Saturday, 28 June 2014

Spats for American Duchess boots

Pattern: Improvised
Fabric: Cotton or linen-cotton blend, leftover from my boyfriend’s breeches
Haberdasheries: Black elastic

Whenever I decide to start making clothing from a period I haven’t tackled before, I start gathering pictures first, to get a detailed impression of how everything looked. When I did this for the late Edwardian/WWI period, one of the things that instantly caught my eye were the boots with built-in spats. I love those!

I started thinking about how to get a pair of these boots to wear with my WWI clothes, and when I came across the American Duchess Tavistock boots, I decided to order those and paint the top part grey. But when they arrived I really liked them as they were, and thought it a bit of a shame to paint them. Also, there would have been a paint line between the black part and the lighter coloured part, where there would have been a seam in the originals. I didn’t quite know how I was going to make the line look like a seam. But at some point I had an idea:
Why not make spats that could go around the boots and would be held in place by the boots’ own buttons? That way, I’d still be able to wear the boots in all black, and I’ll even be able to make different coloured spats to go with different outfits.

I made the pattern by wrapping fabric around the boots, held in place by the buttons as well as clothes pegs, copying the seams onto the fabric, then cutting the pieces out and sewing them together. After a couple of versions, I had a mock-up that fit nicely tight around the boots.

Sewing the final version was easy – making 48 buttonholes was what took the most effort!

I now also have use for a present I got from my parents-in-law a while ago:

They said it was for use with corsets, but I couldn’t think how it might be applied to one. But browsing American Duchess’s website I saw a very similar item, and discovered it’s meant for buttoning boots: you slide the hook through the buttonhole, then around the button, and then pull. This really makes buttoning up these boots much easier. So nice that I already had one, and quite probably an original as well.

These spats are definitely one of my favourite things I’ve made. They turned out exactly how I wanted, and I think they really look awesome.

Friday, 20 June 2014

1940s suspender belt

Fabric: A cotton satin Ikea Gäspa sheet
Haberdasheries: 1.5 m 2 cm wide elastic, 6 suspender clips, 6 suspender regulators, two suspender hooks

When I made my first 1940s clothes in 2012, I attempted to make underwear as well, but I made things unnecessarily difficult for myself by making everything double layered so it would be neat on the inside as well.
I then decided to be lazy and order underwear from What Katie Did. I had ordered stockings from them before and liked those, but I was rather disappointed by their underwear. It’s made of cheap polyester (at 40 euros apiece surely they could have used something nicer?), I didn’t find the garments neatly sewed at all, but most importantly the fit of the bras was the most terrible I ever encountered, at least on me. The Harlow deep suspender belt was fine, the Harlow Bullet Bra was alright but made a weird dent, the Padded Bullet Bra was too pointy for the 1940s, and the most 1940s-styled one, L6036 CC09, just looked awful. Since I wanted a matching bra and suspenders but none of the bras were good enough to keep, I had to return the suspenders as well. Returning went fine, I’ll give them that.

Having found that many original suspenders were simply hemmed instead of double layered, I decided to try to make one again, a bit similar to the Harlow one.

I wanted to use light pink satin cotton but opted for white instead because I couldn’t find pink suspender clips. White ones were readily available though. I ordered six complete clips, and got seven :P.
The suspenders I ordered had hooks to make them detachable, but there was no need for that, so I removed the hooks and used them for the closure. I bought ribbed elastic for the closure, but since that actually had more of an old-fashioned feel about it than the suspender elastic, I decided to replace that. I guess next time I’ll buy separate parts!

I used tie wraps as bones next to the closure in the back. I wouldn’t dream of using plastic boning in a corset, but I felt that here, steel would be a bit too heavy duty.

I left off the lace (which the Harlow suspender has) as the original examples I found didn’t have any.

I wanted to test-wear the belt around the house but didn’t get round to that. I wore it for four consecutive days during the D-Day commemoration though, and am super pleased with it! It fits perfectly, neither slipping down nor feeling tight, and the clips are much easier to fasten to my stockings than the smaller clips of the modern belt I used before, didn’t snap open once, and keep the stockings in place very well.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Post-Edwardian long-line corset

Phew, over the past month and a half I was so busy sewing that I didn’t have time to post the items I finished! But I did manage to finish nearly everything I wanted to make, including the seven 1940s-style items I mentioned before, and I will be posting everything shortly. Here’s the first item, a circa 1911 long-line corset.

Pattern: Bridges on the Body Titanic Era corset pattern (free)
Fabric: 1 m striped canvas
Haberdasheries: Got a minute? A 23 cm busk, plastic coated spring steel bones (12 of 7 mm wide and 22 cm long, 8 of 7 mm wide and 41 cm long, two of 13 mm wide and 25 cm long), 41 grommets, four suspenders, 8 m 1 cm wide satin ribbon for lacing, 7.8 m 5.3 cm wide satin ribbon, 0.7 m lace, DMC embroidery floss in colour 420

From this year to 2018 there will be lots of World War I centenary events. With my re-enactment group I will portray a military nurse, and my other group will play the upper class inhabitants of Huis Doorn. The first time I wore my teens blouse I wore my Victorian corset underneath, but that’s so old-fashioned for this period that I decided to make a proper corset.

I came across the Bridges on the Body 1911 corset sewalong, which has a free pattern as well. This has only five pieces and no gores, which I preferred over the other pattern because I felt like making a nice simple corset, as well as a supplies list and step-by-step instructions, so I thought using the sewalong would be very handy.

First I printed the pattern at 100%, then calculated that in order to fit my waist, I should print and cut it at 350%. I did some more alterations to get a proper fit, though.

Thanks to the sewalong I found out about pre-cut and finished bones, which I didn’t even know existed, and luckily there’s a webshop in the UK which sells them. I found them very handy to use, they save a lot of effort and because they don’t need caps, those thicker parts don’t show through the fabric. Also, they aren’t expensive at all.

Here’s a photo of my supplies:

I had one metre of fabric. It was firm and non-stretch, but I decided it was a bit too thin after all, and the bones were visible through it. So I cut two layers of fabric and treated them as one.

The fabric may seem like quite a neutral colour, but I had to go to four different stores to find ribbon that matched it! Then I did find lace that matched the ribbon, though =). The DMC embroidery floss is from my mum’s stash.

I don’t generally understand instructions, so I deviated from the sewalong in quite a few instances.
The instructions, based on an extant Edwardian corset, said to cut openings for the busk loops. I decided against that as my material frayed quite a bit. So I sewed on a facing, leaving openings in the seam. Also, I didn’t sew below the busk. That didn’t seem necessary to me as the studs and loops sticking through the fabric will keep the busk in place, and it didn’t seem very pretty to me.

I followed the instructions for cutting strips of coutil on the bias because they’re supposed to make the casings “lie smoother against the curves of the body”, although I wondered whether that made any sense in my case, as the ribbon that went over them was non-bias ribbon. I couldn’t find 5 cm wide bias tape; in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a thing in my country. So I bought satin ribbon to use for the bone casings, trim at the top and bottom of the corset, and for covering the suspenders. I do NOT recommend using satin ribbon in such a way, or, in fact, for anything else than tying a hat to one’s head or making a nice bow. It frays, splits, you easily pull loops when removing basting thread...
The ribbon was ironable, so I managed to put it through my bias maker. It frayed so terribly though, I had to vacuum my ironing board! I sewed the casings to the corset as quickly as possible to prevent further fraying. I thought the boning channels would be too thick to sew by machine, but they weren’t. I actually had to baste them in place only once, for ‘stitch in the ditch’.

Grommeting went fast! A lot faster than it did on my Victorian corset made out of coutil. I didn’t cut holes in the fabric, but rather, pushed the fabric apart using an awl (or actually knitting needles of 2 to 5 mm thick!). This makes for a stronger construction, making it impossible for grommets to fall out, or the fabric around them to tear, which can happen with cut holes.

The sewalong supplies list isn’t entirely correct. It lists 6 garters when only 4 are needed for this type of corset, and also doesn’t mention that they should have wider clips and wider elastic than the standard type! I ordered those, so I had to fumble a bit with the covering to make them look as intended. The number of bones is incorrect, too; I had four left over. There should have been separate lists for the two different types of corset, I think.
The bias width given, 18-19 mm, also seems wrong. I sewed 9.5 mm channels for the 7 mm wide bones, and as two bones are placed alongside each other on most seams, obviously it is not possible to sew those channels using a 18-19 mm casing. Luckily I bought a 3-pack of bias makers which also included a larger size.

My mum proudly showed my finished corset to a friend of hers, who exclaimed that she hoped I would wear the corset as outerwear! I replied that was not my plan, and she thought that was such a shame. But I did actually do a WWI ladies’ underwear presentation with Welmode at a Living History event we attended at Huis Doorn on 24 and 25 May, so people got to see the corset after all.

Unfortunately the corset does not give me the smooth shape I’ve seen on some others online – my hip bones stick right through it, as you can see on this photo! As the boning on the side runs right over my hip bones that becomes very painful after a while, so I’ve sewn thick shoulder pads onto the inside at that spot, which helps.

ETA: I’ve removed the corset bones running directly over my hips. I don’t know whether my hip bones stick out more than most people’s, but the shoulder pads weren't enough to prevent rather bad pain, especially when walking! The shape I get when wearing the corset is still the same without the boning, and it’s a bit more comfortable that way.