Musings of a Lady

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I want to wish all my readers a wonderful and happy 2013!

2012 is nearly done.  Here in California, we have about 14 more hours of this past year to enjoy even as I write.  The anticipation of a new year is often a joyous romp of wishes and resolutions and to-do lists.  With the best intentions I plan to get rid of those UFO's (unfinished objects) out of boxes, off shelves and either put to use or moved on to someone else. How about you?  My goal is to make room for those newer projects that have flitted into my head and flutter with great urgency in the cocoon of my thoughts.  But, let me not wax poetic and share some of my hopes and to-dos:

1.  Simplify, simplify, SIMPLIFY! (I am making progress in simplifying my lifestyle so I can enjoy life rather than live it in spectator mode).
2.  Do something creative everyday!
3.  With all the trouble in our world, continue to be a positive and supportive source of light and hope.

Three simple things to do, I think I can manage this.  :)

On the 'New' sewing front here are my plans:

1.  Pet en l'air (just started that, actually)
2.  Brunswick
3.  Victorian corset 
4.  A Tissot era bustle dress
5.  A few nice 50's style dresses for regular wear.

1.  Renaissance corset I started a while ago.
2.  Tudor Shift I started but got stuck on the embroidered pattern which I think I worked out now.
3.  Pair of 18th century cloth mitts
4.  I have a couple of Art Deco outfits that I started but didn't finish.

Phew!  That's a lot to start with and the plan is to get going on them without an event in mind so that I am not sewing before an event.  I really don't like working under pressure.  Do you?  I know some folk do but I don't.  It is such a great feeling to have an event to go to and all you have to do is pull out something from the wardrobe.  That is bliss...until I get that urge - "I can't be seen in that again?"  Alas, do I really need an excuse to make yet another historical garment?  No, of course not.  I have a sewing machine, ergo anything is possible!

In any case, best wishes in the new year and I hope that you will have a prosperous and joyful year.   As Audrey Hepburn says: Nothing is impossible, the word itself says 'I'm possible'! 

Happy New year!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Joyeux Noel! Feliz Navidad! Happy Christmas!

Dearest friends, I want to wish you a happy holiday!  How ever you celebrate this winter season, enjoy!  Best wishes in the new year.  I hope that 2013 will be a happy, joyful and prosperous year for you all.

Collage 2012 ag

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Le Modiste: En Fourreau Part 3

Although I have not posted in a while, I have not been idle.  The work on the Polonaise En Fourreau is continuing and I am nearly there.  I know that not everyone likes to do 'hand sewing' and it can be tedious at times but when 'chunked' into a manageable timeframe it is doable.  Firstly, I have no deadline on this dress so that removed a lot of pressure to be done by a certain time.  Secondly, I decided it was a learning experience and I would just take my time. Thirdly, I do love hand sewing! With that said, it was totally fun working with two friends - one doing the coaching and the other also learning to drape a gown in situ.

Let's see where did I leave off? Ah!  I was sewing down pleats and getting ready to put in the sleeves.  Well, let's take a look the next steps I was able to get done in the process:

Fashion fabric and lining.

Right sides together the fashion fabric and one side of the lining are pinned and sewn together.

The lining not sewn into the previous seam is pinned to sandwich the raw edges inside b/w the fashion fabric and the lining.

Lining is whipped down.

The sleeve edges (FF and L) are turned in and whipped down.

Sleeve ready for setting.

Bodice with pleats done ready to be pleated to skirt.
Now before I set in the sleeve I also had to attach the skirt fronts to the skirt back.  Remember the skirt back is a part of the bodice.  I left slits at the top of the seams to allow for access to my pockets.  The skirt side back to front was pleated into the bodice and the bodice lining was placed over the pleats to sandwich the raw edges inside.

Skirt pleated on to the bodice and lining folded and pinned in place

From the outside prior to sewing.
There was since of accomplishment when I put on my corset and my friends helped me into my dress, albeit not done but looking like a real dress!  It was so cool!  Yes, I have made gowns before but this was different, just different - hard to describe if you haven't made a dress without a pattern and all by hand.  This is not for everyone of course, but if you ever get a chance to do it, go for it!

Next Steps - The shoulder straps to be pinned and sewn in place in situ.  This will be followed up with pinning the sleeves on while the dress is on the body prior to sewing on to the bodice.  Once that is done, I will need to finish the back neck edge, hem the skirt and then begin to make the matching petticoat.  Almost there!  :)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Le Modiste: En Fourreau Part 2

Hello!  I  have been making progress on the Polonaise en fourreau.  What I am working on now is the back piece.  The back is one piece of fabric that starts with a dart from the neck to waist (1/4" to 2") then pleated while on the body to create the shaped 'V' and then the inverted pleat at the 'tail-bone'.  This was done with the fashion fabric.  The lining is a rectangle cut the length of neck to waist and darted just the same but not pleated.

The lining is folded and darted.  It is then attached to the fashion fabric which is darted then pleated and pinned in place.

The pinned pleats - I ironed them to help me keep it even.

Detail of pleats pinned.

Sewing through all layers I am using a Mantua stitch. I think mine are too close and tight. Not sure.

When you are done the inside looks like this.

Detail:  The stitches.

I am using linen thread.  It is thicker than regular modern cotton covered poly threads we have now.  This was borrowed from a friend till I can order what I need from Burnley and Trowbridge.

Next up:  Finish stitching down the pleats, then cut and put the sleeves together.  The sleeves were draped on my arm - using an extra piece of lining fabric and I will use it as a pattern.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Le Modiste: En fourreau or English back - Part 1

100% Linen, Indian Printed.  Oatmeal ground.
One project I have always wanted to do is a totally hand-sewn gown.  That particular dream is coming true and I am really excited.  A dear friend is helping me drape on the body and create a polonaise en fourreau gown.  I am using the above linen which I have been coveting at Discount Fabrics in Berkeley, California for a while.  It is 54" wide and I bought about 4 to 5 yards.  Should I have been using something from my 'stash'?  Absolutely!  Yet, I just couldn't resist.  In fact I consciously decided that if I am going to put that much work into it I might as well use something nice and that would encourage me to keep up with the project.

The first thing we did was to drape the front of the bodice over the corset.  The front bodice piece includes the side back, so there is no side seam.  Also, the center front is not cut on the straight which I found interesting as I was always taught to draft on the straight at the center front and back.  With that said, the drape of the fabric does work with the conical shape the corset gives you and there is less to do to make the shape develop.

Once you have the piece cut, (which you can do in muslin which I chose to do instead of actually starting with the fashion fabric), the draped piece becomes the pattern for the both the lining and fashion fabric.

The draped pattern piece.

Hand stitched the fashion fabric and the lining using a whip-stitch.
Whip-stitched the fashion fabric to the lining which was turned so the lining is offset from the edge.

Front pieces done except at the side back seam/shoulder/armhole - will be done later.

The back piece was measured on the body by taking a length of fashion fabric and measuring from the back neck to the waist and wee bit below.  I then created a dart down the center back starting at 1/4" and out to 2" at the waist using a back-stitch.
Center back dart pinned.

Back stitching the center back dart
  • Costume Close-up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790, Linda Baumgarten & John Watson with Florine Carr, Costume and Fashion Press QSMC.W 1999
  • Seventeenth and Eighteenth-Century Fashion in Detail, Avril Hart and Susan North, Victoria & Albert Publishing, 1998.
  • Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600-1930, Norah Waugh, Theatre Art Books, 1985
  • Costume in Detail, Nancy Bradfield, Plays Inc., 1975

Next up:  Drape and stitch the back pleats of the bodice-skirt.  Also, drape the sleeves and make-up.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Le Modiste: Celebrating the last days of Summer!

Annually, the Art Deco Society of California. has their last days of summer picnic at the Dunsmuir House in Oakland California afternoon is always a fun and celebratory affair where we can dress up in our Deco frocks and hats, linen suits and boaters, then spread out picnic faire and dance the afternoon away!

I didn't go last year and missed it terribly.  This year I pulled out a dress that I started for the event and finished it.  I used a Decade of Style pattern, that I have used before with great success.

White linen, lime green vintage buttons, jade-like rings and lace
Everything was from my stash!  Didn't buy one new item.  Even the side zipper was a recycled item.  Anyway, I used a dress weight, white linen for the dress and belt.  The green lace made up the raglan sleeves.  The buttons were vintage ones but the rings were a find at JoAnne Fabrics!  Perfect color match!  The one thing I did that was different from the pattern was add this neck detail:
It is a typical detail for 1930's dresses and blouses to have bound openings and either scarf ends or some sort of fabric bow or tie threaded through the openings.  I tried this and I liked it.  This is how it turned out:
It was a pretty warm day, so the linen was very comfortable!

Aren't the cars fabulous!

On the Wagon as little Violet plays!
 Here are some more pictures of the overall event.  It was a glorious day of champagne, food, dancing and lots a well dressed folks!  Enjoy!

Next up:
Draping a Robe Anglaise, en fourreau (or English back).
Continue working on my Elizabethan embroidery sample
Up-cycle a bustle ball gown with a day bodice jacket
Possible Mid-Victorian Visting ensemble.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

An Honor has been bestowed!

Sabine at  Kleidung um 1800 has awarded me the Liebster Blog award!  Sabine was recently awarded this award as well.  I must, first mention that, her nominators were certainly right to do so.  Sabine's blog is a wonderful source of creativity and information that with each visit there is a delight!  In the great tradition of blog honors and awards, Sabine has in turn given several other bloggers a 'shout out' for what they contribute to the community of creative people all over the world.  I am so pleased that Sabine thought highly enough of my blog to want to give me this wonderful 'hurrah!'

Per the protocol, I would like to share this award with 5 more blogs that I believe deserve a applause and commendation:

I would like to award this to Phil at Costumes de Phil  His work is amazing!  Many of our fellow historical costume bloggers have been ladies but this gentleman is a wiz at tailoring historical men's fashions.  Very much eye candy to be sure.  Phil may not post often, as he is sewing and attending many period events in France but it is worth the wait when he produces his works of art.  He posts in French and English.

Madame Isis' Toilette  Her blog is fascinating and covers the area of fashionable period cosmetics.  I have always been interested in stillroom activities and the home remedies and chemistry that our foremothers used before the chemists and drug stores in our world came on the scene.  A definite must for the historical researcher.

Green Martha  Is another delightful blog to follow.   Marion Brégier is fun to follow.  Her post are full of information and she provides lots of visuals, too.  Her children are delightful in their historical fashions!  Her posts are all in French but you can use the 'translation' button.

Angela Thornhill at  in Ohio, posts about her historical re-enactments and sewing projects.  Her posts are very visual and full of information.  A definite stop for creative historical bloggers.

Last but not least, I want to also shout out for Rowenna at Hyaline Prosaic  She isn't currently posting because I think she is having her first baby!  However when she posts her work is beautiful!  She is involved in re-enactments in Indiana, USA.

There are so many more that I can mention but these are the five I wish to give a 'shout out' to for contributing so much to the historical community.  Now, my business is not done.  I will be emailing all 5 people and letting them know of my support of their work.    As receivers of this award, I ask Phil, Isis, Marion, Angela and Rowenna, to:
  1. Add the award icon to your blog!
  2. Link to your nominater to say "thank you“
  3. Nominate 5 bloggers with less than 200 followers.

Thank you again, Sabine!  Thank you all who have just joined me and those who have been with me since the beginning.  Your faith in my work, your supportive comments and your cyber friendship is happy light of love and respect, thank you.

Coming up next:
A 1930's summer dress!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Le Modiste: Papillote Curls

Madame Grand by Elizabeth Lousie Vigee Le Brun 1783

Achieving the 18th century hairstyles alludes many of us who prefer a wash and go style in our everyday lives.  However, American Duchess found a YouTube presentation that I thought was fabulous.  If you follow the Duchess you may have already seen this.  However, if you do not please take a look at this presentation.  I found it easy to follow and feel that is doable by even those who do not normally fuss with their hair on a daily basis.

I hope that you will enjoy this YouTube video if you have not seen it before.  Those of us with super curly hair already may not require this method but it may help smooth things out a bit.  I have fine and frizzy hair that I have to flat iron if I want a straight style.  So, I will have to experiment with this method to see how to best utilize the techniques the Ms. Stephens shares.

Next up:

Learning to drape a Robe Anglaise
Still working on my Renaissance embroidery sampler.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Le Modiste: Elizabethan Sampler

While I am helping my Mom during her recuperation from full knee replacement - We now call her the Bionic Grandma - I have had time to work on hand sewing projects.  I did finish my 18th century cap - all sewn by hand but I can't get a good picture of it, so I apologize and will post a picture later when I can get a better image.

I have started an Elizabethan embroidery sampler in hopes of one day embroidering my own fitted jacket from the later period  - 1600-1610.  I had a piece of oatmeal colored linen and I am using dark blue silk embroidery thread.  Here is a preview of my start:

My stitching isn't consistent but I am really enjoying the process.

An expanded view.
The pea-pod motif I saw 30 years ago on a woman's jacket of the time period and I have always been in love with it.  I am still searching for a whole image of the jacket as I lost the book it was in.  However, I found this a small image of the embroidery in a recent book, I think it was Tudor Tailor.

I am not quite sure I am using the correct stitches or not but I am enjoying experimenting.  What I am using is a back stitch instead of a stem stitch, should I be using something else?  I looked through Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 4 which featured cuffs, caps, chemises, shifts and shirts and collars.  However, they don't really explain all the stitches so I am imitating the best way I know how.

There is one person,  Bjarne Drews, from whom I would love to take embroidery classes from!  No, he doesn't offer any classes that I know of.  Also, he resides in Denmark.  Sigh.  It would be totally worth the trip to learn from him.  This man is amazing and is an inspiration!  He embroiders 18th century gowns and accessories by hand.  He is amazing.  Did I mention that already?  If you go to his web page (it is in Danish) you will love his work.  If you are on Face Book - find his page and take a look. 

Note to self:  Take final pictures of hand sewn cap from Kannik Korner and post on it.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pique-Nique: Bastille Day

A group of friends gathered to commemorate Bastille Day but with the intent of raising a glass of champagne to those departed in the horrifying reign of terror that followed.  Our hopes were to have a beautiful sunny day.  The days before the event were overwhelmingly gloomy and cold, - yes, in July! Yet,  the weather Gods smiled on us and we had a fantastic afternoon of sunshine and warm but not hot temperatures.

We were a small gathering but a good group of like-minded people willing to gather in period fashion with all the trimmings of dining and enjoying each other's company.  Without further ado, here are some highlights from our day.

This wonderful lady has a habadashery shop called:  Renaissance Fabrics.  See link below.

We had a lovely time.  Many of these ladies have created their gowns various lesson learned at Costume College and from the wonderful ladies and gentlemen at Margaret hunter Shop:  Milliners and Mantuamakers in Colonial Williamsburg.  This link is to the CW site explanation of the Milliner site.  On Facebook look up written above.  You will see some of these ladies in the recent posts.

Another Link to share:

Next up:
Mainly hand sewing projects.  I want to finish my Kannik Korner Womans Cap (  that I didn't get done before the party.  I borrowed one of my friends.  I love my friends!  :)  I also plan to play with embroidery and hand sewing techniques for future use.

Dear readers:  I will try to post as often as I can over the next three weeks.  I will be moving over to my parents house in order to help and support my 84 year old Mother who is having her left knee replaced. Therefore it is likely that my postings will dwindle a bit as my focus will be on my mother's recovery and getting ready to return to work - I am a teacher and I need to work on my curriculum for this coming fall.  So, please be patient, check back often and please leave comments!  I love hearing from you all.  Cheers.