough. I found a gorgeous wool gabardine on sale, and bought what was left. So we'll see :)

Fun times ahead!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

I'll be fine. Really!

It's been some crazy weeks here in Pinhouse-world. Emotional rollercoaster extraordinaire.
My earlier suspicions about ending up unemployed, has now been confirmed.
Yup. I am, as of the end of the month, officially out of a job.


In total, 47 people has been let go, because of a failing market and it is not getting any better until 2017. At best.
It is hard to know what to feel. I feel sorry for all who lost their job. I am sad to no longer knowing what I am supposed to do every day. I am angry, because of the way we employees were treated during the process (there will be lawsuits...) and I think our management and executive has made some pretty ridiculous decisions.

On some level I am even releaved (sort of) to be let go, because it might open up better opportunities for me. My job has often been a source of frustration, it has effected my health and there has been no chance of personal growth. Industrial workers are often just seen as a number, not as a person. You are expendable and replaceable. I have been at the facory for eight years, and yet, everything I've learnt and done, don't mean a thing on the "outside". The work experience is not transferable/useful any other place, which is not a good thing... So basically, I've just gotten older, not any wiser.

But I will not dwell on this. I have decided to want, what the Universe wants. What happens, happens. And I am better off if I can make what happens, my own will. It is up to me now. This could be my biggest disaster, OR my biggest opportunity. I choose to let it be a good thing!

On another (and much more enjoyable) note, there has been some sewing. Not as much as I would like, though. Big life changing events has the power to suck the energy out of you, but I hope I'll bounce back quickly!

I am happy to give you a sneak peak of my Victorian underthings! (Scandalous!!)
My corset is nearly done now, just some binding and flossing to go. And both chemise and drawers are ready. Cute, huh?

Now, all there is to do is get it all finished, photographed and then, it's onto the DRESS!