Blue, Yellow and Red Dresses – the final(ish) reveals

Omg this blog isn’t dead! No, it was just hibernating in the frigid cold and wretched rain.

But on to the content! I’m finally done with 2 out of 3 dresses!

The blue dress is finally out and I’m madly in love! It can be seen on Page 30 of St Louis Magazine or the article here. I then got to collaborate with Lindsey Hinderer of Lindsey Hinderer Photography, and Savannah from Summer Savannah Makeup for a decadent photoshoot! Here are the two main images of the blue dress from that photoshoot.

The idea was to capture an 18th century portrait (all Lindsey’s idea! The joy of working with a brilliant photographer), and she even found the perfect backdrop to give it the naturalistic air of a Gainsborough painting.

She even took some wonderfully decadent close ups!

Chatelaine and necklace by Queen and Cavendish

Hat by me

Earrings by Dames a la Mode

 

It’s been wonderful to finally see my blue dress complete! About 150 hours of embroidery time went into the jacket; it really wasn’t supposed to take that long but the pattern I designed did not embroider all that well and took quite a few tries.

The skirt was a “rush job” – only about 80 hours of embroidery frantically done in a week to get it done by the St Louis Magazine photoshoot. But overall, I’m happy with how it came out.
Next, Lindsey all took some gorgeous photos of me wearing the yellow dress.

And some detail shots:

I can’t tell you how long I spent pinking that fabric with a magazine on outdated issues of the Journal of Anesthesiology but man… it was worth it!

At this point, we decided to have some fun. We put some white 18th century accurate make up on by lbcc, and even put on some dresses that weren’t even done and went at it.

It’s amazing how much more HA you can get with a little bit of hair and face powder! I LOVE how these came out and I think my next shoot with Lindsey will be entirely with this make up!

And I came to realize that my red dress is my favorite after all – finished or not! And it certainly is most unfinished in this picture. I’ve been working on it nonstop since this photo-shoot and it’s still shockingly not done.

Which is crazy because I haven’t NOT worked on this gown at least four hours a week since November. The problem is the trim. Each meter takes 8 hours of solid work, between knotting, cutting, using a toothbrush to fluff each trim piece, then weaving it on a loom. It used to take me 12 so 8 is much more doable now. But fly trim is beautiful, but insanely time consuming. Since this picture, I’ve finished the stomacher and added a third sleeve ruffle (and pleating to the top of the sleeve!), but still… so much to do!

With all luck, I’ll have it finished by the Versailles ball!

And for funsies, we did a photoshoot in my undies as well. How scandalous!

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Corset by Redthreaded.

All I can say after this is that EVERY thing I make has to be professionally photographed now. I love working with different artists and it’s incredible how much insight you get into even things you make yourself when you work with people with vision. Every photographer tells a different story, and I love the different types of stories they each tell.

Museum of Victoria and Albert Coat – Part 1 of… how many?!

A few months ago, I ran into an article about a frock coat and suit (complete 3 piece set!) at the Mueum of Victoria and Albert. I fell HARD for it.

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You can see pictures of it at two places for the most part – the actual Museum site, and fans who go and take pictures of it. The museum site has the best resolution, but the fans pick up the details. Like a mysterious pocket on the right pocket. Like the details on the back. I myself plan on doing a sojourn to London this coming May/June to see this in person.

But for now, I wish to recreate it for my husband to wear to the Versailles ball. Because let’s face it – it’s GORGEOUS.

So I went to work digitizing. I could go into the details of how, but I’m not particularly good at digitizing myself, nor am I an efficient one. However, my artistic better half, Cari from Cabbit Corner was busy with a combination of life and a GIANT stack of commissions, so I decided to tackle it myself.

As you can see, there are a LOT of different parts to this design. I actually made myself a to-digitize list and broke it down into separate parts depending on how long I thought each part would take. I put it in an Erin Condren book to be pretty.

About 30 hours later, I had a first draft. (On a side note, because I get asked this all the time, the program I use is PE Design 10. The program gives you AMAZING power over your digitizations but it is VERY slow. Not sure if this is my computer or the program, but it’s slow.). This is the reason I don’t digitize for commissions. I don’t think it would be fair for me to charge anything less than 25 dollars an hour to sit and slave away on a design, and yet I know there are people who do it way faster and way better than I do. Which is why if asked, I will always send you to one of them: Denise of Romantic Recollections, Cari of Cabbit Corner, and Liuba of ArtEmbroidery.

 

You can see my design on the left and this interposed on top of the coat on the right. I then started to put it into a coat setting to see how it would look.

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I printed this design about 8 times (6 hours each time) before I found a color scheme I liked. You can see some of the failed prints here:

 

After I finally decided on a color scheme, the hard part was choosing the back fabric. As you can see from the close up pictures, the fabric is on a gorgeous brocade of dots. For the life of me, I could not find any brocade anywhere like it. And moreover, no one would make it for me for less than 200 a yard. I knew I would need about 10 yards. This resulted in me deciding to go solid. It helped that I realized between ordering two custom historic wigs, custom shoes, and two flights to Paris, I was out of budget.

So after all that I was able to finally print the first OFFICIAL piece of my coat – a cuff.ย  I was happy with it. ๐Ÿ˜€ You’ll of course notice the antique silk organza applique.

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And a final cuff printed on silk duchesse (navy) with silk threads.

 

On a slightly different note, I am not going into the patterning of this coat and how to do layouts of the embroidery here. I go into it in previous articles here and here.

The patterning of the coat was complex. I used JP Ryan’s 1780s coat pattern but it turned out my husband had a very odd shape so I ended up using that to draft my own version. Her patterns are always excellent and I highly recommend them.

I did also start on a waistcoat since I happened to have the silk duchesse in house. However, after doing a 24 hour shift at the hospital, I messed up placement of the third pattern repeat and the whole thing turned into garbage

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What you’re not seeing is the repeat that got destroyed on the bottom. X_X I see this and I see 24 hours of embroidery time – and sooo much beautiful thread, wasted.

So now starts the process of embroidery and more embroidery. I anticipate at 6-8 hours of active machine time per repeat, 45 thread changes PER repeat (I think I mentioned I’m not the best digitizer ever), and about 42 repeats for the whole coat, not counting buttons or belts… we’re looking at 1,890 thread changes, and 336 hours of machine time or 14 days of machine running 24/7 (which obviously I can’t do so it will likely be 42 days embroidering). Good thing I love the process!

Also I made a new rule for myself – I’m not allowed to work on this tired. Granted, I’m currently working 70-80 hours a week so I may end up breaking this rule now and then…

Let’s end this on a positive note – check out this front panel! Wheee!!

 

1740’s jacket (Part 2)

I can’t hold back my excitement anymore – this is how the jacket looks so far(albeit unfinished)!

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So this is the story of how we go from a little idea to this blue jacket (which I love so far).

 

First off – I want to preface this by saying: This is NOT the finished article! The closure isn’t quite set yet and the cuffs are not done.

 

So after the blue jabric came, the first thing I did was make myself an embroidered stomacher. I made one in blue; didn’t love it, made one in cream. Still don’t love it (the pink kind of blends into the background) but we’ll see how it goes. I may make myself a third.

 

I also tested out the pattern by making the same jacket for myself in brown wool. I had some gorgeous wool broadcloth lying around the houes (unused, unloved for about two years now), so I used it to make myself an Outlander-esque dress.

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I was shocked at how much I loved the pattern! It was comfortable, it was flattering – it was exactly what I wanted. So I started in by doing what I always do – putting a ruler on each pattern piece, scanning it in, and placing the digitization on it. (More on it on previous posts, but I use PE Design 10). This was a particularly painful design to place due to the high stitch counts (each repeat was approximately 45,000 stitches) and the slug-like nature of PE Design 10. (I get asked repeated if I would recommende the software, and I repeatedly say only if you’re very patient.) I went ahead and started sewing it out.

On a side note, I decided to try horsehair iron on interfacing for this jacket and I confess I have a love hate relationship with it too. It works, but it’s very expensive ($10.50 per yard) and it tends to wrinkle the final look a little. But honestly, for embroidery THIS heavy, it seems to work the best. I’ll let you know if I ever find a better substitute, but so far, no.

I did get a new machine somewhere in the middle of this, so at least the 30 thread changes were significantly less painful thanks to my brand new Brother PR1000!!!


It not only decreases the amount of time it takes to embroider each repeat (7 hours becomes 4.5), it also decreases the number of thread changes I go through! I danced around the house for hours.

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I LOVE this new machine with a vengeance. My dogs are unspeakably jealous at how much I stroke and pet this machine.

In any case, after about 150 hours of machine embroidery time (not including 12 hours digitization time), I came out with ALL the pieces needed to make the coat.

So I spent some time piecing it together. So the way I do it is a little odd; I will go ahead and iron fold ALL edges with embroidery. I then glue it on using iron on adhesive or iron on hem tape (SO NOT HA, but honestly, neither is machine embroidery). I actually love that stuff because it gives a little stiffness to the hem as well so it flares out prettier. Almost like horsehair braid for trims in the 19th century! You can see the jacket in the above pictures – the hem is NOT sewn or cut. It is just folded over, ironed and glued on using iron on hem tape. It works dreamily – I think!

Once all the embroidered hems on all individual pieces have been glued down, I then machine sew it together, and iron all the folds open. This is about the point where I first realized that this jacket was in fact a good idea and not just a terrible money pit.

Again, I know some HA people will get upset with me for my use for iron on adhesive, monetary support of iron on interfacing, and machine sewing – but I tend to machine sew all seams. I really just don’t have time for it. Anything visible I DO handsew. For instance, my sleeves are all hand sewn, hand hemmed.

So then I sewed on my sleeves, and started work embroidering the cuffs.

I can’t lie – embroidering cuffs are painful. We’re talking 12 hours of embroidery PER cuff. It’s the border! The flowers take 1.5 hour to embroider – each. The swirls, the lace… that takes 4.5 to embroider each. O_O But I did it. And attached it.

And hated it. I hated the way the flower curled on itself… I hated the folds… It wasn’t long enough. Bah!

Just to put this into perspective, THIS is what I was going for.

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Embroidered piquรฉ jacket, ca. 1740, Museo del Traje, Spain.

Of course, mine isn’t supposed to be an exact replica but I did love the IDEA of having large luxurious cuffs. Mine didn’t cut it. So I designed new ones. In any case, I realized shortly after that I was out of silk netting. I went ahead and ordered more but til that gets here, I won’t be able to do anything about it. :/ Well, meanwhile, I gave the jacket a linen lining. I do sew all my linings in my hand along the edge.

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And voila! Ready for a test wear!

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Meanwhile, I do plan on making a blue petticoat with the same embroidery along the edge, lacy engageantes (sleeve ruffles), and a pretty embroidered apron to go! Any opinions out there about headwear? I do seem to have so little care about headwear!

More to come! And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Preparing for Versailles: Making a Red Robe a la Francaise – Making Trim

As much fun as Versailles was this year – as fun as it can be with your husband sick with a sinus infection, arriving an hour later thanks to Putin (he literally held up traffic in Paris) and flustered in 95 degree weather…ย  – which was not surprisingly, a TON OF FUN. It really was a dream come true and was the prom party every girl has been after her entire life.

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My only regret was that I rated my dress a 7/10.

So now the plan is to go again next year, this time in a dress I would rate much higher. ๐Ÿ™‚

I found the most lovely Scalamandre fabric and after about 4 months of saving, purchased it.

Sadly, nowhere could I find appropriate trim for this. I looked everywhere for an appropriate passamenterie, but could not. I even had the help of some lovely shop owner ofย Vintage Passamenterie, who really does have the most incredible selection of silk ribbons.

However, I found myself drawn repeatedly to some beautiful fly trim, such as the ones found on this beautifully curated Pinterest board.

I then chose to make my own fly trim but was not quite sure how to do it. I got some excellent advice and help from Denise Hendrick of Romantic Recollection, and really can’t thank her enough for her support and know how.

For those of you interested in your own fly trim, I highly recommend the tutorial by Quaintrelle Life. I used 4-6 strands of JEC “flat silk thread”. This can be purchased at the Japanese Embroidery Company Store. As for the tool itself, I got a bone knotting shuttle from Burnley and Trowbridge. This one is quite lovely as it’s a little larger and has great hand feel. I highly recommend having more than one so you can work on different colors at the same time.

This is a picture of my early attempts.

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Really quite pitiful, right? Took me hours for that little bit too!

So at that point, I tried to do more research and found that there was frequently used a crocheted or a woven center.

Still struck me as a little too weaksauce for this excellent fabric. This fabric deserved the best at this wasn’t it.

So I attempted to weave my own center. I will NOT show these attempts since they truly were pitiful. My only suggestion is, DO NOT BUY A TYPICAL WEAVING LOOM.

After more research, I came to realize you need a special Inkle Loom.

Yes….

INKLE LOOM.

There are a lot of places to get it; I personally love sitting on the couch after a long day of work at the hospital, doing some sort of craft with my husband gaming on one side and a fluffy American Eskimo (such an HA dog!) on the other. So I got myself a lap one from ebay.

How to use an inkle loom is quite beyond the scope of this post, so I’ll post the video that I leraned from. It’s fairly simple and I’m quite sure you too would figure it out in 9 minutes and 26 seconds.

In any case, after much experimentation, and failures, I came to make these trims:

I found all of these lovely on the red silk but couldn’t decide among them! After getting some excellent advice on the Historically Accurate 18th century Sewing group, I finally ended up choosing this one:

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Of note, the center weave is done with soie ovale thread. I used 2 rows of red, (one dark, one bright), 5 rows of white (or “corn”, as this one is called) and then 2 more rows of red.

In any case, I have woven about 1.5 yards of it so far, but considering three hours results in about 1 feet of trim, it’s slow going. Good thing I have 7 seasons of Poirot to work through! It’s jolly good fun, and I highly recommend it for the seamstress who enjoys having a little craft to work on at night, every night. ๐Ÿ™‚

1770s Frock Coat (#2) and women’s 1740s embroidered skirt and jacket

Last week I left off still attempting to perfect an 18th century flower in embroidery.

After spending approximately 28 hours on this design, I have come to the conclusion that: Conversion is fun, but incredibly time consuming. And unlike hand sewing, mentally exhausting.

It’s fun, but I’m glad that there are artists like Cari and Denise who do this professionally. I think I will personally do this maybe once or twice a year.

So what I do is I use my drawing pad to trace/draw out each color, determine stitch type, stitch density, the direction of the stitches, and move on to the next section. It’s incredibly time consuming, emotionally stressful, but also somewhat chatartic.

After printing this about another 3 times and messing with stitch types, I came up with this:

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I designed the layout so that at the last two colors, I could pin a piece of mesh in there so I could get that lovely netting into the design. It turned out lovely.

So then the question was, what to do with this? Obviously, the hubby would be getting a frock coat with this fabric. For me, personally, I wanted to try a stomacher first. Moving about the design to a stomacher was easy, and I have to say, I loved how it came out.

That being said, I need to figure out the interfacing situation more as this current interfacing has a penchant for wrinkling up considerably! (this interfacing is currently cotton woven interfacing with a layer of iron on adhesive in between).

I chose to make my next frock coat in a historically accurate ground. Surprisingly, some of the prettiest frock coats actually are not on solid colors but are on a ground of thin stripes or dots or flowers! I was pleasantly surprised to see this both on pinterest and when I went to the LACMA exhibit “Reigning Men” at the St Louis Art Museum.

As thin stripes on silk or HA dots and flowers are hard to find, there was really only one real viable source – Duran Textiles. If you don’t know them, I’d definitely check them out. They probably have some of the most beautiful fabrics in the world in their collection and I very frequently see their fabrics in one movie or another. After some emails, Laila of Duran sent me a handful of beautiful samples. I pressed one after the other on Matt’s skin and I still couldn’t decide. “This one brings out your eyes”, “But this one might be too busy”… etc. After two hours of discussion, we still had no clue.

I ended up gluing the samples onto a piece of wool and putting the design on the fabric. That answered the question right away!

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I ended up going with the blue on the bottom left. I actually bought an extra six yards so I could make myself a coordinating jacket and skirt. (:

More when the fabric arrives!

Women’s Embroidered Jacket circa 1760

Though I normally depend on the talented Cari Barg from Cabbit Corner to make my embroidery, she has been inundated with other commissions since Costume College 2017. She offered to work on my next pattern in September or October, but I thought I would take this moment to put what I learned from CoCo to good use. (Namely, I took a course with Denise Hendricks from Romantic Recollections, which was really enlightening. I’m looking forward to her posting her full lecture online so all the world can benefit from her expertise.)

After making two frock coats, I’ve decided I really want to work on several things:

  1. Another Frock coat for Matt – 1770s again, but I learned so much about fit so I would like to try again. This time I plan on springing for some delicious fabric by Duran Textiles.
  2. A yellow pet en lair/jacket skirt combo in silk. I got some beautiful silk taffeta by Oscar de la Renta while I visited New York City two weeks ago.
  3. A court gown. 10 yards of stunning Scalamandre with my name on it is sitting around my house right now, waiting for me to get the skills and courage to cut into it.
  4. Lucrezia de Borgia’s red gown. I loved that series and I think a Renaissance gown would make for fun times.

The original “next plan” was to learn robe a la francaises while making myself this gown in the Met. I rarely make an exact museum copy and I thought this would be good exercise, especially since I’m very displeased with my robe a la francaise skills.

It helps that I really did find the most perfect shade of yellow silk taffeta for this from Mood! However, as I was playing with my pinking iron (if you don’t have one, I highly recommend messaging the good people at Resurrection Ironworks; they do custom pieces beautifully.)

But then planning Matt’s coat, I started work on digitizing Matt’s embroidery piece (which I’ll talk more about later), and I realized, “No. I want to make an embroidered set for me.” But I wanted a gown. I did some research on pinterest, internet, and my books, and it seems that there were actually quite a few embroidered women’s gowns. I mean, that makes sense. If they embroidered stuff for men, why on earth would they not want to do the same for women?

Nonetheless, there seems to be very few examples of embroidered pen en lairs/women’s jackets for women. I made a pinterest board with a few examples but please send me a shoutout here or on instagram if you see any more!

In particular, these two coats were very impressive:

I would love to do a heavily embroidered piece like this. I don’t anticipate it’ll be HA, so partly HA, party fantasy. But I’m starting to realize that I actually enjoy the fantasy element of HA clothing a bit (I mean, my pink frock coat was utter fantasy and so much fun to wear!), so I’ll be making this in fantasy rather than HA. So after some thought, I decided to put aside robe a la francaise aspirations for a bit so I could turn this into a dream outfit in yellow silk. More on patterning this coat out once I start, but for now, I turn to digitizing the embroidery for this.

While hunting about the internet, I fell head over heels in love with this Met Embroidery sample. I mean, it’s a very famous piece and absolutely gorgeous.

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This was Matt’s favorite that he saw online so we discussed turning this into an embroidery for him. Again my tools are as follows:

Computer/Tablet: Surface Book

Program: PE Design 10

Machine: Brother VE 2200 (12″x7″ bed)

So I started to trace this out for him.

This was my first attempt on the flower:

What looked fine enough as a computer file looked terrible printed! On the plus side, it took only 35 minutes to print. So I upped the “semi transparent” portions from 50 stitches/inch to 70 stitches/inch, increased the density of the whole thing fro 114/inch to 140 stitches/inch. I tried to minimize some of those gaps and tried again:

Woo! Closer. Not great but definitely closer. This one took 55 minutes to print. At this point, I decided that the transpoarent sections just weren’t working for me so I nixed it. I increased the size of some of those patchy sections and tried a third time.

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Definitely closer! (This one took 120 minutes.). I posted it on instagram and started on the border. At this point, Denise chimed in and suggested that I up the pull compensation. After playing with it a great deal more, I took her suggestion, and tried again.

By this time, my dog Gideon was a fluffball sleeping next to me which made changing threads painful since each time I got up I’d have to wake him up. Nonetheless, there was something lovely and cathartic about dog breathing.

 

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A whopping 195 minutes of sewing time later (not counting thread changes), it was done! I liked it. I liked it a lot. Not perfect by any means, but certainly closer. I can say I’ve poured about 17 hours into this design so far, and it’s definitely getting there. I’m working on version #5 today so we’ll see about that one later.

But for now, I’m pleased with how my first attempt at HA digitization is going.

 

 

1740s Frock Coat for Women – Part 3 – Sewing and Wearing

Frock Coat

Embroidery of the frockcoat started well; I started on the back 2 panels, and loved the way it came together there. The right front panel was done. Then I messed up the left front panel. Redoing 6 panels of embroidery cost me approximately $100 in thread/silk, and put me a week behind schedule.

As for the embroidery of the coat itself, after much experimentation, I came up with a way to stiffen the silk taffeta enough to not pull too much with the heavy embroidery. I ended up backing the silk taffeta with a layer of iron on adhesive, and then a layer of pellon polyester interfacing. Of course this made the coat profoundly stiff, but did stand up beautifully to the embroidery, not pulling much at all. Tradeoffs I guess. I did attempt to do cotton interfacing but could not find a good one that worked as well as the polyester. It broke my heart a little to have to give up and use polyester, but… I guess if I were in the 18th century, I would go with whatever looked best too! Bah!

Unlike a lot of my friends, I am a profoundly slow seamstress and tend to stress myself out when I get too close to a deadline. Due to having to redo the left front panel of the coat, I actually finished 2 days prior to leaving for CoCo 2017. Many thanks to the hubby for providing me wine and vodka when sewing got stressful.

I did to go to a LACMA exhibit on men’s clothing, (on loan from the LACMA but at the SLAM in St. Louis) and got to see several frockcoats in person. One thing I found to my surprise was that the coats were lined to the edge with linen! I was absoulutely thrilled to find that out – what I had done to my coats out of sheer laziness, was actually being done by the actual people of the 18th century!

I was absolutely blown away by this coat in particular. This is what I want to do for my third coat. (Most likely for the hubby since he looks so pretty in them.)

In any case, I took the easy way out and ended up iron interfacing the hem along the bottom of the frock coat. Not only did the iron on adhesive glue give me no stitching across the end for a clean look, it also stiffened the bottom giving me a beautiful sway with the coat. Iron on adhesives man. Amazing. If they had that technology in 1740 they would have used it. Along with iron on adhesive. And epidurals for labor. Just saying.

Waistcoat

Similarly, I ended up sewing the hem to the edge with no facing. I did put in machine made button holes; but may I say, unless you’re super confident with button holes to do machine ones? I find that the machine embroidery tends to unravel rather obscenely.

So note on button making:

  1. Save yourself some heartache and get yourself a button hole kit with a clear button holder. This way you can clearly center your design.
  2. I usually print 10 buttons/ 12″x7″ sheet; no use being too greedy with this since you want to have enough room to cut buttons out with ease.
  3. After you do make your buttons, get some nice epoxy glue and glue the back together. I find that the embroidered silk is thicker so that the button wants to fall apart with any stress. The glue helps that immensely.
  4. Prepare to make extra buttons. Even with a ton of practice, 1/4 buttons turn out hideous.
  5. So after putting the metal top part of the button into your button maker, pull on the edges of the fabric all around to remove wrinkles. Wrinkles are your enemy. Then tuck it all in, and place the back piece on. Pop it out. Glue it. Wait 12 hours. You’re set!

Shirt

I sewed my shirt using Larkin and Smith’s instructions. It was awesomely fun and easy though incredibly time consuming. I’m kind of done with shirt sewing for a good year or two. Some pictures of the shirt pre-ruffle. I did do the stitch everywhere I could because the stitch was PRETTY. ๐Ÿ™‚

Breeches

Breeches were done using the JP Ryan pattern. I made no adjustments on the muslin other than removing 1″ of bulk from the back of the pants. I also changed the instructions by flat lining my silk taffeta as the fabric seemed incredibly thin. 5 stars out of 5. 10 out of 10 Stines would use this pattern again. My one suggestion – follow the instructions to the letter. They are GOOD.

Stockings and Shoes

Burnley and Trowbridge stockings worked beautifully, albeit a bit large for me. I used American duchess shoes, though I wish I purchased some more glittery shoe buckles. Next time I guess. ๐Ÿ™‚

Finished pictures:

 

Overall, I can honestly say that I LOVED making and wearing this coat. It was honestly a giant blast to make – especially since I gave myself two full months of just working on this. It was also my most comfortable costume by FAR. No corset, comfy linen shirt, comfy linen pants, and great range of motion. I mean, I know that we’re trying to take back the corset by dispelling the notion that everyone tight laced and women were fainting left and right – and it’s true! Corsets are not the monstrosity everyone claims they were. That being said, OH MAN THIS WAS COMFY. There is something to be said for full range of motion of legs, arms and body.

On top of it, I just find machine embroidery and sewing to be incredibly relaxing, especially after a long day (literally, 24 hours at a time) of work. So highly recommended as a hobby.

Now, time to get Duran Textiles to respond to my messages so I can get started on Frock Coat #3!

1740s Frock Coat for Women (Step 2 – Embroidery Preparation)

I fell in love with this embroidery the moment I saw it on Cooper Hewitt’s website.

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I loved the softness and femininity of the flowers, and I thought it would be the perfect feminine piece to use for my frock coat for women. This is where the talented Cari from Cabbit Corner Embroidery came in. I ended up commissioning her to convert it into machine embroidery.

Believe it or not, she did this entire conversion by hand. I think she tried the wizard converting tool after converting the original into an AI vector file, but I agree with her – it never turns out quite as good as you want it to. So she did the entire thing by hand. Absolutely meticulous and brilliant work!

So first thing I did was print it. You can see my beloved VE 2200 at work here.

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This is how the first draft looked printed with rayon threads on some black wool broadcloth. I frequently use wool scraps as I don’t need to interface the fabric, thereby making things theoretically easier.

I chose a pink silk shantung in hot pink for the base fabric. After that, it was just experimenting over and over with different colors on different backgrounds until I found the perfect one!

 

After picking the colors, I went ahead and started positioning the repeated design on the actual pattern. After scanning the muslin pattern, complete with grid lines, I went ahead and uploaded it into my program – PE Design 10.

 

After uploading the pattern piece into the software, resize it so that the ruler fits with the grid lines appropriately. This is very important as you do NOT want to print your pattern and then find out that your waistcoat or coat doesn’t fit!

When you start with your pattern, I high recommend starting with the border. The border will take the longest time. In this case, I got a repeat of one section and copy pasted and changed the angle along all the curves, and positioned one after the other like so. I actually printed one, realized I wanted my border bigger and had to redo it. Overall, I think I spent around 12 hours just resizing the border of the pattern, over and over again.

After the border was in place, I lined it with the curve lines. Most software has a curved line tool and that proved very useful. My solid lines are usually 0.22″ but you can use whatever you find fits your frame and sewing preference.

AFTER that, I went ahead and positioned the flowers. I recommend doing a little bit at a time. Personally, I resized my flower pattern about three times before I was happy with the size. I would print a sample embroidery, using a monocolor version of my pattern (for speedy printing and to avoid 22 color changes), to make sure I liked the size. (To print a monocolor version of your pattern, copy paste the original file, rename it with the word ‘monocolor’ at the end, open up the file, select the whole image, and make it one color. Then save to your flash drive, print to test your image really quickly)

Just saying, my final version of the flowers were 33% bigger than the original.

Some tips:

  1. When you do break up your image, I suggest putting placement lines. The top placement line is always the first thing sewn by your machine. The second, and lower placement line should be the last thing printed by your line.
  2. I always align my top line to be exactly 0 degrees, or horizontal; this makes placement easier so you don’t have to mess around with trying to find the perfect angle of your design. Again, these are suggestions.
  3. Work in small bits, and print sample embroideries frequently. The final print always looks very different from what you see on screen.
  4. Make the placement line stitches large. I used 0.2″; large enough that they are easy to remove at the very end, small enough that they still get printed with some reliability.
  5. When you do print your placement lines, since they will be removed at the end anyhow, print them in bright, distinct colors so you can be sure to see it.
  6. Most embroidery frames come with a grid to help you align patterns; use this to align your placement lines perfectly.

 

1740s frock coat for women (Step 1: Pattern Drafting)

The very first thought I had after seeing my husband in his new frock coat was “Damn… I want one too.”

I feel like I need to say this very clearly – I was not going for historical accuracy with this outfit. I don’t think it’s possible to make an HA frock coat, breeches, waistcoat set FOR WOMEN. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one, but I would LOVE TO. (If anyone knows of a suit for women, with breeches from this era, please link me STAT.)

So for this, I elected to do a 1740’s frock coat, since 1. I haven’t done that pattern yet so it would be fun and 2. I LOVE that heavily pleated back.

Step 1: Drafting the Pattern

Frock Coat:

Personal philosophy: I don’t draft a pattern I can just as easily buy. I suppose I could spend time drafting patterns from books, but if there is a ready made pattern that fits me perfectly right away, I’d rather just buy it. It might seem silly, but time is money, and muslin is money, and if buying a frock coat pattern will save me 6 hours? I’ll do it!
I did buy JP Ryan’s frock coat pattern but after making the muslin up, I can’t say that I loved it. It was a fit problem, and I deep down, I wanted the fuller back that’s from the 1740s. At this point, I bought a pattern from reconstructing history. Again, their pattern was definitely not suited for someone of my size, so I ended up using some of their design ideas, but ended up using it as reference to use the draping method to cut my own pattern. So there goes my idea to save time and money.

I usually start by making a set of lines on my dummy then stretching the muslin across to make forms. I then make a blockier form bilaterally, in order to make sure that I can put it on. I then star tweaking one side more than the other. In this case, I started editing the left side of the jacket. You’ll notice that the right side of the coat is sleeveless, collar-less, and dart-less.

 

 

I did make the decision to put in a horizontal dart along the bustline. I did this as 18th century women’s riding habits tend to have that horizontal dart, and I wanted to follow that trend. Also, darts do a lot to make this coat better fitting.

After all this, I came out with several pattern pieces. Note that some pieces have seam allowances and some don’t. I tend to label and mark everything as much as I can so that there are never any questions afterwards. I also highly recommend putting in a horizontal as well as a vertical ruler with marks on the inch or the cm. I’ll discuss this more next time when I talk about how I put in the embroidery to attach to the curve.

 

Overall, I ended up cutting about 3 coats out of muslin before I came up with my final design. I am pretty sure this just shows how amateurish I am, but on the plus side, I hope this is encouraging for all those people who’s first muslins suck.

Waistcoat:

I did end up cutting my own waistcoat as well using the draping method. In full disclosure, I did decide to use the pocket from a riding habit waistcoat pattern I had bought previously from Mill Farms, but otherwise the coat was entirely drafted by me. Also decided to put in front darts.

waistcoatpatternv2

 

You’ll notice from the scans that I only scan in the part that I plan on covering with embroidery. Obviously that’s for a very good reason. ๐Ÿ™‚

Drop sleeve shirt:

I LOVE me some delicate hand sewing here and there. There’s no way I’d want to do everything by hand for everything I sew, but every now and then, I love cuddling up on the couch with my husband and my dogs, with an awesome epic or video game speed run, and sew myself something. In this case, I chose to do the shirt entirely by hand.

If you too decide to do this, I can’t recommend At the Sign of the Golden Scissors more. Their shirt kits are not only cheaper than buying linen, but it comes with thread, wax, instructions and sometimes even buttons! I went ahead and got a kid and started sewing.

Breeches:

I confess I’ve never made pants for a woman. Well, I’ve made pajama pants, but that hardly counts since nothing is made to fit. I had used JP Ryan’s breeches pattern for my husband’s frock coat and loved it, so I went ahead and decided to use it again. I bought it, made a muslin, fitted it to me (I ended up taking a few inches off the back bum area and 1/2″ on each of the legs, but otherwise, no major changes), and sewed it. I would show pictures, but honestly, the muslin was unremarkable and just terribly immodest so I’ll refrain.

 

Anyways, after getting all these patterns done, I went ahead and started to scan them in and re-piece them together on my adobe Photoshop. The ruler that I put on it was incredibly useful there. I guess I could go into how I put it together, but I’m fairly sure I do it the most inefficient way possible.

 

Next time: Step 2: Preparing the Embroidery