About Me

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I love to read about, collect, and use vintage needlework tools and textiles. Heirloom sewing, embroidery, knitting, quilting, tatting, crochet, and recreating vintage fashions are some of my favorite techniques. When I pick up a needle, the endorphins start to flow!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014--The Year of the Detail

I borrowed an idea from Julie Fei-Fan Balzor's blog, and chose a word to concentrate on for 2014.  My word is "detail"

I've always believed that "details make the difference", but this year I want to really concentrate on how different choices can affect my finished product. I think that this translates to making many more samples when I am designing a project!

 Jeannie's antique bonnet,

Last month I started stitching a adaptation of one of Jeannie Baumeister's antique bonnets featuring Bermuda fagotting, using fairy fabric and coton-a-broder, size 40. I wanted to practice what I learned from the SAGA classes I took at convention.

Bermuda fagotting looked good, but the satin stitch--not so much!

I gave up because my satin stitches were terribly wonky, and some of the granitos were coming undone--and started over, using a slightly heavier batiste, and a single strand of DMC floss. 

 So far I am happy with this stitching. It's looking MUCH better! 

But even though the stitching itself is nicer on my second version, I like the "feel" of the mess-up much better! 

My focus on detail for 2014 is intended to be more about being adventurous and trying new things to be able to more consciously CHOOSE my details--not so much about being a perfectionist. (Being careful is one thing, but it doesn't account for how/why a messy stitched piece still can have more appeal than a more skillfully done version)

It is more than technical skill that sets a piece apart.  It's the precise combination of threads, fabric, color, and contrast. In the past I've decided to stitch something, and then just gone ahead and finished, without much deviation from the plan. I always learn a little something for "next time", and that's good. But this little bonnet project has shown me that a little experimenting in advance may go long way towards making the difference between very nice and something with the potential to be GREAT!

(However, I do intend to *finish* the batiste bonnet, and hope to also make a WONDERFUL bonnet using fairy fabric!)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Official Assignment for Group 29

It is the CORSET COVER from the January 21, 1912 issue of La Mode Illustree--the issue with the gown trimmed with skunk fur on the cover. I am so excited to get started! 
Once again I am planning to make the garment using the pattern pieces exactly as they come, to see how they go together. I'm not yet confident about my ability to alter the pattern to fit me, but eventually I WILL make one for myself

I carefully studied the large line drawing that came with my pattern .pdf, and all of the trim appears to be Swiss embroideries rather than the delicate French laces I had assumed from the small thumbnail I had first seen and admired on the VPLL Blog.

 I  want to recreate this garment as closely as possible to the original, just for the educational value.   Actually stitching the garment should be quite straightforward; I have a lot of experience working with lace and embroideries and don't anticipate any problems. My plan is to once again use only materials already on hand rather than buying new.  (I'm guarding my money for when I make a garment that will be for my actual wear rather than a toile.)

So, what fabric shall I use?  Definitely embroideries for the trim. The use of embroideries rather than lace suggests a  practical and utilitarian garment to me. Something reasonably sturdy.
line pique
So, instead of using batiste, lawn, or voile, I have chosen a fine line pique in white. Dimity would also be nice.

The strips of trim on the bodice aren't very long, and I have a variety of embroideries to choose from. I found an insertion with openwork wheels to give a lacy effect, and there's just enough of a beading with embroidered flowers to fit across the top of the bodice. Edging is a little trickier, but I found a piece long enough to trim both the armscyes and the neckline.  (All  from a "grab bag" from Martha Pullen Company--not Swiss, but pretty.) Serendipity!

I will hand roll the armscyes and the neckline, and whip the edging trim to entredeaux to join it to the garment. (I will need to purchase more entredeaux, because I want to use nice stuff, not the coarse domestic entredeaux used on the princess slip. Buttons are 3/8" mother-of-pearl shank buttons with an incised line design

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Princess Line Slip Is Done!

VOILA, my slip muslin is finished. Apparently my model has an Edwardian figure, because the slip fits almost like a second skin. (No, this pattern will not make a good nightgown or summer dress without substantial alteration. There simply is not enough ease in the right places for the way we expect to move.)

I think it is interesting that even though my model is almost 5’9”, the waist hits in the right place, and the overall length is also pretty good, made straight from the original pattern pieces without any changes.

This view shows the lace placement lines.  The armscye is high and tight for modern tastes. My model did not like this at all!

Below shows the back view (and the  clunky buttons).  You can also see that the pattern waist line is pretty much in the right spot on my model.

thread traced waist line is visible if you look closely
In summary, the pattern pieces fit together well, and were very easy to sew.The angled seams that function as darts seemed odd to me, but once stitched, their purpose was obvious. The flounce lengths called for also seemed strange. But the only seriously confusing part of the pattern for me was how to handle the placket. My solution certainly worked, and has period validity, but it took quite a bit of head scratching to decide on that treatment. (Maybe I’ve made a mountain out of a molehill, because I haven’t seen anyone else mention difficulty with the placket.) Above all, this project was SO MUCH FUN!


Trim Revisited

The placket  on my princess line slip is done for better or worse, and I am down to the finishing touches.  First of all, although the pleated flounce is one of my favorite details of this pattern, I am going to skip it for this muslin. I am quite sure that my cheapo poly cotton won’t hold a crease for pleats, and frankly, I just don’t want to spend waste the time on something that can’t be done well. I will note that the lengths that we are told to cut for the flounce seem odd.  The directions say to cut one 45.75” length, and three 36.75” lengths.  The longest length is just a bit wider than most fabric allows.  It makes more sense to me to cut four equal pieces (39" each).  If there is a functional reason for the original measurements, I sure can’t figure it out. 
wrong side of flounce
For my gathered flounce I calculated equal strips that equal 2x the bottom of the slip for a nicely gathered flounce. A gathered flounce takes considerably less fabric than a pleated one. (It is a good thing I decided on gathering, because I ran out of fabric, and couldn’t have eked out a pleated flounce.)  I stitched my flounce with wrong sides together so that the raw edges came on the front of the garment, where it could be covered by trim. This leaves a nicely finished underside.

junky (but pretty) trim
 My slip is looking pretty, and it fits my model like a glove, except that the front neckline has quite a bit of floppy-ness. The interesting angled seams at the top function as darts, but there is still excess ease. The beading specified for trim along the top edge is obviously partly for function to draw in the fullness. Even though I had planned to forego adding any lace to my muslin for economy's sake, I decided to at least add beading along the top edge of the bodice for fit. And if I do that, might as well also add beading and ribbon along the flounce seam to cover the raw edges as on the original drawing. And as long as I am doing that…..Whoa!—tempting though it is, I still don’t want to waste yards of precious lace on the muslin. I have enough cheap poor-quality embroidered beading to finish the neckline and flounce seam. I don’t know where it came from, but like the poly-sleaze fabric used for the body of the slip, I would not ever use it for a “good” garment.This is a perfect use for it. I also have cheapy domestic entredeaux that I got at closeout price from a chain store years ago, and some equally junky (though at least it's 100% cotton) craft-quality Venice lace. I’ll use these to make my muslin look prettier, and give a bit of an idea of what a nice garment could look like. I’ve marked the other lace placement lines with basting so that I can show how they fall on a real body when I take photos of the muslin being modeled.
bodice with trim and thread-traced lace placement lines

Puzzling Placket on 1912 Princess Slip

All of the pattern pieces fit together PERFECTLY.  But, how to handle the placket is a dilemma. The center back has extensions for fold-back placket facings on each side. This is necessary to give enough body to support the buttons and buttonholes called for. Interestingly, the marked fold lines are distinct curves.  Accurately folding along these curve lines took more careful basting. I had originally thought that one side would remain extended to form the underlap. However, this would not give the double layer support needed.  I realized that even if the extended side had a facing added, the result would cause buttons and button holes to be off center.  (Remember, the folded edge is the actual center back, so moving buttons and holes from that edge will make them off center) This arrangement would work for button loops, but button loops seem impossibly impractical for a utility garment. (granted, a moot point if a ladies maid is available)
However, the pattern instructions do specifically call for buttons and button holes, not loops.  Is this Janyce’s editing, or info from the original source? I don’t know, but my solution is to treat the placket like a “baby placket”, which is quite common on vintage children’s garments.  The right side is lapped over the left side, creating a pleat at the bottom of the placket. In order to overlap the folded back edges, I had to cut across the bottom of the left side of the placket. This cut was not mentioned in the instructions, but old patterns assumed knowledge of how to do basic things like how to make a placket.

this kind of placket has a pleat at the bottom

Because of the horizontal cut that allows the placket to be overlapped, this type of placket can leave raw edges on the inside, which can be objectionable to our modern eye--but it “is” what it “is”. (Raw edges can be avoided only if the fabric is the same on both front and back (ie, no obvious wrong side), by turning the left side of the placket extension to the outside, and the right side to the inside. Once overlapped, the raw edges are then hidden inside the layers.) My slip fabric has a definite wrong side, so I hand overcast the raw edges on the inside.
I still am not sure that I made the right decision on the placket, because this technique also reduces the back width by 1.5” because of the area taken up by the 3/4" lap. However, I noticed that several other people working on this garment mentioned needing to reduce their back width by about this same amount, so maybe my guess is a good one.
But even with the placket done, I am still in a quandry. I have been taught that the button should equal the size of the lap on a garment.  Following this rule, my slip needs ¾” buttons, which seem honking huge. I spent time surfing online looking for photos of actual vintage garments.  And I actually did find several examples of extant slips with large buttons on the back.  This is one example. It looks somewhat clunky to me, but on the other hand, it would be MUCH easier to button oneself up with larger buttons. After all, not everyone has a maid!

So ¾” buttons it is.  The final decision is should the buttonholes be vertical or horizontal?  Horizontal button holes would be best for the direction of the pull on the buttons, but horizontal button holes do not fit properly on the placket area.  So, I am considering the placket facing to be the equivalent of a button band, and going with vertical buttonholes. Hand-stitched buttonholes, may I add—I need the practice!
Now that the placket is finally done, I will be working on the finishing touches for the slip.

New Approach to Stitching

I’ve decided to try what is a new-to-me, but an authentic period approach to using the pattern.  Rather than cutting the pattern out with the seam allowances Janyce added to the original pieces, I removed the seam allowances, and traced the seam lines on my fashion fabric. I cut out each pieces about 1/2 “ outside of the traced seam lines, giving back a seam allowance.  But, instead of matching cut edges, I match and hand baste each seam line. This gives me somewhat ragged looking cut edge, but a very accurate sewing line for final stitching. For more information about this technique see this article by Kim McDaniel Nish
The seam is totally smooth, and very unobtrusive

Matching the seam line is easier to do than I imagined, and I like the results. My finished seams are perfectly smooth, with no puckering whatsoever. Matching the seam line instead of the cut edges reduces unequal pulling and stretching of the two garment pieces. The smoothness may also be influenced by hand basting, which doesn’t pull the way pins sometimes do.

Since this is a muslin, I am sewing each seam as a plain seam.  If it were a full blown lace version, I would have to decide which seams to stitch plain, and which to sew as French or felled seams.  Seams that are under lace will be eventually be cut away, and would be best stitched plain, while other seams should be more finished.


Although I would LOVE to make this slip for myself, the 36” bust of the original pattern is not going to come close to fitting me without major alterations.  Since this is my very first pattern, I’ve decided to make it exactly as printed, just to see how all the pieces go together. (Hopefully later I can figure out how to alter the pattern to make a garment for myself.)  The second choice to make is regarding fabric.  Working with fine batistes and French laces is right up my alley, but it is expensive.  Do I really want to spend a ton of money on something that I can’t wear? Yes, I do, BUT, if I spend the money now, I won’t be able to afford to also spend it later on a slip for ME.  So regretfully, I decided to make the slip strictly as a muslin to test how the pieces fit together.

I found several yards of a lightweight poly/cotton print that I inherited from someone else in my stash. It is pretty, but also kind of junky.  Too good to throw away, but not anything I would ever be likely to use for an actual garment. It is perfect for this trial.  I actually have quite a bit of lace in my stash, but not really enough to make this garment, even if I mix lace styles.  And again, do I really want to use yards and yards of lace on a garment that is just a trial?  Regretfully, no.