keskiviikko 19. maaliskuuta 2014

A motivation boost gown

The red Regency gown is finished! I felt like sewing something easy and something that I absolutely know how to do while gathering motivation and momentum (and more information) to continue with the Courtois dress.
This was a straightforward project as Regency dresses tend to be. I love working with sarees because there is such a variety available and the colours and the decorations are gorgeous. Also, if you buy them used, they're a bargain. I mean where else could you get 6 metres of finely embroidered fabric with 20-30 euros the lot?
I used my standard Regency bodice, cut the hem as a big rectangle so there is only one seam at the centre back, and made puff sleeves. I was going for the 1810s look with this gown, with the big sleeves, vibrant colour and no train ( because I want to be able to dance wearing this dress!). I added a decorative, gathered strip of fabric on the neckline and sewed on it some of the beads I detached from the only bit of the saree that was a bit damaged. Everything is handsewn as usual. I'm very happy with the gown!

There are 4 pairs of hooks and eyes to attach the dress but I could only bend my arms to close the top and bottom ones. The maid's still on holiday :)

I really like the hem embroidery.

I tried something new with my hair and had a matching (yes, it matches the embroidery colours!) scarf to tie as a turban.

tiistai 11. maaliskuuta 2014

I may have been a bit bad...

I bought two vintage sarees. Considering that I haven't been exactly rolling in money so far this year and meeting the expenses each month is a bit of a balancing act, maybe buying supplies to cater for my costuming habit is not entirely sensible. But I did do the math first and being vintage they were cheap, not to mention gorgeous. AND I already know exactly what I want to make out of them.

Pictures? Yes, I thought so too :)

I really like the colour and the embroideries! The colour is actually a bit deeper, raspberry red.

There's metallic and colour embroidery, pearls and the saree is liberally sprinkled with gold sequins

This is going to be my new Regency ball gown

The second saree is creamy white and almost butter cream colour in places. This is the gorgeously embroidered pallu end of the saree.
The embroidery is done in metal bullion and there's a row of rhinestones on the pallu edge

This is going to be ca. 1780 round gown. The pallu end will be the skirt front piece.

lauantai 8. maaliskuuta 2014

Courtois dress: bodice construction, part II

I decided to fiddle with the Courtois dress bodice again. I've sewn the pieces together and also the darts, and now I wanted to see how the bodice looks with the skirts. Also, I needed to mark the waistline on the bodice to determine the placement of the bones and the waistband that go on the inside of the bodice. I'm still undecided about how exactly to construct the centre front, with all the concealed fastenings, the shirred front and the neckline issues. The most recent idea I have would be to cut  and fold down the centre front pieces to where the shirred front panel is attached to the centre front pieces and make a separate piece that goes under the shirred piece and has centre front closure and also reaches up to the shoulder seams and acts as a base for the gathered pieces coming down from the shoulders. I swear it's not as complicated and unclear as it sounds.

It looks like the gathered pieces around the neckline and the shirred front panel are sort of inserted under the front piece fabric, so to achieve this I should do what I described above. Also, I think it would look neater than just slapping the panel and the pieces on the existing front pieces and stitching them down.

Here are some pictures I took today. I think I should point out that the fabric is not actually grey, but lovely smoky blue/violet. It's very difficult to photograph :)
My bodice in its current state. The neckline is not final and the centre front is only pinned.

I like the curvaceous shape :)

The bodice length is another problem I'm wrestling with. Here I've folded the bodice hem shorter, it follows the lower edge of the corset.

Of course, as it is only pinned and nothing is cut off, it looks a bit stubby and ungainly, and pokes out in a funny way. I can't decide whether to cut the bodice hem like this...

...or to leave as it is and just turn in the seam allowances. I'm just worried that if I leave the bodice front long like this it will obviously wrinkle and look ugly when I sit, because the centre front point extends 9 cm past the lower edge of the corset. I like the balanced look and curve of the hem here but it only looks like this when I'm standing. And if and when I put in bones in the centre front, won't it only be worse?  Any opinions and suggestions are most welcome!

keskiviikko 5. maaliskuuta 2014

1920s swimsuit and beach coat pattern

Second pattern from the 1927 Kotiliesi magazine! The original writer was really wordy and rambled on and on about the weather and delights of summer, but she (I'm assuming) gets to the point eventually :)


It is the beginning of June and a part of Helsinki has already moved to the country where the trees are still leafless and the summer verdure has yet to appear. Those still in town look at the thermometer on their wall and outside their windows and wonder how the people in the countryside are faring and keeping warm. Whitsunday is still too early for the summer holidayers to swim or sunbathe; during the spring we have only had glimpses of the sun and the summer has begun with a similar weather.

However, the Summer Solstice always brings a change in the weather and after that we’ve grown accustomed to getting warm weather every summer. When writing this there was still three weeks  to the Summer Solstice but as the readers receive their copies of this magazine the Solstice has already brought with it the shorter days and warm summer, or so we hope and believe.

One must encourage oneself with a little preface to be assured of the warming of the summer; otherwise it would be almost impossible to move on to a sunny beach and think about all the lightest and airiest clothes that people need when they want to enjoy the sun, the air and the water as much as possible.
Because as soon as the sun begins to shine, when the waters warm up and the sandy beaches glow white, they invite in countless people. Surely there are so many winter-stiffened limbs which benefit from the warm sun and a soak in cool water.

Lucky are those who have their own quiet swimming beach where they can go and splash in the water and roll in the sand any time they please – but such sanctuaries are few and far apart. Many are happy to spend time with other people at the common beach shared with the village of summer villa area. Others travel to spas to enjoy the joys of water and sun where health treatments can be nicely combined with merrymaking and other activities.

For all those different beaches one also needs slightly different swimsuits and other beach wear. At remote, isolated beaches one doesn’t need much but at a beach that is close to other people’s houses one needs a proper long swimsuit, and at big, communal beaches one also needs some kind of a beach coat.
A beach coat, yes, that is a necessary garment at bathing places where the changing huts often are a long way away from the water. A beach coat is thrown on when one marches along the beach looking for a suitable swimming spot or company, it offers protection from the wind and generally makes one feel comfortable. It is also very nice to lie on when one wants to sunbathe in a place where the beach is not soft and sandy. A beach coat is made of a fabric specially produced for this purpose which is like terrycloth, and this is already available in Finland. Smooth fabrics are also used and at international beaches one may see beach coats that are made of fairly precious materials. We have included a pattern of a beach coat with a yoke and a big collar which are very popular nowadays. The coat is decorated on the collar and the hem with thick twisted curlicues made of the same fabric as the coat. This coat has no sleeves, only armholes. As the fashion pictures show these coats come in several shapes. All of them are usually large and loose.
What about the swimsuit? Suits made of jersey and tricot have been in use for a long time and they can be bought ready-made. Usually they are always figure-hugging and thus look good on only certain body types. To get a swimsuit that fits and looks good ladies need to make one themselves or have one made for them. The fabric does not have to be jersey; our cotton fabrics, both patterned and one colour, suit the purpose well, if not better. The suit looks the more charming the happier the colours are, as long as the fabrics have dyes that hold, as our domestically produced fabrics certainly do.

Pattern for the swimsuit bodice and the pants. The pattern for the latter is drawn on its side, the dotted line is the side seam of the pants, the long edge closest to the the right edge of the picture is the hem of a pant leg.

Pattern for the beach coat. Looking at the little drawing, the pointy piece is the yoke, the small rectangular is the collar and the biggest piece is the coat piece.
Nowadays a woman’s swimsuit usually has two parts: pants and a tunic dress over them. Because in our opinion a swimsuit is the most practical when one can easily take it off after coming out of the water, we give a pattern where the bodice and the pants are attached to each other and which looks very pretty. The bodice of the suit resembles a blouse and is attached on the shoulders with buttons and with a couple of snap fasteners on the other side seam. The suit has no other fastenings. When the pants are sewn they are combined with the bodice and this joining seam covered by attaching on it ca. 30cm long skirt piece which is either gathered or pleated. The skirt can also be detachable so it can be left on the beach when one goes in the water. Thus one steps into the costume through the neck opening, and opening the shoulder buttons it is easy to take off. Many of our happy, checked cotton fabrics are suitable for these swimsuits and have proved to be very sturdy and otherwise  good material – they are not too thin or not too thick. A suit like this requires about 75cm of fabric. 

At the beach one also needs some sort of a headwear. Different rubber swimming caps are available in shops which are very practical as they are waterproof. A person whose hair can take a little moisture can always wrap a scarf around their head, a scarf that is made of the same fabric as the swimsuit, thus adding to the picturesque charms of the beach with their coordinated costume.

tiistai 4. maaliskuuta 2014

Girls' 1920s dress pattern

My local library has had a "Retro Library" exhibition for a while now, documenting the history of the library in different decades. Most recently they've landed in the 1930s and 1920s. One day I stopped to look at the books and all the treasures they had pulled out from their archives and browsed through a 1927 bound volume of Kotiliesi (transl. "the home stove", or "the hearth") which is the very first women's magazine published in Finland. It was first published in 1922 and it's still going strong. I suppose it's a bit like Women's Own or Good Housekeeping, with articles about home, food, life in general, children, marriage, decorating your house, sewing and needlework patterns and a Q&A column (which I found fascinating...).
The 1927 volume had some sewing patterns and I thought to translate them and post them here, in case anyone's interested. NOTE! I have not tested these patterns and cannot vouch for their reliability or anything. I have simply translated the original article and included the pictures.

I think I will ask the library staff if they have other bound volumes of the same magazine from the 1920s and do a series of any nice sewing patterns I can find.

Here's the first one!

(Written for Kotiliesi 1927 by Mary Ollonquist)

All the girls attending public schools also receive sewing and needlecraft instruction and and for such girls, especially if they are of the senior classes, sewing a simple summer dress is not an overwhelming task. On the other hand, girls attending secondary schools often do not receive any kind of needlecraft education and for them sewing an entire summer dress might feel so difficult that they do not dare to undertake it on their own.
I have sometimes arranged courses for young school girls with no needlecraft education and I have noticed that they are very enthusiastic about sewing and with a little guidance and instructions they have been able to produce the prettiest aprons, summer dresses etc. for themselves and even for their sisters. Sewing projects have provided pleasant pastime after the school term has ended, not to mention the economy and the savings that are made with not having to pay someone else for the sewing.

Two dresses one can make with the pattern provided below. The skirts are almost shockingly short, aren't they? Anyway, these two might well be the most stylish school girls ever.

In this article we have enclosed drawn miniature sewing patterns with which one can make girls’ dresses no. 1 and 2. The patterns can easily be enlarged on white rectangular sheets of paper by marking on them all the necessary points according to the indicated measurements and then drawing the joining lines. It is best to draw all the pieces on separate sheets of paper even though they are shown to be drawn very close together or even overlapping to save space. The numbers by the lines always mean the distance between the two closest end points. The patterns are sized for 10 to 12-year-olds. When the patterns have been drawn and cut from paper they have to be compared to the measurements of the individual before cutting the dress fabric.

All the pattern pieces are to be placed leghtwise and vertically on the fabric. When thin fabric such as muslin, chintz etc. is used the skirt piece must be gathered. When stiffer fabrics are used the skirt piece is pleated. If one wants to have a fuller gathered or pleated skirt piece, the skirt piece attached to the back bodice piece must be cut as wide as the front skirt piece. If the sleeve is made long it is cut according to the pattern, for a short sleeve cut the sleeve for example as the dotted line on the sleeve pattern indicates. Both the bodice and the skirt pieces are cut with the fabric folded in two so that the dotted lines marked on the patterns are aligned with the fold on the fabric. For these dresses you will need two full dress lengths for the short sleeved dress and two full dress lengths and the sleeve length for the long sleeved dress.

The pattern pieces for a summer dress for a 10 to 12-year-old. On the right there is a little drawing showing how the pattern pieces are to be assembled.

When starting the sewing the different bodice pieces are first basted together, and also the side seams of the skirt. The skirt is gathered or pleated and pinned on the bodice. The sleeve seam is basted and then the dress is tried on. This is not easy to do alone, so it is good to ask mother or some other older person to help. While sewing it is a good idea to use some old summer dress (for example made by a professional seamstress) as a model to see what sort of seams are used in different places and how for example the neckline and the cuffs are finished.  Examining such a dress helps also in other sewing conundrums which might prove to be too difficult for a beginner seamstress to solve on her own.

When girls take up such a project they often become so enthusiastic about it that they would want to finish the garment right away. Careful and all around neat work is the main thing in making a summer dress – and no girl who has just begun their summer holiday is in such a hurry that she could not finish properly the work she has begun. Therefore all the sewing thread ends must be invisibly fastened off, seams whipped in such a manner that they will not fray after the dress is washed. All the coloured trims must be absolutely straight-edged and equally wide, the fastenings securely attached etc. There are plenty of requirements but actually they are all included in the one requirement that was mentioned above: that of doing a careful job. For it is not very nice having to sew the dress again after it has been first washed – and that has to be done if for example the thread ends are not inserted in the seams.

A couple of words for mothers. Buy your daughters some very cheap summer fabric such as chintz, lyster or other similar fabric and let them try to sew a dress. If the first version does not turn out to be too good, the second try is sure to be better. The price of this education will not then be too expensive and it will surely mean more to awaken the child’s abilities and hone her understanding that one can well manage these kinds of tasks on one’s own.

Next pattern will be a 1920s swimming costume :)