Sunday, 27 August 2017

World War I QAIMNS nurse hat

In 2014 I made a World War I QAIMNS nurse uniform, and I’ve worn it a lot since, at several memorable World War I events. My group has, for instance, portrayed a hospital stationed inside a country house, at Museum Huis Doorn.

Now, we’ve added the ‘walking out’ or parade version of the uniform to our repertoire. This means: no apron, no cuffs, a hat instead of a veil, and white gloves.

The hats, naturally, we had to fashion ourselves. Here’s a QAIMNS hat from the collection of the Imperial War Museum, which I used as my main example:

We ordered a number of grey wool felt hats, but they had a pretty weird shape, with a round rather than an oval crown. This made it hard for me to get the hat to fit properly, because the brim would get wavy when I put it on, but some steam pressing did improve it.

Unfortunately we could not buy the same ribbon that was used at the time. We could have had some made, but only by the roll of 200 metres or so, and we needed about 10. But as the colours were similar to Iron Cross ribbon, we used that, and sewed grey ribbon onto it.
To make the ribbon fit around the crown without all too much puckering, I eased the different ribbons onto each other. First I eased the Iron Cross ribbon onto the top grey ribbon, and then I did the opposite, easing the bottom grey ribbon onto the Iron Cross ribbon. It’s quite amazing how big an effect this had on the shape of the ribbon, as you can see below (the left part of the ribbon was sewn normally, without easing on).

I made the flat bow out of three different pieces of ribbon, since actually tying the ribbon into a bow would have made it bulkier than the bow on the IWM hat.

And here’s the hat sewn up:

We first wore the walking out uniform at the recent Passchendaele event at Zonnebeke in Belgium. It was particularly suitable to wear to the remembrance church service.

Even our hairstyles were uniform here! =)

Saturday, 26 August 2017

A 17th century men’s shirt

Pattern: based on the 1659 shirt worn by Claes Bielkenstierna in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 4
Fabric: fine white linen
Haberdasheries: 50 cm narrow white tape, two hooks

My husband is ‘chief commander’ of the commemorative battle for the siege of Grol (het beleg van Grol, in Dutch) at Groenlo, meaning he coordinates the battle, and as such, I decided he could no longer do without a proper 17th century shirt. Even though no one sees what he wears underneath his suit.

As I want to be able to attach different styles of collars and cuffs to the shirt, I wanted a very basic shirt, without lace ruffles and the like. So I decided to use pattern 15 from the excellent Patterns of Fashion 4, a ca. 1659 shirt worn by Claes Bielkenstierna. This had the typical characteristics of shirts from the period (also the earlier period, which was necessary as the siege of Grol took place in 1627) but no frills. 
I measured the pattern and found that the circumference of the shirt was 2 metres! I know shirts were very wide in the past, unlike the jackets that went over them, but as my husband’s build is very slim, and pictures of Bielkenstierna showed he was rather rotund, I reckoned I could make my version of the shirt a little narrower. Otherwise I mostly did as the pattern description said. These were the pieces of linen I cut (the photos in this post are pretty terrible; somehow my camera seemed to have trouble with the bright white!):

Dimensions (incl. seam allowances):

1: Body: 85 x 200 cm (cut 1)
2: Sleeves: 60 x 59 cm (cut 2)
3: Sleeve gussets: 14.5 x 14.5 cm (cut 2)
4: Collar: 9 x 43.25 cm (cut 1)
5: Shoulder piece for reinforcement: 7,5 x 20,5 (should have gotten narrower to 4,5 cm at the neck; cut 2)
6: Cuffs: 7 x 23 (cut 2)
7: Bottom side seam gussets: 5 x 5 cm triangles + seam allowance (cut 2)
8: Extra shoulder reinforcement pieces; unused

This is the shirt before I gathered the neckline. The shoulder seam on shirts like these tended to hang off the shoulder, but without gathers, she shoulders would have been very wide!

And after gathering the neckline and attaching the collar and tapes:

I worked a bar reinforcement at the bottom of the front opening. The original shirt had a ‘spider’ reinforcement, which I tried before on an underdress I made for myself, but this is another style that was also used in the period.

The shirt was sewn by machine, with all hemming, topstitching, and the above reinforcement, done by hand.

Through modern eyes, a shirt like this is almost a dress! But the shirt would have been wrapped between the legs before putting on trousers, and used instead of underpants.

The original shirt had tapes at the cuffs as well as at the collar. But I replaced the cuff tapes by hooks and thread loops, because it seemed very inconvenient for my hubby to not be able to close his own cuffs.

I embroidered my hubby’s initials, and a 4 for the fact that this is the fourth shirt I’ve made for him.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Zebra skater dress and shirt

Pattern: Lady Skater dress by Kitschy Coo
Fabric: 2.3 m zebra patterned knit and black cotton knit
Haberdasheries: none!

How many Lady Skater dresses is too many? I don’t know, but I do know the answer isn’t four! So here’s my fifth one! (See my other four)

It is getting quite boring to use the same pattern, and cut the same pieces, again and again, but I like these dresses so much and they are so easy to combine, that I really want more of them! And on the plus side, at least I can just get started and don’t need to make a toile. This time, it was even more of the same, because the zebra fabric I found was very thin and needed another layer of fabric underneath it, so basically I had to cut two dresses to make one. But I’m happy with the result. I like bright coloured animal prints :).

The skirt is the original length, as in the pattern. Once again, I made elbow length sleeves, my favourite sleeve length for Skater dresses, and a low neckline at the back. And as the zebra fabric, which I got on Etsy, came in a fixed length which was enough to make a shirt as well, I did!

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Wool Regency jacket with patchwork lining

Pattern: improvised
Fabric: Purple wool, lots of scraps for lining
Haberdasheries: 2,5 m narrow tape for drawstrings

A few years ago I made my first working class or camp follower’s Regency outfit, including a wool jacket, but I was never quite happy with how the jacket turned out. Now I’ve made a few alterations to it, and also added lining in the way it would have been done in the day – that is, using leftover pieces of fabric.

Three examples of patchwork lining from the period:

And here's my patchwork lining:

Some of the ‘scraps’ I bought especially for this purpose, but I also used the leftovers of my patterned fichu, pockets and a knitting huswife. So I was limited by the size and shape of the fabric, and it was actually quite a puzzle to put all the pattern pieces together.

A nice detail, I think, is that you can see a different lining fabric inside each sleeve when I wear the jacket.

Because I wanted this jacket to be warm, I initially made the neckline quite high. But besides not looking particularly elegant (and even as a camp follower, one can strive to look elegant!), a high neckline is just not typical for the Regency period. So I lowered the neckline by about 4 cm, and took some fabric out of the back panel to make the sleeves start neatly on the shoulders, rather than hanging off them a bit (the only downside to this is that the sleeves, which were very long, another typical Regency thing, are now a bit shorter). I also added different drawstrings at the neckline and at the waist, using the Katia Tahiti knitting yarn that I bought for the previous campfollower’s jacket I posted. It matches these lining fabrics nicely.

And worn with an apron.

This earlier picture is just one example of this typical manner of wearing the apron, crossing the straps at the back and tying them at the front. This was probably done because working class women didn’t have a maid to tie the straps at the back!

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Red linen Regency jacket

Pattern: Past Patterns #031, 1796-1806 front closing gown, heavily modified
Fabric: Dark red linen, coarser natural-coloured linen for lining
Haberdasheries: 3 pairs of hooks and eyes, 1.5 m narrow tape
A first: Constructing and lining a Regency jacket entirely authentically

This camp follower’s jacket was a UFO for years. I don’t even remember when I started making it, but I just didn’t think it was turning out right, and that put me off finishing it.
Then I wanted to use it for the March challenge of the Historical Sew Monthly which I briefly took part in in 2015, but decided to quit that. I promised myself a while ago that I wouldn't set deadlines for myself anymore because they make sewing stressful and definitely no fun for me, and this sewalong provided a fresh deadline every month. I really don't want that!

I think that while this pattern has really nice parts, like the lovely kite-shaped back panel, and the instructions for the well-fitting fichu, its waistline is much too low. This is a pet peeve of mine as far as Regency reproductions are concerned, anyway – the main characteristic of the fashion of this period is that high waistline, after all! – so I always try to get my waistline properly high, and the bodice fitting quite tightly, rather than hanging in any way. Consequently, I modified the pattern quite a bit, removing 6 cm from the lower edge of the bodice.
As I didn’t want puffy sleeves, I used a smaller version of the sleeve than I did of the bodice, and lengthened the sleeves as well.

I really like the fact that the historical construction of this pattern creates a slightly recessed back panel, so I followed the instructions for the sewing and lining technique to a tee. I also topstitched the back panel by hand (the demotivating part of which is that if one does it neatly enough, it looks like a sewing machine was used!). But I didn’t find the instruction on how to create those nice square lines between the sleeves and the bodice particularly enlightening. In any case, I put the sleeves in and ripped them out again several times, but did not manage to create anything quite like in the pattern picture. If anyone knows how to do this, I’d be interested to know!

My annoyance over the sleeves was one reason why this project UFOed for so long, but recently I picked the jacket up again and had some inspiration about things I chould change to make myself like it enough to wear it. Firstly, I used one width of fabric for the skirt part of the jacket, and that isn’t enough to make it stand out nicely. Too little fabric gives a column-like shape. So I used my leftover fabric to add 50 cm more width, and moved some of the pleats to the side of the jacket as well.
Secondly, the length of the jacket wasn’t right. I came across this information on proportions in clothing (saying that in clothing, two parts of equal length do not constitute a 'harmonious' look, whereas 2:3 and 3:5 are harmonious):

And my jacket was the same length as the part of the dress visible below it. So I shortened the jacket, and as trivial as that may seem, it really made a difference.

For the drawstrings that close the jacket, I wanted to use narrow tape made of a natural material (the authentic option, but also, polyester ribbons tend to come loose), but I could only find bright white tape. Then I found Katia Tahiti knitting yarn in colour 8, which is made of cotton, seems durable, and is just perfect for this purpose! And only €0.09 per m.

As the front flap closure, I sewed on three wire hooks and eyes.

Because I started off constructing this jacket entirely historically, I found it a nice challenge to finish it using only old-fashioned techniques, as well. So I finished the raw edges by overcasting by hand. As I was doing this I thought it looked hideous, but now I think it’s a nice historical detail.

I intend to make more working class Regency jackets using this pattern, but I think I will start over with the pattern, making another toile and modifying it a bit differently. For instance, I won’t make the shoulder straps wider next time (no idea why I did that anyway!), and I’ll leave the bodice slightly longer, to make my back look a bit narrower. It’s 1817 now anyway, when waistlines were descending again!